I am blessed with family. A loving, caring, supportive family, both immediate and extended. And now, also with a new marriage-related family. All these people who have sent us their comfort and love, I know Lauren has touched their lives too. She is not forgotten, nor is she a mere figment of my imagination.

A lot of people take it for granted that family should love and support you. That’s what families do. But I know how blessed I am because I know that’s not always true. It’s something we want to believe – the same way that we want to believe a healthy pregnancy ends with a healthy baby. But there are plenty of people out there who know – just as I know – that expectations mean nothing. We expect that mothers will be loving, we expect that fathers will be protective, we expect that uncles and aunts and grandparents will offer comfort. But we should all know better. Just as there is great potential for kindness in people, there is also the potential for great cruelty, even from the ones who are supposed to love us.

So, I’m grateful for a family that does truly support me and cares for me. And for Lauren. It’s a fear I see repeated over and over by the babylost: the fear of their babies being forgotten. I came into this holiday season with that same fear, uncertain of what to expect. We were so far away when Lauren died, so far removed from everyone. I hated having my picture taken while pregnant; so few of my family saw me that way, with my belly bulging from Lauren’s presence. None of them felt her push against my stomach. I worried that, to other people, she was something intangible and ephemeral, easily forgotten. Or ignored.

But no. She was always there with us, even when her name was not mentioned. And sometimes, it was. Most of the time, I did the talking. What’s important is that people listened. They listened to me speak of her, they listened as I shared my memories of her. They did not ignore her, they did not try to run away from her. And every once in a while, someone would speak of her to me. And then my heart grows warm because I know that others miss her too. They never met her, but they loved her too.

But I have also heard people admit that they don’t know what to say. That they’re afraid of bringing more pain into a conversation. And I understand. It’s hard to speak of the dead, particularly when death came too early. The people who care about you don’t want to hurt you, and they worry that opening the wound will be too painful. Unwanted.

Let me say this: I love to talk about my daughter. Yes, I feel her loss every day, but speaking of her – sharing her – brings her back to me, even if only for a little while.  Yes, speaking of her sometimes hurts, and maybe I will cry. But I’ll be grateful. I’ll appreciate that you remember Lauren, that you acknowledge I’ve lost someone I loved and wanted. It will mean so much to me that you are interested in knowing her. That’s all I want, is for people to remember her and know that she was real.

Not all babyloss parents – and grandparents – feel the same way. Some do feel the pain of mentioning their child’s name as too much to bear. But I think this might be a rare thing. I’ve read and heard so many stories of children lost, and one great fear connects them all: the fear of losing their child all over again as a distant, faded memory. They are afraid that only they will remember the child they loved and wanted. As much as it hurts to hear the name of their dead child spoken, it hurts more to think that nobody remembers it. Silence can be as hurtful as an inconsiderate statement. If nothing else, a simple “I’m sorry for your loss” eases the pain a bit.

So, if you know someone who is one of the babylost, please keep this in mind: be gentle with them, be mindful of their feelings. Acknowledge their loss. Understand that they hurt. Even years on, they will remember their child, and they will want other people to remember too. And for those of us who have lost recently, be patient with us. We will not want to hear about other women getting pregnant or see their ultrasounds or receive their announcements – even if we love them and are happy for them. We will not want to hear how precious and adorable another woman’s baby is – even when we love that baby and agree that he is precious and adorable. We will find it difficult to be around babies and young children – even if we love those children and enjoy their company. It hurts to hear another’s joy acknowledged, while our own sorrow is ignored. Our babies lived; we knew them well. The best thing you can do for your loved one is to let us know that you remember them too.

So, thank you, family. Thank you for remembering Lauren and for loving her. Thank you for acknowledging the hole she left in my heart. Thank you for being gentle and patient. Thank you for the net of support you have all, in your own ways, created for me.

Thank you.