Free shipping on all orders over $75🎄

It has been 16 months since my first child was stillborn. Our surviving child, her twin, was very ill for the first year of her life. During this time, my husband and I did everything we could just to survivewe trudged through anniversaries, birthdays, and all but one holiday in a calendar year as we watched our child fight for her life in the NICU. We could not muster enough energy to eat a composed meal, let alone begin to unpack the intense trauma we endured.

The world marched on without us as we poured ourselves into the one-pound body that lay behind the glass of an isolette.

Now, months later, while we are by no means out of the woods, we have fallen into a routine and our days have become more predictable. Easy? No. But we can sit back from time to time and take a breath. During these times of relative relaxation, emotion creeps in. I prided myself for so long on my okayness. I was holding it together and thought maybe I’d be one of those unicorn people who process their grief in their sleep. I’d wake up one day and be just fine. Surprisingly, those people don’t exist. I feel, and I feel intensely. 

It took me months to say to myself, “My child died.”

Months of denial, of taking the advice of others and focusing on the one who needs me, and burying my feelings of guilt, anger, longing, and sadness deep down inside. Now that I have the mental, emotional, and physical capability to begin unpacking some of what has transpired, I realize the death of my daughter is something that will impact my family, and most importantly her living sister, for the rest of our lives.

RELATED: You Were Here My Angel

I can’t hide from this or pretend it didn’t happen, though it is easier and significantly more socially acceptable. Many of the people around me don’t know how to respond to my desire to talk about her and become concerned I’m depressed, suicidal, or worsedwelling on the past.

Our world is not built to support the grieving parent.

Navigating that hard truth and determining how we can carry on her legacy has become my mission, albeit a difficult one. I am ready to think about her, talk about her, and weave her story into the fabric of our family. I want our living child to know her sister’s spirit is with her for her lifetime. That she may not be physically present, but her existence matters, and she is loved beyond measure. I want to celebrate her day (we have chosen the day she died as our celebratory day), talk about her on her sister’s birthday and on their due date. I want to create a space where we can visit her, talk to her, read to her, and sing to her. All of these steps will not only help me understand and accept her death, but they will create a new normal as her sister grows older and is able to comprehend the story of our family.

RELATED: To the Woman Who Called Me Sick For Talking About My Children Who Died

We hung her Christmas stocking on the mantle this year. I am painfully aware that on Christmas morning, that stocking will hang empty as the others around it burst with gifts. At the head of our Thanksgiving table sat an overtly open chair that should have been filled by our toddler.

While these gestures are too painful for others to comprehend, it is imperative to me that we honor her absence.

It’s important for her sister to carry her memory and for our family to grieve the potential that was lost with that little life. I know that this is just the beginning of my journey as a bereaved parent. Our traditions and the way that we share our grief will change as time passes, but for now, I am finally ready.

RELATED: Grief is a Constant Companion for the Mother Who’s Lost a Child

Originally published here

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Jessica Wolff

Jessica is mom to micropreemie Lily, who was born at 24 weeks gestation weighing one pound and given a 5% chance at life. Jessica writes about her journey with infertility, child loss, NICU time, and medical parenthood.

Some Mothers Never Get Their Rainbow Baby

In: Faith, Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Sad woman with head in hands sitting on bed

Not everyone gets a rainbow baby—that’s a truth not many of us talk about. There are many women who long to have a rainbow baby but because of health or age, they never get one. We never talk about it. We don’t want to bring rain on someone’s otherwise happy day. “Oh, I’m so excited for you. Congratulations on your rainbow baby.” Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for mine. The clock is ticking and there is no sign of a rainbow baby. My body is wearing down and the chances of getting pregnant dwindle. I don’t mean to sound bitter. I’m...

Keep Reading

Sharing Our Grief Frees Our Hearts

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Two women holding hands over a hospital bed, color photo

Almost 18 years ago, we lost our first child. It was unexpected. It was public. It was traumatic. It was a moment in time that even to this day, burns with a scorching flame, running like a reel in my memory and igniting a pain deeper than anything I’ve ever known into the empty corners of my heart. And while time has marched on in beautiful ways—healthy children who I get to watch grow up, an incredible marriage with the love of my life, a gratitude for all the milestones each year brings—I still can’t help but hold space for the...

