It’s been nine years since my son was stillborn and in that time I have cried too many tears to count. I’ve listened to people give me their opinions – rude, kind or otherwise – I’ve changed jobs, added a few pounds and had another two children.
I’ve also learned many lessons as I’ve walked through the corridors of grief. Many of the things I’ve learned have surprised me. I didn’t know what to expect when I became part of the saddest club in the world, but today I do know that I’ve made it through the hardest part.
If you are early in your journey after experiencing the loss of a stillborn child, or anyone really, hopefully my learnings can ease your mind and give you a little bit of hope.
You won’t forget them.
I know you are afraid of this. I was. In fact the idea that I might forget my son was consuming at times. In the beginning, I visited his grave every day. I would lay there and play music or look up at the sky and think. I looked at his pictures from Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep every single night, falling asleep with my lap top open in front of me. I did anything I could to make sure he was a part of my day. I was actually pretty compulsive about it.
Time is such a funny thing though. As we passed first year milestones – my birthday, his real due date, holidays – I began to let go of the actions I was taking to try and make sure he was a part of my daily life. And, I let myself believe that it was okay to do so, because after all, it was. Instead of looking for him in the things I did, I would feel him in my heart and I tucked him safely into the memories of my consciousness. I began to realize that there was no way that I could ever forget him because he shaped the person I was since the very moment I found out he was a part of me. Today, I still see his influence in the way I react to situations all around me – whether I take a moment to breathe and refocus when my children are whining and crying or when I’m dealing with a problem at work – his death puts every day in perspective.
You need people who didn’t know you before the loss.
It might not seem important, but these people who come into your life after a loss are insanely important to your sanity. Whether they are people you meet through a support group, or people you meet as a part of daily life, these people help in two ways.
Support Group Friends – These people are the only ones you will really feel normal with after the loss of your child. It isn’t just that misery loves company, but misery loves and craves a common understanding. These people, your new tribe in life, are the ones that will help to validate the way you feel and allow you to feel that way without judging you. They will also be the ones with the most helpful suggestions when it comes to finding different ways to cope and recover. In my support group, we all hit the milestones and dealt with our pain triggers together. We made plans about how we would deal with any events or dates causing us anxiety. We talked about how we would honor our babies’ memories and many, many times we just cried together as we talked about how unfair life could be. You need these people who will just let you cry without trying to make it better.
New People In General – About a month after my son died, I took a new job in an industry that I had no experience in. I had been a photographer when we lost our baby, often working in newborn photography. I couldn’t go back to that so I walked away and found new, non-newborn people to surround myself with on a daily basis. That meant there was a whole new pool of people in my life who had no idea who I was. They didn’t know me before the loss so they couldn’t expect me to be the same way. If I needed to be quiet and solemn one day, I did it and no one thought it was weird of me. Maybe they thought I was weird in general, but their presence allowed me to be the way I needed to be without expectations. It also allowed me to put my loss on the back burner of my brain as I absorbed myself in the new job and the new people. Sometimes, I could even pretend that this bad thing hadn’t even happened to me. I could absorb myself in whatever was happening in their lives and laugh with them. That in itself was very healing because after a few months of being there, I didn’t have to pretend anymore. When I wasn’t consumed with thinking about death, I began to live again.
You need people who remember the person you were.
Just as you need new people, you need the people who knew you best before this tragic event changed you forever. For a time, these people may be difficult to deal with. These people will want to see the old you come back and they will want to see it happen on their timeline. Be patient with them as you try to put yourself back together because you need them. These people are important because they will help give you something to reach for. They will see the moments of you that come back, even if only fleetingly, and they will urge you on as you are able to take baby steps towards recovery. They are your cheerleaders. Even though cheerleaders are sometimes annoying (I was one.) you need their perspective, you need their positivity and you need their love.
You need to let some people go.
This is a hard lesson to learn when you lose a have a stillborn baby or lose a child. You may think you have lost enough already, but I guarantee there will be people that you will need to let go. Some people will never be able to deal with your loss because it makes them too uncomfortable. It’s not just that they won’t know what to say or do, but they will avoid it all together. The day we buried my son, one of my closest friends didn’t come. We had been friends for 15 years and while I knew our relationship was waning as adults, I still believed I would always be able to count on her when I needed her most.
