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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! 

Save the Children’s Yearly Newborn Health and Survival Report Released: Ensuring Every Newborn Survives

Today the international nonprofit Save the Children released their yearly report on the state of newborn health and survival around the globe.

As a mother that birthed a baby who was a statistic in 2009 (one of 2.9 million newborns that year who did not survive their first 28 days of life), I can’t thank Save the Children enough for focusing on newborns.

As the report mentions, many newborn deaths are preventable. Cora’s death falls into a place of uncertainty. Had her congenital heart defect been found before she died, would she have lived? It’s a good possibility, so I do say her death was possibly preventable.

She isn’t alone there either. Across the globe, 2 million babies die due to something preventable.  newbornreport

 

The plight of newborns born in Africa is particularly devastating. The rate of death for a neonate born in Africa is 4 times higher than in Europe, according to the report.

Shefali’s Story

The report shares the story of Shefali from Bangladesh. She’s give birth to six children. Three of them died before they turned a week old. As a mother who lost one child before she turned a week old, my heart shatters for her.

Shefali says that her family is unable to pay for medical care and treatment. Her words are heartbreaking.

“Whenever a child is born and then dies, we’re  overwhelmed with grief. it’s terrible. We feel like we need to take the child to the doctor but we can’t. i’m not the only one here who has lost children – there are many other mothers like me.” -Shefali, mom to six

What would you do with one day to live?

Worldwide, 1 million babies only get one day on this earth. Each year, 1 million babies die on their first and only day of life.

I know it’s not easy to read or think about baby’s dying. But as you go through your day today, rather it be amazing, an average day, or a rather crappy day. Think about that. Think about it as for 1 million little humans the only day they have.

Save the Children calls 2014 “The Opportunity for Life Saving Change.”

Save the Children doesn’t just publish the report to help us understand the dire situation for newborns worldwide, but offers solutions.

“The solution needs specific and urgent attention. The key way to stop newborn deaths is to ensure that essential care is provided around  labour, delivery and immediately afterwards when the risks are greatest. That means having a skilled, well-equipped birth attendant available to assist women and newborns during delivery. While we focus on this, there are also tremendous opportunities to reduce maternal and newborn mortality and stillbirths through key interventions during pregnancy and in the later postnatal period.”

The World Health Organization is currently drafting an Early Newborn Action Plan, with institutions, researchers, individuals and countries weighing in on how to make newborn survival a priority and a reality and to end preventable newborn deaths.

In fact, you can weigh in too. Parents, and anyone that cares about the survival of newborns are being asked for feedback. 

In the report, Save the Children called on world leaders, philanthropists and private-sector leaders to make a newborn promise. A promise to do what it takes to end preventable newborn death.

I’m calling on you to make a promise. For Cora, and the 2.9 million newborns that die to a preventable cause each year. 

Promise to support the organizations helping.

Promise to speak up, share your stories and give your input.

Promise to read the Save the Children report.

Promise to care. Our attention is pulled in so many directions, but we can’t overlook where life begins, with our babies.

 

My photo engraved necklace from Jewelry Keepsakes, you can win one too!

This is a sponsored post, I received compensation and a free necklace in exchange for my honest opinion about JewelryKeepsakes.com. If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, it goes to say I only talk about products I truly love, and all opinions are my own. 

When I was introduced to the Jewelry Keepsakes site, I was immediately drawn to a small silver heart with an engraved photo.

I find myself talking to people all the time and wanting to show them what she looked like. I obviously have photos in my purse and sometimes pull up them up my phone, but it’s always a bit awkward.

I thought how great it would be to be able to point to the necklace to show them. People need to know when I tell my story how perfect and healthy she looked.

So when I was contacted by Jewelry Keepsakes, I was extremely excited.

I was a bit nervous too, would the engraving be too much? Would it be too noticeable on neck? I look talking about Cora, but would it stick out so much that everyone would comment and ask? I don’t always feel like speaking about her to the passer by.

My worries were absolutely calmed when I got my necklace just a few days later. The engraving is beautiful. In fact, I ran to the mail box where the sun blinded my eyes a bit and when I first opened it in our dark living room (winter time, gotta bundle up those windows to save on heat) I thought they made a mistake. I couldn’t seen the engraving. As soon as I turned on a light, I saw indeed it was no mistake. The engraving was there, unmistakable, noticeable but subtle. For lack of a better description, it wasn’t tacky or over the top.

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The necklace looks perfect around my neck. I opted for a longer change because I’m a tall girl with a not so small chest, and really like how it hangs.

I can’t say enough about the engraving. It’s not easy to entrust your baby’s beautiful face to someone else. Luckily for me, it looks perfect. On the back, they engraved Cora’s name and birthday.

I also tear up hoping someday I have a daughter whom I’ll pass the necklace on to when I pass away. Hopefully she’ll pass it on, and it will become a family heirloom.

The ordering process was easy for me, and according to a representative to the website, orders are usually shipped within a few days.

The site has a large focus on cremation jewelry, which is beautiful. I have a necklace with Cora’s remains similar to some of the ones on the site and love it. In that way, she’s always with me.

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One of the cremation pieces from Jewelry Keepsakes. Photo copyright Jewelry Keepsakes.

However, the engraved pieces especially are for any mom, grandma or proud aunt (like me, my sister is due any day now, yay!) that wants to have a beautiful picture handy.

Want one of your own?

Enter code “Cora” at checkout for a five percent discount!

Win one following the directions in the Rafflecopter below. (Open to US residents over 18 only).

The very, very best ever? The company is donating a percentage of profits from all purchases of necklaces like mine to help children with congenital heart defects through Sisters By Heart. As a heart mom, I can’t thank them enough. Anytime a company takes up our cause, I’m extremely touched. This will last through February. Here’s a link to my necklace. 

Enter to win a photo engraved necklace!

a Rafflecopter giveaway