Do Not Be Afraid Of Our Tears

I was reminded today of a post that I’d written as a guest blogger last year for Half-Pint Resale as a way to reach out to those who may not have experienced pregnancy or infant loss to help them understand what to do in those situations and I wanted to include it on this website as well.

I wrote this about 9 months after our daughter Mikayla died, and just a month before we found out that our third child, Chase, had joined his sister in Heaven after just 10 weeks of carrying him.   We had just barely begun planning for our first donation with Mikayla’s Grace.  One our our goals with Mikayla’s Grace has always been to serve not only the families who have a baby in the NICU or are going through the loss of a child, but also those family and friends that support those parents.  You can see the most recently updated list of resources on ourResource Page.

Melissa Terrill is our guest blogger, taking on a topic that often fills so many of us with anxiety.  Melissa and her husband  lost their daughter nearly 9 months ago after she was born at the tender age of 24 weeks.  Melissa is a dear friend of ours and of Half-Pint Resale, and offered to write this post to give us all the tools – the words – the permission some of us may feel we need – to be there for our friends and family who are going through such a tragedy.  She speaks with compassionate but straightforward truth, and we encourage you all to read and to share this important information, so that we can be community and family for one another.

Melissa and Mike and their son Jonathan have also begun a truly wonderful non-profit in honor of their daughter, called Mikayla’s Grace, which seeks to support families with a baby in the NICU and those who experience the death of an infant at Madison area hospitals.  The non-profit provides provides  NICU care packages and angel memory boxes, offering both practical and emotional support for the parents.  There are many ways you can get involved – read on.

-EC and LS

According to 2004 statistics issued by the CDC 15.6% of pregnancies in the United States ended in either a miscarriage or stillbirth.  Which means that most of us have either been directly affected or  know someone who has been affected by the loss of an infant.

My family has experienced this heartache first hand, when our second child Mikayla Grace was born prematurely for unknown reasons at only 24 weeks and 5 days last June.  In one day, our dreams as we knew them came crashing down, when we learned that our daughter would not survive after being alive for only 36 hours.  You can read more of our story here. The world suddenly became a very lonely place, one in which our “new normal” was so unexpected that even those closest to us were at a loss of what to do.

I have learned a great deal through this experience, and I hope that I can share a few things that might help you if someone in your life experiences the death of their child.  It is hard to know what to say to a grieving parent, and I’m almost certain that before Mikayla died I wouldn’t have had a clue either. Our own fear of loss can render us immobile.  One of the most difficult things that a bereaved parent deals with is when people say nothing about the the child that is on their minds every moment of the day.  I remember thinking that it seemed like others had returned to their lives so quickly, leaving us to deal with our grief on our own in many ways.

It was as if people felt like they had to think of the “perfect” thing to say, and if they couldn’t, they just said nothing. There is no “perfect” thing to say. There is nothing you can say to heal the grief of losing a child. But acknowledging and supporting grief is a way to help healing. Please know that the effort of talking about the baby, the loss, and the sadness will be appreciated, even if it’s not “perfect.”  I love this quote by Elizabeth Edwards, whose firstborn child died at age 16,

If you know someone who has lost a child or lost anybody who’s important to them, and you’re afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died, they didn’t forget they died. You’re not reminding them. What you’re reminding them of is that you remember that they lived, and that’s a great, great gift.

Bereaved parents need your loving support more than ever. Please do not stay away or ignore the loss.  Not speaking about it does not lessen its reality. Bring up the subject, and be prepared for tears. Nothing you say will ever make the bereaved parent sadder than the reality of losing a child. Simply allowing a safe space for them to grieve without denying that grief is all that’s required of you. Remember, it is usually the simple things you say or do that mean so much.

There is sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love. ~ Washington Irving

It is important to remember, as a friend or family of bereaved parents, that the parents only grieve because they loved so deeply.  Their tears speak this unspeakable love, do not be afraid of their tears.  Do not be afraid to speak the name of the baby that they still love even though the baby is no longer with us.

In discussing this topic with a friend of mine who has not experienced the death of her child, she said ”the two things I would have LOVED to have known immediately are:

  1. The most important thing to ANY bereaved mom is to know that you remember and care about her baby.2.  The right thing to do or say is SOMETHING.  The only real mistake you can make is saying or doing NOTHING.”

Contrary to the widespread notion that “getting over” loss depends on “letting go” of the person who died, many people find that successfully going on with their lives includes finding a new way to feel connected to the person who died.  When I found this on the Sweet Dreams Our Angels website I really connected with it.  I knew that I wanted Mikayla and Chase to have a legacy that would carry on to help other families that have also experienced the loss of a child, and that is why I started our non-profit, Mikayla’s Grace.  To find out how you can help, go here.

Resources for Bereaved Parents and those who want to support them:
Thankfully there are many resources available for bereaved parents and their family members today, and we are fortunate to have a lot of local support groups in Madison and even a doula service especially for families who experience a loss in Madison:
Keep in mind that although most parents will grieve differently, most bereaved parents would appreciate you doing something.  The only wrong thing to do is nothing.  I hope that by sharing my story it will help others that are going through this journey as well.

