Father’s Day and Baby Loss

Father’s Day and Baby Loss

By Tara Shafer

If women feel alone in grief following the loss of a pregnancy or infant, the solitude of the father is both palpable and largely unacknowledged.  “Helping Men with the Trauma of Miscarriage,” published in Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training in 2010, Mark Kiselica, Ph.D, and Martha Rinehart, PhD examined the issue of men following baby loss and concluded that the fathers’ grief was often dismissed by others. In “Psychological Impact of Stillbirth on Fathers in the Subsequent Pregnancy and Puerperium,” researchers found that following a stillbirth, men had elevated rates of anxiety and were at heightened risk for PTSD, in much the same way as their female counterparts.  Many fathers report wishing that they had had more and better access to care.

Speaking in broad generalities, there are a number of factors that may influence how men seek support in grief and which conspire against them. In a medical setting, for example, the health care is administered to the woman, reinforcing the outmoded notion that men are necessarily peripheral to pregnancy. Instead they are relegated to the distancing effect of phones, forced to make arrangements, and “be supportive.”

But wait. Men are now expected to be far more involved in the day-to-day of childrearing. The expectation that Dad will be absent from the delivery room, opting instead to hand out cigars in the waiting room like Don Draper, now seems patently ridiculous.  The role of fathers has shifted over time. This raises the question: why not allow men emotional space in pregnancy, as well as companion grief in loss?  While there is no one way to experience loss, and the spectrum of grief is complex, these men would do well to receive support as they navigate and define their own experience.  It is a mistake to paint the masculine experience of loss with one broad stroke.  This costs more than we know.

The assumption that men are peripheral to pregnancy may unravel rapidly, especially in situations of loss. We have all heard it said that a woman becomes a mother when she discovers she is pregnant and a man becomes a father when he holds his baby.  I am not convinced that either one of these sayings is really all that true, but if it is said enough times one grows complacent and believes some version of this.

Until.  In an instant everything is gone.

Writes Return To Zero writer/director Sean Hanish, whose son was stillborn in 2005,  “As a husband, a partner, a man you are a passenger on the pregnancy express. You can look out the window and watch the scenery go by, her belly grow, her skin glow, and if you’re lucky, catch your baby’s elbow as it presses against her belly like the dorsal fin of some alien sea creature making it more real for you. But you’re not the engineer. When the crash comes you are struggling with your own emotions, grief and loss, desolation and depression, and watching as your wife, your partner, your life jumps the tracks. Twisting metal tumbling out of control in slow motion. Prepare for impact.”

I am reminded of a day several weeks or months after our loss when Gavin came home. He remarked that a lot of people were asking how I was.  We always took this beautiful gesture of concern in the spirit it was given and were, in fact, deeply appreciative of these questions. But we did laugh ruefully (and just a little) at how frequently Gavin was inadvertently left out of the equation, the expressions of concern.

On our website, Reconceiving Loss (www.reconceivingloss.com (link is external)) we collect the stories of loss for the Return To Zero Project. This archive reflects, in part, the lonely experience of men. Artist Louis Hemmings created a video, Goodbye, Au Revoir, Slan that shows the loss of his daughter decades ago through the eyes of his young son. Other fathers have lent their experience to the archive and their words reveal a well of sadness and loss.

As we approach Father’s Day, I call on women and men to support Baby Loss Dads (or dads who have lost babies). We can begin by acknowledging their grief and understanding its nuance. We can remember to ask how they are, not just about their wives or their partners. We can engage them in a dialogue that begins to bear out the idea that we want to know how they are, how it feels to them to be missing something so central. We can acknowledge the role of fathers in childrearing as post-traditional by re-enforcing that they share the loss. This is the dialogue that creates healthier, happier families. And for the future of the men that we love, this is what will be required.

Tara Shafer is the co-founder of Reconceiving Loss (link is external), a site for bereaved families facing baby loss offering premium access to informational webinars, self care videos and much more. She is a contributing blogger for Psychology Today, BabyCenter, the Huffington Post and Still Standing. Her work has appeared in the New York Times and on National Public Radio. Tara has been an international human rights and refugee advocate and holds a Master’s degree from Columbia University.

