Practicing Hope

Heartstrings held Practicing Hope:  Best Practices in Caring for Parents Experiencing Fetal and Infant Loss on Friday, May 1 for medical professionals - including all staff within Obstetric and Gynecological practices, as well as inpatient staff in the hospital maternity setting.

The event, which was held at Forsyth Medical Center - Conference Center, addressed best practices in caring for grieving parents, including a supportive plan of care for patient and caregiver, as well as parent panel discussions and collaboration with community experts.

Speakers went in depth into the extensive practices and programs of Heartstrings so that practitioners might assist their patients in seeking out support.  Director of Support Services Cheri Timmons described Practicing Hope: “This is an opportunity to make sure that you understand what we do offer so that you can set up appropriate expectations for your patient, that you can know what to give them, and to be able to feel comfortable talking to them about Heartstrings.”

One of the mothers from the parent panel asked practitioners to “take a moment to step into [parents’] grief.”  “I think making that connection, really following up on that connection, is so important.  It goes a long way with us.  Most mothers, when they are going through their pregnancy, they may not even start to celebrate until they are born.  We shared our baby’s entire life with [our doctor].”

Heartstrings recognizes the importance of providing essential training for caregivers who are the first line of support to bereaved parents. Cheri Timmons explained, “We are continuing to identify needs in our community and fulfill those needs.”  To learn about future Heartstrings events for medical professionals, contact Cheri at 336-335-9931.

Heartstrings Family Dinners - March 28

Thank you to those who joined us at the first Heartstrings Family Dinner on March 28!  It was a great group of parents, grandparents, and rainbow babies.  We had a fabulous time!  Thanks especially to Heartstrings Ambassador Amy McKinney who arranged for this fun outing.  Her efforts as a volunteer are greatly appreciated.  She even donated hope-themed door prizes for some lucky attendants.  On top of all this, Lone Star, the hosts of this event, are graciously donating 15% of all our purchases back to Heartstrings.  The next Heartstrings Family Dinner is currently being arranged.  Look for upcoming dates in the May newsletter.  We hope to see you there!

Parenting After Loss - Katie Wangelin

Parenting After Loss


On September 23, 2014, Heartstrings hosted its third Living With Hope – Speaker Series program in Winston-Salem.  Partnering with Novant Health in a four-part speaker series, Heartstrings has facilitated discussion of topics that touch the lives of families grieving the loss of a child.  Heartstrings was pleased to have Katie Wangelin, LCSW, explore the topic of “Parenting After Loss” at this event.


The insights and guidance she discussed were so meaningful, that Heartstrings wanted to share this information with an even larger audience, especially today, which is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.


Understanding the meaning of the words commonly used in a discussion such as this, was a perfect place to begin.  We frequently use words of “loss” and “grief”, but how do we define what they really mean?  Katie began her discussion with explaining these terms.


“Loss” is an event where it is realized that a person, object, place or expectation will no longer be part of our lives; and “Grief” is all the feelings and reactions we have that stem from that loss.  She reminded the group that grief does not follow a structured path, nor can it be contained in a pretty little box.  Grief is messy, unorganized and unpredictable.


Each person’s experience is unique, even for family members grieving the loss of the same baby, and feelings of sadness, anger, guilt, depression, anxiety, shame and worry are common for parents to experience.  The living children in a family of loss also go through a myriad of emotions, and it is natural for behaviors to change and intensify for each of them.


How is it possible for grieving parents to honor their own painful grief, while also helping their living children to heal?  This is a challenging path that parents travel, and by better understanding the different ways in which children and adults naturally grieve it provides a roadmap that is helpful.


Pace – children grieve at a different pace then the adults around them.  Children, even teenagers, tend to experience “grief bursts”, which are unexpected, powerful emotional reactions to loss.  Children benefit from having someone to talk to when these occur, as the feelings can be overwhelming at times.  Although adults experience ups and downs in their grief, they have to balance their grief with the responsibilities of daily living (work, home, community, family, etc.).  


