Late Fall

IMG_oakleaves with flare

All images copyrighted by Loura Lawrence.


Somewhere Between (Emotional) Summer and Winter

When the trees and shrubs burst into fiery bloom, the sky turns a perfect sapphire blue, the breeze is brisk and refreshing, and the peculiar scent of musty crisp leaves and wet earth fill the air, my brain and body thrill with the changing of the seasons and I look forward to family trips and happy memories to the pumpkin farm, hiking, mini golf, and Ren Faire.

But fall can also be a sad time, bringing shorter days, colder weather, and an emptiness of nature at the end of the season once all the leaves fall fallen. Favorite holidays such as Halloween, All Saints Day, Samhain, and Dia de Muertos all strive to remind us of death, the darkness of winter, and to serve as memorial days for deceased loved ones.

As fall draws to a close this November, as the last tiny pink roses (still, amazingly, clinging prettily to their stems) and mums wither until next summer, I am quietly thinking. I think about Elizabeth and Sabrina Cat, who died in the fall time. I think about my now-oldest who was likewise born in fall. I think about ancient cultures that no longer exist, I think about death and its unrelenting existence.

What Helps

I am more moody in late fall, thinking. I don’t like these late changes. I don’t like the clocks turning closer toward nighttime, I don’t like the cold or the icy rain that comes with Ohio autumns. So I plan. I strive to think about nice memories or build new ones; I take my family to the local park, I drink warming chai tea with a touch of milk. I call a long-lost friend, I send a package of pictures to my Grandma, we host board game nights and have dinner with family.

It can be a tremendous mental and emotional effort to warm my heart while the weather gets cold and my brain just wants to hibernate. I don’t know that I could have done or thought all this early in my grieving, but it has been 12 years since Elizabeth died. Don’t be pressured or forced to “feel happy”, that’s not the point of my post. Do what you need to do, but don’t be afraid to build new memories, even happy ones, without your loved one. Don’t be afraid of your feelings. Don’t be afraid to live.

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The Grief Cycle in One Word

“No.”

Eastwood Lake in the Fall, Dayton, Ohio; Developing Focus Photography

When I first learned that my loved one died, the only thought, only sound I could make in my head and out loud was a shrill “NO!”. What a small word, with so many meanings just then. No, this is not true. No, I do not want this. And finally, as a spoiled child might stamp their foot in anger, “No! I hate it!” Conflicting emotions raged as I found myself switching between volatile anger and sudden desperation.

No! Shut up!

No! Stop acting like they’re dead!

No! Don’t leave me!

No! Don’t stay to watch me!

No! It won’t continue like this!

No! It can’t continue like this!

Denial and isolation; anger; bargaining; depression; acceptance. The entire grief cycle in one little word: No.

A Baby Named Elizabeth: My Story

Originally written in 2007

My story began seven years ago when my husband and I discovered “we” were pregnant. The day of our first ultrasound, I was excited wondering what sex the baby was and secretly hoping for a daughter. That’s when the doctor dropped a bombshell and told us the baby’s heart had some deformities. This problem was complicated by hydrops (fluid on the brain, lungs, and in the stomach). We were sent to a high-risk lab where two other doctors and a genetics counselor confirmed the OB’s findings.

“The prognosis is not good”, one doctor informed us.

“It’s doubtful the baby will make it to the next month”. After countless appointments to countless doctors, and countless ultrasounds all painting a hopeless cause, Elizabeth Ann was born on October 27th, 2003, one month prematurely, via c-section. She was hooked up to seven IV’s, a ventilator, and several monitors. Tiny tubes coming from her head and chest attempted to drain the fluid, while still more ultrasounds were done to determine the extent of her heart defects.

My husband rarely left her side, foregoing food and sleep in order to sing and pray over her, while our parents all took shifts supporting us. Then we were in the NICU one last time. At our request, Elizabeth was taken off the ventilator, IV’s, monitors, and tubes, and swaddled in a blanket with different colored footprints on it. We were finally able to hold our baby girl. She could hear us tell her we loved her and she could feel the strong, protective arms of her mommy and daddy as we tried to comfort her until her last breath. She had lived 22 hours.

