What to say to a mother who has lost a child

An open letter to moms everywhere

Content Editor / August 22 2018

US Kindergarten teacher Rachel Whalen recently penned an emotional letter to the children who won’t start school because they have passed on.

Now the mum of two has written an open letter to mums everywhere, asking them if they can “open your arms a little wider for the moms who are missing their babies.”

Rachel’s first daughter, Dorothy, passed away in 2016, and she decided to share some advice for mothers who may not know what to say to a mum who is grieving.

“It can be hard to know the mothers whose motherhood is invisible because you can't see what's not there,” she wrote in a post on Instagram.

“You may not give a second thought to the moms who don't show up to playgroup but who have said goodbye to their reasons for going. You might not know who they are, but you can still hold space for them."

She shares sage advice for speaking to a mum who has lost a child, encouraging mothers to keep listening, and not to change the subject.

“Instead of asking questions like ‘How many children do you have?’ You could ask, ‘Are you a mom, too?’ If a mom senses your compassion and decides to open up, please be ready to listen. Don't suddenly shift your gaze or change the subject. Stay with us,” she advises.

“Please be careful when you meet a woman with no visible children. Before you ask, ‘Don't you want kids?’ remember that whether she does or not, having babies isn't always possible in the way we imagined as little girls.”

This is what losing a baby or dealing with infertility does to you. Your thoughts taste bitter and desperation weighs down the lightest moments. . So, when you're scrolling through Instagram and your eyes rest on a meme like this one, your grief-stricken heart finishes the sentence before your eyes do. What's meant to be a meme tinged with just the right amount of self-deprecating mom humor, becomes a plea of your deepest desperation. You just want to be a mom. You don't care about anything else and the size of this want fills you with panic. Because, what if it doesn't happen? What if you never get to be the mom at Target? . If you have lost a baby or struggled with infertility, you might think thoughts like this. I know I do. I used to be ashamed because I thought it made me appear damaged and desperate to share thoughts like this. . Well, I'm not ashamed. I have been damaged by child loss and I know what it is to feel so incredibly desperate when you are staring down the aisle at the woman who has what you crave. I'm sharing this because I want you to know that when you have thoughts like this, you are not alone. . You don't think this way because you are broken, you think this way because you have been through a tragedy that has changed your perspective on the world. . #grief #parentingmemes #lifeafterloss #infertility #pregnancyafterloss #ttcafterloss #ttc #pregnancyloss #infantloss #stillbirth #miscarriage

The mum of two also says it’s important to realise motherhood comes in many forms.

“Motherhood is loving a child,” she writes. “True motherhood exists in anyone who has ever made room for a child in their heart. It's amazing to think of just how many mothers are out there in our world. There are mothers everywhere and they could use some support.

And they could use it from someone just like you.”