Giving grief a purpose

For Harrison’s birthday, we were looking for some way to honor sweet Harrison’s life. I had read a lot of other families doing really amazing things in honor of their loved ones and I wanted to do something similar.

Grief is a powerful thing. It stole my energy and drive and motivation. Took my husbands too. We know it has been a rough year, but I thought I’ll be damned if Harrison’s first birthday comes and goes and we literally couldn’t figure out ANYTHING. There was no way my sadness was going to get in the way of honoring my boys life.

Earlier in the year, our church Divinity Lutheran in Parma Hts held a diaper drive for a local center. I thought what a sweet idea. My husband and I talked about it and we thought let’s do something similar. Maybe we could work with our church or the center? We figured we could send the donations to the same place, Redeemer Crisis Center. They have a parenting program called the Babies Care Cupboard where families come for parenting classes and then are able to “shop” for diapers, wipes and other needed items. We weren’t exactly sure what to do or where to start because we had never done anything like that before. I eventually got into contact with some people from our church and the center. At first we thought we would be overdoing it with the second diaper drive. But then we just figured whatever, the center will be happy to have the extra donations and we may not even get that many anyways.

I made a couple flyers and was able to take them to my work and give them out to my family. My sister owns a hair salon, Shear Desire Salon and Beyond in Parma Hts and she offered to open the salon as a drop off area too. The drive started off slow, not too much feedback, not too many diapers and wipes were coming in. It didn’t matter to me.

Our flyer for the diaper drive

What made me the happiest was that we were putting purpose to our grief. It may not help everyone, but for me, I felt happy to be doing something for Harrison. A lot of people asked about him and wanted to know his story. It was kind of hard talking about it at first. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to freak people out or upset anyone, but I didn’t want Harrison to just be nothing. As time goes on, our lives change and shift, and it feels like we move further away from him and the time in our lives when he was here. At times, I almost feel like what happened to him and our family, was not real. It was a nightmare. There’s no way that actually happened. But it did.

Many of the readers know I am pregnant with our rainbow baby and the processing of that, while processing grief is an entirely different story with its own mess of emotions. The new baby is a welcomed blessing, but I wonder what the future looks like in the way of Harrison. Families change over time, as your kids get older, dynamics and activities become different. How will this change our family?

We had a huge turnout for the diaper drive. We held it open for 3-4 weeks. Our friends and family could drop off at our house or my sisters salon, even at our work. I have only been at my new job for roughly 3 months, but my coworkers were so responsive, giving and supportive. Just about every day I was carrying something out to my car.

Initially, I wanted to have a BIG party on Harrison’s birthday and have that be the last day of the diaper drive. Of course we had over 100 people interested. I was excited to see everyone but terrified. Our house is 900 square feet. How will everyone fit in the house!? Between pregnancy and work and regular life, I was getting a bit overwhelmed. My husband reeled me back in ( which he tends to do in good timing) and we rethought about the drive and memorial.

We decided to end the drive the weekend before Harrison’s birthday, that way our friends and family could still be involved and stop by over the weekend. We had our family over on Harrison’s actual birthday and everyone wrote little notes to Harrison on balloons.

Harrison’s cousins remembering him on his birthday

Ava’s message to Harrison

The final count for the diaper drive ended up being:

  1. Diapers: 2298
  2. Wipes: over 45 packages
  3. Large bags of gently used baby clothing: 9
  4. Large boxes or miscellaneous gently used baby items like bedding, toys, baby bags, and books: 4
  5. $550 in cash donations
  6. One large bag of brand new baby items like bottles, cups, teethers, toys and binkies.

For our first time doing this, we were so thrilled with the outcome! Our family, friends, coworkers and even people we don’t know heard about Harrison’s story and wanted to help. We had no idea what would happen with the drive. As donations came in, Harrison’s room was filled! We packed both of our cars, front seats, back seats and trunks full of diapers and baby goods. When we came to the center, they were overwhelmed with happiness. We toured the center, and talked with the director who told us they did not receive their funding this year. Just from our diaper drive, we would keep the Babies Care Cupboard open for about another 6 months.

Harrison’s room, toward the end of the diaper drive

I’m hoping next year we will be able to do something similar, to be able to give back again. There are so many people in need, and we have been incredibly blessed to have what we have, and to have the support we have.

At the Redeemer Crisis Center

Thank you to all who donated, all who shared and supported our cause, and of course remembered our sweet Harrison.

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