Monday, February 28, 2011

Feeling My Way Through Grief

I came across an excellent article written by Betty Ann Rutledge about her process through grief.  It's from the resources section from Bereaved Families of Ontario-Toronto.  You can access the article directly on their site or read it posted below.

Feeling My Way Through Grief

by Betty Ann Rutledge, Program Manager

“Grief is not, as I thought, a state, but a process.  Like a walk in a winding valley which gives you a new landscape every few miles.”
- C.S. Lewis

I learned a long time ago that there is no way around grief. Can’t climb over it, can’t crawl under it and, as clever as I’ve tried to be, no way to sneak around it. The only way through grief is through it. For the newly bereaved (and for anyone who is in a “hit of grief” at any point on their journey), traveling this road is painful, confusing and downright terrifying in moments. So as we learn to find our way through this new landscape of grief, it’s helpful to have a few definitions to guide us:

Bereavement:  the state of having suffered a loss: physical or symbolic*; state of sorrow over the death or departure of a loved one

Grief: deep mental anguish arising from bereavement; intense sorrow caused by the loss of a loved one; the process that allows us to say good-bye to what was and get ready for that which is yet to come*

Mourning: the actions or expressions of one who has suffered a bereavement; conventional outward signs of grief for the dead; public, shared expression of a person’s thoughts, behaviours and emotions related to a loss*

While we know that grief affects us at all levels of our being – physical, emotional, mental/attitudinal, spiritual, social/sexual – for many, the first thing we think of when it comes to grief is feelings. Most definitions of grief and bereavement make some reference to emotions – and for a lot of us, here’s where the terrain becomes the most treacherous to navigate.
“I’m afraid if I start to cry, I’ll never stop”
“I’m so angry, I could scream”
“I feel so hopeless, I can’t even get out of bed”
“I feel so sad, I don’t know if I will ever recover”

These, and many other expressions of deep, emotional pain are commonly heard amongst bereaved people. It’s no wonder then that we might be tempted to avoid feeling our feelings altogether – it sounds pretty overwhelming! But if we are truly going to find a way to “live with our grief”, experiencing the myriad emotions and feelings that spring from our losses is one of the essential tasks of mourning.

A wise person** once described it to me like this: Think of your emotions as bubbles in a glass of soda or champagne (the beverage being your emotional body).  As you experience a feeling – sad, mad, scared, happy, love, desire – that feeling floats up through your emotional body and when it reaches the “surface”, like a bubble at the top of a glass of soda, it POPS and evaporates into the air.

However, if you “put a lid” on your “bubbles”, actively trying to block them from traveling up their path through your emotional body, not only will you experience a build-up of “negative” emotions (and that in turn will impact you physically, mentally etc.) – but you will also block yourself from experiencing the more “welcome” emotions of joy and peace and love from bubbling up in you.

Put another way: avoiding your feelings can lead to emotional indigestion.  And just like having a good burp can ease your physical discomfort, letting yourself have a good emotional release will lead to a softening of your emotional body as well. This is not an easy process – it can be terrifying to experience our feelings. Many of us, for all kinds of good reasons, have not been able to.  We’ve received messages our whole lives about “appropriate” behaviour related to feelings.  Some of those messages are gender-based like “big boys don’t cry”, some we absorb from our families, others are influenced by our faith, culture, personality and life experiences.

A British-born friend describes his family as the “suck it up” type of grievers – which essentially left him no room or permission to express his feelings.  Another friend who comes from the West Indies told me that Black women often feel they must “be strong” for their family (especially their children), that they cannot allow themselves to feel or show any kind of “weakness” (i.e. crying) – they can’t afford to, as they are responsible for so much in their lives and communities. What messages have you absorbed about feelings?
Even the language of feelings discourages us with its negativity and judgment.  People who express emotions openly are described as “falling apart” or “losing it”.  And how many times do we hear someone say “I’m sorry” while they are crying.  What’s to be sorry for!  Feelings aren’t good or bad – they just ARE.

We all have our histories and stories that have informed how we think, feel and behave in response to grief. Stories and histories that loom large when we are faced with the daunting task of mourning: “to experience the pain of grief”.

So what can we do?  A dear friend once counseled me to “lean into” my pain.  In those deepest, darkest moments of grief, to really let myself feel the sorrow and pay attention to what happens. Listen to the sounds my body makes, notice the words that come to mind, and try to remember that this is just another bubble that will eventually move through me and pop.  If you’re afraid to cry because you don’t think you’ll be able to stop, think about this:  Have you ever heard of anyone laughing so much they couldn’t stop or being joyful indefinitely?  Try to think of sadness as just another feeling, another bubble, remember to breathe and trust that the moment of intense pain will ease.

Leaning into the pain has also been described as “being in the pit” (think of peaks and valleys – experiencing the painful emotions of grief can be a very deep valley). If you’re new at this, venturing into the pit unaccompanied may not be such a good idea. A trusted friend or family member who can sit with you, a fellow bereaved traveler, or a counselor may be enlisted to provide comfort and safety.

I believe that my loved ones who have died want me to live as full as life as I possibly can. And for me, living fully requires me to stand bravely and honestly in the fullness of my humanity: tears, fears and anger as well as joy, love and peace.  And when standing is impossible, and I am brought to my knees in despair, I try and remember the following:

“I bow in reverence before the emotions of every melted heart. We have a human right to our sorrow. To blame the deep grief which bereavement awakens is to censure all strong human attachments. The more intense the delight in their presence, the more poignant the impression of their absence; and you cannot destroy the anguish unless you forbid the joy. A morality which rebukes sorrow rebukes love. When the tears of bereavement have had their natural flow, they lead us again to life and love's generous joy.” --James Martineau

*With thanks and appreciation to friend and mentor Yvette Perreault of the AIDS Bereavement Project of Ontario ( and 
**Derek Scott ( whose words, definitions and bubble metaphors have been of enormous benefit in my personal and professional journey through grief.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bereaved Families of Ontario-Toronto

I was looking at the stats the other day and realized that Honoring Our Angels has quite a few Canadian visitors.  Hoping to help find them some resources, I came across Bereaved Families of Ontario-Toronto.

