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.

 

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

5 Techniques for Coping with Loss

5 Techniques for Coping with Loss

Just this week, I heard someone say that when dealing with loss you have to choose your attitude. He said, grieve and then choose to move on. While that sounds good, it can be tough to do. Guest blogger, Jessica Kane has some helpful advice in dealing with loss, in her article, “5 Techniques for Coping with Death.” My favorites are numbers 3, 4 and 5, but I hope you will try them all.

5 Techniques for Coping with Death

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is one of the most difficult challenges that people face in life. According to the National Institute on Aging, prolonged mourning is unhealthy and can lead to anxiety and depression. It is important to take appropriate steps to proactively cope with the grief and pain. Below explains 5 ways to successfully cope with the loss of a loved one.

1. Understand Who Grieves the Most

The National Cancer Institute has detailed research on risk factors for grief and bereavement outcomes. They have found that those who lack social support, have a history of depression, a lower income and are pessimistic tend to suffer more. In addition to this, those who had an insecure or an ambivalent relationship with the deceased tend to experience more negativity and grief. People who tend to cope through overthinking almost always have higher levels of stress and depression. The younger the age, the more difficulty after a loss. Understanding your personal situation and being aware of your risk factors will help with coping.

2. Social Connections

Social interactions are very effective with normalizing emotions, improving mood and enriching overall quality of life. Socializing engages the mind, reduces stress and provides opportunities to bond with others. An active social life can actually improve nutritional intake because people tend to eat more when they are around others. In addition to this, being social can help lower blood pressure, boost the immune system and reduce the symptoms of depression. Sometimes those who are grieving tend to withdraw, avoid others and become sedentary. However, researchers at the University of Berkeley’s Greater Good Institute have found that socially inactive adults are 70 percent more likely to experience cognitive decline and related health issues compared with socially active adults. Being socially active results in excellent emotional and physical benefits.

3. Active Choices

According to the National Institute of Health, exercise and physical activity reduces stress, improves mood and prevents and delays disease. Being active is a key to dealing with the stress and grief while doing something productive. Physical activities can be simple things like gardening, dancing and housework. Exercise can be regularly scheduled specific physical activities such as jogging, cycling and lifting weights. Exercise has been proven as an effective treatment for improving cognitive functions and reducing the symptoms of depression. Exercise also decreases the likelihood of developing chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Even walking 30 minutes a day will improve health and sleep quality while relieving anxiety and depression.

4. Travel

An ancient Chinese idiom says that traveling is better than reading 10,000 books. Many people coping with grief tend to withdraw and fixate on the past. However, travel forces us to be active, adapt to new situations and exposes us to the wonders of the world. Traveling forces us to engage others and experience life. Traveling locally or even internationally are excellent ways to leave the painful comfort zone at home and embrace the beauty of the world around us.

5. Spirituality and Religion

Most people only turn to religion during holidays or special events. However, there are benefits to both spirituality and religion. While there is great diversity with spirituality, yoga, tai chi and meditation have proven benefits for stress release and health. These aren’t just exercises, but actually ancient methods of spiritual practice and purification. Religion can play an important role in coping. While there is limited empirical research on the benefits of religion, studies have shown that religion is very helpful with coping because of the social support. Religion also provides a belief system that helps to understand and cope with death.

Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Legacy Headstones, a leading Ohio-based headstone manufacturer and vendor.

 

A New Dawn: Adjusting to Life Without Your Baby

The month of October can difficult for many who are dealing with the grief of miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death.  Since my miscarriage happened during the month of October I am always reminded at this time of year. It was right before Halloween…and now that emotional event is marked each year by the coming of Fall and the activities that accompany Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month. As each year passes, I try to focus less on grief and more on reflection remembering the child I never knew. 
 
When a baby dies during pregnancy, or shortly after, the hopes and dreams of the parents die with it. If the couple has no other children, the loss can be even more devastating because the ‘family’ has died as well.
 
Pregnancy loss causes a void, and this emptiness must be addressed in order for parents to adjust to a life without their baby. For the woman, the physical connection between mother and child is even greater. She must overcome the feeling that a part of her is gone.
 
You will never forget the child who died; you will find ways to remember your baby as an important part of your past. As a couple, or even a family, you will form a new view of your future.
 
Here are some suggestions to help you adjust:
 
  • Return to work. Going back to work can help you to feel that you are getting back to your routine. It is also helpful to be surrounded by familiar and caring co-workers.
  • Keep your routine as normal as possible. Maintaining structure will help you feel a sense of control.
  • Volunteer. Helping others actually helps to keep your mind off of yourself, and it can improve your perspective. This is both rewarding and healing.
  • Indulge yourself. Get a message, go shopping, or treat yourself to a facial or manicure. Anything you find relaxing or soothing will help.
  • Recognize your progress. Notice when you can get through a few hours or days without pain. Find something you are thankful for, laugh, look forward to something.  Recognize when you can talk about your loss more easily or feel less preoccupied with yourself and your loss.
  • Get counseling if you cannot function normally, you feel no relief, or your grief has gone on for too long. If, despite all of your efforts, you cannot cope or adjust, seek professional help.
Readjusting the hopes and dreams you had before your loss is not easy, but it is an important step in moving on with life. It allows you to create a new place for your baby and move on to new hope and new dreams for your future.
 
The above information was adapted from the book Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death.   
  

Father’s Day After Loss: Men Have Feelings Too

After the loss of a baby, Father’s Day can be a painful time for men that isn’t widely discussed or recognized. They will often hear friends and family asking their wives how they are doing, but rarely do men recieve the same type of attention. The lack of understanding and support offered to men makes grief a very complex and difficult situation for them.
 
It may sometimes appear that a man is not experiencing the pain of pregnancy loss. It is critical to understand how men and women grieve differently. Life experiences, along with cultural and personality differences mean that men and women are going to have separate, but equal dealings with grief.
 
If the lines of communication and support break down during loss, you will find a man feeling alone and unsupported. Here are some ways you can help a man during grief:
 
  • Remember that men normally grieve in private- not in public. You may not see outward signs that a man is grieving, but do not be fooled. Understand that a man in grief will find himself in a difficult position- 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 help 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 giving him the space and support he needs will be cricital.

  
The above information was adapted from the book Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death.

Welcome to the HOPE Community!

Welcome  new and returning readers from our HOPE Newsletter! I know it’s been quiet for a very long time and we apologize for the long silence. We’ve had a lot of work going on “behind the scenes” creating our new blog and migrating some of the HopeXchange website to it’s new home here! There are still changes to come as we continue to make improvements.

We look forward to offering you more up to date information and posts on our new blog. We will continue to offer support to women and their families who are dealing with miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death. And more importantly, we look forward to the chance to interact with you, and allow you to communicate with one another.  This will be a true community and safe place to heal. Let’s make the most of this new opportunity and the support it can offer to each and every one of us.

I read this quote today and thought it fit this new group so well:

 “Grief and sadness knits two hearts in closer bonds than happiness ever can; and common sufferings are far stronger than common joys” ~ Alphonse de Lamartine, French Poet

Let us be strong together.