Important Changes, Ornament Mailing, Donations

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It seems the time has come to make some changes to the group I have resisted for some time. I was hoping the attendance would improve with the change to virtual meetings. I thought it might be easier for people to attend that way and that maybe the pandemic would be a positive thing for the group. Unfortunately, no one has attended since the 2020 memorial service. It seems the need for direct meetings no longer exists. I still hesitate to eliminate the possibility completely, however. At my husband’s suggestion, I am offering the option of meetings on an as needed basis instead. If you are discovering or have been directed to this page because of a recent loss, or are a current member looking for a meeting, please contact me and I will set something up at an agreed upon time, either virtually or in person at a safe location. I am still willing to talk to you if you just need a real-life listening ear, and if you would like an in person meeting, I will try to gather some members with similar losses to help. Please, if you are a current member who would be willing to be called upon in such cases, let me know so I can keep a running list of people willing to be contacted. I’m not sure if anyone is likely to take me up on this offer, but I want to assure anyone who needs it that I am here if you need me, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. My contact information remains: Angela West, angela@mapsofmastery.com, 814-774-7064. Please call, email, or message via the private Facebook group, and I will be in touch.

I will be sending out the annual holiday ornament in the coming days, so please let me know if you are a new member who would like to be added to the mailing list or an existing member whose address has changed if you have not already done so. Those who responded to my recent Facebook group post have been added/updated. If you have ideas or suggestions for future ornaments, please let me know. I had intended for this year’s to be a crocheted ornament, but the pattern I chose is more time-consuming than I thought, so maybe next year! I hope everyone likes the alternative.

Thank you so much to those who donated stamps for this year’s mailing: Jacqueline Fournier, Heather Zimmerman, and an anonymous donor who sent me a roll of stamps. I guess it was a good idea to post about Empty Arms in lieu of a Facebook fundraiser for my birthday. It was much appreciated! In case anyone is wondering why the ornaments won’t have holiday stamps this year, this is the reason. Direct stamp donations are always welcome and can be sent to me at 10160 Loomis Lane, Lake City, PA 16423. I intend to continue the ornament mailing as long as I’m capable!

Virtual Meetings

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Tomorrow we will attempt to begin virtual meetings via Zoom, as the pandemic is still an issue for in person meetings. I am hoping this might make it easier for more of you to attend as well. Unfortunately, Zoom limits meetings to forty minutes, but I believe if people want to chat longer I may be able to open another meeting after the first one. We’ll play it by ear. Please bear with me while I venture into learning this new technology. I have not hosted a zoom meeting before, but it doesn’t seem too intimidating! I will post links here and in the facebook group as well. As always, meetings will be held the second Tuesday of the month at 7:30 pm. I am hoping September will go smoothly and we will be able to have a successful memorial service as usual in October.

Topic: Empty Arms September Meeting
Time: Sep 8, 2020 07:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us04web.zoom.us/j/79229552120?pwd=V29LbFNYTHBjNkY4QTAyQTYxaUxoZz09

Meeting ID: 792 2955 2120
Passcode: 1ujseS

Stay at Home Order & Donations

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Due to the advice to stay at home and avoid unnecessary contact, there will be no Empty Arms meetings until further notice.  Please know that I am always here if you need to talk.  I know this is a particularly hard time for those of us who have suffered losses.  We are all extra worried about our loved ones, especially our children.  You can call me at 774-7064, email me at angela@mapsofmastery.com, or contact me via Facebook.  For our private Facebook group, search for Empty Arms Erie PA.  There are many of us who frequent the page.

I would like to thank Rose Day again for her donations in memory of her grandson Tristin Xavier Day.  They go a long way towards continuing our holiday ornament tradition.

Please stay safe, and know that you are not alone at this difficult time!

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.

October Meeting/Memorial Service

Please consider joining us for our annual memorial service in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I will have our memorial plaques here with me via Zoom, and will be doing a candle lighting, if you’d like to bring a candle/candles with you to join me. If you can’t make it, consider lighting a candle for the International Wave of Light on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, October 15th, at 7:00 pm.

Below is the link for the Zoom meeting. Hope to see you and hear about your babies.

Angela West is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: October Support Meeting
Time: Oct 12, 2021 07:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/93136411626?pwd=MHErSG5RcFUzK1NaaXZTWkNUNDd3QT09

Meeting ID: 931 3641 1626
Passcode: shY5Y1

September Meeting & Donation

Deepest thanks to the Piccirillo Family for their donation in memory of their daughter Gabriella Helen Piccirillo, and the encouraging note about our holiday ornaments.

The link for September’s virtual support meeting is below.

Angela West is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: September Support Meeting
Time: Sep 14, 2021 07:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/92180352131?pwd=c1BCUFF3Vm15VlBFRS81dlBvWlpUdz09

Meeting ID: 921 8035 2131
Passcode: Rq3fr8

Pandemic Panic

As the pandemic reaches the mass vaccination stage, I’m sure I’m not the only one still battling panic. I think those of us who have suffered losses understand and experience this panic in a unique way.

It is always a struggle for me to let my kids do ‘risky’ things. I’m a stickler for safety. Because the worst has happened, I know the worst can happen, and can happen to me. So, part of me doesn’t just fear that a bad outcome can result from carelessness, it is utterly convinced that it will. That if I let the kids ride in Grandma and Grandpa’s car to the restaurant a mile away without their car seats, that they WILL be in a deadly accident. If I let them ride their bikes without helmets, they WILL crash and suffer a traumatic brain injury. If I don’t remind my son to wear his harness and clip in while climbing the ship’s rigging, he WILL plummet to his death. And, most recently, if I let my daughter attend her band banquet at a venue where I’m not sure proper pandemic precautions will be taken, she WILL contract Covid and die.

So, here we are, with vaccinations opening to the general public within the month. My husband has had half of his, I am scheduled to get the one shot version this week, I’m attempting to get an appointment for my son who is now eligible. But I have no idea when my daughter will be eligible, since she’s that magic age of fifteen, too young by a year to meet any of the current qualifications.

I am terrified that precautions will slacken, activities will be more available and less safe, that we ourselves may loosen up too much. I know children are at less risk of severe cases. But I also know that’s no guarantee. The worst can happen to us. The worst has happened to us. It could happen again. So I struggle with what to allow, with balancing caution with paranoia, with trusting fate with one of my most valuable blessings. How can I protect her while not squashing her, keep her safe without holding her back? It seems this should be getting easier, and yet I’m more worried now than I have been since all of this started. So many of us are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, are making plans, are heaving a sigh of relief. Here I am, fearing an oncoming train, too anxious to be relieved.