By: Kayla Leibner
I often find myself wondering what life would be like if I wasn’t a bereaved mother. I wonder how different I would be if I wasn’t on this path. The truth is, this is my reality, and I’ll never again know life the way it was before this journey of grief began. It seems so far in the distance of our past that it’s sometimes difficult to remember what it was like to live without the constant reminders of the absence of our children.
They’re always in my thoughts and in my heart, but there are times when grief rushes over me in a way that leaves me breathless and aching for Melody and Jamie.
These overwhelming moments are often experienced during missed milestones. These time markers are no small weight to bear, and they have a tendency of filling us with guilt and about a million “what ifs” as they approach and then inevitably pass us by. Even though our world was shattered, we quickly learned that the world itself wouldn’t stop for us to grieve.
Time did not wait for us to feel lonely, angry or disgusted with our situation. It kept up its usual pace as we were frozen in time.
Though we’ve learned how to manage and how to move forward with our lives, we are still struck by certain moments and days. Sometimes they’re largely significant days, such as birthdays or holidays, but other times it’s just because it’s Monday. Whether largely significant or a routinely familiar, these milestones can leave us with many wonderings about our children…
I wonder what she would look like if she were still with us…
I wonder what he would enjoy if he were here today…
These are two of the most frequent thoughts that visit my ever-wondering mind in regards to my daughter and my son. Birthday parties and baby showers are very specific triggers for me, and I still have a tendency to avoid them like the plague. Don’t get me wrong – I am beyond thrilled for those celebrating! They should be joyful. It’s just one of those things I have a hard time participating in because of my own sadness.
I am happy for those being blessed, but I feel an emptiness and longing that is impossible to explain as I am reminded of what I am missing.
My personal missed milestones include family celebrations, birthdays, and holidays. There are others, but these are the big ones. It’s not always easy to push through those moments when the weight of loss hits you like a ton of bricks – not in the slightest. These moments, great or small, can bring about a realization of what life could have been. This awareness can result in deep wonder about your children.
Wonder isn’t a problem. I do it often. During various outings, activities, and celebrations I wonder and think about how things would be so different had our lives not be altered with the deaths of our babies. I imagine seeing my daughter’s face light up when she finally chooses the perfect wedding dress. I can see my son learning how to drive in my mind’s eye. But these images that cross my mind aren’t a reality, but rather the reminders that come with the loss of more than just a moment. When we lost our children, we lost their entire lives – the hope of all the things a parent looks forward to. Middle-of-the-night-feedings, first steps, first and last days of school, graduations – the list goes on and on. These are all things we lose when we lose a child.
For us, the holidays are a time for family and togetherness. This is wonderful and I have always felt an outpouring of love during these special moments in life. However, remembering a lost child during the holidays can, in itself, foster a loneliness that just can’t be dissolved. Hugs are helpful, food is comforting, and the togetherness is the icing on the cake. But knowing there should be another chair (or two) at the table, that there should be another set of gifts under the tree – the empty feelings that result from seeing what isn’t actually there is indescribable.
Birthdays are different. Everyone has one. My husband and I celebrate our birthdays, and we plan birthday parties for our living children. We also celebrate the birthdays of our angel babies. These days mark significant moments in our lives, and even though we aren’t able to celebrate with them, we do our best to celebrate together – whatever that may look like. We set aside a special day to do things together that help us remember our babies in a special way. Often, these include a cake, balloons at the cemetery, and a family outing of some sort – usually followed by a family movie night.
While we cannot be with them to celebrate these milestones and significant dates, as bereaved parents we can be sure that our children are not forgotten.
We can do so by continuing to include them in parts of celebrations and traditions throughout the years, as well as by remembering the milestones that we’re missing with them. Doing this will look different for each family, but it’s a heartfelt and intimately unique experience for us all.
Remembering your baby and recognizing milestones can include tears of sadness, or maybe even laughter and joy. Whatever it looks like for you, know that your way of honoring your child is profound and largely meaningful. You have every right to feel what you feel during these times (and all the other times), and you’re equally justified to do what you must to survive those times. May the rest of this year bring you blessings, and may you find peace and comfort on your journey. Remember, especially on those days when you feel your missing out on these special events, be gentle and patient with yourself.
About Kayla Leibner
Kayla is a Christian, a wife, a mother, and a preschool teacher. She and her husband, Ben, have been married for five years and live north of St. Louis with two of their children, Jace (12) and Kiley (4). They also carry two of their children in their hearts – Melody, and Jamie. Kayla and her family have deep and strong roots in their faith and have relied heavily on God and His comfort in their journey of loss and grief. Kayla hopes that her writing would be of help, comfort, and encouragement to families who are suffering this same tragic loss.