Damien’s Light: On Sharing Secret Grief

Amy 3
Baby Damien (used with permission)

Saturday morning I woke up, padded around in my pajamas, made a light breakfast, and checked my newsfeed. It was as normal a Saturday morning as ever one was.

I scrolled down through the various posts and articles, until I saw I picture of a tiny baby’s legs. It caught my attention because these were very tiny legs, and very tiny toes — far too tiny to be earthside just yet. I choked on a sob when I saw that it was my friend Amy’s baby.

Meet Damien.

Perfectly formed, he was stillborn at 20 weeks.

Amy had just lost a son.

Amy 2
Baby Damien (used with permission)

How do we share words when we look upon perfection and understand that it has been taken away?

Sometimes our silence, like the silent secret place Damien had been growing in, is the most precious thing we can give.

But too often, our silence is what has created unrecognized griefs. I have met many women coming through the Centre who will sit down, needing some food support, and they kind of murmur, “I need food. I’m too tired to work or cook, because I miscarried this month.”

That’s all.

Not much more is said.

One or two have shared a bit more of their stories with me. Losing a child to miscarriage or stillbirth isn’t a real grief so they’ve been told. After all, many have stillborn children and even more miscarry — multiple times! It’s physically painful, but it’s not as if the child was three or five or 10 years old.

These are the messages these women are hearing. From churches, from hospitals, from families, from friends.

“No need to grieve! It’s not a big deal.”

How little we know of life. How little with know of grief. How little we dare look into the faces of traumatic death and speak to them, and name them as children who are gone.

I think of the way things were thirty or forty years ago when women weren’t even to speak of such events, let alone as their babies as children.

Grieve them?

No! Carry on!

(Heaven forbid the father grieve these things.)

Oh God, that you would hold in your space all the lives muted in their grief over losing such new lives. We are learning now how deeply we have forced many people to keep their grief silent and unspoken. We are to be strong; we are to be faithful; we are to be able to live our lives as if nothing happened, because certain traumas and losses are considered less than others. And if we are grieving, we are to keep it secret and behind closed doors. These are private affairs, after all.

And we wonder why so many people suffer with wounds that have never healed?

I know in many hospitals, churches and community organizations, things are changing. The grief of miscarriages and stillbirths is being recognized as a profound loss that forever change who we are. People are awakening to the need for us to weep, to mourn, to name, and to love one another. For many, however, silence is remains a burden to bear as they wait in body to recover.

This is not a post on whether or not the church or the world is pro-life or pro-choice (both terms are antiquated, and need to be done away with). This is a post about a beautiful woman who has lost a beautiful son — and she is speaking about it. She is speaking about him, about Damien.

Beautiful, honest, raw pictures were taken of Damien at the hospital. A tiny, wonderful wrap and cap were provided for Damien, child of God. The recognition of Damien’s life by Amy and her family, and by the hospital staff was powerful. Their grieving voices are speaking truth to power:

Damien is real; his life is real; his death is real; and we are mourning that death,
while celebrating his life.

Amy 1
Damien’s wrap and cap (used with permission)

Amy’s hope is to create tangible, hopeful support such as she received this past week. She wants to start collecting bits of fabric and other notions to help make wraps and caps such as the ones Damien received at the hospital. An incredibly talented crafter and artisan, Amy will surely design beautiful items. An incredibly huge-hearted woman, I know each item will be infused with Amy’s love, her grief, her desire to support others, and Damien’s own little light.

If you are able to help with fabric or cash donations for Amy to purchase supplies, please send her an email at the following address:

Amycmahe@gmail.com

We all stand around Amy and her family during this time, breaking the code of silence by speaking one word:

Damien.

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