How do you bury a child when there’s no body?

IMG_1525My husband is a big Bruce Springsteen fan. One of Bruce’s songs is “You’re Missing.” Tonight when the longing for my daughter feels like it will take me under, it is with Bruce that I find comfort.

“Shirt’s in the closet, shoe’s in the hall, mama’s in the kitchen…everything is everything, everything is everything, but you’re missing.” 

Since losing my daughter after four and half months of loving her with all and every love possible for a human being, in every moment of my life “everything is everything, but <she’s> missing.”

Life moves on, life has to move on. I get up, I eat, I work, I make dinner, I keep living, “everything is everything,” but truly, everything is nothing anymore.

“Coffee cup’s on the counter, jacket’s on the chair, paper’s on the doorstep, but you’re not here, everything is everything, but you’re missing….Picture’s on the nightstand, TV’s on in the den, your house is waiting, your house is waiting for you to walk in, for you to walk in, but you’re missing.” 

In the fullness of all that happens in the now, is the emptiness of her, of my sweet and precious daughter. She’s missing “when I shut out the lights.” She’s missing “when I close my eyes.” She’s missing “when I see the sun rise.”

Life goes on, because that’s what life does, it goes on, but a piece of me doesn’t. I keep wondering, how do I bury a child when there’s no body?

When a family loses a child to death, people understand, as much as they can. They rally around, they call, they gather at a grave to hold up the pieces of the parents who are left behind, for truly only pieces are left. Yet, when losing a child who did not grow in their mother’s womb, but rather in her arms, it’s not the same.

At first it is the same, but soon, so much is forgotten. Far too quickly, those broken parents are expected to let go and to move on.

Time passes and one day turns into the next. People forget, and so perhaps they expect those parents to forget as well. They talk about how hard it must have been for a mother to place her child for adoption after carrying her in her body for nine months, yet forget how hard it is for a mother to hand her child over after carrying her in her arms for nearly five months. Though I have never carried a child in my body, it is difficult to imagine that it can hold any more weight in a mother’s heart than caring for a child 24 hours a day for months on end.

I keep going every day because I have to, because it’s the only choice. Yet a piece of me is gone; a piece of me was lost forever the day I handed my scared and startled daughter over to a stranger; the day she was imprinted with the naive belief, though buried deep in her sub-conscious, that her mother abandoned her. That piece of me will never return.

And so I walk through life with a part of me forever dead and gone, in a world where I no longer fit.

I can’t visit my child’s grave and grieve her departure. I can’t walk into her now empty nursery and lift her from her crib, nor snuggle next to her throughout the night, as I did every night of her life with me. I live with an emptiness. I live with a knowing that she is out there, somewhere, and I cannot hold her; I cannot touch her; I cannot save her.

“God’s drifting in heaven, devil’s in the mailbox. i got dust on my shoes, nothing but teardrops….Everything is everything, but <she’s> missing.”


  1. I cried as I read this, life is so unfair! Sending you hugs from NZ xx

    1. Thank you Becks. Hugs received and appreciated.

  2. Heather · · Reply

    I wish I could give you a big long hug from SA. All I can do is hope that you bear this pain in a way that strengthens you and can still honour the memory of your babe. I like the way you used the words of the song in your post – music is such a blessing and can really help us through.

    1. Thanks Heather, I feel your support through the miles, and appreciate it tremendously.

  3. This is so true. It’s a different kind of grief. A torture of sorts, knowing she’s out there but not with you, wondering if she is safe and has her needs met, praying she isn’t scarred by the abandonment you never intended she experience. I’ve been there, and some days are easier than others. But you are right – you will never be the same woman you were before, but in some ways you are better off for having known her despite the emptiness inside filled only by grief and wonderings… The one upside to this losing a child but not to death is that there is the slightest possibility that someday things will turn around and you might meet her again. It’s that hope (and a reality for me, though not nearly often enough for either of us) that helps keep pushing us forward. Stranger things have happened!

    1. Your are so right Instant Mama, Mea changed me in ways that were nothing short of miraculous. Even in her leaving my life has transformed, and my life choices have evolved to be in greater alignment with what makes me happy, and feeds my soul. And perhaps one day I will see her again, though I have not been ready to pursue a relationship with her mother, which doesn’t include an acknowledgment of the trust that was broken by the many lies. I love them both, and perhaps one day I will be ready to be a part of their lives again, and her mother will have grown and matured. Thanks for your encouraging words.

  4. In my book [Graves in my womb, Our Journey to wisdom]; I share my emotional journey towards adoption carefully articulating how that process proved to be the only rare antidote to my previous struggles and losses concerning conception. Adoption of a child outside the family although not common in South Africa saved my life. The process mended my broken heart, restored my faith and prepared me to be a wonderful mother to the twins.
    Infertility and adoption are generally accepted in developed countries, Africa has its own mix of challenges caused by various aspects such as culture and economics. The book is about hope – for not only the woman or her partner but also the child that finds the warmth of loving parents.
    Loss affects people socially, culturally and professionally. If your organisation or group recognizes the impact caused by any type of loss to your associates and friends and would like to help them overcome then you can also gift them a copy of this book.
    We all deal with it in our own ways but one certainty we have is that whenever an individual loses something, there are the afflicted and the affected in the process. In addition, all can benefit from reading our stories of triumph.

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