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!)
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.
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?
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!
CONNECT WITH OUR GUESTS
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:
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MEET OUR HOST
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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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.
Kelsi Cole: [00:29:06] So bad.
Alyson Brown: [00:29:07] And we just sat and just cried and just ate all the Mexican food-
Kelsi Cole: [00:29:12] Ate it, regardless.
Alyson Brown: [00:29:12] Yeah, cried about the Mexican food and just this healing balm of being able to cry with somebody who gets it, and what a gift that is. And so it was during that brunch, I'll call it.
Ashley Opliger: [00:29:26] Mexican brunch.
Alyson Brown: [00:29:27] That Mexican brunch was terrible! But we just shared with one another that God had given us a vision, separately.
It was the exact same vision of us using our story to speak to women and to speak hope into loss, and to remind people that as believers we do have a hope that one of these days not only will we be reunited with our Father in Heaven, but we will be reunited with our children.
And it was in that moment, I'm pretty sure our first response was, “Oh, shoot. Now we have to do something about it.”
Kelsi Cole: [00:29:12] Right.
Alyson Brown: [00:30:06] If He has given us both the same vision. He probably wants us to do something with it.
Kelsi Cole: [00:30:11] Yeah.
Alyson Brown: [00:30:12] And so we started as just an online social media platform, just on Instagram and Facebook, of sharing posts and encouragement and hope that it was speaking to our hearts. And so we thought, “Well, surely other people need to hear this as well.” And so those were our beginning steps.
Kelsi Cole: [00:30:29] And I think one of the things my husband said was when we were in the hospital, it was like four in the morning and I was just on my phone, just aimlessly scrolling, mindlessly scrolling like we tend to do. And I was scrolling, looking for some sort of encouragement, some sort of glimpse of hope because I was out, I was tapped out at that point.
And even then, back in 2018, there still was not a ton of resources out there, there were resources, but none that took my hope past the grave, if that makes sense. And so again, because as believers, that is where our hope comes from.
As a non-believer when a loved one dies, that can be it, whether they go live in purgatory or whatever, but that tends to be it. And where does hope come from after that? Does it stem from just community? Does it stem from just horizontal support that you get from friends and family? Because ours is vertical support and horizontal, just like the cross.
Ashley Opliger: [00:31:36] I love that. It’s a cross. Yes! That’s a beautiful image.
Kelsi Cole: [00:31:39] Yes, the cross. It's a beautiful image because that is truly where our peace, our hope, our encouragement, the ability to even get out of bed in the morning, that is where our hope comes from.
And so like Alyson said, what started as just an online community on social media of daily encouragement turned into a weekend retreat at the place that we met and worked at, which was incredible.
And so that's one of the main things that Foreknown is we offer a Friday through Sunday weekend retreat just for moms currently. One day we hope to include dads in that, as well, in the future. But right now it’s for moms. And it is a three-day journey of allowing women to share the story of their child, to share their journey in grief, but not to keep them there.
We talk about redefining joy in their life and what that looks like. We talk about the lies and truths that we've been told in our grieving. We talk about the strategic plan that Satan has for us in our grief. And then we talk about the joy moving forward.
Also, it's so funny, one of the most highly reviewed sessions of our retreat, it's so funny, is led by our husbands and it's called The Men's Perspective. We jokingly say it's annoying because it's the most highly reviewed subject. We’re jealous.
But they do such an amazing job because our husbands, from very different perspectives, share their journeys and share the way that they have coped and grieved and supported us and the way that we've supported them.
So they have their own session. And then they go probably twice as long with Q & A from everyone, which is so rich. And like I said, we end on the session about just moving forward and the joy before us in our future.
Ashley Opliger: [00:33:36] Oh, I love that. Will you share when the next retreat is going to be and how moms can find information about that?
Kelsi Cole: [00:33:44] Yes, absolutely. So we are so excited. Our next weekend retreat is going to be on April 8th through April 10th, right here in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Alyson Brown: [00:33:56] You can find more information about that at our website foreknownministries.org, but we do host it at Glen Eyrie Castle and Conference Center here in Colorado Springs, which, like Kelsi said, is where we met.
