a book!

I’m writing a book.

Whew.  It takes a whole lot of courage to admit that I’m working on this project.

Maybe I’m scared of it not happening?  Or maybe I’m overwhelmed by enthusiasm? Maybe I still think it’s silly and trivial?

I’m about halfway done with the first draft and 120-something pages in, so I think I can admit that I’m writing now.  And I’m slowly accepting the idea that my words have value, purpose and can help others.

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It’s good, hard work.  It’s a book about grief (who would have guessed?) and creativity and faith.  It’s a book that shares parts of our story and follows specific topics that have been on my mind a lot over the years, including lament, identity, hope, joy, and the power sharing our stories.  Most of the outline of it came to me as I grieved Clive’s death, and I’ve added a lot more as I’ve grieved Winnie’s death.

It’s both practical and vulnerable, and I hope it cultivates journeys of creativity and faith as people grieve.  My vision for it is to be a beautiful, visual work that comforts, inspires, and helps people working through grief of any kind.

I’m not the most talented writer, but I have a story to share.  If I truly believe in the power of story I won’t let fear of English hold me back.  (Plus, that’s what editors are for!).  I’m not an expert on words, or art, or faith, but I’ve had my share of experience with grief and I’ve learned so much.  I’ve taken the time to sit, learn, process, and grieve–on repeat.  Writing helps me, but I don’t do it for myself.  I share because I believe it matters and that all our stories matter in the Big Story of the world.

I’ve worried that this is the wrong time for me to work on a project this big.  It’s hard to carve out hours at a time to work on writing with a little one year old that adores attention.  But, it’s worth the work and I’m able to utilize the village that is surrounding me to help.

I’ve worried that all the books have been written already, but a friend reassured me that a book is always worth writing.  So, even if the only copies are sold to my parents (thanks, mom and dad), I’ll write it.

I’ll write it for me and Clive and Winnie and anyone who is grieving, and I’ll pray that it helps someone in their own journey.

I’ll write the book that I’d want to give my best friend if she lost a child.  A gift of beauty and love, encouragement and support.

I’ll write the book that captures the practical reality of the world in which we live—and how we need to navigate that world—as well as the spiritual and creative existence our souls have.

I’ll write the book that allows freedom in wrestling through difficult questions of faith.

It’s an exciting and scary thing to announce.  Thank you for joining me in the excitement!

It won’t be done for a while—sometime next year, but stay tuned and I’ll share a bit more.  I welcome any advice from those of you with experience.  I have lots of ideas that I’m not ready to share yet, but I am so excited to create this beautiful book.

Want updates? Click to subscribe to my email list.

 

 

helping someone through grief

I am often asked how someone can be of support to others in their grief.  Here are some simple, straightforward and practical ways you can show your love.

-Your willingness to be loving, kind, supportive, and present goes a really long way.  Reaching out and showing love means so much.  Your thoughts and prayers (even when you feel otherwise helpless) are valued and necessary.

-Take time to say something.  Words, especially the right words, are hard-earned and take lots of thought and time.  It’s easy not to say something, and it’s easy to just find a card to say it, but the things that meant the most to me were when friends took the time to write out a real letter expressing their deep pain alongside us.  It takes effort and empathy, but it means a lot.  It’s never too late to say something.

-Encourage them to get involved in a support group.  Offer to help make this possible in whatever way they may need (childcare for other kids, etc).   Help look up these resources.  Griefshare is a great group that is at many churches.  Maybe even call around to get information about when/where so they don’t have to look it all up themselves.  There are various local support groups, as well as online groups.  Connecting with other people can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming, but it helps so much to know you are not alone.   Check out our resources page for more links and book suggestions.    There are also some great in-person retreats that are so helpful.  David and Nancy Guthrie lead a Respite Retreat in TN that we attended and really appreciated.  I have also loved attending the Restoring A Mother’s Heart Retreat put on by the Ethan Lindberg Foundation.

