Category Archives: Matt

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What Drives Us

Last night we met a family we knew in their neighborhood so the kids could all go around and get some candy. Halloween is my favorite holiday and time of year in general. My mother was a huge Stephen King fan growing up and I had an early appreciation for a good scary story.  As I grew, I started to write some myself and get them published.  There’s a vibe in the air on October 31st, a breeze pushing leaves up and down the street as kids run, laugh, and play.  Porches are lit with various decorations and people smile as they hand out candy.  There’s an atmosphere to it that always pulled me in as a kid and I still love it today.

As our boys walked the block, I talked to the father of this family.  They have four kids to our two, with a baby and younger girl very close in age. We talked about the stress of that time period, about jobs and the coming holidays. We talked about growing up and found we’d had some past experiences in common.  I’d attended West Chester University and some of his first jobs back in the day were working security in a few of the bars in the city.  He told me story after story of fights and conflicts, laughing at the years that were ones of freedom and possibility, before life hit home.

As we were going to bed that night, I looked at a picture that sits on our dresser.  It is of Val and I going to my senior prom, both dressed in black and smiling the easy smiles of youth.  We were young, new to the world and our relationship. That was twenty years ago and, it seemed, an entire lifetime.

We often stand at the intersection of past and present.  We own our stories, from joy to sorrow and everything in between.  We make a choice to what drives us.  This dad I was speaking with talked about his job, about preparing for life with four kids eventually moving through school and into the real world. He knows the story about our loss and, in the moment, it lived in the silence, carried away by the sound of kids’ laughter on a darkened suburban street.

Fear is powerful.  Whether the anxieties of multiple kids close in age, or mourning a loss, it shapes how we look forward.  We can find solace in friendship, in our partners, remembering the past and looking towards a future with different and better things.  Hope is hard. Doubt is real. Pain is deep and we must allow ourselves to feel it.

As we stood on the street, I imagined a third child of ours running around with our boys.  How would they look? Would they run up to me and hand over a bucket overflowing with candy? Would they laugh and chase their brothers down the block, shadows darting past the soft orange lights from pumpkins on porches?

It wasn’t meant to be, and that is okay.  Because maybe someone will read this and get it and that is my hope for you.  For the chance to use this to make things better.  That is what drives me.

Category : Matt , Volunteer Bloggers

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I spent two years working in an emergency room in a small city hospital. The job was second shift handling patient registration.  After dinner, and darkness, the vibe of the place changed.  You could feel it, as an employee.  The cliché of the full moon causing trouble was in full effect.

Nights had ups and downs. We’d have babies delivered in the ER and, once, in the parking lot. Suicidal individuals would get help and admission into facilities. Emergencies would be addressed, from small to large.  Frequent flyers attempt to get their meds and the paranoid would be comforted by staff explaining what the word “emergency” meant.

They told me I’d never forget my first code. Code, for those of you not totally familiar with medical shows on television, means a patient is dying. It was a car accident and, to this day, I can still see the family in my mind as they arrived to check on their loved one. That was the hard part.  People would walk in at the start of a shift and never walk out.

The hardest part was the children. Some came through critically ill and passed away. As a father of two boys, I’d drive home at midnight and, when I got there I’d go into their rooms and kiss their foreheads. I’d look at them sleeping and be thankful for safety.

The lesson I’d learned is that the sun still crested the horizon. No matter the darkness of night.

Years later I’d be leaving another emergency room. Val had just gone through six hours of struggle and suffering, only to find out we’d miscarried.  She was on her way to a surgical suite. I had told her parents I was going home to shower, then would return.

I stepped out of the sliding glass doors with the new sun rising. That night I’d been a father of two with a third on the way. That morning, we were a family of four again. I’d never met our child, but the void was deep enough in my heart that it felt like a tangible thing.

If you are there today, reading this in your email or through a link someone shared, that void may be too real. Maybe you were me last night and now you are home wondering what will happen.  Maybe you’re a dad and the whole thing is still spinning in your mind, the hours and minutes feeling like some distant dream.

