Tag Archives: Hope

Capture Your Grief – 2016 – Day #27

Family is Forever

Nothing can change the fact that our family will always feel incomplete.  We will always have a school picture that won’t change when everyone else’s does.  People will always notice our large age gap between the big boys and the little boys.  What we can change is how we acknowledge our gap.

For our family, our favorite way to acknowledge Clara’s place in our family is by taking our yearly family picture at the Walk, Run, Race for Their Live’s event. Although we started creating a team in Clara’s memory in 2009, we didn’t take our first family photo with her banner until 2010.  It has been both healing and a way to make new, meaningful memories together.  This year a professional photographer shared her talent to help all the families take a picture with their little one’s image.

With each picture, these images remind us of the good times we dedicate to making new memories with Clara.  It isn’t the way I ever imagined it to be but I am thankful for the opportunity to create new traditions with the kids.  The time the kids spend talking to family and friends and hearing stories of their sister make it a meaningful way to knit our family a little tighter.



Capture Your Grief – 2016 – Day #24

Consciously Becoming

No one can deny when you bury a child your life will forever be split.  There will always be a “before loss” you and an “after loss” you.  I often hear others talk about their old life and their “new normal”.  While that is true, I prefer not to call my after loss life a “new normal”.

There is no normal path in grief. We each take steps differently. We find some paths better than others.  When you are in your deepest grief, the words “new normal” seem to imply this terrible state you are currently in.  I found myself trying to find a better way to describe the very harsh divide.  We simply call our split the “before Clara died” and “after Clara died”.  Both contain good and bad but they are just plain different.

I must admit, I sometimes struggle to remember the “before Clara” me.  It feels so far in the past and today I am nowhere near the woman I was then.  I know there was a beautiful, strong woman that blazed a path through the world before Clara. Today I still have some of those same traits but I am changed.  I see much beauty in that change.  I think that was the hardest part of the “after Clara died” timeframe.  It can be hard to accept that there were good things that came out of the loss of Clara.  My soul has been made more beautiful.

Today I chose an image of these two lovely pieces of china from our wedding.  Here is the deal.  I was so busy with life that I didn’t open our boxes of china until early this summer.  When I opened the package I got quite a shock.  One box had 2 different styles.  I called to request an exchange only to find out that they won’t do that 8 years later.  It took me some time to realized that this just goes right along with our story. Gone is the plan of having at least one set of matching dishes.  Today I look forward to a treasured wedding story we will share with the kids.

Life situations can’t always be let go as easily as my dish problem. Some days I wish I could go back to things I loved about the old me.  It was a much more simple life.  Instead, I try to focus on the future and see the beauty that is ahead.  I want to embrace the new things I have found in my grief to help others.  I enjoy the writing and cakes and the special heart skills I didn’t know were hidden in me before Clara died.  It is in letting go of the life we planned (and the anger of losing it), that we can embrace the future and see the good changes in ourselves.




Capture Your Grief – 2016 – Day #12

Lemons + Lemonade

Lemons & lemonade was something that my husband talked about during Clara’s wake.  Since then we have always called things our Pink Lemonade.  My blog name, our team name for the run, even the logo for my business ties back to it.

For me the biggest lemonade is finding my gift for cake decorating.  You see our “rainbow baby” was born before we honored Clara’s first anniversary of her passing.  On the day that our “rainbow” was officially older than his sister, he was diagnosed with a lifelong medical condition.  It would require a major surgery before he turned one. What a basket of lemons!

After spending 21 days in Iowa City getting amazing care, we went home and celebrated his first birthday.  It was then that we realized how special birthdays really were.  Not every kid gets to celebrate them and there are so many more that fight like mad to see their next one.  We often assume that our kids will see tomorrow.  As parents we should be treating each day and especially each birthdays like it is their last one.  Life can change in an instant.

