Dear Newly Bereaved Parent,
My heart breaks for you. I am truly so very sorry you find yourself here, reading my words. I’ve been where you are, and it’s the worst place to be. So deeply devastated, while feeling helpless and hopeless. You feel like you’re broken and can’t be put back together. That no one can understand your pain. Your pain is emotional, mental, and physical. I know your heart feels like it has been ripped in two. Your head throbs with the enormity of your loss, and your arms ache to hold the baby who should be in them.
You’re not only trying to cope with grief, shock, longing for your baby, and loneliness in this isolating state of bereaved parenthood. You are also terrified that the rest of your life will be stuck in this dark, low place. I know that you don’t know what you want. You want to feel something other than sad, but you don’t want to forget your baby or to go on without him or her. You don’t want others to pity you, but you want them to respect your loss and your grief. And you don’t want to see others squirm uncomfortably when you tell them of your loss, but you want to say your baby’s name.
I See You, I Know You, I Have Been Where You Are
I see you, and all of these complicated emotions just below the surface. The brave face you put on as you try to venture out in public or back to work. I know you, and that you would give anything to change your circumstances and have your baby back. I’ve been where you are, and what I wanted to know most was that I was not alone. That other bereaved mothers were out there enduring the same. Other bereaved mothers who had found a way to live and love and laugh again. I wanted to read words I could relate to, words that would give me hope.
I am a bereaved mother who has been where you are. I’ve lived to see a day where I truly feel joy again. I waited patiently and did the work of healing, and I gradually carved out my new normal. I found happiness and relative peace. I’m not asking you to understand how that’s possible or to see the path to get there yourself. Those visions are too monumental at this point. I’m not asking you to do anything. But I am sharing with you that you are seen, known, and loved by this community of grieving parents. We are an incredibly strong community of parents who love each other well, let each other grieve, and support each other in healing.
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There Is a Supportive Community of Bereaved Parents
I don’t like to give a lot of advice on how to heal because everyone’s grief journey is different and personal. The one piece of advice I will share unflinchingly is to connect with other parents who have experienced a similar loss. This tip is equally important for bereaved moms and bereaved dads. The relationships I’ve formed through the nonprofit I started, Alive In My Heart, and the other ways I’ve met fellow loss moms, whether in person or on the internet, are invaluable to my healing journey. There is a hugely supportive community out there, waiting to hug you virtually or physically.
We listen, we let you grieve, we don’t judge the circumstances of your loss or the feelings of your heart. It is so healing to talk about loss with someone else who has “been there.” Even on days when you don’t feel like talking about loss, it’s also very helpful to just talk about life with someone else who has had theirs turned upside down in a similar way.
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It Gets Lighter
One of the things I’ve heard many times is that this grief over losing a child, it doesn’t get “better” or “easier.” But it does get lighter and more navigable with time and a concerted effort to heal. You can’t understand this now, but I promise it will NOT always be this dark and heavy. If you cling to nothing else, cling to the love you have for your baby and the hope that lies in the examples of other grieving parents who have reached brighter days. Sending you so many hugs!
Feature Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash
Elizabeth Yassenoff lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Erik. She writes for Still Standing and on her blog to honor her firstborn son, Jacob Dale, who passed away three hours after birth due to unexpected complications during labor. Elizabeth is a co-founder of Alive In My Heart, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides connection and resources to bereaved parents in the Columbus area, and she is studying to become an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. Jacob’s baby sister, Ella Jane, was born August 11, 2017 and has brought a lot of light and healing.