Trigger Warnings: This episode mentions pregnancy, miscarriage, and stillbirth
Sadie: Okay, Amy I am so glad to have you on the podcast! Thank you so much for being here. I’m so excited to have you.
Amy: Yeah, thanks for having me. I love talking about grief, which is kinda weird, but it’s a good thing to do.
S: Yep, it’s important, so I’m glad that you could join us on the podcast. I’m really excited to just kind of dive into the topic of five ways to honor your losses and I just know that you’re going to give us some good tips and good ideas. It’s almost like I’m like “Okay, take it away! Go for it!”
A: Yeah, well...sorry do you want me to do my background or anything or just go right into it? You’re going to do the bio, but…
S: Yeah let’s talk about your background. Tell me about your background. Okay I’ll ask that.
Okay so before we dive right into your ideas and your tips, can you give us a little bit of background, a little bit of your story of how you came to be a baby loss coach?
A: Yeah so, I guess I started out like anybody else, just wanting to have...we’ll not anybody, but for me, I wanted to have a big family. I was excited to get married and have kids, and I was lucky enough to do that. I was able to have four little girls in a row, and then we were pregnant with our fifth little girl, and she was...everything was going along really well, until just a few days before her due date. We were kind of busy, running around, trying to get ready for the baby and washing all the clothes and doing all of that, and ended up, just long story short, we didn’t feel her kicking. You know, we’re like “That’s weird, but we’ll just get it checked out,” and ended up going into the hospital and finding out that our daughter had passed away at like 39 ½ weeks, and we were able to deliver her. So, they induced labor, and we delivered her, we got to meet her, hold her, and that kind of started me on the journey of grieving and loss. I did go on to have two more living children, but also had another miscarriage. So, I have been getting help and support from other loss parents and I’ve read all the books and that was kind of my coping. It was, “How do I do this? How do I do this right? I want to learn everything I can. How do I help my little girls who are grieving? How do I navigate through this?” And I really had the goal of figuring out how to not be just sad for the rest of my life, because that is a message that’s out there. Which I think has a place, right?
A: It really does feel like you’re going to be sad forever if people say you’re going to grieve forever. But I also saw so many people who were...you know, had been through so many things, and yet they still had a really beautiful life, and that’s kinda what I thought, “I want that. How did they do that?” So that was like my mission, to figure that out. So going through it and learning and just being kind of immersed in pregnancy and infant loss for, like I said, almost a decade, I decided to become a coach and I have some training an mindset tools and then I combine that with my own experience and things that I have learned to help loss moms find joy after loss.
S: Yeah I love that. I do have a few questions just about your story, because I’m curious.
S: Were there any signs or anything, other than her not moving, that you noticed beforehand, or that they were like “Hey, let’s watch out for this,” or was it just like completely out of the blue that you had a stillbirth?
A: Yeah and that’s the thing, I mean you go back and you think, “Was there something I missed?” There really wasn’t in my case. What they think happened was a partial placental abruption. So, the night before we went in and had found out she had passed away, I thought I was feeling contractions, and I’m not 100% sure if something was happening at that point, but I do know that she had passed, they said less than 24 hours. I didn’t have bleeding, like I said, if I had cramping I just thought I was going into labor, so I was just excited, I was like timing them and thinking, “Hey, by morning baby is gonna be here.” I had a really good doctor, we did ultrasounds almost every appointment. Everything looked good, so yeah. And that happens in a lot of cases with pregnancy loss there just isn't...Like we do have great ultrasounds and lots of times they’ll find things, but a lot of times these things happen and it just...I don’t know.
S: Yeah that’s hard. Because like, you know, I’m pregnant right now, so I’m thinking like, I just want to be aware and know what I need to be aware of, if that makes sense.
S: I said aware a lot. But you know, it’s just like you said, and these things just happen and it’s not like it’s anybody’s fault or anything like that, it just happens. And that’s so hard.
