Follow by Email

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It is Christmas Time



For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.                                             Isaiah 9:6


 
     I have been in the midst of writing this post for a couple of weeks. When I started it only a few days after Thanksgiving, I felt like I had a handle on everything. I truly thought that I was just going to make it through Christmas, even though I knew it would be so much different this year. But the honest truth is that I never expected it to be so incredibly difficult. We made it to six months, and I really thought that I had finally reached a level point in my grief. There were still so many days when it was hard, and I have never lost that painful hole with every beat of my heart. Yet I felt a little bit more stable.
     But then the days after Thanksgiving hit. I was thrown into the season of Christmas against my will. The reality is that no matter how much you want to avoid all of those holiday things, it is impossible. Every store that I bravely entered held very real triggers to my emotions. Not only did I see joy and excitement on the faces of beautiful little children, but I also saw tiny Christmas dresses, red and green hair bows, and baby's first Christmas stockings. It is impossible to avoid.
     I can not even tell you how many times I abandoned my shopping cart to reach the safety of my car. I can not even tell you how many tears I have cried as I gazed at all of the Christmas decorations sitting untouched on our living room floor. I can not even tell you how many times I have wished to just be a normal mom who could buy that beautiful red and gold Christmas dress that is hanging there for all to see. But I am not. The holidays truly have been different this year. I wish that I could say it has been in a good way. But the reality is that I wonder if I am strong enough to face each day.
     However, I have learned so many things throughout the past few weeks. Lessons that reach far beyond just the surface of my being. I have learned these lessons in a way that will touch me, and change me for the rest of my life. I would like to share them with you today, because I think that we can all learn from them, and apply them to our own lives as well.

* I have learned that it is entirely okay to say "no". Now the truth is that I have always been that reliable person. When I commit to something, I always follow through to the very best of my ability. I never want to be that person who you cannot count on. But this year I had to learn this lesson the hard way. Josh and I had an activity where we were both committed to helping. But that night as I walked in the door from work, I felt so many confusing and overwhelming emotions. Immediately I began to get crabby with my poor husband, and I just did not know how to handle everything that was flooding my mind, heart, and body. When he realized something was not right, he came over to give me a hug, and let me tell you, the emotions flooded out. They always say that you can only hold in your emotions for so long, before they will find a way out. That is so true! So that night I tried to wipe away those tears, I tried to cover up the hurt and the pain that was crushing my heart, but it was not working. Josh made the call that night, and even though I felt beyond guilty and awful for not showing up, I know that he did the right thing. He knew that I needed time and space to allow myself to grieve. It is not the easy thing to do, especially when you feel like you are being selfish. But the truth is that God gives us feelings and he gives us emotions for a reason. Sometimes it is okay to cover those up, and to hide and carry on as normal. But other times I believe that God wants us to protect our hearts. I have had to say "no" to Christmas parties, and other fun event this year, because I just knew that it would be too hard, and too painful. I entered into this season with an open heart, just waiting to see how my body would handle everything. It has been a learning experience, but each time we have a party or activity, I pray. I pray with all of my heart that God would give me wisdom and strength to make the right decision. In response, He has always given me very clear signs of what I should do. I am so thankful that He is teaching me how to take care of myself, and that He is the one who is guarding and protecting my very fragile heart.

* I have learned that it is important to think of others at this time of year. In the years past, I have never given much thought to those who may be sad, or suffering, or alone this year. When your heart is filled with such joy and happiness, it can be hard to see things from the perspective of another. It can be hard to understand why others are not rushing around and enjoying the season. But as my heart grieves, I truly feel a bond with others in a very special way this year. On those days, when you wish so badly that you could just sleep through the month of December, I know that there are others out there feeling the same way. It still amazes me at what a difference a card, phone call, or text can truly make. Those days, just knowing that someone else is thinking of you, that someone knows that your struggling and hurting, that someone is praying for you, makes all the difference in the world. I wish that I had enough time to respond with a huge thanks to each person who has remembered Josh and I in a special way this holiday season. But please know what a huge difference you have made in my life. You have touched my heart in such a special way. I can never say thank you enough. My prayer this season is that God opens up my eyes to see other people who are hurting. My prayer is that He provides opportunities for me to make a small difference in their lives as well.

* I have learned that it is important to remember. Sometimes it is so painful to realize that Caroline will not be with us this Christmas. This morning I woke up with the desperate desire to pick out a beautiful Christmas outfit for her to wear to our party tonight. I just wanted to take pictures of her being held, being loved, and enjoying her first Christmas. But all too quickly those desires are washed away by the aching in my heart. The reality is that Josh and I will be driving alone to our parties this year.
But that does not mean that we can not include her in our Christmas this year and every year to come. Every night during the month of December, I have lit a candle in honor of my sweet little girl. Every time I glance at those flickering flames, I realize just how much I love her. There is something so comforting about the warmth of a candle being lit on a dark cold night. This year Josh insisted on putting up our Christmas tree. But instead of having ornaments on our tree this year, we only have a few that were given to us in honor of Caroline. Our tree is very bare this year, and in so many ways I like it that way. Because the truth is that our life is so empty this year without her, and so it is very significant to me. But at the same time, our tree has a few absolutely beautiful ornaments that each help me to remember her life in a very special way. Our little girl also has a tiny tree that Josh and I brought to her special place on December 17. On the top of her tree is an angel. This week I decided that I  also wanted to buy her a stocking. When I was walking down the aisle at Meijer the tears filled my eyes when I saw some of the baby's first Christmas stockings. But my eye caught on one dark blue velvet stocking, with swirly snowflakes sewn onto the fabric. It was beautiful, and I just knew it was perfect for her. So we have decided to start a new tradition in our house. We will write Caroline a letter on Christmas each year, and we will keep them in her stocking. I pray that we will be able to find comfort in reading and writing these letters each Christmas.

