Episode 14 - The Power of Community for Grieving Mothers with Foreknown Ministries


Join us for a conversation with Alyson and Kelsi of Foreknown Ministries about the power of community for grieving mothers. Alyson and Kelsi are best friends who lost their babies two weeks apart from each other. In the deepest of grief, they leaned on their faith and friendship.

Now they host weekend retreats, digital support groups, and a texting community for women who have experienced pregnancy loss. They believe in having a "cross" of support: vertical from God and horizontal from community. In this episode, they share advice on how to make friendships with other grieving moms and point you to find hope past the grave.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • Walking through grief with a friend

  • Having answers and finding closure

  • Viewing the time you were pregnant with your baby as a gift

  • How God led them to start Foreknown Ministries

  • Circling through the stages of grief and dealing with grief head-on

  • Finding intimacy with God in your grieving season

  • Relearning God's character and letting Him put your broken heart back together

  • Weekend retreats and why they are helpful

  • How to get involved in their texting community to receive daily support

  • Shame and how Satan uses it to keep us silent and alone

  • The power of being vulnerable and sharing your baby's story

Full transcript below.

Each episode has a special Hope Guide that you can download by clicking the button below. It is packed with hope-filled resources and extra information from the episode!

Discussion / Application Questions (leave your answers below in the comments!)

  1. Alyson mentioned that she viewed the nine months she carried Cora as a gift and a blessing. Ashley shared that the world views miscarriage or stillbirth as a loss, but that from an eternal perspective, we can view our babies' lives as a gain. How can this perspective shift help in your healing? Can you see it that way? Write a list of the blessings that have come from your baby's life.

  2. Kelsi shared that God is the One who made your heart so He is the only One who can put the broken pieces back together. Have you allowed Him to do that? In what ways have you tried to find healing on your own? What barriers are preventing you from entrusting God with your heart?

  3. We talked a lot about finding healing in community and forming friendships with other grieving moms. Do you have a support system of moms you can turn to in your grief? If not, what steps can you take to try to find your community (e.g., support group, weekend retreat, etc)?

Graphics to share on social media or pin on Pinterest!



Alyson Brown and Kelsi Cole are the founders of Foreknown Ministries based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They are best friends who lost their babies two weeks apart from each other and started a ministry in their memory, Cora (Alyson) and Whitson (Kelsi).

Through weekend retreats, support groups, and a texting community, Foreknown Ministries offers encouragement, strength, and hope to parents who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss.

Connect with Foreknown Ministries:

Facebook /foreknownministries.org

Instagram @foreknownministries




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Ashley Opliger is the Executive Director of Bridget's Cradles, a nonprofit organization based in Wichita, Kansas that donates cradles to over 1,090 hospitals in all 50 states and comforts over 26,000 bereaved families a year.

Ashley is married to Matt and they have three children: Bridget (in Heaven), and two sons. She is a follower of Christ who desires to share the hope of Heaven with families grieving the loss of a baby.

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Pinterest /ashleyopliger


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Episode 14: The Power of Community for Grieving Mothers with the Foreknown Ministries (Alyson Brown and Kelsi Cole)

Ashley Opliger: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast where we believe that the hope of Heaven, through faith in Jesus Christ, has the power to heal our hearts after the loss of a baby. It’s a pain no mother should have to endure and we want this podcast to be a safe place for your broken heart to land. Here, we are going to trust God’s promise to restore our joy, use our grief for good, and allow us to spend eternity with our babies in Heaven.

I’m your host, Ashley Opliger. I’m a wife, mom, and follower of Christ clinging to the hope of Heaven. My daughter, Bridget, was stillborn at 24 weeks in my first pregnancy in 2014. In her memory, my husband and I started a nonprofit ministry called Bridget’s Cradles, and God has given us purpose in our pain and we’ve seen beauty come from ashes.

Although we wish you didn’t have a need to be listening to this podcast, we believe God has a reason for you to be here today. We pray this time would be a source of healing for you as we remember that Jesus cradles us in hope while He cradles our babies in Heaven. Though we may grieve, we do not grieve without hope. Welcome to the Cradled in Hope Podcast.

