If you’ve found this letter because you too have lost a child, may you feel the warmth of my words and the support of another grieving mother as you travel this heart wrenching journey. If you’ve opened this letter because you are supporting a daughter, sister, aunt, friend, colleague, mommy group member, I hope you read this with an open heart and mind.
To The Grieving Momma,
On the days when the memories are ones that make you smile. On the days where you can vividly see their face, even though you’re staring through the window at an empty back yard. On the days where holding their blanket against your face brings their distinct smell rushing back. And on the days when you pull into the driveway with the strong feeling that you will walk inside and he will be there, sitting in your husbands lap, and everything will be perfect again. You are not alone.
During the conversations when you are the only one that will say his name, say it. Talk about him. Let people experience your angel. Go buy something with his name on it. Go read a book at the library that you think he would like. Go to church and kneel on the floor, looking up at Heaven and ask again, for the millionth time, Why?
It will help.
It will not bring them back. God knows, I’ve prayed that prayer. Your arms will still be empty. Your cheeks will still be wet from tears. You will still take deep breaths, longing to hear them. But that is the journey of a grieving parent. A parent whose heart has been torn. Whose beautiful baby has been ripped from their arms. A mother who looks at her living children and longs to know what mischief her son would be getting into with his brother or if he would be starting to walk by now.
Grief will change you, abruptly and shockingly. You will have to decide what to do with it. Not today, tomorrow, or the next day either. Take your time with it. I cannot tell you how to grieve. No one can. But I hope you will take it slow. While the pain grieving mothers experience every day may be similar, because we have lost our children, each parent’s journey through this muddy hole is so genuinely unique. But know, where there is great pain, there is even greater love.
I won’t pretend to know each phase of grief. I am only nine months into this journey. But, from what I have been told, from other mothers, 3, 8, 14, 20 years in, the longing to hold your child, to have them here beside you, will never go away. You will wonder, “What would they look like?” “What songs would they like to sing?”
Today, on International Bereaved Mother’s Day, my heart goes out to all you precious mommas. You are brave. You are not alone. Your feelings are justified. You are a mom. I am honored to share this day with you, grief warrior. I admire your strength and your choice to face this darkness and evil with the same fierce protection every mother has. Protect your heart. Protect your child’s memory.
Do something today that will make you smile and remember them. Then, as I’m sure you will, like me, hold on to that piece of joy with all the strength you have. Write it down. Record it. Take a picture. Keep it to yourself. Whatever you want to do. But do it with great love.
I know you miss them. I know you would trade places with them. Go back to that day and bargain with God. Take me instead of Toby. I will go in his place and be he and Luke’s guardian angel from above. I’ve had that conversation with God, too.
We mommas, we know better than anyone what it’s like for our world to change in an instant. To lose total control. How precious each day is and what is really important in life. And we know those things because we have lost a child.
I hope you can take that feeling. Take that fear and longing that is bottled inside you and turn it into something good. Turn it into something that will bring you joy and some way to remember your baby.
No matter what you do, or the day you are having, I hope you remember, you are strong, you are not alone, and you are loved.
— Forever, Toby’s Mom
Katie and Dan Stern’s second son, Toby, died on August 24, 2016 from SIDS. Toby was 12 weeks and 5 days old. They are working to establish The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation in his memory, as a way to support other grieving parents in the region and bring joy to their communities, just as Toby did for their family, in his short time on this earth.