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Monday
Apr092012

Everything In Its Right Place

Today, we welcome a guest post from Brianna at Daily Amos.  In 2010, Brianna's first son George was diagnosed with heart failure caused by supraventricular tachycardia at 24 weeks gestation. Over the next four weeks, the doctors tried to slow his heart rate down with medication. After stopping treatment, Brianna developed Mirror Syndrome and had to have an emergency c-section. George died shortly after birth. --Angie

 

Sometimes I wish that instead of letting someone else do the job, we had escaped from the hospital, all three of us, and ran away to some place where we could have done it ourselves.  Wrapped him gently in linen and flowers, then set him in a tiny boat adrift and ablaze on the sea.  His body, our hope, and my former self flaming and crackling against a black sky while rolling on the waves of the Pacific Ocean.

Instead we flipped through a list of funeral homes given to us at the hospital and made a phone call. Two days later, a stranger collected his body and took it to a sterile and cinderblock constructed factory to be cremated. No ritual. No tenderness. Just business. It was neat, tidy and impersonal when his death was anything but those things. I guess that is what civilized people do these days; we let the men in the suits with the solemn but detached faces handle our dead.

There was a time not too long ago when a woman would wail and weep and throw herself at the body of her dead loved one. She would unabashedly rail against Death's untimely visitation. At some point in time we traded the display of mourning for the "dignity" of silent suffering. When George died, I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs but instead I whimpered in the solitude of my bedroom. I felt ashamed to grieve too loudly or too publicly and so George's death wasn't marked so much with an exclamation point as it was with an ellipses.

Pretty early on, we decided against having a memorial service. Family and friends were scattered around the globe and neither of us had the energy to coordinate anything. Making phone calls and working out a date that everyone could make it to seemed like so much more than we could handle. We could barely even organize a trip to the grocery store let alone a memorial service for a well-loved but barely known baby. I remember thinking at the time that there should really be a secular equivalent to a priest or a rabbi, someone with a little more personal investment than a proprietor of a mortuary, to handle things like organizing a funeral service for those of us who don't subscribe to any particular doctrine or religion.

So instead of having a service we quietly picked up the little copper box that held his cremated remains and brought them back home with us, where over the next few months they meandered around the house like Goldilocks.  First on the bedside table, nestled in knitted baby blankets. Too warm. Then inside the bedside table and out of sight. Too cold. A brief stint on the mantle. Too obvious. Some weeks on the shelving unit. Too ordinary. Finally back to the bedroom atop a set of dresser drawers. Just right. Good enough. 

 There on the dresser, next to my jewelry, is where that copper box has spent the last year and a half, accumulating dust.  I know that what is in that box is not my son, whatever made him him was gone long before his physical body was put in the fire.  What hides away in there now, and what I am still frightened to see, are just the remnants of a mineral matrix; calcium phosphate, zinc and potassium.  But even so occasionally when I pick it up to wipe off the weeks of neglect, I feel a stab of guilt.  They deserve more than what I have up until now been able to give to them.

It takes time to gain perspective.  It takes even more time to build action on top of that perspective.  For me, it has taken two years to find the strength to do what I feel like I wished I could have done right away- look upon his death and those ashes without trembling in fear.  Last weekend, on the anniversary of his death, we brought the copper box with us down to a tree-lined stream intent on opening it for the first time and giving some of them up to the cold water.  That his ashes would travel along in the stream, bits of those minerals being taken up by other living things on the way, is as close to believing in life after death as I have ever been able to come.  That he would, in a way, become part of something much bigger than the sum of his parts is as much as I could ask for at this point.

Two years of inactivity made opening the box and gaining access to his ashes as difficult as breaking into a safe.  After multiple attempts and comical -albeit morbid- visions of the lid popping off and ash flying everywhere, we figuratively threw our hands up in the air and gave up.  So for now the copper box, along with some new dents and the entirety of its contents, is back in its place in our bedroom...next to a single dress sock and a receipt for gas.

I'm not sure when or where we will be ready to let go of his ashes again.  My hope is that when it happens, if it happens, it will be peaceful and we finally feel like we found the right place.

+++

Glow in the Woods's section How to Plan a Baby's Funeral shares the different perspectives about how some of our readers and regular contributors handled funerals, cremations, burials, and the planning. This section is a permanent section and intended to be a resource for parents in the hospital. So if you have a moment, please head over and share your perspective there as well.

 What did you do with the remains of your child(ren)?  Did you have a memorial service? Why? Why not? Did you wish you had done something differently? If you have your child(ren)'s ashes, do you think that one day you will ever be able to let them go?


