It’s time to say goodbye

After not writing here for long stretches, I don’t know that this post is even needed. It’s obvious I’ve shuttered this blog.

I kept the window slightly open for so long, worried about losing my crutch. It’s time to close it all the way.

This place was more than my crutch. At times this blog and other online support kept me sane. This was the place I could sort through my grief and remember my daughter.

I never thought this day would come. The day I’d be able to function again. Over four years it’s taken me. If you haven’t lost a child, you might think my grief and how I handle it abnormal. It’s really not.

If you have lost a child, you might worry you are abnormal for grieving for ever. I’m not saying that my grief will end. It will always continue. You are normal, and I am still deeply crushed. Never the same. I’m just in a place where I can function. Where I can be another person besides a grieving mom for long stretches of my day.

Of course my grieving mother persona overlaps. I am just better able to compartmentalize. I’m working as a reporter for a newspaper and part of my responsibility is formatting obituaries for the paper. The first obit I received on my first day was for an infant. For thirty seconds I was incapable of anything but deep grief. I rebounded quickly. I’ll always have those attacks. I’ll always deal with this. But I am dealing with it.

I’ll grieve more privately. I’ll remember Cora and honor her memory in smaller gestures, rather than working in her name around the clock. It’s just time.

Not to say I’ll never post here again. I also leave the blog open for others to stumble upon. I hope it continues to help.

I know the work I did in Cora’s name will live on for a long time, and that in that way she’ll live on.

I hope people still think of her. I hope to still hear from you.

Thank you for being here when I needed you most.

Tiny little forgotten headstones and other thoughts

I’m still here.

I’m processing things privately these days. Doing a lot of living. Spending lots of time away from computer screens and iPhone apps. After Cora died, I spent a long time feeling the need to be immersed in my own thoughts, which I processed and shared with others through this blog.

The theme of the past few months has been “action.” Moving. Just doing. Normal things. New things.

As you’ve probably gathered from my five years blogging here, I am really into the seasons. The seasons of the year. The seasons of my grief. The seasons of life.

Spring is a great time for a season of action. It was a long winter of reflecting, and now is the time for moving. I’m forever grieving, but over the past year or so, my grief for Cora moved from becoming who I was to becoming a part of me.

I worked hard to make Cora part of me forever. I still worry that she will be forgotten. Few got to meet her. Only me, my husband and my mother really knew her. Knew her personality, habits and her soul. Yup, five days in and we all have those things.

It’s why I worked so hard the past few years, so she’d get to live on. I tried to sat a ball in motion that would mean she lived long past I died. I of course won’t stop completely. But in my mind, the ball has motion now and requires some pushing from time-to time.

The other day I was in the car with someone I wouldn’t call even an acquaintance. Someone just around once and awhile. She told me about a grave yard in her back yard at a former residence.

She repeated over and over, “They were all just babies,” and that the grave yard had been long forgotten. That she was the only one to tend to it all. She said “these babies parents are long gone and they were the only ones who ever knew them anyway.”

She was right. As hard as it was to hear.

I’m lucky. Society has transformed and through modern technology coupled with a shift in societal views (we still have a way to go with that), I can forever talk about my baby.

I don’t have to go visit her in some small cemetery, privately and fearing if people found out I visited her often, they’d gossip about how I wasn’t over it. I don’t have to die and have that little cemetery be forgotten. Cora isn’t even buried anywhere.

We’ve decided to slowly take her ashes and spread them as we go. She’s part of the world now. We gave her back. We didn’t want to, but we had to.

Meanwhile, I can’t get those graves of those little forgotten babies out of my mind. I picture a rolling graveyard in the hills hidden on the edge of a forest overgrown with weeds. Headstones cracking and hard to read.

They were real. They mattered.

I might not write about Cora daily. I don’t post about her daily on social media. I don’t spend my days yelling from the roof tops anymore, but she’s not sequestered to some tiny forgotten overgrown place in my mind.

I keep her part of me moving forward. I tend to her place in my heart and mind daily. The real estate she takes up in my mind, heart and thoughts isn’t someplace I let turn dark, untended and forgotten.

She was real. She matters.

What’s the Best Way You Can Help a Grieving Family?

*Disclosure: I am a paid GiveForward Brand Ambassador.  I was compensated for this post.  All opinions are 100% my own.  Affiliate links used.

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Money.

That’s what grieving parents often need most. We are extremely lucky people with very generous family and friends. When Cora died, her funeral was paid for. When the funeral home told me not to worry about it, they were donating all of their services, I started sobbing on the phone. (Thank you Zwick and Jahn).

Our family and friends were generous and all other costs like cremation, memorial items, and the pile of costs associated with losing a child were covered. We didn’t have to ask anyone.

When Ben’s dad died, he had to make a phone call to his quite generous uncle, but the funeral home fees were covered (he didn’t have a service there, but even with just cremation and body preparing it was around $3000).

