Episode 69: Helping Our Children Process Grief and the Loss of a Baby

In this episode we discuss books appropriate for children who are grieving the loss of a sibling through miscarriage or infant death. We also have some special books for the parents and family to use in creating remembrances for the baby that was lost. 

Our Guest Today: Rachel Lewis

Rachel Lewis (www.thelewisnote.com) is the author of Unexpecting: Real Talk on Pregnancy Loss (August 10, 2021). She is the founder of Brave Mamas, an online community offering support to thousands of bereaved moms. Rachel is a well-known contributor to Still Standing magazine and Pregnancy After Loss Support. She’s the creator of Unexpecting: A 4-Week Grief Workshop for Pregnancy Loss for couples. Her work and family have been featured by the Today show, Upworthy, AdoptUSKids, and Babble. Rachel has experienced the loss of five pregnancies, as well as the unique grief of reunifying a foster son with his birth family. Follow Rachel on Facebook at Rachel Lewis, speaker and author. And on Instagram @rachel.thelewisnote. Find out more about her book at www.unexpectingbook.com.

Links:

To her free chapter, “How to Support a Loved One Through Baby Loss”:https://mailchi.mp/ad64aec8efdc/unexpecting-bonus-chapter-how-to-support-a-loved-one-through-baby-loss

For more information on the Discussion Community: https://unexpectingbook.com/discussion-community/

Books I recommend: 

Always Ours by Christy Wopat

These Precious Little People by Frankie Brunker

Imperfectly Perfect Family by Amie Lands

The Invisible String by Patrice Karst

Grieving Beyond Gender by Kenneth Doka and Terry Martin

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

Links: 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Thelewisnote

Brave Mamas: www.facebook.com/groups/bravemamas

Unexpecting book website: www.unexpectingbook.com

Blog: www.thelewisnote.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rachel.thelewisnote/

Books Discussed in This Episode:

Transcript with Links

Terrie:

Welcome to “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids. Today, we’re going to talk about some books for children that will help them with grieving and focusing especially on when a family has lost a pregnancy or lost a baby. And in my interview with Rachel Lewis, she mentioned several really excellent books for sharing with your children.

Terrie:

We talked about what children’s books are out there to read to children who are experiencing the loss of a sibling. Do you have some books you would recommend for sharing with our children?

Rachel:

I do. I know everybody’s probably fairly familiar with it. It’s sort of a classic, but The Invisible String is a really helpful book that kind of explains this sort of intangible love that flows past grief or loss or death. It helps affirm the bond that sibling has with that child. And that bond is good, that bond and that love they don’t ever have to leave. I think for children, the intangible can sometimes be very difficult. Wrestling with concepts that are not very concrete can be hard. And so the analogy of that invisible string gives them a word picture. And I think that that can be really, really helpful.

Rachel:

My friend Amy Lands, she has written a book called Perfectly Imperfect Family. And that is a wonderful children’s book. That is great to help normalize the experience of being a big brother or a big sister or even a little brother, a little sister to a baby who is, who has died. But I love some of the traditions and just some of the things that she incorporates in not only the storyline but also in the illustrations that really just normalize and give kids a picture of like, “Hey, you’re not alone in this.” This can be, I don’t want to say normal, but kind of, right? Like this is your reality. And it’s a very valid reality. So I love that she helps paint that for children.

Rachel:

And then Always Ours by Christy Wopat is another excellent book that I would highly recommend. That one is a little bit longer than Perfectly Imperfect Family.

Rachel:

Frankie Bunker–she has a wonderful children’s book as well that I think really sort of captures some of the pictures of loss of a baby. And it’s a really beautiful kids book. These Precious Little People is the name of the book, and it’s just a really gorgeous book. So that’s another one that I would recommend.

Terrie:

Thank you so much for sharing those.

Terrie:

I want to give you a few more books that you might find helpful to share with your children during this time. One of those is called Our Heaven Baby: A Book on Miscarriage and the Hope of Heaven by Leah Vees and illustrated by Aaron Brown. And this one is very clear about the hope of heaven and that child living in heaven. With this one, a child really has to be at a place where they’re ready to celebrate the fact that that baby is in heaven, that they haven’t just disappeared.

Terrie:

Another one is simply called Something Happened. And this one is by Cathy Blanford and illustrated by Phyllis Childers. And this is a very sweet book that talks about how the family is very happy. They’re excited about the baby, and then something happened and the baby died. And it deals very openly about the fact that this was a baby and the baby died. It also has a lot of help for the parent. It helps identify how a child processes death and grieving and helps the parent to be prepared for what may happen and how the child may react. So I appreciate this book for all the extra material it gives for the parent or grandparent who is sharing this book with them. And it’s very sweet and very tender in the way that it deals with the death, but it is very straightforward about it as well. So I appreciate this book. I think it’s very well-written and very good for a child, especially when they’re first starting to process the whole thing that they’ve lost their sibling.

