So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

As soon as we drove through the gates, I couldn’t help but immediately notice all the changes that had been made to the large property. The main office was in a different location, as well as the restrooms. We started coming here in September of 2008 and it was now October of 2020. I knew this place like the back of my hand.

Or, at least I thought I did.

My husband Brian and I held vigil every day in the very same spot, surrounded by flowers, toys, and other grieving visitors.

As our precious baby boy Liam never made it out of the hospital, the cemetery was his home.

His final resting place.

Liam was our firstborn and being there was the only way we knew how to parent him. Providing Liam’s tombstone with various holiday decorations and stuffed animals was our version of changing his diaper or giving him a bath.

It was the least we could do for a baby we were no longer able to hold in our arms.

RELATED: He Took His Last Breath in the Only Outfit I Ever Bought Him

Liam was only nine days old when he passed away due to a congenital heart defect. Brian and I were left completely devastated with absolutely no idea on how to go on.

And thus, St. Charles cemetery became our second home, too.

In the days that followed Liam’s passing, Brian and I went to see Liam every single day. Initially, being there not only filled me with grief but also anger and rage.

How could I have let this happen to my son?

It may seem a little crazy to those who have never experienced this horrific loss, but self-blame is quite common among those who have suffered the unimaginable.

As parents, our duty is to nurture and protect them. We are the ones who are supposed to go before them, not the other way around.

Burying a child goes against the natural order of life.

With some time off due to bereavement, I imagined ways in which we could make this whole parenting thing work.

It was pure misery and nothing short of hell on earth, but Liam was still our son and we wanted to honor him.

We needed to honor him.

RELATED: She Was Never Mine

“Why don’t we just move into one of those apartments near Liam?” I once asked my husband.

That way, I could see him as often as I wanted. Being that the cemetery was an hour from our home, my idea would enable us to spend more time with him.

These elaborate thoughts started to fade a few months later when I found out I was expecting my second child. Still, that didn’t stop us from going.

However, as the years passed, our excursions became more and more infrequent.

By the time we welcomed our third child in 2012, the visits were mostly reserved for the holidays.

A bereavement counselor I saw shortly after Liam’s passing warned me this would eventually happen. I refused to believe her then.

What kind of mother would I be for not going to see my baby boy? The whole idea of it seemed preposterous and just so very wrong.

“You don’t need to be there every day to love your son. Liam is always with you in your heart and in your mind,’’ she said.

Her words continue to sting every time we go. These days, it is not just Brian and me. An 11-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy have joined us.

In reality, we can’t be there every waking second of the day as we have to also care for Liam’s siblings. Initially, this filled me with a ton of guilt.

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

Then I came to realize that Liam’s little spirit wouldn’t want it any other way.

We were all a family together.

As our living children have gotten older, they have begun to process more. They have ideas on what to bring to the grave. They want to make sure he gets a Christmas present, too. They talk about him frequently, and we welcome that.

They sure do miss him, though.

As do we.

Although our family is just not the same without him, we choose to remember Liam as a blessing.

We are comforted by our prayers that we will be reunited in Heaven one day.

Kathleen Sullivan

I am a freelance writer and full-time mom. My work has appeared on: The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Brain, Child Magazine, Mamalode xoJane, Parentco., Mommyish and Your Tango. I can also be found blogging at:

I’m Not Who I Was Before My Mom Died

In: Grief
Woman looking out window at home

Life after dealing with death is hard. I’m no longer the person I used to be. I’m motherless. This motherless life is hard. I need time to grieve, but I also need time to find myself again. I need time to mourn the life I’ll never have anymore. I need time to process. I need time to process the fact that my mother is gone. I’ll never have new memories. My kids will never have new memories and people expect us to pick ourselves back up. I can’t pick myself back up quickly after losing my mom. I’m still trying...

Keep Reading

You Are the God of Details, but God These Details Don’t Make Sense

In: Faith, Grief, Loss
Window open with shutters

That was not the plan. What just happened in there? We walked out a bit defeated. More than a bit. I felt deflated. Things were supposed to be different by now. This wasn’t what I asked for or expected. This wasn’t even what they told me would happen. We cross the street in silence. Headed to the car and as soon as I shut the car door, I could no longer hold it in. I let the tears flow. All this unknown. I don’t understand. This is life. This is foster care. This is what we chose. That doesn’t make...