Everyday I am making a little lemonade in memory of my little girl.  My heart always has birthdays and especially first birthdays close to it.  I LOVE making them!  They show me that so many little ones that have made it through another year.  They give me a chance to create what I didn’t get to with Clara.  With every birthday cake I deliver, I make a wish for another year for the recipient and family.  With every baby shower and gender reveal cake, I make a wish for a healthy, loved baby who gets to see their first baby.  With every wedding cake, I wish for ease of fertility and healthy babies (if desired because there are couples that are happy baby free).

I am so thankful to have had the chance to find my caking talent.  Being able to use it in a way to honor Clara makes it even sweeter.  When Happy Cake Baker makes your cake you are getting so much more than a delicious cake and beautiful decorations.  You are getting a piece of my heart and a wish for another year.




Capture Your Grief – 2016 – Day #10

Signs & Symbols

When Clara passed away we were given a beautiful crabapple tree.  The following year it bloomed during the week of her passing.  It was absolutely unexpected but it felt like a sign from her.  For the next few years we would watch her tree bloom each May.  One of the hardest things to do was move away from her tree.  It was heart wrenching to know that I wasn’t going to see this tree grow and bloom.  It reminded me of the pain when we lost Clara. We promised each other that we would leave little pink trees everywhere we went.

That next May little pink flowers bloomed on a tree at our rental.  I could hardly believe my eyes!!  They weren’t from a tree we planted but from one that was already there. It felt like a sign that were were right where we were supposed to be and that she was right there with us.

This spring we finally settled into a new home.  We knew that our new place wouldn’t have our favorite pink tree.  On Mother’s Day weekend (the weekend she passed) we went out in search of another crabapple and came home with a beautiful tiny tree already full of blooms.  We look forward to watching another tree grow with us.   Every time I see these lovely pink blooms I am reminded that she is still with us.  Her beauty is in those flowers.  Her life was real and it is still touching ours.  I may not be able to physically touch her but I most certainly feel her.




Capture Your Grief – 2016 – Day #9

Surrender & Embrace

Surrendering and embracing loss is a lifelong journey.  It isn’t something that you just do and move on.  Step by step we let go of things and slowly embrace their consequences.  Sometimes those consequences are good and other times bad. We have to hope those around us can give us time to search our heart for the courage to move forward in a healthy way.

Every day I drive back past this farm on my way to our elementary school.  It makes me sad to see all the houses being built so close.  The scene reminds me of the loneliness we feel in our journey.  We see the world, whole and alive, growing and moving ahead.  We can declare that is isn’t fair and hate the world.  We can hold onto the unjustness and finality of our loss. Just as the farmer can fight to keep the farm he once had, we can remain in the field alone staring at horizon with jealously and anger at the life we once had.

To surrender is not easy.  We have to admit and accept that our lives will never be the same.  We have to acknowledge that the world must move forward and that we have to too.  For me it wasn’t until I accepted that life isn’t always fair that I could fully embrace happiness again.  I finally embraced that I can’t change things.  I definitely recommend taking time to let go of some of the hurtful things people said or did.  These helped me embrace the world again. When I did, found I wasn’t alone.  There are a lot more people who quietly share my pain.

I have stumbled along the way too.  Milestones Clara won’t reach can get to me.  Once in a  while jealousy and anger creep in.  Each day is a challenge to surrender the pain of grief and embrace what is left in my world.  You see surrendering doesn’t happen in a single day.  It is something you have to choose to do every single day of your life until the day you take your last breath.