How lucky were we?

When Cora died we were 27 and 28 Ben was in school. We’d set ourselves up so we’d be comfortable and I could stay home with Cora.

Most 28-year-olds can’t afford to pay $10,000+ out of pocket. And losing a child costs much more than that. Time off work. Therapy. Lost productivity. Inability to cook and needing more expensive convenience meals.

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It’s just not fair. No one prepares for their child to die at such a young age. Even with good jobs, steady income and a little nest egg, losing a child is a financial hit, sometimes a devastating one.

I’ve read devastating stories of loss parents driving their child to the cemetery because they couldn’t afford the hearse, not being able to give their child a headstone and not being able to afford Christmas presents for surviving children because nothing was left.

We were so lucky.

Remember many of these families had a sick child before their child passed away. Even if medical bills are covered, or mostly covered. Staying in the hospital is expensive. Things like gas, food and lodging add up. A family could blow through their entire savings and be devastated, and then what happens when the child passes away.

Raise Money for a Loved One in Need. It's Quick, Easy, and Secure at GiveForward.com

When a child dies, the last thing any family should have to worry about is money. Money stress is a stress like none other. I know from experience. Since Cora died, we’ve battled our own issues. Ben smashed his ankle into tiny pieces just four months after she died. At one point he was told he would never walk again (he is, but it is something that will battle him for life).

We’re just now starting to recover, because we’ve been helped in so many ways from family members, friends, and even strangers on the Internet.

I’ve written quite a bit about how to help a family after the loss of a baby. I even wrote a short ebook aimed at friends and family of loss moms. I do mention in the book money is often one of the best ways to help. But in all honesty, it’s not easy to tell you to give money, and it’s even harder for a family to ask after a crisis.

GiveForward approached me about writing this blog post for help erasing the stigma that comes with asking for help.

GiveForward is a crowd fundraising site that allows people to start a fundraiser when they need help.
Raise Money for a Loved One. It's Quick, Easy, and Secure on GiveForward.com
None of us ask for a crisis to happen. None of us plan to get to a point where we need help. It’s okay to ask. It’s definitely okay to give. Give it forward. I know that we since have. The amount doesn’t matter. I can’t count how many times I’ve given what we could afford at the time, usually just $5 to another family in a crisis. Don’t hold back because you can’t afford to give much.

I know many of my readers have children with congenital heart defects or other conditions, if you’re struggling paying for the costs surrounding an upcoming surgery, or find the medical bills leading you to bankrupt, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s easy to start a fundraiser on GiveForward. 

When your child is sick, and especially after your child passes away, starting a fundraiser is just too much to handle. GiveForward handles all the details like collecting the money, and has tools that make it easy for you to organize your fundraiser. You can also designate a trusted friend who can run the entire thing for you.

In America, 76 percent of families live pay check to pay check. You aren’t alone if you can’t keep up after a crisis. We all need help sometimes.

*Disclosure: I am a paid GiveForward Brand Ambassador.  I was compensated for this post.  All opinions are 100% my own.  Affiliate links used.

 

 

My Grief Will Last a Lifetime, and So Should Your Sympathy

lifetime The “there is not time limit on grief” motto is one that Iv’e repeated enough, read enough and thought enough that I feel like I’m comfortable with it. It’s a fact, and I don’t care if other people accept it or not.

If my grief lasts my entire life, ebbing and flowing and becoming a natural part of living, should sympathy, empathy, and compassion last just as long?

I don’t want people to feel bad for me. My dad died when I was a little and my entire I life I remember thinking I never wanted it to be an “excuse.” I only wanted it to be part of what made me who I was.

The same for Cora. I am different, and not as fast to think, not as fast to join the party and sometimes hide in my house for days on end.

I’m not asking for sympathy in the way people express sympathy in the early days. I never wanted anyone to feel sorry for me. I am mom to the most beautiful baby ever. A baby changing lives, don’t feel sorry for me!

As grief grows and changes, so should sympathy. I think I’m asking more for empathy for me, and anyone that’s had a loss.

Do we break plans a lot? Should we get a free pass because our baby died five years ago automatically, no. But, if we tell you we had issues bubbling to the services, try not to be upset.

Remember those anniversaries and special days. For us, they are like the “early days.” Treat them like you would have treated the day my baby died. I’m reliving everything on those days.

Don’t feel sorry for me, but always remember grief is a life long journey. At times, when it surfaces, I still need sympathy, and more than anything empathy and compassion.

 

 

Tell Congress: No More Toxic Chemicals! (Sponsored)

Disclosure: I was compensated by Seventh Generation to write this post. Opinions are my own.

Before I became pregnant, I didn’t give much thought to what I put in and on my body, or exposed myself to. I cleaned with whatever was near. I wore whatever makeup I thought looked pretty and I didn’t give a thought to things like sulfates in body wash.

