In this episode, Ashley Opliger discusses how to raise Rainbow Babies (or older living children) to remember their sibling in Heaven. Through her experience of raising two boys on earth after the loss of her daughter, Ashley shares four practical ways you can help your living children honor their sibling in Heaven.
Ashley is joined by her four-year-old son, Branton, for a few minutes during this episode to demonstrate how to talk to a young child about God, Heaven, and their sibling in Heaven. This short episode is a sweet glimpse into Ashley's life mothering children on earth and in Heaven. If you have lost a baby and desire for your living children to know about them, this episode is for you.
In this episode, Ashley shares:
How to talk to your living children about their sibling in Heaven
Traditions you can do to honor your baby's place in your family
How to involve your living children in Celebrations of Life for your baby in Heaven such as a Heaven Day Birthday Party
Acts of Kindness you can do in memory of your baby in Heaven (plus a link to 50 ideas and a free personalized template card)
How Bridget's life has positively impacted her parenting
Why having a baby in Heaven has allowed them to share the Gospel in a very real and tangible way with their children on earth
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!)
Ashley shares four ways to help your children on earth remember your baby in Heaven: Talking about Your Baby, Family Traditions, Celebrations of Life, and Acts of Kindness. Which one of these spoke to you the most and what idea can you implement in your family life moving forward?
In this episode, Ashley gave a glimpse into a conversation with her four-year-old son about God, Heaven, and his sister in Heaven. What stood out to you about this conversation? Is it easy or hard for you to have these conversations with your kids? If it's hard, identify what is making it difficult. Plan to have an age-appropriate conversation in the next week and write down how it goes.
Ashley talks about how Bridget's life allows her and her husband to share the Gospel with their kids in a more real and tangible way. In what ways have you seen this to be true in your life? Are there other opportunities you could use to share God's truth and hope with them?
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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 1,065 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 6: Raising a Rainbow Baby to Remember Their Sibling in Heaven
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: [00:01:28] Hi, sweet friends. We are now on Episode Six and I pray that you have found hope and healing in the conversations we've had in the previous episodes. We have been so blessed to have such wonderful women come on the show and share their stories of heartbreak and hope. We have many more amazing conversations with special guests coming up, but for today's episode, I wanted to talk about a specific topic that is close to my heart.
As many of you know, I am a mom to three children, two sons on earth, and a daughter in Heaven. Bridget is our first child and her two younger brothers are my Rainbow Babies. I recently learned that August 22nd is National Rainbow Baby Day. And I was asked by laurelbox, a bereavement gift company that we partner with, to write a blog post about Rainbow Babies.
As with any writing opportunity I am given, I always pray and seek God about what it is He wants me to write about. After spending time in prayer and reflection, I knew He was asking me to write about my experience of raising my boys to remember their sister in Heaven. After I submitted the blog post, I also felt God was asking me to turn this message into a podcast episode and to expand on some of the discussion points, as well as talk more about the impact Bridget has made on our parenting and the blessings she has given to our family.
Later in this episode, I'm going to also welcome my four-year-old son, Branton, to show you an example of a normal conversation we have about his sister in Heaven. I am looking forward to sharing this part of my life with you, so let's get started.
Ashley Opliger: [00:03:08] When my husband and I got married in 2014, we never would have imagined that we would lose a baby and that the journey to growing our family would be filled with so much grief and heartache. Our first child, Bridget Faith, was stillborn at 24 weeks into my first pregnancy and our family has never been the same.
After we lost Bridget, my husband and I knew that if we were blessed to have living children in the future, we wanted to raise them to know about their big sister in Heaven. We missed her so much and we wanted her to be remembered in our family.
So fast forward six years, and we now have two little boys, a four-year-old and a six-month-old. And it's so important to us that our boys know that Bridget is their sister and that they have the opportunity to see her one day in Heaven, through faith in Jesus. Though they didn't get the chance to know her on earth and they don't have any memories of her, we still desire for them to remember her and live their lives honoring her as their sibling.
Though this certainly was not the story we would have chosen for our family, this is the story that God had chosen for us, and we believe that Bridget is part of our eternal family. Therefore, we strive to honor her memory in our home and family on earth. So based on our family experience, I'd like to share with you four ways you can help your Rainbow Baby or older living sibling or siblings to remember your baby in Heaven.
The first one is: Talk about your baby in Heaven. We talk about Bridget all the time in our family. She is brought up naturally in conversations and our day-to-day lives. When we read Bible stories or talk about Heaven, we acknowledge that Bridget is there. Our oldest son, Branton, asks a lot of questions about Heaven and he brings her up when he sees a pretty sunset (which I'll tell you a story about in just a little bit), if he sees a photo of her, or one of her memory keepsakes.