#CaptureYourGrief – Day #25

Earth Remembrance


Earth remembrance is geared toward planting a tree or plant in memory of the baby lost. It helps as we watch it grow in a time when we are no longer watching our children grow. I think it is a great way to heal.
When we lived in South Dakota, we had many flowers and a tree planted in memory of Clara, our miscarriage, and my brother. A lot of thought when into selecting just the perfect one. We had “Baby Love”, “Superhero”, and “American Beauty”. Of course, we also had her tree. It was sad when a rose bush died and had to be replanted but every time they bloomed it made me smile.
This year planting a tree or flower really isn’t in the cards. I thought about planting something indoors but we just don’t have the space. I guess I had a lot of excuses for why I “couldn’t do it”. The more I thought about planting seeds to more I realized that sowing seeds and seeing them grow isn’t just an physical thing. Instead of planting something to bring me comfort, I hope to plant a seed of hope for someone else.
Every deed is a seed. I really like the idea of planting seeds of hope. The hardest part of planting those seeds is you don’t necessarily know where you are planting them or how they are growing. Unlike the tree we plant outside, these seeds grow in so many different ways. Often we think we are witnessing those seeds grow but so many more times, we do not.
I think this project is a seed of hope for many whether they are participating or simply following others through it. We aren’t all equipped to share our lives and hurts. Even if we can’t share it can be comforting and healing to read other’s stories. For me sharing helps water the seed inside me. I know from some of you that it waters others’ as well. Those reminders make this project worth every bit of extra time it takes each day.
We will never know how many seeds of hope have grown without our eyes seeing. I am hopeful that those participating and following the #CaptureYourGrief project find a place in their hearts for that seed. I hope they find water to grow it, and in their time, are able to share it with others. That is the seed I hope to plant today, throughout this project, and the rest of the days of my life.

#CaptureYourGrief – Day #4

Light and Dark


I chose to capture my light and dark image through a tunnel at the playground.  I found it fitting since Clara would be almost 7 she would likely be spending lots of time at one.  Seeing little girls climbing through the tunnels reminds me of my own crawling through my grief.  To this day dark tunnels are something I fear.  It isn’t until I can see light that I am able to feel my fears subside but just a little bit. I will skip those tunnels whenever possible.

As much as we wish for only light, when the light is gone there is only darkness.  I feel like there really isn’t a darkness but rather an absence of light.  Missing the light can leave us stumpling and falling.  We struggle for breath and balance.  We live in fear of the lack of light.

In grief we sometimes only see our lost child as the light.  We don’t know how we will ever see light again.  We stumble along our journey through grief.  We fall and fear and get stuck sometimes.  We wonder if only…  Is this normal?  How will I do this?  And in that darkness we find these tiny dots of light.

For so many of us we are attracted to the light.  We know we miss the light.  For some of us the light is a companion or a friendship.  It can be a kind word or an understanding heart.  For some it is faith and hope.  In some instances it is another child on the way.  These flickers of light only get stronger as we journey toward them.  Some of those lights last forever and some of them carry us to the next waiting light.

In my journey my light began when I started focusing on finding good in every day.  My light started small.  I was thankful for getting out of bed, for eating, for hugs.  Eventually I was thankful for the good memories, Clara’s life, and the people I met along my journey.

I was also one of those few who soon had a child on the way.  That light brought it’s own darkness through fears.  Each step of the way there were tiny flickers of hope that grew.  They are what gets us through each day.

It was through these shining rays that I realized how I felt was similar to others.  It turned on more lights until I realized I was holding the light in my hands again.  I can’t imagine my life without those people who were there for me.  I can only imagine I might still be stumbling in the dark, searching for hope and comfort.

In grief the lack of light can consume us.  We can easily drown in the depths of darkness if we let  it.  It is when we make the choice to walk toward the light that we find and experience hope and comfort.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Can You Feel Me When I think About You?

Today marks six years since I held Clara for the last time.  It also marks the first time that Clara’s entire life followed the same days of the week…like her birthday on a Wednesday, her passing being 2 days after Mother’s Day.  It is hard to imagine life without her and yet here we are living it.  Instead of having six years of memories I have three and a half months.  Sometimes the most vivid memories are not the “good” ones.  Each year as today approaches my thoughts are filled with memories of May 12, 2009 when I raced to the ER and held my breath for an hour while the doctors and nurses did everything they could to bring life back into her.  The afternoon where I held her earthly body for the last time.  The evening that I laid my baby’s body on the hospital gurney and walked away, leaving her behind in that empty room.  That night as we picked up the big boys from our daycare when we also left with an empty infant car seat and two boys asking where their sister was.  It is a day I wish I could forget and yet I don’t want to.  Each year I find the anticipation of this day is harder than the actual day itself.


