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.
Graphics to share on social media or pin on Pinterest!
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.
Connect with Candy:
CRADLED IN HOPE PODCAST
New episodes will be shared on the 1st and 15th of every month. Don't miss a single episode...subscribe wherever you podcast!
Please also leave a review to help spread the message of hope with other grieving mommas!
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.
Connect with Ashley:
Follow Bridget’s Cradles:
Follow Cradled in Hope Podcast:
JOIN OUR CRADLED IN HOPE COMMUNITY FOR GRIEVING MOMS
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.”
And I was like. “Who said that,” literally. And so I bargained with God about “Maybe could we not do that?” And he was really pressing my heart to go talk to him.
And so anyway, when I went up to him, normally he has a huge long line, there are all these people all around him. And in that particular moment, there was nobody next to him. And he just was like, “Hey, how can I help you?”
And I shared with him about how much The 5 Love Languages was a game-changer for me and my husband, and we were excited to come to the conference and hear him teach on the languages of apology and different things he was teaching on that week.
And then I just said, “I would love to read a book, if you could ever put out a book on grief and loss, because I feel like it could really be applicable because I've been using it in our support groups and I find it is very effective.”
And as we're talking, he stops me and he said, ”Do you know how many times I've been asked for that book?” He goes, “I get asked for that book all the time,” but he said, “I never had the right person to write it with. And the Holy Spirit's telling me right now you're the woman I'm writing that book with.”
And he goes, “Here's my phone number, and we'll talk with our publisher and we'll make it happen.” And then sure enough, there was a phone call and they had decided this was a book they wanted to do. So I already had a yes to the book before I'd ever written a page.
Ashley Opliger: [00:22:19] Oh my goodness! That is so amazing.
Candy McVicar: [00:22:20] It was really amazing. And then was the amazing journey of figuring out how to write a book.
I'm going, “Oh my gosh, is this …” But thankfully I had a co-author who's phenomenal, and so he was literally a coach and a mentor. And he and his wife were, I don't know how to explain how sweet they are. They are truly the real deal.
They're kind. They're loving people. They have a fantastic, funny marriage. They're super cool people. And he's humble and kind, and very good at mentoring. And he helped me through all my fears and my hang-ups of why I couldn't write a book.
And I would write a chapter at a time and he and his wife would review it and they would give me feedback, and then certain things we collaborated on and wrote together, and here we are today.
Ashley Opliger: [00:23:03] That’s so amazing.
Ashley Opliger: [00:23:04] 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: [00:24:41] Well, I love this book and I love that you're applying The 5 Love Languages to grieving, because you had mentioned there are so many times that we like to love people the way we like to be loved, but that's not going to fill up their, you called it a love cup. I call it a love tank.
And in fact, even with my little boy, he'll say, “My love tank is empty.” And we have this whole thing about filling up our love tanks in our house, and giving each other hugs to fill it up.
But in a grieving sense, when you're grieving, there are certain things that you can do to apply these love languages to show love in the midst of sorrow and in the midst of grief.
And so would you mind just giving us a quick overview of The 5 Love Languages, and then give some examples for each love language, how we can apply that to love our spouse well through grief?
Candy McVicar: [00:25:28] Well, there are five and they all apply. So first I just want to say it's not that any of us hates any one of them and says, “I don't like that at all.” Mostly that would not be the case.
Ashley Opliger: [00:25:40] My husband jokes that all five love languages are my love language, which is not true. My primary one is Words of Affirmation and then Acts of Service. But he's like, ”You want to be loved in all the ways,” But anyway …
And most people have a primary that really is going to touch the deepest and really speak to them the most. And then we often have a good close secondary, and again, the others would be nice to have once in a while. It would be special, but they're not going to be game-changers and it’s not going to kill the deal for you. You're going to still be like, “Oh, this is nice.”
For example, for me, Gifts is one of them. You could give me a gift and I would appreciate it, but that wouldn't make me feel necessarily extremely loved and so precious and special to you. I would just be like, “Oh thank you.” But let me go through what each of them are.