I had requested that no children come to the burial. There was two reasons behind this. 1. I couldn’t really deal with kids in my mental state, especially babies. 2. If you have ever attended a funeral or burial for a child, you will know they are more difficult that adult services. The coffin is tiny (I always thought my son’s looked like one of those white, Styrofoam coolers you might buy at the grocery store.) and people cry more often because instead of remembering the person’s life and their accomplishments fondly, they are focused on the dreams that will now never be reached. However, when I requested this, my friend immediately told me that she wouldn’t be able to come because she didn’t have a sitter for her 1-year-old. In my head, she didn’t even try. I mean, she worked part-time and had a nanny. Her parents lived close by and her husband worked for his own business. Surely someone could help out for an hour?
I let her go. I was in so much pain, that someone who caused me more pain wasn’t worth it to me. Someone who couldn’t be bothered to even try to find alternative arrangements for their day so they could be there for me as I experienced the most difficult thing I had ever done, just wasn’t worth it.
And you know what? While I’ve missed her sometimes and wished that things could have been different, I haven’t really looked back. Focus on the people in your life that will be there for you through this and love you all the same. They will be the ones to hold your hand as you walk towards healing. Don’t be afraid to let others go.
You will survive.
I know it doesn’t seem like you will survive. I know on some days you probably won’t want to. In the days after my son died I wished I had died too. I felt dead inside so to me it didn’t really make a difference if I was alive or not because I certainly wasn’t living. I wished I could have traded his life for mine.
On those days, on those very hard days, when you feel like you can’t go on, take it moment by moment. In my support group, we all agreed that day-by-day was too hard in the beginning. A whole day felt like a whole lifetime with grief weighing down heavily on your soul.
My aunt gave me amazing advice during the first, dark weeks that still stays with me today. “If you can’t walk, you have to crawl there,” she said. My advice to anyone early in loss is the same. On those days where you feel like you won’t make it, you can’t make it, dig your fingers in and crawl. Little by little, the crawling gets easier and one day you will find out that crawling has become so easy that you can actually take some baby steps. Years later, with two children now by my side, I have learned to run.
You will be you again.
This one is hard, right? On the days that you can’t even walk, there is no way you can imagine being that sunshiney, happy person those cheerleaders wish you were. This is the one that takes the longest. You can survive if you are miserable, but to actually regain some sense of self after you have lost a child takes at least the first year. You need to learn to be able to live with the trauma that has impacted your life and figure out who it makes you in the years following. Don’t rush it. Take time to go through all the phases of grief, all the steps of recovery and feel the emotions of it. I promise, if you block them out, they will come roaring back at a very inopportune moment. While you are never exactly the same again, you will be close. You will smile, you will laugh and one day when you aren’t even paying attention, you will find you again.
For more on stillborn birth, miscarriage and child loss, click here. For more motherhood experiences, click here.
Updated: Since originally publishing this post on this website this piece been posted on the Huffington Post as well as several other sites. All content originated here at The Everyday Mom Life.
Wow Rachel, this post was so raw. Thank you for sharing such a painful personal experience.
Very touching Im so sorry for your loss
Wow, thank you for the honesty. I appreciate the glimpse into your experience. I am sure you will never be the same but I am also sure that you’ve got this, Mama.
I’m so sorry, mama. Thank you for sharing your story.
I’m so sorry for your loss. There are no words but thank you for sharing so that others can feel they are not alone.
Wow. I bet you have helped so many people by sharing your wisdom and experience. I am so sorry for your loss.
I can’t even find the right words to say, but my heart is aching for your loss and in awe of your courage. Sending you so much love today.
I’m so sorry for your loss. This was a beautiful post and I know will help other mamas greiving their sweet babies. My thoughts are with you.
I’m so sorry for your loss and you are so strong for dealing with said loss. I couldn’t imagine losing a stillborn baby. I had a miscarriage last year and it was too painful. Hugs mama. I’m glad you have found some comfort and have been able to deal with this great loss.