A: Yeah. Well, and I think that’s the thing with pregnancy loss. So, a lot of people it’s hard to talk about, or we don’t want to scare people, but I think it’s so important to really see information as power. So on the one hand you can say, yeah sometimes this stuff can just happen out of the blue, but there is support and there is hope and there’s so many things you can do. But there also are ways that we can, things that we can watch out for, like what are baby’s patterns, you know as the baby gets bigger and you feel kicking. Kinda paying attention to what are the patterns. And yeah just advocating for yourself at the doctor, and say, “You know I really want you to check…” I know there are a lot of people, I was just reading, they’re talking about cervical length. Some doctors check for it, some don’t, some people are like, “Oh, it’s not a big deal.” But a lot of people have losses because their cervix isn’t strong enough to hold the baby in, and the baby comes out just too early. So, that’s something where it’s like “I want you to check my cervical length. I want to get a kick counting app.” There’s just different things that we can look for, and ask for, and if you have a good relationship with your doctor that’s really important. Just do the best you can, even if you don’t, like you might not have the best, but learning how to advocate for yourself I think is really important. I help a lot of clients who are pregnant after loss, and so they have that fear and that anxiety and they’re trying to check for all the things.
S: Yeah. Totally.
A: It’s important to know that there are so many things you can do. Just like, you know with SIDS, we talk about it. We say “Hey, like don’t put a bunch of pillows in the crib” and “Don’t do this…” and it’s not supposed to be scary. Like of course, we’re all, as moms, we don’t want that to happen, but also it’s like, “Okay, but here’s some things we can do to try to prevent it.” And it doesn’t prevent it all the time, but it could lessen.
S: Yeah. Totally. Another question I had was, what did your grieving look like because you still had to be a mom? You know, you still had those four other girls. What did that look like for you, and how did you manage that?
A: Yeah so that was another thing that I...as I remember sitting in that waiting room, and they kinda go through this whole process where they check with the doppler, there’s no heartbeat. Then they check with the little, like they have the little laptop ultrasound, I don’t know how to describe it, it’s like a laptop. Anyway, they check with that, then they had us go to the hospital and wait, you know, for the big ultrasound. I remember sitting there, and they still hadn’t definitively told us she’s passed away, but you kind of know, I mean…
S: Yeah at that point you’re like putting it all together.
A: Yeah and so, I don’t know. Everyone’s reaction is different, but my reaction was just like quiet and thinking and my first thought was for my girls at home who thought we were at the hospital getting their baby sister.
A: So that was really heartbreaking. I think it’s just as a mom, you know you want to do the best for your kids, so again, I kinda dove into a lot of books and kinda figured out what are some ways that you could help children with grief, and I think some of the ways that really helped us was being honest, right? Using the correct language, I think, in pregnancy loss, we’ll say “Oh, you know, the baby went to sleep,” or “The baby’s in heaven” or “The baby…” You know all these kind of fluffy ways. We don’t want to say “The baby died.”
S: Yeah, kind of obscure?
A: Yeah it can cause problems. And I think we do this with adults too, but since it’s kinda this, I don’t want to say nebulous, but it’s like they can see your belly maybe, or they knew you were pregnant, it’s kind of like they’re imagining the future, but it can feel really unreal when the child doesn’t get to see the baby. I’ve helped a lot of families in my volunteer work where they have had that question, like, “Should we have our kids come to the hospital? Should we have them see this 15 week little tiny baby,” That looks like a baby but also you know it's… They’re worried their children will get scared, they’re worried it will scar them, so it’s a question. So, I would say, I personally think that children deal with it actually a lot better than adults sometimes, so letting them have that moment to meet their little sibling or you know having pictures taken. Something we’ve done is take pictures with the little teddy bear, of the baby and the teddy bear, then give the sibling the teddy bear. Or anything you can do to kind of help them just navigate, again, that this baby was real, that it died, and what happened. And that’s going to depend again on what stage of pregnancy you’re at, but yeah letting them be involved. I grew up like kids didn’t go to funerals. That’s kind of how I grew up, but I think it’s a beautiful thing to let them have that moment to say goodbye and be there.
S: Yeah. Well I think it’s important too. Like they need that closure, because like you said a lot of times they don’t get to be there at the hospital and see the baby, and so it’s kind of this like, “Woah” like “Was it real?” So I feel like it’s giving them the opportunity to have that realness and have that closure if they are allowed to be at the funeral or at the gravesite or whatever somebody chooses to do.
