Monday, October 06, 2008

Walk to Remember

We were late and I wanted to be irritated. I considered not going at all, why bother when we were already going to miss the beginning. A woman approached us as we arrived on the grounds and directed us to join the procession as they were just starting out.

And so we walked. And I cried.

The surge of emotion took me by surprise. As soon as we joined the end of the long line of baby lost families, my knees went weak and sobs wracked my body. I have no idea who the tears were for. For my lost baby? For myself and my family? Or for the many, many families plodding in front of me. So many bereaved mothers and fathers. So many brothers and sisters without their siblings to run with and play with. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends all loving and supporting their loved ones, all missing their sweet babies who should have been cuddled in their arms.

I usually feel survivor’s guilt when I interact with other baby lost parents. I have been greatly blessed in the progeny arena. I have 5 living children, including a newborn baby. I understand how difficult it can be to suffer the sight of other’s pregnant bellies and babes in arms, when your arms are empty. My arms are full now, full of babies to love. But they know the gut-wrenching ache of longing. My arms know what it is to hold a ghost baby. And I feel guilt now that my arms are full while other’s are empty. I try to be sensitive to the feelings of those who may feel dismay at my current joy. But this day was filled with families. Families with full arms, but who knew the pain of empty ones. Unfortunately, not all the families are so blessed, there were many with no children to hold, those with multiple losses as well.

The whole event was just lovely and surprisingly cathartic. We hadn’t participated in any group rituals of remembrance before. We didn’t have a funeral for Kalila, we went to the funeral home on our own to say good bye. We didn’t go to group therapy or to the tree plantings. We mourned in seclusion. We observe the anniversaries quietly at home.

Being a part of a group of people like us, all celebrating the too-short lives of our babies-lost, was incredible.

I love the almost solemn walking. Being at the very end of the line, I was able to observe the other families and their interactions. There were happy, playing children. There were smiling, chatting adults. There were mourning mothers who were deep in their own thoughts as they walked beside hundreds of others. There were lost fathers, who didn’t know what to do with themselves, how to manage their grief. There were volunteers, smiling gently in support and care. We meandered along the pathway through the legislature grounds. Our walk ended as we walked past our babies’ names written in chalk along the pathway. Kalila’s was the very last name.

There was a brief service afterward. Kate from sweet/salty and Glow in the Woods spoke a brief message that touched every heart, and a tear to more than a few eyes. She was incredible, and so generous in sharing her heart with all of us, and leaving her babies across the country in order to do so.

The event ended with our babies names being read aloud as we released balloons, tagged with the names and our wishes for our babies. At first I felt that this would be an artifice riddled exercise. But hearing Kalila’s name read aloud, in front of hundreds of people, made her feel so real to me again. Releasing her balloon allowed my broken heart to soar to her. My Monkey kept asking me if the balloons were going to God, and I felt like I should explain the impossibility of that. I was then reminded that there is no impossible with God.

We also released a balloon with the names of some of our friend’s lost babies, and thought of them throughout the day, as we do often.

As the crowds scattered, we lingered with a family we are acquainted with from church. Their sweet little girl died at 21 weeks, just a few brief weeks ago. I have wanted to connect with her for a while. We briefly chat after Sunday services, but never really get a chance for realness. Yesterday was the perfect opportunity. They are in the trenches of their grief, and I hope that I was able to offer her a glimpse of hope of the future. That someday it won’t hurt quite the same.

I am very thankful that my husband was there and was able to speak a bit with her’s. In some ways, baby loss grief is more difficult for the men. They are not given the same permission to grieve as mothers. They didn’t get to carry their baby within them and know them like mothers do, but they are still mourning. Men feel the need to be strong for their wives and suppress their own hurts. Their peers expect them to ‘just get over it already.’ I think baby lost men need to be there for each other, to guide each other and to support one another in their way of grieving.

It was an incredibly uplifting day for us and I am so thankful to all of those who made it possible. Thank you to Lincoln's Mommy and Daddy.

Kalila's balloon and the one for our friends' babies.

My family, bringing up the rear of the procession.


  1. That God for events like this. When you experience something like this I feel that the best thing you can do to heal is surround yourself with those who've been through the same thing.

    So glad you went and that it was such a good experience for you.

  2. So glad you went. Glad it was cathartic. What a blessing, to mourn and be loved and comforted by God.

  3. I'm speechless. That is awesome.

  4. On the first anniversary of our twin's death we wrote notes on balloons and released them. Little T was only 6 at the time and he was so sincere in his little message he wanted to lift up to his heavenly brother and sister. Like Monkey, he asked me if the angels would carry the balloon to Molly and Joseph. I hesitated for just a moment, but then I answered with absolute assurance, "I'm sure they will, T." I swear that answer came from somewhere other than my own limited mind. There is no limit to God.

    I could imagine myself having a similar response as you did. Since so much of my grief has been solitary, I am sure I would be easily overcome by a group event such as that. I'm so happy you attended and that it offered you a much needed release. I am also jealous that you got to hear Kate speak. :)

    FYI- I will be writing a piece for Glow in the Woods next week, so please, please, please come by and lend me some support. :) I think it will be Monday.

  5. beautiful.
    i'm not sure what to say other than this touched me deeply.
    Thanks for your beautiful you.

  6. *hugs*

    Tears before breakfast. It's a good thing. I needed it.

  7. It sounds like a wonderful event. And I'm glad that you and your husband can be there for the other couple in your church.

  8. What a beautiful, beautiful way for everyone to get together and rememebrs their babies. I am bawling my eyes out and so touched - thanks for sharing this Kristen.

  9. I'm so glad you were able to make the walk, even just to *be*. Sometimes walking with others who walk the same path answers a need we didn't really know we had. Love to you.

  10. Wow...just wow! You've got me in tears with this beautifully written, heartfelt post. God bless you, Kristen.

  11. I'm glad you went.
    I'm glad you are able to connect with the other family from church. I know that when I was "in the trenches", it was nice to just hear someone else say "me too".

  12. I'm so touched by your loss and your entry here. Thanks so much for sharing. My heart goes out to you and your beautiful family.

  13. Hi Kristen -

    This was so beautifully written and touched my heart so much! I can't imagine the sorrow of such a loss, but this is a wonderful event to remember these sweet lost babies and their families. This line, "Releasing her balloon allowed my broken heart to soar to her" - just made me cry and it also made me happy to imagine your sweet girl in heaven with Jesus catching that balloon her mama sent up to her. I'm glad I stopped by to see how you are - this was such a wonderful post and I am so sorry for your loss.

    I hope you are doing well and that sweet new baby is bringing your tremendous JOY!

    Take care - Kellan

  14. I'm speechless. That kind of loss is just so unimaginable that I usually can't even read past the first few words. But what you've shared is truly amazing.