June 26, 2017

10 Things Not to Do or Say to a Bereaved Parent

After we lost Colby things got interesting in our familial and friend relationships. Some people were very sweet and supportive, while others ignored our loss altogether. I was shocked at some of the things people said and did (or didn't say and do), especially from my family.

So I've decided to make a little guide on what not to say to a bereaved parent.

1. "It wasn't even a baby yet."
This one hurt the most. It was a baby to me as soon as that second pink line showed up on the pregnancy test. This statement is the most grieved in the online support group I am a member of.

2. "It's probably for the best."
How is me not having my child in my arms "for the best?" Don't assume that there was something deathly wrong with the baby, because that is not always the case. Colby was perfect. He was developing on schedule, and all the tests came back normal. So, no, it was not "for the best."

3. "Just get over it already."
Losing a child is not something you "just get over" after a few days. A lot of healing, both physically and mentally, needs to happen. And I don't think any parent gets over not having their child.

4. "Sometimes these things happen."
Yes. We know. We are living it right now. You don't have to tell us.

5. Rushing the parent to "get over it" faster.
Rushing a person through the grieving process is not good for anyone, ever. Each person has their own needs and their own way of coping, so let them. What you may not help them, and vice versa.

6. Ignoring the loss altogether.
It was the ones who said and did nothing that hurt the most for me. I get it, it's an uncomfortable situation for everyone involved and you're not sure what to say. Well, saying nothing at all is worse than saying something that might come out wrong. Because your attempt means that you care.

5. "Are you STILL sad about that?"
Here we go again with the rushing. Guilting a bereaved parent because they aren't "over it" yet is a horrible thing to do.

6. "At least you know you can get pregnant."
For me, this one was ok. I was diagnosed infertile over 2 years ago, and it was a good sign that I can get pregnant. However, many women are hurt by this statement, especially if they have experienced multiple losses. So it's better to just steer clear of this statement unless you have the full story.

9. Not say the baby/child's name.
Many parents decide to name their baby whether they know the sex or not. It's not weird. Referring to their baby as "the baby" or "your baby" or "it" or "them" or any other non-name word can be hurtful. Saying the child's name makes them more real and more important to others and not just the parent.

10. Not acknowledging the baby is real and important.
Because they are. Very much.

If you have said or done any of these things, it's ok. Just keep these things in mind for the future. If the loss was recent, though, perhaps apologizing to the parent could be helpful. That is up to you though. This list might also help to explain why there may be an awkwardness between you and the parent(s) as well.

All of this poses the question of, "what should I say and do instead?" Well here's the bonus, I'm going to get you started on that too.

What you should say/do instead:

1. "I'm so sorry. We are thinking of you/praying for you."

2. "I'm really am here if you want to talk."

3. "It's ok to cry, take all the time you need."

4. Say the baby/child's name when referring to them (unless asked not to).

5. Validate their feelings and emotions.

6. If you are family, recognize the baby/child as your grandchild, niece/nephew, cousin, great-grandchild.

7. If there is a memorial service or a funeral, go if you can go. If you can't go, send flowers, a card, something to acknowledge the event.

8. Don't make the parent feel bad or guilty for honoring their baby/child in their own way, no matter how weird it may seem to you.

9. Reach out and check on the parent.

10. Wish them "Happy Mother's/Father's Day," even if they do not have any other children.

Has anyone said anything insensitive to you in the past?

June 19, 2017

DIY Flowery Front Door Wreath

The other day, our mail lady came to the door to give us our mail so she could ask about the wreath on our front door.

Ms. Sue: Do you make your own wreaths?
Me: Yes, I do.
Ms. Sue: Oh wow! It's so beautiful! You are so creative.
Me: Thank you!

So I was inspired to make a tutorial for this super cheap and super easy wreath.