Time – due to other responsibilities in life following a death (funeral arrangements, medical care), adults may not always have time to grieve when they want to.  Katie suggests that parents set aside time each day to connect with their grief.  For example, take 10 minutes each day to sit and write down thoughts and feelings associated with your baby or draw shapes or pictures that represent emotions you currently notice.  The goal is to spend time, even small amounts of time, to connect with grief.  Katie also identified the benefits of watching part of a sad movie. 

Although the story may be different from yours, tapping into those sad emotions can allow your mind and body to safely express what you are holding inside related to your own loss.
Developmental Stage – reactions to a loss are closely tied to a child’s developmental stage.  Knowing your child’s developmental stage can help you know what to expect as they navigate this new loss.  

It is also important to keep in mind that even children in a family who are at similar developmental stages (ex: twin 7 year olds or a 3 and 5 year old) will have unique reactions based on their personality as well.  While one elementary school-aged child may become tearful upon learning of the death, another child of similar developmental stage may respond with minimal emotion and go ask to play.

Play is the language of children and their desire to move on and play, even after hearing news of a death in their family, is not uncommon and can be encouraged.  During that time of play they can begin to process what they heard and form the questions they may ask to further understand what it means.

Katie’s extensive experience in working with children and teenagers, provided the perfect backdrop for her guidance on how parents and other adults can help their living children manage their grief.  Some of the more common reactions include:

Seeming disinterested – although a child may seem uninterested in hearing that the baby has died, his indifference does not mean a lack of empathy or love for this child.  Let your child know it is ok to go play and that you will be available to talk about the loss again later if he would like to do so.  It can be beneficial to have a scheduled “check in” time your child can count on.  Even if he does not have anything to say, it provides an opportunity for your child to feel he is being offered a chance to express himself.

Asking questions…over and over and over again – Children may test your response by asking the same questions about the loss over and over again.  Model patience for your child, but if you are in a place where you are unable to be patient, engage another caring adult to discuss these questions with your child.  Be sure to prepare this selected adult to respond in ways that are consistent with your beliefs and feelings.

Depending on their developmental stage, children truly not realize you have already responded to a particular question.  An example of a question a preschooler may ask repeatedly is “When is the baby coming home from the hospital?”.  Katie shared that children of this young age do not realize that death is final and it is natural for them to continue to inquire about the baby.  As parents and other adults are consistent (and patient) in their responses, overtime a child will gain better understanding.

Separation anxiety – following a loss, it is common for children to be worried that another death in the family could occur.  Separation anxiety is a normal grief response for children (and adults alike) and usually fades over time with no intervention.  To help reduce this type of anxiety, let your child know where you will be while you are separated and when you expect to be home.  If possible, allow her to contact you while you are separated.  If contact while you are away is not possible, work with your child on an alternative adult to contact if she is feeling anxious.

Sleep disturbances – even though many children exhibit few grief behaviors at school or with friends, it is when they are home and facing bedtime that anxiety really kicks in.  According to Katie, an effective approach must include ROUTINE at bedtime.  A child’s anxiety can be reduced when they know what to expect and have tools to use to soothe themselves.
Examples of developing a bedtime routine would include:  Keeping bedtime the same each night; develop a sequence of events that you follow each night (brush teeth, put on pajamas, read a book in bed, lights turned down for sleep); and eliminate things that increase anxiety and sleeplessness, such as outside noise, darkness and separation from you.  

More specifically, to reduce outside noise, turn on a white noise machine or play quiet music.  Katie suggests that giving a child a flashlight in bed or having a nightlight on in her bedroom can help ease discomfort with darkness.  If separation from you is the issue, consider using a baby monitor (or walkie talkie) so he can call to you if he needs to be comforted or reassured.  You and your child may also put together a sack of items that can be used for self-soothing, such as a soft bag with a favorite stuffed animal, music box, special stone to hold and picture of their family tucked inside.  These tools help put your child in control of what they use and when, allowing them to learn they can manage their nighttime worries with independence.  

