For the last ten days Raun and I have been on vacation.  What an amazing trip we had!  We spent two weekends in Rhinelander, WI with my folks, sister in law, niece, & nephew.  And we spent five days in Door County, WI with Raun’s folks.  It was a great time filled with relaxing, shopping, family, eating good food, camping, sitting by the fire, chilling by the lake, hiking, and exploring.  By the end of the week our cameras was filled with photos and videos.

It was the first time when I was nearly unplugged for ten days.  Very limited access to the internet, which meant that the things I usually spend time on the computer doing I wasn’t really able to do.  A few times in the week I was able to do a quick email check and quick glance at facebook.  But it definately was not the daily checking in that I was used to.  It was a little odd feeling at first, but after a few days it wasn’t so bad.  I think it allowed me to really unwind and relax for the week.

I was long overdue for a time to unplug and unwind.  This vacation allowed me to do that, all the while still being able to do all the things I enjoy doing.

 

What does your heart puzzle look like?  Mine is filled with Raun, Samantha, family, friends, the future, and myself.  What is a heart puzzle?  It is how your heart is divided up.  For those of us who are more visual, like me, think of your heart us a puzzle.  It is made up of different pieces of your life.  Over time those pieces change.  Just like any other puzzle, if a piece is missing it’s not complete.  Likewise, you can not move another piece to fill that spot.  Your heart is complete, whole, no holes.  You may change the number of pieces or what they represent, but no matter what it will still be complete.

Holes, voids call them what you want.  It is that inner feeling that you get when you loose someone close to you.  There is a spot that never feels quite the same.  Over time that void seems to fill back in, but never the same as it was before.  It is forever change, but it fills back in.  No matter what, there is still a part of you, a part of your heart that has been forever touched.

When you are expecting a child, an addition to your life, the pieces of your heart puzzle seem to gain another piece.  When you loose your child through miscarriage, infant loss, or stillbirth you still have that spot.  It is reserved for that special little one.  It is only for them and nothing will replace that spot.  When you grow your family, more pieces are added.  Your heart is complete, ever changing, your life.  The things you yearn for, hope for are what is in your future.  Over time, you will take those things from your future and they will become a spot all their own in your heart puzzle.

When Samantha went to heaven I felt a deep void, a hole if you will.  Over the past few months I have so desperately wanted to be pregnant and grow our family.  To have that void filled back in.  Having another child won’t fill that feeling of void back in.  It will add another piece to the puzzle.  What I realized recently is that in a way, that void has been filled back in.  In the center of it is Samantha and what her little tiny footprints have left behind.  It has been filled in by all that Samantha has taught me, the support that I have around me, and a new perspective on life.  As much as I wanted to have the chance to raise our little girl, I know she is in good hands.  I believe some day soon, I will have the chance to raise our children here on earth and some where in the future we will all meet again.

If you were to fill out your pieces, what would they look like?  Start with you in the middle, make sure there is a spot for future, then fill in the rest with what is most important and brings the most meaning in your life.  So, what is your heart puzzle?

 

Raun and I are coming up on a year since Samantha came into our lives. I have learned a fair number of things. One of those things I learned is the importance of support. No matter what life dishes out a person needs support. When you loose someone close to you due death, that support becomes even more important. When you loose a child, support becomes a necessity.

Nearly a year after, there are things I am finally doing to work through the grief. There are also things coming out because people feel that I am ready to hear it. I found out recently that some of the support I thought was there really isn’t truly there. I also found out that people were being told one thing about our loss and we were led to believe something else.

On the flip side we have been blessed with having a very supportive family.  They all seem to have an understanding of what we are going through.  Some because of their own life experiences and other’s because she is a part of our family.  I also have a few friends who are there to turn to when ever I need to.  I am also blessed to have Raun.  He is truly a wonderful husband.  He helps to provide encouragement, strength, comfort, and different perspectives.

You need to have a variety of support as well.  My husband has been great and is great, however it wouldn’t be fair to only rely on him for support.  He to is grieving as well.  Each of us grieves differently, so what each of us needs may or may not be the same.  We all face the different stages of grief, but in our own time and in our own way.

