Overcoming Grief and Sorrow
I am sure that at this point in your life you have learned what grief and sorrow are. All of us will experience them at various times in our lives because they are a part of our mortal existence. Those feelings of pain associated with grief cannot and should not be avoided. Allowing yourself to grieve is important to the healing process and can lead to tremendous personal growth if we allow that to happen. Sometimes, in the midst of your grief, you may feel that you can never be happy again. But, I can attest to knowing that joy and happiness will come again, even though the grief can still well up from time to time. (See Psalm 30:5)
There are two things that are important to recognize about grief. First, Lance B. Wickman has said that grief is a by-product of love.
"One cannot selflessly love another person and not grieve at his suffering or eventual death. The only way to avoid the grief would be to not experience the love; and it is love that gives life its richness and meaning."
I remember attending the funeral of a cousin's toddler son. His grandfather, my husband's uncle, was speaking at the service. I recall his words when he related that people would say that it was so sad that the family was only able to have this young child for such a short time and his response was that they felt so blessed to have had him with them at all, even if it was for a short time. They had him and loved him and they wouldn't trade that for not having the grief and pain.
Second, grief does not indicate a lack of faith. Steven Eastmond, a licensed clinical social worker has said that we can feel both sadness and peace at the same time as we experience grief. Our family has certainly experienced this as we have grieved that loss of Baby Elodie. You can read about Lindsey's thoughts on that in this post.
One of the things that is wonderful about funerals and the gathering of family and friends after the death of a loved one is that surprisingly we can laugh about the wonderful parts of their lives, review those tender moments with them that we cherish and feel the peace of knowing that they are no longer in pain or suffering, but that they are with a loving Heavenly Father. We grieve because we miss them, and we will miss them throughout our lives. But the funeral helps us realize that we can also be happy knowing that they are in a better place and we will see them again.
With those two things about grief understood, I want to share with you ways that our family has found to be happy again, after experiencing the loss of parents, children, siblings and other family members. People we have loved and still love.
Actively Seek Comfort From The Holy Ghost
In Matthew 5:4 we are told, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." We have found that throughout the experience of Elodie's diagnosis, birth and death, as we have fasted and prayed for help, understanding and comfort, our prayers have been answered along the way. We have felt peace and love from a loving Heavenly Father who has influenced our understanding of things eternal. Our faith is so important in our lives and it makes me wonder how people cope with such sorrow without it. If you are searching for peace and comfort, you can find it through prayer and the desire to know for yourself. Here is a good place to start. We have talked about what we believe in the past. Some of those posts are here, here and here.
If you already have a church or belief system, remember what you have learned and lean on that knowledge for comfort and peace.
Allow Yourself to Grieve
Elodie's big sister, Emily, would get so upset when she saw her mother or me or anyone tear up and cry after Elodie passed away. I loved that my daughter would tell her that it was okay to be sad and to cry. Emily started saying these words to herself, "It is okay to be sad sometimes." Lindsey would sing the words from Daniel Tiger to her, "It's okay to be sad sometimes, little by little you'll feel better again." Those "little by little" words are very important. You will not feel better all of the way right away, But when you do begin to feel better, it is okay! You aren't doing a disservice to your loved one by being happy again. Don't you think that they would want you to be happy? Of course they would. I lost my Dad and my niece both in one weekend back in 1978. There are still moments today when I remember them and weep a little bit over that very sad time and the fact that I miss them so much. But, "little by little" I did feel better again in spite of having that little bit of heartache inside me that comes out once in awhile. I guess I should have titled this section "Allow Yourself to Grieve and To be Happy Again!"
