October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I know this because of my work as founder of Reimagining Grief. I know this because of the stories I’ve had the honor to share on my podcast, Grief is a Sneaky Bitch. I know this because I have so many friends who’ve experienced this, and likely so do you.
But do you know their story? Are you the friend they feel comfortable being vulnerable with? Do you show up and offer to listen? More than once? Do you show up without an agenda to fix them or make them feel better? Instead, are you able to show up only with love and care and a commitment to hold space and bear witness? Do you reach out to them on the anniversary of their loss? On Father’s Day or Mother’s Day? On the day their child should have been born?
This morning, I woke up thinking about my friend, whose name I can’t share with you because the world is so screwed up about a woman’s right to control her own body, that her grief over her aborted child could not be named for so long.
This morning, I woke up thinking about my soul sister Autumn who felt silenced in her grief over her son Zion who was delivered stillborn 20 years ago today. This morning, I woke up thinking about Phil too. Phil is Autumn’s husband. Phil lost a son that day too.
I woke up thinking about all the “Phil’s” out there. Thinking about all the dad’s that so many of us forget when it comes to miscarriages and stillbirths. The dads who grieve in silence because of our cultural messages about men and emotions. I woke up thinking about how often I’ve unintentionally discounted or ignored the fathers and even the grandmothers, grandfathers, aunties and uncles of pregnancy and newborn loss.
This morning, I woke up thinking about the incredible responsibility I have as a human, as a friend, as a speaker and a podcaster to change the narratives of grief, one conversation at a time.
This morning, I woke up thinking about this poem, The Man I Never Met, my friend Phil wrote to his son Zion all those years ago to process his grief. I woke up thinking about the power of his words to touch hearts and change minds.
I have the honor of teaching Loss and Grief at the undergraduate level this year at The University of Texas. Last week, I read this poem out loud to my class. It’s a poem I’ve read more than a dozen times in my own mind. It moves me every time. It makes me love Phil even more every time. But this time was different.
There was something powerful about speaking these words out loud to my class. About bringing the reality of his love and his heartache into the world. I felt every word in my body as I read them. Each line I read produced more tears, weeping as I read them.
And to my astonishment, so did my students. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. These barely emerging adults, none of whom have children yet were moved to tears. They were moved by the inner knowing we all have about what it feels like to love and to lose. Our shared humanity was a palpable presence in the room.
When I was finished reading, something remarkable happened. We sat in silence, together, for several minutes. No one said a word. We held space for Phil and Zion both in our minds and in our hearts. It was a moment I will never ever forget.
So today, though I’m not reading this aloud to you, I wanted to offer his poem to you. I want to invite you to read it aloud to yourself. Hold space for Autumn and Phil and Zion today. Hold space for your loss today. Reach out and offer to hold space for those you love who’ve experienced loss, especially the dads.
I know it will be hard. I know you can do hard things. And I want you to know that I’ll be here to hold space for you too when you need me most.
With love and understanding,
Lisa Keefauver, MSW – Phil’s Friend, Founder of Reimagining Grief, Host of the Podcast, Grief is a Sneaky Bitch