Feel what you feel. Your journey is your own. You cannot compare your grief to someone else’s…it’s yours and yours alone. If you need to stay in bed and take a day for yourself, do it. If you need to go and scream or cry or laugh or dance, do it. Do what you need to do, not what someone thinks you should do.
In 2014, Peyton Lauderdale sat in Bible study only months after losing her infant son. For an instant, she had a picture in her mind of women sitting together in candlelight, worshiping God and coming together, united in their losses. She didn't think much of it at that moment, but as days turned to weeks, she couldn't get the thought out of her mind.
Though no one wants to bury their child, there is a sense of closure one receives from the process. When a woman miscarries, she isn't given that same opportunity to say goodbye. Peyton felt called to help other women who had experienced miscarriage or infant loss to get that closure, even if it had been years since it had happened. Through months of hard work, amazing volunteers and some extremely difficult days, Gathering Hope 2015 was born.
On October 22, 2015, over 70 women came together despite torrential rains and an eventual power outage. When candles had to be their only source of light, Peyton's tears fell like the rain outside the doors. That image, that glimpse of a picture she had seen in Bible study of women supporting each other in candlelight was here. That moment had come to fruition.
Many people asked Peyton after Gathering Hope 2015 if she was having another event the next year. Over and over she put it away on a shelf in the back of her mind. She convinced herself that her job was done. She had done what she was called to do, and she was now moving forward.
That would not be the case.
In January 2017, Carol Vantine had launched her blog, Matthew's Song, a website dedicated to helping women and families whose lives had been affected by pregnancy loss. Carol had heard about Peyton and Gathering Hope from a mutual friend and she reached out to her. Peyton knew immediately that she was being prompted to bring back Gathering Hope, but she waited for confirmation.
After Carol and Peyton met for coffee the first time, it was obvious that their paths were meant to cross. Plans for Gathering Hope 2017 quickly began to fall into place and they couldn't be ignored. Volunteers filled positions quickly and the surrounding communities showed an outpouring of generosity. On October 22, 2017, over 40 volunteers and nearly 100 women gathered at the Summit in Aledo, TX to celebrate and remember the lives of the babies they lost too soon.
Miscarriage and infant loss affects 1 in 4 women. If your family hasn't been directly touched by this devastation, you know someone who has. The third annual meeting of Gathering Hope will be October 14, 2018 from 4-7. Doors open at 3:30 at the Summit. If you are the 1 in 4 and need to experience hope and comfort in your grief, we invite you to join us.
The event will include live music, a phenomenal guest speaker, Sarah Philpott, author of Loved Baby, and some time to talk with other women who have walked the same path. The evening is not a night to spend in sadness, but in drawing strength from other women and walking out the doors stronger because of the community that surrounds you. It will be an evening of love and an evening of remembrance. It will be an evening you won't want to miss.
For more information, find them online at www.gatheringhope.net or follow them on Facebook.
Can you think back to those first moments…those moments when you heard the words that inform you that all the dreams you had for your child, for your life, your family...those words that you can’t even really wrap your mind around in the moment, but come back to you time and again. Maybe they aren’t words, but feelings…feelings that crush you, knock the wind out of you, or bring tears to your eyes each time you reflect back. Or was it a single moment in time when the trajectory of your life was forever changed whether it was in your home, a doctor’s office, at work, or in a hospital bed…that moment when you realized that the child you had grown to love was in the arms of God, or would soon be going to heaven.
Maybe that moment was just days or weeks ago. Yesterday? Years ago. Many years ago.
In those early days, weeks and months after losing my son, I had several sweet friends provide me with gifts. Necklaces with my son’s name, journals, letters, and my personal favorite, cards from my women’s Bible study group with prayers written out for me. I still treasure those to this day. I also received numerous books about infant loss and miscarriage, but I had no capacity to read anything but my Facebook feed (and we all know how hard that can be for to a grieving mom, too!). I had no attention span and reading books about my experience made me feel things that I wanted to avoid. It was hard enough just living day to day without reflecting on my experience; I didn’t want to read about it too. Within a few months I began seeing a good counselor, which required me to work through my loss, feel my feelings and talk about the trauma I’d experienced. The books, however, continued to sit on my nightstand where they represented a tender gift from thoughtful friends, but still I couldn’t manage to read them.
Fast forward almost four years, and a friend connected me to author Heather Butler. I was not only a little star-struck to be messaging with someone who had published a book, but I was also grateful for her vulnerability to share her story with me. There’s always a thread that connects parents who have lost babies, despite the different circumstances surrounding the loss and I felt safe sharing my story with her, too. She sent me a copy of her book, That Side of Heaven, and while I was thrilled to receive it, I was hesitant to open the cover. It too, sat on my nightstand, but this time it didn’t stay there for years. Within a few pages I was able to take in the transparent, truthful, raw, and engaging stories of Heather and five other moms included in this book.
