When You are Surrounded by Clouds: Look Up

We recently had more than 3 weeks of constant rain in my area. Every day was a dreary repeat of the day before- gray, rainy and cloudy. The dull and heavy weather that surrounded me on the outside was starting to make me feel gray on the inside. We recently had more than 3 weeks of constant rain in my area. Every day was a dreary repeat of the day before- gray, rainy and cloudy. The dull and heavy weather that surrounded me on the outside was starting to make me feel gray on the inside.

I was excited for a break from the rain- a business trip to Florida, the “Sunshine State.” Only to find that the forecast there was…3 full days of rain.

As we sat on the tarmac, waiting for take off, drizzle pelted the airplane dropping down from the perpetually gray skies. I half-heartedly watched the water slide across my window as the plane accelerated and lifted off the runway. Until we broke above the rain clouds and something wonderful happened – the sun appeared. Bright, bold, gleaming in every direction across billowing white clouds. We were suddenly surrounded by the clear blue skies and brilliant light of the heavens.

Just moments before we had been wrapped in gloom and now we were smiling at the warm glow of the distant skies. I instantly felt more optimistic and peaceful as I took in the light I had so been missing. It was sad when we reached our destination and began to descend- back into the rainy gray. It was pouring down as we taxied to the gate.

But now I knew that above all of the gloom and doom was infinite beauty. Just beyond what I could see, was the exactly what I had been waiting and hoping for. It was a great reminder for life. When you are surrounded by the clouds, look up to the heavens and know that just beyond us, the sun always shines.

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Trial by Fire: 9 Tips for Grieving Couples

coupleFather’s Day can stir a mix of emotions after a miscarriage. Fathers and Mothers can be affected by the event – which can be a painful reminder of loss.

You will often hear that grief and loss bring couples together, but it can actually do just the opposite. It is possible to emerge on the other side of grief with a closer marriage, but it does take work.

 

Here are some tips adapted from the book “Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth or Infant Death” that can help your marriage survive the stress of loss:

 

1. Give each other the freedom to grieve in an individual way. Resist the temptation to feel that your way is the only way to handle loss. Do not be fooled if it seems that your spouse has not been affected by the loss.
2. Remember the good times. Think about activities you enjoy as a couple and make time to do them- even if you do not feel up to it yet.
3. Expect tough times. Be tolerant with your mate and understand that you are both going to fail each other during this turbulent time.
4. Do not lash out at one another. In a weakened state of grief, this will only push you apart. Find constructive ways to release the stress and anger of grief.
5. Prepare for change. Loss and grief change people and it will change the face of your marriage. Decide together that this trial will bring you closer and commit to your relationship.
6. Reach out. Resist the urge to spend time away from your mate or reach out to others who better understand your grief.
7. Avoid placing blame. Tossing accusations at your spouse will only place a wedge in your relationship. Understand that feelings of guilt, anger, and confusion are normal during this time.
8. Love each other. Be sure to offer the hugs, cuddling, and love that each partner needs to feel secure and supported. Be sure to resume your physical relationship as soon as possible.
9. Seek information and support.
Educate yourselves on grief and try to understand one another. If you are having difficulties resolving your grief as a couple and you feel your marriage is in trouble, get help immediately! Do not wait until it is too late to seek help.

 

There are no easy answers for couples dealing with pregnancy loss. It is crucial that you make the decision to put your marriage first and then do it!

 

Lisa Church is author of “Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth or Infant Death” and founder of HopeXchange, a company dedicated to helping women and their families facing miscarriage.

It’s a MAD World: Simple Steps for Handling Anger

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With the recent passing of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, parents who have suffered the loss of a child can find themselves feeling very angry. Grief can often cause intense feelings of anger, which can be a very difficult emotion to handle. Here are some steps you can take if you are feeling angry:

  • Write a letter to the person you feel angry with: yourself, your baby, your spouse, a family member, or even God .
  • Talk to a close friend or professional about the anger you are feeling.
  • Find a healthy outlet for your anger such as punching a pillow, intense exercise, yelling or screaming aloud (not at another person) or even running around the block as fast as you can.
  • Help another person. Use your restless energy to clean someone’s house, mow a lawn or fix a meal for someone in need. Focusing on others is a great way to take your mind off your pain.
  • Cry. Many women (and even men) release their anger  through tears.
  • Confront the source of your anger. If you are angry with a spouse or family member have an honest discussion during a time when you are NOT feeling angry. If needed, ask a close friend or professional to help.
  • If you are angry with God or your baby, face an empty chair and have a ‘confrontation,’ expressing your anger.
Adapted from the book Hope is Like the Sun ©

Unlock the Silence: Tips for Helping Men with Grief

man_sunYou may not see outward signs that a man is grieving, but don’t be fooled. Remember that men normally grieve in private- not in public. A man who is grieving will often find himself in a tough spot- he will be shamed if he expresses deep emotions in public and he will be shamed if he does not.

