Join us for a conversation with Candy McVicar, author of Holding on to Love after You've Lost a Baby, a book she co-wrote with Dr. Gary Chapman. Candy, who has two children in Heaven, shares how to use the 5 Love Languages to strengthen your marriage after loss. Learning how to love your spouse in the midst of sorrow is a powerful way to support each other and grow closer to God and one another.
Candy is the founder of the Missing GRACE Foundation. She is passionate about providing resources and education to bereaved families and encouraging couples to love each other well in their grief.
In this episode, we discussed:
The 5 Love Languages - what they are and how they can help your marriage after pregnancy or infant loss
How she connected with Dr. Gary Chapman to write her book, Holding on to Love after You've Lost a Baby
Parenting your baby in Heaven and giving them a legacy
Differences in how men and women grieve
Marriage struggles she experienced after loss
The Crazy Cycle of Love & Respect in marriage
Discovering authentic faith by asking the hard questions
Serving others to get out of the depths of dark grief
The Missing GRACE Foundation
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!)
Candy shares about her struggles in grieving with her husband after they lost a baby. Her husband felt like he needed to be strong for both of them, yet she felt disconnected from him. In what ways do you and your spouse grieve differently? Have you had a conversation about it (like Candy and her husband ended up having)? Share your experience in the comments or in your journal.
In Holding on to Love after You've Lost a Baby, Candy and Dr. Chapman discuss how to utilize the 5 Love Languages to strengthen your marriage while in grief. If you haven't already, take the quiz and find out. What are your and your spouse's love languages? Write down ideas on how to love your spouse using his/her love language.
Candy shares that relationships are the eternal stuff and that the best way to escape the depths of grief is to serve others. In what ways can you prioritize your relationships (e.g., marriage, family, friends)? Do you have opportunities to serve others in your sphere of influence? Take some time to pray over your relationships by name and to ask God how He would have you serve.
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MEET OUR GUEST
Candy McVicar is an author, inspirational speaker, and devoted advocate for bereaved families. She is a mom to four, two on earth and two in Heaven.
She is the author of Holding on to Love after You've Lost a Baby with Dr. Gary Chapman and the founder of the Missing Grace Foundation which provides support resources and education to grieving families.
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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 1,250 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 20: Holding on to Love after You've Lost a Baby with Candy McVicar
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: [00:01:27] Hello, friends, and welcome back. You may recall in a recent episode with my husband, Matt, in Episode 18 we mentioned The 5 Love Languages and applying it to how we supported and loved each other through our grief.
Well, today we are honored to have Candy McVicar on the show, who co-wrote the book Holding on to Love after You've Lost a Baby with Dr. Gary Chapman, who is the founder and creator of The 5 Love Languages. Today, we're going to talk all about how the love languages impacted her marriage after losing two babies and why she wrote a book about it.
So let me introduce Candy to you, and then we'll dive into this conversation. Candy McVicar is an author, inspirational speaker, and devoted advocate for families who are grieving a baby or child. She is a mom to four, two on earth and two in Heaven.
After experiencing the stillbirth of her daughter, Grace, in 2001, she founded and became executive director of Missing GRACE Foundation, whose mission is to provide support resources and education for families and professional care providers when there is a loss of a baby, infertility, or adoption challenges.
Candy has been a featured guest on Fox News, Focus on the Family and Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and their two daughters. I can't wait for you to hear this conversation with Candy. Be sure to listen until the end, as we will be sharing how you can win a signed copy of her book. Let's get started.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:57] Welcome, Candy. Thank you so much for being here. We're so excited to have you on the show today.
Candy McVicar: [00:03:02] Thank you so much. I'm really looking forward to this today.
Ashley Opliger: [00:03:06] Well, Candy, will you introduce yourself? Tell us a little bit more about you and your motherhood journey as well as your experience in losing your children, Grace and Promise.
Candy McVicar: [00:03:17] Yeah, our journey to become parents was very exciting because we got pregnant right away, and we were really thankful because we knew infertility was a possibility.
And then a difficult pregnancy ensued. It was one where I had hyperemesis and I was very sick and I was bedridden for much of it. And in the last two weeks of our firstborn, Grace, her life, I had two weeks of no movement. It just stopped.
And I went in and I kept saying, “What's wrong? Something doesn't seem right,” but I didn't know enough at that point and was very trusting in the medical community. And I didn't know much and I was relying on them to guide me through that process.
