Mystery and Loss: International Bereaved Mother’s Day

So for some reason things were hitting me harder than usual this week, and my perceptive friend noticed and decided a mommy date was in order. Some time to decompress. So we both arranged babysitters (small miracle) and took off to a fancy part of town to have tea and scones at a classy café. Creamy earl grey tea and a heart shaped cheese scone with Devonshire cream and raspberry jam. Very civilized!

We settled in our cosy wicker basket seats by the window to talk. After some chit chat we got into discussing the mystery of suffering. I say mystery not problem, because as philosophers explain, problems are things that can be fixed, like a broken clock, while mysteries are things to be entered into. The heart cannot be fixed simply by turning certain screws or thinking certain thoughts. Some wounds remain forever…not in the sense of being deadly, but in the sense of forever transforming a person’s heart. 

 Having both experienced deep suffering and loss, we agreed that there is really no answer to the “problem” of suffering….in the sense of a solution that makes it all go away or become fine. To treat sorrow as a problem to be fixed is to trivialize grief. Sometimes the worst thing a person can do is to try to make it all better by explaining it away or giving little pat answers to the great mystery of suffering. 

The pain of losing someone (a child, a spouse, a best friend), is not something that needs minimized with band-aide phrases meant to make you feel better. Instead, suffering needs to be entered into, acknowledged, faced. So my sweet friend, noticing me a little discouraged, suggested a visit to my little Jo. We hadn’t been to the graveyard to see her since we moved, and I was feeling it. After our tea we bought her the prettiest little pot of flowers we could find, did some therapeutic window shopping, and got take-out to go have a picnic with her. 

  

I told my friend, as we sat with my little daughter, sleeping beneath her flowers, about a poem I had written shortly before she was stillborn, back in those innocent days when I had no idea what was going to happen. It was called “Mama’s waiting to hold you.” Of course it hurts to read it. But there’s a kind of prayer at the end, which I do feel was answered, just in a radically different way than I expected. I ask that my daughter be blessed, and through her for God to bless the world. 

You could say, “How awful, how ironic…” but I don’t think of it this way. I feel she is very blessed…very safe, happy, free from any sadness or danger…that she is glowing like a little jewel in the Heavens, and so fully her little sweet self. And I know that she has brought many blessings, and continues to touch many lives. She continually transforms me, and helps my heart to grow. 

It is hard not to have her with me in my arms. But …

There are no shadows

Without the sun,

No darkness of the cross falling upon my soul

Without the brilliance of glory

Shining behind it,

Awaiting me

With hidden brightness…



There is mystery. There is sorrow. There is hope. I cannot explain it. I can only embrace it, and do so strengthened by the love of those people willing to share this journey with me. To all who do so, thank you. 

Belly Laugh

I blow on your bare baby belly

and you chuckle those first precious laughs

as you cling to my hair.

My heart aches with bittersweet joy

for the giggles I never heard,

the solemn silence of your big sister,

born still. 

Yet I am so relieved you are here safe—

that you are laughing and alive.

On an impulse,

I lay my ear on your warm little chest and listen:

“Badda -boom, badda-boom, badda-boom!”

Thank God, thank God, thank God! Goes your little drum. 

I fight tears as your pull my hair with your chubby little hands

into your sweet, warm mouth. Thank God, thank God, thank God!
  

  

Holy Saturday

  
Day of silence

Of exhausted aftermath

Of unbelief

Can it really have happened??

The strangeness of life continuing 

Just as it had before

Yet—on the inside— 

Earth-shatteringly different 

Every mother who has lost a child 

Knows this feeling

In the core of her soul

In her hollowed-out heart

In her empty aching arms

The day after death

For most of us

The long wait for reunion

For resurrection

Lasts a lifetime

One long Holy Saturday 

Until death breaks the silence

And we hear our babies laugh

To endure this day

Stay close to the mother of the one they pierced

No sorrow deeper

No love stronger

No patience more graceful

Than that of the one who spent that Holy Saturday

Weeping tears of hope

A Letter to Heaven

  
Dear Little Jo,

Tomorrow is a big day for Mummy. Your little brother is going to be born. We are going to coax him out into the world three weeks early, in hopes that he can be safe. In hopes that things will go differently than last time. He kicks and wiggles hello to you, his big sister in Heaven. 

