Dear Me…

Dear Me,
You do not know it yet, but you are going to face great loss. It will be loss too great to fully comprehend, and few will understand in any capacity, but I promise you will make it through. You are too naïve to realize it now but this loss, this trauma and heartbreak, will transform you and set you on a path. I would almost go as far as to call it a warpath; one that will break the silence, gently educate, and bring you together with others who get it. I can feel your heart breaking even before it has begun, love. It will break beyond recognition.

You will heal though, sweet girl. This is not to say you will move on or “get over it”, I can promise that you never will, but the ache in your chest will change. Most days it will be more of a constant tugging at your heart rather than the crushing you will feel at the beginning. Your broken heart will be reformed into a new vessel. The longing will stay, the tears will come, and that sharp numbness of depression will rear its ugly head more often than you would like, but your heart will eventually hold it differently. Instead of dropping the grief like a burning coal you will learn to embrace it – that burning coal can light a flame.

My girl, people are going to say you are strong. They will commend you for your strength and hand you Bible verses as if a gold medal for smiling that day. Others will tell you that your strength encourages them. I know you feel weak, and I know you feel all too broken; you held your heart in your hands and said goodbye to a piece of it. I know hearing about your own strength over and over, like a skipping record, will feel meaningless but, my dear, it is true. They just see a different strength. What they see is strength to continue life when really your strength is in your love for your little one(s). Even in the midst of facing the unimaginable, you loved and still love. That is what you and I call courage – that is your strength.

It will be traumatic. Anxiety in the night, sensory triggers, flashbacks, crippling fear of the future, and uncertainty in so many decisions – it will feel all-consuming and so overwhelming. You will never quite be the same in your thought patterns or actions, but I promise, love, you will learn so much from it. You will adapt, grow, and change so much in such a short amount of time that you will feel a stranger in your own body, unwelcome in your own mind. It is hard to find a bright side to this; no amount of sugar-coating could ever change what this will do to you. I will not deny that it will be terrifying and a long, hard road. You will make it. You will survive but not only that, you will flourish when you reach the other side.

Your relationships and friendships will change. Sometimes in horrible ways and sometimes in the best ways possible. Many will act differently around you, but you will connect with so many others. The woman who yearns to be pregnant, the mom who has never held any of her babies, the moms like you who held that baby for far too short a time, and others yet who have a mix of Heaven and Earth in their hearts and arms. It will feel strange at first but those women, those moms, are your community. They are a wealth of knowledge and support because to some varying degree, more than anyone else, they do understand; they know what it is like to have your life flipped for someone so small. Reach out to them; connect with any and all of them so that you may weep together in solidarity as well as encourage one another in hope. Few in this world will understand your grief, but this community of women gets it.

Baby Indigo, lost at 36 weeks gestation due to a terminal medical condition.

There will be those who think they know. There are those who think that even though they have never experienced a loss of this magnitude, they somehow can comprehend it all. It will sting, but that is your door to opportunity to change things; you can change how people view loss and grief. There will also be those who tell you how to grieve or how to live life as you walk through the unimaginable. Boundaries will be your friend. No one knows you the way you do, and no one knows what you need better than you. This is your loss; your grief; your healing; your timeline. These are YOUR children. Only you, your husband, and God get to decide how this looks.
Cling tightly to your supports and loosely to your own plans. Christ, your husband, and then those you bring in close; they will be your trinity of support and it will be in that order. Your own plans sound great, but God has so much more. He did not “let this happen” or “cause it to happen”, but He will use your grief, experiences, and testimony to do so much more than you ever thought. Focus on Him and not the path.

Some reminders will be kind. Little things will make you smile and remember how wonderful it was to hold your baby and how perfect they were and are. Other things, though, will feel like someone twisted the dagger of grief again. The pictures of them, getting the remembrance pieces, and even the kicks of your new little one as you face PAL (pregnancy after loss) will be so comforting and healing. The phone calls and letters from insurance that act as though your baby is alive will wreck you every single time. As I am writing to you now, I am fighting tears because insurance sent a letter meant to remind us to “take care of our mental health”. It was addressed to our baby girl.

You will have a difficult battle ahead of you when it comes to health care, by the way. I have yet to see how that turns out, even nearly two years after her death. The cruel lack of compassion in their demanding money when everything was completely covered, and they messed up their records – I will never understand why this happens. There was a miscommunication between the hospital and insurance; they got your baby’s birthdate wrong. That simple number, the one that means so much to you, means they will deny you coverage until you fix their mistake. It is twisted and wrong. There is not much else to say beyond that. Good luck. In this I ask you to, as cliché as it is, to stay strong.

Oh, my girl, this will be the hardest thing you have gone through. I am not sure, as of yet, if there is anything harder in life than burying your own child. Though it feels like it has destroyed you, let it rebuild you and I promise you will see better days. You will never “move on”, but you will grow and heal. I know there is better ahead for you. Let yourself grieve, feel every emotion that comes to the fullest extent, but never let go of your hope.

Until next time and with love,

Madison Shepard and her husband are recipients of On Angels’ Wings services. They are parents to three children: Cas, who they lost early in pregnancy; their daughter, Indigo, who was born and passed of a terminal diagnosis at 36 weeks gestation; and their rainbow baby son, Azure. From her grief, Madison has found a passion to end the stigma around pregnancy and infant loss by sharing their story, both to encourage other parents like them and to teach others about life after the loss of pregnancy and infant loss.

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