Christmas is About a Baby

christmas-star-77979-mAs I look back over the Christmas Holiday that just passed, there was another story of grief and loss; a baby that was never born. The grand daughter of a good friend experienced a miscarriage that was followed with three months of physical complications and pain. Her emotional saga finally came to a close with a final procedure that took place the week before Christmas.

It has been a very difficult time for the family.

I thought about how many times I have seen and heard about stories just like this one in my many years of supporting families who are dealing with the grief and loss of miscarriage. The “regularity” in which it seems to happen is striking and disheartening. It could become easy to focus on this very sad reality. But then I think about all of the new babies that I have welcomed into the world this year, and years gone by, with gifts and showers and notes of congratulations.

Just like anything else, we can choose to see the tragedy the world can bring, or the hope we all long for. During the Christmas Season we tend to turn our thoughts to the joy and peace we’d like to have all year long- not just while we attend festive parties, eat our goodies and tear open gifts with family and friends.

When the tree is taken down and the gifts have all been put away the spirit and joy of Christmas can disappear as well. It can be tough to hold on throughout the year- especially if we are dealing with grief and pain. Unless we remember that Christmas is about a baby- a baby that was born to bring us a peace and hope that does not fade when the decorations are put away. Want to know more about this baby? Would you like to know a peace that does not get packed away in attic each year? Find a pastor, rabbi, priest, church or trusted friend who can tell you more.

May you find and keep the Christmas spirit throughout 2018 and beyond.

This post is run each year during the Holiday Season. May it bring you peace in the year to come.

Why Grief Can Lead To Substance Abuse, And What You Can Do About It

HopeXchange is proud to welcome guest poster Jeff Ferris. Jeff is the founder of RehabCentersInNJ.com, New Jersey’s premiere recovery service. He is partner with a network that has helped thousands of people get back to the road of substance abuse and mental health recovery.

Over the counter pain relievers

Grief is hard for anyone to deal with, but for a mother, it can be crippling or even deadly. There is no feeling that is as devastating as losing a child.

Many people know that it’s not the way God intended it. Children outlive their parents, but few know the real pain of a mother who’s in it.

It’s sad when other people pass away, but it’s just not the same as when a woman loses the baby that she carried in her womb and loved from day one.

I write this to let you know, as a WARNING, a mother can be susceptible to drug or alcohol abuse. This isn’t a stretch of the imagination, I know. But I wanted to bring comfort and let you know the alternatives, so that when you have better days it won’t be drowned out with artificial stimuli. Instead, the better day will be a step in the right direction to make the best of your time here on Earth.

It’s logical to think you just want to turn the pain off

When you lose a child, all the dreams and plans that you had for the child are shattered within seconds.

The reality of lost dreams cuts to the core of your soul. It is so sharp and piercing that your mind fills with thoughts such as, “What can I do to just make this pain stop?”

Substances Can Work Like an on/off Emotion Switch

It’s actually quite easy for someone to turn to substances at that time, especially if they don’t have any support from others. They may not intend to abuse such substances. The initial ingestion may just be an honest attempt to dull the excruciating pain.

Unfortunately, both alcohol and drugs, even prescription drugs, can grab hold of a person quickly in terms of physical dependence. Narcotic painkillers, for example, often hook legitimate patients before they even finish their first prescription.

Imagine the temptation of a woman who loses a child in a horrific surgical process and then realizes that the very pills that the doctor prescribed her could eliminate her emotional pain. Wouldn’t she be tempted to just keep taking those pills forever?

That’s just one real-life example. That particular woman didn’t develop a substance abuse habit, but it would have been easy for her to do just that- and it wouldn’t have been her fault in the least. Grieving women who do fall into these traps deserve some understanding.

If you are someone who is suffering from this issue right now, then you deserve some love. There are supportive people in the world who understand your pain precisely, and there is a way for you to get your life back on track

Alternative: What You Really Need as a Grieving Mother

The devastation that you’re going through needs a specific kind of attention. You have to enter into two battles: one that will help you with the loss of your child, and one that will help you with the substance abuse.

Many times, people try to offer condolences, and they don’t help because they end up saying the wrong things. What you need is a group of people around you who have grieved in a similar fashion and have come through it in good spirits. I’m glad sites like this exist to help you relate and let you feel like you’re not alone. However, a page on a site can’t fulfill our need for companionship, especially in devastating times.