Know, my dear one, that you are very much in my heart right now, as ever. Your little brother is, as a friend told me today, one of your many gifts to me. So I thank you for constantly making my life richer, deeper and more exquisitely beautiful. How much I love you!

After losing you in labour last time, I am afraid. When I think about how I couldn’t save you, I tremble. I want to cry. I want to hide my head in my blankets and not come out. But I know there is a greater, deeper plan than the one I can understand. I know you are safe and beautiful and loved. That you always will be. 

And I want you to know, my little sweetheart, that no matter how much time passes, you will always be my special baby, even when you have grown wise beyond your brief time on earth by so much time spent in Heaven, that timeless place of Love, where I hope to join you one day. 

Save me a huge hug and so many kisses, and tomorrow shower us with the grace of your perfect little prayers, as your brother makes his epic journey into this world. I know that we are wrapped in the wings of angels, and lifted up by the strength of so many heartfelt prayers. 

I pray that our new little one may, above all, become like his sister, a saint—a sweet beacon of love for the world. 

All my heart’s embraces,

Your Mummy

The Feast of All Saints

Born of Hope

Sweet mother

pray for me

in this time

when more than ever

I need hope.

You know what it is 

to lose a child

without letting your hope be whipped away

by winds of despair.

You know what it is

to love again

to love still

to be courageous enough

to be vulnerable.

We are all

in a way

your rainbow babies.

Born of the sorrow of your heart

on losing Jesus.

Born of the intense burst of love

that broke out of your heart

that day at the foot of the cross

  

when beauty shone through your tears

like sunbeams pouring from a steely sky

making rainbows flicker

in the maternal tenderness

of your eyes.

Help me hope again!

Help me trust again!

May I be a courageous mother like you

brave enough to believe

I will soon hold my little boy

breathing this time

Alive!

in my arms. 

Happy 1st Birthday in Heaven, Josephine!

  
Yesterday, September 30th, we celebrated the one year anniversary of my baby girl’s entrance into Heaven, on the day she was born. I thought it would be better to face the day in a spirit of celebration, as much as possible, rather than letting it pass by us acknowledged, quietly and painfully. 

The kids were totally excited, because a birthday is a birthday, and there will be cake. We had a potluck lunch, after gathering in the graveyard to pray and bring flowers, and my awesome friend Kate made the cake. And Thai Chicken Soup for dinner (so I wouldn’t have to cook), which my kids declared the best soup ever!

My husband James took the morning off so we could go to Mass together…and had the sweet idea of bringing along Josephine’s photo…Daddy’s affectionate heart…I entrusted the day to Our Lady, as I had entrusted her with Josephine, that she could cover her with kisses until I arrive to take over the job. 


A few days before the birthday, my 7 year old daughter was walking home holding hands with her toddler brother when I overheard this:

It’s almost Josephine’s birthday! And you’re invited!

Oh, birthday!

And there will be cake!

Mm, take!

And later, when we all get to Heaven, we will play with Josephine! She’s your little sister, and we will be all together. 

My five year old piped up, “And it’s ok if she is still small, and I’m bigger, because then I’ll be able to hold her better.” 

 

Just as at her funeral Mass and burial, we had many people come, and I think this meant a lot to the kids, to have their little sister honoured like this, and celebrated by people who only ever knew her while she was still kicking in my belly. A few kids made her cards, to go in her memory folder, and one gave a special rock. Never underestimate the value of a special smooth rock, given by a child. Such things are treasures. 

