Yesterday, we buried our baby. Today, I am kneeling on the ground beside my son’s grave, tears streaming down my face. I thrust aside the mountain of funeral flowers, and then I start to dig into the loose damp earth with my fingers. I frantically throw clods of dirt into the air, and they land all around me: Thud! Thud! I work deeper and deeper. I wonder: is it possible for someone to uncover a coffin using only their bare hands? I am gulping with sobs. I can hardly see. The only thing I am aware of is an overwhelming longing to see my baby one last time.

No one can see me except a solitary horse gazing from over the fence. I am alone. Could I make it all the way to the coffin before anyone discovers me?  I will be discovered eventually, I know. And then what will happen? Can you still be prosecuted for grave robbing, even if you are just taking what belongs to you? I decide that I won’t end up in prison. Instead I’ll be committed to a home for the mentally ill. Because they’ll say, “She’s crazy!” And I am. Crazy with grief.

I am crazy with grief, not ordinary crazy, so of course, I don’t really try and dig up my son. I imagine doing it. I want to. But I can’t. Normal people don’t do such things. And though I don’t feel normal, I know that’s how I have to appear.

I kneel on the ground beside my son’s grave, tears streaming down my face. My body is bent over double with pain. My chest heaves as I sob noisily. The tears come from deep, deep inside me, overwhelming me, making me gulp for air. I let the sorrow pour out of me unrestrained… And I imagine digging up my son so I can hold him close to me one final time. Yes, anyone seeing me would think I’ve gone crazy. I am not the woman I was yesterday. That woman was in control.

So many people came to Thomas’ funeral. The church was overflowing but for some reason, no one sat near us. We sat alone in the front pew, isolated with our grief. Yes, our friends and family were there in the church with us.  Praying for us? Yes. Caring for us? Yes. Crying with us? Yes. Watching us? Maybe. I felt on display. Would I act like a normal grief-stricken mother? How does a normal grief-stricken mother act?

The comments at the wake:

“You coped with the funeral really well, Sue…”

“I was surprised you didn’t cry more during Mass. You had it all together…”

“You didn’t fall apart…”

 “I once went to a funeral where the bereaved mother was so grief-stricken she threw herself into the open grave…”

Should I have done that? I could have done that. But I didn’t. You’d have to be crazy to do that. Wouldn’t you?

Yesterday I looked calm and in control, but my thoughts…

Oh how I longed to see Thomas once more before we buried him. I looked at his tiny white coffin sitting in front of the altar and I wanted to go over and lift the lid and gaze once more upon his sweet precious face. But I didn’t go up to the coffin. I knelt in my pew wondering if the lid was nailed tight. Of course, it was. Isn’t that what normally happens. But what do I know about normal? It’s not normal to attend the funeral of one’s own baby. 

I knelt there in the pew wishing I’d asked about having an open coffin. I’ve heard about funerals where the deceased could be seen. Why didn’t I ask about the possibility? Was I just too shy or confused about the options? I thought: Is it too late? What would the funeral director say if I asked him to open the lid? Would everyone be horrified if they had to look upon our son, our beautiful one day old, one week dead son?… How I wish I could see him again. Look at his little toes, touch his face gently, curl his hair around my finger… 

But we lowered him into the earth and said goodbye.

And just as I was saying goodbye, I noticed that Thomas’ crucifix was still lying on top of the coffin. I had planned to take it home. The coffin was starting to descend and I wanted to leap forward and shout, “Wait! I want the crucifix!” But I didn’t. Bereaved mothers don't suddenly shout and cause a fuss. Or do they? I stood still and let the crucifix disappear. Disappear with my son.

What would everyone say if they could see me here, sobbing by Thomas’ grave? What if they could hear my thoughts? They think I’m coping, that I’m doing OK. But I’m not. Here I am alone, drowning in my grief.

I wipe my eyes and blow my nose. I breathe deeply and bite my lip to try and prevent new sobs escaping. I have to regain control. I have to drive home. I have to push my sorrow back down to a manageable level. No one must know how I really feel. They mustn’t know what I really think. There are just some things I can’t share, some things I can’t talk about, some things I can’t admit. Otherwise, everyone will think I am going mad.

Mad? I'm not, am I? It's just grief. But sometimes I wonder...

Please visit the BeNotAfraid Facebook page for a linking reflection. This page also has many helpful posts for those facing a difficult prenatal diagnosis or those who are grieving after the loss of a child.