You need people who understand how heartbreaking it is to have a life inside of you and have it ripped away from you at any stage. For your recovery, you can use a variety of resources. A full-blown rehabilitation center will give you the highest recovery percentage, but that doesn’t mean that you have to go that route.

You could sign up for outpatient rehabilitation, 12-step programs or counseling services that address your specific needs. If you’re a private type of person, you could perhaps get one good friend who will hold you accountable for your actions, encourage you, pray for you and do beneficial activities with you while you go through the difficult stages of recovery.

Self-help is not out of the question or ineffective by any means. You can fight the battle alone, but it is always better to have at least one other person in your corner.

Other in-home things you can do to help cope is:

  1. Drink Caffeine – it’s better than narcotics
  2. Try Art Therapy – any hobby will do, something to help build creativity
  3. Prayer – Giving yourself to a higher power can bring comfort and tie you into a community of good people

You’re a unique individual with unique circumstances, so your resolution may not be the same as someone else’s. You may want to contact a referral service or an anonymous hotline so that you can get someone who can refer you to the best resource for you. No matter what you do, remember that time and faith heal all things.

If you are not on narcotics then you are ahead. Sometimes we don’t care for much psychological babble about “grieving processes.” However, counselors and strong friends and family are the best thing for anyone grieving.

Please consider getting help. Professional or not, reach out, this is your time of need and good people are there to help.

I hope all goes well with you.

 

Remembering Your Baby: Forever in Your Heart

Candle heart

Light a flame to remember your baby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Be Aware: 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.

What I’ve Learned From Cancer

No, I don’t have cancer. But the disease has greatly impacted my life over the past year. My Mom and my best friend were both diagnosed within 2 months of each other. Then my Mom’s best friend a few months later. If that weren’t enough, a family friend lost his long battle and passed away- on Christmas Eve. I’ve been surrounded by cancer for the past year. Completely surrounded.

Looking back over the past months, I wouldn’t relive them- not even for the biggest Lotto jackpot ever. But, I have realized some important things during these grueling days…things I don’t want to forget.

Every Day is a Gift

Life can seem so random and unfair, especially when your loved ones are being attacked by a horrible disease. Watching those I care about fighting through and for every day made me realize that each one of those days is a gift. I started to feel ashamed that my husband and children and I were in perfect health and I had hardly given it a thought. I was reminded, almost daily, how fragile life can be and how ungrateful I had been for taking it all for granted. My struggles seemed to shrink next to the life and death situations I was reluctantly a part of. I have a renewed appreciation for getting up every morning- and I don’t want to waste a single day.

Say “I Love You”

Facing death- your’s or someone close to you- gives you instant clarity. You suddenly realize what and who you could lose. And you don’t want to leave anything unsaid. I felt compelled to share my deep feelings- to say, ” I love you,” as often as possible. We always feel that we’ll have time for that another day and we put off having serious or meaningful conversations with those we care about.  I found myself being more direct with the people I love, because wasting time seemed unwise and risky. Say the hard things, but also say the good things; and say them more than ever.

Your Attitude Matters

Watching how each of my loved ones are handling their horrible circumstances has been eye opening. I’ve seen almost daily bouts of doubt, fear and anger tempered by incredible hope, strength and faith. I’ve witnessed the roller coaster rides of good news and bad news and intense periods of waiting and wondering. Nothing tests your internal fortitude quite like that. And these tests reminded me that your attitude is everything. The difference between making the most of every day- and just surviving. The difference between living and just breathing. Our attitude is all wrapped up in that complicated brain or ours…and it’s the key to everything. We all hold the key to a good life.

Hold on to Your Faith

My biggest lesson in watching the people I love struggle through cancer is the ultimate importance of faith. It’s hard to get up in morning if you’ve decided their is no hope. And hope- the kind that is real, the kind that endures, comes through real faith. Not the kind that makes people dress up on Sunday and “play church.” But the kind that brings peace and defies logic. A faith you can lean on when everything around you is crumbling apart. A belief so strong, you can face death, and not be afraid.

