Monday, June 24, 2013

Miscarriages, Stillborns and Infant Death are Just as Real a Loss

When people have miscarriages, have a stillborn child or suffer the death of their infant who perhaps only lived a short time after birth it is just as real a loss.  It includes the loss of hopes and dreams for the child, but also is a true loss of a person, someone they loved!

People go through this type of loss often don't have the types of supports in society that other types of loss traditionally do. Hopefully that is changing. These losses are just as real and can be just as traumatic! 

Hospitals seem to be learning that this is a real issue and aren't all treating, for example, a miscarriage or stillborn child as "just tissue" anymore.  Depending on the situation, sometimes preparations can be made ahead of times and the family/parents can work with a palliative care team.

What is truly making a difference is in individual situations, where parents are allowed to hold their child and bond, but also acknowledge the reality of their situation, their loss and the love they feel.  It gives a chance to say hello and goodbye!  These feelings are very real. Treating it as the real thing it is can go a long way in helping the parent(s) grieve their very real loss.

I will explore this more in future posts and hopefully have a guest post as well. This is just as important as other losses! The more we create the awareness of this, the more it might help those who are friends and family of the bereaved understand and learn to feel more comfortable with the situation as well.  

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Victorian Bereavement Memorial Pictures

Hello There,

 A few years ago, I became intrigued by something that I discovered quite by accident. I mention them here because I thought it was very strange, but actually began to understand how it was done because of transportation issues.

In Victorian days, in Europe and America, when someone in the family passed away, they were usually "on display" in the family home, not at a funeral home. Visitors were usually received at the house to remember the loved one and to give their condolences. Also due to lack of modern day preservation techniques, the loved one's body couldn't be preserved long enough to "wait" for people to arrive. If someone passed away communication wasn't as easy because even when telephones became available, it was something owned by the rich. Most people didn't have phones after they were invented.   Letter writing and telegraph were the major forms of long distance communication. Traveling also was not as easy as hopping on a plane and being somewhere in a few short hours. There were horse-drawn carriages, trains mainly as the transportation. These certainly weren't as fast as airplanes or such as hopping in the car (our modern day kind!).   If someone passed away, a relative who was some distance away couldn't get there so easily.  With another new technology though, people were able to honor, remember, memorialize and share the loved one's image in a memorable and loving way with the relatives who can only arrive after the funeral.  This would be photography.

Photography being expensive, not as convenient as today, and also a fairly young technology, made it special. During Victorian times, people dressed up for photos in their best outfits. It was like sitting for a painting almost, except for a brief period.  Portraits and an emphasis on placed on strong family sentiment in the culture of the day made it a special way to memorialize and honor the deceased.  After one passed on, the person would often be clothed in their best and posed in position surrounded by family in a very loving manner.  Many families lost a high number of children due to lack of the modern medicine that we have today. The loss of life happened much more often compared to modern day. Unfortunately death was even more of a part of their life. These traditions were more common to their lifestyle because more things centered around the home.

Doctors came to the house.  Many things were delivered to the house such as different types of food, ice, milk. Things were also sold by traveling salesman. The family didn't run to the market all the time. People didn't go out for entertainment as much as we do. Families would play games, work on crafts, read, write, among other types of entertainment, which took place inside the home. Other traditions and rituals such those that surrounded life events such as holidays, birth celebrations, wedding parties, and the rituals of celebrating one's life after his or her death were focused on in the home.

Here is a sweet loving video of these types of photos with some loving music. I chose not to include some of these types of photos here out of sensitivity to those who might not want to see it.  You can also google or search on You Tube for more of this type of thing. I chose to share a brief one on children.  It's easy to see the love and preparation they put into making these as a memorial tribute to their lost loved one. 

Renewal and Exploration

When I last posted here in this blog, I was having a difficult time doing it.  It became too painful and difficult so I stopped. The pain of dealing with the loss of my dad was becoming more difficult and real. I wasn't able to give anymore.  On occasion, I have thought about doing it again, but became caught up in some other things.

I have reasons for starting up again. One good thing is that it is not generally for negative experiences that want to write here again.  I think what I write will be helpful and insightful to those experiencing grief and bereavement, but it will be interesting to me.
On Monday, May 20th, I'm starting to take a summer class at my local university which is called Thanatology Institute.  It will be an intensive class of four hours a day, four days a week for several sessions. It is a well-known class in the area and is not your regular "Death and Dying" class (which I've already taken and gained so much from years ago). 

There will be well known guest speakers and great assignments. I've wanted to take this class for the past twenty years!  I'm finally getting my chance.

In this blog, I want to share thoughts, experiences, insights, any materials, etc. which may be helpful or interesting.

