Wednesday, December 31, 2008

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination- Book Review

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination
by Elizabeth McCracken

So many people had recommended this book to me but I put off reading it for a while. I usually use reading as an escape, so to read a book on PURPOSE, when I KNOW the baby dies seemed overly grim. And yet, from the minute I started it I felt like the author knew exactly what I felt. That she was able to put into words things that I wanted to say but didn't know how to express it.

I usually skim, but this book I stopped midway and put it down. To wait and read it at a time when I could really read it- not in line waiting to get my car inspected. I knew this book was special, and I wanted to pay attention. As soon as I finished it, I want to start it again. With a highlighter to mark the parts that really speak to me.

One of my favorite parts is near the beginning. She and her husband were living in French when they found out their baby had died. They were asked if they wanted to speak to a nun. Only the word in French for 'nun' is very similar to the word for 'dwarf'. And that is what they heard- "Do you want to speak to a dwarf?" When her husband told a friend that they said "You must have thought, "That is the last thing I need!" and he answered "No, I thought I'd really like to speak to a dwarf about then. I thought it might cheer me up". They talked about how possibly every French hospital kept a supply of dwarfs on hand to speak to the patients. "The dwarfs of grief. We could see them in their apologetic smallness, shifting from foot to foot."

Someone had told her (long before their child died) that she should write a book about "the lighter side of losing a child" and she had no idea what that meant. She comes to realize that possibly what that women meant was this: 'Lighter things will happen to you... your child will still be dead.. and you will spend your life trying to resolve this". How there are moments of "odd, reliable comfort that billows up at the worst moments, like a beautiful sunset woven out of the smoke over a bombed city."

There were several parts in it that I found myself nodding and saying "Yes, that is exactly right." The part where she gets furious with movers who were supposed to come several days later but instead showed up 3 days early (my experience was with a dentist to told me I wasn't taking my dental hygeine seriously when I cancelled my appointment the day I got home from the hospital.) Talking about the "what if's" and regrets. How now that we have experienced loss we are now all related, like there is a 'family tree of grief'. You discover that you have a 'new set of relatives, people with whom you can speak in the shorthand of cousins'

I related to much of her book, and at the same time, so many things she described were not the same for me. For example, they made the decision not to have photos taken of their baby. To not give their baby a 'real' name, but instead call him always by the nickname they called him. To not use the word 'angel' when referring to their baby. That is right for them. FOR ME, I treasure the few photos I have of Gabriel, as hard as they are to look at. I am glad we named him Gabriel, although with our family we always still call him our 'baby goldbug'. And I do sometimes use the word 'angel'.

This is a wonderful book. It helps to know that I am not alone, am not crazy. Or if I am, she is too.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Journaling

Laura (Sophie's mom) emailed me this comment:

I was sitting here, reading a book. and I thought, I wonder if Emily has posted about writing? I have a journal I keep next to my bed. It is a small thing, given to me by a friend who lost her father far to early in his life. she gave it to me at Sophie's celebration of life service. She gave it to me with a note saying I should write my feelings. I can't really do that. I feel strange when I do that, for some reason. So instead I write letters to my daughter. I wrote every day after she left us. Now I try to write once a week. I work hard to not feel guilty when life pulls me away and I can't write. I write in my head and will put the thoughts to paper when I can find time to stop. My letters to Sophie will never be read by Sophie. I know that. But, in some strange way, I feel like i can read them to her in my heart.

I think she is so right- it can be very helpful. For me, I had been replaying Gabriel's birth over and over in my mind because I was worried when the details started fading- it felt like I was losing him again. I found it helped to write it all down in a safe place and get it all there- then I didn't have to keep it in the front of my mind all the time. I love how she has put it- that she "can read them to her in (her) heart."

I also think this can be a way to scrapbook for those of us with few photos- you can do a scrapbook page with an envelope and your letter tucked inside so it is more private.

Thanks for sharing this idea with us, Laura!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Awesome Angel Giveaway- Winners!

How funny! I announced 8 prizes and then had 9 entries. Ok, ok, I’m a pushover. Everyone’s a winner! Thanks for your comments. Send me an email to nickwilberg@hotmail.com asap with your snail mail address and I’ll get these prizes in the mail. ((hugs)) to everyone.

E & K Rausch- Welcome! So sorry you have had to find us here.

Sonya (myluv4flowers)- Hi, Sonya! Good to see you come over here to visit me- thanks for your kind words about my blog ;0)

Jessica- I know what you mean about talking about your baby. I found that every time I told Gabriel’s story to someone it made it a little more real that I was his mom. We did March of Dimes one year and it was difficult, but very nice. (Difficult because I am not in great shape so the 4miles was killer)

Stephanie- A safe place is so important. You have met my creative family and I always thought I am not ‘artsy’ but the more I have thought about it I realize this blog is kind of a piece of art, in progress.

Gretchen- You are totally right- different things have helped me as I am at different points. How fortunate to have a supportive husband and family- I know not everyone is so lucky but for me I really was thankful to have loved ones around.

Laura (Noneya)- Thank you- I am so sorry you have to be here.

Deanna (dede402)- I agree- our baby’s names are important! I wish other people knew how much we cherish hearing their names.

Dara (The)- Thank you- I wish peace for you (and us all), too. I only got about 8 Christmas cards this year but 4 of them said ‘peace’ on them. I so appreciate that.

Julie (angelBrycesmom)- I appreciate your kind words, I am glad to send you an ornament for your tree. ;0)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

An Angel Story

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is. -Albert Einstein.

Honestly, I had not intended for this blog to be so much about angels- I know not everyone uses the phrase 'angels' or believes in angels. Maybe it is this time of year or something but it has just worked out that way.

I wanted to show you this story from the Today Show on a 14 year old girl who was dying in the hospital and her family says she was saved by an angel.

Did an Angel save girl?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Peaceful Christmas to you



I hope today is a gentle day for you all.

Don't forget to enter my angel giveaway- details to be found here

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Guardian Angels Ella and James

Louise sent me this wonderful story of a sister in law who 'gets it':

I just wanted to share a beautiful story with you. On the 6th December my husband's sister got married. Two nights before the wedding she asked me if she could borrow my necklace (with two engraved rings from www.Labelledame.com) to use as her something old. It brought tears to my eyes. I was missing my children so badly and was so upset that they couldn't be here in person. This was just beautiful. But it didn't end there. On the back on the order of service she wrote a thank you to her bridal party etc and thanked her beautiful guardian angels Ella and James. During the ceremony she released 2 balloons to remember and include my angels. You can imagine I was a mess by this stage as I cry at weddings to start with. But it was so beautiful the way she included my angels. It was not a sad or uncomfortable way for the other guests. She just made them part of the day. It turned out to be such a wonderful day and I could feel my angels with me so strongly.

Way to go, sister-in-law!

Thanks to Louise for sending this to me. If anyone else has had family members that have been supportive and wants me to include their story here, email me at nickwilberg@hotmail.com

peace- emily

Monday, December 22, 2008

It gets easier

Ever since I woke up this morning I keep feeling like I need to say this:

It gets easier. For those of you in the early days I know it seems that it will never get 'better'. I will just tell you that it will get 'easier'. It takes time, and is kind of a two-steps-forward-one (or two or three)-steps back, but it does get easier. At first every day is a bad day. And then eventually, you will realize that this last hour was maybe not as bad as the one before it. And someday, you will realize that this whole day was kind of ok. You will still have bad days, but they get further between.

Someone explained it to me once in this way-

Grief is like a big boulder that crushes you. As time goes on you can chip away at it bit by bit until you can carry it with you.

You will never forget your baby. But the pain will change into something softer, not as stabbing, not as overwhelming.

I promise- it gets easier.

((hugs))

I hope today is gentle for you. peace- emily

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Welcome to my Awesome Angel Giveaway!

