How Many Kids Do You Have?

This blog post was first published at Still Standing Magazine.

kristina-tripkovic-649227-unsplash (1).jpg

How many kids do you have?” It’s such a common and generally harmless question. But to the mother who has experienced pregnancy or infant loss, the answer may not be as easy to get out. What’s the answer? I mean if you’ve lost, what do you say?

I’m not sure if its related to all of the Back To School activities or maybe it’s a seasonal thought associated with summer and family vacations, but I often find myself being asked this question during this time of year. And I usually take a long pause, followed by a few deep breaths. Then I quickly think to myself, what do I say?

Related: After Miscarriage: “How Many Children Do You Have?”

I start to wonder if the person asking is only interested in the number of living children. But then if I exclude the others, I’m acting as if they never existed. And then there are the pregnancies that I lost. At what point do they count? Can they be counted? Or does the person not really care. Actually, does this person even care how many children I really have or is this just small talk? And when I answer, what will be the follow-up question.

I continue to wonder, what do I say?

I never want to be hyper-sensitive to simple questions, but it’s rare that I do not get knots in my stomach when people ask me, “How many kids do you have?”

I remember being pregnant for the second time and getting asked repeatedly, “Is this your first child?” Because I had carried my first baby for six months, I felt like I had legitimate experience with pregnancy. So it was hard to disregard that experience and simply say, “Yes. This is my first child.”

But how could I say no without sharing the outcome of that first pregnancy?

Related: The Question: Is This Your First Baby?

And again I had to wonder, does the person asking even care about those details? Or is this more of a rhetorical question?

So, what do I say? What’s the answer?

Some days my answer is 1. Other days it’s 2. Sometimes I share the details of the first baby that I lost. Other times I don’t even bother. But why must I experience this dilemma over and over again? Why are you even asking such a question? Do you really want to know?  Maybe you should ask the follow-up question first so that I’ll know how to answer. Or maybe you shouldn’t ask the question at all.

I know. It’s such a simple question.

But the answer for me?! Not so much.

So let me ask YOU, How many kids do you have?

 

Photo by Kristina Tripkovic on Unsplash


Tips For Overcoming Triggers And The Summertime Blues

This blog post was first published at Still Standing Magazine.

park-troopers-221403-unsplash.jpg

Summertime! Long days and warmer weather make this time of year exciting for most of us. We get to enjoy increased outdoor activities, beautiful summer nights and fun-filled family vacations. But for others, it really isn’t all that great. It’s one long rollercoaster ride of triggers and you’re actually peeking from under the seat waiting for it to be over.

If you’re experiencing grief during this season, here are a few tips on overcoming triggers and the summertime blues.

With a little work, you can enjoy the ride again!

1. Honor your humanity.

Be honest with yourself about why you are avoiding particular activities, people, or places.

For years I would make every effort to avoid the baby department at Target. It was a trigger for me. While pregnant, I often visited and visualized what life would be like as a new mommy. I remember all the cute summer outfits in the store. I would see the beach toys and imagine what vacationing would be like for our little family. It was a part of the dream that I had for my baby. And when he died, so did that dream.

One day while shopping for a friend, I had to admit why I was avoiding the baby section. I decided to honor my pain. No more running and avoiding. The tears fell as strolled down the aisles, but I embraced each drop.

Honor your grief — the feelings of hurt, disappointment, anger, shame, guilt, frustration, and sadness. Honor it. Whatever you may be feeling in the moment, be honest with yourself and embrace it. Embracing it will propel you forward.

Related: 40 Special Ways To Honor Your Child

2. Say something.

Share your pain with someone. You are not alone. It may feel like no one understands, but you are not alone.

 

While lying at the pool during our most recent family vacation, a complete stranger walked up to me with tears in her eyes. It was a beautiful sunny day, and the area was full of kids having lots of family fun. This woman paused in front of my chair and whispered, “I’m sorry, but I’m just so sad.” I jumped up and asked her what was wrong. She shared with me that her husband had died 16 months earlier and being on vacation without him had become unbearable. It was her trigger.

