Children and Grief: Where’s Our Baby?

baby-shoes

How to Help Children with Grief after a Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Newborn Death.

HopeXchange is proud to welcome guest poster, Valerie Oldfield, bereaved parent, and children’s writer whose background is in education and drama. Most recently she retired from grief support group facilitation, volunteer training as well as grief/death education. Find her book for grieving children, Where’s Our Baby on Amazon.

Just the same way everyone in the family shares the joyful anticipation that a new baby can bring, so does everyone in the family experience the grief when the new life is cut short. People believed for a long time that the youngest family members did not grieve. We know that just isn’t true. Parents can feel lost when it comes to their children’s thoughts and feelings and the subsequent behaviors. But there are concrete ways to bridge the generation gap and to allow room for the conversations when they are ready.

Young children have a very different understanding of the concepts around death:

  • they cannot grasp the permanence of death, it is only temporary and the deceased’s body can start to work again, in essence they can come back to life
  • dead means sleeping or away on a trip
  • they may wonder what the baby is doing now, they still live in a world of magical thinking

But, the sadness all around them does not go unnoticed. Their reactions can run the gamut:

  • feelings of guilt, worry, confusion, insecurity, fear and sadness, to name a few.

Young children often react with:

  • regressive behaviors i.e., wetting the bed, thumb sucking, neediness, etc.
  • they may repeat the same questions many times
  • their play may include themes of death and they can have a newfound interest in dead things
  • they may just as easily withdraw or lash out with playmates

With this knowledge we can aim our support to their special needs by:

  • most importantly, having children participate in any services or rituals the adults choose to do
  • accepting their behaviors, including regression
  • giving lots of hugs and other contact
  • encouraging them to play and draw so that they can work through their feelings and get a break from them as well, that is most natural for children of this age
  • allowing quiet times for them to express how they are feeling
  • using children’s books, around the topic of baby loss or any loss, can start the conversation
  • answering all their questions with simple explanations
  • not straying from their usual routines i.e., bedtimes, etc.
  • letting them cry and not hiding your tears in front of them

As a family, you will learn to live with the loss, each in his own way, and in his own time.

 

Are You Feeling “Showered” By Grief or Addiction This Spring?

feeling rain of grief and addiction

Spring has sprung! You can see trees, flowers and plants beginning to awaken from their winter sleep. With spring always comes “showers.” While we know the rain is needed to nurture the flowers to come, it’s easy to become tired of the storms.

I’ve been going through a very stormy time in my life. My family and I have been dealing with difficulties on every front- job, family, health and many uncertainties. Facing this has reminded me how tough it can be to weather the storm- to stay calm and patient.

Are you feeling the pain of grief or addiction? Here are some simple reminders to help you navigate the spring rains:

  • Sleep. Sounds simple, but it can be hard to sleep, and to have quality sleep when you are facing stress and hardship. If you are not sleeping well, try cutting off electronics and screens an hour before bed. Read. Relax. Exercise. And if all else fails, get a doctor’s advice.
  • Eat. Taking good care of you is most important when you are going through tough times. Stress can cause you to overeat- stuff down your feelings with a hunk of chocolate cake or a party size bag of Doritos. Some find it difficult to eat at all. Pay attention to what you are eating- and “what’s eating you.”
  • Drink. Water. Hydrate yourself and give your body good things. This would not include drowning your sorrows with an entire bottle of wine. You may forget your pain for the night, but the morning hangover always comes. If you need help with moderation- get some!
  • Smile. Have fun. This can be hard to do when you are facing challenges. When life is coming at you from all directions, it can feel like the wrong time to relax. However, it can be just the boost you need. Go outside. Drive to the beach. Call a friend who makes you laugh. Pray. Do something you enjoy.

Finding it too tough to handle the rain on your own? Ask for help! Find a trusted friend, rabbi, priest or pastor and get the support you need. You don’t have to face the storm alone.

Waiting for the “flowers” to appear during the storms of spring can be draining. Doing simple things to take care of yourself will fill you with the strength you need to get there.

Have some tips to add? Leave them in the comments section!

Having a “Losing” Season? Give it Time

shot-clockFor sports fans everywhere, March is about brackets and basketball. Excited college fans, students, players, teams and coaches gear up and strive for the BIG win- the Final Four. Since only four teams make it to the elusive Final Four, only a select few teams end the season as “winners.” The others deal with the disappointment of a losing season.