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Reader Comments (32)

Brianna,

I'm so sorry for the loss of your George. You express so eloquently so many of the same thoughts that I had after I lost my Grace. We didn't have time to really consider what we would do and decided in only a matter of minutes that we would let the hospital cremate Grace, which we knew meant that we would not have her ashes. I just couldn't handle the thought of even picking up the phone to call a funeral home and I could even less consider the thought of living through her memorial. I guess you could say I chose to stick my head in the sand, but I'm not sure I regret it, although it's only been 6 weeks now, maybe I will later. We talked about what we would do with her ashes and, like you, were not sure what would be best so I guess we took the chicken way out.

We decided that instead we will be planting a tree in her honor in our yard, and will keep her memorial box (with the little dress she wore for a few minutes and her blanket) in the room that would have been hers in our new house. Sometimes I still can't believe I had to think abou tthese decisions at all, I wonder if it will ever feel real...
April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNat
This is a beautiful post, Brianna. I don't know if anything we do feels right, because, well, it's all just so wrong. Remembering George.
April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMonique
The "due date" is coming up in exactly a week. The black sash with ashes sitting between precious gems and stones on the glass display in my living room, has bee staring at me for over two months now. We had a ceremony held by the local Lakota people called the Wiping of the Tears, which was followed by a purification sweat. It was beautiful on all levels, aiding in cutting the emotional ties between the spirits. It was the intention anyway, I'm not sure how well it worked. However, they said that we must let go of the ashes. And yet, they're still here. We've been waiting for April 15th. I don't know why...it just seemed appropriate. Everyday that's coming up closer to the date seems to be getting harder and heavier. My friend made me a ceremonial candle and gave me a little Tibetian singing bowl with some rose buds in it. My partner is clearing a creek nearby, of rocks, creating a deep pool of water. He wants the place to be magical...to spread the ashes on a small island in the middle of the creek, where little Leif's body can rest and return to the Earth. The time to say goodbye is coming up and I'm both, dreading and anticipating every minute of it.
April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnia
Brianna:
I don't look always look for signs, etc; I find them to be of just mere coincidence, but something, just something tells me that the beautiful box that holds George's ashes was not meant to be opened...this time. And like Monique, I feel nothing we do feels right because it's all just so horribly wrong.

I thought I should bury my daughter until the Rabbi had some "misgivings," for the lack of any term, that she "didn't emerge alive." And then I thought who is going to visit her, who? I couldn't envision myself at the cemetery; they might of well just buried me, too. And her father, is now my ex-husband; he certainly would not go. Our marriage didn't survive the grief so I am relieved I did not inter her little body.

In a rage of anguish, I dumped, yes dumped her ashes from the roof , 45 floors up, of my former high rise building in New York City. She was conceived there and loved there, and walked with very happy dogs there who knew I was pregnant before I myself suspected. I watched them float down; watched the wind carry them. I stopped crying for the remainder of the day. I now live in another part of the country but anytime I visit, I circle the building.
April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCava
The part that struck me most was the Goldilocks box. We have ours too, sort of. Gabriel's remains were cremated and handed to us in a white plastic box. I eventually took them out and placed them (what very little there was - and it was scary at first to see, but it's just . . . ashes) and put them in a small cedar box that friends sent to me with memorial jewelry and love and letters of support. It's been on our mantel ever since (and yes, obvious, what a perfect word for it). I've been thinking about moving them to our bedroom now that we have a safe place away from prying cats to put them. Then I feel badly, as if we're trying to hide him away or something, especially in the midst of little sister about to make her imminent appearance.

I guess we still need to find our just right. Definitely still looking for that with pictures, but now approaching three years, I'm feeling more like I am ready to put them together and hang them, even if it is mostly his feet and name, instead of his image.

* * * *

As for a memorial service, we did not have one, for many of the same reasons that Brianna mentions. We live a few hours drive from our families, and it would have been sterile and uncomfortable for everyone, because they never knew him at all. It wouldn't have helped. Although, looking back through with perfect hindsight, it might have helped *them* to better understand some of what we went through. Not that they were awful, generally they are not, but it made it more easy to dismiss him and to forget about that aberration that was the upheaval of our lives and breaking of our hearts. Maybe then my father wouldn't say things like 'Are you ready to become a parent?' when I've been one for years now. . .