I encourage you to find support from some one who has been down this path before.  For me, I have two people.  I have my mother and a friend from work.  Though it was many years ago, both have walked this path and they understand.  It gives me hope to see, that despite the loss, they were still able to grow their families.

I want to let you know that it is okay to seek out resources and groups that focus on this type of loss. You need to do what helps you. You may choose to seek outside help in a group setting or in a one on one setting. It will take some strength and courage to make this step, but once you do you will begin to feel a sense of relief.

I was able to find a group and I was also able to come up with a million and one reasons I couldn’t make the meeting.  I wasn’t ready.  My outlet had been this blog and a few groups on facebook.  The thought of sharing face to face scared me.  In October I was ready and went to my first meeting.  I won’t lie, it was tough.  When that first meeting was over I began to feel a little bit better.  With each time I go I get more of a voice, share more of my thoughts, and I am surrounded by people who understand.  I feel normal.

I have also found creative outlets. It is through these outlets that I have strengthened relationships and built new ones. I have been journaling/blogging since this all happened. I recently went through an Illuminate course where it combined journaling and photography. I have had a passion for photography for years, but taking this course gave me the opportunity to really combine two things I enjoy, as well as share a different perspective on the loss of a child. There are many opportunities out there to use creative talents. If there is something you enjoy doing I encourage you to continue and use it to help in the healing process. If there isn’t something that you do creatively, now could be just the right time to try something.

Over time, what you need for support will change. Whatever way you decide to go, I encourage you to continue to surround yourself with the people and things that truly bring you support.

 

What will you do?

The holidays are filled with traditions.  There are family traditions that we have been doing for years, decades even and as our family grows, so do our traditions.  Sometimes over the years we change, adapt, or keep the traditions.  With the loss of a little one, you begin to wonder what you will do.  Are you keeping the holiday traditions you have?  Are you going to change them?  Are you going to add to them?  Or, maybe even a combination of them all?  Then there is decorating the house for the season.  This time of year seems to be the time of year people go all out when decorating.  Are you going to decorate things the same way?  Who will do the decorating?  Will you still put the tree up, and if so who will put it up?  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  If you are usually the one who does this and the tasks seem overwhelming you can ask for help.  Between the shopping, wrapping, and cards it’s no wonder that most people get caught up in the hustle and bustle.  When you add grieving to this list, those items can become too much to tackle on your own.  We are all going through this process differently.  I have talked to people who choose to go away to a destination or remain at home doing their own quiet thing.  While yet others want to be surrounded by family.  The choice is yours and you need to do what fits you and your spouse best.  Holiday cards can be another tough decision.  If you decide to send out cards, do you sign your little one’s name?  Do you include a special remembrance?  Do you include them in your family letter?  This too, is something you need to talk with your spouse about and make the decision based on what your heart tells you.

                We plan to follow the flow and traditions of years passed.  The tree will go up, once we decide where to put it and will be decorated with all our special ornaments.  I will decorate the house for Christmas and winter.  This is by far my most favorite time of year to decorate and I go all out.  I know Samantha won’t be here to take part in it, but if the house wasn’t decorated I feel like it would be emptier.  I married into a family who writes letters for Christmas, so every year we have written a letter talking about the year, as well as what might be in store for the new year.  This year will be no different, we will write a letter, but it will have a few additions.  We included a little paragraph about Samantha and in honor of her we included a little dragonfly, as well as a poem that I wrote.

So, what will you do?  What is your plan?  Share below your thoughts, tips, or ideas.

 

Who are you going to be with?

The holidays bring about a time of year where you will be surrounded by people.  For some people this will be okay, for others not so much, and yet others will have many mixed emotions or feelings about this.  So what do you do?  Take a moment to think about the people you will be around, whether for an extended time period or just a couple of hours.  If there is anyone who doesn’t support you in your grief and healing process, then you may want to consider how you will spend your holiday time with them.  Do you do what you normally would with them or do you change things up?  This could be anything from changing the venue in which you get together or even changing the lenght of time you meet.  Celebrating a holiday, especially the first one, without your little one can be tough to go through.  Be sure to surround yourself with those who truly do support you and the process you are going through.  Even if you are unable to get together with some of them during the holiday time, make sure to have a way to be in contact with them if possible.  Each person, each couple will go through this differently and a level that they can handle.  So, take the time to talk with your spouse and loved ones to keep them informed on what you are feeling and what you need.   A piece of advice I heard from someone was to have a backdoor plan.  Basically, an exit plans if things get to be too overwhelming.  Create a code word with your spouse that either one of you can say if you find it necessary, then you can make your exit.

