Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sundays at Grandma's - A Great Aunt's Perspective

My husband’s family grieves in a quiet, personal way.  They are inward grievers, unlike me
and my family that are more external with our grief. But they grieve the loss
of Nora just the same.  Here is an email
that my mother-in-law forwarded to me from Nick’s Aunt.  I am honored that she gave me permission to
share it in this week's Sundays at Grandma’s. 
Please enjoy the post below. 

Inward Grief


This story reminds me of our sweet, little Nora and the reason that she was born for us. I know that you miss her with all of your heart and so do I.  I hope that my heart will share lots of goodness and love because of her.  I love you.  (Yes, I am crying)
Your favorite sister of all time!


The Brave Little Soul by John Alessi
Not too long ago in Heaven there was a little soul who took wonder in observing the world. She especially enjoyed the love she saw there and often expressed this joy with God. 

One day however the little soul was sad, for on this day she saw suffering in the world. She approached God and sadly asked, "Why do bad things happen; why is there suffering in the world?"
God paused for a moment and replied, "Little soul, do not be sad, for the suffering you see, unlocks the love in people's hearts." The little soul was confused.

"What do you mean," she asked. God replied, "Have you not noticed the goodness and love that is the offspring of that suffering? Look at how people come together, drop their differences and show their love and compassion for those who suffer. All their other motivations disappear and they become motivated by love alone."

The little soul began to understand and listened attentively as God continued, "The suffering soul unlocks the love in people's hearts much like the sun and the rain unlock the flower within the seed. I created everyone with endless love in their heart, but unfortunately most people keep it locked up and hardly share it with anyone. They are afraid to let their love shine freely, because they are afraid of being hurt. But a suffering soul unlocks that love. I tell you this -it is the greatest miracle of all. Many souls have bravely chosen to go into the world and suffer - to unlock this love - to create this miracle for the good of all humanity."

Just then the little soul got a wonderful idea and could hardly contain herself. With her wings fluttering, bouncing up and down, the little soul excitedly replied. "I am brave; let me go! I would like to go into the world and suffer so that I can unlock the goodness and love in people's hearts! I want to create that miracle!"

God smiled and said, "You are a brave soul I know, and thus I will grant your request. But even though you are very brave you will not be able to do this alone. I have known since the beginning of time that you would ask for this and so I have carefully selected many souls to care for you on your journey. Those souls will help you create your miracle; however they will also share in your suffering. Two of these souls are most special and will care for you, help you and suffer along with you, far beyond the others. They have already chosen a name for you". God and the brave soul shared a smile, and then embraced.

In parting, God said, "Do not forget little soul that I will be with you always. Although you have agreed to bear the pain, you will do so through my strength. And if the time should come when you feel that you have suffered enough, just say the word, think the thought, and you will be healed."

Thus at that moment the brave little soul was born into the world, and through her suffering and God's strength, she unlocked the goodness and love in people's hearts.  For so many people dropped their differences and came together to show their love. Priorities became properly aligned. People gave from their hearts. Those that were always too busy found time. Many began new spiritual journeys, some regained lost faith -many came back to God. Parents hugged their children tighter. Friends and family grew closer. Old friends got together and new friendships were made. Distant family reunited, and every family spent more time together. Everyone prayed. Peace and love reigned. Lives changed forever. It was good. The world was a better place.

The miracle had happened.

All because of the brave little soul.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Faith's Lodge

My Husband and I attended Faith's Lodge in January of this year, three weeks after Nora's death.  The lodge is a gorgeous facility nestled in the northern woods of Wisconsin next to a small pond surrounded by tall pine trees.  Faith's Lodge is a special place dedicated to healing after child loss.  Here bereaved parents and families who have experienced the death of a child or are unfortunately, preparing for their child's death due to terminal illness, can come to focus on their grief and their child.

Faith's Lodge was founded by Mark and Susan Lacek in honor of their daughter Faith, their first born child, who was stillborn at 38 weeks gestation in 2000.  Mark and Susan opened Faith's Lodge's doors in 2006 as a tribute to their daughter's memory and to provide other bereaved parents a serene place to focus on their grief and meet others who have walked the dark path after a child dies. The ultimate goal of Faith's Lodge is to provide families with hope and healing during their darkest hour.

The lodge provides weekend retreats that brings together parents that have experienced the same type of child loss. Nick and I participated in one of these weekend retreats with four other couples and one mom that had all experienced the death of their child during pregnancy or shortly there after. But the lodge offers retreats specializing in different child death situations including SID's, teen death, terminal illness, and even children that have past away in their college years.  They even do specialized groups for child death due to gun violence.

