grief

Gifts for Grievers: 8 Holiday Gifts You Can Give Yourself {UPLIFT Series}

This post was originally published in 2012 at my old blog, and I'm bringing it back as part of the UPLIFT series for parents who've lost a baby and are ready to take responsibility for their own grief. I originally wrote this as a guide for friends and family of the bereaved, but it is an equally good resource for the bereaved themselves. I hope that this guide inspires ideas that will serve you in honoring your child[ren] and healing (and treating!) yourself. Enjoy, and much love.

In my experience, the holidays can be a difficult time.  Between the pressure to buy the perfect gifts, to cook the perfect meal, and have the perfect celebration filled with perfect feelings, expectations and emotions are running high.  And that's for those whose holiday table isn't missing a place.  Factor in the absence of a much-loved and much-wanted child . . . and, well, the holidays can feel downright dismal.

Last year, Christmas fell about a month after Eve died.  Suffice it to say -- I was not looking forward to the holiday.  I did everything I could do avoid any and all Christmas cheer, but my husband and I did visit family.  When the time came to open presents, I got the best gift ever.  My six year old niece, under her own power and with her own money, had donated to the Ronald McDonald House in Eve's memory.  And let me tell you -- that recognition of Eve's absence, not to mention the beautiful and extravagant generosity of my niece, meant everything

So I got to thinking about what other gifts might help fellow grieving parents enjoy the holidays.  And here's the result -- a list of beautiful gifts for bereaved parents that will uplift and, more importantly, offer that precious recognition of the little ones lost.

1Personalized Sand Drawings

Eve's Peace Dove

Carly Marie offers comfort to fellow babylost parents by drawing their names in the sands of Australia's beaches at The Seashore of Remembrance.  Her exquisite sand drawings cost between $6.00 and $20.00 AUD.  Carly Marie has a variety of different types of drawings to choose from -- from names in the sand to Christmas butterflies to peace doves like the one pictured above.  I love collecting the different types of sand drawings for Eve.

2Personalized Jewelry

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Personalized jewelry is a great way to remember babies gone too soon.  I purchased this particular necklace from PatriciaAnn Jewelry Designs, and it has been very comforting to wear.  I have since received other pieces of jewelry that recognize both of my children, and I cherish every one.  Held Your Whole Life also provides free remembrance jewelry for bereaved mothers.

3.  Artwork

Held

While as an artist I may be biased, I think that artwork makes a great gift.  Some of the bereaved mothers that have purchased prints of my work have described it as soothing, healing, and calming -- all of which are so important to the grieving, especially around the holidays.  I offer pieces that are specifically about loss and grief as well as many other uplifting originals, prints, and cards like the image above.  You can check out my artwork on Etsy hereBeyond Words Designs is another great artist to purchase loss, pregnancy, and family pieces from, as well as handmade baby books designed for miscarriage and stillbirth mothers. 

4.  Custom Remembrance Items

on Eve's first birthday

Any custom remembrance items, either handmade by you (as this little quilt was, given by a friend on Eve's first birthday) or purchased, are always a huge blessing.  Some of my favorite online shops that provide such items are Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Baby Boards.

5.  Books and Music

books for Eve's birthday

There are many wonderful books written on loss and grief, and some specifically on the loss of a child.  I know that such books have provided me with much needed comfort and support and ideas on ways to cope.  Some of my favorite loss books are A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser, I Will Carry You by Angie Smith, and A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis.  You can find more book ideas on my Goodreads page.

Music has similarly been a huge gift to me.  It has helped me to cry when I needed to and couldn't, to worship when I wanted to but didn't have the words, and to be joyful when it was time to be joyful but I couldn't muster up the courage.  My two favorite albums that convey the reality of living simultaneously in hope and sadness are You Deliver Me by Selah and Beauty Will Rise by Steven Curtis Chapman.

6.  Calendars

calendar 

I always feel like a calendar is a can't-miss gift.  Beautiful and useful, how can you go wrong? The Lost For Words calendars from Carly Marie and Franchesca Cox are also a beautiful option, filled with amazing photography and quotes from bereaved parents.

7.  A Special Ornament

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Last year a friend gave me a special angel ornament in memory of Eve.  It was small, simple, very beautiful -- and meant the world to me.  A bereaved mother's greatest fear is that her child will be forgotten, and a special little ornament or decoration in memory of the one that is lost is such a great gift.

8.  Donations in Their Name

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There are so many wonderful non-profits out there working for babyloss awareness, support, and prevention.  I think that a donation ton one such charity in the name of a baby gone too soon would make a very sweet present for a bereaved parent.  Some of my personal favorite organizations are Sufficient Grace Ministries, the Sweet Pea Project, Molly Bears, and Cora's Story.

Find the rest of the UPLIFT series here.

The Both/And of Grief {#UPLIFTseries}

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This morning I had the privilege of contributing to a new internet series on holiday support for those whose lives have been touched by grief + babyloss. I chatted live on Periscope about the both/and of grief, and you can view the replay in the video below. 

