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Sorrow & Love Abound At Grief: A Mother's Journey

Even in an age of over-sharing, many women still shy away from discussing miscarriages, stillbirths and the loss of a child. There may be shame, fear of prying questions, and a grief that rises and recedes at the most unexpected moments.

Yet in this journey, there is also tremendous love and a quiet determination to create meaning. On October 3, three Chicago-area moms cracked open the door to this hidden world at a photo showcase called Grief: A Mother's Journey. Here the main organizer, Jen DeBouver, shares the inspiration behind the event.

By Jen DeBouver

CHICAGO (CBS) — Grief: A Mother's Journey came to me in a dream. In this dream my two bereaved mom friends, Michelle Williams and Tori Smith, were with me. I told my husband about the dream and asked him what he thought. He thought that it was a really great idea and could bring a lot of awareness.

Grief: A Mother's Journey is a photo showcase on display at Trickster Art Gallery in Schaumburg throughout the month of October. The photos take you inside the journey of grief that a mother experiences when losing a child. Grief doesn't go away, ever. It changes over the lifetime of the parent.

"Grief is, nobody wants to think about it. It's horrendous" says Tori, who lost her 18-month-old son Sterling to an undetected congenital heart defect. Tori puts her grief into working out because as long as she is alive, Sterling is alive and remembered.

She started Sterling's Heart Loveys so that every baby born on Sterling's birthday, at the same hospital, will receive one. She does this so parents learn the signs and symptoms of a Congenital Heart Defect.

October 3 served as opening night for our photo showcase. It was an intimate evening, with a Native American drum circle leading songs of healing. Michelle talked about her son, Sawyer, and said "I couldn't stand to see him suffering and that's what it was. When we let his suffering go, our suffering began." Sawyer was born premature with a serious undetected congenital heart defect.

"I chose to be a part of this project because grief is very messy," says Michelle. "There is no timeline for grief."

Her children grieve too. Sadie was two and a half at the time of Sawyer's passing. She writes letters about her brother. Landon, born a year after Sawyer, grieves for the brother he never met. Michelle shares pictures of Landon playing at his brother's grave or laying at the new brick they dedicated to Sawyer in Coal City.

There is also beauty that comes from grief. My two children, Olivia and Asher, who we lost 11 months apart, have transformed me into someone with a drive to help people understand grief. I spend most of my free time dedicated to helping others. Olivia was stillborn and most people don't understand the loss. They don't know whether to remember her as they do Asher, who died at 6 weeks old due to congenital heart defects and blood clots.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Every loss, whether a miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss, is important and should be remembered.

Find out more about the Asher James Congenital Heart Disease and Thrombosis Foundation here.

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