Be Aware of and Record Tender Mercies
When you open yourself up to feeling the Spirit for comfort, you will notice all of the little things that show God's love for you. For example, here are some things that I have seen happen in my life that have shown me that God knows me and loves me:
Those are just a few highlights of things we have experienced in our lives. They continue to bring us comfort and peace in the knowledge that God is mindful of us. A big part of healing is recognizing these tender mercies and feeling gratitude for them. Gratitude for having had the opportunity to know and love the person you are missing. Gratitude for the peace and the promises from a loving Heavenly Father. One example of this that I have always held dear came when I attended the funeral of a dear friend who had died of cancer. Her daughter spoke at the funeral about the end of her life and the conversation that she had with her. Her daughter asked her if she ever asked, "Why me?" as she went through this cancer experience. Her mother answered, "Yes!" Then she went on to explain that she asked why she had been blessed with her wonderful husband and children. Why had she been allowed to have the wonderful opportunities in her life that she had had. I can't express it as well as her daughter did at the time, but those words impacted me powerfully and have helped me to try to be more filled with gratitude and positivity for the things I have in my life.
One of the things that helps us overcome sorrow is to turn outward to serve others. The hospice nurse told us that one of the reasons she does what she does is to help others get through the grief that she had also experienced. One of Lindsey's friends asked her to pray for him when he was going through something difficult. He later apologized because he had been unaware of her trial. LIndsey responded that she had been so glad to be able to pray for him. So many had fasted and prayed for her and Elodie that it was good to do the same for someone else.
Sometimes, when people express their sympathy to you during sorrowful times, it is apparent that they aren't sure what they should say and they almost seem to be grieving as much as you are. One way to serve them and also to help ourselves is to offer them words of comfort as you relate the blessings you have felt through your trial or to express your love to them or to simply forgive them their ineptness and allow them to grieve with you.
As time goes on, you will find opportunities to serve others who are also going through sorrow and your empathy and listening ear will be a comfort to them and to you.
One reason that I am writing this post about grief today is in the hope that if there is anyone out there struggling with sorrow and pain, you can know that you are not alone, but that there is hope and joy still on your horizon. Lindsey expressed the following in her writings about Elodie: " It may be hard to believe that losing your child can be a spiritual experience, but I am here to tell you that it is, if you let it. Yes, you will feel the deepest darkest grief you have ever known. I will miss Elodie for the rest of my life. But I have also felt the closeness of my Savior Jesus Christ, and have felt deeply the truth of His Atonement and Resurrection, and the promise that it brings that death is not the end." I know that her words are true. Joy and Happiness can come again if you let them. "Little by little, you'll feel better again."
I love you. Thank you for your love and support.
My mom asked me a few weeks ago if I'd be willing to share my daughter's story here at some point. I agreed to it. Writing about it has helped me. I feel compelled to share portions of my experience with my little girl. I don't know if I am the only one I am helping, but if I can help anyone else who has gone through this, or may soon find out they are going to go through it, then I am happy to share and help.
Also, she is just so precious to me, all I ever want to do is talk about her. She has left an indelible mark upon our family. She has changed our family forever for the better.
I've been having a hard time deciding how I am going to write this. There is so much I could say. I've decided to first share with you what we wrote as her eulogy. After I share that, I'll share with you some other thoughts, and things I've learned so far. My husband and I wrote her eulogy together, and he is the one who shared it at her memorial service. Just bear that in mind as you read it. Read it as if he is telling it to you.
"As parents we were excited to find out that we were pregnant with our second daughter. There had been several miscarriages prior to Elodie arriving into our lives. I was super excited to know that there were going to be 2 Hannan girls born in 2020 (Austin's brother's family welcomed a baby girl in February of this year. That is the other Hannan girl he is referring to.) In December 2019, right around Christmas time, Lindsey took a pregnancy test, and it was positive! It was the first of many miracles we would experience with Elodie. In March Emily was able to go with Lindsey to her doctor’s appointment where they found out we were having another girl! Lindsey’s doctor, Doctor Branaman asked Emily what she thought her sister’s name should be, and Emily suggested Mittens. We went back and forth on choosing a name, but neither of us really loved anything we thought of at first. On April 7, the day of Lindsey’s 20-week anatomy scan, she thought of the name Elodie. When she asked me what I thought of that name I remembered a sister missionary that we both liked that served here in Phoenix as a French speaking missionary whose first name is Elodie. We both felt the spirit as we attended lessons with her. At Lindsey’s 20-week checkup we knew that Elodie would be a very special girl. We found out Elodie had some health issues. Her kidneys appeared enlarged with cysts, and she had what is called an encephalocele at the back of her head where her skull had not completely formed. For months we prayed for Elodie and to this day Emily still prays for Elodie to come back. We asked many family and friends to pray with us and fast with us. The one thing we learned from the numerous doctor visits, ultrasounds, and MRI, was that Elodie’s heart was strong. This meant a lot to us as we knew Elodie was a very special spirit with a very special mission.
