One of our local Mamas lost her baby this week.
You may know who she is, or not. How it happened is a story for another time. This story is about her grief.
We invest our whole selves into our children. We give them our bodies, our blood, our milk, and our hopes and dreams. Most importantly, we give them our love.
We give so much and we expect something back.
Maybe "expect" isn't exactly the word you might use, but something along those lines. Maybe we hope and dream of some reward. We dream of nurturing a little baby, showing off adorable outfits, sharing smiles and songs. We hope for Little Leaguers and Scouts following in our footsteps. We imagine our children surpassing our achievements--becoming doctors or millionaires--maybe a famous artist. Most of all, we imagine them thriving and happy in our arms.
Losing a baby is something that terrifies most mamas.
Most of us have nightmares about our children dying or disappearing and sometimes it happens. Many moms have had miscarriages or a "lost twin." Some chose abortion only to find themselves grieving. Others suffer through a baby or child's cancer and say goodbye, over and over again, until the child finally passes.
When it happens, it seems like the world will end. The loss causes a deep emotional wound to her heart. She asks, "Why Me?" "Why this baby?" "What will I do now?" "How can I go on living?"
When a baby dies, there is no standard procedure to follow.
Everyone wants to be included in the birth of a baby. We buy gifts and bring food. We say blessings and lend a hand. Losing a baby is not the norm. Most babies do grow up.
Nobody has the right words, if there are right words, to ease a mother's suffering. They feel awkward and unsure of how to handle their own feelings. So people do nothing, or they say and do too much.
Friends and family may decide the mama wants to be alone and avoid her. This avoidance may increase her hurt because she probably feels responsible in some way and the silence comes across as judgement. "What if" and "If only" run a constant loop in her mind.
The truth is, she probably does want to be alone, but not all the time.
She does want to talk about her baby, her dreams and her loss. What she needs is someone to hear her disappointment, without judgement or fixing, as many times as she needs to share it.
She does not want to hear "Oh, you are young, you'll have another one." She will never have this baby, again. Losing a child is hard enough and to make it worse, a lifetime of her hopes and dreams have been shattered. She will not breastfeed this child or help them learn to walk. There will be no nursery school or bike riding. No graduation and no grandchildren.
Whether she sees it or not, people will go silent when she enters a room and whisper about her. She may feel ashamed, because maybe there is some known or unknown flaw in her or her partner, that caused this tragic loss; that she must somehow explain and give a reason for the loss; and that explanation must have meaning and value; it must show that everybody tried as hard as they could, and it wasn't enough. Or maybe, there is a person or a hospital, or a situation that can take the blame for causing the death.
The heart knows no reason. It can't understand logic. It heals when forgiveness is felt and when the grieving is complete.
After a time, she must hide her grief because it's been a week, or a month, or 5 years.
And people will say, "It's been long enough. Time to move on." Even though telling her this doesn't speed up the process. And they will probably not notice how uncomfortable they are with her sadness.
It can take a shocking amount of time to fully grieve any loss, but mothers who have lost a child say, "You never get over the loss of a child."
She needs time to grieve, to let go of her dreams and adjust to the new way of life. And most of all, she needs people to be empathetic and patient.