To celebrate my new blog makeover and thank you for stopping by this week I will be giving away the following items:



A ‘Bless This Child’ mini-ornament by Serenity



A resin Angel ornament




An Angel Frame pin



A Guardian Angel frame



Three copies of The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans. Originally written as an expression of love for his two daughters, the author never intended for it to be published. Many Christmas seasons later, this touching tale relates the meaning of Christmas in a profound but simple way. This book was the inspiration for the many angel statues around the country which are places to remember a child who has died.



A square neck tag with a heart image by Steel My Heart

If you do not know this company take a look at their site. They have neck tags, key tags, car window stickers, and about a zillion different items that can be customized with different ‘personalities’ and they do have images that include a baby with a halo or a boy or girl angel with wings.

To enter this giveaway simply do the following:

Leave a comment in this post. You can say something you wish someone had told you, something you found to make things easier, or just say hi. If you don’t want to comment you may just send me an email at nickwilberg@hotmail.com and enter that way instead.

Entries will be accepted between December 21-midnight December 28th. Be sure to check back before January 1st to find out if you are one of the 8 winners.

Thanks for stopping by! I hope this week is gentle for you. ((hugs))emily

National Grief Support Week

Did you know this last week was National Grief Support Week??

Neither did I.

How frustrating! Why can't the media run stories on this? Because it is TOO SAD. And yet, I've been saddened all week as I saw stories of Adam Walsh and Caylee Anthony and have been thinking of lost children all week long anyway. I would so have loved to know about this event.

Here are the details about National Grief Support Week 2008: Supporting Each Other Through the Pain of Loss December 15-21, 2008. I guess better late than never as today is the last day.

You can find out more info on this site

Motherland: a film by Jennifer Steinman
On December 1, 2006, six diverse women came together to take an unusual trip: an intensive pilgrimage to work as volunteers with children in rural South Africa. Strangers to each other before the journey, these women shared one life changing experience in common: each had suffered the death of a child. The film Motherland tells the story of this inspiring journey, and how, for 17 days on the other side of the world, the lives of these remarkable women were forever transformed... again.


Watch the trailer here

This movie looks amazing- I can't wait to see it. Their children were older when they died, but at one part one of the moms said "They are gone, and you'll never forget that they're gone, but you've got to live life as if they're still there because they are still there inside your heart"

I'd love to hear if any of you have seen this movie

Thursday, December 18, 2008

How did I get on this path? My story



On May 8, 2002 I recieved the news no mother wants to hear. "I am sorry, but this baby does not have a heartbeat". I spent the next 3 days in the hospital waiting to deliver my stillborn son, Gabriel. He was 21 weeks gestation and apparently died due to 'cord accident".

We were blindsided. I had no idea that in this age of modern medicine and in a country as prosperous as the United States that babies still died. I thought it was something that only happened in third world counties, or maybe back in the pioneer days. It is bad enough to lose a child- but to be faced with friends and family who don’t want to talk about it because it is ‘too sad’ or ‘time to get over it feels like I am losing him over again. Gabriel is my child- he just doesn’t happen to be with my family right now, although I have hope I will get to see him again, someday.

After finding SHARE, I realized there is a real need for awareness and memory items for babies that have died. The first item we were talking about on the message boards was a Pregnancy and Loss Awareness Ribbon car magnets, similar to the yellow “Support Our Troops” ribbon. I asked my husband (a graphic designer/illustrator) to create a design for us, which grew to include so many other sayings such as “Mommy of an Angel”, “Daddy of an Angel”, “Grandma”, “Parents”, “Family” and more. I started my site PregnancyLossRibbons.com to keep those orders organized.

Then someone mentioned they were having a hard time finding items suitable for scrapbooking a baby that had died- it is heartbreaking to go to a craft store and sort though the “baby’s first steps” and other stickers and supplies we will never get to use with our children. My husband designed a set of vellum scrapbooking quotes pages that are appropriate to use and very different from any others you find in the store. I added a tip sheet on ’How to scrapbook your baby’. I went so far as to send our pages to a well known publisher of scrapbooking supplies. They were sent back to me in an envelope without even a note of acknowledgement or support. This was when I really knew that if I didn’t do this nobody would. So I added those to my site as well.

It is an ongoing difficulty that when you experience a loss, it seems that there are pregnant women and little babies everywhere you go. Even a simple trip to church or the grocery store turns out to be filled with landmines as you are reminded of what we are missing. The thing is this- we are also likely seeing women who have had losses. Our babies leave footprints on our hearts, but no outward sign that our lives have been touched in this way. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was some way we could recognize each other? This was when we created the white silicone bracelets stating “Remembering Our Babies”. When someone commented that siblings also wanted bracelets we made the smaller pink/blue swirl bracelets that simply say “Remembering”.

But that site is unwieldy. Not very user friendly. I wanted it to be an informational site and it is awkward to use it in that way. So this blog was born. At first I thought, “What the heck do I have to say?” and then I realized we all have a lot to say. What do we wish people had told us? Not the things people DID tell me like “You’ll have more kids” and “It happens for a reason”, but rather “Hey, sometime someone is going to ask you how many kids you have- be prepared, that is a tricky question, now.” Or that my child’s name would become precious to me and seeing it in print knowing someone wrote it just for him would be priceless.

I never thought my life would take a turn in this way. I never thought I’d have a website selling memory items for families that have had babies die. Every customer and every order I get breaks my heart that there is even a need for these items. Yet so many emails I get thank me for offering these items and making them available so there is one small way to remember our children.

I have to think that I married this particular man (a graphic artist/illustrator) and had this particular baby (Gabriel, stillborn 5/10/02 at 21 weeks gestation) in order to do some small good in the world. I thank him for his support, and also my living kids Abby and Zac for their patience and understanding as I have spent many hours online searching for information, mementos, and support.

I have gone on to have 2 'rainbow babies' (children born after a loss that bring color back into your life) and feel very blessed to hold them in my arms. My life (and house) is very full but I will never forget my Gabriel. I am a different person now than I was before he came (so briefly) into my life. I am far from perfect, but maybe I am better than I was. More patient, more perspective, more appreciative for every moment with my family.

I hope we all are able to find some peace and comfort. I wish you gentle days, Emily (Gabriel’s mom)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sweet Pea Project



Sweet Pea Project was inspired by Madeline- a sweet little girl born silently. Her mom, Stephanie, regrets not getting to keep the blanket Madeline had been wrapped in when she was born and is collecting receiving blankets to keep other bereaved moms from this same regret.

Check out her site at sweetpeaproject.blogspot.com to find out how to donate to this first annual blanket drive. The blankets will be delivered to the hospital on Madeline's second birthday- January 5th.

You can read about Stephanie and her Sweet Pea Project in the Lancaster New Era on December 23rd- read the article online at lancasteronline.com

What a wonderful way to honor a sweet little girl gone too soon.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A New Normal

After my son Gabriel was stillborn, I waited a long time for my life to ‘get back to normal.’ After some time, I realized I had ‘a new normal’. I was never to be as innocent and carefree as I was before. And yet, I think maybe I am a better person in some ways, too. Perhaps more patient, more understanding, less likely to ‘sweat the small stuff.’ More tolerant. Gabriel’s short life changed me forever.

About a year after Gabriel died, I found a list I had made- a list goals; of things I wanted to accomplish. It included about ten items and had things like ‘better relationship with my husband’, ‘lose 10 pounds’, “find a way to quit work and stay home with the kids’ and ‘attend church more regularly’. I realized that every single item on that list had been accomplished as a result of Gabriel dying. Although I am not thankful for the manner it happened, I can be grateful for the growth. You can be sure I am going to someday have a conversation with my Heavenly Father- was this really the only way to get my attention?

If anyone had told me ‘this happens for a reason’ I would smack them in the head. And yet, I have to think that there was maybe a purpose. That maybe I married this particular man (an illustrator/designer) and had this particular baby to do some small good in the world.

