The Loneliness of the Empty-Armed Mother

Yesterday was a bad day. Not for any particular reason. Grief can be lonely – even in a room full of people, fellow grievers say. Yesterday that loneliness, combined with anger, resentment and deep sorrow at being an empty-armed mother threatened to erupt.

Stumbling upon a post by a fellow mother with no living children was a huge relief. Her words really resonated with me.

This excerpt, about what it is like to live as a mother with no living children is especially poignant:

While you’re reading this I want you to take a moment to close your eyes and think of the moment you felt most unwelcome, out of place, vulnerable, and confused.  Think of a time where your identity was stripped from you. When you lost the single thing that gave you hope, purpose, and made sense of your life. Where everything you once thought your life would be, suddenly wasn’t. I know it’s a scary place to go back to – no one likes revelling in their most uncomfortable moments, but for me, just take a second and breathe, and remember when life violated you on a primal level.

You got it?

That’s what life as a Mother with no living children feels like. Every. Single. Day.

I like the author’s softball analogy. Too often I feel stuck in the fielders’ position, away from the action.

Don’t get me wrong – I have many wonderful, kind, sensitive friends, both in real life and on social media. You all remember Hugo, mention his name regularly, and doing that give invaluable reassurance that he will never be forgotten. I am grateful to and appreciate every single one of you.

Thankfully, very few of you understand, and I mean first hand, how it feels to lose a child.

Even fewer know how it feels to lose your only child.

To be a parent with no child to care for. No living child to bestow so much love on. A house that is too quiet. A home bereft of toys and baby paraphernalia.

As I have mentioned in similar posts, there is no better or worse with baby and child loss. There are no points to be allocated, there is no ranking system.

Me and Hugo

Me and Hugo

I miss – without ever having truly experienced it – the camaraderie parents of living children share. Trading stories of sleepless nights, poonamis, tantrums. Proudly sharing the good stories, too.

It is why such posts, and sites such as Still Mothers are so valuable to me.

Hugo was born at 24 weeks, so I am a mother with little knowledge of the discomfort of carrying around a big bump. I missed feeling all the big kicks and turns of Hugo in my tummy. I missed waiting for 40 weeks, wondering what birth would be like.

I miss taking my baby home. Being a bewildered, scared new mother rather than a bewildered, scared bereaved mum.

This is something that I deal with most days. It’s life, I have to. It’s either that or hide under the duvet. A residual sense of guilt that I am alive when Hugo is not (and my own two weeks in hospital testament to how close I came to not being here myself) is motivation, too.

As the author of the post says about her daughter I fight for Hugo, defend his memory, and make sure I am the kind of woman he deserves to have as a mother.

It is why I work so hard on this blog, on Hugo’s Legacy. It is why I cannot help but take personally any incidence of feeling like Hugo has been ‘left out’ of something.

I’m not fishing for compliments. My readers leave kind comments, such as on this post. Many of the comments are humbling.

I don’t always feel like the woman described in these comments. Like yesterday, I was tired, so tired from grief, from fighting to show that Hugo matters, to feel that I am still a mother. I wanted it to all go away, to be better, to have my son back. I wanted to be sleep-deprived, and with toys all over the house.

Knowing that is impossible does not make me want it any less.

Having to acknowledge that is impossible can feel like a rude reminder, a painful poke in the ribs.

I am unlikely to ever say that these feelings are ‘ok’. They are not, because the reason those feelings are with me are very much not ok. That said, I am accepting, acknowledging that sometimes I am allowed to feel sorry for myself, to take time out.

That’s what I did yesterday. Retreated to the sofa with the cat. Avoided social media. Received kind support from lovely people.

Recharged the batteries, ready to survive another day.

Still an empty-armed mother. Still in a fielding position. But feeling better able to cope with that.


0 comment on The Loneliness of the Empty-Armed Mother

  1. Lisa Sissons
    June 1, 2015 at 3:40 pm (3 years ago)

    You are STILL A MOTHER. A hundred times over. I know this in my heart and soul.

    Thank you for sharing our post, and I’m so glad it resonated with you. I love how these online communities bring people together that would not necessarily otherwise “meet”. I would love it if you would consider submitting a guest post for Still Mothers. If you want you can email me.

