Before I start this post, I want to say how deeply sorry and saddened I am for all of those who have ever lost a child. One of the hardest things for me to overcome was the dream of the life I had envisioned for my son, one full of adventure and chaos and above all, one full of love. Unless you have experienced this first hand, it’s impossible to know how deep this type of loss cuts into your heart. It has been 2.5 yrs since that devastating moment in the ultrasound room, when I received the news my precious son’s life was no more. No explanation, no answers, no one to blame so I blamed myself. This type of torture mother’s put on themselves can bring you to the darkest places. Instead of nurturing my heart, my mind played back every single moment and action that I could have done differently. And if you too have experienced this type of torture and despair, I’m here to tell you 1. you are not alone and 2. yes, you will have reason to smile again someday.
Through my own journey and what I found comfort in, I hope to bring some helpful options to your healing process after such a heartbreaking loss.
1. Create a Serenity Garden. I found this to be one of the most healing things I did. As mothers, we want to take care of that life that was lost. Being able to plant flowers & trees, water and look after them was theraputic. There was a big patch of dirt in the yard so I turned it into a peaceful place full of nature and beauty. I also placed a swing and blue wind chime in my garden so when the wind blows, I hear and think of my son.
My loss happened in the end of February, so Spring was just around the corner, seeing flowers blooming, birds nesting and butterflies brought comfort. Plus I didn’t want to leave my house for months so it gave me something to do outside while still away from the world. It was also a great activity to do with my older children.
2. Seek guidance. It is so important to talk to someone about your loss, ideally a professional. I went to a therapist individually, my husband and I did group counseling with other couples going through similar losses that was free at a local hospital officiated by a therapist and we also reached out to a Deacon and his wife from our church who had extensive experience in loss. With this, you force yourself to talk (and cry) about the details that keep you up at night and there are times you want to question the process because it gets so heavy… but it really does help the healing process. You must get those thoughts out and there are incredibly skilled professionals to help you through it.
3. Just remember “they are coming from a loving place and mean well.” After a loss, people have no idea what to say and do. Some distance themselves because the weight of the situation is too much. Others will say things that in every other context of life mean well but can be incredibly hurtful to someone who’s lost a child. Things such as “everything happens for a reason” or my personal favorite “maybe this was a gift”…ummmm no, my baby‘s loss is in no way a gift. Here’s the thing, they mean well, they really do and care for you a great deal. It’s difficult for anyone to try to make sense of a senseless situation. The very best thing that a loved one can do for us is just show up and be present, they don’t need to provide all the answers, they just need to be there with open arms.
4. Honor your child. Mother’s Day, Christmas, Anniversaries… all very hard to go through. Go easy on yourself, be kind to your healing heart and realize that if Mother’s Day hits you like a mack truck and you just want to stay in bed, you are allowed to be sad and do just that. When you get stronger, and you will, plan something nice to honor your child. Some people do a balloon release, others will have a mass in honor of them. I decided I wanted to plan a “Love Walk for Scotland”… When I delivered my son, never before could I imagine that I would feel such heartache and such overwhelming love in the same moment. The love my husband and I felt for our precious boy was so deep, so profound, so unconditional, just as it was for each one of our other children. And even though his precious body was lifeless, my sweet Scotland was surrounded by so much love and so I wanted to honor him in that very feeling. I invited family and friends to send me pictures on his due date, walking in love to honor Scotland. Over 500 photos poured in, so many of whom were also walking for their own losses. So on a day that could have very well resulted in me crying in bed again, I spent the day filled with love pouring out from all over the country. Now I have an album full of photos from Scotland’s Love Walk that I will cherish forever.
5. There is no shame in medication. Immediately after the loss, the depression and anxiety was just too much to handle. Plus I had two young kids that needed their mommy not to be sad all the time. Your emotions affect them more than one might think. You are in survival mode, trying to make it day by day, do what is best for your family dynamic. Personally speaking, I went on medication for months which helped me a lot and my family was better off at the time because of it. And when I got stronger, I took myself off. To this day, I still use deep breathing, self affirmations, essential oils and a glass of wine to help calm me when anxiety tries to creep back in.
6. Everyone grieves differently. This is SO important. After my loss, I wanted to crawl into my bed and never get out. Sleeping was the only escape to my reality. (see #5) My husband, on the other hand, started P90X the day after our son’s loss. What?! You see, his way of processing our loss was to be the best version of himself for our son. Don’t get me wrong, he had his tearful moments, but overall he was driven to be a better dad to the two children that we had and to live in honor of our son. As you can see, our grieving processes could not have been further apart. It is crucial that you realize there is NO right way to grieve. Everyone has their own process. RESPECT and support each other’s process, this is so important to know!!! My husband allowed me that time I needed to heal, we listened to each other’s feelings and even though our interpretations were different, we both lost our son. We both deserved respect while we healed. And when my depression finally lifted, he was there waiting for me. I’m thankful every day that he was patient and allowed me that time to grieve. Good times and bad, sickness and health. Now that’s love.
7. Have hope! My rainbow baby of hope arrived 16 months after my loss. Even though my pregnancy following Scotland was considered a “healthy” pregnancy, my mental state was a whole different story. I was a mess of nerves and doubt, panic and fear at every ultrasound… but I also had hope. Deep breathes and affirmations kept the fear from taking over. There was a time I thought I would never be strong enough to endure another pregnancy. But I did it with the incredible support of family, friends and my doctors. It was after my daughter’s birth that I realized to never underestimate a mother… we are warriors of the heart.
H.O.P.E – hold on, pain ends
Lucy Riles, co-founder of Life of Mom