Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Grief Project December: Resting, Remembering, and Reflecting

I haven’t written about my Grief Project lately, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing it. Going into December I had this feeling it was going to be a hard month, as it is the anniversary month of Nora’s arrival in this world.  Knowing this I also had an inkling that I would not be able to “project” my way through grief this time, at least not in the way I had been over the last year.  Instead I decided to focus on resting, remembering, and reflecting. And that is what this month has been about for my Grief Project.

I often speak to my clients about the importance of self-care and relaxation techniques and this month I needed them more then I think I have ever needed them before.  Every day that went by I got more and more anxious about the upcoming anniversary of Nora’s birth.  Anxieties kept creeping in, as if my body remembered the trauma of the year before with each passing day, and in some ways it was like the beginning of grieving all over again.  Fear, sadness, and grief came more frequently and easily again than it had just a month ago.  My body and mind told me that I needed to nurture myself through activities that invoked calm and a sense of peace.   Even my therapist and my doctors were telling me I needed to find more ways to relax, release tension, and “rejuvenate” (their word of choice).  So I started putting my own advice to clients into practice by practicing self-care.  

Rest: Practicing Self-Care

Hot Showers: I decided to incorporate more self-care into my life in little ways.  I was not up for another project this month so I just took baby steps with my grief.  I took a hot shower every night before I went to bed to invoke calm and spend time slowing down from the day.  For me, even in my early days of grief, water, baths, and showers somehow soothed me.  They brought me to a place of tranquility even in my storms of grief, and now using this self-care method was no different.  Feeling the warm beads of wetness roll over my skin created a sense of quiet in my anxious mind and sorrowful soul.  

Aroma Therapy: To create even more calm in a nightly ritual, I started pampering myself with fragrant lotions and using aroma therapy.  I keep a bottle of lavender oil by my bed at night and take a little and rub it on my hands, breathing in the yumminess of lavender.  When I do this I let my worries float away as I focus my thoughts and body on the senses. 

Letting Go of the TO DO LIST: Finally, one of the most important ways I started to create more rest this month to make room for healing, grief, sorrow, and whatever else needed to show up, was by letting go of the TO DO LIST.  It was freeing in doing so.  I wrapped up my teaching gig at the beginning of the month, was forgiving of myself when I didn’t send Christmas cards or decorate the entire tree, and I was mindful of not adding things to the TO DO LIST when I had moments of boredom.  Do you know what happened since I stopped adding stuff to my TO DO LIST?  I felt RELAXED!!! And when I was relaxed, my stress level went down, my anxieties decreased, and my grief felt like it had room to come and go without causing too much disruption in my life.  It has been refreshing.  I highly recommended putting on your TO DO LIST – “DON’T ADD TO THE TO DO LIST FOR A WEEK OR TWO.”   

Pampering with a Massage: I mentioned early that all my providers wanted me to relax more, and all of them--yes ALL of them--suggested I get a massage. Now I love massages, but they are (to someone whose husband likes to stay on a budget) an expensive indulgence that I long thought we could not afford, especially at this financially straining time around the holidays. Oh, it was so worth it though.  Investing in your own self care is often overlooked or we put it off, but my massage therapist’s fingertips were magic to my grieving soul and body. I have been told how grief lives in the body, I know this to be true for myself, and having a massage was a great way to release some of it.  If you are trying to get rid of unnoticeable grief, but just have a feeling that sorrow is storing up somewhere in your body, I would highly recommend pampering yourself with massage.  


When I decided to open up space in my life for time to rest, I also, without realizing it, opened up space in my days to be intentional about remembering Nora and reflecting on this past year.  I have to admit that I didn’t spend too much time focusing on remembering her (I always remember her daily, but on really setting aside time to do so) until the holidays came.  

Carrying Her with Me with a Necklace: Before we left for Christmas at my parent’s house in Wisconsin, I decided to put her necklace back on, the one I had taken off in July, on Father’s Day, to make space for a different kind of healing then.  By putting the necklace back on for the holidays and into the New Year, it was a way for me to carry her with me throughout the celebration of Christmas and her birthday. 

Finding a Place for Her: For the past year Nora, and everything that was meant for her, sat in the nursery on her dresser.  There were gifts from complete strangers and close friends, letters from those who were touched by her story, clothes she was meant to come home from the hospital in, mementos including pictures, ultrasounds, and even her handprints had been on display the whole year in that room.  Well, yesterday, on the anniversary of her death, I decided to sift through the items and find a permanent place for them. With care and love I created a memory box of all things her and sadly, but therapeutically, placed the mementos of her in the box for safekeeping. In some ways I felt like a mother who had been packing away her toddler’s baby close and closing a chapter on the first year of my child’s life, only this time, I was boxing away memories of her whole little life, not just the first year.     

