Today was the first time since our loss that I had to face someone in person who was grieving a recent loss. I honestly thought I’d be better prepared now to comfort someone, but as soon as my eyes met hers, all the words I had thought I would say flew out of my mind. The only things I could come up with were “I’m so sorry” and “let me know if there’s anything we can do.” I could feel myself cringing as I said them. I’m so disappointed those were the best words I could manage.
I’ve spent the rest of the day thinking about the people I’ve lost. My grandpas, an aunt, a few friends, a school principal, a neighbor of mine who never came back from war. I keep trying to wrap my mind around what it means for these people to be gone. It hurts and stings because you know you’ll never see them smile or laugh again. Endings are always difficult, especially when you didn’t have a chance to say goodbye.
At some point, the cards stop arriving, the flowers wilt, and the sympathy comes to an end. Grief never stops for a loved one. Like the ocean, memories ebb and flow. Sometimes they roll in just far enough to tickle our toes and bring a smile to our face, and other times they crash into us and knock us off our feet.
So what’s the one thing that you can do for a grieving person to make them feel better?
It’s that simple. We all just want our love ones remembered. We want them to live on beyond our memories. Say their name, share a story, and find ways to honor them.
On this Memorial Day, I remember Kristopher Higdon. The boy across the street who never came home from war. You are not forgotten!
This post is going to be a tough one to share. It’s about all the things that have gone on inside my head but I’ve been too scared to say out loud. I’m worried that saying them will result in a family member calling a mental health professional and telling them I’ve lost my marbles and need help. Then I remember I’ve already seen my counselor and she ended up crying in my last session as much as I did. Maybe more people have experienced these feelings but they are just difficult to discuss. Maybe all these abnormal thoughts are actually normal?
Distractions have become my best friend and my only comfort. I find it difficult to focus on daily tasks and find myself wondering how things could have been. The only way I can make it through a day is to listen to an audio book, stream a podcast, or play music. These distractions keep the tears at bay and make me feel like I’m normal. More than anything I want to feel normal again.
Talking about my feelings helps. I know the dead baby topic is tough, but I am so thankful when someone asks me how I’m doing and opens the door for me to discuss all the things going on in my mind. I like talking about my baby as much as any mother would!
Death has become a fascination for me. Not in the sense that I’m contemplating it, but that I want to understand more about it. I go to bed every night watching Forensic Files. I stream podcasts about killers, cold case files, and solving murders. Being able to talk about death makes it feel more scientific, and less emotional.
Fear consumes me and I worry that I may lose someone else close to me. I’m always worried that I’ll lose Bill or my family or the kids. I hug people more. I tell Bill I love him so many times a day I lose count. I save voicemails from my grandma and cherish that I have a recording of her telling me she loves me. I find myself checking on my dog while she’s sleeping to make sure she’s still breathing.
Sleep seems more important than oxygen. I crave it all the time. Never enough sleep. And I look forward to a time when my thoughts go silent and my body can rest.
Home is the only place I want to be. There’s a comfort in being in my house surrounded by familiar things. Home is the only place in my life that’s free from emotional triggers.
Emotional triggers limit my desire to leave the house. A couple of months ago, I broke down in a restaurant when I was seated next to a new mom and her infant. Hearing the baby cry sent me over the edge. I began crying hysterically and had to leave the table until they left the restaurant. My sister in law hugged me and held me as I cried uncontrollably. Honestly, I’m humiliated by the incident and terrified it might happen again. I find myself longing to hold a baby, but I am not sure if that will cause another meltdown or if I’ll never want to give it back.
Baby seems like the only answer. It’s so strange for me because I used to think I never wanted a child of my own, and now it’s all I can think about. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel normal again unless I have one. Not that another baby can ever replace ours, but it can make me a mother and I long to be one.
Anxious that another pregnancy could lead to another loss. I’m not sure I’m strong enough to face this again. I don’t think I can lose another part of myself, when I feel like I’ve already lost so much.
