Grief Is No Treat, Here are 3 Tricks

Have you seen the movie Return to Zero?

The Halloween scene?

Here.

I can relate to Aaron’s attitude and level of excitement, especially the 1st Halloween without Cullin.

Lost in a world of grief, he grabs a handful of aquarium rocks, shoves them at the trick-or-treaters , and closes the door yelling, “Because they can’t all be treats, kids.”

Grief is no treat, but here are three tricks to help you make it through Halloween.

  1. Picture what your child “would be”. Each year since 2012, I imagine what my son Cullin would be for Halloween. I take a screenshot of the costume and look at it when I want to picture my child as a trick-or-treater. On Halloween night, I take special note of the children who are dressed in that same character, smile to their faces, and burst into tears as they parade by. This year, I believe Cullin would be a vampire pirate like his little brother Raylun. I can see him now; a six and a half year old boy, running around, swashbuckling his sister, plank-walking his brother, biting me. Since I can’t see my son, I chose to envision him, to see him with my mind’s eye and my heart. How old is your child? Which character would be appropriate for your child’s age? Can you see? What do you see?
  2. Do something creative in honor of your child. Write down what you just envisioned for your child, and share your vision. What costume would your child choose? What is your child wearing? Can you see any other details? Creating a narrative and visual of the “would be’s” is a way make a new memory with your child despite death, time or space. Carve a special character on a pumpkin, or engrave your child’s name or initials. Make goodie bags “from” your child and hand them out on Halloween night. Create and mail goodie bags to your bereaved besties in honor of your children. Watch a scary movie while holding your child’s keepsake blanket and pillow.
  3. Do nothing. Stay inside. Turn off the front porch light, and do nothing. Watch a mind numbing show. Rent a movie. Or don’t. You don’t have to picture your child if that’s too painful. You don’t have to honor your child’s memory publicly. You don’t have to do something creative. You can choose to do nothing at all for Halloween or any other time of celebration if you physically or emotionally can not find the energy or care to join in the festivities. It is your choice because you know what you need. Do what you need, or do nothing at all, the choice is yours.

The first Halloween without Cullin would have been his 1st Halloween ever, but he died on the first day of October. I wanted to “Do Nothing.” but thirty days into my grief, my other children were ready to celebrate Halloween. I was ready for the day of the dead. I felt, plus looked like, the “Night of the Living Dead.” Somehow, for Cullin’s siblings, and in his honor, I took them trick-or-treating that night. When I saw “Woody” from Toy Story I almost buckled at the knees but somehow I kept walking, and smiled through the tears though, because I pictured my son Cullin dressed up as “Woody” that year. #planforpain

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Cullin’s sister Kindil colored these wooden figures Halloween ’12. She was 4 and witnessed the events the day her brother passed just weeks prior. Kids are so damn resilient.

 

Ornamental Release- A How To

Ornamental Release, a creative grief anger release holiday activity

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Read the history of this creative grief activity as shared on Babble here.

Each holiday season we invite you to join this Scared Sidless creative grief exercise to release some holiday grief while honoring your child and journey. The Ornamental Release is an activity where participants smash ornaments and create a new ornament from the broken pieces.

The purpose of the event is to actively take ownership of your grief; the anger, the rage, the agony, embrace the beauty within the broken, and create anew.

Participants can email photos and testimonials to scaredsidless@yahoo.com or share about your experience on social media using the hashtags

#ornamentalrelease #ornamentsmash #smashinggrief #creativegrief

Wondering how to get started???

1. Gather your materials. You will need the following items for this creative grief project:

  • At least 1 clear bulb
  • At least 3 medium/large sized, colored glass bulbs
  • A 12″ strand of ribbon
  • A hammer or solid boots
  • A safe and secure location with a smooth floor
  • A disposable towel
  • A funnel

2. Smash the colored bulbs. I have done this a few ways over the years, but much like your grief journey, you will find your own way. You can cover the bulb with a disposable towel and smash it with a hammer or smash the ornaments by stepping on them. Do what feels comfortable to you, but break the colored bulbs.

