Lourdes and Healing

What is Lourdes?

Lourdes is a town in the southwestern part of France, located on the Gave river, between the larger town of Pau (to the west) and city of Toulouse (to the east). It is a pilgrimage town, receiving millions of pilgrims every year.

Made famous by Bernadette Soubirous, who at the age of 14 in 1858, witnessed multiple apparitions of a Lady at the grotto.

Many various reasons bring people to the site every year. To drink, bathe in, or collect the healing waters whose source is located in the grotto where all of the apparitions took place. To join in prayer in the numerous basilicas and chapels (six total) on site. To light a candle and offer prayers of intention.

Our Lourdes Experience

I have to admit, even though I mentioned the grotto of Lourdes in a post explaining our grotto for Millie’s garden, I was really quite ignorant about the town of Lourdes and famous story of Bernadette and the apparitions.

When we went to France, the town wasn’t even on my radar. However, our host family in Biarritz decided that this might be good for our soul. It was only about 2 hours from where they lived. They were right. Then again, they’re mes parents français (my French parents), so I wouldn’t expect anything less.

We arrived into Lourdes early afternoon, and wound around small streets driving past rows upon rows of hotels. Shuttered hotels. Hotels closed for the off season. We were in a religious resort town of sorts. We parked right next to the Gave and began our short half mile hike to the basilicas and grotto.

We wound through those same streets, open at street level with souvenir shops. They were selling empty bottles ranging in size from an ounce to two gallons with the express purpose of taking water from the source. There were rosaries, night lights, baseball caps, candles, mints made from the source water, cookies, handkerchiefs, books and coffee mugs. Something for everyone. A little over the top for me.

We arrived to the entrance of the pilgrimage site, with hundreds of people milling about. We were lucky to be there during the off season and were able to experience everything without the crowds. We spent some time walking around the outside – listening to a prayer by a chaplain at the grotto, drinking from the fountain, and lighting candles. Just sitting in the sunlight and taking in the fresh air. Trying to understand the history of the place and come to a calmness.

How it helped our healing

In some very profound ways it helped the continuous mending of our hearts.

We lit three candles. We remembered my Dad, we remembered Millie, and we celebrated our blessing – MC.

We visited the grotto and touched the smooth rock, worn down by the millions of visitors that do the same each year.

We drank from the line of water fountains that distributed water from the source.

We visited the basilicas. Yes, basilicas, plural. We took a moment to pause and reflect on life. To be grateful. To hope. To let go.

What now?

It’s been ten months, nearly to the day, since life without Millie became our new reality. We’ve been navigating life one day at a time, and trying to find all the silver linings that we possibly can.

For the past couple of months it’s been hard to stop thinking about what “should be” instead of focusing on what is. To wonder what “will be” instead of being present in the moment. To stop blaming myself for what I had no control over. To stop stressing over what isn’t. To be grateful for what we have.


Information for explaining the geography, history, and facts of Lourdes, France was taken from the following sources:


This is part of a mini series of stories shared from our recent trip to France. Visit my Instagram for more pictures from the trip. Previous posts include:

Do you have questions about our trip? Please email me or share in the comments section – I would love to answer them!

Lourdes and Healing

What is Lourdes?

Lourdes is a town in the southwestern part of France, located on the Gave river, between the larger town of Pau (to the west) and city of Toulouse (to the east). It is a pilgrimage town, receiving millions of pilgrims every year.

Made famous by Bernadette Soubirous, who at the age of 14 in 1858, witnessed multiple apparitions of a Lady at the grotto.

Many various reasons bring people to the site every year. To drink, bathe in, or collect the healing waters whose source is located in the grotto where all of the apparitions took place. To join in prayer in the numerous basilicas and chapels (six total) on site. To light a candle and offer prayers of intention.

Our Lourdes Experience

I have to admit, even though I mentioned the grotto of Lourdes in a post explaining our grotto for Millie’s garden, I was really quite ignorant about the town of Lourdes and famous story of Bernadette and the apparitions.

When we went to France, the town wasn’t even on my radar. However, our host family in Biarritz decided that this might be good for our soul. It was only about 2 hours from where they lived. They were right. Then again, they’re mes parents français (my French parents), so I wouldn’t expect anything less.