There are so many moms out there who will find comfort from this post when they need it the most. You’re so very strong and brave for sharing it. Sending love and hugs your way, love.
Mama, you have so much strength and I have nothing but love for you. <3
My daughter lost a baby at birth 19 months ago. He lived about an hour. When I saw the image for this on Pinterest, it stopped me short because it could have been her. I’m so grateful to have clicked through, and to have read your story. It brings my heart so much comfort to see your journey, and to understand better what hers may look like in the next few years. Thank you so much for your honesty. I am so very sorry for your loss.
Hi.. im actually searching for someone like you on behalf of my friend. Their little boy passed away due to a drowning accident about a month ago.. my heart is very sore for her.. so i will send your post to her… thank you for sharing your story.. and yes im so very sorry for your loss.. its a very very deep loss
I cannot imagine a loss like that. Even though I can’t fathom that loss, I can see why having people around you who didn’t know you before such a loss. There are less people saying they’re sorry for your loss all the time and trying to comfort you. I have lost loved ones – not like this – but I have, and being constantly told how sorry people are for your loss can make it so much harder.
I think having people who didn’t know you before any type of trauma or life change is key. No one wants to be defined by one life experience, especially a negative one.
Very tough thing to deal with. Our youngest had a life threatening health issue last fall and it was such a tough thing to deal with. Hope all is well!
This is absolutely heartbreaking and while something no one wants to talk about… It needs to be spoken about so those who have experienced it do not feel alone.
Powerful prose. It takes a lot to share this experience with us! That line, “you will be you again” is inspiring. I can apply that to hardships in my own life. Thanks for sharing your story!
I am so sorry about your loss. I miscarried 2 babies around 13 weeks. No one understand, it’s painful and the pain never goes away. One thing I did was set up a little garden with a in loving memory decoration for those 2 babies. Hugs mama.
I lost one of my best friends in college to ovarian cancer. She had just turned 21 about 6 weeks before she passed. I know it’s not the same as losing a child and I would never even think that what I feel is the same, but I also understand a little of where you are coming from. I’m glad you have found the support you need, and know that it’s ok to take all the time you need and have the quiet, reflection days that you want. There is nothing normal about what you went through, so there is no normal way to deal with it. I had a rough semester when I lost my friend, and at the time I thought about her every day. As time went on, I feel the same way you mentioned, I think about her and how she shaped me, even though we knew each other for less than a year. But she is half of the reason I even met my husband. So even though I don’t think of her specifically every day, she is always present in our lives because of who she was to my husband and me.
I’,m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your experience. Such an inspiration for people in the same situation.
I’m so sorry for your loss – it must have been devastating. Well done for sharing your story – I’m sure it will help others in the same situation.
Very sad to read this,I had a gulp at my throat and I am so sorry for your loss x
Although I can’t relate, there are so many women out there you are helping with this post, mama. You are so strong!
Oh my goodness this is heartbreaking. Thank you for being so open and honest about how things were for you.
This is such a heartfelt article. I’m so very sorry for your loss. I love what you say here about the people you surround yourself with, and the people you will need (or not). xo
I can’t imagine what it would be like to go full term and then lose a child! I lost three babies after carrying them 3 months and that was so, so hard. But those things people say can be crazy hard to listen to. I still think of things people said to me and wonder how they can live with themselves. 🙁
Very good advice. We’ve walked through similar paths and it’s just not easy no matter how you look at it. Hopefully people that need this article find it at the right time.
You are going such a favor to the world by sharing these tips through your heartache.
I can’t even imagine losing a child. I’m so sorry. No Mother should ever have to go through something like this.
I am sorry for your loss but as an angel mom as well this title is very jarring.
Loosing a child is one of the most painful experiences you are endure…and it does change you. I think its important to remember that is ok to change some. Raising a child changes you too. Change is ok.
I saw your IG post the other morning and it made me just stop and squeeze my baby girl ❤️ Such a wonderful tribute you do every year and I know it’s got to help in the healing process – love to you mama.
