Hope Again Collective by Lauren

Miscarriages and pregnancy loss bring out a lot of emotions in a person that often make it hard to express to others what exactly they are going through. For me, I first mourned the dreams I had for my family with that baby included, the experiences we would go through as new parents, and the picture I had created in my head of what our life would look like. I mourned the fact that I wasn’t pregnant anymore but didn’t have a cute little baby to show for it. I couldn’t wrap my brain around the fact that it just happened – quick as can be. In a split second it was all over, and I felt like I was still grasping for the rope to pull me out of the nightmare I was in.

After my second miscarriage I still mourned the same things – the hopes, the dreams, the experiences, and the picture I created once again but I also started to focus on the pain I was feeling being part of this horrible group. I felt like my body was so broken and it made me angry that so many women and couples knew exactly what I felt and had been in that exact place before. It made me sad to think that I will always know what it feels like when someone posts about their miscarriage. It made me sad to think that I will always have to fill out the section of the medical papers that ask how many miscarriages I’ve had. It made me sad to know that I will always have to wonder why this happened – why me?

In all this grief and sadness, I kept searching for a way to find the smallest bit of hope to help me move forward. I started to look at social media sites that had posts that could explain my emotions better than I could. While on this search I found a post on an Instagram account called Hope Again Collective. Her words were so perfect. They put my emotions in writing better than I could ever explain. After looking into this account more I found that she too is a loss mom who wanted to make a difference for other loss moms. I found that she makes personalized earrings and other jewelry items that provide grief resources for a grieving loss mom. I felt connected to these stories, to this cause and I had to know more.

After looking at her site for months I finally decided to make a purchase – the perfect item for me. The Hold Hope Ring. I felt that finding hope in the smallest places is what helped me move forward from my losses and continues to help me. I knew that wearing this ring every day would not only remind me of the path that I have been on, but it will remind me to push through every day – even when it’s a rough one. I have since added to my purchases and paired my beautiful ring with the Hope Studs. I love knowing that there are small businesses like Through the Heart and Hope Again Collective that are here for grieving families when they feel that there is no one.

Grief is Love by Deb

For this self-expression, I was looking at books about grief. The holiday season can be difficult for those who have experienced loss, whether it be recent or many years ago. One book in particular struck me. In Grief is Love, author Marisa Renee Lee shares her grief journey as someone who lost her mom and suffered a miscarriage. She speaks of the importance of honoring your loss by not plowing through your grief. Living with loss doesn’t mean ignoring it  but acknowledging it and allowing grief to move through you in order to be whole. It means honoring what you can and can’t deal with. Lee elegantly offers wisdom about what it means to authentically and defiantly claim space for these complicated feelings and emotions, which will ebb and flow throughout our lives, without shame. Grief, like love, cannot be contained and writing or speaking of it lessens its power.

Lee writes of the importance of self-care, which can take many forms. It can be something tangible, like going away for a weekend to be with your thoughts. It can also be valuing yourself and giving yourself the space you need to heal and allowing yourself access to all the things that healing requires.

I think women often don’t give themselves the time and space to grieve. We often have families and other children to care for and a host of other responsibilities. And for women dealing with medical issues after a miscarriage, this grieving process is even more difficult.

Lee’s thoughts are poignantly explored in the fiction book What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. The main character, Alice, forgets the past 10 years of her life after a fall at the gym. She does not remember her three children or the fact that she and her husband are separated. Her sister, Elizabeth, struggles with fertility issues and has had several miscarriages. She struggles with the concept of still having hope about having a child. However, she recognizes that she cannot be around child-centered events, such as birthday parties, since they are a painful reminder of what she has been through. I think she shows great clarity and strength in recognizing this about herself and not feeling obliged to attend such functions.

Lee’s book is a reminder to approach our grief with honesty, grace, and self-love.

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.

Bittersweet by Deb

One of the books I am currently reading is Bittersweet, by Susan Cain. She posits that suffering, loss, and pain are not feelings simply to be medicated or avoided but instead to be processed and absorbed. Bittersweet is the embrace of sadness and the longing for beauty, for something beyond our existence. Holding together these seemingly disparate experiences, Cain believes is the pathway to “creativity, transcendence, and love.” Bittersweet, she says, can draw us together in the shared experience of longing for the transcendent.

For me, a manifestation of bittersweet is resiliency. Resiliency is getting out of bed each day after a pregnancy loss; it’s doing all your daily activities when you would rather crawl under the covers.

Resilient and bittersweet people recognize the pain in others and look for ways to help. Somehow, helping others eases our pain and almost gives a purpose to it. It gives us a sense of community. I believe this is why so many volunteer for organizations or causes that have impacted them or someone close to them.

Thank goodness, we do not need to suffer alone with pregnancy or infant loss. We can share our experiences, and this sharing brings comfort not only to us but to others. We can take action by volunteering with organizations such as Through the Heart.

As we recognize Pregnancy and Infant Loss Month, let’s remember our babies lost too soon, families dealing with this loss, and those who work tirelessly to support those grieving.

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.

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