This didn’t happen all at once. It didn’t happen overnight. But little by little I have found myself in a place I never thought I’d be. It has been over six years and I find myself the author of a blog and the owner of a website that sells awareness items. I hope that I have contributed to this world in a small way. Am I perfect? Absolutely not. Not even close. But maybe better than I was.

I’ve met people I never would have met, otherwise. I have made some friends that are closer to me than people I know in real life. I have learned what is really important- my family, and my kids. I try to appreciate every minute. I try to love my kids. To hug them often and ignore the messes and just be glad that they are there to make them.

I think maybe these are gifts Gabriel has given to me.
I hope this week is gentle for you. peace- Emily

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Willow Tree Figurines

These Willow tree figurines really speak to me. It is amazing they are able to have such sweet expression even though they do not have faces. I have bought several figurines as I have traveled this journey and found myself at different stages. I have also given them to friends who have experienced losses. They have quite a few angels and ornaments as well, and I like that they are pretty inexpensive. They are usually carried at Hallmark stores, but also online sites. The main site is http://www.willow-tree-angel.com

I can imagine this is me holding Gabriel. It is called "Angel of Mine"


It is also available as a little memory box that would be perfect for holding small notes or mementos of your baby.

This one is called 'Grandmother'

Called 'Child of my Heart'

This one reminds me of how Gabriel might look when he was a toddler. Called 'Child's Touch' figurine.

This one might be good for twins- it is called 'Two Together'

This one is an ornament and called 'Angel of Hope'

A reader LAURA showed me this one that was given to her while she was in the hospital after the birth of her daughter Sophie- it is called 'New Life'

I bought this one when I found myself pregnant again. I kept it on my dresser. It was kind of like Gabriel was giving me permission to be happy

Saturday, December 6, 2008

And if I go, while you're still here

And if I go, while you're still here...
know that I live on,
vibrating to a different measure
behind a thin veil you cannot see through.

You will not see me,
so you must have faith.

I wait for the time when
we can soar together again,
both aware of each other.

Until then, live your life to its fullest
and when you need me,
just whisper my name in your heart,
... I will be there.

Emily Dickinson

Friday, December 5, 2008

Healing a Parent's Grieving Heart

On another messageboard I read frequently someone told the tragic story of a family who just had a child die. They asked, "What do I say? What can I do?" This is often the question asked. I referred them to the page For Friends and Family but then the next resource I reached for on my shelf was this book: Healing a Parent's Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas after your Child Dies by Alan D. Wolfelt. PH.D and I remembered what a great help this was to me after Gabriel died.

The author is a grief counselor for 25 years, and although not a bereaved parent himself, he has heard the stories of thousands of grieving parents. You can read his bio here. He also holds Center for Loss workshops in Colorado.

It is not a huge book- so it is easily overlooked. I bought it at Borders so you may be able to find it at your local chain bookstore. This book is not specific for pregnancy loss or stillbirth, but of great value none the less. It in the foreword, Andrea Gambill, editor of Bereavement magazine calls it a 'small but powerful book' full of 'common sense and compassionate suggestions'. Absolutely right.

I particularly appreciated the the layout where each page is its own topic with a specific idea at the bottom of something you can DO. From "Keep a Journal (go to a bookstore and pick a blank book- get a cup of coffee and start your first entry)" to " Take Good Care of Yourself (start taking a multivitamin if you don't already), every single page gives me an idea of something specific I can do. Just flipping through the topics I feel energized.

Here are just a few:
Understand the unique grieving needs of Dads/Moms/Grandparents (each its own page)
Wear a symbol of mourning
Plan a ceremony
Organize a memory book
Volunteer
Laugh
Prepare to answer the question "How many children do you have?"
Cry
Be aware your grief affects your body, heart, social self and spirit

If I could type out the entire book for you here I would. But instead I suggest you get a copy. No matter where you are in the journey I think it is useful. I have given it to several friends who have had someone close to them die. Once I gave the teen's book to a family where the mother died very unexpectedly- the aunt told me later what a huge help it had been as they were able to flip through and talk about the different ideas and ask "Now, what are you feeling about this today?"

He has several other books on the topic of grieving- for children, for teens, for parents. I have linked just a few below.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

How to Help Someone Who Has Lost A Child

This list was posted on SHARE by SuzanneMarie, Mom to Christopher on earth, and Hope, Lily, and Jonathan in Heaven. With her permission I post it here. I think she did a great job explaining what it is like to live with the grief of losing a child.


If someone you know has lost a loved one, you probably have no idea what to do. Our society does not prepare us to deal with grief, our own or someone else's. These suggestions and strategies are intended to help you understand what may be helpful to a grieving person. As Christian brothers and sisters, we have a responsibility to one another, and when one of us grieves, the rest need to act.

Please do not ignore or avoid us. We are grieving a terrible loss and do not want to grieve your absence as well.

If you do not know what to say or do, tell us. I do not know what to say or do. We don't either, but your presence and patience are comforting.

If we start to cry, do not feel like it is your fault for talking to us. We cry a lot and you did not cause our tears. Stay with us while we cry. If we are in public and can't get hold of our tears, take us someplace quiet where we can sit down and then sit with us.

If you get uncomfortable, please do not leave. Grief is just uncomfortable.

If we ask you to help us in some way, please do it if you can. If you can't, please look for someone else who can. It is terribly difficult to ask for help, and if we actually do make a request, we really need it.

If we do not ask for help, ask us, "Can I help you with anything?" If we say no, ask again. If we say no again, don't believe us. Find a close friend who knows us well and inquire about ways to help. . .practical stuff, emotional support, or fun distraction like a trip to the coffee shop may be in order.

Daily responsibilities are nightmare right now, just another stress we can't handle. Show up at our house with a bag of groceries, a vacuum cleaner, tickets to take our children to the fair, or nothing at all. Just show up. While you visit, pop a load of laundry in the washer.

If you only have 30 free minutes, we don't mind. We will appreciate whatever company you can offer us.

Let us talk about our loved one and listen as we tell you stories.

If someone we love has died, do not say, "It is for the best," even if you believe it is. Tell us you are sorry for the death of our child/spouse/parent/sibling/best friend.

If we get mad at you or say something hurtful, please forgive us. The last thing we want to do is hurt someone, especially someone who is willing to be with us. We are just hurting so much and it comes out in inappropriate ways sometimes.

Please accept that we will feel angry, sad, numb, crazy, and many other things. This will make you uncomfortable, but please don't avoid us. We are more uncomfortable than you can imagine right now.

Please send us a card when you learn of our loss.

Send us flowers.

Remember our children (if we have any living with us). When you visit, bring them a small toy, cool rock, or magazine you think they'd like. And if we forget to express our gratitude for your kindness to our child(ren), it is not intentional rudeness. We are truly grateful for your gesture.

If we have miscarried early in pregnancy (before 20 weeks is considered a miscarriage, after 20 weeks the baby is considered stillborn), our response will likely fit into a range: we may be saddened at the loss of the pregnancy but accept it as a part of having children, or we may grieve the loss as the death of our child. You can figure out how we feel with a question like, "How are you?" If we begin to sob and say "I miss my baby, " then you know where we're at.

Wherever we are on the scale of grief with miscarriage, send us a card. If we are in the more accepting part of the range, an "I'm thinking of you" card is good. If we are grieving the death of our baby, a sympathy card is appropriate.

Please remember significant dates associated with our loss.
* The anniversary of our loss.
* The birthday of our loved one. (In the case of infant death or miscarriage, these events may be the same date.)
* In the case of miscarriage or stillbirth, ask our due date and remember it. . .for years to come.
* Our birthday, holidays, especially Mother's Day and Father's Day if we grieve our child or parent.
* If we have no living children, it is even more important to remember Mothers and Fathers Days.

Do not avoid speaking of our loved one. We really want to talk about him or her.

Do not fear you will remind us of our loss, for it is always with us.

If we do not feel up to discussing our loved one or grief, accept our feelings and move on to another topic.

If you wish to do something beyond offering us your friendship and ear, make a donation to a specific cause. For example, if our child or parent died of a certain disease, a donation to a research foundation that studies that disease will have very special significance.