Has a member of your family died? You are not alone. Whether you are newly bereaved, or dealing with a loss in your past, we wish you strength as you face the pain. You have already taken the first step by visiting here -- we know how much courage it takes to reach out. We have been there, and we can help the healing begin.
We can help. We provide a place for you to discuss your experiences and learn about grief with others who have been there. We give you a chance to talk, in a confidential setting, about how your loss affects your life. By sharing with others who have been there, you may learn how to cope by gaining insight into your own thoughts and feelings.
Who we serve. Currently we offer mutual support groups that are co-facilitated by bereaved volunteers and supported by professional advisors, for:
  • Parents of an infant child (including miscarriages, babies that are born still and newborn/infant deaths)
  • Parents of a young child or adult child
  • Children ages 5-8 yrs and 9-12 yrs old who have experienced the death of a parent/caregiver or sibling
  • Youth 13-17 years of age who have experienced the death of a parent/caregiver, sibling or close friend
  • Young adults (18-30) who have experienced the death of a parent/cargeiver or sibling
  • Adults (over 30) who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, spouse or partner
Our members have experienced deaths in their families due to prolonged or short-term illnesses like cancer and HIV/AIDS as well as sudden or traumatic deaths from heart attacks, accidents, murder and suicide.

What can I do?
It is normal to feel a great deal of confusion, pain and sadness after a loved one dies. Some people find it helpful to read about the experiences of other bereaved people and/or information about grief and loss. You can do that on our website.
Telephone Support
For others, they need to talk with someone who has "been there". You can call our office at 416-440-0290 Monday to Thursday between 9am and 5pm and speak with one of our volunteers or staff members - all of whom know the pain of losing someone we love.
We are here to listen and provide support without judgement. We won't tell you what to do - there is no "right" way to grieve - but we can tell you what helped get us through.
I feel like I can't go on...
Feeling hopeless and full of despair can lead you to question whether or not you want to go on living. It's okay to talk with us about how bad you are feeling. As bereaved persons ourselves, we know those moments of feeling alone, isolated and terribly sad. When we're not available, here are some other numbers you can call.
Can I see someone in person?
We don’t provide professional counselling but you may wish to sign up for a 1-1 session with a similarly bereaved facilitator.  You can come alone or with your partner or a supportive friend or family member. It's a chance for you to talk about your loss; get some immediate support from someone who understands and find out more about our Support Group programs.  If you would like to explore ongoing professional counseling, you can find ourprofessional referral list on our website.
Call our office at 416-440-0290 to sign up for GROUP SESSIONS.

If you are in the Ontario/Toronto area this group looks like a wonderful resource for support!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Courage Doesn't Always Roar

I saw this beautiful inspirational slide show about courage and thought I would share it with you.  Thanks to all you beautiful men/women who inspire me with your courage to find joy in life despite it's heartaches and trials.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Confronting Overwhelming Grief Through Writing

Although this article is not written specifically about child loss, I thought it was a great example of how healing writing can be.  So many people ask why someone would want to blog about their child/children that have died.  They don't understand how healing power of journaling/blogging.  One of the greatest misconceptions surrounding death is that writing a book, keeping a blog, journal, a website, etc is too painful because it is such a reminder of your loss...but the truth is, the blog is not the life is the reminder. I think of my daughter daily, I carry her in my heart always.  To write about her is not the difficult lose her is.  This is why I love the quote....
"If you know someone who has lost a child, and you're afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died--you're not reminding them. They didn't forget they died. What you're reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and that is a great gift." ~Elizabeth Edwards

What about you?  Do you find writing to be healing? 

Confronting Overwhelming Grief By Writing Through The Great Pain


36 months ago, I started formulating a fiction for tweens, Belle in the Slouch Hat. It is just a story about a young girl who searches for revenge after her brother was killed in the Civil War. I consciously started the story for my grandchildren; and I needed something to fill an emptiness in me as a result of the loss of my much loved mother, and another special woman during my life. They died within two months of each other.

Anytime someone we love dies, we have to grieve; there is no way to avoid it. Everyone must undergo the sadness and agony in their own individual way. My option was penning.

Once losing those I treasured, it felt as if something was obstructing my pain and guarding me from the harshness and sadness connected with death. To this day, In my opinion it had been the Holy Spirit helping me through probably the most hardship in my life. You many decide upon to call it something else, but I believe it was the Holy Spirit. Eventually after that, the reality of the deaths set in and I had no choice but to go through the next phase of losing someone you love, the grieving process.

At age sixty-one, I sat at my computer; I started to craft, and I started to get better. I started off writing a novel minus the full appreciation of what I was engaging in. I didn\'t stop to contemplate the amount of hours in which I would so willingly give to it, nor did I stop to think there was a correct way of doing it, all I know was I had to write. Sometimes it was down-right physically, mentally, and emotionally painful; other times, I felt drained of every once of energy in my body. Occasionally, my sense of meaning and my most treasured beliefs about life were challenged.

There seemed to be basically no schedule for when I needed to finish; and no one could determine to me when it will be finished. It required considerable time; not a day, not only a month, not just one year, but two full years.

Aside from the initial three pages of my book, I didn\'t have an order, or a plot ot follow, I just wanted to write. I even built an imaginary barrier around me and didn\'t want anyone to find out just what exactly I was writing, except my better half.

The more I wrote, the greater I needed to write. Writing provided an avenue to cry, to laugh, and also have a journey. Unconsciously, I had created my own, personal support group with the individuals inside my story. For me, it was a safe setting to express my inner thoughts and work through my grief. I also found a means for me to commemorate those I loved.
Article Source:
About the Author
Take a look at 'Belle in the Slouch Hat' for more information on the subject of writing for tweens, To obtain help with methods to SEO management, stop by Clickadvantage.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Butterflies for Alexandra

I'd love to introduce and spotlight another great personal blog written by Maggie, Butterflies for Alexandra.  It's a beautiful blog both in design and content.  Maggie shares her ups and downs of losing her sweet Alexandra.

