A Broken Piece


I wish this were one of my books, and I could somehow re-write the ending to this story, make it a happy one.  But it isn’t, and I can’t.  Two months ago, I shared the news here on WU that we were expecting our third baby.  Very sadly, this past month, the baby died during the second trimester.

At hard times in my life, I’ve always turned to prayer, and faith.  But you know, I’ve always relied on stories—on books and imaginary characters and other authors’ words—too, even if it’s in a different way.

I remember when I was twelve, and in the throws of my first terribly serious summer camp crush.  His name was … Jim?  Yes, I’m probably more than 90% certain it was Jim; I’m equally fairly certain that he barely registered my existence.  But anyway, when summer ended and the autumn leaves were turning colors  and it was safe to assume I wouldn’t see Jim again (see fact of his barely registering my existence, above) I solemnly assured myself that, “’tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”  Which now strikes me as side-splittingly funny with a dash of toe-curlingly embarrassing mixed in.  And heaven help me, you’d know from that story alone that I was basically doomed to grow up a writer.   But at the time, it actually was a comfort to my sparkly pink 12-year-old heart.

On a more serious note, after the birth of my first daughter, I read a passage in Diana Gabaldon’s Dragonfly in Amber that so, so perfectly captured the crazy, joyful, teary, terrifying mix of the postpartum emotions that I remember sitting with my newborn girl in my arms and rereading it again and again and again until I knew it by heart.  It felt like a love letter written directly to me—as though this author whom I’d never met and probably never would had somehow still managed to reach out her hand and tell me, You are not alone.

All this month, I’ve thought of a beautiful line from Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer about those we love and lose and grieve for:  “You learn to love the space they leave behind.”

We named the baby Wren,  for the tiny bird that rose above even the eagle and soared the highest in the legend about the contest of all the birds.  I believe that one way or another, I will see  her again.  But I believe something else, too:  I believe that somehow, some way, all this pain and grief and hope inside me now will work its way into my writing, into the stories I tell.

Not that I’m planning to write a book about miscarriage or a mother who loses a child, nothing that directly parallel.  And not that I necessarily believe this was the “reason” or “purpose” behind my losing the baby, either; nothing so trimmed-off and tidy.  I just know that sometime in the future, in the midst of some book I’m writing, I’ll find myself typing words that would never have come to me without my heart having been cracked open the way it is now.  And those words will be my love letter—as I hope in a small way this post is, too—my way of stretching out a hand to anyone grieving, whether for a child, a mother, a father, a friend, and saying, You are not alone.

I said at the beginning of this post that the story didn’t have a happy ending.  But I can hope and believe that in a way, it can and will.   Another of my favorite quotations is from Ellis Peters’ The Potter’s Field.  What we see in this world at the hardest moments in our lives, Peters writes, “is only a broken piece from a perfect whole.”


About Anna Elliott

Anna Elliott is an author of historical fiction and fantasy. Her first series, the Twilight of Avalon trilogy, is a retelling of the Trystan and Isolde legend. She wrote her second series, the Pride and Prejudice Chronicles, chiefly to satisfy her own curiosity about what might have happened to Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy, and all the other wonderful cast of characters after the official end of Jane Austen's classic work. She enjoys stories about strong women, and loves exploring the multitude of ways women can find their unique strengths. Anna lives in the Washington DC area with her husband and three children.


  1. says

    Oh Anna.

    Wren is a beautiful name. Your grace during this terrible time is inspiring.

    My sincere condolences to you and your family. I”m sending light and love your way.

  2. Christine Row says

    This short, raw piece of your life and pain that you shared today brought me to tears. I can only imagine the incredibly touching effect that the words you write in the future will have.

    I’m so sorry for your loss. And I’m inspired by the hope that you shared in the many quotes above. May those words bring you comfort as well.

  3. says

    I am so sorry for your loss. I’ve also been there, too. You are inspiring through your grace, as Kathleen Bolton stated. Wren is a lovely name for a tiny, fragile life, to keep her alive in your heart.