Mother’s Day: Advice for Bereaved Parents and Those That Love Them

Everyone knows that Mother’s Day is in May, but did you know that Sunday May 6th 2012 is International Bereaved Mother’s Day?

This special day was created by Carly Marie to honor and celebrate mothers who carry some, if not all, of their children in their hearts rather than their arms.  In our modern day society, mothers who are grieving the death of their babies and children are usually forgotten. The traditional Mother’s Day has proven to be an emotionally difficult day for so many mothers around the world.  Mother’s Day is usually a day of celebration, but for many parents who have lost a child it is a day of heartache, pain, and tears thinking about our sweet angels.

To help raise awareness for this beautiful day take some flowers from the flower gallery on Carly Marie’s page.  Post them as your profile image on your favorite social network.  Post them on your friends’ walls on Facebook and let them know they are beautiful mothers.  You can also visit thisfacebook page to join the community honoring this day.

Anticipating and facing Mother’s Day after the loss of your baby can be challenging.  A time when you should be celebrating, becomes a time of remembering and thinking about all the “what ifs” and “should have beens” instead.  Not only is your precious baby not here with you, but witnessing the celebration and joy in other families can make it even more heartbreaking.

Many parents have found that the lead up to certain special dates is worse than on the actual day.  We almost fear that day, not knowing how we will cope; not wanting to feel more pain than we already are.  Through planning the day though, Mother’s Day can also be a beautiful one. Planning ways to get through these special dates may provide comfort and healing to your hurting soul, by giving you some tangible purpose in your day.  Whether you are on your own, or are surrounded by family & friends, this is a time for you and your baby.  Here are some ideas taken from the Bears of Hope Newsletter that  you might like to think about to help you get through Mother’s Day.

  • Release a balloon – perhaps inscribe a message on it before doing so
  • Light a candle throughout the day
  • Write a poem or a letter to your baby
  • Visit the cemetery – place fresh flowers
  • Have a special place to go to for breakfast, lunch or dinner each year
  • Go for a walk – drawing on the beauty of nature to soothe your soul
  • Plant a special flower or plant
  • Buy or create a special piece of jewelry to wear
  • Create a scrapbook page
  • Listen to some music that will offer comfort and hope

If you have not experienced the loss of a baby yourself, but know someone close who has, you may be wondering how you can acknowledge that woman on Mother’s Day.  Here are some ideas:

  • Recognize that they are a mother:  Offer a hug and a “Happy Mother’s Day”.
  • Acknowledge that even if the mother has other living children, she may still be missing the one who’s not with her to celebrate Mother’s Day.
  • Send a card to let them know you remember they are a mother even though their child is not with them physically.
  • Acknowledge they have had a loss by saying, “I know this might be a difficult day for you. I want you to know that I am thinking about you.”
  • Use their child’s name in conversation.
  • Plant a living memorial, like a tree or flower in memory of their baby.
  • Light a candle and let the mother know you will light a candle in memory of their child on Mother’s Day.
  • Share a memory or pictures of the child.
  • Send a gift of remembrance:  Suggestions include an angel statue, jewelry, a picture frame, a library book or toy donation in the child’s name or anything personalized.
  • Don’t try to minimize the loss: Avoid using any clichés that attempt to explain the death of a child. (“God needed another angel.”) Secondly, don’t try to find anything positive about the loss (“You still have two healthy children”).
  • Encourage self-care by encouraging the mother to take care of herself. Give her a gift certificate to a day spa or any place where she can be pampered.

You Knit Me Together in My Mother’s Womb ~ Psalm 139:13

By Dawn Siegrist Waltman. taken from her book, A Rose in Heaven

Mother’s Day.  A day of so many mixed emotions.  A day that takes so much effort to hang onto the hope of heaven, lest I become swallowed in the emptiness of the present.  The emptiness of the day is so consuming I can’t get away from it. It’s everywhere!  Women with newborns in their arms on TV, pictured in store flyers, strolling into church-everywhere!  And whose arms are aching and empty?  Mine.  I should have been one of those women, with an infant in my arms today.  Somehow though, I feel as if the reality of having a baby slipped right through my arms, almost like a vapor.  One day she was a part of me, the next day she was gone.  I want to cuddle that little life, but there is nothing, absolutely nothing to cuddle.  There is a feeling of desperateness in my heart, but it is at this point that I realize I must focus on what I do have.  And I do have something! I may not be strolling into church or appearing in a family picture with a newborn in my arms, but, nevertheless, I do have a child.  I am a mother. The moment conception took place, I was blessed with the gift of a child and the title, “Mommy.”  As Psalm 139 clearly states: “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.”  I am a mother of a “little rose in heaven”, and nothing-absolutely nothing will change that. And although I don’t have “my little rose” in my arms today, I do have the comfort of knowing that a glorious day is coming when I will meet her and together as a family, we will spend eternity with Jesus.”

Dear Friend, This is one of the hardest days to face with empty arms and an aching heart. It is normal to feel overwhelming grief and sorrow on Mother’s Day. My prayer, though, is that you will not become swallowed in emptiness to the extent that you miss the hope of spending eternity with your child and the honor of being a Mother today