When others ask what we did at Faith's Lodge, Nick and I often reply, "We spent time with Nora."  While we were there we were able to focus our attention on our daughter, share stories about our pregnancy with other parents.  We were able to speak her name without shame to those who understood the pain and the pleasure from doing so.  Some of our best relationships and connections were made at Faith's Lodge and the other bereaved parents are the ones I feel the closest to in my journey because of the focused time we spent together sharing about our children, the loss of hopes and dreams we had for them, along with our few but magical memories we cherish of them.

The weekend consisted of many organized but laid back activities including journal making for the women, wood working for the men, and group therapy.  One activity we did at the lodge that I found incredibly healing and special was the "heart stone" exercise.  Here we picked out a heart shape rock and painted it and specialized it to represent our departed child.  When we were ready, we would place the rock out by the Hope Bridge, with other children's memorial heart stones.

I vividly remember the last morning of our stay, when Nick and I walked down to the bridge hand in hand, holding the stone in my free palm and preparing to say goodbye to Nora in another ritualized way. As we trampled through the snow I brought Nora's heart stone close to my face and whispered loud enough for Nick to hear, "Goodbye Nora.  I will always love you." And with a kiss to the stone I handed it to Nick and he brought Nora's stone up to his lips and kissed it gently as he would have his daughter's forehead and said, "I love you my baby girl."  After we kissed her rock goodbye each one last time we placed her heart stone in a tree by the bridge where Nora's stone now rests with other children's stones who have left this earth and their parents too soon.

Words can not describe the importance and healing qualities of Faith's Lodge and what it provides.  It was an important part of our healing journey and in assisting us in connecting with others and starting the journey of healing through our connections through our time spent there and the shared experiences and memories we made with others.  The combination of nature, others who understand, and rituals in healing that Faith's Lodge provided laid out a framework for Nick and I to move forward in our grief towards healing and finding hope, as Faith's Lodge sets out to do.

If you need to get away with others who know child loss and who walk with grief like you do, consider contacting Faith's Lodge.  Here you will be able to take a break from the chaos of life and truly focus on your deceased child in a way the brings healing.   Faith's Lodge is a secular organization that is not based in any religion and is open to all who have experienced child loss.  A stay at Faith's Lodge does cost $50 a night, but includes rooming, food, and programming.  Faith's Lodge strives to serve all those who wish to visit and does not turn anyone away for financial reasons.  Scholarships to cover the cost of the stay are available on their Website.  For more information go to their Website at, it's a special place.     

To see what others say about their stay check out my friend's article Beginning To Heal in Lasting Imprint's webpage.  Here Becky talks about her stay at Faith's Lodge along with quoting others who stayed there with her and what they gained from their time there.    


Friday, March 29, 2013

My Grief Project March - The Importance of Friends Old & New

“In times of grief and sorrow I will hold you and rock you and take your grief and make it my own. When you cry I cry and when you hurt I hurt. And together we will try to hold back the floods to tears and despair and make it through the potholed street of life”
Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook 

The Importance of Old Friends

Nick and I have been lucky when it comes to our relationships with our friends since Nora died.  From the very beginning our friends have been supportive.  Over 100 people came to her funeral, which was unexpected, since we thought it was going to be a small event.  Since then our close friends have reached out to us, embraced us, and have also given us the room we need when we aren't in the mood for friends.

But some people aren't as lucky. I have read other people's blogs about how their friends just didn't understand why they were grieving the loss of their baby so much.  I have also heard from other 'baby lost' moms about how some of their friendships have changed, and even ended, due to their friend not being able to understand how to relate or connect to them as parents whose child has died.  Going through the loss of my daughter has caused enough pain and grief; I can't imagine the pain that is added on top of that for those who can't find support in their once closest friends.  

However, if you are "prepared to battle the hurricane together" with your grieving friend, as Kristine Brite McCormick, author of Cora's Story (a blog) so elequently puts it, then there are resources availble to you.  One of those resources is Kristine Brite McCormick's downloadable pamphlet When a Friend's Baby Dies, a how-to guide on how to provide support to your grieving friend during this difficult time.  In the pamphlet she discusses what not to say, how to help immediatly after the loss, along with advice about how to interact with your grieving friend, such as remembering to use the child's name, calling her even if they don't answer, and not judging her grief process.

