Simply complicated

photo by  Lauren Rushing

A constant tug-of-war plays out in my mind, my own thoughts against themselves, where no idea can win or feel at peace. It’s a complicated and exhausting existence. For instance, I’m abundantly aware of good pregnancy outcomes, but I cannot relate or assume happy endings for myself. Yes, I see that the world is still spinning and life carries on for others. But no, I do not understand how I could be expected to do the same.

Yes, it now feels like I hear about tragic outcomes all the time. But no, not in my “real life.”

Yes, I have a child. But no, she is not alive.

This strange-but-true, yes-but-no existence is accurate for me, but it goes against what most people know to be true in their own lives. Even the term “bereaved mother” hits me as a contradiction, an oxymoron. It sounds wrong, yet I know firsthand how devastatingly real it is.


I clam up when a mother speaks of her living children. But I cringe when she withholds information or pretends she is not experiencing live motherhood.

I need to be acknowledged as a mother, with Cora as my daughter. But I want acknowledgement of the hell of bereaved motherhood and how atypical my story is. I’m sick of hearing “I can’t even imagine…” But truthfully, they’re right; they can’t even imagine.

I know postpartum depression is real. But if the baby is alive and well, I cannot feel sorry for the mother. My birth story includes what many do: the labor, the waiting, the pushing, the baby. But my birth story is nothing like most others.

I don’t like being ostracized because of my dead child—left out of the loop that “normal” parents are in. But I can’t deal with the so-called problems these parents face, so I keep to myself anyway.

I want to be included, invited, remembered. I want to believe I will not feel like a castaway forever. But there are many events and conversations in which I will no longer participate.

I love seeing my daughter’s name on paper. But I place my finger over “In memory of” so I can see her name on its own, without a qualifier.

I realize “You can do it!” stories are encouraging and inspiring. But I think vulnerability is far more so.

I want “normal” people to talk to me, to engage with me. But I know they will never understand the hole in my heart, that it will forever be a great divide between us, unless they, too, lose a child eventually.

I understand why well-intentioned observers encourage therapy, positive thinking, or “distracting”
activities. But I know there’s no fixing this, no distracting from it.

I want to know about others’ big life moments. I hate being the last to find out. But I cannot fathom a pregnancy or birth announcement that doesn’t punch me in the gut.

I wish I didn’t feel bitter and resentful of those whose lives have gone mostly as planned. But I don’t understand how anyone in my shoes could honestly feel otherwise.

I don’t feel comfortable around new people until they know of my grief and loss. But I dread telling them.

I hear others talk about things they, or their children, will do in the future. But I know the future is not a guarantee and would rather hear “if” than “when.”

I appreciate the efforts made to comfort or advise me on this tender, messy road of loss. But if the advice is not from a bereaved parent, I have trouble taking it seriously.

I’ve spent my entire life trying to find the right words. But there are none for this, nothing that lives up to the real, raw, hollow agony. I know my preferences are finicky, varying, and nuanced. But I didn’t choose this path, and I’m just trying to survive.

How do you survive the oblivious world? What contradictions do you carry about what you need and don't need, want and don't want?