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Elizabeth Ann Lawrence 10/27/2003-10/28/2003

Losing any loved one, including a child at any age, be it 2 weeks gestation or 50 years old, is a painful tragedy. Elizabeth was not an accident or a mistake; her life did and continues to touch others. There is so much hurting in our world, our nations, our states, our communities, and our homes. And this kind of hurting cannot be healed by medication, or ignoring it, or even the classic remedy of time. But it can be helped to heal by understanding, gentleness, and patience with ourselves and others.

If you are trying to be that understanding helper for someone, do not fret about the “right” words to say; there are none. The best gift you can give a grieving person is a little sincere listening. It goes a very long way.

A Special Note for Bereaved Moms on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day can be especially hard for bereaved mommies. With all the joyful celebrations, family gatherings, pink cards, phone calls, and flowers being sent at this time, bereaved mothers tend to be either forgotten or awkwardly remembered. It seems no one quite knows what to do with us, and many times we don’t quite know what to do with us either.

Do we risk “making a scene” to ensure our children are remembered? Will anyone say anything if we don’t? Whether you have conceived one child or many, whether you have lost one or more, whether you receive cards, phone calls, flowers or not, does not affect the simple truth that you are indeed a mom. And the flowers featured on this site are especially for you.

Purple Tulips by Developing Focus Photography

Purple Tulips by Developing Focus Photography

Hope is Coming

Flowering Pear by Developing Focus Photography

I saw this picture and wanted to share it as an encouraging reminder that one day, you will begin to feel hopeful again. One day you will begin to see beauty again. One day you will begin to laugh again. Someday, it will be spring again.

After the Holidays

Holly Bush under Snow, by Developing Focus Photography

The holidays are at once a lovely and bittersweet time for many people. On the one hand, you want to celebrate the joys of the season with family and friends, but on the other hand is the intense pain of losing someone you can no longer celebrate with. The ways in which grieving people handle the holiday season varies from person to person and year to year.

Some will take a vacation, some will choose not to put up decorations, some will not celebrate at all, but some will surround themselves with people, some will decorate with extra care, some will celebrate normally or lavishly, and each way is fine for each person. Just be careful that you do not overdo things either by staying away from people too much, or over-celebrating.

Now that the holidays are over, how did you manage? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Ten Years Ago…

It has been ten years today. Ten years ago, October 27th, 2003, I was in a hospital giving birth by C-section to a much-prayed over baby girl we named Elizabeth Ann. Ten years, but time does not heal all wounds; it only lessens the pain a little. She should have been ten years old, but she didn’t even live one full day. She was born with heart deformities and swollen with fluid, one month too soon, ten years ago today. Ten years ago today, our first baby, a hoped for little girl, was born without being able to utter a sound. She was whisked off to intensive care without ceremony. No first bath, no holding her after her birth, no happy family portraits.

Ten years ago tomorrow, our baby girl died. After agonizing over life support that wasn’t giving life, she died quietly in our arms. I was 20, my husband 21. It has been ten years today.

Baby Rose Bouquet by Developing Focus Photography

“No Longer Invisible”

In light of October being infant loss awareness month, and the 10th anniversary of our first baby’s birth and death, I am reopening an old book project of mine.

“No Longer Invisible” is a serious book I need your help on. If you have lost a baby and would like to share your story, please let me know.

I don’t know if this book will ever be printed, but it will likely appear here, on this blog, so if you are concerned about names, again please let me know.

The goal of this book is to let those who have experienced this type of loss know they are not alone, and to help with the grieving and healing process. By sharing these stories, I hope to help make our lost babies and sufferings no longer invisible.

A Safe Place

It is not of"Forever in my Heart" Developing Focus Photography & Designten that we who grieve may find a safe place to do so. I do not mean that many of us feel threatened where we are, but that we do not feel comfortable expressing ourselves after society’s standard mourning period of 2-4 weeks (sometimes less!).

It is my hope that this place will become a safe place for you to laugh, cry, share, and remember your loved ones without criticism, expectations of behavior, or a feeling of needing to “rush” through the grieving process.