As for his ashes, they'll stay in their box. It's the right place for them. What ultimately happens to them, I don't know. We've talked a bit about that in terms of death or divorce, but we have a hard time figuring out the placement now. It's not easy. We don't want to push him aside, we want to honor him. But we also don't feel like keeping his remains on the mantel is still the right place for them. It's not easy, is it? Sometimes, I wish we had a gravesite or were willing to scatter the ashes, so there was a place to visit and not a vague feeling of perversion when we light a fire, or a feeling of shame or betrayal if we move his box to another room.
April 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereliza
This was just beautiful Brianna. Trading an exclamation point for an ellipses seems like the perfect way to describe so much of our grief. Some days I'd like to smear my daughters ashes all over my face or wear black for an entire year or cut myself off from the world. Instead I make small talk with the neighbor. The feelings on the inside and the actions on the outside don't seem to add up all the time.

We let around 80% of her ashes go down a stream a few weeks after her death. It was up in the mountains where we had her memorial service. am so glad we had the memorial service, mostly for the outlet it was for our family and friends. It's not to have an event that we can all reflect on and a place that we can return to again. I am also SO RELEIVED we kept some of her ashes. It was a last second decision and I can't imagine not having a piece of her in my house.

Thanks for a thoughtful and beautiful post. George is so loved and missed around here.

Josh
April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJosh
This is really beautiful. Perfectly chosen words.

I remember those early days in the hospital, trying to figure out how to handle her body. I remember, while in a fog of shock and pain, calling around to find a cheaper price for her cremation. First quote, $600. More calls. Final quote, $175. Yes, we said to each other, that seems reasonable.

I really really didn't want to have the memorial, but our families really pushed for it. So we did. And now I'm so glad that we did. All I've wanted to do this entire year is curl up inside ourselves and be alone, but I'm glad that there were times when my friends and family forced their way in, because I think it helped them to understand the depth of the pain when we let them witness it and participate in it.

Thanks for this post. Much love to you.
April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKari
My brother's ashes - who died 6 years ago at age 27 - are on my mother's night table. I don't like this. I personally think, that dead people should be in the cementery. My mother thinks that my brother - who was full of life and died in an accident - does not belong to the cementry. He had a funureal, but he does not have a grave. For me (and I belive also for my mother) it made the grief more difficult.
Therefore when Eszter was stillborn, me and my husband decided already in the hospital that we would like to bury her body. Fortunately there was only one week between the birth and the funureal. This week was the hardest, because I felt that Eszter belongs nowhere - neither here, nor in the heaven. On the funureal the mortician opened the coffin - so that was the second time when I saw my daughter. It might sound weird, but I was a bit happy to have the possibility to see her again (and last time).
She didn't have the chance to see this world. She couldn't have her own cloths, toys, friends, anything. Now she has a 120cmX60 cm place on this Earth, which belongs only to her. Her name is written on the gravestone (we could not officially name her) - that's all we could give her to be memorized. Not by us, but by others.
April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnna
we buried both our daughter and son. it just felt like the right thing to do... it is a very personal decision. and while i am at peace with our decision, i will add that the funeral planning was the most painful, surreal part of their deaths. it is so wrong to lose your baby, and having to make these kinds of decisions (when you thought you would be changing their diapers, etc) is almost too much. whenever i drive by the funeral homes that we used, i feel an immediate defensive tightening in my heart... going there was so, so hard.

whether it is on a shelf, or next to your bed, at a cemetery, or a pendant around your neck, having a place to go to, to look at, to tend to, to touch, can be such a soothing part of the grieving process. we are fortunate that the cemetery where they are buried is just a short drive from our house, and we can go there whenever we feel the need. i bring them flowers from our house, little toys, heart shaped rocks, and birthday cake on their anniversaries, which the deer eat. i stand there and tell them how much i love them, and i leave them rose petals and tears.

i like to see their names written out, with the date of their births. they each have a little poem under their name. i can't count the hours i have spent there with them, and it gives me great comfort knowing that their bodies are safely wrapped in special clothes and blankets, surrounded by toys and stuffed animals and letters and photos... having them there is very important to me, and i know that this is a very individual thing- i read about families who chose cremation, and it sounds perfect for them. for us, in our grief, burial was the 'right place' for them.

reading your post about george, knowing how much you love him, i know you will come to a point when you will know exactly what feels right- there is no hurry or deadline.
April 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterss
my former self flaming and crackling against a black sky

let the men in the suits with the solemn but detached faces handle our dead

I felt ashamed to grieve too loudly or too publicly and so George's death wasn't marked so much with an exclamation point as it was with an ellipses

they meandered around the house like Goldilocks

First on the bedside table, nestled in knitted baby blankets. Too warm. Then inside the bedside table and out of sight. Too cold. A brief stint on the mantle. Too obvious. Some weeks on the shelving unit. Too ordinary. Finally back to the bedroom atop a set of dresser drawers. Just right. Good enough.

back in its place in our bedroom...next to a single dress sock and a receipt for gas.