Release a balloon in memory of our loved one, and write us a note that you did this.

If nothing comes to mind and you wish to do something, donate a book to the public library in memory of our loved on. We will be happy to know that the library patrons are reading of our special person and remembering them with us.

Be patient with us. We will not be better all at once. We will seem better then we will seem worse. We will seem at peace then we will be suddenly angry. In fact, we may never be the same again. Please don't expect us to be. And please please do not suggest that we should.

But most of all, pray for and with us. More than any other gesture, we will find comfort in your prayers and presence.

Remember that for every person on the planet and every situation imaginable, there is a different response and grief journey.

This is about the loss of Hope. She died sometime in May of 2004 in her momma's womb, for no known reason. For those of you who have never experienced the loss of a baby, or a child, or any of your loved ones, this will help you walk along side someone who has and is now in a dark place. You can't go there. In fact, you will prefer to walk away and forget about it. But your friend must live with this always. Buck up and offer yourself to one who has lost everything.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

National Children's Memorial Day

National Children's Memorial Day happens every year on the second Sunday of December and is observed internationally to honor the 80,000 children who die each year. Families around the world light candles at 7 p.m. in their corresponding time zones. As candles burn down in one time zone, they are lighted in the next, creating a 24-hour wave of light that encircles the globe. This remembrance ceremony provides the world with lit candles for an entire 24 hour period in order to honor the children we have lost, the children who lived and died, and who, even in death, continue to matter.

This year National Children's Memorial Day will be held December 14th

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Christmas Box Angel







The story behind this angel statue is told in the book "The Christmas Box" by Richard Paul Evans. In the book a grieving woman mourns the loss of her child at an angel statue in a Salt Lake cemetary. There have since been over 80 Christmas box angel statues placed around the United States. They are dedicated as places of love and healing for all those who have lost children. Many of them have candlelight vigil ceremonies around this time of year. It is customary to leave a white flower behind. If you look closely at the angel statue there is the word 'hope' hidden in her wing.

To check if there is an angel statue near you, visit the site Christmas box angel locations

I will be giving away copies of The Christmas Box book- check back for more details later in the week.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Personalized Ornaments

I know not everyone celebrates Christmas and not everyone likes the term 'angels' but I found some ornaments I wanted to share with you

From Things Remembered:
Engraved Angel Ornament only $7.99


Holiday Moments Angel Ornament $14.99


Memorial Tree Ornament $14.99 The quote says “"Even Though We Are Apart, We Will Keep You Forever in Our Heart."



Memorial Heart Locket $19.99 Can add their name, dates and a photo. The outside reads “We never lose the one we love They live on in our hearts”

From OrnamentsandMore.com

Lots of angel ornaments that can personalized:


girl angel ornaments


multiple angels These are called ‘daycare angel ornaments’ but they are basically a tree with either 3, 5 or 7 angels that can be personalized. This would work for multiple losses- the tree with 3 for triplets, possibly


boy angels

ethnic angels

From ChristmasSpiritShop.com
Christmas from Heaven John Mooney wrote "Merry Christmas From Heaven" in 1989, after the death of his mother in August. His only intention was to present it to his family that year at Christmas. He knew it as going to be a very difficult holiday season without her. The words, and the comfort he and his family needed, came to him after a prayer one night. As he wrote, he thought of the words his mother might say to each one of them.

From Oriental Trading (if you want to buy multiples to give to family members)
resin angel ornaments

battenburg trimmed angel ornaments

Making a stamp from your baby's footprints

If you are lucky enough to have a footprints image from your baby you can get a custom stamp made. I found this site: www.simonstamp.com You can send your scanned image or send it snail mail. If you get the order in by noon they ship it out the same day. Prices are very reasonable at less than $30 for a 5"x 2" image on an art mount stamp.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sending Christmas Cards

How do you include your baby when signing your Christmas cards? Do you sign their name along with the rest of your family members? Do you use a special symbol or stamp? Do you send cards out at a different time of year? Skip them altogether?

This is a question that comes up often. I'd like to hear your suggestions on what you do. Thank you for sharing your ideas of how to handle this difficult time of year.


Edited to add links:
I went on an internet search to find stamps or footprints that might be used in cards- how frustrating to wade through so many other items to try to find something that might work! I've added links below to the best ones I found. I am not associated with any of these sites, nor have I used them before, so take this for what it is- a list of sites that carry stamps or punches that might be useful when sending out your cards.

pink hand and footprint stickers

blue hand & footprint stickers

footprint stamp

star stamp

butterfly stamp

heart punch

dragonfly punch

star punch

footprint punch

butterfly punch

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thanksgiving- a way to remember

A year ago I went to the SHARE conference in St. Louis, MO and it was amazing. I presented a workshop on Family Traditions: Making Memories that Include Your Baby. One part we talked about holidays and how to get through difficult holidays.

One of the HARDEST holidays I think is Thanksgiving. For my family it usually involves a big family dinner, lots of little kid cousins running around, new babies being passed along for everyone to hold, and the most obvious empty spot in my heart and hands as my baby is not here. And the fact that it is darn hard to be THANKFUL about it. Even though it has been 6 years, it is still a reminder as I see the cousins born the same year as Gabriel and I watch them getting bigger and think of what he should be doing right now.

One idea given at that workshop by someone attending is: while everyone is sitting around the table for Thanksgiving dinner, have a toast to remember all family members who are absent from the table. I absolutely LOVE this! It is always a challenge to come up with ways to remember our babies, and often our attempts are awkwardly received by family members. Well, here is one that has individual meaning to each of us, and can easily be done without having to feel sad or awkward around your grouchy uncle or grandpa who may not want to deal with, or be reminded about a baby. Love this idea!

If you have ways you remember your children on Thanksgiving, I'd love to hear them- feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you do.

I'm wishing you all a gentle day and holiday season. peace- emily

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Parable of Immortality by Henry Van Dyke

I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength,
and I stand and watch until at last she hangs
like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says,
" There she goes! "
Gone where?
Gone from my sight . . . that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
as she was when she left my side
and just as able to bear her load of living freight
to the place of destination.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment
when someone at my side says,
" There she goes! "
there are other eyes watching her coming . . .
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout . . .
" Here she comes! "

Friday, November 7, 2008

SHARE

If you haven't been to the messageboards at SHARE I'd like to invite you to check them out. They have been an incredible source of support for me. Even after 6 years I still visit daily. At first it was to get support, but often now I find I'm at a different place and am looking to see who I might be able to help. No matter what I am feeling (angry, anxious, crazy) it is so helpful to know I am not alone.

Check them out at http://www.nationalshareoffice.com You can just go read stories, or post your feelings and questions. It is a moderated board so it takes a while for comments to show up, and that also means it is a safe place. I post under the name 'babybug' there.

I hope today is gentle for you
peace- emily

Thursday, November 6, 2008

SandWritten Names



For Gabriel's angelversary my sister wrote his name in the sand near her home on the North Shore of Hawaii. I love how it turned out! I've had several people ask her to do this for their babies, too. If you'd like us to write your baby's name, go to http://www.pregnancylossribbons.com/sandwrittennames.htm to send a request.

peace- emily

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

World's most insensitive commercials

Does anyone else hate the new VW commercials with Brooke Shields accusing people of getting pregnant just so they have an excuse to buy a VW? I have so many friends that either can not get pregnant or have lost their baby and are missing them. This commercial has got to be one of the most insensitive commercials I have seen and I cringe when one comes on.

A close second is the 'Have a happy period' advertising slogan currently being used by Always brand maxi pads by Proctor & Gamble. Idiots.

Scrapbooking Sonograms

All information I have read has indicated that sonograms are highly unstable. They are printed on thermographic paper and will eventually turn completely black. There is no way to preserve the actual sonogram. But, you can make a copy at the copy store (white paper is archival quality) or scan it into your computer and print it out. Or, take the sonogram to a Kodak Picture Maker and print it out on photo paper. You may want to take the opportunity to enlarge it.

