The Most Helpful Advice We Recieved After Losing Esther – Part 3

lifeline raftWelcome to part three in the series called The Most Helpful Advice We Received After Losing Esther.

To catch up, you can click for Part 1 and Part 2.

Adam and I found the help of experienced people around us to be an invaluable source in the confusing, traumatic days after our loss. Here are 3 more of the top pieces of advice we received on grieving a baby.

7. You have to build a relationship with your baby without her here.

Now, to someone who has not lost a baby, I recognize this sounds absolutely crazy. I would have thought someone was very strange to even say this let alone do it. But now I know differently. It is not some hocus pocus idea. It is the healthy way to grieve and adjust. Whenever a grief counselor told us this 2 weeks after Esther died, I knew exactly what he was talking about. Even while a baby is in heaven, a bond can be nurtured and deepened between parent and child. This can be done in many ways.

Some of the best ways we have done this are:

-Learning more about heaven through the Bible, books, and teachings.

-Living our lives in anticipation of spending eternity with Esther. Thinking about what she is doing now, all the joy she is experiencing, and even dreaming about what she looks like.

-Acknowledging her place in our family. We talk about Esther everyday. She is and always will be our second child. At Christmas, we plan to hang a stocking for her place in our family.

-Talking to God about her. During family prayer, we always mention Esther and thank God for her being part of our family.

-Writing letters to her. I write to Esther, telling her how much I love her, and how proud I am to be her mom.

These are some of the ways that we are building a relationship with Esther even while she is in heaven.

8. Give space to each other as spouses while you grieve.

Men and women grieve so differently. Adam and I have found our outward responses to be so completely different, even when we are feeling the same pain. We have learned not to expect each other to cope the same way. If we start analyzing and assessing each other, we usually end up in more pain. Whenever we give each other space to grieve in our own way, we can connect deeper and support one another much better. A full post on the specifics of this one will be coming soon.

9. Take it one day, one hour, or even one moment at a time.

After a tragedy, looking ahead to the future feels impossible. You can’t see anything and time stands still. Taking small steps can make the grief process more bearable. When Adam and I found out that Esther had died in my womb, our goal was to literally take one hour and one moment at a time. We still had so much ahead of us to walk through. Just focusing on what was before us one thing at a time made us able to keep walking. We have found that God is faithful to help us one step at a time in this process.

This finishes up this series for now.

Thank you to those of you who have shared some of the good advice you have received. I would love to hear more!

I would like to know:

What are the most helpful things you were advised after a loss?

What would you say to someone else going through a similar situation of loss as you?

The Most Helpful Advice We Received After Losing Our Baby – Part 2

empty-cribWelcome to part 2 of The Most Helpful Advice We Received After Losing Esther.

If you missed part one, you can read it HERE.

Here is a continuation of the most valuable words of advice we were given on grieving the loss of a baby…

4. Be easy on Yourself.

Don’t expect as much out of yourself and don’t take every thought or emotion at face value.

This has been absolutely critical for me. In the first several weeks, I was simply not capable of doing much at all. My mind literally could not think clearly about anything. When I started to take my own inability too seriously, I would feel like I was losing it. Now, even 20 weeks later, I try to recognize my limits and not put too much pressure on myself. Losing a baby shakes you to the core and is extremely traumatic. It affects every part of a person. I learned to give myself some space.

5. Grief will come in waves. Learn how to ride the waves of sadness.

If you try to wall off the waves instead of surfing them, they can crush you. Walled off grief can add up and turn into bitterness or unresolved anger. When you ride the waves as they come, you walk through the grief in a healthy way. As time goes on, the size of the waves will decrease, and the frequency will be less.

Adam and I have found this analogy to be extremely true. The first few days after our loss, the waves of grief were huge and constant. They felt crushing. We cried and cried and cried. Yet we would have brief moments of calm, where we could breathe for a second before the next wave. As the weeks have gone by, the waves have continued. They have changed with time. We have done our best to ride them instead of wall them off. The times we have attempted to block off the pain, we usually experienced a huge emotional crash. Obviously, some of this will happen in the ebb and flow of life. I have noticed that if I have several days in a row that I am busy and always around other people, I may not take the time I need to feel and grieve. I will usually then get hit with a significant wave of sorrow, sadness, and grief. Whenever I take it as it comes and let myself process a little at a time, it helps.

