My sister in motherhood.

Mere minutes after my pregnancy test turned positive, I called my best friend to give her the news. We cried, we laughed, we celebrated.

About two months later, she texted me with the same news. We cried, we laughed, we celebrated.

We walked through our pregnancies practically hand in hand, despite living hundreds of miles apart. Not a day went by that we didn’t ask each other “Is this normal?” We constantly sent updates saying things like, “She’s doing backflips today!” or “I think he has the hiccups!” We were so in tune with each other’s pregnancies that at times it even felt like her baby was mine, and my baby was hers. We were sisters in motherhood. It was one of the most exciting and beautiful bonds I have ever shared with another person.

And when my sweet baby passed away shortly after birth, I was very apprehensive to give her the news. It took days before I had the strength to type it into a text message. I knew it would break her heart.

I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to our friendship after that. But she stood beside me, and never pushed me to do more than I was ready to take on.

When people ask, “How do I support my friend who just lost her baby?” I say, “Just show up.” And then I tell them this story:

About two weeks following Aria’s passing, my best friend arrived home from vacation and sent me a text. She said, “I made some chocolate chip banana bread and I have to bring you some. So I’m coming by, but you don’t have to come to the door. I’ll just leave it on the porch.”

It was one of the greatest gestures I received in those first few months. It made me feel loved but also took all the pressure off of me. I didn’t have to conjure up a response to the overwhelming offer of “let me know if you need anything” And I didn’t have to worry about being social.

And as the condolences started to end, and the cards/flowers stopped arriving, I wondered if this was the part where she would continue on her journey with motherhood, while I stood still in a wasteland of grief.

I greatly underestimated her.

She refused to let me go, even though I tried many times to force her to leave our friendship behind. I felt like such a dark cloud over her, and I didn’t want to ruin her happiness. Each time she firmly denied my requests, and refused to let me think I was a burden on her. Even though I know I had to be one of the hardest people to stay friends with.

It takes a lot of bravery to spend the entire second half of your pregnancy walking alongside a woman grieving the loss of her newborn. She could have easily walked away, and I wouldn’t have blamed her for it.

But she reminded me, “Aria is my baby, just like M is your baby.” We were still journeying through motherhood together.

On the second day of every month, I awoke to a text wishing Aria a happy __ month birthday, and she would always ask how we planned to celebrate this month. She listened to me as I vented all my pain, anger and frustrations. She visited Aria’s grave whenever she could and always sent me pictures. Once her baby boy was born, she even brought him along so he could visit his best friend. With her as a friend, I could never say I didn’t feel supported. Not for one second.

It’s been such a hard fought journey for both of us. We have weathered more storms than I have the energy to write about. We could fill rivers with our collective tears. And we have survived. Even more than that, we have thrived.

Thank you so much, sweet friend. For everything.

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Death ends a lot of things, but not everything.

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Today marks fourteen months since our sweet Aria made her grand entrance into the world. It also marks fourteen months since she entered heaven’s gates and began an eternity of joy.

These monthly milestones are always very momentous for me. So much change occurs between the 2nd day of every month. So I try to take time to reflect on how I have changed, how my grief has changed, and how my relationship with Aria has changed.

The fourteen month anniversary has been the most gentle by far. The guilt over not being able to save her still remains, but I have to go searching for it. It no longer sits in the front of my mind, constantly tormenting me with its presence. I’ve been dreaming of this place since my first day of grief, and have finally found the rest that my counselor promised I would find.

When I tell people about Aria, which I wish I had the opportunity to do more often, I feel joy well up inside of me. It’s a stark contrast to the pain and sadness that would bubble up and overflow in the form of hot tears and guttural cries. Of course, because grief is not linear this does still happen, but I now have the opportunity to catch my breath between those moments.

It’s funny though how grief works, because as I’m sitting here typing away about how things have gotten lighter for me, the guilt is setting in. Guilt because I fear that healing means forgetting. Guilt because I couldn’t possibly be ok when my daughter isn’t here. Guilt because I shouldn’t be moving forward without her.

Thank God for rationale, which quickly brings me back to a gentler place as I remember that while death ends a lot of things, it does not end everything.

I truly believe the ones who have gone before us do not fully leave us. Each time Brian and I embark on a new journey, we feel Aria right beside us. She coaches me through the hardest of days, and celebrates with me during the good ones. Sometimes I swear I can feel her laughing. It is incredible how my relationship and perception of my daughter has continued over the last fourteen months. Sometimes I look at her newborn face in photos and marvel at how much she has grown, not physically, but in spirit.

As I wrap up this reflection, I want to make one thing clear, grief doesn’t end. There is healing, but it doesn’t ever stop being a wound. I can’t say that grief gets any easier right now, which I know must sound absolutely terrible to the newly bereaved. But I tend to look at grief as a heavy weight in my hands. At first the weight was incredible, and my hands were so unaccustomed to carrying it that it ached with every step. Fourteen months later, the weight is still the same, but my hands have calloused and my arms have strengthened. I have simply learned to carry my grief in a way that no longer prevents me from thriving while on this earth.

Finally, to my sweet fourteen month old daughter in heaven, I love you. I love you. I love you. You are forever the light of my life, and I miss you dearly sweet girl.