Onward

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If there is one thing I’ve learned from Empty Arms, it’s that we all grieve in our own way, and we do not have to abandon things that work for us before we are ready.  I have been strongly encouraged by all the former leaders of the group to bring the group to a close.  Attendance at monthly meetings has been practically non-existent for the past year.  We have had several phone calls from new people seeking support for the past couple of years, but most of them have not even attended one meeting.  It seems like the time has come.

But, I am not ready.  This December marks my fifteenth anniversary of attending meetings at Empty Arms.  And I’m not ready to let that go.  I realize that many people are finding their support these days online, and I am happy to provide support through our facebook group and this blog.  But I don’t feel that’s a sufficient replacement for real world meetings.  Sometimes, talking to a human being in the same room is what we really need.  I know that there are other groups that are all over the news, so maybe more people are finding those groups.  But, I also don’t think that those groups are a replacement for a peer-led support group, free of religious overtones, pressure to stick to a set topic, or any feeling of needing to raise or contribute funds.  Any effort to offer and increase support for parents suffering pregnancy or infant loss is welcome and needed.  But that does not mean our little group doesn’t still matter.

I know that much of the encouragement to close the group comes for concern for me and my health and well-being.  I appreciate that so very much.  For those who do not know, I have been suffering from chronic migraines for quite some time now.  Constant pain has a way of wearing a person down.  I admit that it is discouraging to show up every second Tuesday, despite my pain levels and other stresses in my life, only to have no one attend the meetings.  There have been times, before other leaders suggested it, that I wondered why I was doing it.  I have also let regular blog posts become a thing of the past, mostly because they do not seem to garner much of a response and I wonder how many people they are actually reaching.  After months of soul-searching, though, I have come to peace with the fact that the group is changing.  I am okay with still showing up, even if I only help one or two people who need to talk in the space of a year.  Because I still need this group.  I still need to do this thing that I can do for my babies, and all of you.

This does mean that some things will have to change.  I may need to occasionally cancel a meeting, as I did in November.  Because of the low attendance, I do not feel comfortable asking anyone else to cover for me.  So, if the weather is horrible, or my pain levels are unmanageable, or I have pressing family commitments, I will cancel the meeting.  This information will be posted here and in the Facebook group.  I hope that will be sufficient to inform anyone planning to attend of the cancellation.  I am including this and other changes with our annual holiday ornament mailing, so current members should be aware of the change.

I have also come to the difficult decision to end the Mother’s Day Flower Project.  Attendance for that has also been very low the past few years.  Expenses were lower this year, as I was able to have some flowers donated by local florists, but I do not feel comfortable soliciting donations again due to the low turn-out.  I feel that those of us who have participated faithfully in years past will probably continue the tradition ourselves on a smaller scale, but I think it’s time to let this group event go.

Thanks in large part to the faithful donations of the family and friends of Tristan Xavier Day and his grandfather, Robert, I believe we can continue the holiday ornament tradition for years to come.  I have been able to limit the costs of this greatly thanks to a yarn bequest from Eleanor Cilladi.  I’m not sure how long I will be able to find suitable crochet patterns, so I would greatly appreciate any future ornament ideas from all of you.  Much as we love the beautiful beaded ornaments Brooke designed and made over the years, I’ve been trying to limit the ornaments to yarn and paper that do not require extra postage and will not risk being broken in the mail. So, please, if you see any cute ideas, pass them along.  We will continue to accept donations of stamps of money to buy stamps.

I am torn about whether or not to continue the October Memorial Service.  This was the first year when we had no one to attend the October meeting.  I did not plan readings or bring extra snacks or mementos because I was unsure of turnout, but I was fairly sure we would have a service after all.  I know there are other services for Pregnancy and Infant Loss in the area, but I would dearly love to continue our tradition.  I welcome your thoughts on this topic.  To me,  our little candle-lighting and poem reading service always meant a great deal.  Please tell me if you have ideas on how to improve attendance for this event.

Our December meeting is usually the most well-attended of the year.  I think many of us look forward to meeting to receive the new ornament, eat too many snacks, and talk about our unique holiday challenges every year.  I hope that next week’s meeting proves this to still be true.  I plan on arriving with all the usual props, the extra table for goodies included.