We are working on some frames for scrapbooking sonograms. If you would like to be notified when these are ready please email me at nickwilberg @ hotmail.com

Suggestions for Layouts/Journaling Prompts

Pregnancy Pages: include doctors visits, pregnancy tests, sonogram pictures, how you told your husband/partner, surprise? or long await +, morning sickness, cravings, weight gain, proud papa, mama, getting ready for baby, decorating the nursery, maternity clothes, 'old wives tales', baby showers, advice you were given, boy or girl?, telling grandparents.

Problems/Complications: these pages won't be happy happy but it can be very healing to write all this down. If you'd like to keep it more private, consider putting your journaling in an envelope in your scrapbook. This is a part of your baby's story and deserves to be told. Everyone's loss story is different but this might include testing, finding out, family reactions, hospital visits, nurses/doctors, what helped most, what didn't , friends and family, living children, waiting for baby, preterm labor, advice given, difficult decisions, sadness, grief, shock, anger, searching, regret, love, venting

Meeting Your Baby: You may or may not have had a chance to hold or see your baby but you may be able to include layouts of footprints, handprints, who your baby looked like, your thoughts of how you spent your time with your baby

Memorial Services/Funerals/Ceremonies: memorial services, clergy, beliefs in afterlife, religion, symbols, flowers, balloons, music, memorial gardens, your baby's headstone or urn, do you have a special spot in your house or where you feel close to your baby?, balloon releases

Changed Forever: support groups, walk to remember, friends met, traditions, kindness projects, awareness, how has your life direction changed?

Your baby's family: include pages about mommy, daddy, brothers/sisters, aunts/uncles, grandma/grandpa Possibly ask family members to write letters to your baby to include here

Support from friends and family: include cards, flowers, messages that you received

Inspirations: signs from your baby, symbols that remind you of your baby, did you buy a special item of jewerly that reminds you of your baby?, include poems, words to songs, inspirational quotes

Anniversarys and Special Dates write down how you spend these special dates. Maybe start a tradition of writing a letter to your baby each year

Scrapbook Your Baby

Scrapbook your baby
How do you create a scrapbook for a child you never got to know? Maybe you experienced a miscarriage and early pregnancy loss. Maybe your baby was stillborn. Maybe your baby’s short life was spent in the NICU unit of your hospital. Often when families experience the loss of a child there are very few, if any, momentos.

However, it can be very healing to create a scrapbook for your child. Your baby did exist! And no child is ever forgotten who has a family to remember him or her. No matter if you got to hold your baby or not, if you have photos or not, it is important to capture your baby’s brief life in a scrapbook similar to any other scrapbook a mother makes for her child.

If you experienced an early pregnancy loss:

From the first moment you found out you were pregnant you started creating memories. Gather anything that reminds you of your pregnancy and your baby. This might include your pregnancy test results, sonogram photos, pictures of you while you were pregnant (whether or not you knew you were pregnant or if you ‘looked’ pregnant.) Write down your feelings you had when you found out you were pregnant. How did you tell your partner? Did you have morning sickness or strange cravings? Was your pregnancy a surprise or a much anticipated effort? Write down anything about this early part of your pregnancy. Was there a nickname you called your baby? I encourage you to name your baby even if you did not absolutely know the gender of your baby.

If your baby was stillborn:

You likely have more memories about your pregnancy if your child died later in your pregnancy. Did your baby kick a lot? Have hiccups? Was your baby restless, did he or she respond to daddy’s voice or a particular type of music? Did you prepare a nursery room or buy special items while preparing to meet your baby?

You may have other memories created while in the hospital, or you may not. You may have been fortunate enough to have photos of your baby. You may have handprints or footprints. You might have a special outfit the baby wore or a blanket your baby was wrapped in. You may have cards or flowers received while you were in the hospital. Write down all the memories you have, regardless if they are difficult to remember. You can enclose them in an envelope to place in your scrapbook. It can be very healing to express these feelings and know they are ‘remembered’ in a safe place.

If you have few hospital momentos, it is still possible to create some items to recognize your child. You can request a “Certificate of Life” from SHARE (nationalshareoffice.com). You can put an obituary notice in the paper. You can make announcements to send to family and friends including your child’s name and birth and death dates. You can write a letter to your baby and put it in your scrapbook. Is there a particular poem, scripture or song that has special meaning to you? Do you feel inspired to write a poem or song for your baby?

Memorial Services or Graves:

Did you have a service for your baby? Who attended? What poems were read? You can take pictures of your baby’s grave or urn. Even if you did not have a memorial service it is never to late to do so. You can have a small family service on an anniversary date. You can write letters to you baby, or kiss a balloon and let it go.

Later on:

No matter if you have momentos or not, it is never enough. You were expecting a lifetime of memories and photos, not just a tiny book with a few items. However, you will find that although your child was with you just a short time, you are changed forever. You may want to record how your baby changed you. You may have met friends at support groups you would never otherwise had known. You may find your direction or purpose in life has changed. How are you different for knowing your baby?

You can scrapbook how you spend anniversary dates. Did you attend a Walk to Remember? Is there a special piece of jewelry your purchased to remind you of your angel? Is there a service project you have done in honor of your baby? What do you do to feel close to your angel? Is there a special song that has new meaning?

I wish you peace as you create your baby’s scrapbook and remember his or her life.

With love, Emily

Photography Tips

Photographing Angels
By: Angela Farley
Questions or comments: angie@missfoundation.org or angie@thefarleys.com

(A brief overview of taking pictures of stillborn babies and infants who have died)
NOTE: Some sections are intended for caregivers

It is my hope that this overview will help you to create and preserve a valuable memory for a family that they will cherish for a lifetime.

Lighting:
The best pictures you will get for parents will be using natural light. Be aware that fluorescent lights will give a greenish appearance and incandescent will give a warm orange hue to the pictures. A flash creates a harsh, flat light that can ruin pictures intended to be soft and gentle making them appear unnatural. Be aware of shadows that may be present due to the natural light, your angle to the natural light, or persons standing near the baby.

Film:
For the best natural light pictures with no flash use a 400-speed good quality film (Kodak, Fuji, or Polaroid). 400-speed film is an excellent choice for low light situations.

Developing the prints:
Most hospitals use instant cameras, but for those who use standard 35mm cameras here are a few tips on developing these special prints. You can develop the pictures for the family yourself preferably a one-hour photo lab. NEVER send the photos out to be developed as this can take a long time and you run the risk of the film being lost. Another option is to simply give the parents the roll/rolls of film for them to develop at a later date.

Consent:
We think it is best to have verbal consent from the parent’s of the child, along with the disposition of the photos documented in the patients file. You can obtain consent by suggesting to the parents that the process of photographing their baby is helpful for capturing memories that will fade over time. Advise the parents that they can take the photos home with them or they can be stored in a confidential file that they can obtain later on. Of course you will need to let the parents know exactly how long their pictures will be available. It is best to discuss this preferably before the child’s birth (if possible) to allow for tender pictures to be taken right from the moment of delivery. Most of all be supportive of the parents and do not judge their decision, allowing them to change their mind at any time.

Talking to the parents:
Explain that you would like to take some special pictures of their beloved child. Ask the parents if they have any special poses (some parents who have surviving children would like the child posed the same way as the others for continuity in family picture displays). Find out if they have any special toys, blankets, or clothing they would like in the photos. Suggest that the parents be involved as much as possible in the photo session reminding them that you can never have too many pictures as this will be the only time they will be able to parent this child. These memories will have to last the family a lifetime. Most importantly, be relaxed and unhurried letting the parents have time to touch and view their child as needed, as this is obviously a very emotional time for the family.