  4. says

    I’m so very sorry for your loss of baby Wren, Anna. Just as you wrote: “…those words will be my love letter—as I hope in a small way this post is, too—my way of stretching out a hand to anyone grieving, whether for a child, a mother, a father, a friend, and saying, You are not alone.”

    Please know, you, also, are not alone…sending my love and comfort your way.

  5. says

    I’m so very sorry for your loss, Anna. Your strength and grace, your ability to share this with us in the way that you have, is remarkable. Sending you and your family the best of healing thoughts.

  6. says

    I’m so sorry to hear this news. Your family is in my thoughts and prayers. Literature can be a balm and a source of healing and understanding as we go through difficult times. Best wishes for the strength to carry on.

  7. says

    I’m so sorry for your loss. You write so elegantly about something that I am sure is tearing you apart. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  8. says

    You’re right, Anna. I lost my third through miscarriage and felt the grief like a knife to my gut. My heart and my eyes wept until grace touched me.

    All our experiences serve to deepen our understanding as the hope that is within us helps us carry on. I’m glad you have that hope and that assurance.

    Thank you for such beautiful words and for sharing your heart with us.

  9. says

    Thank you for this honest, inspiring, and beautiful post. A stunning reminder of the way in which heartbreak and heartburst inform our lives and our stories.

  10. says

    I am so very sorry for your loss. Your ability to find such a beautiful way to release some of your grief through words is inspiring. To have the composure and strength to do it so soon is simply amazing—it took me years.

    What you wrote about about writing with your heart cracked open…it will happen. I am not nearly the writer that you are, but years later I was able to pour some of the rawness and regret into the page. Perhaps too much, because my husband said the character revealed so much about me.

    This piece is a beautiful start to your love letter. May you and your family find peace.

    “I do not write for an audience, I write for myself so that I may heal my soul.” ~ Unknown

  11. bayney says

    So very sorry for your loss. Your writing provides a starting point for others to share their own stories of loss and grief.

  12. says

    I am equally moved to say “I’m sorry for your pain” and “Make beautiful use of it.” I, like you, like all artists, have borrowed emotions from devastating real life circumstances to power my stories. This is how a writer comes to terms with life, and helps others do the same. I was tremendously moved to hear that teaching writers were dispatched to Columbine after the massacre to help students deal with tragedy by envisioning a different ending.

    Many blessings to you Anna, as your heart heals. I have no doubt your wisdom and passion for story will see you through.

  13. says

    Anna, you amaze me with your ability to write about this, and I’m honored you shared this with us. My prayers are with you, and I hope that prayer and writing are a solace a this time.

  14. Barbara Mojica says

    Dear Anna,

    So sorry about the loss of baby Wren. I admire your fortitude and courage in writing about your experience. My prayers and best wishes are with you and your family.

  15. says

    Your words are beautiful and grace-filled, Anna. I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through the death of a child, but I am touched and inspired by your ability to reach out and share your heart so soon afterwards. And I believe you’ve already connected many hearts to your own through your story. Life is so hard sometimes… Thank you for sharing and giving others hope. With deep sympathy, I’m so sorry for your loss.

  16. says

    Burying a child is the most difficult thing a parent will ever do. (Been there, done that.)

    Prayers for your continued peace and growth. Thank you for your transparency and depth.`

  17. says

    Anna, thank you so much for sharing this difficult experience. I’ve lost two babies to miscarriage in recent years. Every experience is different, so I will not say “I understand”, just that “I empathize.” And your words here today have touched my heart. ~hugs~

  18. says

    Thank you so much, everyone. If I try to respond to individual comments, I’ll be in floods of tears all day. But thank you all, truly, with all my heart. I believe that there are angels in the next world. But I know for certain that there are angels right here in this world, too–those who come into our lives to help us face grief and pain–and each and every commenter on this post is one to me.

    To all those who have been there, too, thank you so much for sharing. I know this isn’t a sisterhood any of us would have voluntarily chosen to join, and yet I also know there isn’t a sisterhood of women whose members could inspire me more with their courage and strength. Love and prayers to you all.

