Walking With You ~ Steps Back into Life

Welcome to Week 3 of Walking With You
Share about your first steps back into life. What helped you survive in the world outside as you took those first tender steps? Are there still tender areas for you today, living in a world that doesn’t embrace or understand the loss of a baby/child? How do you cope with those struggles? What advice would you offer those new to this walk to encourage and bring hope? How has this changed for you from the beginning? If you are in early grief, what do you fear/struggle with as you try to navigate a new normal….life without your baby?

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I wasn’t sure what I was going to write this week. Could I remember all those years ago, the first steps back into life after the loss of our twin daughters, Faith and Grace and our newborn son Thomas. It’s been sixteen and fourteen years since I took those first tender steps. But, something happened this week…a phrase spoken…that opened those old wounds, and I remember…for tonight, I traveled back there.

I was 21 years old the first time I would try to navigate a new normal. How heavy those steps were, leaving the graveside on that cold November day. I didn’t leave the house much in those early months, and was rarely left alone, as I mentioned. For months, I surrounded myself only with those who felt safe and would let me cry and talk about my children. That meant my mother and Ginny. The first time I went to church, I stayed in the bathroom through most of the service. I just couldn’t. But, I kept going. Until I could.

I remember being in awe that the world continued to turn and people continued in the busyness of life when my baby girls were dead. I knew I was forever changed. What struck me right away, was the people close to us who just expected us to get better, or stayed away, or cringed if we talked about them. We instinctively knew not to. I didn’t hang their pictures, for fear of making others uncomfortable. And, tried to put on a brave face when we finally ventured back into life with others.

With Thomas, I was even more protective in the early months, knowing that others would not understand. I was more able to go out in public, but I put on a “brave” face, covering most of it. I think of the verse in scripture about not “casting our pearls before swine”. It was too sacred to let people who didn’t really love us or understand to see the depth of our hurt.

It was many years that I put their pictures away, and sat quietly around most of our family who didn’t acknowledge our babies in heaven…perhaps as a way of coping with their own grief…too hard to feel the depths of it. Or maybe it was just easier to ignore. After all, they didn’t experience it, didn’t carry these babies or hold them in their arms. It has only been in recent years, that I speak freely about them, now that we have a very public and far reaching ministry. Thomas’ picture and the footprints of Faith and Grace are on our shelves and, pictures hang in the walls of my office. They are my children, just like the ones who walk this earth, and they are worth acknowledging. If someone is uncomfortable with that, that is their issue to work through.

I still wrestle with some of the hurts…the lack of support and understanding from family and others. We were so young, trying to navigate this path with very little guidance. We needed love and understanding…not judgment and distance. Sometimes, I’m in awe of the way God carried us through that time…with only a handful of close friends and each other to cling to this side of heaven.

God has comforted so much of our grief over the years…and as He speaks to our hearts about the beauty that rises from the ashes and as He restores our broken places, my own freedom and confidence grows. I don’t live to please others…or to perform a certain way…whether in grief, in healing, in serving, in parenting…or in any other way. I live to please the Lord and to serve Him. And, He views my children as precious and worth remembering and embracing. He values their lives just as He values my life and yours, the life of my husband and children, and everyone who walks the earth and lives in heaven. Every life is precious to Him…no matter how brief.

I will be honest…all these years later…remembering how difficult it was to take those brave steps back into a world without our children, and some of the lack of understanding from others…still stings. But, God is able to mend even those hurts. I pray for grace to cover us all, as I reflect tonight. May we impart grace and forgiveness to those who have hurt us…and may others learn to give grace to grieving hearts. Because….no one should ever judge another person and their performance in the depths of grief.

If you’re reading here, and wondering how to minister to a grieving heart, refer to this post.

It has been such a blessing to read your posts as you share about your babies and your various journeys. Thank you for joining this walk. Many have linked to the first and second posts, so please revisit those links to welcome and encourage those mamas. And, continue to encourage one another. One precious blessing of this walk is to know that we are not alone. Pray for and encourage one another, dear sisters. Love and grace to all…



Comments

  1. You know, though this whole post was so beautiful and eloquent and fragile at the same time, I think what caught me most was when you said the people you felt most comfortable with were your mother and Ginny.

    Your mother.

    I know how you, like I, miss your mother so much and I am so grateful that she was there for you. So, so, so many days, I just wish I had her for a minute—just had her there with me to give me the hug that only a mother can in her daughter’s darkest moments.

