The Clough Family
Kansas City, Missouri
Thursday, November 22, 2018
Grace joined our family 3 days ago! We created her with large hopes to help fill the empty void that the loss of a child leaves when a family is longing for their baby. Grace is such a small gesture, but as she enters your home we encourage others to enjoy her. Take photos with her, have her tag along to events and special occasions. Share with us through Grace anything and everything about your child. Healing through Grace is just one form of advocating for Pregnancy and Infant Loss and a way for you to carry on the memory of your baby.
Our Pregnancy and Infant Loss journey began with the death of our middle daughter, Emilia. She was born asleep on March 15, 2017, at 33 weeks gestation in Kansas City, MO. Her cause of death was contributed to an infarct in her umbilical cord. An infarct is a fancy word for a compression or kink. The infarct was likely caused by Funisitis, an inflammation of the connective tissue of the umbilical cord. The umbilical cord serves multiple purposes, but one of its most important functions is to deliver blood to and from the baby. When Emilia’s cord compressed, it cut off her blood flow and oxygen supply. Every day we miss and long for our daughter! Life will always feel incomplete without her. But since founding our nonprofit we have been able to take our pain and grief and channel it towards works of good. All of our love for Emilia is poured into Emilia’s Wings to help other families who are experiencing similar tragedies.
Grace’s stay in our home was kicked off by introducing her to our family: Emilia’s Daddy (Dan), her mommy (Charmel), her big sister (Adelaide), and her little sister (Roselyn). Don’t worry! We made sure to tell Grace all about Emilia too and all of the many differences she has left on our world. Grace even met our little Emilia Bear. Emilia Bear weighs 4 lbs, 3 oz, the exact weight of Emilia at the time of her birth/death. You can get your own personalized bear through Molly Bears. We were so excited to have Grace spend her very first Holiday with our family! Thanksgiving has become a very special time in our home. Each year on Thanksgiving Day we visit the hospital where all of our daughters were born. On campus, they have a peaceful Infant Loss Garden, where in the past, we were able to donate a statue and flower vase. Our family had fun decorating a miniature Christmas Tree that we placed in the Garden for the upcoming Winter Holidays. Afterward, we visited the maternity ward and delivered a dozen Angel Bonnets. Angel Bonnets is a service project we provide by donating crocheted hats and bonnets to stillborn babies. These Angel Bonnets are a replica of a little white bonnet that Emilia wore in the hospital at the time of her birth. Visit our Angel Bonnets project page to learn more.
As we ate our Thanksgiving meals around the dinner table, Grace and our Emilia Bear joined us–filling the empty chair where Emilia would and should be. At times, it can be hard to feel grateful during a season and Holiday completely centered around feeling thankful, appreciative, and blessed. I often feel robbed that Emilia died and I believe that there are no silver linings when it comes to death. Sure, there is a lot of good that you can create after experiencing something tragic, but no amount of good will ever justify Emilia’s death. I would trade it all to have her here with me or to take her place so she could live instead. I learned this giving season, that it is possible for grief and gratitude to sit at the same table. I am forever blessed that Emilia is still a part of my family’s life. I am grateful for the opportunity to be her mommy and to have her for a daughter. I am thankful to have Emilia’s Wings to pour my love and attention into and I hope that love overflows and makes a difference in other people’s lives too. Today, I choose not to focus on the fact that Emilia isn’t physically here with me, but rather that she is forever present in my heart. I would gladly choose to carry this pain with me forever than to not experience Emilia at all. Where there is grief, there is also love and the love that we hold in our hearts for Emilia is worth everything.
December 6, 2018
Tonight we celebrated our daughter at my local support group’s (KC Hope) candlelight remembrance ceremony. This meeting is always a little extra special than most, as it generally draws a larger crowd. While we see familiar faces that are still experiencing raw and fresh grief, we also meet families whose babies died many years ago. Tonight, we celebrated babies that died nine months to 40+ years ago. It’s not a club anyone would wish to be a part of, but it is comforting to know there is a safe place to gather with others who understand the lifetime of hurt that is left behind after the death of a child. Our candlelight ceremony was filled with heartwarming music and poetry. As we lit our candle, each family shared a few words about their baby. We said their names. We shared their ages. We were allowed the opportunity to share all the good and bad emotions that our hearts were currently experiencing. But most importantly, we were given a moment to remember our child in a safe and gentle space–during a time of season that doesn’t always feel very “merry” or “bright”. As the ceremony closed–we closed our eyes, whispered our child’s name, and blew out our candle’s flame. Grace was very excited to attend. It was her very first Infant Loss event, making it extra special for her and for our family.
December 24 – 25, 2018
Christmas Eve & Christmas Day
Christmas has always been my favorite Holiday and in the last two Christmas Seasons, I’ve been able to find subtle ways to incorporate Emilia into our winter traditions. On Christmas Eve our family donated another batch of Angel Bonnets to North Kansas City Hospital. While there, we visited the Infant Loss Garden and were so happy to see that our Christmas Tree was still standing! Last year high winds got a hold of our beautifully decorated tree and it was never found again. We learned our lesson and really anchored it down this year. At the end of the day, we attended our church’s Christmas Eve Service, complete with a candlelit ceremony. I absolutely love the carol, “Silent Night”. I don’t think there are many things in life more beautiful than seeing and hearing hundreds of people joining together in song over candlelight to give praise to the King of All Kings.
Both Grace and Emilia bear joined us at the dinner table again for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations. By morning, we had discovered that Santa had indeed visited our home. While all of us were sleeping, he left fun little goodies for each of us to enjoy. Anyone who knows me well knows that we include Emilia in all aspects of our life. Although she is not physically here, she is still a part of The Clough Family. I sign her name with the rest of our names in cards, I mention I have three daughters (not just two) in conversation, and we always have Emilia Bear in photographs of our family to help represent her. These are just a few examples. Christmas is no exception and we have reminders of her throughout our home to help us get through the season. We have Emilia ornaments hung on our tree, she gets a gift from our family, and she even has her own stocking that hangs on the mantle with the rest of our family. For some, this may seem weird or maybe a little over the top, but Emilia didn’t stop being our daughter the moment she died. I feel if I didn’t include her, then I would be leaving her behind. I do these little things in her memory as a testimony to her life. Plus, nothing brings me more joy than being able to see and hear her name everywhere I go. Santa brought a very special letter this year for our family and placed it in Emilia’s stocking along with her hospital bunny. You can view Santa’s letter here.
Christmas time can be so hard for families who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Years can pass, and the pain during this time of season may still linger. My hopes are that families are able to find even the smallest form of joy throughout the season. Christmas throughout the years has certainly changed in my house and half of my heart will always continue to search for ways to fill the void that weighs down on me. I have to remind myself that even though Emilia isn’t here, she is still very much present in our lives. She is in the cold crisp air that winter brings, she is in the glimmering lights that shine brightly on our tree, she is in the gentle snowfall that falls to our feet. She is in the sweet-sweet sound of Christmas carols being sung so peacefully and she is in the laughter of her sisters on Christmas morning as they unwrap and play with their toys in awe and complete joy. This is how I manage to survive my holidays and how I am able to find my small form of joy. I hope you can find ways to bring joy to your heart too.