Difficulty focusing at school – it is important for the teachers and caregivers at your child’s school to know what is happening at home develop a plan to best support him when he needs it.  When a child is having difficulty focusing at school (a very normal reaction), talk with him about the cause of his distraction and coordinate with teachers an “Escape Plan” he can use when needed.  

Consider providing your child with memorial items he can carry with him to use at school when he needs to feel connected to his loved one.  Items that are small and can be tucked into a pocket or backpack are ideal.  A picture, soft heart or stone to rub are perfect ideas.
Feeling like they are in a “fishbowl” – it does benefit your child for their caregivers at school to know what is occurring, but some children, usually teenagers, may not want certain people at school to know about their loss.  Work with your child to determine what she wants other to know about the loss and what she would prefer to keep private.  


Help your child develop a canned response to questions about the loss, such as “I’d rather not talk about that” or “thanks for asking…we’re doing ok, but it’s hard to talk about at school”.  
Provide your child with more “escapes” than usual, such as movie nights, day trips away from your hometown, or time with a special friend.  Additional helpful activities include:

Worry jar – use a mason jar or other glass container for your child to decorate and place colorful stones inside. Instruct the child that, at bedtime (or before school), they should think about whatever is worrying them at that time, assign a worry to each stone, place those stones into the jar, and seal the jar tight to hold their worries until they are ready for them again.
Question box – have your child decorate a shoe box in which to place questions they have about the loss, the grief process, or other related questions.  Set aside time to answer the questions they are asking.
Shared journal – encourage your child to write questions in the journal and you respond, in writing, as you are able.  This can feel like a less intimidating way for your child to tell you how they are feeling or about their concerns.
Honoring the sibling relationship

Before closing her discussion, Katie focused on special ways that children can honor their relationship with their sibling and find meaningful ways to remember the life of their loved one.  These impactful suggestions include:
Create a memory box
Plant a tree or bush (butterfly bushes are hearty and attract butterflies)
Create a memory stone (Michael’s and AC Moore sells memory stone kits)
Create a special piece of beaded jewelry, with beads to represent memories of the sibling
Memory Bear workshop at Kids Path
Balloon release
Holding a space at the table (example: candle)

 

The staff of Heartstrings is so grateful to Katie for sharing her insight and suggestions with grieving parents in our community.  We hope you find this information helpful as you honor your own grief, while helping your other children to heal.

 

More about Katie
Katie Wangelin is a dynamic professional with experience serving the community since 2001.  Her work with Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro Kids Path Program, The Women’s Resource Center, and her current private practice have allowed her to focus on supporting parents, children and families facing issues related to illness, grief and loss, divorce, women’s issues and caregiver strain.

If you feel you could benefit from direct support as you navigate your grief journey, you may contact Katie Wangelin:
Katie Wangelin, MSW, LCSW The Treatment Network,  LLC katie@katiewangelin.com 336-542-3179

 

 

Walk Team Highlight - Team Oliver

This Saturday is the 10th Annual Walk for Remembrance & Hope where we will come together to share our children and say their names out loud.  Today we recognize the Williams family and their team in remembrance of their baby Oliver.  Read their story and consider contributing towards their team or creating your own by registering today.  Online registration ends Friday, October 10 at 5pm.

Name:
Sarah & Nick Williams

Team Name:
Team Oliver

Child’s Name:
Oliver Lindy Williams

Child’s Birth Date/Age:
September 20, 2013 / 21 weeks

Number of Years You’ve Participated in the Walk:
Sarah’s second year; I participated in the Walk last year just three weeks after Oliver was born. This will be Nick’s first year.

