11. TRIGGERS | What triggers me most is cliches. “At least she’s in a better place now”, “Everything happens for a reason”, “You can always have another baby”, “God has a plan”, “At least you have your other children”, “It could be worst, I know this person who…” The list goes on… I feel like these are all just lazy attempts to provide support without actually putting a lot of effort into comforting. We’ve all heard them before, so I think they are quick go to when we don’t really know what to say, but want to make it look like we have something really reassuring to share.
I think the first thing we need to ask ourselves when we try to offer verbal support is how is this statement helping?
-As a bereaved parent, I know Emilia isn’t hurting since she has died. I’m the one hurting, but knowing she is in a better place, doesn’t help my pain.
-Everything does not happen for a reason and I don’t believe God’s plan included picking my daughter over yours to die. God is not malicious and the only malicious thing about any of this is that you would suggest there was a good reason or purpose for why a baby had to die. Crappy things in life happen for no damn good reason each and every day. Unexplained death is sadly one of them.
-So often we compare people’s griefs. We like to label their situations and offer that as a point of reference for how someone’s crappy circumstance was made less crappy than another’s. You telling me it could have been worse, doesn’t and will not make me all of a sudden feel lifted from my grief. Stop comparing grief! Let me grieve my loss without my grief being unvalidated.
-It always saddened me when people would make a point to let me know that at least I had Adelaide. Don’t get me wrong I am grateful for Adelaide, but she was no replacement for the loss of Emilia. Just as Roselyn did not replace Emilia after she was born. If you have children, I want you to stop and imagine life without one of them. Would having other children lessen the pain of your child’s loss? Does the prospect of having another child in the future erase the pain of your child’s loss? No! When looking at it from this perspective, I think we can all agree at how absurd these cliches are.
Stop and ask yourself how are my words helping? If you are offering a cliche, more times than none it will likely just add to the grief than actually providing support. Try to search for another sentiment. “I am so sorry” is always a great condolence when used sincerely. Remember, you don’t have to get philosophical when offering consolation. Sometimes the most uplifting moments come from shared comforts that are short and simple.
12. ARTICLE | In the past recent months I stumbled upon a woman who shares a very similar journey to that of my own. She created a Facebook page called “Mama to Maisie Martha”. This page is solely devoted to honoring her stillborn daughter, Maisie, and advocating for other Pregnancy and Infant Loss families.
One day, Maisie’s mama posted the following message: “Sometimes I just want to go back.” To paraphrase, she was expressing how she wished she could go back to the days and weeks following. She wanted to be pregnant again or be back in the hospital where she was present with Maisie. But mostly what she was referring to was the aching need of wanting to be back to the grief that immediately followed. She wanted to feel the shocking, raw, emotional, really sucky stage of grief again. She wanted to be right back where the grief was the worse.
Why did this post resonate with me? I’ve expressed this same sentiment with my husband, with my family, with other members of my PAIL support group and NONE of them understood me. This was the first time I had ever found someone who shared the same, weird connection to my own grief. Why would I want to be back in the midst of the very worse parts of my grief? I’m not sure I myself really knew the answer. I definitely understand where it sounds incredibly strange and weird. Maisie’s mama put it much more eloquently than I have ever been able to vocalize before. She said that she wanted to go back to the worse stage of grief, because she wanted to feel the intensity of what came after the death of her child. Not because it was great – obviously that’s far from the truth. But because she wanted to feel that intense strength of pain again.
Grief is obviously painful. I think that is easy for all of us to see. But there is also beauty within it. Grief, in an odd way, is my tether to Emilia. When I feel deeply, regardless if it is good or negative intensity, I feel closer to Emilia. I feel her presence. I want to go back to the days where the pain was so real and so raw, I could almost reach out and touch Emilia. To hold onto the pain is to hold Emilia close.
13. BOOK | My favorite book about grief and Pregnancy and Infant Loss is “I Will Carry You” by Angie Smith. In 2008, Angie Smith and her husband Todd learned through ultrasound that their fourth daughter, Audrey Caroline, had conditions making her “incompatible with life.” I Will Carry You tells the powerful story of a parent losing her child, interwoven with the biblical story of Lazarus to help those who mourn to still have hope–to find grace and peace in the sacred dance of grief and joy.
If you read and enjoy the book, Angie’s husband’s band (Selah) created a song also entitled “I Will Carry You” that is also very special and meaningful!
14. FAMILY | This is my family… The Cloughs! My husband and I met shorty after graduating high school. We grew up on opposite sides of the state, but a little luck and fate brought us together. After 2-1/2 years of dating we were married on May 27, 2012. Within weeks, we moved away from our home state of Nebraska and settled down in Kansas City, Missouri. A year later, on July 22, 2013 our oldest daughter, Adelaide (8 years old), was born. 3.5 years later I gave birth to, Emilia (4.5 years old), on March 15, 2017. Emilia died at 33 weeks gestation due to an infarct in her umbilical cord. 1-1/2 years later on August 3, 2018, I gave birth to our third daughter, Roselyn (3 years old). When Roselyn was two we began trying for Baby #4. After a year of no luck, we decided to mend our hearts with a puppy, because let’s be real… puppies fix everything! It is as if all it took was adding one furry child to our lives to help kick my reproductive system into business! Within a month of having our Golden Retriever puppy, Theo, we found out we were pregnant! Sadly, I miscarried Baby #4 at 7 weeks gestation. Almost six months would past till we would again learn that I was pregnant. Today, I am 18 weeks pregnant and we anticipate the delivery of a healthy baby in late February of 2022!
