To the Heart Holders

February 26, 2015

When I was deep in the throes of grief, I needed to talk about losing Aiden. I needed to have the same conversation over and over again because I needed to talk and talk and talk to begin healing. It was the only way I could start to process the trauma of losing him. I needed to say out loud how unfair it was that he died, how brutal it was watching him die, how much I missed him, how I wished things could be different, how sad I was, how angry I was, how lost I was.

These conversations were not easy nor pleasant. Very few people wanted to have these conversations with me once, let alone over and over and over again.

Except my mom.

For months after Aiden died I would have these conversations with my mom. Basically the same conversation every time. And for months, she would quietly listen. Not reassuring me things would get better, or trying to find the lesson or meaning in what had happened. Not giving me advice. Not trying to find a way to fix my pain. Not telling me I needed to find a way to move forward. Not pushing me in any direction. Just listening. Over and over and over again.

In the five years since losing Aiden, I have gained some perspective on the value of the gift my mom gave me in those terrible months deep in grief.

She was my heart holder. She quietly gathered up the pieces of my broken heart, and patiently held them for me, lovingly keeping them as safe as she could until I was ready to try to start putting the pieces back together.

She did all this while her own heart was broken too, not only for the grandchild she lost, but also as she had to watch her own child suffering a pain she could do nothing to ease.

It was an act of love that sums up a mother’s love to me. She endured her own pain of having to listen to these conversations, watching my heart hurt so much because she loves me and that was the only thing she could do.

Recently as I struggled with the fifth anniversary of Aiden’s birth and death, she was there again. She held me while I cried. Not offering any words or advice. Just loving me through the pain. Holding my heart again so the pieces that are so fragilely held together wouldn’t fall apart all over again. Just listening and giving me time.

I wish everyone who has to endure the loss of their child has a heart holder like my mom. She gave me the gift of her time as she listened to me. She let me say whatever I needed to say, however many times I needed to say it. To me that is true listening. I will forever be grateful for her patience and love during this horrible time of my life.

Thank you to all the heart holders out there, the ones who respond with time and love and compassion to the newly and not so newly bereaved. You are the guardians of our broken hearts and we will never forget what you have done for us.

In case I haven’t told her clearly before: thank you mom. Thank you for being my heart holder. Thank you for teaching me what it means to be a mother. Thank you for protecting my broken heart.


heart holder
Photo credit: Melissa Russell


  • Melissa Russell

    Melissa is the mother of three children, two in her arms and one forever in her heart. Her first child, Aiden, died in 2010 at 19 days old. Several days after his birth it was discovered Aiden was missing almost all of his small intestine, and his condition was too severe to respond to treatment. Melissa and her husband have gratefully welcomed two more children into their family since losing Aiden. You can find Melissa at Simple Lionheart Life, writing about creating a simple and intentional life as she tries to figure out the world again after losing Aiden.

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