Monthly Archives: August 2016

The Art of Grieving

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When I came across the grief workbook co-created by Mary Burgess and Shiloh Sophia McCloud called Mending Invisible Wings: Healing From the Loss of Your Baby (MIW), it became an important part of my initial grief processing during the postpartum period after my newborn daughter died of trisomy 18. Burgess and McCloud put together this book in order to create a way for others to cope with miscarriage and infant loss. MIW is beautiful from the cover image to the thick, blank pages inviting us to become artists and writers in our grief. The exercises include writing and drawing prompts, rituals, meditation, affirmation, breathing exercises and guided visualizations.

I created paintings and drawings, (one of which became the cover for my book), and wrote about specific aspects of my experience that were helpful. I wrote about the birth scene, my feelings during the pregnancy knowing that my baby would die and, through the exercises some beauty was created from my pain and grief. The exercises gave me the space to acknowledge my journey, while processing my experience.

MIW’s exercises gave me different lenses with which to view my experience with Mary Rose. I didn’t think that I could survive my pregnancy, but I did. I recommend the process of these exercises, but you don’t have to buy the book and go through it step by step (though a link to the book is in the Resources page of my blog). You can also create your own exercises to remember and process your experience.

Suggested Exercises and Tools to Heal Grief

Journal Writing: Get a blank notebook or journal. I like books with no lines so that I can sketch and write. You can decorate the cover of the book with stickers, ribbons, buttons, magazine photos or your own pictures. Record your feelings of grief periodically or daily. I often wrote a few lines, or drew an angel with a heart in her center.

Poetry or Creative Nonfiction: Take a poem that you love and find a line that resonates with you. You can use Jane Kenyon’s poem “Let Evening Come.” Use the same title and write your own poem. Another way to write through grief is to start a longer nonfiction essay by writing separate sections. Brenda Miller’s essays are good examples. You can write about the moment of diagnosis in one section, or the shock of the death in another. Write about the funeral or memorial service, or how there was none. You can build a much longer work through fragments and reflections.

Painting: Get a blank sketch book with thicker paper so that you can use watercolors, if you choose. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Think about your baby and your pregnancy. Think about your womb and your breasts. What images come up? Draw them. Paint them. Write about them. Create a mixed media work and dialogue with your body and your broken heart.

Collage: I made a collage of the sympathy cards that I received on a memory box for my daughter’s few belongings. However, a collage can be a poster, a canvas, a journal. I cut up cards, used color copies of artwork of Mother Mary, cloth butterflies and flowers, stickers and acrylic paint.

Yoga and Meditation Music: The yoga stretches accompanied by meditation music such as Wah!’s music allow the breath to change the moment. A yoga practice can be very helpful in the intensity of grief.

Dance and Movement: Belly dancing or other movement through classes offered in your community can be very beneficial. Getting back into the body after the trauma of miscarriage or infant death and postpartum hormones is a good way to heal the trauma. Yoga, belly dance, walking meditation and walking by a lake weekly. The repetition of the movement, the moments away from the daily routine and the actual physical work help us to reset our thought process.

Drumming: The rhythm of a drumbeat can be a very soothing meditation that can lead to healing. In many cultures the drum is used to transcend the reality of this realm and help the suffering person work towards healing. The drumbeat sounds like a heartbeat and connects us to each other, Earth and our ancestors. Shamanic healing includes drumming, and Sandra Ingerman has a few CDs and meditations that are helpful to walk through grief into a place of peace.

Chanting and Praying: Qi Gong and yoga chants have been very helpful for me to process some of the intense grief and weeping into new energy. The sounds of the Qigong or Sanskrit mantra carry higher vibrations as does the Orthodox prayer Lord Jesus have mercy on me repeated over and over. I pray Hail Mary again and again. The repetition is helpful in shifting from extreme grief into a space of quiet meditation or contemplation.

Garden: Create a memorial garden for your loved one. I have a tiny fairy sculpture in a container with a small fairy rosebush. You don’t need a lot of space or an elaborate garden to honor the life of your child.

 

This essay is adapted from Section IV “The Art of Grieving” from my book Walking the Labyrinth of My Heart: A Journey of Pregnancy, Grief and Newborn Death available at amazon.com. Eight copies of my book are available through a giveaway on goodreads.com this August 2016.

 

 

August Book Giveaway on Goodreads

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Mary Rose’s birthday month is here and we are offering eight signed copies of Walking the Labyrinth of My Heart: A Journey of Pregnancy, Grief and Newborn Death this month on Goodreads. Enter to win a copy by CLICKING HERE:

Goodreads

 

 

Angels in our Midst

Healing Companion400x800CaptionThis essay first appeared as a guest blog post for SpiritualLiving.com in August 2016.

http://www.spiritualliving.com/#!Angels-in-our-Midst/cmf6/579679c00cf2be2e0b931f15

Angels. We often use this word to describe babies, and I have heard people say that the dead have become angels. Are all babies angels? Does every soul earn wings when she dies? My newborn son who had colic and couldn’t nurse did not seem angelic, though he was, and still is, sweet. An alcoholic did not seem to transcend all that he was while living on Earth after death. Yet those who mourned him extolled his virtues, forgetting the empty bottle, the raised hand.

When I was pregnant with my second child, the routine ultrasound revealed several anomalies. My unborn daughter, Mary Rose, was diagnosed with trisomy 18. She would most likely be born still or live for a short while, though there are about 200 children and adults living with this illness in the United States. People began to call Mary Rose an angel baby. I wasn’t so sure. My friend, the artist Sindy Strosahl, painted Mary Rose behind my pregnant body as an angel before she was born in the painting “Healing Companion.” When my daughter was born in a pool beneath the painting, we noticed that she looked like the angel. She died in my arms an hour later.

One night my three-year-old asked me if Mary Rose is an angel. What do you think? I replied. I think that she is an angel with big wings. I feel her here, he said touching his heart center with his little boy hand. Mommy, does everyone who dies become an angel? he asked. I don’t think so, I said. My sister, Mary Rose, is an angel, he repeated. He knows of many ancestors on the other side of the veil: my two grandfathers, his paternal grandmother, my dear aunt. Yet, he only called Mary Rose an angel until recently.

I was speaking to my friend, Mary Frances last week. Her mother, Cubby, was my mentor during my pregnancy, and died in September. My son, now four, said, Cubby is an angel too. Then he said, But Heather and Holly are even biiiigggger angels. Heather and Holly are the daughters of my friend Terry who died of cystic fibrosis at 12 and 22 years of age. Does my son feel the angelic presence of these beings? Can he feel their work answering prayers and healing us and guiding us from the heavenly realms? When I was writing my book about Mary Rose I felt her on my right shoulder and Cubby on my left shoulder. They were helping me to gather the courage to finish laboring my book about my pregnancy.

I understand that newborn babies have a sweet, holy energy. They emanate unconditional love, as they come directly from the Creator’s hands. I also know that souls can be healed after death, that vices and challenges of spirit can be transcended as the soul continues to evolve. I can’t quantify the difference between a guardian angel and Mary Rose, but I know that they are both helping spirits from the angelic realms.

Angels are in our midst. We can channel their light into our lives and onto this great planet. Light shimmers and illuminates the darkness. It is far reaching. When we are in the presence of angels, such as Mary Rose, who was born and died on August 8, 2014, we are healed. We miss our loved ones and are broken open in our grief to love again and again.

I will continue to ask Mary Rose and Cubby for help. I will honor Heather and Holly in my prayers and in my heart. And I hope to be able to reach out my hand and offer love in the spirit of the angels to others who are grieving. Let’s do this together, with the angels’ help.