How has Heartstrings impacted you?
I attended the Walk last year with my father, aunt, and a close friend three weeks after Ollie was born, and it was overwhelming to see all the families and friends who have been touched by the loss of a child or children; we suffered a six-week miscarriage in October 2011, and I really wish we had learned about Heartstrings when we were coping with that loss. Before our October 2011 miscarriage, neither of us had any idea how common pregnancy loss was, or how many of our family and friends have suffered similar losses.

Nick and I both participated in the Connections program after Ollie was born. As we were nearing Ollie’s first birthday, we learned of a grief writing workshop, Write From the Heart, that Heartstrings was offering on September 20, which happens to be Ollie’s birthday. We felt that attending the workshop would be a very fitting way to reflect, remember, and honor Ollie on his first birthday, and we were very grateful for the opportunity to tell other people about him and share what he means to us on such an important day. Heartstrings has been a supportive resource for us share and connect with others who have lost a child. It means everything to me to keep our memory and love of Ollie in the present—to be able to honor, remember, and share him with others—and Heartstrings allows us to do that.

Explain how the Walk is important to you?
The Walk is an opportunity for a very special community of parents, family, and friends to come together to remember their children—to see their babies a voice and see their names written and spoken out loud, to not be alone in their grief, to cry with others and hug each other, to be embraced by others who want to understand, and to show everyone that the lives of these sweet children matter and how deeply they are missed and loved every day. I want people to know that we are Ollie’s mama and daddy, and I want them to know his name.


Tell Us Your Story:
I miscarried at six weeks in October 2011. Nick and I were absolutely devastated at the loss and struggled to cope for a long time, and it was a long time before we tried to conceive again. Since it was such an early loss we have no way of knowing if it would’ve been a boy or a girl, but recently I’ve come to think of that baby as a little cherub—a genderless, beautiful, innocent child, already in its heavenly body.

When I was pregnant with Ollie, I knew in my heart that I was pregnant before I even took the test. The pregnancy was completely different than my first one in that I didn’t have any spotting or cramping, which put me a little more at ease. On September 10, 2013, two days before my and Nick’s fourth wedding anniversary, my mom accompanied us to my doctor’s office for our anatomy scan/ultrasound, and the three of us were thrilled by the rapid whomping of the baby’s heartbeat and the confirmation that he was a boy. We had already chosen names, and we got to call Oliver by his name for the first time. His middle name, Lindy, was taken from my paternal grandfather, Dwight Lindy Deal, who was named for Charles Lindbergh (“Lucky Lindy”).

Just a little over a week later, on Thursday, September 19, 2013, everything suddenly and very unexpectedly fell apart. I began bleeding without any warning or pain, and Nick rushed us to the hospital shortly before 6:00 that evening. After a couple of uncertain hours in a triage room on the L&D floor and a couple of ultrasounds, my doctor told us that he suspected that I had suffered a placental abruption. The ultrasound showed that my water had broken and that there was no fluid around Ollie any more, and I was continuing to bleed heavily. At 21 weeks Ollie was still two weeks away from being of a viable gestational age, and the placenta had become detached and could no longer nourish or protect him. Though I didn’t have any pain, I continued to bleed and my doctor was concerned about the risk of infection to both Ollie and me. Pathology eventually showed that there was an underlying infection that had caused the abruption, with no way to know what had caused the infection. In less than three hours, we went from expecting a baby in another five months to being told that I would deliver my son that night.

Oliver was born at 2:26 a.m. on Friday, September 20, 2013. He weighed 1 lbs 2 oz, and was 10 inches long. He slipped away before being born, and it was actually an incredible comfort to us that Ollie was with me his whole life—he was always protected and warm, and never had to linger or suffer. The nurses tended to him gently, dressing him in a little blue and white outfit (we called it his “stupid little outfit”) and wrapping him in a light blue crocheted blanket. We cradled him, swaddling him over and over in the blanket, kissed his little head, and cuddled him for hours. He was small and perfect, with all his perfect little fingers and toes, his second toe longer than his big toe just like his daddy’s, and a sweet little mouth and chin and tiny nose. His coloring was red, and his little nose was like a perfect, round ruby. I told Nick before leaving the hospital that day that I wanted a ruby pendant to wear for Oliver—my little ruby baby. I did get a round ruby pendant, and I wear it every day.

