when I stepped outside
the air was crisp and icy–
pregnant with promise.
In my garden
the late blooming sunflowers
with their damp, cold petals
looked crestfallen and forlorn
as if thinking:
“I wasn’t expecting this!”
In the early morning half-light
I see the rooftops are powdered with icing sugar.
The kids wake up with excitement
and begin dreaming of gingerbread.
My seven year old starts spouting:
“Snow says Christmastime…stuff has to stop growing sometime.
If flowers never stopped growing there would be vines everywhere
Even in the road, and the cars could hardly go.”
Well, there you go. The seasons explained!
These tiny white tendrils
perched like innocent ears atop a mossy log
listening to the secrets of the forest…
What stories could they tell us, if they had mouths?
For they have heard the early morning trilling of birds
when everything else was silent
save for dew drops dripping from tall trees
bearded with curly mosses.
at the lake’s edge,
the liquid murmurs flowing over submerged logs
soaked with sunken memories
ones I dare not extract from their watery repose
lest I tumble in and get absorbed by their somnolence.
they could tell of green and growing things,
of red and rotting things,
and of the perfect patience of trees
which live and die and even in death
keep giving life.
October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Like a tiny baby, this holiday that is a bit mysterious and new. How can one honour this day well, and support family and friends who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss? Here are some tips from one who sadly knows what it’s like to lose a little one in labour. If my experience can help others, I will be glad!
Thoughtful gift ideas:
When words fail, as they really do on this case, a simple “I’m thinking of you with a lot of love today” accompanied by a sweet gift can go a long way. Kind notes and the assurance of heartfelt prayers on hard anniversaries have helped them go a lot better for me. Here are some ideas:
- Flowers. To someone shaken up by the trauma of loss, anything beautiful makes the world seem just a little more friendly, hopeful and safe.
- Food: this could be chocolate, home baking or a nice dinner, or even a person’s favourite take-out. Grief is exhausting and it’s really nice to not have to cook sometimes.
- A lovely piece of art work ( or even card) that somehow relates to their baby…perhaps a nature picture from the season they passed away in, or something you know their parents find symbolic like a ray of sunshine, bird, or a single flower.
- Jewelry: I’ve been given several special necklaces in honour of my daughter Josephine, such as one with tiny baby feet, an image of the Holy Family, and a single pink jewel. Another special one was a heart necklace with a turquoise pendant, and a large matching heart shape stone for me to put in Josephine’s special memory display cabinet. The hospital sweetly gave me a silver heart necklace with a mini heart inside it on a separate string. Some people bury the smaller one with their infant, but I couldn’t stand the look of the gaping hole in my heart, so I kept them together.
- Time: Simply offering to spend some time with the person who has experienced loss is also a great gift. Suggest accompanying them to the graveyard if they’d like to go, followed by a nice lunch out, or you coming over to keep them company and watch a favourite movie and eat popcorn if simple quiet pleasures or a pajama day are desired. Let them decide what they need that day, and how they want to express their grief.
- A self-care basket with gentle hand lotion or body wash, lip balm, a candle to light in honour of their baby in Heaven, and a few treats. The gorgeous basket pictured above was made by my friend Agi with honey from her own garden’s bees! If you want to go all out, you could even include a massage gift certificate, to help work out all the tension the body holds when grieving.
None of these gifts are meant to ‘fix’ anything…so you don’t have to feel awkward or like they are not enough. They are simply acknowledging that your friend or family member has suffered a tremendous loss, and that their little one’s brief life is not forgotten. This means so much! And don’t forget the infant’s father has lost his child, too, and make sure he is remembered. Even if he perhaps doesn’t express his grief as verbally, he feels it deeply and should be equally honoured and supported. Does anyone have any more good gift ideas for bereaved fathers? Please share!
Remember when there’s a storm in your heart
and everything is cold and steely grey,
the chill will pass–
a more beautiful sky will come your way.
The tempest carries off the dirt and dead–
washes away all that’s not genuinely you–
when morning sun pours into your soul
you heart will soon bloom anew!
What makes the lights dance in the mountains
when I’m up with the baby at 4:30 am?
Why do they twinkle like orange stars
nestled in the mountainside?
Do my sleepy eyes create an imaginary heatwave
to make them shake and shimmer?
Or is it the night faires dancing–
flitting invisibly back and forth
above the city?
Some people might doubt the impact on the world of a person who never saw the sun. Or even took a breath. What could such a person possibly have to say? What could a baby who died in early labour have to teach the world?
Love. Unconditional, perfect, unending love. The kind that doesn’t have to be earned. The kind of love which created us all. Rather the Love Who created us all, and to whom we return. Losing my baby Josephine three years ago today has ripped open my heart and exposed it to this kind of love. I have been honoured to share it with many other beautiful people who have lost little ones as well.
Through my daughter’s silence, I found my voice. I had the courage to speak words of sorrow, of brokenness, of hope and of consolation. I wrote book of poetry spanning the first year after her loss, and in this past year have been able to send almost 250 copies of it out into the world. Less than a handful are left and I’m planning to order more copies of unexpected blossoming: a journey of grief and hope this coming week. If you know someone who has suffered the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss, and who could use some words of encouragement and solidarity, please let me know.
Every now and then I get an amazing email from someone who has found an echo of their heart’s sorrow in my book. It’s a consoling reminder of the beauty that can come from shared suffering. I hope those ladies won’t mind if I share a few of their sweet words… One friend who suffered a mid-pregnancy stillbirth told me “Your poems express what I felt but couldn’t describe…they made me feel less crazy about my grief.” Here are a few more responses:
Your book – your words- have been so therapeutic and healing. I really enjoyed it and I am so thankful for you for sharing it with me.
For many weeks I worked very hard at working through and processing my feelings and my grief. It is difficult to face pain head on, but so necessary.
I really wanted to take a moment and let you know how truly touched I was (and am!) by your vulnerability to share your story through your creativity. I cried like mad as I read the book from cover-to-cover in I hid under my blankets while the baby was sleeping and the 2 eldest were watching a video! I treasure your words, and please know how profoundly they have touched my heart and surely helped me along the road of healing. ❤
I’m sharing these with you not to applaud myself but to rejoice in the impact my little daughter has had…the powerful healing she helped bring about by uniting me with other babyloss mamas and affirming that the depth of their grief comes from the profound depth of their maternal love.
So Little Jo, on your third birthday, know how incredibly proud I am of you and all the good you do from Heaven. May it be the icing on your cake of heavenly joy!
This afternoon after snack-time
as I take a moment
to put up my feet and read,
my toddler arrives–
attracted to the anomaly
of his mother being silent and still.
As I read about art and contemplation
and the creative necessity
of perceiving reality
without a mind cluttered by distractions,
he discovers the delightful idea
of using my legs as a slide.
and weave him into my prayer–
his mischievous face crowned
by a golden mullet of impetuous curls
as he climbs up and down, up and down
to do it again and again–
seeking even in this interruption
to find “a deeper and more receptive vision […]
a more patient openness to all things […]
the abundant wealth of all visible reality.”*
*snippets from page 36 of philosopher Josef Pieper’s beautiful little book on art and contemplation, “Only the Lover Sings.”