Loss is real. Loss is powerful.  I’m no professional, but hanging your hope on something can make a difference.  For me, it was that sunrise. The night, no matter how dark, is not eternal.

Take your time, grieve, and make your peace. Bond with each other. If you have children already, give them an extra hug. There are resources out there like Through the Heart that offer help, from supplies to a listening ear.

The sun will rise and, one day, you will too.


Category : Matt , Volunteer Bloggers

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Outside the Lines, One Year Later

As a kid growing up just outside Philadelphia, I found my way into a passionate love for our sports teams. I’d root for the big four any time I could.  I’ll always remember watching the Phillies win the 2008 World Series and the honor of watching the Philadelphia Eagles get their first Super Bowl in 2018 at the right arm of Nick Foles.

Foles was a draft pick from the University of Arizona, an affable guy who initially flourished with the team.  He was traded away and eventually returned.  He was a grinder, humble and driven, a kid making magic on the football field as he won the hearts of a city.  Yesterday, on his wife Tori’s Instagram page, they announced she’d miscarried a baby at fifteen weeks. The child was to be their second, a younger brother to their daughter.

The post hit me hard.  My wife Valerie and I suffered a miscarriage last year and yesterday was the one year anniversary of the memorial service laying our child to rest. Val was almost twenty weeks into the pregnancy and, like Tori Foles details in her post, ended up in the Emergency Room in active labor.

The pregnancy was not an easy one.  The night of the miscarriage, Val had gone to bed before me.  I’d made my way upstairs to find her getting dressed and telling me we were headed to the hospital.  She’d started active labor after we’d arrived. The pain was intense.  I’d called both of our parents and Val’s arrived soon after. The doctor told us at around 4 a.m. that we were headed to the ultrasound room.

The room was dark and quiet.  The machine buzzed softly. The tech prepared the equipment for the test and, as she conducted it, I’d tried to watch the screen.  A heavy silence fell over us.

I still hear her words when she said, “I can’t find a heartbeat.”

Days turned to weeks. Weeks to months.  We’d explained to our sons, Carter and Aiden, what happened.  They were excited to have a sibling. Carter, our oldest, took it hard.  Aiden was still young enough to not fully understand. We’d taken them both to the cemetery and the spot where our baby would be laid to rest.  Carter sobbed in Val’s arms.

As a guy, your reality shifts.  Life is lived in lines of demarcation.  Val and I met in high school.  We’ve been together since 1999.  We’d married in 2007, had children and our share of ups and downs.  That morning when I walked out of the ER, with the sun starting to rise, a new line existed.  We were now a family that had lost a child.

The journey wasn’t easy.  After some searching online we’d connected to Through the Heart and have been able to donate and support the organization. We had friends reach out with similar stories, more than we’d known, and it is nice to be there for each other.

Sports still plays a large part in our lives.  My son Carter is a baseball fanatic.  I’ve coached his teams for five years now. His heroes walk the fields of Major League Baseball every week.

Nick Foles, this guy I’ve never met, will always be a hero of mine.  Not just for the Super Bowl win, but for being a man of faith.  I know, deep down, we share that connection now, the experience of loss.  The depth of sorrow and rise of hope in the end.  Suffering is a chance to build relationships and help others through their times of trouble.

For us, as a family, we believe one day we will meet our child again. Until then we go forward. We pour our hearts into love and service, parenting our boys and preparing them for the future.

Nick, I’m here for you brother.  Thank you for all you’ve done for this city.  Thank you and Tori for speaking out about your loss.  Keep fighting and know we are all behind you. From one dad to another, you’ll make it through.

About the Author: Matt Shaner lives in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania with his wife Valerie and sons Carter and Aiden. He works at a surgical hospital by day and is a writer by night with multiple publications. He believes in the power of words and story to connect people and help deal with the struggles of life.


Category : Matt , Volunteer Bloggers


If you’ve come to this blog, it likely means you have suffered a pregnancy loss of some type. We are so sorry you have found yourself here, but hope the stories of life after loss can help you on your road to healing and recovery. Remember, we are all in this together!

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