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.

 

Mother’s & Father’s Day: Help for Grieving Parents

man-when-he-does-not-grieve-hardly-exists-quote-1Are you spending Mother’s Day wondering if you are, in fact, a mother? Are you a father dealing with grief as Father Day approaches? 900,000-1 million couples in the U.S. alone face this question every year after suffering pregnancy loss.

As you face the sadness of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, you can both give yourselves a very simple gift – acknowledge that you are a mother and father. You may not have a baby to hold in your arms, but you both have one to hold in your heart.

If you are grieving during this time that we celebrate parenthood, there are some tips that can help. Men and women handle grief very differently, so we have included separate help for each, adapted from the book  Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death.

Mothers:

Nothing will lesson the pain of Mother’s Day, but with some planning you can make sure the day has meaning for you.

Here are some tips that can help:

– 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. Remember that your spouse may experience similar feelings on Father’s Day, so be sure to ask how he would like to spend the day.

Fathers:

After the loss of a baby, Father’s Day can be a painful time for men that isn’t widely discussed or recognized. The lack of understanding and support offered to men makes grief a very complex and difficult situation. Be sure to let your family know how you would like to spend Father’s Day.

 Here are some ways to handle your grief:

 

 – Talk About It.

 

You may feel uncomfortable putting your feelings into words, but talking about your loss with trusted loved ones will help. Don’t be afraid to cry and express your emotions. Discuss any questions or concerns that surface about how you are handling your grief, and know that your process will be different, but equal to your wife.

 

– Ask for Space. 

 

If you need space to experience grief in your own way without criticism, ask for it. Explain how the time alone can help, rather than giving the impression that you are “shutting out” your loved ones.

 

– Deal with Anger.

 

While women may tend to point anger inward, men often direct their anger outward. This can manifest as anger toward your spouse or even God. Remember that expressed anger is a normal and healthy response to grief, however hostile behavior is not. If you are feeling hostile, or having difficulty dealing with anger, get help.

 

Dealing with pregnancy loss is difficult for anyone; especially on a day designed to celebrate new life, that instead, brings sadness. Mothers and fathers can support one another and ensure the day has meaning for your both.

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.

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.

Beauty From Ashes: Turning Grief into Gratitude

HopeXchange is proud to welcome guest poster Tricia Moceo. 28. Single mom. 2 years Sober. Tricia works for Recovery Local, a digital marketing company that advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction. The company was founded by and staffed with recovering addicts cultivating recovery resources through sharing their own experience, strength, and hope. Find Tricia on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/trici a.moceo

flowers_newGrief has a funny way of creeping in and demolishing everything in its path. January 10, 2013 life, as I knew it, was completely uprooted. My mother had a massive heart attack and unexpectedly passed away. I vividly remember the chaotic events that followed. Instantly I sought out oblivion through any mind/mood altering substance. My remedy of choice was one I danced with for years: opiates. Chasing the dragon, in hopes of avoiding any feelings of grief, I progressively withdrew from the reality that my mom was no longer here. I took on the responsibilities of running our family business, maintaining the household, and taking over the motherly duties left behind by mom. I was incapable of fulfilling my self-induced pressures without the aid of my analgesic. Eventually, I was drowning in full-blown addiction, running from the pain of my mother’s absence.  

Divide. Destroy. Rebuild. From mom’s passing to my newly adapted vices, the dynamics of our family had changed. Grief and trauma became our reprieve. Eventually, my consequences warranted change and I sought help. I left for treatment with the preconceived notion that I was only addressing my substance abuse issues. I convinced myself it was the drugs that led me astray not my inability to process emotions. My father was smart enough to send me to a dual diagnosis facility and it saved my life. I entered treatment broken and rebelling against the vulnerability. Unbeknownst to me, I was surrounded by professionals that refused to allow me to avoid the grief that overcame me. Left with no escapable option, I acted as if until I gratefully accepted change.

I remember sitting in a caseload group and being asked if I ever dealt with the loss of my mother and why I blamed myself. Immediately I was engulfed with anger. The group facilitator intervened and challenged me to write a “goodbye letter” to my mother. I wanted to puke. I trembled at the idea of hashing out ancient resentments and regrets. Most of all, I was most fearful of accepting the permanence of her fate. I journaled every painful and joyous memory I shared with my mother. After writing the letter, addressing past regrets and letting emotions flow from pen to paper, gratitude rushed over me like sweet summer rain. I felt immediate relief and I was given a whole new perspective.

“Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Upon saying my goodbyes and relieving myself of the bondage of my unsettled resentments, I acquired the ability to put myself in my mother’s shoes. This warranted compassion, understanding, and most importantly grace. I was grateful for the memories I shared with my mother. Even though I couldn’t make peace face to face with my mom, I was able to process my grief through the vulnerable and intimate exercise. I felt like I was finally free, no longer enslaved to the pain that became my identity. As time passes, I miss my mom more every day but my love for her grows stronger. Today, I get the privilege of sharing my anguish and heartache with other women going through similar adversity. My goal is to spread hope and encourage other women to walk through the pain of grief without the aid of any mood/mind altering substance. I value every moment exactly as it is and I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude for every person in my life.