 Fortunately, our family and friends are very supportive through all of this.  We also are rather open and honest about it all too.  So, we will be spending our time with family and friends.  If it comes down to it and I need some space I can easily go for a walk, or if I need to talk there will be someone nearby that I trust that I can talk to.

So, who are you going to be with?  What is your plan?  Share below your thoughts, tips, or ideas.

 

Where will you be?

For a lot of people the holidays means a time for travel.  For some, it could be across town and for others it is across the country.  Whether by road or by air, most of us usually end up traveling some distance to be with family.  Traveling can be exciting, but even though your trunk may be full of gifts you may feel that your arms are still empty.  The thought of this may cause a debate with yourself, your spouse, and your family.  Do we travel this year or do we choose to stay home?  Along with this thought is, do you or will you accept the usual holiday invitations?  What about new holiday invitations?  I have heard it both ways.  Do you choose to skip the usual invitations, but go to the new ones where most people there don’t know your story?  For a moment, you can live the way you did before your loss.  Or do you skip the new ones because people won’t understand what you’re feeling and do the usual ones because you would be with people who know and understand.  Something else to think about…will you be including different activities at home for just your family?

We will continue to do what we always do for Christmas.  We head to WI for an extended weekend to spend time with both of our families.  Fortunately, both of our sets of parents live about six blocks from each other, so it makes it easier to see all our family.  As far as invitations go during the holiday season, we don’t get many, which we are fine with.  We get the usual work holiday parties, which most likely we will go to.  Seeing as it is just my husband, two cats, and me at home, our family activities will remain the same.  I will decorate the house, we will decorate the tree, but we are planning to add in a few new decorations this year, and there will be some holiday baking.

So, where will be?  What is your plan?  Share below your thoughts, tips, or ideas.

 

Raun and I have faced many holidays since we lost Samantha.  She died in January so we have faced Easter, Mother’s day, Father’s day, and Thanksgiving so far this year, and soon we will be able to add Christmas to the list.  The first year of holidays is tough.  I have run the gamut of emotions.  I am happy to be with family and celebrate, but saddened because Samantha was not there to be a part of it.

Thinking back to when our due date was, she would not have been born yet for Easter, Mother’s day, and Father’s day.  We would have still been pregnant at the time had there been no complications with the pregnancy.  Either way, because of when she was born, January, we faced those holidays without our daughter here on earth.

Fortunately, we have been blessed with a very supportive family and strong group of friends.  With them, it has been easier to get through the holidays.  Instead of moving through them in a blur, I have been able to be present and to find some joy throughout them.  On each of those holidays, our family has honored and remembered Samantha in some way.  Even though she is not here on earth, she is still a part of our family and our family holds her closely in their hearts.  They show it through their words, prayers, and cards.

I know this may not be the case for others out there who have lost their little one(s) through miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss.  I have heard stories of people’s relationships becoming strained with their family members, in-laws, or even their spouse after the loss of their child.  Sometimes, even friendships are broken because of the loss.  My heart aches for those who have lost this supportive circle.  Most of the time it is because people just don’t know what to do or say, so it becomes easier for them to ignore what happened.

Holidays can bring the best or the worst out in people, no matter what their life situations are currently.  The holidays bring a different disposition to most people.  For those who have experienced the loss of a child, this time of year becomes tough in a whole different way.  They are celebrating a holiday, but they aren’t able to have their little one with them physically to celebrate it too.  This creates a tension.

So, I want to help give you the tools to create a plan in hopes that you will find your burden a little less and that you can  find happiness and beauty in what is in front of you.  I will provide some things for you to think about and help set steps towards a holiday plan.  Your answers and feelings may differ than your spouse’s, so be sure to sit down and talk through these things together.  I will also share with you what my husband and I will be doing.