* I have learned that there is joy in celebrating the holidays! When you miss somebody so much, it is hard to find a reason to celebrate. This year, I have decided to focus not on all of the busyness of the season, but rather on the reason that we celebrate. Our Savior was born for us! He came to earth as a tiny baby for us! There was nothing special, or kingly about his birth. But it was beautiful because... He was born for ME! He was born for YOU! He was born for CAROLINE! Even in the midst of hurt, and pain, and suffering, and loneliness, that should fill our hearts with joy, true joy. We do have hope because God loved us so much. Despite our weakness, our failures, our sorrow, God sent us his Son, to come as a little baby, to experience the reality of being a human, to live among us, to die for us. He loved us that much. When I choose to focus on that precious gift that was so lovingly and carefully sent to us that Christmas day so long ago, I can feel the joy filling my heart. When we focus on the gift of Jesus, we find that there is a real reason to celebrate!

* I have learned that we can look to others in our greatest time of need. It is so hard to be vulnerable, and so easy to just use the simple answer of "good". We can get so caught up in hiding our feelings and emotions, that we truly miss out on the fellowship of sharing in each others burdens. There are always those times when it is okay to hide your real feelings, and to pretend that everything really is good. But I have found that there is such comfort, peace, and assurance when you open yourself up to somebody else. When you tell them the truth that you really are struggling, that you really do miss that special person, that you really wish you could just skip the holidays altogether. It takes real courage and real strength to be vulnerable. But I have found that when I share my true thoughts and feelings with another person, it makes them feel safe to share with me. I truly believe that God has placed us together on this earth to be there for each other. I know that he not only wants us to share in each others joys, but also in each others sorrows. There are so many beautiful people in my life who have been there for me in the joys and the sorrows. I have so many friends and family members who have and continue to stick beside me, strengthening me, encouraging me, crying with me, praying with me, and sharing with me. It is especially important during the holiday season to keep close those that you trust. Because the reality is that sometimes we just need a friend, who will allow us to be open and honest.

* I have learned that God IS faithful. There has not been one moment on this journey where God has left my side. I can tell you that there have been moments where I felt abandoned. There have been moments where I wondered if God still loved me, and if he was even watching out for me anymore. There are still moments where I question that he wants the best for me. But never once did I ever walk alone on this journey. He has held me up, strengthen me, given me courage, given me peace, and filled my empty heart with joy. The holiday season hit me like a ton of bricks. There has been nothing easy about the past month. I have cried more tears than I ever thought possible, I have questioned, I have wondered, I have screamed, I have sat in silence, and I have felt numb. Not one moment is there a guarantee. But somehow as I sit here on Christmas Eve, I realize that I have made it through the absolute worst moments of my life, and I can still say that God is faithful. Even now as my heart hurts, and my head pounds, and my arms ache, I know that God will walk me through the day. I know that God will walk me through tomorrow. I know that God will walk me through the New Year, and the days, months, and years to come. The truth is that I see no end to my grief. I see no end to the tears, the pain, and the heart ache. I imagine next Christmas will be just as painful. But yet I cling to the promise that God will hold me close, He will hold each of my tears, He will hold my head above the deep waters, and He will bring moments of peace to my heart. This year I sing the song "O Come All Ye Faithful" with new eyes.
O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

     This list of lessons that I have learned this holiday season could truly go on for a very long time. It amazes me that as you walk the darkest road of your life, you are still able to learn so many things. I am so thankful to all of the beautiful people in my life who have come alongside of me during these hard weeks. Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for asking me for specific prayer requests. Thank you for teaching me some of these important lessons on love, faith, grace, self care, and hope. I do not know what I would do without all of you!
  I know that as I sit here watching the rain fall softly on the ground, and as I look up at the dark clouds in the sky above, that God is crying with me. I know that He hurts when we hurt. I know that His heart is broken along with mine. But as we think about the greatest gift of His Son, we know that one day God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. One day there will be no more pain and no more sadness. There will be a day when the Light of Jesus shines through all of this darkness. We have a beautiful hope for eternity, all because a tiny baby was born that day in Bethlehem.  Oh Come, let us adore Him! 
    





Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dear Caroline, it has been six months



Dear Caroline,
   
      My precious girl, I cannot believe that it has been six months since I last held you in my arms. It seems like a very long time. In many ways, it seems like forever. Six months ago my heart felt so full, everything felt complete. It just seemed so right, to have our family of three all together. That day was the absolute best day of my life.
     Last night in the darkness, I remembered. Six months ago, on a Monday afternoon, we went to the doctor's office for our weekly checkup. It was June 16. The doctor checked your mommy, and then we were able to hear your beautiful steady heartbeat. How I loved hearing that sound! Everything seemed to be going just fine. We were so close to 35 weeks, and you had already made it so much farther than I ever expected! Your mommy was so proud of you. On our drive home from the doctor's office that afternoon, I remember telling your daddy that you were such fighter. Even though they told us many times that you would be born early, you just continued to grow and thrive each week. We scheduled an ultrasound for the following Friday, and your daddy and I could not wait to see you again. 
     That night, your mommy took a nap around 6:00pm on the couch. I did that so often when I was pregnant with you. We always enjoyed that quiet peaceful time together! It was in those moments when I would feel you move the most. But when I woke up an hour later, I just knew that something was not right. I was terrified. Only a few hours later I began to feel the contractions. In the darkness I called the doctor, and he wanted us to come in to the hospital to be checked out. It was so unexpected. I felt so unprepared. I was just not ready to meet you yet. Even though I knew you could come at any time, I guess I just felt in my heart that we would have more time. Caroline, I knew that when the time came I would meet you, and I was beyond excited for that moment. But at the same time sweet girl, I wanted so badly for you to stay safe and alive inside me forever. It was in my control to keep you safe when you were inside of me. When I felt you kick, I knew that everything was okay. When I heard your heartbeat, I knew that you were still alive. When I touched my belly, I knew that you were growing bigger and stronger But once you were out, everything was beyond my control. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, that I could do to save your life. It still eats me up everyday that I could not save you. I would do anything to bring you back to me. I hope you know that my precious baby. Your mommy would give anything to have you back in my arms again, if only for just one moment.



