Today specifically is a significant day for me. It is November 13th, the same day I lost my tiny baby girl a number of years ago. Samantha was simply born too early, lived five hours and died the same day (it happened to be a Friday the 13th). I now put on a race every year on Memorial Day to honor her. Visit RaceForGriefutah.com to learn more.
At the time I lost her, I was 22 weeks along and my cervix simply didn’t want to stay closed. In the ensuing months, I learned about a condition known as incompetent cervix. This problem leads to long arduous subsequent pregnancies; with surgery, limited activity, extra weight gain, stress, and worry. Each pregnancy I had a stitch or cerclage placed to keep the cervix closed (a painful surgery I might add – I had four of them – ouch!). With my next pregnancy I was 10 weeks flat on my back on bedrest; it was during this time that I learned that I am not a lay-there-and-do-nothing type of person and running helps me cope with anxiety. I am a high energy, outdoorsy do-it-yourself kind of girl. I learned that you can only watch T.V. and reading books so long –and 10 weeks is way too long! With another pregnancy I developed gestational diabetes and was on insulin. My education in diabetes management and nutrition proved to be helpful as I recall my doctor stating “You are the best diabetic patient a doctor could hope for.”The way that I looked at it is that I was the steward over that little unborn baby body and wanted to do all that I could to give that baby a chance despite my own body’s frailties. However, I found the frequent trips to the hospital several times a week for stress-tests difficult with aligning babysitters for two other small children, the time for travel and testing all on top of regular high-risk doctor visits. Not to mention the expense of it all.
It has been many years since her passing, and even with all the difficult moments, I’d do it all again to have the four beautiful children I have today. After losing our first baby, we didn’t know if we were going to be able to have children, so this is truly a wonderful miracle! I believe in eternal families and believe I will see her again.
You may be asking why I am sharing such a personal story. The reason why is that I know others suffer grief and loss and often suffer in silence feeling they are alone.I want them to know they are not alone. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my little girl and want her here with me. Science has come a long way since then, and I always ask “what if” she was born now, could something have been done that was not an option for us years ago? But, I have been fortunate enough not to suffer a miscarriage.I have a grave to go visit, and I know she was a girl and was able to give her a name. I have felt the wonderful kicks of a baby growing inside me which many women long to experience.No matter how difficult this was, there is something to learn from all experiences in life.
Until this day, I hadn’t dealt much with loss. Well, I had a special cat that I loved dearly that died when I was a little girl and another cat I had died in college. That was rough for me (I’m an animal lover). Three of my four grandparents died before I was born so I didn’t experience those losses personally. While earning my Gerontology Certification at the Utah State University I took a Death and Dying class and I remember trying to put the concepts to use. I think they were very helpful for me, so I wanted to share a few of them.
How to cope with loss (specifically miscarriage and loss of a baby)
-Know that it is normal to feel a huge range of strong emotions from fear, anger, blame, love, and disappointment after experiencing a loss.
-Give yourself time to grieve and heal.
-Remember – there’s no “right” way to grieve – everyone is different.
-Talk about your feelings with others.
-Cry – it’s is okay to cry. I found myself crying in the middle of the grocery store when I heard a baby cry a few aisles over or when I saw a commercial with a baby in it. Cry all you want – it’s okay (men too!).
-For me, time seems to heal. I can now visit the grave (which I couldn’t do for sometime after).I can talk about her with my children without bawling all over the place now.
-You may want to get involved or join a support group:
SHARE Parents of Utah
Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support
They hold a Walk to Remember event every October
(National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month)
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
What to say to someone that has lost a baby or had a miscarriage:
Question: How can you express your concern without saying the wrong thing?
-It’s okay to say “I don’t know what to say.”
When I went back to work after I lost my baby girl, I could see that many people felt awkward and didn’t know what to say to me.Many people even avoided me.That was difficult.I appreciated those that said “I didn’t know what to say, but I want you to know I thinking about you.”
-Give them a hug.This says “I’m here for you.I care.”
-Listening and allowing the person to talk about the experience can help them sort through their emotions.Ask about the experience.
-Tell them that you are thinking of them and you care.
-Make arrangements to take in a warm meal.It shows you are thinking of them and want to help.Sometimes simple daily tasks are difficult for a grieving person.
-Write a kind note or send flowers or a card.
-Other things you could say are:
“What can I do for you right now?”
“I’m here, I want to listen.”
“This must be hard for you.”
-Allow the parents to make the decisions for funeral arrangements for the loss of a baby; don’t assume they want you to “take over.”This helps them experience the reality of the death.
-Know that grief doesn’t end at the funeral. Remember special days with a card or call.
Stop!Don’t say these things.
-“Don’t worry you are young, you can have more children”
-“You have an angel in heaven.”(They don’t want an angel in heaven, they want the baby)
-“This happened for the best.”
– “Don’t be sad. Don’t cry.”
-Don’t share all the stories of the people you know that have had loss.It diminished or makes light of their experience. This is their time to share and your time to listen.
-“Get over it and move on.”Allow them time to heal and it may take longer than you think it should.
-“Better for this to happen now, before you knew the baby.”
Even though the parents had little, if any time to “know” the child, the parental attachment is still strong.
As you can imagine, Memorial Day has taken on a whole new meaning for me now and this unique experience has given our family opportunities to talk about death with our children. I have learned that it is important not to tell children that the baby is “sleeping,” “on a trip” or “lost” – these words can frighten children. When we visit her grave, we simply tell our children she is dead, she was born too early and died. We believe in life after death and that we will see her again someday but until then I will always remember her as I promised her in my arms before she passed away. She has touched my life and helped me to appreciate the dear children that I can embrace and love today. When you lose someone, you never forget them, you just learn to live without them. Please join me and my family to honor your loved one on Memorial Day.
Coach Lora Erickson
aka Blonde Runner
Dedicated in loving memory of my little Samantha.
You touched my life – I will never forget you.
Love Lives On
Sung by Mallary Hope
Even though I cry like crazy
Even though it hurts so bad
I thankful for the time God gave me
Even though we couldn’t make it last
I’m learning how to live without you
Even though I don’t want to
And even with you gone
Love lives on.