From the depths of sorrow, to finding peace and hope, our members have so much they want to share about this unexpected journey we are on...
Dear Miriam Lyra,
How can it be seven years since you left your watery home inside of me? In the beginning I could barely make it through each day. Time seemed to stretch like taffy as I tried to go through hours without you. In some ways it helped to think of you with your siblings who had died before. Maybe you, Sam, and Oren were running through the forest together or dancing invisibly in the garden? But in other ways the fact that three of you had died just made it worse. How could this happen again? What did I do wrong to deserve this? Now that was a silly question I know. No one “deserves” this pain. The better question was, “what do I do now?” But asking the big philosophical WHY popped up anyway as I tried to make sense of it all.
I bet you were cute. I only saw one photo of you and it was a grainy ultrasound photo from after you had died. How I wish I could have snuggled you in my arms my darling. Would you have had curly hair like me? I bet you would have had one heck of an attitude at times. Ha! You would have given me a run for my money! I would have loved every minute, even the tantrums- ok maybe not “loved” but I would have loved you! I still do.
Just because you died doesn’t mean I love you any less. I will always be your mother. I may not be able to help you put on your mud boots, but I can look up at the stars and tell you all about them. Maybe you can hear me. Heck, maybe you know way more about stars than I do! I can do things in your honor, things I think you would have liked to do. Last year we bought a lot of toys and games for the Respite Center. Your brothers helped me pick them out. We thought about what a 6 year old girl might like. Wish you could have shown us by being here.
Your brothers and I will be sending you extra love on July 9th. That is your special day. Send some love back to us if you can.
I miss you,
[On] October 1, 1991 — our son, Stefan James Teigland Narum, died. He lived for 12 days.
To say Stefan lived 12 days is not quite right. He was with his mother for nine months, and his relationship with her was both loving and intimate. And everything was fine for those nine months…until the moment it wasn’t. And then the world as we knew it fell apart.
There’s not enough time or pages to contain the thoughts of those twelve days Betsy and I had with our second child, and the journey of grief following. Five years later I would complete a masters thesis on perinatal bereavement for my marriage and family therapy degree. Looking back, I suppose I was trying to help others, but maybe with all that writing and talking I was really just trying to get my head around what happened to our son and to us his parents. Grief includes seeking to understand, but we don’t move forward because we finally receive some answers, but because we’re finally able to live with the questions.
The death of a child is every parent’s greatest fear. I recently turned 60, and I would’ve gladly stopped at 31 and given my remaining years to Stefan. I wasn’t offered that option, as many bereaved parents know…as you may well know if you’ve had a similar experience. We grieved Stefan while we also cared for Ingrid. For parents whose first child dies, they wonder what it means to be a parent when their hello also means goodbye. For us, our little 2-1/2 year-old daughter gave us solace and hope. But we were sad for her, too.
What is unique about perinatal death is that we parents don’t have a story to tell, we have no joyful pictures to share. With Stefan are no happy memories, and his only home was an isolette in the NICU at UM Hospital in Minneapolis. When a baby dies it’s the loss of what could have been, what might have been and, yes, what we feel should have been. Nevertheless, those 12 days were the most honest and real days I have ever lived. Life, and what’s most dear, was never clearer. And those 12 days are 12 more than some parents get. We were grateful for every moment we had with Stefan, for the time his grandparents and aunts and uncles had to meet him.
Grieving parents say there’s a hole in their heart with their child’s name on it. This is a sacred space, a holy emptiness, not to be filled in this lifetime. To all you parents who have experienced the death of a child, I am profoundly sorry. I do not know what you went through, because that experience and relationship is uniquely yours.
Though Stefan’s life was not filled with joyful moments, it was filled with love. We are grateful to have met him, held him, and in the goodbye let him know there’s a love that will bring us together again. May that promise and the hope sustain us all.
—Peter Narum, Stefan’s dad
(and also Ingrid’s & Soren’s dad!)
This piece has been edited from its original format with the author’s permission. Written initially as a devotional, we would be happy to share the unedited version with you. Please email email@example.com.
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