Has someone ever looked you in the eye and lovingly, without any malice, and said something that shattered your grieving, broken heart?
Perhaps, you’ve been asked a simple question that would seem harmless to the one asking, but it sends you in a tailspin, uneasy and unsure about how to answer.
As a loss mom, I have been told a slew of placating words, off-handed remarks, or simple questions that have hurt me deeply and I am not alone.
I, along with a handful of other brave women, decided to answer an open casting call on the Facebook page RISE-For Women. Rise is a site dedicated to helping women RISE to their full potential.
We agreed to share our stories, our children’s stories through an awareness campaign that was created and spearheaded by a photographer, local personality and loss mom, Dana Dewedoff-Carney.
Dana was at a OBGYN appointment with a new doctor, when she got the worst news any momma could ever receive.
Her little one, Benjamin, had passed away. The doctor looked at her and said the most hurtful words to Dana,
“It was the wrong baby, and your body is doing its job to get rid of it.”
Dana took this hurtful comment and decided to turn her pain into her purpose.
She wanted so badly to change the way people talk about loss, to urge people to value every life, no matter their gestational age when they passed and to honor those who live on after their children have passed.
An awareness campaign shortly ensued, and it was called Project Benjamin #TheyMatterToo.
The idea behind it was one that all loss parents can relate to.
It discussed common phrases; questions asked, cliché placations said to a loss mom or about a loss that in the end, caused more harm than good.
I showed up at Dana’s in-home studio armed with a list of phrases that had cut me to the core: “Haven’t you moved on? You only have three sons.” And so on.
The one phrase that stuck out, the phrase that I chose to share was, “But, he never lived.”
It was hard writing down these words.
First, I was scared to hurt the person who said this to me. Like most loss parents, I am aware that people honestly do want so badly for us to feel better.
People want to solve the problem, to make loss smaller, to make them feel more comfortable.
I knew the intention was good, the delivery not as much and the reception even less so.
The words cut me, made me feel like my son’s very life was in question. So I had Dana write that phrase.
At first, it felt strange holding a serious face. I felt vulnerable without my smile that hides all that lays beneath.
Soon, with Dana’s help, I eased into the shoot. I laughed, I cried, and we both sat and talked and learned of each others loss.
Before long, the campaign pictures started to be released.
I looked at each of the fellow Project Benjamin participants and saw their quotes, shared their pain and felt, for the first time, as if I could relate to these women.
Project Benjamin brought us together; loss bound us forever.
As the project garnered attention, the women and I came to know each other.
We celebrated the idea that our children’s names were being read aloud by thousands of people, that our children’s voices became that much louder, that their stories would be known.
We each received unabounding support as well as heart-wrenching stories of love and loss.
An opportunity arose to take the project to a local news station. This allowed a number of the group to meet in person.
We didn’t know each other, but we were able to sit and tell our stories as if we had. In a way, we all did. We all knew the deepest pain that united us, the pain of losing a child.
Being on the news was nerve-wracking. I enjoy the written word when discussing my feelings on loss because I can make sure my point is accurately portrayed – this was different.
The camera may have made me feel a little sheepish, but then the piece was released.
I was able to sit in my living room and hear my son’s story and the story of women who I now considered friends, spoken aloud.
I felt like it assisted in normalizing starting a discussion on pregnancy and child loss.
In the end, Project Benjamin started as hurtful words said in a moment that should have garnered empathy and gentleness.
It rose to reach thousands of lives from around the world.
The message that words can cause significant pain to a woman who has lost a child, that common phrases can take on an entirely new meaning was spread to the hearts and minds of well-intentioned people, who now will think about the impact of their words.
For me though, the idea that my Lennon’s name was shared around the world and used to help so many women come out and share their stories is what I am most grateful for.
This project has taught me something that I hope you, the reader, will take to heart; never be silent.
Share your story, share your child’s story.
Write down your experiences, talk, and share.
We as loss parents have endured by sheer will, but you do not have to do it alone. You should never feel ashamed to share any aspect of the child you carried and loved and lost.
Project Benjamin took our stories of our children and helped break the silence and taboo of child loss –
All because one strong woman was told that the child she lost, was the wrong baby.