I am 32 years old and married to my husband of three years. Our first daughter, Alexandra was born sleeping at 35 weeks and 1 day on November 16, 2009. We do not know what caused her to be born still. On February 3, 2011, we welcomed Alexandra's little brother, Joshua into the world, who was born screaming.
Perfect timing for this post because Maggie is doing a give away on her blog to celebrate her 100th follower!  She is giving away a blog design by Small Bird Studio for your blog!  She also is choosing a runner up and they can chose either the book  "An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination" by Elizabeth McCracken or the adorable Willow Tree Figurine pictured below.  Hurry and leave Maggie a comment because she will be announcing the winners on February 26th!

Below are a few posts about Maggies' heartache and grief from losing her daughter...

2020 It's Been a Year
Monday Ramblings
What to Say
A Year Ago

Maggie, thank you for sharing your heart and your journey of loss and grief.  I have loved reading your blog and I believe it has been such a blessing to others.  Thank you for sharing your sweet Alexandra too!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Vacation from Grief

This great article was featured on Bereaved Parents of the USA Newsletter, A Journey Together volume XVI winter 2011.

Vacation From Grief

     After Brad died his girlfriend returned his high school ring to me. I put it on and did not remove it for a very long time. By wearing it I felt like I was taking Brad with me wherever I went. Actually, it was the grief I was carrying around with me; and I wasn’t ready to let it go. About two years later my wife said she was tired of the constant gloominess that had infiltrated our lives and insisted we take a vacation. “And we’re not taking our grief with us,” she pleaded. Easier said than done.

     On the day of departure I slid Brad’s ring off my finger and placed it in my jewelry box. Just like when he was little and we’d leave him with his grandparents, I spoke to the ring. “We’re only going for a few days. Me and mom need some alone time. I know you’ll be here waiting for me. I’ll pick you up as soon as I get back.”

     Somehow that seemed to work. The symbolic act of taking off the ring allowed me to have a nice time.
Not surprising, the grief was waiting for me right where I left it. The grief, after eight years, has softened,
but I still wear Brad’s ring every day and I still take it off before going on vacation. And yes, I still say,
“I’ll see you when we get back.”

Richard Berman, Baltimore

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Finding My New Normal

Today I'm going to be spotlighting Finding My New Normal.  It's an anonymous blog written by a mom struggling to find her way through life after the loss of her son.  I have to say...I was drawn to this blog because of it's name.  I truly believe that there is no return to "normal" life after the loss of a child.  You have to go on to find a "new normal".  Life is forever changed, and so are you as a person.  With that said, this is some information about the author of Finding My New Normal....
Originally from California, I now live in London with my husband. We have had a great life with lots of adventures, love, and fun. On August 13, 2010 our lives were shattered when we lost our son at 36 weeks pregnant. After struggling with infertility for many years, we thought we were finally going to have our miracle baby. Sadly, this is not what happened and I struggle every day to make sense of it all. But I am determined to get my life back. Not my old life of course, but a new life,,,, a new normal. I have no idea how I am going to find it yet but I just know I will.
Below is her story of losing her baby boy.

                                                       My Story

I married the love of my life in July of 1998. He is my rock and I am amazingly lucky to have found him. 5 years ago we were given the opportunity to move from California to London. Life in London has been good to us, we have settled in and made lots of wonderful friends. We have also had the chance to get to travel all over Europe and beyond. Sure we miss our friends and family back home, but we're loving the adventure and challenge that a life abroad allows us.

After a 7 year struggle with infertility we finally got the news we had been waiting for. On December 24th, 2009 I found out I was pregnant. What a fabulous Christmas gift that was. We were deliriously happy. The infertility treatments had finally worked. We were going to have our miracle baby after all. A month later I turned 40 and I remember thinking to myself, "40 isn't so bad when you're finally going to have a baby. No chance of mid-life crisis when you're shopping for maternity clothes. 2010 is going to be the best year ever!" 

Boy was I wrong about that one!

After a great pregnancy with no complications (other than the normal nausea) I was super excited to meet my baby boy. He was due in September 2010. Photos of my growing bump and ultrasounds were posted on facebook. The family came to visit me and we took a "babymoon" trip to Portugal. My friends threw me a baby shower. Our house started to fill up with baby stuff; clothes, moses basket, baby bouncer, car seat,,, you name it- we had it. We were ready to start our new life as parents.

Then at our 36 week scan it all went horribly wrong. A few seconds into the ultrasound I knew something wasn't right. Normally I could see my son wiggling and moving all over the place. This time he was perfectly still. The doctor started asking me about the baby's movements and when was the last time I felt him move. He got this horrible look on his face, I asked him why he wanted to know. That's when he said those 3 horrible words, "There's no heartbeat." 

But how could there be no heartbeat? I had just felt him move right before the scan. I had been feeling him move all week. Sure, he wasn't kicking as much but that's because I was close to the due date and he didn't have as much room, right?? But they told me he looked like he'd been gone for several days based on the absence of fluid. So in fact, he had died and I had not even noticed it. I didn't know. How could I not have known??

I was completely numb and in total shock. I remember hearing my husband start screaming, "No, no, no. He can't be dead. You have to save him. Someone has to save him." The doctor was pushing the paddle hard on my stomach trying desperately to find any signs of life, but there weren't any. I could hear my husband sobbing and screaming and feel him squeezing my hand. But I was frozen, I said nothing. The doctor doing the scan called for my doctor to come down to verify. It's all a terrible blur but I vaguely remember him showing her the scan, saying something about no heartbeat and no fluid left. We were then left alone so I could get dressed and we could go upstairs and talk to my doctor about what to do next.

I made the call to my parents back in California (who even knows what time it was but I know I woke them up). Still in shock, I told them with barely a tear in my eye. I was totally numb, almost like a robot while my husband was absolutely inconsolable. I suppose it's good that we both didn't fall to pieces at that moment because there were decisions to be made.

