The Power of Touch by Deb

“Touch is far more essential than our other senses. … It’s ten times stronger than verbal or emotional contact.”

— Saul Schanberg in A Natural History of the Senses

Grief can be a very lonely experience. Some who are grieving prefer to be alone with their grief, while others are inclined to reach out for support and comfort.

Those trying to comfort someone grieving face similar issues as well. We often don’t know what to say, what to do, how best to comfort our friend or family member who is grieving the loss of a child.

I tend to throw myself into activity after a loss. When I lost my grandson, I threw myself into helping make his arrangements and provide meals for my son and his family. I knew I didn’t yet have the words to express my feelings for the profound sense of loss I felt.

I don’t consider myself a very tactile person, but I’ve discovered the power of  touch. It has often sustained me in times of loss or difficulty. I remember visiting my dad two weeks before he passed away. My husband snapped a picture of me holding his hand. I treasure this photo as my last memory of him. Whenever I see it, I think of his love for me and feel his presence. I also remember placing my hand on my grandson Liam at the funeral home. I felt a deep sense of connection and also felt the presence of this angel. I recall telling my Weight Watchers leader about the loss of my grandson. I’ll never forget her coming out behind the counter to embrace me the first meeting I attended after his loss. I was truly touched by her show of compassion.

These touches helped me feel loved, cared for, and understood. Touching others has helped me show love, care, and understanding to others who are grieving. Yes, our words may fail us, but a simple touch or hug is worth a thousand words.

Deborah experienced the loss of her grandson, Liam, in January of 2019. She has two grown children, both adopted, and two grandchildren. Deborah lives with her husband, Keith, and dog, Kovu. Now that she is retired Deborah volunteers with several heart-health focused organizations. She is the author of the book “A Journey of the Heart: Learning to Thrive, Not Just Survive, With Congenital Heart Disease.

Live in the Moment by Deb

I must admit I am a worrier. I needlessly worry about what might happen in the future. After my daughter-in-law miscarried Liam I worried about whether or not she would be able to have another child. I worked myself into a state before my open-heart surgery, worrying about things like the breathing tube, chest tubes, and whether or not I would even survive.

But my worries proved to be unfounded. My daughter-in-law gave birth to a beautiful rainbow baby boy who will be two this year. And I did survive surgery—I found it ironic that the things I worried about never materialized; it was the things that I never considered that did!

I am slowly learning to live in the moment—not to dwell on the past or worry about the future, but to appreciate today. This is so challenging when dealing with grief or illness. We often resort to a “could’ve, would’ve, should’ve” mentality. But today is all we really have.

I’ve come to realize that each day brings its own set of challenges—why add to them by rehashing the past or worrying about the future.

Finding some quiet time in the day can help us refocus and recenter ourselves, bringing us back into the moment. After my surgery, I spent a lot of time in my recliner in the den. My husband placed a birdfeeder right outside the window where I could see it. I just got lost in time watching the birds come to feed.

Finding joy in the quiet has helped me through my struggles. After Liam’s loss I felt paralyzed. My heart ached for my son and his wife. We all experience grief differently and at various times. But you don’t need to deal with your worries and struggles alone–reach out to friends, find a therapist, meditate, practice gratitude–whatever you need to help you.

Deborah experienced the loss of her grandson, Liam, in January of 2019. She has two grown children, both adopted, and two grandchildren. Deborah lives with her husband, Keith, and dog, Kovu. Now that she is retired Deborah volunteers with several heart-health focused organizations. She is the author of the book “A Journey of the Heart: Learning to Thrive, Not Just Survive, With Congenital Heart Disease.

Book review of “All the Acorns on the Forest Floor” by Kim Hooper

What a beautifully written book. Kim Hooper  poignantly tells the interconnected stories of mothers and daughters by opening the window on their own decisions, choices made for them, and how they chose to react to foreseen and unforeseen events in their lives. I was drawn into the characters’ lives from the beginning and was impressed by how the author expertly wove the characters’ lives together as their stories unfolded. The characters are introduced, drift away, and reappear in another vignette. Hooper touches on loss and motherhood in all forms. The unexpected twists and turns in the book come off as entirely believable and possible, thanks to the author’s superb storytelling ability. I loved her insights into the hardships, struggles and heartbreak we all endure but keep bottled up inside. Hooper speaks to the uncomfortable issues of life in a non-judgmental way.

