My niece passed away this weekend.

Five years ago, we lost our son shortly after birth. The event was so painfully heart wrenching that I’ve thought again and again how I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what we did. Yet just a few short years later my own brother- and sister-in-law have to go through a similar ordeal.

I don’t really know what to say, but writing about Oliver’s loss that helped me get through it, so I feel like I should write something about this.

One of the hardest parts for me was having to tell my (nearly) four year old daughter. Kella had been as excited as anyone for Baby Ava, picking out clothes and toys and games that she could give to her. When I told her that Baby Ava had died, her bright face crumpled. With tears welling at the bottom of her eyes, she looked passed me and said, “now I’m never going to meet her.”

My son is having a tough time processing it as well, but his response has been much more subtle.

Child loss is agony, a pain that doesn’t really go away, it just subsides. It reminds me of the scene from The Dark Knight Rises where Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character explains that everyone gave him about a year to get over his parents’ death, which is about what I was given to get over my own loss. Maybe some people are fine after a year, but for me, and I imagine for most, it takes much longer. Even before Baby Ava I would have flashes of grief that rose out of seemingly nowhere. I don’t expect that to ever fully go away.

And maybe I don’t really want it to.

While we were waiting in the hospital for Ava’s delivery, we were talking with my in-law’s bishop. He mentioned that there are many people who have suffered through similar ordeals, who walk by every day on the street without us ever knowing what they’ve gone through. How would it come up in conversation, anyway?

Not naturally, that’s for sure. But when it does, it can be a blessing.

For example, Monday morning I took Kella to a Chick-Fil-A. A baby in her car seat sat across from us, cooing happily to her doting grandparents. Kella stared, totally enraptured with the little face and the spasmodic movement of her hands. When our server brought us our food, Kella turned to the woman and asked, “Did you know that Baby Ava died?”

After I explained the situation, the woman smiled down at my daughter. “My baby died, too. She was just five days old. She would have been seventeen now.”

I understood what she had gone through. I commiserated with her grief. And in that brief moment, I felt as close to this total stranger as I have with any of my friends.

We’re a society that likes to cover up grief. Like in the recent Pixar movie Inside Out, we’re a nation of Riley’s trying to keep Sadness locked away in her little circle, allowed to come out for a funeral or two before hiding her away. It’s Sadness, though, who brings us together in ways Joy never can.

My heart and prayers go out to those who have suffered through child loss, whether that child was a full grown adult or a baby you never got to meet.  Grief is grief, and while the details of your situation might be different than mine, I understand something of what you’re going through, and wish you the very best.

I’ll end with the childlike faith of my kids. First, Finley asked me, “How do we pray to Baby Ava so that she knows that we love her?”

Kella, in response, offered a prayer of her own. “Heavenly Father, please bring Baby Ava back to us. But if not, that’s okay, because we’ll see her after we die.”

When we do see her, and Oliver, and all the other beautiful children who passed away too soon, won’t that be marvelous?

END NOTE: Between the medical bills and the funeral costs, my brother- and sister-in-law have more expenses than they can handle on their own. If you would like to help out, my wife has started a GoFundMe page where you can contribute.