Happy New Year…or Not

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Here we are on the last day of 2016 and most people around the world are preparing for New Year celebrations. Some will be at church, some will be toasting champagne, some may be spending a fun evening at home with family or friends and others may be sleeping peacefully as the new year rolls right in. Some will be at lively places like New York City or Las Vegas, while others will be at local celebrations where there will be fireworks and concerts. Some may even be participating in the annual tradition of “watching the ball drop” on television. For what most consider a time of excitement and saying goodbye to the old and hello to the new, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s day for bereaved parents can be extremely difficult. 

My personal experience is this….last year (during the first few months after our son passed away), people had prepared me for “the holidays.” No one said too much to me about Halloween. After all, my husband and I don’t usually do too much for Halloween anyway and as a way to soothe any type of sad feelings that may have crept in on October 31, he and I spent time with our young nieces and passed out candy and greeted all of the little Trick-or-Treaters. People told me that I may not feel as grateful around Thanksgiving while others would probably be very reflective and thankful due to their many blessings. I took a mental note and completely understood and I thoroughly enjoyed being with our families around the dinner tables. People made it clear to me that Christmas may be hard and that as December 25 approached that I may not feel up to decorating or buying gifts for anyone. Again, I secretly remembered that theory and was mentally and emotionally prepared to deal with Christmas coming–but I also had four months to work through all of my emotions since stores and people start preparing for Christmas in September. I ended up loving Christmas, as I did every year, and although the first time I heard a Christmas song, I got teary eyed and had to turn the music off, as the days went by and as Christmas came, I was OK. I enjoyed being on the giving and receiving end of gift giving. But then New Year’s Eve came. And that’s where I lost it. 

No one prepared me for the New Year. No one. So, as our family and friends gathered to celebrate the end of 2015 and the grand entrance of 2016, a jovial spirit of happiness filled the atmosphere. I was good. I was happy too, like I was at every previous New Year’s Eve celebration that I’d ever gone through. And then at 11:58 pm on December 31, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t leave 2015 because my baby was born in 2015. And if I left 2015 behind, I would proverbially be leaving my baby, the experience of having him, his 10 days of life and everything that we had experienced with our pregnancy behind. I needed time to stop. I needed everything to come to a freezing halt. People were on the TV getting excited in anticipation of midnight approaching. Our family and friends were cheering and were looking forward to the clock striking 12. People were starting to kiss their loved ones. The television host started the countdown and simultaneously, I had a million thoughts racing through my head as I sat in shock on our loved one’s couch. Everyone around me was counting down too. 10, 9, 8….please, God, please let time stop. 7, 6, 5….Lord, I’m not ready for this. 4,3,2….Oh my God, the New Year is coming. 1….I started sobbing uncontrollably, and hot tears started falling down my face, faster and faster because no matter how hard I tried, they would not stop. Everyone around me was screaming Happy New Year and the people on the television started singing Old Lang Syne, while I was weeping. Everyone else seemed to be excited to leave 2015 behind….but I was not. 

2015 was a defining year for me. It was the year that I became a mother and it was also the year that I lost my child. It was the year that I was full of hope and faith for this little person who would be coming into my, my husband’s and my family’s world and it was the year that that same joy faded as my baby took his last breath’s in my arms. So while everyone else was shouting Happy New Year, I found myself on the floor of a bathroom crying loudly and inconsolably. No one prepared me for the New Year. And why would they? I don’t think anyone thinks about the New Year possibly being a time of sadness. 

Finally after about 30 minutes of wailing, my husband and my two young nieces were able to help me regain my composure. They all gave me hugs and told me that it would be OK. Even if it didn’t feel like I would be, I knew that I eventually I would be OK. Afterall, I had made it 30 minutes into the new year and there would be many more minutes, and days and weeks coming. And since I had already made it those first 30 minutes, I could keep on going. The rest of the night for me was…blah. I was there, I was present but my heart ached because I had gone into a new year and my baby hadn’t. 

