Why I am Passionate about Breaking the Taboo around Loss

Why I am Passionate about Breaking the Taboo around Loss

Right now I am in Amsterdam presenting at The 2014 International Conference on Stillbirth, SIDS and Baby Survival. My topic: Healing through the Creative Arts. I feel wildly shy presenting to international medical professionals, but I hope my workshop will be a spark of insight for the professional practice of these individuals that interact with heart wrenching loss of young lives on a daily basis. I will be discussing ways that both visual and literary arts can help a bereaved person heal after tragedy. I was asked the other day if it is challenging to speak at conferences and constantly retell Zachary’s story. Yes and no. Yes, it is wearying some days to always put myself back in a vulnerable place of pain. At the same time, I love talking about my baby that...

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Talking to Kids about Death

Talking to Kids about Death

When Zachary died, Hannah was eleven months old. She came to the hospital after her younger brother died in my arms. She was very curious and touched Zachary’s head. She was all smiles despite the sniffles and tears in the room. She didn’t understand what had happened then, but she does now – I think. I have had many discussions with Hannah about where her first little brother went. She calls him Zachy. While I sometimes stretch the truth with Hannah, telling her things like she will go to kid jail if she is mean, I somehow felt compelled to tell her the truth about Zachary. I told her that Zachary died. I told her that Mommy and Daddy were very sad – although she must have sensed this. I tried very hard to be happy for her, but she would rest her hand on my...

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Autumn Baby Loss Memorial Events

Autumn Baby Loss Memorial Events

Why attend a memorial event? You can remember and celebrate your child. You can be vulnerable and open with your emotions in a non-judgemental environment. You can find community in the presence of others who have also lost a child. You can create mementos and keepsakes. You can find support and resources to help you along the journey of grief.   For a list of baby walks and events, please visit the Resources page.     Here are a few updates of memorial events for my home city of Edmonton:   Walk to Remember, Edmonton This event is not happening in 2014. It is unclear from the website if this is a one-year hiatus or if the event has concluded permanently.   Baby Steps Memorial Walk Also, find Baby Steps on Facebook. Date: Saturday,...

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A Miscarriage and Baby Loss Campaign by Today’s Parent Magazine

A Miscarriage and Baby Loss Campaign by Today’s Parent Magazine

I was in Toronto this week to be interviewed by the lovely ladies at Today’s Parent Magazine. They are releasing a hugely important campaign to support those who have experienced the death of a child. I commend Today’s Parent for tackling this challenging and taboo subject – and also for giving me the opportunity to share Zachary’s story. I am passionate about dispelling the silence and loneliness around this type of loss with the goal of connecting people, both men and women, in a caring and compassionate community. As I often do when I retell my family’s story, I cried and smeared my make-up during the interview. I still get choked up every now and then, even after almost four years, but I’m okay with my emotions these days. I accept them as a beautiful part of...

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Healing Through Visual Art at The Compassionate Friends Conference

Healing Through Visual Art at The Compassionate Friends Conference

I am passionate about art and I am passionate about my family. It was an honour to bring those two loves together when I presented Healing through Visual Art a month ago at The Compassionate Friends of America National Conference in Chicago, Illinois. I started my workshop by sharing about Zachary’s life, his death, and how I discovered creativity as a way to pull myself out of the pit of grief. The conference saw thousands of bereaved parents, and some siblings too, gather together to remember, learn and share. Standing in front of nearly forty attendees of my workshop, I was honoured to open up about my experience and show my artwork made in the darkest periods of my mourning. I presented many techniques and examples of how to use art for self-expression and...

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Loving Deeply means Grieving Deeply

Loving Deeply means Grieving Deeply

I was at The Compassionate Friends of America National Conference to be a speaker. I was not there for myself, or at least that’s what I thought. My husband Aaron and I arrived the day before the conference officially began and registered with a friendly lady who gave us the program and lanyards. All of a sudden I couldn’t see. The woman was blurry in front of me. I blinked long and hard. Aaron looked at me, “Are you alright?” “Fine, I’m fine,” I said but my voice caught in my throat… The opening ceremony was the next morning. “What’s wrong with me?” I asked Aaron. All of a sudden my eyes started leaking again. This time my chest heaved as I tried to muffle my weeping. “This is so embarrassing,” I said, but as I looked around I saw that no one cared and actually...

