Grief is so very difficult, and grief that refuses to be recognized, is the hardest to deal and cope with. The other day I noticed that one of my classmates was visibly upset. I watched as she would occasionally get up and leave our class, always with tears brimming in her eyes. Each time this occurred something would tug at my heart.
Here was a young woman in pain, her grief so deep so profound. Here was a mother who had lost not one but two children, in such a short time. What was even more difficult for her was that she did not have an opportunity to hold these children, they were both miscarriages. Yet her grief is as real as mine, and I believe, even more so.
Too often those who have lost a child through miscarriages, stillbirths and in infancy are treated as if their grief should be non-existent or diminished in some way. As a mom who has lost a child, I cannot even imagine not having had the opportunity to hold my child, let alone not being given the opportunity to meet them or getting to know them. I have met too many moms who have not forgotten, who remember there due dates, and have named their child. The love they have for their child is no different than mine. Any woman, who has carried a child in pregnancy, knows the bond that begins long before their child makes their debut into this world.
For most moms, we begin to talk to our unborn child; we begin to dream of what they may accomplish, what they can become, and what they will add to our lives. This child is a part of us, and we a part of this child, we cherish every movement and kick; we look forward to sonograms, and doctors visits. So much anticipation, so much fear and joy, and so much hope. That unborn babe is life itself, we begin to nurture this precious life long before the delivery date.
Recently, there was some commotion about pictures taken of a families’ stillborn child. I can honestly say that it is the pictures of my daughter that I cherish most, and I fortunately have many years of photos. For others this is not the case. Yes, it may seem odd to so many of you, but for many of these parents, it is there one cherishable memento of their little angel. My husband and his family have a picture of their little brother, Rui, who lost his battle with illness at the age of 10 months. At a time when photos were rare, someone offered to take a photo of him at his funeral, the only photo his parents have of this child. When photos come out, as they often do at family gatherings, this picture always brings wonderful memories of a life too short.
Grief is grief, whether we have so many precious years with our loved one, or profound memorable moments; love is love. And for so many of us who are moms, the love of mother and child, is the strongest love of all. It is unconditional, our hearts are poured out for the love of our children, and we cherish every nuance, every heart beat. Whether you have had just hopes and dreams, hours or days, or have shared some memorable years; the spark of life, the fulfillment of dreams, the realization of love, is a loss that cannot be measured.
When we do not understand what is happening, or have not experienced a loss ourselves, we need to step back and realize that grief is very real in so many instances. Loss needs to be acknowledged, we must be willing to accept that others will hurt, that pain is real, regardless of what we or society deems as an appropriate grievable loss. Our role should be to LISTEN, to hold their hand, to simply say ‘I’m sorry,’ and to allow them to work through their grief in whatever way works best for them. We are not ‘cookie cutter’ people; we are each and every one of us, unique. And it is this very uniqueness that makes us all the more wonderful, all the more vulnerable to all life hands us, and that gives us the courage to get up and face each new day with a renewed sense of hope.
Love crosses boundaries that no man or woman can or could ever understand. Yet love is one emotion that can bring us so much joy and sorrow at the same time. But to not know love, for me is a greater loss than any other I can even begin to fathom. We hurt because we love, but we also begin to heal because we LOVE!
To all parents who have loved a precious child, who have held them in their arms, or simply in their heart; know that they now hold you dear, and that they continue to send you love, and you will always be their mom and dad.
**Title quote by Doctor Seuss (March 2, 1904 - September 24, 1991) From Horton Hears A Who!
This article (or parts of this article) previously appeared in LIVING WITH GRIEF (rmsaraiva.blogspot.com), December 19, 2011
Rose Mary Saraiva was and is still living in Fall River, MA. Employed by the Office of Faith Formation in the Diocese of Fall River, serving as Events Coordinator & Bereavement Minister. Grief Support Group Facilitator; Rainbows for All Children Facilitator; TAPS Certified Facilitator; Certification in Thanatology; and Suicide Prevention Training. Author of Living with Grief – a personal journey blog through my grief experience and author of Miranda and the Butterfly Gate, a children’s book. Contributor to The Anchor, a diocesan newspaper and A Praça, and international magazine for Portuguese communities around the globe.