3. Make sure that the shattered pieces have been smashed into small enough pieces, sweep them into a pile, and funnel them inside the clear bulb. You can use a plastic funnel or a piece of paper to get the broken pieces inside the new shell.

4. Smash more colored bulbs if needed and fill the bulb to your desired level.

5. Time for the bow! Tie a bow onto the top of your ornament bulb and hang or display

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Smash the grief. Celebrate the love.

#CullinsMama

 

laurelbox- An Interview With Heart

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Please tell us about the creation of laurelbox, how did this heartfelt journey begin? In 2014, both of us watched as our closest friends said goodbye to newborn babies. When we went to send them gifts, it was really hard to find something to care for their hurting hearts. We processed through those losses together, and started tossing around the idea of opening a store with gifts for hurting people. That idea became a reality when laurelbox officially launched in May 2015. Our vision is that a laurelbox nourishes hurting hearts, and that each box becomes the breath of community as it is opened.

Many bereaved hearts are soothed by your products, what are your biggest sellers? Right now, with Christmas just around the corner, our Heaven-Side Holiday Ornament is our top seller. Our other top sellers are the Forget-Me-Not Necklace, the Collecting Your Tears Handkerchief, and the items from our Tea Collection. And of course, our Prepared laurelboxes are popular, because they’re an easy way to know what to send someone.

Mothers of loss have a need to feel connected to one another, would you share some testimonials with us?

One week after losing my 6-day old baby, I received one of the most beautifully packaged boxes in the mail. I was so impressed by the immaculate attention to detail of the box itself, and, as I opened it, I was even more taken aback by its perfectly packaged contents. From the paper lantern to the necklace, each item was personalized and made me feel truly special. If there was ever a time one needs something to feel special, it was during that time. I thank you for giving my heart something to smile about when I didn’t even know it could smile.  

-Chelsea

I received my first laurelbox this year on what would have been my youngest daughter’s third birthday. A Chinese lantern, a sweetly scented, hand-poured birthday candle, and a sachet of sparkly glitter for the grave site were the contents of this beautiful box. This was the first birthday we were having to endure without Nora and our hearts were pained. The exquisite love and compassion that went in to putting this box together was so obvious down to the smallest detail! They even included a gold marker to write special messages to Nora on the Chinese lantern. Each item played a deeply meaningful part in our remembrance celebration that day, and helped lighten our heavy hearts in such a special way.

-Aleisa

The holidays can be a time which the effects of grief are triggered, which of your products do you find to be the most uplifting this holiday season?

The Heaven-Side Holiday Ornament has a really tender message, because it recognizes a hurting heart and also offers a beautiful message of hope. We also really like the We Love You Holiday Luminary because it is a sweet way to represent the life of someone you are missing this Christmas. We are close to debuting a holiday themed laurelbox, and it will include a soothing handmade soap and a hand-stamped necklace with the word “love” or “hope.”

Denise and Johanna

Soothing hearts and supporting others is your mission, but what effects have laurelbox had on your souls?

From Johanna: It was really crazy timing to launch laurelbox. When we started planning laurelbox, my life basically was good. But since then, some really difficult personal things happened, and suddenly, the work we were doing was very close to my own heart. I joke that this was the worst possible timing to start a new business, but the truth is, in a huge way, laurelbox saved me. Connecting with other hurting women, even though our stories are all different, and finding community and beauty amongst darkness, was a huge blessing.

From Denise:  When we started laurelbox, I thought that I would be the one blessing others. But in actuality, laurelbox changed my soul and morphed me into a person who savors each moment. I have slowed down, and I don’t take the time we have now lightly.  I think since I physically package each box, I am very aware of how quickly life can change. I have grown in patience…with my children, with my parents, with my husband…knowing that they are precious gifts.

Family and friends are sometimes left without words during and after times of child loss, which products do you suggest loved ones purchase to show support?

It’s so true that it’s hard to put together words after someone losses a child!  We curated our Bereaved Mothers Prepared laurelbox collection to guide someone who might be struggling to know what to send.  The items recognize the pain after losing a child, help commemorate the child, and include things to care for the hurting parents.