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Grieving Children of All Ages: Reflections on the Walk to Remember, Chicago

Grieving Children of All Ages: Reflections on the Walk to Remember, Chicago

My husband Aaron and I recently attended a Walk to Remember in Chicago as a part of The Compassionate Friends of America National Conference. (I will write more about the conference and the workshop I presented, Healing through Visual Art, in upcoming blog posts.) Something different about The Compassionate Friends, their conference and Walk from what I have previously experienced is their focus on the loss of children – and siblings – of all ages. Sometimes I get very stuck in my own experience of losing a baby that I don’t always reflect on the parents who lose an older or even adult child. I do frequently think about my living children and fear for their safety, but to be honest up until this conference I had not contemplated at length all the grieving...

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Healing Workshops, Update

Healing Workshops, Update

I am pleased to announce that I will be presenting “Healing through the Written Word” and “Healing through Visual Art” at The 2014 International Conference on Stillbirth, SIDS and Baby Survival. Here is the conference information: Date: September 18 – 21, 2014 Location: Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) Amsterdam, The Netherlands To register, click here.   To see other conferences where I will be speaking, please visit Public Speaking & Teaching on Wanted Chosen Planned. If you or your organization would like to arrange a workshop or presentation, please email info@alexismariechute.com or phone 780-499-4311. Media bookings can also be made with Gal Friday Publicity at rachel@gal-fridaypublicity.com or by calling 604-366-7846.  ...

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Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding Hearts

I received a lovely email the other day from my mother-in-law. This is what she said: Hi Alexis Marie,   I was out in my garden today, and the tulip I planted in Zachary’s honor after ‘Walk To Remember’ a couple years ago is in full bloom. But this year it is coming up with a shrub I had planted last year and it is in bloom at the same time. The name of the shrub – Bleeding Heart. Very special to me, and I know it would be to you as well.   Love, Mom The bleeding heart. What a perfect picture of the grieving parent. For a long time I felt the jagged edges of what I could only describe as a broken heart but recently I was reading a book that used other symbolism to represent parental bereavement. Such symbols included a tea pot and a cracked nut, both able to...

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Living with an Open Hand

Living with an Open Hand

This is the speech I gave last weekend at the May Memorial, Remembering Our Losses. I hope it will be an encouragement.   OPEN HAND   Of all the many lessons I’ve learned in my life, there is one in particular that stands out.   The lesson: live with an open hand.   Living with an open hand is like holding a butterfly. It means not squeezing too tightly to what we want, to what we love; otherwise it may be crushed between our fingers. Instead, we can open our hands and let that which we desire stay however long it wishes. If it goes, it may return if we remain open, but there is also the chance it will not come back. Living openly like this means being grateful for what we have for however long we have it.   In happy times, this lesson...

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Remembering our Losses, May Memorial in Edmonton

Remembering our Losses, May Memorial in Edmonton

If you are looking for a place to celebrate your child in the presence of others who share your experience, there is a lovely Edmonton event called, “Remembering Our Losses.” I will be speaking at this event and reflecting on living with an “Open hand.”  Put on by Alberta Health Services & Covenant Health Pregnancy & Infant Loss Program, this event takes place on Sunday, May 25 at 1:00 pm at Connelly-McKinley Funeral Homes. There will be a graveside ceremony following the memorial. Click the image above to see a larger version. If you attend this event, please find me and say hello. I’d like to meet you. I believe we are stronger together.  If you have a baby loss event that you would like me to share, please...

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Return to Zero

Return to Zero

Have you heard about Return to Zero? Tomorrow, Saturday May 17, the film Return to Zero will have its world television premier (Sunday May 18 in the UK). The movie is a true story of love, loss and hope. Minnie Driver and Paul Adelstein play a couple who have a stillborn child and face their ‘new normal’ afterwards.     When I watched the trailer, I couldn’t help but weep. I am so proud of this movie, and the anthology Three Minus One that I’m published in. I am passionate about dispelling the taboo around child loss that hinders couples from healthy grief in a supportive community. It is wonderful that couples and families that have been through loss can band together to support one another and commit to beautiful projects like Return to Zero and Three...

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The Meaning in a Name

The Meaning in a Name

When names are chosen with purpose and meaning, I get goosebumps. It’s like bestowing on a person the mantle of their destiny. I remember my mom telling me the meaning of my name when I was little: Alexis, helper and defender of mankind. I’ve never forgotten that. As a kid, I took the meaning of my name very seriously, like a responsibility and one I was proud to fulfill. I stood up for bullied kids and have always loved helping people. My daughter’s name, Hannah, means favor and grace. After my husband Aaron and I discovered that our second child would not live, in hopes of a miracle we chose his name. Zachary, remembered by God. It broke my heart at the time of my son’s death, ‘Had God forgotten my child?’ I’ve come to understand that there are many things I...