Right away I was both thankful for this book, yet regretful that I hadn’t read something like this earlier in my journey. On a practical note, this book is a manageable length; each chapter is brief but rich with relatable experiences and wisdom. It created space for me to reflect, but not resulting a debilitating tailspin of grief, like I imagined it would be. At the end of each chapter, Heather provides a section on God’s promises, a prayer, and then a prompt to journal. Mama, I encourage you, even if it seems daunting, spend time here. Spend time putting words to your feelings, fears, anxieties, plans for healthy boundaries, and yes, how you can celebrate your child and your motherhood.
What I loved most was Heather’s dedication to Scripture. I was baffled to see so many of the same verses that the Holy Spirit sewed into my soul as I grieved the loss of my son…again that same thread, but this time in a holy way. She also shared story after story about how both talking and listening are healing for those who have survived what she calls the, “desolate land of baby loss.”
All of us want our babies to matter and to share them with the world, especially with those who can really understand the path we’re walking. We need each other--we need community and safe places to share our babies, our grief, our hopes, our longings, our tears, and our joys.
Thank you, Heather, for capturing the many sides of miscarriage and infant loss. Your willingness to usher other moms into healing and hope shines through every word! If you would like to purchase your own copy or to send one as a gift, find out more about Heather or connect with her on social media, head over to www.thatsideofheaven.com .
We have had an awesome experience connecting with another one of our partners in pregnancy and infant loss ministries. Silas Project came onto our radar by accident. Peyton told me about a ministry she knew of in Oklahoma. It was called Silas Project and they provided support for families dealing with the imminent death of a child. I was intrigued by this ministry and set about finding them online. During my search, however, I stumbled upon a different Silas Project.
After watching their videos and seeing their mission, I reached out through email to the organization to tell them that I loved what they were doing. During our correspondence we realized that we were both in the DFW Metroplex.
Long story short, Silas Project co-founders Chelsea and Katie attended Gathering Hope 2017 and the connection between the four of us was obvious. In January, Peyton and I were able to finally sit down with Laura Spindler (Founder), Katie and Chelsea to share our stories of how we had ended up in the position of running non-profits.
Katie and her husband Daren learned in their first trimester that their son had a condition called Acrania, which carried a 100% mortality rate. At 29 weeks, Silas was born and lived for six beautiful minutes. Through watching her sister and brother-in-law's pain and from her love for her nephew, Katie's sister Laura founded Silas Project to help families and friends learn to share their grief and support one another on the journey, knowing they didn't have to walk the path alone.
Silas Project has four main goals.
1) To connect families through their stories and experiences
2) To encourage and foster healthy grief, healing and growth
3) To experience the joy and pride of honoring these precious children
4) To equip friends and family to walk through these seasons with tenderness and care
They have ministered to these struggling families through sharing stories, connecting to other families and planting trees in memory/honor of these loved children. The work they do and the love put into every part of their ministry makes us feel so honored to know them personally and to work along side them as they seek to change the silence behind pregnancy and infant loss and provide a forum for families to share their grief with others who can understand their pain.
Gathering Hope is officially in the process of becoming a non-profit organization. In becoming a non-profit, we have four main goals:
Continue our remembrance services annually, giving women a safe place to connect and share their stories.
Make the Gathering Hope event reproducible, creating a program with the tools and resources to hold events across the nation.
Form a response team to support families when they experience loss.
Provide families and friends with a solid set of resources that are there to help them in this hard time.
There are so many great organizations doing wonderful things for these families, but when you’re suffering with grief, you don’t have the wherewithal to seek these people out. We want to be able to be a resource center, directing families to the people who can meet their needs.
One of the organizations with which we will partner is Twelve 12 Ministries. Twelve 12 Ministries is a non-profit organization created to support women who are struggling with infertility or suffering a loss through miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion.
Peyton and I recently met the director of Twelve 12 Ministries, Nicole Clark. After the birth of her daughter, Nicole felt she needed to start trying for another child. In the process of trying she suffered a miscarriage followed by infertility. She wondered why God would give her this desire to have another child when the process was so hard. Her struggles, however, led Nicole to her calling to help women in similar, lonely situations. Inspired by Romans 12:12, Nicole founded Twelve 12 Ministries in Frisco, TX..
Twelve 12 Ministries provides a safe environment for women to seek, learn, and gather online in small groups, large groups or one-on-one to stand together during this lonely time because an understanding, praying community is so important to the grieving process.
Additionally, they offer a Hope Fund which provides families with financial assistance to help pay for infertility treatments, adoption, surrogacy, and/or medical expenses due to miscarriage or loss.
We are so thankful for people like Nicole who pour their hearts into helping others heal.