So we have Words of Affirmation, and that means you are one who loves words. You love the written word. You love books. You loved to see texts and letters and emails. And you'll really think about those words. You'll read them very carefully and words are very precious to you.
And so you tend to be a very affirming person with words. You will say very nice and kind things to other people because that would be nice if they said those things in return, and that would mean a lot to you if people were thoughtful about their words.
And Quality Time is the next one, and that is very much in the line of time is precious to you. And it's something that if you're giving someone your time, you're giving them the most valuable thing you could give them.
One of the worst things you could say to a Quality Time person is, “Hey, I’ve only got one minute. Whatever you’ve got to say, say it in a minute.” The quality time person will freeze.
They're like, “Oh, I need more time than one minute.” And they tend to be the person where you're going to gab a long time and you're going to get together and they're going to give their time as everything.
And so for a man, if he's like, “Look, you've got my attention and I'm here and I'm present,” he's giving you his Quality Time. And that is very precious to him to give you that.
And so next is Acts of Service. And so if you're an Acts of Service person, you tend to serve everyone. You give of yourself. And so, yes, that includes time, but it's really about you are creatively serving in every capacity possible.
There is no service you wouldn’t do. You'll do anything for anyone. And you're going to serve at the church. You're going to serve in this ministry. You tend to be overextended and have way too much on your plate because you're a yes person in many ways to serve.
And this is the mom who goes above and beyond and does everything for her family to make it all perfect and just right, and so they’re serving in every way possible. Acts of Service man, he's changed the oil. He helped to get the whole yard work done. He even made dinner tonight for you. He's doing all this stuff to try to show everyone his love.
And then Receiving Gifts, that's where it's not just every year you get a box of chocolates. That wouldn't be a Receiving Gifts. An example of Receiving Gifts is you went and went to a certain, out of your way to get a special gift that is going to mean something.
You think through Christmas and birthdays. You can't believe it, you want to make it so precious, so beautiful. You want to see that, “Oh, you've got me the perfect thing!” They’re after the perfect gift.
Ashley Opliger: [00:29:16] Something thoughtful, meaningful, personalized.
Candy McVicar: [00:29:20] Yes. And it's really the kind of gift that someone's going to display in their home, or they're going to talk about forever because it just meant so much to them. You went out of your way to plan this special thing for somebody.
And then the last one is Physical Touch. And Physical Touch is pretty self-explanatory. You love touch. It doesn't have to be the sexual part of it, though in a marriage it is. That's going to be especially important.
But it's walking past them in the kitchen, touching their back, and putting your hand on their hand, and driving with your hand on their knee. Others would see them as touchy-feely, and maybe they don't always understand this bubble of space. They might be in your bubble a little bit.
So my husband is Words of Affirmation/Physical Touch. His top one is Words of Affirmation and second is Physical Touch.
My top one is Acts of Service and second runner-up would be Quality Time. And so the funny thing, neither of us has each other's top one. Right? So my husband will say all these beautiful things to me and he means it with his whole heart. He's like, “Oh, I'm so proud of you. I love you. You’re beautiful,” whatever.
He says all this stuff and I'm like, “Yeah. So anyway, could you please get this done in the house?” To me, words were kind of cheap and I'm like, “Show me. If you mean it, show me” kind of was my idea of, “Put your actions behind your words and actually do something about it.”
And then giving Quality Time; if I'm going to give you my time, that I have a lot to do, my life is very full, and if I'm going to give precious time, then I feel like I'm really giving a lot of myself.
Well, and with him, physical touch, I don't know. “Fine. Hi, here's a hug. Okay. And, okay, fine. I guess we can hold hands,” you know, but I'm not thinking about that. I was not touching him, hardly. He was touch-starved. He was, “Oh, God, touch me. Lord Jesus, let her lay hands upon me.”