What I have found most helpful and supportive from my friends, is that they have been willing to provide support in the form of actually letting me talk about Nora at times and at other times distracting me by providing something to do or not talking about my grief at all.  One of the greatest gifts my friends have been able to give me is not treating me any different then before.  Personally, I didn't want people to feel sorry for me.  I wanted my friends to remember that I was still me--Lindsey--but at the same time understand that parts of me had changed.  This is a difficult task to ask of a friend who doesn't walk the road of grief after child loss, but my friends have navigated this terrain well. 

The Importance of New Friends

Even though our old friends have been extermely supportive, there is still something comforting in talking to other parents who have experienced child loss.  Research states that often times bereaved parents find that their friends and family can't always comprehend, relate, or understand the pain they are going through, and I must say to my old friends that it's okay that they don't understand because we don't want them to have to.  Since family and friends can't always meet these support needs it is natural and important to make new friends during your journey through grief after child loss.

Nick and I have made some new friends and relationships through our time at Faith's Lodge and other supportive connections and networks that have linked us with grieving parents like ourselves.  I find that with these new relationships there comes a sense of relief in connecting over our shared experiences.  It's nice to have others in our lives that we can go out to dinner with, where we talk about every day topics, and then in the next sentence talk about our dead child, and then go back and talk about the weather with knowing that our new friend doesn't see this string of conversation as morbid or awkward.

The importance of these new relationships have been researched and studied by Dr. Joanne Cacciatore and Laura Umphrey in Coping with the Ultimate Deprivation: Narrative Themes in a Parental Bereavement Support Group.  Cacciatore and Umphrey note that relationships with other parents who have experienced child loss assists each couple in processing their own grief around the death of their child.  It makes each parent feel understood and provides relief in knowing that what they are experiencing is "normal."   Ultimatly, these new friendships help grieving parents, like myself, find "comfort in the similarities" as Elizabeth A. Catlin writes in her 14-year research on Bereavement Support for Couples Following the Death of a Baby.

So, on this journey through grief after child loss, it is an important task of the grieving parent to renavigate old friendships as well as establishing new ones.  Through connections and realtionships, old and new, we will learn how to function again in a world with one less child.  Though these relationships and connections will not replace the loss of our loved one, they can provide us with comfort and a different kind of love.

If you want to know what to do to be a support to your friend whose baby has died, there are a few resources listed below.  The big point to remember is that EVERYONE GRIEVES DIFFERENTLY, the resources below are suggestions from bereaved parents of what worked best for them or what they would have liked their friends to know, but remember EVERYONE GRIEVES DIFFERENTLY, so sometimes the best thing to do is to have open communication with your friend and ask what they need.


When A Friend's Baby Dies  by Kristine Brite McCormick

10 Ways to Support the Person in Your Life That Just Lost a Baby  by Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope
What Do I Say? Expert Advice on Helping Friends and Families Cope with Baby Loss.  by Belinda Miller @ Healing Hearts.

Some Things to Say & Do/Somethings Not To Say  by Healing Hearts

For Family & Friends by Share: Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support, Inc.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Stillborn is Still Death

Guest post today by Nora's Awesome Aunt Kristi.  


The other day I was showing a coworker a tattoo I wanted to get in honor of my niece, Nora.  When I told her that she looked confused, so I asked her if I had told her that my niece died.  She said I hadn't and looked horror-struck. I briefly told her when it happened and that she was stillborn.

At the word stillborn, my coworker gave a nod and went, "Ohhh."  Her complete demeanor changed and went from one of horror and sadness, to a look of, "Oh, she was just stillborn."  As if she never really lived so she never really died either.  

The more I thought about it, the more it bugged me.  I know my coworker wasn't being insensitive, and most likely didn't even realize her response had changed once she found out my niece was stillborn.   But it still bothers me how this world thinks of stillbirth.

Stillbirth is still death.  

Whatever way you cut it.  My niece was alive and then she died.  The fact that she died in my sister's belly, right before she should meet the world, is irrelevant.  Yet, I feel like most people who haven't been touched by this type of tragedy don't really think of it in that way.  For most people, they think that in order for a person to be a person they have to have gasped a breath in this world.  Would people think differently about this loss if my niece had breathed outside of my sister's womb for 1 minute, 5 minutes, hours or days?  It wouldn't have made a difference to our family and our grief, so it shouldn't make a difference for the rest of the world.  Viewing stillbirth as something "other" than death, or not quite as "real" as death is unfair and undercuts the grief that the parents and extended family feel from this loss.  

