Earlier this month, on Sunday June 7, 2015, I had the opportunity volunteer at the PAIL Network's (Parent And Infant Loss Network) annual family picnic and butterfly release. This event is a chance for families to gather in rememberance of their babies that have passed away too soon.
This year the weather was absolutely perfect! The sun was shining, a gentle breeze was blowing, soft clouds floated high in the sky. There couldn't be better conditions for the butterflies to released and take flight.
This was my first time attending an event like this. I decided to volunteer after seeing a I saw on facebook. After a quick consultation with the giant family calendar that runs the house, I signed on. I had no idea what I would be doing. I figured they would have something for me to do!
I wanted to serve at an event and with an organization that really validates and honour babies that have passed prenatally or shortly after birth.
A bit about the day: This event is an opportunity for families that have lost a child prenatally or shortly after birth to take a moment with family and friends to remember and honour the little life that has passed away. It is a chance to take a time out and remember. To feel supported and less alone.
My own experience with miscarriage was quite lonely. It is something that is not often talked about and people rarely know what to say to help a grieving mother, or father or siblings. Finding positive support in different forms, such as group counseling, one-on-one counseling, peer counseling, or private reflection, or quite often a combination of all, is very important to healing and being able to face another day. The PAIL Network provides such resources for parents.
This event was great. From a weather stand point it was perfect, not too hot, not too cool, and barely a cloud in the sky. There were games and activities for the kids that came. There was plenty of space for families to spread out a picnic blanket and enjoy the day. There was a raffle and silent auction with the proceeds benefiting the PAIL Network so they can keep supporting families.
But the most beautiful part of the day happen just past noon when everyone gathered at the top of the meadow, by the silver coloured windmill to release their butterflies. There was a poem read by a mother in memory of her daughter, words shared by one of the organizers and a gentle rendition of Angel Eyes (by Jim Brickman) played on the guitar as families let their butterflies go.
The day was special to me as I had the opportunity to not only give back to my community and support families from across the province (there were families from Ottawa to London), I also was able to watch my girls give back too. When I volunteered to help, the organizer asked if I knew anyone would would be able to help out with the kids' station. Turns out I have 2 teeange daughters who would be great at that! So they got signed up too. I must say I am extremely proud of my young ladies for their willingness to serve and the gentle way they interacted with the children and parents.
In addition to being awesome helpers, my girls did a very special thing for me, that makes me tear up as I write this. They, without my knowing, got a butterfly from the organizer for me to release in memory of the four little angels I lost prenatally. I was not planning on taking part in the release, I was there to help ensure that my small contribution was taken care of. I had not even thought of joining in. I have made peace with my loss. My experience has allowed me to comfort other women and walk with them through one of the hardest parts of being a mother. That being said, I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to let that little Monarch fly in memory of the little ones I only barely knew. I am humbled by the thoughtfulness of my daughters. I am truly glad I went.
Nothing compares to the loss of a child. Nothing fills the hole left in your heart. Nothing takes the memory away. All we can do is focus on the good, remember the moments that filled us and treasure our little ones here on earth and in heaven. One day I'll get to hold my angels in heaven, until then I am comforted that the first face they saw was Jesus'. Which is what my insightful nephew told his parents when they suffered a loss prenatally.
One of the most important things I learned after my first miscarriage was that my husband grieved differently than me and that it was okay. Seems like a simple thing now, but at the time I was angry and hurt that he didn't seem as upset as I was, that he wasn't a sobbing mess like me. I learned that it didn't mean he wasn't sad, he just dealt in a different way and that it was important for me to let him.
I have to say that this event was a mix of happy and sad. Everyone who attended has been touched by a loss that hits you in the gut. It's so hard to carry on, but carry on we must. Events like this are beautiful, not only on the day of, to gather and feel like there are other people who understand, really the wealth of emotions and stages of grief that parents and family members go through, but also, because in the days, weeks and months after everytime you see a butterfly flutter through the air you remember your child with joy.
If you have lost a child you are not alone. Miscarriage is more common than anyone wishes. Infants pass away more often than we talk about because it's hurts so much. Reach out, find a group or a friend or a therapist that is right for you. It might not be the first place you try. Group support might not be your thing, or it might not be your thing at that time. Keep looking, don't go through it alone. We are a village in good times and in hard times.
For local (Markham) and on line resources for prenatal and infant loss support click here.