     Today I cry tears. I cry because the pain in my heart is so real and so deep. I never knew that my heart could hurt so intensely. I never knew how often my arms would ache. Caroline today your mommy cries for the six months that we have lost. Not only did I miss out on that joyful moment of carrying you out of the hospital, and bringing you into your new home. But I have missed out on your first cry, your first smile, your first laugh, the first time you clapped your hands, the first time you made silly noises, your first bath, your first time going to church, the first time you lifted your head all by yourself, your first roll, visiting your grandparents and aunts and uncles, the first time you sat up, and dressing you up in all of the pink dresses you could have ever imagined. I cry because I will never be able to watch you become Daddy's little girl, and I will never be able to snuggle you by the Christmas tree. How much we have missed my sweet daughter. I understand that I will never have those special moments with you here on this earth, but it does not make the reality any easier to accept. It breaks my heart because it is impossible for me to even picture the future. You see my little Caroline, you will always be a tiny baby to me. Even on that day years from now, when it should be your first day in Kindergarten, I will only see you as a tiny precious baby. I will remember your perfect little face, with all those beautiful tiny features. I will remember your perfect little nose, your silky soft skin, and that dark head of curly hair. I will always picture those five long skinny fingers that gripped my hand so tightly. I will forever remember those little ears, which hopefully heard your mommy's quiet whispers of love. But that is how I will picture you, as that sweet, perfect, and innocent little baby. Because I will never be able to watch you grow up.


     My heart breaks when I think about all the many milestones we have already missed, and it pains me even more to think about the ones we will loose in the future. Your mommy had so many hopes and dreams for our new life together. It seems that as each day moves forward, and as each month passes by, those hopes and dreams are slowly extinguished one by one. Instead of rejoicing in your growth and accomplishments each month, I realize exactly what we are missing. The reality is that I miss you. It is truly just so plain and simple. I miss you with every breath that I take. Not a moment goes by where you are not on my heart and on my mind. I think about you constantly, and my body aches to hold onto you once again. I know that they often say that "absence makes the heart grow fonder". Well that saying has proven to be exactly true. The longer we are apart my sweet girl, the more that I miss you. 
     Each night before I climb into bed, I kiss your tiny face on a picture that sits right beside my bed. It is as close to kissing you goodnight as I will ever get. Then as I snuggle up with your blanket, I say a prayer. I ask God to hold you close, and to let you know how much you are still loved. Some nights I still catch myself reaching for a bedtime book to read to you, only to find that it is no longer there. I miss those peaceful moments before bed, when everything felt complete. Now as I close my eyes to sleep, I try and picture you. It brings a smile to my face as I think about you playing up there with all of the other beautiful babies. I know you have so many wonderful friends up there to keep you busy. You mommy looks forward to that day in heaven, when I can just sit with the biggest smile on my face as I watch you play.
    
    
     Today your daddy surprised me and took the day off from work. It was so special to have him stay home with me. I cannot imagine how hard the day would have been if I was sitting home alone. But instead, we spent time talking about you. We remembered all of the special moments that we were able to share together as a family. Caroline, you have brought your mommy and your daddy so much closer together. There is such a special bond that we share, now that we have walked down such a difficult path. I am so incredibly thankful for your daddy, and what a huge blessing he has been in my life. I just know how much he loves you, and how much he misses you too. He would have taken such great care of you, and I know that because of how lovingly he cares for me. We wish so badly that our family of three was complete right now, but you will always hold the most special place in our hearts. Your mommy and daddy love you so much precious Caroline, and we thank you for teaching us the importance of real love. It is not a love that comes out of selfish motives. But rather a love that comes straight from the heart.



      As I think back over the past six months I realize that we have come so far. I know that I still have so far to go in this grieving process. I know that I have good days, where I can smile and laugh and truly enjoy life. But I know that I have absolutely awful days, where the only thing I can do is cry. There are days when the grief is in my throat, and the tears threaten at any moment. There are days when my arms ache and my heart feels so tight. There are days when the anxiety overcomes my every thought and my every action. There are days when I am just completely sad. It is like an ocean my Caroline, where the waves are always present. Some days those waves are very small and gentle. They silently and slowly wash over my feet. But then just as softly and quietly, they are pushed back into the ocean. Some days those waves are a little bigger, and they lap over my feet with strength and power. Those days the waves come a little faster, and they only disappear for a moment before the next one sweeps in. Then there are the days where the ocean is churning. On those days, your mommy knows it is beyond my control. The waves come crashing onto the shore with such power and might that they knock me right off my feet. The waves hit one after another, with no break in sight. When those days come, I feel helpless against the sheer force of the waves. 
     But no matter how the waves hit, I do know one thing for sure. Your mommy is being held up by the strength of the Lord. On those days where the waves knock me off my feet, and I have no strength of my own to stand up again, I know that God will reach over to me with His mighty hands, and pick me up. Some days He lifts me high above the waves, and I can watch them crash to the shore from above. But other days he sets me back into the midst of the waves, and holds me up against each one. He never allows the wave to knock me over and carry me far away into the swirling ocean. I am so thankful for His strength, and His faithfulness to me. I know that even on the gentle and calm days, He is standing right there beside me, watching me enjoy the soft ripples at my feet. I am so thankful to have a God who truly cares about me, and who knows exactly where I am at each moment of the day. He knows exactly what I need each second of the day, and He never fails to provide it.
     Caroline, how I wish that today I was celebrating my six month old baby. I wish that I was able to dress you up today, and give you an extra big hug. I wish that we could do something special to celebrate you, and give you so many six month old kisses. But today we will go and visit your grave. Your daddy and I will bring you a special little Christmas tree. Today we will choose to remember what a blessing that you are in our lives. Today we will choose to cry tears over all that we have missed, and we will choose to cry tears over all that we will continue to miss. Today we will have an aching sadness in our hearts, because the truth is you are not here with us. But today we will remember your beauty, and all of the things you have taught us. Today we will thank God for your life, and that he chose us to be your parents.
     Happy six month birthday my precious little girl. Your mommy loves you more than I can ever say. I just pray that somehow you know just how much I love you, and how much I wish that I could give you a special hug today and every day. I love you sweet Caroline. Until we meet again...