Some pose suggestions:
1- Baby loosely wrapped in a softly colored fuzzy blanket (babies wrapped tightly in blankets will give the impression of a “mummy-like” image)
2- A close-up of baby’s face, hand, foot, or parents finger in baby’s hand (parents stroking the baby’s face or other area of the baby)
3- Baby on its tummy with hands by its face
4- Mom and/or dad cradling baby (only family photo they will have)
5- Special family members cradling baby (grandma/grandpa, special aunt or uncle, surviving child/children).
6- Baby undressed showing full body (showing that the child was not merely a face wrapped in a blanket).
7- Mom and dad looking down at baby laying on bed or in bassinet
8- Parents dressing baby.
9- Any feature that the parents comment on especially if they mention a feature that looks like a family members (he has uncle Steve’s ears).
10- Baby in the arms of a staff member, nurse, or doctor (some parents have the belief that the staff has qualms about handling their deceased child- this photo will relieve this fear) (this is also good for parents whose child may have lived for a time in the NICU, and a good way to remember a special staff member who cared for their child).
11- Pictures of the Chaplin baptizing the baby.

Taking care of the pictures:
Storing the pictures for parents who choose not to get the pictures until a later date is crucial as these pictures can never be replaced. Most families will take the pictures with them when they leave the hospital but of those who decide not to, well over 60% will return within a year for them.
1- Write the name of the patient and/or child on the back of each picture (or roll of film if using 35mm).
2- Store the pictures in a cool dry place (perhaps in a filing cabinet or in a drawer where the camera is stored)
3- Date the pictures/film with when they were taken, the date they are to be held until, and parents phone number (to make sure that film or pictures are not disposed of before the date the parents were informed they would be available until. The phone number may be useful to call the parents to remind them that the pictures are available)
4- Store the pictures/film in an envelope to make sure they all stay together and to allow for the patients confidentiality.

Timing:
Taking pictures before, during, and after the death are all precious times and should be photographed. A lot of parent’s whose children lived for only minutes will cherish any photo you are able to get of their child before he/she died whether it is good or bad. Taking the baby's picture as soon as possible after a stillbirth delivery will give the best result. The medical facts show that if you wait until later the face will begin to darken from bruising and as a result of natural process of decomposition. Many parents I have spoken to stated that the pictures they have that were taken hours after the delivery show eyes becoming droopy, puffier, dark bruising, and sometimes even skin peeling. Don’t feel rushed but do keep in mind the sooner the pictures are taken the better the final result will be for the parents.

Photos you don’t like:
No matter how many pictures you have taken in your life you will occasionally get ones you do not like. This is a definite advantage to using an instant camera. With 35mm you should take a few shots of each pose so the parents will have some to choose from. If you are in a situation where you are only allowed take 1 or 2 photos any picture you take will be better than none for the parents. If you find yourself in that situation perhaps ask the parents if you can use their camera to take more explaining you are limited in the number of photos you are allowed to take (most people will bring a camera with to the hospital or you can suggest that they purchase one from the hospital gift shop).

Difficult pictures:
It is possible to take pictures of babies who have died quite a while before they were delivered and babies who have birth defects at delivery. The parent will want pictures of both the baby’s “good and bad” features. For example, a parent who has a child with anencephaly will probably want a full face picture along with a few where the birth defect is disguised (this can be done by simply putting a hat on the baby). For a child who has bad skin peeling you can take more pictures focusing on the non-damaged area like a hand, ear, or foot or by turning the baby’s face. Another way to make pictures easier for the parents and their family to view is to consider using a roll of black and white film, which will mask any discoloration the baby may have.

Trick of the trade:
To create an even softer appearance to the picture you can take a piece of nylon or pantyhose and stretch it tightly across the lens area of the camera this will make the picture appear soft and hazy. Depending on the type of camera you are using you can secure the piece of nylon with a rubber band around the lens.

Step-by-step final checklist:
1- Camera is loaded.
2- You have a clear, clean, and uncluttered background.
3- Promote relaxation and even enjoyment of this special time allowing the parents to parent this child.
4- Make sure baby is clean (if possible) with hair brushed etc.
5- Make sure any toys or special items that the parents have requested be in photos are easily accessible.
6- Ask family members to help.
7- Position baby.
8- Check lighting. Is it natural? Are there shadows? (white poster board can be used to reflect light to any shadowed areas).
9- Look in viewfinder.
10- Remember what you see is what you get. Do not be afraid to get closer.
11- Check to make sure the baby is in focus.
12- Take the picture (don’t rush. Parents will often think of other poses while you are taking the photos).
13- Suggest to the parents that they can and should take some photos at the baby’s memorial service (they can also have another family member do this).
14- And MOST importantly – be proud of the fact that you are creating memories for a family that they may not have had otherwise.

Mother's Day

Every May we set aside a special day to honor mothers. For many, Mother’s Day is a day filled with flowers, cards, and special brunches out with their families. And yet, this day can be painful for a mother who is grieving the loss of her child. Every year in the United States there are approximately 2 million women who experience pregnancy losses due to miscarriage or stillbirth. Nearly 28,000 infants will die before their first birthday. And approx 14, 500 children will die before their 14th birthday, another 33,000 before their 24th birthday. These are sobering statistics.

A child without a mother is called an orphan, but our society has no word to describe a mother without her child. Often these mothers are forgotten on Mother’s Day, especially if it was their only child that died. Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of what they are missing. It can cause them to question- ‘Are they mothers if their children are not with them?’

It is often assumed Mother’s Day was a holiday invented by the card companies as a stroke of marketing brilliance to sell more cards. And yet it started as so much more. In 1870, Julia Ward Howe (author of the poem The Battle Hymn of the Republic) was distressed by the devastating effects of the Civil War, and called for a formal recognition of a Mother’s Day for Peace. This crusade was taken up by Anna Jarvis, whos mother had been working to improve sanitation through what she called Mother’s Work Days. Later, the first Mother’s Day was celebrated in 1907 as a ‘memorial day for women’ in West Virginia. The custom eventually spread to 45 states, and the first national Mother’s Day was finally declared in 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson.

It is fitting that on this day that begun with mother’s mourning their sons we remember ALL mothers- those that have their children with them and those that are missing their children. Happy Mother’s Day to all of us.

Family Traditions: Making Memories That Include Your Baby

Family Traditions: Making Family Memories that Include Your Baby

By Emily Wilberg presented at SHARE retreat July 2007





I. WHY HAVE FAMILY TRADITIONS?



Look at a strong family and you are likely to find one with strong family traditions. Whether it is activities that the family always does, the everyday routines or ways they celebrate holidays and special occasions, these family rituals bring a sense of belonging, familiarity and routine to family members. In strong families, members become more committed to each other when they spend time together and create bonds. Traditions provide a sense of continuity, understanding, connectedness and love that strengthens family closeness. Family traditions are also opportunities for families to have ‘good times” and establish memories. Rituals touch the hearts of family members in a positive way and help members feel good about themselves and each other.



Family traditions reflect relationships between family members and how the family interacts with the community, culture or religion. Traditions help form the story line for a family’s unique history with each generation adding or deleting certain traditions that enhance the family story.



THEY MAKE YOU FEEL PART OF A GROUP: Provides a sense of belonging- a common language, common memories (Story- Christmas morning the kids all line up on the stairs to wait to go down to the tree. They did this when they were together as adults because it just felt like the “right thing to do”)



In times of uncertainty, families can strengthen their emotional defenses and relieve tension by creating special rituals and family times Gives you something in common. Something familiar and predictable in a hectic and ever- changing world. Family bonds are weakened by busy lifestyles. There is a tendency to entropy (lose energy and coherence over time- like a gas dissipating until it is all but gone)- traditions are the glue to cement you close.



Importance of traditions crosses economic, cultural and religious lines. Christians celebrate Christmas, Muslims celebrate Ramadan, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving and across the globe families celebrate birthdays and anniversaries.



II RULES FOR SUCESSFUL FAMILY TRADITIONS



SUCESSFUL FAMILY TRADITIONS:



A. INCLUDE ALL FAMILY MEMBERS:

Remember family members that are not with you- (Grandma’s recipe, or family away at college) Your babies were with you just a moment but changed your family forever. They are still part of your family.