No one wants to have a losing season…in basketball or in life. Sometimes we all have “seasons” in our lives when we feel like we just can’t win- and we can’t figure out what to do differently. Watching a team struggle through a losing season reminds me of our struggle with life’s difficulties and grief. We go through the motions each day, we wait to feel better, or to feel anything at all…and we just can’t “win.” Funny thing is…the solution for the basketball team is the same for our grief. The answer is…time. Time to leave the sting of our losses behind, time to “relearn” how do the simple things we used to love, time to get better, time to feel joy again. The way to “win” is to give it time.

Are you going through tough times right now? When you start feeling vulnerable, the key is to give it time and reach out for help. For me, my help comes from my faith. The more I rely on my faith, the better I begin to feel.

Pass the “time” by listening to positive music – it will uplift your spirits, increase your faith and bring you peace.

kloveLooking for a positive radio station? Check out K-Love. You can listen online, or look for a local station near you.

Give your body, mind and soul time to be well.

How Well Do You Know Yourself? Watch This TED Video and Find Out!

I was intrigued by this thought provoking TED Talk that explains how we examine ourselves – and shares some surprising facts! In less than 20 minutes Organizational Psychologist, Tasha Eurich summarizes her vast research and interesting conclusions on the ways we introspect- and a simple ways we can do it better. Invest in few minutes in yourself – click and watch Increase Your Self-Awareness With One Simple Fix!

Note: If your browser has trouble, just click the ted.com link in the box below to play the video.

Should I Go? Help for the Holidays

Help for the Holidays

Help for the Holidays

Holidays and special events are normally a time of joy and celebration, however they can become a painful reminder of your loss. Seeing family members, making decisions, and attending the holiday activities you usually enjoy can take on a different outlook after the loss of a child.

If you begin feeling sadness during the holidays or a special occasion, think about why you are feeling that way; process those feelings and accept them.  It is a perfectly normal reaction to your grief. Taking this step ahead of time may help you to avoid some uncomfortable moments in public.

 

Should I Go?

 

Ask yourself if you are ready to attend family gatherings or parties. This will give you the opportunity to let someone know your decision in advance. Knowing that you would have planned to share your new baby at these celebrations could make them difficult and even tearful for you. Give yourself the option to gracefully bow out of the activity. Asking yourself these questions before a special event may help:
  • Can I handle this? Is this something I would enjoy? If so, it could be a good way to lift your spirits.
  • What does my spouse think? Will it cause problems if I do not attend?
  • Would the holiday or special event be the same if I don’t attend? Deciding not to attend a Christmas play will not take away from the holiday season; however deciding not to attend Thanksgiving dinner will certainly change the Thanksgiving holiday.
Thinking through these questions ahead of time can help you arrive at a decision that is right for you, and one that will not negatively impact your spouse or your family.
The above is an excerpt from the book Hope is Like the Sun.

10 Tips For Disabled Parents To Be

HopeXchange is pleased to welcome our latest guest poster, Ashley Taylor, who has a unique and helpful point of view. Ashley is the creator of DisabledParents.org. Here, you can find helpful resources for parents facing challenges that come with living with disabilities.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Photo Credit: Pixabay

What to expect when you’re planning on becoming a parent looks different to different people. Perhaps that’s why there’s no super deluxe Instruction Manual available when you make the decision to start a family. A couple managing a disability will include some personal planning than a couple who is planning a family with an infertile partner.

But being disabled doesn’t have to mean parenting is more challenging. Instead, it’s important to remember that your situation just makes parenting independent from the couple sitting next to you in Lamaze class who’s also planning for their first child.

If you or your partner is disabled, use these tips to start your preparation.