Wow, I’m so sorry for your loss. This was such a vulnerable post to write and I’m sure it’ll help someone going through the same thing.
I am so sorry for your loss. Losing a child is something you never, ever get over, even as the years pass. This is such a lovely tribute though to his memory <3
This post is so full of pain and depth and real sincerity. It will help others in their grief. Much love to you and your family.
Im so sorry for your loss! Thank you for sharing your experience. Thankful you have support systems that helped and continue to help you get through!
I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I know it will help a lot of people.
I am so sorry to hear about your loss! I couldn’t even imagine having to go through a loss of a child. I have some friends that have went through this and I am sure would love reading this post! Ill have to share it with them.
Yours is such a touching story. Please accept my heartfelt condolences. I hope you can fully recover from this loss.
So heartbreaking! Im so sorry for your loss. I pray you find comfort.
When our 6-month-old daughter died, I worried that I would lose all those memories, but I really haven’t. They come back to me now and then and it’s very bittersweet. Prayer and staying busy, and becoming pregnant again, all helped me so much after my loss.
My condolences to you!
My heart breaks for you! This is an amazing post and I’m sure it was difficult to share your heart. I had 2 miscarriages (not even trying to compare with a stillborn) and most people acted like it was no big deal, but to my husband and me, it was a very big deal. Hugs to you!
although ive never been through this my self ive witnessed my friends who have had to go through this terrible loss and its tragic and so heartbreaking – you’ll never forget them and thats true. hold onto that.
My heart breaks thinking about this. I’m so glad there are people like you who are comfortable sharing your experience- it’s something that helps for those who have experienced it & those who have not, to be able to read.
I don’t even know what to say except I am sorry that this happened to you. I hope you get the support that you need and deserve.
I am so sorry that this happened to you. I do know this pain unfortunately. And I know we all have to find her own ways to grieve for sure. I really like what you mentioned here it’s a wonderful post.
I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to lose a child. Thank you for sharing your story.
My mother had two still births and I had several miscarriages. That was so hard on me, so I can’t imagine how you must feel.
I am sorry for your loss. This is a devastating thing for any woman to go through. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I’m sure you’re helping many women out there process some of these feelings.
Sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your experience. It really does give a better understanding.
I am terribly sorry for your loss. How brave of you to write about it and share your feelings to help others. HUGS
I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I can’t even imagine the pain of losing a child. You are an inspiration to others.
I am so sorry for the loss of your precious son. I cannot imagine the pain and am so glad you were blessed with 2 children that you can physically love now.
Some of our friends recently lost their baby. This post really helps me understand more how they’re feeling.
I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. So many women go through this and are afraid to speak of it, so thank you for sharing your story. Hugs.
I don’t think there can be any pain worse than losing a child. Thank you for your courage to share your story. I am sure there are woman out there that feel alone in their grief, but this article will make it a little easier knowing that someone out there does understand.
I’m so sorry for your loss. I experienced sort of the same thing after my Mom died. It was nice to get away from it and start a new job in a new city where I wasn’t known as “the girl who’s Mom died”.
What a sad story! I am so sorry! Thanks for sharing it with us!
It is difficult to deal with loss, sorry this happened. Thank you for sharing the lessons you learned. I have a college friend who experienced the same but I do not know what to say to her. This will help her!
I am so sorry for your loss. I cannot even imagine losing a child. My heart goes out to you. Thank you for sharing this very raw post
Such a beautiful and raw post! It’s always so hard dealing with loss, I can’t imagine losing a baby! Sending you love and light!
This is heartbreaking. When I was a principal this happened to one of my teachers. We talked about these same things, and the hardest was giving up people. Especially long term friends, church friends, etc. Well meaning but very mislead.
I am so sorry for your loss. It happened to a few people I know too and it was heartbreaking. But they survived and I know you will too. Stay strong!
I am so sorry for your loss. It’s one I cannot relate to personally. But also so inspired to see the way you have been able to help reach out to others by sharing your experience.
So sorry for your loss. <3 My heart goes out to you.