We contacted our pastor and asked him to come to the hospital to baptize Ollie that morning. Even though we knew he was brought into the world already with and belonging to God, we wanted to baptize him as a gesture of our faith and to dedicate him to God. Even before I was pregnant with Ollie, we knew that we wanted our child (or children) to be baptized, and it was one thing that we could do for him and with him for the short amount of time we got to hold him in our arms. I was discharged from the hospital around 2:00 on Friday afternoon, less than 12 hours after Ollie was born, and less than 24 hours since suffering the abruption. It was a terrible whirlwind of shock, and all happened so quickly that it hardly seemed real.

Ollie was always lovingly cared for while he was here, either cradled in the womb or in our arms the morning he was born; he was equally cared for by my loving aunt and uncle, who are funeral directors, and cared for him throughout his cremation. His urn is small and bronze, in the shape of a heart, which I keep next to our bed; I hold it and kiss it multiple times a day and frequently fall asleep holding his urn at night.

After Ollie was born, Nick and I decided to go forward with painting his room in grey and orange and decorating it with foxes, like we had planned. It isn’t the nursery we wanted it to be, but it’s a lovely serene room where we keep all the cards, tokens, and gifts we’ve received in remembrance of him, and it’s a comfort to us to have a physical space in our home for him. We’ve had his little inked footprints framed and placed on the mantle in our living room.

We feel the weight of our loss and the absence of Ollie every day. It’s so important to us to acknowledge and remember him and our other loss however we can, and I am grateful that Heartstrings gives us an opportunity to do that. Ollie and our other cherub are perfect little souls that will always be a part of us, nestled in our hearts. I want our love for them to shine through us and be evident to everyone around us; I want everyone to know that they were here and are somewhere better now, waiting for us.

Walk Team Highlight - In Remembrance of Harrison Gray Dull

With Friday being the deadline for Walk registrations that will be included in the program and on the Walk signs, we are excited that multiple memorial teams have stepped forward to share their stories. Today we celebrate the Dull family and their team in remembrance of Harrison Gray Dull.  Read their story and consider contributing towards their team or creating your own by registering today!

Name: Amelia & Michael Dull

Team Name:  In Remembrance of Harrison Gray Dull

Child’s Name:  Harrison Gray Dull

Child’s Birth Date/Age:  May 11, 2012

Number of Years You’ve Participated in the Walk:  This is our 3rd year, but we missed last year!

How has Heartstrings impacted you?  We participated in a support group after the loss of our first son Harrison. It helped us deal with our grief and loss and get on a path to healing and feeling ready to try again for another child. We also met another loss couple who are now good friends. 

Explain how the Walk is important to you?  It is a chance to remember and celebrate Harrison's short time with us and bring awareness to pregnancy and infant loss, bringing it to the forefront so people don't feel ashamed to share their loss stories. 

Tell Us Your Story:  We lost our little boy at 18 weeks gestation. He passed away due to unknown causes. He was perfect and tiny and precious and we miss him so much. He would be 2 years old now if he was still with us. He now has a little brother named Isaac and he is a constant source of joy and happiness for us but we always remember our first little boy too and hope that he's looking down on us from heaven. 

Walk Team Highlight - Team Matthew & Ryan Martin

As we count down the days to Heartstrings 10th Annual Walk for Remembrance & Hope, we are excited to share the stories of some of those putting together memorial teams for the Walk.  Today we celebrate the Martin family and their team, "Team Matthew & Ryan Martin".  Read their story and consider contributing towards their team or creating your own by registering today!

