As I looked around the room, I saw sadness, tears, and despair. The pain was evident. The grief was obvious. However, the beauty of it all was absolutely overwhelming. I was amongst my new heroes.
Being in the circle was one of my first introductions to parents such as me. It was tragic circumstances that brought us together. I was a mom who lost a child. Although our babies were no longer with us, we were still parents. We were experiencing parenthood the tragic way; the unthinkable way.
Our support group leader was named Martha. She always had a smile and a warm hug. She had had a few losses, too, but she also had living children.
To be honest, I didn’t think that I would survive this grief. I was in a deep depression. I had thoughts of suicide and the beginnings of post-traumatic stress disorder. I didn’t know how I was to go on. My Liam, at only nine days old, was taken from us.
In going to neonatal support group meetings, I felt a sense of comfort. As much as they try, family and friends cannot relate to this sort of pain. Often times we are told to just “move on.” Well-meaning loved ones want us to be happy as “that is what our babies would want.” That may be so. However, it is horrendously difficult.
Within the first couple months of going to the meetings, I began to realize that many of these grieving couples had new reasons to smile. A “rainbow baby” is a term typically used to describe a baby born after a loss. It is very fitting as a rainbow signifies the hope and beauty that returns after the storm.
I became hopeful. I also began, very slowly, to see another baby in our future. When my husband and I became pregnant again four months after our first visit, I not only thought about our Liam, I thought of the wonderful people who supported us and inspired us. They gave us hope. They were always there.
In 1988, President Ronald Reagan declared October National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. Years later, bereaved mom Robyn Bear decided to take it a step further. She wanted a whole day dedicated to our babies. On October 15, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, grieving parents all around the world are invited to light a candle at 7:00 pm. The goal is to create a beautiful “wave of light” to remember our babies.
To an outsider looking in, there is uncertainty of how to support a loved one through this loss. Bereaved parents are often just asking for one simple thing: they want their children to be remembered. They want others to speak his or her name. They want others to acknowledge that their baby’s life, no matter how brief, still mattered.
In looking back to that somber day in 2008, much has changed. I have since given birth to not just one, but two additional children. I still carry the sadness, even while experiencing the joy of my little miracles. It is bittersweet.
I may not attend support group meetings that much anymore, but I still think about my friends often. I remember the woman who cried while describing the pain of being a guest at a baby shower. I remember the shocked couple who had just lost their baby unexpectedly. Mostly, I remember the great support I was given.
This October 15, I will think about Liam. I will also think about the other babies gone too soon. I will think about all the bereaved moms and dads. I am so grateful for each and every one of them.
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ABOUT KATHLEEN: Kathleen Sullivan is a freelance writer and full-time mom. Her work has been published on The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Mamalode, and xoJane. She also writes about the ups and downs of mommy-hood on her blog, Three Kids, One Husband, and a Bottle of Wine.
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This post was written by Kathleen Sullivan exclusively for BonBon Break Media, LLC.
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Photo Credit: Group of Burning Candles at BigStock Photo