Tuesday, May 4, 2010

 Comforting Broken Hearts

This last sunday was filled to the brim with stuff.   Busy stuff… church (which right now consists of me wrestling a toddler for an hour and then teaching a group of 4 year olds for the next two… sometimes I leave church feeling like I just ran a marathon, day of rest? Hmmm….)  Creative stuff… making cupcakes for Momo's birthday (post coming soon).   Happy stuff… we had the grandparents over for cupcakes to celebrate Momo's birthday.  And then add on the Emotional stuff
Four years ago on May 2nd we found out about Evie's fatal condition.  It's ground into my memory.  (I'll share more about that day another time).  As we sang happy birthday to Momo I found myself smiling and grateful for a crazy little boy that keeps me on my toes.  I also said a little silent prayer of gratitude for my daughter that challenged me in an entirely different way.  
Sunday was a GOOD day.

That evening I got an email from a friend who has neighbors that are expecting a child that will not live long after birth.  
His email read…
"The family I mentioned earlier is planning their labor.  The funeral will follow a few days later.  After I shared your story, they decided they wanted to do the same thing with the blessing in the hospital.  It seems to be very helpful to hear from others who have gone through this before. They really aren't quite sure how to deal with all this and I'm hoping to find more ideas to help them cope.

Were there any specific gifts or services that were given to you that helped? 
Did you have a funeral or what did you do for that?

I appreciate any suggestions you might have.  Thanks!"

Sunday night as I was getting ready for bed I glanced in the bathroom mirror.  I recalled 4 years ago, on this same night doing the same thing.  However it was a stranger peering back.  Her light was dim, she looked empty and I recall questioning if this was the person I would now be.  If this is what was left of me.  I seemed stripped of my happiness... and I considered that it might be forever lost. On sunday it was nice to smile and see ME smile back.  
It did come back, both the happiness and the light. 

That night I laid in bed and began making mental notes of how to respond to my friends email.  The next day I started writing them down.  And now I feel that I should post them.  My feelings have never steered me wrong, so I'm going to trust them again and put my response on my blog.

I remember being the person who didn't know what to do or say.  I remember hearing about those who lost a baby (before our Evie) and I wondered if I should or shouldn't say something. If I should or shouldn't do something. I had similar questions as my friend.   

At the hospital we asked that only immediate family join us.  We also requested no children. The only child in attendance was Scooter (Ride was only about 18 months old so we left her with a babysitter… I was concerned she would want to be held by me while I would be trying to soak in every second with Evie).  Scooter was 4.  She has always been wise beyond her years and seemed to have a grasp of what was going on.  She wanted to meet "Sprinkles" (the name she had lovingly given her).  After she was born she was given a name and a blessing by J. (This is something that we do in the LDS church.  It is usually done in the church building on a sunday a month or two after a baby is born.  We were given permission to have J do this right after she was born).  Even though we don't feel it's necessary to bless a baby it was absolutely beautiful.  I held her in my harms as J gave her a precious heart felt blessing.  We then oohed and awed at her pudgy arms.  We gave everyone the opportunity to hold her.  We had a few people hold her and then quickly they'd put her back into either J or my arms.  Then a few people more would hold her and then back into our arms.  It was quiet and peaceful.  That hospital room felt like a temple.  Sacred and filled with angels.  43 minutes after her birth she peacefully returned to heaven while she was in my arms.  Then the family quietly left J and I to cry, pray and kiss our little one alone.  This remains the most beautiful experience of my life.  I treasure it with all my heart.

Now about the funeral.  
I think this is a personal thing.  For us we wanted a very simple graveside service.  We only invited immediate family and close friends.  This is what we wanted.  Everyone honored and supported us in that.  We only had a couple of speakers and that was about it.  Because it was small we returned to our home for a light luncheon that my church Relief Society had so graciously supplied. 

Now I know this question wasn't in my friends email but I've often been asked what to say and what not to say to someone in a grieving situation.  So I'm going to start with the…

What NOT to say...
I'm not an easily offended person.  But there were comments, although I'm sure were innocent, that stung.   I don't want to spend too much time on this, I like to keep my blog a positive uplifting place. I also don't want to sound like I'm complaining or pointing out the flaws of others.  I have enough flaws of my own I need to concentrate on.  So I share them in the hope they may help or prevent someone from making a similar mistake.  So let's get them out of the way so I can move on to the positive stuff… 

-Before you say something… make sure it's NOT about YOU. 
Sometimes I could feel they were not interested in what I had to say.  They were more interested in what they had to say. 
-If you're not sure you should say it, don't.  Speak with your heart and with LOVE for the person who is hurting and anything you say will be fine.  
-Don't claim to have a better understanding of what that someone is going through because your a more "naturally sympathetic" person.
-Don't compare your situation with someone who is grieving if it isn't similar.  
I guess the best rule is to think before you speak and ask yourself what your motive is.