Keep Reading

As Long as It Beats, a Grieving Heart Lives with the Pain of Loss

In: Grief, Loss
Woman walking through brown field with hand outstreatched

Life churns forward in a somewhat continued and steady momentum that I find I must consistently adjust my pace to keep up with. There isn’t tolerance in life for the way grief seems to ache for pause. In the silence of this space, my body feels crushed under the weight. I sit alone with my thoughts often. I’ve made peace with the solitude that surges in the aftermath of death. Maybe not peace. Perhaps it’s surrender. After all, which one of us doesn’t fall prey to the helplessness of mortality? I can no longer count on one hand those I’ve...

Keep Reading

6 Things You Can Do Now to Help Kids Remember Their Grandparents

In: Grief, Living, Loss, Motherhood
Grandfather dances with granddaughter in kitchen

A month ago, my mom unexpectedly passed away. She was a vibrant 62-year-old grandma to my 4-year-old son who regularly exercised and ate healthy. Sure, she had some health scares—breast cancer and two previous brain aneurysms that had been operated on successfully—but we never expected her to never come home after her second surgery on a brain aneurysm. It has been devastating, to say the least, and as I comb through pictures and videos, I have gathered some tips for other parents of young kids to do right now in case the unexpected happens, and you’re left scrambling to never...

Keep Reading

I’m Not Ready for Life Without My Mom

In: Grief, Loss
Woman sad sitting by a window looking out

I’m not ready. Not ready for time to just keep trudging forward without her. Four years have gone by, and I still think about her every day. When that awful third day of October rules around every year it’s like a tidal wave comes and sweeps me up tossing me this way and that. The rest of the year I can bob up and down with the occasional waves of grief. But the week before October 3rd the waves pick up, and I can’t see over the crest of one before the next is already upon me. I find myself...

Keep Reading

Since She Left

In: Grief, Loss
Older, color photo of mother and young daughter blowing out birthday candles

It’s been 14 years since she left. It’s like a lifetime ago and yesterday at the same time. The loss of my mother was indescribable. We never had a traditional relationship. As I grew older, our roles were very much reversed, but even still, missing one’s mother (for lack of a better word) is hard . . . plain and simple. Sometimes I wonder, what is it exactly that I miss? Of course, I miss talking to her. I miss how she drove me crazy. I miss her baking. I miss hearing about her newest needlepoint. I miss when she...

Keep Reading

I Carried You for Just 17 Weeks but I’ll Hold You in My Heart Forever

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Ultrasound image of baby in second trimester

September 11 will be a date that is forever etched in my heart, not only because of its historical significance but because it’s the day I saw your lifeless little body on the ultrasound screen. I couldn’t hold back the sobs. My chest suddenly felt heavier than a ton of bricks. I’ve been here before. I’ve had losses, but none this late. I didn’t feel their movements or hear so many strong heartbeats at my checkups. Your siblings felt you move and squealed with utter excitement. I want to wake from this nightmare, but it seems it’s my new reality....

Keep Reading

I Was There to Walk My Mother to Heaven

In: Faith, Grief, Loss
Hand holding older woman's hand

I prayed to see my momma die. Please don’t click away yet or judge me harshly after five seconds. I prayed to see, to experience, to be in the room, to be a part of every last millisecond of my momma’s final days, final hours, and final moments here on Earth. You see, as a wife of a military man, I have always lived away from my family. I have missed many birthdays, celebrations, dinners, and important things. But my heart couldn’t miss this important moment. I live 12 hours away from the room in the house where my momma...

Keep Reading

To the Loss Mom Whose Tears Keep Her Company Tonight

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

Three pregnancies in one year. Three first trimesters. Three moments of celebration . . . until they turned to moments of sorrow. I’m sure every woman who experiences pregnancy loss has the thought, “I never thought this would happen to me.” I truly never thought this would happen to me. I have two healthy boys—conceived easily, uncomplicated pregnancies, by-the-book deliveries. We even thought we were done having kids . . . until the pregnancy test was positive. That’s when my heart opened up to more children, and I realized I ached to carry more life. Raise more littles. Nurse more babies....

Keep Reading

Cowgirls Don’t Cry Unless the Horse They Loved Is Gone

In: Grief, Kids, Loss
Little girls Toy Story Jessie costume, color photo

The knee of my pants is wet and dirty. My yellow ring lays by the sink—it’s been my favorite ring for months. I bought it to match Bigfoot’s halter and the sunflowers by his pasture. Bigfoot is my daughter’s pony, and I loved him the most. The afternoon is so sunny. His hooves make the same calming rhythm I’ve come to love as I walk him out back. A strong wind blows through the barn. A stall labeled “Bigfoot,” adorned with a sunflower, hangs open and I feel sick. I kneel down by his side as he munches the grass....

Keep Reading