Helping A Mama Grieve October 22 2015, 0 Comments

 

 {Myles' Sweet Feet}

"And she loved a little boy very, very much, - even more than she loved herself."

The second installment of our blog series for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month in October is focused on the friends who helped their own friends work through grief. These stories of friendship are shared by mothers who have lost a baby through infancy or stillbirth.
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If you have recently experienced loss and would like to join some of these women through grief, please feel free to request an invitation to the private group:
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Swell Mamas: Life After Loss (on Facebook)
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We invite you to share your children, stories and words of encouragement on Instagram using the hashtag #swellremembers

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In Honor of Greyson

by Jenna

My best friend since the 6th grade was visiting from Oregon for my son’s baby shower last fall, and then was the only one with me in the ultrasound room when I heard those horrifying words, "I'm sorry there's no heartbeat!" After returning home devastated, she gave my family space and spent the evening online looking for suggestions of what to do when facing a stillbirth. I'm so thankful for the things she found because at that time I was terrified and numb to everything that was about to happen. I couldn't believe that in the morning I was going to be forced to labor and give birth to my son whom I knew was already gone. My husband was against having a stranger come take photos, but she contacted Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep anyways. She was told that because we didn't know how long labor would take to induce, they couldn't promise availability. So my selfless friend cancelled her flight home to her own family and promised to stay by my side throughout the nightmare that was about to ensue.

When Greyson was born less than 24 hours later, she used the same camera that she brought to photograph the joyous time at his shower just a few days earlier and captured a couple dozen beautiful photos that we will cherish forever. We have close-ups of his hands and feet along with a few posed photos of him unwrapped and then wrapped in a blanket knitted by my husband's grandmother. She also took a few candid photos of my husband looking over him in the bassinet, my mom cradling her first and only grandchild for the last time, and in my arms with my husband in the hospital bed. It is so unnatural looking at the only family photos we have with him because you can see the heartbreak on our faces instead of the joy and excitement that should be there as we show off our baby!

She said it was the hardest thing she's ever had to do, but it's a gift I can never repay her for.

Every time I look at Greyson’s photos, they take my breath away and it brings me right back to that day that we unexpectedly had to say hello and goodbye to our firstborn.

Side note: Within 6 months of Greyson’s death, my best friend moved her family cross country to be by my side because she wanted to be there for me during the rawness of the first year of grief, but also to be able to experience the happiness that is surely to come for our families together."

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In Honor of Olivia Lynn

by Ashley

My name is Ashley, and I lost the biggest part of me - my beautiful daughter Olivia Lynn Yarish just over a year ago. My goal in writing this post is to try to convey to you how the love and support of my friends got me through my first year of living without her.

As I sit here writing, I realize that it is an impossible task to adequately put into words how my friends carried me through the darkest time of my life, and how one year later they still haven't wavered. I hope that by reading this, those of you who have the incredibly hard task of walking by a friend through the loss of their child realize the impact you have on grieving parents and how important you truly are.

I remember so vividly the countless times that I thought I couldn't go another day with my heart beating while my child's was no longer. The first few months, I wondered how I could possibly make it through the rest of my life living with such pain. To be brutally honest, I often debated not even trying.

I remember on one of my hardest days, I told one of my closest friends that I wanted to take my own life. Having a child herself, she understood the immense love that a parent has for their child. I expected her to offer up one of those cliché statements that people often make that actually infuriate grieving parents. I expected her to say,"Don't worry, time heals everything", or my most hated, "Everything happens for a reason". Instead, she shocked me by simply saying, "I can't even imagine Ashley, I don't blame you at all for that." It may sound like the coldest statement a friend could make, but it was the best thing anyone has ever said to me since losing Olivia.

I believe I can speak for all parents who have lost a child when I say one of the biggest struggles is feeling misunderstood. The physical and emotional pain that you feel is a pain that you couldn't have even begun to comprehend before; that you didn't even know existed, and because of that, you feel like no one could possibly understand all of the layers to your pain.

Having my friend validate me with that simple statement brought me such immense peace. She couldn't understand how it felt to lose a child, but she let me know that she understood how much I love Olivia. If she were the only person in the world who I could explain how much I hurt to and have her just listen without judgement or clichés, it was enough for me.

I didn't need friends to tell me that I had a great life, or that we would have more children one day, or that God just needed another angel. I needed friends who could walk beside me in my darkest times and who respected my grieving process.

