Category Archives: Baby loss

Don’t Segregate Us

I thought long before using that word, segregate. I paused because I wanted to honor it’s connections to groups that have been beyond “segregated,” they’ve been terrorized and belittled openly and blatantly in world history. I want you to know before I start that I’m in no way comparing what I’m talking about below to the segregation that’s occurred to other groups in this country.

Don’t push us away and point us to this group or that group for “moms like us.” Sure most of us (moms to children that died) do gain support from each other, but we wouldn’t be in your space if we didn’t want to. If we didn’t feel a connection to YOU. Moms to live children.

Months after Cora died, I traveled to an event where there were many other parents of congenital heart defect children, only almost all of their children were alive.

I’ll never forget the feeling, the being pushed away. Being told oh yes, we have a small group for parents like you.

It’s congenital heart defect awareness week, and I know there are hurting parents like me because I’ve read their statuses. They feel forgotten. Worst of all, they feel like there is no place for their children.

A nice woman that runs a huge Facebook page for mothers not in any way CHD or special needs focused, I’m assuming  from how things have gone down there it’s a page for mothers of live children, posted today that once a month mothers were welcome to post pictures of their dead children. Once a month.

You want us to leave.

You don’t want to read our sad stories.

You want us to huddle together in sadness in the corner.

We don’t deserve that.

It’s nuanced. You don’t tell us we can only drink from that drinking fountain. You don’t make us wear a gold star, but it’s there. Again, absolutely no comparison to the segregation and racism other groups have gone through.

But that doesn’t mean there’s not a level of hurt.

Instead you avoid us. You give us a day to share our children. You mention a special group for shiny special moms like us.

If we chose to be a part of your group for mothers, or this support group for children that had a condition like ours, you’re just going to have to deal with it.

Sadly, our babies could have been your baby.

Your next baby could be ours.

We didn’t do anything to deserve this.

If we can’t handle your group and your live babies, we won’t join. Your intentions are good. But unless our child died the day before, we’ve been handed that slip of paper or that private message with names of those groups a million times. If we need a support group, we’ll ask for recommendations  We’re big girls.

When we pop up, don’t tell us over and over there are such and such support groups for mothers like us. Say I’m sorry and give us a hug, or a virtual one if it’s online.

Sure there will be awkward moments, but that’s life.

Learn to embrace us.

Most of all, don’t push us away.

We’re grieving mothers, but that phrase should be mothers grieving, because first and foremost we are mothers.

Moving from “Call Me If You Need Anything” to Calling the Bereaved

My life has been one of great loss. My father when I was a child. Cora nearly three years ago, my grandmother and father-in-law this summer. However, death isn’t something you grow used to it. It’s not something that gets easier to handle with more loss.

When someone dies, people want to help. And they do. I know people are good because I’ve been through enough loss to know. The best of humanity comes out when you lose someone.

When Ben’s dad died, people showed up with food, stories and a shoulder to lean on. It’s been amazing. They’ve been great.

I’m going to talk about something today I want to be careful presenting. It’s something I do too, but I hope it’s something to think about.

We get a lot of “call if you need anything.” It’s super sweet. Truth is, we don’t know what we need. We probably won’t remember you saying so. Sadly, some of the people coming around, we might not ever see again. It’s just how it goes.

I know people want to help. I get it, and I’m so grateful and appreciative.

However, when someone dies, just think about how you can help and do it. We won’t call people for things, it’s just not how we are.

I know people become afraid to call or to stop by fearing they’re imposing or interrupting. You won’t be.

Call us.

Tell us you’ll call us (and by us I don’t mean this situation in particular with Ben’s dad, I mean the bereaved in general). Set a date you’ll call us and do it. Even if it’s a short phone call. Even if we don’t answer the phone. If we don’t answer. Call again in a few days.

I’d love to see people change the normal, “If you need anything, call me” to “If you need anything call me, and I’ll be checking in on YOU.” Don’t put it on the bereaved to reach out.

If you really want to help, keep checking in.

Call us. We might not answer today or tomorrow or next week, but we will see that you called, and one day we will answer.

Thanks to everyone that’s been there for us. Again, this isn’t a personal post, it’s about something I’ve noticed with grief in general. I just want to help grieving people.

Comments are closed on this blog. I would love to hear from you though, don’t hesitate to reach out on the Cora’s Story Facebook page.

