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This is Still A Part of Us, a podcast where moms and dads share the story of their child who was stillborn or who died in infancy. I’m Winter Redd and in this episode of Advice and Encouragement from a Loss Mom, I chat with Bre, whose son Jeff was diagnosed with bilateral renal agenesis and passed away after six hours. By the way, you can hear both Bre’s and Jeff’s episodes about the birth of their child on episode 1.1 and 1.3.
Today, we discuss with Bre how she created a smell memory, and about a gift that kept on giving, and something that is really just helpful to say if somebody in your life has experienced a loss. Let’s get to the episode.
As a word of caution to our listeners, this discussion contains emotional triggers of stillbirth and infant loss. Please keep yourself emotionally and mentally healthy, and eek help if needed. Hope this helps someone out there.
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Thank you again, Bre, for being with me on this episode. A little bit of some advice. And what kind of a glimpse into grief and how to mourn, how to mourn or how we’ve worn together. So yeah, just to give people a little bit of context. We did talk with Bre, you can hear her story, you can hear Jeff’s story on the other episodes, they should be out. Also, you should be able to hear them now. But just to give everybody context. How long ago was your child born?
So it was a little over five months ago.
Okay, so you’re fairly, fairly new?
It’s still pretty raw, I bet.
Bre’s grieving process:
Tell me what has that grieving process been like for you?
You know, our grieving process started at 20 weeks when we did find out that he wasn’t going to live. But I feel like grieving and talking to people about him has helped a lot. Just the more we talk about him, the better we feel.
I do feel like the hardest, the strongest I felt like sad was like three to four months after.
Do you know why that was?
I don’t know why. I don’t know if it’s like, my hormones changed at that point. Or less people are coming up to me and talking to me about it. Kind of feel more like people have moved on…I don’t know. Yeah. But that was the point where I was like, the saddest. Yeah.
I remember that time too. And I think I mentioned it to you when I was like, they don’t–like, all the cards, all the flowers, all the the attention has kind of dwindled, which was fine, because that was a lot of attention for us for who we are. And so, but yeah, I think I really think it was like hormones. And like all of it combining to Yeah, just make it a super sad time.
It was for sure.
Oh, man. So how are you doing now? How do you feel you’re doing?
I feel like I’m doing pretty good. I, I try every Monday to just set a time where I journal, write about, you know, my experience and how I’m feeling. And I feel like that has helped a lot.
Wow, that’s great. So what things specifically do you talk about, your feelings? You you kind of reference Jeff a lot?
Feelings. Jeff. I am still, I’m typing out the whole experience from when I found out what was going to happen to him. And to the funeral. I still haven’t made it through the whole thing. Yeah, I’m just typing so much. So it’s just taken me a long time. But every Monday I just add a little bit more of like, what I remember how I felt, stuff like that.
That’s awesome to have that experience down on paper.
Yeah, I wanted to write it down, so I could remember everything.
Right, right. So that’s helped you and talking about him. That, I know, talking about my son has helped my process of like, acknowledging hey, yeah, and acknowledging that that was a really crappy time for us. Yeah, for sure. But then also being able to acknowledge that I’ve, we’ve come a little, we’ve come a little ways from that time when we were crying so much all the time.
Yes, exactly. Now there’s, you can be a little bit more happy. And feel it’s okay to be happy and to be sad. I’ve learned that.
I know. Isn’t that funny how you, we’re so used to trying to just be happy? And always be happy. Now it’s okay. It’s okay to not be happy.
It’s okay. It’s normal.
It’s normal. And it’s healthy. To be sad to acknowledge that this was, this was hard. And this was sad. And yeah. How about anger? Are you doing okay with anger? I’m curious…
Yeah. I don’t think I’m too angry. I think there are times that I just get really depressed and just sad. But it doesn’t last for too long. But it does happen. Yeah, yeah. But I don’t think I’m not very angry with anything. I think it’s just more sad.
How Bre celebrates Little Jeff:
Yeah, about the entire situation. What are you some things that you do to celebrate little Jeff?
We actually, we are super close to the cemetery, which is super convenient, super nice. We are able to visit him almost daily. We go there a lot. You know, every holiday we we like to decorate his grave with whatever holidays. You know, we include him in our talk at home and just celebrating him as our son and Murphy’s brother.