15. WAVE OF LIGHT | Tonight, at 7:00pm CDT in Kansas City, Missouri on October 15, 2021, I light a candle in memory of Emilia Madeleine Rose Clough born asleep on March 15, 2017 AND in memory of Baby Clough – February 25, 2021. Love and prayers to all the families around the globe who celebrated today’s holiday, remembering the babies who have died and left behind footprints on our hearts!
16. SEASONS | Late winter, early spring is a special time of year for me. It hasn’t always been this way, but now I always looking forward to March – the month that Emilia was born. The day when Emilia had most likely died and also the day that we learned of her death were both really chilly days. It was mid-March and both days it was trying to snow in Kansas City. The days following Emilia’s death were in comparison so warm and bright. You could tell that the seasons were changing and that Spring had suddenly arrived. It is such an odd time of year when you are experiencing two polar opposite types of weather all in such a short span of time. Mother nature had flowers blooming, yet snow was still on the ground. March is my holy month. A month made special because of Emilia. I know many loss parents loathe their children’s birthday and/or birthday months, but I look forward to March every year. Her birthday is meaningful to me and will always have a special place in my heart!
17. TIME | March 15, 2017 – Emilia was born 4 years, 6 months, and 2 days ago! Sometimes it feels like centuries ago, while other days it feels like just yesterday. 1,677 days separate me from my child. I wish I could turn back time! If the world only knew how much I miss my Emilia! I Just want to hold her one more time! The world will never know the gentle soul we lost in quite the same way that I knew her. I wish everyone could see Emilia the way I did.
18. RELEASE | I wish I could let go of the fear. A question grieving people are often asked is “How are you?” This is a really tricky question for me. I’ll admit, my answer directly after my loss or even a lot of times now are not always truthful. I have learned through experience that when people ask “How are you?”, they generally aren’t expecting a response other than a variation of “I’m good” or “doing well.” When I get down to the nitty gritty and allow people to know how I’m really feeling, I get the impression that I’ve responded with an answer that they actually didn’t really care to hear.
The truth is, a lot of times when people say they are fine, they are covering up what could be a thousand of other different emotions that they know are not the response you’re expecting or wanting to hear. “I’m fine” is code for … I’m broken. Useless. Alone. Clueless. Confused. Betrayed. Fragile. On the verge of tears… the list goes on. It’s a lot easier to say “I’m fine” or “I’m good” or “I’m doing well” than it is to admit when you are feeling crushed and defeated, like your life is falling apart.
What do I want to let go of on this journey of grief? I want to be able to freely release these feelings. Right now I am on a journey with Pregnancy After Loss. I am feeling so many emotions and I am admittedly having a hard time juggling all of them. I wish I could release my emotions… tell someone when they ask “How are you?” that I am NOT doing fine. Tell them that I am continuously feeling anxious, that I am scared, that I am feeling defeated and then know that when I open up to others that it will be safe and well received. I wish I were released from knowing too much. I wish I didn’t know that babies die. I wish I could make it through this pregnancy without fearing that this baby is going to die too. That is what I need released from today… and tomorrow… and each day that follows until this baby is born.
19. SUPPORT | My greatest support has been attending a support group specifically geared toward Pregnancy and Infant Loss. There is something to be said about surrounding yourself around other people who have been in similar situations as you. It can be very isolating when you know no one other than yourself who has lost a child. Being able to talk to other women who have lost children who specifically died before or right after birth is comforting. I am given a space where I can freely talk about Emilia without feeling judged or without feeling like I am making someone else feel uncomfortable. Other loss parents get it and it is nice being able to hear them tell their stories too. Something that helped me greatly in the first several months after my loss was meeting other moms who were years out from their loss and seeing how they survived their grief. Watching how well they balanced the grief and everyday life and knowing that one day I would reach that point too. I think when you are in a tough situation, where grief is overwhelming, all you need is one other person who is wiling to jump in the trenches with you and share your burden so you feel less vulnerable. If you live in the Kansas City metro and would like to attend a support group for Pregnant and Infant Loss, I highly recommend Hope Ministries.
20. HOPE | Good news… there is Hope! Right after loss and even a long ways out from your loss, it will feel like all hope is forever gone. Life will feel destroyed. I will tell you now… you will never be the same. I am not the same Charmel Clough that I was before Emilia died and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While yes, my life will never be fully erased from the pain, my heart has also grown twice its size and maybe even a little more because of Emilia. It’s learned how to carry heavy grief, pain, guilt, joy, but most of all love. I have learned how to love whole-heartedly in a way that I never knew possible. I have learned that light can be found in darkness… that joy can be achieved within grief. I have seen a quote multiple times now that says “Beautiful people don’t just happen – their hearts break and they find a way to put the pieces back together in a prettier pattern.” It took me a long time to understand this, but it is so true! There is so much beauty within our imperfections and within our brokenness whether we realize it or not. One day you will look at your roughed and flawed edges and instead of feeling defective, you’ll see grace and beauty. One day you will look at your grief and realize that it was never your enemy, but something that you’ll forever hold close as you always hold close the love that you have for your baby. Your story never made you broken. You did nothing wrong. You are strong, you are brave, and there is hope!
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