I have a box tucked in the back of Ashleigh's closet with things bought for Patience Lynn, a white Winnie the Pooh onsie and blanket she will never use, infant rattle and a sonogram of her on my refrigerator. There is no other earthly record of her short life. Some might even debate whether he had been a life at all.
Only the parents of a miscarried or stillborn child understand the magnitude of the bonding, which occurs in the womb and the loss felt at the death of a fetus. Jim and I have tried to have children of our own only to experience 3 miscarriages. Afterward there were the daily reminders: pulling a seatbelt across my now smaller abdomen, baby things put up for now; nausea, once my constant companion, now gone; the confused looks of others I had not seen in awhile when they saw I was no longer pregnant. I became painfully aware at the birth of babies who would have been their peers. I felt the horror of my child lost to me somewhere on earth, lost to me in heaven, or worse, a nothing? I was surprised at the magnitude of loss for the children (Jude, Abigail & Jamie) I had never seen with earthly eyes. I had accepted the death of their earthly vessels. I cried quietly to myself for months. Then to lose Ashleigh so horrifically and her unborn daughter, Patience, as well at time is like poring salt into a wound.
I felt Patience move in her Mommy's belly. Saw the joy and excitement it brought to Ashleigh's glowing face. Watched in awe her movements during a sonogram. Ashleigh was so sick but yet eager and full of pride. During the end, I watched Patience's final heartbeats on a hospital monitor, alone. The image haunts me till this Very Day. Actually, it is worse today because it should have been her birthday.
"For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.' (Psalm 139:14-16)
This subject of loss and how to handle grief and comforting those who grieve is so near & dear to my heart. I once heard it said that you can’t measure grief by the number of gestational weeks of the pregnancy. In Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears A Who”, Horton sums it up best when he says, “a person’s a person, no matter how small”.
One thing I think is really important is to understand the nature of grief itself. The problem is that dealing with loss is so foreign to most people that it’s rare to have someone empathetic enough to just come up and and express love and use your child’s name thus recognizing both your pain and their existence.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to overcome is the common belief that we will eventually “get over” the loss, or move on, especially when there are other children or a new one comes along. It’s hard for some people to understand why there is a groups of moms who get together once a year for a lunch in memorial of our angels a year, 2 years and 13, or 30 years later, fresh tears may fall on the anniversary of our child’s death. Even my Pastor did not understand the magnitude of my grief and not knowing how to help he would ask; “Do you need to see a therapist?”
This question made me mad. And in my head I thought, “No, I just need my baby back”. Tired of grieving, I wanted answers and peace. Thru those long months I was brought to my knees in prayerful agony. I abandoned the formality I had been taught as a child to address our Father in Heaven. I railed angrily at Him. Chest heaving with no tears left in my broken heart, I begged please, please, tell me if I would know my child/all my Children, will be together again? Are they together now with my granddaughter as well?
I came across this definition of grief that I think explains it best:
Grief is often thought of to be a period of time in which someone is sad over the death of one with whom they had a close relationship. It is not that simple. Grief is not a behavior. Mourning is a behavior that occurs within grief. Generally people believe that when the socially recognized period of mourning has ended, so does grief. Grief continues, with episodes of mourning. Grief is not a condition that can be treated. Grief can precipitate deep depression and physical ailments, which are often treatable, but grief itself cannot be treated. One cannot engage in a series of exercises to “get over it”. Grief represents a life change. When one has experienced the deat of someone close to them the environment of their life changes. Just as adulthood or marriage or career represent changes, grief represents changes. Grief is not a desired change however. When it occurs, a person is bereaved for life. Bereavement is a status represented by periods of grief and mourning. Recognizing that 1) there is no time limit to grief and 2) that grief changes who a person is, makes dealing with grieving people more understandable.
Over time, my grief received comfort in the knowledge that all my children(Ashleigh, Jude, Abigale, & Jamie) are living in Heaven with Jesus, watches over us. This includes my Granddaughter Patience Lynn. It is so painful to not have her here and having a big Birthday party today. I always thought 2 year old Birthdays were one of the best because they can open their own presents and have such joy on their faces. I wont see that joy for a very long time. Importantly is the promise God has made to me.... I am his Mawmaw and she is my grandchild. I believe I have the promise of knowing him in the next life. A loving God holds our earthly sense of belonging in His merciful hand. Today I read my answer in the Bible and finally I was at peace.
My soul is deprived of peace,
I have forgotten what happiness is;
I tell myself my future is lost,
all that I hoped for from the Lord.
But I will call this to mind,
as my reason to have hope:
The favors of the Lord are not exhausted,
his mercies are not spent;
They are renewed each morning,
so great is his faithfulness.
My portion is the Lord, says my soul;
therefore I will hope in him.
-- Lamentations 3:17-18, 21-24