And they kept doing a Doppler check for heart tones and they would say, “This is normal, babies slow down in the end,” and it’s just not your time yet. Well, at my one ultrasound that we have at 20 weeks gestation, there was a velamentous cord observed. However, they did not let me know that.
So it was in my file that I later requested after her birth, and it was plain and simple right there. And the radiologist diagnosed it and then wrote a note above it that said, “Not concerned.” And that was basically a death sentence for my daughter because of velamentous cord babies, there are over 4,000 a year in the U.S. that die of that particular cord issue alone.
And when you find that situation out, basically it means the umbilical cord attaches to the outer membrane of the placenta. And it needs to usually be addressed with a Caesarean section and a little bit earlier birth because the veins dry up and there's not as good blood flow and nutrients going to the baby.
So on the seventh visit, they did not find a heartbeat. And then I was sent to the hospital to deliver, and I went through 24 hours of labor and it was very difficult. And I delivered a perfectly healthy, beautiful little girl, but she died due to complications from that cord issue.
And then we had a ton of regret because we were so terrified. We didn't know what to do. We were exhausted. We didn't know how long you're allowed to hold them or keep them or what you can do with them. And all we have is a disposable camera of pictures that a nurse took, and they're not the best quality.
And friends of ours went, and we didn't know if it was going to be a boy or girl until the birth, and so they went and got us a package for a boy and a girl that was the smallest clothing they could find. And so we dressed her and held her as long as we could before exhaustion took over.
And the next we saw her was at the funeral. And we had everything we could do to honor her as best we knew how, but a lot of my story is through the regret and the remorse of what I didn't have afforded to me and I didn't know was possible that I'm trying to help others have that go through this situation.
And so after Grace, we had years of infertility; we also had several adoptions that fell through. So building a family for us was met with a lot of tragedy and difficulty.
And in that process, I reached out to my online support group and I said, “Hey guys, my marriage is a great marriage. We have an awesome relationship. I'm married to my best friend, but we're really rubbing each other raw and we're not doing very well. And do you have any marriage resources or anything you'd recommend?”
And that was the point when, actually, a whole bunch of people wrote to me and said, “Oh, The 5 Love Languages has been really great. You should read that book and try that together.” So that was my introduction to 5 Love Languages, and it became very instrumental in turning things around for us in our marriage.
And so after Grace, then we had our next child, Tatum, and she's 16. And then we have another, Talya. She is 12. And then we had a miscarriage at 15 weeks and that is Baby Promise, who would be six now.
And through all of that, there were challenges. All of my babies had cord issues, so to say it's rare, I do think there's something that is contributing to that happening.
And so Tatum was born a month early and she had the cord around her neck three times. And Talya was born almost a month early too, and she had the cord around her neck twice.
And I'm so thankful they made it here safely, but there was a lot of intervention done and very close medical watching. And I was on home fetal monitor, and I was in the hospital for much of the pregnancies. And I'm very thankful that I have two healthy, beautiful girls and they're doing well.
And that was my journey to become a mom. But I've always wondered when God would bring us more children. We love children and I wanted a huge family. So I always say, “I have two on earth and two in Heaven,” and I anticipate greatly the day we get to be reunited with our precious babies in Heaven.
We don't know if Promise was a boy or girl. The girls vote boy and sometimes, I don't know. I think girl because we had three girls. But anyway, I know they're there and I look forward to being with them.
And my journey here as a mother is not only to my living children in front of me that I get to love and do life with, but I really saw that God showed me a way I could honor my babies and in that way, be a parent to them the only way I had left, and that would be to honor them and their legacy, give them a legacy and help others.
One–to save every life I could where possible and educate through my story, so that hopefully if mothers could take proactive measures to get proactive providers and caregivers, that they could save their babies if they were in distress.
And then the other thing was to then help families when they do go through a loss and help them know they're not alone, and that they're loved and precious, and that we will help give them all the things we wished we would've known way back when, and hopefully help them have a whole different kind of a healing experience through all of it.
Ashley Opliger: [00:09:01] I'm so sorry for everything you've walked through. It's so painful to walk through the loss of a baby. And to go through that experience twice, it would be really hard to walk through that as well.
Would you mind sharing about after Grace was born? And you talked about how this is really hard for you and your husband to walk through grief together, but what does that look like when you were grieving individually and as a married couple?
