Friday, May 17, 2013

Grief Project - Parenting My Dead Child

"I am convinced grieving a child is like mothering a child...A LIFE-LONG JOURNEY."
~ Lori Spray - Esteve

“When are you and your husband going to have kids?” A client asks me as we chat at the end of a therapy session.

My heart sinks and I quickly envision how this conversation might go with my different answers.

Situation #1 – The Drawn Out Awkward Conversation
“I have a daughter.” I reply.

“You do? How old is she?”

“She’s a baby.”

“I didn’t know you had a baby.  Is she walking yet?”


“You must be so excited being a new mom?”

“Umm, no, not really.”

“What do you mean?”

“Umm, my daughter died.”

End of that conversation. Maybe I will try being more straight to the point. 

Situation #2 – The “Aren’t you sorry you asked?” Response
“I have a daughter, but she died.” I reply.


And the person feels like a heel and I forever get eyes of pity in my direction. Or, I could try response number three.

Situation #3 – Don’t Acknowledge Your Role as a Parent or Your Child’s Existence Response
“Maybe someday.” I reply.

I choose situation #3. 

It was awful.  In that moment I consciously chose to not only deny my child’s existence, but deny my role as a parent.  I hated it.  What I want to do is shout it from the roof tops. 

“I AM A MOM!” 

I parent my daughter every day.  I parent her just like any other mom parents their child, by thinking about her first thing when I wake up in the morning and her being the last thing on my mind at night, worrying about her, wondering if she is safe where she is, and constantly questioning, “Did I do this right?” in regards to her time with us during my pregnancy.    But, I have to find other ways to parent then moms with living children.  

The other night I was irrationally upset about something with my blog and I called my sister.  After about 10 minutes of listening to me say, “I don’t know why I’m so upset?” While holding back tears she finally said, "I'm not a therapist, but do you think you are upset because your blog is your baby, it’s how you connect with Nora?" 

She was right.
I use my daily blogging as a way to “parent” and create a relationship with her like in my Letters to Nora section of this blog.  I realized that I find any way I can to hold onto my connection with Nora and I am also finding that the connection to her is still growing, getting deeper, even in her absence.  It's strange too because it’s as if Nora is so much more of an idea then an actual person.  She was a person, a person I will never get see grow up. I grieve that. But in some ways I parent her like I did when I was expecting her; I parent the idea of her.  

I continue to do this by trying to help others who have experienced the loss of a child like me, by creating White Signs of Grief so grieving parents can share their love, like I have for Nora on the site.  I join causes and take on membership roles within them by becoming a Local Leader for Return to Zero and a Core Staff Member for the Hope & Hearts Run in effort to bring awareness to stillbirth so others won’t have to suffer Nora’s fate and mine. 

It’s difficult though, parenting a deceased child.  But I do it all the same. I may not be able to put Nora to bed at night or hold her when she cries, but I see all my “projects” and “causes” as a way to still bond with Nora and with other parents with similar experiences.  It’s like if I were to go to Nora’s dance recital or join the PTA.  I am an involved parent in my daughter’s life.  It’s just that my daughter’s life is over and now I am creating her legacy.  

Our parenting instincts don’t stop when our children die. We still have a desire and need to be guardians to our children that are no longer with us.   I choose to listen to that need and continue to “parent” my daughter after her death.  Lots of bereaved mom and dad’s do.  They do this by starting memorial walks/runs, making movies, setting aside time to talk to their child daily, or planting and tending a garden dedicated to their child.  These acts of continued parenting are a form of attaching, grieving, and healing. I haven’t had time to find much research and resources on the idea of “parenting your deceased child” as a healing technique (sorry), but the act of doing so, I feel personally has helped me in my healing process.  I am sure there is research out there on the subject.  I will look into it.

In the meantime, I am curious, how do you still parent your deceased child?  


  1. I just posted about answering that question earlier this week. It is so much work to be a mom without a baby in your arms. It's exhausting and overwhelming every single day. Love and prayers to you.

  2. I blog. I read other baby loss blogs. I peek at babies born in the same month as my son, to know how big he would be, what milestone he would be working on. I donate items or funds in his name. I am hoping to start volunteering with an organization that has provided me with so much support. I keep him in my heart, since he stayed for such a short time in my arms.

