When Hello Means Goodbye

Years ago, a perfect friendship evolved into a beautiful engagement that lead to a wonderful marriage that was changed forever in what should have been the most blessed chapter of our life. Our first child, Grace, was stillborn at 30 weeks. I struggled with sharing this with my blog readers, as clearly it is an intimate and precious subject to me and my family, but I have learned that there are many blessings and much purpose following great grief. Together, Jeff and I found our way out of the darkest of times and were blessed with three more healthy children that have truly completed our lives.

During the worst of days there were many well wishers, cards and calls. I felt like no one could say or do the right thing by me as I had crawled into a dark hole that I never wanted to come out of. One thing that likely saved my life was reading books that related to my plight. Today, thankfully, there are many websites and blogs that are of great support to mothers suffering from empty arms syndrome. Something so important to me at that time was acknowledging Grace and sharing her precious existence with others-

So I made her birth announcement.

A friend of my sister-in-law, a complete stranger to me, wrote a moving poem to my daughter that I knew the moment I read it that it belonged on the cover of her announcement. Inside, I added her tiny footprints and wrote a simple, but clear message.

grace
Isn’t
it
amazing
that
the one
thing
beating
strong
and
pure
in your tiny body
was
your
heart.
we will
always
keep
you
tucked
away
in ours.
-Chris Rodgers

I sent these to friends and family who had seen us through this wonderful first pregnancy and were so supportive to us. I also needed a message to send to acquaintances and clients so that I wouldn’t be faced with breaking the news in conversation.

14 years ago I didn’t have internet service, let alone access to online (discrete) printing services. I had to walk into the print shop with my floppy disk and hard copy in one hand, a box of tissue in the other, order my announcements through tears, console the woman at the counter and return the next week to follow up in the same manner. Today, desktop printing makes small run cards and announcements quite simple, as well as online printing services or cards customized by designers on Etsy.com.

I am sharing my story for this important reason- many of us feel completely helpless when someone we know faces a loss. A simple and fairly inexpensive gesture such as offering to create and order such a keepsake will be one of the most fulfilling things you could possibly do. I still offer my services in creating announcements or memorial digital collage keepsakes for funerals of friends and family whenever I can. Things such as these give my talents their greatest purpose.

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18 Responses to When Hello Means Goodbye

  1. #1 - mary jane says:

    Wow, what a sad and moving story, I’m brushing the tears away.
    That is so great that you found a way to honor your daughter and help others do the same through such an unimaginable grief…
    Mary Jane

  2. #2 - Debra says:

    Thanks for sharing that! What a sad but sweet post.

  3. #3 - Kristin says:

    The card you made for Grace is beautiful. Grief can be so overwhelming. That is a wonderful idea to help someone’s hurt. Thanks.

  4. #4 - cheryl says:

    Thank you for sharing such a deeply personal story and offering your wonderful advice to those of us who might need to help out a friend or loved one. I will keep this one locked away for a moment of need.

  5. #5 - Terri says:

    Thank you for sharing such a personal part of yourself, very beautiful post.
    Terri

  6. #6 - Valerie says:

    Just reading that and my eyes are full of tears.

    Glad you could do something for your daughter and yourself to help you heal.

  7. #7 - Irene Kaoru says:

    I stumbled on this blog via a forum post on Etsy. What a moving personal story, heartbreaking but hopeful. I really like your idea of doing the announcements, what a smart and sensitive way of dealing with the grief you must have felt and letting people know.

  8. #8 - marianne says:

    boy, i wish things were different 20+ years ago when i went thru 4 miscarriages. i was able to have a healthy boy inbetween, but i don’t think i will ever get over the loss. it would have been nice to have been able to acknowledge my grief over the deaths of my babies instead of sucking it up, stuffing the feelings far into the depths of my soul and pretending “it was all for the best” (something i was told more than once) since something most have been wrong with the babies. that is one saying i will always hate and will never ever say to anyone for any reason, ever. wow, sorry, guess it is still an open wound that will never heal.
    anyway, just wanted to say that what you created is beautiful and a simple but wonderful way to honor your sweet baby grace.

    marianne

  9. #9 - vfg says:

    perfect poetry.

    I can only look at my own grief obliquely right now–usually by sharing others’; thanks for sharing your story.

  10. #10 - Becky says:

    Your story deeply touched my heart. I can see that your idea can serve as a healing balm to a broken heart. Blessings! Keep up the good work. Hearts and Hugs, Becky

  11. #11 - sallyavena says:

    I too, lost a baby and then had to go through a delivery, knowing that I would never see that baby grow up. I wish I would have thought of sending out an announcment. Many people just didn’t realize that to me this was a real person and he would always be a part of our family, even though he wasn’t with us right now. Something like this would probably help them realize that fact. Thanks for sharing!

  12. #12 - Becky says:

    Thank you for your post. I just recently lost my fifth child at 20 weeks. It’s been really, really hard. I was so very sick – to the point that I almost lost my own life. I worked so hard for this baby and then ended up losing her. I put her hand and foot prints on my blog if you click on my name. I wish I could have atleast seen her but couldn’t deliver naturally due to placenta previa.

  13. #13 - AnneMarie says:

    do you know about the group of photographers called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep?
    I am striving to get my skills strong enogh to do this.
    My brother and his wife lost a twin at 40 weeks. never did he think he would bury a daughter… he said these words to me as he cried into his cereal at the hospital cafeteria the day one was born live and the other twin stillborn…
    I prepared the funeral – readings, casket and all… one of the hardest things our family endured…

  14. #14 - c h a n t i l e says:

    Thank you for sharing that… My twin sister was stillborn, and I can't imagine the pain my mother must have been burdened with. It's been very difficult for me growing up without her, feeling that loss, but it helps when you can find others who have been through a loss like that.

  15. Pingback: Grace, A Message of Hope | Just Something I Made

  16. #15 - KRistin says:

    I was just going about my business, putting a load of clothes in the wash, sitting down to read my email. I was reading a blog from NoBiggie about loss and infertility that included a post from you. Feeling your pain, following your link, reading your story, I’m feeling like I need to go have a good cry. Such a precious thing you did.
    Hug, hugs and more hugs to you.

  17. #16 - kami @ NoBiggie says:

    Cathe, what a neat way to honor your sweet Grace. and how kind of you to offer it to others too.

    Thank you for sharing Grace’s story with me and all your readers.

    That night in January was so special talking and crying with you.

  18. #17 - Crissi says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! I remember the empty arms syndrome well. I actually went to a toy store and wanted to buy a realistic baby doll, but didn’t because I felt like the weird crazy lady who was ready to pretend a doll was a real, living baby. I really love your way of celebrating your daughter and honoring the life she had.