My niece was completely perfect, but a fluke infection took her tiny life before she was granted that gift of breath.  She still existed, despite not getting the chance to do so outside of my sister's womb.  I, her awesome aunt, got to feel her kick!  I got to see pictures of her as she grew, not only from sonograms, but from watching my sister grow too.  I saw two people flourish and plan for their baby, changing in their habits and ways as they anxiously and excitedly awaited to be parents.  Lindsey and Nick had hopes and dreams of being parents, just like Zach and I, and the rest of her family had hopes and dreams of being Nora's relatives.  To me, and the rest of my family, she was real and we were ready to share our lives with her.  She had already taken up a sweet spot in our hearts, and with her stillbirth a part of our hearts became hollow.

I truly believe that everything my niece was and would have been was already within her.  All her personality traits, her likes and dislikes, her aspirations and dreams, they were all a part of her and she was ready to leave her mark on this world (this I believe wholeheartedly since she was the daughter of my sister!).  I know she would inevitably learn and grow as she got older.  Some things may have changed about her, but the point is that a baby's birth is full of possibilities, of hope and happiness, of new beginnings.  With her death, all of that died too.  And that is what makes stillbirth so bittersweet and so painful.

I am not going to try to quantify this loss versus other losses.  All losses and death suck, at whatever point.  I just wish the rest of the world would realize that and treat stillbirth the same as any other.

Nora's life was shorter than most, but that doesn't make her life any less significant.

My niece may have been stillborn, but she still lived.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I Hear A Baby Cry...

I hear a baby cry...and I die inside.
I can look at pictures of babies on Facebook.
I can watch as a mom bounces her baby up and down on her lap and gazes into her precious son's eyes.  I can even smile and wave at the little baby in the stroller at the grocery store and tell her mom how cute her little girl is.
But, the minute I hear a baby cry, I die a little inside.
My heart sinks and sadness floods my soul.

Unfortunately, one of the draw backs of working at a women's organization is that women often times come as a packaged deal with children and where I work this often means babies.
My office door is open at times and not too far from the lobby and while typing at my computer I will hear a baby's cry drift up the stairwell from the lobby and into my office.
All of the sudden, my typing fingers will freeze into place as my heart sinks at the sound of the babies voice.

I will stop for a second and close my eyes, as I quietly die inside, as I sit in my office.
Eventually I will regain awareness that my feet still work and move to close the door in an effort to block out the sound, to block out the agony.
I just can't take the noise, the sound, the cry.
I can stomach a lot of triggers for my grief, but a baby cry is not one of them.
I feel no shame in relieving myself of this painful reminder of what I cannot have by silently shutting my office door.

Moving to the door I realize why the sound hurts my soul more than my ears.
I realize why it hurts so much in the deep vessels of my heart.  It aches and shakes my core because I never had it.
I never got sound.
Sounds never came out of my daughters mouth.
Her cry I was not privileged to in this life.
Her voice will forever be a mystery.
Her yelps will forever be silent and my ears will forever ache for her cry. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Forever Waiting for My Little Girl

Waiting.  Waiting for her crib to be used.  Waiting for her clothes to be worn.  Waiting.  Waiting for her to come home.  Sometimes it feels like I am forever waiting for my little girl, who will never come.

One of the challenging parts about losing a child during pregnancy is that I, at times, still anticipate that she will be coming home, even though I know she never will.  Right after I delivered Nora and I came home empty handed without a baby, I would still walk by her room at night and think to myself, "Oh, I can't wait until Nora sees her room."  It was strange.  I knew this would never happen, but my whole experience of her, during my pregnancy, was that of just waiting to meet her, waiting to experience her.  Even though she was no longer in my belly, a part of me still thought she would come home.

This slowly faded, but at times I still think about Nora as if she is yet to be born.  Like yesterday when I was walking out to get the mail from the mailbox at the end of our concrete driveway after work.  As I was walking I thought to myself, "It's going to be so fun for Nora and I to someday write with sidewalk chalk on our driveway in the Spring when she gets older."  And then if felt like I got punched in the gut and I became a little nauseous, for in the same split second that I had this happy thought, I realized it would never come to be.  I continued to get the mail and walk into the house where my now broken dreams lived.