Terrie:

And then a very unique book that I enjoyed reading is called Happy Tears and Rainbow Babies by Natasha Carlow and illustrated by Keevyn Muhammad and Kyle Stephen. And this one is really cute. It’s about a family and they’re going on a picnic and they see a rainbow. The mom starts to get tears in her eyes, and the children are concerned. I loved that. They had the children in the story react the way a child would react, seeing their mom cry. And the dad does a lot of explaining too, which I appreciate. Both parents are talking with the children and teaching them and helping them to understand. It has a definite Christian message to it. So the mom is crying when she sees the rainbow, because it reminds her that her children are rainbow babies. They came after the storm of their loss, and this family in the story lost several children before they had the two children they now have. They explain why they call them rainbow babies. And the children are then able to memorialize the siblings they didn’t even know they had. They’re celebrating that they are a gift that God has given, a promise of hope for the family and for that mom. And so she celebrates and is grateful for what God has done and how God has blessed them with these two children. It’s very clear in the story that the mom is celebrating this gift God has given her and that she doesn’t want to take it for granted that she is able to be a mom. And so it’s a very sweet story. I think children who are the rainbow babies would be very blessed by this book. And it would be a way to be able to talk through that there were children that they lost before. I think it’s just very well done. The illustrations are cute. It becomes a celebration of God and his gifts and his help as they walked through the hard times and now as they celebrate the good times. So I love that part of it too.

Terrie:

Then there are a few very special books now that are available. I wish they had been available when I lost my children. They’re very special. One is called I Love You Still by Margaret Scofield. And this one is a baby book that you can use to memorialize the child you lost. So this is for the parents or for the family to do together. It’s just a beautiful book. It has, just like any other baby book, places for you to write in information about that child and about your experience as you went through this. You get to write down where you were in the pregnancy when you lost the child. It’s just a very special and healing sort of thing to be able to do that.

Terrie:

And then I’ll share this one website that is really special. It’s called Lossbooks.com. It’s personalized loss books. And they have one specifically for miscarriage. They have them for grandpas and grandmas and everyone else. So you can personalize a book to memorialize the person that you’ve lost. So I will put that link in the show notes and you create this book specifically with their name and their information. And so it’s your own personalized book.

Terrie:

And then there’s a devotional book called Loved Baby: 31 Devotions Helping You Grieve and Cherish Your Child After Pregnancy Loss by Sarah Philpott. Now this one is really sweet and very nicely done for the moms and probably dads too, but it seems to speak straight to the mom. It would maybe be too much in the person’s face with scripture and with you’re feeling this way and you’re feeling that way. But I think it would be a wonderful gift for someone who has gotten past those first few days when you’re numb and you can’t think, and you can’t process what’s happening, and you don’t want to. At that point, you’re just trying to survive. But once you’re past that survival mode, I think this would be a wonderful book to help a mom walk through her grief and to be able to process it more thoroughly as they go through these 31 devotionals. It might help them to reconnect to God and to his word during that time.

Terrie:

Talking to children about loss and grief and death is something that is not easy to approach. It’s sometimes a little bit concerning because you don’t know how a child is going to respond. In some ways they almost seem to not process the death at all. They just accept it. Whereas we have a much more emotional response to it. And other times the child is more angry, and they act out a whole lot more because they don’t know how to process their feelings. And so learning how a child processes grief would be something that is really important during this time. The one book Something Happened does a great job of giving parents information to help them know how a child processes grief. One of the things that our children found helpful when we were processing a traumatic event, we used art and there were some therapists we were able to meet with who knew how to work with children and helped them to talk through what they experienced, but they let them draw pictures of it. And that seemed to be really helpful to them because they have a hard time. My kids especially had a hard time telling us what they felt, what they were experiencing, what they were even afraid of. And as we parent, to be able to also stay connected with the children that we still have to parent, even though we’re grieving the loss of another child. So sometimes we do need to seek professional help. And that’s something that my husband and I in our ministry have always encouraged people to do. If you need a counselor, go see a counselor. I mean, the Bible even encourages us to seek the counsel of wise people who know what they’re talking about. It is much smarter and much better to go see someone who can help you walk through the grief to where you need to go. And it isn’t that you ever really completely stop grieving the loss of a child. It will be with you the rest of your life. It changes who you are. And especially if you haven’t had any other children, and this is your first pregnancy loss, you are a mom now. You are a dad now. Even though you never got to hold that child in your arms possibly, you’re still a parent for the first time. You are now a parent and you will always be a parent. That’s something that many people do not recognize who have not experienced this kind of a loss. You are a parent from the moment you found out you were pregnant. Everyone processes that differently and handles it differently, but I promise you, it changes who you are for the rest of your life. You are now a different person. You have had a different experience. Sometimes we need to talk to someone who is a licensed professional, who can help us walk through that grief and not get stuck in it, and to come out the other side with a healed heart, as much as it can be, but with a determination to continue on and to be able to live your new normal. I highly encourage you, if you’re going through this, if you are stuck in the middle of your grief and can’t seem to get past the depression or the anger, to please seek a licensed professional who can help you walk through this in a healthy way, and also for your children, to help them to be able to. There’s nothing better than being able to talk to someone who can help you. And sometimes it’s enough to talk to a friend, and sometimes it’s enough to talk to a minister, and sometimes you need all of them. You need a whole group of people to talk to, to be able to share your heart with them as you are processing this grief, and you should never be afraid to do that. I can’t encourage you enough to seek out what you need, and to be gentle with yourself as you are recuperating physically, as you’re recuperating mentally and emotionally during this time, and as you’re recuperating spiritually. Every part of your life has been affected. So process it the way you need to. Sometimes we’re able to do that very quickly and move on and just have a memory of that child. Other times it is just so devastating that we have a difficult time even connecting with our spouse and with our children that we are parenting. So do what you need to do to let yourself heal and find the people in your life who can help you walk through this season and know that you will get through this very painful part and find a place of peace and a place of acceptance even though you will never forget that child. And you will never stop having moments of grief, just like with losing anyone else. We have those moments where we are flooded with memories and grief, and we relive the pain for a time and we may even cry, but there is healing. There is hope. There is a future. And I want to give you one more encouragement today before we finish up. What everything eventually will boil down to for most of us is our relationship with Christ. We are his child. Who we are in him becomes so important during this time. When I was going through infertility for so many years, and it was so hard to see all my friends having children, even though I was so excited for them, but to go to their baby showers, to see another person having a baby dedication at church, to go to conferences and all the examples given are about being a parent. And it was just hard. Every Mother’s Day, going to church and everybody’s celebrating motherhood. And I again was still childless. What helped me was one Sunday, we were singing this old hymn from the Gaithers, “Because He Lives.” One verse in that hymn says, “How sweet to hold a newborn baby and feel such love and joy he gives. But greater still, this calm assurance: this child can face uncertain days because he lives. And I believe when the Gaither’s wrote that they were talking about that baby, that that baby can face uncertain days because Christ lives. That is our hope, no matter what happens in our life and in our world. But for me that day, when we were singing that it was like, God was tapping me on the shoulder and saying, “Listen, because I live, because you are my child, you can face uncertain days because I live. And so when I was saying “this child,” I meant me, myself, that I could face uncertain days because Jesus lives. There was something that happened in my heart that day that I knew, even if we never had a child, I would be okay. And I would serve God wholeheartedly and would trust him with my grief, with my questions, with my sorrow, that I would trust him with my life. And I would keep following him no matter what. And I knew that I could face the uncertainty of my future–the not knowing if I would ever get to be a mom–it was okay. I could face it because Jesus lives. And he was my Lord and my Savior. And for me, that was the end of a long journey of questions and seeking and hoping to have a child. There was something that was peaceful that came over me at that point, when God spoke to my heart through that song, that I can face uncertain days, because he lives.

Terrie:

The same is true for you. You are his child. He loves you. And he has a plan for your life. And sometimes this world is just so full of sin that our bodies aren’t perfect. They don’t do what they’re supposed to do–what they were created to do. There are times when a baby just does not live, is not viable because of chromosomal problems or because it was attached in the fallopian tube, and it’s an ectopic pregnancy. There’s so many different reasons things don’t quite go the way God would have intended in a perfect world, but no matter what our circumstance, we can move forward with Christ, with our grief, with our new identity, with our new reality. We can move forward and face uncertain days because he lives and he lives in our lives. And he is real and that relationship is real. And he will carry us when the grief seems too heavy to carry. I hope that you can either be in a place where you can accept that, or at least come to a place where you can accept that, and know that and find his peace that surpasses all understanding. He wants to give that to you, and he wants to walk with you. And he is not afraid of your questions. He is not angry at your anger. Trust him and know that it’s because you have a relationship with him that you have these feelings anyway. It’s part of growing in him and growing closer to him and really understanding what this life is all about. So I hope that God will just minister to your heart and will help you find peace in the storms of life. I pray that he will bless you with a rainbow child, but even if he doesn’t, we can walk with him in obedience. Just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel, when they were in the fiery furnace, they said, you know, our God can do anything. He can rescue us from this, but even if he doesn’t, we will still follow him. My prayer is that God truly does bless you today and comfort you and guide you and help you walk forward in his name and for his glory.

Terrie:

Thank you for joining us for books that spark a podcast, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions, as we disciple our children and help them follow Jesus with their whole hearts, if you would like to join my mailing list or find out more about who I am and what I do, you can find me at TerrieHellardBrown.com.

Your Host:

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.

For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

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