                                            Love,
                                         Mommy

Caroline Joy Mulder
June 17, 2014




















Thursday, December 4, 2014

Update: Blankets of Love


In August, I felt God leading me to begin a ministry to collect and donate baby blankets to local Michigan Hospitals. These blankets would be given to mothers who lost a baby to miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal death. My hope is that we can provide mothers with a little something to fill their empty arms, and also a tangible memory of the brief time they were able to spend with their baby. This ministry has gone better than I could have ever dreamed possible, thanks to so many amazing people who have partnered alongside of us. I would like to share our journey so far with all of you. I truly believe that God is blessing this ministry! I look forward to what he has in store for Blankets of Love in the future!
You can follow our journey on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carolinesblankets
 


Blankets of Love 


Our First Delivery! 
Mercy Health- St. Mary's
 




Our Second Delivery
Spectrum Health -Big Rapids 


Our Third Delivery
Mercy Hospital -Cadillac





   Our Fourth Delivery
Munson Medical Center -Traverse City




I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of generous giving! Thank you to each and every person who has so graciously donated beautiful baby blankets! 





Our Fifth Delivery
Metro Health
 
 
 
Our Sixth Delivery
Spectrum Health -Butterworth





We have currently donated about 150 beautiful baby blankets to six Michigan Hospitals. These blankets will be given to mothers and families who are forced to leave the hospital with empty arms. Although we know that the loss of a baby brings indescribable pain and heartbreak, we pray that we can show a small amount of love and support through the warmth of a blanket. We want all mothers to know that they are not alone in this journey. Blankets of Love has partnered with Mira Bears, in order to bring comfort to grieving families through the gift of blankets and teddy bears.
We would like to say thank you from the very bottom of our hearts to all those who have so generously donated baby blankets. We could not continue this ministry without your help. In addition, we would like to ask for prayers, that God would provide comfort, love, and peace to all of the grieving mothers and families who receive these baby blankets in the coming months.  
Please know that we are continuing to collect baby blankets and teddy bears on behalf of Mira Bears and Blankets of Love. You can contact me at amaliamulder@yahoo.com for more information about how to make a donation. Thank you!

The Holidays



     The holidays are quickly approaching. It is hard to believe that in just 21 days, we will be celebrating Christmas. As the season continues to come closer, I find that it is becoming more difficult. I often wish we could just skip Christmas this year. If I could curl up in bed and not come out until after New Years, it would be absolutely great. However, throughout the past month, I have spent a lot of time discussing, reading, asking questions, and praying. I have received many suggestions and thoughts about the best ways to cope during the holidays, when you are experiencing a loss. Although there is absolutely nothing that can prepare me for the thoughts and feelings that are sure to surface, I have found so much comfort in the loving support of others. I am so thankful that God has placed so many beautiful people in my life, who have told me that they will be thinking and praying for Josh and I in the next few weeks. There are no words that can adequately express how much this truly means to both of us. We are praying continually for strength, comfort, peace, and joy, as we face the days ahead. It is going to be anything but easy to have this first Christmas without our precious Caroline, but we know that God has been faithful to us throughout the past year, and he will continue to provide for us throughout the holiday season as well.
  I plan on writing a blog post very soon about the personal ways that Josh and I are coping with the holidays. In so many ways we feel like we are walking in the dark. I have no idea what to expect, how I am going to feel, and what I will and will not be able to handle. There is no amount of preparation that can make it easier. But for right now, I would like to share with you an article that I read tonight. It is a very sad article, but I also found it incredibly true and helpful. This article was written by a grieving mother, who also lost her precious baby. It expresses much of  what I am thinking and feeling right now. Please take a moment to open up your heart to hear the words that she has so honestly and painfully written. My hope is that you can take what you have learned from this article to help other moms, who are grieving the loss of a baby or a child this Christmas.


     5 Ways to Help Those Remembering Baby Loss In The Holiday Season
                                                    written by Tara Shafer   (www.huffingtonpost.com)