    I know you’d love to have that hug again today, I bet, but I’m so glad you had it then.
    xoxoxoxxoxoxoxoxoxxo

  2. Oh, Kelly, you KNOW I get exactly where this post comes from. Thank you for sharing….and for the tender way in which you reveal that the sting is there there, even behind the….well, I hate to say “bravado,” because that implies an insincerity…. But you know what I mean? Even as we can say — and truly mean it — “hey, if my talking about it makes you uncomfortable, that is your problem” (though I paraphrased what you said so graciously!), it still seems to be the knee-jerk reaction to pull back inside to keep everybody “comfortable.” I’m rambling. I know you get me. Love you!

  3. The thing that I have learned in doing these Walking With You posts throughout the last three years… there is always something new to write, or learn about yourself and grief. It tends to grow, but mellow at the same time.

    I felt so bad for you when I read the part about you not putting up your pictures, because of other people. I wanted to travel back in time, sixteen and fourteen years ago, and hammer a nail in the wall, and display your treasure, for all of the world to see! I was like this for a very short time, and then I went “Big Mama” style. Put his picture on my kitchen counter, tattooed my back with his “story,” shouted his name from the hills…. you get the point.

    How awesome is it to watch you go from “hiding,” to displaying your life, for the world to see!! You are a beautiful example of ashes turned to beauty… Absolutely Awesome!

    Love you Kelly!

    • You know, I always joke about doing everything “early”…growing up, starting a family, getting married, even “woman issues”. But, with the grieving and mothering my children in heaven, in many ways, I’m “behind”…although my love for grace prevents me from “measuring” any kind of performance or time table on how I’m doing this.

      Still…it’s almost like I’ve had a delayed reaction with my response to people, in this regard…a delayed “Big Mama” thing. I put it all away for years….and just in recent years, as the mission of SGM has taken residence in my heart…and pretty much consumed much of my life…and I’ve stopped hiding…do I feel almost a rebellion. Like, if you don’t want to know about Faith, Grace, and Thomas, then maybe you don’t want to know me. And, I’m not apologizing anymore. You know? Anyway…we will have to chat more about this in private, sometime, Big Mama. But, I’m entering some sassy new territory! haha

  4. Marlene Carpenter says:

    Kelly what a blessing you and this blog are to the young Mom’s who are walking this path. A place to talk about their child/children. A place to be accepted for whatever or however they are feeling.

    You took me back 32 years to my dark lonely days after my young son died. Things sure don’t change. I recall that my Mom was the only one who would talk about my son with me. Other family, friends and coworkers seem to ignore me or the fact that my life had changed forever and that I was struggling to move (can’t even say live) through each day. The front I had to put on to save my sanity. I wish I had reached out to you 16 years ago.

    You are such a gifted writer. Love you!

    • I’m sorry so many ignored you and your loss, Marlene. Wish I could say things have changed but it still happens so often!

    • Love you, too, Marlene. You are such a gift to the moms we serve. God is making beauty out of those years…as you use your gifts to serve Him, making beautiful gowns and bracelets. I know what you mean about the loneliness. My heart aches when I think of you walking that path so alone after the loss of your sweet boy. It doesn’t seem to matter how many years pass, those tender places can be brushed and emerge with fresh pain. I don’t think missing goes away until heaven. I’m grateful for this community now. Even though it has been so many years for me as well. Grateful we can be a “gathering of girls who get it” together.

  5. it has been almost 12 yrs. since we lost Mathew; there are triggers when I least expect them…both for tears and smiles. i have never removed his football, baseball or soph. year pictures. i did, however, remove many friend photos after they graduated. doesn’t matter. the photos remain in our hearts.

    i learned early on to “hide” my grief as i lost several friends because of it. perhaps i grieved too openly (how do you not?) i suppose they could not cope with the tears and anguish. it was difficult to find someone who would listen. i was never angry. it is what it is. but i surely do see the need for discussion even after a decade…. there is a sisterhood of mothers who know what i am talking about and we carry each other even when no one asks…..

    this blog is a God-send.

    • I’m sorry to hear you lost friends Laurie. You definitely find out who your true friends are when you lose a child.

    • Laurie,

      I love you. And, I’m so grateful you shared your heart and your words here. I think of you so often and pray…along with Nancy, and so many others. I remember a couple times seeing your eyes, and feeling grateful that when I looked at you, at swimming lessons or where ever that you knew what it was like to carry this sorrow…in silence….when no one else gets it. You know the pain of years slipping by while others move on with life and seem to forget. You know.

      I stand in awe of where you have walked…and even hate my own words in saying that. Because I know you didn’t choose this and have just walked in the same daily measure of grace that a person does when flung into the unimaginable. I have heard words like that as well…or the ever faithful…”I could never do that”…as if anyone asked us, right?