Lindsey knew that Elodie was up against insurmountable odd coming into this world and so we elected to give birth via C-Section to give Elodie the best chance at life. Elodie was scheduled to come to us on August 6, our wedding anniversary. The hospital was a very quiet place as there was no visitors allowed with Coronavirus restrictions. I remember scrambling to get on scrubs unaware of how fast a C-section was. Elodie was born at 8 am and she weighed exactly 8 pounds. When she was first born, she was not breathing on her own. Her sister Emily was down in the hospital waiting room with her grandparents waiting to be brought up to meet her sister, and we were worried that Elodie wouldn’t make it that long to meet her.
Then, miraculously, Elodie started trying to breathe. The NICU nurse was able to get her on some oxygen to help her. Elodie was a fighter, her heart was strong, and she was such a calm baby. It was a mad rush on everyone’s part to get us back into the labor and delivery room so we could bring Emily up to meet her sister. Although Emily was only allowed to be in the room for 20 precious minutes, we were so grateful that she was able to spend time with her sister. Before Elodie was born, Emily had told us all of the things she wanted to do with her sister. “Take her a bath,” “Feed her a cheese stick,” “Feed her a fig bar,” “Have a sleepover with Elodie,” and “Hold Elodie’s Hand”. Elodie and Emily were able to achieve most of those goals.
As we remained in the hospital with Elodie we knew her time on earth would be brief. Despite Lindsey’s efforts to get Elodie to eat, she made no effort to eat and never even acted hungry. We were thankful for each precious moment we were able to spend with her, and each minute was a miracle to us. Lindsey had never ever wanted to get a c-section if she could help it, but she knew as she looked at her daughter’s sweet face that if she had been asked to do it all over again, she would.
Another miracle we experienced was Lindsey’s healing after the C-section. By the next day she was up and moving around, and we were hopeful that we’d be able to take Elodie home where she would get to meet more family and just spend time with us in our home environment. Thanks to Lindsey’s quick healing and Dr. Branaman’s understanding of why we wanted to leave, we brought Elodie home on August 7, which also happened to be her grandmother’s birthday.
Back at home Elodie was surrounded by her grandmas Hannan and Reynolds, her grandpa Reynolds, her cousins Spencer and Amelia, her aunts Jessica and Madalynn, her uncle Tyler, and of course, her big sister Emily and us, her parents. We were so grateful for the countless miracles that allowed us to bring her home and spend time with family during this weird time where most people aren’t allowed in the hospital.
We spent the next few days taking countless pictures and videos and watching Elodie and Emily form a special bond as sisters. There were lots of hugs and kisses given, and everyone who was around her could feel her special, powerful spirit.
Lindsey had asked Elodie if she could at least stay long enough to meet her uncle Jacob, who was up in Flagstaff that weekend doing his training with the national guard. Jacob anxiously waited on Sunday for permission to head home, and as soon as he could leave, he headed straight for our home. Despite hitting some bad traffic, he made it to our home and spent time holding Elodie.
Shortly after Jacob left, Elodie began to show signs of distress. We had hospice on call and did our best to keep her comfortable. We spent that last precious night together, and Emily came into our room to have one more sister sleepover with Elodie.
Elodie passed away Monday, August 10 at about 8 AM, four days after her birth. Although we are heartbroken by her passing, we know that she was met in the Spirit World by many loving family members, including her grandpa Jim Hannan who passed away last year.