  1. There are resources available. On both the local and national level, there are organizations that are designed to help you. For instance, locally you can rely on the Department of Aging and Adult Services, which helps adults with disabilities and their families maximize self-sufficiency, health, safety and independence. The organization Through The Looking Glass is a nationally recognized center whose mission is researching, training and providing services for families in which a child, parent or grandparent has a disability.
  1. Carefully consider necessary home modifications. Every new parent should complete a checklist of home modifications before welcoming home their new bundle of joy, but if you’re disabled there may be specific changes you need to make based on your disability. For example, if a parent is blind, you’ll need to label food with Braille labels. Or, a parent with a wheelchair or decreased mobility may need to remove area rugs or wall-to-wall carpet from critical travel areas.
  1. Become a voracious reader. You can’t over educate yourself when it comes to preparing for a child, so hit the local library or your favorite bookstore to pick up plenty of books. Make sure to read books on how to prepare to be a parent, as well as books on parenting.
  1. Look for products that will make managing your disability easier. From wheelchair accessible cribs, to adjustable high chairs and Velcro bibs, there are products designed to help in your parenting efforts so be sure to look for things that will make your job easier.
  1. Understand the importance of self-care. Before you can take care of your newborn child you have to be able to take good care of yourself, and this means whole-body wellness. A comprehensive self-care plan will include adding things to your lifestyle that improve three core elements of wellness: 1) physical health, 2) mental health, and 3) spiritual health.
  1. Attend some classes. It will be helpful to attend some classes that teach the best prenatal and postnatal care. You can do this and shop at the same time with a visit to Carmel Blue.
  1. Establish a support group. There may be times when you need an extra hand, and it’s always a good idea to ask for help versus becoming overwhelmed. Before you give birth talk to friends and loved ones about their willingness to help you. Having a strong network in place beforehand will give you a good reliable go to when the time comes (and it will come).
  1. Have a baby budget. Your budget will change with the birth of a child, so discuss with your spouse beforehand mutual expectations and goals to avoid any money stress issues that may arise. The folks at Quicken Loans recommend these nine critical steps.
  1. Create a nursery you love. You’ll be spending a lot of time in your baby’s nursery, so make sure it’s cozy and to your taste. A comfy rocker is something you’ll want to be sure to include.
  1. Let go of perfection. Being a parent requires a great deal of flexibility and self-compassion. You won’t get everything right, all of the time. So instead of being critical of your efforts, recognize that it’s all part of the normal process.

Being a parent is likely one of the biggest choices you’ll make in your life. Raising a child from birth to adulthood takes delicate care, keen understanding, and a lot of love. Being prepared in advance, will make those parts critical parts of the job that much easier.

 

 

In the Shadows: Hiding from Grief

rain_clouds_2This is a tough time of year for me. Many years ago I had a miscarriage that began just before Halloween. My baby died; and every year at this time I am reminded. Two years ago on Halloween my best friend had a “routine” surgery that revealed stage 4 cancer. A year later she was gone. These two horrible events had one thing in common for me…grief.

When faced with overwhelming grief, I often find solace at work. While I find the distraction of work to be a blessing, it sometimes wasn’t enough to keep the worry and pain from creeping in. I realized I was going to have to deal with everything that was happening, because trying to hold it all in definitely wasn’t working.

The grief of loss is exactly the same. Sometimes we try to fool ourselves into thinking that we are okay and we quickly move on so we won’t have to feel the pain. Only to find that it is simply hiding, ready to attack later on. Like the “boogey man” who hides in the shadows, grief patiently waits for the right time to strike, and then takes us by surprise.

The more I realized that I wasn’t dealing with my feelings, the more I started to feel them. As difficult as this was, it actually made me feel a little better. At least I wasn’t looking for ways to stuff down my feelings, leaving me in a better place to deal with my swirling emotions. When I started feeling vulnerable, I reached out for help. For me, my help comes from my faith. The more I started to rely on my faith, the better I began to feel. Listening to uplifting music seemed to recharge my battery every morning. I would find myself thinking of the songs throughout the day, helping to replace some of my painful thoughts with positive ones.

We don’t know what the future will hold, but we can stop the “boogey man” of grief from chasing us- by facing him . I’ve realized that I cannot make it through difficult times on my own and I’ve asked for help. Find a rabbi, priest, pastor, support group or close friend you talk too. Don’t be scared by your grief and pain any longer- reach out for the help you need.

Light a Candle: Join the Nation in Remembering Your Baby!

Honoring Your BabyOn October 15, at 7:00 pm in all time zones, families around the United States will light candles in memory all of the precious babies that have been lost during pregnancy or in infancy.  Too many families grieve in silence, sometimes never coming to terms with their loss.

We hope you will join us in this national tribute to create awareness of these tragic infant deaths and provide support to those that are suffering.