 

  • Be aware that men often experience anger differently then women during grief. While women may tend to point anger inward, men often direct their anger outward. This can manifest as anger toward you or even God. Remember that expressed anger is a normal and healthy response, however hostile behavior is not.
  • Listen. Remember that some men want to talk, but they feel there is no one to listen. A man may also be uncomfortable putting his feelings into words. Encourage him by listening during those times when he does talk about it.
  • Ask what you can do. It is very important to ask what you can do to be of service to a man during his grief, and then do your best to meet his needs.
  • Keep an open mind. Remember that grief is an individual experience. Assuming that a man is not feeling pain if he grieves differently than you will only cause strife and misunderstanding.
Dealing with pregnancy loss is difficult for anyone. Understanding a man and him giving the space and support he needs will be critical.

 

The above information was adapted from the book Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death. We share this article each year near Father’s Day.

 

Join Us at the March of Dimes Walk & See the HOPE Canvas!

Williamsburg, VA March for Babies is Coming on March 14!

Williamsburg, VA March for Babies is Coming on Saturday, March 14, 2016!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Join us at the upcoming March of Dimes March for Babies and be a part of the HOPE Canvas! The March of Dimes works tirelessly to improve the health of babies and fund research to prevent the premature birth of babies. They also provide support to families who are grieving the loss of their premature babies.

We are partnering with the March of Dimes Williamsburg event to display the HOPE Canvas and give you the opportunity to honor your baby by adding a square of your own. We will also have copies of the book Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth or Infant Death available for purchase and the author will be personally signing them.

Want to know more about the HOPE Canvas?

The HOPE Canvas

The HOPE Canvas

 

The HOPE Canvas is a way to remember and honor a baby who has died from miscarriage or stillbirth. The original canvas includes 9 squares made by families in memory of their babies.

The HOPE Canvas is now virtual, to make room for the thousands of babies that die each year before their time.

 

Want to Add a Square?

Make your baby a part of the canvas!

  • Meet us at March of Dimes March for Babies at the Bereavement Tent between 9:00am-12:00pm.
  • Create a square (the original squares are 12 inches by 12 inches) and decorate any way you wish. Supplies will be provided.
  • We will take a photo of your square and post it on instagram so you can add your “virtual” square to the Canvas in honor of your baby!
  • Be sure to follow #Hope_Canvas on instagram so you can share your square with friends and family.

Can’t make the event on March 14th? Create your own square to add to the canvas! Find the instructions here.

Hope to see you at the event!

Mother’s Day: Am I a Mother?

rhododendron-1442863-mAre you spending this Mother’s Day wondering if you are, in fact, a mother? 900,000-1 million women in the U.S. alone face this question every year after suffering pregnancy loss.

“For women who experience a miscarriage during their first pregnancy, the question of motherhood is an even greater one,” says Lisa Church of HopeXchange, a company dedicated to the support of women and their families facing pregnancy loss.

Mother’s Day is the most difficult holiday a woman must face after pregnancy loss. A time that was supposed to be a celebration of a new life and a new motherhood becomes a time of sadness and grief. Church’s book, Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death, encourages women to use the holiday to remember their babies, rather than making it a dreaded event to endure each year. “Nothing will lesson the pain of Mother’s Day, but with some planning you can make sure the day has meaning for you,” says Church. Here are some tips from the book that can help:

– You Are a Mother.

The best gift you can give yourself on Mother’s Day is the acknowledgment that you are a mother. You may not have a baby to hold in your arms, but you do have one in your heart.

– Let Your Family Know What You Need.

If you feel uncomfortable being recognized as a mother at a banquet or other function, substitute an activity you would feel good about. If you would rather not receive or wear a flower, then wear an item that helps you to connect with your baby, such as a piece of jewelry that includes the baby’s birthstone.