I didn't break down until the next day right before the C-Section was about to begin. I walked into the operating room and had a total meltdown. "Why did he have to die? I want him back," I screamed. I was crying and shaking so bad I almost fell off the edge of the bed. I remember the anesthesiologist telling me that I had to calm down so she could give me the epidural. I had to sit still or she might damage my nerves. As hard as I tried, I couldn't calm down. In the end, the midwife had to lay on top of me to keep me still enough to have the epidural. Once they were sure I was numb, they gave me some sedative drugs and the rest I don't remember.

My son was born on August 13, 2010, he was already an angel. 

After the surgery I spent a few days in the hospital to recover. I couldn't have asked for better care. I was at the Portland Hospital in London and I cannot sing their praises enough. They put me on the Gynecology floor and not on the Maternity floor. So I did not have to see and hear other people with their new babies, smiling and getting gifts and flowers. They were so helpful with everything and amazingly compassionate. I wasn't emotionally ready to see my son right away after he was born so they kept him nearby and waited until I was. 

I did finally gather enough strength to go and see my son. I was so scared about how he would look. I was afraid of having the image of my dead son burned in my mind forever. I wondered if it would be better if I didn't see him and could just keep the idea of him in my memories instead. But when I saw him, he was beautiful and perfect. He didn't look scary, or strange at all. Sure, he was dead, but he was still my perfect baby boy. He was wearing the shirt my husband picked out for him and he had the most beautiful face I've ever seen. I only wish he wasn't bald because now I'll always wonder what color hair he would have had. The midwives took some photos of him that I'm still not ready to see, but they are keeping them in my file for me. They also took footprints of him which I cherish.

The day we went home was a very sad one. I remember crying all the way home in the taxi. My mom flew over and stayed for a couple of weeks to help me recover. My fabulous friends had cleared the house of all the baby stuff so it wasn't mocking me when I got home. Physically I recovered quickly. My friends rallied around me and offered their support.

When we got home from dropping my Mom off at the airport my husband said to me, "Well, it's just the two of us again." I was hit with how true and profound that statement was. We were almost 3, but now we're back to 2. So now I am striving to get my life back. I know things will never be normal again, so I am now in search of my new normal.

Stop by Finding My New Normal and leave her a comment.  Thank You for allowing me to share your blog and your heartfelt story of losing your son.  

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Grief Quotes

There are no goodbyes for us.
Wherever you are,
You will always be in our hearts.
Mahatma Ghandi

What soap does for the body,
Tears do for the soul.
Jewish Proverb

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Caring for Carleigh

I'm excited today to spotlight Holly the author of Caring for Carleigh.  Holly has done so much to help other bereaved parents through sharing her own stories of loss and heartache.

Carleigh's Story

This is the story of my precious daughter, Carleigh McKenna, who was diagnosed with anencephaly in utero on December 15, 2008 and born still on March 28, 2009.

Carleigh's story actually begins before she was even conceived. It begins back when God was preparing me for her not long after her sister Kyndra's birth on January 10, 2008. During this time I came across stories of families who had received a fatal prenatal diagnosis and chose to carry to term. I poured over these stories. I read more about their diagnoses. I just felt drawn to them. I would've told you then that nothing like that would ever happen to me. Stuff like that always happens to other people. Boy, was I wrong.
Around the time we started trying for another baby I came across the bookWaiting with Gabriel. I felt a desire to read this book, but I put it off. On August 10, 2008 I found out I was pregnant and my husband and I were so excited. It had only taken us a month to conceive. My pregnancy was much less symptomatic than it was with Kyndra but I thought nothing of it as they say that every pregnancy is different. I called our doctor and set up my first appointment. My doctor ordered an ultrasound to check dates and during that ultrasound my baby was measuring 6 weeks when the measurement should of been 7 weeks according to my LMP. No biggie. My ovulation just must've been off. So we changed my due date from April 17th to April 24th. (We found out later that my April 17th due date was the correct one.)

My doctor offered me the nuchal translucency test and the Quad screening and I declined them both. Both of these tests would've determined that something was wrong but I felt no need to get them as it wouldn't change anything and I wanted to save us from having to pay for the tests. I was positive that they would come back normal. They did for my daughter Kyndra, so why would it be any different this time?

The time came for my midway ultrasound. I was 22 1/2 weeks along and totally oblivious. I remember my diagnosis day very clearly. My ultrasound was scheduled for 1pm, right before my shift ended at work. My best friend, Lindsey, went back to the room with me like she always does. Lindsey and I were both very cheerful during and after the exam. We both noticed that our coworker and friend wasn't as cheerful as us, but we just figured that it was 'one of those days'. Looking back I realize that things were a little off but I never suspected then. I finished my shift, picked up my daughter from the sitter, and went home assuming everything was perfect.

I had just walked in the door at home when the phone rang. It was my doctor's office. My doctor said there was something concerning on the ultrasound and that she needed me to come into the office as soon as possible. I knew immediately that it wasn't good. It's never good to get a call like that. I started going over in my head everything that could be wrong. I called my husband, Anthony, to tell him and so that he could leave work to meet me at the office. I packed up some things for my daughter, Kyndra, and we left for the hospital where the office was at. I got there before Anthony and with time to spare I decided to look up my ultrasound report in the department I work in. I skimmed the report until I saw the word 'anencephalic'. I knew immediately what it meant-for baby. I didn't want it to be true.

One of my coworkers was still there finishing up his shift. He saw that I was upset and asked what was wrong. I said, "My baby doesn't have a brain." I paused before I said, "I can't handle this." Then I walked out the door. The shock and devastation of it all was too much to handle. I didn't even cry.

I left and went to meet Anthony. I didn't tell him what I knew but wanted to wait in case there was a small chance that what I had read was wrong (even though I knew it wasn't). We waited in the office and they got my vitals. My blood pressure was the highest it had ever been before. They took us back into a room and we waited some more. I think they waited until all the patients were out of the office. That was prolly a good thing. Who wants to see someone else's dreams crushed in an instant?