I write all of this to say to any bereaved parent, that it is normal to not feel overly excited about the New Year. It is also OK to reflect on your experience and to let others who you trust with your feelings know that you’re having a tough time with all of this “out with the old and in with the new” stuff. In fact, if you know other bereaved parents, I’d recommend sharing your sentiments with them because they’ll be able to understand you better than anyone. 

And on another note-it is even normal if you do feel overly excited about the New Year that is ahead. This past year was probably very difficult for you and there is nothing wrong with being ready to see it end. You have a right to be filled with great anticipation and expectation of what is to come. I am believing with you that your best days are ahead of you. 

No matter how you are feeling, I want you to know that you are loved and are thought about on today and many other days. The New Year is coming, and even if your experience happened in one year, it doesn’t mean that you can’t hold on to the love for your child, the memories you created and the love that you shared for a lifetime. A calendar day changing will never be able to take that from you….not on New Year’s Day or any other day. That kind of love becomes a part of you for forever.

I’m wishing you a peaceful, joyous, blessed and Happy New Year. 

With love,
Danielle 

Happy Birthday, ABN!!!

Today, the Angel Baby Network officially turns one year old and we couldn’t be more proud! Over the last year, we’ve reached 30 babies’ parents and have been able to give them love, hope and support. Over the next year, we plan to at least double the number of families that we reach. We also plan to expand the services that we offer! Cheers to you, Angel Baby Network (ABN)! You can watch the short video below, which recaps some of what we’ve done this year!

#GivingTuesday for Angel Baby Network

According to givingtuesday.org, #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. It is celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy with events throughout the year and a growing catalog of resources. To learn more about #givingTuesday, click here: https://www.givingtuesday.org/about.

This year I’m asking people to consider donating to the  Angel Baby Network for #givingTuesday. NO AMOUNT IS TOO SMALL! Over the last 11 months, we’ve provided support for families who have endured the devastating effects of infant and child loss. Over the course of only 5 meetings, we have directly helped 30 babies’ parents. People come to our gatherings sad and they leave with hope because of the different programming we provide and because of the sense of community that we cultivate.

Anyone who knows me knows that I hate asking for money–but I’ve also learned that pride gets in the way of progress–so–here is what we need money for and what we use money for:

-our most important need is $1,750 to file our official 501(c)3 designation paperwork. This will allow us to have tax exempt status for the IRS. This also means when people donate to us they will be able to write it off on their taxes.

-our goal as a group is to start providing “parent packs” that will consist of a grocery store gift card, a gas gift card and a monetary gift card as well as other resourceful information for parents immediately following the death of their child. Why? Because most bereaved parents have enough to think about-including their medical bills and their child’s medical bills-after their child has died. It is nice to not have to think about gas and groceries after your child has died. Trust me-I know. Over the last two months, we have become aware of at least five different families who could have used these types of resources but we didn’t have the finances to provide these items to them.

-at all of our meetings we provide food for our families. Why? Because let’s face it-food makes people come to events and people are happy when they eat

-at some of our meetings we participate in nation-wide or international activities of remembrance where we honor our children through different activities. *For example, in August, we participated in an international flag day and right now, we are participating in a national ornament exchange with other families who have lost children. Why? Because child loss can be isolating and our families need to know that we are not alone.

-at some of our meetings we have medical professionals such as counselors, psychologists, medical doctors and community workers come in and talk to our group. None of them have ever asked for anything but it would be nice to provide them with a small token of appreciation. Why? Because after you lose a child, you can feel like you are losing your mind and medical and community resources are helpful for a person’s emotional and psychological well-being.

-throughout the year, we would like to host at least one to two events where our families don’t have to worry about the price of admission. For example, every year in June we will be hosting our butterfly release. Why? Because it would be nice if the families didn’t have to worry about the costs associated with joining other families who are like them to help them honor their children.

If you’d like to donate to us, please go to this link: https://angelbabynetwork.org/donate/

Thanks for your time and consideration!

