As we grow I think the things that heal us change. I have touched on how cakes and writing have helped heal my heart but there is something else that heals me too. Giving. It is one thing we can do by ourselves or as a family.
In the beginning giving felt a bit more out of selfishness than anything. Shortly after Clara passed we donated our very large diaper & wipe stash to the local women’s shelter. We couldn’t bear to see them in the closet anymore. We needed them out and the shelter seemed like a good solution.
A month after Clara passed I knew I was going to have to do something with the breastmilk I had stored in the freezer. The thought of having to pour it down the drain made me sick. After a few calls to the local hospitals, I was directed to the Rocky Mountain Mother’s Milk Bank . They were so welcoming and comforting in explaining the process of how to donate. In all Clara and I donated 352 oz. It was comforting to know that there were babies who were going to benefit a great deal from Clara’s life.
Today I also want to highlight that grief doesn’t just come from the death of a child. Some of my grief is found in the loss of dreams for my Lincoln. It is a different grief but one that gets glossed over sometimes as “you are so lucky he is alive”. While I agree we are fortunate, there is grief and guilt to work through. In 2010, after Lincoln’s medical issues and allergies prevented him from using breastmilk, he and I donated 2222 oz to the Mother’s Milk Bank of Iowa. Again it helped us make the best of the hand we were dealt.
After talking to so many NICU families, I know that this kind of giving touches them deeply. It brings them a small comfort in the stress of watching their tiny baby fight for each day. If it helped just one baby have a better chance to reach their first birthday, that brings me comfort.
As grief changes so does our giving. What was once to make me feel better, now I do it to help others. For me, it reminds me of the best things others did for me when I was hurting. Sometimes just a simple “I am thinking of you” can touch a person in a very much needed way. A little note to say I thought of your loved one today or I am thinking of your medically needy kiddo. A few cupcakes to a teacher having a rough week or a Christmas gift for a little girl who is the same age Clara would be. These are all ways that can touch other lives and bring me comfort.
I have had a few people tell me it is unhealthy to give so much. They have said I only do it for the attention. I should seek some counseling. I am not looking for the rewards. I know how it touches my heart when someone shares they visited Clara’s grave and shared a story about her with their little ones. It is comforting when someone remembers her birthday or her passing day. It is comforting when families share they keep a safe sleep environment for their baby. It is healing to do the same for others, to offer comfort with a heart gift. No matter how big or small you feel your gesture is, remember this… you absolutely never know when it will turn out to be the pick-me-up that only God knew that person needed.