For those walking the path of grieving the loss of a baby or child, we offer grace for the journey and a friend to walk with you... There are moments on this walk when we feel we cannot go on. Moments when a friend comes alongside us to point us again to the One who sustains us. A friend to lift us in prayer. A friend to allow us to lean on her as she leans on Him. A friend, who is not afraid to walk through the valley in the rain, with a storm mounting. She is not afraid, because the Lord is her strength and her shield. She is not afraid because she doesn't walk alone. And because He has walked with her through the valleys and the storms, He has sent her to walk with you. And He will carry you both through the rain, through the storm, through the unknown dark alleys to secure, dry ground. Whether you are a newly bereaved mother or a seasoned mom who has watched the Lord make beauty from ashes in your life. Whether you need someone to lean on or you are the shoulder that can bear the burden, we hope you will walk with us as we are walking with Him. We hope you will join us with our broken umbrellas, with all our little quirks and imperfections in our various stages on this walk, as His grace washes over us in the pouring rain.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Put it Away

Over the years, and even most recently, I have heard many of you share that your family and friends were less than supportive of your grief over the loss of your child. We posted on some of the original Walking With You posts about this subject. There are many reasons: maybe they are struggling with their own grief and have difficulty expressing it, or maybe they are uncomfortable and just do not know the right words. Unfortunately that leads many to just act like they don't care, fail to even acknowledge our children, avoid the subject or even avoid us, or worse...speak words that add to the hurt.

I posted a bit about it here:

But, for this post, I would like to focus instead on how we can cope with their reactions or lack thereof. While it has been many years since we said good-bye to our Faith, Grace, and Thomas, reading your struggles has made the sting of our family's reaction fresh on my heart this morning. And, before this launches into a finger-pointing, hurt-wallowing session, let me just say that while the memories still come with a sting, I have forgiven those hurts. I now realize that they were doing the best they could. Even if some of them reacted in ways that were hurtful to us, it was done out of lack of knowledge more than malice. God provided support for us in other ways. Over the years, I have learned to lay down my expectations for family. And, sometimes I have had to re-learn this again and again as new hurts arise. Sometimes love requires laying it all down.

That being said, I realize for many of you, the wounds are too fresh for full healing...the hurt still too intense for  relief. It may surprise you to know that I didn't know that I could publicly embrace the memory of my children in the early years of grief. I often felt compelled to put my feelings away to spare the discomfort of others. Sometimes I didn't want to see the expression on their faces as their eyes shifted down and they squirmed uncomfortably when I shared about my children in heaven. I didn't want to seem like the weird mother who thinks she needs to keep bringing up her dead babies, making everyone around me uncomfortable. Yeah...I know....the initial lack of openness seems pretty crazy considering God has placed a passion in my heart to serve in a ministry that honors the lives of these sweet little ones. 

People gave us some ornaments the first year to honor the memory of Faith and Grace, and it seemed at first that many friends reached out. The same month they were born still, another set of twin girls was born in our family. To comfort herself, and because she was genuinely excited about filling her own arms with these grandbabies, my mother threw herself into spending time with them. She had no idea that it felt like a punch in the gut to me when I walked into her house and saw two identical baby girl dresses slung across the chair. She had no idea that I went into the other room and cried, feeling sick when I saw their pictures on her refrigerator. Not that she shouldn't have been embracing the gift of their lives...certainly for them, it was a time to rejoice. But, for was agony. What made it harder is that I could never have shared that with my mom. I don't share this often, because in many ways, my mother was a great support to me in my life. But, there were things about grief she didn't get.

My mother expected me to put my grief away after a time. When a friend of mine had her baby shortly after I lost my girls, mom said: "I know what will make you feel better. We'll go to the baby department and pick up a new outfit and visit your friend."

So, she drug my grief-weary self to the baby department (a place that still brings a twinge of pain to this day), while my wounds were still gaping, and to add insult to injury...a trip to visit my friend's brand new the hospital. She even made me hold him. It was all I could do to keep the sobs in until I reached the elevator. She looked disappointed by my tears. As if she thought forcing myself to visit the OB floor and hold someone else's baby would magically make me all better.

Other family members said hurtful things, ignored us, never mentioned our children, looked uncomfortable if I did. And, still sometimes look uncomfortable, even now that we have a public ministry. 

And, for years...I put it all away. Stuffing it far down. Hiding my hurt. Keeping the memories and longing to myself. Failing to mention my precious babies. I put it away because it was expected....and because I didn't want to draw attention or make others uncomfortable. It's shameful, really, but I also understand that it's hard to defend yourself in early grief. It's hard to know what you need. It's hard to take the next breath.

Here are a few ideas for survival in those early years:

You may not be strong enough to defend yourself, so find someone who loves you that is able to deflect hurtful comments and situations. 

Know what triggers hurt for you, and do what is necessary to protect yourself. We cannot keep ourselves from every hurtful situation, but when we can it's more than o.k. to do so. If the baby shower is going to be too hard to attend, graciously decline.

Take time as a couple...allow laughter when you can.

Find someone who gets it. This blogging community has been so helpful...even years later...for me and for many others. It helps to know we aren't walking alone. And it helps to know in the early days of grief, that you will not feel this way forever. You will feel joy again.


Have you ever felt you had to hide your grief and put away all your memories? What are some of the things you found helpful in dealing with others who didn't get it?


  1. You bless me. What a servant for Christ you are, Kelly. xoxo

  2. As someone who has not walked this extraordinarily difficult journey that you and so many others have had to face, I feel like trying to comfort and encourage someone facing great loss is almost disrespectful to the very real agony that they face every day. For those of us who do want to protect and defend our hurting friends from hurtful comments and situations, were there any especially helpful words that others gave you in this dark time? Or thoughtful acts that particularly ministered to the darkness of that season? You mentioned the Christmas ornaments for your girls... good idea or another painful reminder of loss?

  3. Hi Shannon,

    I can't reply to your comment, so I'll answer here and send you a message on facebook as well. You ask some great questions, and I really appreciate your heart on this. There are some suggestions in the posts linked above in this post, but I will also share a little here. You are right to some extent that it can be very tricky trying to reach out to a grieving mama. Everyone is unique in grief and what may be comforting to one person may be offensive or hurtful to another.

    I spoke in one post about Job's friends and how they were comforting to Job when they just sat with him quietly. It was when they began to speak and spout their opinions that they started to become hurtful. That's good advice. We shouldn't judge our friends in grief or assume we know what they need. I will link to a couple posts that speak on what was helpful to me. And, the Christmas ornaments were something that mattered. While everyone is different, most people are comforted when we acknowledge their children. Even if our efforts are imperfect. You are right that there is little that can be said or done to comfort such a great agony. That's why just showing love and being there is sometimes the best course to follow.

    Acknowledging and remembering are also great gifts for a parent whose child most of the world seems to have forgotten or never known at all.

    This post shares some insights:

    I'll look up a few others and share those as well.

    Thanks again for the great questions.

    Love to you...