-Written by: Danielle Jones

 

How to Help the Faint at Heart During the Holidays

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Today is Thanksgiving and while many are sharing in traditions of family and friendly gatherings, there are so many others who don’t feel like being “thankful.” For many, today and this entire season brings feelings of uneasiness and sadness. For many, this season is extremely hard because they are experiencing the pain of having lost a loved one. For parents who have lost children, this can be especially true.

 

It’s important to remember bereaved families  at this time of year to let them know that their grief isn’t unusual and that they are supported as they walk through what may be a difficult season for them.

Here are a few ways for bereaved parents to “make it” through Thanksgiving: 
1.) Be honest with your family and friends about how you’re feeling. Explain that you may not feel like cooking or visiting with many family and friends on today.

2.) Be honest with yourself. It’s okay for you not to feel grateful or thankful. But at the same time–even as you grieve–you cannot deny the fact that you have a lot to be thankful for. Reflect on those things. By the shear fact that you can read this blog post, you’re doing good. Think about all of the people in the world who don’t have electronics to be connected with others and all of the people who can’t read. 17 percent of the world is illiterate!

3.) Make an actual list of things that you are grateful for. One of the practices that I started after our son passed away, was that of keeping a gratitude journal. The very first item I wrote in the journal was “I don’t feel like being grateful but here it goes.” I started out with writing three things down every day that I was grateful for. But then I realized that I couldn’t limit it to three items so my list grew to ten things that I was grateful for every day. And on some days I realized that I couldn’t limit it to ten. The more I focused on what I did have–even though our son had passed away, the more I realized that I was one blessed young lady. I had family and I had friends. I had an umbrella for when it rained outside. And I had shoes to protect my feet when I left my house. I had a coat to wear when it was cold and I had food to eat. I had a television to watch and I had a Bible to remind me of God’s promises. I was breathing on my own-without the help of any device. I had the activity of my limbs. I had tissue to wipe my tears and I had clothes to wear. Try doing this for one week and then review what you’ve written down. You won’t be disappointed.

4.) Relax and do something you enjoy today. Maybe watch one of your favorite movies or if you have a streaming service, see if you can find one of your favorite television shows to binge watch. And if you dare, I challenge you to find one of your favorite cartoons or shows that you watched when you were a child :-).

Here are a few ways for loved ones of bereaved parents to help those parents:
1.) Don’t put pressure on them to do a whole lot–especially not during the first or second year after their child has passed away. They have been through a very stressful life event. If they choose to play a huge role in your family or friendly gathering, then let them but offer to help them out along the way.

2.) Ask them how they are doing during the holidays and let them know they can be honest with you. BUT–if they choose to share their thoughts, don’t try to minimize their pain. What they are feeling is real. Offer them a listening ear and a hug. And, if they say they are doing okay, don’t try to make them feel sad about their situation. The truth is that they may actually be doing okay. Everyone grieves differently. For some bereaved parents, the holidays give them something to look forward to.

3.) Buy them a gratitude journal and in a loving way, challenge them to do what I mentioned in number 3 above. In fact, you can do this with them. You’ll find out that you have a lot to be grateful for too.

4.) If they don’t feel like being around a lot of people today, take them some food and let them know they’re still loved and are being thought about.

On today, one of the things I’m grateful for is the awesome community of families who I’ve been able to connect with over the last 16 months since our son passed away. We may be hurting inside but we are some of the strongest people I know. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