As my family remembers year number six we do it in a place where Clara’s memorials are not close by.   A kind man listened to the story behind my blog and told me about a place in Iowa City that I might appreciate.  He was so right!  Along the river sits a statue of hope.  When we first got there I was sure of how I wanted to capture it through the lens of my camera, I knew what my hope was.  Instead I viewed something more heartwarming and thoughtful than I could have ever imagined.  The little ones were drawn toward holding the statue’s hands.  They kept taking and replacing the beads that were in her hands.  They took turns holding her hands like they were dancing.  I saw hope and love and a sense of calm.


Every May 12th I reflect upon the future and I am filled with hope.  Hope that her life was not meaningless.  Hope that her loss has brought my husband, my children, and myself closer to God.  Hope that there is always a future even if it isn’t here on earth.  Hope that I am one day closer to seeing her again.


When I think about Miss Clara, can she feel it?  I like to think so, that is my hope.


“The day which we fear as our last is but the birthday of eternity.”
L.A. Seneca

Mother's Day 2009

Mother’s Day 2009

Day 23 Mommy's Favorite







CarlyMarie Project 2013 – Day #31


Grief changes us. The pain sculpts us into someone who… Understands more deeply, Hurts more often, Appreciates more quickly, Cries more easily,Hope more desperately, and Loves more openly.

The changes we experience after the loss of a child do not stop at the parents.  Our child’s siblings experience it too.  For the last day of this project I thought I needed to show the grief that my children experience as well.  They know far to well the pain that losing someone can bring.  Just like us they will always feel like something is missing.

For the older boys they miss the smiles from the baby sister and the memories they made.  They worry that they will forget her.  They strive to include her on school projects and pictures.  They share stories with their younger siblings.  They fear touching a cold baby hand.  The love they share with their younger siblings is far more deep than anyone can ever imagine.  They hold these little ones very close.  They aren’t afraid to show their friends just how much they love their little brothers and sisters.

When it comes to the little siblings, they often bring up their big sister. Their grief will be different than ours or their older brothers.  Their’s will happen when they understand they will never meet their sister on Earth.  They already ask about her and when they can see her.  They want to visit the cemetery but don’t yet understand why they only see a picture.  Some day we will create a shadow box for them and tell them all about her life.  For now we keep it simple…she is their sister, we can only see her in pictures, and we can only visit her at the cemetery.

Our little family understands more about love and loss than so many.  We hurt more often and cry together.  We appreciate the small things, the big things, the silly things, the everyday things.  We hope our dreams and prayers are answered so often.  We love with all our heart.  We hug, we kiss, we hold each other no matter who is watching because we know how hard the storm hurt and we know the hope we found.  Together we will get through this and help others along the way.



CarlyMarie Project 2013 – Day #20


Getting through each day after Clara’s passing took work.  I had to find something good to focus on.  It was those small things that helped me to focus less on how awful my loss was and to realize that my tears were because I knew how wonderful each day with Clara had been.  I really found finding ways to celebrate her life gave me hope.  Hope that maybe, some day, we could find a way to help end SIDS.  Hope that the awareness we try to create will save another family from this profound sadness.  Hope that when we think about her we will smile more often than cry.

My hope will always be that each newly bereaved family can find this hope too and some day smile as much as we do.

The other thing I hope for others, who just entering this grief, is that they are gentle on themselves.  It is easy to blame yourself and question everything.  It can consume our lives and our hearts.   Grief is overwhelming.  The days feel long and the nights even longer.  Be gentle.  Take time for you.  Don’t listen to others bad advice or harsh words, they aren’t feeling what you are.  Don’t rush into packing up your little ones things or to hold a baby because you don’t want to make someone feel bad.  Do it because you are ready.  Be gentle on your heart.  Love.  Hug.  Pray.  Find hope in each day.
Your heart will never be whole but work towards a heart that holds beautiful memories of your little one.