Story of HOPE

Susan ~ My Forever Child Keepsakes

Matthew Kristopher 
stillborn on July 27, 2002 at 38 weeks

My son, Matthew Kristopher, was stillborn at 38 weeks from a complete placental abruption.  The traumatic birth nearly took my life as well from the massive blood loss.  It took several months to recover physically, but much longer to heal emotionally, which is still an ongoing process.  The death of your child is such an utter devastation, I don’t think anyone can go back to “normal” and not be unchanged in some way. 

After the initial physical recovery and then starting to work on my emotional well being, my creative energy started to come back slowly.  I enrolled in a basic metalsmithing class at the local art school, something I had wanted to do for a long time.  I had been making jewelry for a few years, and even earned my Graduate Gemologist degree, but I was mainly self taught.  I never had time for formal training, but decided that I needed to do something to get my mind off my grief for a few hours once a week.  It turned out to be a great remedy.  Learning new skills and being with people who had enthusiasm reignited my interest for creative endeavors.  It prompted me to make a memorial website for my son, join online support groups and to speak at local support groups for newly bereaved parents.  We also planted a beautiful memorial garden at our house in honor of Matthew.
Over the next couple of years, I took many more jewelry classes to learn new techniques and to hone my skills.  During this time of healing my mind started racing as I thought up ways to make a difference in pregnancy and infant loss.  Surviving a near death experience made me think that maybe it happened for a purpose and I was supposed to do something with my life based on my journey.  It seemed like a natural progression to combine my passion for jewelry making with Child Loss.
When my father passed away after a seven year battle with brain and spinal cord cancer, it cut the emotional scars back open.  It was then that I realized that I couldn’t just forget about what I went through and “move on.”  My mission was forming, to create items of comfort for those touched by the loss of a child, raise awareness, and donate to charitable causes related to child loss.  Working towards a goal helped to keep me going, even at times when I wanted to throw in the towel.
I have had my website, My Forever Child since 2005.  I design and hand craft a majority of the jewelry, and I put a lot of thought into each piece.  Many of the pieces come with cards explaining the symbolic nature of the charms and meaning of the gemstones and birthstones used.  I also specialize in engraving the child’s actual handprint and footprint images into sterling silver and 14K gold jewelry.  It is a tremendous comfort to the parents, grandparents and siblings to wear these treasured keepsakes made from the child’s actual hand and foot prints.  It is like carrying a piece of their child with them at all times.  Parents also appreciate having their child’s name spoken and in print, it is a way to show that they are not forgotten.  For many people, wearing one of my handcrafted keepsakes is a tangible way to honor the child(ren) that is no longer with them physically, but alive within their hearts. 
My inner critic gets the best of me sometimes.  I battle with feelings of inadequacy and that what I’m doing isn’t enough in the grand scheme of things, or that my work isn’t “perfect.”  I have to remind myself that there is no perfection on this earth, and that the pieces I make are with my human hands, but come from the best intentions within my heart.  I put a lot of time, effort and care into each piece because I know how important it is to the person receiving it.  Nothing will ever replace their child or take away their pain, but I love that my jewelry pieces can be a ray of sunshine in the darkest times of their lives.  Most people don’t realize that My Forever Child is a very small company, just my husband and myself.  He does the paperwork, bookkeeping, shipping labels, packing orders and some customer service.  I do everything else: hand stamping, engraving, polishing, assembling and packing orders, photography and editing, website maintenance, ordering inventory, blog and facebook posts, customer service, and the post office runs every day.  It’s a lot of work, very time consuming, and at times emotionally draining, but the ultimate reward is hearing the feedback from the customers and how my personalized jewelry has positively affected them.
I’m happy that I’ve been able to bless mourning families even if they do not purchase from my shop.  To date, I’ve donated over 1,000 of my Always In My Heart pins to hospitals and organizations that gift memory boxes to newly bereaved parents.  I know how hard it is to walk out of the hospital empty handed without your baby.  With my pins, they are able to wear an outward symbol of the child that is forever in their heart.  It is a small token of comfort during a time that is too painful to comprehend.
Since many of the visitors to my website are fresh in their grief, I try to provide resources to help them on their path of healing.  I have numerous poems, tips for friends and family on how to help the parents, online bereavement support resources, and free or low cost ways to memorialize their child, which are created by other bereaved moms.  Visitors can also post a memorial dedication in the calendar on my website or on my facebook wall.  It warms my heart when others write encouraging and comforting replies to those that have posted.  It really shows that we are a community and how compassionate people can be.  Throughout the year I sponsor free giveaways of my jewelry on my blog, Facebook page, and through other’s blogs.  I also donate money from my sales to charities for pregnancy-infant loss, children’s cancer, illnesses and other child advocacy organizations.  I absolutely love being able to bless others with the blessings I’ve received, it is one of the most rewarding parts of what I do.
It is through helping other bereaved families that I have found the greatest healing along my personal journey.  It makes me feel that the little boy I gave birth to made a lasting impact on the world he wasn’t able to live in. 
The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi is my favorite inspirational piece, and words I try to live by.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. 
Amen

***************GIVEAWAY****************
Susan at My Forever Child is hosting a December giveaway.  The first place winner will receive a sterling silver Custom Footprint heart shaped pendant, with their child’s actual footprint images.  The second place winner will receive a $50 gift certificate, and the third place winner will receive a $25 gift certificate to be used at My Forever Child.
To enter, visit the My Forever Child blog at:






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Comments

  1. Trena says:

    You are an amazing woman and I hope you know that you have touched so many people. God bless you! ♥

  2. Holly says:

    Sue, you know I love you and you are a great friend and support to me! I will remember Matthew with you always. ♥

    I know I am just one of many who are thankful for the work that you do.

  3. Kelly @ Sufficient Grace Ministries says:

    Sue, your story is so beautiful. You are an example of one who has allowed beauty to come from the ashes in her life. Matthew's life is precious, and because of his time here, many have been blessed. Many grieving hearts have found comfort and encouragement. Thank you for what you do…and I pray that God will continue to bring you comfort and healing. You are right that we do not have to be perfect. I, too struggle with inadequacies as I seek to minister to grieving hearts through Sufficient Grace. We don't have to be perfect to reach out in love to others…we just have to be willing. And, you have a beautiful, willing heart. God bless you, Sue!

  4. momof2in1year says:

    Susan, you have been an inspiration and source of solace to many of us! A beautiful way to honor your precious son! Your work is wonderful in so many ways… keep going strong!

  5. Ive esguerra says:

    You remind me of my baby boy..he is 5mons old when he passed away its been 2yrs but the pain is still there..:(

  6. sally says:

    what a beautiful woman you are, you have helped so many people, Keep on doing what your doing and may God Bless you always!!

  7. Donna Brletic says:

    Sue, my daughter just gave me Jewerly, for Mother’s day, she lost her baby in March, at four months, We heard the heartbeat and it was wonderful, and it gave her strengh to go the next day and get the test for downs sysdrome, because she was 36 yrs old, she felt so positive after hearing the heartbeat, while getting the sonogram they seen a skull wasn’t forming and had to make the most terrible decision in thier life to terminate the pregnancy, This has hit everyone in our family very hard, I still can’t imagine, how hard it has been on her and my son-in-law, her and I are very close, and I tried to get her to talk, but I guess she’s not ready yet, In my eyes, picking out the jewerly.has helped her out mentally, and with your help she talked to me through your jewerly about more of her thoughts and feelings, I know some day we’ll be able to talk about this loss but for right now I have to wait for her to be a little stronger thank you so much for helping her and other’s to handle thier losses, I will wear my jewerly forever in rememrance of our little lost Angel

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