It's also frustrating because it seems that these flash forwards of the future that will never be happen at the strangest times, times when I am not thinking about her at all and am actually enjoying myself and not focused on my grief.  Maybe it's that in these moments, I have forgotten about my present pain and live in a place of imaginary and unrealistic hope.

For instance, I was out at a fancy restaurant for my friends 30th birthday when I ordered espresso as an after dinner drink.  I saw the cute miniature cup that my coffee came in that looked like a child's tea cup.  In that moment I had a vision of Nora, about four years old, sitting at a little play table in her room having a tea party with George our dog, a little shih tzu.  I smiled to myself and stayed in this imaginary future, where I peak in on Nora sipping her pretend tea and talking to George who she has forced to play tea party with her and has dressed him in a silly hat and made him sit on her little chair across from her while she jabbers away.  In this vision, I see myself smiling in on Nora and George as I silently watch from a distance and see my handsome little dog giving me a look of "please help me" along with, "I will do anything for this cute little girl."

At the dinner table, in my real life, I stayed in this dream of the future that will never be for a moment more, before I returned to the party at hand.  Instead of feeling as if I was going to vomit, this time I was slowly brought back to reality and only felt as if my heart had been stepped on.  I guess that's a little better?     

To me it is strange that I have these comforting thoughts of the future about my deceased daughter.  It's as if I am still waiting with anticipation for her to come home and grow up into the little girl I was excited to meet and guide through life. I wonder if this confusing phenomenon ever goes away?  I wonder if I really ever want it too?  I guess a part of me will be forever waiting for my little girl. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Letters to Nora - January, 26th, 2013

January 26th, 2013

My Dear Sweet Nora,

It has been a few days, and I really don't have much to say.  I just miss you.  I wanted to write to spend time with you, focus on you.  But rest assured, I think about you everyday, many times a day.  Tonight I have been staring at your picture that is next to my bed.  Oh, honey how I miss you, and wish I could have seen you smile.

Your dad brought home a necklace for me on Friday.  It's the necklace that has your footprint in it, your real footprint! I wear it around my neck all the time and with pride.  Along with the ring your dad and I picked out as my "push gift" for giving birth to you, for becoming your mom.  I call it Nora's ring.

Your dad misses you a lot.  He is a wonderful man.  Very sweet, yet strong and compassionate.  He is having a hard time with you not being here.  Oh, Nora, how I wish you got to experience him like I do.  He loved you so much, from the minute I told him we were pregnant, probably even before that.  He's a good man and an even better dad.  He's our hero, yours and mine.  I'm sure you would have been a daddy's girl.  I would have liked that and I know he would have loved it.  I envision a miniature me running around, following your dad, so curious about everything he does and I'm sure you would have looked up at him with so much love and admiration.  I know I do. 

Honey, I could talk about your dad forever.  I love him so much, and you were made from that love.  We did a good job with you.  You were so beautiful!  And you brought us great joy for the time you were with us.  We are both thankful for that.  As you know, your dad and I hope to have little brothers or sisters for you some day.  I hope that happens, not to replace you Nora, but to have other children, made from your dad and mine's love, like you, to give all our love to in this life.  We wish that would have been you.  We wish we could love you by holding you in our arms, watching you grow, and guiding you.  But instead we are forced to love you from afar.

Am I a mom, Nora?  I know that I am your mom, so I guess, yes.  I am a mom.  Thank you for giving me that sweetie.  Oh, honey, how I miss you.  I wish I could give you a good night kiss tonight.  

Kisses and cuddles.

Love Always & Forever,


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday at Grandma's: Nora's Grandma Speaks

Today at "Sunday's at Grandma's" one of Nora's grandma's tells her tale of how excitement and anticipation to be a first time grandma turns to despair in a moment.



I vividly remember the moment that Lindsey told me she was pregnant.  Bob and I were making dinner when Lindsey called.  She was with Nick—in Hawaii—on a short vacation while Nick was on TDA (temporary duty assignment) there.  They were sightseeing.  Lindsey made small talk for a minute, then asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  My inner voice replied ‘a grandchild’ but I really didn’t want to put pressure on either of them, so my next thought was that they found something in Hawaii and wanted to check with me prior to buying it.  In the usual, no pressure way, I replied, “I don’t know.”  Lindsey then said, “How about a grandchild?”  I was elated, so elated that I broke into tears.  I let Bob have the phone while I sank to the floor and cried tears of joy.  I was so excited!  The only stipulation from Lindsey and Nick was that I couldn’t tell anyone until she was farther along—another 4 to 5 weeks!  I wanted to shout from the rooftops that I was going to be a Grandma!

