Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Caring For Yourself

This article was written by Rose Carlson, National Share's Program Director. 

When you are grieving the death of your baby, just getting out of bed each day can seem like a monumental task, and most likely, the farthest thing from your mind is taking care of yourself and your own needs. You will likely begin to recover physically well before you begin to heal emotionally, but the stress of such a tragic loss can quickly take a toll on both your physical and emotional health. Grief can be a long, lonely and challenging journey. While taking care of yourself may not be a priority, especially in the early days, taking care of your physical, emotional and spiritual needs can help you grieve in healthy ways, heal, and eventually find joy and hope in life again. Following are some suggestions and ideas; hopefully, some of them will resonate with you and you will find some ideas you had not thought of.
*Lean on loved ones who care about you
Your friends, family and other loved ones are likely worried about you and want to help, even if they do not always know the perfect way to go about it. Friends may want to help with the care of your other children or bring you a meal. Even a short visit with a friend over a cup of coffee can be uplifting. While many bereaved parents feel very isolated after their baby dies, sharing your feelings with others who care about you can be comforting and help you feel less isolated.

*Find strength in your spiritual beliefs
You may pull away from your church or other beliefs, and that is not uncommon. However, others do find solace in their spiritual beliefs. You may find it beneficial to talk through your feelings and thoughts with your priest, minister or other spiritual advisor.

*Find a support group in your area
Some grieving parents find it a relief to connect with others who have experienced similar losses.

*Find a creative outlet
Many bereaved parents find it comforting and relaxing to find a way to do something creative in memory of their baby, and the possibilities are endless. Even something as simple as keeping a journal can be therapeutic as it gives a written record of your baby's life as well as your grief journey; looking back on what you have written can not only help you see how far you have come, but it also gives a written record of your baby's life. Making a scrapbook can have similar benefits—not only do some parents find it healing to work on the pages, but again, you will have a tangible record of your baby's life.

*Pay attention to your physical needs
Studies have shown that grieving has a physical component as well as an emotional one. People who are grieving are more susceptible to colds and other illnesses, so it is important that you take care of yourself. While returning to the doctor can be difficult and heart-wrenching, it is important to make those follow up visits.

*Try to do some sort of physical activity
It is important to get exercise a few times a week, and even a short walk can lift your spirits. It can also be therapeutic to take part in physical activities such as hitting golf balls at a driving range, baseballs at a batting cage, or even a punching bag at the gym.

*Continue to do things you enjoyed before, even if you have to scale back on them

*Consider finding a way to “give back”
Many bereaved parents find great comfort in making blankets, memory boxes or other items to donate to the hospital. Dads who enjoy woodworking may want to consider making caskets to donate to the hospital or a local funeral home.

*Take a few minutes each day to unwind
Listen to music, a relaxation CD, or a book on CD. Even a few minutes of quiet time can be of great benefit

*If you are having an especially bad day, give yourself permission to scream, cry, etc.
Set a timer to give yourself a time limit.

*Get plenty sleep
If you are having trouble sleeping, try listening to some soothing music, drinking decaffeinated tea, or meditating. If you need to, don't be afraid to ask your doctor for something to help you sleep

*Talk about your baby with someone who is willing to listen

*Try to stick to your daily routine as much as possible
However, allow yourself downtime when you need it too…sticking to your routine helps you feel some control over the situation, and can be comforting. This is especially important if you have other children.

*Treat yourself gently
Don't expect too much of yourself, especially in the early days and weeks—give yourself permission to avoid situations and events that you know will be difficult, such as baby showers, birthday parties and family events. Be patient with yourself and know that in time, you will gradually feel up to resuming your normal activities.

*Avoid drugs and alcohol

*Try to put off major decisions for at least six months

*Create a sanctuary in your home
Having a quiet spot to read, relax and/or listen to music for a few minutes can be soothing.

*Plan ahead for special days
Days such as your due date, holidays, and other meaningful days can be difficult to get through. If you plan ahead for ways to spend those times, you won't feel blind sided by them when they arrive.

*Find something special to do in remembrance of your baby
Many bereaved parents find it healing to create new rituals and traditions, plant a garden, start a collection of something meaningful, or even purchase a special piece of jewelry. Not only do these things help you preserve your baby's place in your family, but they also give you something positive to focus on.

*Do not feel guilty when you have good days
Laughter is therapeutic, though bereaved parents often feel guilty when they laugh or begin to enjoy aspects of their life again.

*Know that there is no specific timetable as to when you will “feel better”
Try not to let others make you feel guilty for the way you are grieving. Some parents find it helpful to write a letter to their family and friends explaining what they are feeling and experiencing. Remember that it is okay to cry.

