Capture Your Grief Day 31: Sunset

I am posting this a day late as last night I was busy making memories with family and friends. I have to say, it was perhaps the most appropriate way I could have ended this tender month.

When I started this project, I had the great desire to post every single day, using every subject. However, this month has been very busy, especially the weekends, and I had to skip a few days as they got away from me.

I have taken so much away from this project. I have cried and cleaned out my soul, remembered, mourned, rejoiced, freed myself of inhibitions, made friends, reflected, found strength, discovered things inside of me I had not even known were there. Not being lost on me is the irony that as I cried for my first child, I am pregnant with my last, and the cycle of living life fully while continually grieving has been an epic journey. I suspect it will not be over until I reach the distant shore of eternity. I’m ok with that.

Last night, as I spent a carefree evening with my husband and daughter and some dear friends, I kept in the back of my mind that I needed to snap a picture of the sunset. Since we were walking outside Trick or Treating, I figured it would be easy to capture a perfect picture. The evening sky was clear with just a few clouds that added to the aesthetic value and I was once again envisioning an epic photo much like the one I had envisioned at the beginning of the project. However, when the moment came to take the picture, I realized we were on the eastern side of a hill and could not see the setting sun horizon because of houses and power lines, etc. So I did the best I could, snapping a shot of the evening sky. At the moment, it did not seem very epic at all, but I wasn’t bothered as much as I had been with my sunrise shot at the beginning of this project. In that moment, I felt happy and carefree, I had the people who mattered most spending time with me and making precious memories. Perhaps the deep cleaning done to my soul has helped me more than I realize, all I know is something really is different at the end of this month compared to when October started.

Letting yourself grieve is a good thing, friends. Don’t be afraid of the memories and the tears they bring. Let yourself feel the pain, allow yourself to be hurt, admit that you have wounds. You have them anyway, acknowledging them is just the first step in the direction of healing. Denying your wounded state just keeps the wounds festering. Don’t kid yourself, they are there whether you cry or not, whether or not you acknowledge them, and most of all, they are there whether or not others acknowledge them. Grief is not to be feared, use it as a tool for healing your soul and getting stronger.

I hope each person reading this finds peace, where ever they are in their healing process, whether beginning, mid way, well into the thick of it, or maybe even having yet to encounter deep grief in your life. My hope is that you always have blessed memories being made along the way, and that you are never afraid to pull them out from time to time, even the painful ones. Every memory is precious.

Day 31: Sunset
Mt Pleasant, Tennessee, USA, about 6 pm October 31st, 2012

Capture Your Grief Day 30: My Grief – What I Want The World To Know

There are so many things I could say here, but one resounds stronger than any in my heart. Up until this year, I was very quiet, even apologetic about my grief. If someone asked a question that inevitably led to me mentioning Skye, I felt almost ashamed that I had to answer in a way that made them uncomfortable. In turn, that left me in pain, ashamed of my own feelings, saddened that I didn’t do my daughter’s memory the justice that it deserved. For most of 3 years I was a silent sufferer, afraid to shadow an oblivious world with the fact of my grief.

Then, as I began speaking about her, a beautiful thing happened. I began meeting moms I had never suspected that had suffered a similar loss. I met dads and grandmothers who I had known for several years, but I met the grieving side of them for the first time. Like me, they felt obligated by our society to be silent about the fact that their child had died.

We are “allowed” to speak about a friend who passes, a mother, father, grandparent, public official   – any well-known person that many people have met and remember. However, if the lost loved one happens to be an unborn baby or a baby that never took a breath at birth, or even a tiny baby that lived its entire life in the NICU, so many people squirm. They don’t know what to say, so for some reason they say things like, “At least you didn’t have time to get attached,” or “You can have more children, healthy children this time,” or worst of all, they say nothing. The more you speak about your child, the more withdrawn your circle of “friends” get, so you learn to be silent.

You don’t forget though. You never forget the tiny person who touched your life so deeply. No matter how small they were, they were your’s and you loved them with your entire heart. It is a shame that our modern society makes us feel bad for loving, caring, remembering our children.

