Shop the fall collection ➔

Tough it out. Don’t cry. Don’t be a girl. We have been told for years that to show pain, or to speak of it, is weakness. We are the children of stoicism. The American roots run deep into this ancient philosophy. At the heart, we know something is wrong with it, but from day one this belief has been a part of us. Growing in this harsh soil of stoicism paired with the miracles of modern medicine we as a people find ourselves wholly unprepared for the unexpected death, the death of a child.

Unlike most, my introduction to bereavement was gentle. It happened over years. I learned through stories, the memories of my grandmothers. It seems that I always knew about Jonny and John. Great Grandma Margaret would settle herself into a chair and then call all the children to her, saying, “I am going to tell you about all the naughty things your parents did when they were children.” And she did.

She told us stories of little boys ruining their Sunday best, of nighttime bicycle rides through the countryside, and of the history of our family. She told us about our great-grandpa, her first husband, who died before his time. She told us about her parents who worked the grounds on a Scottish estate until they took a boat to America—a poor family looking for a better life. Among all these stories and more were the stories of her son Jonny, who died at the age of eight from appendicitis.

Great Grandma Margaret was a poet. Her poem “Jonny” is my favorite:

Is he close to your breast, Gentle Jesus,
And by wondrous Celestial Grace,
Have you taught his lips once more to smile
And erased the pain from his face?
He is so small to be away
Lord lead him by the hand
When you walk by ‘The Still Water’
Upon the Heavenly Strand.
Was he taken from us Father
So our unseeing eyes might see
A beckoning hand,
A radiant face
And a glimpse of Eternity?

My great grandmother was not the only storyteller in the family. My Grandma Ina, her daughter, is as well. Grandma Ina’s stories are not as dramatic, but they are no less interesting or poignant. As a child, I loved to hear her talk about life on a farm, how things were when she was a girl. She would also tell us about John, her second child, who was born premature and died two days later.

As a child, it seemed a normal thing to talk about those who were gone. It did not matter that we never met them.

John is my uncle and Jonny, my great uncle. They are a part of the family that has made me. We are part of the same lineage. I love Jonny for his bravery in the face of death. My heart breaks for John and my grandmother—he was never held by her because she was never allowed the chance.

RELATED: God Held Us in His Arms As We Held Our Stillborn Baby in Ours

No one is prepared to become a bereaved parent, but I have always said that I was as prepared as humanly possible.

When those around you, those you love, speak about the realities of grief it gives a perspective, one that our culture frequently ignores.

My cousin Josh and I were the oldest of the grandkids that Great-Grandma Margaret would gather around her chair. As the oldest two, Josh and I have always shared a bond. I was in college when Josh married his sweetheart Kim. They were in their early 20s when they decided to get pregnant for the first time. Kim was healthy. They were young. Although, there was every reason to believe the pregnancy would go perfectly, at 20-weeks they were informed that baby Calvin had Trisomy 18.

Josh and Kim spent the next 21 weeks enjoying every moment they could with their little boy. Both wrote and talked about their experiences, even going into their thoughts on Heaven and life after death. I read most of what they published which was on a topic I am sure I would have not given much thought to otherwise as a college student.

Then the day came. After a hard labor, Calvin was born still but beautiful. A photographer friend of theirs documented his birth. Beautiful pictures of their family of three and of the entire extended family flooded my Facebook home page. Josh and Kim were saying hello and saying goodbye. In the months following, Josh and Kim continued to blog about their journey, describing raw grief and bittersweet memories, keeping on during the impossible.

Although I tried, I could not wrap my head around what had happened to them. One thing is for sure though, I was watching. I was paying attention.

A few months later, I hopped in my ‘96 Ford and headed east to visit them. Eight hours of driving and I was tired. Plopping my bag on the wood floor, I was greeted by Augie, their incredibly happy little dachshund.

Looking up and to my right, I saw Calvin’s picture on the wall. Never forgotten. Always loved. Prominently displayed next to Josh and Kim’s wedding pictures.

