Empty Arms, Full Heart

Healing a Heart
By Sara Barry

On a cold, dark evening in January 2008, barely a month after Henry died, I dragged myself out of my warm house, out of the chair where I had rocked him, where I still sat many nights holding the yellow blanket we wrapped him in when we held him for the first time. I drove down the road and navigated a maze of hospital hallways. The meeting room seemed suddenly bright as I entered tentatively, not sure I belonged there, not sure I belonged anywhere.

I still remember the babies I “met” that night at my first Empty Arms meeting, still remember the hollow, haunted eyes of their parents. I still know who was sitting where around that table. When Henry died, I desperately needed to connect with other people who had experienced the death of not only a child, but a baby, and that’s where I started.

I remembered vaguely seeing a green paper, the words Empty Arms, when I was leaving the hospital after Henry was born. I was feeling sorry for myself, walking out empty handed to finally hold my baby at another hospital. That paper reminded me it could be worse. The memorial bench outside the NICU did the same. Still, I didn’t imagine a few months later Empty Arms would open to me.

And yet here I am.

I’m grateful that Empty Arms exists, that when I needed to see that I wasn’t alone there was a place to go.

I’m grateful for Carol, who immediately became a beacon to me of how to keep a child no longer here as part of your family, even as your family grew.

I’m grateful for the online community that opened to me after that meeting when I searched for the poem Carol had shared that night. I’m thankful  for the many amazing friends I’ve made as we shared stories and sorrows and moments of grace.

I don’t believe everything happens for a reason or that Henry died to teach me a lesson, but I’m grateful for the people who entered my life because of his.