Guest Post: Unsung Lullabies

I am honoured to share the following guest post by fellow loss mama Bethany Horst.

I am a musician. Not only has singing become my vocation, but it is an integral part of my identity. I sang as soon as I could talk, I am told. Music has long been my main vehicle for expression, for communication, and for sharing with others.

Separate and apart from my professional engagements crooned the soundtrack of my life.  Beyond my own singing, I taught singing to many. I began to procure, refine, and collect the songs I would teach my children. The music that would fill our household. The first melodies and lullabies my babies would hear. A catalogue of comfort. Stories told through music. Tunes destined for the family I had planned.


As I prepared these lullabies, life happened. I travelled the world, sang, acquired degrees, waitressed, moved, married, was widowed, married the love of my life, and found myself pregnant with our son. Our long-awaited, always wanted, ever-planned-for boy. And so I sang to him. Songs to soothe, to bond, to celebrate, to teach, and to reflect.

We shared a beautiful pregnancy. We shared a mostly beautiful labour. But as the hours wore on, even the swift and skilled surgery that eventually brought him out of my body was not enough to save him.

Elliot Jamieson Pepper died during delivery on May 19, 2016. The body we had shared for 40 weeks, 4 days, had also exposed him to a common virus, and with no signs of distress, he died at the very moment of his birth.

And so did the lullabies. There was nothing left to sing.


In the darkness of those early days of grief, I could never catch my breath. I felt like I was drowning. Cruelly, there was just enough air to sustain me. And no matter how insurmountable the pain, I also could not bring myself to stop kicking. Trapped somewhere between death and surviving.

But that same kicking, that same remnant of oxygen, kept the lullabies alive. Unsung, for now, but only dormant, not forgotten. To acknowledge he was here. To acknowledge hope.  To maintain a piece of the me I used to be.

So we sing one of Elliot’s songs, to remind us all that morning comes again, relentlessly.  Who knew the lullaby I prepared to shield little minds from nightmares and darkness would have no place to land but on my own grief. And so I reach for the light.

“Reach for the light although I may not see it now,

I know it’s always bright,

And the more your eyes adjust, the more perfect is your sight.

Don’t ask me what I see, but what I know.

Don’t seek me where I am, but where I go

And if you find yourselves in darkness friends,

Just hug each other tight

Join hands, sing your songs, and reach for the light.”

© Eileen Mcgann, 2000