Our names are important. Even if we share the same name as someone else, our names are still uniquely our own. If someone said, “Tell me about Michelle Fritz”, I’m sure that there would be all kinds of stories-both good and bad- that people could tell you simply by hearing my name. Just as yours does, the mere mention of my name invokes memories and emotions.
We don’t have names simply so that others know what to call us; our names are a part of our identity. They are important because they signify that we belong to someone- a family, a clan, a tribe. They are important because they tell us a little about ourselves. Sometimes our names can tell where we are from, who our ancestors were, when we were born, or perhaps what religion our family calls their own.
Our names, when said by others, can bring us joy or deep pain. When one speaks our name with malice or hate, we hurt. When one speaks our name with love or affection, we rejoice. Our name, spoken aloud, is powerful.
Many years ago a dear friend of mine asked me if I would share the names of my children whom I had lost over the years. I was taken aback. No one had ever asked to hear their names. With deep regret I told her that some of the babies I had lost in very early pregnancy did not have names. I had once been chided about naming babies lost early and so I felt like I was being silly for giving them names when they were lost so soon. She encouraged me to name the babies who did not have names. She said that it would bring healing. She was right.
By giving my babies names I was recognizing that they were a part of our family regardless of how long they were with us. In a world that refuses to acknowledge the importance of the tiniest human beings, naming our children helped us to show that we recognized their humanity and their importance even if the world didn’t.
The world fails to understand the preciousness of each life and this often makes it hard for parents to talk about their children they have lost to miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. Most often it is not because it hurts to remember our children- we want to talk about them and remember them! Instead, it is because mentioning the names of our lost babies makes others uncomfortable. They may not know what is right and what is wrong to say. They may just even hate the thought of talking about death, especially of a child. Or, they may not be able to understand because they have never <thankfully> lost a child. It seems as if there is an unspoken rule that when someone loses a baby they should grieve and then get on with their lives never to talk of this life-changing event ever again. But it’s not that easy.
Shortly after I lost William, another dear friend of mine asked me if I would share the names of my babies with her. Once again I was taken aback. Typing up their names was overwhelming. I wasn’t sure I wanted to send them to my friend. They were a part of me and I didn’t know that I was ready to share them with anyone else. Still, I sent the list to her. The love and the deep pain she felt regarding our losses was something I had never expected. Her words meant so much to me as I grieved the loss of my children. Soon afterward she had a necklace made for me that included all my beloved lost babies’ names neatly written in a gem. I was once again moved to tears. In one single act of love and kindness she has brought humanity and dignity to my children simply by writing their names. While we have lost more children since then, it is still one of my most treasured possessions.
This month is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. I am participating in a photo journal challenge to capture the grief that comes with losing a child. On the second day of the challenge the topic was “Who They Are”. We were instructed to share as little or as much about our children as we wanted. I first shared William’s picture but then I decided that it was time to share all my children’s names. I wanted others to know them too, but to be honest, I was scared to death.
You see, many people know that I have lost many, many children; but most had no clue just how many I have lost. They see that I have 11 living children and many believe that getting pregnant and maintaining a pregnancy comes easily for me. But being open to life means we open ourselves up to loss as well and we have experienced more loss than most will ever experience. Sharing the names of the babies I have lost meant that I was going to share just how much we have gone through. I knew it would bring not only words of comfort but also words of condemnation and chastisement as well.
Still, I decided the time was right and that God was asking me to trust Him. I prayed that the Holy Spirit would give me the courage I needed as I typed each of their names and shared them for the first time to everyone.
Today I share my children with you. I pray that seeing their names will help you have the courage you need to share your child or children’s names as well. Saying their names out loud helps the world to see that even though they did not make it to our arms, or were taken too soon after coming into the world, that their lives have value.
If you have not named your child, I encourage you to do so. Naming your baby will bring you peace. It will tie your child to you in a very powerful and meaningful way. It brings recognition to the dignity of his/her life and helps others to understand that this was a child… a child who was loved, a child who was wanted, and a child who will forever be a part of you.
I pray for each and every one of you who has lost a child. It is a pain that no parent should ever have to feel.
I invite you to share with us the names of your children lost to miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death. Allow us to pray with you and for you and honor your children as we honor our own.