Yesterday was the two year anniversary of the day I drove the most difficult (energy and emotionally draining wise) and fastest drive of my life to see my potentially dying dad in the hospital after going through another very stressful event the day before!  Today, I would have been sitting in his ICU hospital room with him and my brothers. He was hooked up to at least 13 IVs and had several serious machines keeping him alive.  He died that following Saturday when we made the painful decision to remove his life support.  He did go peacefully with the last few breaths being his own.

I think these anniversaries will be interesting and insightful to experience during this class time.  I want to use this time to share things here with whomever it may help, but I think I may also help myself.

In the past when I wrote here, I tried to keep it as open and universal to all who might read it. I tried to keep it less focused on spirituality, even though that's a potential component of dealing with grief and loss. The reason I kept it that way was so I didn't exclude anyone. Because what I'm writing will be more personal, I will probably include more of my own spiritual beliefs in here.  This may be helpful to some and may not be helpful to others. My intent with this is not to preach my own personal beliefs to others, but actually more to help others in whatever they make get from it. The items you see in here over the next few weeks may on occasion reflect some of my spirituality and I ask that you keep an open mind, as I will also try to do when I write it.

Any thoughts you wish to express in the comments on here, I would love to see here on any post in this blog actually!

Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Monday, October 17, 2011

When you lose someone, you lose a whole lot more...

When someone you love passes away you don't just lose someone you love.  You are not just mourning the loss of someone's presence or memory in your life. There are reasons that person was special to you when they were alive. They brought something to your life that isn't there anymore.  In some cases it is something you chose in that person to like or love-such as someone to share a confidence in or share a love of something with. There was some sort of camaraderie or something special.  It may be shared experiences that you could converse about or share in other ways.

With a family member or long time friend it could be those shared experiences-positive or negative that you could turn to each other about or with. You lose that shared love or dislike of something. But you also lose that aspect of your life that you will have to live without. For example, if you went to the ball game with the person every season or even heard stories of yesteryear of those days, but they aren't in the present anymore, it's a loss. You lose a lot more than a person.

In my parents, I have lost links to stories of my past of my family's past. These are links to part of who we are. We have lost chances to be able to ask or listen to them. In the loss of a friend from my high school years, I lost chances to continue a relationship with her as well as to have someone who was the only other one who knew our little secret code for sharing stories about guys or life experiences.  Granted, as long as I'm here, I can pass her memory to others and to those who loved her, but I lost the potential to share those in the same way with someone.

Sometimes the loss of a person can make us lose the connections to others in our lives.  They helped us stay connected to others who possess some shared history.  We might be losing a lifestyle or shared direction in life. There are so many losses to ponder.  It is something to assess in the meaning of all that goes with the person we lost. These are aspects of ourselves.

This is written not to intensify the focus negatively on what is lost when someone dies, but more to help one just focus on all that is lost.  Identifying some of these things might help explain some of the complexity of the feelings we don't understand or why things seem to pop up from no where from the murky inner pea soup thickness of grief and its process.  We don't necessarily have to dissect all the aspects but in identifying some, it may help one grow more fully in putting our lives together as we grow in our grief. Not only does the person we lost take on new form in the process of life, but so do we in this part of our own lives. It can help us understand ourselves more fully and live life more fully. The presence of these people were a gift in our lives. One of the best things we can do in their memory is to grow from having had their presence in our lives.

The key is being open and just let it take its course. These types of things take time-their own time. Be patient with it and yourself.

I wish you peace in your journey.

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You may find a blank card with a beautiful picture at Lifescapes where you can design a sympathy card, or other design a note card with your own text to your own personal specifications.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Light a Cyber Memorial Candle

One way you can do a personal or shared memorial for a lost loved one is to light a candle on cyberspace. There are different places to do it.  Some of the candles last a few days and some are forever. I used them when people and companion animals were in the process of dying, when they were sick and after they had passed on. It can be very comforting. For the long lasting ones, I actually google the candles using a name and other unique information to see if they are still burning and find that they are. It is comforting to me. It is a place to go remember even in the middle of the night even just to focus on the memory or issue you are thinking about, when no one else might be there, or when you just want to be alone with it.

Some candle lighting web pages even have prayer requests where you can ask others to prayer for your particular situation. They all have their own uniqueness. Some are just for pets also. You can google any number of words or phrases such as "light a candle" or "memorial candle online" , any combination or add your own. You will find different websites to try out. Some or most will make it easy to send links of your candle to others. Some have whole pages you can dedicate to a person or cause that you can invite others to join in lighting candles with you. You will find something to suit your needs out there for sure!

Here are some of my favorites:

Small Miracles Foundation- Pregnancy Loss and Related

A very open minded site

Feel free to check back for I will probably add more in the future.  Also, let me know what you think in the comments below. If you have any thoughts or suggestions-whether it is more links or ideas how to make it more meaningful, please share. We are here to help each other. Feel free to share a personal experience!

