Words, articles, books…they have all been written before on this. This concept of how a certain group, cause, or other ‘underdog’ has been hiding in ‘plain sight’. Certainly, many of them have validity to them. And please understand, upfront, that my purpose is not to question the validity of these groups, certainly there are many.
My purpose is to bring awareness to a group that many don’t even know (or acknowledge) existence of- the bereaved mother. She is not only hiding in plain sight…but hurting in plain sight.
I speak of the mother who may walk alone in the grocery store, seeing every child in the buggies as she passes by. The woman whose heart longs to scream out “I am a mother too!” …if only people would listen. The mother who envies with an envy beyond depth the people who call their babies “accidents” or “oops baby” and follow that with ” we weren’t even planning on having another one…” or ” well, if the choice was up to us, we wouldn’t be having this one.” This mother is the one who has pursued thoughts of adoption. She has pursued infertility treatment. She has pursued her dream of motherhood for years…decades even. The mother who had that amazing moment of finding out that all those struggles and efforts and prayers had finally come through, in a positive pregnancy test. She is the mother who planned and hoped and dreamed of her life with this little one….but never got to take that baby home with her. She is the mother who has been through depths of pain that cannot compare to anyone or anything else. She is the mother who carries her pain around in the most common of places, as she sees other mothers with children in their buggies and is reminded of her own motherhood that nobody else can see. She is hurting in plain sight.
There is another mother who sits in the doctors office waiting room. She sits with her sick child, waiting for their turn. She remembers sitting here months ago,considering how often she soon would be here, with a new baby in tow. She remembers feeling that baby squirm within her as she sat there, uncomfortably close to the other waiting room patrons, with her large abdominal girth. She sits here now, with one of her children, and the fear of the “what if” that came true with her other child…lurks within her. Another mother walks in with her baby in the car seat carrier. The baby cries. And her heart rips apart, with blood now streaming from it, as fresh as it had been months ago. The cry of a little one, that she never heard. The cry of a little one that was ripped so suddenly and so harshly from her. The cry that screams “mommy! help me”…but she couldn’t. Not this time. Not ever in this life. And it rips her apart. Her baby should be in a car seat still, she should let out a cry for a feeding or a messy diaper. She thinks of how she should be in this waiting room more often for shots or sickness or ‘ouchies’…but she is not. Instead she site here, filled with fear and surviving agony…all in plain sight.
Mothers are hiding all around us. Mothers who were silenced by social culture. Mothers who are ashamed because their baby cannot be held in their arms. Mothers who don’t feel like mothers because their child is not here now.
These are mothers who hurt so incredibly deeply that they don’t even know where to begin to describe this pain. Anytime they try to, the tears come, and the anger wells up and the words depart. They feel ashamed, being so broken in such a ‘put-together’ world, they feel ‘different, they ( at times) hardly feel like a mother at all, let alone a good one. It is these mothers who hurt, all the while oblivious to the other mothers that surround them. The mothers that are hurting just as they are…all in plain sight.
When we lost our son, I was amazed at the hurting mothers who let down their walls for a moment to share their pain with me. I was touched by the number of mothers who didn’t despise me in my brokenness, but rather valued me more. I was amazed at the number of mothers who reached out in whatever ways they could to try to encourage me and support me through this.
As I have heard said often by other bereaved mothers…it was not the people that I thought would reach out to help, but rather a whole new group of ladies that I can now look to for support and guidance as I walk this journey. Many of the ‘friends’ I thought I had jumped ship at the first sight or sound of me. they didn’t know what to say or do, and weren’t willing to learn with me. In a world where you feel all alone, to see your friends and support system ‘jump ship’ brings on a whole new level of loneliness.
It was in this loneliness that I learned of other mothers who were like me. Other mothers who understood, or were willing to try. Other mothers who would learn to walk this road with me. Other mothers, just like me, who were hurting in plain sight.
So here is the point…Bereaved mothers are one of many groups that are hiding in plain sight. Hurting. Crying behind closed doors. Fighting to be brave in the grocery store. Harnessing jealousy and anger in the waiting room. We hide behind plastered on smiles and “I’m doing good’s”. We hide, because we hurt too bad.
We are a special group because we don’t have advocates and we are too broken to advocate for ourselves. We don’t know where to start and we know that despite our best efforts…’they’ can’t understand. We hurt too bad to try to argue why our child was important to you. We don’t have the strength to tell you that who we are and what this is, is grieving motherhood,…not some disease to be automatically fixed by sleeping pills and anti-depressants (though, truth be told, for some, those are sometimes very helpful).
So, to those who haven’t walked this road before… know this. Being a bereaved mother is a lifelong process. We are talking years…not weeks or months or even “a whole year” where we need support and guidance, understanding and above all grace. We need you to try to support us, even when our emotions are anything but logical and ‘easy to understand’. We know they aren’t logical…half the time we don’t understand them ourselves. We feel crazy and confused nearly all the time. We only know what we feel…not the why. We need to know that you acknowledge that we are hurting in plain sight. We need to know you are there for us.
It won’t “fix” us. But it will help us. It will help us not to feel so alone. It will help us to find safety in an unsafe world. It will help us to be able to hurt on our journey to healing. It will help us to be all kinds of crazy without shame or fear or guilt. It will help us grieve.
So many loving people are at a loss as to what do when a child dies. All they desire to do is somehow help…well now, you know.
To the bereaved mother…let them help, let them try to understand. Forgive them when they unintentionally or unknowingly deepen that knife in your heart. Give them as much grace as we expect and hope for from them. Go ahead an hurt…even in plain sight.