Saturday, August 31, 2013

Inspirational Bereaved Parent Guest Post by Amanda Hoyt

Today I am proud to welcome a fellow loss mom and friend Amanda Hoyt.  She started Light the Night with Love with Francesca Cox.  Amanda also offers comfort to bereaved parents through her graphics Facebook page.  Please read her story as the work she does touches MANY.  Including me!


Thank you, Lindsey, for your blog and the obvious time and heart you put into each and every post.  Not only does your love for Nora ooze from each post, but you always try to offer up some way to help others in their grief.  Thank you for what you are doing for the loss community in the name of your sweet girl. 

In 2012, inspired by the scene in the movie “Tangled”, Franchesca Cox wanted to release sky lanterns up to Heaven to honor her precious Jenna Belle who went to Heaven in 2009. While chatting one day in July, she asked if I'd be interested in helping her organize an event for Baby Loss Moms everywhere.  With about 5 weeks to prepare, we organized an event neither of us could fathom would ever be as far reaching and beneficial to loss families, as it is.

So was born, "Light the Night with Love." On September 15, 2012 at 7pm, Baby Loss Moms, their families and friends gathered at Mary Jo Peckham Park in Katy, TX to release sky lanterns up to Heaven to remember the babies gone too soon.

The event was so far reaching, so well received and so inspiring for Fran and I. We released over 200 sky lanterns in memory of over 350 angels from all over the world. Over 100 grieving the loss of little ones joined us that day (in real life) as so many hundreds more joined us in spirit. We were beyond blessed to have received over 80 sky lanterns that were donated for the event. We swear that Baby Loss Moms are the most generous people out there!
We SO wished that all loss families could join us in real life, but since it was impossible, we took
tons of pictures and video.

The night of the event, after saying our goodbyes to new and old friends, Fran and I knew in our hearts that we had to have an event like this again - annually! 

This year, we have reserved the pavilion at the same park and are still accepting names to be written on sky lanterns to release to Heaven on September 14, 2013 in the evening.  Currently we have almost 700 baby names submitted and over 47 families who plan to attend the event.  We have three local loss moms (including myself) who will speak about loss, love & hope.  The message we want other loss families to learn by hosting this event is that there are others out there who care, remember your child and want to honor your child who has gone before you.  We want you to feel welcome and know that this day was created with all of our children in mind – and the visual you can get if you picture all of our babies in Heaven watching us release sky lanterns in their memory – is priceless.

I lost a child early on in pregnancy in March of 2008 so I’ve been involved in the loss community for the past 5 years. We tried to conceive for 13 months a few years after my first child was born and finally ended up pregnant.  What a glorious day it was to finally see that positive pregnancy test!  After a high risk and tumultuous pregnancy the first time and having given birth to a perfectly healthy girl 41 weeks later, we never once though that I could lose this child.  Nine and a half weeks into the pregnancy though, I did lose the baby.  Talk about devastating.  I don’t know how I made it through those early months but after reading a book that suggested that I name my baby in order to help me grieve the loss of the real child that I had carried, my soul directed me to name my child Noah Joel, which means “rest; peace” and “The Lord is God.”  My heart bleeds for other families enduring loss – at all stages of life – but especially when it’s a child.  Knowing how badly my heart has been broken after losing my 2nd child to early miscarriage and the sadness my firstborn has endured knowing that she lost a sibling drives me to be there for others in their darkest hour.  I want others going through the loss of a child to know that they are not alone.  I try to encourage those enduring heartbreak and have found a sort of ministry in that by making graphics (along with my sweet friend Melanie Yvette Rodriguez who lost her first child to miscarriage just 4 days before I did in 2008) for loss families in memory of their children gone too soon, over at
Making graphics using photos I’ve taken (or graphics “donated” to us from friends and family) by adding a quote, verse or personalized saying along with an angel baby’s name makes my heart heal just a bit more.  Knowing that I’m using my creativity and soul to bring an angel baby’s name to “life” is truly an inspiring and blessed event for me.  I am so honored to remember (I keep a daily calendar of birthdays, angelversaries and due dates and commemorate each baby on their date(s)) and produce such an item that for some loss parents is the only way they will ever see their baby’s name written.  

Joining Fran in co-hosting this lantern release each year has allowed my heart even more healing.  Knowing that I’m helping to organize an event to honor other families who have lost; in memory of Noah Joel & Jenna Belle in Heaven; brings me great comfort and peace.