I want a break. I wish there was a way to take off work for a while and let myself grieve and heal. It sounds like a dream to have a day with no commitments when I could sleep in, sip coffee in the back yard, and read a book. I’d love to fill my days exploring a hillside during a hike and seeing nature’s reminders that life finds a way. I want to find a way to be okay.
It’s not okay. Previously when people would ever tell me “I’m sorry,” my go to answer was “it’s okay.” The first time someone told me they were sorry about our loss, my instinct was to reply “it’s okay.” I stood there silent, trying to think of a way I could respond. I’ve found that the best thing to say is “thank you” and let myself keep believing that it’s not okay and I’m not okay, but that’s okay.
If you’re struggling with a loss and want someone to talk with, I am here for you. Please feel free to email me at email@example.com and I will always be here to listen to your worries and fears. Sending you big hugs! ❤
A loss brings out so many raw emotions in us, but I’ve realized that it also brings beauty. When you’re faced with death, it dawns on you how fragile life is. I’ve never felt so amazed and overwhelmed by all of the things that have to go right for a life to come into existence. It’s a perfect storm of timing, genetics, and external conditions. Since our loss, I’ve felt so connected with nature. Watching birds build nests around our home out of twigs and dirt. Seeing trees grow in our flowerbed from acorns a squirrel buried. Having a plant bloom again for the first time in spring.
Tiny miracles are all around us. It takes a miracle to create life, and millions of miracles each day that keep us alive. If you’ve ever narrowly escaped a traffic accident, you know what I mean. You suddenly become thankful that it took you 5 extra seconds to find your keys that morning, when you were previously frustrated by the inconvenience of them being misplaced.
In my case, it’s strengthened my relationship with the Lord and for that I am forever grateful. I’ve learned that God can fill voids that no person can fill. He can repair a heart and breathe hope into it again.
Grief has become a common ground for me to make friends with people who were previously strangers. Nothing brings people closer together than a shared painful experience. I’m forever thankful for the new friends I’ve met and how this experience strengthened my existing friendships.
Despite how fragile our existence is, I’ve learned that I’m incredibly resilient and strong. I feel like I’ve become a better person through my grieving process. I feel like I can connect with others on a deeper level than I did before. There truly is nothing to make you more grateful than living through a loss.
You learn that no one has the right words, because there are no right words that can comfort you when you’ve lost someone you love. You learn that the only thing you have control of in life is how you process, experience and react. You learn that you get stronger one day at a time. Before you know it, you’re flying with your own wings. Just like a phoenix, beauty rises from the ashes.
To all my sweet friends flying with their own wings…I’m so thankful for you. I’m praying for you and sending you hugs always! ❤
The latin phrase “alis volat propiis” is translated to “she flies with her own wings.”
I’m a nester by nature. There’s always been a part of me that likes to surround myself with things that comfort me. Some might call it sentimental, others (
not naming names MOM!) may have called me a “pack rat.” I’ve managed to keep this flaw quality under control as I’ve gotten older; however, odds are you can pick out any item in my home and I’ll be able to give you a full story behind it. When I give gifts to loved ones, I do it with thoughtfulness and consideration.
When I was single, I listened to some audio books about finding your soulmate. They sounded incredibly sappy but ended up being so helpful. One of the chapters talks about holding an intention for things you want to call into your life. By creating physical space for someone, you also start making space in your mind and heart for them. The author gave the example that if you want to call your beloved into your life, you can start by making space in your home. Empty your things out of one of your nightstands, clean out your dressers and make sure your clothing only takes up half of your closet. I remember feeling silly making space for someone who wasn’t in my life, but within that same year those spaces would become occupied by my husband’s clothes and belongings.
As God started putting the idea of being a mother in my heart, I started collecting things for my future child. Every time I saw an adorable stuffed animal, I bought it and stored it in my spare bedroom. If the theory worked for calling my husband into my life, then surely having items picked out for my child would also call him/her into my life.