 

Moving on from grief; my journey to accepting acceptance

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Moving on from grief; my journey to accepting acceptance

As I walked into my house late, arriving home just before midnight after a long ten hour travel day, carrying my youngest to her bed, whose birthday happens to be the following day, a quiet stress in the back of my mind as I have nothing planned. She wakes in and out of sleep as I place her down asking to watch the Trolls movie before bed , as I shush her that its very late and to go back to sleep. I walk past Lily’s photo that sits outside what was Lily’s room but is now Hopes. I pause for a moment, as a tiny quiver of shock goes through me, why did I enjoy this trip so much? For so long, five years to be exact I cannot remember really enjoying anything, not fully, not appreciating what or where it was we were, we have gone to Hawaii twice and Mexico once since she died, I “enjoyed” those family trips, but if I am honest, I was never happy during them, not as I felt during this trip. Was it not having thought about her as much? No, that’s ridiculous, of course I thought of her, but perhaps the veil has lifted, maybe the dark clouds that I felt attached to my heart lessened their grip. She is always in my heart but during this trip it was not like it is when I am at home surrounded by her memory, her presence, our loss.

Having just returned from an incredibly satisfying family trip, one that was to be underestimated but had over returned; that was fully dreaded, line ups, fast food, adults in costume, ugh, Disneyland. But we planned to see lots of other parts of California as well. Who knew the republic that is the state of California is so beautiful; San Clemente pier, Huntington Beach, Pasadena Ranch, even LA and Anaheim were cool to drive through, which started my pondering……

Guilt approaches my thoughts, but I quickly realize, no, that is not right; I deserve a reprieve from my self-imposed guilt. I am proud for the hard treacherous journey my grief has taken me through, what I have learned, how I have changed and grown. I am happy I was able to enjoy such a memorable family trip with my still living children, to be present for the first time in….well, how long makes me sad for them, my beautiful children that are alive, the ones that have received less of their mother because she has been stuck in a whirlwind of her grief. The one that has yelled too quickly because of their interrupting, poorly timed ways, their normalness, brought noise into my grief, where I wanted so much to simply be alone in silence. I have loved them, fed them, clothes and cleaned them, yes. But the mom that used to wrestle and laugh so freely has been trapped in a broken heart. That realization alone makes me sad for them, for me. I needed my time, I cannot believe five years past in a fog, although, it was thickest the first few years, it is lifted seemingly, I think. I am sure it will roll in from time to time and I welcome it, but I am also happy to feel happy again. I am happy to have a random dance party with loud noise at no notice with my kids. If asked, I wonder what they’d say of the last five years. Probably not much, as we all know, we are all way more self centered then we see. They may not have even noticed my withdrawal, not as I felt it, or see in hindsight. I was harder on them and they loved me more.

My heart now an ache for the time that has past, five years in a child’s life is huge, and the physical, emotional and mental growth that happens. I cannot go back; I can cherish specific moments of course, but am happy to feel other enlightening emotions again. Happy to be the present mother they deserve. I still miss and love my child that died five years ago, but my acceptance of her death has come with the revelation that I cannot change the past, nor need to dwell in its circumstances. But do need to focus on what we had and still have. This by no means that she will be forgotten just remembered differently, without the pain of guilt and remorse; but with love for the luck of having had her for a moment, along with the life lessons she has taught.

It brought me to a conclusion, if only for myself. We are all aware, some mildly, some very familiar with Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s five stages of grief. At some point in raw grief after a loss, we want answers we want to understand what is happening; at times we are so lost we want to know if and when it will end. So Ross’s theory of five stages is where we inevitably find ourselves reading about. At first I agreed with them whole heartedly, it makes sense for grief to have a timeframe of stages, all of which also make sense in completing in order to “move on”, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance but what comes with these stages is not a time frame put on them by Kubler-Ross herself but by society, Somewhere, over time, since her now famous book called ‘On Death and Dying’ was published in 1969, society has given the grieving about a year to get through their stages of grief, a few months to mull in each one. This is where I completely disagree with societies standards on grieving, seeing as it has taken me a five full years to get to acceptance, one could say each stage deserves a full year to fully live in and become aware of the stage your are at. For example the first year I was trapped in denial not even aware I was, because it was the shock that took quite a while to wear off, then a denial that I could not really comprehend that this had happened to me, to her, to us. I honestly did not believe it for a very, very long time, combined with the night terrors caused by the PTSD I suffered, it felt like a dream at times, with me not being able to wake up. Then the anger came, but it came at a time when a lot of people thought I should have been done grieving, after a year. And yes, I was angry, at everyone and anyone that dare mention her name, or their grief! The bargaining came in different forms around year three, begging for bad things to not happen, hadn’t I gone through enough? I would do more to help others if only my living children would be left alone. As depression sets in due to the length of time that has passed, you feel confused, others wonder what’s’ wrong because it has been so long, although in reality, is four years that long? So you begin, again, searching for answers, or help, or ways to move forward because you have spent time in the other stages you are ready to deal with this depression, and not that long ago, as I said earlier, the trip I just took with my family was the first I really enjoyed, felt at peace and allowed myself to be happy. Had I reached acceptance? And if I had why did I feel bad about it? Did I assume I would grieve forever? Yes. Was I prepared to grieve forever? Yes. Often when the tears came less frequently just that fact made me sad, like the further away her life moved, the less I felt her in my heart, but that is not true. I can take as many moments I want to remember her and should be thankful the whirlwind does not just snatch me up as it used to, but it is a process of constant awareness, as well as, allowing myself to still grieve if I felt the need, but also to feel happy with what we have and where we are at, without guilt. Everyone’s journey is different but I think if we can all collectively agree that each stage deserves a year and not to expect someone to feel normal until year five the burden of grief will be lessened on the grievers. But also to so mention it is not limited to this time frame, I have met parents that did not feel “normal” until year seven and ten, what I am trying to say is that the notion that grief lasts a year is ridiculous, the notion that it never ends is also silly though, I once believed it would never end, and I still have moments of intense sadness, clearly not as frequent or uncontrollable but today five years later and I am able to laugh freely without shame, enjoy moments without guilt. I am not saying yours will only last five years, everyone’s journey is different and some grief may only last a couple years. All I know is that back in those first six months when I attended bereavement meetings a blubbering mess barely able to string coherent words together, the common sentiment to me from those that had multiple years, some decades behind them and their grief, they said, ‘it does get better’ and I was so comforted by that phrase. And the fact that they saw my pain and came up to me to tell me it gets better in hopes of lessening my pain. I appreciated those words, as I hope you appreciate mine now. It does get better, in your own time at your own pace.

