I found that when we lost Ireland, people were at a loss as to what to say to us. They would smile, give us a hug and either tell us that she was our guardian angel, or that God needed her more than we did.
I don’t believe that either are true. God didn’t need my daughter, losing her was a result of living in a fallen world. God longs for us to experience only good things, but as a result of sin bad things happen to good people. I learned about his endless love and great comfort as a result of Ireland’s death.
Ireland isn’t an angel, I believe that she is a person who never had to experience the hard road of life. She was born into heaven. Her first sights were of her Jesus, how sweet a sight. She didn’t have to hurt, or fear, or fall or have her heart-broken. She is whole, and perfect and waiting for me.
The pain of loss is still great in my heart, sometimes the breath still sucks from my lungs and I hear those terrible words echo in my ears, “I’m sorry Mrs. Hanson, there isn’t a heart beat, your baby has passed away.” Satan’s crushing blow…..or maybe a new beginning, a painful, grief-filled beginning….but new none the less.
People who experience losses like ours are a small number, or so I thought. I didn’t realize how many people have experienced a similar loss. Miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death….these losses unite us. They also brand us with a scarlet letter of sorts….People don’t know how to talk to someone who has experienced a loss like this….Words fail them, they would rather pretend that they don’t see me, then worry about saying something inappropriate.
These are some things that I’ve learned through this season.
1. People mean well: They just don’t know what to say….so they say or do things that they think will make you feel better. More often than not, their words sting more than soothe. Expect this.
2. People will think you’re still pregnant…. Telling them that you’ve lost your child is horrible.There isn’t malice in the question, but having to articulate yet again the pain of loss is excruciating. A man who volunteered in the nursery at our church asked me, when the little girl he knew we were expecting was going to come and snuggle with him in the nursery….The look on his face when I told him she was stillborn, was the most terrible anguish I’ve ever seen. It hurt to tell him, and it hurt to watch him struggle for a response. I pray every time I think of him that I handled conversation question with grace.
3. Your body betrays you: The absolute worst part of giving birth to a stillborn baby, was that mother-nature doesn’t know your baby is dead. It is ready to nourish and feed a baby. You still produce milk, you still have pain from childbirth, you still have hormones that go wacky…..compounded with the agony of coming to terms with death….For myself, the worst part of the entire process was knowing my body wanted to feed a baby, and knowing that I couldn’t….I would get into the shower and I would sob………hot tears of shame and pain and guilt. For weeks after, I felt that familiar tingle of milk, and there was nothing I could do but cry.
4. People expect you to move on: Sometimes faster than you’re capable of. Don’t. You’re entitled to hurt, to cry, to feel like your world has stopped turning. I would get so angry when people would tell me, “Well at least you didn’t have to watch her suffer,” Or, “Well the loss would have been so much worse had she lived and then passed away later.” They are trying to give comfort…. but it just causes anger. Give yourself time to grieve. Process, your loss. I have lived without Ireland for almost 2-years, my heart still aches for her, but the ache is dull now, not as sharp and consuming.
4. Don’t be afraid to lose it: I was so afraid to lose myself to the grief, that I stuffed a lot of how I was feeling inside. This caused me more harm in the long run. By pretending that things were fine, I cheated myself and others out of the opportunity to love on me and grieve with me.
5. Include your spouse: Many times, Kevin was lost in the shuffle in those first weeks after Ireland’s death. People checked on me, and called me, but Kevin quietly sat on the back burner. Talk to your husband, don’t let the loss become the chasm that divides you. Bear each others hurts and hold tight to each other. Losses like these can cause irreparable damage if allowed to become the sole focus of your relationship.
6. Talk about your baby: She was real, you held him, dreamed of him and hoped for her….When the pain isn’t so raw talk about your baby. People don’t want to ask you about your child because they don’t want to hurt you. I have found that after the grief subsided I wanted to talk about Ireland. I wanted people to know that she looked like McGuire, that she had my nose and that she had big feet and long beautiful fingers. I wanted them to know that I had hopes and dreams and plans for her…I wanted them to know her and remember her like I did.
I hope that some of these things are helpful to you as you grieve. I pray God’s healing on your heart and peace in your spirit.