For the Love of Siblings

ornament 3

Once again the holidays are here and with those come a myriad of strong feelings both wonderful and scary. These feelings happen unexpectedly, intensely and sometimes simultaneously.

Thanksgiving was hectic at my house this year. It was a larger than typical group and it required a lot of loving attention to the needs of others. But just when I thought I was going to chalk it up to finally being over, I sat down and listened to my adult daughter talking with some of our out of town visiting friends of friends. She was asked if she is the oldest child in our family. She said that she was not. She went on to describe herself as a middle child and that her older brother and sister had died in infancy. She also mentioned having a younger sister and a younger brother. I was stunned. We always remember Forrest and Annie, but after many years, there is far less public acknowledgment of these precious babies. I was so sad for the reality of our losses, but so proud that my daughter so easily included all her siblings in the conversation.

I have been a part of Rainbow since its beginning in 1982. I am very overwhelmed by the changes in the level of discussion and acceptance of support for grieving parents. I am proud to be a part of a continually expanding group of resources for families. I know there are still far too many sad and isolated times for bereaved parents, but I have hope that the collective consciousness is raising a little.

December 6, marks the anniversary of my son’s birth and death. I know I will approach that day this year, with more courage and gratitude, more acceptance and peace. I will be forever grateful to my oldest middle child for her gift of perspective and love.

There are opportunities to remember our beloved children this time of year: through church services, support group meetings, community programs and with trusted family and friends. We all do the best we can as we donate to causes in memory of our children, or as we buy ornaments that are meaningful, or even as we simply go through the motions of the day. I hope all families struggling with the loss of their babies can find moments of peace this year. And if not this year…maybe next year.

Thinking of you this holiday season with much love and remembrance for our children.

ornament 2

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Acceptance

While speaking with a parent who is new to our Rainbow Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death support group, I was reminded of a very early and very important tenet of our program. Rainbow has always been and will always be a peer support group that accepts individuals who have experienced pregnancy loss or infant death regardless of where they find themselves in the grieving process or where they find themselves in the very process of life itself. We welcome, without judgment, all parents regardless of race, economic status, creed, color, marital status, sexual orientation, political stance or age.  The rules that govern the group include; respect for everyone’s grieving process. Grief is not pretty. It can be scary, alarming, incredibly sad, endless and always isolating. We can sometimes feel stuck in it, and we can also sometimes celebrate visible signs of healing. We all bring a history to the process. Telling our stories…as unique and individual as they are…honors all of our children.

Over time, I have seen considerable growth in the options available to grieving families. Some groups and programs are specific to political affiliation, religious preference, demographics or pregnancy gestational differences. Some programs charge fees for professional guidance and some are volunteer peer support programs. I have always believed that the more choices for acceptance and support available to families, the better. We are lucky to have numerous programs supporting families here in Billings, MT. We are lucky to have two hospitals that work hard to train staff to provide support to families in their Labor/Delivery, Mother/Newborn and NICU departments. But for those communities who do not have access, we are present on Facebook, through our website and most importantly, available through phone, email, text and Messenger.

While speaking with this new parent recently, I was also saddened to hear that her hospital experience was far from ideal – in fact, far from acceptable. I am reminded that regardless of how far we have come, some bereaved parents will feel forgotten and unsupported. I am reminded that those of us who are successfully navigating this grieving process (most days), can impact our communities and the support available to other bereaved parents, by speaking up and opening our hearts when the opportunity presents itself. Telling our stories can enlighten providers and help others find healing and hope. I am grateful when parents find their way to programs that accept them wherever they currently find themselves. And I am grateful for the core group of individuals who continue to help Rainbow grow through their example, input and support.

Each and every grieving family makes a difference when we come together to support one another. Every single grieving individual touches more lives than you will ever know.

another rainbow by johanna Thompson May 2015

Another rainbow – Johanna Thompson, May 2015

For more information about Rainbow contact:

Molly Mills: 406-248-3487

Traci Reichenbach: 406-855-4439

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Our previous lives change forever…

June marks the anniversary month of the very first Rainbow Parent Support Group meeting. The year was 1982, and a core group of four very young parents had been working on organizing this program for almost eight months. Sadly, gratefully, and surprisingly – the meeting was attended by several bereaved families. And since that time, parents have come together nearly every month to share their lives and their babies with one another. And parents have stepped forward to provide support to others. It remains a safe, non-judgmental, nurturing environment in which we can share in the knowledge that we are respected and our babies are cherished. Knowing others are grieving, helps parents feel less alone. Knowing that parents are healing, provides hope. Our struggles and our joys are shared.