*****

Brianna,
arresting
elegant
hypnotic
reflections
filling my mind
from yours.

Stay and write ~ please ~ do,

Cathy in Missouri
April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCathy in Missouri
Marked with an ellipses: this is how I feel, too.

We had our daughter's body cremated. It was harder than I thought it would be. I could not stop thinking about her little body and until I got the call from the funeral home that we could come and pick up her ashes, I was on edge. I thought I would feel better when I had her ashes with me, and I did, but seeing those ashes was just awful. There is a tag attached to the bag to identify her and thinking about how it had burned beside her beautiful body and was left when her body was gone nearly undid me. My mother bought a beautiful round ceramic vase with a lid and her ashes are inside it, on my dresser. I pass by them as I go about my day and think how strange it is that all our love and hope, the weeks of nausea, the kicks and rolls, the excitement about our Baby Sister, ended up there.

We didn't have a memorial service, either, for the same - or similar reasons - you mention. I could not figure out how to organize such a thing. Now, I wish we'd done something because she was here and she was ours and I want everyone to know it. But I still don't know what to do. I'm hoping it will come to me someday soon and that we will be able to do something for her.

I had thought that I would want to scatter her ashes in the park near our house where our family has spent so much time together, but I find I want them with me. I think now that I want them to be mingled with my own ashes when I die and am cremated and then we can be scattered somewhere together.

This was a lovely post. Thank you.
April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJLD
Nat: I don't think there is ever a right choice in situations such as ours. Niether do I think that you took the chicken's way out...but rather the only way through it you could. My husband's parents have a George garden at their home with a multitude of different edible berry bushes. The thought is that as their other grandchildren get older they will all be able to spend time with George. So I think planting a tree in memory of Grace is lovely.

Monique: Thank you. This is so true, "I don't know if anything we do feels right, because, well, it's all just so wrong."

Ania: What a beautiful way to remember Leif and what a beautiful ceremony to honor the dead and help the suffering of the living...Wiping of the Tears. The due date was hard for us as well but after it was in the past things felt a little easier. I hope you find some peace in the coming weeks.

Cava: Part of the reason I want to put some (or all, I dont know) of George's ashes in a river in California is because I like the idea of him seeing parts of the world I'll never get to (I know that makes no sense as they are ashes and all that). I think that is why I also find the idead of your daughter's ashes flying in the winds over New York City something special as well.

Eliza: I am looking forward to hearing of Gabriel's sister's arrival. I am sure you are in the height of both anticipation and nervousness. I think you will find something that feels right after she arrives. I like the idea of putting his photo up.
I was struck by this, "Although, looking back through with perfect hindsight, it might have helped *them* to better understand some of what we went through. Not that they were awful, generally they are not, but it made it more easy to dismiss him and to forget about that aberration that was the upheaval of our lives and breaking of our hearts." I feel the saem exact way.

Josh: I still feel the same way as you do. Sometimes the outside and the inside just never match up.

Kari: There is nothing quite as surreal as price-checking the cremation of your child, is there? We (actually L) did the same thing. It was so strange.

Anna: It doesn't seem weird to want to see your child again and I can understand that it would be comforting to know that she has something of her own.

ss: Recently while on vacation we walked through an old mariners cemetery and were taken aback at the sheer number of how many headstones were in honor of babies and small infants, some almost 100 years old. They all had leis draped over them. It made me think about getting a headstone for our son. I think being able to go visit a place to feel close to our children is important too.

Cathy: Thank you:)
April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrianna
JLD: "There is a tag attached to the bag to identify her and thinking about how it had burned beside her beautiful body and was left when her body was gone nearly undid me." I'm afraid of the same thing, which was why it had taken me two years to find the courage to try to look at those ashes. Something that you can do for her will come to you in time. When it feels right, you will know it.
April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrianna
I wanted to take her home and bury her in our yard, but New York State law does not allow anyone but a licensed mortician to claim a body. They don't let you bury anybody in your yard unless it's been approved or some such legal nonsense. I didn't want her to go to the morgue. This lady came up to my bed side and told me it was hospital policy and she'd have to go to the morgue. She was flanked by two other women. It was so surreal. All I could see was little girls in the school yard supporting their friend while she goes up to another little girl and says " I don't like you". It felt just like that at the time. Now I realize she probably felt like shit having to tell me my little baby girl would have to go to the morgue. She was probably scared I would loose my shit on her too.

