Child and infant loss almost seems to be a taboo subject in our society. And it takes so many forms: miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death due to SIDS, illness or accident. Childhood trauma, cancer, depression in our young adults, workplace accidents or violence in adulthood.
We have words for loss of spouse or parent. In the English language there is no word for the loss of a child. It's almost as if the lack is saying there is no way to confine the emotion to a single word.
In times past, it was not unusual for a parent to lose a child. During the WWI and WWII, we had Gold Star Mothers. Many of our ancestors laid infants to rest in the prairie sod. A very poignant sculpture bears witness to their grief at Winter Quarters, Nebraska. I had always found it touching, but it wasn't until one time I stepped forward and saw the image of a child lying in the shallow grave that tears filled my eyes as I traced the mother's gaze to her child's body as she tried to imprint upon her mind forever her baby's face.
But today, it's not spoken of. It is almost as if we're afraid to acknowledge it. Logic tells us that it can't be contagious, but logic often plays no part in emotion. Or maybe, we rationalize, they don't want to be reminded of the loss. Or we don't know what to say, so we say nothing, or avoid them all together. And really, hasn't enough time gone by that they should be getting over it?
But how do you "get over" the loss of a child? Whether a loss at 20 weeks of pregnancy, or 46 years of age, it's still your child, your flesh, your heart of hearts that has gone away. While a broken bone may heal, a broken heart does not. And what's a mama bear supposed to do, who is she supposed to protect, when the cub has gone?
International Bereaved Mothers Day. A day to reflect and remember the moms who won't be getting breakfast in bed, or phone calls, or roses from their children, the moms who instead of putting away toys and clothes, will be weeding grave sites and placing flowers and toys there. Take a moment and tell your friend, tell her that you remember her child. Tell her you are sorry. Say her baby's name. You won't be reminding her that her baby has died. She knows that. She lives with it every day. You'll be telling her that you remember that he lived.