-Remind them that it is okay to step back from activities—especially those involving social involvement, serving others, etc.  Some people feel really guilty about this, but grief is completely exhausting (especially all year one) and requires a lot of pulling back just to get through regular life.  We are still not able to function anywhere near the capacity that we had previously.  We are not the same people anymore.

-Be mindful of respecting space and boundaries, but don’t completely dismiss the fact that they might want to just do normal things.  Ask, but still give permission for them to have an ‘out’ from social things.

-Bring meals and gift cards to help alleviate having to cook.  It’s great if you offer to make frozen meals, or even just drop them off at the door.  It might be hard to engage socially, so just be mindful and respectful, and give them choices.  Offer to collect freezer meals, or arrange a MealTrain (again, check about if they want people to do drop offs or just one person to arrange all of the deliveries for them).

-Offer to grocery shop or have groceries delivered.  The grocery store is a bit of a nightmare for people after loss.  Unexpected people to bump into, wandering, being overwhelmed, physical fatigue.  It took months and months to adjust to grocery shopping again.

-Mark your calendars for important dates to remember next year and in years to come.  Send a card, a gift, or a text on those dates.

-Mark your calendar for 3, 6, and 9 months out and send a card or text just to remind them you are still thinking of them, praying for them, and that you know it is still very hard.

-Especially after the 3 month (or so) mark, a lot of family and friends “move on” and it starts to feel very isolating for someone still very deep in grief.  Remember this.  Their world stopped spinning.  A few months is just enough for shock to wear off, and they need support perhaps more than ever.

-If you think of them, text them and tell them.  Say their child’s name.  They are thinking of them all the time already, and bringing the child up won’t make them more sad.

-Keep texting or calling on occasion, even if you get no responses.  It’s so overwhelming to reply sometimes, but they are so meaningful.

-If you spend time together, remember to sit, listen and be present.  Ask questions like “how are you doing today?”  or “how have you been feeling lately?  I know it is still so very hard.”  Don’t press it.  Don’t try to fill the silence.  Don’t say things without thinking through what you’re saying.  Never try to explain why things happened or talk about “at least”s.  Don’t give advice.  Don’t get into fix-it mode.  Silence is okay.  Don’t be afraid to say their loved one’s name (even for years to come).  They are always missed and always on our minds, so it won’t hurt more to hear their name.   Sometimes it hurts when people haven’t asked how we are or checked in on us.  Silence can feel like a lack of care, although it often has meant people are just afraid to say something.

-Respect the fact that everyone’s losses are so different.  Our losses of Clive and Winnie were completely different, and we handled them very differently.  All loss is surrounded by trauma, and requires SO much time to work through.  Shock, anger, fatigue, depression… these are all very common things after loss, and each person handles those things differently and finds different ways to cope.

-Respect the fact that they might not be able to be around you, your kids, and regular life.  Friendships might be on pause, even for years.  Stay supportive, but respect this boundary if that’s what they are needing.

A few other articles about helping grieving friends and family:

http://www.glowinthewoods.com/how-to-help-a-friend/

https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/complications/miscarriage/what-to-say-to-a-friend-who-has-lost-a-baby/

https://pinchofyum.com/what-to-do-when-your-friend-loses-a-baby

 

helping someone through grief

 

winnie’s birth

Two years ago I had a baby.  It was a Friday night when she slipped into the world.  It was a Sunday morning when she slipped away.  9 days we had with her, that sweet girl.  Before I rush to the end, there was so much beauty between.  The night she was born was a miracle of life.

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At 38 weeks large, but rather small, they told me it was time.  The placenta’s flow was slowing.  Winnie’s day to arrive was here.

We packed bags and hopped into the car with carseat installed.  I glanced into the car’s baby-mirror, knowing that she’d be looking back at me in a few days as we took her home.

My body wasn’t ready, so we induced on Thursday night.  A long wait began.  Walked, bounced, danced with baby.  For hours and hours my body tried to make sense of the contractions, but couldn’t relax enough to get there.