Candy McVicar: [00:09:25] I think my emoting was very common for what I see with women. I wanted to process and talk and I couldn't stop crying. I was overcome. And the breast milk comes in, the body is still wanting to give life to this child.
I had the unusual situation that most of my friends and my sister-in-laws all included were all pregnant and all had their babies within four months of our baby being born.
And so I was surrounded by babies all on the same time frame, watching them grow up, watching their celebrations, and being invited to all their showers and all their things. So it was really intense and very difficult.
And I also had physical things going on. So I was sickly at that time. And so I was hurting so bad. I was so raw. And I have always been a go-getter and a capable person. And my husband was looking at me, going, “Oh my gosh, what happened to my wife?”
I wanted to be in the fetal position. I didn't want to go to work. I could barely function. And so all of that was really challenging. And so he felt like, “If I'm a good provider and I am strong for you,” men tend to want to fix things and they want to take care of us and they want to protect us. And God's wiring him that way, and yet that wasn't helping me feel connected to him.
That wasn't helping me feel, actually, the security that I needed. And I wanted that closeness, that we’re more congruent in our grieving than what I was feeling.
And he was feeling he didn't have the flexibility in that to be vulnerable in his grief. He felt like if he went to the low with me that we'd never get anywhere in life. We wouldn't survive. We'd be a sinking ship. And so he was thinking. “I can't go there. I can't emote like that. I can't process like that. I can't be vulnerable like that because one of us has to stay strong.”
So there was this really important conversation in the parking lot of a restaurant that we were sitting outside of and we began to argue. And I said, “Do you even care? I thought you were an amazing father. I knew you were going to be a great dad. But now you just seem to move on, go to work, do your thing. And then why am I the one left here? I'm feeling all these emotions, but then I don't feel like you feel those things.” And I'm like, “I don't even know if you care.”
And he was so offended and he was so hurt by those words. And he was like, “When's a great time for me to have a bad day? When's a great time for me to go to the lowest low? Then what happens to us? I'm trying to hold it together here.”
And we had this really raw, hard conversation, but it was so beneficial and we just got it all out there. And he's like, “I'm afraid if I say her name, I'm going to bring you down. I'm afraid if I talk about it too much, I'll keep you in a place of depression and sadness.”
And I was trying to show him, “No, you can never say her name and hurt me. You can never make me feel worse because you showed me you love her.”
And he just was like it was revelatory for him. He was like, “Oh.”
And I said, “Speak her name. Tell me you thought of her today. Tell me what little things hurt your feelings today when you went to work,” because there was a guy who had a child shortly after us, named her Grace, and everyone brought in balloons, and they're like, “Congratulations!”
And he was sinking inside. He was so hurt because everybody around him was celebrating this new baby, named the same name, and he was coming home and trying to then not show me that and hide that from me.
I'm like, “No, I would have loved to wrap my arms around you and be there for you in your grief. And I'm sad that you felt you had to hide that from me.”
And so I also realized I do have to be stronger and I can't be expecting him to take this big weight of my emotions and put it all on this man's shoulders.
So it was very important for me to realize I need to reach out to my girlfriends. I need to reach out to my community of bereaved mamas and talk to them. And we can all really process together more, because we have more words and more emotion to share than maybe our male partners can share.
And so that was a big part, and also I realized I need to run to the Father. I was feeling sad that, “You let this happen to my babies, my baby,” at that point. And I was feeling like, “Why'd You let this happen to me? I love You. I'm serving You. I'm living for You. I actually wanted my baby, and I wanted to take care of this baby, and love them, and raise them to know You.”
And so I was also in a big part pushing God away because I was so hurt. And so normally I would run to Him with everything, but yet I was rejecting Him in some ways in my heart.
And so that had to happen too, where I came into healing and loving Him and realizing He didn't do that to me, and that we're in a sinful world where bad things happen to good people, and there is an enemy out to kill, steal and destroy.
And there's many casualties for us who are believers when we're in a situation where we’re affected, but it wasn't because we did something deserving to have that happen.
And so as my faith began to grow anew, and stronger, and actually more beautiful because it was richer, and more mature, and deeper, that was really a key component. And that also was a congruency area for me and my husband, because our faith began to grow stronger together through all of that.
And I just will say that it was a lot of cognizant work. It just didn't always naturally flow. We had to make choices every day to choose to love each other, to choose to honor each other, to choose to give each other space and room to grieve the way we individually needed to.