My doctor soon confirmed my worst fear. Our daughter Carleigh had anencephaly and she would not live. This was when I finally cried. Anthony still had no clue what it meant. I couldn't tell him so I let our doctor do it. It was devastating to find out we wouldn't be able to keep our baby once she was born. I knew without a doubt in my mind that I would carry Carleigh to term. I had made my decision before this moment. I couldn't fathom ending her life. I wanted time with my daughter.

The next few days were a blur of tears and me looking up as much as I possibly could about anencephaly. I already knew a little about it but I needed to know everything about this condition that would steal my daughter from me. My mom came and stayed with us until we left for Hawaii just 4 days after the diagnosis. It was a trip we had been planning for 3 years. I resolved to enjoy this vacation and not to worry about anything until we got back from our trip. That week in Hawaii was exactly what I needed. I don't think it was coincidence that we got the diagnosis right before our trip. I came back feeling more confident and with a better outlook on our journey ahead.

We started planning for the future not long after we got back from our trip. This is when I began Carleigh's blog. I needed a space to keep family and friends updated and also a way to document our journey. I figured maybe one day it would help someone else like reading stories like mine helped me. We met with a funeral director and began making pre-arrangements. It was very difficult to plan for such things while Carleigh was still alive in me. Often she would kick and wiggle while we sat at the funeral home picking stuff out like her casket and her headstone. I tried to make everything as perfect as possible since this was the only thing we could really do for her.

I created a birth plan for when Carleigh would be born and it ended up being 3 pages long. I don't think I left a single detail out! We wanted to be prepared for any possible outcome. One of the things Anthony and I did was participate in a research study for anencephaly by Duke to help find out why this happens and to possibly find some prevention or cure. We also wanted to make memories so we got maternity photos, had a 3D/4D ultrasound, were thrown a prayer shower, and created a belly cast. I truly cherished every moment I carried my daughter because I didn't know how much time we would have together. Every kick and every hiccup was a blessing and something to get excited over. So many people prayed for us and sent us cards and gifts. We are so grateful for these things and for all the love we felt.

But the time with our daughter on this earth was coming to an end. I decided after my last ultrasound, with advice from my radiologist, to proceed with an induction. Carleigh's growth kept falling further behind and I worried for her. So on March 27, 2009, when I was 37 weeks, I went in to the hospital to give birth to my daughter. I remember driving to the hospital very early in the morning and Carleigh had the hiccups. It would be the last time that I felt those.

The staff was prepared for us as I had given them our birth plan. We had a room right beside the nurse's station. Our door had a picture of a leaf with a little tear on it indicating we would be suffering a loss. We were well taken care of and so were our family and friends. The cafeteria provided them with complimentary breakfast and I was provided with internet access so that I could keep the many people following us up-to-date with what was happening.

Pitocin was started once all the initial blood work and such was done. It was a very long day without much progress (that's just how me and Pitocin seem to work). My friend, Ashley, came around noon to take pictures for us during labor and delivery-something I will forever be grateful for. She captured so many beautiful moments for us. Everyone stuck with us the whole time.

We came to a point when I had to decide whether to stop the Pitocin and restart it the next day or have my water broken. It was such a hard decision to make and sometimes I wonder if it was the right one. I chose for my doctor to break my water and continue on to delivery. Things picked up after that and I finally started to make progress. I got an epidural and was able to take a small nap. The last time I heard Carleigh's heart beating was around 2am on March 28, 2009. It was around 3:30am when I started to feel some pressure and we realized it was time for our daughter to be born. There was a flurry of activity as everyone got prepared. It was time to push. It only took a few minutes and Carleigh was born at 3:49 am. Daddy cut the cord and she was placed on my chest. She was so beautiful and I fell even more in love with her.

Immediately my nurse used her small stethoscope to check to see if her heart was beating. It wasn't. Carleigh was born still. But at that moment it didn't matter to me at all. I was just so happy to finally meet my daughter. We spent time with her alone before we let anyone come back to meet her. Both Ashley and Lindsey were there the whole time taking pictures and video for us. We let our parents come back first and then everyone else. There were some very emotional moments but I still couldn't cry-not when I was so happy.
Our nurse weighed her and she was 3 lbs 15 oz. My small little bundle! She then gave Carleigh her first and only bath and put on her little diaper while everyone watched. Then I got to dress her in the outfit that I had picked out for her. She looked so cute in it. We got imprints of her hands and feet in clay and also got her hand and footprints in pink ink. Everyone who came was given an opportunity to hold her if they wanted to. Our pastor came and dedicated her and we prayed. After a couple hours we had our NILMDTS photographer come and take some pictures for us. Then we were moved to our postpartum room. Our little sign on our door followed us.

Once we got settled into our room we fell asleep. Carleigh was snuggled with me in my bed. Once we woke up we spent the day just being with her and holding her. We knew we'd never get these moments back. We had visits from family and friends. I even walked the hallways with her snuggled in my arms. The funeral home wanted to take Carleigh that evening but we refused. We weren't ready to give her up yet.

The next day, March 29th, we were released from the hospital. We originally were going to have the funeral home come get her at the hospital but we changed our minds that day and wanted to take her to the funeral home ourselves. Our funeral home made all the arrangements and were so kind to us. This is when the hard moments began. I changed Carleigh's clothes and then I started crying, knowing that soon I would have to hand my precious daughter over. Then I would have empty arms.

So I walked out of the hospital with her snuggled in her blanket. It was a cold and windy day and even though she was gone I was still trying to protect her. My nurse and I cried as we hugged and said goodbye. I climbed into our van and we left for the funeral home. Once we were there we sat on one of their couches and spend some last moments with her. The most difficult thing I've ever had to do in my entire life was hand my daughter over to the funeral director and walk away. Words fail to describe that moment. I was truly broken.

What got me through the night was knowing I would be able to see Carleigh the next day to dress her in her burial outfit. We had her visitation and service the end of that week. It was a both beautiful celebration of her life and an emotional shipwreck. I held Carleigh for both her visitations and her service. I needed to physically hold her while I still could. We shared a slideshow of pictures during her service from the moments we had with her and we had some very touching things shared by those who loved us.