We arrived into Lourdes early afternoon, and wound around small streets driving past rows upon rows of hotels. Shuttered hotels. Hotels closed for the off season. We were in a religious resort town of sorts. We parked right next to the Gave and began our short half mile hike to the basilicas and grotto.

We wound through those same streets, open at street level with souvenir shops. They were selling empty bottles ranging in size from an ounce to two gallons with the express purpose of taking water from the source. There were rosaries, night lights, baseball caps, candles, mints made from the source water, cookies, handkerchiefs, books and coffee mugs. Something for everyone. A little over the top for me.

We arrived to the entrance of the pilgrimage site, with hundreds of people milling about. We were lucky to be there during the off season and were able to experience everything without the crowds. We spent some time walking around the outside – listening to a prayer by a chaplain at the grotto, drinking from the fountain, and lighting candles. Just sitting in the sunlight and taking in the fresh air. Trying to understand the history of the place and come to a calmness.

How it helped our healing

In some very profound ways it helped the continuous mending of our hearts.

We lit three candles. We remembered my Dad, we remembered Millie, and we celebrated our blessing – MC.

We visited the grotto and touched the smooth rock, worn down by the millions of visitors that do the same each year.

We drank from the line of water fountains that distributed water from the source.

We visited the basilicas. Yes, basilicas, plural. We took a moment to pause and reflect on life. To be grateful. To hope. To let go.

What now?

It’s been ten months, nearly to the day, since life without Millie became our new reality. We’ve been navigating life one day at a time, and trying to find all the silver linings that we possibly can.

For the past couple of months it’s been hard to stop thinking about what “should be” instead of focusing on what is. To wonder what “will be” instead of being present in the moment. To stop blaming myself for what I had no control over. To stop stressing over what isn’t. To be grateful for what we have.


Information for explaining the geography, history, and facts of Lourdes, France was taken from the following sources:


This is part of a mini series of stories shared from our recent trip to France. Visit my Instagram for more pictures from the trip. Previous posts include:

Do you have questions about our trip? Please email me or share in the comments section – I would love to answer them!

Two new friends – building a virtual community post-stillbirth

Background

Over the past few weeks, I have been doing more and more research into podcasts, blogs, and websites, looking for others who had experienced a similar loss. I was hoping to find others to build community, to discover different angles or additional insights.

Initially, I had no intentions of diving into the black hole of the internet to seek out community and assistance through this journey of grief. We tried the old-fashioned, face to face contact – our village, counseling, and support groups.

Chouchou and I have supported each other throughout this journey, while also grieving in such individual ways. As we continue to grieve for Millie and try to move on with a new pregnancy, I felt compelled to seek any resources or communities that I could be a part of. Below are two resources I’ve found that are helping me.

The Joyful Mourning Podcast

One of the podcasts that I found was The Joyful Mourning, hosted by Ashlee. Currently, she is producing a series of episodes with her guest, Monique Scrip, around what the enneagram is, exploring the different types, and how to help individual types who are grieving.

I was curious and I took Monique’s test on her website. Perhaps I’ll share my findings here another day.

I found that Ashlee has built an amazing community online with numerous interviews with mothers who have met similar fates, a book club community, and other resources for marriage and grief.

Where my blog is a hodge podge of this and that, trying not to focus solely on our stillbirth, Ashlee’s podcast and blog embraces this grief and provides her community with stories of hope that moms are seeking.

While loss is her sole focus, this is far from a depressing blog – it is quite the opposite – where she seeks to provide all forms of hope and positive thinking throughout. I try to sty positive, like anything in life though, the positive vibes ebb and flow. When I need a pick-me-up, I make sure to check in with Ashlee.

Star Legacy Foundation

I found out about Star Legacy Foundation while listening to Kasey Macha’s story on the Tuesday Mom Group.

In general, the TMG podcast doesn’t focus on infant or pregnancy loss, however, these gals understood how sensitive the topic is, and made a point to discuss it. Namely, they wanted to know how to help a friend who is grieving and what does she want to hear?

Many, many people have asked me questions about what to say or do to help or have been candid with me, sharing, “I just didn’t know what to do.” Some people prefer to avoid me now, and even nine months later, I prefer to avoid certain places and situations where I would have to confront this truth with specific people (namely my students who had a contagious enthusiasm for my pregnancy).