Thanks for reading,

Namaste,

Sheri

Ps, I would love some feedback, I started out intending to write a completely different post about my vacation without my fourth child but in following my heart and letting my fingers type, I am surprised at the conclusion and turn it took. If you have a similar experience with grief or writing or any other feedback on my conclusion please comment below. Thanks – much love.

Five

I cannot believe you will soon be five.

You should be turning five that is.

It hurts to re-live that night five years ago, when you were born and all there is, was silence.

No beautiful wail escaped your body.

I shook in my own tears as I was expecting this moment, as if I knew it was to happen.

Throughout my pregnancy I was terrified something was wrong. It just didn’t feel right. Then it happened, first with excitement at your arrival then with shock as you were backwards folded in half turning blue on exit. The doctor and nurses worked so hard to get you to breathe as your dad held your hand begging you to try.

I was in my own shock; all was silent. I heard nothing, I only assumed you were dead. when the doctor told me they inserted a tube finally helping you to breathe but you needed to go immediately to the NICU, that I couldn’t see you. My mind could not wrap around what was happening or why. That was the hard beginning to your short beautiful life that has changed me forever. As a mother, as a human being who vows to live empathetically and compassionately helping others. I thank you for your time in my life my beautiful child.

I wish you a happy fifth birthday this Dec 30th  wherever you are my sweet angel.

Love always and forever.

mom.