    Finally, this obviously wasn’t the place for a prolonged discussion of miscarriage, but if you or someone you know is going through similar loss, I have shared a bit more on my personal blog, along with resources I found helpful. It’s here: http://www.annaelliottbooks.com/wp

  19. Jena says

    I am so sorry to hear about your loss, Anna. May Wren always be in your heart, as my lost baby is in mine, and may time and love ease your pain.

  20. says

    Anna: We are from different backgrounds. In Judaism, we do not do anything to prepare for an unborn child. We don’t buy cribs or prepare the room. No onesies. Nothing.

    Because of this.

    Because eyes might never open. Fists that never uncurl. We don’t even name our children right away. We keep these secrets, protect them. Because life is so vey fragile. And unpredictable. It is.

    I am so sorry to read about your loss. I truly am. My heart breaks for you. Love your other babies. Shower them with everything you had hoped to give to your third. Fill them up with love.

    Find yourself whole again.

  21. says

    Oh, Anna. Yes, prayer and faith. I will hit “submit” then say a prayer for you and your family.

    You are right; you are not alone, and in sharing this, you are letting others know that they are not alone in their grief. It’s so hard not knowing why things happen, but I do know there’s a good plan for your family.


  22. says

    I so wanted to stop reading your post after the first paragraph. I never know what to say. I normally say nothing.

    I hope it’s okay to say I admire your courage Anna. Brave people like you make life worth experiencing, both joys and sorrows, though I would rather skip the pains of life. Even the thought of sharing your heartache with us is amazing. I wish I had a tiny bit of your fortitude. Just a smidgen of who you shared with us would make me a better person.

    Thank you for sharing, you wonderful brave lady……. my condolences

    • says

      Brian, thank you so much for those words. But don’t for a minute think that I haven’t struggled or wished that I could skip the hard parts of life, too. And don’t sell yourself short or underestimate yourself. If the hard times come, you will find you have more strength than you ever knew, I haven’t a doubt.

  23. says

    Like Brian, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read this post, wasn’t sure I wanted to cry. But I’m glad I did. Thank you for sharing this with us. Though nothing we say can make up for your loss, I hope we can bring some small measure of comfort through our collective friendship and love.

    And the way you’ve tied this into writing is just genius, by the way.

  24. says

    We spent a considerable amount of time trying to think of something that might bring comfort to you, Anna. What you wrote was so moving; we hope that this quote might help you:

    “Why are you in despair, O my soul?
    And why have you become disturbed within me?
    Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
    For the help of His presence.”

    Psalm 42:5

  25. Ronda Roaring says

    Anna, I’m terribly sorry this happened to you, but I will tell you this: In my previous novel, I was trying to write about one of my characters going through placental abruption and found it very difficult to find anyone (locally and on the Net) who was talking about it from the mother’s perspective. And, yes, I’ve read Dragonfly in Amber and know how Diana Gabaldon treated the subject. But I think many people don’t understand how common an event placental abruption is and how devastating it can be to the mother and the other family members, and that, in some rare cases the child does survive. In the end, I did find a local retired ob-gyn who helped me with the details, but it certainly wasn’t the same as getting first-hand information from someone who has experienced it.

    If this is what happened to you, I would encourage you, when you feel that you can handle it emotionally, to reach out to others and write about it. People need to know that this happens as often as it does.

  26. Lisa Threadgill says

    I am so sorry for such a loss. Your piece brings beauty to a most tragic event, and I can only think that any soul would be blessed to come into your life.

  27. says

    Anna, I am so sorry. My deepest condolences to you on the loss of your baby daughter, Wren. My heart just aches with your pain. Sending healing love and light to you. ~ Julie

  28. Peggy Foster says

    Anna I want to thank you for the beautiful and heart warming post. It took a lot of courage and strength for you to write about such a deep and personal sorrow that has happened to you, and I am deeply sorry for your loss. May God bring you and your family peace, comfort, and love to help y’all get through this time of sorrow. And, like the passage says and I say, you are not alone. Also, I will be praying for you and your family.

  29. says

    Anna, condolences on your loss of baby Wren. It is brave and generous to reach out in this post. Your words and those you quoted will reach many, I’m sure. Take care.:)

  30. says

    I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s not the same, but I lost my brother six months ago. Your bravery and eloquence are inspiring. Thank you.