Later that summer the doorbell rang.  I answered it to find flowers being delivered.  Confused, I mentioned to the delivery man. “Who would send me flowers?”  He said he, “Wasn’t sure, but they sent a balloon.”  Not catching his clue I signed for the bouquet and brought them inside.  Our dogs were around my feet so I was looking down trying to avoid stepping on them while I walked the bouquet to the dining room table.  I set it on the table and finally looked at it---the flowers were pink and the balloon said, “It’s a girl.” I screamed as I danced around the room, like a child myself, and ran up the steps to tell Bob—they’re having a girl!  After raising two daughters of my own, I knew how much fun having a granddaughter would be.


The phone rang in the middle of the night.  My eyes lazily opened and I smiled as Bob answered the phone.  My inner voice said ‘the baby is on her way’.  I heard Bob on the phone—short comments—I thought at one point he said “Nick?”  Then I heard him say, “We’re on our way.”  As he hung up the phone and walked to my side of the bed I wondered why we were leaving right away.  Our plan was to go up in a couple of days to see the baby, after all were back home.  I sat up as Bob approached the bed; he kneeled next to me and said, “The baby died.”  I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach as I doubled over in sobs.  Words like ‘no’ and ‘why’ kept going through my head.  Bob told me that the Doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat when Lindsey got to the hospital.  He held me while my body absorbed the news and shook with the inevitable sobs of disbelief and horror. 

I have felt grief over death before.  My Mom died when I was 16 and at the age of 25 my father died.  This pain was so much worse than what I had experienced before.  My granddaughter, innocent, and beautiful-even though I had not seen her—was gone.  How was Lindsey?  How was Nick?  What must they be going through?  I needed to be there for them.

We had already packed bags to make our trip to Minneapolis to see our new granddaughter.  Even with that it took us 2 hours to leave—there were showers to take, dogs to ready along with all their paraphenalia.  I quickly threw a funeral outfit in my suitcase.  Then the inevitable phone calls.  The heart wrenching phone call from Kristi when she found out and called.  I could hear her body sobbing and heaving with sorrow and I could do nothing to stop it.  I wanted to hold her and tell her it would be okay—even though that was a lie—but I could do nothing except to tell her to get to the hospital as fast as possible to be with Lindsey and Nick. 

I quickly went through the Christmas presents we were taking up to the Cities.  I weeded out all the baby gifts, and any gifts with references to ‘the new daddy or mommy’.  It just seemed too cruel to present baby gifts.  We had purposely decided to postpone a family Christmas celebration until after the baby arrived.  Christmas and our new granddaughter would always go hand in hand from now on—or so I thought.  But now in a different way. 

I cried for the whole five-hour drive.  Bob kept his composure by making phone calls and getting angry—wanting to know why.  I kept wondering when I would wake up from this nightmare.

Part of me is still waiting to wake up...

-Nora's Grandma Gerry

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Childless Mother as a Parenting Therapist

Part of my specialty as a mental health therapist for the past three years has been providing family therapy and teaching others how to parent.  When I went back to work I decided to help out my co-worker for a month and fill in as the therapist for the parenting group.  I didn't see this as a problem, as working with parents has always been just a part of my job, and after all I wasn't actually working with their kids. This should be easy right? Uh, wrong!

This past week, a minute before group started, I checked my cell phone.  As I picked up my iPhone, staring back at me on the screen was a text picture of my old co-workers newborn baby girl.  Ugh!  I mean this baby was freshly born, with baby goo all over her face, wrapped in a fresh receiving blanket, nicely nestled in her mothers arms.  When I saw this picture, all I wanted to do was throw my phone across the room, but instead I just stared in jealous horror at what was not my life, at what my life should have been.  Instead of breaking my expensive phone and upsetting my husband, I deleted the picture.

But the hardest part is I wasn't able to let myself cry in that moment.  I wanted to.  I needed to. But I had to go focus on other people's emotions, children, and struggles with parenting for the next two hours.  So I sucked in all the air in the room with a deep breath and went to group.

In group I had the unwanted pleasure of hearing about each women's joys of parenting.  This is not how parenting group usually goes.  I mean most women are in this group because they struggle with the darker sides of parenting, but for some reason I was not even allotted the little relief that some childless adults have when they hear challenging stories of raising children.  I know I used to feel this way before I lost Nora, but not today.