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  1. Replies
    1. Erin,

      I didn't expect anyone to comment because what can one say? Thank you so much! I do appreciate you stopping by.

  2. Oh, have to write those things out and not wonder what others will think or comment. You give me such courage to be REAL on my blog. I deal with a lot of feelings and wonder if I should be thinking them. Would a sane woman be thinking these things? Certainly not. Not true! I truly believe Satan wants us lose ourselves in grief that we bottle up inside never to let it come out. That is how he can control us and keep us slaves to that grief. When you are vulnerable, you allow God to reach out to you through others. When God reaches out to you, Satan loses his grip. Let God embrace you through those who love you and care about you. Don't allow Satan that pleasure of seeing you suffer alone. Big hug from America!:)

    1. Grace,

      I write a lot about Thomas and I'm used to revisiting my grief. But today, I am so sad... I feel like it was only yesterday I was sitting by that grave sobbing.

      Your words made me cry. Thank you for taking the time to write them. They make me feel it was the right decision to publish this story.

      I started to write this post yesterday morning and then we had to go out. Last night I returned to the post but almost didn't finish it. I thought I couldn't share it. What would everyone think? I'm pretty good about revealing myself normally, but this? And then I decided if this is how I felt, maybe someone else feels the same way and is also reluctant to admit it. Perhaps they are feeling alone with their crazy thoughts. So I finished writing and I pressed 'publish'.

      Yes, we shouldn't have to suffer alone. Sharing eases that aloneness. It is only by sharing do we connect with us other, understand each other better and increase our compassion.

      Thank you, Grace for your thoughtful words and the hug!

  3. What I think is that you are brave and you are sad. You are not crazy. And I thank you for sharing this with us. You probably helped others feel less alone with their own grief. Hugs.

    1. Colleen,

      Thank you for sharing my story. I guess all that emotion is not easy to read. I do hope by writing about my grief and Thomas, someone else will feel not quite so alone. Brave? Maybe it took a bit of courage to publish this post. I'm glad I did though. Sad? Yes, today I do feel a bit sad. Revisiting memories can sometimes be difficult. Good to have friends to hug!

  4. Once again, honesty, openess and humility in a well written post which will no doubt be of great help and comfort to many others in similar situations. By writing how you felt, many will read it and think "Yes ... I felt like that too when ..."

    Your courage in expressing your feelings will be a great service to others; and Our Lord will thank you for the love you have shown to many who have also lost a loved one. He knows how you felt then and how you feel now, for He too felt a great loss at the death of Lazarus and wept by his grave.

    Heaven has an Angel named Thomas who looks down on you right now and smiles thanking you for all the love and caring you have shown him over the years. He prays for you and for all the family he has left behind, yet hopeful in a happy family reunion in Paradise.

    Praying for you and yours.

    God bless.

    1. Thank you, Victor. Your words mean a lot to me.

      I often wonder what Thomas thinks. I like the thought of him smiling! Does he know how much I love him? I'm sure he does. And writing about him gives meaning to his short life. I hope his stories do help others.

      I keep you in my prayers. Thank you so much for yours.

      God bless!

  5. Thanks so much for this beautifully emotional post, Sue. You have captured the feelings of grief so well. I'm not sure if you knew this but my stepdad's first child (his only son) died hours after birth. Rarely did he talk about this baby (named after him), but when he did, it was with tear-filled eyes. The bond that a couple has with their child never goes away, even if the baby dies. My stepdad recently passed away (Feb. 10). Although we miss him, I'm happy to know that he is now with his first son and with my mom...

    1. Ellen,

      Your comment arrived! It didn't get lost as you thought. I am always so pleased to see you have visited my blog.

      I am sorry to hear about the death of your stepfather. I will pray for him and all your family.

      Maybe fathers talk about their lost children less than mothers, but I am sure they never forget. It still hurts. What a wonderful thought: your stepdad being reunited with his son and your mother! They'll hug and express love and the grief will be finally over. I think we will always carry grief inside us until our lives end too.

      Thank you for sharing your story, Ellen.

      God bless!

  6. Oh Sue, I'm wishing I was near you to give you a big hug! Your pain and suffering is real and palpable through your writing. It's a raw honesty that needs to be written so good can come of it. I believe Jesus and Mary were with you next to Thomas' grave as you grieved and they were cherishing your son. As they are with you now. Our Blessed Mother knows only too well what it is like to lose a son. I will pray to her to bring you comfort and peace during your sadness.