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Today is International Bereaved Mother’s Day: The Meaning of Motherhood

Today is International Bereaved Mother’s Day: The Meaning of Motherhood

What is a mother? Is she someone who has had a healthy child? Yes, that is one definition. But what about women who have abused or abandoned their children? Should they be considered mothers? What about the woman whose child has died? Is she a mother?  I believe that the defining characteristic of a mother is her love. Just like faith and hope, love is an invisible quality but truly the strongest force in the universe – even stronger than hate. In the presence of so great a love as a mother for her child, a broken heart is understandable in the face of tragedy, but love is also the only true healer. Love cannot be killed, lost or destroyed. Love is eternal. With the death of a mother and father, the world does not assume the child had no parent at all. The...

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Reminder: May 4 is Bereaved Mother’s Day, download your free badge of honor

Reminder: May 4 is Bereaved Mother’s Day, download your free badge of honor

Celebrate mothers who have lost a child. Honor these women with love, support and thoughtfulness on International Bereaved Mother’s Day: Sunday, May 4, 2014. Please visit my post from April 24 to download a digital image to honour the bereaved family member(s) in your life. Click here to visit the post and download the image greeting.   Bereaved Mother’s Day is a chance to show yourself love, grace and kindness. You deserve it. No human should have to endure the loss and pain that you have survived, and yet, no matter what, you are still a mother. Join me on May 4 here on Wanted Chosen Planned to discuss the meaning of Motherhood, and also join me on twitter using the hashtag: #stillamom (You can find me: @_Alexis_Marie). I’m looking forward to...

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Breakfast Television Tomorrow

Breakfast Television Tomorrow

In anticipation of International Bereaved Mother’s Day, I will be talking to Ryan Jespersen tomorrow morning on Breakfast Television on City TV in Edmonton. My segment will air at 8:30am. Please tune in for more info about the event and how you can join in the discussion....

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Mark your calendar: International Bereaved Mother’s Day, May 4, 2014

Mark your calendar: International Bereaved Mother’s Day, May 4, 2014

Mother’s Day is a beautiful celebration but for some it is a day of lament. When you baby has died, Mother’s Day can be an ache in your heart that refuses to abate. I feel it. It is the longing, the irrational search, the hope against all certainty. The love of a bereaved mother for her lost child will never fade nor be forgotten. It is this love that is unconquerable and lingers because of its strength. Bereaved Mother’s Day honours the women who are still mothers – even if their child or children are not with them. No matter how early you lost your child or the form of that loss, you are still a mother. Please believe these words. Do not think little of yourself, please do not blame yourself. International Bereaved Mother’s Day takes place on Sunday, May 4,...

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Keepsakes of our Loss

Keepsakes of our Loss

Before Zachary died, Aaron and I went to the funeral home that would be performing Zach’s cremation. We walked through a large room filled with wooden caskets. The sight made me nauseous; literally sick to my stomach. I kept my eyes on the floor, Aaron guiding me. We passed through that room into a tiny, closet-like space. There, on a low shelf, was a tiny collection of urns – for children. Regular urns, for adults, are similar to the average flower vase in size, whereas for children, their bones being much smaller, the urns are petite. I remember weeping, furious I would have to make such a decision as the container for my child. There were urns that looked like miniature versions of the adult containers but these felt so cold and impersonal. Aaron and I chose a...

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Easter Reflections: Finding Faith, Losing Faith

Easter Reflections: Finding Faith, Losing Faith

It’s interesting how the loss of a child affects each individual so differently. From the way that people talk about their child and the loss, to how they grieve and respond to others, there is nothing cookie cutter about this experience. With Easter a week away, I’m thinking about colorful eggs, bunnies – and faith. I once met with a woman over coffee whose baby had died and in sharing her story with me she spoke of how the loss brought her closer to God. She was a Christian before her child passed away, and in the aftermath she found a great deal of comfort and grace in processing her grief through her faith. There are also people who find faith for the first time after traumatic experiences. Or to the opposite extreme, lose their faith entirely. For...

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Portraits of Healing in The Quiet Rebuild

Art can heal. It may sound corny but it’s true. The language of art is not like a spoken dialect; art touches the human heart through contrast, color, symbolism, metaphor and personal and creative expression. You don’t have to be an artist or even have a clue what I’m talking about for art to make a difference for you. I can help! If any of this resonates with you (or even sparks your curiosity), I am still looking for volunteers to participate in fine art portraits for my work, The Quiet Rebuild. This is an opportunity to share your story of love and loss and survival. Please get in touch if you are interested: info@alexismariechute.com You can read more about the project here on Wanted, Chosen, Planned – Portraits of Healing and you can...

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