It’s probably no surprise that I went shopping for my baby before the strip turned pink. I purchased a yellow rocking chair and ottoman from a neighbor. I picked out the perfect crib and sleepy sheep bedding. We’d already designated our office to become the nursery so we could have the baby downstairs closer to our bedroom and kitchen. We moved out the desk and chair and made space for our crib to be delivered a few days before our 11 week appointment. When the crib arrived, the delivery men opened the boxes and started the assembly process. As the last rail was unwrapped, they noticed it was cracked. The crib had to be boxed up and returned since it was a safety hazard. When they left with the broken crib I remember feeling so sad that my nursery would have to stay empty. I had no idea just how empty that room would soon be.
Three days later, my heart would be broken too and my dreams shattered. My husband called the store to tell them that we didn’t need them to send a replacement crib after all. We returned the unopened bedding. I wish I were here in this room preparing a warm, cozy space for our newborn to sleep, but instead we moved the desk back in and the only thing I’m creating is a blog about the baby I’ll never hold in my arms.
The only remains of the nursery are a single bookcase which still holds my books about pregnancy and childbirth (and now books about molar pregnancies, gestational trophoblastic disease, and grieving a child I never knew) and those soft, snuggly stuffed animals. They hold space in my heart reminding me that hope isn’t lost…that this room may one day be filled with a sleepy eyed baby, first steps, and bedtime stories. But they also remain in this room holding space for our baby in heaven. She is gone, but she used to be mine.
I know these lyrics aren’t about losing a baby, but over the last few months I’ve found so much comfort in this song. Sometimes I feel like I not only lost my baby, but I’ve lost myself. As usual, Sara Bareilles is able to nail so many of my emotions in her lyrics. If you haven’t heard this song, I highly recommend giving it a listen! I’ve underlined my favorite parts of the lyrics below.
She Used To Be Mine – by Sara Bareilles
It’s not simple to say
Most days I don’t recognize me
That these shoes and this apron
That place and its patrons
Have taken more than I gave them
It’s not easy to know
I’m not anything like I used to be
Although it’s true
I was never attention’s sweet center
I still remember that girl
She’s imperfect but she tries
She is good but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up
And baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine
It’s not what I asked for
Sometimes life just slips in through a back door
And carves out a person
And makes you believe it’s all true
And now I’ve got you
And you’re not what I asked for
If I’m honest I know I would give it all back
For a chance to start over
And rewrite an ending or two
For the girl that I knew
Who’ll be reckless just enough
Who’ll get hurt
But who learns how to toughen up when she’s bruised
And gets used by a man who can’t love
And then she’ll get stuck
And be scared of the life that’s inside her
Growing stronger each day
‘Til it finally reminds her
To fight just a little
To bring back the fire in her eyes
That’s been gone but used to be mine
Used to be mine
She is messy but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine
One of the strangest things about a miscarriage is not knowing how to interact with moms who are still happily pregnant after your loss. The day we found out we lost our baby, I was messaging with a long time friend of mine who is due about a month before I was. We had spent weeks sharing in each other’s excitement and she was looking forward to hearing about my appointment almost as much as I was excited to share details. After we had trouble finding a heartbeat on the doppler, I was sent to the imaging suite. I quickly sent my friend a panicked message as we sat in the waiting room.
In that moment, she comforted me in ways that others couldn’t. She knew exactly I felt because she had experienced a loss herself years ago. That day she was so kind to me, and I felt awful knowing that my tragic experience probably caused her unnecessary worry and stress about her own baby.
When we spoke again, I expected to feel jealous or envious that she still had a healthy pregnancy, but I never once did. I’ve read that 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in a loss and I told her that if my baby had to be the 1 that didn’t survive, that I’m so thankful that her baby was one of the 3 that did. I started placing my hope into her baby and praying that he would be born perfectly healthy in July.
