Recovering From Infant Loss
On January 14th, 2020, I received heartbreaking news of the passing of my dear friend, Charlene Chambers.
Just before that, we had discussed the upcoming arrival of my son, Rowan. Charlene, who had transformed her own pain from losing her daughter Faith into a purposeful mission, became a birth and bereavement Doula and founded the Healing Hearts Foundation to support families affected by infant loss. She was a remarkable mother, wife, advocate, and an unwavering source of support. Charlene’s ability to truly listen and see others left a profound impact on me. Witnessing the community she had created for local families inspired me on my own journey of healing from grief. This message is dedicated to you, Charlene. You are the guiding light, a doula among the stars, calling our spirit babies home. I love you.
January 30th, 2020, was the day when my heart was filled with a love I never knew existed, and also engulfed by the deepest sorrow I had ever experienced.
At just 19 weeks, my son Rowan joined my husband and me in this world. We shared a few precious moments together before we had to say our goodbyes. In that heart-wrenching moment, I cried out to Charlene, praying that she would watch over him. I whispered, “I’m so sorry” repeatedly. I sang to Rowan, and then, we let him go.
Today, as I write these words with vulnerability and courage on the anniversary of Rowan’s passing, I want to share what I have learned.
It is okay to grieve.
Even after a year has passed, I still struggle to label the loss of Rowan as a mere miscarriage. No words can truly capture the experience of deeply loving someone you have never met but feel more intimately connected to than anyone before. He was not lost, so the term “loss” feels inadequate. What I do know is that you should never let any labels like “miscarriage” or “stillbirth,” or the opinions of others, diminish your experience. Whether you are recovering from the loss of an infant or an adult child, your pain is valid, and it is a real struggle. It does not get easier, regardless of when along the timeline you experience such a loss. It is always painful, always a process, and encompasses many layers of grief.
It is okay to cry.
Sometimes, tears may flow unexpectedly over seemingly trivial matters, like a ruined haircut or a pet running off in fear. These isolated events may appear insignificant, but when I explore them further, I realize that I am not “crying for no reason.” I don’t need to “just get over it.” These tears are an invitation to peel back another layer of grief surrounding the loss of my child. Those moments of “why am I crying?” have become opportunities for further healing.
It is okay to not feel up to certain things.
During this challenging time, I heavily relied on my friends, family, and recovery community. There is no shame in admitting, “Today, I simply cannot do what you are asking of me because my grief is overwhelming.” The only person expecting me to immediately bounce back was myself.
It is okay to remember.
Initially, I had the urge to pack away everything associated with Rowan, an attempt to avoid my feelings and bury them deep inside. However, this only serves to intensify grief. Instead, I created a beautiful altar for Rowan, a sacred space with objects and mementos honoring his memory, including a picture of his tiny feet, healing herbs, a candle, and a garnet. It is important to acknowledge and honor our spirit babies as living beings. We form a deep connection with them during pregnancy and even after their short time on Earth. We should never feel ashamed of these experiences.
“It turns out that, even though it may feel that way, we are not the only ones who remember. And while our babies’ lives may have been brief, their impact is enduring. Although grief is endless, love can still exist.” – Charlene Chambers