Over the past year, we have been sent many messages of encouragement and thankfulness for the Light The Night With Love event.  Finding out for the first time how instrumental the event was to some families’ healing over the loss of their child floored Fran and myself. We had no idea that we were truly presenting a light in the darkness for some.  

We’ve heard specifically from two mamas that the event was actually a turning point in their grief process.  Talk about tears.  Reading this blog from our friend Kessi (who lost her precious son Jacob in April of 2012) and receiving an email from another mom (who lost her sweet son Abel in November 2012) stating that after seeing pictures and videos from last year’s event she “immediately felt Love and Hope. Instead of the sorrow of death, I felt the Joy of a Life pushed both Fran and I to tears.  We strive each day to let other loss families know that we care and to hear that at least two grief journeys have been helped through this event…Wow.  We really are speechless.

All in all, we want families to know that our goal is to honor your children's memories. In doing so, Fran and I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of the community no one would ever want to be in. We love you all and are honored to be a part of your lives.

If someone reading this would like their baby (or babies) to be remembered on September 14th by having a sky lantern released to Heaven, please sign up here. If you are local to the Katy/Houston, Texas area, we would love to have you join us for the event.  Please notate on the sign-up form that you plan to be there. 

Thank you again for having me on your blog, sweet Lindsey.  I can’t wait to release Nora’s lantern for you.

Amanda Hoyt lost her only son, Noah Joel, to an early miscarriage in 2008 and refuses to lose her faith. She is a working wife & mom to two little girls on Earth.  She dedicates her free time to loving on other loss families and encouraging them in their darkest hours. You can read more about Amanda's journey by visiting her blog The Hoyt Family.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Grief Project - Finding Meaning in Reading Spiritual Books

“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.”
 ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the days following Nora’s death, after the funeral was over and the family finally went home, Nick and I were left only with questions.  Why did this happen?  What did we do wrong?  Could it have been prevented?  Can we still have children?  Will it happen again? 

Some of these questions we were able to answer.  Others only lead to more questions, those more of the spiritual nature.  “Do you believe in God now?”  We asked back and forth.  Often our answer was, “I don’t know what I believe.”  “What meaning can come from this? I need meaning to make sense of it.” I would tell him.  And when he shrugged his shoulders in response to the question we then both turned to books.

On the cold snowy January days, that we had planned to be house bound and cuddling with our newborn baby, we spent snuggling with each other instead on the couch with our noses in every book we could find about the meaning of life. 

Nick reached for a classic that he actually suggested to me on our first date, “Man’s Search for Meaning” By Victor Frankl.  He revisited the book that brought him strength in times past and, five years after he recommended it, I finally read it as well.   In this book I found a new way to look at suffering and loss in the following passage.

"We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that can not be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at it's best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one's predicament into a human achievement.  When we are no longer able to change a situation...we are challenged to change ourselves. " 

Such words of inspiration and hope for life after loss, but also a big task to live up to so early in the grief journey.  I decided I needed an expert’s opinion so I reached for famous Elizabeth Kubler Ross, Psychologist, researcher and authority on grief and instead of reading her five stages of grief, I found her book Life Lessons from people who are dying.  I devoured every word.  It was as if I finally comprehended loss and death for the first time in my life.  It was no longer a distant cousin or relative, but an intimate partner in my dance of life.  Every word of the book touched my heart and I found some solace in hearing about how those on their death bed would have lived life differently, loved more openly, chased their dreams, and lived more authentically.  I wanted to be this person, now that my daughter would never get the chance to be. 

And over the months since and especially this month of contemplating the Universe, I decided to again immerse myself in books about spirituality from different views. I did not exclude any book for wisdom can come in the least expected of places, but I did focus on the ones that I was drawn to.  Like The Secret of the Dragonfly, by Gayle Shaw Cramer. Here in this children’s book a grandmother explains the spiritual secret of the dragonfly and compares it that of our human flesh and body.  To be honest, even as an agnostic it made me think about how some comfort can come from this whole idea of life after life. 

Then there was Forever Ours, by Janis Amatuzio, MD and Life After Death, again by Elizabeth Kubler Ross, both addressing their encounters with the hereafter.  Janis Amatuzio is a forensic pathologist and speaks to near death and visitations from spirit experiences her clients tell her about while Elizabeth Kubler Ross talks of her own near death experience and that of others she has studied who claim to also have gone to the other side and come back.  I'm not sure what wisdom I find in these stories but the idea of near death experiences intrigues me.  Maybe because I hope to find a little bit of insight from those who claim to have gone to the other side and come back?