As word spread about my loss, I felt my pregnant friends withdraw a bit. Perhaps with the intent to ease my pain. Though, on this side of things, it sometimes made me feel like my sadness and misfortune was contagious. That my unhappiness and heartache could put their happiness and joy at risk. I understand that perception is not reality, but it’s how I felt.
Two days after my D&C, I went shopping for baby books for friends who had a shower that day. I expected it to feel painful and was surprised that it made me feel better. Buying those books was the first time I got out of bed, showered, and dried my eyes. It gave me a reason to move forward. It ripped off the proverbial band-aid before jealousy and envy had a chance to scab over my deep wounds.
I just want you to know that I am so happy that your pregnancy/baby is healthy. I wish no woman ever had to feel the heartache of losing a child. If I decline a shower invitation, it’s only because I’m worried I might end up crying and spoiling your special, well-deserved day. I still adore seeing your growing belly/your baby’s precious face on your social media sites. I desperately want to hold and snuggle your baby and breathe in that sweet newborn smell. Your baby brings me so much hope. They are what make me feel more excited than fearful to try again. Thank you for sharing part of your joy with me. ❤
Here’s a post about GTD that I wrote for Courageous Mothers Blog! ❤
GTD. What’s that, you wonder? When you’re preparing for or expecting a baby, your mind is full of acronyms like BBT (Basal Body Temperature), AF (Aunt Flo), DPO (Days Past Ovulation), BFP (Big Fat Positive), FTM (First Time Mom), PG (Pregnant), and OBGYN. If you were to Google the acronym “GTD”, it’s likely that the first result is a link to the American Cancer Society’s website. Strange, isn’t it? Usually when a person thinks about pregnancy, it doesn’t include the word cancer.
Gestational Trophoblastic Disease is a group of rare tumors that form as a result of a pregnancy. While the tumors are usually noncancerous, some forms of GTD can become malignant and spread to other parts of a woman’s body. That’s right, a woman who was hoping to grow a precious baby inside her could end up having a tumor grow instead.
There are two main groups of GTD – hydatidiform moles (molar pregnancies)…
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“Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.” ― L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
It’s said there are 5 stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I’ve questioned this theory recently, because no matter how much time passes, a parent can never fully accept that their baby is gone.
Denial is what makes your experience feel like a nightmare. You wonder if it really happened, or did you just imagine it? Of course this didn’t happen to you, it only happens to other people. When you lose a baby, it’s easy to feel denial because there’s a lack of physical evidence that they ever existed. Often times there are no photos, no clothing or toys to serve as sweet reminders, and there are no memories to reflect on. How you you grieve someone you had to say goodbye to before you ever had the chance to say hello?
Anger is what makes the experience begin to feel real. You feel angry that your baby is gone and that a part of your heart and soul is gone, too. You feel angry that there is nothing that could have been done to change the outcome. Angry that you never saw this coming. Angry that your body betrayed you and your baby. Angry that no one can make you feel better. Angry that you were robbed of memories with your child.
Bargaining is your desperate and failed attempt to regain control of the situation. Wishing that you could trade in your life so that your baby would have one. I begged God to undo the nightmare. I said “I want my baby back” so many times I sounded like a Chili’s commercial.
Depression becomes a constant. Your new normal. It’s what makes you feel impossibly empty. Depression makes you dread the night, and dread the dawn. I cried every night when I got into bed because I wasn’t ready for the day to end and for all my thoughts to catch up with me. I woke up in the middle of the night crying and reaching for my belly. I woke up the next morning crying because I wasn’t ready for the start of another day, knowing that a new day took me further and further from the day when my baby was growing inside me.
I’m starting to think that the possible 5th stage of grief is patience. You won’t ever fully accept the reality that your baby is gone because it’s too heartbreaking, but you will learn what patience means. Patience is learning that the only thing that can make you feel better is time. It’s learning that you are not in control and that holding anger in your heart serves no purpose. Patience is learning that you can overcome the most unimaginable heartache one day at a time.
