Thursday, July 18, 2013


I was reminded recently of the power of kindness. Some friends had their second baby and sent me an email letting me know when he was born and that photos etc would probably start showing up on facebook. They wanted to prepare me because though they know I'm overjoyed for them, they understand that these things are just difficult for me since Toren died. It was a kindness they didn't have to show but they did it anyway. This is what we mean when we talk about friendship. Friends who don't complain that their joy is being sullied by someone else's sorrowful reality. They don't make a big pointless fuss about it. They see that the road ahead is a challenge for everyone involved and they figure out how to navigate it as best they can, with compassion.

The MISS Foundation's Kindness Project is one way bereaved parents, when they feel ready, can experience the magic of kindness. I love this description of how Dr Joanne Cacciatore started the Kindness Project in memory of her stillborn daughter:
"Dr Jo began to seek out ways to keep Cheyenne's memory alive within her family and to the rest of the world: She wanted to create a quiet legacy. She wanted people to know that Cheyenne existed and, more importantly, she wanted to help change the lives of others because of her presence on this earth."
Cheyenne's birthday, July 27, was chosen as the one day in the year when everyone is invited to do an act of kindness. According to the MISS Foundation's fb page: "The idea is to perform random acts of anonymous kindness in your community. A little card is left behind so that the person who benefits from the kindness knows that a precious child's life and death continues to matter. This beautiful movement has helped thousands of families to heal and find positive outlets for their overwhelming grief."

We were given kindness cards by a family from our support network last year and we used one in Toren's name. I say "we" but I was too shy and self-conscious so I made Pete do it! He reported a lovely reaction from the vendor at the farmer's market who helped us do our random act of kindness.

Dr Jo does one kind act every single day. This year, on July 27, our family will do two acts of kindness - they will both be on behalf of Toren, but one will also be to celebrate the safe and joyful arrival of baby Marshall and to pass his parents' kindness from us onto someone else.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Post Conference Post

Hard to believe it's the day after the end of the conference. It was an amazing, amazing event. I "enjoyed" it so much (the people who were there understand what I mean by this). Dr Joanne Cacciatore is a fantastic speaker and a warm, giving person to work with. And the parents. Oh man. The sharing, the compassion, the love, the tears, the creativity, the kindness, the laughs (yup), it was just incredible. And now we have SO MUCH WORK TO DO. But, we always did. And we are not alone. (And we know now we never were.)

Alongside the amazing stuff, there was some really hard stuff. I got frustrated a few times, fed up with the grief. Some moments of "Why am I here?" I hesitated at times to open up. The doubts were there. I put myself on at least one good timeout. I had similar feelings at the MISS conference. In my limited experience of grief conferences (2), this is normal. Those moments are so grueling.

Yesterday after the conference, we had an emotional crisis here at home which I think was a result of the intensity of the last two days and everyone being tired and emotional. It's been resolved today with hard work on all sides and we are comfortable once again. I am doing much soul-searching and trying to learn and respond appropriately. Sorry to be so cryptic, just trying to respect everyone's privacy and really focus on the experience around being so raw after a conference of this type. Mindfulness, I think, is the key.

Speaking of mindfulness - Dr Cacciatore told us about the barefoot hikes she does in the desert near her home in Arizona. She described it as a "mindfulness practice". This morning when I woke up, I really felt like being close to nature so my family & I went for a hike on the Baden-Powell trail. I suddenly had a great urge to take off my sandals and hike barefoot. So I did! LOVED IT. It really does make you attend to every step and you end up seeing things you might not otherwise see (literally and figuratively). I think this helped me so much with the earlier crisis and just integrating some of what happened at the conference. Note that Dr Cacciatore usually hikes in silence, often with a group of bereaved parents, and has to deal with things like sharp dessert rocks and cactus plants, and maybe she was being gentle with us when she did not mention SNAKES. My barefoot hike today was short, not silent because I was with family and the trail was super busy with people trail running, looking at their cell phones and talking about work. I would love to try it somewhere more peaceful next time.

Photos from today:

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Conference Approaches

I haven't had much (any) time to blog lately. It's been all hands on deck as the conference approaches. I've moved my laptop from the couch to the dining table so you know things are getting serious. My mom is here now to help out with our daughter who I pretty much won't get to see for two days. This is a huge problem for me and I'm combing through the conference program to see when my mom can bring her to the venue so Pete & I can see her during breaks. Of course she will be fine, it will all be fine, I'm not worried about it, I just don't like it. Meanwhile conference planning is going really well. We're at about three quarters capacity which we are just thrilled about. We're getting last minute registrations, both bereaved parents and healthcare professionals. I posted this morning on SLC's fb page that we already consider this event a huge success because of all the interest it has generated from a variety of groups and individuals, and because we feel we're helping Canada link up to all the great work that's going on internationally.

There is so much going on behind the scenes, it's amazing. As Still Life Canada, we have to sort of be "on message" but as a private individual, I can say Holy shit, we've really started something here. What we are doing seems to be resonating with so many different people. We are buoyed up by that, but we also feel the pressure. When we first started talking about the idea of this conference, over a year ago now, we said, What if no one comes? What if no one cares?? Now I'm feeling almost a "fear of success" because of what will come after. The expectations vs what we can realistically achieve. We are accomplishing so much in such a short time and we're pleased about that, but there's a cost too. An emotional cost. We are all still relatively new to our grief, and new to the world of stillbirth. The learning curve has been steep, both personally and for Still Life Canada. When you start something like this, I think it's easy to look back and say, We should have done this or We should have done it that way. But really, it had to happen this way.

I think about the people who will be coming on Friday and Saturday and I'm reminded of something Dr. Cacciatore taught us - when you are with the bereaved, you are on sacred ground. Tread gently. We are both the organizers and the bereaved. We are stepping very mindfully indeed.

I never forget that this is all happening because Toren died, and specifically, because he died before he was born. This is not to "compete" with other types of child loss. But I have learned that stillbirth is its own unique situation with its own unique challenges. I also never forget that this is all happening because he lived.

I've had some very dark moments in the last few days where I just wanted to give up and not be a part of any of this. I gave into that frustration a few times and felt very alone. But it was also a release and a time of reflection and stillness before re-emerging and accepting once again - more than accepting, embracing - this life. Again, beautiful words from Dr Jo came to me: "it was in the darkness when I truly found myself."