The chill, then stupor, then the letting go

It was Emily Dickinson who said in her beautiful poem “After Great Pain”:

This is the hour of lead

Remembered if outlived

As freezing persons recollect the snow

First the chill, then stupor, then the letting go

It is strange and amazing how we can read something one day and find it nothing more than haunting and beautiful and the next grasp the fullest meaning of each short word. It is remarkable how the death of a child can bring your senses to a sharpness you never experienced before. It is this sharpness that allows us to feel more intensely at these times though it doesn’t always feel like a gift. Often times I wonder what I would say to parents like these.

At one time I wore shoes that fit in a similar fashion. This doesn’t make me any wiser, but I recollect some of the things people did say to me and I wonder now as I did then, “what were they thinking?” I was blessed to have one woman placed in my life that acted as a guiding beacon to me during these times because of some of the advice she gave me–though not all of it came in the form of words. If I had to pass on anything to other parents who were hurting because of the death of their precious child what would it be? It wouldn’t be enough, it would be lacking, and it would be less than perfect. It would be heartfelt and honest though; it would be something like this:

To Parents that Mourn,

Tears and gut wrenching pain, those will last for some time, but they will not last forever. There will be days when you wish they would stick with you until your very last breath, like the first time you smile, truly smile, or the first time you laugh like you used to. Shockingly these days will also come sooner then expected. Don’t be hard on yourself when it happens; instead embrace it and dedicate those moments to that child you have lost. Until those moments come, live for today. Cry when you need to, sleep when you want to. Don’t live for others and don’t despise yourself for still living without your child.

Keep in mind the simple fact that grief is a one-man vessel and you captain the one you are in. It hurts and it’s lonely. Find others like you. Not that these people will know exactly how you feel, but there is a comfort in knowing someone else who has or is traveling a similar journey. It is nice to have company along this long road.

Stay close to God in whichever form he takes. When the cards and dinners stop coming to your doorstep He will be the only one that doesn’t leave you behind. When others start thinking you should “be over this by now” He will be the one that will listen to your heart while you cry unceasingly. When the well-meaning words of others sting, His will cushion and heal. When you cannot hold onto your child He will be the one solid thing you can cling to. Years later when it comes flooding back to you and it feels like you are going through it all over again it will be God who never tires of hearing about this precious child.

Do not let the “what ifs” and the regrets haunt you. These are your worst enemy. You were the best parent you could be to this very special child and will continue to be that amazing parent in the future. Remember that you gave it everything in your power. Those days when it does not feel like you gave enough remember you gave this baby your all, which is always good enough. Don’t sell yourself short. You are a parent even if you have no living children. Just because you can’t clothe, feed, and watch your little one grow does not mean you can’t still do thing for him/her. You will find precious and special ways of being the mom and dad you can still actively be. This role of yours does not end with your child dying, it just changes it. You can make it all you want it to be.

Embrace life, especially embrace the life of your baby. It was important and real. It had impact and meaning. It had purpose.

– Another mourning mother

Submitted by B.B., who chooses to remain somewhat anonymous.
“If someone were to send out a search party for me they’d only have to look in a few places.  With my kids playing, reading, and snuggling, in the kitchen cooking up a storm, at my sewing machine trying to make something new, or at the computer writing.  When I don’t have my kids glued to my hips I can be found running, cycling, and swimming.  I blog about the quirks of my life and the joys of motherhood after the death of my oldest child on my blog Simply B, Simply Me and I can be reached at


7 responses to “The chill, then stupor, then the letting go

  1. This is such a poignant post. My friend’s little boy died at Christmas time almost 30 years ago and I always reflect on him and their strength to go on during this season. Thanks for writing such a thoughtful piece.

  2. That was beautiful and heartfelt. Thanks for the glimpse of another’s reality and the wise advice.

  3. This was vividly beautiful and touching. Thank you for such wisdom.

  4. Wow. This was really beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing.

  5. What a beautiful message! I lost a darling baby girl at age 7 mos. almost 30 years ago, and I felt the same things. I remember reading a book called “A Song for Sarah” that shared a woman’s experience with losing a child, and it helped me a lot. It brought me much comfort to know that I was not crazy, and that someone else had felt the same feeling that I was feeling. Thanks for sharing!

  6. That book is by Paula D’Arcy, who has written some other great books about her spiritual journey, as well.

    This letter is of great value. It is true, and compassionate, and I thank you for posting it.

    Our daughter passed away on August 16, 2007 after 10 months of treatment for a very rare cancer. My husband, 16-year old son and I are doing the best we can to live without her.

    Blessings to you,
    Karen Gerstenberger

  7. Beautifully written. I haven’t lost a child of my own, though I have lost a brother and a nephew within two years of each other. It was 20 years ago and some days, it is as raw as that day.

    Thank you for sharing.

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