To my angel baby. Thank you for making me a mama! 💕
Stepmomming is so hard, but so rewarding. It’s like having all the perks of being an aunt and all the complications of parenting…but with your hands tied behind your back. I love them like I would love my own children but feel like I’ve had to maintain this invisible boundary that says I’m not their parent. Heavy on the STEP, light on the MOM. You feel awkward at events where people assume you’re the mom. When someone in public compliments the kids, do you say “thanks!” and move on or do you go into an explanation that you’re not actually their mother but you’ll pass on the compliment? When you meet new people, you don’t want to jump into the “I’m actually their stepmom” conversation right away, but you also don’t want to make the kids uncomfortable or feel like an imposter. It’s a delicate balance of wanting to be an involved stepmom (sans the wart on the nose), and also wanting to avoid looking like the creepy nanny in the movie “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.”
I’m so fortunate to have a wonderful husband who supports my relationship with his kids in whatever manner the kids and I find comfortable. There is so much joy in sharing a life with them. Their laughter, creativity, and kindness leave me in awe on a weekly basis. I love watching them succeed at school and activities. We share our own traditions, like making fairy gardens each spring. They absolutely have changed my heart for the better. I’m a better person because I know and love them, and I think I’ll be an even better mother because of them.
Then there’s the heartache that comes with it. This week I reminded my stepson that it was Mother’s Day this weekend and asked if he’d made his mom a card or present at school. He looked at me and said he didn’t know it was this week. Then with a puzzled look asked “wait, does Mother’s Day include you?” My heart soared just knowing he considered me at all, but I also never want him to feel uncomfortable or take away from his mom. I told him “it doesn’t have to include me, but that is your decision to make.”
I can say with certainty that I’ve been a wicked awesome stepmom to these kids – most days anyway! But I can also say, I’ve had a really hard time building a relationship with their mom. Meeting each other in the beginning was so awkward…for both of us I’m sure. We share kids now and at some point both loved and married the same man. I suppose it can either give you a common ground to stand on, or it can become a breeding ground for insecurity, jealousy, and negativity. In this case, I’m sad to say it created the latter in me.
When I picked up the kids from school yesterday, my stepson handed me his backpack and his Mother’s Day gifts for his mom as he ran to the car. I looked down at his carefully drawn hearts and inscription “Mommy+Me=Love” and it softened my heart. For years, there’s been so much tension between his mom and me. Like it’s somehow become some sort of competition between us…either her or me. But why haven’t I considered our mutual love for these kids to be common ground? Then the answer hit me as I looked back down at that card. She has what I long for most which caused jealousy to build up in my heart. Beautiful children with the man I love. Handwritten Mother’s Day cards. A love for her kids and from her kids that knows no limits.
All the bad blood and toxic feelings flooded out of my pores. When I saw her later at a baseball game, I prayed that God would soften my heart and give me a way to repair all the damage and hurt between us. And without me even realizing what I was saying, I asked if she wanted to join us for dinner after the game.
We all enjoyed a pizza dinner on a patio and got to enjoy a beautiful night with our wonderful kids. Later, we exchanged some text messages apologizing for hard feelings and how events, words, and misunderstandings created a huge complicated knot we didn’t know how to unravel. And just like that, we’ve started working on unraveling it together. The best gift that I never expected to receive has turned my first and worst Mother’s Day into a pretty awesome one. Wicked awesome.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:31-32
Since I was little, I have always loved being around dogs. Growing up, if you asked what I wanted to be, my answer would likely either be veterinarian or She-Ra Princess of Power. My parents were always concerned I’d end up with a house full of animals if I were a vet, which ended up being the case regardless of my profession. My husband laughs that I’ve introduced him to friends and coworkers by telling him their dog’s name before their own. In my opinion, a house is not a home without a dog.