At many points during the episode, I found myself shaking my head – agreeing with Kasey’s points. Yes, this happened to us, too. We tried counseling, support groups, etc, which helped us in the beginning from a communication and bonding standpoint, but did not prove to be what we needed for us in the long run. We wanted to begin trying again as soon as possible, too – not to replace Millie, but to propel us forward, and importantly for me, to show I’m not a failure. I can do this.

Kasey mentioned Star Legacy Foundation, and I’ve found that the website is an excellent resource for anyone- family, friends, healthcare professionals- to go to get more information on how to support grieving loved ones, statistics on stillbirth, and research. They have online support groups, local chapters, and a blog and podcast.

In the end, I lean into Ashlee’s website more than the Star Legacy Foundation. Although Star Legacy has amazing resources and information, if I lean too much into them, I find myself divided. Is this all “part of God’s plan” or was this truly preventable? Could I have had control over my situation and have Millie today? If I ever wanted to lobby, become an advocate for stillbirth awareness and prevention, then this would be a great resource.

In this season of grieving, though, I find myself needing more comfort, and Ashlee’s positive messages and resources provide that for me. When I can be less selfish and if I want to do volunteering as a support person, then I will turn to Star Legacy.

Do you have resources, podcasts, or blogs that you lean in to to help you with your grief? Please share them in the comments section!

Dear Dad: it’s been a year


This time last year we had transitioned Dad to hospice, knowing the end was near. He fought the good fight, and we’re so lucky to have had the time with him that we did. The last conversation we had was about Hot Lips Houlihan, and I’ll never forget the smile, his impeccable, gracious smile, he had despite the pain.

Dear Dad,

It’s been a year now since you’ve passed. As much as we miss you, we know you’re in a better place. I swear I heard morse code the night mom called to say you had passed – it was you talking to me. I remember being eight years old, sitting at the little red desk you made with your telegraph key and your Morse Code books and you teaching me all about it. You had a way to inspire and energize me in the way you shared your knowledge and view of the world.

Remember the poem I read at your celebration of life? It seems duplicitous now looking back after we lost Millie. She gave me my strength and force to have a brave face for you. But we are trying to love and go on, knowing that you are taking care of each other.

You can shed tears because they are gone, or you can smile because they lived. You can close your eyes and pray they will come back, or you can open your eyes and see all that they left for you. Your heart can be empty because you can’t see them, or you can be full of the love you shared. You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday, or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday. You can remember only that they are gone, or you can cherish their memory and let it live on. You can cry and close your mind and feel empty, or you can do what they would want: Smile. Open your heart. Love….and go on.

I found some old photos, and was walking down memory lane…

Dad Genius

You always had the hip technology and could answer any questions we had about computers. You were also able to answer any random question about what something was or how it worked.

I remember when you first showed us how to insert a floppy disk and play the games on your Apple Classic. We’d spend evenings just playing lemonade stand, the “Paul Bunyan” pioneer game, the helicopter game or a host of any other intriguing games.

Then one Saturday morning back in the late eighties you and your friends were so excited to have two computers “talking” to each other across town. This was pre-internet. You understood what was the future and were at the beginning of it all, while also cherishing the Apple Classic.

As a fifth grader, you came to the career fair and set up in the cafeteria with all of your engineering tools. I’ve forgotten all the names for those gadgets, but I remember being so amazed by your knowledge and wowed and proud. And was always so proud of my elementary book reports that were printed out on your dot matrix printer with the cursive font. We always got a kick out of tearing the perforated edges off and making paper springs out of them – we found ways to balance work and play.

Daddy and his ladies

I’ll never forget the nurses telling you at the hospital to get in the delivery room or go out to the waiting room, no standing in the hallway. I told you between contractions to come in if you wanted, but you were always so conservative, so you waited outside in the waiting room.

You got to hold Mon Cœur (MC) later that evening, after you brought me Chick-fil-A and a shake. I’ll love you forever for doing that for me – I was so famished. I remember you coming up the next day to bring mom and were so proud holding MC again. Another girl added to our family.

It’s a wonder we didn’t give you more grey hairs as we were growing up. We should have been easier on you, a house full of women, but you survived it, and you loved us despite all our crazy antics.

What does EIIGY | POCR OFF mean, exactly?