Ashley Opliger: [00:34:08] I saw the pictures on your website. It looks beautiful.
Alyson Brown: [00:34:12] Very beautiful.
Ashley Opliger: [00:34:12] I can imagine that it's a very peaceful, healing spot for moms to gather together. I saw that you also have text support. Is that something new that you just started offering?
Alyson Brown: [00:34:25] Well, we've had that for probably a year now, but it was one of our favorite ways to minister to our community. The number is (719) 626-8486. And if you text a heart emoji to that number, it comes directly to our phones and you are immediately signed up for daily texts of encouragement. You can also text the word “HELP” and we can immediately start communicating with you and supporting you wherever you are on your loss journey.
That message goes directly to both of our phones. And so when you get responses back, it's from the two of us that are just wanting to love on you and minister with you and pray with you. And so that's been such a fun way to really connect deeper with our community.
Kelsi Cole: [00:35:18] Mm-hmm (affirmative), absolutely. I remember when we went through the loss of Cora within those two weeks and then finding out about Whitson, Alyson gave me the entire list of resources that she had just used.
For instance, here's how to look up what to do when you purchase a plot at a cemetery.
Alyson Brown: [00:35:40] Like a playbook.
Kelsi Cole: [00:35:40] Here's a funeral home. It was almost a playbook, exactly. And here were the first resources and just immediate things to start thinking about. And as you start processing, whether it's testing that you want to have done, whether that's people to reach out to you for encouragement, or just to let them know of what's happening, that was such a gift.
And so with the texting community, we are truly able to do that for anyone that, like Alyson said, just text the word “HELP” to our texting number “(719) 626-8486)”, which is amazing.
So whether a woman has just gone through an early miscarriage, a stillbirth, or even the loss of an infant, we have put together a list of resources with matured labor and delivery staff members that are dear friends that have helped us put it together. And that is truly just such a gift in and of itself.
Alyson Brown: [00:36:28] Yeah. Our heart's desire is to be in every delivery room and Facebook women who are walking through loss. But realistically, we can't do that, and so this is our way of being with you in that moment, even if we can't be face-to-face, knowing that there is somebody on the other end of this conversation who is on her face praying for you in that moment.
We also do monthly digital support groups for free, where we invite ladies to just jump on a Zoom call with us and we just chat. And we sometimes have things that we're discussing, but sometimes just to give women the platform to share their story, what they're walking through in that moment. And that's truly a way to help build community because we can't walk through this alone. We're not called to walk through this alone.
So any avenue that we can use where we are connecting women with each other to form those bonds and those friendships and to have that comfort person like Kelsi was for me of, I could just be myself and I can ugly cry in front of you, and I can express that I'm so angry at the Lord and you're not going to judge me because you get it. We want everyone to have a Kelsi.
Kelsi Cole: [00:37:44] Yes.
Ashley Opliger: [00:37:44] Many people have probably heard my story, but when Bridget was born on October 22nd of 2014, when we went and buried her in the… they call it Baby Land, the little baby section of the cemetery, there was a fresh grave right next to her and a little placard that said Jack Monroe Siegrist, October 6th. And so we knew that they had just buried their precious little boy.
And thankfully, on the placard it had his parents' names. And at the time, I didn't know anyone who had walked through this at all. And so I found Jack’s mom, Casey, on Facebook and, very similar story with you guys, I didn't know Casey before but we walked through every milestone together.
We walked through the holidays together. We walked through our due dates and our first Heavenly birthday together and all of those days. And similar to what you said, Alyson, about you and your husband having a good day and a bad day at the same time where you can support each other, that was similar to us.
We would have hard days on opposite days and we'd be able to support and encourage each other. And she's been a huge part of starting this ministry with me. And I'm so grateful that I had a Casey, and now I have many other moms that I've met through the ministry that have become best friends and have walked through our grieving and healing journey together.
And it’s so beautiful to me when we see moms come in here and connect and then go out for coffee together or text each other and support each other. We've had even on our online support groups where I find out after the fact that one of the moms has sent a care package to another mom.