And so it was very funny because I had to learn. And he would go, “Oh my gosh, I needed to feel that,” like, I would go in the kitchen and put my hand across his back and he's like, “That gave me shivers,” and he just wanted to be loved on.
And I had to think about that. I literally had to change my mindset that it's not less valuable just because I don't need it. It's not less precious or important. No, this is actually necessary for him to feel my love. And he's not going to feel very loved if I don't.
Now applying it within our grief, here we are, we're raw, we’re being short with each other. Well, first of all, just to begin to understand, “I need to love you differently because what we've been doing isn't working.”
So that starts to build back this cushion in our marriage because we're starting to fill each other's love tank. We're starting to give each other what each other needs.
But then to apply it very specifically with grief, here I am. I'm Acts of Service/Quality Time. So he sees that and he goes, “All right, I'm going to serve in our ministry together with you side by side.”
And I was like, that was, “Really? You just filled my love tank so huge!” And so he is the backbone of everything we do. He's always there behind the scenes, running things, taking care of stuff, troubleshooting, doing the financials, doing all these different aspects of the ministry.
And I am better because of it. He makes me a better person and a better leader because I have this wonderful support in my husband with that, which then in turn, he's going to get a whole lot of loving, and he's going to get a lot of that loving touch. And I've learned I need to affirm him with these words.
And so what would mean something so much to him? Well, he loves to be a good dad, including to Grace and Promise. Right? So for me to say, “I am so proud of how you honored Grace today. You are such a good father.”
And he'd just be like, “Whoa, that really touched me when you said that,” and I wasn't verbalizing those kinds of things. I literally was like a child who had to be taught. I had to learn a new skill.
And so you're going to apply it in relation to your grief story and situation and it's going to touch an even deeper level than it would outside of grief because in grief, we are so starved for the kind of love that is healing in our hearts. Right? We need that.
Ashley Opliger: [00:33:19] I love that, Candy, and something that you said reminded me of another marriage book that I have found to be really helpful, Love and Respect.
And in there talks about the Crazy Cycle of when a man is not feeling respected, he doesn't show love. And when a woman is not shown love, she doesn't show respect. And when you're not getting the respect that you need, then the love's not coming. And then it's this Crazy Cycle because you're not showing what the other person needs, because you're not getting what you need.
And when you talked about the love languages, when your husband was going in and serving in the ministry with you and showing you love that way, that fills your love tank up and made you want to show him the physical touch and fill his love tank up.
And I think it kind of comes back to that: cycles. When we feel loved, we feel more like being loving. We feel like we want to show our spouse the same love in return.
And one of the takeaways that we learned from the book Love and Respect was that it only takes one person to stop the Crazy Cycle. It actually doesn't take both people because if I'm the one to start showing respect to my husband, that naturally, receiving that respect, he's naturally going to show love. And so I found that to be very profound as well, and I think it ties in here.
If you're listening to this and your marriage is on the brink or just struggling through grief right now, you can be the person to start this cycle and start showing love as you're navigating and figuring out your love languages.
And ultimately, all of this is about wanting to draw closer to each other, to God, through your grief. So would you share about what grieving with hope looked like with your husband as you had this foundation of learning to love each other and support each other well in your grief, and how that strengthened your marriage and also your relationship with God?
Candy McVicar: [00:35:07] When you're in the dark place of grief, there is very little hope. You feel like this is forever. You feel like there's no end in sight. And I went through a long, dark time of that because we didn't have other children to focus on and there was no other life in the home. We ended up getting dogs and pets and what not.
But when you have a vision for your life and what you're hoping it will be with being a mom, and raising children, and going through this with your friends at a similar stage, and all of that was dashed, I was in a really dark place. So hope was elusive.
And when we began to help others and we saw that our story was being used for good, this was when God was really showing me that there is beauty for ashes, and I felt like I could see the redemptive work of God, that there's a recompense and that God is gracious to give us so much more back than whatever the enemy stole from us.
And that really changed our faith walk. I feel like we went so much deeper and that my faith is so much stronger now, but there was a time where I just said, “I can't even pray.”