Raun and I are truly excited for the holiday season.  Yes, we will miss Samantha and will feel saddened that she won’t be here physically to celebrate with us.  But, we do know that she will still be celebrating with us in spirit.

I send you extra thoughts, prayers, and hugs during this holiday season.  I wish many blessings for you and strength.  I hope you may find some beauty and joy in the season.  Your little angel will be near in spirit, holding your hand and guiding you through.  Lastly, I pray for peace for you.

 

My week 3 assignment for my Illuminate course consists of two mini assignments rolled into one.  First we were challenged with taking steps, 100 steps to be exact.  We had to walk 100 steps and take a photo using what was available around us at that moment as our focus.  Second, we had to focus our writing on gratefulness.  I went on two different walks where every 100th step I took a photo.  Each walk I went on I combined the collective photos into a video.  So, 100 steps & gratefulness.

When you think about it, 100 steps really isn’t that much.  But there are times when even one step seems like way too much, so to accomplish one hundred is just out of reach and unthinkable.  I’ve been there before.  My husband and I have been together for over 16 years, married for 5 +.  Yes, that makes us high school sweethearts, and then some. We’ve had ups and downs in that time, but  what relationship doesn’t, especially after being together for so many years.  However, we have never hit as low of a point as we did this year when we had to say goodbye to Samantha.  The simplest of tasks became the hardest.  Sometimes, even the difficult steps were just a blur because you walk around so numb.  You move through life, while life around you moves on.  If it weren’t for my husband, I don’t think I would be as strong as I am.

I am grateful for my husband and the relationship we have.  It is a deep relationship, filled with:  love, communication, strength, encouragement, commitment, warmth, and arms to hold you.

Steps can lead you up, down, winding, straight, and even sometimes backwards.  Have I stumbled on my journey, yes I have.  But through it all, I have been learning from it all.  The steps of the path I am and taking currently, are steps I never thought I would take.  Who does?  For most…you grow up, get a job, get married, and decide to have a family.  No where in your thought and plan do you decide to become the parent of child who is in heaven.  Unfortunately, those are the cards I was dealt.  However, as unfortunate as it is, honestly I am able to remain very thankful and grateful.

I am grateful for the life I have.  I am grateful for the blessings I have received.  I am grateful for Samantha.  I may not have planed for this, but this is where I am.  I have learned a lot over the past year about life, probably more in that short of time then over the course of my life up to this point.  I have learned to slow down and take the moment in.  I have learned that not having a plan can be just as good as having a plan.  I am learning to do more of things I love to do instead of just thinking about doing them.

Steps can take you down familiar terrain or it can be like trying to cross a river where some steps are easy to make and some are sunken just below the water causing uneasyness.  When we take familiar steps, we easily fall into a rhythm and often a routine.  It isn’t until those steps take us out of comfort zone, sometimes way out of our comfort zone, that we begin to worry, are fearful, or begin to shut down.  There are times when going out of our comfort zone is good for us.  But it is easier to take it all in when it is our choice to move out of the comfort zone.  When we are tossed out of comfort zone by no choice of our own, that is when it sometimes gets tough.  It is important to have family and friends.

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Family is important to me and always has been.  However, now the importance of family is even more valuable than ever before.  Beyond my husband, my family has been another major support in my life.  I am grateful for the prayers, support, conversations, love, and everything else that come with being a family.

I am grateful for the few close friends I have.  Friends that will join me in having a cup of coffee and good converstation.  Friends who are there and supportive, and genuine.

Steps can be easy or they can be hard.  When you have the things you are most grateful in life for surrounding you, the hard steps become a little easier.  Those hard steps sometimes create the opportunity for us to forget the simple things in life, the things we are grateful for.  I encourage you to slow down and take a step.  If you can, take another and then another.  Break down the big things in life, into smaller steps.  Instead of taking 100 steps, try 50, or even 20.  And if that first step is too hard to take on your own, I encourage you to take the hand of someone who can take that step with you.  Whether it is a spouse, a friend, a family member, or God reach your hand out and say “please go with me, help me take this step”.

