My Dear Niece

8 Mar

I lost someone very dear to me about two months ago. This person was precious. She filled all those who knew her, or even knew of her, with joy. Her siblings adored her. Her parents would have laid down their lives for her. Her grandparents couldn’t wait to meet her. I, her aunt, loved her to pieces.

And then, she was gone.

I never got to meet her face to face. Her parents never got to hold her in life. Her siblings never knew her. Her grandparents never got to meet her.

She was gone.

Her eyes never opened; she never showed us the color of her eyes. Her voice never called out. She never smiled or took her first steps.

She was just gone.

I was so privileged to be with my sister and her family when they lost their little girl before she was even born. I was able to help care for the niece and nephew I had actually met. I was able to cry with my sister (and she cried with me). I was able to enjoy those times when laughter filled the house (with a three year old and one year old, there will always be hilarity).

I was surprised at how empty the house seemed. There was a hole where a little girl had once filled it to overflowing. Although she was never physically in the house, she was desperately missed.

The days were fairly easy to get through…..two toddlers, being with my sister and a house took care of that. At night I stayed up in the wee hours to finish the blanket I had already started for Honey Bun. At that was fine…..until I got home.

Then the nightmares started. I was up at night more than I slept.

When I couldn’t get a regular sleep pattern in the space of a week, I knew I needed to figure out what was going on. So I did what every normal person does……I googled it.

And I couldn’t find a thing. I found blogs about women who had lost babies in miscarriage. I found posts from grandparents about losing grandchildren. But not one blog was written from the perspective of an aunt.

So that is the reason for this particular blog post. Maybe someone else mourning a niece or nephew they were never privileged to meet in this lifetime will be comforted. At least they will know that they are not alone.

Death is not a new experience for me. I have lost two dearly loved pets. Family members. Friends of the family. I no longer have any grandparents left.

But somehow, this one struck me so much harder than any other I’ve had to deal with. Maybe it was the fact that those others had had a life. They had taken a breath in this world, while Honey Bun would never get a chance to do that. Maybe it was that I was so close to the whole situation when it happened. Maybe it was that we knew Honey Bun existed quite early on and I loved her from the moment I knew of her.

I don’t know. I just know that I cried (to be more precise, sobbed) at least five times a day. I think I went through my whole DVD collection to try to think of something, anything, else.

I also avoided going to sleep. Really that part wasn’t too hard to do. I’m a night owl by nature, so staying up until 5 or 6 in the morning wasn’t hard. It was the getting up at 9 for work that was the killer. It was about a month before I could get myself to go to bed before 1.

Even when I did get myself to bed at a decent hour, I would wake up every two-three hours from a nightmare involving the whole situation. More often than not it was just reliving the days and hours after it all happened. And to be perfectly honest, that hasn’t gone away. I’m still waiting for the night I can sleep through the night.

And then, of course, any time I’m around a baby, or pregnant mommy, I dissolve into a puddle. I can’t help but think about what Honey Bun would have looked like. I’ve loved watching both my niece and nephew grow in my sister’s tummy. Would Honey Bun have waited to pop out my sister’s stomach until the last possible moment like my nephew did? Or would she make her presence known from the very beginning?

There are so many things we don’t know and I mourn for that. I mourn that I never got to hold her. I mourn that I never got to give her the blanket I made for her. I mourn that I will never get to sing with her or make silly faces with her or get her to imitate me. I’ll never be able to play dress up with her, and so many other things. And all of that makes me mourn.

One of my biggest fears has been that I would forget her. That somehow, she wouldn’t seem as real. I was horribly afraid my sister would think that I had forgotten Honey Bun. I think in every talk about Honey Bun I’ve had with my sister, I have mentioned at some point that I would never forget her. I’ve made a few clay things to put with my niece and nephew’s pictures on my desk. I know I will never forget her. I couldn’t forget her.

I actually just told my sister of this struggle I was having. I felt bad saying anything before. I mean, I wasn’t Honey Bun’s mama. I didn’t feel somehow that I had any right to be mourning her this much.

But that’s simply not true. My niece was my niece. She is as much a part of my family as my niece or nephew or brother-in-law or sister. And she always will be.

In that letter my sister said two sentences that gave me more comfort than anything I’d heard so far.

  • The only way to not cry would be to not think about her at all, which would be far worse than a few tears.
  • She has lost nothing and gained everything.

It gives me so much comfort to know that she is in the arms of my Savior. She will never know pain or heartache. She will never know the burden of sin. I mourn for me not getting to know her, but I rejoice that she is with Jesus. In truth, that’s been the sustaining factor these last few months. All through the nightmares, and crying, and not understanding, God has been there to uphold me.