RELATED: Dear Baby in Heaven, I’ll Miss You For the Rest of My Life

These moments of life shaped me. I have grown in the soil of this American culture, but my beliefs about death escaped the shade of its indifference. No. The legacy of my uncle, my great uncle, and my cousin’s son, this is how I learned to interact with grief. It is good to remember. It is good for us all, no matter what our culture may say.

Earlier I stated that I was as prepared as is possible for any person. The truth is though, that no one is prepared to become a bereaved parent. No one is prepared for that moment when the doctor comes in and tells you the news—the unthinkable.

I was 23-weeks along with Kuyper when I stopped feeling movement. I came into the hospital a half-hour prior to my shift on the Same Day Surgery Unit and headed up to OB. It was not long before every nurse on the unit and the ultrasound techs had been in my room.

The doctor walked in and time froze in place. Then came the induction. One pill and I was in labor. Seven hours later and I was holding my son.

My husband and I did not have long to make decisions. The example of my family guided us. We knew already that we wanted to bury and not cremate. We knew we wanted pictures with our son. I knew it would be traumatic to hold Kuyper but for me, to not hold him would have inflicted a greater trauma. My heart swells with gratitude for this choice which my grandmother never received.

RELATED: A Letter to My Mama, From Your Baby in Heaven

We wanted to celebrate his life, inviting friends and family to a graveside service. We talked about our son. Seven years later and we still talk about him. He is our child. A part of our hearts. Our little girls know about their brother and love him. He is no less a part of our family for the brevity of his life. When all my hair is gray, I will tell my grandchildren and great-grandchildren about Kuyper, Calvin, John, and Jonny.

Bereaved parent . . . when you tell the story of your child, you do more good than you realize. You are opening the doors to an alternative perspective. You are letting others know that their grief is safe with you. The things you say about your baby, which fill your heart, may fill the hearts of others. You may help a niece, nephew, neighbor, daughter, or grandson to face the worst days of their life.

It is your choice and only yours to share. What is right for me and my family, may not be right for yours. If it is your desire to share, I hope you will not be diminished by those who hold onto stoicism. I pray that kindness and tender hearts forever meet you along your journey. Your story and your child’s story hold great power. Love always does.

Originally published on Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support

Ann-Marie Ferry

Ann-Marie is a nurse based in the Midwest. She and her husband have been married for close to a decade. She has three spunky girls and one sweet little boy in heaven. After nine months of hyperemesis, hemorrhage, and pre-term labor, her first pregnancy resulted in a full-term baby girl. Kuyper, her second child, was stillborn during his second trimester in 2013. Her third pregnancy concluded six weeks early resulting in a NICU stay. Although, still complicated and high risk, she would describe her fourth and final pregnancy as a redeeming experience.

Grief Is Persistent But God Is Faithful

In: Faith, Grief, Loss
Woman praying by ocean

The loss of a parent doesn’t just sting, it leaves you with an irreplaceable hole in your heart. It’s been two years since my loving daddy went home to be with Jesus, and the loss I feel is still unimaginable.  I know in my heart he’s in a better place that is absent of pain and distress. However, his physical presence and wisdom are so dearly missed here on this earth.  He left behind an army of a family who adored him and looked to him for solid guidance. No matter how hard I try to look to the bright...

Keep Reading

l Will Never Stop Missing My Sister

In: Cancer, Grief, Loss
Woman in red shirt

It might be 16 years too late to properly depict the depressive senses that engulfed my whole being when I lost my only sister Aurora to colon cancer in 2006. Painful flashbacks continue to fill my everyday life at the most inopportune moments that  writing about it might somehow alleviate my grief. I remember getting that random phone call from her one sunny day in September 2006 and how guilt automatically hit me. It had been a while since I last saw her. “It’s positive,” she said. Backed with years of joking around and playing tricks on her since childhood,...

Keep Reading

My Parents Are Both Gone Now, and I’m Struggling

In: Grief
Man holding smiling infant, color photo

I lost my dad at the beginning of the summer. The last time I saw him, my daughter and I picked him up from the hospital after his bout of pneumonia. She talked to him about her last day of kindergarten and how she would now be a first-grader. He sat cupping his warm mug of coffee in his favorite chair while his favorite blanket covered his legs. He smiled and giggled about the kindergarten stories. He and my daughter share the same birthday so he always had that Pop-Pop proud look on his face toward her. He was tired...

