Posted by: Jody Glynn Patrick | 05/31/2016

For Moms Who Have Lost Infants….

“Some mothers choose to donate their baby’s milk after a loss. These mothers expressed that they wanted to share their baby’s milk with other babies in need. They also explained that it was too hard to discard their baby’s milk and they wanted to make meaning from their pumping experience. If you would like to donate milk in your baby’s honor, the Mothers Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes in Chicago will accept any and all of this milk. There is no minimum donation amount and it will accept your milk, even if you take medications. You may also choose to participate in “Poppy’s Dream” to have a star engraved with your child’s name and birth date added to the beautiful night sky in the milk bank lobby.  Questions? Call 847-262-5134.”

The breast milk collected by the Mothers Milk Bank truly does save other tiny, precious lives. In 201,1 the Surgeon General estimated that among the 1.5% very-low-birth-weight babies born each year weighing less than 3.3 lbs,  12% will develop a devastating condition called necrotizing enterocolitis or NEC. When NEC develops, part of a baby’s intestines becomes inflamed and dies. Many babies who contract NEC become critically ill and need surgery to treat it. NEC is so prevalent and so expensive that NEC treatments alone account for 19% of all newborn health-care costs. This is why in 2011 the U.S. Surgeon General wrote:

“Human milk is vital to the survival of vulnerable [newborns] and plays an important role in addressing the substantial burden imposed by NEC on affected families….”

Study after study has found that preemies who receive even partial human milk feedings leave the hospital earlier and are much less likely to become seriously ill.

There is nothing that can be said to ease your pain or to ease the burden of your loss. This is one way some mothers find comfort and a way to honor the short lives of their babies and to help another mother avoid that devastation. I submit it as a possibility for our grieving mothers of newborns.

Posted by: Jody Glynn Patrick | 04/11/2016

I’ts been years. Why don’t I feel better yet?

From a reader: “I’ve experienced two mothers in the last couple of weeks that had to bury their child. It’s been 18 years for me and it brought back the intense pain. I just wanted to lay down and not wake up. Some days I just get sick of carrying around the emptiness. This blog only speaks of initial grief, it doesn’t speak of years later and how it can feel like the day it happened. Family and friends don’t understand so you feel so alone in your grief.”

Last week I visited family in Arlington, Texas, which is far from where I live, and the first thing my cousin Buddy mentioned was his sorrow for the loss of my son, which now has been years and years ago. We haven’t seen each other for 40 years and he hugged me tight. In turn, my first thought upon seeing him was that he had also lost his adult son, Matthew, and I asked him how he was doing with his own burden. “Some days, it still feels like yesterday,” Buddy said. “I still wrestle every day with how I parented him, why I couldn’t stop him from overdosing. I wonder if how I tried to handle him — to bully him into rehab and to stay on him afterwards — if that didn’t backfire. I just keep reviewing the days before his death and then reliving the actual pain of finding him, of giving him CPR and of watching him die twice…. I thought I’d be over it by now. The rest of the world sure seems to be over it, but I live with it every day.”

Reviewing and reliving. When you are put into a traumatic environment, it is normal to review your own similar experience and to relive the emotions as you felt them then. The truth, as we longer-term veterans know all too well, is that we never get past the death of our child. We just get better at camouflaging our grief. We get better at pushing it down most days. We get better at answering the question of how many children we have without always mentioning the one who is no longer with us, after years of seeing how off-putting it is to the casual inquirer when you say, “I had four children, but one is no longer with us, so now I have two daughters and a son.” This leaves the person wondering if they should inquire what happened (they don’t want to know, really), but would it be callous or impolite of them to just move on? Neither response works and then we ourselves feel bad for creating their discomfort and so we learn to omit a mention of our other child altogether, holding each little betrayal close to the vest as another small failure. How could we possibly deny our own  child’s existence and memory? But we do.

The truth is not black and white, either, as to whether or not you are alone in your grief. No one else can ever feel what you feel, not even your spouse who has also felt shock, sorrow, denial, anger. Every relationship is unique to the two people involved, and every person brings different strengths and experiences to the table, so the way you feel the loss is uniquely yours. However, while your sorrow is your own, you don’t have to walk the aftermath alone. There are support groups of other grieving parents and the option of a grief therapist. Perhaps you’d benefit from the counsel of a religious personage or help from special friends or family  — not help to carry your load, because they can’t carry what they don’t understand — but help to carry you through the darker days.

And als0, there is the ability to express yourself here. To say what you can’t say anywhere else. We’re listening.

Posted by: Jody Glynn Patrick | 12/24/2015

Christmas without our children

There is an empty seat. An agonizing hole in our heart, in our world. Others may have become invisible already (or by now) to the place we hold for our children during the holidays (and every day) but we feel it. Something is wrong. And yet others laugh and find pleasure and meaning in purchasing gifts. How can that be? How can everyone else’s world go on without our children in it? How can we be expected to go on? Yet we do.

I am many years “out” from the trauma of Daniel’s death, but nowhere near through the trauma of losing him, if you know what I mean. However, I have made a life with him carried in my heart instead of in my arms or walking by my side, and I think I have adapted to the situation, if not to the loss. Then, at church, we’re invited to buy a poinsettia in honor of our dead. That simple thing pulls off the scab and causes my heart to bleed again. I ask my husband to pick it out and to make the arrangement because I know I would cry at the florist’s shop or get caught up in picking a blemish-free plant, strong and healthy, because if it wilted, it would crush my spirit even more. A plant. My son’s “presence” at church on Christmas has been reduced to a plant on a shelf.

But we have created new traditions, and that has helped. I’m playing hand bells for a midnight Christmas Eve service  — something I never did when Daniel was alive. We go out to my cousin’s house for dinner (I used to make every Christmas dinner). I don’t want to do the same things I did, so I go caroling with an adult choir. I helped our hometown launch a parade of lights, and worked to bring Santa back to town. My children are grown, we’re finally beyond the stockings and the things I couldn’t do any longer for Daniel, and we made it through and past those first Christmas holidays. Now I try to help other children find joy in Christmas.

And so will you, and that’s my gift to you this year — the assurance that you can and will make it through. It will take a toll and you need to be patient and forgiving if you don’t feel like buying things or cooking or caroling. You need to be able to set boundaries. But open your heart (it will, in fact, help with your healing) and do what you can. Don’t shy away from what you can do. It helps to be as charitable as possible, as focused on others as you can manage. Reach just a bit beyond yourself, and then be happy with yourself.

I am with you in spirit as we go into our respective holiday celebrations, just as my son is with me. I do pray for your peace and that you can find some measure of joy in the season. It is possible, please know and have faith that it is possible, and let your child’s love shine through you. Kindle that flame. It will shine again, with time.

 

 

 

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