Thursday, August 28, 2014

Keep Calm and Parent On


After I lost my son and the initial overwhelming grief lessened, I was left with so many questions and thoughts. I repeatedly asked myself, “What now?” Most people encouraged me to “move on” and “let go,” explaining that it was not healthy to linger in the emotions of what had happened. Although I wanted to move forward and let go of the sadness, I did not want to leave my son behind. It felt like if I moved on or let go, his memory would die. And, to be honest, I did not want the memory of my son to end. I wanted to continue to parent my child. After all, just because he was gone did not mean that I stopped being his parent.
So the questions continued…how do you raise a child whose life on earth was brief? Why would you bother creating a legacy for a baby, especially one that has passed away? How do you parent a child who is no longer in your arms?

Maybe you have felt the same. Maybe you have asked similar questions and received advice similar to what I received. Sadly, there are no parenting books or how-to manuals on how to raise a child who has passed.  No go-to pamphlets on how to create a legacy for the baby you lost.

So what are the answers? How do you approach being a parent to your sweet baby?

Well, I think the answer is going to be a little different for each person. No two of us are alike in our grief and healing, but we are all still parents. I think the answer truly lies in how we approach our child’s memory on a day-to-day basis. The answer is in the little things that we do to honor and remember our baby. It may also be in the tangible ways that we help others. Each of our parenting styles will be unique, and thus the things we do will be different. 

One of my favorite ways to parent my son is by talking about him. I love letting other people, even complete strangers, know that he existed. I am always eager to share a memory of him and weave it into conversation. I talk about our experience frequently, very freely, and with great love. During holidays or special occasions with family and friends, I will often try to find some small way to incorporate my son into the event, even if it is in a way that only I can recognize. I also love sharing pictures of my boy – they fill our house, are in my Bible, on my phone, and frequent my Facebook page. For me, doing these things has allowed me to feel like I am continuing to parent him. 

I also do my best to take the things that I have learned from my journey and share them with other mothers and fathers who are currently walking this hard road. I love giving resources and ideas to others who are still carrying a baby whose life will be short. I find it a privilege to walk alongside another mother or father and offer encouragement or advice. I’m honored when someone opens up to me about their experience and I can listen to their heart. For me, I find that I can raise my son through the things I do to help others. I have found that through public speaking and educating others about my son’s condition, and the fact that he was an organ donor, I am able to create a legacy for my boy.

Please realize that these things do not always come easily. Sometimes it is downright painful. There are times that I just want to be alone in my thoughts and feelings; times that I get choked up as I talk about my son or recount parts of our story. There are also some memories that I have treasured in my heart and have decided never to share with others. I have found at times I am frustrated that I am educating others rather than educating my son directly. And have found it is hard to balance spending time with my living child and investing in my child who has passed.  I have been both praised and criticized for my approach. I have left people scratching their heads in wonderment, but for me, this is all part of my parenting journey. This is how I move forward, rather than move on.

As I stated before, each of us has a unique parenting style, and will do things differently when it comes to keeping our little one’s memory alive. My way is not the only way. So, what do you do to keep your child’s memory a live? How do you continue to parent? Are there special things you have done to create a lasting legacy for your baby? It doesn't matter if you have done something big or small, we would LOVE for you to share. Please join in the conversation by leaving a comment below.

If this is a new concept for you, I would like to challenge you do something today in honor of your baby. It can be as simple as saying his or her name out loud in conversation, or telling a complete stranger about your child. Maybe you will show a special picture to a trusted friend. You might do a random act of kindness in your child’s name. It may be donating school supplies to a child in need.  Or, you might start an entire foundation in honor of your little one. Whatever it is that you decide to do, please share it with us. Comment below and tell us how you have taken the first step in continuing to parent your child.


Please know whatever you do, big or small, public or private, you are an amazing parent to your child. 

This week my encouragement to you is this: Keep calm and parent on! 

~ ~ ~

Bethany Conkel lives in Ohio and is married to her wonderful husband, Eric. She is the mommy to two amazing children – one who is in heaven, the other here on earth. Bethany carried her precious son, Amalya Nathaniel (meaning: “work of the Lord”, “given by God”) to term after receiving the diagnosis of anencephaly when she was 11 weeks pregnant. Amalya lived for 1 hour and 20 minutes before taking hold of the Lord’s hand. After he passed, his liver, pancreas, and whole body were donated to scientific research. Bethany has since created a website about neonatal organ, tissue, and whole body donation called Purposeful Gift to help other families explore the option of donation. She is also a certified Birth and Bereavement Doula through Stillbirthday.com and serves with Sufficient Grace Ministries

1 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bethany,

Ever since I have known you and your family to include your parents and sister, I have been encouraged. You know my story. Your family stood beside us when we started our journey. You are right. One never moves on but rather forward. We, each year, buy something for me that is generally jewelry to honor them. How might that honor them, you might ask. It is honoring them as I intend to pass that jewelry on to my daughters-in-law when they have their first child, hopefully a daughter. We also talk of them often. I think of them daily. In fact, today I posed the question to my boys "What would you think if we adopted a girl?". While I am not a perfect parent and sometimes my void influences my day and interaction with my boys, I do know that God still uses them to encourage me, guide me, and minister to others. I, two years ago, met someone who had walked the exact same journey as me. She had 4 boys like me, lost her twin girls after her first son, and it had been about 12 years since it happened. I was able to truly tell her I knew exactly how she felt and that they are never forgotten or far from your heart. You probably know, too, that I put a shout out on facebook each year on their heavenly birthday and then their "birthday" as they were in that order. Xana (pronounced Hah-nuh) and Michaela will never be forgotten nor will their absence ever mean that they have not had an affect on the world!

I did come up with a saying that I use when I feel called to for those who have lost a loved one: "The same arms that are holding them now are the same arms that are holding you which makes the distance seem much smaller!" (I think I put it better than that the first time God gave me that statement.) Anyway, thank you for using your journey to bless and minister to others!

Love,
Crystal Gueck

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