Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Chicago Rainbow Weekend 2013

This past weekend was monumental.

I had expectations for the weekend meeting of 13 of my friends (only 3 of which I'd met before) and their rainbow babies. Those expectations were shattered.

It was better than I could've ever imagined.

To an outsider, I assume the idea of 14 women (3 husbands) and 14 children, all who have the common bond of dead children would be royally depressing. A group you'd hope to avoid running into because our faces represent whole families of children who are missing for no acceptable reason. I'm sure we represent what every other person on the planet hopes they will never become-- a parent who has buried a child.

And I guess that's true. Before losing Andrew, I would probably have gone out of my way to avoid that sort of thing. On second thought, I would've ignored the thought of such a group meeting because I was invincible. Had it all together and knew it would never happen to me. Why would it? Life was good.

Our group represents a bunch of women, men and children that are intelligent, attractive (yes!), fun, interesting, unique, and bereaved. We're different in so many ways, but the people we've become over the last few years since losing our children is what bonds us.

I've spent the last 2.5 years (yes, Andrew's 1/2 birthday was just a week ago) pouring my emotions out to writing as a way of therapy. Others took to their keyboards and did the same. We supported one another with words and that meant we did not feel entirely alone. Like we were not on the island of grief alone. And that someone, somewhere was crying similar tears of sadness over losing out on the life of a child they fully envisioned would be coming home with them and staying for good.

This past weekend, my house in the suburbs of Chicago was home base for what we coined the BLM Get Together 2013. Or Rainbow Weekend. We were central-ish being in the Midwest. In total, 31 people filled my home over the course of a few days with every single one of us missing at least one beloved child. We each had our rainbow in tow-- the child born after the sadness of losing a child-- the light after our storms. Our storms are never over and our children never forgotten. In fact, they are remembered and recognized even more because we have their siblings to hold and love.

This weekend.

We laughed. We cried. We did both at the same time. We ate. We took photos. We picnicked. We stayed up late hours chatting. We smiled.

It felt therapeutic. This whole weekend was just what our souls needed. After 2.5 long years of feeling isolated and suffocating in my own skin, I felt a huge release this weekend.

Sure, it was mayhem. With that many children ranging from 7 months - 2 years, you can imagine what kind of crazy my house looked, felt and sounded like this weekend.

But honestly? We wanted it to be crazier. Instead of 14 children, there should have been 29 of them wreaking havoc on everything they could find. Sure, we wouldn't know one another and this whole meeting would be null and void. But tell our hearts that. They aren't rational.

Our beautiful rainbow babies in hats knitted by a grandma missing her granddaughter, Elizabeth. Incredible and emotional for us all. Lots of Kleenex.
Mamas and their rainbow babies
Families from all over: Missouri, California, Washington, New Jersey, Alabama, Texas, Illinois, Canada, Minnesota, Tennessee (and many others were in our hearts and thoughts as they were unable to come).

These families and many others who could not attend this weekend were part of a large camaraderie we created through blogging. I know blogging gets a bad wrap as being self-indulgent drivel. However, without this bit of communication, I'm not quite sure where I would be today in my grief. It's still misery. It's still horrible to wake up every single morning knowing that I will never see my son again. Blogging has become a way to connect with others in a way I never imagined would be necessary in my life. That picture is important proof that these women and their beautiful rainbows have changed my life for the better.

Misery loves company. Maybe. Okay, yes it does.

But Lord. I'm just so happy I found these "miserable" people when I did and that I got to hug and cry with each one of them this weekend. I'm only sad it's over.
Candles lit and wish paper sent in honor of our babies and those who could not be present to light candles for their children.
Other recaps from the weekend written by Brooke, Melissa, Tiffany, Natasha and Keleen.


katie illingworth said... [Reply to comment] Amazing! Wish Davey and I could have been there!