I'm known for stubbornness. My husband was seriously worried that I would become completely unreasonable. But I was so tired. I was so sad. And I had to think of him too, not just myself.

So we had a funereal, with prayers and poems and a friend sang a song and a celebration of life afterwards. She is buried in our family plot on top of my Gramma Sara. We go there all the time. I love it there, it is so beautiful, so peaceful. We never go with empty hands. We bring flowers, candles, little angels, Christmas trees, night lights. We sing, we say prayers, we blow her kisses and put her in our heart and take her home with us.

She has the biggest, scrappiest, scrapbook ever and we put Valentines and Easter pictures in it for her. Because it's the only book she's going to have. She has a memory box with every little scrap of evidence in it of her seven months of life: my appointment cards, the receipt for her owl stuffie we bought her at the street fair. Her sister helped pick it out. We buried it with her. We keep her blanket on the bed, the one thing we have that touched her body and has her germs on it. I have the pee test I took hidden behind her picture. I clutch it in my hand really tight. It's a tangible. It's evidence that she was here. Because after she died I felt that she had so, so utterly left us.

She is memorialized all over our house, her picture, her bowl in the cupboard, paintings of her on our walls. Her rosebush, her Christmas tree are planted in the yard. Her older sister said "leave the lights on it" so we did and she twinkles at us every night. Her nightlight we made her is on the windowsill. We brought it home from the cemetery for the winter and her daddy said he wants it always in the house. She shines there too, on the bedroom windowsill.

I know I am projecting her onto these things. I don't care. I need her here somehow, it is so comforting. I can see it from the outside. It looks crazy. I don't give a shit. She's my daughter. I want her with me always, and if this is how it has to be then I'll just do the best I can.

Planning a funereal was hard. It was exhausting. One week after her birth, and an emergency c-section. Our friends and family helped. I'm glad we did it up. It was the only thing we could do for her. Instead of kissing her and hugging her, and holding her the only thing we could think to do was to honor her presence, her short life, thank her for the love and joy she brought us. I take comfort in that.

Thank you for the post. All of these responses are beautiful.
April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen
brianna,
my husband's mother died shortly after our son, and she wanted to be cremated. after we received her ashes, we bought 4 urns, 3 tiny ones, and one largr one. both of her sons got some of her ashes in small urns. the other small urn was buried at her parent's gravesite, where we left a small stone that had her name engraved into it. before we buried that little urn, we put half of those ashes into the ocean, where they used to vacation as a family. then, with the larger urn, we buried that at the cemetery next to our kids, with a full size headstone, name, dates, the whole thing. in the container that the urn went into, there was room for us to put letters to her, special momentos, etc. so, she was cremated, and buried, and we also have some of her ashes with us, as well as some being in the ocean where she loved to be- a little of everything, and it all made sense and felt right. my husband like to have a headstone for her- for him, it is very helpful to have that place to bring flowers and tell his mom he loves her, to touch base, to see her name written out. but he also likes having her urn of ashes at home, next to a photo of her and some other momentos on a small shelf on the wall.

maybe that is a possibility for you- to bury some of the ashes with a headstone at a cemetery, and also to keep some to do with what you feel is right.

i also want to add that we took her ashes to the funeral home and asked that they divide and handle her ashes. we didn't want to drop or otherwise mishandle them, and they are the 'experts'. i know that a small baby's ashes are a small amount, and there are little glass bottles and tiny urns that could be used to beautifully hold these most precious ashes.
April 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterss
Jen - "I know I am projecting her onto these things. I don't care. I need her here somehow, it is so comforting. I can see it from the outside. It looks crazy. I don't give a shit. She's my daughter. I want her with me always, and if this is how it has to be then I'll just do the best I can."

I needed to read that today. I have been wondering how I look "from the outside" lately, as I try to find different ways to keep A present in our lives, and wondering if I look crazy. You're right: I probably do, but I don't give a shit either, really, and I agree with you: "if this is how it has to be then I'll just do the best I can."
April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJLD
Oh that first paragraph. Oh how I wish I had too. I deeply wish I had done it myself. My grandmother told me once about her experience of the laying out of her own mother's body. Apparently she had requested her daughter do this, not a stranger. And I should have done that for my girl, looked after her body. I bathed her and dressed her but then I let her go. And now I find I can't let go of what remains.