If there is one thing I want the world to know about my grief it’s that my daughter was and is a person. I refuse to feel shame for speaking about her as often as I feel the need. I now know there are so many people just like me, moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, and sisters. You don’t realize it, but you know at least one, right now, who has been deeply affected by the loss of a young child. You know them personally. She is your friend at work, your child’s teacher, a lady in your church, the gas station clerk you chat with every morning. When you find her, don’t feel bad or uncomfortable. Just let her break the silence and offer her the same sympathy you would to someone who lost their parent or spouse. Don’t change the subject quickly and make her feel like she is a terrible person for mentioning what is probably the most precious thing she has ever had.

Capture Your Grief Day 26: Their Age

Oh, how little time we had, in retrospect. At the time it seemed endless, every day seemed like it would never end, like the time we had with her could stretch on and on if we just hoped enough and prayed enough. We were so tired and weary with the not knowing, with the endless cycle of different doctors projecting a possible diagnosis that always came up empty, giving everyone more questions than answers. We wondered if we would have to make hard decisions her whole life, if she would ever have a chance to be “a normal kid” or would it be test after test after procedure for the next few years. We couldn’t know we would not even have a month with her. If we could have known how little time we had, we would have done everything differently – and yet there isn’t one thing I think I would change, except I would have held her. I would have brushed my caution aside and held her every minute I could, I would have savored every second.

At the time I cried over her skin, I cried over whether or not her hair might ever grow with the deep damage to her scalp. I wondered if she would ever be normal or if kids would tease her. I spent so much time pumping milk, away from her, pumping milk that she never got to drink. In the end, nobody ever got to use that love I pumped so fervently, somebody in the NICU threw it away even as I was trying to make arrangements to donate it to a bank. (That was yet another loss I had to mourn in the face of losing my daughter, somebody carelessly throwing away my love, my nurturing, my tears and sleeplessness and broken dreams from breasts that would never hold my baby close to them, tender mommy moments that would never be. That alone was so devastating for me when the nurse called me, tears in her own voice, to tell me what had happened.)

All of it seems so unimportant now in the face of what I know. I had only 17 days with my daughter in this world outside the womb, and I will not get one day back to do over.

A whole lifetime in 17 short days.

Capture Your Grief Day 23: Their Name/Photo

I have recently written a post about Skye’s story, it can be found here:


Elizabeth “Skye” Champion

September 25, 2008 – October 13, 2008

Until we reach…

Her very first picture, just minutes old, and the only time I ever saw her smiling.

Capture Your Grief Day 17: Relevant Dates

There are several dates each year that are especially meaningful and hard for me.

The first is Skye’s birthday. Since her condition was a complete surprise and everything happened so quickly, there was no celebratory moment when she was born. There was just a lot of anticipation of her getting better or something conclusive being found to shed light on why she had been born with her skin coming off and why she had all the other issues that would surface in the days to come. Of course, when she died at 17 days old, there was very little to celebrate, her birth, the holidays that closely followed her death, anything really, not even the news that we were expecting again, we could barely celebrate that.

By what would have been her 3rd birthday, however, I was beginning to reach a place of joy in remembering her life and I had the desire to celebrate her birthday. That is hard to do when you have no smiling little girl, no balloons to blow up, cakes to make, candles to blow out. I decided the very best way to celebrate her birth and her life was to highlight the legacy she left, inspiration, hope, giving, and Skye Blue. I came up with the Annual Celebrating Skye Give Away on my Facebook page. I could not think of better people to help me celebrate than the wonderful people who support my art, my Skye Blue fans, and I gave out 17 different gifts over the course of the day, one for every day my baby lived on this earth. The only problem was when I thought this up, it was a few days after her birthday the first year, so the first give away was held in October. This year, however, I held it on the 25th of September and it was wonderful to spend the whole day remembering my girl and helping to support other loss families on the journey to hope and healing.

One of the items from the 2nd Annual Celebrating Skye Give Away at Skye Blue by Natasia Champion on Facebook.

