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


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 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 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

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.


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 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 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 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

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

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
Prepare to answer the question "How many children do you have?"
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.