I stood up from the familiar pew as the praise band played an instrumental version of “Lord I Need You” to close out the Sunday service. People started shuffling toward the doors. My legs shook as I felt the sympathetic gaze of those around me. It was our first Sunday at church after losing our baby girl, Faith Isabella.
Before I could plan my escape, the woman in the pew behind me touched my shoulder.
“I know just how you feel,” she said quietly as she pulled me into a gentle hug. My foggy mind had no response, but she continued anyway. She pulled my arm close and whispered her heart-wrenching story of loss. “I never told anyone… just my husband.” Her wrinkled eyes worked to blink away the tears. Her aged hand patted my shaking ones. She cleared her throat and spoke at a normal volume. “I’ll be praying for you.” Then she walked away.
I blinked, unsure of how to feel about this interaction. I had known this woman for years. I had no idea she was carrying this painful loss with her. My husband put his hand on my back and led me toward the door.
In the weeks and months to come, several similar interactions unfolded. Each conversation was in hushed tones. One woman said, “Someday when we have a chance to speak more privately, we can talk about it.” Another whispered, “It happened to me too. I was so sad, but I knew it happened all the time. So, I tried to just forget about it.”
I was surprised that these wise warriors of the faith, several of whom I considered mentors, had kept their pain a secret after experiencing the loss of a baby.
I recognize that everyone deals with loss differently. I (as you may have guessed) openly speak of my loss, my grief, my struggles, and hardships. Others choose to process more privately - and that’s okay.
However, the hushed tones of those conversations, led me to one unspoken conclusion.
This was the expectation.
I was not supposed to talk about this. Not above a whisper at least. I wasn’t supposed to bring it up. It was an uncomfortable subject that was taboo to speak of in public. It seemed I was expected to hide the hurt and move on.
Of course, no one directly said I shouldn’t talk about my loss. And perhaps it was just my perception. Or perhaps the quiet conversations were the result of another generation feeling pressured to appear strong.
But I could not pretend that losing my baby girl didn’t shatter my heart and shake my understanding of God. I refused (and still refuse) to think of my youngest child as a taboo topic. She is part of our family, and her life greatly impacted mine (and others).
I am thankful that awareness about pregnancy and infant loss is rising. But unfortunately with that awareness, those who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss are still struggling to feel seen. Their grief is too often dismissed.
Here is the paradox: Pregnancy loss and infant loss is “common” but it’s not “normal.”
You may have heard the statistic that one of every four pregnancies ends in loss. Twenty five percent! That means most likely everyone knows someone who has experienced pregnancy or infant loss.
However, we never expect to grieve a child we didn’t get to know. There is nothing normal about leaving the maternity floor without a baby in your arms. Baby-sized caskets and urns are hard to even look at because the end of life should not be so close to the start of it. It feels downright wrong for parents to outlive their child at any age.
The fact is, losing a baby feels anything but normal.
Sometimes when something is common, we assume that it will feel normal. So, we come up with “normal” rituals to handle it. But those “normal” rituals should be validating, healthy, and honest.
There is no need to hide our pain behind platitudes and pleasantries.
Even if you prefer to process your grief privately, there is no need to be secretive about the loss of your little one.
Let’s normalize talking about our babies – whatever stage or age we lost them. Let’s normalize sharing our stories. Let’s be willing to be vulnerable with safe people. And let’s
be the safe people that listen, even if we don’t know what to say.
Download this free resource from Choosing Faith 23 for those who have experienced pregnancy loss or infant loss.
This PDF is a list of pregnancy & infant loss resources recommended by Choosing Faith 23.
Pregnancy & Infant Loss resource list
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