Ashley Opliger: [00:01:26] Hi friends. I am so honored to welcome my friends Alyson and Kelsi of Foreknown Ministries to Cradled in Hope today. They are seriously the sweetest two women you will ever meet and I'm excited for you to hear their stories.

In 2017, Alyson and Kelsi were pregnant at the same time and due just a few weeks from each other. As best friends who worked together, they found themselves going from planning an arranged marriage between Alyson's expected daughter Cora and Kelsi's expected son Whitson to planning their children's funerals less than two weeks apart.

After spending the spring and summer grieving together, the Lord gave them the same dream separately. After leaving early from a rough day at work, they both confided in each other that they had the exact same dream: them speaking to grieving parents who had been through the same thing. That was when they knew that God wanted to shine His light on the dark topic of pregnancy and infant loss and that is when Foreknown was born.

Through events like weekend retreats, support groups, a texting community, and individual coaching, Foreknown Ministries seeks to offer encouragement, strength, and hope to parents who have gone through pregnancy or infant loss. I can't wait for you to hear this conversation with Alyson and Kelsi.

We will jump into the conversation and when you hear them introduce themselves, you're going to hear Alyson share her story first of losing her daughter Cora, and then Kelsi will share her story of losing her son Whitson. And then we'll have a conversation about grieving with hope and the start of their wonderful ministry, Foreknown Ministries. Let's get started.

Ashley Opliger: [00:03:06] Welcome, Alyson and Kelsi. We are so glad to have you on the podcast today.

Kelsi Cole: [00:03:12] Thank you for having us.

Alyson Brown: [00:03:13] Yeah.

Kelsi Cole: [00:03:13] Excited to be here.

Ashley Opliger: [00:03:15] We love everything that you do with Foreknown Ministries. And we can't wait to hear the story of how God birthed this beautiful ministry out of the two of you and your stories and your precious babies in Heaven.

I would love to start and hear each of your stories of motherhood and your story of loss. And then we'll talk more about your ministry.

Kelsi Cole: [00:03:37] Absolutely.

Alyson Brown: Thank you. So back in 2018, I was due with our second daughter, Cora. I had a beautiful two-year-old, Millie, at home and my husband and I had been married for quite some time so we were super excited to expand our family.

My pregnancy with Millie, our oldest, was just very typical, standard, no issues. And so when I walked into our second pregnancy, I was not expecting or suspecting that there would be any issues at all.

I had gone through the majority of my pregnancy. I was actually two days out from being induced on January 24th of 2018, and I noticed that I was not feeling as much movement from Cora as I was used to.

And so I called my doctor and I had just had my last appointment a couple days prior and everything was great. And so she said, “Just run up to the hospital, get checked out there because if anything's going on, they have all the equipment that you need. But I'm sure that everything's fine.”

So I texted my husband at work and said, “I'm just going to head up to the hospital. Doctor thinks everything's fine. I'll let you know what we find out.” So I throw my suitcase in the back of our car, thinking, “This is fantastic. I'm going to be induced even earlier. This is great.” I was just so excited.

I text Kelsi and let her know what was going on so she could be praying, and I was just super excited that day. And so I go into the hospital and I have a nurse come and look for a heartbeat, and she can't find one. And she said, “I'm sure, it's fine. Let me just try again, sometimes it's hard to find heartbeats at this stage.”

And she still can’t find one, so she calls in the head nurse, I don't know what her title is, but she comes in to do a heartbeat check and she also can't find one. And so I’m three checks in and still not thinking anything is wrong. It's just completely oblivious to me.

And so she finally puts her hands on either side of my shoulders and she looks me in the eyes and she says, “I'm so sorry, but she's gone.”

And I just remember feeling everything stop. The excitement is gone, the shock and the just searching for clarity and understanding is completely gone. And I'm also all by myself in the hospital, and they immediately call my husband and they say, “Please come to the hospital. We need you to be here. We'll tell you what's going on when you get here.”