      I still don’t have the words…because as you know, there aren’t any really. But, my heart aches with you. I hope if you have time to join us on the next in person, Walking With You, you are able (February 4th at 7pm)…because I would be honored to listen and hear about Matthew and the missing for as long…as much or as little as you want to share. And, if not, I’m grateful for you to share in this forum. Where ever you are comfortable….just know you are welcomed…and loved and prayed for, my friend. Years don’t alleviate missing. Sometimes I think it intensifies, you know?

      I know what you mean about the friends walking away…it’s so hard to look on the kind of pain no one wants to see. It’s a hard to place to willingly go, I suppose. It’s one thing to be flung there…takes a special heart to go there willingly with a friend.

      Grateful, too…for the sisterhood. And, thank you…for remembering my son so many years ago, while in the midst of missing yours…and saying so at swimming lessons…when so few have ever acknowledged him. I didn’t forget…meant so much to me. And I’m so grateful.

      Love and prayers for you,

      Kelly

  6. I’m sorry, Kelly, that for so long you felt your couldn’t put out pictures of your children. I get wanting not to make people uncomfortable. I feel the same as you in that if someone is uncomfortable with how I handle my grief or if I display pictures or do certain things to remember them then that is definitely their problem and not mine!

  7. Kelly, thank you for sharing your sweet children and your heart with us. I am so very grateful for this safe place you have created where we can say the words that are in our heart and know that we will be understood. I am so grateful for the stories of those who have traveled this way before me, though I hate that any of us are on it. I am grateful for those hands reaching back and down to those of us new to this walk, pointing out some of the new landscape, helping us figure out how to describe our own path on this painful road. I am so grateful to have found this blog! Peace to you.

  8. This is from our dear friend Nancy…just wanted to share her words here, so that you can encourage and pray for you! Thank you…blessings to all.

    Nancy’s words: Hi…getting in on this blog for the first time. That question is very difficult. Slaps you in the face when it happens. You are sailing along with your day and it stops you in your tracks. You take a deep breath and plunge in with your “explanation” . I have 4 children. One on earth and three in heaven. And then to make them feel better, I add “and two beautiful grandchildren.” They are both in college now. I have to tell them about my children because I don’t ever want to forget them.
    Since this is my first time I will tell the ages of my children when they passed. Elizabeth 5 days in 1981, Allison 21 years in 2001 and David 27 years last January 2012. I guess there is no wrong thing to say on this blog so that’s why I feel I can share this. Thanks for being here.

  9. Kelly, this post was so inspiring…
    I’m so sorry that you were so young and received such little support and compassion after your losses. You have an amazing faith to be able to survive despite everything you had to go through. I’m grateful that now, you are able to speak openly and freely about your children. You have helped so many others by demonstrating that it’s okay to talk about babyloss and to grieve for our babies. Thank you <3

  10. It is hard to live in a culture that does not want to acknowledge loss, particularly the loss of the youngest, when we want so badly to love our precious babies openly. I can relate to your reference of “casting our pearls before swine.” I vacillate between my desire to tell Elena’s story to the world and my desire to “protect” her from those who will not cherish her as I do. Thank you for walking with me.

  11. I hope I don’t say this wrong… I glad that you are strong enough and that you are there to help us on this journey.

    I am very grateful that I found your page that week after losing Tossie. Stillbirthday had you on their resource list and Stillbirthday was the first site I was sent to… I went to there farewell page and SGM was listed. I clicked and felt relief in just looking at the page. I am so very grateful for finding SGM!

    I am not much of a writer, words do not come easily in written form. I can yabber for hours about nothing, but writing… it’s a challenge. I prefer paint, photography, or creating anything. At first I didn’t think I wanted to do the Walk because it would take me out of my comfort zone. But I felt pulled and pushed to do it. So I did… I am so very thankful that I did.

    It is a true blessing to not walk this path alone.

    Thank you! Much love, hugs, and prayers.

    • I think you said that beautifully…left me in tears. I’m so grateful you took those steps and walked this walk with us…instead of alone. And, grateful that you found this to be a safe place…so grateful. You ladies have taught me so much….and blessed my heart on this crazy journey.

      Much love to you, dear friend.

    • I’m glad you stepped out of that comfort zone to join us ♥

  12. You rock sweet Kelly. You just totally rock this world :)

    Love you and what you do…

    Hugs,
    Trisha

  13. Oh how great it is that you had your mom! My mom is my rock, and when I read what you wrote, I immediately thought of my mom. She has been there for me from the beginning. I really enjoyed reading your post, as I enjoy each and every one that I read. You have such a talent for writing and describing everything so perfectly! Thank you so much!

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