Losing a child is one of the worst experiences we could imagine, but Kara Keough is using that unfathomable loss to reach out to others who have suffered similar pain.
The former Real Housewives of Orange County star first opened up about the loss of her infant son, McCoy, back in May.
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Six months ago, I laid my eyes on you for the first time. I turned your big body around then looked at Daddy with a mixture of shock and pride and said, “It’s a boy.” Three hours later, I limped into the NICU to start what would be my first and last days of kissing you. Somehow, I kissed you a lifetime’s worth of kisses in six days. All without one kiss back. I still think about what it felt like to kiss you, and that I never got kissed back. It all still makes my throat ache like I’m being choked. I hate that the thought of kissing you creates this painful and involuntary spasm. I’d much rather be thinking of that involuntary happiness spasm that would overtake your body as a 6-month-old. Oh what I’d do to see those little joyful jolts, with your chubby arms air-pumping and flapping while your legs do that spring-loaded kick combo. Would we be dropping a nap, hearing you laugh, starting solids? Would all my shirts have drool pools on them? Would nursing you prove to be more of an Olympic effort around this time? And just where am I supposed to put all this love? This love that I reserved just for you? I still put it in you, of course. The love doesn’t leave just because you did. It’s a hard lesson to learn. I was feeling my love for you spilling out of me, in the form of tears, guttural sobs, and that worthless guilt. But there are better ways to feel my love for you. Missing you something terrible doesn’t have to be the only way to miss you. I want to miss you wonderfully. As in, full of wonder. Recently, your Daddy held me as he told me: “Each day, when you feel that strong breeze, or the sun hits your face, or you hear our daughter laugh… that’s our son loving his mama.” I considered the beauty in my life and how, like your Daddy said, each one of those little happy winks are you loving me. It’s you kissing me back. And that made my throat soften, and my heart open. And that, my boy, is the gift you’ve given me. A heart broken wide open is still an open heart. We love you, McCoy. And we miss you something wonderful.
In spite of the horrific circumstances, Keough has continued to share her grief with the world in poignant Instagram posts marking the milestones of what would be her son’s early life.
On Thursday, the reality star took things a step further in an open letter to other grieving mothers who lost their babies. Posted on the Good Morning America website, the letter began:
“To My Fellow Loss Mom,
I wish there was something else I could call you, something else I could call myself. ‘Angel Mom’ feels too fluffy, and ‘Bereaved Mother’ sounds like we should be wearing black lace and howling on our knees in a stone church somewhere. Don’t get me wrong, we’re absolutely still howling. But we’re doing it in yoga pants. Lululemons just do a better job of hiding our postpartum bellies and helping us avoid questions like, ‘When are you due?’ or worse, ‘How’s the baby?!’ That’s one thing even grief counselors don’t warn you about: how you’ll have to break the news of your child’s loss to strangers, insurance agents, employers, acquaintances, TSA agents, everyone.”
OMG. That hadn’t even occurred to us. It’s like your heart is trying to heal from being ripped out, and people keep coming along to tear your stitches.
The 31-year-old went on to detail the shared experiences of losing a child: blaming yourself, wishing the world would stop for your grief, people who “say the wrong things and … say right things that feel wrong.” She wrote that the best friends are those who “can sit quietly with us without feeling the need to fill the silence.”
“The space where our babies should be somehow starts feeling less like a gaping hole and more like an invisible fullness as time goes on. We want to hear their names, we want to think about them and smile, we want to see them in the world around us. Milestones hit us like bricks and time feels jumbled. How has it already been so long? And who would they be today?”
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This bear weighs exactly 11 pounds and 4 ounces. Exactly the size of the hole in my heart. But thanks to this thoughtful gift, my arms don’t feel so painfully empty. I can’t quite articulate how much carrying the exact weight of McCoy against my body grounds me. I think my physical need for him will be there forever, the heaviness of his absence always present. But this sure helps. Thank you @kylieraedesigns for this big dude and thank you @mb_jackets for the custom ribbon. Also feeling thankful for my new (first) tattoo, with my son’s ashes in the ink… so that my baby can be with me always. He can stay forever in my arms this way, in the place he last rested. I know I’m privileged in my grief, to have the support of so many. It’s very hard to feel lucky right now, and yet, somehow, I know I am. That being said, I’m very much ready for the dick kicks to stop. To the poor Shipt shopper who remarked “the baby should have been born by now, right?” and the shocked insurance agent, and the others who didn’t mean to throw the grenades they did… when I say “It’s okay,” I don’t mean “I’m okay,” I’m saying I know you didn’t know. But I promise, you’re not upsetting me by “reminding” me, I’ll never need a reminder. I’m just sad that the answer to your question isn’t what I hoped it would be. It should be a joyful Q&A, not a landmine. It should be different. Instead, here I am, clutching a stuffed toy wishing it was a real boy. To my Instead Mamas, I thank you especially for all the continued comfort, encouragement, and love. And you’re right, it is getting easier to bear. (Look! I even did a pun. Good for me.)
In gorgeous prose, she wrote:
“Every day, every minute, another mother joins us in this club. It’s a club no one wants to be a part of, but the love and compassion within it are unlike any other. The instant bond that ignites between two women when we sit together in this pain is almost spiritual. Sorrow like this, grief like ours, carves profound depth into our souls. We’re no longer flat, shiny objects, but we’re instead embossed by our loss. Somehow more beautiful for it.
If not wasted, grief can be an incredible gift. After the initial haze, the lens through which we see the world sharpens our view. It’s almost like that first victorious gulp of air after being underwater too long, so much more treasured than the sip before. In grief, the spirit of the Earth somehow reveals herself to us. Sunsets are technicolor, wind is euphoric, and rain is an echoing chorus of our hearts. Rainbows and butterflies seem to show up just for us just when we need them most.”
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You would have been two months old today. You’d have found your favorite pacifier by now, and I’d be grateful that I was finally able to get those first (beautiful) 6+ hour stretches of sleep that make me feel like a Disney Princess with birds tweeting above my head. Instead, I’m clocking in 12+ hours every night because sleeping is decidedly easier than my waking hours. We should be cleaning up your blowouts, instead we’re dealing with our own shit. At this point, you would be finding your voice – squawking and squealing and making our hearts explode. Our hearts have still detonated, but for different reasons. I should be looking at your face for most of my day, instead I have to search for you elsewhere. I see you in songs, in the sky, in the sea, in your sister’s face, in your daddy’s arms. I’ll keep looking for you for as long as I live. Being without you is hard, but being your mom is one of my favorite things about myself. I love you, McCoy Casey.
Kara, who is also mother to Decker, 4, wrote that a “new us” can be born from the unimaginable loss. She said:
“The new us can love again, despite knowing the risk. That kind of bravery didn’t exist in us before. But alas, here we are. Never moving on but moving with. Grief is like going on a bear hunt: We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we have to go through it. Squish, squash.”
“Yes, being a mother with empty arms becomes a strange juxtaposition. More joyful despite suffering, more alive despite death and more loving despite loss. We ask ourselves, ‘Where are we supposed to put all this love, all this love that we had reserved for them?’ The answer becomes so clear: all around us, of course, and into them, still. Most importantly — and with no hesitations — we must put the love back into ourselves once again. Terry Tempest Williams insists, ‘Grief dares us to love once more.’
So, to grief, we respond, ‘You triple dog dare me?’”
Wow. What a truly incredible piece of writing, and what strength it must have taken to write. We commend Kara for her openness, and we hope for anyone out there suffering a similar loss, that her words make them feel less alone.
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