By: Danielle Jones

A Closet Full of Clothes and Hearts Full of Love

As the days quickly approach her fist birthday, I find myself reflecting (more like reliving) this past year and wondering how I even made it. I still hear the nurse on the other end of the call, “We have the results of your Progenity test and they are completely normal. Do you want to know the gender?” Heck yes, I wanted to know the gender! I had been wondering since the day I found out I was pregnant if we were team pink or blue. With Father’s Day only days away I had the perfect plan to reveal to our family just what “it” was. As our two older children, 12 and 4, huddled around their father they made little chants rooting on which team they were on as he opened the little box with a simple onesie. It was hot PINK and read Happy Father’s Day. When I bought it, which was only hours after the phone call telling me our little girl was perfectly normal, it never occurred to me she would never actually wear that onesie. The following weeks I continued to fill the girls’ closet. Jillian, our oldest daughter, made room for her little sister, Emery Rose. Emery Rose had quite the wardrobe. I found outfits in animal prints, little sister attire and of course I didn’t forget the little ruffle booty pants. There were outfits I loved so much I knew I wanted her to wear them right away, but knowing she would grow out of them so quickly I bought them in newborn and a size bigger. I knew I needed practical outfits for daycare, dress up outfits for mommy/daughter days and of course “easy” button up outfits for middle of the night changing. This little girl had everything she needed and we knew we were set for at least a year of clothing. After all, I didn’t know how fast she would grow so I didn’t want to go overboard. Can you really go overboard with little girls in the house?

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Once we knew there was a chance Emery could come early I even started to pack a hospital bag. Of course, I couldn’t decide on what outfits to take so I had about 5 little outfits perfectly folded and placed in her baby bag. The night before I left for my first appointment at the Cincinnati Fetal Center I remember standing in the girls’ room looking at the bag. Should I take an outfit or not? I was only 28 weeks and I didn’t even consider the thought I wouldn’t return home until 5 weeks later. And I wouldn’t let it cross my mind that I would return home without her. What I couldn’t allow myself to think that day actually happened. Emery Rose was not going to be able to come home. The CPAM in her chest was just too big and caused too much damage. She hung on and fought as long as she could but we had to say goodbye. I stayed in the hospital 4 days after Emery was born and it was on one of those days the child life department at Cincinnati Children’s brought me some photos that had been taken. I looked at the photos and instantly thought, “Whose clothes are those?” Emery was perfectly and beautifully dressed in a white onesie outfit with gold hearts speckled thought out and a blue bow stitched on it. It was adorable but these were not her clothes. I had not picked this out for her and then it hit me. Why? Why had I not packed, at least, one outfit for her? Why did I not have my husband bring something, anything, on all those trips he made back and forth while I was almost 2 hours away fighting for me to stay pregnant just one more day.

When I finally returned home I avoided looking in the girls’ closet. Obviously, I had to enter the room as it was Jillian’s room too. It was a few weeks later and something came over me. I felt claustrophobic, suffocating in her belongings and wanted to clean out the girls’ room to give Jillian some space back. What no one ever prepares you for is the hurt and anguish that goes along with pulling out those same clothes you picked out, washed, folded and placed perfectly in a dresser knowing your child will never get to wear them. It was an ugly moment in our house. I sat sobbing uncontrollably in her room. Her clothes were scattered all around me and my husband was sitting behind me. There wasn’t anything he could do in that moment to console me, but he wasn’t leaving either. I spent time that day packing up just enough to give Jillian enough room and what I did pack up still remains in my closet. There are clothes of Emery’s that still hang in the girls’ closet, some even with tags on them. Jillian has taken it upon herself to get a couple outfits down for her Baby Alive. Jillian assured me her sister doesn’t mind. Jillian even asked a few months after her sister passed away if we had a box big enough to send to Jesus. She was concerned about what Emery was wearing in Heaven if all her clothes are still at home. I assured her she had a closet full of anything and everything she would ever need and that one day they could actually share that closet like they were supposed to.

-Written by: April, Emery’s mom

 

 

21 Ways to Help Parents Who Have Experienced Pregnancy and Infant Loss

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As I reflect on the fact that today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness/Remembrance Day I can’t help but to think about all of our family, friends and loved ones who have been so supportive of us through our experience. Pregnancy and infant loss truly is “an indescribable journey of survival.” While the world goes on, parents who have endured pregnancy and infant loss constantly think about what could have been and what should be in their lives.