Now that the ugly is out of the way (thank heavens)… I want the rest of this post to focus only on the positive.  (It's so much more happy).

Say something….
Now that I've sufficiently scared you from wanting to say anything at all;)
It's important to say something.  I know what it feels like to not know what to say, so I'll give you some suggestions…
If you don't know what to say keep it simple…
I'm praying for you.
I'm thinking about you.
I'm so sorry for your loss.
What Can I do for you?
(They most likely will say "Oh nothing, we'll be fine" so you may want to say)...
I'm bringing you dinner thursday night. Or...
I'll be by friday afternoon to pick up your kids to take them to the park.

Don't be offended if they don't say much back.  I've noticed some want to talk about it while others don't.      
I also appreciated stories people would recount to me about someone they knew personally who had experienced something similar.  I loved hearing that it was tough but they were doing well.  It gave me hope.  It reminded me that at that moment everything wasn't OK, but that one day it would be (and it is).  I leaned on this.  
Also I appreciated hearing from those who had personally lost a baby.  Whether in infancy, still born, or through miscarriage.  After everything happened I felt like I immediately was part of a club that no one wants to join.  I feel real love and a bond with anyone who has gone through this type of situation.  
We moved into our neighborhood only a month before Evie was born.  There was a lady who had moved in just about a month before us.  She had experienced a similar loss.  She came over when I got home from the hospital with gifts for the kids and she quietly and kindly organized the funeral luncheon for us.  More than anything she listened to me.  She remains today one of my dearest friends and we often claim we were sisters separated at birth. I guess I'm saying don't underestimate the value of your kind words, help and presence.  

Be there...
I'll never forget when we got home after finding out about Evie.  I didn't know where to be or what to do.  I was in a fog and world was spinning.  But family showed up.  They just came.  They brought love, hugs and tears.  It was just what I needed.  Them.  I will never forget every soul that dropped everything and just showed up (and they did it without request).  That's what family does.  
If you're not family, show up too (not the day of difficult news) but shortly after.  Either physically with a hug or through a card or phone call.  I remember each and every one.  I felt like I had an army of friends and family there to carry me when I needed them. 

I should mention that I love talking about Evie, and especially in the months that followed her birth.  All I have is my memories, and talking is therapeutic for me, and now so is blogging.  So if someone needs to talk just listen.  Don't try too hard to say the "perfect, life changing" thing.  Just let them express their feelings and then love them.  Sometimes it took a lot to express my emotions about Evie.  When someone gathers the strength to talk about it, be interested, be kind and be attentive. 

Now onto 
the gifts I loved…
I know people wonder what to give someone.  Gifts are not necessary, but I do have a few that I cherish.

My aunt Lisa had a small pair of baby booties framed with a sweet poem.
Tiny feet too perfect
To walk where men have trod.
Tiny feet so perfect
They walk straight home to God.
She gave us a second pair for Evie to wear. Although they were to big, (Evie had a form of dwarfism) we placed them lovingly in her casket. 

My cousin Paula made Evie two burial dresses.  (I should mention I have a family that oozes creativity and talent.  On both my mothers and fathers side. Paula is one of my many crazy talented family members… her blog is here).  She made one for Evie to wear and one for us to keep.  She's an amazing seamstress and fashion designer.  She also has designed clothes for Marie Osmond's porcelain dolls, so she's a pro at the little clothes.. and Evie was little.  We had it framed.

My sisters mother in law Stacie arranged for us to make plaster molds of Evie's hand and foot.  I LOVE these!  They are my most precious gift.

My family gave us a tree and a rock plaque.  It's a flowering cherry so every spring it bursts with pink blooms.  Pretty perfect.

I appreciated every little thing too.  I loved the flowers.  They brought happiness to our home.  Cards filled with personally penned heartfelt sympathy.  I also remember a lady who brought over a bag of popsicles for the kids.  It wasn't huge… but it came from her heart.  If I listed everything it would take me forever….and this post is already mega long!