The holidays are upon us and this presents challenges for families coping with baby loss. For the bereaved, the overt and unremitting emphasis on family and celebration may be both stifling and exhausting. Many holiday traditions represent light and birth, and for a family coping with pregnancy or infant loss, the ironies and companion absences can be too stark to bear easily. On the flip side, it is understandably difficult for caring friends and family to know how to best approach the painful and taboo subject of perinatal loss in the context of the joy-on-overdrive-holidays.
My second son was stillborn in December 2005. At that time, I had a 2-year- old son. I remember one evening I sat staring, devastated, into a crackling fire and ruminated about my baby's cremation. Next to me, my 2-year old squealed, delighted in the discovery of his face reflected back in a glass ornament as notes from Judy Garland's "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" hung in the air. It was snowing. The distances I was required to travel between true joy and abject despair at each moment during that time were so vast, that if it is the case that I am still sane, I am left to wonder how that it so.
At Christmas dinner several days later, I stood near a fire pushing food around my plate as my extended family gathered to celebrate peace and joy. No one there attempted to talk to me about my loss. This was not, I know, for lack of love. In fact, it was because of love -- they did not want to remind me of my loss. They wanted so much for me to be happy, but negotiating this impossibility was complicated and awkward.
It is this sort of well-intended silence that feeds a self-imposed gag order around loss. This can make the baby-bereaved feel especially alone and adrift in a season of light that emphasizes children, miracles and family. In addition, many family gatherings have representatives from generations wherein discussion of death and baby loss is simply not permitted.
There are many responses to baby and child loss. Take care to remember that there is no "right" or one-size-fits-all response. However, reaching out to people is very often far more appreciated than is immediately apparent. Even if a couple prefers to be private in their remembrance, they will appreciate your consideration in asking. Once a dialogue is opened, you can trust yourself to follow the lead and wishes of the parents in question, and even allow responses to change as time goes on. For those who surround the bereaved, it may be difficult to know just how to acknowledge loss as experienced by loved one(s). Here are a few suggestions:
1. DO offer to create an annual family ritual. Light a candle in memory, and in support of the bereaved parents. If you already light candles in ritual, ask to include the baby and the bereaved parents.
2. DO be aware of dynamics in family/friend relationships. For example, if there is a baby at a holiday gathering, consider gently letting the bereaved know that you are thinking of her her/him. If your sister-in-law had a loss and you have a baby, consider ways to let her know that you wish that things were different and that you want to help her.
3. DO consider making a memorial donation in the name of the baby to a charity important to the family, or one that supports children in need. If the baby was named, DO use the name of the baby. The use of a name may be deeply validating to a family coping with loss.
4. DO ask about fathers' experience of loss. This loss is even less recognized than the experience of the mother. Let the father know that you recognize that the loss is his as well, and ask how you can support him.
5. DO engage in discussion about loss. Many bereaved parents derive strength and love from an acknowledgement of their pain. In many instances, the memory of loss may stay with parents for a lifetime. It is both ironic and understandable that it is precisely this validation of pain that draws the bereaved closer, cinching the fabric of complex and encompassing familial love as it lifts a veil of silence.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Gift of Music


    There are some days where I just cannot find the words to express my thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Today is one of those days. I feel like there are just too many painful things running through my head and my heart. But I believe that it is in those moments that God can speak to us most clearly. Today I am feeling utterly defeated, yet somehow, I can still sing. These two songs have truly spoken to my struggling heart today. I wanted to share them with you, in the hopes that they may bring some peace into your heart as well.


                                                                        Take It All
                                                  Kristian Stanfill



 

    Already There
     Casting Crowns

From where I'm standing
Lord it's so hard for me to see
Where this is going
And where You're leading me
I wish I knew how
All my fears and all my questions
Are gonna play out
In a world I can't control

When I'm lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You're already there
You're already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You're already there
You're already there

From where You're standing
Lord, You see a grand design
That You imagined
When You breathed me into life
And all the chaos
Comes together in Your hands
Like a masterpiece
Of Your picture perfect plan

When I'm lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You're already there
You're already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You're already there
You're already there

One day I'll stand before You
And look back on the life I've lived
I can't wait to enjoy the view
And see how all the pieces fit

One day I'll stand before You
And look back on the life I've lived
Cause You're already there
You're already there
When I'm lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You're already there
You're already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You're already there
You're already there

You are already there

Monday, November 17, 2014

5 Months





5 Months
 
Once again the numbers blinked bright red on my clock early this morning.
5:16 am
 I was wide awake. The tears fell quickly, and painfully.
How can it be 5 months already?
 Why must the time go so fast? 
How could it be possible to miss her more today than I did the day I said goodbye?
 It is so hard to believe that it has been 5 months since I had my precious little girl. 5 months since I felt her little body move inside of my belly. 5 months since they placed her perfect tiny body in my arms.
I would give everything to go back to that moment in time. I would give everything to have her back in my arms once again. 
Those memories of that early June morning will forever be imprinted on my heart.  
 



So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.
                                                                                      2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (The Message)





Your longing for heaven is good because it is an extension of your yearning for Me. The hope of heaven is meant to strengthen and encourage you, filling you with wondrous JOY. Many Christians have misunderstood this word hope, believing that it denotes wishful thinking. Nothing could be farther from the truth! As soon as I became your Savior, heaven became your ultimate destination. The phrase hope of heaven highlights the benefits you can enjoy even while remaining on earth. This hope keeps you spiritually alive during dark times of adversity; it brightens your path and heightens your awareness of My Presence. My desire is that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
 
- Jesus Calling

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Dear Caroline...