    Wren is a beautiful name.

    • says

      I’m so sorry for your loss, Elizabeth. A brother may leave a differently-shaped space behind than a baby, true. But I’m sure it’s a space that aches every bit as much until somehow, as Barbara Kingsolver wrote, you learn to love it as you did the one you grieve for. Love and prayers to you.

  31. Leslie R. says

    Anna, I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for your courage in sharing these words with us. You and your family will be in my prayers.

  32. Kristin Lenz says

    Thank you for this beautiful post. I hope it helps to know that you have touched so many hearts with your sharing.

  33. says

    Anna, I’m so sorry for your loss. One measure of good writing is if it moves the reader emotionally. I rarely cry over anything I read, even sad stories, but I cried for you and Wren when I read your post. Thank you so much for sharing this very private and painful loss, and moving me to feel…something. I’m sure some day you will find a way to write about it naturally in a novel and reach even more people. Love, blessings, and prayers to you and your family.

  34. says

    I have been in that place…..

    You are so right, this taking from you is a gift in itself, I don’t believe unborn souls are any less than those born in this lifetime. There is so little understanding of miscarriage and how it effects us. I am amazed at the number of much older women who lost babies many many years ago and still carry their pain, even to the grave, as they have been unable to bring it out.

    I found this poem when I lost Shoog…. I hope it is of some comfort… like you I lost my baby in the second tremester, but we dont just lose a baby…. we lose a whole life a whole host of memories in the future, that we have planned from the day we discovered our silent passenger was growing within us.

    The world needs educating…

    Here is the poem:

    “Just Those Few Weeks: A Poem About Miscarriage” By Susan Erling Martinez

    For those few weeks-
    I had you to myself.
    And that seems too short a time
    to be changed so profoundly.

    In those few weeks –
    I came to know you…
    and to love you.
    You came to trust me with your life.
    Oh, what a life I had planned for you!

    Just those few weeks-
    When I lost you,
    I lost a lifetime of hopes,
    plans, dreams and aspirations…
    A slice of my future simply vanished overnight.

    Just those few weeks-
    It wasn’t enough time to convince others
    how special and important you were.
    How odd, a truly unique person has recently died
    and no one is mourning the passing.

    Just a mere few weeks-
    And no “normal” person would cry all night
    over a tiny unfinished baby,
    or get depressed and withdraw day after endless day.
    No one would, so why am I?

    You were just those few weeks my little one
    you darted in and out of my life too quickly.
    But it seems that’s all the time you needed
    to make my life so much richer
    and to give me a small glimpse of eternity

    • says

      That is the most beautiful poem, thank you so much for sharing it here. It’s true, every word. That is part of what makes miscarriage so hard–no one else but you really knew the baby, and so no one else can grieve in the same way. But it’s also a privilege, I truly try to believe, to be the only one lucky enough to have known that pure, beautiful little soul that winged its way to the next world without ever struggling through this one. Prayers to you and your lost baby and thank you for sharing again.

  35. says

    This post just about made me cry. I don’t know that I would, in the same situation, be able to look at your loss as something I could write about in the future.

    But, I certainly will try in the future. I think someday I’ll come back to this post, some day when I need someone who has also gone through something hard.

    Thank you for an inspiring post and my condolences.

  36. Carmel says

    Anna, you are too lovely a person for this to have happened to. But that’s not how this life works. Thank goodness the next one, where your Wren waits for you, is more perfect than this one. You and your husband are in my thoughts and prayers.

  37. says

    Anna, thank you for your transparency. You’ve enriched us all with your beautiful soul. My deepest sympathies for your profound loss. Hugs and prayers to you and your family.

  38. says

    A miscarriage is such an empty sorrow because no one else can feel what’s/who’s missing. But sharing your experience (which must have been tremendously difficult) will help you see that you are not alone. I am so sorry that you have lost the beautiful potential that was supposed to be your child. It is gut WRENchingly horrible and you alone know the pain you feel. But you are brave to share your story and to try and capture this life with words.
    Big hugs and lots of love. Please know that you have many sisters in this sorority of grief that nobody expects to join. Our prayers are with you and your daughter.