So, this is where I stand.  Thank you, Patty, Carol, Kate, Brooke, Rose, and everyone else who has expressed concern for me and the future of the group.  Thank you, Brandy, for planning to attend the October meeting and reminding me why I don’t want to give up. (I’m sorry illness got in the way!). As always, I am here if you need me, and I welcome blog posts from  any of you.

Onward, to year 16 for me, and year 38 for Empty Arms.  In whatever incarnation it needs to exist.

No November Meeting

I apologize that there will be no November support group meeting.  Attendance has been non-existent lately, and the second Tuesday happens to fall on my son’s 18th birthday.  I don’t feel it’s fair to ask someone else to lead that night, since it is unlikely anyone would be there.  Please feel free to seek support in our Facebook group, or to call me or one of the other members if needed.  We will have our regular holiday ornament meeting in December.

Mother’s Day/Flower Project/Donations

Mother’s Day is fast approaching.  I hope you will consider joining us for the Flower Project.  We will meet in the parking lot at Liberty Family Practice the Saturday before Mother’s Day, May 11th, at noon.  I will have flowers and some bulbs for decorating our babies’ graves and those of others throughout local cemeteries.  I have cut back on the number of flowers of years’ past, due to the limited attendance in recent years, but hope that we can continue this tradition.  I am happy to announce that some of the flowers will be donated by Beth’s Hearts and Flowers in Girard, and Naturally Yours Designs in Fairview.  Beth’s Hearts and Flowers is also allowing us to purchase the remainder of the flowers at cost.  I would encourage all of you to visit these wonderful local florists for your floral needs, as this is a huge help to our group.

In addition to the generous flower donations, we have also received a donation from Rose Day in Memory of her grandson Tristan Xavier Day for Easter.  Also, a donation in Memory of Tristan’s grandfather, Robert D. Day, from the Retired State Police of Pennsylvania.

I wish you all a peaceful Mother’s Day, with time, space, and love to remember your missing loved ones.

Seasons of Grief

Sometimes it takes me by surprise when grief falls upon me at certain times of the year.  You would think I’d expect it by now.  Sometimes, though, as years go by, the days I expect to be heavy are not as heavy as before.  This year, though, as hints of Spring start appearing, I am reminded that this is a season of grief.  March brings memories of my father’s illness, with Easter and memories of his death bearing down.  The end of March will always bring with it the heaviness of loss of our second lost baby, River, the cosmic joke of bleeding out our dream on April Fool’s Day.  And April brings both the anniversary of Dad’s death and the birthday of our late nephew, who should be 19 this year.

Somehow the grief is easier to embrace and not feel I need to hide in November and December, when the world is dark and dreary and everything seems to be grieving with me.  Spring is supposed to be hopeful, a time of new life, new beginnings, joy and celebration.  We aren’t supposed to be sad.  And yet we are.  Death does not always come at fitting times of the year.  It comes when it chooses, sometimes heaping itself upon other, older griefs.  And we have to deal with it, no matter how inconvenient.

If you are fighting tears when everyone around you seems uplifted by lengthening days and warming temperatures, know that you are not alone.  We are in this together.

Donations/Flower Project?

We are so grateful for the recent donations that have been coming in!  Postage for the holiday ornaments is our first priority, but we may be able to continue the Mother’s Day flower project as well.  I hope to do a mailing this spring to some local florists to see if we might be able to get some flowers donated.  Please let me know if you are interested in participating in the project next year.  I may be running a poll on the facebook page as well, since turnout was very low last year. This project has been a meaningful part of our group for many years, but it requires members to pick up flowers and place them at their local cemeteries.

Donations have been made in memory of Robert Day, Grandfather of Tristin Xavier Day, from:

Rick & Joy Juliette of Punxsutawney, PA

Dorothy Jane Pisarcik of DeLancey, PA

Student Health Services at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania

The Fraternal Order of Police of Dubois, PA

and Shannon & Bryan Farcus of Athens, OH

Also, a donation from Rose Day in memory of her grandson Tristin Xavier Day on Christmas.