Where to shop:
Dollar Tree
Craft Store (if needed)

What you need:
10-12 Fake Hawaiian leis in colors of your choice
Wire wreath frame (if the dollar tree doesn't have any, you can get one at any craft store)
**You can also use a skinny pool noodle cut to desired length and taped with duct tape.**
Floral wire
Wired Ribbon (I found this lovely pink burlap ribbon at the Dollar Tree!)

Wrap the leis around the wreath frame and secure with small lengths of floral wire. If you go the pool noodle route you'll want to glue the ends of the leis to the noodle. I recommend E-6000 as it is waterproof. Make a bow, and attach it to the wreath with the floral wire. Voila! beautiful wreath for spring and summer.

You could do blue and pink for a baby shower or white for a bridal shower! Make wreaths in wedding colors for a wedding or your own decor colors for a beautiful wall decor piece.

Do you make your own wreaths?

June 12, 2017

How to Cope with a Long Distance BFF

Many of you know my Llama, Melissa. She's been my best friend for eleven years now. We've been through some amazing times, and some really shitty times. But we were inseparable. Now that I'm living in Missouri, a mere 726.7 miles apart (yes i looked it up), it's not quite the same. However, I think we've become closer and have an even stronger friendship now than we ever dud. And that's really saying something.

Here are some things that we do to help us cope with being so far apart, that keep us close.

Fun Text Tones
You will text A LOT. So make it a tone that you absolutely love and/or associate with your bestie. This goes for ring tones too. You just need that fun and catchy tone to listen to a million times a day.

Give Autocorrect a Name
Ours is Judy. And she's a bitch. Our "smart" phones like to make us look stupid sometimes, or you're fingers just can't seem to hit the right keys. Whatever the reason, someone needs to be blamed, and that's Judy.

Surprise Snail Mail
Whether it'a a small gift or a little card, these keep things special. It's a physical reminder that you have a best friend who cares about you.

Just because you live in totally different places now, doesn't mean the gossip stops. Now, turn off your judgey face and admit that you gossip sometimes too, even though we aren't supposed to. And there are time a little Facebook stalking is in order to familiarize yourself with the gossip victim.

Watch Movies Together
You know you both own a copy of Mama Mia, so pop that sucker in and sync it up. Sing all the songs and text your BFF the whole time. Just because you've seen it a million times doesn't mean you are tired of it. It can actually be therapeutic.

Workout Together
Schedule gym session or walks at times that you both can do it. Call each other or start a step challenge to keep each other accountable when you can't just bust in on the other and snatch the Cheetos away.

Keep up with your Inside Jokes
Seriously. In 2006 "drive by wooting" was totally a thing for us (don't ask). And even now I randomly will send her a snap of this.

Be Honest
No matter what. It's a general friendship rule already, but I feel it's even more important when its and long distance friendship. You can't physically step in anymore, so sometimes brutal honesty is what's needed.

Send Photos, often.
Snapchat is amazing for this purpose. It keeps you connected on a visual level (get your minds out of the gutter). We send photos of ourselves, my pets, her kids, my husband, her boyfriend, e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. But mostly coffee.

Drink Coffee Together
This is the same as the movies. Just get a coffee and the same time and chat on the phone. It's almost like your normal trips to Starbucks.

Basically do all the things you used to do, only most of it through text and phone calls. haha

Do you have a long distance BFF? How do you stay close?

June 8, 2017

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Recipe

Here's a happier post for you. I've been making these muffins for Hubs as a grab-and-go breakfast before he goes to work. If I don't make him something quick and easy, the he won't eat breakfast at all, so this works perfectly.

What you need:
3-4 medium to large ripe bananas (no green)
1 box of Spice Cake Mix
2 eggs
1 bag of milk or dark chocolate chips
Flour baking spray
Muffin tins or loaf pans
Large bowl
Potato Masher or Fork
Mixing spoon

Preheat the over to 350*F.
Prepare your muffin tins (you'll need two), OR you can do two loaf pans, OR a combination of both! I spray mine with a flour baking spray.