– Remember Your Baby.

Mother’s Day can be a great time for a husband and wife to talk about their baby and what the baby meant to them. Take a walk, have a quiet dinner, or just set aside some time to remember your baby together.

– Decide Ahead of Time.

The way you chose to spend Mother’s Day should be your decision- and one you make ahead of time. Setting time aside to remember and talk about your baby will make you “feel” more like a mom on the very day designed to do that. Church also reminds women that their spouses may experience similar feelings on Father’s Day, “so be sure to ask how he would like to spend the day.”

We run this article each year to help grieving Moms handle Mother’s Day.

 

Moms Needed for a Harvard Bereavement Study

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A Different Kind of Love?

loveWith Valentine’s Day just behind us, I’ve been thinking about love. Not the romantic kind, but the kind we feel for our children. A Mother’s love. As I cleaned up to remnants of the Valentine treats I gave my daughters, I thought of my grown step-daughter and wondered how her Valentine’s Day had been with her own boys.

My step-daughter was just four years old when her Father and I got married. Since she already had a good Mom, there was no need for me to “fill in.” She and I decided we would just be close. I quickly found that there is nothing easier than loving a child. Ten years later, her Dad and I had a baby on the way. Many of my friends and family said, ” You will feel differently about your baby. A baby of your own is your own flesh and blood.” Inside I was nervous. I had loved my step-daughter for a decade and I was worried about how I might feel- and so was she. I didn’t want to make a difference between her and the new baby.

When the big day came and my baby girl came into the world, I fell in love with her the moment I held her in my arms. Much to my relief, it was the same love I had felt for my step-daughter all those years. The only difference was-it happened in an instant.

Now I know that you can love a child you did not “give birth to” in the same way as a child you carried. I feel the same way about all of my girls and I have never made a difference between them. The heart has an amazing capacity to love a child- it’s our faulty logic and overactive emotions that can get in the way.

If you are struggling to have a child of your own, don’t forget about all of abandoned babies, forgotten children and lonely teenagers who are desperately searching for a family to love them. You have so much love to give a child, so find a place to give it.

Want to know more? Click here for information on adoption and foster parenting.

 

A Birthday Wish of Hope

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A Birthday Wish of Hope

On Sunday we celebrated my daughter’s 15th birthday. As I hugged her tight and told her Happy Birthday, I was surprised when I started to cry. Not because she’s growing up, or turning out to be such a fine young woman, but because I wasn’t sure if she would ever get here. You see, my daughter is my oldest, but not my “first born.” I had a miscarriage a year before she was born that made me worry if I would ever have a family. It rocked my world, and my expectation of what my future might be.

When my daughter arrived it was such an amazing joy. One that I wasn’t sure I would ever have. And now, 15 years later, it made me “misty” as I wished her a Happy Birthday and remembered the day she was born, and how much we wanted and waited for her.

Trying to have another baby after losing one, was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I was terrified. Not just at the beginning…the whole time. I was embarrassed to share just how afraid I was that something would go horribly wrong…again. I pretended to be undecided when I reached the 8th month and I still hadn’t named her. I was too scared to get that “attached,” still panicked that it could all come crashing down.

All of that changed on the day she was born. My perfectly healthy, 7lb 3oz pound baby girl arrived. No complications, no problems, no horrible ending. I held my daughter tight, and I cried tears of unspeakable joy and relief. She was here- my family and my dream.

My husband was the one who kept encouraging me to try again. Thank God for him. I was so afraid of what could go wrong, that I almost gave up what is so right about my life- my family. Eight years later, I had another beautiful baby girl. She almost didn’t survive the first 6 weeks of the pregnancy. Just like her sister, she overcame the terrible odds I struggled with. And once again, I held my new baby in my arms.

If you are struggling with fear – don’t lose hope. Grief and pain can alter your perspective- it can paralyze you. It can steal your dreams and leave you feeling all alone. You can’t be too afraid to hope- to try again, and to keep trying. You never know what could be just around the corner.

New Year: New Hope

A friend shared with me that her “word” for 2016 is hope. What a wonderful word- and an even better guiding force for the next few hundred days. She also shared an awesome TED Talk that focuses on that very thing- hope. If you are searching for more this year, desperate to leave behind the pain and grief of last year, this video is for you! Watch and be inspired!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6P2nPI6CTlc