And in the meantime, they said, “Do you want us to call in a technician to do one last check?”

And I said, “Yes.”

And so they bring in one last technician. Thankfully, my husband is here at that point. And they gently say, “Yeah, she has passed away.”

So we immediately go into a process of being induced and, thankfully, being given all the medicine so you don't feel anything. Then later that day I ended up delivering a perfectly healthy little Cora Belle.

It was really not only a hard time for us as parents, but also having the realization that now I have to explain to a two-year-old why her sister is physically here, but she's actually not here. So it was a day full of challenges and the pain of walking through something that you never expected.

But she was beautiful, and we had family drop everything that they were doing and fly into town and be with us that next day and help us with planning a funeral, which was something that you don't ever think about doing in your 30s for your child.

Ashley Opliger: [00:07:44] No. I am so sorry, Alyson. That is so heartbreaking to go through such shock and be expecting to meet your living, breathing, beautiful little girl and introduce Millie to her sister, and then just to be completely blind-sided and be put in this situation where you're in shock and you're navigating all of these questions.

I was reading your story on your website and how you said now you're being asked questions of all these things that you're not expecting as a mom to have to answer of what you're going to do at the funeral home and planning a funeral. That's something that no mom should ever have to be planning for her baby. So I'm just so sorry that you walked through that.

And I'm curious then, Kelsi, because you obviously both knew each other as you experienced this. So Kelsi, would you mind sharing your story? And did you experience loss before Alyson or after?

Kelsi Cole: [00:08:43] Yes. Unfortunately, my story is a little bit more complicated. It stretches back almost 10 years ago next month in December, but I'll pick up after Cora went to be with Jesus.

So Alyson and I were best friends, co-workers. We worked, still are, still are besties. We worked within 10 feet of one another, and we were pregnant together and we were due just a few weeks apart. And when Cora went to be with Jesus on January 24th of 2018, it was less than two weeks after that that I went in for my last appointment, just three days before my scheduled C-section. And the same thing happened.

Ashley Opliger: [00:09:32] Oh my goodness.

Kelsi Cole: [00:08:43] And it was one ultrasound tech after the next, and I knew when my doctor came into the room frantically with a little bit of a tear in his eye, I knew I had gone through the same horrific thing that Alyson had just walked through.

And so within those two weeks, so many emotions overwhelmed us both of, “Can we even still be friends? Am I going to have to quit my job because it's emotionally just going to be so hard to see each other all the time? What is going to happen? What is the future of our friendship going to look like and our team at work? How are we going to move forward?”

And so as all of those emotions overwhelmed our hearts, sadly and tragically, God was knitting together a much, much bigger plan than we could ever imagine. And so it was really the spring and summer of 2018 that we remembered our children, we celebrated them, we grieved together. We had hills and valleys pretty much every hour.

And after just a few weeks of, truly we went from working together, planning an arranged marriage between Alyson’s daughter, Cora, and my son, Whitson, to planning our babies’ funerals.

Alyson Brown: [00:11:03] I'll never forget when Kelsi called me and said that the same thing had happened to her.

I just remember thinking, “How on earth do we get back up from this?” I collapsed on my bedroom floor just like, “God, where are You? Why are You allowing this to happen?”

But fast forward several years and we can see the beauty that He has allowed us and called us to create through our community, and how He has strategically placed so many people on our path to shore us up, to continue pushing us towards the Lord, that it's such a gift to use their stories to help others.

Kelsi Cole: [00:11:49] Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ashley Opliger: [00:11:50] Yeah, and He gave you each other to walk through your grief journey together. And your due dates were so similar and close together, I'm sure you walked through those milestones together.

Kelsi, would you mind sharing more about Whitson's life story and finding out after the fact about Trisomy 12? Is that correct?

