Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month is a great time to remember and memorialize your baby. Here are some tips we share each year at this time, adapted from the book Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death.
There are countless ways to remember and honor your baby. No matter how much time has passed since your miscarriage, it is never too late to memorialize your child.
You can find comfort and healing by incorporating your baby’s memory into your life. Here are some suggestions:
– Create a memory box. Include any mementos you may have from your baby. A positive pregnancy test, a toy, stuffed animal or outfit you bought for the baby (if you do not have one, then buy one). Anything you may have that reminds you of your pregnancy or your baby can be included, even if you just have a few things.
– Make a donation in your baby’s name. Publicly acknowledge your child by making a charitable donation, or give something to a needy child that is the same age your child would have been now. Also consider submitting an article or poem about your baby to a newspaper or magazine.
– Make something for the baby such as a quilt, a painting, a cross stitch, an outfit, a piece of pottery or furniture.
– Buy a piece of jewelry that symbolizes your baby. Your baby’s birthstone, or an engraved necklace with your baby’s name can be good choices.
– Plant a tree or garden in memory of your baby. You may even choose a houseplant or indoor tree. Decorate the tree at special times of the year to remember your baby.
– Add your baby to the family tree. If you named your baby, add him or her permanently to the family by including the baby in your family tree.
– Donate baby items that you may have bought or received to a worthy charity. You may also do this in your baby’s name.
– Have a celebration each year on your baby’s birthday or due date.
– Include your baby in the hospital’s Remembrance Book. Most hospitals have a remembrance book, and even if your baby did not die in a hospital, you can contact the Chaplin at your local hospital.
– Light a candle for the baby every evening until you feel you do not need to anymore. After that, burn it once a month, on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, or on special anniversaries.
Remembering your baby is a very personal thing. There is no right or wrong way to honor your child. Taking the time to memorialize your baby will bring you closure and comfort as your move through your grief, and work toward recovery.
It was a very tough summer for me and my family. We’ve faced multiple losses in a very short time and been surrounded by sorrow and grief. The most difficult loss was the death of my brother-in-law. At only 36 years old, he had spent the past 10 years fighting a battle many of us fear – cancer. As a soldier, he was no stranger to fighting, and he approached his illness in much the same way – head on. His end was long and painful, but his will to live never wavered – even when my sister told him it was okay to “let go.” On a ventilator and unable to talk, he firmly shook his head NO.
It was just a matter of time before he was spending his final days in Hospice. I will never forget what his Hospice nurse told us, ” People die the way they live.” This became even more real as we watched my brother-in-law fight for every minute he could have. Unable to move, talk, open his eyes, eat or drink – he continued to fight. He fought to live just one more minute, one more hour, one more day. On July 24th, 2013 his last day, hour and minute arrived…and he was gone.
My brother-in-law’s death has had a profound effect on me and my husband. It puts life in a very different perspective. I think about how much he wanted to live – even when he really had no “life” left. What if I could treat each day so precious? I have a renewed appreciation for my family, my health and my life. My husband decided that dwelling on what you “don’t have” rather than what you have, now seemed trivial and unimportant. He has become more content as a result.
Two months ago today, my brother-in-law left us, and it has taken me this long to be able to write again. I knew I must get these important words down, but my heart wasn’t ready to write them. I can only hope that the lesson we learned from watching his life, and death, will stay with us. If we truly “die the way we live,” then we must ask ourselves every day, how we are living.
Are 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.
March Madness…for many, these words bring the joy of raving fans, squeaking shoes, three-pointers and an endless flurry of foul shots. Basketball fans young and old gather around their flatscreens to watch the games, yell at their screens and root for their favorite teams. The games took on a new meaning at our house this year because my 6th grade daughter just finished her first season on her middle school basketball team. Already 5’8 inches tall, she was “shoo in” for the team.