  Dear Caroline,

     It has been one whole year. One year, almost to the exact minute when I first found out. I cannot even explain why I decided to take a pregnancy test that cold November afternoon. But something inside just brought me to that moment. It was the first time in awhile that I was not scared while I waited those two minutes. Normally I would just stand there and watch, willing that test to be positive. But this time I went and washed the dishes, drank a glass of water, and changed the laundry. I was not worried. I was not anxious. I just felt such peace. I was at peace with whatever sign appeared on that pregnancy test screen.
     But Caroline, to your mommy's absolute shock, there it was. A very clear plus sign. I had to look once. I had to look twice. In fact, I walked back to check that test about fifty times. I kept expecting that I was wrong. That maybe I was just seeing things, and that it couldn't really be true. But there it was, and there it stayed. It was not faint, it was very clear. I was pregnant!
     My precious girl, I could not wait to tell your daddy. He just could not get home from work fast enough. I just paced through the house, my heart was absolutely racing. For so many months I had planned out the most amazing ways to share the news. I wanted to make it special. But in that moment, the only thing I could do was run outside, grab your daddy's hand, and lead him to the counter. I was speechless! That does not happen very often for your mommy. I always have something to say. But this time, I had no words. I just pointed to that test, and smiled. My heart was full, and I still could not believe my eyes. Your mommy and daddy were so beyond excited.
     Caroline, that night on November 8, it was the first time I talked to you. I knew that you were way too tiny to hear me. I knew that your ears had not even begun to develop yet. But I talked to you. I welcomed you into our family, and I told you over and over how much I already loved you, and how incredibly excited I was to know that you were growing inside of me. That moment I had already fallen in love with you. You were my baby, even though you were no bigger than a poppyseed.
     Your mommy has such vivid memories of that day. It was the first day that I allowed myself to dream, and to hope of a future with you in our lives. I dreamed of what it was going to be like to be pregnant. I dreamed of what it was going to be like to welcome you into the world. I dreamed of what you were going to look like. I dreamed of all of the things that we were going to do together. But most of all sweet girl, I dreamed of our growing family, and the bright future that was just beginning.    
     Today has been really hard Caroline. Your mommy misses you so deeply. I cannot even begin to tell you how much my heart hurts. When I think back to that day a whole year ago, I realize just how much can change in a year. In that moment, I never dreamed that anything bad could happen. After all, you were alive and growing. Everything should have been okay. All of those dreams should have come true. I should be holding your precious little body in my arms tonight, smiling happily at the memory of how far we have come since that day one year ago. Instead your mommy has aching arms tonight.  I miss you so much sweet girl.
     I remember so clearly, that night as we went to bed, your mommy and daddy prayed together. We thanked God for the joy in our hearts at the news we had just discovered. We prayed that God would hold you close, and help you grow strong and healthy in the coming months. We talked late into the night about how excited we were, and how our lives would be forever changed. But what we did not know Caroline, is what was to come. In that moment we were simply filled with happiness and excitement. There was no doubt in our minds that we would be holding you in our arms in only a few short months.
      Looking back at that day now, I know that nothing turned out as planned. There are so many hopes and dreams that will never be fulfilled. You were not born healthy like other babies. But my precious girl, you were strong. I know that God made you strong. Against all odds you fought each day of your life to meet us. You proved the doctors wrong every day that I carried you. We did get to hold you in our arms, even if it was only for a moment. We did get to tell you how much we love you, even if those 3 simple words have to last forever.
     You changed our lives forever Caroline. Our lives have been changed in such a different way than I ever expected. I always dreamed that I would be an exhausted, forgetful, and crazy mom, who does not always have it all together. I looked forward to those days with all of my heart. But instead I have been changed in such a different way. I am still an exhausted, forgetful, and crazy girl, who certainly does not have it all together. My life is completely unpredictable in every moment. But I am a stronger woman because of you my daughter.  You taught me how to be brave, how to trust, and most of all, you taught me how to love. I now know that it is completely possible to love, even when you know it is going to lead to heartbreak. I now know that it is completely worth it to love so fully and so deeply, even if there is no tangible way to express it. So Caroline, as I think about you tonight, as I miss you so deeply, as my heart pounds and my arms ache, I want you to know how much I love you. I love you more than I ever dreamed possible. I hope that somehow you know just how much I love you. It is a love that grows stronger with each beat of my heart.
     Thank you my princess, for teaching your mommy so much over this year. Even though my heart is broken and tears are streaming down my face, I am so thankful. I am thankful for you. I am thankful for the gift of time that God gave to us. I am thankful for the joy we experienced on that Friday night one year ago. I am thankful for those first words I spoke to your tiny body. I am thankful for the excitement that your daddy and I shared together. I am thankful for the blessing that you have been and continue to be in our lives. I love you my beautiful Caroline Joy. You will forever hold the deepest place in your mommy's heart. Until we meet again...

 Mommy



Sunday, November 2, 2014

Four Months...





Do not judge the bereaved mother.
She comes in many forms.
She is breathing, but she is dying.
She may look young, but inside she has become ancient.
She smiles, but her heart sobs.
She walks, she talks, she cooks, she cleans, she works, she IS,
but she IS NOT, all at once.
She is here, but part of her is elsewhere for eternity.”


