By: Kayla Leibner
In all walks of life, it’s important to be able to tell your story. The elements of our story help shape us into the people we become. We get to influence some of the plot and choose some of the characters in our life, but other times we can’t control what or who crosses our path.
As a Christian, I tell my story to give glory to God. As a mother, I tell my story to show pride for my children. As a wife, I tell my story to honor my commitment to my husband. As a whole, our stories are multi-faceted with many chapters detailing the journey of our life, and just like a book, the events of each chapter begin a ripple effect that impacts the chapters to come. The losses of our babies are not an exception.
Something I’ve noticed from watching parents and from being a parent is that it is important to us to be able to tell others about our children. We share about how smart they are, how much they’ve grown, and about their accomplishments. It’s one of the many privileges of being a parent.
When our babies died, we lost their entire lifetimes of these “parent pride” moments. I don’t believe this means we shouldn’t and can’t speak about our children. On the contrary, I believe that it’s vital to the development and eventually the resolution of our story to be the voice of our children.
When we lost Melody and Jamie, we experienced a pivotal moment in our story. Those very moments changed the rest of our lives. If Melody and Jamie had lived they would have continued to be physical parts of our story. The fact that they now exist in our hearts and in heaven does not change the impact they’ve left on the remainder of our journey here on earth.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. It’s an amazingly inspiring time to reach out into the world and to speak out – to share about our beautiful angels in heaven, to tell our story and, therefore, tell their story – but what about the other 334 days of the year?
One thing that rings painfully true is that no matter the day, week, month, or year, I am always intensely aware of the absence of my children. There is no break in my acute attention to this matter.
It’s been three years – three very long years. Life has continued on, I have moved forward, and I have achieved a sense of healing. Yet every morning I wake with a feeling that something is missing. There’s a nagging feeling – and I don’t mean the feeling that I may have left the oven on or forgot to lock the door. This feeling is a bit of emptiness that lives in my very full and blessed life. It’s a constant wondering of what could have been and what I am missing, despite how much I recognize my many blessings.
Even as I grow and progress in my life, learning to cope with the void that’s left, I still occasionally find myself feeling as though I’m screaming out in a crowded room with no one to hear me.
People don’t like to talk about it, hear about it, or think about it.
It’s uncomfortable to imagine what it would be like to switch places with me, and I get that. But when reading a book, to understand the whole story – especially the resolution – you can’t skip chapters.
Oftentimes, I feel our grief is stifled and suppressed. But why? This topic seems to be “unspeakable” in our society for different reasons – because we’re told to be strong, or we want to shield others from our pain, or because we’ve been shamed into a deafening silence. Why is our grief so stigmatized? Why are we told to “be strong” and “move on?” One thing I have learned on this journey is that I can move forward in my life, but I’ll never be able to move on from the deaths of my children. You can move on from a breakup or a bad habit, but not the loss of a child.
I believe we should be able to be bold and speak up.
Our unspeakable stories may bring discomfort to some, but what they feel for a short while is only a minute fraction of the heartache and unease we live with every day. The telling of our tragic tales, while they’ll cause some to feel uncomfortable or alarmed, will also produce an awareness that is so imperative to our collective stories.
If we are honest about the ways that societal expectations hurt our already grieving hearts, could we clear the air? Could we help those on the outside realize and grasp a small portion of the yearning we have to be able to tell our stories fully? And could we help those who join this community after us to feel as though they’re able to speak out, too? I believe so!
It’s not easy because our stories are more than tragic. They are heartbreaking in the most obviously agonizing kind of ways. But each of our stories are also unique. I may be able to reach many people with my personal story, but there are also many people I will not be able to make a lasting impact on because of various reasons.
But if we each take the bold step of speaking about our babies, by telling our stories, how many more people can we reach? How much more of a difference could we make? How many more parents might realize that they’re not alone?
Speaking out and telling my story has personally helped me find healing by allowing me to gradually process my tragedies. By opening up my life book and “reading people in” I have been able to allow myself to be loved and supported by people in deeper ways than I could ever have imagined. I have truly seen God’s handiwork in this process. I hope that by sharing my story I am not only achieving awareness, but that others are also encouraged, inspired, and strengthened to step forward and say, “I have a story, too.”
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.