Wednesday, August 7, 2013

letter to a grieving mom

Was it uploading files of photos to Shutterfly and running across 25 pictures of Gabe's pacifier that made me think of how far God has brought us?

Was it seeing other people just beginning the grief road?

I don't know why, but I've had these thoughts whirling around in my head these days, things I would have told the grieving, shattered young woman that was me. 

Dear Mamma-of-a-child-in-Heaven,

It is so hard.

I know.

It does hurt to breathe.

Your arms do physically ache.  It's not your imagination.  You're not going crazy.

Your heart does do weird stuff.  Grief affects us physically.  It's normal.

It's not normal.

It hurts so bad.

You are seeing people that reach out to you, people that have lost children, and they seem okay.  That is freaky scary.  How are they okay?  That intimidates you.  Don't let it.  Grasp the reaching hand they are stretching.  They aren't okay, they just want you to know there is hope. 

You can't sleep.  It's okay.  It's normal.  Your mind runs a movie reel of your child's death endlessly and you can't block it.  That's normal too.  Your mind needs to convince your heart that your baby isn't there anymore.  It's a process.  You can't rush it.  The movie reel won't always keep running, out of your control. 

That little boy wearing the same shirt as your son's-  take a deep breath.  This will not always be the sharp knife that it is now.  His mamma doesn't hate you.  It's not her fault.  If his mamma knew that was your son's outfit too, she never would have made you endure that.  It won't always be so wrenching.  Grief will tell your mind crazy things.  Don't let it lie to you about people.

The family reunion photos that seem like a prison sentence. . . I know, it's not a real family photo.  I know, you're thinking about the glaring omission and a cold little grave and everyone else is smiling.  Don't hate them for smiling.  I know.  I understand.  Take a deep breath.  It's okay not to smile.  It won't always be so brutal

Your first phone call hearing someone died, visiting a funeral home again - I know, you feel like you're panicking and going to vomit and you can't do it.  Cry out to Jesus.  Hug those sad people hard.  Get some more Kleenex.  Let the tears flow.  It's healing. 

Your kids talk about death, or play that they die, or their dolls die-  that is normal.  They cry.  It's normal.  They don't cry.  That's okay too.  Children are resilient.  Love them.  Give them hugs.  They hurt to see you sad too.  They will be okay.  The grief road for your kids is much shorter than it is for you.  Be thankful for that. 

Find the safe people.  You might not feel strong enough to look, but they are there. Find them.  You can pour it out to them.    In almost every situation and at almost every social event, there's someone who understands pain. . . you might find that safe place when everyone is laughing and you see a face, a heart, that isn't.  Don't expect everyone to be safe.  It's too much to ask of the entire world.

There are no ways to soften first birthdays, first holidays, death anniversaries.  It's just going to be sad.  I'm so sorry.  I wish you didn't have to go through it. 

You do things to cope.  You take pictures of keepsakes.  You carry little mementos in your purse.  You hope no one notices and then pray that they will.  Maybe then someone will ask how you're doing, let you cry on their shoulder, tell you that they love you and that they know you loved him.  You will always feel the need to commemorate and acknowledge but the ways of doing it will change.  And that's good.  

You won't get over it.  You will learn how to live with it.  You don't get over part of your heart being gone.  That's just your painful reality.  But you will laugh, you will smile, you will live again.  You can. 

What do I wish I could tell you, you with the dark circles under your eyes and the light on late into the night?  I want you to know that God will carry you if you let Him.  He will carry your pain.  He is so near to the broken hearted.  When He seems far away- and He seems light years away sometimes- cry out to Him.  He is there. 

There are things that happen, words that hurt deeply, that people say and do inadvertently now.  You will cringe and ache.  They don't mean to hurt you.  You will see this in a few years, but it will take years.  Be gentle with them and gentle with yourself, too.  It's okay to back up a little from painful situations, but don't think people mean to hurt you.  They don't.  Believe me. You'll see someday.

Oh dear one, weighed down with the heavy load of grief, know that someday the load will be lighter, and God will give you the incredible gift of helping someone else carry their own burden.  You don't know now, but healing will come from weeping with those who weep. 

One day you will wake up and realize. . .

we have this treasure in jars of clay
 to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us
we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair; 
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed
. . .therefore we do not lose heart
{from II Corinthians 4}
don't lose heart


  1. Thank you for those words! I hope I never experience that kind of pain but I hope after reading your post, I will be able to know what to say, know what to do, know how to listen and etc. Thank you! I wish everyone that's been through what your family has could read this post.

  2. This is beautiful, Hayley..... Thanks for writing it!

  3. Beautiful--this reminds me of 2 Corinthians 1. You comfort with the comfort you have received. You have a powerful ministry, and I admire you so much.

  4. I stumbled upon your site while googling "reclaimed pallet shelves". I couldn't sleep. So glad I read this,through a steady flow of tears. Your writing is a gift from God and may He bless you for using it in such a powerful way.
    -Sis in Christ

  5. This is really, really good. Thank you for sharing! I am passing it along to other grieving moms. 💜