     Four months is a long time. Long enough for people to forget. Long enough for life to get busy. Long enough to move on. But that is so far from true. No matter how many days have past, no matter how the seasons have changed, the pain is still just as real as it was that warm summer day when I had to say good bye.
     There is no magic number with grief. I cannot simply mark a date on my calendar, and plan on everything being better once that day finally arrives. Because the truth is that there is no end to grief. I have been forever changed. I know I will always grieve the loss of hopes, dreams, a future, and my daughter.
      Today I stopped to just look at my life. In some ways I can see the progress that I have made. It has not been easy, and it has certainly not been on my own. I have had the incredible love and support from my husband, family, and my grief counselor. I know that without this strong support system, I would be a complete mess right now. They have been there through the tears, through the anger, through the silence, through the happy moments and the sad. They have seen me at my best, and they have seen me at my worst. I cannot help but stand amazed at the fact that they still want to see me! I am so thankful that God has placed such amazing people in my life, who continue to encourage me, and who also make a special point to remember and speak Caroline's name. There is no words to explain the joy that I feel when others talk about her, and help me remember her. I am so blessed to have people in my life who love me, who love Josh, and who love Caroline. I am so thankful to not be alone.
     At one time, I admit, there was only darkness in my life. I could not see or feel anything except grief, pain, and sadness. It filled every part of my entire body. Slowly, over time, I have gotten used to the pain in my chest. The ache that never leaves my heart. It has not gotten any less painful, but I now know exactly what it feels like. No longer is it a new feeling, instead, it has become my new normal. I know that when I open my eyes in the morning, I am going to feel it. I know that when I go to work each day, I am going to feel it. I know that with every beat of my heart, I am going to feel it. I know that as I lay awake in the darkness, I am going to feel it. There is not one moment in the day where I do not feel that deep aching pain in my heart.
     However, I can now honestly say that I see small glimmers of light. They are very small, nearly invisible on certain days, but they are there. Those tiny glimmers of light appear at the most random times throughout the day. Usually they hit me without warning, but leave a very sweet taste in my mouth. I eagerly await those moments of hope, because they remind me of God's goodness. They remind me that I can still feel happy, and that there is still light in the world. I am so thankful for those tiny glimmers of hope. I am so happy for those brief moments of light. Right now they are few and far between, but they are there. I pray each day that the light continues to shine through the darkness of my grief and pain.
     I am so thankful for the joy filled moments that God places in my life each day. These moments are not huge, and to most people they would come and go without even a second thought. Yet I need these moments. I still rejoice in the beauty of the world surrounding me. I find such joy in the little things, the warmth of a blanket on a cold night, the comforting shadows of a flickering candle, the beauty of the sunshine, the gently falling leaves, and the generosity of so many people. Once I opened my eyes to the little blessings, I have found that they are all around. All I have to do is stop, take the time to breathe, and look for them. I am so thankful that God has surrounded my life with the little blessings. I pray that he will continue to help me remember to take the time each day to look for them!
     My life has changed in so many ways. I cannot even begin to list them all here for you. The truth is that I feel like a new person. It is hard to admit this, but I am no longer that happy, innocent, life loving girl that I was before. Some days I would love to go back to who I used to be. I would love to have one day, just one day, where I could remember what it was like to just be me. To be free from the grief, pain, and all of the intense thoughts and feelings. But that is not my reality. The truth is that this is the new me.
    I am now the girl who struggles to accomplish even the smallest tasks. Everything just seems too big and too overwhelming. I am now the girl who suffers from anxiety. I constantly fight stomach aches, headaches, and a racing heart. I am now the girl who is very uncomfortable in social situations. It is a struggle for me when talking to people, interacting with people, and just being around people. I feel like I am outside of my own body, watching myself talk, listen, and respond. I am now the girl who is scared to even look at a baby, for fear that I might loose control. I am now the girl who fights the constant fear that something bad might happen to the people that I love. I am now the girl who feels more comfortable being alone than with other people. I am now the girl who cries everyday. I am now the girl who struggles to get out of bed. I am now the girls who is very insecure. I am now the girl who cannot turn off the racing thoughts inside of my head. I am now a new person, and some days it is a very scary reality.
     One of the biggest changes in my life is my ability to pretend. I am able to smile, even when I am crying on the inside. I am able to hold back the tears, until I am able to release them when I am alone. I have learned how to push aside all of my thoughts and feelings, so that I can carry on with my everyday life. Because the reality is that time does not stop for grief. I still have to go about all of my day to day responsibilities. As much as I would love to just lay in bed and cry and feel sad, it is not possible. There just isn't time during the day to really feel. It is hard some days, to pretend to be okay. I feel like I am not always being true to myself. But at the same time, it is necessary. I do not think people could handle a sad and grieving Amalia all the time. I know I could loose my job if I wasn't able to hold it together. I know that I could loose friends if I wasn't able to hold it together. I know that I would loose myself if I wasn't able to hold it together. It isn't easy, but I have gotten extremely good at it. I just wonder sometimes how long I will have to pretend. Will I always have to hide my true thoughts and feelings? Or will I one day feel so much less, and not have to pretend anymore?
     I always worry about those moments when grief hits so suddenly. It may be a commercial on tv, a song on the radio, a pregnant mother in the grocery store, a comment that someone makes, a specific place or memory, or a date on the calendar. Usually these moments come without warning, and I never know quite how I am going to respond. I wish so badly that I had a warning, so that I could prepare myself. But over time, I have learned something so valuable. When I am hit with one of those sudden moments, I need to let myself feel. If I need to cry, I let myself cry. If I need to scream, I let myself scream. If I need to pray, I let myself pray. If I feel angry, it is okay to be angry. For so long I tried to cover up those feelings. I felt guilty for feeling angry, or upset. But now I have learned that it is perfectly healthy and perfectly normal to feel these things. It does me no good to push them away and pretend they do not exist. They will only come out in a different way. Instead, I need to allow myself to feel, to hurt, to cry, and to feel angry. It is okay to feel emotions and to express them in a healthy way.
     I write this tonight and share it with complete honesty. I do not want anyone to feel sorry for me. This is just my reality, it is the path that I must walk. I have come so far since this summer. Just as the leaves have changed color, and the air has become cooler, I have also changed. In so many ways I have grown, and learned how to cope with so many of the thoughts and feelings that come along with grief. But yet I still have so far to go. I try to not look to far into the future, because there is just so much that is unknown. Although I want to believe that God has good things in store for us, I still tend to focus on the very real reality that bad things can and do happen. I just pray that over time I will be able to feel more hope about the future. But for now, I just focus on one day at a time. I find joy in the little blessings, and embrace the moments filled with  sorrow and pain. I try my best to step out of my comfort zone, and put myself in social situations when I feel that I can handle them. I trust in God for the strength to get through each day. My God has been faithful in the darkest of days. I know that just as he walked beside me in the worst moments, he will continue to walk beside me into the future.
     
    

I found this quote the other day and just had to share it. In every moment that I miss Caroline, I wonder why God would choose to take her away so soon. I am sad for everything that we will never be able to share together. But this quote is absolutely true. Right from the moment that we found out Caroline existed, I knew that her life was important. Every life matters. Caroline lived 35 weeks in my belly, and 19 short minutes on this earth, but I truly believe that her life and her story has impacted so many people. I am so thankful that God chose to give her life, and I pray that her story continues to touch lives in the years to come. It is such a beautiful thing to know that we serve a God who has a plan that is so much bigger than our own. I am so grateful that my sweet baby was such a fighter, and that her life truly matters. I am so extremely proud of my precious Caroline Joy.