    1. Noreen,

      I would love a big hug!

      Sometimes we feel so alone in our grief, it is difficult to remember Jesus is there with us, and also our mother Mary. Yes, she understands. I have found Mary to be a real comfort over the years. I often think of her sorrowing with her Son in her arms.

      Thank you for your prayers, Noreen. I keep you and your work in mine.

  7. Oh Sue, thank you for sharing the raw emotions that SO MANY of us Loss moms go through!!!! You. are. not. alone. I was too sick to go to the burial of our son Noah, but had thoughts about it...would I have... if I had been there??? I've heard other mothers say similar... why do we repress it? Why do we have to worry about being sent to the "mental facility" etc? A statement on Western civilization? Why can't we grieve more like in the Middle Eastern cultures, or African cultures, or many others who are more open and allowed to "wail" publicly !! Well...anyway....{{{hugs}}} remembering your Thomas with you...and looking to the day we see our little ones again.

    1. Mandy,

      I remember sharing your story of loss and I appreciate you sharing your son with me. I am so sorry to hear you were too unwell to go to Noah's funeral. A funeral is not something we want to attend, but as mothers, we need to be there for our children, to show our love despite the pain. Perhaps you were very upset not to be able to do this one last thing for Noah.

      I think we get great relief from being allowed to let our feelings show, and by letting the tears noisily flow from us. Holding everything inside us doesn't help at all. The grief just gets buried away to reappear when we least expect it. Yes, other cultures understand this much better than our own.

      Noah and Thomas are together with God, waiting for us: isn't that a beautiful thought? The grief will eventually turn to joy. I wonder if your love for your son increases as time goes by, like mine. People assume we forget after a while, but I haven't. I still yearn to be with Thomas... one day!

      I have been connected to so many beautiful people through Thomas and his story. I am so pleased to know you, Mandy.

      With hugs for you too!

  8. Sue I don't know you but a friend linked to your blog. I felt this same craziness (if it is crazy... I believe it is a normal reaction to losing someone you love) when we buried my beloved father... I simply could not bear the idea that his body was going to be under the earth, that I wanted one more look, one more sense that the last existing part of him was still "mine". We had an open casket and our family made the funeral start late because we all kept going back to his coffin for one more look, one more pat on "Papa"'s cheek for the grandchildren, one more squeeze of his hard dead hand that didn't even look like him. One of my sisters would joke darkly with us that she was going to go back and dig him up, just to crawl on his lap one more time. And it's been almost five year and a flood of tears just released as I'm typing. I haven't lost a child and I am not trying to compare our two different grievings... but I wanted you to know you're not alone. I was so "calm" at my father's funeral that I sang at it, note-perfect and without a quaver. I behaved like a perfect grieving daughter, said the right things, smiled at those who came and thanked them kindly for their words of condolence, behaved appropriately at the gravesite and then helped with the dinner afterwards. And went back to the mound of dirt and sobbed until I thought my insides would just explode out of me from the force of my heaving.

    1. KJ,

      Thank you so much for stopping and sharing your story. I am sorry you are grieving for your dear father.

      It doesn't matter if we grieve a baby or a husband or a parent or... We all understand how painful the experience is, and we can support each other.

      Dark jokes? I think we are entitled to make them. Outsiders may look horrified but those who suffer understand completely. "to crawl on his lap one more time..." One more time. It feels so final, doesn't it? We don't want to say goodbye. We want one more hug, one more look, one more kiss... and we realise we can't. No wonder the grief pours out.

      It sounds like you reacted very much like I did, at the funeral and later alone. I don't feel so strange any more! Thank you for sharing that.

      I used to worry that people would think I was OK, that I was coping well... They might go away and leave me to my pain, when I really needed someone to hug me and be with me and to try and understand. But people who have grieved always realise that sometimes what appears on the outside is not what's being felt on the inside.

      Thank you so much for your comment and your thoughtfulness in sharing with me.

  9. This is real. This is how we should be allowed to act, to grieve, to howl, in what world are we supposed to be polite as we lower our children to the ground?
    We have taken that away from ourselves, the ability to pour it out and let it go.
    Breathe deep and be what you feel. Ignore anyone who thinks otherwise.
    I'm so sorry.