I thought about a couple things that also 
would have been great to receive...
(I'm not sharing these because I wish we were given them, a card or heart felt hug is just if not more valuable... only that it may spark some ideas if someone was in need of a few).
All of our stuff from Evie… every card and some of the gifts are placed in a drawer.  Her hospital stuff is in shirt boxes in my closet.  I don't have a special place for them.  I'm realizing it would be nice to have a special box to store them in. I may have to put that on my to do list. 
I'm also seeing all of these darling handmade necklaces around.  The kind that have sweet messages or names printed on them.  It would be special to have had one for the mother to keep and one for the baby.  That way we each would have one next to their heart.  You could put something simple on it like "forever"  or even the child's name. 

Now I'm going to ask for your input.  If your willing please leave a comment about...
What has helped you with grief?  How did you help someone who was mourning?  What gifts have you received or given?  I have loads of amazingly creative people that stop by my blog… I'd love to hear what you have done for someone. Or any ideas that come to mind. 

On another note I want to say a big giant humungous 
On easter I posted about my Evie.  I was nervous.  I had just gained a bushel  full of new readers, with all different backgrounds and religious beliefs.  I didn't know how it would be received.  I'm so grateful for your kind words and love.
Bless your sweet sweet souls!
 Thank you from the bottom of my grateful and happy heart!


  1. Thank you for wise words and a sweet assurance of the resilience of the human heart. My eyes are teary as I think about little ones lost but not forgotten in my life. Thank you.

  2. Oh my, Anj. Your blog is so beautiful. I have tears running down my face, not only from Evie's story, but because of your faith and testimony. Thank you - I know you've touched more than just my heart.

    By the way, thank you for the sweet comment on my blog! I wish I could say that I totally came up with the idea for that play kitchen on my own. Thank goodness for crafty blogs (like yours!) that inspire. :o) Have a great night!

  3. that was truely one of the most beautiful , special and personal accounts of such a loss that i have ever had the privledge of reading...you are an amazing mother to share such private, yet public thoughts...i had a miscarriage between my second and third babies- and it broke my heart...part of that was that i now understood how soo many of my friends had felt- it is nothing compared to what you and your family have been through- but it was a loss of something that i would have loved very much.
    your words are of wisdom and love and i hope that they help with many other people that have come in contact with you.....i am going to need an extra hug from all mine when they come home from school today x


  4. I feel blessed just to read your story and feel your heart. Thanks for sharing your angel and guiding us. It's very special. You continue to inspire my soul.

  5. I am tearing up as I read because I needed to read that!

    I had a miscarriage a few months ago at 3 months along and the thing that helped me the most was people who would call and just leave me a message that said..I hope your OK..I'm here if you want to talk..but its OK if you don't..

    And for a while I didn't..but it helped to know they were there!

  6. Thank you for sharing so much and so well. You have a way with words. While I have not faced a loss like yours my best friend lost her husband at 29, leaving her with 2 young children. When she called, from CA, telling me, in AZ, that he was in the hospital I nursed my baby one last time and drove right over to be with her. While I didn't feel like there was really anything I could do she later told me that just having someone there for her (his entire family was there, but they were all dealing with their own sadness too) was the thing she needed the most. I was grateful to be helpful in even the smallest way. Over the next few years though it was hard to know what to say to her or do for her. Your clear advice was wonderful! Thank you so much.

  7. Thanks for sharing Anj. I was really touched by this and your Easter blog post. Your faith shines through your words and actions. I also appreciate your thoughts on how to be a friend to someone going through something so difficult.

  8. I still remember seeing the beautiful photographs of you and your beautiful Evie after she was born. There is one of you and her that just perfectly embodies the love of a mother and her child. I'm sure you already know that Evie made a big impact in many lives although her time was brief. Thanks always for sharing. I've reflected upon your strength and experiences more than once to buoy up my own courage. Love you!

  9. I loved your words. Thank you for sharing that. It is nice to know what to say and what not to say. I am glad that you are happy and can think of your experience as beautiful...painful but so beautiful.