We have 66 women signed up right now for GH with just over 30 spots left. If you know someone who would benefit from attending, please invite them. A personal invitation goes a long way. We all know women who have lost a child and it is our heart's desire to minister to as many of them as possible.
Last night I had the chance to listen to our band practicing. You will be so blessed by their talent and they feel equally as blessed to be serving you.
Just a few reminders:
-Signup cut off is October 6! If you know someone planning on coming but they haven't signed up, give them a little nudge!
-We are still taking orders for the memorial flower arrangements and for the Gathering Hope shirts.
-Direct people to www.gatheringhope.net for more information!
Dear Grieving Mama -
What you need to know is that you’re so normal. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you aren’t. Not only have you gone through great trauma physically, but emotionally as well. My number one advice to you is to keep talking about it. Don’t push your loss aside and try to move on because it’s what’s expected of you. Allow yourself to feel your pain. Allow yourself to grieve for however long it takes. There is no timeline you are supposed to follow.
For the days, weeks, months and even years to come, keep talking about your baby when you need to. Don’t hold back because people might feel uncomfortable. Your baby deserves a voice and you are the only one who can be that. The more we as moms who have suffered these losses try to carry this burden alone, to keep it inside, the longer we will continue the societal issue of silence surrounding miscarriage and infant loss. Nobody wants to talk about it in fear of upsetting someone else, but we all need to learn to understand each other in order to help heal together.
Once I started truly talking about my son, Matthew, I started to find true healing. Unfortunately, I didn't do this well until more than six years after his death. The Bible says "They will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony" in Revelations 12. This verse hit me in a new way this week. The best way we as moms can find our joy again and learn to live lives that aren't defined by our grief is by sharing our stories and by walking hand in hand with Jesus. That was profound for me.
Discussing our loss with our families is wonderful and helping them understand is great, but if you can find yourself a group of women who have walked this path before you, you will find this to be one of your most valuable tools in your tool belt. I lovingly called this group of women my Sucky Sisterhood. If you find women who have walked this for awhile and had some good sisters to guide them, then you will have a friend for life. You’ll connect on a new level even if you’ve already been friends for years. These women understand you. They know where you’ve been and where you will be because they were there too. When you reach out to them, they throw their arms open wide to embrace you. They will love you big because they feel your pain. They know what you need, sometimes before you do. You can always talk about your child to these people and they won’t shrink back. They step up. They love your baby and they love you. Even if you have only one or two of these women, you have a treasure. Don’t take that gift lightly.
Gathering Hope is a place full of women in this sisterhood. It is a safe place to cry, to laugh, to be uplifted and to praise God in this storm. Whether your loss is recent or years ago, we are praying for you daily that some healing is found on October 22. Though walking into a room of strangers to share your most precious and sacred heartbreak feels so vulnerable, we know that you will be blessed by your willingness to push past your comfort zone. It's okay to be scared going into a new situation. Being scared means that you're about to do something that pushes you into new places. This is one of the bravest things you can do. Don't hold yourself back from taking that step in to the healing that is waiting for you.
So, my sister, you will survive. You’ll someday be able to take a deep breath without the stabbing pain in your heart. Some days will be great and you’ll think life is amazing. You're finally doing well and then out of nowhere, you hit an invisible brick wall and you are flat on your back wondering what in the world just happened. It’s definitely not a smooth ride or one I’d wish on anyone, but you will survive it. What other choice do you have?
We love you and can't wait to meet you. We are so honored to be a part of your journey.
I like details and lots of them. I like plans and I like to stick to them. I started thinking about how I'd feel if I were considering attending Gathering Hope in October and didn't know what to expect. I think I'd be pretty hesitant to go.
I decided to give my fellow control freaks a little run down of the evening, so they could know what the evening will look like.
At Gathering Hope, we want to provide a safe place to think about and remember the short life of your baby (or babies) with others who have walked similar paths and can relate to your grief and experience. Each mother's story is unique, but there is a thread that weaves us all together.
The evening will begin with our sweet, friendly greeters meeting you at the door and inviting you to find a seat with one of our Table Leaders. Each one of our Table Leaders has suffered and survived the pain of pregnancy loss and will be eager to welcome you.
At this time, or any time you feel led, you are invited to come and light a candle in memory of your child, as well as others you know who have lost babies. From the beginning of the event until the end, our prayer team will be present near the back of the room, praying for you all individually. If at any time you feel like you need someone to pray with, they will be more than happy to pray with you. There will be prayer cards on the table as you arrive that we will give to the prayer team and they will be diligent in lifting up your individual needs throughout the event. These women have been praying for you since the day you signed up to attend GH. Every part of Gathering Hope has been bathed in prayer and will continue to be.