As I Drive

Where my mind goes as I drive, I think back to those long torturous drives that I had grown to detest, anticipating the anxiety that arose as I approached my destination. I have grown to hate the radio because of those long drives, angry at its insistence to play happy annoying songs, angry at its ignorance of my need to hear sad songs or silence because the music or talk it emits draws upon too many emotions that at the moment I cannot focus on. All I can focus on is my arrival at her side. I circle the building, over and over looking for free parking, I could park in cozy and safe underground parking but at fifteen dollars a day times forty two days so far is not realistic, so I circle, praying for someone to leave, desperate. Finally I find one a bit further away but I do not care. I need to get inside. I need to see her. I exit my car, often forgetting all that I will need for the day and eventually having to run back to get them. I run, my legs ache it feels as though I am not moving very fast, I push the doors open and begin my agonizingly painful walk down the long, white often empty corridor, trying to avoid the smells that surround me, wanting desperately to just magically appear at her side every morning; but having to endure this long routine of getting to her. I finally reach the room; I rush to scrub my hands, remove my rings, and sign my name on the visitor’s sheet although they should know who I am by now. I drop off the extra snacks I have brought for the kids of other families that visit in the adjoining family waiting room. I remember the first time I brought my other children here, in shock, not prepared for them to whine for food and having none. I did not want other new comers to have to feel that, I wanted to help. I wanted someone to help me. I felt so lost, so confused, so scared. Finally I get to her side, I see that they have been poking at her again; I hold back my tears as I stroke her beautiful little face, that is splattered with dried blood from their obvious failed attempts at finding useful arteries. Why. My mind so often wonders why. Why me, why her, why does this happen to anyone. I try to pick her up but it is so hard with all the tubes and IVs, so I lay my head on her tiny body, the body I grew inside my own, the body that grew unable to breathe on its own, the beautifully perfect on the outside but so broken on the inside body, that now has become mine as well. Broken; my heart is broken, my mind, now broken, unable to understand the jargon being spoken to me by doctors, specialists and surgeons. I am unable to function I just want to hold her and have everyone else shut their mouths. Stop talking to me; stop telling me to leave her so we can have a meeting about a future no one knows for sure. Stop making me drive all the way here every day, getting stuck in traffic wondering if when I get here will she be the same, will she still be there. The panic that has grown in me over these last few weeks is almost unbearable I say almost because I am still here. I just want to take her home; I just want her to be normal, to be able to breathe on her own, to not need multiple surgeries to fix the problems with her heart. I just want to stop feeling scared and sad. I often think back to all those times I knew something was wrong, all those appointments with my doctor where I could not stop crying nor could I explain why I was crying, I just knew something was wrong because of the morbid, guilty thought I often had was if I have a miscarriage that may be better. Then she came, it was traumatic to say the least. She was folded in half, I needed a caesarean but it was four in the morning and no anesthesiologist was on so I was supposed to wait till she got here, but I could not wait, not anymore, I was already two weeks late. I kept pushing, another thought that will leave me riddled with guilt, what if I just waited, what if I did this to you. So out she came, folded in half, not breathing and turning blue. The room went silent. Hours passed before someone came back to talk to us. I did not even know until months later that your dad was asked to hold your hand and talk to you as they tried to resuscitate you. A moment he is haunted by today. They told us you were being transferred to the neo natal intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital. They told us we should follow. They told us I would be admitted there. That they had to insert a tube so she could breathe but with an unknown amount of time without oxygen that she most likely had brain damage, there is even a name for it: asphyxiated birth- birth without oxygen. One of many new words I was forced to learn very unwillingly. That they would do what they could for her but that there were no guarantees. This was the first of many long, silent drives down to the hospital, to see my daughter that was born not breathing my daughter that we also later would find out was born with congenital heart disease: three holes in her heart, an abnormal trachea and needed a feeding tube. Her first surgery was when she was just 5 weeks old. But I knew none of this on that first drive. I was in shock, in denial, a part of me assumed that when we got down there, she`d be fine. The brain is funny that way. That was the first drive until 52 days later we made the last. We did not know it was the last of course, not until we got there and learned of the results from the latest scans, I did not know that was the beginning of my anxiety that surrounds driving now. We learn that the chance of you surviving, being so small and so fragile already, that the chance of surviving the surgery needed to fix you was slim if any chance of survival at all. We were told they would operate if we asked them to. But did we want to lose you on the operating table or in our arms. It is quite odd to have people speak to you this way, so matter of fact, about your child. That is going to die. They offered to move you to hospice but did not know if you would survive the transfer. So we held you, right there in the pediatric intensive care unit as they removed your tubes, always in the back of my mind was the thought -what if she breathes on her own, what if. A saying that will haunt me forever: what if. But you did not breathe on your own. Your dad and I held your amazing, precious little body until we could not. We walked silently back down that cold, white corridor for the last time and drove in silence for the last time that long treacherous drive home; never to see you again. Never able to drive again without thinking of the first, the last and the fifty lonely drives` in between trying desperately to see you.

That is what I think of as I drive.

Thanks for reading

Namaste,

Sheri

Thoughts…

Do your thoughts wander…. from one to the next, in odd fashion? Have you ever obsessed over the same thought over and over? Lost sleep over ‘too much thinking’ Cant turn your brain off. I think it is a trait that is innately human. We learn, we obsess, we overthink… When series of events cause us to overthink or overlap our thoughts, we get anxious or afraid at outcomes we cannot control, one wonders why we are so wired to worry about what we cannot control. perhaps sayings like: always stay positive or never give up, you are what you make of your self  and maybe even you are what you eat. Cause us to grow up thinking we can control our outcomes or what happens to us. But often things happen that we do not want to and things do not happen that we do want to. That is life.  We believe we can control situations as long as we follow steps a, b and c, unfortunately there are always unaccounted for endings, like the one we don’t want. In a way things happen to us that will teach us, where we can learn and grow but also serve as a reminder we are not in control and need to accept that and ultimately let go.  If we can look at life as a journey, with probably more downs than ups, a journey where our overthinking will overlap our thoughts and intentions and that is ok. We maybe can enjoy the journey better in a way that we do not or have the need to be right or positive or as it should be. I am not a fan of the saying everything happens for a reason but I do believe that we are meant to learn what we can from things that happen that we did not want to. The greatest thing to learn from is death, loss and grief. How we learn to cope. To grow. To accept. These things take on so many forms for so many people. Some depression. Some become adventurists or less shy or more introvert as they ponder their own mortality, as inevitably it pops up when we lose someone. we tend to think about others around us dying or even ourselves. It is a scary train of thought that precedes the death of a loved one. It takes years to get over a loss although you never fully recover. I believe it takes us consciously accepting the fact that we do not or can not control the outcome of most things and therefore allow ourselves to be free from the guilt that also follows death. The what if? that haunts your thoughts’ There is no easy solution to grieving but to let it happen. Get lots of sleep, lots of water, long walks. fresh air, talk to friends, write in a journal, but most importantly stop obsessing that you could have done something differently, that its your fault. Because we are not gods, we do not control what happens as much as we try to believe or are raised to think we can/do.