I honestly don't know how I managed to be surrounded by so many amazing people; people who felt comfortable being around me when I was so down. Those people saved my life. Those friends who helped me learn how to mother a child in heaven and who never rushed me, but rather sought to understand me, are beautiful people and will forever hold a special place in my heart. I have friends who have never forgotten a single important date, whether it be an anniversary of Olivia's birth or an anniversary of her death. I have friends who constantly talk about her without me even initiating it. I have friends who I know love her without having even met her. These simple things make all the difference.

A fear of bereaved parents is that their children will be forgotten. I feel very fortunate that I rarely have this fear. I know with every bone in my body that my friends will carry Olivia's memory with them until they get to meet her one day, and for that, I can never thank them enough.

Sometimes, as human beings, we shy away from hard conversations. Death is a scary and uncomfortable subject for most of us. It seems that society is slowly adapting to talking about pregnancy and infant loss, and I am so proud to have friends who are breaking the silence and stigma around it in Olivia's memory.

My advice to anyone whose friend or family member has lost a child is to just walk beside them in their darkness until they start to see the light again.

***Ashley's daughter Olivia was our model for last year's PAIL blog series. Her beautiful photos and spirit are forever a part Swell Forever's story and outreach.

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In Honor of Lucy

by Meagan

There aren't many moments during the "ordeal" that I would say made me feel more comforted than when a friend who "got it" simply held my hand. She "got it" because she's in this club of loss right alongside me. In a twist of fate, we purchased a house from a couple who would come to mean so much to us during our loss. She, too, lost her unborn little girl at 18 weeks. She understood the hollowness I was enduring. She understood she couldn't fix it. She just gave me warmth, love and light by allowing me to cry in pain while holding my hand. I felt like I wasn't alone in that moment. It gave me strength in knowing I had a lifelong friend, and our daughters were watching over us. 
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As part of the healing process, Meagan's family has been collecting knit blankets and hats as well as memory boxes to donate to the foundation at Northside Hospital where Lucy was delivered.
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***Meagan has blogged about the loss of her daughter Lucy at 18 weeks at https://solongsouthernscenes.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/lucy-existed/
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-Preparing and Organizing Meal Delivery-
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One of the simplest ways you can help a family through grief is offering to coordinate meals (or bring a meal/groceries) for them in the weeks and even months following their loss. Services such as Meal Train and TakeThemaMeal.com are easy to set up and allows organizers to invite people to bring meals and sign up online using just email addresses. The services are also free. Keep in mind that a grieving family may not be ready to greet visitors. You can set out a cooler by their door and those bringing meals can drop food off anytime of day. Text message is a great way to notify a recipient that food is on the way without putting pressure on them to be social.

Also keep in mind that it may be better to phrase your offer to help as "I really want to bring you a meal, is there an ideal time or day I should drop it off in a cooler by your door?" or "I would like to make sure you have meals delivered by friends. Is there a time frame that you feel meals would be most needed (ex: after the initial funeral activites, a month out, etc.). I promise you don't have to greet anyone who drops off food. They will understand." Being specific about helping versus asking someone who is in the deepest moments of loss is often better than simply saying "Let me know if I can help." No one wants to have to ask for help.

A few of our moms also said that gift cards towards restaurants nearby offering take out were also greatly appreciated when the family was not ready to be social and chance running into friends while eating out.

One mom mentioned that her friends grouped together and hired a chef to prepare meals for the family each week as they had several children to care for as they grieved the loss of their son.

It is often hard to know how to help a grieving friend if you have not walked through such pain yourself; however, kindness is always appreciated. Don't hesitate to be kind. A majority of moms in our loss group wanted and appreciated meal delivery. Almost all moms appreciate kind notes, memorial gifts, donations to charities in their childs' name, text messages and emails expressing that you are thinking of them and remembering special dates such as monthly milestones (Baby turns 2 months on the 15th of the month), birthdays, "angel" anniversaries, due dates, etc. 

Simple things like tackling yard work, taking the dog for a walk, and helping care for other children in the household are opportunities to take on responsibilities for a family that is dealing with loss. Don't hesitate to offer and let them know when you will help.

Last Halloween, a mom who lost her baby at birth discovered someone had left small decorated pumpkins at her daughter's grave site with a pumpkin for her older daughter. Whether by placing flowers, trinkets or special notes, the grave site is another place to consider reaching out to parents in a display of thoughtful kindness.

"Kindness is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see." - Mark Twain

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For last year's PAID series follow the links below:

When the Heart Breaks: Part I

When the Heart Breaks: Part II

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