Our society doesn’t do a very good job at allowing us to remember. As soon as someone dies we are supposed to get over it, and move on. Some people think we are strange, or morbid. Grief is a very personal thing. You need to do what is right for you and your family. This doesn’t mean it may be right for everyone in your family, too. You have to allow each other the space to grieve as they need to. Invite spouses, grandparents, siblings to participate but give them permission not to if they can’t. Try to not get hurt feelings.



B. ARE FLEXIBLE: Don’t be rigid- evolve as your family does- as get married, start own families. Establish new traditions as you need. Do what feels right for your family and family members at this time. Your needs may change.



Some times it will feel sad. I think that is ok. Sometimes it may feel gentle, or peaceful, or strengthening. At different times you may need different activities. Sometimes you want a private quiet thing like writing a letter to your baby or buying a balloon and letting it go. Sometimes you are ready for a bigger community thing- March of Dimes or an area sports night



D. INCLUDE SPIRITUAL, EMOTIONAL, PHYSICAL ASPECTS. Some may be solomn, but it is also ok to have fun. Your traditions can include different aspects- physical (walking a labyrinth, March of Dimes, going somewhere special), emotional (attending bereavement conferences or a balloon release), spiritual (attend a mass or religious ceremony)



E. INCLUDE DIFFERENT SENSES: SMELL (scented candles, food), TASTE (food), TOUCH (different textures- sand, water), SOUND (songs), SIGHT (symbols)



G. OCCASIONALLY EVALUATE YOUR TRADITIONS: make a list- any you want to add? Any to get rid of? Have a MODERATE number. Don’t try to do it all. People do so much FOR their family they neglect being WITH their family. The house looks perfect but the people inside are irritable and frustrated from exhaustion. You may want to simplify. Keep the ones that are most important to you at this time.



H. ARE MEANINGFUL: do service as a family, do something together QUALITY TIME, handed down generations. Each year as they are re-enacted warm memories return



I. PHOTOS & STORIES- write it down, my familiy loves to look at scrapbooks- if you don’t have photos, keep an ongoing journal of ways you celebrate or remember. When you do something in memory of your child, write your thought in a letter to him or her.







III. WHEN TO HAVE TRADITIONS?





A. CONTINUED PARENTING: The first I heard of this was Kara Jones on kotapress.com. You still have a connection with your child even though your child has died. You are still a parent even if your child is not with you.



Have a special place for your baby- can be area of your home or garden. One reason I am attending this conference is that SHARE is the only place in the world I am known solely for being Gabriel’s mom. He has brought me many friends I would not have met otherwise. That is my place with him.

Special time of day, week or year- sunrise, full moon. Can be time of day or yearyour baby was born. Sunday candles

Wear Jewelry with special significance

Angel Gardens/ Butterfly Gardens- butterfly bush, stepping stones, painted rocks

Symbols that have special meaning to your family- butterflies, ladybugs

Quotes/ Poems collection- special book, journal or scrapbook

Sponsor A Child (overseas)

Kindness Project- do good deeds in memory of your child

Scrapbooking Your Baby- ongoing scrapbook with your letters to your baby, notes about things you do in their memory, photos of the sky

Family Photos- include your baby with a symbol or stuffed animal

Tattoos



B. HOLIDAYS



There is often the sense that someone is missing. Especially difficult are family gatherings and traditional holidays. It is common to feel great loss at the realization that your baby will never experience these holidays and special days with your family. However, it is possible to make some memories that do include your baby. Let’s look at some holidays and everyday things to do to include your baby in your family’s traditions.



Whole first year is full of ‘should have beens’ as you experience milestone dates or holidays. It is very obvious your baby is gone. You can keep their memory close by by remembering them on these dates. There are also ways to remember them everyday in your family activities. Your baby does not need to be forgotten.



Easter

Visit cemetery, discuss resurrection

Leave easter eggs at cemetery on other babies graves with a kind word to their parents

Pinwheels



Mother’s Day/Father’s Day

Gift from baby

Special jewelry items, bracelets, keychains

Card exchange



ORIGIN Mothers Day was originally intended as a call to unite women against war after the civil war. It was to remember Mothers whos sons had died in the Civil War. 1870 Julia Ward Howe wrote a proclamation as a call for peace. It started as a ceremony of bereavement and then as a movement for peace and action to stop the senseless deaths of children everywhere. The first such Mother's Day was celebrated in Grafton, West Virginia, on May 10, 1908, in the church where the elder Ann Jarvis had taught Sunday School. From there, the custom caught on- spreading eventually to 45 states. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mother's Day, as a day for American citizens to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war.



Kara Jones Quote: “Our society can commercialize all they want. Because in my heart of hearts I know the real meaning of this day came from pain, loss, and grief -- the same things I feel on any given Mothers Day. And from now on, when people urge me to celebrate the day, I will tell them this:


I'll celebrate with you as long as you will first mourn with me. It is the combination of the two that lends itself to the true meaning of Mothers Day!”





October- all month long, and particularly Oct 15th

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

Tie pink or blue ribbons around trees

Ask local radio and tv stations to have them announce that October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

Write an article and submit it to your local newspapers.

Sponsor flowers in memory of your baby in a church service or hospital.

Participate in a memory walk or memorial service.

Release butterflies, doves or balloons

Send off a pink or blue balloon with your Angel’s name and/or picture



Instead of Halloween, Day of the Dead

On November 1st in Mexico we celebrate the Day of the Death. Families create altars in memory of their loved ones and place in there pictures, their favorite foods and drinks, flowers. poems. Though the subject matter may be considered morbid from the perspective of some other cultures, celebrants typically approach the Day of the Dead joyfully. The traditional mood is much brighter with emphasis on celebrating and honoring the lives of the deceased, and celebrating the continuation of life; the belief is not that death is the end, but rather the beginning of a new stage in life.



Thanksgiving-

send thankful letters instead of Christmas cards

have a toast to remember all those not sitting at the table with you

if it is too painful to attend a big family celebration SKIP IT this year! Do what you need to do



DECEMBER:

DEC 6 Candlelight Ceremony

Angel of Hope Statue: Candlelight ceremonies at Angel statues around the country. Can find more info at http://caseproof.com/rpe/angels.php as well as a list of locations.



Located in a quiet, garden setting, Blanchette Park, St. Charles, Missouri is home to the National Share Office Angel of Hope. The angel's face is that of a child, its arms raised as a child waiting to be lifted. In its wing is inscribed the word Hope. The Angel of Hope, an exact replica of the Christmas Box Angel statue, located in Salt Lake City, Utah, stands as a symbol of hope for all parents who have experienced the death of a child.

To honor our children's memories, memorial bricks are being placed around the base of the Angel of Hope statue with separate walkways extending in various directions from the base of the statue. The statue and surrounding area is intended to be a place of peace and healing for all bereaved parents.

The memorial bricks are placed around the Angel of Hope twice a year in a brick dedication ceremony, held in April, before Mother's Day and Father's Day, and in November, in time for the holiday season. (contact SHARE for more info on bricks)





Dec- 2nd Sunday National Children's Memorial Day happens every year on the second Sunday of December and is observed internationally to honor the 80,000 children who die each year.. Families around the world light candles at 7 p.m. in their corresponding time zones. As candles burn down in one time zone, they are lighted in the next, creating a 24-hour wave of light that encircles the globe. This remembrance ceremony provides the world with lit candles for an entire 24 hour period in order to honor the children we have lost, the children who lived and died, and who, even in death, continue to matter.