I am so, so sorry for your loss. But am so thankful for you sharing your story. I know you’ve helped so many others facing the same horrible loss and that’s amazing that you are able to do that.
I definitely agree with needing people who didn’t know you before!
I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story and offering hope as well as practical advice, because both are needed.
When my best friend died at age 19, the world seemed to stop spinning. I remember my boyfriend (at the time) chewing me out a year later because I wasn’t “over it.” Grief is a very personal experience, and I love your aunt’s advice.
So sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing this with us. I know a couple people who have recently lost a child. I will be sharing this post with them.
Thanks for sharing your personal story! And I am so sorry for your loss. My mom had too many miscarriages in her life, she was really sad and depressed.
I am so sorry about this. I can’t image what you are going though. I hope that it gets better soon.
We lost our son Timothy on August 25th at 38 weeks. One year ago today (New Years Day) we found out we were expecting him. We’ve been trying to conceive again now for the last few months, with no success yet. Today is definitely one of those days where I have to force myself to even crawl. Reading stories like this makes that little glimmer of hope just a little bit brighter. Thank you for sharing your story.
I am so sorry mama that you had to go through this. Sending you lot’s of love and hugs. And that friend that coudn not attend is a b..ch.
I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine what that must have been like. I can’t even begin to fathom losing a baby, especially in such a painful way. Thank you for sharing your story.
I can’t imagine the pain of that loss. It is so brave of you to share this story. I know it’s going to help so many mamas out there who have gone through this.
Thank you for sharing your story.
I can’t even imagine going through this. I so appreciate you sharing your story though. I imagine it can help others going through the same thing.
I am so sorry for your loss. I have lost 2 babies myself. It is devastating. I went through a tough time and did not want to talk to anyone. It is something that if no one has gone through it will understand. Thank you for sharing your story. It is good to know I am not alone.
I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t begin to imagine all of the pain you have been through. ♥️
I’m so sorry for your loss – this is heartbreaking. I can’t begin to imagine what you went (and are still) going through. Thank you for sharing your story – I know many moms are struggling and it’s important for them to know they’re not alone. Stay strong.
So sorry about the loss of your baby. Since I’ve been there and lost multiple potential children myself, my heart goes out to you. Stay strong!
The pain of losing a child is the worse thing ever. It took me several years to recover after I miscarried.
I’m so sorry for your loss! Thank you for sharing your story in a way that will be helpful for others walking this same painful road.
Thank you for sharing your story. I’m so sorry for your loss. I have no idea idea how painful it is to lost a child but one thing I am sure of, you are strong and an inspiration to others.
I am so sorry about your loss. But it’s great that you can talk about it and this way you help many others to feel a little bit better!
I’m so very sorry for your loss. You are doing a wonderful thing by talking about such a hard time in your life to help other moms.
I’m sorry to hear about your loss! I have a sister that went through this and it was an incredibly painful experience for all of us. Thank you for sharing your story!
I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. This is some real information that I think many of us need to read. Hugs to you girl.
I’m so sorry! I think it’s so important to talk about things like this. for you as well as others going through it!
I know this is a difficult subject to talk about. You are brave and courageous to write this. This may help someone else that is going through this
My heart aches for you. Thanks for being strong enough to share your story.
I haven’t experienced it,but it’s a great article for those who does. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you for this beautiful piece. I had an early miscarriage at 45. It was an unexpected pregnancy but still painful. I’m so very sorry for your loss but celebrate your resilience. ❤️
This is so raw and emotional. I can’t even imagine going through this, so sorry for your loss <3
I’m so sorry for you loss. I am very sad to read about the friend who couldn’t come; I am with you – she could have gotten a babysitter for one freaken hour! I would have let her go too!
You are so strong, Mamma – even if you don’t always feel it.
I am so sorry you had to experience this. Thank you for sharing your story with us.
Ohh my heart! I can’t imagine how hard this was to share but I’m sure you e helped so many but doing so. Thank you for opening your heart
First off I would just like to say I’m sorry for your loss and I will be keeping your family in my prayers. This post is so touching. Thank you for sharing your such a painful experience with us.