What being an Angel Mother taught me about grief and sharing our stories

OPINION: Felicia Gangloff-Bailey shares her Angel Mother journey after the loss of her daughter, Kamaiu: “The love was worth experiencing. I am grateful I haven’t lost the love.”

Felicia Gangloff-Bailey and husband Karega Bailey hold daughter Kamaiu Sol. (Photo Credit: Adrian Walker/@aoctaviusw)

“When we share our stories and are open about our feelings, we create room for compassion and connectedness. We create room for reference. We create room for Love.”

Two years ago, I was making preparations to memorialize my daughter who had come and left this world on Sept. 30, 2019. A beautiful #BabyBaileyGirl, Kamaiu Sol, weighing in at 7lbs 4oz and 19.5 inches long. She was angelically perfect. I was broken and wrestling with who I was and unclear about who I was becoming.  

The day after her transition was the first day of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. It was a month that I did not ever hear about prior to her arrival. In fact, stories about neonatal loss were sparse to non-existent prior to my child’s double transition. I used to argue that these conversations were not happening. I would now argue that if they were happening, I did not want to be a part of them in fear of having to be a part of them.

Now understanding that my participation in these conversations do not magically manifest or create a direct pathway for me to be a participant in the experience, I find myself grateful the conversation is having and happening. And though, for me, October felt like one day, it became the “day” that provided a trail of Angel Mothers sharing their stories. 

A month of content and conversation on pregnancy loss. A month that honored storytelling around infant loss that I didn’t hear before. I can remember clicking hashtags and searching for mothers and babies that looked like me and Kamaiu. Looking for loss at full term. Sorting through pictures of baby showers and maternity photos. Seeing nursery decorations in the final weeks of pregnancy. Finding evidence of how far hope had fallen from the clouds of readied anticipation and expectation with no opportunity to brace it. 

Felicia Gangloff-Bailey
Felicia Gangloff-Bailey (Photo Credit: Kevin Allen/@kvnalln)

My arms were empty, unlike the Mothers that were carrying alongside me. The conversations we were once having that connected our experiences were no longer happening. I was now feeling very alone. The misery sent me searching for belonging. I remember looking for who was angry, because I was angry. I remember trying to read through text and tone of who had prayed and still lost everything. Searching for who was still praying. Spending days feeling that nothing could come from this heartache. No overcoming or empowering narrative. No “aha’s” for anyone trying to rationalize the meaning of my despair. I needed to find someone who could survive the pain of living without their child, because without my baby, I felt like I was dying.

In the search for reference, I found my place in a sea of mothers who were sharing how they were making their tread. I found the honesty of their processing. Watching them navigate their deep waters encouraged me. Their stories became a lighthouse for my own becoming and putting together the pieces of my identity. And though our grief happens differently, I found that the grief I was feeling was normal, OK, and most notably, a deep love for our children that was worth sharing.

“The love was worth experiencing. I am grateful I haven’t lost the love.”

After finding reference in the Angel Mothers who shared their stories, my journey led me to pen and paper to experience, interrogate, and investigate the honesty of what I was feeling and find what grief came to teach me. My writings became evidence of my processing. A processing that, I found, could not be rushed, but required its timing. The timing helped me understand that the grief I was feeling was love; a love I have for my child and its intense growth with each passing day. This love has expanded in capacity and continues to expand with the growth of my family and my second born, Kamali. The writings have become the evidence of taking the time to process this truth and affirm this knowing. And for what my eyes were once seeking, the writings are now reference.

Felicia Gangloff-Bailey and husband Karega Bailey with daughter Kamali (Photo Credit: Kevin Allen/@kvnalln)

Though this month is coming to a close, our stories do not have to. In fact, leaving a trail of stories can be a guide for those who may find themselves on a similar road looking for a guide. Rather than a detailed roadmap on how to grieve, I leave SOL Affirmations: A Toolkit for Mothers who are Investigating Grief’s Process, to be a resource, amidst outward noise, into understanding one’s truth. With each affirmation is space for personal reflection as an invitation to one’s own process. The pages are a toolkit to honor one’s grief and experience the grief as Love. For it is a Love that, I found, infinitely remains.

For the mothers who, while navigating the complexities of their own grief, courageously and willingly share their story. For mothers who are experiencing love and defining their truth. For the mothers who are looking for reference. 

“I talk about the loss so that I am able to talk about the Love. Talking about the loss is evidence of the love that is present. My Grief is Love.”

Felicia Gangloff-Bailey

Felicia Gangloff-Bailey is an Angel Mother, author, and member of the hip-hop, jazz, and soul ensemble, SOL Development. A graduate of Howard University, Felicia earned her PhD in Educational Psychology. Her research has focused on racial socialization messages in hip-hop music and their relationship to African American college students racial identity and achievement motivation. Felicia is also a member of BE-IMAGINATIVE Collective that supports Black and Brown communities through multidimensional story telling of Mothers who have lost children to gun violence. She currently is a content collaborator with Quetzal Education Consulting in designing anti-racist courses for educators and is the cohost of SOL Affirmations with Karega and Felicia on the Black Love Podcast Network. Her latest release is SOL Affirmations: A toolkit for Mothers investigating grief’s process. She is from Sacramento, California and has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Music Education from Hampton University.

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