6. The questions will come, and that’s okay. It’s what you do with the questions that matters.

After a tragic loss, the questions seem to far outweigh the answers. Tormenting, nagging, wonderings seem to be everywhere. Having the questions is okay, but how you handle the questions is important. You can either let the questions take you to a place of utter torment, or you can keep giving them to the God who holds all the answers.

As much as we wish that we had more answers, we’re learning how to keep giving the missing pieces back to God. We have found that trusting our deepest questions to Him is the only road to peace.

This finishes up part 2 of The Most Helpful Advice We Received. I hope this information has given you more understanding about the journey through loss. Once again, I am very thankful for the people who have shared their experience and expertise with us. I hope that through these posts, someone else would find the strength to keep going on this hard road.

Be looking for the 3rd and final part to this series soon!

In the meantime, I would like to hear from you. What are the most helpful words of advice you were given as you walked through a loss?

The Most Helpful Advice We Received After Losing Esther – Part 1

trailAfter losing our baby Esther, Adam and I had no idea what to do or how to process. We found ourselves forced into a world we had scarcely imagined, let alone experienced. We needed help to navigate through both the shock and pain, as well as the practical decisions. I am very thankful we received good advice from several different sources. Some came within minutes of our shocking news, and some weeks later. Of course, we also found some not-so-good advice. But I am very, very thankful for the experienced individuals who came to our aid in a most needed time. Their advice has helped us to be equipped for different steps along this journey. In the next couple posts, I want to share some of the best information we received on grieving the loss of a baby. I pray that by sharing these things, another mom or dad may find help in the midst of grief.

Here is Part One…

1. You must feel to heal, you must be real to feel.

These words were spoken to us less than 24 hours after we found out about Esther’s death. Adam and I have now spoken them to each other countless times in the last months. When tragedy strikes, there is a temptation to run from the pain in whatever way possible. While some initial numbness and denial is a part of grief, it is best to be real about what happened, and let the feelings come. Feeling deeply will eventually bring healing deeply.

Even amidst the confusion and immediate temptation to run, this idea resonated with what I knew deep down in my heart. We have been and are still doing our best not to mask or run from feelings of the loss, but walk through the depths of pain, believing we will find healing one day. We are finding these simple words to be very true.

2. Don’t treat this as a miniature loss. This is the real deal.

Many people attempt to treat the loss of a baby during pregnancy as a smaller loss. But in reality, a miscarriage or stillbirth is the loss of a child, a person, and a family member. The emotional grief and pain will be just as real and intense as another death.

Within hours of finding out our baby had no heartbeat, I remember thinking we might get short term relief by downplaying what happened in our own mind. It felt like a tempting road momentarily, but I really knew that if we were ever going to heal we needed to see this for what it really was – the horrifying death of our second child. Hearing this advice from a professional brought further clarity to us on how we wanted to walk through the days ahead.

Now a few months out, we know from experience this is the real deal. The grief, pain, and sense of loss have been deeper than we could ever have imagined. We are thankful for the people who validated this.

3. Keep all the memorabilia from the hospital. Make as many memories as you can.

This one gets back to the “feeling to healing” concept. In the immediate aftermath of death, the last thing on our mind was making memories. The pain was simply too great when we thought of all the memories we would never have with this child. However, I am SO glad that we were advised by more than one person to treasure anything and everything surrounding our baby’s birth and death. I now know that since the memories are fewer, they are so much more special. I am very grateful for the memory box, molded hand and foot prints, birth certificate, and other things the hospital gave us. We would not trade the precious hours we spent holding and loving Esther for anything in the world. Everything surrounding her birth is very special to us. I didn’t know until afterward that even some of the most painful moments would become some of the most treasured memories in my heart. Everything that reminds us of Esther is beautiful because she is beautiful. It hurts immensely that she is not here, but the memorabilia tell us that she was here and she always will be our daughter.

Be watching for The Most Helpful Advice – Part 2. 