Taking care of your own needs can be a challenge, but it is so important that you do. Attending to your physical and emotional needs can help you feel as if you have some control over a situation that is mostly out of your control. Whatever you decide to do, let your heart and feelings guide you.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Share Hosts Training

The National Share Office hosts Sharing & Caring Trainings twice a year, to care givers, bereaved parents and professionals nationwide.  The training is hosted in St. Charles, MO and had 20 attendees last weekend.  Here is a video from an attendee, reflecting on her experience -

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lost Soul

The below was written by Trudy Laughlin.
After I had my 3rd miscarriage, I was a lost soul. I could barely drag myself out of bed each day, and to think about going to work was more than I could take. I had two weeks of vacation time saved up, and even though my boss thought it was not necessary to take so much time off work for “just a miscarriage,” I had the time available, so I took it anyway. Having so much free time on my hands was a blessing and a curse at the same time. I was glad I didn't have to put on my happy face and go to work for those weeks, but being home by myself wasn't such a good idea either. I had too much time to think and cry, and the first few days, I didn't even get out of bed except to go to the bathroom. I spent hours reading message boards and blogs on the internet, laying in my bed, eating ice cream and crying many tears into my pillow.

I had joined a gym and started working out just before I got pregnant for the second time. My first miscarriage happened very early in the pregnancy, and my doctor said it was a fluke, that these things just happen and we don't know why. I was upset about the miscarriage, but I believed him when he said it was a fluke. I wasn't feeling very healthy at the time because I was overweight and working at a job that left me stressed and exhausted. After the miscarriage, I decided I was going to try to get my weight down before my husband and I tried again for a baby. My neighbor is a personal trainer, and with her encouragement, I joined the fitness club where she worked. She promised to take it easy on me and help me ease into exercising in a way that would make me feel good about myself and not discouraged. Her club employed a dietician who I met with several times also. After a few months, I had lost some weight, was eating healthier than I ever had, was feeling great, and we decided it was time to try to become pregnant again. We became pregnant right away, and I was thrilled. I felt good about the pregnancy, and my doctor assured me it was perfectly okay to continue my workouts, that they wouldn't be harmful to the baby. I felt so good the first few weeks of that pregnancy! There was another pregnant mom who I saw regularly at the gym, and she had worked out throughout her pregnancy and was close to delivery. I envisioned myself in the months ahead exercising and nurturing my growing baby. I had never felt better in my life.

Everything was going great until one day, I arrived at the gym and my friend told me that the other mom's baby had been stillborn a few days before, that the cord had wrapped around her baby boy's neck just a few weeks before he was due. I was stunned. I never knew such things happened! After that, I was terrified of working out. I left the gym that day and didn't return. Unfortunately, I miscarried again at the end of the first trimester, and I just couldn't bring myself to return to the gym after that. It was wintertime, and while most people head to the gym and make New Year's Resolutions to lose weight and get in shape, I didn't care. As the winter wore on and the sights and sounds of spring filled the air, I gained back every pound I had lost in my months of working out, and I felt worse than ever. I also knew that I never wanted to become pregnant again.

I did however. By fall, heavier than I had ever been before, I was once again pregnant and scared to death. We decided not to tell anyone, and as the weeks went by, we slowly became cautiously happy. I would be at the end of the first trimester at Christmas, and if everything went well, that is when we decided we would tell everyone we were expecting again. Once again, our excitement was short-lived, and just before Thanksgiving, during an ultrasound, we found out that our baby had no heartbeat. We were devastated.

After a few days of staying in bed, not showering, not caring if I lived or not, my doorbell rang. I ignored it, and it rang again. I put on my robe and went to the door to discover my neighbor holding a pot of delicious smelling soup.  Trying to be polite, I invited her in for a cup of tea which turned into an afternoon of tea and tears. She mentioned to me that I might feel better if I got out of the house and did something for myself, and she suggested I come back to the gym. I had no intention of going back, but I told her I would think about it. As fate would have it, that evening, our local news had a story about the many benefits of exercise. They interviewed a woman who had lost her son and her husband in a car accident, and she talked about how running helped her deal with her grief in the months after their death. If I had met her on the street, I would never have known what she had been through because she looked happy and well. I caught a glimpse of myself in the darkened window and I looked anything but well or happy. I looked a mess. I hadn't washed my hair in days, or even gotten out of my pajamas. That was a turning point for me, and I thought to myself, “If she can suffer what she has and come through it, so can I!”

