So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

Grief makes us uncomfortable. Being face to face with someone else’s intense sadness is really hard. In my life, people feel doubly awkward because my child had cancer and died. There are two subjects that make people painfully uncomfortable. No one knows what to say or do, so many people follow the “I’m sorry” up with “my (insert relative or friend or random acquaintance) has/had cancer”. While yes, that matters and it’s terrible that anyone had to fight such a horrible disease . . . it’s just not helpful to compare an adult who fought and survived or even fought and died to someone’s child.

That in no way means I don’t care about other people and their struggles and losses. If anything, I’m MORE compassionate for loss and suffering now. I see the need for compassion and encouragement everywhere. I constantly think, I wonder what that stranger next to me is going through.

I also completely understand that when you’re hit with “my child died” it makes people uncomfortable and they are trying to show you they care or that you’re not alone because they know someone who had cancer and died.

I get it.

I’ve done it!

Before we started walking this road, I’ve known several people who have lost children and you don’t know what to say so I filled it in with:

“I can’t imagine.”

“I don’t know what I’d do.”

“I have a friend whose daughter died.”

“I lost my (insert person) so I get your pain.”

ALL of those things are valid and sweet things to say and no one is terrible for saying them. Our instinct is to ease people’s pain because it makes us uncomfortable—it’s 100 percent normal and human.

BUT to be completely honest—which I’ve promised to be since Sophie was diagnosed—now that I’m on this side of it . . . it’s just not helpful.

It makes me feel like I need to stop in the middle of my grief to be sad for an adult who lived a much longer life than my baby. Again, I’m not saying I don’t care about others and their pain or that my pain is more important.

It’s just that when someone is sharing their grief with you, it’s OK to just listen and not try to take their mind off of it with a story of another.

If someone is sharing their grief with you, it’s because they want to. They very, VERY easily could suck it up, say “I’m fine” or avoid talking about it at all. So if someone is sharing with you, it’s OK to just listen.

I want people to know that it’s OK to not know what to say.

It’s OK to say nothing.

It’s OK to start crying because what I just said shocked you and broke your heart.

It’s OK to say “I don’t have words for that.”

It’s OK to just say “I’m so sorry.”

It’s OK to simply say “I love you.”

It’s OK to say “I don’t know what to say but I’m here.”

It’s OK to say “I know it’s been a few months/years since your loss but I remember . . . I’m still here.”

It’s OK to grab my hand and just sit in silence.

Really, I don’t expect anyone to know what to say because . . . there’s nothing to say. I promise, I don’t know what to say back to you. I can’t say “it’s OK” like I normally would if someone apologized to me because, in this case, it’s not OK. I can’t say “Well at least . . . ” because there’s no at least. My child fought, faced every worst case scenario imaginable, and then died. Something terrible and broken happened and there’s no “good” response.

Just be there to listen. You don’t know how to help even though you desperately want to, but . . . we don’t need help. Nothing you can do or say will fix the grief, but feeling loved and not alone can make a bad day a little better.

Just be there to listen . . . because that’s what we need.

Shelby Skiles

Shelby Skiles is a wife, teacher, and mom to her two-year-old angel, Sophie. Sophie passed away in January 2018 from Lymphoma. Shelby chronicled Sophie’s entire battle through her blog Sophie The Brave and hopes that transparently sharing her journey through, motherhood, cancer, and now grief will inspire others to look passed their circumstances and see that God is bigger than all of it. She’s deeply committed to honoring Sophie’s memory by sharing her story and I spring others to ‘Do More’ and make a difference. 

How Grateful I Am for a Mother Who Believed in Me

In: Cancer, Grief
Mother and grown daughter, color photo

It was a hot summer day sometime in the middle of high school. I was young and naive, but the ugly six-letter word was looming over our family: cancer. Although I didn’t know it then, this would be our last normal summer before my mother’s health would worsen. Cancer would give way to terminal cancer. It’s funny how something so big can seem so small in those moments. My mom and I were sitting on our back porch, encased in a narrow hedge of yew bushes. It was a yellow, lazy Saturday, and my brothers and father were at Cub...

Keep Reading

A Medical Diagnosis Challenges a Marriage

In: Cancer, Living, Marriage
Bald woman holding clippers over husband's head, color photo

It is no secret now that Albert Pujols and his wife have announced their divorce shortly after she had surgery to remove a brain tumor. As a breast cancer survivor, this news hit me in a special way. As I was reading through an article from Today, there was a quote that hit me hard, “But a marriage falling apart is far more common when the wife is the patient, researchers have found. A woman is six times more likely to be separated or divorced soon after a diagnosis of cancer or multiple sclerosis than if a man in the relationship is...

