As the founder of Sufficient Grace Ministries and a bereaved mother of three children, I have walked with thousands of mothers over the last thirteen years. We have received many questions from grieving parents wondering how to navigate the uncharted sea of grief. This post is by no means a complete compilation, but I wanted to begin to gather a list of the most-asked questions in order to begin the conversation.
1. When should we try to conceive again?
I have been asked this question several times by parents…and even medical staff (seeking a parent’s perspective). There are books on the subject that could cover the medical, physical, and even emotional aspects better than I ever could.(There is a book by Sherokee Ilse called, Another Baby, Maybe? that may cover some of this.) There are practical things to consider. Your body needs time to heal, as does your heart. Consult your physician to determine physical readiness. Talk to your husband; this is a decision you should make together. And… if you are a person of faith…pray for guidance.Again, there is no formula for knowing when you are ready, and you will probably always have some anxiety about having another baby. At a perinatal loss conference for medical staff, I was asked how my husband and I determined we were ready to have another baby after losing three of our children. The answer was, “We didn’t.” Our youngest son came by surprise. It was likely the only way we would have another child after three devastating losses.If you do conceive again, I recommend Celebrating Pregnancy Again by Franchesca Cox
2. How do we find peace if we cannot conceive again? What do we do if our only child has died?
There is no simple answer to this or any of these questions. Every journey is so unique, and every heart works through each piece on its own timetable. Facing infertility after loss unfolds another layer of grief for families. There’s nothing like the longing ache of a mother’s heart…the ache to hold her precious baby. Until recently, parents often walked alone, grieving both the babies who died and those who will never be born. There is now a resource called Still Mothers, a safe haven of support where mothers who truly understand what it means to live on earth without your children to fill your arms can gather and encourage one another. If you face this multi-layered facet of bereavement, please know that you are still a mother. You are still a father. And, you are not alone.
You can also find articles relevant to infertility on this SS link.
One more note:
Don’t be afraid to take a break from social media or refrain from attending baby showers and gender reveal parties, especially in raw grief. It is perfectly acceptable to give yourself grace and shelter yourself from triggers that can add to your pain.
3. When will I feel normal again?
This is a question I think many of us have asked ourselves at some point in this journey. There is a time when grief can feel so overwhelming. Suddenly life as we know it has ceased to exist. We are thrust into this foreign land…this tumultuous sea that we cannot control or predict. The unknown surrounds us washing away the security we once knew. We long for someone who has walked this path to come along and tell us that we will not feel like we are drowning forever. While we will never be exactly the same again, a new normal will settle upon us. Life will not always feel like this foreign land we have been flung into, without warning. We will laugh again. We will feel joy. I used to wish that I had a fast forward button. The feeling was so unpleasant to me, that I just wanted to fast forward through the intense grief to the place of restoration. I wondered where the me I had once known had disappeared to and how I could get her back. Even in wondering, I knew she wasn’t coming back…but I didn’t know this new person. In time, there are special gifts I’ve learned to cherish about the person I’ve become. You may want an exact answer…a time table. There isn’t one. The truth is that there is no fast forward button. Grief is hard work, and it takes time. You cannot go around it. You must walk through it. You must allow the waves of the terrible sea to wash over you. They are cleansing…and necessary.
Read this post for more nuggets about finding hope as you navigate this new normal.
4. How do we support our older/subsequent children as bereaved siblings?
Talk to your children honestly. Include them as much as possible in the process. Share moments and make memories with them that include your babies in heaven. Realize that siblings are grieving as well. Be available to talk and listen. Answer their questions simply and age-appropriately. Shower them with love and reassurance. Keep their schedules stable and structured. Routine can be reassuring. Share faith-based traditions (if you are a family who practices faith) such as comforting scripture about the promise of heaven. Pray with them and encourage them to pray. I have regrets as a mother…it’s difficult sometimes to make the best decisions in our own grief. Give yourself grace to cover those regrets.
5. How do I answer the question: “How many children do you have”?
There is no right or wrong answer. There may be times when you feel like you want to share about all of your children, and there may be moments when you are not comfortable talking about the details. Many parents express guilt if they do not mention their deceased children when asked this question. You are NOT less of a mother or ashamed of your children if you just do not want to get into the conversation in the grocery store. Others may not know how to respond, but will often follow your lead.
6. How do I remain connected to my partner when we’re grieving so differently?
*Respect each other’s need to grieve differently. If at all possible, do not do things that may bring pain to your spouse. At the same time, do not deprive yourself of doing the things you feel you need to do to honor your baby your way. Find a way to honor your baby that also honors the feelings of your spouse.
*Find time to laugh and do things that you enjoy together. Grieving is hard, heavy work. Find some time to keep it light.
*Keep life as simple as you can. Try not to take on too much for your family schedule. Protect yourselves and each other from extra stress or things that may bring unneeded sorrow.
*Find ways to honor the memory of your baby as a family.
*Communicate with love and respect.
*Take comfort in physical affection. Do not turn away from each other, but turn toward each other.
*Pray together and for each other (if prayer is part of your life). God is able to mend your broken hearts and keep your marriage. Guard your marriage and bathe it in prayer. You may feel too weak to pray sometimes. That’s okay….saying, “God, help me…it hurts too much to even pray.” is still a prayer. It’s been a prayer of mine many times.
Request Dreams of You Memory-Making resources and find additional support at Sufficient Grace Ministries.