Much about Rainbow has remained the same: it is a multi-denominational group. We do not affiliate with any specific political or religious group. While the experiences of all members are valuable – we still do not publicly share names of medical professionals who may have provided our greatest strength, but sometimes contributed to our greatest sadness. We have changed the meeting day – but we still meet monthly. We are still available to meet privately over the phone or sometimes in person, with bereaved families who are unable to attend meetings.

Some things have changed: while I am the sole remaining original member, I have a remarkable co-facilitator who has provided her home and her help to many families over the years, as well. While we all wish there was no longer a need for support for bereaved parents, we are grateful there is still a safe place to remember and honor our infants and families. Over the years, our referral sources have grown and even though not everyone who receives Rainbow information attends meetings, they are provided the option should the need or desire arise. There has never been a ‘wrong’ time to seek help. We have expanded our program to include a website for support and resource information. And we have a private Facebook group that provides a forum for sharing, even if a family does not live in this area or cannot attend meetings.

I am grateful for every single parent I have met through Rainbow. I cherish the shared memories of our babies. I ache when sadness prevails and rejoice when joy abounds.

In thinking about this post – I found myself searching through old folders of support information. I came across something written by a bereaved parent in Carmel, Indiana,  that I had given to families in the hospitals, many years ago. I love that this still holds true and remains a hopeful reminder of healing.

YOU KNOW YOU ARE MAKING PROGRESS WHEN…

  • You can remember your child with a smile
  • You can realize the painful comments others make are made in ignorance
  • You can reach out to help someone else
  • You stop dreading holidays
  • You can sit through a church sevice without crying
  • You can concentrate on something besides your child
  • You can find something to thank God for
  • You can be alone in your house without panic
  • You no longer feel you have to go to the cemetery every day
  • You can tolerate the sound of a baby crying
  • You can find something to laugh about
  • You can drive by the hosptal without crying
  • You no longer feel exhausted all of the tme
  • You can appreciate a sunset, the smell of newly mowed grass, the pattern on a butterfly’s wings.

– A bereaved parent in Carmel, Indiana

I send a humble thank you to everyone who has made, and continues to make Rainbow a vital part of our community. And I wish all bereaved parents continued healing.

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A New Year – A New Beginning

winter sunrise

The year 2016, has been excruciatingly painful for many families. It has been a year of loss, anxiety and sadness. I have met many bereaved families locally during this past year and Rainbow has also welcomed families from around the state and country to our Rainbow Facebook group. In contrast, it has also been a year of great joy as some parents have welcomed new babies into their families and as our surviving children have reached milestones and had life experiences, which we will never take for granted. It feels like life has broken some of us some days, and enriched us beyond measure on others. We have been changed by our grieving, and also by our healing.

Grieving is never easy and is always emotionally exhausting. But out of this struggle, a great appreciation for life can arise as well as an appreciation for hope and peace of mind. Having the opportunity to share our sorrow and joy, helps us individually and also helps bereaved families collectively. Healing happens at peer support group meetings, as we meet privately as friends, and I have especially loved watching healing happen through our Facebook Rainbow group. I have seen families supported with love, insight and a wisdom that can only come from those who have also experienced infant death and pregnancy loss. The Facebook group has helped parents find understanding and a community of caring. It has provided a place to vent for some. Countless resources, insights, and friendships have been shared over the past year, too.

I want to thank the many parents who contribute to these efforts to provide support to others. Rainbow could not exist without the commitment and caring of those who choose to be involved. Rainbow is a place to seek support not just early on in the grieving process, but shared experiences interrupt the isolation and loneliness that often accompany our grieving down the road, too.

I would like to invite those of you who have experienced a pregnancy loss or infant death to attend a Rainbow meeting in 2017. Some parents come to one or two meetings and find the help they seek. Some parents attend more regularly to gain healing and understanding and to ultimately provide support to others. You are always welcome to join us. We meet monthly on the first Thursday evening of each month. We are also available to talk one to one, upon request. For more information about Rainbow meetings in Billings, or to become a part of our private Facebook support group, please contact Traci @ 406-855-4439, or Molly @ 406-248-3487/406 -670-7193. You can also private message Traci DeRudder Reichenbach or Molly Gillen Mills on Facebook.

As the year 2016 comes to a close and we begin a new year, I am grateful for all the families I have met through Rainbow. I am grateful for your involvement in our group and for your friendship. I am grateful for the opportunity to share our stories and grateful for the opportunity to honor all of our beloved babies.

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Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month: October 2016

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Maya Angelou

perfect

-This photo was provided by Dawn and Issacc Ikener, in loving memory of their son, Keiran Michael.

 

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. The loss of a baby at any stage of pregnancy or after birth has far reaching consequences for parents, family members, friends and everyone with whom we interact. It is impossible to put into words, the full scope of such a loss.