  10. Thank you so much for your sweet words! Bless your hearts!

  11. Anj,

    I feel like we are friends even though we have never met, because we have both experienced something similar. The thing that helped me the most was just a heartfelt... "I am so sorry," and a hug. I also didn't appreciate when people try to act like they know how I feel. You never can know how it feels, until you experience it yourself. I didn't even know how I felt from day to day. I have a few sweet friends who would call me every day, and ask if I was alright, and if I wanted to get out, work on a craft etc... They were there to listen if I needed it, or take my mind off it if I needed that :) I have a couple of other friendships that I never would have had, if I hadn't gone through that. I am so thankful for all the strong amazing, beautiful women in my life. You are one of them. This post made me cry. I felt like delivering my sweet Molly's tiny body was such a sweet experience, and the veil was SO thin. I feel privileged to be her mom, and help her as far and as much as I could. I am thankful I could share her birth with her, and her tiny little life. I love her, and still miss her every day. I have a few entries about it on my family blog, if you would like to visit. It is private, but I would be happy give you permission if you want. Don't feel obligated :) risabaker@gmail.com

    Evie's dress is beautiful. My mom and I made a dress for Molly too, and a duplicate that I would like to have put in a shadow box or something in the near future. It's on my list.

    I told a friend of mine about our conversation through comments the other day, and about you holding your new child, and the song playing in the background. You are a strength to me, and give me hope :)

    Thank you,



  12. My dear friend burried her sweet twin girls last winter. She burried them next to their brother that had died the winter previous. It was devastating for her, obviously, but also for our friend circle, and ward. We did 2 things for her that I thought I'd share...because I have a feeling that for the rest of your life, people will ask "what should I do?"

    You already mentioned one of them...but we actually made her a great box to store their things in. They turned out amazing, and they stay in her special "kids" space. (and I'd be happy to make one for you...if it doesn't make it to the top of your "to do" list. I know I don't know you, so I'm sorry if that's weird....but I really would!! You really should have one!)

    We also e-mailed a bunch of people and asked them to submit their thoughts and testimonies. Then I printed them all out in the same font and added them to a book. She says she still reads it frequently. It helped people who weren't quite sure what to say in person.

    Sorry if this is long winded...but I was just so touched reading your post, having just gone through something similar with my friend.

    I hope you continue to find moments of peace...even if they are fleeting.

    May God bless you and your family!

  13. Anj, thank you for sharing your story and your advice. The tears are streaming down my face for your loss. I had three miscarriages between the birth of my daughter and my son. Each one was different and devastating in it's own way. What helped me get through that time the most was joining an online support group of women who had had one or more miscarriages and were trying to conceive a baby. It helped so much to know that there were others out there who understood what I was going through...and we were able to share with each other things that we wouldn't necessarily share with other people. What I learned was that it helped me to talk again and again about my situation. Finally we were blessed with son, which has eased the pain considerably. Shortly after the birth of my son, my dear friend delivered her son 3 months prematurely and he died a few weeks later due to complications from surgery. My heart broke for her. I shared with her how much the support group helped me... to be able to talk to people who really did understand what I was going through, and be able to say anything to them. I guess it was a safe place to truly express my thoughts.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing your experience and your sweet daughter's memory.

  14. Thanks Anj for sharing!

    My dad passed away the Christmas I returned home from a mission. He was sick (with Agent Orange) for a long time, but it was hard none the less. I too had a hard time when people would say, "I know how you feel". I know it was meant with love, but it was hard to hear as I (like we all do) felt this burden was mine, and mine alone.

    I was teaching at a tiny little school in Utah and when the kids heard about it, the school got together and purchased a small tree in my dad's honor. We planted it near his grave (as it's family owned land) and it is still there today. In fact, that year we began the tradition of buying tiny little ornaments and taking the nieces and nephews to the grave site Christmas eve and decorating it. Such a sweet gift, and something that we will treasure forever.

    Thanks again for sharing. PS- I'm totally taking your "Monster" party theme and running with it. Too bad my little monster won't be turning one until October. Oh well, it gives me plenty of time to dream up some more party favors and such!

    Thanks for the ideas. I'll let you know how it goes!

  15. Absolutely gorgeous! Everything you said is perfect.

    I lost my daughter 14 years ago and I can still clearly remember the things that were said that were comforting and the ones that made me want to scream inside. I appreciate your willingness to share you story. On my daughter's birthday this year, I thought I was going to finally be able to share my story but all I could do was stare at the screen. Bless you for your strength.

  16. I found my way here via your fabric flowers and decided to stay and poke around awhile.

    It seems a bit like fate to have just found this post, since I am finding myself in the middle of the fight of my life for my unborn baby, having just lost it's twin yesterday.

    While our stories are indeed different, and our babies at different gestational stages, I find comfort always in knowing this is a journey I do not take alone.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  17. Thank you so much for sharing, I have often wondered how to respond in such situations and I appreciate you sharing your story.