Kelsi Cole: [00:12:06] Yes, that’s correct. Yeah, absolutely. So when we delivered Whitson on February 10th of 2018, early that morning they moved my scheduled C-section up, it was supposed to be on the 12th on Monday morning, to that very next day, Saturday the 10th.

And just like Alyson, I said, “Please check again. I had very high amniotic fluid and so I felt him move up until I delivered him, which of course messed with my head and my heart. But I delivered him at eight pounds, at a little bit before 38 weeks.

And just like Cora, he was perfect-looking. He had strawberry blonde, curly hair, it was amazing, and the biggest chubby cheeks you've ever seen. So physically, you could obviously tell there were no clear abnormalities. And so we just were stuck wondering why.

And it wasn't up until about a month after that, that my doctor called me and said, “Hey, after getting some test results back, we discovered that Whitson had a rare chromosome mutation called Trisomy 12.” And basically, the report says that Trisomy 12 is not compatible with life.

And so after we received that report, by recommendation of my doctor, we spoke with geneticists and genetic counselors and we were both tested for her recommendation. We found out that neither one of us were carriers and so we did not have our daughter tested. We do have one daughter here with us and who was born in 2013, a healthy pregnancy minus some preeclampsia.

But yeah, it was just one of those things where even if we have a reason that does bring a little bit of closure because we had less than a 1% chance if and when we wanted to conceive again. And so moving forward, we just thought, “This is just a fluke situation, but moving forward, we are aware of things like this existing.” So it made it easier in some ways but difficult in others.

Ashley Opliger: [00:14:20] Alyson, after Cora was born, did they have any sort of explanation to share with you? And did that help give any closure?

Alyson Brown: [00:14:29] They did. After I delivered, they told us that she had gotten tangled up in her umbilical cord pretty severely. And so, like Kelsi said, it's just such a double-edged sword of I'm thankful that we have a reason because so many couples don't know why they walked through loss, but it's also heartbreaking to know that was the cause.

It did give us comfort and substance, but do we try again? Do we want to continue to expand our family? And through lots of prayer and just petitioning with the Lord and praying with each other and trying to be on the same page as husband and wife, we did come to a place where ultimately we decided to expand our family.

And then that was some of the longest months of my life, of walking through nine months of pregnancy again, and hoping and praying that we will be able to hold now our daughter Madeline, and that she’d be healthy. And God blessed us greatly with that.

But one of the things that somebody said to me after we lost Cora that was really hard to hear was, “I'm so sorry you had to walk through nine months with nothing to show for it.”

Ashley Opliger: [00:15:44] Oh my goodness.

Alyson Brown: [00:14:29] And I stopped, and it had to have been the Holy Spirit speaking through me because I would never come up with this on my own, but I said, “I am so blessed to have nine months with her. If the Lord knew that she would be spending her life in Heaven with Him but He blessed me with nine months with her, what a gift that is.”

And so I just want to encourage people that if you are walking through a stillbirth or loss of any kind to cherish the moments that you did get, because what a gift that is.

Kelsi Cole: [00:16:16] Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ashley Opliger: [00:16:18] An absolute gift, and not only the nine months that we had to cherish in our womb with them, but we have a promised eternity with them. Our separation is temporary. It's not permanent. We will get to see them for eternity.

I think when people say that they're looking at it purely from an earthly perspective and can't understand that no, this is a child that God has given to our eternal family that we will get to see for thousands and thousands of years.

And it's not a loss, it's a gain for our family, even though that's backwards from what the world would see stillbirth or miscarriage as. So I’m grateful that God gave you those words to share and enlighten that person.

And it's so sad that people would say something like that and just be so insensitive. We could probably list out what people say not intending to be hurtful but are hurtful because they just don't know what to say and oftentimes say the wrong thing.

I want to go back now to after each of you experienced your own loss, but are also best friends walking this journey, I'd like for you to share what grieving looked like for each of you individually, but also what that looked like grieving together and how you were able to help each other through that time and lean on each other in your faith and in your friendship.

Kelsi Cole: [00:17:36] It was ugly. I think most grieving can be ugly.