If you are struggling with grief, be mindful that there is no cookie cutter way to deal with the overwhelming feelings that follow. Allow yourself to feel every emotion as it ebbs and flows, without judgment. Avoid isolation and reach out for support from people you trust. Grief is all-encompassing but there is hope found in the most unexpected places. Support groups and tapping into family and friends saved my life. If you need advice or just someone to listen, feel free to reach out to me on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tricia.moceo

Stop the Pain: How to Avoid Self Medicating in Times of Grief

HopeXchange is proud to welcome guest poster Alice Munday. Alice is a freelance writer from Virginia Beach, Virginia. In recovery herself, she is dedicated to helping those who struggle with addiction.

stop-sign-with-blue-sky

How To Avoid Self-Medicating In Times Of Grief

Of all the emotions we feel as humans, grief is among the most powerful and complex. The death of a loved one, divorce, job loss, and any number of other unexpected negative experiences can lead to times of sorrow during which feeling better seems like a downright impossibility. At low points like this, it is important to be conscious of behaviors that will be constructive and those that will actively undermine the healing process.  Self-medicating is undoubtedly one of the most potentially devastating behaviors for getting through periods of anguish. Using alcohol, drugs, or other means to self-medicate during harrowing times lures people in by offering relief with the cruel twist of it only being temporary and actually counteractive to coming to peace with traumatic events. To avoid going down this path, it is helpful to keep these things in mind.

Let Yourself Experience All Your Feelings

The pain of loss is a difficult thing to experience, but not going through the entire cycle of mourning makes you more likely to turn to unsafe coping mechanisms later on. It is vital to experience and express the emotions you feel and deal with grief adequately. Quickly replacing the loss with a substitute or even refusing to attribute your despair to its true source are telltale signs that you may be trying to accelerate the cycle.

Be Aware Of Grief Triggers 

As you work through your feelings, you can make the process easier for yourself if you identify and avoid things that you know will cause you to feel more extreme distress. There are several common factors that can elicit these feelings. When dealing with the loss of a loved one, for example, anniversaries of their passing or missing them during the holidays can easily bring on a wave of emotion. Similarly, being the same age as someone when they passed or certain places, smells, and rituals with strong connections to that person can all be challenging to face. Acknowledging what specific things trigger you can help you explore productive and healthy ways to deal with them.

Reach Out For Social Support

Friends and family can often show up in droves when a traumatic event first happens but then gradually fade back into the woodwork when you would still benefit from their presence. Identify the people who you can turn to at any time and who will help you whenever you need it. It can also be worth it to find a support group with other people going through a similar, specific grieving process so you can help each other along the way with an underlying empathy and understanding that you may not be able to find elsewhere.  Honor The Loss With Something Productive 

One of the hardest parts of going through periods of suffering is toeing the line between honoring a significant loss while also moving on with your own life without feeling guilty. Figuring out a way to pay homage with an activity that is productive for you can help you strike that balance.

Postpone Major Lifestyle Changes

Making big decisions in the wake of a traumatic event can lead to additional stress and anxiety that can prove to be too much to handle. If possible, delay making any major changes like moves, job changes, and other similar things until you know that you are ready to handle the added burden.

Seek Professional Help If Needed

If you have already found yourself turning to self-medicating measures, it helps to find a professional solution to help you as soon as you can. Integrated treatments for grief and substance abuse take a two-pronged approach and treat you both medically and therapeutically with detoxing and therapy. Achieving sobriety is the priority, and then a therapist can help you move through the underlying causes of your grief to avoid a relapse.  Grief can feel so overwhelming and unique to you that it can be difficult to find ways through it without turning to self-medicating, but there are always ways you can find respite without endangering your health. You are never alone, and people and places to help are never too far away.

 

 

 

“Tough” Love: 9 Tips for Grieving Couples

Father's Day Can put a strain on grieving couples.

Father’s Day Can put a strain on grieving couples.

Father’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.

Father’s Day After Loss: Men Have Feelings Too

man-when-he-does-not-grieve-hardly-exists-quote-1
 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 to 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 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.

Facing Tough Times? Music Can Soothe the Soul

music

I recently lost someone I love to cancer. We talked almost every day until her treatment took her out of state. Many of our conversations were about staying strong, having hope and our faith. I often felt helpless watching the endless procedures she endured and the unrelenting side effects of chemo.

We shared a love for music. So one of the small things I felt I could do for my friend is send her uplifting songs to listen too. Every morning I would carefully choose a song for her and text the link to her phone, along with a short message. This was my daily routine for over a year. When she went into hospice, I decided to make a playlist for her, so she could listen for hours at a time.

And then she was gone…

I miss her so terribly. There are mornings I get up and think about what song I would have sent today. In spite of my grief, I am so relieved that she isn’t suffering any more. And I know in my heart, that she is dancing around in heaven right now.

When I went to my friend’s funeral, her husband shared with me how much it meant for her to have the music. He talked about the difficult times she spent in the hospital, and how she would play the songs to get her through.

Are you going through tough times right now? I’d like to share the music with you that I sent to my friend. Here is a link to Laura’s Playlist. I hope it will uplift your spirits 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.

May your body and soul be well.