Keep Reading

Having Cancer at 34 Taught Me How to Live

In: Cancer
Husband and wife on boat, color photo

This picture came up in my Facebook memories today. It took my breath away for a moment, just like it has for nine years now. It was the last picture taken of me before my midwife found the lump and my life changed forever.  The first time I saw that photo, I realized I didn’t know that woman anymore. She was naive. Laying there in the sun without any inkling that a cancer was growing inside her. Look at her—unafraid and without anxiety. Less than 48 hours later, she would be gone, replaced by someone who was afraid of each...

Keep Reading

My Hands Are Full, but They Should Be Fuller

In: Grief, Loss
Family walking on beach

When they are gay, the waves echo their gaiety; but when they are sad, then every breaker, as it rolls, seems to bring additional sadness, and to speak to us of hopelessness and of the pettiness of all our joys. -Baroness Orczy I sat in the sand at the edge of the shore, looked out at the vast Atlantic Ocean, and watched the waves change the landscape with each crash. I absentmindedly dug a hole in the sand next to me, but then a wave came. The hole filled first with water. Then, wet sand caved in. The surface of...

Keep Reading

To My Sons in Heaven: Your Short Lives Changed Mine Forever

In: Grief
Woman at sunse

Dear Noah, Caleb, and Micah: I can’t believe it’s been nine years since I held you in my arms. My sweet sons, losing you broke me in a way that I never thought was possible. I have loved you every second of every day since we first heard of your pending arrival. RELATED: A Letter to my Daughter in Heaven With each day that you have spent in eternity, my love for you has grown exponentially. I have a vision of the day we will hug once more. I imagine that by then, my heart will have expanded so much...

Keep Reading

What If I Could Meet My Mom Now?

In: Grief, Grown Children
Retro photo of woman in sunglasses

I attempt to swallow. My heart is in my throat. I hold back tears. The woman who stands before me is 36 and looks a lot like me, but is not me. I squeeze my arms, pinch my thigh to make sure. I don’t wake up. “Hello.” Her voice is soprano and nasally like mine. Her black, Farrah Fawcett hair frames her round face. We are the same height. We share the same eyes. The same smile. The same white teeth. The same nose. The same long legs. She wears a baggy t-shirt with white-washed jeans, the kind that are...

Keep Reading

317 Days of Love

In: Grief, Motherhood
Smiling baby girl

She couldn’t speak, yet her life spoke to so many. 317 days she was on this earth. She couldn’t speak . . . only one word she said before she passed. One precious word: “Mama.” I can still hear it clear as day. I remember the moment she was born. I looked at her daddy with tear-streaked cheeks, shaking as I heard her cry. The nurse said, “You have a baby girl!” and I was in such awe. I looked at her daddy whispering, “We have a baby girl.” I was in complete adoration. From her dainty little fingers to...

Keep Reading

The Woman He Married Is Long Gone

In: Grief, Kids, Marriage
Young couple smiling

My husband has been married to at least five different women—and they’re all versions of me. His first wife was the 21-year-old version of me, who was a fit and focused college athlete. She was a driven, perfectionist dream-chaser. She was ready to push and sacrifice to chase the dream. No challenge was too hard—but then again, the hardest thing in her life was her organic chemistry final. She had the eternal optimism that comes with naivety and innocence. She loved him with eagerness and couldn’t wait to build a life with him. He often still daydreams of this first...

Keep Reading

Not Having My Mom Here Never Stops Hurting

In: Grief
Sad woman

Each phase of life since my mom died has brought different struggles, triumphs, and varieties of emotion. I always knew that grief was lifelong and complicated, however, I definitely underestimated the ways in which it changes as time goes on. I remember the beginning years as survival mode. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through each day until that day had passed and I was on to the next one. It was figuring out who I was and what my life was going to become during this awful new normal. Some days were harder than others and...

Keep Reading