No One Really Understands What It Means To Be A Loss Mother

By: Ashley Bonebrake Fairchild

Now, don’t get me wrong, I feel incredibly blessed in my life. I have my health and the health of my husband and living daughter. I love them with the fierceness of a lioness and always will. I thank my lucky stars for them every single day. No matter how bad the day is, they always put things in perspective. 

But if you know someone with generalized anxiety disorder, that is ‘kind of’ what it’s like to be in my head. 

Tragically, we suffered the full-term stillbirth of our first daughter in January of 2018, two months before we were pregnant with our second, now 14 month old, daughter. Additionally, my mother died after a three and a half year struggle with ovarian cancer in February of 2015. 

My sister and best friend, lives a state away from me, and she’s the best therapist money could buy. She listens. She understands my grief, and gives me space to share my grievances. But she has two kids of her own, a husband and career, so our phone time gets very thin and infrequent. 

My postpartum anxiety (PPA, for those in the know) is certainly better than it was a month or two, or 6, postpartum with both girls. But I still get triggered on a nearly daily basis because we cannot control everything in our lives; those triggers may be there whether we like it or not. 

Triggers for me, range from certain people, to places, and situations. And of course memories and thoughts are triggers, as well. 

A good example of a trigger I had recently was the Frida Mom commercial that was banned from being aired on the evening of the Oscars in February 2020. If you made an effort to watch it, imagine that same situation, except no baby crying in the background. I sobbed when I watched the commercial on YouTube. It was so raw. So realistic. I couldn’t hold back tears. It was me and I felt seen, at least in part. I was crippled with anxiety for at least 20-30 minutes, wanting to know where my living daughter was, what she was doing, and was she safe? 

I tend to cope with beta blockers, the prescribed way to handle anxiety when you don’t have anyone with whom to commiserate. Why?

Because society expects our demographic, mothers, to be happy, put together, taut, and pleasant when we feel anything but. Throw being a loss mother into the mix and the expectation is still there. 

I once told some one what I go through on a daily basis would absolutely cripple most people. But I get up and ‘lean into’ my anxiety each day, and don’t talk about my struggles with anyone, because that is what is expected of me. I keep it bottled up and just pretend like nothing is wrong. Otherwise we are thought to be “crazy,” headcases, or just unable to be normal. Why does society have this pre-determined amount of time for which we are allowed to grieve? I have an acquaintance who watched her daughter be killed in an automobile accident. Her boss, many years after the accident, once asked her why she was still grieving and told her it was time to “get over it.” Why is this opinion even allowed to be shared aloud? She will grieve her daughter forever, because she will never stop loving her. End of story. 

So, to the loss mother, I want to say, through my own tears, “I SEE YOU.” And you have an ally in me. 

But to those who read this and come from a place of not understanding, I hope you now do. Give loss mothers some grace even when they aren’t putting on happy, smiling, friendly faces. Because we are trying as hard as we can to deal with our own minds in the best way we can. It may take YEARS. And that NEEDS to be okay. The best thing you can do is say, “I understand and am here for you if you need anything.” Do not push, lest you wish to become a trigger (the pushers always become triggers, trust me on this.) Giving grace means really trying to understand the loss mother and what she might be going through, giving her the space and time to function at work and be a good wife, and if so blessed, to parent living children. She’s dealing with enough stress on her own than to have to cater to the wants and needs of those outside her immediate care.

Be kind. Be gentle. Give grace. 

But, loss mothers, please hear me: we are sisters in this lifelong struggle in the club no one wishes to belong. You are doing an AWESOME job. Make sure you realize your accomplishments with pride. Doing what you do, while grieving, is an incredible feat. Keep up the good work. Do what you need to do to feel whole again and don’t let the guilt or societal pressures weigh you down. You can do this. I have faith in you. Much love and peace, forever.

About Ashley Bonebrake Fairchild

Ashley became an advocate for pregnancy and infant loss and awareness following the January 2018 stillbirth of her first child, a daughter named Celeste Caroline, due to intrauterine growth restriction.

She is kept busy with her work for a large national property and casualty insurer, but her love of reading and writing stems from her English (and Psychology) double major in college.

Ashley currently resides in the Overland Park, KS area with her husband of 10 years and living daughter, Chloe Carol.

1 Comment

  1. Linda Anderson on April 5, 2020 at 5:02 am

    Ashley, you write beautifully. Our second child, also our first girl, was stillborn full term. Her due date was the very next day! Grief strikes at the craziest times…there is no “right or wrong” way to grieve. We are all different people, and therfore, we all have different ways of handling tragedies! You are an inspiration to other young moms who have gone, or will be going through, similar experiences! I knew your mom from Junior League…I know she is beaming wth pride! Take one day at a time! Time is a great healer, and you will always love your baby, but losing her can’t take over the rest of your life. Life goes in, and we must too!

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