Like it says, our spirit groans. And I was in that stage where I felt like, “You already know what I want. I want my baby back. You already know what I'm sad about. I can't even say it. I just feel like it'd be futile repetitions. I just literally would cry and groan.
And little by little, the Lord showed me His mercy, His kindness, His love and His grief. I felt like He says, “I weep with you. I've wept when my Son was on the cross.” I felt like He was showing me His unending love for me and my babies was so strong.
And as I began to feel His love for me, that poured out into my marriage. And then I felt like that poured out of us to others and out of our fullness, we began to help others in need.
And we would get these letters that says, “Our baby’s alive because of the education you provided. We did what you said, and we went back in and we got another opinion, and that doctor ended up doing a crash C-section and saved our baby. And he said, ‘If you had left here without that, your baby wouldn't be alive today.’”
And that was like, “Oh my gosh!” I treasured all these letters, knowing we saved a life.
And then when parents said, “Our marriage was on the rocks and we were not doing well, and you came alongside us and you gave us an example to follow and you loved us through in our marriage.”
And we would. We didn't just run a support group. We did life with these families. We were going out for coffee, and we were going on retreats together, and were having them in our home, and everybody was family.
And so they really would feel that, “This is about a journey together. We're in this together.” And so that's where the glistening hope is. That's where the beauty is. It’s relational. That's the eternal stuff. Right?
We can't take any of this stuff in this world with us; what we invest in is people, it relationally is eternal. And that's when you start to get excited. You start to see where the joy is possible and where it's not temporary. That's a longstanding, rich joy.
And people would say, “How can you do this?” I think a lot of people just kept wondering, when do we quit? When are we done with this ministry? Because this is just so sad, so hard.
I'm like, “You have no idea the rich life I have because of the relationships I have, all the people that we've been able to journey with. And we're lifelong friends.
There's a specialness to our relationship that nobody else can understand unless you've been there because we've walked through the darkest darks and we've also celebrated the highest highs as these people have gone on and had other children or adopted or their marriages have thrived and they've gone on to start ministries. And that is really beautiful to me.
So I feel like if anyone is looking for a way to get out of the dark cycle and out of the really depths of dark grief, one of my most important advice I could give to somebody for that is: Step out of you and do something for others.
Find a way to serve, whether that's volunteer with an organization like Bridget’s Cradles or Missing GRACE or it's to go and give your money, because maybe you can't give time but you can give. You're working hard to sow into another ministry.
Or you start something yourself. Or you take one person in who needs help. Become a foster parent. Become an adoptive parent. Adopt animals and foster and shelter animals. Do something kind to this world and into this earth, and I believe you'll get so much more out of it than you intended to. And God is really gracious to bring joy back into your life and hope back into your life.
And I know for a fact you’ve experienced this. You've seen this in your own journey, and I can tell that. And you've graciously served and sown into all these other people's lives, and I know you're far richer for it. Right?
Ashley Opliger: [00:40:05] Amen. Yes, I 100% agree with everything you just said, and that's been my personal journey as well.
And when we do support groups, our support groups are actually called Support and Serve. And so we do a support group and then we go sit at the tables and in fellowship with each other, we serve other families that are walking through the same pain that we have been in.
And I feel like that's such a huge part of healing is to step out of your own grief and to comfort others with the same comfort we've been given by God. And so I love that you said that.
As we're closing, I would love for you to share about Missing GRACE Foundation, what you started, what you do, what your mission is.
Candy McVicar: [00:40:40] Well, it evolved. And I hope that as I share this, you'll be encouraged if you feel led to do something.
When I started, there was so little out there, this is over 20 years ago now. And when I reached out for help and support, I found it lacking. And people didn't write back to me. I emailed and called people. And so I really felt the Lord said, “That's because you're going to start something.”
And so it evolved over time. And I find that for a lot of us, if we knew how something would grow or become so big, we might never start because it just seems too overwhelming. But it came in stages.