Thanks for reading,

Namaste

Sheri

I see you’re sad

I see you’re sad. You are trying to hide it but I can see it. Others won’t, you are functioning as you should, but I see the slight differences. You used to laugh so freely now it’s forced; you dressed always over the occasion and easily looked the best, now you wear my favorite attire in time of raw grief, comfy clothes that are always ready to nap with you. I sense the change in you; you are quieter staying inside yourself protecting your heart. I see it because I know, I have been there. Your mind is reeling from the loss that it feels fuzzy sometimes confused or hard to make pointless conversation, not sure what to say so it stays silent. You become an observer. Watching life move on when you can’t. You don’t find things funny or silly it is too hard when you experience the certainty of life -that is death. Your appearance seems unnecessary, we hide behind hats; literally to cover our face; hide our sad. We assume people do not notice because we are out, we are functioning, we attempt to smile when need be. They don’t know we sleep more, eat less or less healthy because who cares right. But I see you’re sad. I feel your grief when I look in your eyes. I know your pain when you force a smile or conversation or simply walk away because you can’t take it. I know, I see it and I am sorry.

Thanks for reading,

Namaste,

Sheri

 

Written for my close friend because I see her pain but oddly enough do not know what to say or do knowing she needs to walk her own path through her grief.

 

Reality of Life and Death

After talking with a  few friends who are having a hard time with recent deaths of those very close to them, they’re having a hard time having never experienced  loss before or perhaps dealing with death; the older we become it seems to get harder because of the realization of our own mortality. They are in there mid thirties to mid forties, so I was surprised; I just kept thinking how lucky they were to have been spared for so long. But of course knew how insensitive that was to think.

I started to think of my own life and those that have died around me. The first death I experienced was the death of my friend/neighbors mom when we were 7 or 8. I knew it was sad, I knew she was “gone” but did not really understand what happened or the loss to the family. I remember her brother who was 10 or 11 yelling at me and my brothers for going to their moms funeral saying that we just wanted to miss school. I didn’t understand why he got mad at us not until I was older. The next was not for almost 10 years later when my paternal grandfather died, I remember going to the hospital to say goodbye, I am glad my dad brought me. I remember how shallow and scary his breathing sounded; I remember crying but also trying to hide it. The worst was watching how that death affected my dad, he began drinking more after that, and maybe that’s why within a few months my mom left him.

The next death that impacted me was that of a friend who was beaten to death. The hardest part about that was that it was done by other mutual friends. Not being able to understand why. His funeral was hard because some of our friends ,who were friends with both were not allowed to go; I was friends with both but not close to either at that time. It was hard because it wasn’t right, no one deserves to be murdered and no one expects others to take one’s life so carelessly. It really opened my eyes to the brutality of life. After this I was in my early 20’s and quite a few friends and acquaintances in the years that followed had died or been killed or overdosed. It almost started to be ‘normal’. No, just easier to accept I guess. Then 2 friends from high school died, we were not close anymore it had been almost 10 years since high school but it was hard to understand and handle none the less. One was killed by a drunk driver leaving behind 3 kids, and just having had my 1st child being pregnant with my 2nd it literally shattered my heart to think of their loss as well as her for not being able to see her kids grow up. The other friend took his own life, battling a terrible depression that none were even aware of. The amount of death at my minds door at the ripe age of 30 was astounding. But nothing prepared me for the next year, the year I turned 31. I gave birth to and then lost my 3rd child when she was 2 months old, 2 months later my maternal grandmother passed and 2 weeks previous my paternal grandmother passed. All the deaths were overwhelming. I felt surrounded, I was in shock for most of that 1st year, as I sit and type I realize the fog lifted shortly after a year but I think I hurt more because I started to feel more, the shock being gone there was more room to think as well as feel. I felt not only grief and loss but guilt and longing were added. Then I thought about all those lost before and felt just so overwhelmingly sad and mad at the world. How do we live “happily” when so many are not given that chance? How can we accept death when it is so unexpected most of the time? How do we live with the intention of putting love first when some of us are lucky enough to not experience hard losses and therefore live to maturity and grow wealth or some that disregard life and kill the earth or our environment due to lack of empathy. I believe death teaches us empathy, to care more for what is important. I hate death and the things it has taken from me but it has given me appreciation for things like a 100 year old tree, spring flowers, a hug, a kiss, a smile. Things money cannot buy.