A printed card hung in my room, sharing Clive and a snippet of our story, sharing what we desired from our birth and why, and sharing our appreciation for the hospital staff.

Hours passed.  My body was too tired, and Winnie needed to come soon.  I waited for the anesthesiologist to bring his relief in a long needle, and took another drug in the meantime.  The paranoia and disorientation began on Friday afternoon.  I worried my uterus was rupturing.  It hurt.  The doctors and nurses listened, concerned.  I fell asleep mid-sentence again and again, and felt terribly confused.  The pain didn’t subside.  They worried and considered options.  Sam, always level-headed, reminded them that my paranoia began with this new pain medicine.  They asked me to try to clarify that, to try to think if I felt different pain.  I tried so hard.  Concentrating has never been harder.  I told them I was okay, that it felt like contractions. Not differently.

I’ve never been very scared of needles, and I’ve never been happier to have one stuck in me.  My body relaxed.  We waited.  She progressed.  Watched the monitor.

Shift change of doctors on Friday night.  Dr. Carter left, and Dr. Helfer arrived—came in from the hospital down the road just to deliver Winnie.

Time to push. My legs were held up.  My lungs filled, held and released.  Again and again.

She could tell I was a swimmer, she said.  I smiled, tired.  Keep pushing, she said.  Monitors put on Winnie’s head showed distress.  Push more, more, more.  An ultimatum of time, or surgery should happen.  Pushed, pushed, hello.

A sweet girl slipped out.

So many details I’ve forgotten.  How long was labor?  When was I induced?  What time was she born?

But I will never forget the feeling of holding her for the first time.  Wrapped up in a blanket.  Dark eyes.  Such love for this miracle.  Such love for her and Clive.  Tears, holding my baby for the first time.  What a gift.

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We did it.  Safely here.  No c-section this time.  A VBAC after loss.  It was story that I’d searched the internet to find encouragement in, to know it was possible, and when I found none written I decided I’d try for one and then share mine.  It wasn’t that I feared another c-section, I just didn’t want to have another one if that meant a limitation on future pregnancies and number of children.  I wanted to be fully present with Winnie, not healing from surgery.

Her birth was healing.  Even as they looked and voiced concerns, and decided to take her to the NICU, I felt peace.

We didn’t anticipate a NICU stay.  We didn’t want one, so we didn’t plan for one.  She’s just measuring small during pregnancy, she’ll be fine.  God gave us what felt like promises and peace and a new song (still working that out).  But even as the NICU stay became imminent after delivery, we assured ourselves it would just be a couple days.

That night, as I went to a separate recovery room without my baby or husband, I was so relieved.  I was so proud.  I felt so safe and sure.  Even without her in my arms, even as I pumped before my baby had a chance to suckle, even as Sam followed her to the NICU, even as many things felt like a repeat of the previous year, I felt so, so happy.

Winnie Joy, you brought joy.

She slipped into the world, small and dainty.  Her hand were open.  I’ve noticed that recently in photographs.  Babies are born with clenched fists, but Winnie’s hands were open wide.  Oh, love.

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On the night you were born, the moon smiled with such wonder that the stars peeked in to see you and the night wind whispered. “Life will never be the same.”

 -Nancy Tillman, On the Night You Were Born

 

Etsy Shop Update

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While I am busy parenting, working a day a week with children with developmental delays, and focusing on my creativity in writing (more to come on that!) I still LOVE the Etsy community and want to continue my store. I’ve decided to continue selling some shirts as a little way for me to stay creative and give back to the communities that I’m passionate about. I found company that will do order fulfillment and shipping for me, so I’m able to stay focused on what I need to stay focused on!

My fav shirts are the Heart Family line that commemorate the CHD (congential heart defect) warriors. I get lots of requests for these Heart Mama (Daddy, Sister, Brother, Warrior) shirts, so I brought all of them back.  There’s some fun new shirts, too–Save the Bees, Hippie Mama 🙂 10% of all profits are donated to organizations that support medically fragile children and bereaved families. Other profits are helping in some new creative avenues I’m taking with writing!