Alyson Brown: [00:17:41] I'll speak for myself, I wanted to test out lots of different avenues of how to get through grief and not deal with it. So for me, that looks like maybe drinking too much for certain times. Maybe it was just sweeping it under the rug and now I don't want to deal with it.

Ultimately, we came to the realization that you have to deal with it head-on. If you sweep it under the rug, it's going to stay there and you're going to continue tripping over it. And so my husband and I were very blessed, two-fold. The first thing that our hard days seem to be opposite of one another. So when I was having a hard day, he was having a good day and he could support me and then vice versa.

Our other blessing is that his dad is a psychologist and I could call up my father-in-law and say, “Here's how I'm feeling today. Here are the thoughts that I'm having. Is this normal?”

And he would say, “Yes, that is normal. Keep processing through it. Keep journaling and praying and seeking the Lord, and realize that when you go through the grief cycle, those stages of grief, you're not going to just hit one and then move to the next. You're going to circle around a few of them several times. But what you learn through that is that you're stronger than the last time. You've learned new tools. You've learned new ways to cope in new ways to process through it.”

So that was a real blessing for my husband.

Kelsi Cole: [00:19:16] I think what a gift I had in Alyson and we had in each other.

I remember one day, clear as day, that I went over to her house and we just sat and probably gazed out the window. And we could just sit with each other and the words never even had to be said. We just knew.

And having her and the availability to be real and raw and authentic, and just say, “I am so mad at God right now,” or, “I hate life right now,” to the extreme of being grateful and celebrating and honoring our children together, that was such a gift throughout that particular grief season for both of us.

And I think Satan has such a plan when it comes to grieving and when it comes to allowing us to ask those questions of God. Like, “Why do You allow bad things to happen to good people? Why do You allow death? Why do You have Hell? Why didn't You answer my prayer?”

These are all very hard questions that when we walk through something like a child loss that we ask God, non-believers and believers alike. And so for the believer, it's like: Yes, it is different because we do grieve with hope. Right? The hope of Heaven for us changes everything, like you said, Ashley. But we do grieve, and that grieving season is so important.

As much as we want to sweep it under the rug, as much as we want to find joy again and find laughter and happiness, we do need to go through that grieving season because there is such fruit in that season, such intimacy with the Father in a grieving season.

And I always think that we have two choices. We can either press into God or we can say, “I'm out,” and we can run. My grief in that season I don't feel was as bad and dark as my grieving season in 2020 when we lost our son Lennox in April of 2020. I was 18 weeks and my mom on March 19th had an emergency triple bypass open-heart surgery. And it was such a crazy season.

I remember my mom being in the hospital right after we lost Lennox. And I remember her saying, “How's my little Lennox doing?” And that's when I had to tell her, in the hospital.

And at one point we had gone to see her at her home. And I was just battling it out, truly, with the Lord.

I remember I was in her front yard and I was practically just throwing my fists up at God and truly battling it out. And I just said, “Why is having faith worth it if You're going to allow us to walk through this again?”

And He so kindly and intimately and gently said, “It's your choice. You can either walk away from your faith, you can denounce Me, you can walk away from the ministry you helped start, you can walk away, or if you choose Me and you lean into Me, I will walk you through yet another season to find healing on the other side.”

And I felt like that was such a defining moment in my personal grief journey throughout the years, because God allows us to trust Him with our grief. God allows us to beat on His chest like a good Father, and ask those hard questions, and feel all the feels, and feel all the emotions. I mean, He wouldn’t give us anger if we wouldn't be allowed to use it. Right? And so it was through that really dark season of grief that I relearned the character and the heart of God.

Ashley Opliger: [00:23:29] Absolutely. I think so much of it comes back to trusting in His character of who He says He is, that He is a good God that loves us. I think a lot of times we put this idea in our mind that He's this distant God that doesn't care and is just allowing all of the brokenness to happen and pain and loss and trials to happen, and is removed from it all and doesn't really care.