Once everyone is seated, we will start the evening off with a short time of worship music led by musicians who have individually shared with me how honored they feel to be a part of ministering to you through song. I know you will be blessed by them and the evening will start off beautifully under their leadership.
Peyton and I will say a few words before our speaker, DeAndrea shares a message of hope and understanding with you. DeAndrea's passion for helping women who have suffered loss is admirable and is what drew us to her to ask her to share with you at this event.
As she wraps up, our Hospitality Team will be around to offer you desserts as you begin your table discussions. As an extreme introvert, this part would be daunting to me if I were attending. Rest assured that no one will make you share if you aren't up for it. It is an opportunity to introduce us to your precious babies and share a little about your story. If you aren't ready to share, or you'd rather just listen, that is totally okay. Some women I've talked to who attended the first Gathering Hope said they didn't plan to share, but became so comfortable with those around table, that it felt natural to share with them. Don't let worry keep you away from this evening of hope and remembrance.
As the evening comes to a close with a little more music and prayer, you're welcome to stay and talk longer with the women you connected with, pray with the prayer team or get on the road back home.
It is our sincere hope that you come away from GH uplifted and feeling like you've made connections with others who can understand what your heart is feeling. Your loss may be recent or years ago, but we hope that you'll leave strengthened by the love of others and the love of Christ. Peyton and I already have such a love for the women on the team and for the women who will attend on October 22. If we can answer any questions or help you out in any way, please don't hesitate to contact us through Facebook or our website, www.gatheringhope.net. Please let us know any prayer concerns you have now that you'd like passed on to the prayer team.
We love you and are so thankful that you are joining us on October 22 for Gathering Hope.
We just realized we have only 4 months until our event! We thought we'd give you an update of what's been going on from our end and all the awesome work being done here. So many people are going above and beyond for Gathering Hope and we can see God's hand at work everywhere we look.
First, we already have over 40 volunteers! How amazing is that? Our main need is for table leaders and for publicity now. We need everyone spreading the word. Tell your friends, your church, your doctor's office! Tell your sisters and your coworker's brother's wife's sisters too! 1 in 4 women have suffererd from miscarriage or infant loss. We are hoping to help women come together and realize that they aren't alone.
We've had amazing generosity in our community! We've had donations of supplies and several monetary donations which have been so appreciated. Fathom Ink was an awesome screen printing company, based in Brock, TX, to work with. They were so patient and helpful every step of the way. We are so grateful to Sheps Place for so generously sponsoring our Gathering Hope shirts. All of our volunteers who have signed up to this date are receiving a t-shirt to wear. This will be another great way to help spread the word of Gathering Hope.
Our awesome shirts!
Our decorations team, being headed up by Dr. Michelle Parker has already been meeting to design a beautiful setting for the women who will attend GH. It's going to be beautiful. The prayer team has been praying for every team member and mom who has signed up by name since the day they signed up. What a blessing they are to us. We have a music team in the making, which is super exciting. Except for Table Leaders, every team is full now. We are so grateful to you all for your help!
Peyton and I had lunch today at Sheps Place (YUM!) and then met with the awesome people from The Summit and St. Paul Lutheran today. The Summit is so gracious and is being so welcoming. I was blown away by their generosity. They have an awesome space and I know it will be beautiful.
Our fliers will be printed soon and ready to hand out. We'd love for you to take some and hand them out to people and places you feel would benefit from them. We will be announcing a volunteer meeting soon, so stay tuned for that!! If you're looking for some way to help, but can't be at the event, or just want to do more, we have an Amazon wish list that we are really needing to start shopping off of. This would be a great help to us if you'd like to purchase something for us off of the list. The link is http://a.co/8hX2l39
Like I said, it's all coming together and we couldn't be more pleased. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions and if you haven't signed up yet, we would be so appreciative if you would.
All our love!
You guys, Gathering Hope is going to be amazing. To see volunteers come together from all walks of life for one single cause is so awesome.
We've gotten volunteers from every denomination on the team. Our team is filled with Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists, Non-Denoms, and probably more that I'm not thinking of, coming together out of love. This. This is what I've longed for but have unfortunately not seen much of in my experience. We are all God's children. We serve the same God. We are on the same team, fighting for the same cause. How beautiful the body of Christ is, working together.
There are women from every single walk of this journey working with us. We have women who have never experienced a loss and women who have. We have moms who have had late term losses, and some early. There are moms who have told there stories so many times, they could tell it in their sleep, while others have held it close to their heart, without letting even some family members know their pain. We have moms who have walked with their daughters through devastation and want to do something proactive. We have women and girls who aren't moms but have love to share. We have a husbands who have walked beside their wives during their most painful times and want to stand up and help anywhere they are needed.
It's a beautiful collaboration of God's people coming together to share hope with some women in a time they could use a little extra. God is so good.
If you want to join the team, follow this link below.