These shirts are for sale at treesandflowersco.etsy.com 

Creating a Sibling Mini Book to Remember Your Child in Heaven

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I recently made a special little book for 11 month old Coralie.  It’s so important to me that she grow up knowing about her big brother and sister, and this seemed like the perfect way to share them.  I wrote lots of social stories (short books) for my students when I was teaching Early Childhood Special Education, and they are so helpful to convey info in a direct, yet kid-friendly way.  We don’t need to sugar coat everything (neither do we need to cause fear!).  So, here’s my attempt at finding that balance for my littlest daughter.

I made it in an afternoon and I just LOVE how it turned out!  I’m sharing for those who want to make your own.   Our children in heaven are so special, so loved, and so remembered.

 

What I used:

I simply wrote out the text I wanted and arranged it with pictures that I printed.  Glued it together, laminated, punched holes, added rings… done!

I’d love to share the text with you.  You can view and edit it here.

Send me a picture of yours when you’re done.  So many beautiful children to remember.

Revamped blog + back to writing

Come visit our newly updated blog at samandrachelgeorge.com.

Over time, CliveWins.com didn’t fit our blog name any more.  Clive did win by going to heaven.  But what about Winnie’s story?  And what about adoption, and parenting, and everything else as we continue on in this journey of life.  We have more to share.

We never expected to be sharing our story in this way, but as our path became more difficult and our journey more complicated, we knew that there was purpose in our story.  If nothing else, our story could make others feel they are not alone—which is precisely what other’s stories have done for us.

We’re not writing from the other side of some bridge, having “made it through”.  We’re still walking (stumbling really) and God is teaching us as we go.  I think some of the most helpful people I have encountered in my life have been sharing from “the middle” in an honest, vulnerable, and refreshing way.

Life is busy.  I’m writing this early on a Saturday morning, in between feeding spoonfuls of baby food, while texting with Sam about the coffee shop.  But just as we make time to connect in our marriage, spend time as a family, and privately grieve, we’re convinced that making time to write will be helpful, both to us and hopefully to others.   Hopefully you’ll hear more from both of us on here.

Thanks for reading, for caring and for loving us so well.

(P.S. Lucky for us, technology rocks and we were able to transfer all our old posts! Plus, CliveWins.com will still redirect people to the new site.  #winning)

motherhood and mother’s day

It’s Mother’s Day 2018, and I’m thinking of the past few mother’s days:

One waiting for pregnancy.

One grieving a baby lost in miscarriage.

One in the NICU with Clive.

One grieving Clive and growing Winnie.

One grieving Clive and Winnie and awaiting adoption.

And this one, missing Clive and Winnie deeply, holding Coralie, and thinking of my unique version of motherhood.

I have children in heaven and one in my home.  I have a baby that I just rocked to sleep that has another mama out there missing her and full of love for her. A mama who bravely chose me to be her daughter’s mom.  I do not forget this.  I have a desire for more kids, and an uncertainty of what the future will look like.  I have birthed, pumped, buried, held hands, changed diapers, rocked, brought home, visited at the cemetery.  I have written cards and made gifts my mom, my mother in law, and Corrie’s birthmama.  I am grateful, and sorrowful.  The bitter parts have given me more gratitude for the sweet parts. 

I have eyes wide open to the unique motherhood around me, giving me gratitude for the blessings I have in my motherhood– however hard.  I see the overwhelmed moms, the working moms, the single moms, the grieving moms, the empty-armed moms, the foster moms, the moms without moms of their own.  I see the women who are not-yet mamas (or maybe will never be moms by our definition), but have a caring mom-heart for so many others in their lives while they wait for their story to unfold.  So many different paths and journeys and forms.  So many hardships, and still so much beauty to behold.