Letter Writing, Talking, & Sharing: On Nora’s actual Day (yesterday) Nick and I both set aside time in the evening to be intentional about remembering Nora by each writing her a letter.  We did this in separate spaces and then came back and each shared a little about our letters, what we said, and also our memories of her birth a year ago. We brought her urn into our bedroom that night, lit a candle, and shared stories of what we remember about her and what she has taught us over the last year. It was sad, emotional, but so releasing.  It felt good to cry, sharing her by remembering our joint experience of her.  It was a mixture of a happy and sad cry.  A moment of pure love.  


Reflecting & Remembering with an Event: I’m not sure if I am done reflecting on the loss of Nora or how it has changed me.  I believe this process will take the rest of my life.  However, yesterday was magical when we invited people on Facebook to help us remember, honor, and reflect on how Nora has touched so many souls in her brief life by sharing a picture of light in the Honoring Nora: Show Me The Light event online.  Nick and I were overwhelmed with the number of compassionate responses we received from old friends, new ones, strangers, fellow loss parents, and family.  Nora’s light shined through everyone else’s and touched our soul.  What would have been a sad day was made a little brighter by the compassion of others and their pictures of light.  If you want to celebrate, honor, remember, and reflect on the anniversary of your child’s death, I HIGHLY suggest an event like this.  I have participated in other loss mom’s Facebook events similar in nature, such as sharing a symbol of a bird drawn on your skin, to wearing a favorite color of the child that is deceased and taking a picture, to making cookies and capturing how you enjoy them with a photo to share with others, in an effort to let the grieving parents know that their child matters.  This day and event was one of the most healing moments of this past year for me. 

Ah, after such a long post I need to get back to resting.   

Monday, December 30, 2013

Dear Nora...A Year Ago Today

December 30, 2013

Dear Sweet Nora,

A year ago today, I held you in my arms for the first and last time.  Your dad and I got to meet you and we were oh so excited to do so.  Unfortunately, the way we met and laid eyes on you for the first time was not the way we had planned, because as you know sweet baby girl, you were born still, sleeping for eternity. 

Oh, how I wish I could have seen your eyes open and hear what I only imagine would have been a beautiful little scream.  To watch you wiggle and giggle and to be able to snuggle with you would have meant the world to me and your dad.  Instead we held you only for a brief moment in time.  But baby girl I want you to know that even though the moment was fleeting, we showed you off to family and showered you with all the love we could.  As your grandmother Henke said, “We made a lifetime of memories in only a moment.” 

And we did baby girl, because Nora a year has passed since I held your tiny body in my arms, but the amazing thing is the world, the universe, human kindness has showed me the power of your love.  It’s as if all the love that your dad and I held for you has made its way back to us through others.  The day you died little girl, I feared that love would die with you.  But oh how you have proved us wrong.  I don’t know why, but when we said goodbye to you seven days later at your funeral, I stood in front of a room full of our family and friends and said, “She was pure love.” And Nora, that is what you always were and forever will be, and today, once again you prove this to be true.  

You see sweet baby girl (or should I call you big girl, you would have been one. Thinking about that only makes me sad.) But, today I cry not just because I am missing you, but because I am overwhelmed by the compassion, beauty, and grace that your small presence in the world has touched me with through the wonder on humanity. Love is all around your dad and I today, it’s as if we are swimming in it. It’s strange really, so much love radiating from someone who is not here.  It’s astonishing and proof to me that your energy exists somewhere. 

As I close this letter to you today honey, I want you to know it might be my last.  I hold a space for you in my heart, but I don’t believe I need letters anymore to connect with you, to feel you.  I talk to you in my mind and I believe now, that is enough.  It’s almost more personal, more real.  It’s the relationship you and I have created, and it works. 

So honey, I am not saying goodbye in words, but only on paper. Today, I have started the process of boxing up your things, making space for your baby sibling to take residency in your room after a year of preserving it for you.  Please know honey that this does not mean my heart is closed to you, it really only means that I don’t need the pen, the paper, the trinkets, and mementos to know you were here and are here. For me, you LIVE not in things or words, but on the whisper of the summer’s breeze brushing my cheeks, the way your father looks at me across a room, the sunbeam or starlight that illuminates the sky, or the bird that visits me when I think of you.  That is where you LIVE now sweetie, in the space between dreams and awake, in the moments of everyday beauty and joy, that is where I find you and that is where we will meet again and again each day. 

