My name is Erika and I have two children in my home and two who live only in my heart, with the living two bookending the two losses in the middle. In the summer of 2009, I was in the midst of my third pregnancy, having just learned that my baby likely would not survive and feeling completely alone, when an Internet search first led me to Empty Arms. We named that baby girl Sierra Rose. Shortly after I found Empty Arms, at about 27 weeks gestation, she died and was born.
Three weeks later, I went to my first Bereavement Support Group meeting. For many months, the time between meetings couldn’t pass quickly enough for me. Empty Arms was my lifeline, one of the very few places I could speak freely about my experiences and feel heard and understood. I needed to tell Sierra’s story over and over, and each time I was met with compassion and a chorus of “me too!” I was also able to dig into painful memories and tell the story of my first loss, a miscarriage at 13 weeks, and to give that baby a name, Skye, which I mostly only share within the Empty Arms community. Eventually I became pregnant again and the Subsequent Choices group became my lifeline for a while.
Around the time of the healthy birth of my second living child in the fall of 2011, I realized I wanted to find ways to serve the Empty Arms organization and help others as I had been helped. I began facilitating a Parenting After Loss group and joined the Board of Directors. Currently, the Parenting After Loss group has morphed into a monthly, informal playgroup, but I am always willing to run the formal support group again any time there is interest or need. Now I periodically attend the main Empty Arms Bereavement Support meeting as a voice from farther down the road. I also write thank-you cards to donors and I am reviving our tradition of sending anniversary acknowledgement cards to Empty Arms families.
For me, staying connected to Empty Arms is part of the way that I mother Sierra and Skye, and although I am going to meetings now to help support others, I still always find compassion, understanding, perhaps a new perspective, and I leave feeling supported too.