The next day that is meaningful each year is the day she passed away, October 13th. This year I happened to be in Kentucky visiting my mom for the day. I had not been to Mom’s since June and it was so nice to have a beautiful calm day, visiting, coffee, and cozy conversation while my 2 youngest sisters played with Faith. My 3 teen age sisters were out for the weekend at school and a friend’s house and Mom and I got a rare day pretty much almost to ourselves. (That doesn’t happen often in that bustling house.) It was so calm, in fact, so sweet and peaceful, that until I got a thoughtful text from a dear friend voicing her support that day, I had forgotten what day it was. This may seem strange, but October 13th, in many ways, has always been an easier day to bear than Skye’s birthday, because the day she died was a beautiful day with a glorious blue SKYE (that’s what I call the perfect blue sky in the Fall) and she was finally at peace and out of pain. Her pain is what had tortured her father and I day after day from the moment she was born. On October 13th, while we bore the weight of the world, our little girl slipped away, lighter than a feather, free at last.

October 15th is the next hard date. I only came to find out just this year that October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and the 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. For the last 4 years it has also been the day we had the first of 2 funeral services for our baby, then we loaded her little body in its box into our car and drove her to her final resting place, tiny Salem Kentucky. ( )

My participation in the Wave Of Light Ceremony this year.

The final day that holds painful meaning each year is the 16th of October. 4 years ago on the 16th we laid the earthly body of our baby girl beneath the cold Kentucky soil. We had held her so little already and we would never hold her here on Earth again. ( )

This year I spent the 16th doing various things, house chores, art, writing in this blog, but the main event was an impromptu few hours at the park. It’s still pretty green here in middle Tennessee, but the leaves are starting to change and fall and the weather is beautiful. I am 7 months pregnant, I have a 3-year-old that has far more energy than me and I live in a very small upstairs apartment over an insurance agency with no yard. No matter how tired or melancholy I am, I do much better if we get out and at least run some errands. So I took my little girl to the park and took some pictures. I didn’t get the fall shots I was looking for and we are both getting over a rather lengthy cold, so I didn’t go with the usual photographic expectations I normally do, but I still got some very sweet and tender shots capturing the essence of the day.

I could not think of a better way to spend the anniversary of my 1st daughter’s burial than with my babies that are here with me. Here is a moment with my little man.

And of course with my Faith – my sunshine.

Capture Your Grief Day 15: Wave Of Light

Day 15: Wave Of Light

October 15th was designated in 1988 by Ronald Reagan as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. For today’s post, we were invited to light our candles for the Wave Of Light ceremony and then photograph them. If someone in each time zone lights a candle and lets it burn for one hour, there will be a continuous Wave Of Light spanning 24 hours and encircling the globe.

As I prepared to light my candles (one for Skye and another for the tiny baby I miscarried in July, 2011) I thought about the items I wanted in my display. I chose the ones that are the very dearest to me. I would have put out Skye’s pictures in their frames, but those are still packed away in a box awaiting a house and furniture to set them on, a more permanent place. The items I did choose, however, are among my few earthly treasures.

The 3 largest sculptures were painted by my sisters and given to me in 2009 for what would have been Skye’s 1 year birthday. There is an angel sculpture that came in one of the plants from her funeral, a plant I no longer have because some very depraved person came onto my fenced in porch and stole it from me. They may never know how my heart broke that day and I cried over losing my 2 plants, the only remaining living things I had instead of a baby to care for. There is a Willow tree angel I got at her funeral also, a Beauty From A Broken Heart sculpture I made this summer that bears her name and birthday, and 2 sculptures from The Midnight Orange, one a birthday gift this year from my mom and a one of a kind collaboration piece featuring a hand painted pebble from Casey Doiron, the other a sculpture I had custom-made to memorialize what Skye Blue has blossomed into this year, with my baby girl as my inspiration.

The lights themselves are simple, Skye has her name on one, and the other is smaller and nameless, like the early miscarriage I experienced. The flood of emotion that came hurdling up my throat when I viewed the finished display, however, that was far from simple. As I write this I am about 20 minutes into my hour of remembering. My 3-year-old daughter can be heard playing happily and innocently in the next room and my son, due to be born in just 9 weeks, is moving gently in my belly and those are complicated emotions too.