I love you sweet baby girl. Nora you have taught me so much.  I still wish you were here and I will every day of my life. If I could change it all I would.  But know this; I feel your love because honey, you are the greatest gift of all.  You are pure love.

Love Always & Forever,


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Inspirational Bereaved Parent - Guest Post by Jackie Barreau

Today I welcome Jackie Barreau, author of 'Through A Mother's Eyes' and fellow writer for 'Still Standing Magazine.  Here she shares about how she wrote through her grief to ultimately create a legacy of love for all her children gone too soon in her book, 'Through A Mother's Eyes', which she hopes will help others find comfort.  

Welcome Jackie! 


My journey started back in 1998 after the deaths of my two sons; within three months of each other. Cody (stillborn) 26 weeks, and Luke (28 months) Neuroblastoma (childhood cancer). Our world came crumbling down in a very big way.

I started writing as a way of coping and dealing with my losses. The poems I wrote were raw yet honest. It wasn’t until our eldest daughter Tayla, was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder in 2012, that I began to write again. A lot of mixed emotions and grief came spilling forth to the surface again.

I then decided that I wanted to write a book, and donate a percentage of the sales to the hospital that had treated and cared for all our children. In less than twelve months I had finished writing and had published my first book ‘Through A Mother’s Eyes’. This book offers love, hope and ultimately courage, to those bereaved parents also on their journeys of self-healing.

This book was a labour of love and a moving tribute to my sons, my daughter and family. The book features beautiful colour images as well as the poems and quotes featured in it. Yes there is light at the end of the tunnel as we navigate our way through grief. One step forwards two steps back, but eventually we will get to where we need to be. My blog www.lovehopeandcourage.wordpress.com

Friday, December 27, 2013

Knocked Up Blogger Post Week 23: Focusing on Joy in Pregnancy After Loss

How do you focus on joy in your pregnancy after a loss?  Here is how I try to find moments of joy in a time of great anxiety, fear, and grief.  Check out the week 23 post by clicking here to find out more about how I do it and leave a response if you like about your remedies for finding joy in pregnancy after loss.

It has been really difficult to embrace joy in pregnancy No. 2 after the loss of my first child to stillbirth.  Things that once brought delight and pleasure in my last pregnancy now seem dulled by the trauma from the last.

I don’t want to feel this way. I want to be able to be elated that I am pregnant again.  I want to feel those innocent feelings of excitement and bliss that come with pregnancy, instead of the nervousness and anxiety that accompany most of my days now.  As the Christmas holiday approaches, I decided to focus on finding joy again in pregnancy after loss.  Here are some ways I plan on doing this:
Focus on what is good.  My husband and I go to bed at night now and each identify three good things that happened to us that day.  It could be with the new baby, his job, my job, or just everyday interactions.  We share about the little pleasant things that have happened in our lives in effort to help us focus on the bright spots in life, the roof over our head, the new deal at work, or the client whose life I made a little better today by listening.  By doing this we see that even during times of stress and even grief, life is still beautiful.  It really does help us make it through each day.
Milestones and movement. The little kicks, rolls, and each new week we make it one step closer helps me feel less anxious in some ways about the pregnancy and provides a reassurance that maybe a baby this time is possible.  It also helps me stay in the present moment, by realizing that a kick from baby is something to be joyous about, something to celebrate, because it means baby is healthy and growing and that is all I can hope for.  Feeling movement or meeting a milestone in some ways, if I really reframe it, is even more joyous than the first time.  When Nick lays his head on my belly and talks to baby and even feels her move, part of me is more overwhelmed with the beauty of bliss than I was before, because I know now how precious life is.  In knowing this, if I’m in the right mindset, I can find great delight in the thought.
Belly Pictures. With my first pregnancy we took pictures every week as a way to celebrate the growing baby and belly.  This pregnancy we do more monthly pictures and in doing so we seem to celebrate the changing seasons of life along with my changing belly and baby.  This is an area where we really have to set aside time to “practice” pushing away fear and finding joy in the pregnancy again, but it usually turns out cute, fun, and a great way for Nick and I to take little steps into celebrating and anticipating being parents for baby number two.
Finding Joy in pregnancy after loss is a challenge to say the least.  The way I have been able to lean into moments of happiness with baby No. 2, is by realizing that this is the only time I did get with baby No. 1. I tell myself that I don’t want to be driven by the events of the past and not celebrate this pregnancy and rob myself, Nick, or this baby of happy memories to be made.  I can’t always find joy, most of the time I’m anxious or fearful, but I am extremely proud of myself when I do find moments to focus on joy in this pregnancy. In some ways it brings me a sense of peace.     
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