Following My Own Advice: When My Friend’s Baby Died

I’ve written about this topic so many times, I wondered if I should revisit, but I think this is an important post.

A few months ago, I published a short eBook about helping your friend when her baby dies, based on many of the posts I’ve written on this blog. I was nervous to publish it, and sat on it for several weeks. See, baby loss moms are all different. There is no manual for how to treat us.

But, every day the searches poured in from people looking for information about how to help their friends. Every day, I read at least one status or note from a baby loss mom that felt unsupported by her friends. I knew I had to do something to help. So I published it. And held my breath. I was blown away by how well received the booklet was. It was needed.

Sadly, just weeks after I published it, one of my friend’s baby died. It was unexpected, and fairly sudden. All of the sudden, I needed to use my own advice. At first, I worried the book was a load of rubbish. Some of the things I said almost seemed to upset her. She didn’t answer my messages sometimes, was it because she hated me? I didn’t know what to say most of the time. I thought about just going away and waiting for her to reach out. But, part of me knew that was absolutely the least helpful thing I could do.

I followed my own advice. I thought both of my experience, and mainly of her. I kept reaching out. I let her lead me. I asked her questions.

I remembered her daughter. I honored her daughter. I loved her daughter, whom I never got to meet.

I didn’t judge her. I didn’t prod her to move on or do anything at any pace but her own.

Later, she told me in such a genuine and loving way how much I’d helped.

I’ve been on both sides of this, and have a new appreciation for the difficulties of being a friend. Believe me, nothing compared to actually going through it.

I think the number one lesson learned is that you have to set aside your own ego. Don’t dwell on if your friend is “mad at you.” She’s almost certainly not. You’re thinking too much of yourself. I made that mistake. This isn’t about you. I think this is universal advice for helping a friend through any sort of hardship. Give up yourself, and let it be 100 percent about what is best for your friend. Bend over backwards. Your back will be much stronger for doing so, and so will your friendship.

 

Free eBook: When a Friend’s Baby Dies (Helping Your Friend After Babyloss)

Sign up to get the book “When Your Friend’s Baby Dies,” emailed to you for free. (Scroll down past the cover of the book for instructions.

Since I wrote them, the posts about helping a friend through babyloss are reached every single day from people searching for information about helping a friend after her baby dies. I see the search queries, and wonder if they found what they needed. A girl needs a good friend after her baby dies, and often she doesn’t get one. I don’t think it’s usually because her friends are jerks, but because they don’t know what to do.

I came up with the idea of writing a book of everything I’ve written in those posts, and more. Something friends could print or leaf through on their tablets. It’s been a few months since I began working on the book. It’s been done for weeks. I’ve sat it on it for awhile.

See, we’re all so different. By telling friends how to help, would I be sending the message that there’s a correct way to grieve? There’s no manual about how to parent a dead child, so how could there be one about helping a friend through that loss? I went back and forth about rather I would share it at all.

After much thought and internal debate, I decided I should share, with a disclaimer that I’m a. no expert and b. all moms are different and I don’t want them pushed into a little grief box.

People want this information. I have a perspective they’re seeking. I hope that my message is clear. I just want to help get grieving moms the support they need.

The book is free. You are free to share it, distribute it and link to it, with some caveats, you may not change any of it, you may not claim it as yours and you may not charge for it. Scroll down to get it emailed to you.

To Get the free eBooklet:

1. Enter your email below and hit “Enter”
2. Wait for a confirmation email that you signed up to get the ebook.
3. Press the link in the email to confirm.
4. A link to the eBook will be emailed to you in a welcome email.



Update: I’m so blown away by the response to this eBook. I published it in the middle of the night with relatively slight promo, and have been getting emails, messages and comments all day. Tells me it was a needed resource. I want to make it more widely available, so I put the booklet on Amazon.com in Kindle format. Unfortunately, you have to charge at least $2.99, so that’s what it’s priced at. I can make it free for five days, and when I do, I’ll share through my Facebook and Twitter that it’s free that day if you want it on your Kindle or tablet. The book will always be free to download and share in the method described above.

When a friend’s baby dies, revisited.

A few months after Cora died, I wrote a series of posts about how friends can help and what they can do after a baby dies. They’re some of the more popular posts on this site.