Or just recently, we have two moms in the state of Alabama and they both come to our online support group and they actually drove and met in some mutual city in Alabama and posted pictures on Facebook.
And it's such a gift to see these friendships forming, and to see people coming alongside each other in community. We have the vertical hope of Heaven, but having the horizontal community surrounding us is so important.
Do you have any final words of advice to share with how loss moms can find those friends to walk through the journey? If they didn't already know someone, do you have other ideas on ways moms can get connected to each other?
Kelsi Cole: [00:40:02] Absolutely. I think one of the main tactics that Satan uses is just keeping us in shame, keeping us in that silent shame of feeling inadequate, feeling not enough or like, “It was my fault. I could have done something.”
We all ask those guilt questions. “What could I have done?” And to fight that attack, one of the biggest things anyone can do is to share their story. And I know that's not for everyone. I know that we all process and grieve differently, and for some women, that's the biggest step they'll possibly ever take.
But when you share your story, it gives others permission to share theirs. That vulnerability breeds vulnerability. I mean, think about it. When Chrissy Tiegen posted that picture of her humped over her hospital bed, how many millions of women across the entire world knew and remembered that pain? It’s like it took us back there to that moment ourselves.
And so when you share a picture, when you share a story, or when you just share your child's name, it gives other people permission to as well. And when you find that connection, when you find that bond, like you did with Casey, like I did with Alyson, it's a bond that will forever be there.
The first night of our retreat, we have all of the women go around and we allow them to just share their story. And when one woman hears another woman's story, that any part of that story connects, if there's any similarities, you see them form that bond. And they're together the rest of the weekend, which is so amazing because we all want to hear a story like ours. We all want to hear that what happened to us wasn't completely random.
I met a woman for the very first time who is probably in her early 60s just a few months ago, who said, “I've never met another mom that has had a Trisomy 12.” And that's what she hung on to, and as did I, because I to this day have never met another woman as well.
And so right after, not too long after Foreknown was launched, we launched a challenge over social media. And it was called Shame Will Not Know My Name. And it was to post a picture of your family, no matter what it looks like. It could just be you and your husband, it could be you and your husband and one daughter and say, “This is what a family of seven looks like. This is what my family of five looks like,” to include those babies, to change the stigma of, “Well, I was only six weeks along.”
No, you are already six weeks along. You are already a month along or however long you were in gestation. And so to change that stigma is truly just giving it back to the enemy, saying, “No, shame, you will not know my name. No, devil. You can not hold me in the shame game. You cannot hold me in the darkness,” because God has so much more. When you share your story, there's just such power in it.
Alyson Brown: [00:43:18] There truly is. And I would say the way to find community is by taking the time for yourself to attend retreats like this, to attend support groups like yours, to put yourself out there, and take those small little steps to find others who have been through similarities.
Maybe a retreat is not your cup of tea. That's totally fine because it's not for everyone, but maybe a digital support group is. Maybe a group at your church is just what you need. Maybe a text “(719) 626-8486”where you still feel that sense of security where I'm not sitting in front of somebody sharing my story but maybe that's the first little step.
So whatever you can do to not stay alone in your grief, to bring others in, that's the key to overcoming that brokenness and that bondage that Satan wants to put on us.
Kelsi Cole: [00:44:13] Yeah. It's the next step, the next right thing, just taking that step right in front of you, not worrying about what it looks like after, but just the very next step in front of you.
Ashley Opliger: [00:44:24] It can be so hard to be vulnerable in taking that first step. So many moms will say when they come here that they were like, “I almost didn't come. I was having second thoughts of coming.”
And once they're here, they're like, “Oh, my goodness. My heart just feels at home here. I feel so known and loved and supported. And I'm so glad I met these other women,” and all of that. But I can't tell you how many women have said, “I almost didn't come. I was too scared to.”
I think Satan's other strategy is to keep us isolated in our grief to keep us alone, because if he can keep us away from the body of Christ, then he can deceive us. He can give us lies. He can keep us in the shame and in the darkness and keep us from seeking the Lord to heal, because we can heal so much better in community, especially when we're in Christian community that's reminding us of the Truth of God's Word.