Christmas-

Ornaments- buy a special one for your baby



Stocking for your baby- ask friends and family to do an act of service in memory of your baby and send you an email. Place the emails in your baby's stocking and open them as gifts on Christmas morning

Angel Giving Tree- buy and donate gifts for children that will not get many

Sunrise Breakfast

Christmas cards that include your baby- use a special punch or sticker in shape of star, butterfly, dragonfly, ladybug

Candles



C. SPECIAL FAMILY DAYS



‘Angelversaries’-



Angelversary n. 1. This word denotes the annual date of a child's death. This day is just as important to a bereaved parent as a birthday, and stillbirth parents are marking both birth and death on the same day. So it is different than a regular birthday. While "anniversary" might work, that often seems to celebratory a word for this kind of day. Angelversary is our answer to describing this most difficult day. (excerpt from Dictionary of Loss)



Some ideas:

watch the sunrise,

thank your doctor and nurses (if applies)

write a letter to your baby

Sky photos- sunrise, or sunset photos

Kindness project- Random Acts of Kindness, leave flowers anonymously

Attend a Mass or other religious events

Buy a brick engraved with your baby’s name (SHARE Angel of Hope statue)

Put an Ad in paper

Balloon release

Butterfly release

Birthday cake- candles

Build a Bear

Stuffed animals in family photos

Write a letter to your baby

Kindness Project: flowers for random people, leave big tip for waitresses, pay for person behind you



D. SERVICE PROJECTS & FUNDRAISERS



Memory Boxes to hospital

Blanket projects- provide blankets to babies

Hospital Bereavement Projects- make gowns

Sporting Event: angelmaxch (Stacy) on SHARE mom to Maxwell Christopher s/b 6/27/03 at 26 weeks It is fairly simple to organize the night. I call the Phillies as soon as group tickets go on sale and reserve about 200 tickets (we usually have about 150 people attend). I put a downpayment on the tickets (it is non-refundable, so I have to be careful about how many I buy! lol). We send out the invitations to everyone we know with a response card and a stamped envelope. We need all of our responses 1 month before the game. I think the hardest part is doing the seating chart -- we try to put our families together and groups of friends together, so it gets a little crazy sometimes (like doing your seating chart for your wedding!!)



March of Dimes

Other ideas: donate rocking chair to NICU, books to library, buy a bench at a garden (butterfly bench)



III. CONCLUSION



A feeling of closeness and security doesn’t just happen in a family. Like anything else worth having, you have to work at it. When you think of ways you can help your family get a little closer, it’s not by telling someone to do something, and it’s by taking the time to share experiences- even small ones.



Wholesome family recreation is important in building successful families. By creating traditions that bring the family closer, parents can strengthen the bond between family members, fortify commitment to religion, and teach important principles they want their children to understand and live by.



Start a tradition- Not important WHAT it is, as long as it has MEANING FOR YOU

Facing the Holidays

Holidays are a time for family, and often it is difficult when you are so missing your child. You are very aware that your baby should be with you. It should be his or her first christmas, he should be taking the ornaments off the tree, she should be getting his or her picture with Santa, they should be with YOU. Your family should be together and you have a glaring, gaping hole, yet it appears you are the only one to feel this way.

Feelings of sadness are also complicated by anger if other family members do not remember your child. You get together at Thanksgiving and they don't understand why you don't just 'get over it'. You continuously run into other pregnant family members or friends with new babies who are preparing for or celebrating their children. You feel guilty for 'bringing them down' yet how can you just go on as if it is business as usual?

I have heard from many, many moms who say they would just like to 'skip Christmas' altogether. You may wish to simplify your holidays. Ask for help when you need it. If you aren't up for entertaining or being in big groups just say you are sorry you 'can't make it' this year. Do as much or as little as you are able. As you know, once a child dies things will never be 'back to normal'. We have to make a new normal for ourselves- a life without our child. Why shouldn't this include our holiday celebrations as well? You may consider some of the following suggestions.

*Include your baby in holiday cards and pictures. Some suggestions I have heard include having a stuffed animals or special symbol in your holiday picture. Your living children may benefit from picking a teddy bear or other item to include in the picture. You may choose to wear a special piece of jewelery, some special flower corsage, have a lit candle in your photo. Sign your cards from 'Gabriel's Family' (substitue your baby's name!) or include a star stamp or baby footprints.

*Do something different on Christmas Eve or morning. Attend a mass or other religious service. One family I heard about said they pack a breakfast and all go to watch the sunrise. One family who normally spends the holiday at home will intead go to the beach or out of town.

*Buy an ornament to remember your baby. You may want to purchase a special tree topper in honor of your child. You could decorate a small tree all in angels. It may be appropriate to buy or make an ornament to give grandparents or other family members in rememberance of your baby.

*Candles can remember your child with you. Lit candles are beautiful ways to remember. You may want to purchase and give candles to friends and family members to include them as well.

*Do an act of kindness or give a donation in memory of your baby. Choose a child off the angel tree the age your baby would be. Make a donation to Toys For Tots. If it pleases you to buy and wrap the presents you may put them under your tree at home and donate them after Christmas. If shopping is too difficult you may consider shopping online or making donations instead of purchasing presents. Make a donation to the NICU unit of the hospital or to a cause that is particularly dear to you.

*Hang a stocking with your baby's name. I heard this idea and love it- the family hangs their baby's stocking and family members put little slips of paper with scriptures, quotes, kind wishes, or acts of kindness written on them. They open the stocking on Christmas day and read these aloud. This would be a nice page to your baby's scrapbook to record the ways your family has remembered your child during December.

I wish you peace and comfort as you celebrate the holiday season.

with love, Emily

Presidential Proclamation

1988 Presidential Proclamation
THE 1988 PRESIDENTIAL PROCLAMATION

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

Each year, approximately a million pregnancies in the U.S. end in miscarriage, stillbirth or the death of the newborn child. National observance of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month offers us the opportunity to increase our understanding of the great tragedy involved in the deaths of unborn and newborn babies. It also enables us to consider how, as individuals and communities, we can meet the needs of bereaved parents and family members on work to prevent causes of these problems.

Health care professionals recognize that trends of recent years, such as smaller family size and postponement of childbearing, adds another dimension of poignancy to the grief of parents who have lost infants. More than 700 local, national and international support groups are supplying programs and strategies designed to help parents cope with their loss. Parents who have suffered their own losses, health care professionals and specially trained hospital staff members are helping newly bereaved parents deal constructively with loss...

The Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 314, has designated the month of October, as "Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month" and authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this month.

NOW, THEREFORE, I RONALD REAGAN, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the month of October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fifth day of October in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-eight and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirteenth.



Ronald Reagan
Former President
United States of America

Useful links

Often it helps to know you are not alone in this journey. There are many families that have experienced the loss of a baby. These sites have message boards and chat rooms. I have found these sites very welcoming and understanding as I have traveled this journey of grief.

SHARE http://www.nationalshareoffice.com I still go the message boards there daily- they have been an amazing support to me

Kotapress http://www.kotapress.com In particular I love the idea of continued parenting and Kara's zine she sends. Lots of ideas and a neat loss dictionary

MISS http://missfoundation.org

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep- Sends professional photographers free of charge to take photographs of the short time you may have to hold your child

A Place To Remember http://www.aplacetoremember.com Many memory items

Signs of Grief

This list is provided as a resource. If you feel overwhelmed or beyond help PLEASE tell someone and get help. There are many excellent resources for depression or people feeling suicidal thoughts. Please do not suffer in silence. Here are some common signs of grief. They may include the following:

Physical Sensations

Tightness in chest
Tightness in throat
Oversensitivity to noise
Depersonalization
Breathlessness
Headaches
Weakness in muscles
Lack of energy
Dry mouth
Trouble swallowing
Hollowness in the stomach
sighing

Behaviors

Sleep problems
No appetite
Forgetfulness
Social withdrawals
Dreams of deceased
Avoidance of reminders
Calling out
Restless Activity
Crying
Clinging to reminders
Treasuring objects

Feelings

Sadness
Anger
Guilt
Anxiety
Loneliness
Fatigue
Helplessness
Shock
Yearning
Numbness
Relief

Thoughts

Disbelief
Confusion
Pre-occupation
Sense of presence
Hearing and seeing the deceased