Written by Still Standing Contributor Lindsey Henke of Still Breathing and PALS.
It’s been three years since my daughter was stillborn. I’m happy and I am bereft. Both feelings live in my heart.
I still miss her. Tears still flood my eyes unexpectedly at times when I least expect it.
I see a little girl, aged three, with a ponytail and a flower print dress in a grocery store. She reaches for her younger sister’s hand; she is probably almost two… the age of my living child. As they walk away tears well in my eyes.
That could be Nora and Zoe I imagine. I still miss her even in the moments when I think I don’t.
My love for her hasn’t died, only her body did. I wish people would understand that grief is an act of love, a symptom of loss of connection, a normal reaction to missing someone and all the dreams of what could have been that died with them.
At times early in my loss people would call me brave. Brave for what? Brave for going on living. Brave for getting up to face each new but dark day without her. Brave for missing her.
I guess I can understand why others would see us as brave for those acts of living after loss, but brave for grieving her openly?
“You are so brave for sharing your story.” That at times was strange for me to hear. Why wouldn’t we grieve openly? Why wouldn’t we share her?
We loved her in her presence and in her absence. That love doesn’t stop. It doesn’t go away when your baby dies. Our grieving is just a normal act of parental love.
Now when I share my story in more public venues, people call me courageous. Courageous for telling the world about my daughter whom I loved and still love with all my heart, but unfortunately she differs from other children in the fact that she just happened to die.
What’s so courageous about talking about her and the fact that I miss her?
Isn’t it normal for a mother to miss her child?
Isn’t it normal for a mother to talk about and share her child with the world?
Isn’t it normal for a mom to be proud of all the gifts her daughter has brought to her?
It shouldn’t have to be seen as an act of courage to share my loss, my daughter, my grief. It should be acceptable, ordinary, just what we do. It’s called parenting. I’m just doing it in a different way than non-loss parents get to do.
I wish others would understand this. I wish the non-bereaved parents, friends, bosses, coworkers, family members, and healthcare professionals could open their hearts to the idea that you don’t stop loving your child because they died, no matter how little the number of weeks, months or days we got to spend with them.
No matter if they died in our wombs or our arms. No matter how long it has been since they left us. We still loved, we still love, therefore we still grieve. It’s just normal and it always will be.
It’s just us parenting, bereaved parenting, but parenting all the same.