Mothers and fathers love to see their child’s name written, does laurelbox offer items that can be personalized?

Yes! We love personalizing items, and most of our laurelboxes include some level of customization. We can personalize our hand stamped Words of Memory Vintage Spoons and our Wear My Initial Necklaces. You can also add initial charms to any of our existing necklaces, which makes a beautiful piece of customized jewelry. You can also have our You Light Up My Life Lanterns personalized. We include a complimentary card with each laurelbox, and we handwrite your gift message. It is really precious, because the name of the heaven-side child is almost always included in that card. There are also some little touches that we include to make each laurelbox feel even more special. Maybe only we notice, but for example, if you include seed paper in your box…we make sure to put pink in the pack for families missing girls, and blue in the pack for families missing boys. Our goal is truly to make each recipient feel loved and remembered, and we are thrilled when we can think of even small ways to convey that sentiment.

There are too many grieving kids in the world, which products would inspire these bereaved children?

We know how hard loss can be on little ones too, so we created the Small But Mighty Superhero Capes. We think sometimes pain can make little ones feel small and scared, so we hope that these capes help remind them of their mighty hearts in a time when they feel sad. We also have child size Wear My Initial Necklaces. We also have some customers who use our essential oils to calm their hurting children. The diffusing oils can help balance their emotions and hearts.

The men in our lives act tough, but we know they could use some pampering too, does laurelbox have special items for the forever-healing dad?

Dads love our handmade Collect the Memories Box because it’s rustic and handsome.  They also like the sanctuary essential oil (with its woodsy scent), the Heaven-Side Holiday Ornament, and the You Light Up My Life lantern. Although we are currently a small shop that focuses mainly on women, our dream is to someday expand our product line to include gifts designed just for men.

What is your proudest accomplishment thus far, and what are some dreams for the future of laurelbox?

We have poured all of our creative energies, our personal finances, and our dreams into laurelbox, and honestly… and we are so thrilled that our dreams of caring for hurting women became a reality! We spend a huge amount of energy to make sure that laurelbox is special, and when we hear heartfelt testimonies of how a laurelbox makes a hurting person feel. Well, for us…that is our proudest accomplishment. Hearing how the unwrapping experience touches deep emotions, how each product speaks to someone’s grief, how special it feels that their friend remembered their hurt…that makes us unbelievably proud. After hearing so much affirmation about our company, we are starting to dream about changing the way people connect after loss, and revolutionizing the sympathy gift market.

Your “thoughtfully curated gift boxes are designed for a woman in a season of difficulty”, what is your wish/prayer/hope for the bereaved community this upcoming holiday season?

Our wish is that your community of friends and family hold you up when pain makes it hard to hold yourself up. Our prayer is that a laurelbox gift can help you feel remembered in a time when people can get busy with their own lives and loved ones.  Our hope is that if you are far from your family and friends this holiday season, the tangible gifts we provide will help you know that they stand with you from across the miles.

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This Is Somewhat Us

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This Is Somewhat Us

as seen in Still Standing Magazine Sept.2017

This Is Us is beyond brilliant, but when will the show address the death of that third triplet? The writers seemed to have skipped over writing about the actual pain or effects of losing a child, and replaced the couple’s misery with an orphaned newborn whom they effortlessly adopt. The couple expected three babies to come home, and three did, but it seems like the Pearsons left their deceased baby, and the looming shadow of grief, at the hospital. If you are like 1 in 4 of “us” in the “child loss community” then you know that grief will forever be present in your child’s absence. When are they going to address this forever grief? Will they? Will the writers avoid the topic and continue to force Rebecca and Jack to “move on” or will they be able to break their silence and grieve in waves on future episodes? Edited to say that Season 2 addressed Kyle, not by name, but at least by mention. The writers explained why Rebecca overcompensates with love for Randall, but I’m hoping for more depth and maybe even a mention of the stillborn Kyle.