But to see Him as a Father who is weeping with us and who is saving those that are crushed in spirit, He's close to the broken-hearted, that He is mourning with us, this breaks His heart. His good and perfect plan was not for babies to die in the womb or to die after birth. This has got to be breaking His heart. This is His creation that He knit together with His own hands in His image.

And I think sometimes when I think about it from His perspective of this is life He created, He is grieving and mourning too, and I try to put that perspective of trusting in who He is and not making my own version of who He is based on viewing Him through my circumstances versus viewing my circumstances through the lens of who God is, if that makes sense.

But that's so hard. And I do agree that even as believers, even though we have the hope of Heaven, I've heard it said, “It still hurts like Hell.” And it really does. It still hurts so bad because we're earthly humans that grieve and mourn and want nothing more than to hold our little babies on earth and raise them to know the Lord.

And so it's completely okay, even as a believer who has hope, to sit in the grief and to wrestle with God and to pound at His chest, like you said, and wrestle those hard questions with Him, because He loves us and He is going to walk through it.

And for me, I had to come to the realization, I do have two choices: turn toward Him, or I can turn away from Him and turn bitter and resentful and turn to earthly coping mechanisms.

But where is that going to lead me? What hope can the world possibly offer me in my grief that God can’t? And who is going to walk me through this? What is going to heal my heart aside from God? And the answer is nothing. There's nothing that can, aside from God, but it's still hard to trust Him with your grief.

Alyson Brown: [00:25:44] Yeah.

Kelsi Cole: [00:25:44] Yeah, absolutely. As believers, when we think about seeking God out of that healing equation, it's just not possible.

One thing that we say quite frequently is, “God is the Person who made your heart. He created you so intricately, your entire heart, and He's the only One that knows how to put the broken pieces back together. And so if we allow Him, He will do it. He will do it.”

Ashley Opliger: [00:26:11] I love that. That's beautiful.

Ashley Opliger: [00:26:12] We hope you are enjoying this episode so far. We wanted to take a quick break to tell you about some other hope-filled resources our ministry provides to grieving families.

On our website, bridgetscradles.com, you can find many resources on grieving and healing including memorial ideas, quotes & Scripture, blog articles, featured stories, recommended books, and other support organizations. We share ideas on how to navigate difficult days such as due dates, Heaven Days, and holidays. We also have a page with ideas on how to care for a friend or family member who has experienced pregnancy loss.

In addition, every month I lead free Christ-centered support groups for bereaved moms called Hope Gatherings, both in-person and online. You can find a list of upcoming dates and sign up for our next support group on our website. You can also join our private Cradled in Hope Facebook group for grieving moms to find friendship and support. We would be honored to hear your baby’s story and be praying for you by name.

Lastly, our Pinterest page has beautiful graphics of quotes & Scripture from this episode, along with many other resources that you can pin and save. We would also love for you to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram. You can find us on these three pages: @bridgetscradles, @cradledinhope, and my personal page @ashleyopliger. We’d love for you to follow along and spread the word about the Cradled in Hope Podcast. Now let’s get back to our episode.

Ashley Opliger: [00:27:49] I want to now talk about how God planted the seed in each of your hearts and together as best friends to start what is now Foreknown Ministries. I'd love for you to share the story of it being created and also what it looks like now, what resources you have to offer to grieving moms.

Alyson Brown: [00:28:11] Back in 2018, it was October. Well, I guess it was a little bit before then, a couple of months prior, we went to lunch. We were having a really hard day at work.

And thankfully we worked at a Christian conference center in Colorado Springs and our community at work was so gracious with us, just recognizing that there was nothing that they can do to help other than giving us the space to process and to work through this.

And so it was probably 10:30 in the morning, and Kelsi and I went up to our boss and said, “You know what? It's been a day and we're gonna call it.”

She said, “That's fine. Go, take the time that you need. Do what you need to do.” And so we went to one of the nastiest Mexican restaurants I've ever been to.

Kelsi Cole: [00:29:06] Horrible.

Alyson Brown: [00:29:06] Terrible.