The moment came when I had finally had to put my daughter in her casket. It was difficult to do. I would have rather run out of the church and never looked back, but it had to be done. Anthony and I gave her our last kisses and I laid her in the casket and covered her up with a blanket made by Anthony's grandma just for her. Then I closed the casket, sealed it, and we walked away. Everyone gathered at the cemetery for a few words. We didn't stay to watch her be put in the ground. We went back to our church for a dinner and then it was all over.

And now here we are-trying to live this life without our daughter and finding joy again. I miss my daughter very much and wish she was still here with me, but I find that I can't be sad that she is in Heaven. Heaven is the best place she can be. She will never experience sorrow or pain-only happiness. I look forward to the day that I can see her again. That is the day I will never have to let her go.

Holly also shares her heartbreaking journey of pregnancy termination with Jordan and how that experience changed her forever.

Holly does so much good in the baby-loss community.  Most recently Holly was a contributor to an ebook entitled From a Lullaby to Goodbye by Patti Mckenna.  It's a compilation of over 2 dozen people's stories of child loss.  Holly is one of the books contributors!  Purchase a copy of the ebook.  What a wonderful way to honor Carleigh!

Holly also does so much to help other families with information, education and resources about anencephaly.  Stop by Caring for Carleigh and let Holly know what a great job she does!

Thank you Holly for your beautiful blog!  I am truly touched by all you do.  Thank you for sharing your journey's of child loss with us.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Random Acts of Kindness Week

Happy Valentines Day!  I hope you all get a bit spoiled and feel loved!  I also wanted to point out that this week is Random Acts of Kindness Week, February 14-20th.  What better way to honor your sweet angel then to do an act of kindness on their behalf.  Do you remember the Service Cards?  

Feel free to print them, share them, and spread the word.  At the end of the week I'd love to share stories that you send me about all you have done to spread love and kindness throughout the world.  What a fantastic way to love others!!!

Check out the website The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.  They have lots of great ideas and stories that can help inspire you and your friends and family to share the love.  Remember your acts of kindness do not need to be huge.  Small things make a big difference in lives and can change hearts.  Just to know someone cares means the world.  Take their Extreme Kindness Challenge.

Friday, February 11, 2011

In His Name

Today I'm honored to spotlight another great blog...In His Name.  This blog is authored by Tiffany, mom to Julius, who passed away due to SIDS.  Tiffany, although her blog is fairly new, is already doing so many great things to help other families that have gone through the horror of SIDS.  This is what she says on her blog about why she started In His Name.....

About Us

My husband, Dennis, and I met while we were in highschool, and have been married since June 2004. On May 30, 2010, we welcomed our firstborn son, Julius Luciano into our lives. We spent four and a half blissful months with our baby boy before he tragically lost his life to SIDS on October 12, 2010. Our world crumbled around us on that day, and we have been trying ever since to find the strength to carry on without our son. He was such an amazing little boy {you can read all about him here}, and taught us far more than we ever hoped to learn about love and life. We miss him terribly. Though we are still so new to our grief journey, we have decided to reach out to those in our immediate area who have recently been affected by SIDS/SUID and pass along some resources and our support. We know first-hand how intense this heartache is, and wish none of us had to endure this.

We will be continuing to send out the "SIDS Survival Kit" that has been created by the amazing people at Tiny Handprints. Our goal is to reach newly bereaved parents in AL/TN with these materials as soon as possible after their loss of an infant. To order a kit {free of charge} for yourself or someone close to you, or to find out more about our kit, please go to the SIDS Survival Kit page, or click here. If you are not in AL/TN, you can check out our SIDS Organization by State page to see if there is a SIDS organization in your state. If there is not, please contact us or the national organizations The CJ Foundation for SIDS or First Candle. No one should have to walk this road alone!

Julius' Story..........

Julius Luciano (05.30.10 ~ 10.12.10)

