I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry that your baby is gone, be it a four-day-old or a forty-year-old. Your baby is gone and it isn’t fair.
The immediate days and weeks right after will be a blur. You’re in shock. People will offer to help you; let them. Let someone you trust take over as much of your life as you can handle relinquishing. Focus on making it moment to moment. Worry about as little as possible.
The time after the funeral will be especially hard. Your support group will have to go back to “regular life.” Make no mistake, their “regular” is forever changed, too, but your life is unrecognizable. A shambles. Find other people to support you, too. Maybe it’s a therapist or a grief group. Sometimes it helps to find a “sponsor” – a person who has also lost a child, who you can reach out to at any time of the day or night.
Some people will be afraid of your grief, and stay away. Ignore them – it’s their problem, not yours. Some people will tell you to get over it. Ignore them – they have the privilege of not understanding.
Expect sorrow like you’ve never imagined. Expect raging, uncontrollable anger. Expect guilt so crippling you won’t be able to breathe. Guilt can sometimes be the most overwhelming emotion you’ll experience. You’ll feel like you should have done something different. You’ll run a million “what if” scenarios in your head. You know you shouldn’t, but you won’t be able to help yourself.
You can survive this. You may not want to, but you can. One day you will wake up, and the weight will be a little bit easier to carry. It hasn’t gotten lighter – it never will – but you have gotten stronger. That’s not to say you won’t sometimes be knocked off your feet by grief, but it will be easier to get back up.
You will always be a parent. Your child is your child, no matter what.
Breathe. One foot in front of the other.
I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.
Thank you for your wise words. There is so much advice and information for parents about so many aspects of parenthood (feeding, sleeping, etc) but not so much on this topic.
I wish that none of us had to live in a world without our child/children.
I searched for a magic plan after Jake and then again after Sawyer died. There is no step by step plan to follow or guidebooks when you have just held your child for the last time. There are no magic words. You have to figure out your new normal. It is just moment by moment. Find others out here – like Heather who are living without their children. Sending hope and hugs. xo
Thank you for these words. These are hard waters to navigate. Many hugs to you!!
I’m so sorry you understand this way too profoundly…. too personally. The person you wrote this to is lucky to have you in their life. Sending you both HUGS!!! xo
Thanks for this, even if it wasn’t specifically for me or my parents. My sister just lost her battle with glioblastoma. She was 46 years old. My parents are preparing her memorial right now. People are sending me condolence cards. I don’t want to have a reason to be receiving them. I hate picking out the right words for her obituary. It sucks.
I’m so sorry for your loss, Liz.
My thoughts are with you and your family, Liz. xo
Oh Liz. I hate GBM. I am so, SO sorry that your sister is gone. It sucks and it’s so unfair and I hate that you have to go on without her. xoxoxo
Thank you. I hate it too. Wish I never knew what GBM was.
I’m so, so sorry Liz. I hate GBM too. My sister lost her husband to GBM (who was truly like a brother to me) in October of 2012. Every single day for her and the kids is a struggle and I still find myself thinking of his last days every single day. I’m so sorry Liz
To you, to your sister, to your family … I am so, so sorry for your great losses. I am so sorry.
Thank you. Just had her memorial service his morning. I know not a day of my life will go by without me thinking of her.
Thank you for sharing this, Heather. I’m sorry you speak from experience, but I hope your words offer some comfort to the person who needed to read this.
Heather, cyber hugs to you. And a great big thank you. I have a friend who has had exceptional loss in her life and we talk about grief a lot. I recently experienced grief myself in losing a parent. We talk about how no one talks about grief. I never knew that the emotions grief can bring are so debilitating, so lonely, so very lonely. I do have a strong faith/beliefs that this is not the end; however, I even question why the churches don’t speak more on grief. I look at grief similar to child bearing in that we have prenatal classes, movies, classes, etc…but you really can’t explain it all to the new mom, she has to experience the birth. I suppose you almost have to experience grief to truly take in all of what that small word entails. But we can still talk about it. Give them some words of wisdom like you are doing here, explaining that when the waves of grief roll in, it is normal to feel like you can’t breath, it is ok to lay on the floor sobbing. Your not crazy. Your full of heartache. So again, thank you for sharing a part of your life that is so fragile, so precious and so very much a part of your soul forever.
I lost my parents and only sibling within 3 years….No words to describe my feelings but you can and do go on for the living in your family and within your friends. Nothing I can say that has not been already written about how important grief understanding is. Everyone copes within themselves but in the end it is a devestating thing. I have been one of your following for years and I want to thank you for opening up your life to us. It really helps to know that when something happens like this your not alone.
