I know you don’t want to be here. None of us do.

The membership fees are high. The highest, in fact. To belong to this club, you must lose a child.

Maybe you have met other members. Maybe you haven’t. You might not recognize us, but we are everywhere.

We are the mom at the playground who grimaces when she hears the name of the daughter she lost being called aloud by another parent to their own child with that same name. The pain that flashes in her eyes disappears so quickly you probably don’t even notice it. But that mama’s wounds run deep, and they were just reopened. 

We are the mom registering her child for kindergarten and crying on the inside, because two little girls should be embarking on this exciting new chapter together. Two little girls should be picking out sparkly new clothes and colorful bookbags, but there is only one. One of these beautiful twins was not meant for this earth, and so every day, her mom puts on a brave face for her family. She tries, anyway.

We are the mom at the park or the pool who is perhaps laughing and, for all intents and purposes, is having a good time with her children. Internally, though, she is heartbroken. She would move heaven and earth to have her other child with her physically and not in an urn on the living room mantel.

I don’t know when you joined this club, but I want to say I’m sorry. I wish neither of us personally knew the agony of its existence.

I want to extend my condolences for the loss of your child. Maybe you never got to hold her in your arms. Maybe it was only for a second. Maybe you had the opportunity to watch him grow up. Whatever your circumstances, your pain is real and valid, and I wish I could take it all away.

In this club, though, you will learn that the pain never goes away. Not really. My hope for you is that you can learn to live with it and find the coping mechanisms that will enable you to move forward.  

Maybe you will talk about your child and hang his or her picture up in your home. Or perhaps you will find other ways to honor and remember your little one. Whatever that looks like for you, just know there are others out there just like you who understand your grief and sadness. We are here to support you and help you get through this awful hand you were dealt.

I know you have regrets. I know those awful last moments with your child play over and over in your mind like a broken record player. I know sometimes you cry into a pillow late at night, so your family doesn’t hear you.

I know this isn’t how you thought life would go for you. I know you’ve imagined a different scenario a thousand times. In that scenario, your child is smiling and happy and your heart was never ripped apart with the kind of excruciating pain that no parent should ever have to experience.

And yet, here you are. I wish I could give you something more tangible than my kindred spirit, but it is all I have to offer. That, and the assurance that you won’t always have to drag yourself out of bed in the morning, catatonic with grief. Your legs won’t always feel like a weight working against you with every step you take. One day, I promise you will smile again.

You will never be the same, that is true. You can’t be. When you lose a child, it’s as if something deep inside you dies as well.

But if you let yourself, you will be reborn. You will rise out of the proverbial ashes like the mythical phoenix bird.

It will be a painful process, make no mistake. Some days you will feel genuine happiness. Other days you will be sure the despair is going to swallow you alive.

But keep going. Keep fighting. And know you are not alone.

The other phoenixes are among you, if you know where to look.

Sincerely yours,

The Grieving Parents Club

Leslie Froelich

 Leslie Froelich is a freelance writer and co-founder and facilitator of a postpartum depression support group in the Cleveland, Ohio, area, run through the organization POEM (Perinatal Outreach and Encouragement for Moms). Her work has appeared on Scary Mommy, The Huffington Post, American Greetings, Postpartum Progress, Motherly, Hot Moms Club, and The Purrington Post. Leslie is a former full-time reporter and current freelance writer and translator for Mundo Hispanico newspaper, a Spanish-language affiliate of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Currently, she stays home with her two daughters, Elizabeth and Maggie, her cat, Liberty, and she has been married to her spouse, Nick, since 2007.