We had 3 dogs throughout my childhood. Since college, I’ve adopted 6 rescue dogs. Just like children, they all have different personalities, issues, health problems, and strengths. Dash, a black and tan dachshund, is my loyal protector. He had a rough start to life and has many fears and triggers but in ways he knows me better than almost any person in my life. He’s been by my side when I was sick or sad and never fails to make me feel better. He’s got more nicknames than I can count, one for every one of his personalities.
Dori, another black and tan dachshund, is beautiful. Far and away the prettiest dachshund I’ve ever seen. I should have named her Scarlett O’Hara because she has that much sass and spunk. She has epilepsy, gave birth to stillborn puppies and required surgery to remove the puppies she miscarried but couldn’t deliver, she was heart worm positive, and at some point (perhaps during birthing?) had her pelvis broken in 5 places. She’s a MESS but hilarious at the same time. Anxious, annoying, affectionate, unapologetic and unafraid. She absolutely loves my Dad more than anyone.
BatBat (Stellaluna) is a small 5 pound chihuahua that knows no fear. She kicks grass, cuddles/smothers you with love, and guards the yard like a Rottweiler. She gives high fives and loves when you sing to her. Even though she has 4 legs, she runs on 3. Won’t get out of bed in the morning until you sing to her and rub her belly.
Zoe, a dachshund/chihuahua mix, is my love bug. She’s probably the easiest going dog I’ve ever had. She’s happy in all situations – loves to cuddle, play, lick, run, sleep. She follows me pretty much everywhere. Wouldn’t hurt a fly unless it got between her and her food bowl. Her favorite thing in the world is to go to our family farm, run around through the grass and hay, and ride a four wheeler with me. She used to love chasing squirrels in the back yard, but her vision has been getting bad over the last year or two.
Last week, we learned that Zoe has a condition called SARDS (Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome) which has caused vision loss. That vision loss resulted in her getting under my feet two weeks ago when I was moving laundry, and I accidentally stepped on her foot and she yelped. The next day she was limping and in pain. She got better with some rest but was in pain again a few days later. I took her to the emergency hospital last Tuesday, then to the vet again on Thursday. We decided to do a CAT (shouldn’t it be DOG??) scan to check for injuries and to rule out a tumor causing her vision problems. The scans showed no tumor – hallelujah! But it did show a small disc injury which is likely causing the nerve pain in her front leg.
It’s really difficult to not place blame on yourself when bad things happen. I blame myself for not knowing Zoe’s eyesight had gotten so bad as a result of SARDS. For accidentally stepping on her paw and causing her pain. For not knowing when or how she injured her back. I blame myself not knowing something was wrong during my pregnancy. For having a defective egg that was possibly the cause of the molar pregnancy. Honestly, I’m just having a tough time being inside my head lately. I find myself submerged in podcasts, books, and TV shows trying to escape the emotional pain and negative voices in my head. I’m realizing that you can’t escape or hide from the grief when you self-blame.
There are times when we think the waves of guilt and grief may drown us. We struggle to keep our heads above water and over time we get stronger. Each experience gives us practice, strength, and knowledge so that when the next wave comes crashing down on us, we can successfully swim against the waves of guilt and grief without being pulled under.
Maybe I need to learn some life lessons from my precious dogs. Become fiercely loyal like Dash, unafraid and unapologetic like Dori, loving and happy like Zoe despite having to navigate through darkness, and learn how to set emotional boundaries around what is ours and what is not ours like BatBat. The grief, pain, and memories are mine, but the blame is not. Yesterday, I talked about our baby for the first time without breaking down in tears and it made me realize I’m not drowning anymore.
I know now that we never get over our losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder creatures.
Today there’s a soft, kind voice echoing inside my mind saying “Beloved, do not make war against your own heart. Love yourself fully – even with your wounds, even with your broken heart.”