I’m so sorry, Susan. xoxo
I would only add one thing to your sentiments, Heather. Don’t feel like you have to keep it together in front of others, especially family. If you need to just break down and cry, don’t hold it in. It will suffocate you if you try. Just let it out, even if it takes hours. Follow your emotions. Trust in them. That is the only way to truly survive something like this. Don’t try to hold in your grief, especially at the beginning. I hate belonging to this morbid club, but the worst part is knowing I am not alone; that others have also suffered a similar loss. Thank you, as always, Heather.
Yes! This is such an excellent point. You don’t have to be strong for ANYONE.
I agree completely with what Jenn wrote.
This is beautiful.
Tammy M. says:
This post is full of wisdom. Beautiful.
Tammy Kelly says:
I love this post and wish I had read something like this 9 years ago when my son died. And I can say after 9 years that yes I am living but grief is still there, certain triggers, dates, holidays. It’s still hard sometimes.
I can tell you that 24 years after my first daughter passed away, grief is still present in my life, but it only really hits me hard twice a year, anniversary and birthday seasons. Thoughts and prayers are with you, even 9 years later.
kelley clark says:
Thank you for this, Heather. We lost our healthy first born child to SIDS without warning. All of our friends left us because they didn’t know what to say. Family told us to “stop talking about it” (after only two weeks) I felt all of the things you mentioned, and this many years later, still feel the pain. I’m so sorry you know all of this from experience, as well.
I am so sorry for your loss.
I lost my only child and I don’t feel the pain gets any lighter and a lot of time feel like my life is meaningless. I don’t know if having more children will help. Right now we are also struggling with infertility. I don’t know if there is any story of parents surviving after the loss of only child and no more other children.
Oh Hope. I am so, so sorry. You can survive. I know you can. Please, if I can do anything for you, let me know. xoxo
I’m really sorry you are struggling. It took is over 3 years to have another baby after the loss of your first. Those were the most painful years. I was a raging lunatic that hated everyone with kids. Luckily, I had very nice family and friends that stuck by my side. Time. It just takes time. Forgive yourself and just keep moving. Best of luck.
Thanks for this. One of the judges I work with lost his 41 year old son to the flu about three weeks ago and the following week a good friend from high school lost her 25 year old son in a scooter vs. semi accident. I never quite know what to say or do–but I try.
Thank you Heather. Everything you described is spot on. This week has been extremely difficult. I thought I was doing ok, but as you said, sudden feelings of intense anger keep popping up, and of course, the overwhelming sorrow is sometimes just unbearable. I’m just trying to take one day at a time, but it’s so hard, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced, and probably ever will. Thanks for helping me feel I’m not alone, although I’m so sorry that we have bonded over such tragedy. xxx
For you to have written this today, of all days, was perfect. Feb 6 is a sad day for me as it was my due date for the baby I miscarried in 2009. I think about how I should be planning a 4th birthday party, not looking around my childless home and wishing things were different. I generally feel quite alone on this day. I am sad and tearful, but no one else remembers why. I know it isn’t the same, but loss is loss and I appreciated reading this today. Thank you.
Thank you, Heather, for these beautiful words of wisdom. I only wish no one needed them and that you had no reason to to understand them so well.
Yesterday my friend lost her 7 week old baby to an incurable genetic disorder called SMA. I have read your blog for years and it blows my mind that you would post something that would directly touch her heart at the exact moment that she would need it. Thank you so much for your beautiful words and for continually lifting others up.
Just want to stress – seek help. There are lots of good resources out there. You don’t have to journey alone. Try a few different groups to find what works for you. I found GriefShare to be most helpful to me in the loss of my adult son 4 years ago. Today I lead a GriefShare group. I never expected this to be part of my life, but helping others on the journey has given purpose to loss.
Roberta Armstrong says:
This is a Wonderful Website…I can see you helping a lot of people, my Niece lost tragically lost her 12 year old daughter a little over 2 years ago, my best friend Tragically lost her 15 year old son “Bo” in a DUI related accident 8 months ago, this is what they need to hear, I share all the Child Loss Blogs to her, trying to help her, find a way to cope with life without her son… This is a wonderful thing you do.. Thank You..
Thank you. I love reading your blog, and I think your posts about living with grief are better than anything else on the topic I’ve read. It’s been almost 7 months since I said goodbye to my baby girl, but some days it still feel like it just happened. She was stillborn, and seems most people don’t recognize me as a grieving mother which can make it even harder.
I really liked what you said about how the weight never gets lighter – we just get stronger. I always cringed when people would tell me that it would get better with time — time doesn’t make anything better, it can’t change what happened or bring back what we lost, but it has made the days easier to get through.
