Parents of lost babies and potential of all kinds: come here to share the technicolour, the vividness, the despair, the heart-broken-open, the compassion we learn for others, having been through this mess — and see it reflected back at you, acknowledged, understood.

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to the woman on the airplane

You must have decided I am unstable—

Changing seats was the better option

even though you had to wedge your wide frame between 

two other overweight passengers.


Bursting into tears had nothing to do with you.

I cover my face and burn with shame,

yet I am unable to stop the flood once it has started.


No matter what is first the cause,

all the tears drain to the same murky, bottomless pool:

my baby, my baby, my baby


I hope you come to believe

I was not doing it to manipulate you,

but I have to accept you may not forgive me five cramped hours.

I can't even look across the aisle to your profile.


And I am certain

you will never know what an act of kindness it was

to give up your seat so

I could hold my wife's hand and 

lean my cheek on her shoulder on this day—

six months since I gave birth to 

our baby boy who had already died.


What acts of kindness have strangers done for you in your time of mourning? What small things have friends or acquaintances done unexpectedly for you? Have you found yourself inconveniently in public on a particularly difficult day of grief? Have you felt embarrassed by or ashamed of your emotions on your grief journey? How have you handled it?

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Reader Comments (7)

Most people seem to have forgotten about my son (he died of SIDS in 2010). Only other infant loss parents remember his birthday and the anniversary of his death-or so I thought. Last Christmas we were visiting a friend who I, myself, had only met once. I was looking at his tree in his kitchen and noticed a bunch of names on it. "Those are my family members who have passed on," he said. I was surprised to find Toby's name. The man had made an ornament for him nearly 3 years ago and hangs it on his tree every year. He had never said a word to us. Never underestimate the effect your child had on someone, even if they never met them.
July 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca Patrick-Howard
So special to read words from the perspective of a two mother family like mine. Today my partner cried at work while everyone there was discussing how "Everyone is having babies this year" she started her job after Theo died so few people there knew what was wrong. I've cried my way through airports a few times in the last few months. Last weekend I was working in the city where our first child (living) was born and went to see the tree we planted on his placenta 13 years ago. I turned and found that there was a newly planted memorial tree beside it,a Rata, which was the name our Theo had before birth. I cried on that frosty hill causing consternation to a passing runner.

I am sometimes ashamed of my anger and bitterness, even when I am not letting it show. And I am not afraid to share my heartbreak when I see or hear of children being treated badly, why do they have to live in pain and fear, life is such a gift and I wish all parents could respect that.
July 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNZ Anna
My living daughter, 3yr old, was invited to a birthday party a couple of months ago. I dreaded going, as I knew three of the four other kids invited recently had siblings around our E's due date. Of course, the moms would bring them along. I was close to cancelling, but didn't have the heart to spoil my daughters fun. We went, and I was nearly sick with anxiety.

I sat and waited, and no babies arrived. One kid came just with it's Dad. One was dropped of by it's mum and picked up later. One came with mum sans baby just for a couple of hours, in between feeds I'm guessing. A few days later, I asked the woman if this was a coincidence or if she had planned for this. She said she had. She told me she suffered an early loss too and figured how hard it would have been for me. I barely know this woman, a playground aquaintance who I've spoken to a few times, nothing more than that. I will love her forever for this.
July 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterB
My wife and I tossed rose petals in the ocean in Florida on the anniversary of Alice's death. It was a lovely experience. When we purchased the roses for tossing (day before Valentine's), instead of just collecting left over petals from the day, the florist went out of her way to get us several different colored rose heads, and she took all the petals off the flowers and put them neatly in tissue even though we did not ask her to do this. This was all during an hour when she and her partner were delivering the bulk of their Valentine's Day bouquets. We came back the hour later to pick up our parcel, we found the work she'd done, and then she charged us about 1/3 of what she should have for the flowers. She never asked what they were for. I think she could just see the profound sadness on our faces. Later that night, it was horribly difficult not to be self conscious on the beach. LIke Burning Eye, we are a two mom family and while crying our eyes out and throwing those petals in the ocean, we needed to be close to each other (in Florida nonetheless). It was awkward when people walked by - not knowing what they were thinking. Still, the whole experience was one of the most beautiful of my lifetime.
July 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie
3 days after she died, I told a stranger in the park the whole story and she just listened and nodded and said how sorry she was. It was exactly what I needed.
July 16, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterafteriris
Mine isn't about a stranger so much as a friend. On the 5 month anniversary i was sitting in church, bawling, beside a friend with whom not a lot of emotions or feelings are shared. At the time she may have been more of an acquaintance .
But she held me while i cried, just sitting with me, not even trying to move. She didn't, at that time, know Mia's story. And now i think of her as one of my dearest friends. But it all started during that moment in church as little more than friendly strangers when she held me up in grief when i could no longer hold it up myself
July 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEmily C
I can not think of any acts of kindness from strangers per say, but we received a number of cards from people I have not seen or spoken to in probably 15 years or more. Some I never really talked to, but whom I know by name because I'm from a small town in the midwest originally. It was very touching to know they had taken the time to not only find out our address, but to write very heartfelt cards to someone they really don't know anymore, if ever they did. We also had friends that DH went to high school with and has been friends with since, but we hadn't seen or talked to much in 4yrs until the wife took my maternity pictures. Some people you can connect right back with no matter how much time has passed and these are those type of friends. They came to Griffin's memorial which was a good 1.5hr drive for them. Then, out of the blue, maybe 3 months after he had passed, we received a frozen pot pie in the mail from them. When I opened the package I sat down and just balled inside our front door. It was such a considerate gesture and the one thing we probably needed most (food), but never asked anyone for help with. I was touched by the fact that so much time had passed yet they realized how much we were still struggling despite not being in touch with them at all since his memorial.

I have cried in so many public places at this point, like snot on my shirt and hands type of crying. While Griffin was in the NICU I think crying was such a state of being at the time that I was hardly aware or concerned. As time has passed, and especially once I was back at work 4months later and since, I get embarrassed and uncomfortable. Part of me wants to let it out because I know that's what I need, but part of me seems to almost unconsciously try to hide it or to stop it as quickly as possible. People at work see me "doing well" now. It's hard for me to be emotional and not think about what they are all thinking of me, but I don't want to have to explain myself. There are so many people at work that I really don't know. The ones I'm closer with, that's different.

I'm glad you were able to sit with your wife and comfort each other. I find no better comfort than my husbands arms and knowing we have each other through this hell.
July 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

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