I love your description of the Goldilocks-like meanderings of George's ashes around your home. Georgina's have hardly moved an inch. I suppose because I suspect that everywhere will be equally wrong, just in a slightly different fashion. As Monique says, nothing could be right. Perhaps I'll be able to let them go one day but today is not that day. I think I'm waiting to be ash myself then someone else can decide what to do with us both, passing the buck I know.

Thank you so much for this beautiful piece of writing Brianna. I can't say it better than Cathy already has. Remembering your dear George xo
April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine W
JLD: Thank you. I feel like less of a freak : ) I loved this: "I pass by them as I go about my day and think how strange it is that all our love and hope, the weeks of nausea, the kicks and rolls, the excitement about our Baby Sister, ended up there." It sums up perfectly how I feel about having these stand ins for the actual, physical her.
April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen
Jen: Thank you for sharing about your daughter and your experiences in honoring her memory. I understand the "projecting" of a child onto tangible items. I do it too.

ss: I have a feeling that something along the lines of what you describe happening with your mother-in-law's ashes will happen with those of our son. Some will go in the water, maybe some will be buried in his garden at my in-laws, but some will most definitely be mixed with my own and my husband's ashes when we are gone. I don't know, it seems like the last bit of mothering I can ever do for him is to bring him home from where he began.

Cath: I did not even bathe or dress George. I was a coward to feel him cold and so I let them take him away too soon. You did look after Georgina, Cath. You were very brave.
April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrianna
We cremated Eva. Sometimes I think I would have 'liked' to have buried her instead. Neither would be the right choice. I know you understand. Anyway, a few weeks before she died I bought a rocking horse money-box made out of pewter for her. We had the money box sealed with her ashes inside. It sits on her shelf in our living room I'm going to get it engraved with her name and dates soon. As for what happens to it in the long run. I am putting in our will that I want the little horse to be buried with me when I die. I want her name on my gravestone too. If my kids decide to cremate me or something then I want her ashes mixed with mine...whatever my kids decide to do with the ashes I want Eva and I to be together.
April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEm
Beautiful post, Brianna. Thank you for sharing your experience here. It is ironic I had written a piece for last Thursday that was about just this topic. We decided against a funeral or memorial because she died three days before Christmas, and I couldn't imagine having a funeral for Christmas, but I wish I had. I wish I had let people grieve with us. I wish I had shown them that she was a real little girl that I gave birth to. I wish I had shown them how destroyed I was. I wish I had shown them how much I needed them, because no one ever knew. We cremated her and her ashes sit in our living room. I am incapable of spreading them over anything. I want them with us, always.
April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAngie
Ashes to ashes,dust to dust. I believe she belongs to this earth. It seems so wrong to have my daughter contained in a little white coffin. I sometimes think cemeteries were invented out of our arrogant, greedy society that thinks they can physically control even death and keep them "here" when we should let them go. Either that or it's all in the name of profit. That thought makes me sick. I don't think there is a right answer about how we deal with our childrens' deaths. It's so much to deal with in the early days of grief.
April 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersherri burkett
Beautiful, Brianna. And the picture I have in my mind of you both trying to get George's copper box open....It would be funny if it wasn't so sad.

We decided to have Molly cremated as well because we want her near us and the thought of her being in a cemetery plot that would be difficult to access at some point in the future filled both my husband and me with anxiety.

The day we surrendered Molly's body to the morgue, the day after she died, is the day the hospital started pressuring us to make arrangements for her. Just like living patients, they wanted to discharge her as soon as possible. My husband asked my sister if she would be willing to call mortuaries and give us a list of possibilities, and thankfully, she consented. And then my husband made all of the arrangements. I feel a certain amount of guilt about that, but at the time, I just couldn't bear it--and so my husband bore the weight on his strong shoulders.

The day Molly was cremated in her first and last dress, I howled and howled in pain, thinking about my daughter's body being rendered into something I would no longer recognize. She really felt gone then.

We took about a month to decide on an urn, and I must admit, that delay, too, was due to my angst. I wanted something perfect for her, but I could only look through pages and pages of baby urns for about an hour before I became overwhelmed. In the end, we found something that we both really love, an urn that we had seen many times but for some reason passed on. Actually, I think I know why it took me so long to zero in on it: It was being advertised as an urn for a pet, and it somehow didn't seem good enough. But it has panels for pictures and engravings, and it spins....It twirls just like Molly used to do when she was in my belly, the little dancer.