Many people find their way here after a Google search for things like what to say when a friend’s child dies, or what to do when a friend’s child dies.

I’m writing about it again because I see all those internet searches that lead people here and can’t help but feel for them. There’s no rule book about this. I’m writing this follow up for you, the random visitor finding your way from Google, desperate to help your friend.

And, common etiquette won’t tell us much because baby loss and how people cope isn’t something normally talked about. I’m also finding that what people might expect to be true from a grieving friend isn’t always true. Before going through this, I would have thought to wait a few days before calling after the baby dies and to give the family time to grieve.

After going through this, I advise the opposite. I know having visitors in and out the door the day Cora died helped. I don’t know what I would have done without my large extended family that day. When I wasn’t up for visitors, I told my mom and she screened people away.

I don’t even feel qualified to write this. So many mothers traveled this road before me and could give better advice about how to help with a friend’s child dies.

I think more than anything, I’m writing about it today because I’m so moved seeing those searches. Seeing how many people want to help, but just don’t know how.

I hope my original series of posts is helpful. I go into more specific ways friends can help.

And, by asking, even if it’s by asking Google and reading about baby loss, you’re already helping. You’re taking some of the burden and awkwardness away from the grieving parent. At first even small decisions were nearly impossible to make. And, even now, I freeze when people ask how they can help or what they should do. It does feel like a burden, and not much of a help.

I totally look up to people that find my blog looking for ways to help. It takes real effort to spend time doing some research about it and shows that you realize your friend needs you.


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When a friend’s child dies. Part 2: What not to say.

 Flowers from Cora’s funeral. I put them all in the nursery after the funeral and over time, they dried on their own.

This is the post in my series about helping a friend/neighbor/acquaintance through child loss I’ve fretted about the most. Please, don’t take offense or feel bad if you’ve said some of these things. Truth is, I’m guilty of saying some of them. Before I lost Cora, I had no clue what to say to someone that lost a child.

Just like I still probably say insensitive things to elderly folks or people suffering serious illness. Unless you’ve been there, you just don’t quite know what to say, problem is, mourning moms and dads are so sensitive, saying the wrong thing can set off a temper tantrum or crying fit. Talk to them and communicate. Ask if it’s okay to say or ask certain things when in doubt.

And, remember every family is different, some families might find comfort in some of these words. I didn’t make this list lightly, much thought of my own, a lot of online discussion about what to and not to say, and hours of worry go into this post. In fact, I’ve got a knot in my stomach right now while writing it. I don’t like “speaking” for all moms and dads. Because, truth is, I can’t. Everyone is different.
 
Let’s pull off the band aid. If you’re guilty of saying any of these, don’t wallow in guilt, to reiterate, I say stupid things sometimes, too.

1. Bad: “God wanted your baby/it’s your karma/your baby was needed by someone else/your baby will be reincarnated.”

Why not say this? I know some parents that do find comfort in these sayings, but a lot of parents get super mad. Even parents that are really religious dislike this wording immensely. This is probably the most controversial on the list. Take your cues from the parents, if they say things like God called my child home, etc, then of course join in, but if they never say anything remotely like that, do not say that a deity/order/anything “wanted” or “needed” their child. They don’t want to believe that God wanted their child. I was told that my karma wasn’t strong enough by a Buddhist, which made me super mad. I was told God wanted Cora, and started to wonder what he wanted with a baby. Religion is like a shining light to many parents, but don’t “blame” God or any other deity. This is no slam on anything religious. I’m actually less offended by this than by the hundreds of parents that have told me they hurt so bad when they hear that.

Say this instead: I’m praying for you. I’m sending you and your family so much love and light. If you’re religious, I’d love to participate in a religious ceremony with you, just tell me what you want to do. Your little angel is so precious and adorable. May I say a prayer, or light a candle for your child at my church? (As a side note, I’m so proud of the tree that was planted in Israel for Cora, the prayer cloth made from a good friend, the Buddhist prayer cloth given to us by a friend, all very special to me.)

2. Bad: “There will be other babies, you’re young.” 

Why not say this? My baby wasn’t “a baby.” She was my daughter. A person. I don’t want to think about other babies, I want to think about her.

Say this instead: You’re a wonderful mother/father. Your child is so lucky to have you as a parent. I miss your baby.