I'm really excited about the UPLIFT series, which was started by CarlyMarie. It's for folks who are a little farther along their journey of grief, past where the hurt is so fresh and raw. CarlyMarie said that, unlike other holiday support series, UPLIFT is for those who are ready to take responsibility for their own grief, for those who (while they would like this to happen) don't need their friends and family to remember their baby and/or loved one who died.

This is closely in alignment with where I am in my grief journey, as in just a few days I'll be marking the fourth anniversary of my daughter's stillbirth. The idea that UPLIFT is for those who have been walking this road for a number of years now totally captivated me when CarlyMarie asked me to be a part of the series, and I'm so grateful for what is looking like it's going to be an absolutely epic offering. You can find out more about UPLIFT here, and join the event page on Facebook here.

Facing down four years without my daughter is an peculiar feeling. While I still wish I never had lost my dear Eve girl, I am no longer living in the agonizing newness of her death. What's more, I can see with increasing clarity the gifts that it feels like she has given me in her passing. I discussed all of this and more on my live Periscope broadcast, the replay of which you can watch in the video below. For those of you who are looking to read Eve's story, here are all the posts tagged with her name, starting with the most recent and working backward in time.

Thank you again to everyone who showed up to the live broadcast -- it was absolutely my honor to share space with you. I hope that, live or replay, past or present or future viewers, that if you are watching this, you find some tidbit of inspiration or insight to take away and use to nourish and strengthen your brave and glorious soul.

Learn more about UPLIFT + meet my fellow series contributors (who are amazing!) here.

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Making Memories: A Simple Holiday Ornament Tutorial

http://allthatlovecando.blogspot.com/2014/12/12-days-of-christmas-day-eleven.html

Today I am over at All That Love Can Do for the wonderful RaeAnne's 12 Days of Christmas, a series that provides support for babyloss parents during the holiday season.  I share a few words (sneak peek below), and a simple tutorial making your own memorial ornament for your tree or simply to adorn your home.  I'd love for you to join me over there!

"I don't have much advice on how to survive the holidays as a grieving person, except that you do what you need to get through it.  Avoid parties, cards, people, and whatever else if you can't handle them.  Let yourself ache.  Invest in a massage or see a therapist for extra support.  Boil life down to the pure essentials.  Journal angry/sad/silly/lonely/dizzy.  Make art.  Sleep a lot.  Eat some chocolate, watch a lot of reality TV.  You have permission, no matter what anyone else may say.  Your allegiance is first to your own heart."
 
Looking for more support for a difficult holiday season?  Check out my 2013 blog series Hurting For the Holidays, featuring many writers' gentle wisdom for achy hearts during this sensitive time of year.

On Novembers {Life After Stillbirth, Three Years Later}


I keep waiting for it to get bad.

I mean, three years and one week ago, my baby died inside of me and my world shattered and I didn't think I'd survive the day, much less make it out of the dark places.

I never thought that Novembers would start being not-hard.

But then, there's still a week to go until my girl's third {still}birthday, so I guess anything could happen.  I don't want to speak too soon.  I don't want to jinx myself.

Still, based on previous Novembers, I expected to feel memory's cold fingers stealing over my shoulders, pressing, clenching until I could hardly breathe.

 

People keep asking me (thank you, thank you, thank you for remembering) how I'm doing.  And I have to shrug and say, not sure how it can be, that I think I'm doing okay, actually.

That truth sounds strange coming from my own tongue.  But that doesn't make me less grateful for it.

I guess I thought that, if I ever got to this place where November doesn't sting like it used to, I'd feel guilty.  That it would make me less of a mother to the daughter I never got to raise.

But I don't feel that way.  Mostly I just feel glad.  Maybe a little confused, and a bit nervous, afraid that November 20 is going to hit like a hurricane.  But aside from that, I'm glad.  Because even though I love her, I don't want to spend the rest of my life losing a month or more of my life each year in a black hole of grief's resurgence.  Not on top of the grief I've already traversed.  Not when I have so much life to see to.


Maybe it's just pregnancy hormones, protecting me somehow.  They do that with my depression, after all.  Somehow, though, I don't think that's it (although I guess we'll see next year, huh?).

And I hesitate to saw why things are different this year.  Maybe it's just the passing of time.  Maybe it's how deep into the darkness I let myself descend.  Maybe it's the art journaling, or the questioning and pondering, or the sea of tears my eyes have poured out over her name.  Maybe it's how grateful I am for the life she's given me -- I will never stop wishing she could have stayed, but treasure the many, many gifts she left for me with her absence.


I don't know.  I don't know.  I don't know.  

I don't know what next week will bring.
I don't know how I'll spend her day.

But I am glad. 

I am glad of her.  I am glad of the me she birthed with her death, the greatest paradox I have yet to know.  And I am glad of this calm and unexpected loveliness, three years later.