Today I was able to see each women's unconditional love for their child even through their difficulties and frustrations with parenting.  For me it was a confusing experience, because being a therapist, I really do enjoy seeing people 'light up' when they are realizing they have purpose and meaning in their life, which these women were doing when talking about their children.

However, I also experienced pure jealousy, anger, and judgement towards these women.  I mean, I was the person leading the group.  I was the professional.  I was not required to be in a parenting group as these women were. I did everything right in my short time of parenting and look where it got me.  I was fuming on the inside with flames of rage rising from my emotional core while on the outside, on my face, the women only saw my calm eye contact and welcoming smile that was doing a fantastic job of covering up my pain.

I grabbed my coat after work and got into my car.  When I closed the car door I thought I would be able to finally let go, to release the tears I had been hanging onto.  But the tears did not come.  I had stuffed them so far down during group that I had numbed myself to all the pain.  So, I did what any rational woman does when she knows she has to cry.  I called my sister.

I was composed still at that point, but I knew talking to her, saying the words out loud over the phone would slowly bring the emotions back to surface. And then it happened. The tears started rolling down my checks and onto my phone and down my neck as I tried to talk through them to my sister on the other end of my lifeline, the phone.  She had done her job.  She had allowed me to voice my feelings and they came alive again inside me.  I hung up with her and I wept. I wailed. I sobbed.  I cried so hard I couldn't breathe. I almost drove off the road.

By the time I parked the car in the garage I had pulled it together and was back to the sniffle stage of crying. I opened the door from the garage into the house and found my husband sitting on the steps in the hallway. He greeted me at the door and noticed my red eyes and runny, red nose. He asked, "Are you crying?" And I fell into his arms and sobbed some more.  He held me.  He let me cry.  I noticed he shed a tear with me too, and then it was over.  The anger, the jealousy, the pain, the 'why' question, it was all done with. Gone. For now.

Until next week, when I will  once again be the childless mother who gets the unwanted pleasure of being a parenting therapist. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

My Grief Project - Support Groups

 “Deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope”
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Stillbirth only happens to 1% of pregnancies. So, when Nora was born dead, I felt like I was all alone, part of this unlucky 1%.  I was surrounded by the other 99% who got to have 'take home babies', a term I would later become familiar with as Nora was not one of those.   Being in the 1% was lonely.

But as we moved forward in our journey of grief, Nick and I learned that stillbirth happens more than SID's and  Downs Syndrome combined and there was a whole community out there waiting to embrace us. However, I wasn't ready to relate yet.  I wasn't ready to realize this pain happens to others and often.  I thought my pain was special and part of me wanted to keep it that way.

Then, in a couple's therapy session one afternoon, our therapist suggested that we go to a support group.  I told her how I wasn't ready.  I told her how I didn't believe that people could really relate. However, as a mental health therapist I understood the therapeutic importance of support groups.   According to Joanne Cacciatore, the founder of the MISS Foundation, support groups provide bereaved parents with benefits that include reduction of stress and depression, diminished traumatic grief reactions (particularly in women), finding meaning and purpose in death, and reduction of isolation.

So this month, in March I started to attend a support group and no matter how much I hated going, I found it to be helpful.  There were other couples there, all with deceased babies but different stories, and as I listened to one woman say, "I don't know if I can trust my body anymore?" In my head I screamed, "That's it! Yes! That's how I feel".   And then another mom later in the group said, "I would do it all over again." And I cried inside and out at this statement, because part of me said in my head, in a sad, smaller voice this time, "That's it. Yes.That's how I feel," as tears rolled down my checks and my head nodded in agreement.

Other people's stories helped Nick and I process and understand our own.  When we left group that day we realized that we do not have to carry our pain secretly and that we are not alone in this horrible feeling of grief.   Other people's stories and feelings about life after child loss validate our own emotions, no matter how difficult and ugly those emotions might be.

Research has also shown that bereaved parents use support groups as a way to connect with parents like themselves outside of the group, providing them with a community, like any other to share their journey with.  I know the ladies in my group developed a closed Facebook group and arranged outings to spend time together outside of group to build stronger relationships and integrate each other into their lives because these were the people that really "got it."  These were the people that understood.

When I asked other group members what they found most beneficial about the group, answers included, "It gives us a place to remember our babies even after our family and friends have stopped asking how we are doing."  Another women responded that there is something different from all other support, such as blogs and counseling, "That being in a room face-to-face with people that get it...helps us heal."   Other women talked about how they are able to express their grief openly and not be judged.  Overall, the other group members shared about how being face-to-face with others who truly know your pain, makes your own a little easier to bare.