For me, that faith is in God. The pain and grief of watching the people I care about in a fight for their lives took a toll on me. I felt some very dark days, and cried my share of tears. But through it all, I have leaned on my faith. I didn’t have a choice- I just wasn’t strong enough. Having to rely on my faith to get me through the day made it stronger. Watching my loved ones doing the same renewed it even more. I honestly don’t know how you make it through such an incredible battle without it. I don’t think I could. If you are interested in a faith like that, find a pastor, priest, rabbi or trusted “faithful” friend you can talk too. It could can change how you live…and how you die.

When Your Sky is Dark, Keep Looking Up

see-the-stars-1502227Last night was the arrival of the Perseid meteor shower. I am always intrigued by space and the heavens, so I stood out in my front yard at 11pm last night, hoping to see something special.  As soon as I picked a spot away from the porch lights I saw a blazing  “shooting star” directly in front of me. It was big and shimmering- bright and slightly orange falling across my neighborhood sky. It was so exciting that I immediately wanted to see another one. I stood in the yard for almost an hour, spotting some small streaks and momentary bursts of white trailing shimmer, but nothing like the beautiful burst I had seen in the beginning.

After going back inside, the lure of seeing another meteor like the first one took me back outside. As I stood gazing at the sky, now getting a crook in my neck, I had a strange thought. The amazing star I saw streaking across the sky when I first came outside reminded me of my first pregnancy. It was joyful and mesmerizing- a new experience that was exciting and big. Until it ended. Until I found weeks and months after it all began that my baby’s heart never started beating. My incredibly beautiful star had gone out. The shimmer was gone.

I waited to try again, prolonging the possibility of that 2nd shimmering star.  Anxious, afraid, unknowing. And when I finally did become pregnant again, the star wasn’t as bright as the first one. Fear creeped in and my blazing light was a smaller streak now. But I still had hope.

When I stood in the yard for the 2nd time last night, not one streak appeared. I didn’t want to give up to easily- I really wanted to see one more. Finally, I decided I had to go in- my eyelids were giving out- it was well after midnight now. As I slowly worked my way back to the front door one more star trailed above my head with a white shimmer. I smiled. It was just like the hope I had to try one more time…wait a little longer…have some faith. And just like the final star that streaked above as I was giving up, my healthy baby girl arrived- shiny and perfect. And it was even more unbelievable another star appeared and my 2nd baby girl brightened our world.

Last night was such a great reminder that we all need hope. Whether you are waiting to see a shooting star or to find love, or to stop hurting or to have a baby. We have to keep our hope alive, so remember to look up.

 

When Stress is Soaring: Be Like the Eagle

eagle-1119428-m I had “one of those mornings” today. The kind that make you stress, angst and basically question if you are making the right decisions. I was deep in thought driving to work on a busy highway, when something caught my eye. Sitting high in one of the trees that lined the car-filled street, was a large, stunning bald eagle. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that wasn’t sitting in a zoo or displayed in HD on a flat screen- and here was one right above my car. I drove ever so slowly so I could have a look at this very beautiful creature.

What struck me about the eagle was his majestic presence and the sense of calm he seemed to exude. He was looking carefully at his surroundings, but he wasn’t phased by the noise, cars or mayhem that was just below him. He sat very still and took in the world around him. It was an amazing site.

The strange part was, that just seeing this regal animal immediately made me feel calm. It was as if the eagle’s presence had swept over me and reminded me that a higher power was watching over me that very instant- when I really needed it.

The eagle was a powerful reminder that we can experience our hectic surroundings without letting them rattle us. If you are feeling overwhelmed today by tough circumstances, sadness or grief- sit still, take a deep breath and invite calm to sweep over you. Be like the eagle.

Should I Go? Help for the Holidays

holiday chestnutsHolidays 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.

HELP Get Stillbirth & SIDS Bill Passed in Congress!

SIDS & Stillbirth BillThere is a bill being considered in Congress called the Sudden Unexpected Death Data Enhancement and Awareness Act. The bill promotes awareness and data collection that can help to provide more information, protocols, and prevention of Stillbirth and SIDS. Read more about the bill.

Contact your Senator to ask him or her to support this critical, no-cost bill! Information and simple steps to contact your Senator can be found here. There are visits to the Hill being scheduled for November 13th. If you are interested in participating, please email laura@firstcandle.org for more information.

Get involved to help this vital effort to save babies and help families!