The above quote by Maya Angelou is meaningful because it addresses an often unspoken sadness for bereaved families. That ‘untold story’ is our future without our children. And while some of us go on to have more children, the impact of that specific child with a future untold, is forever bittersweet.

In reality, even the tiniest of babies, the earliest of pregnancy losses, can leave our hearts heavy and aching. Sometimes in society there is a misconception that a child’s value is based on gestation or age at the time of death. But it is our personal attachment, our hopes and dreams, our love for who that child would have grown to be, even the essence of who we are as women, which dictates our grieving. There is great sadness in the loss of that missing piece of our future.

My heart goes out this month, to the many families who have experienced early losses. These families have few tangible memories, few photographs and mementos. They have had the least amount of time with their babies. I also hold close to my heart, the families who are newly grieving the deaths of their children. It feels impossible some days to move forward in hope and healing. I tenderly remember and honor the bereaved families I have met over the years and who have inspired me with their courage. I think often of the families who move slowly and painfully into their futures, unable to tell the story inside of them, isolated by loss.

For me, the gift of Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death Awareness month is the permission it brings to grieve openly, to celebrate our families and to find our way together. It is my hope that in remembering and in sharing our stories with each other and our loved ones, that some peace of mind can find its way into the hearts of grieving parents everywhere.

 

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It Truly Takes a Village

It Truly Takes a Village of Love and Support

rainbows 2

I am often reminded that every pregnancy loss and infant death is unique. Each baby has his or her own identity based on our individuality, our histories, our hopes and dreams, where our children fit into our lives, and how we see our own place as parents in our families, our churches, our communities and our world. Rainbow has always sought to honor that uniqueness by offering support options; meetings, one-to-one support, hospital visits, as well as a private Facebook group and website. We seek to bring parents together so we feel less alone, so we can find hope together. We offer companionship in the grieving process. In the times of loneliness and fear, anxiety and tears and ultimately hope in our futures, we will continue to provide resources as we hear about them.

Please feel free to submit resource information as you become aware of additional options for support. (rainbowbereavement@gmail.comI or mollygillenmills@gmail.com). I am finding there are as many unique, caring, hope-filled options out there, as there are families. In doing some recent research, I found some groups and websites that might be of assistance to bereaved families. The links provided are in addition to the ones that appear on the resource list on this website.

Thank you to everyone who honors and remembers our children, and to everyone who reaches out to others in this process, as well.

RESOURCES FOR PREGNANCY and POSTPARTUM LOSS:

Return to Zero  Return to Zero Center for Healing.com 

Miscarriage Matters www.mymiscarriagematters.com 

Grieve Out Loud www.grieveoutloud.org

Tears Foundation www.thetearsfoundation.org

March of Dimes www.marchofdimes.com/Baby/loss.html

Griefwatch (for perinatal loss) www.griefwatch.com

Solace for Mothers (Birth Trauma & Recovery) www.solaceformothers.org

RESOLVE through Sharing www.bereavementservices.org – for providers

 

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Saying good-bye to the month of May

angel

Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States, created for remembering the men and women who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. But recent tradition has grown to also make this a holiday for remembering all our deceased loved ones. This past weekend I spent time at several cemeteries in town, placing flowers on family members’ gravesites. But one visit I made was to a special place that commemorates our babies, comforts bereaved families and remembers all who have been a part of the Rainbow support group over the years. Next month marks the 16th. anniversary of the Angel Dedication at the Yellowstone Valley Memorial Park. With the placement of a bench and angel statue, along and with the planting of trees, this area remains a place of comfort and quiet for bereaved families and friends.

The Closing Reading from that Angel Dedication sixteen years ago, by Father Arnaldo Pangrazzi , is still touching and powerful today.

Touching Our Broken Dreams

Our silent hopes remind us of our broken dreams as there are so many things that never came to be.

And there are so many questions we have asked and never gotten answers to; questions as to the reason it had to be us instead of someone else, questions and fears as to the chance of it happening again. Somehow, our questions reflect and put us in touch with the insecurities and mysteries of life. We experience our helplessness and our anger in not being in control of it and feeling our emptiness and sadness in being without our babies.

And as we look a the little empty room that was prepared in vain for a life that never came, as we move aimlessly around a house and a world that now seems too big for us, as we become saddened because there is no treasure in the world that can make up for our loss, we feel again the pain of broken dreams.

The dream of what could have been: the eyes and faces of our silent hopes, the ways our children would have grown, the ways we would have loved them, the people they would have been.

And it is hard to believe the silent hopes we remember in pain today were so much a part of the promise of our yesterdays.

And yet, those silent hopes gently invite us to learn to dream again.

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