WARNER ROBINS --
Each time Heather Groberg visits her daughter’s grave at Magnolia Park Cemetery, the tears fall like a gentle, spring rain.
She expects they always will. The grief still overwhelms her.
If having a child is life’s greatest joy, then losing a child inflicts its greatest pain.
“Most of the time, I go to the cemetery by myself,” Heather said. “I talk to her and tell her how much I love her and miss her.”
Lilian Elaine Groberg was on this earth just 16 weeks, a little angel who touched down but did not stay long enough to walk and talk.
She did laugh and smile a lot, though. She was the youngest of Heather and Jesse Groberg’s four children.
They placed her in her baby bed on Oct. 11, 2013, and got up during the night to check on her when they heard her crying.
She went back to sleep but, by morning, she was motionless and not breathing. She died as the result of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, sometimes known as crib death and the third-leading cause of infant mortality.
“It happened two weeks before I turned 26,” Heather said. “We didn’t celebrate my birthday. We didn’t have a party. We didn’t have a cake. We are still grieving. We haven’t moved past it. The days are a little better, but they’re still hard. Our children ask questions, and we don’t always know how to answer them.”
It is less than a mile from the Groberg’s home to Magnolia Park Cemetery. They have kept her close to their hearts in other ways, too. There are photographs of Lilian all over the house. Her play mat is still on the floor. The diapers and baby wipes stay on the night stand. Her teddy bear is on top of her parents’ bed.
“I haven’t had the nerve to move anything,” Heather said. “I didn’t know if putting it away would be like taking her from the house or the room.”
Heather has been a dean’s list student in secondary child care at Central Georgia Tech in Warner Robins. She has not taken any classes since her daughter’s death.
She has found a way to channel her grief, direct her heartache and hold the memories dear. She recently founded a nonprofit organization and grief support program she calls “Lilian’s Love.”
She said her family was blessed by generous people who came forward, some of them anonymously, to help with funeral expenses, including the cost of a christening gown to bury Lilian.
“That was one of the hardest things for us, picking out the last outfit our child would ever wear,” Heather said. “It was very upsetting. It wasn’t a dress for her school picture or her first dance. It was a gown to bury her in.”
The “Lilian’s Love” page on Facebook reaches out and offers to provide families with these burial garments at no cost. Heather has had four wedding gowns and three bridesmaid dresses donated. The material will be used by local seamstresses to make the baby gowns.
“With all the people who helped us, we were looking for a way to give back and help others,” Heather said.
Heather realizes there will be more sad touchstones ahead. Mother’s Day is two weeks away. June 21, the first day of summer, would be Lilian’s first birthday.
The promise of “Lilian’s Love” comes with the assurance that even a brief life can make a difference.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.