I also found the questions of spirituality uniquely and tactfully addressed in Life Touches Life by Lorraine Ash, a memoir about a mother who’s daughter was stillborn at full-term also due to an infection in the 1990’s.  She explores her journey of healing, questioning her faith in God and ultimately finding it again.  Even going to psychics and how that fit into the equation along with themes of doubt and a re-emergence of peace between her and her creator.  It's stories like hers that I find the most solace sometimes, from other bereaved parents who have to contemplate the same questions I do about life after life.

And I wanted to be fair to the Christian faith which I came from but have abandoned along the way. So I pulled out a book I had all but forgotten about.  No, not the Bible, I wouldn't know where to start there.  Instead a book called Meditations from A Course in Miracles by Helen Schucman and all these beautiful quotes on life were there on the pages before me to contemplate as I chose.  Which I did.  The one about "the holy" that resignated with me the most was:
"When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter.  As you see him you will see yourself. As you treat him you will treat yourself.  As you think of him you will think of yourself.  Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose yourself."
I liked this nugget of wisdom because it reminds us that "the holy" is in everyone of use.  We do not need to look farther then ourselves and neighbors to be reminded of the meaning and beauty that is life.
Finally, there is the story of the muster seed in Buddhism, that Nick found in the Art of Happiness by the Dahli Lama in the first weeks after Nora’s passing.  These ancient words are what he identified that brought him the most comfort and they weren’t even words on the afterlife as much on how to live the life we have now.

"In the time of Buddha, a woman named Kisagotami suffered the death of her only child.  Unable to accept it, she ran from person to person, seeking a medicine to restore her child to life. The Buddha was said to have such a medicine. 
Kisagotami went to the Buddha, paid homage, and asked, "Can you make a medicine that will restore my child?"
 "I know of such a medicine," the Buddha replied.  "But in order to make it, I must have certain ingredients."
 Relived, the woman asked, "What ingredients do you require?"
"Bring me a handful of mustard seed," said the Buddha.
The woman promised to procure it for him, bus as she was leaving he added, "I require the mustard seed be taken from a household where no child, spouse, parent, or servant had died."
The woman agreed and began going from house to house in search of the mustard seed.  At each house the people agreed to give her the seed, but when she asked them if anyone had died in that household, she could find no home where death had not visited - in one house a daughter, in another a servant, in others a husband or parent had died. Kisagotami was not able to find a home free from the suffering of death.  Seeing she was not alone in her grief, the mother let go of her child's lifeless body and returned to Buddha, who said with great compassion, "You thought that you alone lost a son, the law of death is that among all living creatures there is no permanence."
NOTHING IS PERMANENT!  At least not in the physical form. This short story helped me realize the truth in this along with the truth that I am not alone in my grief.   

But in the search for meaning, let’s not forget science. What book did I read on science and spirituality that brought me solace?  Well, it wasn’t a book but a quote/poem that I saw on facebook about death from a physicist’s perspective and it goes like this:

This is what resonates with me the most.  But every single one of these books have helped me contemplate the nature of what “comes next” along with allowing me to find peace in not really knowing the answer to that question. 

Maybe in this case, like in life itself, the meaning is more about the journey then the destination.

What spiritual book would you recommend to a bereaved parent contemplating God, the Heavens, and the Universe while in grief?


Here is my reading list of spiritual books I have referenced to help me in my time of mourning.  Check them out below:

Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl
The Secret of the Dragonfly, Gayle Shaw Cramer
The Art of Happiness, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler M.D.
Meditations from A Course in Miracles, by Helen Schucman
Life Touches Life, by Lorraine Ash
On Life After Death, by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross M.D. 
Life Lessons, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross M.D. 
Forever Ours, by Janis Amatuzio, M.D. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Letters to Nora - Letting You Go

 August 24th, 2013

Dear Sweet Nora,

I want to tell you about last weekend.  Last weekend was when your dad and I went to the North Shore to spread your ashes.  It was a weekend completely devoted to you.  This weekend had been planned since a few hours after your birth/death. (I still don't know what to call it.) 