Now Molly's urn travels around the house with me, and I find myself thinking similar thoughts of "too cold" "too dark" "too alone." I want her next to me, and I hate leaving her when we travel, so my husband sets up a surveillance camera so that I can view her when we're away. I'm sure some people would think that's beyond crazy, and perhaps I am. I just love and miss my little girl so much.

Thank you for writing this piece and sharing your story. Sending love and thinking of precious baby George. xo
April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMissingMolly
We had our son cremated. My husband did all of the dirty work, calling and arranging and writing the horrible check for services. When we got the message that the ashes were ready I thought I was going to be sick. The funeral home is less than a mile from our house and we went together, but I could not, could not, go in to pick them up. I sat in the truck and cried, and when my husband returned with the tiny white box I cried harder. This was NOT how I wanted to bring my son home goddammit. This was NOT how it was to be.

Henrick sat in a kitchen cupboard for 6 months. I can't explain it, but I couldn't display his cremains. I never felt the urge to put him in something prettier than the plain white plastic box. The kitchen was right because that is where we gathered most with our older daughter. He was there always, but always unseen.

Our daughter, then 4, released his ashes on a lake we visit each summer. I didn't want to break down when our daugher was doing the one thing she would ever do for her baby brother, so I said nothing. She opened the tiny plastic bag, released him to the water and said, "Goodbye, Henrick. I wish I could have known you." Then she gave him half of the cookie she was eating. It was perfect.

Now my oldest daughter is nearly 8 and her questions about her brother come less frequently. During one of the rare snowfalls this last winter she caught me looking up and asked what I was thinking. I said that since we gave Henrick to the water I always wonder if a bit of him is in the rain or snow falling on us. She smiled and said she liked the sound of that. Man, I love that kid.
April 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
Heather- the half a cookie gave me a much needed cry. Your daughter is beautiful.
April 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen
We found out when I was 8 months pregnant that Nathaniel would not survive for long after he was born, so we made the arrangements with the funeral home before he was born. It was terrible - me, hugely pregnant, still rubbing my belly, picking out an urn for my baby. It occurred to me just now that maybe he helped pick it out, too? I knew that making the arrangements after would be harder, if that's even possible. And of course I hoped beyond hope that he would trick us all and be fine.

But he wasn't. He was born, we held him and loved him, and he died. I didn't kiss him while he was alive, and that is one of my biggest regrets. He was covered with thick layer of that goo, and he only lived for about a half of an hour. I should have kissed him anyway. I kissed him a lot after I bathed him.

We made arrangements that we would drive him to the funeral home. I wanted it that way. But it was weird to have my baby in my arms as the nurse wheeled us through the hospital, and then climb into the front seat of the car with my baby still in my arms. Everyone else with babies had car seats. We talked (joked?) on the way about what we would have to say if we were pulled over.

We cremated him. He's in an urn on top of his dresser, still full of all of his baby clothes and diapers and blankets. He's surrounded by photo and rocks and things we've collected for him these last 81/2 months. I'd like to have him buried with me. I hope they'll put his little urn in my hand and his name on the gravestone alongside mine. I just need him close.
April 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne
Oh I wish I had found this site a month or two ago! I had to advocate hard to avoid a d&c. I was blessed to see my 14 week old baby and bury him. It was a simple service but so very needed. I have blogged about it. .. in fact I started my blog to work out my feelings about my miscarriage.

Thank you for being here!

http://4alittleloco.blogspot.com/2012/04/things-i-never-needed-before.html
April 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbecki
Brianna, this is lovely. It is nice to see you here as a contributor.
April 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjill s.
We had Katie cremated, and the ashes interred in a niche at a nearby cemetery, with a plaque & bud vase. Almost 14 years later, we still visit there almost every weekend. As a family historian, I appreciate having cemeteries and marked graves to visit and decorate for holidays. : ) I like knowing where she is, having somewhere marked with her name, instead of being scattered anonymously to the four winds. But that's just me.

We had a funeral/memorial service 12 days after her stillbirth. The service was at the church we attended at the time, followed by the interrment of the ashes at the cemetery. It was just dh & me, my parents, my FIL & his wife, and dh's brother, his wife & their two boys, who were 9 & 6 at the time. It was short & simple, a few Bible readings & prayers, and the minister said a few words. I didn't think I could handle a larger funeral, & everyone else's grief on top of my own, & their sympathy. In retrospect, like many of you, I wish I had invited everyone. Perhaps seeing that urn, our fresh grief, would have made our daughter more real to more people.