More than 80,000 chemicals available in the United States have never been fully tested for their toxic effects on our health and environment.

In my naivete, I figured the government and companies producing items for home and health use would make sure everything was safe and didn’t question what chemicals could do to me, my home, my pets and the environment.

It turns out legislation hasn’t been updated since the 1970′s. In the 1970′s, people were still smoking on airplanes. We obviously had lots to learn about the hazards of chemicals. The Toxic Substances Control Act was passed in 1976 and has not been updated since.

It’s time for this law to be updated. Chemicals that were okay-ed to use in the 1970′s continue to be produced for residential cleaning supplies and other items we use daily.

Seventh Generation, a company that makes a line of cleaning supplies from plant-based derivatives, is calling on Congress to reform the TSCA. Not only reform, but to do so in a meaningful way that brings about healthy, realistic changes.

Scientists have linked exposure to  toxic chemicals to many health risks, such as Cancer, Alzheimer’s, learning disabilities, asthma, birth defects, and various reproductive problems!

I gave birth to a child with a birth defect. Do I have any evidence it was from any of the chemicals I used or was exposed to, even accidentally? Absolutely not. But I have read several studies that have linked an increase in birth defects to environmental causes, like certain chemicals.

We need to do better for ourselves, and for our children.

Seventh Generation is calling on YOU to help! They are attempting to collect 100,000 signatures on a petition asking Congress to make the reforms. 

Make sure to pop over and sign the petition today to make your voice heard! Chemical legislation dating back to the 1970′s is not okay. It’s definitely not okay that our children are exposed to chemicals daily that we don’t fully understand.

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Stand up to toxic chemicals today! 

A Glimpse of Them

I was hoping I’d get the other cashier.

I’m a couponer, you see, and the right cashier is nearly as important as having the right coupons.

I’d dealt with this cashier. I knew she was young and new, but knew she would be nice. Cashiers sometimes aren’t nice to couponers. I don’t blame them, sometimes couponers aren’t nice to cashiers.

So when this women I’d never seen called  over, “I can help you over here.” I quickly check her out. Middle age. Her beckoning wasn’t overly cheerful, but also not rude. On the couponer cashier-profiling scale, she was an iffy. I held my breath, clutched my coupons and prepared to explain every coupon and store policy.

Her cheerfulness level grew to a 10 when I reached her register.

“I could have sworn I saw little ones with you! I must be imagining things,” she cheerfully kept rattling on. “I thought you had little ones.” She must have been a real baby lover, because she seemed disappointed that she wasn’t able to dote on how cute the non-existent little ones were.

“No, no,” I whispered. My heart was in my throat. I have a little one, but she’s not here, I wanted to scream.

When things like this happen and strangers ask me if I have children, I don’t want to ruin their whole day so I usually say as little as possible.

She kept on, “I thought there little ones,” she said with a smile in her voice. I felt rude for not responding, “I wish,” I said. “Maybe someday…” my voice hushed back to a whisper.

“Awww, you will honey,” the woman said. “I could have sworn there were little ones,” she said. She didn’t seem like she was going to let up with the “little ones” talk anytime soon.

My heart was pounding. My palms sweaty and the lump in my throat was pulsating. I had to stop her, but nicely.

I leaned in as I put items on the counter and said in a whisper, “My daughter died.”

With genuine compassion, she put her hand on mind and said the only thing you can say in this situation, “I’m so sorry.”

Her hand didn’t linger too long and was just a brush as I laid my single bags of popcorn on the counter, but it was just what was needed.

We transitioned into the rest of my order. No problems with any of the coupons, by the way.

I really didn’t want to ruin this lady’s day, so I said something to make her feel better.

As she handed me my change I said in a throaty whisper, “Maybe you saw my daughter here with me after all.”

It was to make her feel better, not me, I thought.

She said, “I did. You are right. I saw little ones. I know I did.”

I grabbed my items bags and walked out.

I realized maybe I hadn’t said it just for her. I’m not much into the thought of babies as angels, or ghosts or spirits. I’m not much for psychics or mediums.

But, in that moment, I needed to believe the woman saw not only Cora with me, chattering up a storm at my side.

I needed to believe that she saw Cora’s siblings, bubbling happily in car seats in the cart.

I needed it today. I had to picture it.

This woman gave me that hope. That she saw Cora always with me, and siblings to come in the future.

Hope comes from the most unexpected places at the most unexpected times.

Because of this woman, I saw them too. Cora and her siblings. I saw them. Just a glimpse. The kind of glimpse that you give from the corner of your eye, and when you look straight on it’s gone and you wonder if you saw them at all. That glimpse of hope today was enough. This stranger might not even remember me a few hours later. I’ll never forget her.

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