Saturday, December 10, 2011

When Hallmark Fails - take 3

I started this post days ago and never finished... then just had it post all messed up TWICE! and had to fix it...hard to do this while nursing a baby!! :o)
so here it is...I think it's right this time.

I remember when we had Rachel's baby shower people were so unsure of what to get for a card.  She was still alive then and I got a bunch of sympathy cards.  We were calling it her "Celebration of Life" party so sympathy seemed a bit premature - although I totally get why people would go that route.  I was so thankful for the people who bought regular old baby shower cards... you know, the kind you get when you're about to have a baby you can keep....

Nothing hurt more than when my sister-in-law came up to me and told me she "put a check in the basket because there were no cards for this" as she shook her head and stuck her tongue out like she just ate something that tasted bad.  (we were asking for donations for Rachel's memorial playground at her shower and were blessed with $1600 that day!)  But money was supposed to be the added blessing - not the purpose - of the day.  The purpose was to acknowledge the life inside me and celebrate her.  I wanted to say, "try a blank one... a baby shower one...a congratulations on your baby girl....there are lots of options"  but I decided to be "polite" and nod and smile as if I actually agreed - and then I felt guilty that I didn't stand up for my girl better. 

Immediately following Rachel's funeral (two days later!) I started getting Christmas cards that mentioned nothing of our loss.... we were "moving on".... next in line? Christmas.  yeah, let's talk about Christmas....Hallmark has cards for that....(and you may even find Jesus in some of them!)

Since then cards have been easy - notes of encouragement or thinking of you....  but for Rachel's birthday, we came up against the same old problem.... "Hallmark doesn't make a card for this type of thing" I've been told a bunch of times.

First, before I get into this, I want you all to know that I am NOT writing this to make anyone feel bad, to put anyone down or make you feel like you have to run out and buy a card - or apologize to me for saying Hallmark failed here.  PLEASE believe me when I say that.  And PLEASE do not go send me a card or make me endure an uncomfortable apology because you feel guilty. That's not what I am looking for or desire.  I am writing this post because I know that this won't be the last time that there is a situation in the life of someone you love that Hallmark doesn't say perfectly - especially when a child dies.  And because being on the receiving end can be so painful even when the motivation is pure.  I'm hoping by sharing this, you will be able to love others better through their trials.

All that said, I'm totally a card person.  I love getting them, LOVE sending them - some people don't care about them as much and so this may be not as important for those people - but feeling loved in one way or another always will be.

But let me be honest about how the statement that Hallmark doesn't make cards for "this" makes me feel....  It feels lonely.  It feels like my reality and Rachel's life (or the way I'm celebrating/grieving) is too unusual for words.  It feels like an excuse to not put effort into it. It shows me your complete discomfort around the topic of my baby.  It's discouraging, disappointing and leaves me feeling like Rachel isn't loved.  It feels like you would be happier if we just didn't talk about her any more and we could move on.... Christmas anyone??

And I understand that those are just feelings but I'm just being honest.  So, I've compiled some examples of my favorite cards to help in this admittedly awkward thing to maneuver through. 

Let's start with one I got from Harlee on August 4th (anniversary of Rachel's diagnosis)
 then on the inside....
And then she wrote about how she remembered talking to me the night I got Rachel's diagnosis and how, while she was scared and sad and upset....I still had hope.  That is something I would not remember about that night, if she didn't dare to share it with me.  I'll admit, this card gets 5stars, but what she wrote in it meant more.  She took the chance of reminding me about my pain (you know that I don't need reminding, I always remember it all by myself... so don't be afraid you're going to remind someone about their loss!  They haven't forgotten and are glad to know you haven't either!!)  and she let me know that she was remembering that hard day with me and that she thinks I've done good for my girl.

Then there is the card I got from my sister, someone worthy of the "Auntie" title, for Rachel's birthday...
It doesn't say Happy Birthday.  It doesn't say sorry your daughter died.  It doesn't say "be happy".  It says I love you just the way you are... exactly where you're at... and I'm here for you through it all - for as long as it takes.

Oh, and even though it is hard for her, it doesn't say "I lost a baby too, this is just as hard for me too you know, you should be supporting me too" -  Oh yeah, that's what the other side of the family says and thinks; they lost a baby too... the ones who didn't bother to send cards or even call - except the one who called on her bday and never mentioned it - cause they forgot all about her day - but it was SO hard for them, exactly like my pain for sure - I can tell.  sorry, sarcasm...and yes, they actually think that and have said that, even recently. They can't be here for us cause they're too concerned with how her death and our grief affects them. (which is how? since they don't even think about her on her birthday/day she died?) this is what I refer to as diarrhea of the mouth.  shut up Stacy. (insert smiley face with foot in mouth here)  Then we have the others that although they don't make Rachel's death about them, they refuse to acknowledge our loss at all.  Truth is, I hide behind sarcasm or anger where this topic is concerned - but what I really am is hurt and even though I've tried to address my hurt with them, they don't care.  So anyway...totally getting sidetracked here and not making any friends...more comfortable topic... Next card...