Name:  Randy, Sharon, Tyler, Sara, and Rachel Martin

Team Name: Team Matthew & Ryan Martin

Children's Names: Matthew & Ryan Martin

Children's Birth Dates/Ages:  11/11/00.  22 1/2 weekers

Number of Years You’ve Participated in the Walk:  Our first year!

How has Heartstrings impacted you?  Heartstrings has brought us so much joy in continuing to honor our sons' memory and giving back to other grieving parents. It gives us a place to feel connected in a community that truly understands a loss of this magnitude. 


Explain how the Walk is important to you?  The walk is one more way to honor Matthew and Ryan. To meet other families and to show our living children that their siblings live on in us forever. 


Tell Us Your Story:

Our story with Matthew and Ryan began long before we said hello and goodbye.  After Randy and I were married in 1994, we wanted children right away.  When that didn't happen, I pursued my Master of Social Work degree, worked for a while in Early Intervention, and then began injectable fertility treatments in 1999.  

Prior to that, we had tried Clomid and other ways to increase the chance of conception - to no avail.  Our second round of injectable hormones (fun, fun, fun) did the trick!  We were finally pregnant.  A few weeks later, in an early ultrasound, we found out there were two strong little heartbeats!  Twins!  We could not contain ourselves.  I just knew this was God's way of making up for lost time.  

The pregnancy went along very smoothly.  When I was about 5 months pregnant, Randy and I decided to take a trip to the beach for the weekend.  Kind of a last trip as just a couple before kids trip.  We had a great time, but on the way home I began to feel discomfort.  By the next morning, I had some spotting and we decided to head to Women's Hospital in Greensboro to get checked out.  They did an ultrasound - all was good.  Next, they did an internal exam.  With a funny look on their faces, they lowered the head rail part of my bed to the floor while. My feet were higher in the air.  They left to get the Doctor.  The news was not good.  I had gone into silent labor and was dilated 5cm.  I was admitted and told that the outcome would most definitely be a premature birth.  Since I was barely 21 weeks, there was no chance of survival for my babies unless I could get to 24.  I was determined to do that and more.  

After laying in trendelenberg (feet in air head toward ground) for 11 days of bedrest, I ended up giving birth.  Matthew, who was stillborn, was first.  Ryan, who lived for a few brief moments in my husband's arms, came a few minutes later.  They were perfectly formed - on the outside.  We could see some resemblance of us in each of them.  Our hearts were broken, our dreams were crushed.  How could this happen?  

To say we grieved the twins was an understatement.  It will be 14 years this year, and both of us can be reduced to tears without warning.  We miss them, love them, and think of them everyday.  We did realize our dream of a family though the miracle of international adoption.  Our son Tyler, age 12, And our daughters Sara and Rachel ages 6 and 5 have brought us so much joy.  They know all about their brothers and we often visit them at their gravesite - especially on birthdays. Time helps, but the wound never fully heals.  However, our connection with our sons is very strong and we know we will meet again.  

When we lost the twins, Heartstrings did not exist.  Oh how we wish it had.  I can't begin to say how wonderful it is to have an agency devoted to families grieving the loss of a child.  It's a pain like no other.  Heartstrings has helped me to give back as a support parent to another grieving family.  Volunteering helps me to feel like Matthew and Ryan can still make a difference in this world - through us.  They will leave their tiny footprints on this world.  No life is too short that it does not matter and make an impact.  


Walk Team Highlight - Team Angel Babies

As we count down the days to Heartstrings 10th Annual Walk for Remembrance & Hope, we are excited to share the stories of some of those putting together memorial teams for the Walk.  Today we celebrate Suzi and Benji Morris and their team, "Team Angel Babies".  Read their story and consider contributing towards their team or creating your own

Name: Suzi and Benji Morris

Team Name: Team Angel Babies

Children's Names:  The 5 Morris Babies 

Children's Birth Dates/Ages: 

Morris Baby #1 - March 2010
Morris Baby #2 - September 2010
Morris Baby #3 - July 2011
Morris Baby #4 - January 2012
Morris Baby #5 - July 2013


Number of Years You've Participated in the Walk:

This will be my 3rd year and my husband's 2nd year.