3 Lessons Grief Has Taught Me

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAGrief is a journey that is hard to understand until you are forced to travel it yourself. It is difficult, painful, exhausting, and constantly changing. Yet I believe it can teach you so many things about life that otherwise you would never know. Adam and I have learned so much about ourselves and others. Here are three of my recent discoveries…

1. You never know what someone is going through

Just a few days after our loss, Adam and I went out to run a couple of errands. It was our first real “outing” other than going to the funeral home and cemetery for burial preparations. We were in a blur, to say the least. 3 stores and one tearful breakdown later, we decided to stop by a cookie shop. We weren’t exactly in a clear minded state, but it seemed like a safe thing to browse dessert flavors. When we finally made our choices, we were met by a very rude, short-tempered clerk who was annoyed that we weren’t more educated and decisive about our selections. Our entire transaction, she went out of her way to show her disapproval and make us feel very stupid that we didn’t know more about how a cookie store worked. It didn’t take much at that point in our journey to bring me to tears, but thankfully we made it out without another breakdown. As we walked to the car, I thought to myself…

You never know what someone is going through.

I’m sure that clerk did not know we were preparing to bury our baby in two days. She didn’t know it was all I could do to hold myself together for an hour at the mall.

I suddenly wondered how many times I had done the same thing. How often I had gotten annoyed with someone, belittled them, thought they were stupid, or simply taken out my frustration of the day on them. Maybe they were experiencing the most difficult days of their life. Maybe there was a reason they were slower to make a small decision, or they seemed “out of it.”

I want to be sensitive to the people around me because I know the agony of “silent pain.”

This is the heart of Jesus. He was sensitive to the needs of other people, and the Bible says He was “moved with compassion.” I want to be moved with compassion toward other people as well, even when I can’t see their pain.

2. Watch your words when describing something difficult

I think it is a human tendency to exaggerate. The more dramatic something sounds, the more interesting it seems. But I’ve found that often times we use words out of proportion to a situation.

Just recently, I was on an airport shuttle with a group of four middle-aged men who were clearly coming home from a golfing vacation. As we drove, I couldn’t help but overhear their discussion about the upcoming games of their favorite sports team. They complained about the time an away game would be showing locally on TV, and how it was “practically unwatchable.” They went on to describe this situation as “brutal.”

As I sat there, my mind shot back silent responses…

If that is your definition of ‘brutal’ you’ve had a pretty good life.

To me, “brutal” is finding out my baby died inside me.

“Brutal” is knowing there is nothing I can do to save her or bring her back.

“Brutal” is picking out a tiny casket to bury her in.

And “brutal” is living my whole life without her.”

I really felt their word choice was ridiculous. And yet, I know in the past, I have done the same thing. I have used grand words to exaggerate something that is challenging or annoying.

But lately, I find myself describing slightly uncomfortable or disappointing things very differently. I’ve tasted of real disappointment, and it creates a different scale of description. I guess my whole definition of what is “hard” has changed. And I realize how silly is sounds when we use big “horrible” words to describe things that are really trivial.

3. Be careful how you present your own life experiences.

When things go well in life, I think we like to credit ourselves. We did a good job, we did everything right. Yet when something goes horribly wrong, sometimes we never know why, and that can be very difficult.

Recently, I was talking to a nice lady who was telling me about her family and children. She explained that she had experienced two “perfect” pregnancies, and concluded that she was “meant” to be a mother. Mind you, she didn’t know about my loss, and was not trying to brag. She was just sharing her absolute joy in mothering her now mostly grown children.

But as I listened, my mind questioned…are you saying that I wasn’t meant to be a mother since my baby died? Am I less of a mom since one of my pregnancies wasn’t anywhere close to perfect?

I know that is not what she meant. Yet that is how my heart tried to hear it.

I realized that before my loss, I too spoke very highly of my mothering experiences. I believed that since I did everything right, that is why I got the best result. Now I know more. I know that a mom can do everything right and still lose her baby. I know that a mom is not less of a mom if her baby dies. I know that hearing other moms beam about their blissful pregnancies can be hard.

Every mom is proud of her kids and usually her pregnancies and births are kind of her “trophy” experiences. There is nothing wrong with that. Mine are the most precious memories I have. Yet I am now more sensitive how I present my life experiences to others, especially when I don’t know how easy or difficult their own mothering journey has been.

I’d like to hear from you. What lessons have you learned from a journey through grief?

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