3. Bad: “It was meant to be for a reason.”

Why not say this? What reason could possibly justify the death of a child. I believe good things can come from Cora’s death because that’s all that gets me through the day.

Say this instead: Your child will never be forgotten and is going to leave such a huge impact. I promise to never forget your baby. I’m here for any sort of memorial you want to make.


4. Bad: “I understand exactly what you’re going through…” (this one should be marked SUPER bad).

Why not say this? I’ve had people liken Cora’s death from everything to pet death to the time in first grade they stubbed their toe. RELATING is NORMAL and GOOD. PLEASE share your stories of your loved one. But, you don’t know EXACTLY what I’m feeling. No one does, not even my husband or other people that lost children. Don’t pretend you know exactly how I feel.

Say this instead: I don’t know how you’re feeling, but I’m here to listen and to try to understand. I went through a situation once and although it wasn’t the same, I think I learned something that might help you. I’m so sorry. I lost a child too, and each loss is unique, but I’ll share anything I can with you. There’s no manual for losing a child, I’ll always be here to help.


5. Bad: “You’ll get over this and move on. It’s time to move on.” (Or anything that puts a time limit on grief).
 
Why not say this? I’m not ill, I won’t get better. I won’t move on. I think one day I’ll go from crawling back to walking. But, I’m forever changed.

Say this instead: Any way you grieve is normal. You take your time. Put no pressure on yourself. I’m here to listen. Do you think a group might help, I can find some in your area. Would a walk or drive with me help? I’ll come over and sit with you. I love you.

6. Bad: “It will be okay.”

Why not say this? It won’t be okay. Saying so makes me feel like you’re undermining me grief, my loss. What will be okay, exactly? My crushed soul?

Say this instead: I’m so, so sorry. I weep with you. I feel for you. I’m here for you, always and forever.

7. Bad: “It’s for the best after all that pain.”

Why not say this? This one is just plain stupid. Even if they child was ill, no parent wants to hear that it was “for the best” or that their child lived in constant pain.

Say this instead: If the child was in the hospital, or sick you can say things such as: your little one is healed now, or beautiful child feels no pain. Again, take cues from the parents, they might say things like at least he or she is in no pain, go ahead and agree. But, watch your wording, reminding the family that their child was in pain isn’t the best way to provide comfort.


8. Bad: “Was this your only child?”


Why not say this? What does that matter? Asking makes it seem that if you have other children, the loss is lessened. And, if you have no other children, your loss is somehow worse. This logic is beyond faulty and just plain stupid. The question might naturally come up in conversation but should not be the first thing you ask the grieving couple.

Say this instead: I’m so sorry. How old was your child? When is their birthday? What are some of your favorite memories of the child? How are your child’s brothers and sisters coping? Would a play date with my children help them?

9. Bad: “You’ll be a mother again one day.” Or “So and so used to be a mother…” 

Why not say this? BIG MOMMA BEAR GROWL. I AM a mother. YOU and no one else can take that away from me. Once you’re a mother, you’re always a mother. I highly suggest you don’t say this to me. I’ll correct you each and every time. Cora IS my daughter. I AM her mother.

Say this instead: You are the best mom ever. You are an amazing mom. Do you want join my mom’s only Web site? You’re one of my best mommy friends. I am so lucky to have you as a friend. A group of friends on Twitter and elsewhere welcomed me to the mom club and never “kicked” me out. They know. I’m still a mom. Never kick out a “childless” mom.

Keep in mind two things: people in grief tend to be uber sensitive but saying something is also usually better than saying nothing. It’s a fine line and takes a gentle, caring soul to reach out to a grieving parent. But, I know you’re up to it. Just by reading this blog post, you’ve proven you care. I cry when someone looks at me the wrong way, literally, so be extra gentle, but do reach out. This can be a lonely, lonely world sometimes.

What do you think? Is my list accurate? Do we need to make some revisions or additions? I’d love to hear from people that have and have not lost a child.

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Shortly after Cora died, Melinda from Earth Mama, Angel Baby sent me a gift pack of healing mist, tea, and more. I used all and to this day spray the healing mist and notice a difference. Earth Mama, Angel Baby products are all organic, sending the “No More Milk Tea” in the days after the loss of a baby could make a real difference in Momma’s life. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I loved the products so much, I signed up to be affiliate and do receive a portion of sales from my Web site.

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