And of course, Satan's going to do everything he can to keep us from the body of Christ and to keep us from people that are going to support us and love us through in a way that honors God and brings us closer to our Savior.
Alyson Brown: [00:45:27] I just wanted to say one more thing for your listeners. If you feel like you don't have anyone that you can reach out to that is safe, you now know three people who are committed to being that safe person–who are committing to be your community.
So there's no excuse to stay alone, but just reach out because there are three women right here and all of the other people that are in your community, Ashley, that are helping run Bridget’s Cradles, we're all here for you. We’re all here to love you and support you through it.
Kelsi Cole: [00:45:55] Absolutely. One of the things that I love too, especially with the retreats, is we don't want anyone to feel alone.
One of the women that attended the last retreat, she brought a friend that had gone through child loss as well. And they were buddies through the retreat. And so with the weekend retreats, we have scholarships available for women if needed, and we also have sponsorships.
So if a woman who is possibly a little bit later along in her healing journey would even consider giving a sponsorship to another mom, that's another way of finding that community, because the last thing that women want to do is, especially if they have children at home, other kids, it's hard for them to get away for a weekend, to spend money on themselves, especially if they have hospital bills coming in.
And so our goal is to make it as affordable and accessible for these women to get to these retreats. And so through those scholarships and sponsorships, women are able to come and truly just be known.
Ashley Opliger: [00:47:03] Oh, it’s so beautiful. I want to come to your next retreat. I know that it's going to be such a beautiful and peaceful time and to be in community with each other, and to be led by the two of you who love the Lord so much and are wanting to glorify Him with your lives and with your stories.
I love everything that you're doing for grieving moms. We are going to be sure to link the website for signing up for the weekend retreat, signing up for the text messages [719-626-8486], and for your digital support groups. We will put all of that in our Hope Guide and our show notes on our website.
Would you mind sharing how listeners can get connected to you, what your website and your social channels are?
Kelsi Cole: [00:47:39] Absolutely. Well, first I want all of the listeners to pull out your phone because odds are you're listening to this podcast on your phone. So pause it after I say this, and I want you to open a text message and text either a heart emoji to sign up for daily texts of encouragement, or just send us a “HI” or “HELLO” to (719) 626-8486. Again, that goes directly to both Alyson and as well as myself.
Ashley Opliger: [00:48:19] Perfect. We will link all of your social channels as well. Thank you so much, Alyson and Kelsi. It was such a joy to get to meet the two of you and hear more about this amazing ministry.
I hope that all of our moms that are listening right now will get connected to Foreknown, follow them on Instagram. They share so many hope-filled quotes and Bible verses on there, and it's just a wonderful place for support and encouragement as well. So please follow them on Instagram and Facebook. Thank you so much for being here.
Alyson Brown: [00:48:48] Thank you, Ashley.
Kelsi Cole: [00:48:48] Thank you so much for having us, Ashley.
Ashley Opliger: [00:48:51] Thank you for listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast. We pray that you found hope & healing in today’s message. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss a future episode. New episodes will be shared on the 1st and 15th of every month. You can also find this episode’s show notes and a full transcript on our website at bridgetscradles.com/podcast.
There you can download a free PDF for each episode, called the Hope Guide, that is filled with notes, Scripture, links, discussion questions, and so much more. Be sure to leave your email address so that we can keep you updated on podcast episodes, upcoming support groups, and other hope-filled resources.
If you’re interested in volunteering or donating to Bridget’s Cradles in memory of a baby in Heaven, you can find information on our website on how you can get involved and spread hope to other grieving families.
One way you can spread hope is by leaving a review of this podcast on iTunes [or Apple Podcasts app]. Consider the two minutes of your time as a way YOU can personally share this hope with a mom whose heart is broken and needs healing. Thank you so much for listening and sharing. Until next time, we will be praying for you. And remember, as Jesus cradles our babies in Heaven, He cradles us in hope. Though we may grieve, we do not grieve without hope.
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