I will never forget the first time I felt it. I was sitting in a room full of women, who were all laughing, talking, complaining about their husbands, bragging about their children. It was five months after my son Joseph had died, and I thought I could do it. I thought I could join the world again. I wanted to feel normal. But sitting in that room—with a newly formed women’s group—I never felt so alone in my entire life. The sounds all became one, like a constant buzzing. My hands started to sweat. My heart started to pound. And I ran for the door.
I ran from new friendships and I ran from my old friendships. I isolated myself from those who had children and babies. I couldn’t face my pregnant friends, because I was a reminder to them of what could go wrong. My friends’ worlds were moving forward, and my life felt as if it was standing still. I didn’t know how to be anyone’s friend.
I was different. I had held my son and watched him take his last breaths. I watched his casket being put in the ground. I had gone home to leaking breasts full of his milk, an empty nursery, and a broken heart. And my friends would never understand that.
As the months after Joseph’s death turned into years, and I sought the help of support groups and private therapy to deal with my grief, I tried to repair old friendships and begin new ones. I started to accept this was the new me. And I began to see, I didn’t have to run.
And I wasn’t alone after all. Through Forever Footprints I’ve met thousands of other women just like me. Women who have lost their child or children. Many of them have become my friends. We may not talk every day. We may not see each other for months. But I know they are there for me, and I am there for them. We are forever connected by the love of our babies.
I found I could become a friend to others that struggled with pain or loss. It doesn’t just come in the form of losing a child, but also through things like divorce or illness. I’m not always the friend people call to go out for a movie or to go on a girl’s trip, but I’m often the one they call when they are going through a difficult time.
There are still times I sit in a room and feel so different than anyone else. But I don’t run. I embrace that being a mom who has lost a child has formed me into a person who is strong, brave, resilient, and compassionate. And I tell my story, because more often than not, there someone else in that room that needs a friend.