As a mama to several living children, there are moments I feel guilty for feeling devastated by loss. I have little ones call me mama, why am I so sad over the ones who never got that chance?

After my first miscarriage, I thought if I just got pregnant again I’d be happy. You can’t replace a pregnancy, you can’t replace a child, but if your hands are full you can’t be sad, right?

Four miscarriages, three more living children and the death of an infant foster son later I’ve learned my family will never be whole again. No matter how full my hands are, no matter how much joy my living children bring, part of our family will never be whole.

Each being is unique and had a special place, a role in our family. We will always be missing the five who aren’t here.

What Does It Mean To Never Have Your Family Whole?

Loss has made me forever grateful for the children with me, the ones who call me mama. They bring joy. They’re a tangible reason to keep moving even in deep grief. I’ve learned life is fragile, we need to cherish it.

Still, there’s a realization that no matter what you do, you will never have a whole family. It doesn’t mean you can’t be happy or you’re sitting in deep grief forever. It just means your life, your family, your future is forever changed.

Family Pictures Feel Different

Capturing my family in photos brings such joy. I love a tangible view of everyone together. After loss, however, family pictures feel just a bit different.

We Can’t Take A Family Photo

What would our family albums look like if our would-be seven-year-old was here?

What would our Christmas card look like this year with a four-month-old in it? Would the boys smile and giggle while holding him just like they did when they held their baby sister years before?

I know they would. They smiled and giggled the whole eight weeks he lived with us. Why didn’t I make a whole family picture a priority? Never in even my worst nightmares could I have imagined he wouldn’t be here long enough to get a proper family picture.

Do people see my family picture and notice what’s missing? Probably not.

Simple Sayings Carry A Sting

A favorite saying of busy moms is, “If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart.”

I have a once favorite shirt which reads, “House Full, Hands Full, Van Full, Heart Full.” It’s sat folded in my drawer since my foster son passed a day shy of two months. I can’t wear it anymore, it feels like I’m telling a lie.

Jokes carry an extra sting. A doctor joking about how many children I have has no clue the sting I feel that I don’t have more in the room. A lighthearted joke, but it carries a reminder of who isn’t there.

“Don’t you know what causes that?” I absolutely know what causes it. But I don’t know what caused 40% of my pregnancies to end with no baby in my arms.

I don’t know why I have five kids here and five in heaven.

It’s Hard To Honor Memories But Also To Forget

It hurts to think of the 13-week pregnancy that ended. It hurts to think about the excitement of a positive pregnancy test.

It hurts to think about the joy I felt seeing an infant brought through my door.

It hurts when I hear the kids talk about him. It hurts when they ask to hear his song and they say they miss him.

He Misses The Brother He Never Met

It hurts even more when I say I have ‘only’ five children. It hurts to say my daughter is my youngest.

You Feel Guilty For Being Too Sad Or Not Sad Enough

My family will never be whole earthside. I will never have all ten beings that came into my life sitting next to each other.

I feel guilty for being sad. Aren’t my other children enough? I also feel guilty for finding joy. Did the others not matter enough?

Joy and sorrow aren’t mutually exclusive, thankfully. However, balancing both is challenging.

Never being whole means having to respond to, “You have others, you’re so fortunate!” Yes, I am incredibly fortunate to have living children.

Each life is precious. Each being matters. I cannot find any fortune in loving a being only for them to suddenly be gone.

If you have 250 piece puzzle and one piece is missing, it’s complete enough, right? No, it drives most people crazy to see it incomplete.

Do we tell amputees they’re fortunate to have other limbs? No, or we shouldn’t be. We need to honor their loss and acknowledge they experienced a massive change. They can speak of their fortune in their own terms, but we cannot tell them what fortune is.

Please don’t tell me, please don’t tell any bereaved mother, we’re fortunate to have other children. We love our others so deeply; we value life. We know the deep grief of not being able to hold all our loves even if there are a million other littles in our lives.

Bereaved families will never be whole and as such, they will always carry grief. Grief changes, but it never disappears.


Photo by Ban Yido on Unsplash


About the Author: Maria Silver Pyanov is mama to five living children, four little ones she never got to hold and one special boy she held for almost two months. She’s a birth, parenting and faith writer who hopes her writing can now be used to support fellow bereaved parents. Find her on Facebook and Instagram