  39. says

    I’m so sorry, Anna. I hate the hard times of life, and wish you didn’t have to experience such a loss. The quote about loving the spaces really spoke to me. I still hold onto the grief I feel for the death of my sister, because it is a tribute to her. I believe your post, and the sharing of your grief, is a beautiful tribute to Wren.

  40. says

    Anna, my love and best wishes to you and yours. You wrote about the loss of Wren bravely, honestly and beautifully. Such a hard thing to share.

    • says

      Diana, thank you so very much.

      In case anyone is curious, it’s this scene from Dragonfly in Amber that I had memorized when my first daughter was born. It’s page 474 of my copy, where Jenny tells Claire: “I’ve thought that perhaps that’s why women are so often sad, once the child’s born . . . Ye think of them while ye talk, and you have a knowledge of them as they are inside ye, the way you think they are. And then they’re born, and they’re different–not the way ye thought of them inside, at all. And ye love them, o’ course, and get to know them the way they are . . . but still, there’s the thought of the child ye once talked to in your heart, and that child is gone. So I think it’s the grievin’ for the child unborn that ye feel, even as ye hold the born one in your arms . . . And ye weep for what you didn’t know, that’s gone for good, until you know the child you have, and then at last it’s as though they could never have been other than they are, and ye feel naught but joy in them.”

      Such a beautiful scene. Such beautiful, true words. Thank you so much, Diana, both for them and for commenting here.

  41. Elizabeth says

    Sorry for your loss, Anna. Thank you for such a brave and reflective article. I admire your eloquence and honesty in the circumstances. Deep condolences to you and your family.

  42. says

    Am sure that your fortitude and beautiful attitude will help to equip your other children for the hard times in their lives. Every condolence on the loss of your irreplaceable little Wren.

  43. says

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m so sorry for you loss. I do believe our life circumstances come out in our writing when we least expect it – especially the tough ones.

  44. Larkin Warren says

    Wow. So beautifully, wisely written. No, there’s no “reason,” no “lesson.” There’s just This is the Way It Is. It can take philosophers and theologians whole dusty books to convey that message, you did it in eight whispered paragraphs, in the space it took to type the four letters of her name. Thank you.

  45. says

    Thank you so much for having the courage and grace to write of your loss. I’ve been almost-a-mother twice, but never had the chance to be a mom. It is indeed a painful sisterhood to be part of, perhaps the more so for you because you already have two children, so know what it means for your future in greater detail than someone like me could ever understand. I do feel that space I have to learn to love after the death of my brother, and have been hiding from my WIP because he’s part of so much of it. I really appreciate seeing your perspective on this – it may have unlocked something for me so I can keep writing.

  46. says

    Your grace and bravery are inspiring. Wren is a beautiful name, and you’ve written her a moving, powerful tribute. Every night I tell my girls, “May you be safe and strong. May you be whole and healthy. May you be happy. May you be peaceful and at ease. Shanti, shanti, shanti (peace, peace, peace)” I wish the same for you, Anna. Shanti.

  47. says

    Anna, I’m so very sorry that you and your family lost baby Wren. Such a beautiful name for one so tiny. Yes, you will see her again in due time.

    Yes, your writing will be enriched by this pain – I know this to be true, as I write from a place of pain and have learned to soften it by humor.

    When parents grieve the loss of a child, we are changed forever.

    My heart goes out to you and I wish you and yours peace.

  48. Judith says

    Dear Anna,

    Please be assured that God has a plan for each of us. Four of my five children have died, three at birth (1964, 65,72) and one, a third son, from cancer at 22 years-old (1992). My surviving son has recovered from cancer and is now 45.
    Many people have asked me ,”How can you survive all this?” Well, the strength I received from my parents and the grace from God, I have!
    The old saying, “Time heals all wounds!” may be repeated thousands of times, but it is only God, our healer who can heal us. This allowed me to minister to other women who lost children, even some who did not know me.
    I live by Jeremiah 29:11-14 knowing that when we first came into the mind of God, he had a plan for our “welfare, not for woe.”
    Dear Child of God, be blessed in his presence and know that he loves you and cares for you!
    Judith Coopy