Yeah, yeah. He’s part of the family.
Yes, for sure.
What Bre did that helps her remember Little Jeff:
I think that’s great to kind of normalize that and acknowledge his, his being, who he was. I think that’s awesome. Tell me, what are some things that have helped you–in trying to help others, hopefully, if there’s somebody out there that is listening to this, and they are in a similar situation–what was something that has helped you heal and process what happened? Did you do anything in particular, like, do you have any tokens or little totems, or any special objects? Anything that you did special, that would help you remind him or help you remember him?
Yeah, I actually had heard this from someone. I wanted to buy a lotion that I had never smelled before. I didn’t want it to be related to anything. So I went to the store and found a lotion. And I wanted to put it on little Jeff while we had him, so that he smelled like that lotion. So then now, I have the lotion. I can smell it. And then just It smells like him to me. So it’s really nice to just smell it and think back of being with him.
That is really, that’s so cool. So a lotion in particular. Was there, why? Why a lotion?
I think a lotion, because if I wanted I could put it on me and I just feel almost like his presence with me. You know, just feel like, he was with me, smells like him.
Smell is so it’s–so strong for me that I’m like–
How to help a loss mom:
Yes. For seriously. So that’s, that’s a great idea. I think that is, that’s beautiful. What is something that somebody did for you, that was helpful after your child’s birth and death? Because once again, there are people wanting to know what helps in this situation? What can people do? Yeah, that meant a lot to you.
Yeah. So an instance I think of, instantly, is you. You brought me a little bag full of all sorts of different items for me with my breast milk coming in, because that is a very painful thing. And you don’t think about it when you’re dealing with the funeral and that sort of stuff. And you brought that just, it totally helped me out. It had like, cabbage and ice and just snacks to eat, just to help me like, deal with the pain. And oh, and a wrap, to wrap around to make them tight, so they don’t, they do hurt when your milk comes in for sure.
Yeah, I actually, I’m, I’m glad you said that, because the the person that actually gave me that idea was somebody that did that for me. It was my really, really really good friend Jamie. And she, she didn’t even ask what I needed. She just brought over this bag full, a Trader Joe’s bag full of stuff. Yeah, it was an Ace bandage to wrap myself. She had some cooling packs. She gave me, she had, she put in a head of cabbage. That sounds a little weird, but cabbage leaves when you stick them in the fridge or in the freezer or something like that. They’re cold. They’re the right shape. And they actually do help the milk kind of dry up. And so it was just all these little things that I was so so grateful for. And that made such a huge difference. Because I was feeling like, my milk coming in was like an injustice. It was so–
That’s not fair. And so for her to think about that, it was so awesome. And and so I’m glad that you you felt the same way too. Yeah. It’s not fair. It’s not fair. It’s not fair at all.
I just thought it was super sweet and very thoughtful. Because you know, flowers and meals are awesome, obviously. But this was like its own little separate category. And it just, it was really great.
Yeah, because you don’t, we don’t really talk about it that much–
Yeah. How’s that breast milk coming in? The pain of the milk. Yeah.
Like the worse! Well, good. I’m glad that, that was helpful for you. And that’s a shout out to my friend Jamie, because she is awesome. Like, she’s just, she’s just so awesome.
And shout out to Winter.
It’s a shout out to all the people. And whoever’s listening to this, and you’re going to give this to your friend. She’s, she’s gonna shout you out to.
How Bre and Jeff are handling the loss as a couple:
I do want to ask a quick question. Because as listeners here may knows that we interviewed both you and Jeff, your husband, about your experiences, how has Jeff handled the loss? How is he doing? How have you helped each other in this process?
Yeah, I think Jeff has been really strong. He’s been really strong when he needs to be. But I’ve also seen him mourn when he should, which I think is really good. I feel like a lot of people pay attention to the mom. Oh, sure. And so I feel for him, and I just, you know, I tell them, I’m here for you. And whatever they’re saying to me, it also is for you. You just, you soak it in too.
Yeah, that’s good. It’s hard for our guys to–Lee struggles with that too.
Because it is. People do pay attention more to the mom. But the dad really does have, I mean, he lost the child too, so…
Yeah. That’s his son too.