Sitting on the hospital bed, snuggled up next to your father as we signed autopsy releases and stillbirth certificates, we discussed how we would take care of our sweet daughter after her death. I knew right away that I wanted you cremated, because there is something so pure about cremation.  I'm not much for the Bible but the term "ashes to ashes" really rings true.  There is something spiritual about it. It's as if it completes the life cycle as starting as almost nothing and then returning to that same magical place of uncertainty.  I guess returning to the mysterious elements.  Returning to earth. 

Well, in the hospital room when I asked your dad, "Where should we spread her ashes?" He said, "Up North, where we went for our honeymoon.  On Lake Superior."  I immediately agreed because that was what I was thinking too.  But then your dad started to say with a quivering tone, "''s so cold up there right now." Tears started rolling down his checks.  

It was one of the most beautiful statements of your father's undying love for you, and I had the privilege to witness it.  Because even though he knew you would not feel a thing--his logical brain knew your body was gone--he was worried about the safety of his little girl's ashes.  So we waited until the summer to give you back to the earth.

And last weekend it happened.  It was again one of the most beautiful moments of my life.  Your father and I decided that we needed to spread your ashes off of a peak, maybe so we could be closer to the heavens.  So, Saturday afternoon after a morning of taking different hikes to different places that just didn't seem right, we found a tucked away trail that lead to Carleton's Peak.

Around 3 p.m. on a beautiful August afternoon your dad and I began to hike.  It was one of the most peaceful hikes I have ever been on.  There was a cool breeze through the trees as they rustled in the wind, saying "Hello Lindsey, this is the place, you are on your way." The serenity of the surroundings was surreal.  So peaceful, so serene, so RIGHT! As your dad and I climbed I knew he felt the same way when he stopped in his tracks and turned to me and said, "This trail is different.  It's a lot quieter than the others.  There isn't anybody on it." It was then that I knew he could feel it was the right place too.

As we continued, there were more and more signs that this was your resting place.  This hike and nature's offerings were meant for you.  As my legs started climbing the steep rocky terrain upwards I noticed a heart shape rock in my path.  I thought, "How perfect!" But, then I started noticing MORE!  There was one, and then two, and then three, and four, and FIVE!  They were there, embedded in the trail, calling us towards the top and reassuring us that YES! The place we seek for you to forever sleep lay ahead.  Dare I say it was as if you were guiding us to where you wanted to be.

The rocks weren't the only signs we saw.  Along the path we came across beautiful flowers growing out of rocks and desolate terrain, representing new life.  Symbolizing hope that even from our darkest of places, cracks of love and light can shine through.  And then there were the butterflies!  Off in the trees.  They would flutter and flits within our sight.  Never to land near us or let us take a picture, but just enough to let us know they were ever present.  Always near, never to be held, but always to been known. 

When we reached the top we stood on massive rocks and through the trees that still managed to grow in the cracks of rocks, just past them, there was a clearing and an amazing view for us to behold.  We could see the massive, never ending Lake Superior.  It went on for miles, and if we didn't know better we could have believed it was an ocean because the sea met the horizon with no shore in sight.  Then butting up to the majestic sea was a beautiful white pine and birch wood forest that we must have been hundreds of feet above the giant trees below.  It was spiritual.  It was perfect.  It was HERE that we knew you would find your new home.

Through out the hike, your father had been carrying you with care in his cargo pants pocket.  Like he would have carried you on his back in a hiking sac if you were with us in human form.  When we reached the top, he took his fatherly duties seriously (as he always will my love) and he scouted out for the perfect place to share you with the world below.  He would walk over there. No, not right.  He would scan the peak for solitude for the perfect resting place for his daughter. No, not by the birch tree.  And he walked over to the right and down into this little creaves of rock overlooking the forest below, by a small pine tree, trying it's best to thrive out of the rock, growing out of the darkness like we are doing now.   

He said, "This is IT!"  I replied with a nod and "I know."  He walked as close to the edge as he could and with a caution I yelled, "That's far enough."  He reached into his pocket and pulled you out.  Gently, and with a tender touch he unrolled the bag your ashes were in.  He started to sniffle, and then to cry as I could see his eyes redden under his sunglasses and tears staining the creases of his face.  

We decided we would each take a turn in holding you one last time.  In sharing you with the world as proud new parents do.  Your dad went first.  He reached into the bag and held your tiny partials in his hands and whispered words to you that I will never know before he released you onto the wind and back to the earth.