Sometimes people want to help or offer an encouraging word for this specific group of parents but since they aren’t quite sure what to do or what to say, they go with the option of saying and doing nothing. And that isn’t always helpful either. So, if you have a loved one or a friend who has or who currently is walking through the journey of child loss, here are some very tangible things that you can do to be of support.

  1. Ask them how they’re doing.
  2. Say their child’s name.
  3. Call them or text them and let them know you’re thinking about them.
  4. Pray for them and pray with them.
  5. Give them a hug.
  6. Give them the freedom to talk about their experience.
  7. Give them the freedom to not want to talk about their experience.
  8. Don’t shun them for wanting to share their experience when someone asks them if they have children.
  9. Don’t expect them to act exactly like another family who has experienced loss. Everyone’s experience is different.
  10. Find something that they like doing and treat them to whatever that is.
  11. Offer to go with them to visit their child’s gravesite.
  12. Don’t mock them or make fun of them or their experience.
  13. Don’t ostracize them. Still invite them to family functions. Let them decide if they are going to come or not.
  14. Don’t tell them to: “just get over it.”
  15. Offer to do something with them to celebrate their child’s life or the anniversary of their death.
  16. Send them a note of encouragement or a card through the mail.
  17. Make dinner or dessert for them.
  18. Offer to babysit their living children so they can have a night out to themselves.
  19. Connect them with other families who you know have walked through pregnancy and infant loss.
  20. Offer to help them find a way to honor our child.
  21. Buy a small item with their child’s name on it, or something that was important to their child or meaningful to their experience and give it to them.

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Moving through the Hurt, During the Hurt, and Making a Difference

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September 27, 2016 Me testifying in front of the Ohio Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee

 

I can’t speak for anyone else but I think many other bereaved parents can identify with me when I say that right after our son passed away that I felt completely empty, hurt, angry, sad, confused, bewildered, terrified, numb, shocked, helpless, upset, pissed off, mad and a whole lot of other emotions. I felt hopeless….I was completely hopeless. The night our son died, the sky was peaceful, the weather was warm and I….was hopeless. 

Even while we were in the hospital we knew that we wanted our son’s life to have some great purpose. We knew that I would donate all of my breast milk to other babies in NICUs across the country. Since our son was born with congenital anomalies (birth defects) he couldn’t be an organ donor to another person so we decided that we would donate his organs to medical research. We consented for doctors, researchers and medical students to use his medical records to be used for additional research papers and journals. We set up a way for people to donate to the hospital in his honor. But I knew that God probably had more in store for us to do in terms of allowing our son’s purpose to really come alive.

Almost six months to the day that our was born I was invited to a meeting where funding was at stake to be given to a variety of organizations from all over the state of Ohio to help reduce infant mortality. The Director of Ohio’s medicaid program led the meeting and other government officials, CEOs of companies, community health workers, leaders of health departments and program directors were in the room. And of the 75 attendees, to my knowledge I was the only parent who had lost a child who had been invited to participate in the meeting-to give a parent’s perspective. While in the meeting, I brought up the need for parents and their needs to be considered as the legislators made their decisions about where to give the money. After the meeting people approached me and told me they appreciated my comments. That day was the day when I realized that I really could make a difference in the fight against infant mortality. 

Over the next several months, I got more involved in the work that Cradle Cincinnati is doing to reduce infant mortality. In May, a local government relations vice president invited me to the State House to learn more about the government advocacy program that medical students can go through during their residency and fellowship programs at Cincinnati Children’s. On that trip, I learned how much of an issue infant mortality was in the state of Ohio and I heard first hand that legislators in the state knew that something needed to be done about the problem. That day, I took a picture on the steps of the statehouse and vowed that I would be back to make a difference for my state. On that day, I wasn’t quite sure how that would happen but I knew that if I had anything to do with it-that I would be back to help influence change in any way possible.

