By: Keisha Wells
“Be kind to yourself.” This was one of the first words of encouragement I received from a fellow angel mom.
The first time I had ever been given this guidance. Her words were both comforting and abstract. How could I give any thought to caring for myself when facing such a crushing reality? The loss of my sons didn’t allow much kindness to exist in my world then. But her supportive words and the fact she had traveled the same path I was now facing in neonatal loss—that she too had buried her twins—left me feeling hopeful that I could somehow be kind to or even care about myself in facing such a cruel loss.
Thinking back on it now, I recall reading her words on my laptop, as I was desperately seeking to connect with anyone who could relate or help me understand the deep chasm of loss in my life as a new angel mom. Then, I was on a fervent pursuit to make sense of my sons’ absence from our lives. To make sense of the chaos left behind in loss.
I needed to be proactive in reading about loss and identifying with other moms who hurt like I hurt.
In 2007, there weren’t as many resources for angel moms compared to our community now, but I was blessed to bond with a few women. We emailed each other, sharing our stories, as well as hurts and hopes in motherhood. We gave reports on our good days, the bad days, and those in between. The notion of being kind to self when grieving became a common theme in our communications. We were learning to increase self-compassion and self-love. We were learning how to stand in our hurt and self-soothe with each step moving forward.
At some of my scariest and most challenging times, I have found solace in those four simple, but meaningful words. In my early days of grieving, being kind to myself meant working to silence the loud and unkind inner voices that would attack at random. The voices that said I was to blame for my loss. That said, “I should have…if I had only….”
This learned skill of self-compassion and self-care has served me well as I have learned to say no to people, places, and things I don’t have the mental, spiritual, or physical energy to entertain on this journey. It has helped me learn to boldly say yes to things that fortify me and ask for the support I need.
It has given me permission to acknowledge and define my motherhood and help others do the same.
What initially seemed to be odd advice, has now become an affirmation. I now fully understand the intent of her words. Be kind to yourself because in the absence of your babies there will be many opportunities for darkness to overtake you, for the world to not see you. These are the same words I offer and use in encouraging fellow angel moms, now new to our tribe. Thriving after the death of a child is a path no parent knows how to navigate from step to step. It’s uncharted and unchosen. And because of the strength needed to endure, because of the many ways we are not seen and validated in motherhood, it’s vital to be our best advocate and affirm ourselves. To be considerate and nurturing to self. Now, my daily reflection is: “How will I be intentional in being kind to myself today? What actions will I take to nurture myself in loss?”
On your journey, I hope you will be determined to be kind to yourself too.
About Keisha Wells
Keisha Wells is a mom to twin angels, Kyle and Kendrick, and author of the soon to be released book, From Three Heartbeats to One: A Gentle Companion Offering Hope in Grieving Pregnancy and Infant Loss. Keisha is also a licensed professional counselor and owner of Transformation Counseling Services in Georgia. Her practice focuses on grief counseling and perinatal mental health services for women and moms. Keisha is an avid reader and writer, contributing to articles in ESSENCE Magazine, The New York Times, Bustle, and Elite Daily. Connect with Keisha at www.keishawells.com and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/kwellslpc.