She didn’t want the kids to see her cry so she walked over in my direction. I shared some encouraging words with her and gave her a big hug. In our embrace, she laid into my shoulder and wept. If only for a moment, she was not alone in her pain.

We were total strangers, and I will admit that it caught me off guard. But at that moment she needed to share her pain with someone and a not-so-strange stranger was available.

Related: Supporting You in Grief Saved Me Too

Our experience with grief allowed us to have something in common.

I don’t know the pain of losing a husband, but I was available for her. My husband was actually standing a few feet away, but I was still able to empathize with and support her. We bonded. She was not alone.

Don’t be afraid to share your pain with others.

Your support can come from unexpected places. Family, friends, medical professionals or total strangers — find someone and say something.

Allow the universe to respond to your needs. You are not alone.

3. Create new memories.

It’s impossible to erase the trauma that comes after infant loss. However, creating new memories can help frame it with healing.

July is traditionally one of my least favorite times of the year. It harbors the most painful memories of my son’s birth and death. July is a trigger. Every year I’ve anticipated it “getting better” but time has not healed that wound. This year we chose the love of family and the joys of a family vacation. We’ve discovered that it’s not time that heals old wounds, its love.

Shower your life with love.

You may decide to memorialize your loss in an intimate and personal way. Create a keepsake, volunteer with a local charity, or host a commemorative event. Plant a tree, release butterflies, or have an annual party. Whatever you decide, become intentional about creating new memories during this season.

Create new memories anchored in love.

4. Always remember.

Facing your pain can be scary. Not only is it scary to go to the depth of your agony. But many fear that healing will cause them to forget that the pain ever existed, that they’ll forget that their baby existed.

Related: Keeping their spirit and memory alive

Truth is, you’ll always remember. The trigger may begin to retreat. And the pain may dwindle. But the scars will make sure that you never forget.

So go ahead and face your fears. It’s safe to pull the trigger on your healing.

May your summertime blues be highlighted with beautiful sun rays!

Photo by Park Troopers on Unsplash


Parenting After Loss: He Knows

This blog post was first published at Still Standing Magazine.

HeKnowsBlog.jpg

As the years pass, and I spend them parenting after loss, I’m amazed at how our son, Keegan, responds to having a brother whom he has never seen. Keegan is 4 years old. And he knows. He knows that he has a big brother.

While pregnant I was concerned about parenting after loss. I wasn’t sure how my heart would handle it. Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure if my heart could handle it. But somehow my heart can love on earth and beyond. So, Keegan, he knows. He knows my heart. Yes, parenting after loss is so hard in what they know.

He knows that he has a big brother.

I imagined sitting down with my son one day to have “the talk”.

I didn’t know what I would say during this talk, but I imagined the day would come and I would have to tell him. Tell him all about his brother who lived for seven days. But he knows.

It all happened organically. No intentions or plans. It just happened.

Related: Siblings Grieve Too

We took our son to the gravesite of his big brother when he was about 6-7 months old. I bawled during that visit. Actually, my husband and I both cried our eyes out that day. It may be one of the few times that I’ve felt pure anger about our loss. I was angry that my sons would never get to know each other. Angry that we were visiting a cemetery instead of planning his 7th birthday party. I was angry that my son was staring at a headstone instead of his brother’s face. And I was angry that my heart was still broken.

I was angry.

Angry that he knows!

We had another visit about a year later. This time our son was a little older and we cried less. It was his first formal introduction. We didn’t explain much, but we told him that we were visiting his brother. I was worried about how his two-year-old mind would process such information. I didn’t know how it would make him feel. What he would say.

 

But, he knows. Now every time we pass a cemetery that looks similar, he smiles and says “my brother is there.”

He smiles!

He smiles because he knows.

As time continues to pass, he sometimes speaks of his brother. While playing, he’ll smile and say he’s playing with his brother.

Related: Brotherly Love; How Sibling Loss Shadows the Surviving Child

When he learns a new trick, he’ll smile and say his brother taught him.

Our son Colby died nearly 7 years before Keegan was born. And he knows.

I was afraid of him knowing. But the thought makes him smile. Every time, he smiles.

That makes my heart happy.

He knows.

And he smiles.

 

Photo Credit: LKP Studio