And so we had conferences we started to put on because I really wanted to save lives and I wanted to help educate and learn from whatever we've gone through.
And so I put on conferences for both medical professionals and bereaved and adoptive families all together. And so those were really amazing events and they would be all-weekend events that would include memorial banquets and all kinds of things to honor our journey as bereaved parents and grandparents and family members, and then also learn.
And so you could go to a track for grief and loss, infertility, adoption, health and wellness, or the medical track with CEUs and CMS. Then I also was putting on support groups.
And then I saw from support group after support group, all these people would come and say they had these tragic stories like me and they were leaving the hospital with empty arms and no resources.
Some hospitals might hand them a bear, some might hand them a blanket, some might hand them a book. And I found that nobody ever read the books. No bereaved mom, just finding out her baby's not going to make it, sits in the hospital and reads a book.
And so that was also hard, because I was like, they would find out all this good information from the book after the fact and then it was too late. And they were like, “I wish I would have known those things earlier on.”
And so all of that was the impetus to begin to say, “Let's provide a Care Basket and Tote, a resource that the hospitals could have on hand.” And so it has everything in there for before meeting baby, while having baby, and after being home.
And so that was our idea, was we wanted to make sure they were resourced in every way possible. And our resource folder has a sheet. You pull out this one sheet, it's going to apply to you. It's not going to be complicated. These are the things we wished we would have done. And we wished we would've known.
And so it gets the mind thinking about possibilities. A lot of people will reject the baby, surprisingly, because it feels too hurtful. Like, “If I love them too much, it'll hurt too much.” And so a lot of people would. I worked in the hospital for 10 years, and so that's a God story in itself, but God aligned everything for me to go in and begin working with a major metro hospital.
And they were trying to clean things up after something very difficult they went through, and they wanted to have more support for the families going through loss in their labor/delivery/birthing center.
And so I came in and I began to train up a team of people that would work with me. And we were on call 24/7, and we would go in and we would do doula services and video and photograph everything.
I’d create a whole documentary of the baby's life and then I would create a documentary video with my husband. And then they would have that with everything on there, the birth and any kind of baptism, any kind of ceremonies, the funeral, everything, and we would walk through that whole time.
And so what I was able to see what's helpful, I was able to see what people use in these baskets. And I was able to see what things that would be most beneficial during that whole process.
And so that was the evolving of that. It just kept getting more resources and we would make things a little bit better and improve on. And hospitals can order those in advance and they have them on hand.
But also, many people will just find out their best friend just found out there's no more heartbeat or she's miscarrying at home, and then they'll get those to help them through.
And in those there's everything from the outfit that they can wear, we have multiple outfits, knit, crocheted, sewn. There's a blanket. We need to put the cradles in there.
Ashley Opliger: [00:44:33] I know. I was going to say, “We need to talk after this about our organizations partnering together.”
Candy McVicar: [00:44:38] Yes.
Ashley Opliger: [00:44:39] I was just thinking that.
Candy McVicar: [00:44:41] I would love that because that would be very precious to our families. And I love your cradles. So yeah, Missing GRACE would be honored to have Bridget’s Cradles in our Care Baskets.
So anyway, there are books, but often I find out nobody's reading those til they get home. But often a relative sitting there waiting for baby to be born will thumb through and read the books too.
But the literature is meant to answer every question, “What are my rights? What am I allowed to do? What's going to happen now? Can I have other people come in and visit? And will my breast milk come in? When can I be intimate again,” all these things. It answers all their questions but in a very simple format.
And then there is a hand and foot molding kit, and a hand and footprint kit, and then a memorial bracelet, a memorial candle, comfort warmer. There's a lot of different things.
So a lot of handmade items; like you guys, we are heavy on volunteer needs and we cannot do what we do unless people help us make all those things. And so when we did all of that, my goal was to inspire others to do their thing, because there's no way we could be out there everywhere.