Despite our grief, we felt the power of Elodie’s spirit. Her life was brief but powerful and has made a great impact on us. Our family has grown to include two beautiful girls. We know that Elodie’s work was meant to continue in the Spirit world as she proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who died without a knowledge of it.
During all our fasting and prayers for Elodie the one overwhelming feeling we had was, “everything is going to be okay.” We know that this is true. Even as we grieve for our little girl and all our hopes and dreams of having her here with us, we know that everything is okay as she is safe and happy in the Spirit world. We know that thanks to the Atonement of Jesus Christ we will be with Elodie again, and when we are reunited, she will be whole, and we will never need to be separated from her again. We can say as Paul did, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”'
That is a brief summary of Elodie's story. There is a lot more I could tell you. There are some things I can probably never share as they are too close to my heart. I'd likely never be able to describe them properly. As Elodie's mother I spent the most time with her. Every kick I felt while pregnant, every little hiccup meant so much to me. They are precious moments that I'll hold dear forever.
When it became clear to me that Elodie wasn't going to be staying long on this earth I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why this had to happen, and why it had to happen NOW. After a year of trying and miscarriages, why wasn't my miracle rainbow baby going to live? Why did it have to be at the same time as COVID? I became so concerned that this virus was going to erase my daughter and I couldn't let that happen.
In the four short days that she was here I learned a lifetime of lessons on faith and miracles. Elodie was meant to be born now. She is still, and forever will be, my miracle rainbow baby.
In the weeks since she passed away I have learned a lifetime of lessons on faith, love, grief, and miracles. I have felt the deepest, most hollow ache in my heart, my arms have felt heavy with longing for my baby to be back in them. I have clutched the last outfit she wore while she was here with us and just cried because I miss her so very much.
I have also felt lifted and loved by the countless prayers being offered on our behalf. I have been surrounded by good, kind people who have done all kinds of service for my family. I have heard from so many other mothers who know exactly what I am going through. They have immediately reached out to me in love and let me know that they are here for me whenever I may need them.
It may be hard to believe that losing your child can be a spiritual experience, but I am here to tell you that it is, if you let it. Yes, you will feel the deepest darkest grief you have ever known. I will miss Elodie for the rest of my life. But I have also felt the closeness of my Savior Jesus Christ, and have felt deeply the truth of His Atonement and Resurrection, and the promise that it brings that death is not the end. I will see my baby girl again. It will be a happy, beautiful reunion, and I will never have to say goodbye to her again. Mourning and grief can be beautiful and spiritual because they draw us closer to our Heavenly Father, where we can better remember His promises, which are sure. He has never lied to me, and He never will. Elodie is mine forever, but she was His first. He knew exactly what she needed, and He knows what I need now.
I sang a song at Elodie's memorial. It is a French hymn called Souviens-toi, which translates to "Remember." It was a song I'd sing to her while I was pregnant. The overall song is basically a parent singing to their child. Likely a newborn child from the way the first verse is written. In the third verse it talks about how the parent and the child knew each other before coming to earth. They happily accepted their Father's plan to come to earth and gain a body. They promise each other that, through their love and their faith, they would be reunited.
I know Elodie and I made promises of that nature to each other and to our Heavenly Parents.
That is what I can share with you about my sweet baby girl. She is so precious to me.
Sewing the Perfect Dress
Lindsey asked me to make her baby a white dress to be dressed it. It frightened me because I wanted it to be beautiful and perfect for this perfect little baby who didn't need to be on this earth for very long. Of course, I said that I would do it, so I went and purchased the fabric and lace and trims and all that was necessary to make this dress that wouldn't be seen by many, but needed to be the best thing I had ever made. It was a labor of love and as I worked on it, I was able to ponder life and eternity like I never had before.
I wanted to do my very best work. I didn't want any stray threads, I wanted the seams and hem to be straight. I would do a lot of handwork to make sure everything came out just right. This was my offering and I wanted it to be good enough. I wanted it to be perfect.