I used to ask mom and would get an eye roll and, “Ask your dad.” Well, I know what it means now that I can read between the lines, and mom offered me some of your teeshirts to remind me of you. My favorite, the EIIGY POCR tee.

Nothing like wearing that shirt and the neighbors coming over and staring at me. Either they didn’t understand or they didn’t like what it said. It’s not a personal greeting for everyone that reads it, but I still get funny looks. I don’t care; when I wear it, I think of you and remember my childhood.

Hugs & Kisses

Well, I think that’s it for now. I love you and miss you. Give Millie hugs & kisses from us all. MC says Skinamarink a dink I love you, Poopa. She loves that song, and every time I sing it to her, I think of you tucking me into bed.

Conversations with my toddler

Recently Mon Cœur (MC) and I have shared some conversations that have been very meaningful to me.  I have decided to share this post and pictures not to sensationalize our situation, nor to make anyone sad for us, instead to share how we are navigating our lives amidst our loss.  This is our reality.

Where’s Poopa?

MC has recently been very curious and interested in Poopa and Millie.  

“Where is Poopa?” she asked on a recent car ride.

“He’s in heaven with your sister, Millie,” I said as levelly as I could, knowing I had to drop her off with Mom and keep myself together for work.

“I want see Poopa in my house.”

“Okay, when we get home we can see Poopa. You can see Poopa at Mooma’s house too, when we get there.” Mom has a very nice bookcase with various pictures of Daddy and our family throughout the years, sort of like our little spot we made for All Saints Day.

Silence. A few quiet tears. “Mommy, you not feel well?”

“Mommy’s okay, thank you, Baby.”

I save you

The other day, she hugged me and said, “I save you.”  Whenever she wants a really nice snug, she’ll say, “Save me!” and so I snug her.

But on this day, we were just at the kitchen table, and she came up to me and said, “I save you!” with a big smile and huge open arms that enveloped me.  

I picked her up in my lap and said, “You don’t even know how much you have saved Daddy and me.”  We just sat there and “saved each other” for a few moments at the table.

You got somebody in your belly?

She asked me this the other day, and I shrugged it off.  She asked me again yesterday, so we chatted.  I shouldn’t take this as any toddler clairvoyance – I mean she’s super smart, and I’m super biased, but this is a little above and beyond.  

We did just have a few spoonfuls of Nutella the other day, so that’s probably what’s in my belly.  I still have to wait a little over a week to see if we were successful this month, which to anyone who has tried, knows what an eternity that week feels like.  

To me, it feels like eternity and a day, but what can I do but wait? I don’t want to get my hopes up or put too much stock in this question from MC, every other month we’ve tried, I’ve been hopeful, and then crestfallen that it didn’t take.

“You got somebody in your belly?”

“I don’t know, MC, maybe?”

“You got A in your belly?” A is my niece to be, who MC kissed in my sister’s belly last week.

“No it’s not A.  A is in Sissy’s belly. Remember how I had Millie in my belly?”
MC continued to ask questions. “Millie’s there?” she said, pointing to our little corner.

“Yes, Millie’s over there. Do you want to say something to Millie?” I asked.  Well, she asked if she could shake her first, to which I explained no, we can’t shake Millie, we have to hold her gently, like a baby.

So I went over, and got Millie down from her spot, and let MC hold her.  She couldn’t resist trying to shake her, but once I reminded her, she just held it.  Then she noticed the sunlight reflected on the urn and was in awe for a few moments.

I asked again if she wanted to say anything to her, and she smiled and whispered, “I love you” into the urn.  

I was surprised at how well I was making it through this.  The whole situation of the stillbirth still upsets me to my core, however we can’t do anything to change what’s happened. We have to accept this as our reality, and we will continue to include those passed on in our lives regularly.  Still, I didn’t want to sit too long with MC and Millie on the couch.  After all, this is not at all what I had planned for our family, and I felt it was time to put Millie back in her spot.

I asked MC if she wanted to sing a song to Millie before we put her back.  She replied, “I want sing happy birthday.”  A little ironic as far as choices, although we did. Then I let MC put Millie back in her spot on the shelf.

This is our life and how we are choosing to live it.  I hope that I’m doing the “right thing” by MC. I’m doing what I know feels right, so to me it must be right, despite what others may think. Although I miss Dad and Millie incredibly, it is comforting that we are remembering them through small conversations peppered in our everyday lives.