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.

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