The amount of time on earth matters very little: a man can live in greed and pride 90 years and never find God, know Him or accomplish His Plan. A stillborn baby on the other hand, teaches people to love, brings people to the Lord, teaches us the tenuous nature of life and teaches us a faith that those who have not suffered loss can never know. A child not even breathing for an hour, can have an impact greater than a famous preacher. The purpose of a life is not ours to decide nor in our hands: it is brought about by God.”
                                                                                     -Author Unknown

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wave of Light


     Today has been named Infant Loss Awareness Day. On October 15, we remember all those babies who are no longer here with us on earth. So many suffer loss in silence. But I believe with all my heart that every life matters. Please join me tonight in honoring all of the beautiful babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal death. I will be lighting my candle tonight in honor of Caroline, and also in honor of my dear friend's daughter Mira, who went to heaven with Caroline on June 17. 
     I have met so many strong and beautiful women on this journey. They have not only openly shared the stories of their own losses, but they have come alongside of me in my own grief. I am so incredibly thankful for the friendships that I have made, and for the bond that we share. I have met an amazing group of women who have continued to carry or carried a baby diagnosed with Limb Body Wall Complex, which is what Caroline also had. My heart is broken for the losses we must bear, but I do know that all of our sweet babies are watching over us. 
     Tonight I am praying for all of the mom's who have had to face the tragedy of losing a baby. My heart breaks for each and every loss. But I am also praising God for the hope we have of seeing our little ones again in heaven. 
     












Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Healing Rain


Tears
For hopes not gone, nor are my dreams
the light it still shines through
and with the help of angels wings
I find my way, from here to you.
So when the tears fall in the night
and fear creeps up, I say
the angels are all guarding me
so fear.....go on your way!
Its ok to cry the tears
for they wash away the pain
They're a symbol of the love we shared
and as needed as the rain.
 
 
     I love the rain! It always makes me feel so alive! I think that it is because rain is life giving to so many things. The trees, grass, and flowers all need rain in order to live. Think about how beautiful the world looks after a good rain shower. Everything just looks more vibrant and alive. I always enjoy waking up the morning after a thunderstorm, and looking out my bedroom window. It is such a great reminder of how God provides for everything, even for the needs of the natural world around us. If he cares so much for the grass and the trees that he sends rain at just the right time, how much more must he care for his children?
     Today as I was laying on the couch, sick with a miserable cold, I could hear the gentle rain falling outside of the window. It brought a smile to my face as I thought of all the ways that God cares for me. Every moment, without a doubt, God has been ever present in my life. He knows my deepest needs and my greatest fears. He sees my weakest moments and quiet tears. But the greatest part is that he not only knows...but he also provides. He provides for my deepest needs, he calms my greatest fears, he strengthens me in my weakest moments, and holds tightly to each quiet tear that I cry.
     I cannot help but stand completely thankful for everything that I have been given. I do struggle, and I do feel intense pain and sadness each and every day. But yet I am beyond blessed in so many ways. God has given me a beautiful life, and an amazing family. I have a good job, a warm and dry house, and a couch on which to rest when I am sick. I have hot chocolate to soothe my sore throat, and a good book to enjoy! I have a husband who loves me and takes care of me, even when I look yucky and sick. I have amazing friends who have stood by my side, even when I have not been at my best. I have the love and support from so many wonderful people. I have seen the genuine kindness of so many people. As I continue to walk down this journey of grief and healing, I have found that it brings such joy to my heart when I think about the beautiful outpouring of love that has come from so many. I am truly beyond blessed!
     On nights like tonight, I love to sit and count my blessings, and take time to praise the God who has been there for me in my darkest of moments. He is the great Provider! I want to encourage anyone who is going through a difficult situation, or struggling to stay afloat amidst the waves of life, to look to the God who knows and who provides. He will provide exactly what you need, even in the worst of times. Trust me, I have been that girl who has cried out to him when I did not know what else to do. I have been that girl who has cried out  to him in anger. I have been that girl who has cried out to him in pain and hopelessness. But the beauty is that God understands. He does not turn away from us when we are angry or upset. In fact, it is when we cry out to him that I believe he draws the closest. In fact Psalm 34:17-20 says,
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
 The righteous person may have many troubles,
    but the Lord delivers him from them all;
 he protects all his bones,
    not one of them will be broken.
 
Lean on him, and he will never let you go.
      I am thankful for the clean, fresh air that comes in the wake of a rainy day. In the same way, when we cry out to God, and we truly open our hearts up to him, he will provide the healing that we need so desperately.

 
 
 
Healing Rain
Healing rain is coming down
It's coming nearer to this old town
Rich and poor, weak and strong
It's bringing mercy, it won't be long
 
Healing rain is coming down
It's coming closer to the lost and found
Tears of joy, and tears of shame
Are washed forever in Jesus' name
 
Healing rain, it comes with fire
So let it fall and take us higher
Healing rain, I'm not afraid
To be washed in Heaven's rain
 
Lift your heads, let us return
To the mercy seat where time began
And in your eyes, I see the pain
Come soak this dry heart with healing rain
 
And only You, the Son of man
Can take a leper and let him stand
So lift your hands, they can be held
By someone greater, the great I Am
Healing rain, it comes with fire
So let it fall and take us higher
 
  Healing rain, I'm not afraid
To be washed in Heaven's rain
To be washed in Heaven's rain...
Healing rain is falling down
Healing rain is falling down
I'm not afraid

Michael W. Smith