During our family’s dance with my Mama’s Alzheimer’s, people would routinely say to me, “I don’t know how you’re doing this!” I deeply appreciated the verbal acknowledgement of the stunning loss we were grappling with. I deeply appreciated how people were willing to consider the reality we were being asked to embrace. I deeply appreciated the insight of the on-lookers, and the admittance of their inability to fully relate, but the absolute desire to show up and be in relationship despite the unfamiliar terrain they were being asked to walk. That’s what love does during trauma and loss; LOVE SHOWS UP!

My sweet hometown of Kansas City, has been plagued with some horrific and tragic accidents in the last few weeks. Each accident, culminating in a child being called home to glory sooner than human hearts were ready. Each accident cascading paralyzing sorrow and loss to all who stood near-by or drew near.

When grief visits you, when grief unwantingly invites itself into the intimate chambers of your life, you often find yourself staggering through a formless, nameless darkness, and it hurts like hell.

After some time in my own grief journey, it became healing to watch others love their mothers better and deeper in light of our loss. It didn’t always feel this way. In the beginning, I wrestled with bitterness as I watched other daughters my age dote on their very alive mothers. But time cushioned the grief, and now I delight in seeing children marinating in their parent’s presence. When people say, “I am making an effort to be there for my mom,” and “your story reminded me of how important it is to show up for my parents and spoil the snot out of them,” those, those small glimpses of our pain being put into practice for sweeter love, often leaves me speechless.

Dear Parents Who Have Had A Child Die,

You might not be ready to hear this, and I totally get that. You have complete permission to rise up internally and be mad and bitter at me because today, my children are alive. I’ll hold that space for you, because people have held the identical space for me. But when you are ready, when the grief doesn’t seem like a heavy blanket suffocating you, I hope these words offer you a moment’s reprieve from your sadness.

I was irritated the other night because red Mississippi mud was plastered all over her brand-new softball pants. My original technique did not get out the stains, so as I started round two I thought about you. I thought about how you would give anything to wash those baseball pants, those soccer shorts, those carrot-stained bloomers one more time. And while I thought about you, I cried and grabbed the tooth brush and scrubbed. Because of you, I released that stupid irritation and ran my hands over Katie’s softball pants as if it was the most precious jewel I owned. Because of you.

Clearly, she woke up on the wrong side of the bed. She stomped through her morning routine while growling under her breath. The bacon was too cooked, her water bottle was dirty and her favorite shorts weren’t clean. I was about to launch into a major Mama lecture when I thought about you. I paused and wondered how you would tell me to respond in light of your current ache. As she plumped to the ground to slip on her Tevas, I knelt down beside Julia and squeezed the mess out her. I lingered while she rested her head on my chest. Because of you.

She had a virus last week, something in the virus has attacked her inner ear, causing some high squealing and annoying screaming. It took several days to figure out why she wasn’t sleeping well, consequently no one has been sleeping well as we tried to trouble-shoot. Each night, for several nights, she has asked to sleep in our room and for me to lay with her until she falls asleep. “Mama, will you rub my arm until the screaming stops?” My flesh wants to be finishing the prime-time Olympic hour, but then I think of you. I know the tears that are falling on your pillow are tears of, “what-ifs, if-onlys, and “if I only had…..” And I know you don’t care two-cents right now about who wins the Olympics. And you would tell me the only gold medal that matters is found in the eyes of my little girl. And so I stretch out beside her, I take her 9 year old hand in mine and I trace my thumb around and around her thumb. I feel her breathing slow and her tiny hand relaxes in mine. I brush my lips across her precious cheek and whisper, “I love you, Lucy!” Because of you.

We have a house rule that Dr.Seuss cannot be read for school reading. He is too wordy, and ain’t nobody got time for those 62 pages (x2). My boy walked into the house looking like a drowned rat and smelling like a puppy dog, “Mama, it is HOT outside!” I grinned, “Sure is, baby!” He opened his back-pack and pulled out Dr. Seuss and all 62 pages of his glory. This wryer grin spread across Anderson’s face, “But Mama, I was running late in library and this is all I could find!” “For real?” my eyebrows rose. “Mama, plllllleeeeeeaaaassse!” I sighed and thought of you, “Bring me the book.” 62 (x2) pages later, he smooched me on my lips and said, “You’re the best Mama!” And the tears began to spill over. Because of you.