He understands that he was Mommy's second baby and that Bridget was born before him. Since he was little, we have told him, “Mommy had a baby, Bridget, in her tummy before you were born. And she went to be with Jesus in Heaven. And then a few years later, we prayed to God for another baby and God sent us you.”
So as you talk to your Rainbow Baby about their sibling, it's important to keep your conversations developmentally appropriate for their age. Keep it simple for babies and toddlers. And as they grow up, you can share more and more details with them, including photos, if you feel comfortable.
Today, I'm going to give you an example of what it's like to have a conversation with a Rainbow Child, I can't call him a baby anymore, about their sibling in Heaven. I'm excited to welcome my son, Branton, to the podcast. He was born in 2017, two and a half years after Bridget was born. Since he's four, I can't promise how this will go, but I hope that you can get a small glimpse into the conversations we have as a family.
Ashley Opliger: [00:06:02] Branton, I am so excited that you get to be on Mommy's podcast. I want to talk to you about your sissy in Heaven, Bridget. Can you tell me about her?
Branton Opliger: [00:06:13] Yeah.
Ashley Opliger: [00:06:014] Tell me about her.
Branton Opliger: [00:06:16] She’s so sweet in Heaven. I really like her. I love you so much.
Ashley Opliger: [00:06:020] Oh, that's so nice you're saying that to her. Can you tell me, where is Bridget at?
Branton Opliger: [00:02:28] She is at Heaven.
Ashley Opliger: [00:06:28] Can you tell me what Heaven is like?
Branton Opliger: [00:06:31] Heaven is like flowers are there.
Ashley Opliger: [00:06:36] What else is there?
Branton Opliger: [00:06:38] Bridget, God. What else is there?
Ashley Opliger: [00:06:44] Lots of beautiful things that God has created. Can you tell me, what do you think Bridget is doing in Heaven?
Branton Opliger: [00:06:52] She is hugging God.
Ashley Opliger: [00:06:53] Oh, she's hugging God. That's so sweet. I bet that's amazing.
Branton Opliger: [00:06:58] I want her.
Ashley Opliger: [00:07:00] I know. I miss her too. Can you tell me about Jesus and who He is?
Branton Opliger: [00:07:07] I know Him.
Ashley Opliger: [00:07:07] I know you know Him. Can you tell me, what did He do for us?
Branton Opliger: [00:07:15] He forgives our sins.
Ashley Opliger: [00:07:15] And He died.
Branton Opliger: [00:07:16] Yeah, He died.
Ashley Opliger: [00:07:18] How did He die?
Branton Opliger: [00:07:19] When the bad guys got Him to die because they didn't like Him.
Ashley Opliger: [00:07:24] I know. And He died for our sins.
Branton Opliger: [00:07:28] Yeah.
Ashley Opliger: [00:07:27] And will you tell me something else? Do you miss Bridget?
Branton Opliger: [00:07:31] Yeah.
Ashley Opliger: [00:07:32] Will you see her again?
Branton Opliger: [00:07:34] Yes.
Ashley Opliger: [00:07:35] What are you going to do when you see Bridget in Heaven?
Branton Opliger: [00:07:37] I'm going to give her a big hug and a kiss. Since she’s in our family I can give her a hug and kiss.
Ashley Opliger: [00:07:45] That's right. Yeah, she will love getting a big hug and kiss from her little brother.
Branton Opliger: [00:07:50] I’ll give her tons and tons and tons and tons and tons and tons . I'll give her 120.
Ashley Opliger: [00:07:59] Oh, I bet Bridget would love 120 hugs and kisses. So Branton, tell me about Jesus in Heaven.
Branton Opliger: [00:08:08] Jesus in Heaven.
Ashley Opliger: [00:08:08] Tell me about Him.
Branton Opliger: [00:08:09] God someday will turn earth into Heaven.
Ashley Opliger: [00:08:08] You’re right.
Branton Opliger: [00:08:09] And sometimes He will turn the earth into Heaven.
Ashley Opliger: [00:08:18] And we will live there forever, won’t we?
Branton Opliger: [00:08:21] Yeah, we’ll live there forever.
Ashley Opliger: [00:08:22] How long is forever?
Branton Opliger: [00:08:23] Forever is every day, but I want to go to Heaven now.
Ashley Opliger: [00:08:28] You want to go to Heaven now?
Branton Opliger: [00:08:32] Yeah, so I can see Bridget. But you would be sad.
Ashley Opliger: [00:08:35] Well, I would be way too sad for you to go to Heaven right now.
Branton Opliger: [00:02:21] Well, I would see Bridget, but I’d never come back.
Ashley Opliger: [00:08:44] Well, once we go to Heaven, we don't come back until Jesus comes back.
Branton Opliger: [00:08:48] When Jesus comes back we can go back to earth.
Ashley Opliger: [00:08:51] Mm-hmm, when He makes the New Earth and the New Heaven. So were you my first baby?
Branton Opliger: [00:08:56] No.