 10.11.10 the day before he passed away
My husband and I waited a little over five years after getting married to start our little family. We wanted to make sure that we were in a good place – financially, professionally, etc - before we brought a precious life into the world. In July 09, we decided to start trying, and were excited and terrified when 2 months later we received a positive pregnancy test. We told immediate family almost immediately, but waited until that 12 week mark to tell friends.
Around week 6, I started bleeding. We were both so scared that the worst was happening, and that we were losing our baby. I bled on and off for about a week and a half, but I never passed any tissue. At about 11 weeks we went in for an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy, and we so very happy to see our little bean’s heartbeat. Despite all of the bleeding, he was still there, strong as ever.
My pregnancy itself was rather uneventful (after the bleeding dilemma). I didn’t have any morning sickness, but was hungry all.the.time. I never really got sick until towards the very end. I was still going to the gym regularly with no problem. Despite being slightly anemic in the second trimester and some bad heartburn in the third trimester, my pregnancy was a piece of cake. It was so much fun to feel the baby move when he was big enough. Julius was always very purposeful in his movements. He never really got hyper and bounced around. And somehow I knew that I was going to have a very mellow baby.
In the early morning of his due date, May 30, labor started. It started off mild, and I was able to get some rest for a few hours before it really picked up. We were planning to have an out-of-hospital natural birth with a midwife, so at around noon we headed to the birth clinic. And about four hours later, Julius was born. I can honestly say that I had such a wonderful birth experience with him. And the midwives immediately commented on how alert he was, and how strong he was since he was already trying to lift his head.
We took him home the next morning, and our life as a family began. He was a champ at breastfeeding, and nursed pretty much every 2 hours – he was always hungry. He loved to be held. He never cried for just any reason, and was not at all colicky. He was just such a mellow baby, and as long as he was being held and/or fed, he was fine with anything. He had the most beautiful head of curly black hair, and the prettiest eyelashes. He got mistaken quite often for a girl, and people always commented on how beautiful he was. He was our little sidekick, and we were so proud to be his parents.
About two and a half months after he was born, I went back to work. That was such a hard time for me because I loved all the time we spent together, and really didn’t want to give it up. But unfortunately I had to. The first few weeks of him going to daycare were really rough. He had become such a breastfeeding pro that he was refusing to take a bottle (or pacifier). I was so stressed out trying to find a bottle/nipple that he would take. I think I bought every bottle and sippy cup on the market. In the end, I just decided to drive to him on my lunch break and breastfeed him. Though I was stressed, secretly I was glad that he didn’t want a bottle because that meant I got to spend more time with him.
He was so alert and smart. He hit his developmental milestones on time or before schedule. He started rolling over onto his tummy at around 3 months. So many people commented on how smart he was, and how we would have to be chasing him around soon. He was just such a determined little boy, and you could tell by the way he did everything.
The weekend before he passed away, I scheduled two different photo shoots for him and the family. And I’m so glad that I did. We had one on the Saturday before with our friend and family photographer for his four month pictures. And then on the Monday – the day before – Julius and I spent the morning in the park with a friend and had some pictures taken of just the two of us. I will always treasure those pictures.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010, began just like any other work day. We all woke up, and as my husband got him ready for the day, I got myself ready. My husband left for work, and then we hung out at home a little while longer before I took him to daycare. I dropped him off in the morning, and as usual went back at lunch time to feed him. And after he ate, I spent a few extra minutes talking to him and playing with him as I usually did, and I handed him over...for the last time. I left and went to go pick up some lunch, and went back to work. A few hours later, I got a panicked call from my husband telling me to go back to the daycare because something was wrong with Julius and an ambulance had to be called. I grabbed my purse and dashed over to the daycare.
The scene I saw when I pulled up will haunt me for the rest of my life. I saw a fire truck and paramedics lining the street. I parked and raced up to the door, and was asking for my baby. But they had already taken him to the hospital. I was so upset, and was trying to leave to be with him, but they wouldn’t let me drive myself. They made me wait for my husband to arrive. When he got there, we both went to the hospital. And when we finally made it there, and met with the doctor, they told us that our perfect little baby boy, who was only four and a half months at the time, did not make it. The autopsy that was done determined the cause of death to be SIDS.
The Saturday after his death we held a memorial service for him, and we had such a wonderful turnout. Family, friends, and people we had never met before showed up to say goodbye, and show their support. It was clear that even though Julius was only 4.5 months when he passed away, he touched so many people in his short life. My husband got up and spoke about our son, and about all of the joy and happiness that he brought to our lives and into our home. It was a very memorable service, even though I wish it never had to occur in the first place.
As I write this story, it has been a little over two weeks since the death of my son, and the pain is just as bad as that horrid day. I miss my baby so much, and look forward to the day that we are reunited. But until then, I’ve been trying my best to muddle through life without him. I’m hopeful that one day I will be a mommy again. But I’m so sad that he won’t be here with us to show what an amazing big brother he can be. And that I won’t get to see him grow into the amazing little boy I know he was.

Tiffany's blog has so many wonderful resources for those that have been effected by SIDS/SUID.  She has links for Facts About SIDS/SUID, Ways Reduce Your Risk, and SIDS Organizations by State.  She also offers a SIDS Survival Kit for bereaved families.  Request your own SIDS Survival Kit.

Head over to In His Name and see all the wonderful things Tiffany is doing!

Thank you Tiffany for sharing your precious Julius with us and for all you do for others in honor of your sweet angel!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bereaved Parents of the USA

I wanted to bring your attention to another great resource for help and support for those that have lost a child of any age.  Bereaved Parents of the USA is a national nonprofit organization that offers support and hope for those that are newly bereaved, whether they are the parents, grandparents or siblings of the child that has died.

This July Bereaved Parents is have a National Gathering in the Washington D.C. area.

They also host support groups throughout the U.S.  You can find more information about their support groups on their website or if you are interested in starting a chapter in your area if there isn't one already.

Bereaved Parents of the USA also has a national and chapter newsletter with articles and poems to help those grieving.

Below is information about Bereaved Parents of the USA taken directly from their website........

About Bereaved Parents of the USA
Bereaved Parents of the USA (BP/USA) was founded in 1995 by a group of bereaved parents from across the country. Their sole purpose for organizing this group was to offer support, understanding, encouragement and hope to other bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents after the death of their children, brother, sister or grandchildren. This purpose remains the thrust of BP/USA today.

Bereaved Parents of the USA is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of seven members, being elected by the chapter members. All work within the BP/USA organization on both the national and local chapters level is done by volunteer bereaved parents. There are no paid salaries within BP/USA

The goals of BP/USA
  • Offer support, understanding, encouragement and hope to bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents.
  • Aid and support those who are suffering the loss of a child, brother, sister or grandchild regardless of race, creed or financial status.
  • Educate families about the grief process in all its complexities pertaining to the death of a child at any age and from any cause.
  • Provide telephone numbers and email addresses of other bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents who are able to offer support to other more newly bereaved families.
  • Help organize new chapters of BP/USA that may offer assistance to their local bereaved families.
  • Hold monthly chapter meetings where sharing, support and encouragement can be provided.
  • Maintain lending libraries at chapter meetings with helpful books on grief and rebuilding one’s life.
  • Provide a National Newsletter and individual chapter newsletters to aid with grief work.
  • Provide an Annual Gathering where helpful speakers, workshops, sharing sessions and much more will be provided.
  • Inform and educate professionals, friends, employers, co-workers, clergy and others on the nature and duration of parental, sibling and grandparent grief.

BP/USA is Non-Denominational
Bereaved Parents of the USA encompasses no religious creed. Members are free, however, to state their religious beliefs and the role those beliefs have played in their life and grief journeys.

BP/USA is a non-profit self-help support group with 501(c) (3) IRS status. Both our national organization and are local chapters are supported solely by volunteer donations. There are no dues or fees charged to belong to BP/USA. We have all already paid the ultimate price to qualify for membership in this group: the death of our precious children. The national organization does not charge its chapters yearly fees. BP/USA believes that when its chapters are able, those chapters will support their national organization with donations. All gifts to BP/USA are tax deductions to the extent permitted by the Internal Revenue under the provisions of 501(c) (3).

Bereaved Parents of the USA Credo
We are the parents whose children have died. We are the grandparents who have buried grandchildren. We are the siblings whose brothers and sisters no longer walk with us through life.