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During the pilot episode, Rebecca and Jack Pearson have planned and prepared for the arrival of their triplets but despite the fact that it was Jack’s 36th birthday and he willed “only good things will happen in this room”, their plans and lives change against their will as Rebecca’s regular doctor was unable to attend the delivery and Dr. Nathan Katowski was forced to stepped in.  He delivered two healthy babies, and a stillborn.  Bereaved parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, watched in both horror and delight as the taboo topic of child loss was addressed on a platform with 4.5 million viewers, and Dr. K’s message was heard and felt around the world as he turned his personal story heartbreak into heartfelt advise for grieving father Jack and grievers around the world.

He said, “I’d like to think that one day you’ll be an old man like me talkin’ a young man’s ear off explainin’ to him how you took the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade. If you can do that, then maybe you will still be taking three babies home from this hospital, just maybe not the way you planned.”

The next day, there were more “Lemons to Lemonade” memes on social media sites than could be counted, and conversations about infant death, stillborn babies, and other types child loss that were not happening the day before because such an amazing show addressed such a sensitive issue, our issue; enduring the death of a child.

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This is Us has millions chanting, “This is Us, This is Us!” Yet others, like myself, are left saying “This is somewhat us,” and wondering, “Will the writers take a sip of and savor the lemonade they have created or spit it out because it seems too sour?”

You will need a lifetime of sugar to sweeten the sour taste of child loss, and even still life can seem so bitter.  If you are a fellow loss mama or daddy then you know exactly what I am talking about and have probably tasted the bitterness of grief even on your sweetest of days.  Your child’s absence is always present, always felt, but not always seen or understood by others, especially if they have not survived the death of their child.  They can imagine.  They can surmise.  They can put themselves in your shoes, but they cannot comprehend the magnitude of love, the depth of grief, or the resounding void that fills a life lived without the child you intended to raise.

Should they sit with you, listen to you, and ask you questions about your child then they will somewhat understand.  Should they accompany you to your child’s grave, hold your hand during your darkest moments, and listen to your heart when you have no words, then they will have a glimpse into your grief.  Should they look away, forget to call, and ignore the pain then they probably cannot handle the weight of your grief.  Avoidance does not elude the void.  Ignoring the tragedy of child loss is yet another one of its many subsequent tragedies. Grief refuses to be ignored, and must be faced head and heart-on.  In life and on television.

Epidsode 12 addresses the love and bond shared between mom Rebecca, and son Randall but the story is not complete.  What the viewer will see is a bereaved mama trying with everything she has to avoid displacing the love for her baby that has died onto her new baby whom she has adopted.  You will hear her need to give Randall his own name, rather than the one intended for the third triplet, Kyle. You will feel elated that this mom’s empty arms have been filled with a beautiful child to love.  Your heart will soar when you see three babies lying beside one another.  But will you remember that there should be four Pearson children?  Will you remember that Kyle should be there too?  Will the writers think more of Kyle, the character that did not get to play a physical part in the Pearson family story, yet should play such an emotional role?  Will Randall continue to be portrayed as a replacement to fill the hurt, a body to fill that void?  The writers addressed the topic of child loss but will they delve deeper?  Will we see a glimpse of Rebecca in the delivery room as they whisk her boy’s lifeless body away?  Did she get to hold him?  Did she ever get to see him?  Did Jack get to see him?  Did they have to plan burial or cremation services?  Will Rebecca wear Kyle’s ashes on a necklace, carry a tuft of hair in her pocket or hold a stuffed animal in his absence?  Will we see her open a box and break down as she holds special treasures from her still born, still loved son; a hospital i.d., Kyle’s blanket, a special coming-home outfit?  Will Jack see a kid who “looks like Kyle might have looked” as he takes the other kids to school?