  18. Anj,
    Thanks for allowing me to make my email…I will need to post to two comments just due to size of my email...!

    I had a similar experience and while reading your blog posting, it was my words exactly on how I was feeling and dealing with it. Loved the Not to Say, boy people really don't know how to talk...or listen for that matter. Long story short on us is that in 2005 we were pregnant for the 1st time. All was normal, but during a routine checkup, no heart beat was found. I was sad the entire day before and in tears, but didn't know why. We had a family/friends baby shower 300 miles away that weekend before the appt, so I thought it was just coming off the stress of traveling, etc. Our Grace was only 29 weeks along and she died listening to my heartbeat. I felt sad, guilty, mad at God...the works. We both where. She had got tangled up in the umbilical cord and after birthing her we got a chance to hold her and show her off to family. Perfect in every way. Who plans a funeral in a birthing ward? I was sad that I got to go into the hospital and not leave with a baby. The nurses were wonderful and our hospital even put together a box of mementos for us. I get it out on her would have been birthday to think back. We also do a balloon release for all our "angel babies" as we have others since our Grace. She was cremated, we are Catholic and Lutheran. We chose not to have a grave service as it was just too much for mostly me to be without her, so I know this sounds possibly not really religious and maybe a bit morbid, but she (her ashes) are up in our daughters (21 month old) nursery on a special shelf. I find comfort in her being with us in our home for now and for her having a space in a nursery that she would never be in. Like I said, we have had other losses…six total including Grace. We tested the babies at the Univ Hospital near us...we tested me. Grace was only a tragic accident due to the cord, but all the others were due to a rare genetic issue I have with when I am pregnant, I produce blood clots only in my placenta which blocks blood to get to the babies. All the losses, we mourned them, but we still had Hope and worked back with loving and trusting our God to get us through this. We also wanted to be parents.

  19. Continued from previous comment...

    Happily, we were pregnant with our little SB. She entered the world early...at only 27 weeks. Weighing 1 lb 12 oz and only 13 inches long. She came out perfect, just tiny. Not needing help with breathing, on room air. After 10 weeks in the hospital and getting her up to 5 lbs, we welcomed her home. No ill effects and I am convinced that God gave her to me 13 weeks early so that I can spend more time with her that I missed out on those other babies. I also know the joys and being a club that you never really wanted to be a part of. I have been thinking a lot about what my life would have been like with all those babies and truth told, we probably wouldn't have continued to have been blessed with SB, so for that I am profoundly grateful for all that I lost to get all that I have gained.
    One special gift I truly cherish was Grace's fingerprint on a necklace from my husband. They took her fingerprint (it’s actually her left thumb) and gave it to him to send it off to a jeweler to laser cut it into an oval shape and has the cuts of the lines in her thumb print and had it engraved on the back. Early on when I would have sworn it all a bad dream, I knew that I had something tangible to hold on to (literally) to know that my lovely daughter did grace us with her presence even if it was only her vessel as he soul was already in Heaven. We also had friends and family show up...without asking. It is an awful club to be a part of, but it has made me a better person (and Mom) as I cherish the details and daily blessings even more.
    Thanks again…I wish you continued blessings on your family.
    Warm regards,

  20. I am not sure what led me to your site on this particular day...and to this page...but my little boys would be 4 years old today. I lost twin boys after a tragic uterine rupture almost loosing my own life. They were our only children. My husband and I met and married later in life. I had given up on having children--a lifelong dream of mine. Then God gave us this amazing gift of twins. We were finally getting excited about their arrival and then this tragedy occurred leaving us forever chanded.

    Surviving this horrific experience seems/ed like a small consolation. I delivered them Holy Saturday and held them the first and only time on Easter Sunday. Each year as their birthday approaches and the holiday passes the pain comes back like it was yesterday. I miss them and the plans I had for them. My heart aches.

    Today I am mom of two angels in heaven, Timothy & Benjamin...and two darling little ladies here on earth Emily & Olivia. MY husband and I tried to conceive following our loss...with little success. My sister, who delivered her second daughter a month after we buried our boys...gave us the most amazing and unthinkable gift...she carried our babies until they were here safe in our arms.

    Thank you for your post, your honestly and your caring nature. I am so very sorry for your loss and the pain that you endure as a result. No one should have to experience this and as you said-its a club no one wants to be a member of.

    warmest regards,


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