We come together as Bereaved Parents of the USA to provide a haven where all bereaved families can meet and share our long and arduous grief journey.
We attend month gatherings whenever we can and for as long as we believe necessary. We share our fears, confusion, anger guilt, frustrations, emptiness and feelings of hopelessness, so that hope can be found anew. As we accept, support, comfort and encourage each other, we demonstrate to each other that survival is possible.
Together we celebrate the lives of our children, share the joys and the triumphs as well as the love that will never fade. Together we learn how little it matters where we live, what our color or our affluence is or what faith we uphold as we confront the tragedies of our children’s deaths.
Together, strengthened by the bonds we forge at our gatherings, we offer what we have learned from each other to every more recently bereaved family.

We are the Bereaved Parents of the USA.

                                                        We welcome you.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Every Life Has A Story

I'm excited to share another spotlight with you about Malory the author of Every Life Has a Story.  I think I was originally drawn to her blog because of it's beautiful title.  That title really touched me and rang true.  Malory is another one of these AMAZING angel mom's that does SO MUCH to give back to grieving parents.

This is what Malory wrote about losing her child, Janessa Marie, and why she started Every Life Has a Story.........

I started Every Life Has A Story in July of 2009. That month we should have welcomed our beautiful baby girl Janessa Marie into the world. Unfortunately she arrived in May 2009 when I was 31 ½ weeks pregnant. She passed away on May 13th due to a placenta abruption and was delivered the next morning at 4:24 am. She was 2lbs 14 oz and measured 16 inches. She was perfect. Beautiful. So sweet and so small. She looked a lot like her big brother. We miss her so much.
 The doctors believe that I developed PIH (pregnancy induced hypertension) sometime after my last appointment which was a month prior. I delivered her on the day I had my next doctor visit scheduled. They think my blood pressure rose so high it caused the placenta to detach from the wall of the uterus. I had not had any recorded blood pressure issues prior to that day. These are not definite answers and we will never know if this was in fact the cause. The not knowing adds to the pain. I now suffer from chronic hypertension as my BP never regulated itself after delivering her. I was lucky that I did not get preeclampsia.
 We were devastated by Janessa's death. We still are. I do not feel the word “devastated” does our feelings justice. The pain of losing your child could never be put into words.
 As I left the hospital 2 days after empty handed, leaving our baby girl behind, I also knew I was leaving myself behind. I would never be that same person who entered the hospital with her baby girl wrapped up her womb. We left our old life behind that day as well. We had now entered a whole new world. I wasn't sure what laid ahead of us as grieving parents. I had no idea how I would continue on living.
 I quickly turned to the computer looking for answers. One of the first things I came upon was tribute videos to lost babies on you tube. I sat for hours & hours watching each video and sobbing. Sobbing for their families, sobbing for my daughter. I then stumbled upon child loss support sites. I later discovered the world of blogging and started to read some of the stories from others parents who had lost babies. I finally knew there were others out there who understand our pain. I no longer felt so alone.
 During this time I had started working on a video to tell my daughter’s story. It helped me focus my mourning and grief. I had created a video in memory of my father about 5 years prior and it brought me an immense amount of healing. I hoped I would find some in creating one for Janessa as well.
 As I ventured further into blog reading I was overwhelmed with the amount of support, understanding and compassion that I found there. I was also taken back by the way these parents gave back to the “baby loss community”. I knew I had to find a way to give back for all the understanding and support I had found there. I also wanted a way to help keep Janessa’s memory alive. The idea of Every Life Has A Story began and I quickly got to work to make it happen.
 I realized that not everyone is familiar with video making programs. I also knew firsthand that when you lose a newborn or young baby you do not have a lot of keepsakes and you cling to the few you have. The memorial video gives them one more piece of their child and every piece gives comfort. 
ELHAS allows me to help grieving families keep their child’s memory alive. It allows me to bring a small amount of comfort to them during an excruciating time in their lives. Each story breaks my heart but I take solace in being able to bring them some comfort. As I do each video I feel as though I get to know each family. I feel honored that they chose to share their story with me and ultimately through the Every Life Has A Story website, others as well.

Not only does Malory author the blog Every Life Has a Story but she also has 3 others, Keeping Their Memory Alive, Butterfly Footprints, and her personal blog Mommy of an Angel.  This is what she has said about her other blogs....

I also started Keeping Their Memory Alive for those who have made or already have a video/slideshow of their child. There they can share their child' story.
Butterfly Footprints was started this past August as well. It was inspired by the tiny footprints of my sweet Janessa and the symbolic meaning the butterfly holds for us.  

Thank you Malory for sharing your sweet Janessa with us and for all you do to give back to other angel parents! 

Monday, February 7, 2011


I saw this posted on Alexandra's Butterflies and loved it.  I wanted to share it with you.  It's from Share's latest newsletter.

Lessons I've Learned From the Loss of My Child

Written by Jessi Anaya
in loving memory of Tyler James and Baby Angel

Life really is too short...

Never bank on your expectations since they can change in an instant...

Take nothing for granted...

The kindness of strangers...

More people love and care for us than we ever knew...

Some people do not care as much as they say they do...

Forgiveness takes time and patience...

Sometimes I cannot forgive, and I will not forget…

Men really do cry...

I am stronger than I ever knew I could be…

Tragedy and grief is non-discriminatory, it touches people of every size, shape, age, race...

The difference between acceptance and recognition. I will never accept that my child died, but I can recognize that it has happened and there is nothing that can change that...

It's ok to tell someone how you really feel...

Sometimes loss allows others to deal with issues that have been avoided for years.

My loss allowed my 72 year old grandmother to share a secret and grieve her own loss of 51 years ago..

Memories should not be buried with the ones we've lost...

The importance of family...

The inner strength a broken heart can bring forth…

Death can bring forth the beauty of life. I see the world through a new set of eyes now…

I can find peace among chaos…

Honoring Our Angels Service Project

Honoring Our Angels Service Project
Click on the card to read more about the project.
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