All the Acorns on the Forest Floor is definitely worth a read. Mostly, it is about life’s connections—those that we make and those that we happen upon. You will feel like you know the characters and you may even see yourself in one.

-Submitted by Deborah L. Flaherty-Kizer

Grief Never Ends by Lauren

Filling out medical history has always been something I never really loved doing. While I never had anything overly crazy to report I just hated having to remember specific dates and information about my past and my family. Now, after my miscarriages, it’s something I dread entirely. It provides a moment of pure grief while you fill in the section of pregnancy history and the D&C you got under procedures.

Recently, while filling out medical documents for a new primary care physician I got to the pregnancy history section and found these options: total pregnancies, full term births, premature births, abortions-induced, abortions-spontaneous, pregnancies-ectopic, pregnancies-multiple births, and living. I thought to myself okay, lots of options and I started…Total pregnancies: 4. I’m grateful that in the full-term births I am able to put two.

As I scroll down the list looking for the section to inevitably report my miscarriages, I couldn’t find it. I read the options over again. Abortion. That was my option. While I fully understand that the medical term for pregnancy loss is abortion, to me that implies that I had a choice. While abortion is not defined by having a choice, I feel society has demeaned it as something we do because we have a choice to end the pregnancy. To me I never had a choice. I walked into the doctors that day to see my baby, to hear a heartbeat, and it wasn’t there. My baby died. I did not abort it, it died.

I refuse to categorize myself as someone that has had an abortion. I had a miscarriage. Totally different in my eyes. To finish filling out the section and show my distaste in their verbiage, I crossed out the word abortion and wrote in miscarriage. I marked in the number two and continued down the list. After finishing the documents, I sat there and felt the grief. I thought about both days when I found that there was no heartbeat. I cried. I mourned, again. And then continued on. Grief never ends. It visits you randomly and in many forms.

-Lauren

Remembering by Deb

It hit me like a ton of bricks. Three years. Three years ago this month since my beautiful grandson was a stillbirth. The memory of that day came back vividly; like I was living it all over again.

I remember hearing the phone ring in the morning and noticed that it was from my son. I thought that was weird since he rarely calls. I answered and all I heard were tears and commotion. “We lost the baby,” he sobbed. My heart sank and I felt numb. I didn’t know what I could do, but I knew they would need all the love and support we could give.

I offered help making the arrangements, since I unfortunately had experience with this having recently buried my mom. My husband and I went with them to the funeral parlor where we met outside the parking lot for a long, tearful embrace. Words failed me.

When I looked at little Liam in the reposing room my heart just broke. He was so very tiny and was dwarfed by the teddy bear lovingly placed next to him. He would never get the chance to play with his older sister or be a big brother. He would never play sports, go to a prom, or graduate from college.

I am in awe of the strength my son and his wife showed during this time. Thank goodness they have a solid marriage and helped each other through their pain. We were overjoyed when they were blessed with a rainbow baby boy the next year.

Thank goodness for organizations like Through the Heart to shower support and love to grieving parents and their families. I was blessed to hear about them through a friend who had lost a child. I also came to know about Angel Gowns, a volunteer organization that creates gowns from donated wedding gowns for little angels. I was honored to donate my gown and my mother’s gown.

A lot has happened these past three  years. I have delighted in seeing my granddaughter and grandson grow. But I still, however, hold Liam in a special place in my heart.

Deborah experienced the loss of her grandson, Liam, in January of 2019. She has two grown children, both adopted, and two grandchildren. Deborah lives with her husband, Keith, and dog, Kovu. Now that she is retired Deborah volunteers with several heart-health focused organizations. She is the author of the book “A Journey of the Heart: Learning to Thrive, Not Just Survive, With Congenital Heart Disease.

Forever my baby by Lauren

I follow many social media accounts that support you through the dark periods of miscarriages and life after. I see posts that I can relate to and oftentimes I give the post a “like” or share it to my Instagram story. This post, however, hit me so much harder than any other post. I read it, read it again, cried, and sent it to my husband. I told him that this post summed up so much emotion that I had about our miscarriages. It said so much that I just didn’t know how to put into words.

I have heard so many stories from friends, family and even strangers about their miscarriage journey. Some have had a similar experience to me where they lose their baby around the 8-10 week mark. Others have carried their baby until later – 14 weeks, 16 weeks, 20 weeks – and I always say I can’t imagine carrying them for that long only to have to give birth to a stillborn. I often times downplay my experience because having a later term miscarriage has to be worse, right?

