Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Life Touches Life

It seems that the "storm" that hit me last Thursday is more of a hurricane than a thunder shower. I think I've entered the stage of grief that comes once denial has warn off. Something happened last Thursday evening that moved me from a place where I could ebb back and forth between feeling and numbness, to a place where I can do nothing but feel. I have had moments of reprieve from my grief over the past six days - I have shared a laugh or two with my husband; I have enjoyed affection from my dogs; I have smiled at photographs of precious little bean - but I have not, for a single moment, been numb. Every moment of every day, I can feel the weight of my loss. Often I feel it physically pressing down upon my chest, as if literally breaking my heart.

When Tim and I first started out on this journey, exactly four weeks ago today, when, just around this time, little Isla's heart stopped beating, we vowed to each other that together we would survive this. Many times while I was in labour, while we held Isla, on the morning of her funeral, we held hands and told one another, "we will survive this". And, I know we will.

In time, the despair that is my current reality will pass, and I will move to a new stage of life after Isla where I will have accepted and made peace with her passing. Until then, I know I must continue to move through my grief, feeling and learning each step of the way. This is my fate. I may not have chosen this path for myself, but I cannot change it. So today, I decided to embrace it.

Today I read, or rather devoured, Life Touches Life, a Mother's Story of Stillbirth and Healing by Lorraine Ash. I finished the entire book in one sitting, and I have no doubt I will read it again and again. Through Lorraine's story I was able to reconcile some of my own beliefs regarding heaven and my ability to see and communicate with Isla. I was also able to better understand and forgive many of the seemingly insensitive comments made by others. However, most importantly, this book helped me realize that, while no one other than Tim and I, and my parents, actually "met" Isla, her short life has the potential to touch many others.

Through her brief life in utero and her eternal life, Lorraine's daughter, Victoria, transformed Lorraine into a more gracious, generous and understanding person. Victoria also inspired Lorraine to tell her story, a story which has helped other bereaved parents on their journeys through grief. In this way, Victoria Helen Ash, has profoundly changed the lives of not only her parents, but the lives of thousands of other people.

After I finished reading Lorraine's book, I digested it in a hot bath. As I soaked, I thought about the potential for Isla to change me and her daddy for the better as we continue down this fated path.

After soaking, I logged online and visited Love Reign Over Me (, the blog of a fellow bereaved mother, Carly Dudley. I came across Carly's blog shortly after Isla's funeral and immediately I was drawn to her. After the stillbirth of her son, Christian, Carly began "To Write Their Names in the Sand" (, and other online initiatives to help other bereaved parents. While I imagine that Carly was a wonderful, generous person before Christian, I have to believe that she is an even more beautiful person because of Christian. Through his mother, Christian's life has touched the lives of so many others.

Today through Carly's blog I discovered "say it with flowers" ( Carly's friend Sarah and her brother Richard, started this beautiful project. Sarah and Richard are not bereaved parents, but rather the friends of bereaved parents and the siblings of Rory. I know little about Rory, but from the mission of "say it with flowers", I assume he died as a baby. I also know little about Sarah and Richard, but I assume they are the incredibly generous people they are today in part because of Rory. Through his SIBLINGS, Rory's life is now touching the lives of others. How amazing!!!

I have known since the early hours following Isla's death that Tim and I would be forever changed by her life. Along with vowing to survive, Tim and I have also vowed many times to be better, kinder, people because of our daughter. Over the past four weeks I have seen a tiny transformation in myself. While I have been mostly consumed by my grief, I have found small ways to reach out and help others. No act of kindness has been particularly noble, but Isla has been the driving force behind each one.

But, after today, I can't help but wonder, what will Isla's legacy be? The idea that because of Isla's life, her future siblings may be different people, better people, than they might otherwise be had she not lived, is so inspirational to me.

Part of the great pain that comes with the loss of a child, is the loss of that child's potential - the impact her life may have had on the world. Now I realize Isla may still change the world (in a relative sense), and much of her potential to affect the world lies within me. Her life will not be in vain.


  1. I am so sorry for the loss of your precious baby girl Isla. I too have found much comfort from Carly and Sarah and the book you mentioned sounds wonderful as well. This is a beautifully written post and I hope you are able to find some peace and comfort during this difficult time.

  2. Another really good book is Dear Cheyenne by Joanne Cacciatore. It is a short book and I read it without moving. It was truly wonderful, and the legacy of Cheyenne is amazing. I think you would really like it.

  3. What a great post Melissa. I am amazed that you had the strength to reach a compassionate hand out to Matthew and I, when you heard the bad news about what happened with our adoption agency, given what a difficult thing you are going through yourself. I’m not so sure if I was in your situation that I would have had the strength to reach out to other people like that. Isla does already and will continue to have a great legacy and positive impact on the world. I can say this because I have already felt touched by her kindness working through you. Lots of Lv, Shannon Warren

  4. I am so sorry for both of your losses- while I have living children I also had a stillborn at 39 weeks and lost a baby at 10 weeks. Thank you for sharing your journey with others.
    Laura D.

  5. Oh goodness. That sounds like a beautiful way to look at Isla's eternal life. I'm happy for you that today brings some peace. Through my own grief process (nine months now), I've learned that grief isn't linear for me. I don't reach one milestone only to never return to it. It's very cyclical as all the emotions circle back again and again. Sometimes not as forcefully as other times. But they circle back all the same. Be gentle with yourself if you too discover this cyclical nature of grief. It can be daunting. You are so early in your grief, yet you have great insight. I pray that you always realize that as you progress through this tragedy too many of us have endured.

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments on my blog. You demonstrate such incredible strength. I'm hoping you need not return to work too quickly.


  6. Stopping by from the DBM blog to say Hi, and welcome to the club you never wanted to join! :)

    Your post is lovely. You're right, there are so many who have taken their pain and channeled it into a ministry, which in turn has become a legacy, both to their angels and to God. But don't think you have to knit caps or write names on a beautiful beach - just reaching out a hand to someone in need of compassion (and it sounds like you've already done that with the Warren family). Or even knowing and employing the tactics of being a good friend (closed mouth, open arms). Isla is forever a part of you, and she will color your emotions and reactions forever. Her light is shining through you with these little changes. And I'll just bet she's looking down on you with a smile.

    She's a beautiful little girl.... :)

  7. I've just finished reading all of your posts and I can relate to each and every word you write. I'm so sorry you had to join this club. I'll be following your story from now on.