I shed a lot of tears as I pictured this little infant wearing the dress I was creating. I thought about her perfect little life and the imperfection of my efforts in spite of how hard I tried. Then, I thought about my imperfect life and realized that living my life is somewhat like creating this beautiful dress. Even though I try really hard to follow my Savior, there is no way I can reach perfection without Him. Because of his redeeming love, I can become perfected. I can one day be perfect like Him and like my beautiful little granddaughter. My Savior, Jesus Christ, is the one who makes my efforts enough.
While I tried very hard not to make any mistakes, I know that there are probably imperfections in this dress that I am not even seeing. I examined it and searched and trimmed and pressed the dress, but I'm sure there are flaws that I missed. And, as I go through life, I am sure that I have imperfections that I am not seeing in myself. I pray for eyes to see them and the willingness to correct them. There are 1 or 2 flaws in the dress that I do know about, but I had to fix them as best as I could, but ultimately they are still slightly there. I have flaws that I am working on the best that I can. Some I have worked on consistently for years, but they are still slightly there. I know if I exercise faith in the redemption of the Savior, those flaws can be forgiven and wiped away. I pray to have greater faith and ask my Heavenly Father to "help my unbelief." (Mark 9:24)
One last lesson I will share with you is this lesson: As I said, making this dress was a labor of love. And that love is what motivated me to do my very best. My love for my granddaughter and my desire to see her one day, resurrected and wearing my offering was a wonderful motivator. In my life, my love of God and the Lord Jesus Christ is what motivates me to strive to do better. Not only that, I am learning each day to love my fellow women and men as children of God. Love is and should be the great motivator in each of our lives. That lesson has been brought forward to me profoundly lately. That is the main reason that I am sharing this incredibly personal message with you with a little trepidation and hope that you will receive it as I intend it. Let's be a little more loving and kind and full of faith. The world needs it more than ever. Let's be forgiving and patient, wise and prayerful. I don't know each of you personally, but If I did, I want you to know that I love you. God loves you. And, in spite of the sorrows and trials we have to deal with now, we can return to him because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
If you want to know more of what I believe, you can check out this website.
Thank you for your continued prayers and support. We are doing well and coping together as a family. We are expecting to resume our normal posts soon. Thanks for your patience.
Many Feelings at the Same Time
You may have noticed that we have been absent from the blog for about a week or so. Even now as I sit in front of my computer to explain this to you, I am having mixed emotions. Ambivalence is not even descriptive enough for my emotions.
Last week, Lindsey gave birth to her beautiful baby girl. We had known for some time that the baby had some problems and we were praying for a miracle. We truly did experience miracles and tender mercies in the form of this beautiful little baby girl. We saw our prayers answered in unexpected ways. She only lived with us for 4 days and then she was taken back to her eternal home. It is pretty amazing how big of a hole we feel in our lives after having her in our lives for only 4 days and how much we miss her.
When Lindsey is ready, she is going to share the story of our baby girl, her baby girl, with you. I am in awe of MY first baby girl and her strength and faith. In the meantime, we will try to begin to try to move forward with our lives, looking forward with faith and with the purpose of one day being reunited with our loved ones who have gone on before us. We will go forward with our mixed emotions of gratitude, sorrow, joy, love, grief, pain, peace and happiness. All of the things that make up this life and that help us to grow and become better people and that bring us closer to one another and to God if we allow them to.
To those of you who have followed us already on our personal pages and have offered up your prayer and love, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We love you.
Creators of Hot Cocoa Bombs! (copyrighted)
Helen Reynolds: Mother of six children , grandmother to eleven! I love to cook, craft and create things and I especially love doing that with my family, So, when my lawyer daughter, Lindsey, my artist daughter, Madalynn, and I came up with the idea of Hot Cocoa Bombs, this blog was born. Then, one more daughter, with her technical and science skills, plus creativity has joined in to round us out! Read more about us here!