Guest post by Annie Vorys

About two months after our son died, my husband and I drove to our first Heartstrings support group meeting. I was anxious and skeptical. Their pamphlet promised “compassionate validation, bereavement education and hope”. At that point in my journey, I was sure I would never hope again. Because hope is all we had for our son, Carpenter, before we heard the doctor say he was gone. I had dreams of him playing well with his sister. My husband crossed his fingers for a Major League career. And in one silent ultrasound, hope disappeared from our lives.

Yet there I was, walking into a meeting promising to give back that hope that was taken from me. And I guess that’s where it happened. Hope had snuck back into my life. Even allowing myself to expect something from this group–that showed I had hope.

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With the support and understanding from the group, I found that I was again allowing myself to open up to life. I was allowing myself to hope. At first, it was terrifying. I knew too well how quickly your desires could be ripped away from you. But I was beginning to realize that a life without hope…it’s no life at all.

So I decided to jump in head first, not really with trust, but with the understanding that I’d already lived through the worst. We got pregnant again. And beyond my fears, a flicker of hope started to burn.

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Every doctor’s visit, every ultrasound, I held my breath, prepared for the worst. And with each healthy verdict, the flame grew slightly brighter. Of course, it wasn’t until we actually drove him home from the NICU that I finally breathed again.

My next step in hope was and is the toughest. I had two living babies at home and nothing but photos and a memory box for their brother. I was heartbroken that anyone, especially my son and daughter, might not know about Carpenter. But I spoke with other loss moms who assured me you can keep the memory alive. And I began including Carpenter in everything possible in hopes they would always remember they are three and not two.

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Now I work for Heartstrings, and my hopes have once again evolved. I hope that Carpenter’s story can help others. I hope that we can raise our voices as a community to break the silence about child loss. Some days, I just hope I’m worthy of my position in the support community.

I began my journey in the same way we all do–destroyed. Broken down and hopeless, I allowed others to step into my life and show me how to move forward without moving on. They showed me that each hope is just a milestone along the journey. Each hope brings you slowly further down the path, wanting and expecting more out of your life.

The difficulty is in allowing yourself that first step–to hope that someone out there can help.

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Heartstrings and Still Standing invite you to share your grief journey with us by asking, “How do you define Hope?” From our individual milestones on the grief journey, Hope means something different for everyone. We want to know what it means to you. So join our #DefineHope Campaign! Write down your definition of Hope and photograph it. Feel free to get creative! Then pin your photo to Pinterest. In the text box below your photo, tag #DefineHope and @HeartstringsNC. From there, Heartstrings will add your photo to our Define Hope pinboard to share your hope with our whole community! Tell the world where you’re heading on this journey, and show them you have hope!

All artwork submitted must be your original artwork. By submitting artwork you agree that Heartstrings has full permission to use any photographs or images contributed to the #DefineHope campaign.

To see the #DefineHope Pinboard, click here.

If you would like to learn more about Heartstrings, click here.