I hope this day finds you more at peace than the day before.
Mary Ellen

You may find a blank card with a beautiful picture at Lifescapes where you can design a sympathy card, or other design a note card with your own text to your own personal specifications. 

Please follow this blog through e-mail at the top right corner of this page, follow by liking our FB page .
You can also follow through Networked Blogs or Google Friend Connect on the right side panel of the page!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Creating a Personal Shrine

While anyone is still in the major throes of the grieving process and even later when one is more at peace with his or her loss, it might be a good idea to create a small personal shrine for that person you had a relationship with. You can pick a spot in your living room (which is more public) or in a room, such as your bedroom, which is more private.  This all depends on what feels comfortable to you and your needs.

You can display photos, objects that somehow have meaning to that person or the relationship you shared. It could be a piece of artwork done by or of that person, mementos from things you did together-such as a pebble picked up walking on a beach, camping, some outing or perhaps a trip or afternoon spent together. Also, it can be a gift from that person. A hat, watch or item of clothing that the person wore can personalize it more.

You can put things that have religious meaning or reflect spirituality of either yours or your loved one's beliefs or practices. You can light candles or use the new LED or electric burning candles to set a mood when you feel a need to be comforted or closer to your lost loved one.

If the "shrine" is in a more prominent spot, it can be an area you use to share or discuss memories about that person or feelings with others.  It can be a way to share or trade memories which bring comfort and help one feel the presence of that person. If you have a private shrine, but feel comfortable sharing it with someone, you can use it to feel closer to that person as well as your lost loved one.

You can change things on it. Rearrange it and keep it fresh. Make it a place that is personal and comfortable to you.  As time goes on, you may feel the need to make it less prominent or to have fewer things there or adjust it somehow as you grow and feel more at peace in your grieving process. You may feel less need to have certain things there. Just go with your feelings.

In the loss of my dad, I feel more of a peace when I go hold or touch something that reminds me of him. I feel the loss and pain too, but it gives me a safe place to go to express my feelings, especially when the rest of the world might not seem to understand. This area can help you too at those times.

If you have made a personal memorial shrine for your loved one or know someone who has, please share some thoughts, insights, or things that you may have done that may help in reading this. Just write in the comments section below.

May this day find you more and more at peace.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Furry Companions can be Extremely Helpful with Grief...

As the title suggests, furry companions can be extremely helpful during the grief process. There are different approaches and aspects to this. Some people may already have a furry companion such as a dog, a cat, a rabbit or something smaller like a gerbil or hamster.   Having a familiar companion can be really helpful. Many animals do seem to have a sense of knowing when helping out their human companions is necessary and they lovingly step up to the task!

They can also provide purpose in the life of a grieving human such as making sure the companion  animal is fed, watered, exercised, clean and whatever the animal needs. It can also help keep the bereaved person grounded with life and earthly things-providing some balance with the shock or withdrawal from everyday life.

Bringing a new life into the life of the grieving person can also be helpful. It is not meant, by any means, to replace the loved one who has passed on, but more to provide a two-way companionship and new relationship to build upon. It is a great way to share some of that great capacity for love that one has demonstrated in his/her loss of a loved one in a positive way with another life. Not only does it help fill, not replace, some of the empty void or space in the bereaved person's life, it can help the person grow through the growing bond between the two and also the hope it helps create in showing that one's life can go on.

Of course one can buy an animal somewhere, but actually going to a rescue or shelter can add another dimension to the whole hope that is offered! It helps empower the bereaved to give hope to another life. In some cases, it is saving a life from being destroyed.  Many shelter or rescue animals are socialized, sweet and loving already and looking for hope as much as the bereaved. They, too, have their loss of a previous home too.

Then, there's the universal benefits of pets (companion animals) of the unconditional love they share with us. They listen and don't complain.  They will provide reassurance when no one else will and in ways others don't or can't.

My rabbits provided love and purpose for me through many different things, including deaths of family members and friends. When my mother and grandmother passed on, I named new bunnies after them. When my father passed away, ten years later, I named one after him. It turned out to be a girl, so she is Jamie, instead of James. It makes people and myself laugh when I explain it. It doesn't dishonor my dad. He would think it was funny.  It gave me a way to show love and honor to him, but Jamie allowed me to look at a small part of my life without my dad in a new way. She gives me new purpose and shows me that I still have more to do here myself on this earth and life is not over. I feel my dad around me too complaining playfully about the rabbit named after him is a girl.

I hope that this article is helpful in some way to you. Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment boxes. If you have thoughts you would like to add to this, that would be really great also.  If you have suggestions for the blog or other people reading this, please share. I encourage it greatly.

I wish you peace in your journey today and always.