A: Yeah and I think there are some great books out there if you have a miscarriage or a stillbirth that kind of explain it. They’re kind of tearjerkers. It’s kinda hard to get through them at the beginning, but they’re real simple little books and there’s some great resources out there. And then my last little tip, I guess, for being the mom and, you know, helping your children through your grief is, you gotta take care of yourself right--it’s that whole oxygen mask thing--take care of yourself. Be kind to yourself as you’re doing this. It’s easy to beat up on yourself and feel like “All I want to do is lay in bed and cry, but my kids want me to play with them.” So just be really gentle with yourself. And then letting it be emotional. Kids are different than adults. They’re not dwelling on it all day every day, but it will come up out of the blue. They’ll just ask. Even us, like years and years later. Like my daughter just asked me--so our baby we miscarried we named River--so she was like, “Where’s River buried?” And I had to say, “I had surgery and we sent the baby to a lab and we had a whole bunch of mi--, like we never got to have that baby’s body back” So, I had to explain that to her, and it’s like you just have to be honest. If they’re sad...like they would just say, “I really miss Lauren,” and I’d be like “Yeah me too.” You know and so you just kinda have to take their lead and don’t... I don’t know. I feel like we kinda project a lot of stuff as adults. But I feel like if we follow their lead and just be open, be a safe place for them to talk and to share, that really helps.
S: Yeah. I love that. I think that’s so important too, because like you said, kids don’t think about it all the time, but when they are thinking about it they will ask. This is very different, but we has a puppy pass away a couple years ago, and my nieces were there when it happened and even now, and it’s been a couple of years, but even now they’ll still say “What happened to Mack,” or “Where’s Mack,” and things like that. And it’s just like, they’ll think about it, and when they’re thinking about it they are going to ask you about it. So you just need to be ready and open and available to be that safe place for them to ask those questions.
A: Yeah and I think, that just reminded me when you said that is--I’ll give you one last tip on this--that when they ask those questions I think there is a lot of pressure to have the right answer, but I think something really helpful is ask them back. Like if they say, “Where’s Mack,” it’s like “Well, where do you think the puppy is?” And they’ll be like, “Oh I think this…” and they’re running around you know, “wherever…” And obviously if, you know if you need to correct them a little bit, but sometimes they have beautiful insights and things that really are comforting to them, so it’s not like you have to explain the answer to all these questions.
S: Or even know the answers to these questions.
A: Yeah! Yeah! Because sometimes we don’t have the answers, right? Depending on your beliefs about death and what happens. So like I said, sometimes just asking them questions back and letting them talk, they will answer their own question and they will run off and play.
S: And they’ll be like “Oh yeah of course! Of course, that’s the answer. Thank you! Just curious. I’m gonna go now.” But yeah, I totally agree.
But yeah, thank you so much for sharing your story and your insight about grief and motherhood, because I feel like even though a lot of people’s grief is different, they may not experience baby loss, or pregnancy loss, I feel like the grief is kind of-- grief is grief. So as we go through things in life, just that advice to just be open and to give yourself grace and be gentle and allow yourself to grieve and allow yourself to see your kids, and allow your kids to see your grieving is such a powerful thing. Because then it shows them grief is okay. It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to also be happy along the way.” Just allowing those emotions to coexist I think is such a beautiful thing.
So, moving, kind of switching gears a little bit, I’d love to hear your tips on the five ways to honor losses, because I feel like that is something that is so important, especially right now, as we’re celebrating pregnancy and infant loss awareness month, just letting people know how they can honor those losses along the way, throughout the year. Not just in October.
A: Yeah. So, I had a couple of ways prepared and I’d like to just jump in and if you have any questions or whatever…
S: Yeah! Totally!
A: But yeah the first thing I wanted to talk about was celebrating our babies, right? Because again it's a weird kind of loss when you lose someone before they’re born or very shortly after. You don’t have all those good memories, you don’t have a lot of things you kind of just had this hope and this vision for the future. For a lot of people--like if you’ve had an earlier miscarriage--you might not have even told anybody. It’s just this kind of private thing that you had. So a good way to honor those babies is to celebrate them. This can be kind of tricky if, you know, there is a lot of sadness and grief associated with their life and their death, because it is so mixed together. So, you have to do this on purpose and you have to say “You know what this is still my child, and I still get to celebrate them.” So, this can look different for everyone. It’s totally unique and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. But, for example, we like to have a cake for Lauren on her birthday. And that is something that, again, I do for my girls, you know, and our two boys we have now, and it’s like I wanted to make a special day, you know, not just a sad day, right? We still want to celebrate her, even though her life was short she still mattered.
