This coming Tuesday marks 5 years since we held our baby girl, Epiphany “Pippy” Faith. Five years since we gathered with friends and loved ones and prayed in a hospital conference room because there were so many of us we didn’t fit in the chapel. Five years since our very beings were changed completely.
And all we got was one hour.
Just one hour to hold her and try to memorize every aspect of her. Just one hour to take all the pictures we will ever have. Just one hour to make sure every family member there got their special moment with her. Just one hour to whisper how much we loved her and how much we would miss her.
Sometimes those memories are so vivid I can’t breathe and sometimes they seem like they happened to someone else. Sometimes I just can’t believe that I had a baby who died.
Here are a few things I’ve learned about my grief in the last five years:
The Battle of Faith Over Fear is Constant
I find myself fighting anxiety over the health and safety of my family. My fear of losing another child or my husband is so intense that at times I can barely function. This is something I am daily trying to give to God and trust Him completely with the people I love most in this world. I worried through both of my pregnancies following Pippy and now that my kids are older, I invent new and creative ways in my head that something terrible might happen to them. I’m working on this and I pray that one day I’m free of this thorn in my side. The struggle between trusting God and being afraid of what His plan might be is exhausting. The lesson I try to teach myself daily is to not be afraid of things that don’t exist. Until we are faced with a true hardship, don’t create one.
Allow Yourself a Freebie
For me, it’s Mother’s Day. And honestly, this is the first year I’m giving myself grace here. Mother’s Day is the hardest day of the year for me, even harder than Pippy’s birthday. The first year was obviously hard because we were just a few months past her death. The second year, I didn’t expect it to be so hard because I was pregnant with our son, but at the same time, it had only been a year. The third year, I was mad. I thought since I had a healthy baby, it would be a day of celebration for me. The fourth year, I was confused and pregnant again. Why wasn’t this getting easier? The fifth year, I was pissed. Like legitimately angry. I had two beautiful, healthy children and I was angry because it was incomplete. I’m missing a child. A piece of me is missing and my two amazing children were not given to me as a way to replace the one gone. Nothing will ever replace her. And for whatever reason, I feel that hole in my heart greatest on Mother’s Day. This year I will give myself grace. I will allow my family to acknowledge my motherhood in whatever way they choose. I mean, I won’t turn down chocolates and homemade cards! But I probably will not venture out to be acknowledged by the rest of the world that day. And that’s okay.
Serving Others is the Greatest Healing Power
Not long after our son was born, I started the Expecting Mothers’ Ministry at our church in Texas. This was a way to celebrate every pregnancy, mourn every loss, and be there for each other. I’ve lost count of how many women I’ve talked to and encouraged through some of the darkest, most painful times in their lives. I’ve mourned with these women through pregnancies that ended in miscarriage, births that ended in deaths, and I’ve celebrated with them when they became pregnant again, brought their babies home, and seen adoptions come to fruition when their bodies just would not cooperate. It’s been an honor. Every woman I laugh with and cry with, every baby I get to hold, every life I get to be a part of gives my Pippy’s life purpose and helps heal my broken heart just a little more. I will never be able to express the gratitude I feel that these amazing, strong women allow me to be part of their family.
We Constantly Celebrate and Share
Pippy is a natural part of our lives and conversation. We talk about the times we had with her whenever we can. Depending on the audience, we may or may not share that she’s no longer here with us. Our kids are growing up knowing who she is. We’ve bought children’s books that talk about the baby that came before them and what a special gift they are. Each year we celebrate Pippy Day with a special activity and an overpriced pink cupcake from a fancy bakery. When we spend the majority of our life smiling over what we had, it makes the times that we cry a little easier to bear.
Bereaved Parents Share a Special Bond
The only way I can explain this is our hearts feel each other. This is something none of us wanted or expected to have in common. Our child may have lived just weeks in the womb or years on this earth, but our hearts are the same. And no matter where we are in the grieving process, when we meet another parent who has lost their child, the support is overwhelming. Unfortunately, or fortunately, only those who have traveled the road of loving and losing a child can truly understand the load we carry. And no one else can better help us carry it but each other.
So another year has passed and I still miss her the same. But I’m so thankful for everything her life taught me, and I look forward to seeing how her legacy continues to encourage others as they grieve.