Will Rebecca have a grief attack at Kate, Kevin, and Randall’s high school graduation? Will they portray the magnitude of such grief during the upcoming seasons, or continue to write off the tragedy?  Will Kate and Kevin ask or be told about their brother who passed away at birth?  Will Randall know about Kyle? Will the Pearson family gather together at the cemetery or will viewers catch Rebecca in a moment of solitude, standing over her son’s grave?  Will they tell a lie at the park, saying “Three kids.”, or confess with a sigh, “Four.  One died.”  Will Jack take his angst and grief with him to the grave, or did he release his sorrows within the comforts of a secret grief diary? Will the couple’s known divorce be a result of some twist in the plot (Rebecca falling in love with Jack’s best friend Miguel) or some twist of fate (the effects of grief on a relationship)?  Will Kyle’s death forever lie in the undercurrent of their lives? Will the characters wake and walk, sleep and breathe, live and die in honor of their fourth child?  Will we hear Rebecca and Jack reflect upon what “Kyle would be, could be and should be doing” during certain seasons of their lives?

Will these issues be addressed, Dan Fogelman?  If so, then bereaved parents around the world will tune in and say, “This is pretty damn close to us!”

Season 3 begins Tuesday, September 26th. How will they handle Kate’s miscarriage? Will she and mom Rebecca bond over their deep pain as bereaved mamas? This is us, watching!

 

Grief Upon Grief

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I have been numb the past couple of weeks as yet another loss mom has crossed the line that separates inspiration and borrowing ideas for personal gain. I’m not mad. I’m numb. I’ve assured her a few times that, indeed, I’m not mad, but have expressed that I am not happy about it either. I’m actually getting pretty sick of it.

This is the third leading voice in the world of grief that has borrowed one or more of my quotes, sayings, phrases, ideas, or programs and I can’t keep quiet about it anymore. I Can’t. Follow someone else. Gain inspiration from someone else. Stop stealing my art.

When you steal words written for, photos taken of my child, or borrow from programs designed in his honor, you are messing with the wrong angel army. Every brokenhearted soldier is lined up, ready to rally against those who value personal gain over integrity.

Some of the quotes that you are tweaking, using, and “making your own” have actually been recycled a couple of times over the past couple of years and are a copyright under our nonprofit. Some of your articles that have my phrases may get some likes, but keep in mind that they are essentially my likes. They are not your likes as they are not your ideas, words, or visions, they’re mine. You are actually stealing intellectual property. More unethical, you are stealing emotional property.

Again, stop, I have enough grief in my life.

End of rant.

Cullin’s Mama

 

 

 

KinderCares

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One of the first loss mamas to extend her hands and heart to me when Cullin died was Dorie of The Baby Bird Boutique, mother of Kale, seamstress of all rompers cute, and true warrior mama. She has shown up to our 5k fundraisers for Scared Sidless, donated items to every concert and auction that we have hosted, and has texted or called me back every time that I have needed her. She gets it.

Dorie understands the need for consistent, genuine, loving support after the death of a child, because she has endured life without her son Kale since 2011. Her first son suffered from the effects of a true knot tied in his umbilical cord, meconium aspiration, and oxygen deprivation. Kale fought bravely for his life before taking his last breath 45 days after he was born.

Since that day, Dorie and her family have provided thousands of care packages for our local NICU, volunteered at and hosted many fundraising events, and have encouraged kindness in honor of Kale. They “do it for Kale.”

They celebrated his fifth birthday without their son in 2016, but did so with purpose, passion, and in style. They created “Kale My Vibe” shirts to encourage others to break the silence and stigma of pregnancy, infant, and other child losses. Dorie asked others to perform random acts of kindness in honor of this milestone.

That year Kale was supposed to start Kindergarten, and my Cullin should have been entering PreK, but instead the boys would miss their own milestones. There would be no 1st Day of School. No Star Student. No Kindergarten graduation. Or would there be?

I decided to prepare a space in my classroom and heart for our boys at school that year. As I created certificates for my students, I made one for Kale and Cullin. From this emerged a new initiative called KinderCares for my nonprofit Scared Sidless, and it became official last year with the addition of milestone certificates created by artist Angela Riggs.

Last year there were 20 children in my KinderCares classroom and this year the numbers have already doubled because there is a need to honor the missed milestones that our children will not reach physically. It’s hard, but we will celebrate anyway.

Join us.

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