At times when I see others pain in coping with death and loss I wish I could take it or make it go away, but I also know that it is part of accepting the reality of life and death in having to accept others passing and how it makes us feel.

So as I enter the later years of my life where I am watching my friends deal with the loss of their parents, I know that there is so much more death around the corner as I get older, I just am not sure how to prepare my heart for the pain that I already feel brought on just by the thought of loss and not yet the actual death. I think I’ll have to go hug a tree, cry and hope I will have the strength to let go as I already have.

Thanks for Reading,

Namaste.

Sheri.

 

 

Dealing with anxiety and depression; no easy answer.

Depression and anxiety are rampant these days and with good reason, with all the tragedies happening around us, combined with us all wanting more than we need because of what marketing and the media have cramed in our faces everyday helping us to feel less than when we don’t have it all. When we cannot do it all, as we are told we should. ADD, ADHD, Autism spectrum disorder (varying levels now) too many more mental illnesses. Breast cancer, Leukemia, Alzheimer’s and devastating childhood Cancers. So much we deal with, we look at but are told to be positive, don’t cry, you don’t want to make others uncomfortable, so instead we show off the people that we are not on Facebook, we Instragram the meals we pretend to cook daily, we Tweet our ‘heroes’ for attention, sadly they are famous people(not the scientists, doctors, army veterans that it should be) that do nothing helpful to the world(some do) but encourage consumerism by showing off all they’ve acquired, with glossed over, highly filtered shots that hurt our minds and grow our insecurities. People that suffer from anxiety tend to have suffered a traumatic event in their life, events that can range in degrees of harshness but are nonetheless traumatic to the recipient. We don’t learn how to cope with PTSD or the ensuing anxiety, we do learn to pretend, to be positive and when we cannot pretend we want to hide and isolate ourselves and unfortunately some isolate themselves to the point that they lose touch with reality or with society, trapped in their evil mind of negative thoughts. They venture to a doctor brave enough to tell someone they are not coping, only to be prescribed a deadly dose of mind numbing chemicals that in the end cause dependency, just a temporary solution instead of simply encouraging exercise, a better diet, two things which are proven mood lifters, they help with sleep and connect our body to our mind. Not our mind to drugs that in the end worsen the brain and the problem. I wish there was a magical cure for all those that suffer from depression, isolation, anxiety, I do think if our young were encouraged to go get fresh air when upset or go for a walk when frustrated or angry, if we could teach simple coping techniques; like meditation when feeling scared or confused, how better off we might be. When I feel so trapped inside my anxiety all I can do is ride it out. Knowing I am stronger than the thoughts that cause me this pain. I often wonder how much worse it would be if I didn’t exercise daily. When I was fourteen I tried to take my life. I was an undisciplined, (felt) unloved, labeled some terrible names at school because of untrue rumors that I was constantly running from. My parents were divorcing; I had no rules, no goals, no forced values or concern. No one would miss me, no one needed me, I didn’t understand the point. I went into the bathroom and took what was left in a bottle of Tylenol, about 20 pills, I figured it would be enough to do something, and went to bed. As I lay there crying I eventually started to think of the future, of what I wanted. What I hoped might happen one day. I got back up went to the bathroom and made myself throw up. I never again got that sad, sad enough to think I should be dead or not care enough to live. Not until my daughter died almost twenty years later did I think death would be better than living, one reason that I didn’t seriously consider it was because of my other two young kids, the thought of them losing their mother after their sister was a hard one, but I knew they’d be fine, they had an amazing dad, so every night after I’d wake up from a nightmare filled with dread or survived another panic attack because they were not home, I considered more and more the reasons I didn’t have to keep going, the only one that kept me alive in the end was the thought of my husband, who was suffering more than anyone cared to pay attention to or notice but I saw his pain every day, I felt his sadness, and watched his mind disappear and become numb with every drink he poured, I thought how he would be ruined if he lost his wife right after his daughter I knew my kids would be fine as long as they had their dad, but saw that their dad wouldn’t be fine and for that reason, my love for him, is why I decided to keep going. Why I have kept going. For them to have him. Now four years later I keep going for myself, to see my kids become adults, to maybe meet my grandchildren, to do what I can to make the world a better place for them until then. It is so easy to question the world, to hate your life. But if you can think of how people will be hurt because of  a selfish decision, it can be eye opening. I don’t know what made me throw up the pills I took that night when I was fourteen, but maybe it was to get to this day, because god knows the hardships that followed were more than a lot deal with, but as they say, ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ and for the longest time that was my mantra. I became hard, I am not very sympathetic to people with champagne problems or self inflicted issues or self imposed isolation. Go outside. Take a breath of fresh air. Remember what you have that some don’t.