I can offer no solutions, no easy fixes, no rewind features or do-overs. But in my living, I will honor your hurting by loving my kids a little bit better. In my living, I will honor your aching, by pausing more, saying, “yes” more than “no”, and tuning out the white noise to find my children. In my living…..because of you!

~Sara

26 Comments

  • Tera Cross

    I appreciate you so much for writing this! ❤ It’s never easy it’s an uphill battle. It’s been 5 years and it seems like yesterday for me. I know Carley Kris is in a better place, and the Lord knew what he was doing. Thank you for this!

  • Larry & Jere

    You became a daughter just a few weeks after Joshua’s death. We were so thankful for your standing with us and especially Mark during those days. Your way with words blesses us and many others. We are proud of you. Love you.

  • Kimberly Straight

    Thank you so Much for this Sara, it’s been 5 years since I lost my daughter Brianna, she’ll forever be 17, your writing is Beautiful and brought tears to my eyes as I do so very much have the questions of who she’d be today? But I also know she greets every child that comes to walk those streets of gold with her with open arms and an open heart, I know she helps to comfort them and show them the ropes.. Thank you for saying what we as Angel Mamas think and feel but sometimes can’t put into words.. Your words are comfort to many , you’re writing is a gift , be blessed..! 😘💜

    • Kimberly, my writing is the smallest token of love and support I can offer. You Angel Mamas are the real champions, here. Your sweet Brianna will NOT be forgotten. Thank you for pausing to comment. Thank you for getting out of bed this morning. Carry on, warrior!

  • Hope Lee

    July 11 makes 7 years since our precious Abigail has been gone. She died at the age of 11 from meningitis. Thank you for ur words! Thank you for your insight! Thank you for loving ur babies extra!!

    • Hope,
      Loving my babies extra is a mere overflow of my love and deep sadness for you. Thank you for stopping by, for reading, for commenting, and for making a deliberate choice to keep living in the midst of your pain. You are a true warrior!

  • Rachel

    Reading Dr. Seuss is going overboard unless it is fox in Sox but only because it has a Knox. 😉 Thanks for loving your children well. Seeing others love their children well is nothing but a balm to my grieving heart.

  • Rachel

    Doesn’t make grieving mothers feel better knowing you “love your child a bit more” because of ours dying, sorry. And reminding us that you are so lucky. In fact it only magnifies our loss. And reading all the details about your child’s day to day life. Sorry but telling grieving parents their loss makes you feel better that your child is alive isn’t a good idea. A pledge of compassion shouldn’t be about you. It should just be a heartfelt pledge of love and empathy. Not about your situation. And. Can speak from many other parents experiences that this approach to our loss really hurts. You were right to think it may upset us and you should not have just dismissed it and said it anyway. There are many articles about ” what not to say to grieving parents” and this is one example that always comes up. I know it is well intentioned but….just….just don’t go there. Bereaved parents are incredibly sensitive. You are making this about the parents of children still alive not those that have lost theirs. Our tragedy isn’t there to make you feel better. And it doesn’t make us feel better knowing it does. Sorry.

    • Rachel, since the birth of this blog, I have desired to create a safe space for people to come and feel loved and known. In shaping this environment, I delicately try to balance honesty with humility. It is NEVER my goal to harm others with my words. If I have done so, I am sorry. I do not write flippantly and without the advice and input of others who have walked this specific road. Nearly 15 years ago, just weeks before my husband and I were to marry, my brother-in-law to be went to sleep one night and never woke up. My incredible in-laws and amazing husband, have very graciously allowed me to come and walk along side of them as they have grieved these 15 years. They have invited me to sit with them in the greatest loss of their lives. They have been vulnerable and deeply honest with me about their process. My in-laws and my husband, have repeatedly expressed that when other’s remember their son/brother, speak of him, acknowledge him, and move toward their own families in a more intimate way, they are moved and blessed. I wrote this post from that knowledge and that posture….