This friend did some underlining and on the inside some editing to make a "not exactly perfect" card - "exactly perfect"

No, it's not a birthday card, but it recognizes that she LIVED and that we miss her. On the inside she crossed off sympathy and put "thoughts and prayers" and then she crossed off "during this sad time" and left it like that. LOVE it.

The next one was from the place that we got Rachel's casket. This place was amazing... caskets hand made by monks who pray over it while carving it and for every casket that someone is buried in, they plant a tree as a memorial for that person...including Rachel. But seriously, even they sent a card - not our parents, but hey at least the monks care. Fr. Kenneth wrote:
Dear Stacy,
On the 1st anniversary of the death of your loved one, we want you to know that we continue to pray for you and your family. With faith in Christ's resurrection we remain united with you in prayer.

I LOVE that last line... THEY REMAIN with us in faith and prayer.  A year later...they remain.  Not our parents or the majority of our families...but we've always got the monks in Iowa.  This is what I mean about how thankful I am for all of you.  We got so many cards, emails, messages from all over the country.  Your support helps me more than you'll ever know

And this one...
On the inside it says "Sympathy and Understanding are with you" and then she wrote a little about how thankful she was that I'm honest on my blog because it helps her to know how to grieve with me and pray for me.

And a birthday card for Rachel from my mom....

Simple - and kinda has two meanings... she's IN God's garden.... and flowers have always reminded me of Rachel.


And that was followed up with "Happy Birthday" - This card has "Rachel" written all over it.

 And this one.... blank.  When Hallmark doesn't make a card that "works for this", go blank.  Share your heart.  Tell them you're thinking of them and praying for them.  Sign your name.  Something.  Anything. (preferrably focusing on them - just sayin') But if you absolutely hate blank cards and prefer for Hallmark to do the writing, PLEASE don't tell them that you went without a card because their situation wasn't under one of the usual categories in the card isle.
 This blank card was filled with the most encouraging words I think I read for Rachel's birthday, so I want to share them.  Inside she wrote:

How can it be a year since your sweet Rachel was in your arms?  Happy Birthday to your little love well Stacy and I know your heart is bursting with so many different emotions as you hold your Asa and grieve Rachel at the same time.  Be gentle with yourself during this season and don't be afraid to borrow hope from those around you.  I will be looking for pink balloons in the Colorado Sky on Saturday...I will be praying for your heart to be comforted with each breath you take.  May you be surrounded with amazing peace and sweet friends who love you and your family so much. 
Sending love, L.

This one paragraph said Happy Birthday to Rachel, acknowledges that it would be a hard day, showed me that she is walking the journey along with me since she knew details from my blog, said it was ok to take it easy and not expect too much of myself right now and encouraged me all at the same time.  No, Hallmark didn't write it....but she didn't choose to say nothing because what she wanted to say wasn't already in print with a $4 price tag.  I might also add that this is not a person I have talked to before, she is a fellow baby loss mama who follows my blog and has been a big support through this entire journey.

Ok and for those of you who hate blank cards...or have no words to write in one.. there is always the option of buying a card like this: 

These are just a few of some very nice cards I got last week.  I guess what I hope to get across here is that life doesn't always follow Hallmark's idea of how things will go.  And when it doesn't, the people who find themselves in a "this" situation still need to know that somebody cares....that they aren't alone.  And if you go to the card isle and after looking around decide that there is in fact "no card for this", please just keep that to yourself and give your loved one a big hug and tell them you care.  That's all.  I understand they don't make a card that says "Happy Birthday to your dead baby" but there are many other ways to say "I know it's your daughter's first birthday and I'm praying for you since she isn't with you and that hurts your heart"  You just have to think outside the box and be willing to step out of your comfort zone in order to comfort the one who's hurting, without expecting to be able to fix them - and knowing that's okay.

And I might just start my own line of cards....lookout Hallmark, you're going down.


  1. Stacy,
    Your point of view with the cards, as well as with more things than I know how to count, is so very helpful in helping me understand better how you feel and what you need from me as a friend.
    I always want you know to how much you and Rachel and the rest of your family mean to me.

  2. Oh some really beautiful ones there honey.

    Maybe you could direct some of your friends and readers towards CarlyMarie and Francesca Cox's cardline, Lost for Words... they are babyloss specific and absolutely beautiful...

    Hallmark is not the be all and end all of greeting cards!! Cards are also not hard to make!

    Sending you LOTS of love.

  3. Yeah, Hallmark and other card companies aren't so great, which is why I'm thankful for the Lost for Words card line! I hope some day it is in stores!

  4. Stacy, I'm so thankful for your honesty! It helps me to understand better how my behaviour appears to others and how I can support a grieving friend.
    Hugs and prayers, anja

  5. :)
    Yup, this is why I love Lost For Words!

    As always thanks for sharing your heart.


We so appreciate your words of encouragement!
Thank you! ♥ The Aubes