    • Leigh Kendall
      June 2, 2015 at 2:08 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you so much. I will respond to your email about the guest post xxx

  2. Mummy Writes
    May 30, 2015 at 8:49 pm (3 years ago)

    Oh Leigh, being without Hugo must feel impossible some days. It’s so important to let these days just flow. Your amazing ability to capture how you feel in writing is crucial and reminds those who don’t fully understand just how hard grief is. I’m so glad you have found a support network. Hugo is part of you forever… you are empty armed maybe, but not empty hearted. xxx

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 31, 2015 at 11:20 am (3 years ago)

      Thank you Kelly. I’m so glad I have such a wonderful support network. xxx

  3. beautwins
    May 30, 2015 at 8:13 pm (3 years ago)

    It’s good to hear you are taking some self care steps.. Grief is a very personal thing and only you will know how to cope with it. I personally think you are incredible Leigh and you are an inspiration. For the extremely short time your gorgeous Hugo graced the earth you showed him and made him feel loved. He would of known that. I think I said to you before, I’m a believer in that our children pick us. Hugo is loved so much by you and Martin. He is loved beyond this earth. The passion you have for Hugo is inspiring and for me that makes you an amazing mummy. Xxx

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 31, 2015 at 5:26 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you lovely Kat for your kind words. Hugo is loved always and forever xxx

  4. Jenni - Odd Socks and Lollipops
    May 30, 2015 at 7:53 pm (3 years ago)

    I am really sorry to hear that you have been having a really difficult time of it Leigh, life has it’s ups and downs but I cannot even imagine what you are going through. What I do know is, that even when you don’t feel like it, you are an incredibly strong, inspirational lady and the work you are doing to raise awareness, the comfort you are providing with your blog – it is amazing. Your beautiful Hugo is never ever going to be forgotten and he lives in the hearts of every person who visits your blog and every person that is helped by the awareness that you raise.
    Sending virtual hugs.

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 31, 2015 at 5:27 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you Jenni. I want so much for Hugo to be back in my arms. I know that is impossible. To know that Hugo will never be forgotten, and that so many people care about him really is a lovely comfort xxx

  5. Julia @ rainbeaubelle
    May 30, 2015 at 7:45 pm (3 years ago)

    You are doing so amazingly well but I just can only imagine the grief and sadness you experience. All I can say is I’m glad you can find support from other mums in the same position and that we are all here to support you too. And if you need to retreat to the sofa, do it! Hugo would be so proud of you xx Lots of love xx

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 31, 2015 at 5:28 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you lovely Julia. Sofa time is good for recharging those batteries, ready for the next assault! xxx

  6. Gill Phillips - Whose Shoes?
    May 30, 2015 at 7:36 pm (3 years ago)

    So moved by your blog, Leigh, especially knowing how hard you have been working on #MatExp and what you have achieved, which is totally awesome. No idea what to say really as I cannot imagine what you go though – your blogs are so very powerful and Hugo would be so proud of you. Sending much love. xx #HugosLegacy

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 31, 2015 at 5:29 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you Gill. I really appreciate all your kindness and support for me and for #HugosLegacy xxx

  7. Emma
    May 30, 2015 at 6:59 pm (3 years ago)

    Leigh… You are still a mother to lovely Hugo with every word you write. I wish here was still here, so much. I’m so sorry he isn’t. I had a bad day yesterday too, for no reason at all. It is what it is. We ride it out, wait for the next wave. Thanks for reminding me that this will happen. Xx

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 31, 2015 at 5:28 pm (3 years ago)

      Those bad days come out of nowhere, don’t they Emma? We have to ride it out…thank you for your kind words about Hugo, lovely xxx


2Pingbacks & Trackbacks on The Loneliness of the Empty-Armed Mother

  1. […] have talked before about how lonely grief can feel. I have talked before about how much of a taboo bereavement […]

  2. […] in is not the same as giving up‘ Leigh also wrote a poignant and thought-provoking post about The loneliness of the empty-armed mother – which is worth a read, especially if your only baby or child has died. […]

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