 

 

 

Raun and I have been through many holidays and celebrations since we lost Samantha.  We have faced Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Weddings, and Birthdays.  We are to the point where we have two major holidays to work through…Thanksgiving and Christmas.  These two holidays are filled with families, friends, new experiences, old experiences, and tradition.  So, how does one face these next couple of months?

In my pregnancy and infant loss group this was our topic…How to make it through the Holidays.  This topic is interesting for me,  I learned a lot just by listening to others in the group.  To start we each shared what we were most dreading about the upcoming holiday time.  For most, it seeemed to be family that was causing the most anxiety.  Unfortunately for a lot of people their relationships become strained with their family and their family is not overly supportive on the topic.  They would prefer to push it out and remain inside their comfort zone. 

I am not familiar with this.  Fortunately, for me, for us, I think our relationship with family has become stronger and deeper.  We are lucky to have many hugs, prayers, and words of comfort coming from all over the country.  That, to me, is a big blessing, especially after listening to other’s in the group.

We also began to talk about the things we will do, do not do, or change.  Like parties to attend, people to see, food to make, shopping to do, and so on.  For me, the thing that I took away from this night was not only being thankful for my family, but the idea of doing something special to remember our little one.  I had been thinking on this for a little while.  We are going to include a special something in each of our Christmas cards that we send out this year in memory of our little girl.  Iam also keeping my eye out for a special decoration, ornament, or something that resonates deeply within my heart that we can always put out during the holiday season.

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to post some topics on getting through the holidays.  They will be questions to think about and I will add my own input on what we’ve done on previous holidays or what we plan on doing for the next two.  It is my hope that these will help make it a little easier to get through the holidays and hopefully you will even be able to find a little joy and happiness during this time.  I know it isn’t always easy to find the happier side of things when you’ve lost a child, I have been there.  I am still learning though.  Learning how to make it through, how to move forward, how to take what has happened and help others, and find ways to honor Samantha.

So, I ask you…this upcoming Holiday Season, what is something that you dread? What are you most fearful of or worried about?  On the flip side, what are you most excited about?  What are you most looking forward to doing?  How are you going to find bits of happiness and joy in the season?  I liked to hear your thoughts and ideas.  Together, we can work our way through the holidays.

 

A friend of mine gave me an idea…she was doing 30 days of Thankfulness.  All to often we rush through the next couple months getting ready for the holidays.  We get busy getting the house ready, cooking, spending time with family and friends, getting ready for the change in season and spending the last few nice days outside as much as possible, shopping, and the list goes on.  It seems that after Halloween time speeds up and flies by and before we know it we are in a new year.  Well, this year I am going to slow down.  I am going to take the time to share my 30 days of thankfulness over the next several weeks.  I consider these things to be blessings, things I am grateful for, or just plain thankful to have in my life. 

So here goes…We are six days into November and here’s the start of my list.

1. My Husband-honestly I don’t know where I would be without Raun.  He is truly an amazing guy.  We’ve been around each other for the past 16 years, which means we have been through a lot.  He has been there through thick and thin, the good and not so good, all the while giving praises, comfort, support, and inspiration.

2. My Family-both my imediate family and extended family.  We may all be scattered throughout this country, but we are still close to one another.  This creates a strong support for one another, good conversations, fun, and down right togetherness.

3. Our Baby Girl-A quickly as we found out we were pregnant Samantha left our world and grew her angel wings.  She has taught me a lot about my life, faith, me, and family.

4. Close Friends-honestly I do not have tons of friends.  But I am okay with that because the friends that I do have I am very close with.  We would do anything for each other and we are always there for each other.

5. My Cats-I know this may seem odd to some out there, but those two fury little critters bring a lot of joy, comfort, and laughter.  To me, that is truly amazing.  They seem to know when things are good or bad.  When it’s been a tough day they are there waiting  to snuggle on your lap and share a purr of comfort.

      

6. A Home-a place to call our own.  A shelter, a place to come home to and find comfort.

Even though we are already a week into November I encourage you to slow down and take the time to think about about what you are most grateful for this season.  If you aren’t able to do 30 days of thankfulness, then create a list of 10 instead.  What are you most thankful for, blessed with, and greatful for this year? 

Share your lists below!  I look forward to reading yours and I look forward to sharing with you the 24 things on my list.

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