This time four years ago I was holding our first son and our daughter. Their life energy had already departed but we were given the quiet place to hold them, rock them, sing to them, memorize their little bodies, and kiss their sweet foreheads. I can’t express how important those moments, hours, nearly two days were for my husband and me.
In the midst of all the pandemic craze people are talking about grief again. People are listening to the grief experts discuss the various forms that grief can take, the marginalized and quiet kind, the anticipatory kind, the I’m not sure I should be grieving kind, the my world just fell apart kind. I believe grief in all its depths is worth discussing – because grief often what shows us where our love lies.
One of my favorites to discuss grief is David Kessler. He worked closely with Elizabeth Kubler Ross (5 stages of grief) and has since proposed a sixth stage. Its important to know (and both Ross and Kessler note this) that the stages are not meant to be linear, that presence in each ebbs and flows as you experience grief, that reaching acceptance does not always mean that “it’s over.” Instead the stages guide us in recognizing our emotions and shaping our continuing lives. Kessler has a new book coming out (I’ve pre-ordered) that proposes the new stage: making meaning.
Making meaning does not mean you come to some resolve that what happened ‘happened for a reason’ … in fact that would be impossible in many cases. But it is the process in which we access healing by making something meaningful out of our pain. Or as Kessler says: “meaning comes through finding a way to sustain your love for the person after their death while you’re moving forward with your life. Loss is simply what happens to you in life. Meaning is what you make happen.”
Finnian and Maisie’s lives were brief, I only carried them part way into the second trimester. In many ways the world never shared in them. Aside from our family and close friends, those not present would never know of them if it wasn’t for our sharing the story.
And what meaning does our story have?
I believe it’s this – love is profound. That life, no matter how small, can flip your heart around, change and shape you. When I tell of Maisie’s heart beating for a moment on the outside, I am reminding the world that they were alive. When I recall Finnian’s face being similar to Lochlan’s but his movements in utero being vastly different, I am reminding the world that they were human. Our loss was that of infants AND of pregnancy AND of a million other things attached to them and those experiences. And mostly our loss, the most aching part of it, is that we are not able to parent them. That while they are our son and daughter, we do not get to experience raising them.
And what Daniel and I have chosen to do with this meaning, what beauty we hope to achieve, is that for their birthday each year we will choose to donate to an organization in Finnian and Maisie’s honor. The donation (monetary or material), which is generously matched by Daniel’s company, seeks to support an organization that will benefit children they age they would’ve been. In a small way - a parenting act for their would-be birthday celebration. Last year for their third birthday we donated to Sleepy Head Beds – because they would’ve been decorating their own big kid beds.
This year they would’ve been turning 4. As we discussed what their lives at 3-4 would look like, we wondered what music or books or art or games or toys they might be interested in. Things we will never know for sure. We looked at our living son’s artwork on the fridge and listened to him sing along to songs he has learned. And we wondered what they would’ve created, what class would’ve been their favorite.
We also feel very compelled in the current climate to support our local businesses, so instead of a charity this year we decided to make a gift to a children’s art studio and a kindermusic program.
If you are in the Kansas City area, we encourage you to explore the programs offered at Wee Create (www.weecreatekc.com) and Injoy Music www.injoymusic.com. Each one of these small businesses teaches children to access their creativity, to build knowledge through experience, and to feel. The programs are a labor of love, each run by amazing committed women, both coincidentally named Amy. They have worked in this crazy time to still bring art and music virtually to our preschoolers. And we are hopeful these gifts will help them continue that work.
One asked me about a book that she might keep in studio to honor Finnian and Maisie and our family. I told her:
“We were fortunate enough to have some time to spend with our twins after their birth. In that time, we read them the story Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman. And though they had passed on, we read in hopes the words would carry on with them. In fact, it is the line: "I wanted you more than you'll ever know so I sent love to follow wherever you go," that inspired us to begin the donations. Because, in some small way, we can send love to follow what could've been the course of their life.”
And there is our meaning.
Dearest Finnian and Maisie, our love for you will always exist and because of that we send it out to follow you wherever you go.
Happy Birthday, darlings.
Please join us in supporting Wee Create and Injoy Music by following their social media and sharing their programs with friends or family!
Hi, I'm Tiffany. I believe in the power of stories to connect us to each other. I write about life after loss and all the love, longing, and learning that comes from it. Grief is big, love is bigger. My newest stories are about motherhood (after both infertility and loss). In my experience, love doesn't get bigger than motherhood.
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