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Gresham author wants to help women cope with miscarriage

'Empty Arms Journal' offers daily tips to heal from shattered hope

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - You can learn more about Empty Arms at pamvredevelt.com/empty-arms/.Many folks have just celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ this past weekend.

But for women who have suffered a pregnancy loss, the nativity season can be a tough time as Christmas may trigger memories of babies lost, says Pam Vredevelt, author of “Empty Arms Journal: A 21 Day Guide for Healing After Pregnancy Loss.”

“I know that women who have lost a baby are in a very dark place,” she says, noting the topic of such loss can be hard to discuss. “It’s a tough one to bring up, and it’s a tough one to know how to bring up.”

However, society is slowly becoming more open to talking about how women cope with pregnancy loss and her book is one way to push the dialogue out of the shadows and into the light.

“Losing a baby touches every part of your life,” the faith-based book begins. “Your view of yourself. Your relationships. Your hopes and fears about the future. Your wallet. Your dreams. Your beliefs about life and death - and God.”

Counselor’s take

Vredevelt is a licensed professional counselor with a private practice at Northwest Counseling Services in Gresham. She has authored 14 books, including “Empty Arms: Hope and Support for Those Who Have Experienced Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Tubal Pregnancy.” She notes that “21 Days” is designed to be used as a companion book to “take healing to the next level.” CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Pam Vredevelt

Vredevelt herself lost a baby halfway through a pregnancy, and has also lost a 16 year old son, so she has wrestled with the issues that come with losing children. Women who suffer pregnancy loss often experience a range of emotions, she says, from guilt and shame to bewilderment, especially if they took all the right steps to stay healthy while pregnant.

On that note, she says, despite the fact even though as many as 25 percent of known pregnancies end unsuccessfully, each woman experiences miscarriage not as part of a larger phenomenon but as a unique tragedy for which she may feel a need to affix blame.

“We try to fix blame to something because if we can blame something we can try to control it,” she says.

Hints for healing

“21 Days” tackles such subjects as “Day One: Reeling from the Shocking News,” “Day Four: Managing Your Anger,” and “Day Twenty-One: Rediscovering Joy.”

Each chapter outlines an issue women suffering from pregnancy loss face; assures the reader that what she feels is perfectly normal; and asks the reader to use various writing, drawing, breathing and “grief-relief” exercises to work through her pain.

For example, in “Day Four,” Vredevelt writes: “After losing a baby you experience a wild array of confusing feelings and physical symptoms. Rest assured you are not losing your mind. Life has abruptly plucked you from your previous familiar world and thrown you into a foreign place you didn’t sign up to visit.”

The chapter then lists various exercises for a woman to undertake. One such exercise involves focused breathing.

“With each breath, invite God’s love and life-giving energy to refresh you. Exhale your frustrations and stress to God.”

The chapter concludes with what could be called a summation of the philosophy behind “21 Days.”

“It’s time to give yourself grace,” Vredevelt writes. “Write a compassionate note to yourself acknowledging the many ways you are courageously persevering through this season of suffering.”