      • Rachel

        I can see that you feel you know from being with your bereaved inlaws you feel that saying you love your children more after their loss is helpful to bereaved parents. However as a trained community professional, counsellor and pre-school teacher,, and part of the worldwide compassionate friends support group for bereaved parents , and being a bereaved parent myself I can honestly tell you that this approach can hurt bereaved parents. You are making the article about you, your child, and how their loss has affected you. And reminds parents of loss how lucky you are to have your child. The message is about you… not the parents who have suffered loss. Let’s talk about them and what they are going through NOT what the parents who still have all their children. I understand completely how you feel so grateful for your living child; however please don’t tell bereaved parents that…..they know you would be after witnessing their loss. And it just hurts. Think it but don’t say it. And many may not tell you that it hurts as they may not want to hurt your best intentions. Rather than defending your stance just apologise. You aren’t in our position so you can’t know. So I’m telling you from behalf of many, many, bereaved parents that this is unhelpful and hurts. Some may say otherwise but most in their heart will feel it isn’t helpful and can hurt.
        Parental loss is different to any other loss of a loved one. We can try and learn to live again with love and hope, but there are no positives to come from child loss.

  • jo

    thank you. i miss her so so much. . . our grandaughter Areille Grace. gone home too soon at 67 days. a precious gift we held for such a short time. who knew 67 days was a lifetime?

  • Rachel

    Ps. Before you say I’m just an angry grieving mother….I’m not angry at all that “your child is alive” as you say…what hurts grieving parents when people write articles such as yours is that you are expecting us to be grateful for our loss making you love your child more. Or take comfort from that. I know you think we ARE brave and strong and amazing and our journey is so hard etc etc but this article is making our loss all about you and other parents with all their children alive. It completely misses the point of true compassion towards bereaved parents. Don’t make it about you and how it affects you. And how “grateful”you are to us. Don’t.

    • Kate

      Rachel, while I’m sure she had the best intentions, I can sympathize with your negative reaction. I haven’t lost a child, so I cannot fathom the depths of your pain; however, I’ve gone through terribly overwhelming and heartbreaking things with my own children and almost no one says the right thing-ever. I think people are well-meaning, but pain and suffering is so uniquely our own that seldom do we find comfort from those who cannot empathize, and certainly never from comparisons or what I would have done or will do type sentiments. I’m sorry that you are suffering. I have compassion for your tender and broken heart. I’ve been in her place, a yearning in my heart to reach out to a mother who was losing her child. It is a precarious place. I’m grateful she had the courage to reach out, but I’m sorry that in doing so your burdens became heavier.

  • Stacey

    Sara, thank you so much for writing this and please know that Rachel does not represent all or even the majority of us grieving parents which is clearly illustrated by the comments listed above. I am 16 months into my grief journey after losing my beloved nine year daughter and reading this brought me more comfort than ANY article that I have read to date geared towards grieving parents. As a matter of fact, I shared it on Facebook with the comment “This. Is everything”. Thank you for recognizing the depths of our loss and appreciating your children just a bit more because of it. I wish I had read this when I still had time to do the same. Hug them longer. Appreciate the little things. Savor the moments. That’s what I take away from your article. You will never understand the pain that we feel and I am grateful for that. No-one in our “club” ever wants any new members to join but sadly our membership always continues to rise. I just hope that one day down the line I meet a parent who read your article and appreciated their child that much more afterwards, never realizing that they too would one day become a bereaved parent. I assure you that those parents will be eternally grateful for having read this blog because they will have fewer regrets❤️

    • Stacey, thank you for your kind words! I am deeply moved by your resolve to keep living after such heart-breaking pain. Please know I honor you and I’m so, so sorry. You, and EVERY bereaved parent in your “club” are true warriors. Hugs and love from me today!

  • Nicole Brown

    Somebof the comments above mirror my appreciation for this article while some I believe are so selfish. We lost our son 5 years ago to SIDS and it was and still is the most horrendous thing that has or ever will happen to my family. While Sara didn’t lose a child she did lose someone special to her. So the fact that she can empathize and to even think about the position many parents like ourselves have been through and how we have to live is a huge feat in itself. For her to hinor our children by being a better parent to her own is amazing to me. Most people never stop to acknowledge the fact that any of us have lost children. Our son was 3 and a half months old and he passed from SIDS. Nobody in my family, none of my friends, nobody I talk to about him wants to listen and you can tell because they have nothing to say. So this woman having the heart to talk to each and every one of us about it brings joy to me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart Sara.

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