“You are so strong!”
“I can’t even imagine what you are going through.”
“God needed another angel. She was too special to stay here.”
“I am sorry God did not answer your prayers.”
“At least you have other children.”
“I know how you feel . . . I lost my grandmother recently.”
“I am praying you are starting to heal.”
Any parent who has laid a child down in death and then had to turn and walk away broken-hearted has heard something similar to the statements above. Often these phrases are said with the best intentions that were meant to offer comfort at a time of incredible loss. Frequently, however, they are received like shards of glass piercing an already torn and bleeding heart. You might wonder why I consider myself an expert in child loss? Only because I have lived it firsthand . . .
Millie was a precious little girl, the ninth child I had given birth to. She had wispy little blond curls and a petite body that didn’t always seem to balance with her bold and independent attitude. She knew her own mind and had no problem telling you her wishes.
She was doted on by her brothers and sister, older nieces, sister-in-law, grandparents, and of course her mama and daddy.
As a farm girl, you would find her in little, green, John Deere boots most everywhere she went. When she was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, a highly aggressive childhood cancer, you would hear those little boots roaming the halls of the oncology floor at OU Children’s Hospital. Over the course of the year as she fought cancer, much of her life was lived in that hospital. Her third birthday, her fourth Christmas and Easter, her siblings’ birthdays, Mother’s Day, and more were spent in a hospital bed waiting for the day she could go home “to my farm.” Her friends became the other cancer fighters, her family was the staff who cared for her.
The day we got the news that the treatments were not working and she would be leaving us soon, our hearts broke. How do you prepare to lose your baby? You really are not given a choice.
People think you are so strong, yet you are at your weakest. Then like any loving parent, you lay your feelings aside and care for your baby’s needs first. My job was to help Millie walk to the gates of Heaven the best I could. To love, comfort, and care for her needs until that moment arrived.
As I write this, I am 366 days into being that grieving mother. One year and one day ago, my 3-year-old daughter Millie took her last breath in my arms, then opened her eyes up to the face of her Heavenly Father.
My new identity of a mom without my child follows me everywhere I go.
Sometimes because people recognize me from our Facebook prayer page. Other times it is because I share about her journey with those I meet. I believe there are truths to be learned from the pain I have experienced but only if I will transparently share it.
The knowledge I have gained from being a grieving parent and surrounding myself with other grieving parents is that everyone wants to offer comfort, yet many people bring more pain with careless words offered in sympathy. I would never accuse someone of intentionally inflicting pain on my heart. Rather they say what they think might help the sorrow, but like the biblical friends of Job, they miss the mark.
You are so strong!
My honest reply is usually one of two answers, “What choice was I given?” or “No, I am weak, but I am leaning on Christ who is strong.”
I can’t even imagine what you are going through.
I believe any parent could imagine losing their child. Yes, it is as bad as you think it would be.
God needed another angel. She was too special to stay here.
Angels are heavenly beings who are servants of God. They are not and will never be human. Millie did not become an angel when she went to Heaven. I believe she completed her life here and her time to join her Heavenly Father had arrived. I am fully confident I will see her in Heaven one day.
I am sorry God did not answer your prayers.
Often the prayers we cry out in desperation are prayers not fully thought out. They are selfish, pain-laden prayers. They are heartaches lifted to the Father as we beg Him to fix it. If I start to believe that God did not answer my prayers, then I have to also wonder if He even cares about me?
The truth is God is good all the time. Just like any good father, He does not always give me what I ask for. He does see the bigger picture, the journey, and the end—with a clarity that I do not. My daily prayer for my daughter was, “Lord, please heal Millie and let her tell of your goodness with her own mouth. But if you do not, I will tell of it for her.”
The reality is God did heal my baby, but He chose a heavenly healing. Would I rather it had been here? Yes! Absolutely . . . but maybe He saw the pain she would have continued to walk through. Maybe He knew what trauma she would have endured for years to come. I have to trust that He knew better than me what my girl needed.
At least you have other children.
Yes, I do and each one is such a blessing! However, having other children does not erase my longing and desire for Millie. The other children give me a good reason to get up in the morning because they still need a mama who is fully present for them. They need to feel secure when their lives are torn apart and for the days they miss their sister intensely. They do not replace her, nor would any baby born after her replace her. Every child has their own special spot in a family.
I know how you feel . . . I lost my grandmother recently.
You can use many words in this sentence like pet, husband, home, job, etc. Many things cause grief in life. What you can not do is compare that to how a grieving parent feels. I have lost all my grandparents and my father, miscarried, and more . . . it does not compare to the loss of Millie. I have come to realize I cannot even compare my loss of my daughter to another parent’s loss of their child. Grief is HARD. Grief is INDIVIDUAL. Grief is normal and expected. Don’t try to sympathize it away.
I am praying you are starting to heal.
While I appreciate the thought behind this, I am not sick. This pain will not heal. It might get easier to carry or a little easier to ignore, but it is a forever pain. I have watched parents who lost children over 50 years ago shed tears as if it just happened. Part of us dies with our child. Maybe it is the part that holds our expectations, that breathless anticipation of things to come in our child’s life. For a grieving parent, nothing more comes from their child’s life until we reach Heaven.
If you find yourself walking beside a grieving parent, struggling to find the right words to comfort them, instead share a memory. Say the child’s name often. Allow the parent to grieve in your presence. Do not place blame for things that cannot be undone even if you believe the parent made mistakes. Instead, speak of the treasured times together with the child. Sweet memories that help to knit the cracks in our hearts back together. The scars will forever be there, but our hearts will grow stronger from the pain we have endured.