A: And I also, sometimes we’ll go to the cemetery, we don’t live right by the cemetery, but sometimes we’ll go to the cemetery, we’ll blow bubbles, we’ve done balloon releases. Also like this awareness month I think is a great opportunity to say their names, to talk about them. Maybe you don’t talk about them all the time. I’m on Instagram a lot and right now I’ve seen so many people sharing saying, “Hey, you know, this is a thing that happened and I want to talk about my baby,” and I think that’s a really beautiful way to honor them and celebrate them. And there’s so many parents that do good in the name of their children. Like you do, we’ve talked about. if you’ve been through infertility you want to help people, right? If you’ve been through certain trials we want to help people. And so we want to celebrate them that way. So that is kinda my second way to honor your baby, is to serve others.
S: I love that.
A: And something we do that’s kind of mixed together, is leading up to Lauren’s birthday, I would always do a service project. So I have a certain charity that makes blankets and diapers and hats for stillborn babies, and I would start planning, like in January I would start and her birthday is in March, so I would spend those months leading up trying to reach a big goal of like how many blankets am I going to make and how many hats. And sometimes it would be like depending on how old she was, different things, but I would get people together and work on that. It really helped me to have something else to focus on, because a lot of times we’ll have these dates like due date, or the day they're born, or Mother’s Day, or different days that can be emotional. And so for me when I am serving other people that would really help me to focus on something good, to focus on the legacy that she’s leaving, even though she never took a breath outside of my body, she’s still affecting people. She’s still helping people. And I think that for me that was a huge huge part of my healing and still is.
S: Yeah I think that is a really beautiful way to think of that. Like her legacy has continued on. Even though she never took a breath outside of your womb, she has already changed so many lives and done so much good with her journey and that is so cool.
A: Yeah and it’s a special thing and I love seeing people do that, but like I said it’s very unique and you don’t have to start a foundation or do anything huge to serve others. Maybe it’s just becoming a person who’s a little more empathetic, and just saying, “You know, I remember when I was struggling after miscarriage and nobody knew and I was just sad and faking it.” So, just understanding that there can be people all around you that are going through things. And I think that’s a way of service. It’s just putting a little more love into the world.
S: Totally. Yeah, and being that safe space that, even if people don’t know why you’re that safe space, they can still feel that within you because you are empathetic and are gentle with them as they grieve.
A: Yeah. Yes. And so my next thing that I had is to share your story. And like I talked about this is a whole range of what you want to do. Even me, like I talked a lot about Lauren, and we celebrate her birthday and we do lot’s of things, but River’s situation is a little bit different. There was a lot of layers to what happened. I almost bled to death during surgery, and a whole lot of things. And so it’s like I don’t really want to celebrate that day. I don’t think that’s his birthday. I don’t know his or her gender. I say “his.” But, so it’s different and that’s okay, but I think just sharing whatever your story is and however you want to share it. Whether it’s once a year in October, or whether you talk about your babies all the time. I just think it’s really really powerful, again when we live in a society where death is a taboo and a baby dying or losing pregnancy that’s even more, right?
S: Yeah that’s more taboo. Because nobody wants to talk about that! Pregnancy is supposed to be happy and exciting and hearing about babies dying you’re like “No. Pass. Hard pass. I don’t want to talk about that.”
A: Yeah and we even have that first trimester like don’t tell anybody that you're pregnant because what if you lose the baby, well you wouldn’t want anyone to know that right?
S: Yeah. Or you don’t want to go back and have to tell everybody that you lost the baby. That’s just so hard for me because I’m like “No you need that support! Especially if you have a miscarriage!”
A: Yeah. Yeah and I think I’ve seen it changing you know and it is so individual. You get to do whatever you want with your story and how you share it. But yeah just noticing like why does it feel so hard, like why does it feel so scary? Because society has told us that we shouldn’t and that we should minimize it! Like, “Oh you were only six weeks along. It wasn’t even that big of a deal. Just have another baby.” So we tend to internalize that I think, and a lot of people minimize their experience or their right that they have to grieve that little life. No matter how long it was with you. So, sharing your story could be writing it down. Putting it on an anonymous blog on the internet, just journaling, or telling your best friend. Whatever it is, like I said it could be a post on social media, it could be sharing at a church setting where there’s a question and you feel like you want to share your story. I think a lot of times we’re really scared to share your story because we’re afraid it’s going to be too emotional or we’re afraid that people are going to judge us, but what I’ve seen over and over is that fear and that dread of sharing that story is way worse than how you feel when you do share your story. And also, especially with pregnancy loss, when you share your story, almost every time you will make connections with people. And they will be like “I went through the same thing.” Or “my sister,” or “my mom.” It happens to 1 in 4 known pregnancies so it is a lot of families that are affected. And when you talk about it, it’s powerful!
