“I was once told that there were stages of grief. I remember how angry I was that someone was basically sitting there with a checklist. I remember how bad those words tasted in my mouth. Stages of grief? As if losing your child was a flight of stairs that you could climb to the top of and look down with a fist pump!? No! Grief is not something you’re going to wake up one day and leave behind. It isn’t a checklist or a mountain to climb. Losing your child isn’t going to go away.” – Dorie Kirk
I have not experienced losing a child. I pray that I never have to.
I write to you as the voice of someone who didn’t know what to say.
Who felt unworthy of saying anything without knowing that very heartbreak.
I have friends with rainbow babies they never had the chance to hold. I have family with angels that they embraced for mere weeks. I know of many who have lost a child. I have wept for all of you. But I didn’t know what to say. This is for you.
A few months ago I read the story of a mother, a fellow small business owner, determined to “break the silence” about the loss of her child. She watched her son take his final breath at only 45 days old, while she and her husband sang to him.
Kale Evan was born on May 7th, 2011 after 23 hours of labor. He had a true knot in his umbilical cord, meconium aspiration and had been severely deprived of oxygen during labor. He was on hypothermic therapy for 3 days after which an MRI revealed that all of his brain was dead with the only exception being his brain stem.
“On the surface he looked like a perfectly healthy big baby boy. He cried, blinked and opened his eyes. We were told that if he could pass a swallow study, he would go home and live his life, in whatever form it came. I thought to myself, we’ve got this, it’s his brain, not his stomach. Ignorance is bliss even with a background in nursing.”
Kale’s swallow study indicated that food was entering his lungs, not his digestive tract. The decision was made to withdraw his tube feedings so he could live his final days without coughing and the risk of pneumonia. Kale lived for 30 more days and left this world on 6/21/11.
Kale My Vibe was a movement created by Dorie & Eathn Kirk in memory of their son on his fifth birthday. Their mission was to encourage others to keep Kale’s memory alive by saying his name. By talking about what he might be like today. By sharing his story. They understand how uncomfortable it can be to talk about the loss of a child for fear of bringing up grief and sadness. Dorie believes that even though these discussions may cause tears, hearing her child’s name makes her feel better. It is healing and comforting to her.
“Saying the name KALE in our home brings smiles and memories. It allows us to keep his presence fresh even when his flesh is not here. We can speak about what he could like or look like, or even what kind of trouble he would be in. Keeping his name quiet would be a shame. Everyone could heal by talking about the loved ones who are no longer with us. No one bats an eye at talking about old memories with grandparents. I would encourage everyone to channel the same feelings and ease as speaking of an old relative as they can with a child who is no longer here.”
Dorie’s message has given me new understanding about how to talk to someone about the loss of their child. While I may not know the pain firsthand, I hope that I can do my part to keep their memory alive.
The Kirk Family keeps Kale’s memory alive by celebrating his birthday and his death, or angel day. Kale’s birthday is celebrated with Dr. Pepper and chocolate chips cookies (two of Dorie’s biggest cravings during her pregnancy with him). Kale’s angel day is spent together as a family sharing kindness with others (paying it forward) or simply soaking up fun time with one another at the park.
Dorie has found many resources and support groups that were, and still are, comforting to her and is hopeful that other families with similar stories may benefit from them as well:
- Swell Mamas: A life after loss Facebook group that has been a safe place, without judgement, for families to share their loss and speak freely about their grief.
- Project Sloopy: A non-profit organization that collects excess medical supplies and equipment that have accumulated from medical care and then redistributes them –free of cost– to those in need.
- Reagan Twenty Five: A faith-based clothing shop run by a mother who lost two daughters to Turner Syndrome, a chromosomal disorder. 100% of the proceeds from this small shop in February are donated to help girls living with Turner Syndrome.
- Scared Sidless and Camp Cullin: Scared Sidless is for families who are grieving from the loss of a child and need to be uplifted. This website and support network was created by a family who lost their son, Cullin, to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) at six-months old. They host Camp Cullin, an annual retreat for grief, featuring many healing practices including art therapy, heart healing workshops and a memorial glow lantern release. Kale My Vibe t-shirts leftover from the Kirk families’ campaign were donated to this organization.
Photos Shared with Permission from Dorie Kirk (Owner @TheBabyBirdBoutique)