Wrong. This post said it perfectly – it doesn’t matter how long I carried you or how far along I was when I lost you, you will always be my baby. You were a baby. You provided me with hopes and dreams and when that was taken away I had to mourn that just like I would a 9 week old baby or a 20 week old baby. A miscarriage is tough, no matter what stage you’re at, and this post has reminded me that it’s okay to feel that way.

– Lauren

Believing by Kate

Christmas is the season to believe. That can be  pretty much impossible to do when grieving. I’ve been there. I’ve felt that pain and lived that confusion and anger.

This photo is a picture of my rainbow baby, Lucy. She is marveling at the decorations in her grandmother’s house. I watched her the other day and I was struck by the wonder and belief in her eyes. Her spirit is so full of the season.

I can remember standing in that room just a few Christmases ago feeling damaged and lost. I wanted nothing to do with Christmas that year.

Here I am now, with my spirited little girl. I think this photo embodies what it means to believe in the season. Remember to marvel at the simple things. Take comfort in the warmth and support of a relative’s home. Do whatever you can to keep believing.

-Kate

Autumn by Deb

Autumn is here. I have mixed feelings about this season. On the one hand, Autumn in upstate New York is glorious. The leaves burst forth in color and there is a freshness and crispness to the air that I love. On the other hand, as the season progresses the trees get bare, and darkness seems to take over. Days are shorter and signs of winter quietly appear such as the first falling snowflakes.

In Chinese medicine,  Autumn is considered the season of grief and that is very  fitting. With the end of the year fast approaching, we reflect on the past year and our lives. We tend to think of those we have lost and what might have been. Grief that we long thought dormant may rise up.

I  find the seasons to be a good analogy for life and death. We have no control over them. Every year we have the repetitive cycle of birth, growth, closure, and death. This quote from the Avengers: the Age of Ultron–“A thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts.” –speaks to the cycle of life. Without Autumn there would be no Spring.

Our grief changes over time. I find that my grief surfaces as the seasons change and during the holidays. Many people particularly struggle with grief over the holidays. We don’t just grieve those we lost, but what might have–and what we think should have–been. I find myself thinking not only of the meteorological seasons but of my life seasons. Each season not only brings back both happy and sad memories but provides the opportunity to remember how we got to where we are today. It blesses us with the courage, fortitude, and gratitude to move forward.

Deborah experienced the loss of her grandson, Liam, in January of 2019. She has two grown children, both adopted, and two grandchildren. Deborah lives with her husband, Keith, and dog, Kovu. Now that she is retired Deborah volunteers with several heart-health focused organizations. She is the author of the book “A Journey of the Heart: Learning to Thrive, Not Just Survive, With Congenital Heart Disease.

It’s the White Pumpkin, Charlie Brown by Karen

On Halloween afternoon, I was sitting with my kids watching It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, when my husband asked me if I knew the symbolism of a white pumpkin. Nope! He heard on the radio that it was a symbol for pregnancy and infant loss. What? I had never heard of that!

Now I’ve been a part of the pregnancy loss community for 8.5 years and I feel I know a decent amount about these types of things, but this one had slipped by me. A quick search of the internet confirmed that white pumpkins are indeed chosen and set out in honor of the babies who have gone too soon.

Huh.

I am a lover of fall and pumpkins and we currently have 5 white pumpkins in our house, a few of which my younger son picked out at the pumpkin patch earlier this month. Next year, we will look for a way to incorporate white pumpkins into some of our activities. It seems like it would be great to pair with my candle for the Wave of Light.

Did you know about the symbolism of white pumpkins? Do you have any special traditions with them?

Karen Kelly is the co-founder and President & CEO of Through the Heart. She & her husband Sean lost their first child in February 2013 when they terminated for medical reasons at 20 weeks and lost their second due to miscarriage at 12 weeks in June 2015. The couple welcomed a healthy, beautiful baby boy in August 2016. After another miscarriage in July 2017, their second healthy and equally beautiful baby boy joined them in July 2018. Karen is an avid sports fan and enjoys traveling, baking, and 90s alternative music. She lives in Edgewater, MD, with her husband, sons, and 2 cats Smokey and Plinko.