A few weeks ago I shared the story of my lost twin, and promised that I would be sharing some resources for those who had suffered a loss as well. Today I have a very special resource to talk about, and the author of the book I had in mind is here to tell you about it herself! Please welcome Melissa Eschleman, author of Always Within: Grieving the Loss of Your Infant. If you comment on this post in the next two weeks, you will be entered in a drawing for a free copy of her book!
Naomi: Where to begin? First of all, thank you, Melissa, for taking the time to let me interview you. I was sorry to hear about the loss of your four day old son, and I can’t imagine how terrible an experience that must have been for you. And yet, you invested yourself into helping others heal from their losses by joining infant loss groups, and now writing a book, Always Within: Grieving the Loss of Your Infant. Would you mind sharing with us about the circumstances of your little boy’s death? Did you have time to grieve before you lost him or was it a shock to you and your family?
Melissa: Thank you for your kind words Naomi, and it is my pleasure to be interviewed by you. During my pregnancy we were told everything was normal, therefore it was a complete shock and we were not prepared for any of the difficulties Lucas was faced with. He was born with several complications, one being Apert syndrome, a congentical condition which causes abnormal growth of the bones in the body, particularly in the skull, face, hands, and feet. Because he was born with a cleft palate he had to be fed through a tube. He also had a serious heart defect and although he was born with several problems I was still hopeful, and believed he would be okay and that we would bring him home to the nursery that was awaiting him, but that wasn’t to be.
Naomi: Tragedies are often avoided by those who experience them, in order to prevent unnecessary pain, yet looking them in the face, while it takes incredible courage, is just what a person needs in order to grieve and heal. After reading the piece in our local newspaper about your story, it sounded to me like you did just that. Could you describe what helped you to grieve and heal from the death of your son?
Melissa: I agree with you Naomi. Although I believe everyone grieves differently and in their own time, ultimately if we don’t face what is, the pain and healing can be prolonged. For me, having faith and trusting in God’s plan was and is a huge comfort for me. Although my heart was breaking and I couldn’t understand why my son had to die in my arms I felt blessed for the love and experience I was, and continue, to gain from it.
Naomi: Melissa, you lost your son ten years ago, but I imagine the pain of his loss is just as present with you now as it was then. Is it true that time heals all pain? Or is grieving still a part of the healing process for you?
Melissa: It is often said that time heals all pain, and I don’t completely agree with that, but I do think with time it gets easier. The loss is always there, but as time goes on, I find that less and less tears are shed and I feel more and more thankful for the short time I had with Lucas. I have learned that feeling the emotions as they come is the easiest way to deal with the grief; if I feel like crying I will cry until it passes. Feeling the feeling and releasing it instead of igrnoring it or burying it has helped me move forward.
Naomi: There is no way you could have avoided facing your personal experience when you decided to write a book. What inspired you to share yours and other’s loss experiences in your new book, Always Within? How does your book support a family through infant loss?
Melissa: I was inspired to share not only my experience but those of others because that helped me the most, along with Bible verses, quotes, and poems. When we lost Lucas I felt very alone, I didn’t think that anyone could possibly understand the pain and emptiness I was feeling. I finally joined a couple of infant loss groups and realized that others had endured similiar losses. I felt compelled to reach out to other grieving parents with words of compassion and understanding, and learned that I was healing in the process.
Naomi: As a birth doula, I have yet to support a client through the loss of their newborn, but as a mother who has miscarried, I know how much good support means. I was especially interested in hearing that you have a chapter in your book which offers specific ideas on how grieving parents can help keep their baby’s memories alive. Would
you mind sharing an example or two that may be helpful should I have a client in the future who loses their baby?
Melissa: I’m truly sorry for your loss, Naomi. The one thing I have learned is that no matter how far along one is in pregnancy or how old an infant is, the death of a baby is a deep and profound loss because bonding begins before birth of the child. And no matter how much time passes, a loss of this nature doesn’t go away. Therefore, I felt it was important for each of the parents who bravely shared their experience to also share how they keep their baby’s memory alive. A few of the things grieving parents can do to honor their child’s life are birthday parties (some collect gifts and donate to charities), websites, tattoos, stuffed animals, jewelry, the lighting of candles, planting trees, balloon releases, fundraisers, and simply toasting the child’s memory on special occasions.
Naomi: While this book seems to be an excellent resource for parents, what about friends and family of the grieving parents? Could your book help them to understand the healing their loved ones need, and how they can be supportive?
Melissa: I definitely had friends and family in mind while putting the book together. Each person that shared their story wrote a section about the most helpful things others did to share their love and support. The simplest things can mean so much. I recently received an email from a woman who had a coworker lose a pregnancy. She purchased two copies of Always Within, gave one to her coworker and passed the other copy around the office to help people understand. It was very touching and brings me great joy to know the book is helping others in their grief.
Naomi: For people who may have questions about Always Within, or your personal story, would you be willing to provide contact information? And how do readers purchase a copy of your book?
Melissa: I love it when people contact me! I have received some wonderful emails from people sharing their stories and expressing their gratitude for the book and I’m so thankful. One mother who received the book from a friend said it was exactly what she needed, she just didn’t know it. Another emailed about the loss of her stillborn son that happened more than 20 years ago. My son Lucas, who would be 10 years old, touched so many lives in the four days he was on this earth with us. Four short days, but he changed lives and made a difference. It makes me wonder if people realize just how many lives they have impacted and touched in a positive way during their time here.
Melissa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She also has a neat video about the book which you can see here, but we have a special offer just for you! If you have suffered the loss of a baby, or know someone who has, please comment below, and you will be entered in a drawing for a free copy of Always Within: Grieving the Loss of Your Infant. Melissa will personally send a copy of the book to the winner, who will be randomly chosen on the 10th of December. You have until then to comment and earn a chance to receive your free copy. If you do not win a copy, please support Melissa’s work and purchase a copy here. Thank you!