Keep Reading

Donating Breastmilk Helped My Heart Heal

In: Baby, Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Woman with packaged breastmilk, color photo

Dear grieving mama, You know when you lose a baby everything changes, but your body moves forward like nothing happened. It carried that tiny baby long enough to trigger a complicated hormonal cocktail that causes your milk to come in so that little life can continue to grow outside you. But your baby is separated from you in a way nature never intended. There will be no baby snuggles. There won’t be a sleepy, smiley, milk-drunk face looking up at you. But your body doesn’t know that, so your breasts swell and keep swelling with milk that has nowhere to...

Keep Reading

I’ll Always Need My Mother but She Left Me Way Too Soon

In: Grief
Family surrounding woman at end of her life

I married my college sweetheart over a decade ago. I want to ask my mom about marriage. I want to ask her about navigating arguments and personality differences. But she left me way too soon. My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. My mother had three miscarriages. Her first two were before I was born, and I was her rainbow baby. Her third miscarriage was in the second trimester, after my little brother was born. It devastated her emotionally for several years when I was in elementary school. I want to ask my mom about grief and pregnancy loss. But...

Keep Reading

Have You Sat with the Dying?

In: Grief, Loss
Holding hand at hospital bedside

Have you sat with the dying? Have you seen the loved ones who sit at their bedside night after night, holding their hand? They hold on, afraid to let go, knowing the end is near but so not ready for the last word, the last touch, the last breath of life.  They sit, exhausted beyond exhausted. They know it’s time to let go, but they also wonder how life goes on without them. There was life before them, and there will be life after them, but life after now will never be the same without them.  Have you sat with...

Keep Reading

What Would it Feel Like To Hold Him Today?

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Black and white photo of parents holding toddler

 My breath catches. My heart races. I remember. I remember when they were five and six. When they ran around with my son. I remember now how many years have passed, how long it’s been. I’m watching. Sitting on the outside, peering in. Wondering. Wishing. Tenderly remembering, trying to breathe. One breath. One moment. One day, one minute at a time. The world still spins and time moves on. My other children have grown. But in 10-year-grief, the world stands a bit still. Remembering him. The 5-year-old, toothless smile. Shy hellos to his friends. Missing him. Missing them. Missing that....

Keep Reading

The Mother without a Mother

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Woman with kite on beach

“How is your mom?” My mother looked at me, waiting for my response. Born in a small town in the middle of Kansas, she genuinely wanted to know the answers to the questions she asked, and more importantly, she listened. I stared back—voiceless. I was holding my infant daughter in my arms, bouncing her up and down in that rhythmic, automatic movement that defines the early years of motherhood. Up. Down. Up. Down. I sped up, frantic almost. “She’s good,” I said. The words came out more as an exhale. I cleared my throat. “My mom is good,” I confirmed....

Keep Reading

What They Don’t Tell You about Child Loss

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Couple on dock by lake

What they don’t tell you about child loss . . .  They don’t tell you that you’ll never be the same—not that you won’t ever feel joy or love the life you have—but that it changes you. They don’t tell you about the countless sleepless nights and the not knowing why, holding your thoughts captive and the guilt that threatens to creep in.  They don’t tell you about the hole that can never be filled or replaced mostly because you never ever want it to. You don’t want it to because you hold space for your child, and you don’t...

Keep Reading

On the Day of Your Mother’s Funeral

In: Grief, Loss
Bride and mother on wedding day, color photo

On the day of your mother’s funeral, you will wake up and it will feel like any other day until you remember that it isn’t any other day. Someone will force you to eat breakfast and tell you when it is time to get in the shower. While showering, you will cry and wonder just how you will make it through this day. On the day of your mom’s funeral, you will look at your dress and think that it is really pretty and then shake your head because it’s such a shame that you will never wear it again....

Keep Reading

Memories Fill the Holes in Their Hearts Where a Grandpa’s Love Should Be

In: Grief
Drawing, journal, and photo of man, color photo

“Girls, come here for a minute.” In some sort of yearly ritual, I guide my oldest two daughters to my bedroom, where a wooden chest sits. It’s painted in flowers of muted colors and has a brass keyhole on it, making it look like an antique. It isn’t. It’s only 20 years old. As my girls follow me into my room, I grab the skeleton key off my dresser that unlocks the wooden chest. I turn the key and open the wooden box that holds so many pieces that are supposed to remind me of my dad.  Pictures of him....

Keep Reading