You may not want to see my baby’s ashes.
Neither did I .
I didn’t want to see how few there were.
I didn’t want to imagine the process.
I didn’t want him to be ash at all.
But he was.
I struggled for months about letting go of his remains.
I knew once I did that I couldn’t get them back.
I ended up opting to save a small portion to be made into a pendant and scattering the rest.
It’s been nine months since Amos died.
It took me four months to write his story.
It took me another two months after that to let him go.
It’s taken me an additional three months to share that moment.
Time has sped up.
It’s speeding me away from his existence, and it’s making it harder, not easier, to grieve his death. But scattering his ashes was a very healing experience; it was something I didn’t really know how to do, and a few Google searches hadn’t brought me much in the way of comfort in knowing what to do.
Do people normally hold any kind of ceremony when scattering the remains of their baby after a miscarriage?
What would that ceremony consist of?
Would there be music?
Should anyone else be present?
Should I be keeping his ashes?
Is taking photos too morbid or weird?
What was the right and normal thing to do for this situation?
The realization that there is nothing normal when it comes to this experience made it harder for me to find the next step forward. I wanted to do what was right, what would be the most healing, what would be most respectful and acceptable. Unfortunately, with no real outside guidance, we had to wing it with what we knew would be most comforting to us. So please know that if you chose to do something different, there is no wrong way. The right way is what you want to do for your family. You must create your own ceremony.
Did you know, there isn’t even a special word for a parent who has lost a child? A widow has lost her husband. A widower has lost his wife. An orphan has lost his parents. What did that make us? Lost and looking for healing.
The day we scattered his ashes was the day we celebrated and remembered all of the babies we’ve lost: October 15th, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
It had been a struggle to arrange getting both of us to my husband’s family’s farm at the same time because of my husband’s work schedule, but the weekend of a family wedding, everything fell into place. We celebrated beginnings and endings in the same weekend.
It was cold, windy, and overcast. The sky was in mourning, too; the gloom was appropriate for such a final moment. We stood on the bridge over the creek on my in-laws’ property and prayed with my husband’s Aunt (also our pastor who married us), Amos’ ashes held to my chest.
Before we began, I had my husband take one last photo of me holding him. You might think that’s morbid, but I don’t regret it for a second.
Don’t judge me. You don’t ever want to have to make this kind of decision.
His Aunt prayed with us and gave the most beautiful eulogy.
We come before You humbled by the mysteries of life and death. Help us to accept what we cannot understand, to have faith where reason fails, to have courage in the midst of disappointment.
Comfort Kristen and Craig, Lucas and Everett, that they may see the hope of life beyond their grief. Through Jesus we know that You love all Your children, even those whose life begins in eternity. Remind us that You are always with us and that neither life, nor death can separate us from Your love in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Life is a spiritual wonder that no scientist, nor physician, or even theologian can fully comprehend. Life to me begins with the breath of God entreating into the heart of a man and a woman creating a love that scripture describes as two becoming one. Life begins when, out of that love, new life is created. It is that special love that you have for one another that brought life into this world through your children. You have loved all of them deeply, passionately, and sacrificially.
I wish that I could stand here today and explain to you why two of these precious children are blessed to experience life on earth, with all of its joys and adventures, and Amos was not. All I can tell you is that I believe that though Amos will not experience life here, he is experiencing new life.
Mark 10 tells of Jesus’ great love for children: Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
You have brought Amos’ ashes today to sprinkle on the ground of this earth, but let me assure you that the precious little soul that lived and moved and had life, even for the briefest of time, is still living and moving and is now more alive than he could have ever been if he had experienced life here. For he is in the very presence of the heavenly Father that first gave him life inside the womb and continues to sustain that life in eternity.
God knows what it is to lose a son. Mary knows what it is to lose a child. Your suffering does not go unnoticed or uncared for. God weeps with you. You are not alone in your grief.
I am sure you have felt like you have been cheated out of seeing this precious little boy grow and see all the dreams you had for him become a reality. But I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that because Jesus has received Amos into His glorious kingdom, that our Lord is preparing for the time when you will be received, and so will become that family of mother, father, and all of your whole and happy boys. I believe that what you feel you are missing right now without Amos, you will one day experience with Amos. Until that blessed time, I pray that you will find strength in your love for each other, and draw strength from the One who has blessed your marriage and created your precious children out of that love.
Lord, we have seen just how fragile life is. Nothing can replace this precious little life, this child who was loved before he was ever seen or felt as he stirred in the womb, prayed for before he was ever conceived. In the pain of our loss, may we look to You, Lord, in whom no life is without meaning, however small or brief. May our limited understanding never be the boundaries of our faith.
After she finished praying, Craig and I each took a small portion of his ashes and scattered them into the wind over the creek as we said goodbye.
Then, life went on, as it often does. And I walked back up to the house carrying the slate box full of dried flowers and the tiny portion of his ashes that remained.
