When you walk through a store and see little girl clothes, you quickly and quietly hold back tears, thinking if only I could’ve bought that for my daughter. That is the strength of a bereaved mother.
Although your child died after delivery, your milk continues to come in so instead of learning how to breastfeed, you learn how to dry it up, bearing yet another painful reminder that your child is no longer alive. That is the strength of a bereaved mother.
Instead of late-night newborn feedings, you plan a funeral. That is the strength of a bereaved mother.
When out to dinner, you see a five-year-old girl, and find yourself staring in a daze wondering what your own daughter would’ve looked like and once again, and try to hide the tears. That is the strength of a bereaved mother.
Instead of a baby to rock and hold, you feel phantom kicks reminding you that yes, there once was a living child within you, and you should be holding them. That is the strength of a bereaved mother.
While desperately missing and mourning your child, you still get out of bed, cook, clean, keep yourself and your family alive and thriving. That is the strength of a bereaved mother.
When you dread another doctor appointment when you will have to, once again, go over your medical history which involves mentioning your emergency c-section and the death of your daughter. You try to psych yourself up to be vulnerable and courageous not knowing the response (if any) you will get. That is the strength of a bereaved mother.
When you feel and show genuine happiness for another mom’s pregnancy reveal or recent successful delivery although your feelings inside are tinged with jealousy and deep sadness because you are reminded how some people just get lucky and you did not. That is the strength of a bereaved mother.
When you see siblings happily playing together, you longingly wonder what your son’s life would’ve been like with a big sister. Would they have played hide and seek together? Would she have helped him learn how to use the big potty? Would she have shown him how to gallop around the house? You try to push those thoughts aside because it’s too painful to think of the “what-ifs”. Or you hold those thoughts in your mind and let the tears flow. These are the strength of the bereaved mother.
When your quiet time alone in the shower brings a flood of memories, tears, and gut-wrenching “why’s?”…That is the strength of a bereaved mother.
When you pull away from the cemetery after burying your child, with a profusely bleeding heart, aching arms, eyes that will not stop streaming with tears, and a mind that feels as if it will go crazy…and your only wish is to die with your child so you can be with them again- yet you continue on in this life with the greatest burden any human has to bear. That is the strength of a bereaved mother.
When you constantly look over your shoulder waiting for the next tragedy to strike or for the next death to take someone you love away, you take a deep breath to calm your anxiety and try to cling desperately onto something that might soothe your fear. That is the strength of a bereaved mother.
When you avoid baby showers because they remind you of the one you once had, of all the baby gifts you were given, of all the sweet notes written to your child, of all the naïve excitement you had in your heart – only to, a few months later, store all those unused gifts in storage, put those sweet notes into your child’s memorial box, and have the feeling of innocent and starry-eyed excitement forever extinguished from your heart. That is the strength of a bereaved mother.
When you wake up thinking this must all be a bad dream, that your baby must surely be here for they were just alive and thriving in your womb a few days ago. But then as you walk into the vacant and silent nursery, your knees buckle, your hands start to tremble, and the desperate stream of tears reminds you that you are, in fact, living a nightmare you never knew existed. That is the strength of a bereaved mother.
When they “why’s” become a regular, mental narrative of your day – Why me? Why my child? What did I do wrong? What didn’t I do? You need someone to blame, so you blame yourself. You try to let go of the guilt, or you hold onto it because it at least gives you some answers when you got none. That is the strength of a bereaved mother.
Why write about all these sad and devastating details? Why share these details that a bereaved mother lives yet so privately guards in her heart? Why reveal them to the world?
I share them first of all for every bereaved mother. Some of these mamas may say that it is not their strength that got them through – it was necessity, habit, responsibility. Perhaps even learned behavior. I beg to differ. In my personal experience, I agree that there were times, months even, when I was merely surviving. That my survival instinct was the only thing carrying me through. But to quote Victor Frankl (Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist, and Holocaust Survivor),
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
When the survival instinct fades and the first round of shock wears off, we made a choice to keep living. We made a choice to cope, each in their own way. We made a choice to keep putting one foot in front of the other, day after day after day. And that needs to be recognized, revered, and dare I say, even celebrated. Today, with the sharing of these details, I acknowledge all the hidden details that caused you so much pain. I admire the capacity of your heart to bear them all. And I honor the fact that I walk through this painful life beside the warrior of a woman you are.
And I share these details for the rest of humanity that chooses to acknowledge them. For the simple act of acknowledgement gives bereaved mothers validation. I share them for those who wish to know more in order to empathize and support bereaved mothers on a deeper level. I share them for those who wish to go beyond the limits of their own experience and perhaps touch, even so lightly, the pain of another, for that enlarges the heart and mind. And for this, I thank you.