How has Heartstrings impacted you? 

Heartstrings has meant so much to us these last couple of years. The support I have received has been such a blessing and has helped me tremendously in coping with my grief. It was very comforting to be with other women and families that have had similar experiences, especially because they all understood the emotions I was feeling. My participation with the group has encouraged me to share my story and by doing so, I hope to help others who have had a similar loss.  I have also made some amazing friends through Heartstrings. Unfortunately, my husband was unable to attend most of the sessions with me due to his schedule, but he was able to attend the walk last year and it was a very moving experience for him.

Explain how the Walk is important to you:

The walk has become such a special day for us to remember our babies. Since we lost them all so early, we were never had a service to remember them and this event gives is a chance to do that each year.

Tell Us Your Story: 

We began trying to grow our family in the fall of 2009. We had our first miscarriage that following March, followed by another that year and one each year until 2013. All of our losses occurred at 10 weeks or less. I was eventually diagnosed with Asherman's Syndrome and have had multiple surgeries in an attempt to resolve it, but have yet to have a successful pregnancy. The last 5 years have been very difficult, especially for me, as we tried to cope with our loss. As we watched our friends have children, the hurt grew stronger and it became even more difficult to deal with the grief and other emotions I was experiencing. Heartstrings came into my life at exactly the right time and I am forever grateful. We continue to try start our family and it is our hope and prayer that we'll one day be able to attend this walk as a family of 3. 

This is our first year participating as a team and it was difficult to come up with a team name because we aren't just walking for our children. There are too many families that have lost a child too soon. We are walking in remembrance of their children and in support of their families as well.


Six-Word Stories

Six-Word Stories:  The idea is to follow a writing prompt and tell your story in six words, no more, no fewer.  Two Heartstrings moms were kind enough to share their stories with us.  We were amazed by how powerful six words can be.  Thank you to Alexis Ford and Amy McKinney for opening up and sharing their journeys.  If you're interested, please share your stories with us!  Email them to Annie at anniev@heartstringssupport.org.

Alexis Ford:

1. A story about your loved one

   Through darkness you are my light

 

2. A story about the death

    Tiny miracle gone away too soon

 

3. A story about you before he/she died

    Carefree and naïve, never counting days

 

4. A story about you after he/she died

    Crippled by everything, can't stand up

 

5. A story about a good memory

   Holding a positive pregnancy test, priceless

 

6. A story about something that makes you mad

    Losing the constant battle for equality

 

7. A story about what gives you anxiety

    The doctor comes in with results

 

8. A story about something that gives you hope

    Rainbow baby filled my heart again

 

9. A story about how you feel about death

   How can I let her go?

 

10. A story about your loved ones best quality

     You made me feel important, thanks.

 

11. Something you wish people knew about your grief

     Grief has no agenda, look up.

 

 

Amy McKinney:

1. A story about your loved one(s).
"Came together; left together; always here." you Emma&Josh!

2. A story about the death.
"Short, but not sweet; very bitter."

3. A story about yourself before the death.
"Happy and naive; blissful and ignorant."

4. A story about yourself after the death.
"Broken and bruised; stronger, but harder."

5. A story about a good memory.
"Twinkle lights; warm cuddles; orange rolls."

6. A story about something that makes you mad.
"Some addictions are bad choices made."

7. A story about something that gives you anxiety.
"Past cannot change; future is unknown."

8. A story about something that gives you hope.
"One, Two, Three, Four - maybe more?"

9. A story about how you feel about death.
"It finds us all in time."

10. A story about a loved ones best quality.
"Smile, ear to ear; laughter heals."
Bubby!

11. Something you wish people knew about your grief.
"Life goes on; grieving never ceases."

Walk Team Highlight - Team McKinney Angels

As we count down the days to Heartstrings 10th Annual Walk for Remembrance & Hope, we are excited to share the stories of some of those putting together memorial teams for the Walk.  Today we celebrate Amy McKinney and her team, "Team McKinney Angels".  Read Amy's story and consider contributing towards her team or creating your own