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May 4, 2016-Me on the steps of the Ohio State House

 

 

In August, 13 months after our son passed away, my opportunity came. I’d learned that two senators–one a Republican and one a Democrat had decided to work together to create a bill that would help address several factors that can play a role in infant mortality. As a part of the bill being passed or rejected, people from the public could testify in support or opposition of it. The executive director of Cradle Cincinnati was planning on testifying in support of the bill in front of the Ohio Health and Human Services Committee and I asked if I could go too. I knew that executive directors talking about the bill could have some positive impact but I knew that a bereaved parent testifying on behalf of the bill would have an even bigger impact. 

On the day that we went to Columbus I wasn’t nervous–I was passionate about how other lives could be impacted by the passage of the bill. While infant mortality is a big issue across the state–it is an even bigger issue for African American families–with those families (like mine) experiencing infant mortality at a rate of 2.5 times higher than Caucasians. If the legislators ever wanted to hear from someone who knew what it felt like to lose a child, they were about to hear from me. 

After giving my testimony, you could hear a pin drop in the room, where there was standing room only. One senator had tears in her eyes and the others had a look of reflection on their face. In that moment, I didn’t feel hopeless. I felt like I was making a difference. I may have been a bereaved mommy but I was a strong one who knew that her, her husband’s and her son’s lives had been designed and purposed for that moment. The moment when other lives could be positively impacted. 

A couple of the senators asked me questions while one shared a friendly comment and told me “thank you.” I returned to my seat and touched my necklace with my son’s picture on it. We had done it. 

The next day I learned that the senate bill passed 29-1. That meant that it had made it through its first mark while on the trip to being passed into Ohio law. If and when all goes well and when the governor signs it into law, the bill (turned law) will call for improvements in how data will be collected and shared, proven interventions will be built upon and implemented, there will be health system improvements and social determinants of health (such as access to care and transportation and safe and affordable housing and jobs that provide stable income) will be addressed and fixed. 

Testifying in front of the senators has been one of the most tangible experiences that I’ve ever had where I felt like I was making a difference for so many people. I say ALL of this to say-that as a bereaved parent–never underestimate your ability or your power to impact change.

Maybe speaking out loud about your experience isn’t something that you’re comfortable doing. But writing an editorial for your local newspaper in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month (October) is something that you can do. Or maybe joining a local support group where you can get help from others and at the same time you can provide words of encouragement to other bereaved families can be your way of making a difference. Or maybe volunteering with an organization that helps other families who are dealing with infant mortality would give you hope. Or maybe, for today, you making a difference looks like you speaking your child’s name quietly to yourself or to a loved one. And by doing so, it’s your way of making sure that your child’s memory stays alive and your way of acknowledging that that perfect little person was your contribution to the world.

I know what feeling hopeless and helpless feels like. But if you can hold on and lean in to what you still have–your voice, your heart, your passion, the love for your child and so much more….you can make a difference.

Here’s a story about the bill that I testified in support of: http://ohiosenate.gov/jones/press/jones-announces-legislation-to-implement-recommendations-of-the-commission-on-infant-mortality 

 

Healing the Hurt Place

One evening I had my hand placed on my boy’s chest when an occupational therapist came into his hospital room. She said to me, “Do you want to know how to love your child?” Excited, I replied, “Yes!” My only concern for my son was that he didn’t suffer and that he felt loved while he was here on earth. The therapist led my hand to his right foot. She then cupped his foot gently and told me that he was always pricked and prodded in his right foot. It was the hurt place. So I replaced her hand and I gently cupped his right foot. She explained to me that my boy needed his foot caressed to know that every touch isn’t to cause pain.christopherjredited-51 Taking a lesson from that event made me think about how all of us treat each other. How many times do we touch each other’s hurt places, which end up causing pain? Many relationships could be mended if we touched each other’s hurt places in a soft way in an effort to give love. A lot of times if your hurt place is touched incorrectly you tend to  to touch and hurt other people’s hurt places-even when you don’t do it intentionally. My son taught me how to be gentle when it comes to people’s hurt places and how to show them love. 

-Written by: Chris Jones

Marriage and Child Loss

“For better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, until death do us part.” 