I strongly believe that life is suffering; we need to feel the pain to feel the strength, esperience the hurt to see the happiness when it comes.

I wanted to share this not for pity or sympathy but because so many people assume only the ones who hide away, suffer or have suffered; only the ones on pills are truly understanding of mental disorders, but that is not true because all of us suffer at some point in our lives, it is just how we pick ourselves up and decide to keep going that makes a difference.

We need to keep going, to keep hoping.

Thanks for reading,

Namaste.

Sheri.

It is ok to be sad

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I feel you rolling your eyes, as I hit post. Another grief post you think! Your pain is no longer because it wasn’t your child you lost, it was mine, so you did feel sad for a bit after, you don’t understand how or why I am still grieving or posting sad stuff about grief. I get it its not your loss, you don’t feel it every day like I do and you don’t want to remember it  as much as I do. You might think I am bitter or want sympathy, I don’t. Just know that my heart hurts when I glance at the spot on the floor where she stopped breathing, that I have trouble thinking of moving because this is where she lived for 2 short weeks. Every time I hear a story of tragedy or a life lost I cry for her. Am I stuck? no I am human. I am a mother that gave birth to a beautiful baby that struggled to live, to breathe, that spent 5 weeks in the NICU, not sleeping, not feeling and slowly breaking. That was almost four years ago I know, you think I must have moved past this pain, I have another little girl right. She is my savior, yes. but also my daily reminder of my first little girl that is not here. Would they be best friends? or Would they fight a lot?  I wonder. And yes that too makes me sad. Immediate grief after a tragedy is overwhelming, its consuming and then time takes it away, little by little the intense memories fade and it is easier to ‘pretend’ life is what it is.

Today is October 15th- International Awareness of Stillbirth, miscarriage and infant loss

A day that makes me sad but grateful to have met and to be a part of a community of women, amazing women, that too have suffered a loss, something that is not openly spoken about but should be, something that people are uncomfortable to bring up, leaving the person(s) that suffered the loss alone. Why are we told not to share a pregnancy until 3 months? in case you lose the baby right, we don’t need to upset people like that! but then we suffer alone with our loss. Not right. After I lost my daughter, after she was born at full term, after she was given a birth certificate because she lived past 21 days (the time the government thinks your baby needs to live to be considered a human!) even though we all know as soon as we see that pink or blue line we have a child in our life, whether they live past 21 days or not, to be deemed a person! Different issue, I move on. The stigma that surrounds uncomfortable feelings needs to stop. People need compassion not shame. I don’t know how to change the world into thinking its ok to be sad, we do not need to ‘pretend’ to be happy all the time. As Buddha says ‘Life is suffering’ I believe we have pockets of happy moments or happy feelings but if you truly look at the world and live true, you see that it is about surviving, surviving tragedy around us, surviving, genocide, rape, famine , disease, homelessness, joblessness, then death. Acknowledging life’s struggles does not make us ‘negative’ it makes us real and if you let yourself feel the sad you will better be able to appreciate the happy.

After I lost my daughter, so many women came up to me and told me about their losses, a women lost her son when he was 21, another suffered multiple miscarriages’ but never told anyone, so many stories, so many women that suffered alone because society made them feel like they had to hide their shame because it wasn’t ‘happy news’ I call bollocks! I will continue to share my grief and encourage others to share because we are here for such a short time, all we have is each other. To help, to love, to pick each other up and hug.

Namaste

Thanks for reading.

Sheri

October 15 2015

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I-remember-with-you-meme-707x70710 Ways to Honor Your Friend’s Child That Died This October

Do you have a friend whose baby died? Maybe she took a healthy baby home and months later her son died tragically of SIDS. Or maybe he never got to meet his baby awake outside of the womb because his daughter was stillborn. Maybe you have a friend who suffered a miscarriage more than once but once is enough pain to endure. Maybe you have a friend whose toddler, school age, or teenager tragically died.