Name:

Amy McKinney


Team Name: 

McKinney Angels


Children's Names:

Emma Grace & Joshua Ryan

and Hallie-Lula & Baby One Half


Children's Birth Dates/Ages:

Emma & Josh were born November 9, 2008

Josh passed November 19, 2008 and Emma passed November 23, 2008

Hallie-Lula was what we called our "promise" baby in March 2012

Baby One Half was our Christmas miracle this past year and complications arose in January 2014.

Number of Years You’ve Participated in the Walk:

Our first Walk was in 2009 and we have participated every year since. So, this year will mark number 6!


How has Heartstrings impacted you?

Heartstrings, for me, has been an amazing outlet to learn to grieve and deal with the losses that have come our way.

It has also opened up doors for me to meet and interact with other mothers and fathers who have gone through similar struggles.

Getting to become a Support Mom through Connections has been a very special part of my healing and there is nothing more rewarding than getting to see one of your referred parents become a Support Mom herself!


Explain how the Walk is important to you?

This Walk is the single most precious day of my whole year. I celebrate Emma & Josh's birth in a much more quiet way on their actual birthday; it is a time just for my husband and me. So, the Walk has kind of become the day that we openly mourn and celebrate our precious babies with all of our family and friends.

After the first couple of Walks, I knew I wanted to get more involved and, thanks to a wonderful friend, Courtney Howard, the cupcake idea was born.

In 2012, after the loss of our promise baby, Hallie-Lula, I wanted to do even more! So, I brought the idea of a Balloon Release forward to the Walk committee and it was greeted with open arms. This will be the 3rd Walk with the Balloon Release and I am honored that my family and friends can sponsor that portion of the Walk.

I look forward to the Walk every year. It has become so much more than a day to mourn and grieve. It has become a CELEBRATION! It is a coming together of families who have experienced loss and risen up from the ashes and found support, hope, and love. There are parents who are still struggling, parents who are experiencing new losses, and parents who are holding their miracles in their arms. For me, it is the purest definition of HOPE a person could hope to experience.


Tell Us Your Story:

Our story begins in 2006 when my husband and I first started trying to conceive. We assumed it would happen naturally and quickly, but mother nature had other plans. In 2008, we began fertility treatments and on Fathers Day 2008, we found out we were pregnant. One week later, we found out we were having TWINS!

From moment one, there was nothing but elation in the air. However, after relentless morning sickness and severe dehydration, we landed ourselves in the hospital around week 12. This is when we discovered that there were some other complications involved. A cerclage was performed and I went back to work for about 3 weeks before being placed on bed rest. At week 19, I was admitted to the hospital and placed on hospitalized bed rest. We knew Emma and Josh were going to come early, but when they decided to arrive one day before the 24 week mark, the fear truly set in. They were both 12 inches long and weighed 1.5 pounds.

They spent several days in the NICU at Women's before being transferred to Brenner's. Two weeks before Thanksgiving, our son lost his fight. Shortly after he passed, his sister took a turn for the worse and 4 days later, we lost her as well. The days, weeks, and months that followed are nothing more than a blur to me at this point. The pain, suffering and anger is more than any person should ever experience. I truly struggled for the next year to even feel like myself. Then, I randomly heard about Heartstrings and the Walk for Remembrance & Hope. The first year was rough, but it was also one of the events that truly allowed me to start healing.

Since, that time, we have had two other pregnancies that have resulted in early term miscarriage. We have no real reasons, but what we do have is HOPE. Hope that there is life after death. Hope that there is always someone there who is willing to hold your hand through the hurt and celebrate with you in the victories!