Watching a brand new basketball team learn the game was exciting, intereseting and, at times, frustrating. The girls steadily improved their skills for each game, but they could not seem to translate their play into a win. At first, they were disappointed, encouraged by the coach that “their time would come.” But as the season stretched on and the team still had not won a game, the disappointment turned to tears and anger. The girls could not figure out what they should do differently to acheive that “all important” win. It was now a quest for the team. When the night of the last game of the season arrived, the team was determined to win, but feeling a bit hopeless as well. The girls played well, and the game was really close, but in the end, the team did not get their win. Their pursuit had eluded them and they were beyond consolation.
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- we can’t figure out what to do differently. Watching my daughter’s team struggle through their losing season reminded me of our struggle with 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. The coach was right, “your time will come.”
Talk about grief and feelings with one another and as a family. Confront any questions or concerns that surface about how family members are handling their grief.
Encourage open discussions about the loss and do not be afraid to cry together.
Accept help and support from others. Also be sure to recognize when other family members may need additional help.
Allow space for individuals to experience grief in his or her own way without criticism.
Try to stick with family routines as much as possible to foster stability and consistency
Individual time. Allow family members to ask for time alone when it is needed.
Remember that everyone in your family will move through grief at a different pace. Allow time for family members who need it, while enjoying the success of those who are resolving their grief.
Recognizing the differences each of you face in dealing with grief will allow you to pull together during a time when it is most important. Although grief can turn your attention inward, be sure to focus on your family during the Holiday Season.
The above is an excerpt from the book Hope is Like the Sun.
With Thanksgiving just hours away, you may find that you struggle to feel “thankful” after suffering a loss. My family has had a challenging year, and after feeling the weight and stress for months, my husband and I decided we should strive to focus even more on what we are thankful for this year. It can be so easy to get caught up in the loss and pain, but a simple decision to change your focus, can change the season for you and your family.
- Set aside private time for yourself. Shedding a few tears in private can be a great stress reliever and it will reduce your frustration throughout the day.
- Plan ahead of time. Make shopping lists, organize your tasks, and leave plenty of time to accomplish them. Reducing some of the normal headaches of the holidays can alleviate added pressures.
- Educate others on your needs. If you prefer your family talk about your baby rather than avoid the subject, let them know ahead of time.
- Do something different. You may find that changing your holiday routine or allowing someone else to host an event you normally plan can give you a new outlook and reduce stress.
- Do something for someone else. Buy a gift for someone in need, adopt a less-fortunate family, or make a donation in your baby’s memory. Helping others is a great way to heal.
The holidays should be a time of joy and celebration. Taking some steps to prepare for them, and allowing yourself the space you need, can make them a better experience for you.
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.
Something very painful happened in my family this week that resulted in a huge loss. I got the news in the middle of a Birthday party. During a fun celebration of life, I heard that someone had tragically died. Your first instincts when something terrible happens is just to avoid it- don’t think about it, talk about it or face the deep feelings of sorrow that are swirling around just below the surface.
But the truth is, there is no way to avoid feeling the pain of grief. There are not short cuts, no secrets to getting around it- you must feel the pain of grief to move through it. Everyone has heard the saying “No pain, no gain.” This is particularly true when dealing with grief. Allow yourself to feel the emotions and pain of your loss, so you can move on.
Here are some suggestions to help you experience the pain of grief:
- Give yourself permission to grieve, and lean on others when you need too. Allow yourself to feel and express your emotions.
- Learn about miscarriage and grief, and read stories about others facing loss. You can visit the local bookstore, library, or even go online. Visit HopeXchange at: http://www.HopeXchange.com and see the list of websites on the Resource page.
- Talk with others facing pregnancy loss, go online, or join a support group. A list of support groups can be found by visiting HopeXchange at: http://www.hopexchange.com/ResourcesLinks.htm and clicking on National Organizations & Support Groups.
- Write! Writing to heal requires no special skill or talent and it is very therapeutic. Simply begin with “I feel…” Keeping a journal or writing daily can lead you through your grief.
Talking with others and writing are both excellent ways to move toward recovery. Putting your feelings into words can validate them and provide a healthy outlet, paving the way for closure and healing.
The above was adapted from an excerpt of the book Hope is Like the Sun.