And yup, it is rough.
Have you had any, any kind of aha moments about life and death, about grieving? Any turning points for you? I know, you’re like I said, You’re still very, it’s still very fresh for you guys. But any anything that you’ve realized about grief?
Well, since we kind of have been mourning since the 20 week mark, my realization while I was pregnant was like, you know, he’s my son, and I’m gonna be with him again. You know, I, I just, I know, I’ll be with him again, and I’ll be able to hold him again. And so for me in grieving, that helps a lot, ust to think about being with him again. You know…
It’s still hard, that time away.
Time away. Yeah.
But some reassurance there, some knowledge about that.
Yeah, that’s definitely helped me. Grieving is just knowing that one day, I will be with him again.
Thank you for sharing that.
What not to say to a loss parent:
I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but I’m wondering if there’s something someone shouldn’t say to someone that has experienced this type of loss. Like don’t call anybody out by name or anything, but was there anything that anybody said to you that you’re like, gosh, that was a little hurtful?
Yeah. I can’t think of anything in particular that someone has said, that I didn’t necessarily like. But I will say the one thing that maybe hurt me the most, is not saying anything at all and just not acknowledging. Like, they know that I’ve lost my baby. And yet, when I see them, they don’t say anything at all about it. And I can understand maybe that person feels like, maybe they’ll make me sad, or something. But for me, I don’t know. Maybe other people are different. But for me, I like to talk about him. So I’d like to have him acknowledged, I guess.
Yeah. So just ignoring it. Yeah, that’s I would say, that is a big deal. Because you’re like, this child grew in me.
He’s a part of my family.
I gave birth to him. He’s a part of our family. And it is nice to have that, have him acknowledged.
Anything in particular that you would like people to say? Is it? Like, do you want people to get into the entire birth story? Or do you want people to just be like, I’m sorry, or give you a quick hugger? How would you like to have them acknowledge?
It doesn’t, you don’t necessarily have to get into it all. Unless you really feel like you want to ask all the questions. I totally am open to answering them all. I think just even something like I’m sorry for your loss. And we’re thinking of you. Just simple like that. That will just, that makes me feel good.
That–it does make a huge difference. So just few words is like–Thank you. Thank you.
Thanks for thinking of me.
Last bit of advice:
Yeah, exactly. Thank you for sharing that. Okay. Well, lastly, then, do you have a piece of advice that has helped you, that could maybe help other parents going through this, that you want to share?
Yeah, you guys actually, I think gave us this advice. And you guys just said mourn, when you feel it. Like if you feel like you need to mourn and cry, then do it. If you need to be happy, then be happy. But I love that advice. So when you feel it coming on, and you need to cry, then cry, just just feel it.
Yeah. It’s good to be okay with it.
It’s good to release the sadness. Because if you don’t, if you don’t mourn, and you hold it in, I feel like that can be bad.
That could be bad eventually.
Well, that’s, that’s a great piece of advice. Because we also got that piece of advice from a counselor saying, you know what, you need to cry. You feel like you need to cry, go cry. And so, that, thanks for sharing that. Thank you for being on the show. I think this will help others it has helped me actually in this. Just listening to little Jeff’s story and then just getting some, what you’ve learned. I’ve learned a lot actually.
Well, thanks. I’m glad to be here.
Thank you, Bre. I really appreciate it.
A huge thank you to Bre for shedding some light on how grief and mourning has looked like for her. This has helped me and I know it’s going to help other loss parents and for those who are supporting loss parents in their lives. I really really enjoyed that.
Head over to our website, stillapartofus.com, where you can find the show notes including a full transcript of this interview and any resources that were mentioned, where you can sign up for our short and helpful in the email newsletter, where you can learn how you can become a patron and support the work it takes to produce the show for just a few dollars a month, and lastly, where you can find out how to get in touch with us if you want to share your child’s story on the show.
The show was produced and edited by Winter and Lee Redd. Thanks to Josh Woodward for letting us use his song “Vanishing Note”. You can find him at JoshWoodward.com.
Lastly, subscribe to this podcast and share it with a friend that might need it and tell them to subscribe. Because people need to know that even though our babies are no longer with us. They’re still a part of us.