****If you do know someone who has been shaken to their core by the loss of their child, no matter what age, please take a moment and honor your friend and her or his child by remembering them this October for Pregnancy, Infant, and Child Loss Awareness Month.
I know, right now you might be saying to yourself, “Okay, yeah I have a bereaved parent friend and I want to help honor their child’s memory but I just don’t know what to do.”

Fair enough; that is why I’m here to help. As a bereaved mom whose child died two years ago, I have come up with some ideas I would love if a friend did for me. I am sharing them with you in hopes that you will reach out to your bereaved parent friend and let them know that you are thinking of them and always remembering their precious child this October.

1. Light a Candle for them. October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day (I like to include ALL children no matter what their age) and is recognized around the world and you are invited to participate. The remembrance ceremony can take place in your own home. It’s that easy. All you have to do is light a candle at 7 p.m. your local time and leave it burning for an hour. Doing this in honor of your friend’s child contributes to the wave of light that is created by others doing the same in their time zone on October 15th in remembrance of all children who left us too soon.

2. Say their child’s name.  When you grab that cup of coffee with your bereaved parent friend or you pass them at work, take a moment and say their child’s name in your conversations. It doesn’t have to be formal, maybe just in passing, bring their child’s name up if it seems appropriate. For example if you are at their house and see a picture of your friend and their child make note of it and say, “I love that picture of you and Susie.” Or if it doesn’t come up easily then just say, “I heard it’s Pregnancy, Infant, and Child Loss Awareness month and wanted to let you know I was thinking of Johnny.”

3. Send a card. You know that section in the store where the cards are that says, “Thinking of You.”? That would be perfect sentiment to send during the month of October to remind them that you remember their child this month and always. I’m sure it would brighten their day. As a bereaved mom, every card I still receive from family and friends that acknowledges my child and my pain as a grieving mother is almost like a hug in the mail from my daughter. I see it as my little girl working through you to get to me. Maybe your friend will feel the same way, and that is powerful stuff.

4. Call up your friend and just say, “I wanted to let you know I’ve been thinking of you and wanted to tell you this October during Pregnancy, Infant, and Child Loss Awareness month about how I think of your child often.” You could also go on to ask if there was anything they might need from you or like for you to do with them in remembrance this October.

5. Do a RAOK (Random Act of Kindness) in their child’s name. What better way to show that your friend’s child’s life has impacted others than by continuing to do things in his/her name?  The MISS Foundation started The Kindness Project and this idea of remembering our children though random acts of love. So this October, do a RAOK. Maybe buy a cup a coffee for the guy in line behind you with a note that it’s in remembrance of your friend’s baby that died or let the mom in line at the grocery store go ahead of you and tell them all about how Timmy, your friend’s child would have done the same. Be creative, the possibilities are endless and you will do it all in your friend’s child’s name. Don’t forget to let your friend know. It might just bring a tear of joy to their eye.

6. Participate in a Remembrance Walk with them. There are so many out there during the month of October. As a bereaved mom I find remembrance walks to be powerful experiences. It’s just so moving when your family and friends come out to support you and honor your child that you are missing. I know this might sound weird to the non-bereaved parent, but for those few hours, during that one time of year, when my feet pound that 5k course, I get to really “be” my child’s mom that day. People acknowledge me as “Nora’s Mom” and I get to publicly parent her in ways I never will get to in life. Now wouldn’t that be a good gift to give a friend this October. To find one near you click on this link at Remembering Our Babies October 15th.

7. Stop in for a visit and spend time with your friend. Don’t forget to mention why you are there. Maybe bring over some baked goods or a meal to share. We bring over food in the early days of grief and mourning after a loved one dies, I think a nice batch of cookies would be just as helpful years down the road too.

8. Invite your friend to a remembrance service or ask if you can go with him or her to one they might be attending. See if there is a remembrance ceremony being held in your neighborhood and ask your friend if they would like to come along. It would be a wonderful gesture and if you are uncomfortable bringing up the topic of their child that died it’s a nice way of segueing into the conversation.

9. Send an, “I remember with you” note through e-mail or as a Facebook status. Want to acknowledge your friend’s child this month but don’t know how to say it. Then send an e-mail, private message, or leave a note on their Facebook wall. Better yet, post something on their Facebook or yours publicly saying, “I remember your child with you” this October.

Originally published October 6, 2015

By Lindsay Henke

http://stillstandingmag.com/2015/10/10-ways-honor-friends-child-died-october-2/?fb_ref=Default