Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Paying it Forward: Faces of Loss

In January of 2011, I was one month out from losing Andrew. In my email inbox was a message from a girl in Canada who had just lost her son that month. She had read the story I submitted to Faces of Loss and connected with me. Daily emails ensued. The following year, I had my rainbow baby, she had hers, and I drove to visit her. I actually met her in person at a Chinese restaurant, rainbow babies in hand, on my 30th birthday. It was somewhere in Waterloo, Ontario. Benjamin was not a pleasant restaurant guest (not much has changed) and I was super nervous.

The next day, we drove to her house and stayed two nights with their family. The following year, in June 2013, that friend brought her daughter and husband to our house here in Chicago, and 12 others joined. Laura and her husband (and many others) stayed a few nights with us. We've had many g-chat sessions and more emails than I've probably sent anyone in my life over these four years.

Last month, we flew to Vancouver and rented a house in Whistler for four nights with Laura and her family. This time, there were four rainbow babies present. We hit up the spa together, stayed up nightly lounging with beers in hand and chatting about life as it is with one child missing and two before us. It's natural now.

All of this was the result of the Faces of Loss website, founded by Kristin. As a result of Faces of Loss, Laura found my blog and email address, and sent me that first message. The message that told me I was not alone in that exact moment. The one where I knew that someone else, just 8 hours driving distance away, was missing her firstborn son as well. I read about a girl named Caroline and her son, Cale. We're now great friends who have also personally met multiple times now. This connection to blogs then connected us to one another and it was sort of a game of telephone that trickled out as we all added more to our connection base. As a result of Faces of Loss, I am now personally connected to (and frequently meet, chat, or email with) about two dozen babyloss friends who are on a similar timeline to my loss. Most now have a rainbow baby or two. They supported me heavily through my subsequent pregnancies like no other friends could have. Like my friend Brooke said in a recent post, they not only could say "I'm sorry," but "Me too."

That bit was really important. My friends who never experienced loss like I have were still wonderful and appreciated. But I needed those friends who could fully empathize and commiserate (now still!) with what I have been through in losing Andrew. Faces of Loss brought that to me. Faces, stories, timelines.

I followed Faces of Loss, but then had to take a break while I was pregnant with my two rainbows. I just couldn't manage reading the stories and igniting that fear. I was more interested in distracting myself from the reality of actually being pregnant. For sometime, the stories trickled in and then somewhat slowed to a stop. Running a non-profit website with volunteers who are busy and working and caring for children is a tough job! Story submissions were waiting to be published and there were just not enough hands on deck. Another fellow friend, Amy, worked tirelessly and often alone to keep things afloat with story editing and publishing, but just couldn't manage all that was coming in on her own. Concurrently, I was receiving emails from friends who either lost a child or knew someone who did. They wanted guidance. I desperately wanted to send them to Faces of Loss, because that was my greatest hope after loss. But, I couldn't. Stories were not being published and I didn't want them to feel more isolated in their grief.

Back in December, I sent out an email to some fellow babyloss friends who had been volunteers for Kristin's non-profit website. I was curious about volunteering and how all that worked. I really wanted to get this thing up and working again. They sort of challenged me about volunteering myself.

I thought I couldn't. I was knee-deep in potty training and told myself that if I finally got the toddler to take action on the potty, I'd consider it. I told my friends Laura, Molly, Caroline and Brooke. They also challenged me, encouraged me and let me know they were interested in taking on equal roles with me to get those stories posted for other loss families to read and connect with; that Faces of Loss made a profound impact on them. Molly told Keleen, and she wanted in as well.

Benjamin finally potty trained (and hasn't looked back, people!). I shot the email off to Kristin about our interest to get stories up again so newer loss families could connect and create relationships like we all have. She was thrilled to have more volunteers and sent over instructions. Faces of Loss was created out of Kristin's longing for her own Stevie Joy. But like many of us, she has a very busy job and has two rainbow babies at home as well. It's her lovechild, we're just trying to nurture it.

As of Tuesday, January 27th, Faces of Loss is now up and running after 10 months of dormancy. Forty-seven stories have been published as I type this, with more in the queue. Here's to connecting families and creating lifelong friendships with people who can also say, "Me too." And please. If you would like to support and read the stories from families who have waited a long time to be connected and have their stories read, head on over and check them out. I'm sure they would appreciate some comments, words of encouragement, and maybe an email or blog visit. The site is still undergoing maintenance, so please be patient. But the most important aspect, the faces and stories are up and running! The Facebook page is even up and running again, thanks to Caroline!

Also, tell your friends, encourage them to submit their stories and submit your own

*Our goal is to have all submissions in the current queue posted in February and all submissions to follow within a week turnaround, just as the site states. All details on how to submit are here


Caroline said... [Reply to comment]

You are a fantastic person. I am (un)lucky to know you. I'm grateful you spearheaded this not just for the new loss moms,but because this feels rewarding. Like you said, paying it forward. Brooke said, "I'm glad we are in a place where we can all do this" and it makes me happy to do something out love for Andrew, Cale, Stevie, etc


Veronica said... [Reply to comment]

I found that site to be so healing in my early days.

Kristin's blog was actually the FIRST blog I ever found back in March 2012. Through her blog is where I found all of you... because in some way or another you were commenting on her posts... or when I clicked over to one blog, I found someone else commenting. I was such a stalker back then. I quietly searched for about 6 weeks before I sent out an email I think! I was so lost. I still thought this world was just so small and I was THE ONLY woman in this day in age that had a full term stillbirth.

When I clicked the Faces link in Kristin's blog, and I found all of your faces AGAIN, I felt so less alone. All of you witty, charming, funny, warm women were all here in the same boat I was, but just about a full year ahead.

I think it's SO GREAT that it's back up and running. I noticed it went quiet for a while.

And while I say it's so great, my heart simultaneously sinks knowing that there are new stories coming in daily, current and from years past.

Love to you Brandy, and yay on the Potty News!

Laura Jane said... [Reply to comment]

FOL single-handedly brought me to you and you were so instrumental in saving me in those early days. I remember reading your post and sending you a crazy stalker-y email and then calling Scott and telling him about you and E and Andrew. I remember being so nervous that you wouldn't respond.

But you did, and you have, and you are making sure this can happen for other people. It's amazing, and I'm so GLAD it's happening.

So thankful for you. <3

Brie said... [Reply to comment]

Woohoo! How can I help?

Mama Bear said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for working on this. Reading these stories feels overwhelming to me right now but it is heartwarming that my friends are working on it. I am very glad to be able to recommend Faces as a resource for newly bereaved parents. Personal connections and the "Me, too" mean so so much. Big hugs!

Becky said... [Reply to comment]

I just read Brookes post about this. I am so glad you guys got faces of loss going again.

Amelia said... [Reply to comment]

I don't think I've ever been on faces of loss, how in the world did I find the 3 of you?! Nonetheless. I'm eternally grateful. Off to read it now.

WyoGirl said... [Reply to comment]

I also found you and your blog through FOL. I spent HOURS reading stories there after my firstborn was stillborn at 39 weeks in October 2011.

I received an email last week from someone with FOL asking if I had a story to submit. And I do and I will...but I'm currently 2 weeks out from burying my 32 year-old husband and the grief journey has started over for me. I have a 9-month old and 2 year-old little girls and I'm lost.

Anyway...I will submit my story and maybe there is something I could do in the future to help with the FOL webpage as well. It was a God-send to me 3 years ago.


A Few Good Eggs said... [Reply to comment]

Somehow this resource is new to me but I am excited (is that the right word?) to check it out. Thanks for making me aware of it and for helping to get it up and running.