Keep Reading

Dear Grandmother, I’m Not Ready to Lose You

In: Grief
Elderly woman and granddaughter touch foreheads

I had a visit from my grandmother the other day. It wasn’t a regular sit on the porch with a cup of tea kind of visit. It was more of an “I have something I need to tell you” type of visit. She’s been unwell for some time, and I guess I had sort of hoped she would get better, and she would be back to herself soon enough. I noticed when she sat down and tears filled her eyes that it wasn’t going to be a normal conversation. Her eyes widened and she struggled to get her words out without...

Keep Reading

Love Carries On in the Ones We Raise

In: Grief, Motherhood
Mother and son hug

From a very young age, two of the most important men in my life were my grandpa and my brother. I never could have imagined that I’d lose them both within nine months, nor could I predict the profound effects the magnitude of those losses would have on my life. My grandpa was my father figure and shepherd. I have endless memories of him— from splashing in the ocean together to shopping each Easter season for my Easter dress. He was always there. Every choir concert, musical, or school ceremony, I could easily find his face in the crowd. I...

Keep Reading

Friends Can Be a Sanctuary

In: Friendship, Grief
Group of friends hugging

A sanctuary is defined as anywhere people go for peaceful tranquility or introspection. My friends became my sanctuary when my husband, Frank, died. They became my refuge and my safe place. Friendship is one of the most wonderful gifts in this world. It is beautiful, comforting, ever-changing, and, for me, a fixed point.  My friends seemed to know exactly what I needed and when I needed it. Their love and constant support got me through the worst of times and gave me the courage and confidence I needed to move forward.  I could never give an adequate thank you to...

Keep Reading

All I Wanted Was For My Baby To Stay Alive

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Sad woman with head in hands

Today is the day I’ve dreaded and resisted for almost a year: the day I face going through the white plastic bag the hospital sent home with me after my D&C, 10 months ago. This bag held my clothes, shoes, and wedding ring for the short time I was in surgery, but I rescued all of those precious items soon after waking. The items that remain show the paper trail of that difficult day—receipts from my hospital admittance and anesthesia, general post-operative care instructions, and a consent form for “treatment of incomplete abortion.” That last part brings tears to my...

Keep Reading

My Husband Makes Me a Stronger Woman

In: Grief, Loss, Marriage
Daddy standing over hospital crib with infant, black-and-white photo

A little over a year ago, my husband and I went through the unimaginable. We lost our child, Lillian, to a congenital heart defect. The days following that, and even to this day, people will comment on how strong I am. How well I’ve dealt with this darkness. How they can’t imagine what I am going through. The truth is I was never alone. From the day we found out I would give birth to a child who had complex heart defects, my husband has been there. Always in the background of what others saw but ever so present in...

Keep Reading

Mothers Don’t Teach Us How To Live Life Without Them

In: Grief, Grown Children, Loss, Motherhood
Woman in dress with corsage, smiling color photo

When you’re a little girl, you dream of marriage, children, a career, and memories that you will cherish forever—and you want your mother by your side at all times. Our mothers teach us how to live a life we will enjoy, but they never teach us how to live a life without them in it. Our mothers don’t tell us that one day they will not be here to answer the phone when we call or go on spontaneous dinner dates. My mother never told me there will come a day when she will be gone and how bad it...

Keep Reading

When Mother’s Day Feels Awkward, Find Comfort in Community

In: Grief, Living, Loss, Motherhood

Mother’s Day can be beautiful for some women. It can be hurt filled for others. Or in my case, it can just feel plain old awkward. I felt eight years of awkward Mother’s Days. In my late 20s to mid-30s, I felt like the woman no one knew what to say to or what to do with. I felt a double whammy on Mother’s Day. My mother was home in Heaven. My womb was empty and always would be. My desire to have a child was filled with an intentional choice to go a non-traditional route to motherhood and was...

Keep Reading

Sometimes Mother’s Day Hurts

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Mother holding baby near grave, black-and-white photo

I see you moms. I see the moms who will never see all of their children together on this earth at the same time. The moms who dread the question, “When are you having children?” or “Will you have any more?” The moms who pray for that second line, month after month. The moms who are seeing that positive test and don’t know how they are going to make this work. The moms who can’t shake the blues or depression, who feel guilty for not feeling happier about their baby. The moms who feel as though they are doing it...

Keep Reading

 5 Secrets to Connect with Your Kids

FREE EMAIL BONUS

Proven techniques to build REAL connections