“Man Handle”: Helping Men Handle Loss

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 misunder-standing.
 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.

Trial by Fire: 9 Tips for 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.

Join a Special LIVE Chat on Grieving During Mother’s Day!

We have our May live FaceBook chat set for May 10th 8:30 p.m. EST/5:30 PST for a Mother’s Day special. We know how hard the day is for grieving mother’s, so that’s why we reached out to some of the most respected grief and baby loss experts around.
We will have Sherokee Ilse a International Bereavement Educator/Speaker and author of Empty Arms. Lyn Prashant,Ph.D.,F.T. specializing in Integrative Grief Therapy and author of The Art of Transforming Grief: The Degriefing Manual. Lisa Church from HopeXchange and author of Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth or Infant Death. And Perry-Lynn Moffitt co-author of A Silent Sorrow: Pregnancy Loss and counselor of bereaved mothers and fathers through the Pregnancy Loss Support Program. We hope that you can join us! XO Michelle

HopeXchange Community: I will be a part of this special live event and I would love to chat with you there!! Lisa

Am I a Mother? Tips for Handling Mother’s Day After Miscarriage

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.

A Day to Remember

 Honoring Your Baby
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. Anything you may have that reminds you of your pregnancy or your baby can be included, even if you just have a few things.
             You may also want to add:
              – A letter to your baby.
              – A birth or name certificate. If you did not receive one, consider making one.
              – A poem or quotation that reminds you of the baby.
  • 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.
  • 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. Decorate the tree on Mother’s Day 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 Mother’s Day, or just take a quiet walk through a park or on a beach with family or friends and reflect on your baby.
  • 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.
  • Have a star named after your baby.
  • Remember your baby online. There are a number of websites with free memorial sections.
  • Remember Me Bears is a website that will make a bear for your baby made from fabric you provide. It could be from baby’s blanket or clothing. 
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 on Mother’s Day will bring meaning to this important day.

IBS May Increase the Risk of Miscarriage

A new study that was conducted by two European Universities has shown that women who have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) may be more likely to suffer a miscarriage. Researchers at University College Cork in Ireland and the University of Manchester in England worked together on the very large study.

The published findings were based on a database of 100,000 UK women. The study found that pregnant women with IBS were 7% more likely to suffer a miscarriage and 1% more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy. More research will be needed to determine why the increased risk occurs.

Women who have IBS who are planning to become pregnant should seek the best prenatal care possible and be closely monitored during the pregnancy. For more information on this important study read the article on IrishTimes.com

Running on Empty: An Epiphany and Apology

Someone I love has cancer.

I don’t know why I have struggled so much to write this, but it has taken me weeks to get the courage to type these words so I can (try) to apologize and explain my very long absence.

I’m not sure what I can say that would entirely explain my disappearance, because I’m not entirely sure myself. Between the illness, stress at work (I have a demanding, full-time career) and a very hectic family life (a gross understatement), I found myself running on empty. I kept going, thinking it would work itself out, but it didn’t. I thought so often that I should be keeping up better, that I was letting people down, that I had to get it together. But I didn’t.

My life had too many “loose ends” and it had all caught up with me. I was feeling overwhelmed and completely exhausted and I knew I had to do something. I kept thinking back to the advice of a friend from years ago. She always said, “My mama says, when your life’s a mess, clean out your closets.” Simple, but excellent advice. I decided I would give it a try. I took some much-needed time off to do just that – clean out “the closets” of my life. I cleaned out the “junk drawer,” painted my laundry room, donated some clothes I hadn’t worn in a while, organized the coat closet, spent a day alone with my husband and played ping-pong with my girls. When I went back to work and realized that I was still tired and I hadn’t quite finished everything I wanted to do, I took some more time off, and I finished.

I feel better now. My focus has started to return and I feel more like “my old self.”  So why am I telling you all of this? First to apologize – for disappearing, for letting you down, for letting myself get to this point. But more importantly, to tell everyone out there who is running on empty to stop – stop right now. Stop what you are doing and figure out how to carve out some time, how to tie up the loose ends of your life and clean out your closets. You’ll be glad you did.

Handling the Holidays

Holidays 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.

Pure Happiness

In the middle of a challenging and frustrating week, I received the most amazing news. After two very difficult losses that caused a strain on an otherwise heathy marriage, a longtime reader had her miracle baby. I am overwhelmed with joy for this brave mother and father who had the courage to try again, and received the greatest gift – a healthy baby boy.

Completely caught up in the many stresses of my life, I felt a peaceful joy in looking at the pictures of this much-loved new life. I found myself going back to the pictures when I needed a lift because I couldn’t stop myself from grinning ear to ear when I looked at them.

I was reminded that the important things in life are often quiet the ones – not the blaring noises of my unhappy co-workers, my “stacked to the ceiling” laundry room or my overflowing “to-do” list. The pure happiness I felt when I looked at that little baby’s beautiful face is what I need to focus on. Laundry room…you’re out of luck.