As hard as it was to let go, I felt lighter afterward. Taking the time to make space and honor his brief life, to acknowledge our grief and pain, and to release that into the world in the presence of loved ones was very healing. Maybe it was the ritual of it that made it so comforting; we humans are nothing if not deeply engrained with a need for ceremony, and I felt like we’d finally had a funeral of sorts: something we’d needed to lay our son to rest.
After we scattered his ashes, the deep waves of grief became gradually shallower. The guilt became less heavy. The sadness didn’t envelope me as often. Only every once in a while did I seem to be pulled completely under the surface.
A few weeks ago, I was doing voice-to-text to send a pregnant friend a message telling her she could borrow our newborn stash of cloth diapers that I had set aside for Amos. She asked me about how things were going and about Amos. When I said out loud for Siri to type out, “There was nothing wrong with Amos or his cord or the placenta…” and it hit me all over again.
For a few month after scattering his ashes, my loss of him had become like this event in my mind- this thing that had happened, almost like a dream- a little out of touch from reality, boxed up neatly and set on a shelf so that I could continue to function and live as normally as possible. So much had happened in our lives since we lost him because the world had kept turning, and we had to keep moving along with it at what felt like too fast a pace. We’d moved, started Kindergarten & co-op preschool and all the obligations that entails, gone on vacation, fixed a million things wrong in the house, so much to distract and disillusion.
But the weight of the image of his physical body as having been real…
not just a photograph,
not just a foot print,
but a real, live, baby with a cord and everything…it crashed over me and brought me back to that first night home after I saw him lifeless on the ultrasound screen.
When I said that sentence out loud, I could see his cord in my head, and pictured him alive and well and growing in my belly. I acknowledged him as a part of me, as a person again and not just as a memory, and it hurt so much. Then, I realized that last year at this time, I was pregnant with him. And the fact that it all feels like it wasn’t real is so infuriating and frustrating. Wasn’t that ages, centuries, eons ago? How could something so important not feel like it had been real for any length of time, distracted or not? I was hurled back into that moment from last May of total agony and desire to have my baby back with me. My arms and chest physically ached, and I cried and cried and woke my husband and cried some more, sobbing, “I want my baby,” until I eventually fell asleep.
I knew this was not a logical reaction; it was an emotional one.
I knew wanting him wouldn’t bring him back. I knew crying wasn’t going to fix anything, but I also knew that I had to feel that loss and let it out. I’d been living and working and distracting myself for months. My anxious energy and insistence to paint every surface of the new house was what Brené Brown calls, “over functioning.” To stop moving meant to have to think and sit in my pain, so I didn’t stop moving for months. I didn’t sleep either.
I’d been battling with emotional demons that whispered disparities and convinced me that any choice I made was the wrong choice. I knew I’d never feel safe again in trying, so we’d decided to attempt IUI again in December (planned, structured, medical, controlled), only this time we would use progesterone injections. I had to learn all over again how to give myself injections, and I had to teach Craig how to give me my nightly shot in the hip. Like it or not, infertility and loss are EXTREMELY expensive, and sometimes cost is a deciding factor. In my brain, I kept thinking the logical explanation for our choice of, “It’s the end of the year; we’ve met the deductible; we might as well try.” In my heart, I kept feeling, “I want my baby.”
The IUI was not successful; a result that I had accepted before it occurred as being probably the best outcome, because the idea of getting pregnant terrified me as much as it excited me. I had wanted this to work because I was too afraid of a long process and having to fight for it again. The overwhelming reality that even under the best circumstances we had failed was crippling. It was like God was telling me, I told you that you weren’t ready. And in that fragile state is when I’d fallen apart over the admission that he had had a cord. My grief had resurfaced and pulled me back under.
We’ve been taking a break from all things baby since then, but my heart never fails to yearn for a baby when I stop to consider our vision for our family. Every time I think I’ve found myself in a place where I begin to try and talk myself into being done, into being reasonable that it’s not worth it to go through all of it again (to try to conceive, to live through the anxiety of 9 months, to endure the pain of labor and delivery, to survive the sleepless newborn/baby/toddler phases), something immediately stirs inside me that says we’re not.
I am thankful for this break, however. I’ve been able to sit in a hot tub, enjoy a drink with my husband at a bar, and not be bruised all up and down my backside or swallow a million pills every day for a change. I attend two support groups a month and am looking into seeing a therapist for additional support and healing. I have focused more on my living children and my job and my husband and our house. But we still don’t feel complete.
I feel as if the pieces are mostly put back together, but there’s still some missing, hiding somewhere. And while I know I’ll never feel whole without my missing children, I hope that someday I can at least feel together.
If you or someone you know has suffered a loss, please be sure they have access to support resources available to them. In memory of Amos and my Angels, I’ve created a website of a collection of grief support resources for families in and around the Indianapolis area as well as National and International resources called Amos’ Anchors. I’m always accepting suggestions for new resources to be added as well.