S: Yeah totally. Yeah and I think about even with infertility that’s how it was for me too. I was so nervous and I didn’t really want to talk about it, but I felt like this pull that I needed to. That I needed to share it, and so many people opened up as soon as I shared. And I think that’s the beauty of sharing, is that people feel comfortable talking about it and they are able to process their emotions as well. So it’s like this double healing, you know. You get to heal and so do they and you get to also create this--I don’t want to call it a “neat” bond, because nobody really wants this bond--but you create a bond with somebody that allows you to have a camaraderie. You know, you have something with them that ties you together and that allows you to have somebody to know that you’re not alone. And it gives you that freedom from isolation. Because that was one thing for me during infertility was that I felt so alone in my journey, and I felt like nobody that I knew was experiencing that, so to know that other people that I did know and other people that loved me and people that I loved had also experienced that kind of grief was just kind of--sad, I was sad for them--but I was so grateful that they reached out and that we were able to connect with that.
A: Yeah. We always say that it’s like the worst club you never want to join, but with the best people, right? And I think that can go with any kind of support that you’re having a for a trial or a grief--a certain type of grief in your life. It’s like you didn’t want to be here, you didn’t choose to be here, but that is one of the blessings, I think, is just that community. But you can’t create that connection if nobody knows about it right?
S: You have to share.
A: Yeah. So, you know I mean, it’s so individual and it’s so up to you. I know a common question that I see a lot, you know is people will say, “How many kids do you have?” And that simple question--which I highly recommend the alternative of “Tell me about your family,” which is a lot less loaded.
S: Yeah I love that. I love that switch. So that’s great.
A: But it’s like, you don’t have to tell the lady in the Walmart line about your babies that passed away and there’s nothing wrong with that. But you also can share and not be worried. It’s totally up to you when and where and how you share, but I do just think it is so powerful to. And again those babies don’t have voices, they aren’t able to be here so it’s kind of something that we get to do for them.
S: Yeah. Yeah I love that.
A: Okay number 4 is take care of you. Now you said what are ways to honor your baby and I think taking care of yourself, like many parents, we put ourselves at the bottom of the pile, right? We’re the last one to eat, we're the last one to take care of ourselves or spend money on ourselves or really do anything for ourselves. And I think this happens, this can happen in grief too. Like you were asking how do you take care of your kids and take care of yourself. It can be a tricky process, but I do think it’s so important because your mental health is everything. A lot of people just shove the grief away, put it to the side, kind of like get back to day to day, get back to work, get back to being the mom, or whatever you have going on, right? And you really don’t take that time to take care of you. I just think that’s such a disservice to us. And the thing about grief is-- as you probably know and other people have said--if you don’t address it and you don’t take care of it, it will wait for you.
S: Yeah and it festers.
A: Yeah it’ll just hang on. It's very patient. So, what I want people to know is, you can heal. You can find joy. You can let go of the guilt--there is a lot of guilt and shame in pregnancy and infant loss, because you’re a mom, right? Like it seems to go together that it must be my fault, right?
S: Yeah totally. It’s almost like it’s your job. Like that was your job.
A: Yes I mean there’s all the--you’ve probably seen the little “keep the tiny humans alive,” you know. There’s mugs, there’s t-shirts. You can feel like, well I couldn’t even do that. I wasn’t even able to do that. So I just really want people to know that you can let go of that guilt and move forward. And sometimes you need help to do that, which is why I’m a coach. I want to help people do that because sometimes it’s really hard to do that on your own when you are working and taking care of kids and running around and just cleaning toilets, you know whatever, feeling like I don’t have the time to take care of me. But I highly recommend making time, because it will make such a huge difference in your life. Just whatever you choose to do to take care of you, it’s worth it.
S: Yeah. Well and I feel like a lot of people feel like, “Well I don’t know where to start taking care of me,” you know. Because especially if you’ve pushed it aside for so long it’s like, “okay but where do I even begin. It’s a lot.” I love that you brought up that you’re a coach. That’s exactly what you do is help people start that process and move through it as they learn how to grieve the loss of their babies and then also find that joy along the way. It’s scary to do that, but it’s so worth it and it’s so important. Because Good Grief, you know the whole point for us is that your grief can be transformed and that it can be a force for good in your life, but you have to make it that. Nobody can do that for you, but there are people and there are resources to help you along the way and help you figure that out.
A: Yeah. And I love that. And I think again it could be like I could throw out a million suggestions. I’m not talking about go and get a manicure. Like a lot of times when we talk about self care it’s like, “Oh well you should just take--”
S: “Have a spa day!”
A: Yes and that works for people, but like I’m not saying anything about that. But there are great books, there are support groups, you know there’s journals that you can get. And it’s like can I allow myself to spend 10 minutes a day just kinda like learning how to grieve or connecting with my baby or whatever it is. Or hire a coach, go to therapy, you know. There’s a lot of options out there which is amazing. I mean there’s online courses. We live in a world where there are so many options. I say pick one and do it and see what happens.
A: And I think that The Universe, God, whatever you believe, I feel like things come into your path at the right time. So you just have to be brave enough to take the step towards it. So I highly recommend take some action. Do something to take care of you. Like I said, like really your mental health and your well being, so important.
S: Yeah. Well and I, you know, going back to at the beginning of the interview where you talked about how you have to put your oxygen mask on first. And I mean you hear that quote “You can’t draw from an empty well.” You have to be able to fill your own cup before you can help others in the best ways. In the ways that they need too, and so I love that tip.
A: Well and I have to say too that when you’re grieving this can feel like you’re already overwhelmed. You're already overly emotional. You’re already... so, even the small thing can seem impossible or insurmountable. So I really want to encourage people to say you’d be amazed at what you can do. You’re already living through a nightmare, but you’re doing it, and sometimes it’s just breathing in and out all day that’s the best you can do. But even if it’s scary--sometimes the things that are scary or, like I said that are in front of you that’s scaring you--just take that little nudge and move forward because that fear, again the fear of doing the thing, is so much more worse usually than doing the thing. So when you just make a decision, go forward and just be really gentle with yourself because I know how overwhelming grief can be. So there’s no judgement, there’s no rush, like I said. You might say, you know what I”m going to get on Amazon and I’m going to buy a book. You might buy the book and it might sit on your shelf. But you know you did it! And you might say, “Hey I’m going to read a page,” or whatever it is. You know that, it’s enough for some days.
S: Yeah. Totally. And I also wanted to throw out that it’s okay to switch gears too. Like if you do something and you’re like “You know what, this just isn’t helping me. I don’t think this is it.” It’s okay to switch. It’s okay to say “You know what, I'm going to try something else,” because like you said there are tons of resources and tons of options. So picking one and starting is the first step, and then continuing forward. If it’s continuing and seeing that book all the way through, great! If it’s saying “You know I need to hire a coach,” and hiring a coach, that’s also great. It’s okay to switch gears and to change the way that you are processing those emotions.
A: Yeah definitely. I always say you’re a grown adult. You get to choose what you want to do. I would just say don’t, I mean sometimes things feel worse before they feel better. Even with my clients, you know it’s like sometimes there’s a lot of tears in a session, but just stick with it. It’s going to work. But you’ll know. I think trusting yourself and just your gut. I mean we kind of lose that. We don’t listen to that when there’s a lot of noise. So I really encourage people to turn into yourself and know that you know--you do know--what’s right for you. So follow that, and have your own back in those choices. Just be like, “Yeah this isn’t working, this isn’t a good fit. I’m going to do this other thing.”
S: Yeah, totally.
A: Okay. Yeah and my last tip I guess is to embrace your life and know that it is not “less than.” So in air quotes “less than.” I think that there is this message that we get, especially in pregnancy loss, but I think in a lot of trials in our lives, we’ve had a vision of how things were gonna go and how we think things should go, and then out of the blue this thing comes and blindsides you.
S: Yeah and it’s knocked the wind out from ya.
A: Yes! And even if you think, “Well I’m going to heal, but my life’s never going to be how it was supposed to be. It’s always going to be a little bit worse,” right? And I tell people that your life is going to be amazing. And I know that a lot of people hate like the cliches around like “Everything happens for a reason,” or “You’re going to learn lessons from this,” but I’m not saying that this happened to teach you a lesson or any of those things, but I do want to say that when you can sit with it and just even open yourself to the possibility that this is how my life was always going to go. Like when I thought that I was just going to have like these five girls in a row, I was wrong about that. I had imagined something that wasn’t ever reality and now I have this reality in front of me and what do I want to do with it? I think again, leaning into it, whatever your religious beliefs or the way you think about the world. I think about my children who died, like that was their lives. They were shorter than I wished they were supposed to be, but who am I to say that wasn’t how it was supposed to be. So, all that being said, to say if you can accept your reality and try to stay in the present, and just understand this can be a beautiful opportunity if you want it to be, and if you choose to make it that. So, again I think you can learn a lot of lessons from grief. I could list 100 lessons I learned and ways that I’ve grown because of these children who did not get to stay, because of maybe like, again, quote unquote, these “bad things” that have happened to me. But how much have I learned, how much have I grown? And if you accept that and even lean into it a little bit, I think you’re gonna be open to seeing that your life can still be amazing. You’ll laugh again. You will have amazing trips to Disneyland. You will...you won’t be happy all the time, but you can learn how to make grief your friend instead of your enemy. And I think for me that’s a goal and that’s a skill that I teach my clients. And I think that’s what I wanted, right? Like I told you, right after Lauren died I was kinda like, “How do I kinda integrate this into my life so that it’s not just this horrible sad thing that happened to me, but how do I celebrate these babies and keep them as part of my family but also move forward in being the best person that I can be?” Which does look like--when we say that like, “Be the best you can be,” I recently heard someone say, “Be your favorite. Be your own favorite version of you.” And I love that. It’s like, “Yeah I want to just love myself, love my life, and navigate through it knowing there’s going to be sad times and frustrating times and hard times, and also embracing the joy.” Because it can be hard embracing the joy. And we can feel guilty. Like I shouldn't be happy because it feels like I’m leaving my baby behind. I was just talking to some clients about this. Our sadness isn’t our connection to our baby, right?
S: I love that!
A: It’s really love that connects us to our children and so can we make room for that love and bring them with us in whatever we do?
S: Yeah I love that. Our sadness isn’t our connection to our baby. Because I feel like a lot of the times we think that that is what grief is, you know. Grief is sadness, but honestly Grief is just love. Grief is love that is kind of exploding in all sorts of emotions. So, I love that idea of like you can move forward and that is still a connection to your baby you know. You still have that connection. You don’t have to be only sad. You can be other things and still have that connection. I love that.
A: Yeah and it’s a process. Again, if you’re like right in the middle of where everything, like it hurts to breathe right now, like that’s okay. That’s where you’re supposed to be. Again, it doesn’t feel amazing, but if you can just lean into it and be like, “Yeah this is the part where my heart feels like it’s ripped into a hundred pieces, and I don’t know if I can even believe that someday I’ll laugh again,” that’s okay. But then just like healing, and again, moving forward and just believing a little bit maybe. Just try to say “I’m going to love me right where I am, but like I have this goal. I don’t know how I’m going to get there, but I’m going to find joy again.” I love the word “joy” and I use it. Because I think “happiness” is fleeting and “happiness” can be like, “Oh my boss brought in donuts to work,” or you know? But “joy” I think is so much richer and fuller and it encompasses this human experience that we’re here to experience. I really think again, a way to honor your children who have passed away, or anyone who you love who has passed away, right, is to say “No I have this opportunity to live and I’m gonna do it!” And just again sustaining that, because I think that perspective that we get when someone close to us passes away , it’s a gift. I really do think it is.
S: Yeah definitely. It gives us...it opens our eyes a little bit to more people’s experiences, so yeah totally a gift. I love that.
That was number five right?
S: Okay great! I did have one last question for you, and this is going to be like a bonus tip for our friends. As the holidays are approaching I feel like there is a lot of sad grief that comes with holidays because, you know you’re missing something or you had this vision of what this holiday was going to look like with that baby and it’s no longer that. That reality is not there. So, how do you recommend, or what tips do you have for honoring loss during the holidays?
A: Yeah and I love this question because like I said there are these times of the year or days on the calendar that really seem to bring up a lot of emotions. I work a lot with mindset and just recognizing how we’re thinking and how it creates what we're feeling. So something I really encourage people to do is actually to look forward and say, “How do I want to feel on this day?” Like whatever holiday it is. I think there are a lot of family centered and children centered holidays, so it can be really easy to dwell on the ones who aren’t there, but you do have the power to choose or set an intention--however you want to phrase it--to say, “How do I want to feel on this day?” And then make a decision and then build some steps on how you're going to create that for yourself. Because a lot of times, like I said we’ll think, “This is going to be terrible or horrible and I’m probably going to cry and I”m going to want to leave the Christmas party and I’m dreading it for months.”
S: “My family is going to ruin it for me because they’re going to say something and then I’m going to be sad.”
A: Or “They’re not going to say anything and I’m going to be sad”
S: Exactly. We’re kind of setting them up for failure too.
A: Yes! And so yeah that’s definitely another recommendation. Let the humans be the humans. You got to take care of yourself. If you got to find support, it might not be those people that are closest to you, and that’s okay. I think there’s a lot of pain around how other people behave, what they're going to do, what they're going to say. So kinda letting go of some of those expectations and again focusing on you. Like the example I said for Lauren’s birthday. I was like “I don’t want to just be sad and dreading this day. I want to make it into something beautiful.” And so I chose to do the service. And the reason why the service alleviated some of that dread is because I was thinking, “I’m doing good for her. I’m loving her and I’m honoring her and I’m helping other people.” And so that’s what my mind was on instead of “Oh my gosh her birthday is going to be so depressing like I don’t know how I’m going to get through it.”
S: Mmm hmm. Like “This is the hardest day of the year for me. I don’t like this day”
A: Right. Yeah so you got to make a plan, and again really pay attention to your emotional energy. That’s something I talk about a lot. You don’t have to do a big huge service project, right? You get to do what you need to do. Some years that might be saying “Thank you but we’re going to stay home.” Like we’re going to do our own thing. We’re going to really focus on us, and managing what we can do. So I really think just deciding on purpose is so important. And then again, notice why you’re deciding. So are you deciding to stay home because you’re terrified that you’re going to just cry at the family gathering? I don’t think fear is a great driver of our decisions, right? But can you look at it and say, “Why don’t I want to go?” Write it down. Or “Why do I want to do this thing,” right? What are your reasons? And then do you like those reasons I think is really really important. I’ve worked on this with a lot of clients actually. It’s a big thing coming up to these dates that seem really emotional. Yeah and again, stay in the present, try to do that. And then trust yourself that you’re going to make the right decision and then you’re going to be able to handle those days because they come. Because that way we’re not building up that worry and that dread. It can be hard, again, you might need to get help with this, or figure something out to get some support with this, because I see it just all the time. The dread of the holidays is just really heavy, but like I said if you make a plan, decide how you want to feel, and then what do you want to focus on.
S: Yeah. I love that.
A: Yeah and then again bringing that love and figuring out how to include them. I think there's that thing that “Oh they’re just not there.” But how can they be there? How can I include them? Can I get little ornaments? Can I get them a stocking? Can I light a candle and think of them? Can I talk about them and share? And ask that they be included if you want that to happen. I think again some other simple ideas is some people do like an angel tree ornament in honor of their child. There’s just so many things you can do if you look for them. But you kinda just have to take a deep breath. Try to get out of that state of anxiety and dread and then kind of make some decisions on purpose.
S: Yeah, I love that. That is such great advice. Because that is basically processing grief in a nutshell is, take a deep breath, and make decisions on purpose. It’s up to you and you can do that. And whatever decisions you decide are okay and they’re valid and they’re good. I love that.
So, thank you so much for your perspective and sharing your journey with us and for your 5+ steps, or your 6 tips for honoring your loss. I think this is going to really be beneficial for a lot of our listeners so thank you so much for being here.
A: Yeah. You’re welcome!
S: Perfect. Well Amy, how can people find you? Where can they go to connect with you online?
A: Yeah so, everything I do is Smooth Stones Coaching. So I am on Instagram @amy.smoothstonescoaching. My website is smoothstonescoaching.com. And I have a podcast called Smooth Stones where I just kind of teach all these skills to navigate life after baby loss.
S: Perfect. And we will put all of that in the show notes so that people can find you easily. Again, thank you so much for being here. We are so grateful for your story.
A: Yeah it’s been fun.