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.