And, a donation from Cynthia A Ferrese in memory of her Granddaughter Angelica E. Booth.

Also, special thanks for Holly Manross and Bud Curry for their donation of stamps that was a huge help in the ornament mailing, in memory of their son Braden.

Ornaments and Donations

Annual ornaments will be going out this week, after our December meeting.  I hope you like this year’s model.  Again, materials were donated in memory of Eleanor Cilladi, who also lost a 9-year-old daughter.

We are sorry to hear of the passing of the grandfather of Tristin Xavier Day, Robert (Bob) Day.  We are so grateful to him and his family for requesting memorials be made to Empty Arms.  https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/punxsutawneyspirit/obituary.aspx?n=robert-d-day&pid=190890028&fhid=28056

Donations in memory of Robert Day have been made by:

Patricia and John Farcus of Walston, PA,

Luanne and Dennis Kendall of Punxsatawney, PA,

and Kathy & Charles Lewis of Erie, PA.

We also want to thank Holly Manross & Bud Curry for their lovely donation of stamps for the mailing!

Wishing you all holidays where the sweetness of your memories and loved ones outweighs the bitterness of your loss.

Donations

Thank you to Bob and Rose Day for their Thanksgiving donation in memory of their grandson, Tristin Xavier Day.

I would also like to thank Jay Cilladi who donated the materials for this year’s ornament in memory of his mother, Eleanor Cilladi, and his sister Maxine Cilladi, who died at age 9.  I’m preparing the ornaments for mailing, and I think they are extra meaningful, having been made with materials that belonged to another loss Mom.

I am still checking to see if St. Vincent’s will be willing to help us with mailing, but am doubtful that they are still able, as the hospital system has changed hands.  If you’d like to help the ornament mission continue, please consider sending a donation for postage, or just a donation of stamps to me at:  Empty Arms, c/o Angela West, 10160 Loomis Lane, Lake City, PA 16423.

Last Things

There’s a football in my gift closet.  I know it’s there.  It’s been there since three years ago when my husband and I both went holiday shopping and, unbeknownst to each other, each bought a football for our nephew.  That’s okay, we thought.  He must really go through them; he puts one on his list every year.  We didn’t know that would be his last Christmas.  How could anyone know it would be his last Christmas?  Last year, the football took me by surprise, when I opened the closet to put in new purchases.  Every time I went in there over the last year, it’s given me an extra jab.  This year, I remembered it before I even bought anything.  I know it’s there.  I keep thinking maybe we should donate it to Toys for Tots.  Do we know another boy who loves football?  One who would really enjoy it?  Is there a better place to put it to use?  But I’m not sure I’m ready to take it out of the closet.  I know it’s silly to let it sit there.  Someone could be using it.  It hurts to know it’s there.  I apologized to my husband ahead of time when I asked him to get the wrapping paper from in there, knowing he would see it, too.  Knowing it would hurt him, too.  But I think it might hurt more if it wasn’t in there.  I don’t want it to leave the house.  Not unless it’s going where it belongs.  I know I can’t give it to the person it belongs to.  I know keeping it isn’t going to make him miraculously available to receive a Christmas present.  And yet.

Last things are hard.  It’s why we keep the ashes instead of burying or scattering them.  It’s why we don’t pack away the baby clothes.  It’s why we put off ordering the tombstone.  It’s why that football may stay in that closet forever.

Three Years

By Amy Kemp Hall

Three years ago today I found out I was pregnant for the first time. The happiness I felt that day was better than I could have ever dreamed. The next 54 days were filled with excitement and planning and announcing to loved ones. Life was so sweet. And then on Christmas night, an ER physician told me my baby had died. Life changed that night, and has never been the same since. I have been blessed with 2 rainbow babies, but I definitely don’t deserve them. How could I have been given these two beautiful girls and still feel sadness every day? And they deserve much more than what they are getting from their mother at this point. My life has been unraveling since losing my baby, and I hate myself a little bit more each day for not being able to put it back together. I never could have imagined how deeply and extensively this loss would impact my life, and the fact that I am letting it impact my girls breaks my heart. I pray someday they will have a mother who can provide them with the joy and happiness they deserve, the same joy and happiness I felt 3 years ago today.