I still mourn her. I always will. She is my niece and I will always love her.

If you have lost a niece or nephew before meeting them, allow yourself to mourn. Allow yourself to process the fact that you have lost someone very dear to you. Don’t dismiss your heartache because people may not realize how deeply you are grieving.

I still cry. I still grieve. But I know she is in a much better place than I.

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7 Responses to “My Dear Niece”

  1. Georgie March 8, 2014 at 4:39 am #

    Thank you Tiffany for explaining what one goes through when you lose someone. I do think that the aunts and uncles can be forgotten in the midst of their own grief. You have such a tender heart, and we love you so much for who you are in Christ. We can be so grateful that we haven’t really lost her-but will see her in Glory! “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross”…Hebrews 12:2 Love you always, Mum

    • Tiffany Rott March 11, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

      I love you so much! Thank you for your encouragement, love, and prayers during all of this. They mean so much to me. I can’t wait to give you a big hug!

  2. Shannon March 8, 2014 at 9:03 am #

    Dearest Tiffany,

    Thank you for that — it was beautiful. It is such a comfort to know that we do not mourn alone, and that we are not the only ones who will remember our precious baby. And I am so glad that you have posted this, so that perhaps another grieving aunt or uncle will find it and be comforted by it.

    May God heal both our hearts, so that our memories of Honey Bun become sweeter and less painful over time! And one day, Lord willing, we will see her in heaven.

    I pray that your nightmares will stop, and that you are able to get the sleep you need.

    Love,
    Shannon

    • Tiffany Rott March 11, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

      I love you, girlie! Having you as a sister has always been such a blessing. And now I am so glad that we can be there for each other in the happy and sad times. I can’t wait to give you a hug!

  3. Amy L March 11, 2014 at 5:22 pm #

    Tiffany, I’m so sorry to hear about your family’s loss! I’ve never been the auntie, but I’ve been the sister and the mother of babies now in heaven. It is hard. I’m so glad (though that may sound terrible) that you are mourning with S and her family. It is easier if you have someone to cry with; someone else to remember and understand what you are going through. I know you are a blessing to your sister in this. I know there are a lot of wrong things to say, and not a lot of right ones when a loved one is lost, so I don’t want to say a lot, but just share some thoughts that were encouraging to me when I lost my son four-and-a-half years ago. He would be turning four this month if he was born at term.

    You love C. S. Lewis, and I know you remember the beautiful ending to The Last Battle, where Aslan leads his followers into the REAL Narnia and shows them the REAL England. Of course that is extra-biblical, but the idea isn’t. God tells us that our life here is but a mist…a breath…like a flower or grass that withers…the real thing is still to come. And because we know that life begins and is valuable right from conception I began to think about why God made my son, Nathaniel. He lived only 11.5 weeks in this world, but what about eternity? He lives there for, well, eternity. I wonder what plan God has for him there? What task is he called to there that is bigger and more amazing than anything I can yet comprehend? A baby who dies before drawing his or her first breath is not a life wasted. We mourn here, because we miss them. We miss knowing them, watching them grow, seeing the great (and small) things that they do. We feel bereft. But they are not really dead. They are more alive than we are. They know more reality and beauty than we do. They are doing what they were created to do. And we are privileged to be part of their beginning. God could have chosen to fill eternity with beings formed instantly by His creative word. Instead He chooses to make human beings here on earth the vessels for His creative genius. When He calls a little person home before birth it makes the role of the close family member (parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, grandparent) all the more special. So few had the privilege of knowing that tiny person. But we did. We got to be part of God’s creative miracle. We got to love one of His precious creations. It is right to mourn. (God says life here on this earth is valuable and to be protected–that death is an enemy.) But we can also marvel and rejoice because we can’t comprehend the smallest fraction of what God has ordained for our tiny lost one.

    I look forward to heaven more now…to seeing my baby again, and to finding out just what God made him to do. Someday we will be in eternity together. Mourning will be done. It will all make sense. Thinking about eternity makes the loss easier for me to bear. I hope it will encourage your grieving heart as well.

    • Tiffany Rott March 11, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

      Thank you, Amy! Your encouraging words are beautiful and taken to heart. It really makes the view of heaven so different when you have someone you’ve never met waiting there for you. Your right. I can’t wait for the day when we will all be reunited in heaven with Christ.

    • Shannon March 14, 2014 at 10:12 am #

      Amy,

      Your words were such a blessing to me, as well — while I know that my little one is with Jesus, the realization that she is more alive than we are has never struck me. What a glorious thought!

      Blessings,
      Shannon

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