Does my grief count if there are no bodies to bury?
The crass thought swirled around my mind in the weeks that followed my pregnancy losses. I was unprepared for how much our losses would shred my heart. But I was even more unprepared for how the world would minimize the deaths of my unseen children.
You’ll Be Fine
Mere moments after a doctor told me, “your pregnancy is not healthy,” a nurse told me—while drawing blood from my vein—”Don’t worry, you’ve already got kids. You’ll be fine.”
I sat frozen, tethered to my seat by a needle in my arm and shards in my heart.
Another doctor said, “Don’t worry, we’ll get you pregnant and keep you pregnant.”
As if one child is the same as the next. As if all newly formed lives are the same. Products of a baby-making machine—virtually indistinguishable from one another.
“At least it happened early, you know, before you could get attached,” others said to me.
At least. Don’t worry. You’ll be fine.
When another asked me what was done with the contents of my uterus after my emergency D&C—“I mean, do they just throw it in the trash?”—I begged God to open a cavernous hole in the floor.
These comments along with the variety of ways my children were described—”miscarriage,” “failed pregnancy,” or “spontaneous abortion”—felt like punches to my gut. I felt my grief being minimized, and I began to wonder—Am I making too big a deal out of all this?
Does my grief count when there are no bodies to bury?
Surely I was being dramatic, right? Everyone else seemed to be in on some cosmic secret, some hidden knowledge that unborn children were exempt from personhood. If a life ends early enough, then it doesn’t qualify for grief.
Don’t worry. You’ll be fine.
But deep in my heart, I knew nothing was fine. There are three children—with three sets of DNA, three completely different people—who will never be with our family here on earth. Never.
Permission to Grieve
When our unborn children died, I was unprepared for how much the world would minimize their deaths.
But I was also unprepared for how our family and friends would ascribe dignity and value to our children’s lives in some of the kindest, most thoughtful and loving ways.
During those darkest days and months following our losses, I’m sure I didn’t adequately express gratitude to everyone who reached out—I was numb beyond words. But every kind word, text, card, meal, or gift felt like permission to grieve, validation of our losses, and dignity for the hearts I so desperately wished were still beating.
My husband and I found our own private ways to honor our children’s lives. But having others honor their lives, too? That helped me put one foot in front of the other.
You’re Not Alone
If you’re reading this and you’ve walked through a loss, I hope you know you are not alone. Your grief matters. What happened to your child was terrible. And I’m so sorry.
You’ll be bombarded with insensitive comments from people who mean well but have no idea what to say. You’ll feel like your loss has been dismissed, devalued, and minimized.
And it’ll be one of the hardest things in the world, but you’ll have to choose to show grace. To forgive the thoughtless words. To not replay them in your mind again and again. To choose to believe what God’s word says about the immeasurable worth of your child, rather than what the world says.
Grieving doesn’t mean your faith is weak—it means your love for that child is strong.
Grieving doesn’t mean your faith is weak—it means your love for that child is strong. -Mary Holloman @mtholloman #pregnancyloss #hopeTweet
The losses can’t be undone, but the wounds do begin to heal. Scars remain, and that’s ok—their deep imprints remind us of our deep love.
God does not look at a brokenhearted mother and say, You’ll be fine. He does not and will not minimize your grief. Rather, Scripture says he is close to the brokenhearted, and he holds us up when our strength is failing.
And that’s a promise worth clinging to.
Remind Her She’s Not Alone
If you’re reading this and someone you love has experienced a pregnancy loss, I’d encourage you to treat her the same way you would if one of her family members had died.
Because that’s exactly what has happened.
Shoot her a text. Mail a card. Leave chocolate on her porch. Babysit her kids. If you don’t get a gushing response of gratitude right away—or ever—show some grace. Your friend is most likely in a fog and trying her best not to drown. She may not write a thank you card, but I promise you she cherishes the small acts of kindness and love.
Her loss may be “common” in terms of statistics—but there’s nothing “common” about her experience or the life she lost. So when she asks that terrible question—Does my grief even count?—you must respond with an emphatic and compassionate yes.
There may be no body to bury, but there is most certainly an empty womb—and there’s not a moment that goes by when your friend is not painfully aware of that truth.
The world will tell your grieving friend her loss doesn’t matter—that she’s overreacting.
When the world whispers, “you’re fine,” put your arm around her and say—in a voice that’s compassionate but also clear and strong—“You are not fine. You’ve lost something precious. I’m here with you. And no matter what the circumstances, your grief counts.”
Because all grief most definitely counts.
And sometimes it’s ok to not be fine.