So, do I like support groups?  No, I do not like taking 2 hours out of my week, twice a month to talk about babies dying, especially my baby dying, but it's helpful.  Not just for the time spent in group honoring our children or talking about our grief, but for the connections it forms. Maybe now being in the 1% won't be so lonely after all. 

If you are looking to find a support group in your area below are some great resources.


The Compassionate Friends - Chapter Locator

The MISS Foundation - Support Groups

Missing G.R.A.C.E. - Has links to International and UK support groups as well as local

Finley's Foot Prints - is a UK organization that will help you find a local support group in the UK

Psychotherapy & Healing Associates - This is a local Twin Cities psychotherapy clinic specalizing in support around pregnancy and child loss.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Other People's Children

Does your child remind me of my daughter?  No, because I know intellectually that she is gone.  I will never know if your child reminds me of her, because I never had the opportunity to know her outside of my body.  But, your child makes me wonder.

If I'm staring at you and your child it because watching your child makes me wonder what Nora would  be like at your child's age.  It makes me wonder what I would have been like with her at that age.  To see your child mostly, though, makes me jealous.

Yes, I can say it.  I am jealous.  I am jealous of the fact that you get goodnight kisses and bedtime stories.  I am jealous that you get crayon marks on your wall and dirty diapers.  I am jealous that you get giggles and hugs.  I am jealous that you get first birthday parties and hopefully an adult child to mourn you after your own death.

You get the possibilities of school plays, visits to the park on a sunny day, family dinners and vacations, soccer games, barbie dolls, and toy tricycles.  You get sassy teenagers and anxious nights waiting up for your child to return the car safely back into its resting place in the garage. You get baby smells and congratulation cards, instead of a box of ashes and sympathy cards.  I am jealous of that.  I am jealous of you.  And I am not ashamed to say it.   

Do you need to fear me or feel sorry for me because of this.  No, please don't.  Am I going to snatch your child in the middle of the children's museum when you're not looking.  No, I am not interested in your child; I want mine.  I just can't have her, and I am just jealous that you get yours.  

Please cherish yours.  Cherish yours in this life, because I can only cherish mine in her death. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Brave One

My cousin Nate, who I always loved like the little brother I never had, told us that he and his wife were pregnant when I was five or six months along with Nora.  After her death, they both drove over 250 miles to attend her funeral.  I was in awe of my cousin's wife's courage and strength to attend a baby's funeral while six months pregnant herself. I wrote this piece for her.  For her realizing that pregnancy and child loss is not contagious, where other pregnant women I encounter seem to think it is.

Thank you, Christina, for being the brave one.

The Brave One

She is the brave one.
Sitting there, watching me with her worried eyes.
She is scared, oh how she is scared. For she fears my fate will become hers.

But, She is the brave one.
I greet and thank people for coming to my daughter’s funeral.
My daughter I never knew outside of the womb, lost before her birth, born sleeping.

But, She is the brave one.
She sits there, six months swollen with what was once hope and joy in her loins.
She sits there, in this moment of acknowledging death, with terror in her stomach, realizing now that pregnancy is not a promise.

But, She is the brave one.
I go through the reception, in a haze as I say goodbye to our guests, and I can feel her eyes upon me.
I walk by her, envious of her future, but in awe of her strength.

But, She is the brave one.
My eyes meet hers across the crowed reception hall.
Hers say I can't imagine your loss, and mine say I hope you never have too.

But, She is the brave one.
She walks up to me, approaches me.
She does not ignore me, as I will soon find other pregnant women, who know, do.

But, She is the brave one.
I stare at her as she approaches, fearful of her words, but none are spoken.
She opens her arms, embracing me with her blossoming stomach touching my now deflated one.

But, She is the brave one.
She holds me and cries.  She cries for me, my sorrow, for my daughter.
I cry.  I cry for her, her fear, and her son growing inside her.

But, She is the brave one.
We hold each other a little longer.  I lock eyes with her husband who is standing in my view.
I nod in his direction, sending a prayer his way.

But, She is the brave one.
She releases me from her arms.  I am thankful.
She is courageous, strong, and validates my loss even in her time of joy.

But, She is the brave one.
I admire her courage.  I hope for her that her son will have a safe journey into this world.
And before she walks away, she whispers in my ear, “You are the brave one.”

I reply, “I am the brave one.”

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