  

Once everyone arrived for lunch, we counted 24 kids at her birthday, not including babies, so it was likely closer to 30. Happily it was a gorgeous fall day, perfect for a picnic lunch outside. My friend Tajsha made the kids’ day by bringing hot chocolate mix and mini-marshmallows. Celebrating in style!

We moms enjoyed coffee and sitting chatting outside by the garden while the kids played. I was very happy for all the company and support of my dear and thoughtful friends in this day. I was surrounded by love, food and prayers, and all these things cushioned my heart so I can honestly say it was a beautiful day. Thank you to everyone who made it special. I’m sure Josephine is happy her family has so many good friends, and will sparkle a little stardust your way, if you ask her. 

Must I tiptoe, Mother?

“Must I tiptoe, Mother, into this world?

Tread so softly I won’t be noticed—

hold in my newborn cries

in a wake of silence

for the one gone before me?

Must I pretend I am not here?”

  

“No, my little love, no,

for we want you and the world needs

your little bright light

as much as any other.

There is no one else 

who could ever be you.”

A Cloak of Starlight

I go outside for a walk in the dark garden,

only two bare feet to hold up my heavy heart,

and after the warmth of the concrete driveway

surrender to the melancholic cool of the evening grass.

In the stillness of dusk

amid the silent flowers,

the sadness for my lost little love 

wraps me about like a cloak of starlight

poignant and piercing.
    
I hurry inside

to capture this poem,

preserve this tear like a crystal jewel 

and offer it to you, Jo,

the one whom I can give nothing

but the pangs of love.

Little Souls Like Shooting Stars

 

All this pain, Lord

all these broken hearts

broken open and flowing with beauty

Heaven escaping like steam from the geysers of love

that rush out of these parents’ broken hearts


2.6 million a year stillborn….

An overwhelming quiet

A heart stopping silence


Why is it that we must be broken to become more beautiful?

To finally reach out and connect

to honour each other’s pain

to realize each person is precious

and irreplaceable?


How mysterious this growing in love

that in losing the ones we love most

we become more loving

that in suffering we become more divine

just as You became human

to suffer with us

that we should never

no matter what

feel alone


Living in pain

we no longer live for ourselves

but for those we long for

and for those who are also broken by yearning

for little ones lost too soon


Our life is gift

and it is meant to be fruitful

We are not here for ourselves

but for others

to hold each other up with webs of love and hope

sparkling with dew-like tears 


Above in the sky

a sound like thunder

a thousand angels’ wings

accompanying with solemn joy

the little souls who enter Heaven like shooting stars

and light up the sky

Never to fade

never to disappear

a light in the heavens always 


Unique

irreplaceable

individuals

who will inspire us forever


Let us all become saints

so we can join them one day

and shed light into the shadows of a suffering world 

Honouring International Bereaved Mother’s Day

May 3rd is international bereaved Mother’s Day. It is an important and beautiful opportunity to acknowledge all the mothers around the world who have suffered loss through miscarriage, stillbirth, child loss or painful struggles with infertility. 

It is a chance to share grief and hope, to reach out and be vulnerable, to connect, to encourage, and to honour the women whose mother’s hearts are suffering deeply. 

 
Every baby is, in the words of Still Life Canada, “a unique and irreplaceable individual.” It is fitting that we honour their passing with our whole hearts. Sometimes sharing your grief is the first step to allowing others to share theirs, too, and beginning to heal. Let’s break the silence with gentle words of love.     Also, the Mothering Your Heart program is a lovely way to connect with other bereaved moms, be encouraged and supported in your journey of grief and healing. There is a Facebook page to share with other moms if you like, and a series of helpful emails you can receive each day leading up to Mother’s Day, with gentle ideas on self-care and nurturing your wounded heart, honouring your baby and seeking the stillness in which to discover the still, small voice of hope….    Wishing you all peace, strength, healing and hope…

With all my heart,

Anna

Mummy of Josephine, my little star in Heaven