Help create a ‘wave’ of light across our nation!
Congressman Tom Latham of Iowa introduced a House Resolution supporting the Goals and Ideals of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, October 15th, and calling on the President of the United States to issue a proclamation encouraging the American people to honor this special day of remembrance. 
We encourage you to contact your local Congressman’s Washington DC Office and ask him or her to Co-Sponsor House Resolution # 222.  For more information, and to guide you in your efforts, please visit http://www.october15th.com.
 
See more ways to Remember Your Baby adapted from the book, Hope is Like the Sun.
 We run this article each October to keep our readers informed on this important, annual event.

October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month

October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month

October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month

In 1988 President Ronald Reagan declared October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Unfortunately, the President had a very personal experience with infant loss during his first marriage, when his newborn baby died just 7 hours after birth.

Many states have declared October 15th as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, but remembrance and events are seen throughout this important month.

What do this mean to you? Awareness Month is a simple way to open the door to conversations about your feelings and your baby. You may want to talk to your family, friends, your community or maybe your spouse or significant other about your child who died.

Wearing a pink and blue Pregnancy Loss Awareness Ribbon during October, or anytime, is a great way to increase awareness and honor your baby. You can buy a Pregnancy Loss Awareness Pin by visiting StockPins.com. The pins are well-made, inexpensive and arrive in a few business days.

Pregnancy Loss Awareness Ribbons can be handmade with pink and blue ribbon or purchased. The pins should be worn on the left-hand side just above your heart- where your baby already lives.

We post this information each year to share this very important event.

How to Help a Loved One Who is Battling Addiction

HopeXchange is proud to welcome guest blogger Bethany Hatton. Bethany, a retired librarian with 32 years of experience, created PreventAddiction.info after her oldest grandson became addicted to opioids. Though she discovered there is no guaranteed way to prevent addiction; she was able to find many helpful resources that can keep the public up to date on the latest prevention, addiction, and recovery information.

Photo via Pixabay by Free-Photos

Photo via Pixabay by Free-Photos

Millions of Americans suffer with addiction to substances, and unfortunately, it can be an extremely difficult behavior to break free of. Some individuals rely on substances to help them get through tough emotional times, while others have undiagnosed mental health disorders that can seem minimized by drug abuse, although in reality, substances only make things worse.

It can be disheartening and even scary to watch someone you care about descend into substance abuse, in part because it’s so hard to know how to help without pushing them away. However, it’s imperative to reach out if you believe a loved one is engaging in harmful abuse of a substance. ADrugRehab.org points out, “Addiction is tricky and calculating, and it’s the only disease that can take more than one person down with it, if it is left unchallenged. Addiction dramatically alters the lives of not just the addicted person, but of everyone within his or her vicinity, namely family and friends.”

Here are a few of the best tips on how to help someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Do some research

It’s important to educate yourself on the symptoms, causes, and warning signs of substance abuse before anything else. Knowing these things will help you keep an open mind when it comes to helping your loved one. It’s okay if you don’t understand everything right away; addiction is a very complex disorder that has many different causes, and no one treatment is right for everyone. For reference, some of the warning signs of substance abuse include:

  • Refraining from engaging in social activities
  • A decline in personal hygiene
  • Mood swings
  • Sudden decline in performance at school or work
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits

These symptoms can also be indicative of a mental health disorder, however, so look for telltale signs that your loved one is engaging in unhealthy activities, such as a powerful scent of alcohol around them, dilated pupils, confusion, or cognitive issues.

Give them love and support

Every individual who is battling addiction is different; some people don’t even realize it’s become a problem until a loved one speaks up. Some suffer from depression and feel they are alone. Others feel guilty or sad about a past occurrence and use substances to numb the pain. Let your loved one know that you are here for them and that you love them, and the earlier the better. Don’t wait until they’ve had legal trouble or have lost a job to show your support.

Hold back the guilt

Many people who are battling addiction know that what they’re doing is harmful to their own health and to their families, but can’t physically break the addiction. They may already be feeling guilty, so it’s a good idea to refrain from bringing up topics that will add to it. Instead, be supportive and use phrases like, “I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you.” Not using words of blame and focusing instead on how they must be feeling will show them that you’re genuinely concerned and want to help.

Many people who are engaged in substance abuse become defensive when confronted about it; others are simply in denial. Be prepared for either reaction, and encourage your loved one to seek help. Let them know that they can move at their own pace and that you will be by their side to help them through even the hardest times. Assist your loved one in looking for a counselor or therapist, or in finding an online therapy group if they are unsure about how to get started.