The next morning, I took a shower, got dressed and walked over to my neighbor's house. I told her I was ready to come back to the gym, but I would need her help. I was so afraid to go back to the place where I had felt so good and empowered and happy, but I did it. It wasn't easy, but I did it. Slowly but surely, I began eating healthier again, and I also began to not only enjoy, but even look forward to my workouts. Late that spring, I once again found out a baby was on the way. With close supervision from my doctor, I continued to work out, kept my weight at a healthy number, and am now the mom of a healthy and beautiful one year old little girl. I continue to work out, eat healthy, and take care of myself. Those dark days after my miscarriages still haunt me, but thankfully, I had a friend who encouraged me to take care of my physical needs because taking care of those, helped with my mental needs as well.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Requiem for Robert

Requiem for Robert was written by Dr. George A. Hays after the loss of his newborn  on March 2, 1963. Dr. Hays was very active in his community, charitable work  and even completed mission work in Guatemala.  George passed away in 1989.

After 31 years of teaching, the Kingsburg Elementary School’s library was named after Mrs. Hays, the Carolyn Hinton Hays Media Center. Mrs. Hays currently resides in Memphis, TN and allowed Share to publish the following several decades after the death of their son.

Little one, so sweet in sleep
Rest, though mother’s arms
Entwine you not.
Yours was a life so brief,
Its silver whiteness, like a lightning flash
Across an ocean’s sweep
Was a blaze of purity
In a worldly storm.

Poor weary traveler! The light
That still remains upon your face
There in death, is like the echo
Of palest moonlight, cool and gentle.
Like a little doll you wait
The tender warmth of an embrace,
The sunshine of a mother’s face!

Wait you there in peace, beloved son.
Our cries are but the antiphon
Of love, The song of eventide
That broke upon the dawn of your short life
Now mocks us while we grieve.
The candle’s snuffed, but one wee ember
Glows afar. Oh, Cherub, our love
Must warm you through an endless night.
Our eyes are fixed upon a tiny light
From yonder star!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

For It Is In Giving That We Receive

This was provided to Share by Sarah Kate Philpot.

For the first month after my son Lucas was born still, I was hesitant to feed myself anything yummy, dive into anything pleasurable, or entertain any bit of hedonism because, “he was gone and could not enjoy life so why should I get to enjoy anything either!?” It was winter, and as spring emerged, I told my mother that I hated every leaf and blade of grass that popped out because it felt that the seasons would carry me even further away from my baby and his time. She said very wisely, “Do not misinterpret this, but really each season carries you closer to him.” Oh, I thought, okay, I can live with that line of thought. Only about 280 seasons left if I live to be a hundred, then I can see my boy again! So I found a quote that said, “you can bury a lot of troubles playing in the dirt” (the author unknown to me).

I called my grandparents and set up some times to go work in their expansive garden. I raked, dug up yards of monkey grass, transferred dirt, trimmed branches, and hauled gravel until some of my angst and baby weight left. It felt so good to sweat and get sunshine that I found myself humming and talking to birds, and then I'd quit humming, thinking “I'm not supposed to be enjoying this, I'm supposed to be working! Hurting. Grieving.” No, that wasn't right either. If my little boy had been there, he would have laughed at his mom every time she hit her head on the same branch that kept undoing her pony tail. He would have seen the bright red cardinal with large eyes of wonder. He would have smiled and hummed with the sunshine bouncing off the ripples in the pond. It was okay to enjoy this. We built a garden for him at our house too, which is not an uncommon thing to do for those who miss loved ones and need a place of tranquility. Many plants later, as I watch their progress, I note my own too. I am by far not comfortable, at peace, nor have I even approached the acceptance phase, but these days are starkly brighter than last year at this time.

I also found that projects kept me going. I developed a plan to ensure that his 1 year “angelversary” would not go unnoticed. I did not send thank you notes for flowers, or other gifts, I just could not find the words, focus, or emotional strength to say thank you to people during that time, but I did keep track of them. Later that first year, I found these little garden watering cans at a craft shop. I filled them with crocus bulbs, and seed packets. Before we mailed them, my stellar husband helped create a little card that included Luke's picture, directions for planting, and the long intended thank you. I'm just going to dedicate January 5th as a day of service to honor him and to make our community safer, smarter, and healthier. “For it is in giving, that we truly receive.” (author unknown)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Growing Together

Share's Executive Director, Cathi Lammert, was recently featured in a publication on the Growing Together article. Click here to read.

About the Author: As a bereaved parent, Cathi combines her personal experience with her education and professional background as an obstetrical nurse. Her son, Christopher Michael lived just 4 days and died due to Hydrops Fetalis, a complication of Rh sensitization. She and her husband Chuck have been involved with Share since 1983. Cathi is the Executive Director of the National Office of SHARE Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support, Inc. The part of her job that touches her most is time spent hands on with bereaved families and their precious babies. She feels the bereaved parents have been her greatest teachers.