This Must Be What It’s Like

April 21, 2016


I stood at the church after sharing our family’s story beside my table display of items Sufficient Grace Ministries gives to bereaved parents. She walked up quietly, standing beside me, eyes peering beneath her gray hair, waiting until I finished hugging the tearful mother who had recently lost her baby. Just above a whisper, mustering the courage, she spoke the words.

“Many years ago, I lost a son.”

I saw the grief flickering in her eyes. I saw the empty ache that lives within the years. I saw the gaping hole in her heart…the baby-sized hole. The one hidden away most days. She wasn’t able to hold him. But, he was here. He lived. He has a name. He mattered. He matters still.

It doesn’t matter how many years have passed, a mother never forgets her baby. The years pass and we learn to live again, even embracing life…because they lived. We laugh and we cry and we make memories. Time marches forth with its relentlessness. Healing and breaking us all at the same time. But, in all of it, a mother never forgets her baby.

It doesn’t matter how healthy we are in our grief, how much hope we carry, how much we choose to embrace the gifts of this life, there is a dance…a sacred dance of grief and joy (Angie Smith)  woven together in the tapestry of our lives. So, even in the joy there is a hint of the missing.

Last week, I went shopping with my amazing assistant, Emily. As we sifted through vintage dresses and haggled over antique furniture, I felt it.

This must be what it’s like to have a daughter. I haven’t had this feeling of the sheer enjoyment and the ease of being with someone who knows you and gets you since laughing together in my mother’s kitchen almost a decade ago. I was the daughter then, in my mother’s kitchen. And almost twenty years ago, my dreams of a life filled with laughter in the kitchen, sharing stories with my own twin daughters, while we baked chocolate chip cookies were changed in an instant. Gone.

While my life today is full of love and blessings, and goodness…and even with the gift of motherhood as we’ve raised two boys into men, there are glimpses of what isn’t from time to time. Even all these years later.

For on that shopping day, I felt the whisper of carefree and fullness that I haven’t felt since my mother and daughters were with me, when all of life and all that could be dreamed still seemed so…possible. And in the midst of the familiar glimpse of laughter in the kitchen (or shopping)…the ache.

This must be what it’s like. 

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    Kelly Gerken

    Kelly Gerken is the president and founder of Sufficient Grace Ministries, an organization providing perinatal hospice services, bereavement support and Dreams of You memory-making materials to families facing the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death and the death of a young child. Kelly has walked through the loss of three of her five children, and now reaches out to walk with other grieving families as an SGM perinatal loss support doula and SGM Remembrance Photographer. She is a creator and facilitator of training for birth professionals on compassionate care for bereaved parents facing perinatal loss. Her memoir, Sufficient Grace, was published in 2014. You can read more about Kelly's journey of grace, hope and healing and the outreaches of SGM, order resources or find her book here:


    • Nicole

      April 21, 2016 at 1:28 pm

      Thank you for sharing this

    • Margaret Hall

      April 21, 2016 at 4:43 pm

      I too feel the lost of my daughter Brittany Huber was taken in a horrible car accident almost 2 yrs ago April 28, 2014 just 5 days before her wedding. I do you that I was blessed to have her for 24 yrs and I am thankful but grief sometimes overshadows this. I will live with the pain of loosing her forever this I have accepted. I am so grateful to my other daughter Gretchen who has been a rock for me she helps me up on the days I can’t seem to move I pray ever night for the daughter I have and the heaven God give me strength and keep them safe. AMEN!!!

    • Margaret Hall

      April 21, 2016 at 4:49 pm

      sorry for the typing errors hard to see when your eyes are full of tears

    • Amy

      April 22, 2016 at 12:16 am

      I lost my first child , my son Tristan Isaiah Christie at .34 1/2 weeks 6 hours after he was born due to “unknown causes” . I will have taken a year off on his angel 1st birthday may 4, 2016. I had to give up my condo, sell my car, furniture, everything. I moved from Vegas to Kentucky to stay w a cousins family while I grieved. I’m ready to go back to work in the public but my passion isn’t in dental anymore or corporate jobs It’s in helping mothers like your organization. Is there anyone does your organization have paid positions for people like myself who have a passion for these jobs but can’t live off volunteering?
      God Bless You
      Amy Christie

    • Mary poelker

      April 24, 2016 at 6:24 pm

      My daughter died in 1986. She was 4 1/2 months old. I think of her every day.

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