by Samantha Gorenstein
I hate it when people say, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”
I hate it because they are wrong.
I hate it because they think they are right, but what they mean is, “I can’t understand.”
Those two sentences might seem similar, but they are vastly different.
“I can’t understand” is true. If you have not lost a child, you will never ever understand what it is like to wade through the ocean of grief.
You cannot possibly understand how all-consuming it is.
You cannot possibly understand how the world shifts beneath your feet and is never fully righted again.
You cannot possibly understand how it feels when people you love suddenly fall silent and stop talking to you completely.
You cannot understand the tremendous fear that your perfect baby will be forgotten and unloved by the same people who should have adored him.
You cannot understand the guilt or how it sneaks into seemingly ordinary moments.
You cannot understand how sitting in your child’s empty bedroom and reading a story out loud to a photograph of him is the most comforting part of your day.
You cannot understand any of this, and recognizing that you cannot understand is wise.
The thing is… you can imagine it, especially if you are a mother.
You can imagine a silent room when your baby is born.
You can imagine doctors whisking your baby away before you’ve even had a chance to see him, and silently ignoring your pleas of, “Is he okay?” because they don’t know.
You can imagine a doctor quietly and calmly telling you your child will die.
You can imagine holding your baby and realizing he is no longer breathing, that the moment you knew was coming came so much faster than you were prepared for.
You can imagine walking out of the hospital without your baby and getting into a car that has no car seat.
You can imagine waking with a start in the middle of the night, and then remembering your baby is dead.
You can imagine receiving a birth certificate in the mail weeks after, with the cruel word “Deceased” stamped boldly across the center.
You can imagine visiting your baby’s body at the funeral home the morning before he is cremated, and lovingly whispering in his ear not to be afraid.
You can imagine carefully, lovingly folding brand new clothes and blankets that will never be used into boxes—taking apart a crib that was assembled only days before.
You can imagine screaming in anguish even months later because your heart is still beating, and your child’s is not.
I am the one who can’t imagine it. Instead of imagining, I am remembering.
You can imagine what it feels like, but even the imagining is so unbearably painful, so you choose not to. Instead, you silence those thoughts before you accidentally imagine them into reality.
You can imagine all this and you should. You should imagine leaving the hospital without your baby, even though it is painful.
You should imagine losing your child, even though it feels like by doing so, you are inviting that reality.
You should imagine this, because only by imagining can you begin to transform sympathy into empathy.
Empathy allows you to understand a fraction more than you would have. And though you will never fully comprehend what this life is like, by trying to imagine and empathize, you are showing us your love.
You are saying to us – we will help you carry this burden. You are showing us you don’t want us to suffer alone.
I’m sure you can imagine what a relief that is.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Samantha Gorenstein and her husband Marc struggled with infertility for five years before welcoming sweet Reed Elliott into the world on December 10, 2019. Their hearts were broken when they learned Reed had suffered a severe neurologic injury in utero and was unable to survive. Reed passed away on December 14, after four days of love and joy with his parents. Though they didn’t bring their baby home, Samantha and Marc are still overwhelmingly proud of their little boy and are learning how to be better parents to him every day. Find more of their story on https://gorensss.wixsite.com/hopeblooms/blog and on Instagram @ssgorens