    1. Mitchell Clan,

      You have summed it up so well: "in what world are we supposed to be polite as we lower our children to the ground?" We live in a world where we keep our feelings restrained far too much. If we can't howl at the funeral of our own child, when is it acceptable to howl? And howling does help! Letting everything pour out... I remember thinking I wanted to cry noisily forever, but there came a point when I thought I really should get myself under control. I could only give myself permission to let go for a certain period of time. Maybe I worried about what would happen if I carried on crying. Would I never be able to stop? Would I really think I'd gone crazy?

      "Ignore anyone who thinks otherwise" - anyone who thinks otherwise has never experienced grief. You don't mention your own story but you understand so well. If you are grieving, I feel so much for you.

      Thank you for stopping and commenting.

  10. So moving - amazing how you can share those feelings so eloquently. I don't think you are at all crazy. Of course you would be longing to see him one last time.
    In the U.S. we have viewing of the body just prior to the start of the funeral service. Do ya'll have something like that?
    Sue, you have to be helping so many women experiencing the same kind of pain. May God Bless you!

    1. Hi Dana,

      Yes, it sounds like most people long to see their loved ones one last time. We had a viewing (I really don't like that word!) of Thomas a few days before his funeral. I think that's what usually happens here. I've never heard of a viewing just before the funeral commences. Some people ask for an open casket for the funeral. I didn't think to ask about this possibility until it was too late. Such a longing to see and hold my baby one last time!

      Dana, I hope by sharing my stories other bereaved parents feel they can also share theirs. Grief can be very lonely. I think we can gain so much comfort by connecting with others in a similar situation. There are others who feel like us. We're not going crazy after all!

      It is always so lovely to chat with you here on my blog. Thank you for your comment.

      God bless!

  11. Sue,
    You are not crazy, you are a mother who loves and misses her child. If you are crazy then so am I because I cried reading this. What you ARE is honest (and courageous too). Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. May Our Lady, who understands a mother's grief so well, hold you close to her Heart.

    Sending you a great big hug, my friend.

    1. Mary,

      The nicest thing about being honest and open is connecting with other people, hugging each other and understanding, and feeling cared for. Thank you! You are in my thoughts and prayers too. Also Michaela. I hope she is happier at school. Thank you for your friendship, Mary. I appreciate it very much.

  12. i know i cannot compare grief but my sister died 15 years ago. At the funeral i held myself together, at school i held myself together and them i went to her grave every night held her photo and sobbed. I sobbed until i couldn't muster up another noise. I cried until my throat hurt, until my sides hurt and until i looked like i'd done 10 rounds with muhammed ali. No one knew how much i hurt. It took years for me to ask for help and by that time the damage was done and i was in full throws of a mental illness. I still have to tell my self i'm not crazy, i'm greiving and that sometimes grief lasts a long time. and maybe i will never stop grieving for my sister, maybe it will always feel raw but i know we are not crazy we are just grieving the loss of a very important person in our life. ((((hug))))

    1. Marie,

      I am very sorry you lost your sister. It must be very difficult to lose a sibling you love so very much and who has been an integral part of your life. How empty your house and your life must have felt after her death.

      Only a few months ago, I read something my eldest daughter wrote concerning those early months of grief after our son Thomas' death. At the time, I thought she coped well with losing her brother. She was calm and in control and looked after us all even though she was only 12. It is only now that I realise how difficult it was for her and the very distressing thoughts she was having. I feel so upset that I was so wrapped up in my own grief, I didn't notice hers. Like you, my daughter didn't ask for help and I think she carried some of that suffering along with her as time passed.

      You said we cannot compare grief but in many ways, I think grief is similar for everyone. I am sure anyone who has felt that intense pain can understand another person's suffering and have compassion. The way you describe how you sobbed and hurt so very much brings back my own memories of uncontrollable pain. Uncontrollable - maybe that is why grief is so hard to bear. Physical pain can usually be relieved with some medication or other help. But grief? Nothing takes away the pain. There is nothing we can do but endure it the best we can, which isn't very well sometimes.

      You will never stop loving your sister so maybe you will always grieve for her. I often think about that. If I didn't love, I wouldn't grieve. I think I'd rather have known love and now bear the pain.

      I hope you are able to remember your sister with joy as well as sorrow. Thank you so much for stopping and sharing your story, Marie. I wish we could have a real hug.

      God bless you!


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