First you'll want to mash the bananas up. You can use a potato masher or a fork to do this, and you'll want it to be a slightly chunky baby food texture (does that make sense??). Once that is done, add the eggs and mix well.
Add the cake mix and a little more than half the bag of chocolate chips, mix until evenly blended.
Spoon the mix into the muffin tins or pour into the loaf pans and sprinkle more chocolate chips on the top.
Bake for 25-30 mins, or until a toothpick comes out clean(ish).

Voila! Delicious chocolate chip banana bread muffins! You could also do the traditional nuts instead of the chocolate chips and it would be banana nut bread. Dried cranberries would be really good in this too. The options are endless!

This recipe is much easier than my great grandmother's recipe. No one can live up to her baked goods anyways, haha.

Have you every simplified a traditional recipe?

June 5, 2017

Grief and Mental Illness: End the Stigma

I almost started this post with an apology for being absent from this space for so long. Then I realized that I don't owe anyone an apology for taking time for myself and my own mental health while we grieve Colby. We are still grieving, and I have good days and bad days, but we must keep moving forward if we are to honor his little life and give him a little brother or sister.

I have lived with a mental illness for most of my life. Although I went undiagnosed and untreated for at least a decade, looking back, my depression began in my early teens. Nothing I did made it better, at least not in the long term. It wasn't until my early twenties that things escalated to the point it was affecting my relationships with the people in my life, but I didn't want to be "that crazy girl" who has to take medication to be "normal." But, in 2011 on a rainy afternoon I sat in my car crying to my mom on the phone in the Target parking lot, that I finally realized that I cannot do this on my own. I made an appointment with my family doctor, and was diagnosed with major depression and given a prescription for an antidepressant. Those were turbulent times. I wasn't always able to get my medication, and I spent many nights wishing to go to sleep and not wake up.

When I moved to Missouri in 2013, things got better (thanks to my wonderful husband). After we got married I was able to get back on my medication, and I started therapy. I wanted to be better, to be well. After a two medication changes with no improvement, I decided to have a formal psychological assessment done. December of 2016 I discovered what I've been fighting for the past 20 years. PTSD, depression, anxiety, and Bipolar II. So many emotions ranging from shock to relief flooded my mind and body. I immediately began to research these diagnoses and the medication that go along with them.

We found out we were pregnant in November, and at 14 weeks and 2 days gestation we lost our son, Colby, on January 20, 2017. It's been 19 weeks and 3 days (as of Monday) since that awful night and they have been the hardest days of my life. The most important thing I've learned from this is that the grieving process is so different for each person. There is NO set time that you have to "get over it" and "move on." Losing a child is extremely hard no matter what age, and that takes time to heal enough to start being ok again. I've learned to brush off the people who want me to get better at a faster pace, the ones who don't know that their words hurt, and the ones who don't offer any words at all. You really do find out who cares most when you experience a loss like this.

Grief on top of my existing depression and Bipolar II has made things difficult for not only me, but for those around me, most of all my husband. I'm learning to distinguish between grief emotions and reactions, and the "normal" ups and downs I experience with my Bipolar. And hubs is learning how to support and reassure me as we try to heal.I am now on new medications that are geared towards stabilizing my moods and am still in therapy. I also found a support group for miscarriage, pregnancy loss, and infant loss, and that has helped immensely.

I'm not telling you this to gain pity or sympathy, I don't want any of that, thanks. I am telling you this because this is me; this is my "normal." I am not ashamed of my mental illnesses, nor am I embarrassed that I need to take medication to balance the chemicals in my brain. I know my limits: what I can handle in a healthy way and what I cannot. Mental illness does not make me weak or less than, and I don't want to be treated as such. We need to break the negative stigma. It keeps many people from seeking the help they need, and encourages the rampant ignorance of psychological disorders in the general public.

I hope that by being open about my grief and mental illnesses I can shed some light on this side of the story. That I can help even just one person by letting them know they are not alone, and it's ok to get help. If you just need someone to listen, I'll be that person. If not me, reach out to a friend or family member. There are also support groups; find one in your area or even online.