But then he would say things like, “Well, I want to come and participate with you in this memorial for Grace.” And so he would set aside times in his heart and in his life to partner with me in things that felt very doable for him, and that was really very bonding for us.
Ashley Opliger: [00:15:21] So beautiful. I feel like I can relate to so much of what you said about walking through the grief and questioning God and wondering, “Why did You let this happen? Why did You let my baby die,” and needing to forgive Him, not because He needs to be forgiven, because He's perfect, He's righteous, He has no sin in Him, but because we have this perception of Him that's not Biblical, these errors in our theology is what I like to say, where we think that He caused this and that He's done something wrong or that He’s unjustly punishing us or something like that.
But knowing that this is a consequence of the Fall and that God is very near to us and can relate to us in our suffering and can heal our broken heart because He created our hearts.
And I think there is just that moment where you realize your faith is even more real and stronger and that you have this authentic faith because you've learned to trust in who God really is and in His good character. And you have to learn that; you have to remember who God is again. So I love that you said that.
So you talked about you and your husband and how you were grieving differently and how you had that monumental conversation, where you just had to share what was on your heart, and how you were processing your grief, and how you were perceiving his grief, and differences in perception as well, and also laying out some expectations and laying out some ways that you could support each other.
And so I would love for you to share about how that came to be, how you connected with Dr. Gary Chapman and what that book is about. And then we will really dig into The 5 Love Languages and how that can help grieving parents.
Candy McVicar: [00:17:10] Well, after grieving and seeing how quickly a marriage can deteriorate with a little bit of raw, I think a lot of us do great when everything is hunky-dory and going beautifully until there's financial stress or there's a trauma, until there's grief. Then all of a sudden the brakes go on and this couple is struggling. And we fell into that too.
And so once we saw we were vulnerable, even though we have an awesome marriage, we were vulnerable to the hurts and pains of this world and our marriage and that it affects us, and that all of a sudden we're not as sweet and loving in our responses, for us, we were short with each other and there wasn't as much grace or patience.
And so we saw that we need to really invest in this marriage. We have to put continual deposits into this marriage in order to be not only strong together, but strong as parents.
And we felt like it was the most honoring thing to do to our Father in Heaven is to have a beautiful, robust marriage that in this world today is so rare, and we realized this takes effort.
And so we began to have a budget that we set aside for every year to go to a marriage conference and to do time just dedicated on us. Now, for me to leave my new little babies each time they were born, because that meant some point in the year that they were born, there would be a marriage conference or a time going way.
But I saw that it really helped. Thankfully, we had relatives that we trusted and loved, and we knew that our kids were in amazing care and that they were being loved on like we would love on them.
So I know not everyone has that resource, but we would go away for a full week and it was so restoring and so beneficial to just have no interrupted conversations, and to walk, and hold hands, and talk, and process, and just relax together and learn.
It was always also an investment, like, “We're going to go learn something. Let’s learn a new tool and put this in our marriage toolbox.” And so we went to a conference, it was a Christian conference and Dr. Gary Chapman was speaking at the conference. And I was excited because I had been implementing this into our marriage we had, and then we began to incorporate it into our grief support groups with Missing GRACE.
We would actually invite them into learning about The 5 Love Languages. And so we would give all the couples in our support groups the quiz, and then we would give them different challenges of things to work on over the next few weeks till we met again.
And then we would come back and everybody would laugh and discuss how they were missing the mark because they were loving each other the way they wanted to be loved, not the way their spouse needed to be loved. And so, as they began to implement that, it was a real game-changer for them too. And so we saw a lot of positive movement in this.
And so when we went to the conference, I was excited to share with Dr. Chapman how beneficial this book had been for us, and that we were using it consistently in our support groups.
And it was really a miraculous kind of encounter. I can't explain how it went because I'm still blown away at how everything played out. But during one of the breaks, my husband went to get me a coffee and I really felt the Lord's prompting to go talk to him and just tell him “thank you.” And I felt like the Lord said, “You're going to write a book together.”
And I literally looked around the room like, “Who said that?”
I didn't know where that thought came from, because if you knew me, I've been told many times, “You're going to write a book someday.”
And I would always say, “No, there are enough books out there. It's all been said already. We don't need another story. What is my story? It's nothing. It's not important,” whatever.
I wasn't dreaming about it. I wasn't hoping to do it. It was not on my radar. And literally, a God thought drops into my head and He says, “You're going to write a book with him.”