  3. Holy cow, it is like you reached into my soul and wrote this post. I also have a blog that is my "baby", and I do whatever I can to help other moms of loss. I also am a local leader for Return to Zero and I work with a local charity to help them raise money to create memory boxes for mothers who lose a baby. It's so exhausting, but all of those things are the only connection I have to my daughter. I can't bear to let her go.

  4. I talk to him to every morning when I get up and every night when I go to bed. I thank him for painting beautiful rainbows for me. I visit his grave site at least twice a week. I keep his pictures up and talk about him all the time with people who know him and didn't know him. He is forever with me and I will always be his mom :)

  5. Every night I light a candle for my son. When I blow it out I say good-night to him. We make donations in his name for his birthday. And we have been visiting Angel of Hope statues across the US. We had a brick engraved at the Angel of Hope closest to us.

  6. I am a grandmother whose first grandchild died when he was 2 days old. I know my grief is nothing like what my son and daughter-in-law experience. However, what you wrote applies also to grandparents and other family members who may be grieving differently but not necessarily easier. My grandson Jonah is in my heart, mind, thoughts, and feelings each day. He brought our family many blessings and he is missed more than words can say. Yet my friends don't seem to know how to acknowledge Jonah anymore, or that he is still my grandson and I am still his grandma and these facts will never change as time goes by or if more grandchildren come. Instead of buying Jonah birthday and Hanukkah gifts we buy Jonah's gifts for others in need. We try to be better people because in his short life he was able to inspire us to be better. I have a wish that just as my friends share their photos and stories of their grandkids, that some of them might give me the space to talk about Jonah or even come with me when I visit Jonah's grave. It is in a lovely and peaceful cemetery and his stone has flowers and butterflies. The last new friend that I told about Jonah has not contacted me since. Sometimes a friend who knows about Jonah will ask me if my son and his wife are trying again. That is the closest anyone comes to the subject of my grandson with me. And although that is an important issue, it is not at all about my grandson. This article is very important. Thank you for writing it. Having to be alone in our continued missing and loving of our lost children is not right or healthy. Your wise words make a difference.

    1. Daya - thank you, so much, for sharing your feelings about your grandchild. So often, extended family seem to completely forget about our little ones - maybe it's more comfortable, or...well...I don't know. But, I think it's beautiful that you continue to love and honor Jonah - I imagine that means the world to his parents. I truly hope that you will find some comfort and sharing with your friends.


  7. We have Eva's sunflowers. We also have Eva's Ride for Ronald McDonald House, where we stayed when she was so ill. In fact Eva's Ride is this weekend and the anniversary of her death is on the 15th. Having the ride to plan and organize is huge in acknowledging her life and keeping her alive in our family.

  8. this is the hardest thing to deal with. after i lost my Adam, and returned to work I had a lot questions like that. I was picking number 1 or 2. my thought was that is hard enough to be in my position, people should be considrate to my situation too, so they will feel bad for 10 minutes and pitty me as much as they like. I have to live with it. everyday and every hour.

    I consider Adam to be my missing part, like an amputated limb. cannot say he wasn't there.

  9. I am an architect and I had designed a new house for us to live in when Pippa died. That house-whilst still beautiful was for us and Pippa to live in and now that isn't possible I have nearly finished designing a new house that is designed around Pippa and for us to remember Pippa in for ever. From the moment she was conceived she was meant to be part of our lives for ever, so by having this house I'm calling PIppas House she will not just live in out hearts but she will have a physical presence which we will interact with every day.

  10. I make monthly donations to children's causes on the day of the month he was born (sleeping), and I also do this for my babies lost to miscarriage. I talk about my babies, look at their pictures (even if only an ultrasound), and pray for them... it helps me feel like a parent to them and "normal". Other parents do these things, and so do I. <3

  11. Oh my word! What wonderful comments and ideas everyone has left. You all do so many great things to honor, connect, and parent your child even in there death. Thanks for being such devoted parents! Also, thanks for sharing and letting us learn from each other.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Design by Small Bird Studios | All Rights Reserved