Hooked On A Feeling: Baby Loss Online and How Common Practices Inadvertantly Shut Christian Moms OutWednesday, April 08, 2015
As always when writing on a religious subject which may hurt some baby loss mom's feelings, I am disclaiming this post -- it may not appeal to everyone. It is only going to appeal to Christian moms. Please remember, we are all just sojourners here and the individual experience of one of us may be vastly different than another's. This is part of my journey, a story of me as a Christian being inadvertently shut out from the huge baby loss support system, and it is something which I believe I may not be alone in struggling with.
During my pregnancy with Beatrix there were very few online resources for the loss mom, presented in an organized fashion. The Facebook group explosion, which happened shortly after her birth, helped to connect parents in a new way.
In the four years since I lost my Beatrix I have seen a remarkable shift in the baby loss community.
We have become a force to be reckoned with. Women are using the powers of this collective to change the conversation about baby loss. We are connecting over this shared experience. Legislation is being created based on our experience, as is a shift in best-practices for caring for the post loss mother, particularly the mother whose loss occurs in her first few days post-partum.
We are seeing a movement towards acknowledgement of the pain of child loss in even its earliest stages. As a pro-life advocate I find this especially gratifying. Life at all stages should be honored and babies lost at any gestation and for whatever reason, are worth grieving over.
Very early on in the movement there were a number of brave mothers who put their hearts on the line, creating safe places for mothers to remember their babies. They carved out beautiful, comforting spaces for us to mourn together. They set the gold standard for how to interact with one another. They pushed other moms into activism. They helped me immensely with my growth into this terrible reality.
Tonight I read a query from a mom in one of the loss groups that I belong to. She asked if anyone "felt" their baby near. She expressed distress due to the fact that she had not, since she understood so many other moms do sense their baby's presence.
She was saddened by the distance she felt between her and her sweet son.
I wanted to respond because I too had wondered about that in the beginning. My husband once had a dream of my sweet Bea. It was very upsetting to me because of how casually he mentioned it. I hungered so deeply to just be in the space where my daughter was. It seemed unfair -- he was given the gift I'd prayed for since she had died.
I heard loss friends talk about how their children sent them messages from heaven. I hadn't received messages. I wanted to. I willed myself into believing that it could/would eventually happen.
I looked for signs in the clouds.
They never came.
Eventually I began to grow into this skin. The shock of loss began to wear off. I began to meditate deeply on the nature of death, the nature of my daughter's death and the inevitable fact that death always separates us from those we love, no matter how much we love them.
As I ruminated upon these things I came to the realization that just like our society in general, there is a pervasive mysticism in the baby loss community. This is partly because some of the most vocal moms, those who helped to create the parameters of this community, themselves seem to have enthusiastically embraced mysticism.
For anyone who's a mystic -- that's great.
But for those of us, including the mom who wondered why she wasn't feeling her baby, who are Christian -- mysticism just isn't part of the story. We don't feel our babies nearby because they aren't here. We don't see signs and psychic messages from beyond the grave.
This narrative can inadvertently cause some moms pain. Moms who wonder why they don't get these signs and wonders. Moms who have a visceral knowledge that their babies are gone but who are having a difficult time working that knowledge into the fabric of their faith. It can rob them of peace
King David said, "I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:23)
To the newly bereaved mother this is such a heart breaking and terribly inadequate response to her suffering. We will go to them, but they will not come to us.
The God who chose to gift her with this cross also chooses to hold her baby beyond her reach. On those days that she has exhausted herself with need to touch that skin again, that God isn't the one she wants to hear about. She wants to hear about the God of miracles, who can surely turn back time and fix her baby. She wants to hear about Lazarus rising from the dead.
She wants to believe that God would not be so cruel as to deny her those small communications. But any belief that the dead reach beyond the grave is based on nothing more than feeling.
It's a harsh reality.
Our babies don't feel close to us because they are not here.
They will not come to us.
We will, however, go to them.
It's a long walk though. And the temptation of trying to shorten that walk is sometimes too overwhelming to resist.
I read a quote recently. It summarizes this concept succinctly.
"The longest walk home that a parent will ever take home is the one after their child has run ahead of them."
We have a difficult time with conceptualizing the span between now and then. We are a "now" people. We are able to have overnight packages shipped from halfway around the world. Family members who live across the country are available 24/7 via our computer screens. Most of us can drive ten miles from our home, in any direction, and find a hot meal ready to eat within minutes of ordering it.
We are addicted to immediate gratification. We want things done yesterday.
I want my daughter now.
But Death doesn't do demands. It doesn't answer to our "I just want" statements. It is permanent and unforgiving.... In the context of a life without God.
We have a difficult time with that knowledge, with the waiting. So we try to grab a little bit of eternity occasionally.
Unfortunately even when we grasp as tightly as we can, eternity isn't really what we are holding onto.
(Even more unfortunately, there are people who will take advantage of that. They tell you that they can connect you with the people you love. They can't. They just know that there is nothing more desperate than a grieving mom. They know that if they can pull you in, you'll be hooked on that feeling of togetherness. In one sense, mysticism will always end up becoming an addiction. You will always be left wanting more because it can't deliver on the promise it makes. Permanent connection with the one you love. )
In my own grieving process I very quickly came to understand that the lack communication from my Beatrix, who is living her supernatural afterlife, is not about me.
It is about the Easter promise- "It is finished". It is about the promise that when our physical bodies fail, we will leave this world. It's about reality versus a feeling that we may have.
I cannot feel my daughter because God's truth is a real thing.
She didn't fade away into an amorphous cloud of energy.
She is in paradise.
She is waiting for the resurrection.
She is singing with all of the saints who went before her, about the glory of a God who redeemed all of us. The broken, weak, and wanting.
And I am glad for that. My feelings are fickle things. An eternal outlook based on my feelings would be a terrible thing -- I am not nearly as trustworthy as God is.
Do I want her here? Of course. Is that desire normal? Of course. Does it make me less faithful? No.
But the reality of the situation is that I would not trade the knowledge of her security, and the fulfillment of that promise for even the smallest cosmic communication from her. Because I can't have it both ways. I can't claim to believe in the resurrection of the life to come and then make attempts to pull her out of a spiritual energy cloud. It doesn't work that way.
The promise of our reunion is enough to keep me satisfied that the silence from my daughter is part of the plan. (Most of the time...)
It's enough for me to accept that the plan is something bigger than me and my grief.
I hope that more Christian loss moms will come forward to share their stories of healing without utilizing mysticism so that no mom ever feels that something has gone wrong, because she cannot feel her baby close. We have enough room in this community to say, "I don't agree with you but I validate your grief and I will support your grief process, as long as you support mine."
I hope that if you are reading this, you are moved to understand that your baby is in a place where there is no more pain, sorrow, or suffering. That you will see her or him again, and when the time comes you will understand and be so grateful for the truth of the Gospel and the reality of what the resurrection means.
If you are a Christian baby loss blogger and you have written about grief, mysticism, and/or Christianity, I would love to hear from you. I am interested in creating a collective of supportive women who can help navigate this post-loss terrain for the Christian mom, by basing that support on consistent, orthodox, Christian teachings.
Please contact me at: