A piece of me…

Good Morning. I feel like when I write here, I have to address the posts to you, as if it was a letter. I’m not sure who, if anyone reads these posts, but I like to think that someone reads them and is maybe touched by this blog. Today I’m working on memory bags, to donate to our local crisis pregnancy center. We’ve been making some changes at Hannah’s Tears. Some were a bit emotional to make, some were easy, and some were really hard. 1458936_10152108189930645_2044863678_nWe’ve decided to no longer donate boxes, simply because of cost. I loved decorating the boxes, and will continue to do personalized boxes for sale through the Facebook page as a fundraiser, but the time and cost that goes into a filled, decorated box was just to great for our program to handle, especially in the amount needed by the ever growing crisis pregnancy center. We now provide comfort items for Life Choices 3 area clinics. The last drop off we took, they went through 10 boxes in less than a month. Each box that we took had about $15-20 in it. We are working to make our donations more sustainable, working to be better stewards of the money that we have available, whether through donations or from ourselves. To this end, we have changed from a box to a bag and limited the number of items that go inside of it. This took the cost of each donation from roughly $20 to around $8. Each bag will have a stuffed animal, hat & blanket, tissues, packet of seeds, pen & notepad, candle, a couple trinkets, a hand written note, list of comforting scriptures and resource list, all depending on what our resources allow. Some of these items I can make myself, some of them have to be purchased and any of them can be donated.

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Right now, I am handwriting each note that goes into the bags. I feel that a handwritten note is so important. I will never see these families, may never meet them. This is my only chance to reach them from my mama’s heart. Taking the time to hand write 25 notes of sympathy to families I don’t know is emotionally tolling. I pray for the families as I put the bags together, as I write the notes, but I don’t know them. I don’t know what state they will be in when they receive this bag. Is this their first loss? Do they have other children? Have they just been told they’ll never give birth to a child? Do they have a support system? None of these make the situation easier, but can make it harder. I feel in that moment a personal touch means that much more, however, making these more personal, makes it more personal to me.

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Each time I put together a set of donations, I pour myself into them. I try to make it as special as I’m able to. Each baby, no matter how small, no matter how long they were here, deserves to be remembered and cherished. Sometimes I’m not able to include everything I’d like to in a bag, but that family will get something. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my volunteers and those who donate to our program. No, we aren’t 501c3, we aren’t technically a “charity”. But that’s mostly because of the money that would go into getting that status. I would much rather use that money to put something into the hands of a grieving family. Each of you could choose somewhere else to donate your time and money and I am honored and so very thankful that you choose us. Whether you crochet/knit/sew hats, blankets or other comfort items, whether you buy tissues, magnets, or candles, or if you donate money, you are a very important part of our program! We couldn’t do what we do, without you.

We have set up an Amazon wishlist, if by chance you would like to donate, but would rather choose what you donate. You can find our list at the Hannah’s Tears Memory Boxes Amazon Wishlist page.

I am going to try to be more diligent about post here and on the Hannah’s Tears Facebook page, about the process of our donating as well as just regular posts. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

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Days of celebration, days of triggers

Well, we’ve just passed the 2nd anniversary of Tzeitel’s due date. Due dates are a funny thing. To some, after the first year, they pass by with a thought, a memory, a candle lighting, but not much more. Last year her due date was especially hard on me. On her actual due date, we were in the car driving 500 miles to my parent’s house for my Grandma’s funeral (she passed away the day before), so I was unable to really feel the day. On the 1 year anniversary of her due date, we got a cake and had a special dinner at home for her. I was telling a friend that I feel like her “birth”day is more of a celebration of her life and her due date was just a trigger. This year, again, I was left with this sinking feeling that I should be planning a birthday party, I should be baking a cake, I should be running around and making last minute details come together, when instead I was getting ready for a ladies meeting. It wasn’t a day full of tears, just of this constant nagging reminder that she’s not here. I’ve definitely (most days) come to a place of acceptance and am content with where I am, but that doesn’t take away the “missing her” feeling. I wonder who she’d be, what she’d be learning, what things she’d be helping me with and what she’d be getting into. I really wonder what the dynamic between her and my nephew would be like. I love that he talks about her, even though he doesn’t completely understand. The only Tzeitel he has ever known was Tzeitel Bear, so anytime we talk about her, he thinks of the bear. He cuddles and plays with Tzeitel bear, sleeping with her at times. He found a picture of her ultrasound not long ago and I was able to share with him what that was and about how Tzeitel isn’t in my tummy anymore, that she’s in Heaven now. I look forward to seeing this grow as he does.

Well, I think I’ve rambled enough for today. What do you do on the anniversary of your baby’s due date?

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If my daughter’s name is Tzeitel, why Hannah’s Tears?

Chalk this up as frequently asked question #1. Why did I name my memory box program Hannah’s Tears if my daughter’s name is Tzeitel? So many people name their programs and organizations after their heavenly children, and I think that’s great, but that thought never entered my mind. I’m not sure why, but it didn’t.

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When we decided, shortly before Tzeitel’s due date, that we wanted to give back in some way, and to make sure that families didn’t leave the hospital empty handed like we did. When we first decided it would be memory boxes, and that we wanted to provide them at the hospital, we knew we had to come up with a name, before we started talking to people. My husband had been doing some Bible study about women and families in the Bible who suffered infertility and/or baby loss. He said that as he studied Hannah, in 1st Samuel, that the usage of “the Lord closed her womb” it means that she hadn’t given birth to a live child. I knew immediately that I had to name my program after this sweet mama who cried out to the Lord in her grief.

1st Samuel 1: 1-9 (NKJV)
Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, and his name 
was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. This man went up from his city yearly to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh. Also the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the Lord, were there. And whenever the time came for Elkanah to make an offering, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the Lord had closed her womb. And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat. Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?” So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the Lord. And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish. 

 

The story goes on to talk of how she prayed for a son and said that she would give him back to the Lord, to serve God all of his days, and that she was blessed with such a son, Samuel. As I think about her story, I can only imagine her life, her pain. “And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb.” Reading this makes me think, did Hannah hear the things that we hear? There’s nothing new under the sun, so I’m sure the same taunts that are used today were used then. “Why don’t you have any children, Hannah?” “Is there something wrong with you?” “When are you going to have children?” “Are you trying to have children?” and so on. We all know the things that people say without thinking, that dig at our bereaved hearts. Where do you turn when those things are said to you? Do you turn to anger? to hate? to bitterness? It’s a hard choice to make… bitterness is easy, anger is easy. To make the choice to turn to God in our sorrow is a really hard choice to make.

 

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For me, my faith has been the biggest part of my healing. If it wasn’t for God, I don’t know where I’d be. My faith in God allows me to know that when I die, I will go to Heaven, and that my baby girl is there waiting for me. It allows me to know that Christ died for my sins and I have accepted His blood as atonement for my sins. It tells me that God is in control, and that no matter what goes on in this sinful world, that in the end, He wins. It allows me to know that even when bad things come, He uses that to draw me closer to Him, and that He will also use it for good in the end. Through my loss, I have been able to meet hundreds of families that I would have otherwise never known. I have been able to touch the lives of people with His message and do things I would have never fathomed. I would have never chose this path for myself. I would have chose the “easy” road, I’m sure of it! But God knows the big picture. I’ve heard it said that life is like a big tapestry, but we can only see the back, it doesn’t make sense to us, it’s just a jumble of all of these different colors, thread sticking out all over the place. It looks ugly. But at the end, we will be able to see the front, to be able to see how God interwove all of the experiences of our lives together to make a beautiful picture. One of my favorite pastors to listen to, Dr. S. M. Davis of Solve Family Problems, has a wonderful sermon available called “What Happens when you Miscarry”. This sermon has been a great comfort to me. In it he talks about that God doesn’t allow us to see what we will go through in the future, because we aren’t ready for it yet. He prepares us each day, each moment, for what we will go through in the future. But we have to trust Him for that. I pray that you would trust God today, that you would know Him. If you don’t know Him as your Savior today, please, read the book of John, as it clearly explains the life of Jesus and His sacrifice in His death, and how He was raised from the dead.

I love being able to share my faith, and I love being able to share about my girl, but to me they go hand in hand. ❤

How do I define myself…

I was told this last week, you can’t let your grief define you, and I very much agree. At one time in my life, my grief did define me. I felt like I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t clean the house, I didn’t want to see people, all because of how sad I was and the toll it was taking on my body. That was a very rough time in my life. It took me several months after Tzeitel died to get to where I felt like I was human again. I just wasn’t myself. I would never want to go back to that place again.

 

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How would I define myself today? Child of God, wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend. I love to spend time outdoors, love time spent behind my camera capturing God’s beautiful handiwork, I love making crafts, and I love a rainy afternoon cuddled on the couch watching a movie. I love being joyful because I know that I am saved by the blood of the Lamb, and that He has a plan for everything. This is how I define myself. Grief to me is like the seasons. We all have our winters, where life is hard, and we don’t feel like we can go on. But we cannot stay there forever! We have to go into the spring, where life is new again and we learn about who we are in our “new normal”. I will always miss my girl, I will always be her mama. But as the seasons change, we learn how to go about our lives in a new way. Part of that to me is to use what I have learned over the past 2 years to help others to find hope and joy again after loss. That is why I make my memory boxes, that is why I am going through training to start a support group. Not because my grief defines me, but because I have hope and joy, and I want others to have it too! My grief does not define me, Tzeitel does not define me, but being her mama, and a bereaved parent, will forever be a part of me, and who I am. 

❤ Dawn

Bad Grief Days…

This weekend was pretty rough for me. Saturday was a pretty stinking awesome event that my sister and I both wanted to attend, but children couldn’t. Huge trigger for me. It is really hard for me when things like that come up, where one of us has to stay with my nephew so that the other can go to something, because I should be having to look for a babysitter or staying home too! I made it through the day, we went to a family game night Saturday night with church friends and had a great time. Sunday morning my hubby had to work, so I woke up to an empty house. I woke up, stayed in bed playing on my Kindle for a bit, and finally got up and went to the living room, and it hit me. The overwhelming, screaming silence. I tried watching movies. I tried listening to the radio. I tried talking to the cats. And the blaring nothing would not go away. All I could do all day was just sit on the couch and watch Little House on the Prairie. My husband got home from work in the afternoon and told me about his day, we started talking about what we were going to do in the evening. He asked how my day was, and all I could think of was how hungry I was because I hadn’t eaten anything all day, I just hadn’t thought about it until then. I told him about how I’d been feeling all day and we both thought it’d be good to get out of the house, so we went out to get something to eat. We left, heading to church, and I had another moment of unexpected tears. We turned around and went home, as I just wasn’t feeling like I even wanted to see people, let alone people who knew me and might want to talk. We got home and I just sat and cried. I poured my heart out about how I’ve been feeling, and how I’ve probably been feeling this for a while, but I’ve just been so busy with everything going on that I haven’t allowed myself a moment to really “feel” it. Having some down time, alone, made it come to surface. We sat and talked for a while, sat in quiet for a while. Just having someone who you know cares, genuinely, truly cares, means the entire world. We got to talking about things that I can do that might help me get out of this funk I’m in, and I brought up wanting to work on Tzeitel’s scrapbook. Her 2nd birthday in Heaven will be in June, and I haven’t started on her scrapbook. I’ve wanted to. I really have. But, I guess I may have been scared to. Well, last night we went out and picked out some things to get started! We also picked up some bodysuits for our Tzeitel bear to wear (it’s really been bothering me that she’s been naked, but our cat’s like to try to eat her tutu, and so it’s reserved for special occasions…). By the time we were headed home, I was feeling some better. Today has been better, but I think it will be some time before this cloud lifts. I’ve been fighting it for too long for it to go away that quickly.

I wrote this today, not for sympathy, but for awareness. I wrote this, shared this, because people don’t realize that this hole in our heart left behind when our child goes to Heaven, doesn’t just go away. Eventually it scabs. Sometimes the scab gets ripped off a few times. After a while it scars. But it never goes away. There will always be a place in my heart that is missing, because my sweet baby is gone. I was talking with someone, in Joplin, this past week while fundraising, and we were talking about the nonsensical thought that people have that we will just move on and forget our child, and I said, my response to that is, which of your children would you want to spend the rest of your life without? That is truly the path that a bereaved parent is on. We didn’t choose this path. I have been so blessed by what I have learned and where I am since being on this path, but would I have chosen it for myself? NO! But, that’s why we don’t choose our paths. God knows what lessons we need to learn to prepare us for the path He has for us. If I hadn’t lost my sweet girl, I wouldn’t be able to reach out to so many people the way I am able to now. Life is hard. Life will continue to be hard. Please be gentle to those that you meet on your path, you never know what they are going through.

Support Group Meetings

I’ve never been one to think that I “needed” support groups (even though I’m in quite a few on Facebook), I guess I thought I had it together. Not sure where that idea came from. Anyway, after a year and a half of being a bereaved mother, I have finally come to the point where I realize the fantastic good that comes from sitting in a room with someone who knows exactly what you’re talking about and doesn’t think you’re crazy. I attended my first meeting of the Bereaved Parents of the US a couple weeks ago, and I have to say, I loved it. As crazy as it sounds, to say that you loved meeting with a bunch of people who’ve all lost children, I loved it! We introduced ourselves, and at this meeting, the discussion topic was “My child’s possession.” Some of the parent’s who’d lost older children brought items such as hats, jackets, etc. Since I lost Tzeitel so early, I really didn’t have anything that was “her’s”. I have lots in memory of her, but nothing that actually touched her, or belonged to her. So, I took my Molly Bear. I dressed her in her tutu and bow, and she sat on my lap through the meeting. When it came to our turn, I explained what a Molly Bear is, and showed her off. I also had my framed ultrasound photo there. It was so special to have these other people, in person, validating my Tzeitel, and oohing and awwing over her! 

If you haven’t been to a support group meeting, for whatever reason, I strongly suggest that you find one in your area and attend, even if just for a few meetings. If you have, what’s your experience been? ❤

Scared (and excited) out of my mind!

Wow. Never in my life have I embarked on something this big, or courageous. I have always been the one ready to take a step back and let someone else take the lead. I’ve been happy to follow. Leading is scary. Why on earth would I want to be a leader? Leading means taking chances, being “in charge”, being in front of everyone, and most of all, it means you might make mistakes in front of everyone. It’s scary.

Exactly 1 year, 6 months and 17 days ago, my life changed forever. I became the mom of a baby residing in Heaven. I knew from that moment on that my life would never be the same. It took some time after that to realize what I was going to do with this gift (if you know me, you know why I would call this a gift, instead of a curse), and how I would use it to change myself and to help others. From my experience, being forgotten in a lonely, cold ER room, I knew that I had to make a difference for others, and that I had to share the joy I have in Jesus with them. On January 22, 2013, which should have been the day that I held my sweet baby in my arms, Grant and I decided that we would start a memory box program to provide comfort to families. We slowly started talking about starting a support group, but I knew I was no where near ready to start something like that. We looked over different groups, different things that were available, and I knew with who I am and how my thoughts work, I would want to go through an organization, so that I would have some sort of place to start. 

Fast forward to about a month ago. I kept having people asking me if I’d heard of Share, and I’d read about them, received information from them, and had really liked what I’d seen. Well, I found out that we had a chapter of The Bereaved Parents in Joplin, and that they were having a candle lighting near the beginning of December. I was talking with one of the leaders of their group, and she too asked me if I’d heard and/or thought of Share. I contacted Share again to ask them when the next training would be, to see if I would be past 18 months (required for bereaved parents to take the training), and they said end of April. 

I have officially started fundraising, as of today, for the trip and training. I will be doing an auction in March on Facebook through my Hannah’s Tears page, and I have a GoFundMe page (http://www.gofundme.com/5vxxls) where donations can be made. Anyone who might be interested can contact me or join the group I’ve set up on Facebook for the auction information and contributors (https://www.facebook.com/groups/739110576118114/).