I also wish we had taken photos of the urn and the flowers; they were so pretty. And I wish we had bought the niche alongside Katie's then & there -- but it was hard enough wrapping our heads around the idea of planning our daughter's funeral, never mind our own (not to mention the additonal cost). Ten years later, we inquired about the niche next door, and of course, by then, someone else had already purchased it. :( We bought another niche in another recently built wall nearby, which will have to be close enough, I guess. The cemetery salesman suggested we could buy two niches there side by side & have our daughter moved, but I didn't like that idea either, so she will stay where she is.
April 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterloribeth
Beautiful post Brianna.

We had Liam cremated. He was still inside of me when the nurse told us that we needed to make arrangements for when he would die. I was in shock, and I lost it so Justin made all the arrangements. Through my contractions I watched him pace the hallway outside my room and I could hear him on the phone with the funeral home making plans for Liam.

J chose a little gold urn handmade in India. It has intricate carvings of ivy. It's really lovely. I've never asked J why he chose this particular urn but i'm glad that he did. It sits on our mantle. It's one of the first things you see when you walk into our house. In those first months I kept his urn in my night table because I wanted him close to me but now I want Liam to be in our family room where we spend most of our time. We've talked about spreading Liam's ashes on a mountain or in a river or field but I don't think we ever will. I need him close.

The nurses dressed Liam in two outfits and took photos for us. They put a beautiful memory album together with Liam's photos, prints, hospital bracelet and some poetry. J also took some photos of Liam with his iPhone. We run a small wedding photography business and neither of us ever thought about how important photos were. I wish that we had better photos of Liam. The few ones that I have I look at every single day.

Remembering George always. xx
April 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertash
This is a beautiful note. And Heather, the story of your daughter and her cookie just seemed so perfect.

I just had my stillborn son cremated 7 weeks ago. His ashes are in a poofy velvet bag (much like an oversized crown royale bag) on my mantle. I didn't buy an urn for him because I expected I'd release his ashes. I thought we'd do it on his due date. I actually still have my other son's placenta (he's almost 2) in my freezer (gross, I know). We meant to grow a tree in his placenta but, you know, we get busy and then it gets cold and the ground freezes, and then it happens all over again. I thought I'd bury the ashes with his brother's placenta in a tree deep in the woods of our yard. I had my heart pretty much set on it, but I'm afraid I'll regret it. I didn't have any photos taken of him, I didn't kiss him (why?), I accidentally deleted the photos I took of myself pregnant with him. So releasing his ashes would almost make him seem non-existent (never-existent).

I'm still torn.

Oh... and I finally took a peek at the ashes last week. It was such a spontaneous decision to finally look at them. I had read that there would be very little remains but I was still shocked by how little is there. His body was tiny, but still. It's not ashes like I scoop up from the fireplace, or like I see in the movies. It's just a few fragments.

If I really had my way I would sew these remains right onto my chest right over my heart. That sounds so cheesy to type it, but it is what I feel.
April 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeigh
It always amazes me how often I stumble upon just what I needed to read at the precise moment on Glow. Thank you Brianna for sharing.
Fortunately for us, one of my husband's close friends owns a funeral home so he handled the cremation arrangements and told us about a beautiful cemetary that has a cremation garden. My first instinct was to plant the ashes under a tree we'd plant, but we don't plan to stay in this home and there wasn't a place that was special enough to us to spread them. I did want to keep all her ashes in our house, but my husband, though he didn't say so, I think found that unsettling or morbid? He wanted the cemetary and the compromise I came to was to have a necklace with some of her ashes and bury the remainder. I purchased two identical necklaces so my older daughter can have one some day. It took me seven weeks to decide what to do. We had a funeral. I'm not Catholic any more and was against a priest, but glad I gave in so as to have someone lead or direct it. I read a letter to my daughter. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. It was something I HAD to do because I was her mother. I wanted everything to be perfect and in the end, it was perfect for us.
But there's a crazy element for me too....in the last couple weeks I've been thinking about her ashes and obsessing about not seeing them. I can't open the necklace so I think about what the consequences would be if I got on my hands and knees and dug, retrieved her urn and ran her ashes through my fingers. I want to touch them, touch her, or like Josh said, smear them on my face. I remember at my first support group a young woman saying she sometimes wants to dig her daughter out of the ground and now I'm not horrified by the comment, I know what she meant.
Even though I was against a cemetary, I like having a place where I can grieve openly and I love seeing her name on the plaque, concrete proof to the world she existed.
May 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterILM

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