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There are days when I wonder why on earth I ever stood up in front of God and 300 witnesses that included our family and friends and said those words to my husband. Talk about a SMH moment….sheesh! And on top of all of those promises–I had the nerve to promise my husband that I would even follow him no matter what….even if he were going in the wrong direction. *Insert my raised eye brow and twisted lips here.* I mean, don’t get me wrong–my husband is a sweetheart and he’s worth being committed to but I don’t think I had any idea what I was promising on May 28, 2011. Some days I want to put all of those words back into my mouth, say, “Sorry–my bad” for ever saying them and return back to my life pre-marriage. 

But it doesn’t work that way.

My husband and I have been married for five years and three months. And in that time, we have lived through the first three vows that we agreed to and we aren’t rushing towards the until death do us part clause. 

In the last three years we have dealt with job loss, an MS diagnosis, a surgery, car accidents, having more than enough money in the bank-to having no money in the bank (like none), a fire occurring at the house we were supposed to move into, which resulted in a very traumatic move, our son dying and a slew of other “adventures.” (“Adventures” and “adventurous” are the words I choose to use instead of some other words that I could use to describe our tough times.)

Child loss is the type of adventure that can truly shake a marriage and sadly, in some cases, completely rip it apart. There are so many different emotions that the both of you are dealing with individually and then there are emotions that you are dealing with collectively. In the midst of our loss here are some things that Chris and I have done to help us stay married. They may not work for everyone but they’ve worked for us. I hope they encourage you as you go through the journey of child loss.

1.) Make the decision to stay together. In our son’s final minutes of life, with both of us crying very hard, my husband turned to me and said “No matter what-this will not tear us apart.” I, through tears, shook my head yes and agreed. We knew that our son’s death was the hardest thing we’d ever been through–and hopefully it would be the hardest thing we’d ever go through. But we made a decision on that day in room B7 of the NICU that we would not divorce because of that hardship. 

2.) Go to counseling. There is nothing wrong with going to counseling. In fact, in my opinion-everyone needs counseling. Keeping everything bottled up is good for no one. And not dealing with a situation is still a way of dealing with the situation. Choosing to not cope with a situation is a form of coping with a situation. And neither of those options are effective. Counselors can provide a different perspective. Plus, they get paid to lend a listening ear–so they tend to be really good listeners. And they can refer you to outside resources that can help you. 

3.) Be patient with one another. All of us have something about us that drives our spouse crazy. Marriage by itself and dealing with those issues is hard. But in the midst of tragedy, those issues seem to be magnified even more. Tensions tend run high and patience runs low. Chris and I committed to being patient with each other. Sometimes we get it right and a lot of times we get it wrong. But–at least we try. Patience with each other will go a long way as you walk through the loss of your child together.

4.) Remember that you two are the only two who will forever be completely and totally tied to your child. Your child may have passed away but the two of you are still here. When you see your spouse and when you touch your spouse, view it as seeing and touching a part of your child. This perspective may cause you to love your spouse a little bit more because if you love your child, chances are you love the other person who helped you create the child. 

5.) Understand that just because your spouse grieves differently that you, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t grieving at all. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Each person does what they need to do to comfort themselves and to let their feelings out. I’m more social than Chris and for me, spending time with friends and expressing myself on social media have been a part of my grieving process. Chris is more introspective and for him, talking to me about how life would be different if our son were here has helped him. 

6.) Be honest with each other. Tell each other when you’re having a tough time. Tell each other when your days are hard. Tell each other when you need to be left alone. Tell each other when you feel like screaming. Tell each other when you feel like you’re losing hope. 

7.) Talk about your child to each other. You may get sad when doing it-but you may also find that it helps you.

One of the core pieces of marriage is the commitment to unity. You are on this “life journey” together.  There will be high highs and low lows. And losing a child is one of the lowest of lows. But if you hold on to one another and promise to stick through every experience together, you will make it. 

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Written by: Danielle Jones