Molly said... [Reply to comment]

Wonderful recap of a wonderful weekend!!! Lots of tears and gratefulness here

Addi's mom said... [Reply to comment]

"I'm only sad it's over" too! I could never thank you enough for opening your home, for all the planning, cooking, cleaning, schlepping etc. BUT THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! It was better than I ever could have imagined as well, it was really something special to watch you all love on Mason knowing you were all loving Addi too. 29 babies would have been the perfect chaos, but the 14 we were left with were magic all their own. Love you all.

Renel said... [Reply to comment]

This is beautiful and so spot on. Misery loves company. Misery loves good company better. You all were the best company my broken heart could ask for. So much comfort in a home filled with love and longing. Tears and laughter intermingled. So overwhelmed at the magic of the weekend in CHICAGO!!

Brooke said... [Reply to comment]

You said it so perfectly. I love the part about people being attractive (yes!) and bereaved. Haha--but true!

Your rainbow hat photo is great!

I'm so thankful we were able to have this weekend, and so glad not to be alone on my island of grief.

Ben and Katie said... [Reply to comment]

I was wondering who was going to blog about this first! :)

What an amazing woman you are to open up your home and be an amazing host to so many amazing families!

So glad you had an amazing time together!


Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

I wanted to wait until your blog posted to write mine. It only seemed fair. I wanted to hear what you thought of this weekend.

I cannot begin to say how grateful I am for this weekend. For the first time I do not feel alone in my grief. That is huge. This weekend was incredible and I am so humbled to have been part of it. Plus, it was so much fun to meet you, Ray, Ben and Andrew!

Danielle said... [Reply to comment]

*sigh*... i'm ecstatic that you were able to experience such an emotional high this past weekend, meeting such wonderful families and gorgeous kiddos. Being in a group of people who share something so intimate is priceless... the understanding you have without uttering one word... the acceptance you know you have without explaining anything... It does seriously calm your heart...
yet, I'm pissed that y'all have something so horrible in common--you are right... there should have been 15 more kiddos running around with y'all...
There's nothing rational about the clashing of emotions... since this is reality, hello 2014!

My New Normal said... [Reply to comment]

Well it looks like you had a wonderful time. And what a fantastic idea!

Caroline said... [Reply to comment]

Your rainbow hat pic is great - Finn hasn't yet ripped it off his head!

You and Elliot set the bar high my friend. But I'm so glad you did.

Veronica said... [Reply to comment]

ok, ok.. I hope you all write a post about the weekend, because I cant get enough. I love (LOVE) all the pictures of you ladies and your babies.

And what Renel said in her comment hit my heart. "So much comfort in a home filled with love and LONGING. Tears and laughter intermingled. So overwhelmed at the magic.." Just perfect. I could only imagine.

And Brandy, you are somewhat of a superstar in opening your home to such a huge crowd coming from all corners of the continent... it was just beautiful to see. With all the travel, and homemade baby food, events and projects I've read about in the past year, you are a super woman in your own right.

Hugs <3

Mama Bear said... [Reply to comment]

Surprisingly I am at a loss for words reading everyone's recap of such an amazing weekend. I am so glad to have met all you miserable and wonderful ladies and your beautiful children. :) Thank you!

Sherri said... [Reply to comment]

Wow! I'm kicking myself for falling out of touch with everyone! :( I'll admit, I'm hardly ever on here any more... But oh I would have loved to have met all of you face to face!! You ladies helped carry me through some of my darkest hours! Looks like a marvelous weekend, I'm glad it was a success!

Amelia said... [Reply to comment]

It's just so beautiful. I wish you weren't....qualified to belong to this group. But oh my what a wonderful group of people make it up.

Natasha said... [Reply to comment]

Great post about the weekend. It was truly the perfect chaos :) Amazing mamas and amazing babies <3 Thank you again for everything- you were the BESTEST host!

Becky said... [Reply to comment]

Just love seeing all those rainbows together. Next year I really hope I can be there with you all:)

Jessica said... [Reply to comment]

Such wonderful words for a wonderful weekend...thank you for everything! Missing everyone and wishing we could easily gather more often.

Alison G. said... [Reply to comment]

My heart breaks that you are a part of this group and at the same time I am so happy that you are able to take part in it. It's really amazing to have that support.