And so I love to hear of other ministries. I love to work with other ministries. And everyone I can see just has their thing they're so good at, and we all compliment each other. And so I'm incredibly grateful to see so many more available now.
People would say, “There's nothing in my entire state.” They would tell me that.
And I was like, “Oh my gosh. Well, we'll do something then. We'll try to help.” But that all takes money and fundraising. And so we would put on local fundraisers to try to get resources just for that community so that their hospital did have something they handed out.
And so I think we're in a better place today. I do believe there are a lot more wonderful organizations popping up all over as people are being inspired to do something good. And I hope there's no town or village without resources.
Ashley Opliger: [00:46:26] Amen.
Candy McVicar: [00:44:26] Right now we have a center in Minnesota and people can go there and there's a gift shop and a little library. And we have a volunteer room where everybody gets together and we make our baskets and totes, and hand-make all the items that go in them.
And then you can call in and get support. And we also have both in-person and online support groups.
As part of this episode, Candy is generously giving away a copy of her book, Holding on to Love After You've Lost a Baby; she'll sign that copy. And then we will also be giving away through Missing GRACE their GRACE Care Tote. And Candy, would you mind sharing what will be in that Care Tote?
Candy McVicar: [00:47:12] Yes. Well, the totes and baskets traditionally are meant to be given to a family when they're learning there's a poor diagnosis or they are with their baby during the time they're going to meet them.
But our tote is a really nice tote and people do love to carry them around to just have on hand, to carry whatever you want around town. And so you'll get a tote and then we hand-make memorial bracelets, and so depending on if you lost a boy or a girl, because they are gender-specific.
And then we also have what we love for the dad, a baby foot charm. So it's washers with a baby feet charm in the middle, and dads put it in their pocket. And they share how much they love to just put their hand in there and it makes them think about their baby.
And then we have a beautiful little figurine with a baby resting in the angel wings, and it's very sweet. So you'll get a nice little version of our tote bag of some of the resources that parents get. And I hope it will be a blessing for you.
Ashley Opliger: [00:48:08] We love it, and we love what Missing GRACE is doing, and for all of the time and energy that you have poured into your ministry and to serving grieving families across the country. So thank you to you and your husband for being obedient in that calling and honoring Grace and Promise’s lives to bring hope and healing to the world.
And we love to partner with other organizations because we feel that we can build the Kingdom and share more hope, and so we would love to provide our cradles to your organization and partner with you in that way.
So as we close, would you share how listeners can get connected to you or your website and social channels for yourself and for Missing GRACE?
And Grace, by the way, is my firstborn’s name, but it actually stands for Grieve, Restore, Arise, Commemorate and Educate. And so that's our hope is that what we do, we can provide each of those steps. And I do believe that we arise out of the dark place of grief.
And I just hope for you hearing this, that you are encouraged, and that you do realize you're not alone, and that there are so many of us that would love to be there for you, walk with you through your journey, support you, resource you, help you however we can, because that is half of the battle right there, is if you feel isolated and alone and you don't feel understood or heard, then that will really affect how you heal.
And I know Bridget’s Cradles has wonderful resources and Missing GRACE is here for you too. And I just know that if you feel that hand of support, if you feel that the community around you, you will be so much stronger and you'll come through this so much better.
Ashley Opliger: [00:50:01] Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Candy, for being here and sharing your story and sharing about the amazing resources you have.
Candy McVicar: [00:50:07] Thank you. God bless you guys.
Ashley Opliger: [00:50:13] 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.
#cradledinhope #cradledinhopepodcast #bridgetscradles #christianpodcast #christianpodcasters #christianpodcasts #pregnancyloss #infantloss #babyloss #miscarriage #miscarriagematters #infantlosssupport #grievingprocess #stillbirthawareness #pregnancylossawareness #grievingmother #infantlossawareness #miscarriagesupport #iam1in4 #1in4 #stillbornstillloved #pregnancyandinfantlossawareness #stillborn #stillbirth #griefjourney #miscarriageawareness #lifeafterloss