Today, 4 years ago, I attended the first funeral for Skye in Central Kentucky, then we tenderly and broken heartedly loaded her tiny coffin into the back seat of our humble Kia and drove 3 hours west, ready to lay her body to rest for good the following morning. It was not at all how we had planned taking our baby to that part of the state to meet many family members for the first time. She was not wrapped in a blanket, secure in her car seat, rosy with life. We were not smiling very much. The day was just as beautiful then as it has been today, though, clear blue sky and colored leaves and balmy weather. But our baby was in a box, at least her body was, and after we handed her box over to the funeral home there in Salem, we would never hold her again.

It was October 15th, 2008.

Columbia Tennessee, USA
October 15th 2012

Capture Your Grief Day 13: Signs

The most beautiful signs I have gotten don’t come from my daughter. She got to leave this yucky world behind on October 13, 2008 and never look back. I would never expect her to look back into this cold, painful world that was her prison while she was here. She has all of Heaven to behold now and I truly hope she has no memory of this life of suffering. We made Skye a promise, my husband and I, as we held her and watched her taking her last breaths. We told her it was ok, she could go, Jesus had given us permission to hold her pain now and we would see her again one day when none of us had to feel pain. I intend to keep that promise, as long as my girl is happy and whole I would never want her looking back here to earth, not for me.

I’m human however, and the ache I bear at times can be unbearable. My comfort has come a few times in signs from my God that He is taking care of my daughter, and me and Josh too, even in our pain. We are not bearing it alone. The most out standing sign I ever got was something that probably seems silly and simple to a lot of people, but I know it was meant for us to see and know that God cares about our smallest worries and hears prayers we don’t even pray.

Our daughter is buried in a tiny town called Salem in western Kentucky, it is where Josh’s family is from for many generations on his mom’s side, and she is buried in the same cemetery as her ancestors. This is comforting for the simple fact that we always go in each year for at least the Holidays and we like to visit her grave when we are in, not because she is there, but because we like to have a quiet time of remembrance and the opportunity for our other kids to hear about and ask about the older sister they never met.

In 2010, we woke up to a white Christmas, something that had not happened since before Skye was born, at least in that town. It was beautiful. We left my mother in law’s house that morning, on our way to visit Josh’s dad, and we planned to stop at the cemetery as was our custom and place a special gift at Skye’s grave, a big pot I had painted for her and filled with an arrangement of artificial flowers I had hand chosen to put in the pot and place at her grave. We had Faith with us, she was visiting the grave for the first time, the Christmas before she had only been 3 months old and it had been too cold to take her to the cemetery.

We were almost there when Josh sighed and said, “I meant to grab a little brush to brush the snow off her stone, I had it sitting right on the table and I left it at Mom’s.” He looked down at his gloveless hands. “It’s ok,” I said, “I’ll pull my coat sleeve over my hand if you’ll hold onto Faith.”

It wasn’t a long conversation, I really didn’t think much of it. After all, it was just snow on a stone, a very trivial thing, but it was important enough to him to mention wanting to wipe it away. When we pulled into the cemetery and got out of the car, he was busy getting the flower-pot out of the trunk and holding onto Faith, I was snapping pictures with the camera. I first saw how beautiful everything looked in the fresh snow. Nobody had marred the ground with foot prints yet. Then as we walked the short distance to her grave and looked, we were kind of dumbstruck. It was a cold, cloudy, windless morning. Every stone nearby had a puff of snow on it – except Skye’s. Even the stone right next to hers that is the same size and height had snow on it. There were no foot prints anywhere but the ones we had just made. It looked like someone had come and wiped her stone clean before we got there, it was still wet, there HAD been snow, but there wasn’t anymore. I snapped pictures as we gazed at this, and we both started to cry. To this day I know it was God whispering to us, “Don’t worry, I am taking care of her and I’m taking care of you. I care about your pain, I am here.”

Christmas morning, 2010, the first white Christmas in several years and here is the pristine snow in the cemetery.

Notice the snow on the other stones, the wreath, the bench – but Skye’s has no snow.

I know my God cares enough even to just wipe the snow from a simple stone. He’s not too busy, He also knows what it’s like to lose a child.