Updated: May 29, 2019
**TRIGGER WARNING:This post is about child loss.**
"This is a story of my good friend's loss of her son through my eyes. So while I refer to the mother a lot in the post, because this is her story, please note that fathers are part of loss too. Loss is not one sided, please take care of them too" - V
Everything happens for a reason.
A well-meaning statement that people like to use when bad things happen. But what if something is so bad that there can’t be a reason for it?
Try saying “everything happens for a reason” to a mother who just lost her child. You can’t. Because it’s not true. There is no reason for that.
Some things in life, like the loss of a child, have no reason, but I believe you can find meaning in it. A tragedy that will never be weakened over time, but can be used to bring hope to others in the same position while also giving a sense of purpose and meaning back in your life.
A year ago, I got the worst phone call of my life. I remember getting the phone call while I was driving my oldest to school.
I remember not being able to process what my friend on the other end said. It took me a few seconds to realize what was going on.
I don’t remember much of what she said after that, I just kept repeating “no” over and over again as if denying it would change it. My ears started ringing, my head was spinning, my face got hot, I couldn’t see straight, and I had to pull the car over and wait for my mom to come get my kids.
Every plan I had that day ended in that moment. I didn’t care about anything else. All I could think about was getting to my friend.
It was a blur, but I got there. I sat in silence with my friend. Less than 24 hours earlier she tragically lost her son. 24 hours ago, she had her son.
I walked in and instantly I felt every emotion so tangibly. The fear, the sadness, felt so cold.
The couch that I used to sit so comfortably on, didn’t hold any comfort today – today it felt painful.
I remember how LOUD the silence was that morning. The humming of the refrigerator or AC unit seemed deafening that day.
But no words needed to be spoken. I hugged her and held her space while she did what she needed to do. Between sniffles and sobs, there was just silence.
I remember looking around the room and taking it all in through my blurry-tear filled eyes. This is a joke, right? A cruel, cruel joke.
He’s going to come out of his room any minute now ready to play with the toys that were still scattered on the living room floor.
He’s going to come out of his room and eat his eggs that were sitting on his high chair, that his mom still got up and made for him this morning…that were now getting cold.
He’s coming back, right? There is no reason for a mother to lose her child. None.
I was so blessed to witness this little boy come into this world. His first breath, his first moments of life. A life we would have never expected to be gone 23 months later.
I remember taking pictures of him in the hospital room, and a picture of the scale because he was a BIG boy! Perfection. He just got cuter with age too – his hair grew straight up, his eyes and his smile lit up a room.
I remember one night at her house, a bunch of us girls got together and we having a pretty serious discussion over dinner, and even though we were mad or upset, we’d take one look over at what he was doing and just instantly melt. We forgot about what we were saying to play and smile with him - our troubles disappeared.
He was so full of joy, so playful, his whole life was full of love and happiness, and he brought so much of that to everyone who had the pleasure of spending even a minute in his presence.
To this day I still can’t fully comprehend why this happened, or that this even happened at all. Most days I almost refuse to believe he is actually gone. It still, even writing this, gives me this stabbing pain in my stomach and I lose my breath.
Those first 3 days I spent with her after his death are forever burned into my memory.
I remember that Sunday after he passed, she wanted to go to church. We gathered the tribe and we went to church.
The first song that was played during worship brought me to my knees. Tremble by Mosaic MSC. It was sent, played, just for her. If you haven’t heard it, I recommend taking that one in. I’ll never forget that moment, that song, every time I hear it, I think of that weekend, I think of him. The first line of that song is: Peace. Bring it all to peace…at that moment that is what we desperately longed for, peace. For the fear to be silenced…for meaning.
But over the past year I’ve watched his mother cling to her faith, watched her go through some very low lows, her questions, her fears, her doubts, and I’ve also seen happy again, saw her smile and heard her laugh again.
But truth be told, this ugly, scary ride of child loss, doesn’t get any easier. Because I really don’t believe losing a child ever becomes “easy” over time, the pain is the same and we need to respect that when we see a grieving mother.
She will grieve for her child her whole life, she will never stop. She may look “better” on the outside, but on the inside a little piece of her heart will always be missing. Never (seriously NEVER) think she should be “over this by now”. Doesn’t matter if you lost your child a day ago, a year ago, or 30 years ago, this is a wound that time doesn’t heal, it always hurts.
However, what does heal is their strength. Each day they get stronger, and each day their ability to keep moving forward, to keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep fighting in their child’s memory gets stronger.
“Time heals all wounds” is not true in this instance, what it should really be is “time will restore your strength”. I have seen this in all the women I know who have lost a child. I see it now in my friend.
She is quite possibly the strongest, most amazing woman I know. How lucky I am to call her my friend. She is the definition of a warrior. The definition of strength and grace.
I do believe over time she will find meaning in this and help so many people. She is brave, she is a fighter, she perseveres, and I know her story will not be wasted. Her baby’s story will not be wasted.
And if you are going through this – neither will yours.
Until then, I’m holding space for her. Space for her to yell and scream. A space for her to question everything. A space for her to cry and release her feelings. And space to feel happy again, space to enjoy life.
I’ll hold her hand through this journey and help her get meaning back in her life. I’ll hold her up because I refuse to let her fall.
Moms who going through this, you’re not alone, what you are feeling is exactly what you should be feeling, you will find meaning in your life again. Find your tribe, get support.
Surround yourself with people who lift you up from the darkest corners of your room. The people who sit with you without judgement whether you are happy or sad or want to throw things across the room- because child loss is a rollercoaster that is too scary to be ridden alone.
Let someone enjoy the good days with you, have fun, laugh, but also let them ride out the lows with you and hold your hand in those darkest moments.
Moms who know someone going through this – pick them up. It will never get easier for them, and it will be even harder to go through this marathon of child loss by themselves. Hold their hand, hold their space to let them say and do whatever they want – even if it is sitting in silence.
It’s ok to not have the answer to her questions, it’s ok to say nothing at all – sometimes it's better than trying to find some cliché statement to make, because she doesn’t want to hear it.
It’s OK to say, I don’t know why this happened and I don’t like it either, but we will get through this, we will find a purpose and meaning with this tragedy.
Most importantly though - speak their name. Don’t be afraid to say the child’s name in front of the grieving mother, show her that her baby is not forgotten. Let her talk about her baby, memories, and dreams.
Plan something special on that baby’s birthday or even on the anniversary of the day they left – those days will be the hardest and darkest – sit with her. Don’t let her do this alone.
We speak often about my friend’s baby in our home, have his picture on our wall, say prayers for him at night – we won’t let his memory be forgotten just as his mother doesn’t want him to be forgotten.
And that is my promise to her. I will help make sure he will not be forgotten, so I won’t end this post without speaking his name.
We love you.
We pray for you.
We remember you. Always and forever.
Veronica DeStefano is a WAHM who lives in North Carolina with her husband who she adores, her three kids that she lives for, and a cat she tolerates. Veronica is a writer/blogger, photographer, and certified doula, but her most important and favorite role will always be, mom. In her very limited free time, she enjoys video chatting with her friends and family back in CO, crafting, practicing her hand lettering and calligraphy, reading, and watching ER reruns. You can find her other work on her personal blog, and her photography page.