Wow! Did I need to see this today! Twelve days ago, my husband, our two sons, and I went to the OB for a regular old boring ultrasound to see if we were having a brother or a sister….and instead, we found out that our baby has Potter’s Syndrome and will either be stillborn or will pass away within minutes/hours of being born. I have felt lost since then…I so needed this today!
Oh Sarah! I am SO sorry to hear this. Please, please let me know if there is anything I can do. I will be thinking about you these next few months. xoxo
Trish Jones says:
Sarah, I am so sorry for the pain and grief you have experienced. I have never suffered a loss of a child. I did read an excellent book recently by Angie Smith. I Will Carry You The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy. She experienced a loss similar to yours. The week after I read this, our church lost a 16 month old unexpectedly. My grandson was born two weeks after him. This book helped me. I pray it helps you and anyone else who has suffered this nightmare. Much love to you.
Heather, I just sent this to my sister. I emailed you right before you posted this about her losing her healthy, perfect, 5 month old baby to the flu (very suddenly) 10 days ago. She said she had already read it and thought “wow this is like she is speaking to me” and I think it really helped her and people to read your words from your experience. Thank you for your writings again! I honestly never knew how much my family would relate to them.
I emailed your sister! I am so, SO sorry for your family’s loss. xoxo
Oh awesome! Thank you! I know how much it will mean to her. She was re reading your blog all night. Thanks again.
It will be two years ago this May that my family lost my mom. She was only 59. I’m sad and angry over her loss in my life. This May will be my grandmother’s, my mom’s mom, 90th birthday. She hasn’t been the same since my mom passed away. Nothing has been the same and it never will be. If I have children my mom will not be there. When I picture that moment in my life I always picture her being there. A mom is supposed to be there when her daughter becomes a mother. I won’t get that luxury. I almost think I don’t even want children now because it won’t be the same without her there. Loss is life changing and brutal no matter what age or who you lose. They are gone and you are left behind even though a part of you wishes you went with them or in their place.
I’m so sorry Thalia xoxo
Thank you Heather.
On my really bad days (like today), I come back and re-read this post. It’s comforting in a strange way to know I’m not alone in experiencing such a loss, although I wish none of us had to go through such sadness. I notice so many others like myself, posting here, and I want to hug you all, and could certainly use a hug from you all. I keep telling myself (like Scarlett O’Hara) that tomorrow is another day.
I have a dear friend, a family, who lost their 12-year-old son and big brother a little over a year ago after a long and beautiful but harrowing battle with illness. A few months after it happened I was visiting and of losing a child, she said, “You shouldn’t survive. I mean, it should kill you (the parent). But you do survive. Somehow you just do.”
Karen, what your friend said, is exactly how I feel. Sometimes I wish I didn’t survive, but I did, and have to go on, hard as it is. So sorry for your friend, being a member of this sorrowful club! xx
I’m Michelle. You emailed me and also read my blog. I just wanted to thank you for writing this. I read it the day you posted it, but wasn’t anywhere close to being in the right mindset to write anything that made sense. It did help me, and everything you said is perfect. It has been 3 weeks since my sweet Violet left us. It gets harder everyday. The anger creeps in at random, the unimaginable sadness never stops. I can laugh and smile and even have fun, but the sadness is always there. I know it has only been 3 weeks, but I imagine the sadness will always be there. The guilt. Oh the guilt. It is crushing me. The what ifs. I run scenarios constantly. I don’t understand why this had to happen to her. Why my baby?
Thank you again Heather. I have read all your posts from after you lost Maddie and they give me hope that I can get through this.
Cameron Cole says:
This blog post is right on the money. Having lost my son in November, I could not offer more realistic or more helpful advice. Your post is the words of a person who has grieved with wisdom and strength.
I too am so, so sorry for your loss. God bless you, sister. Thank you for sharing.
I’m so sorry about your son, Cameron.So much love to you. xo
I lost my baby 1.5 years ago. she was 13 weeks in my tummy.
It took 2 long years for us to conceive her but
Doctors found something wrong with her and I had to terminate my pregnancy because my life was at risk.
I try to act cheerful and normal but I am sometimes crying on the inside.
missing my baby girl so much. she was my 1st and only baby.
she made me a mommy.
haven’t been able to get pregnant since…
This post and reader’s comments allowed me to cry out loud.
it’s been a while since I did that….thank you. thank you…….
am a huge fan of you Heather. your family is beautiful.
love from Japan xxx
Oh N, I am so sorry. My heart goes out to you. Please let me know if I can do anything for you. xoxo