Then, it was my turn.  Your dad handed me you gently and I was not afraid as I wrapped my hands around your tiny form of dust.  I held you, cradled you, and held you close to my heart, and then my mouth.  As I kissed you and whispered "I love you little girl.  I always will.  Thank you for making me a mom."  I was scared.  As I didn't want to let you go, but knew I would never be able to hold onto you physically again.  Not the way I wanted to, so with one last kiss, I released the pieces I held of you into the sky and you floated on the wind, down to the trees below.

You father joined me now.  It was our turn to be one more time together as a family in the physical form. I reached into the bag one last time and clasped my hands around your remains.  Your dad held my hands in yours, as the three of us were united in body for a moment.  Your dad wept.  I wailed.  We spoke, with me going first, "We love you."  and your dad saying, "We will always love you."  And we let go.  And once again onto the wind you sailed over the earth below.

We let you go.

It was beautiful.  It was perfect.  I turned to your father and fell into his arms and cried.  We held each other and sat on the rock in the warm summer sun for what might have seemed like hours, for we were content on this point above the earth were we let you go.  Let you be at peace.

But honey know this, we might have let you go in the body, the physical.  We might need to continue to let go of our hopes and dreams we had for you.  But dear sweet, Nora, we will never let you go from our hearts. You will always be there, like a flower growing in the cracks of my darkened heart, reminding me there is hope.   

Love Always and Forever,


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sundays at Grandma's - Brian's Butterflies

My Aunt and Nora's Great Aunt Sue was witness to an amazing spiritual experience this past month on vacation with my cousin who's brother died earlier this year in a Motorcycle accident.  It seems that maybe even after death, Brian is still speaking to those he loved the most.  Just maybe.  I'm don't know the answer, but it's a powerful story my Aunt has to tell about another young soul lost too soon.



I like to believe that sometimes we are connected to those we lost through the wonder of nature.  My sister and I talk of how we imagine our parents, who we lost many years ago, sitting on a star, watching over all of us.  This year they were joined by my great niece, little Nora and my great nephew, Brian.  Brian just turned 19 years old with so much life in front of him. 

A few weeks ago I vacationed with my sister’s family.  It was a bittersweet vacation, as Brian and his sister had been going on vacation with Grandma (my sister), Grandpa and their Uncle for 12 years.  Brian just loved this annual vacation, being out on the lake and enjoying the water.  Before I left on vacation, I wanted to find a way to honor and remember Brian while we were there.  I thought about a wish lantern as Brian enjoyed the night cruises on the lake.  However, I was worried about starting a fire with all of the gorgeous trees around, so I settled on river rocks.  I put Brian’s name along with his years on earth on the rocks.  I thought we could leave them in some of Brian’s favorite places as the week went on. 

My sister decided to place a rock near the pier of the cottage where they usually stayed for this trip.  She spent some time looking for just the right spot when I butterfly landed on the shore.  It seemed to say to her “Right here!”  The spot was well protected but yet open enough to have a view of the boats coming in.

One day we made our way by boat for a tour of an historic cave.  We docked the boat and as soon as we stepped onto the pier, a butterfly appeared.  The butterfly stayed with us as we climbed the stairs to the cave opening.  The next thing we knew, it was on Brian’s sister’s finger.  While we waited about 15 minutes for the tour to begin, the butterfly stayed either on Brian’s sister or with someone in our group.   I said “Maybe it’s Brian.  He wants to go on the tour with us”!  His sister’s eyes got so wide and a huge smile lit up her face.  Once inside the cave, the butterfly stayed with Brian’s sister until we were ready to move to the next chamber in the tour.  Then it flew up and landed on what was called the pipe organ, a wonderful formation of stalactites.  We continued on our tour, taking in the beautiful formations. In order to leave the cave, we retraced our steps and once again were in the chamber with the pipe organ.  The butterfly was still there, as if waiting for our return.  

Later in the week, at a one of Brian’s favorite restaurants, a butterfly joined us at the table.   We talked about what to order as the butterfly stayed close by and marveled at the fact that we had another member to our group again.  Brian sister had just told me how she and Brian ordered nachos last year at this restaurant and they were pretty good.  A few minutes later, the butterfly flew off the table and landed on her menu --- on the page of appetizers, right next to the nachos!  As we ate our meal, the butterfly remained at the table, sometimes appearing to dance with the music, but always near Brian’s sister.    

Tonight I received a picture taken of Brian’s sister and her boyfriend while we were on vacation.  The picture was taken at another placed Brian enjoyed and looked forward to going to each year.  In the background, near my niece, is a butterfly.

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