“She has a name.”
When the seasons shift from the crisp fall air into the harsh, bitter winds, and gone are the carefree opportunities to jump into crunchy leaves, replaced instead with scraping the inch of ice off your windshield before heading out for the day, we soothe ourselves with the holidays. We get to focus on the gatherings, the food, the decorations. We get to shop, to sneak a plate of cookies onto the neighbor’s porch, and to cover all of the things with glitter. We create these patches of happiness and joy that shine in stark contrast to the gray, the cold, and the lack of sunshine.
For some, though, the anticipation of the holidays came earlier this year—much earlier—because it was going to be an enormous milestone. For some, it was going to be “Baby’s First,” with the cute bibs and onesies, the photo opportunities with Santa, the tiny stockings and fretting over how to tell Aunt Nancy that the baby doesn’t need a taste of pie. For 15-20 percent of those some, though, the space that anticipation occupied is now replaced with pain, heartbreak, and grief.
“Ask me—ask me what her name is.”
Gone is the idea that grief happens in stages, that grief is linear, and that once you’ve checked off all of the boxes (Denial? Check. Anger? Check. Bargaining, depression, acceptance, check, check, check), suddenly sorrow is a trespasser, and you have revoked any and all permission to mourn your loss. Grief does not work that way; instead, days, months, years after the loss, something could trigger a memory or a feeling, and it’s as if someone has hit the rewind button. You could be flooded with anger, or depression, or find yourself bargaining as a desperate attempt to make the anxiety subside.
“No one ever wants to talk about it. About her.”
With miscarriage and when a baby is born still, there can be a sense of betrayal. The appropriate end result of a pregnancy test showing positive is that a baby is born, and that baby will outlive the parent. So when nature betrays us, the loss can be traumatic. It is not solely a loss of your child’s life, but also a loss of the idea of what your life would look like. Instead of choosing your child’s “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament, you might avoid these trinkets and tokens, as they remind you of what your reality should have been.
“This year was hard. She would have gone to school this year.”
Losing a child is a loss so great it is a wonder that a human can survive it. We as a society avoid the topic, because we fear it will be too painful for the grieving, or that we won’t know what to say to help the painful feelings subside. As humans, we need to do better. And for those who are carrying the burden of grief, your heartache is real. Your loss is undeserved and valid. So whether you feel the clawing at your throat when you notice the lack of high chair around the Thanksgiving table, or opt to sit out on holiday shopping altogether this year because it’s just too painful, my hope is that you can be kind to yourself, and that you can get the support you need.
And regardless of if your loss was earlier this month or earlier this decade, give yourself permission to honor your child this year if that is what your heart needs. Light a candle, celebrate her day, or say her name out loud to someone who loves you. Your heartache matters, because you matter, and because your baby matters.
Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway.