There Is Hope

Author’s note: I try not to write too frequently about my angel baby boy. Thoughts of him are constantly in the back of my mind exhausting my emotions. I don’t want to exhaust others with reading about him. But this week I found hope again in dealing with his loss. I know I wrote about him last week, but I had to share that hope without letting another week go by.

OK. Ill admit it. There have been times since the loss of my son that I have become frustrated with my religion. I have felt discouraged and disheartened as prayers and pleadings have failed to cure my broken heart.

This past weekend my faith in healing was renewed as I listened to a church leader, Elder Shayne M. Bowen, speak on the loss of his 8-month-old baby boy.

He spoke on Saturday, October 5, 2012, during The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, semi-annual conference. It was hands down the best talk I have ever heard on losing a child.

Unlike most leaders in the church, Bowen validated my loneliest thoughts as he spoke of his lost son, Tyson, who choked on a piece of chalk 22 years ago. He addressed his message to those parents who have lost a child and have found themselves asking, “Why me?”

For so long I have felt guilty for asking that question. I have felt guilty for questioning my beliefs.

Bowen’s words proved to me that I am not alone. He spoke of having similar feelings and thoughts. But not only did he speak about his grief and doubts, he shared ways that he worked through his grief and doubt.

Finally I have a strong example from a stalwart church leader to guide me on my path to healing my broken heart.

A lot of times members of my church attest to being thankful for their trials and the lessons those trials have taught them. I have felt alienated from my peers because I have never felt thankful for losing my son.

In his talk Bowen said he felt guilt, anger and self-pity after the death of his baby boy. He told about the doctor telling he and his wife that there was nothing they could do and then he wondered how he was going to tell his other children that their brother wasn’t coming home.

I have wondered the exact same thing.

He said others told him that they knew how he felt – but they knew nothing of how he felt.

I have heard similar comments.

After his son died he had many sleepless nights, some of them he spent wandering his house checking on his other children.

I have wandered a similar route.

It comforted me to hear that a spiritual giant from my same religious background experienced some of the same things as me – and that he too struggled with his testimony after losing his baby.

It made me feel “normal” for the first time in a long time.

My favorite part of his talk was near the end when he described how far he has come.

“Sometimes people will ask, ‘How long did it take you to get over it?’ The truth, is you will never completely get over it until you are together once again with your departed loved ones. I will never have a fullness of joy until we are reunited in the morning of the first resurrection.”

I couldn’t have said it better. I, like elder Bowen, may be able to be happy at times, but I will never find true, complete joy until I can hug my baby boy once again.

Bowen said that Tyson remains an important part of his family, and Luca is an important part of mine.

After feeling anger, self-pity and guilt, Bowen prayed that his heart would change.
He said that through very personal, spiritual experiences he was given a new heart and even though it was still lonely and painful, his whole outlook changed.

I feel like Elder Bowen is at the peak of his mountain of grief while I am still at the summit. I still have a long way to go to work through my sorrow. But knowing that others have crested over rough boulders and sharp slopes on their way to finding peace gives me hope, hope I haven’t had in a long, long time.

I am still waiting for my new heart, but now I believe it will actually come.

If you too are struggling while dealing with the loss of a child, listen to Bowen’s talk. Hopefully it can bring you peace and hope like it did me. If nothing else, it will show you that other people have been there and you are not alone.

Say What? Stupid things you shouldn’t tell a grieving parent

I took dinner to a friend recently whose husband died suddenly. When I got there, I said something I never should have.

The whole way there I kept telling myself, “Don’t say it. Don’t say it.”  But the first three words that blurted out of my mouth when she opened the door to let me in were, “How are you?”

“How are you?” She just lost her husband, the father to her five children. I am sure she didn’t want to answer that question – even if she had an answer.

I felt like chucking the food tray up the stairs to her kitchen then running back to my car and driving off in shame. I was horrified, mortified.

I promised myself after Luca died that I wouldn’t ask anyone that question. It is one of the absolute worst things to say to someone who is mourning.

Yet I blurted it out to a friend robotically, without even thinking.

Unfortunately, our American society uses those three insincere words as a basic greeting. We all say it – all the time. But how often do we mean it? Do we really care how one another feels? Do we stop and let them respond?

Obviously I am guilty of speaking before thinking, but my most recent experience got me thinking about other stupid things we say.

I’ll never forget walking into the mortuary with a tiny white tuxedo to dress my lifeless little boy just four days after I had delivered him. A mortuary worker opened the door for my husband and I, saw the suit and said, “That’s a nice outfit, where is the baby?” All we could say was, “I hope you guys have him.”

Seriously? I don’t know how someone who works at a mortuary could have said something so stupid.

But we all make mistakes.

I’ve compiled a short list of phrases I hated to hear after Luca died. There are more, but these are the most common, ridiculous ones. Hopefully if I can focus really hard, I will avoid saying them to others who are grieving.

“He’s in a better place” – Really? Now I know it’s been at least 28 years since I was last in heaven, and it probably still is a pretty nice place, but is my home all that bad? Would living with me be the worst thing that would have happened to him?

“I know how you feel” – I have met several women who have had stillborn babies and although their stories are very similar to mine, I still have NO idea how they feel, nor do they know how I feel about my loss. So how can I expect someone who has never given birth to, then buried their deceased baby, to “know” how I feel? I think we say this way too often. We may have good intentions in trying to understand how others feel, and we may be able to relate, but we will never know how each other feels.

“I just keep thinking about all the missed opportunities you are going to have” – Thanks. I hadn’t actually thought about the life span of my deceased infant and all of the major life events I am going to miss out on. I needed the reminder that I won’t get to see him take his first steps, play his first t-ball game, walk into kindergarten for the first time, etc.

“I had a friend whose baby almost died…” – ALMOST died? I don’t even want to hear about it. For some reason there are a lot of people who when they hear about my experience, feel the need to relate by telling me of someone they know who almost had a baby die. I don’t want to hear about your acquaintance’s miracle baby. I don’t want to know how they too had a baby’s whose cord was knotted. I don’t care how awesome it was that their child is still alive. It makes me too bitter.

“At least you didn’t really know them.” – Right. I think not knowing them adds to my heartache. At what age would you chose for your child to die? None? That’s what I thought.

“Aren’t you going to hurry and have another one?” In case you didn’t notice, I just endured a 9-month pregnancy then delivery. I should probably pay off my hospital bills and let my body heal before working on having another baby. And who knows when my heart will feel ready to try again.

“At least he is safe from harm. Now you won’t have to worry about him as a teenager” – As crazy as it may sound, I would have loved to have worried about him as a teenager.

“You’ll get to raise them someday” – Now this one I honestly believe and I am completely looking forward to, but I still don’t like to hear it. I wanted to raise my son NOW. While he could play and wrestle with his brothers. While we were all in the same home. It’s hard to remember eternity with empty, aching arms.

Nothing. – As scary and uncomfortable as it may be to speak to someone who has recently lost a loved one, I think avoiding the death and pretending it never happened may be worse. It becomes a giant elephant in the room, threatening to stampede at times. If you can’t think of anything, “I’m so sorry,” is a good place to start.

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