Ashley Opliger: [00:08:57] Who was my first baby?
Branton Opliger: [00:08:59] Bridget.
Ashley Opliger: [00:08:59] Mm-hmm, and then who came after Bridget?
Branton Opliger: [00:09:02] Me. Who came after Branton? Brenner.
Ashley Opliger: [00:9:06] You’re right. So Mommy has how many babies?
Branton Opliger: [00:09:10] Three. Well, two because I’m not a baby. So I would say two.
Ashley Opliger: [00:9:15] You would say two; Bridget and Brenner?
Branton Opliger: [00:09:17] Yeah, Bridget and Brenner. When I go into Heaven, I’ll know about God.
Ashley Opliger: [00:09:23] Yeah. You do know about God on earth, but when we’re there, when we are in Heaven, we will be in His presence and we will get to see Him and know Him and walk with Him. Isn't that exciting?
Branton Opliger: [00:09:32] Yeah. And we can see Him in person, and Bridget in person maybe.
Ashley Opliger: [00:09:38] Exactly. We will see Bridget in person. We'll get to hug her and hold her.
Branton Opliger: [00:09:42] Yeah!
Ashley Opliger: [00:09:43] I can't wait for that.
Branton Opliger: [00:09:43] We can’t bring her Boppy.
Ashley Opliger: [00:09:47] Her Boppy?
Branton Opliger: [00:09:48] We’ll just have to hold her, like in our arms.
Ashley Opliger: [00:09:47] Yes, I would love to hold her in my arms.
Branton Opliger: [00:09:48] Me too, because when I go to Heaven, I'll be grown up, so have to love on her when she's kind of standing up and all that stuff.
Ashley Opliger: [00:010:02] Well, we actually don't really know if she'll be a baby, or she'll be a child or what age she will be. In the Bible, it doesn't tell us what age we will be when we're in Heaven.
And so we just have to trust God that because Heaven is perfect and everything will be made right and new, that whatever the situation is, no matter what age she will be when we get to see her, we know that it will be good and that we will get to love her forever.
Branton Opliger: [00:10:27] Yeah. That's right.
Ashley Opliger: [00:010:29] We’ll get to play with her and hold her and love on her and spend forever and ever and ever. And it never stops, does it?
Branton Opliger: [00:10:38] Never stops.
Ashley Opliger: [00:010:39] Well, what do you want to say to everybody about you having a sister in Heaven?
Branton Opliger: [00:10:44] I want to say I miss Bridget so much, I even want to hold her right now.
Ashley Opliger: [00:010:49] We'll get to see her one day. That's why we love Jesus so much because Jesus gives us the hope to see her again.
Branton Opliger: [00:10:56] Mm-hmm.
Ashley Opliger: [00:010:58] And that is the greatest hope we could have.
Branton Opliger: [00:10:59] Uh-huh.
Ashley Opliger: [00:011:01] Okay, well, thank you for being on Mommy's podcast.
Branton Opliger: [00:11:03] Okay.
Ashley Opliger: [00:011:05] I love you.
Branton Opliger: [00:11:06] I love you.
Ashley Opliger: [00:011:17] The second way you can share about your baby in Heaven with your Rainbow Baby or older living siblings is to have special family traditions. Our family, we visit Bridget's grave often, especially on holidays. We hold our weighted Bridget Bear, which came from the non-profit Molly Bears, whenever we're taking family photos to represent her place in our family.
We also include Bridget's name on our Christmas cards. We hang a stocking and ornament for her on our Christmas tree. During her birthday month, which is also October Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, we paint rocks as a family and line her grave with them. On holidays such as Mother's Day and Easter, we pick out flowers and bring them to her grave.
As you honor your baby in Heaven with these family traditions, your Rainbow Baby and living children will grow up to know about their sibling in Heaven. I always suggest families to include their Rainbow Baby in the activities and allow them to make choices as much as possible, so they are an active participant in the process.
For example, let them pick out special decorations or toys to bring to their sibling’s grave, allow them to pick out a flower arrangement or hold their sibling’s stuffed animal during family photos.
The third way that we honor Bridget in our family is to have a celebration of life. Every year on Bridget's birthday, we have a Heavenly birthday party for her, with our immediate families.
We get a birthday cake and decorate our home with photos of her from her birth and her ultrasounds. And we have special mementos, such as onesies, blankets, books we bought her, and her little cradle. We sing happy birthday and we send up prayers to Heaven. This celebration of her life is an annual memory for our boys to remember her and her place in our family.
And it doesn't have to be a birthday party. It could be a memorial event that you hold annually on the date your baby went to Heaven. You could choose to do the same activity every year, such as a balloon release, painting, rocks, lighting a candle, or something that's special and unique just to your family.
This is a way to involve your Rainbow Baby and have an annual family activity in memory of their sibling in Heaven is with the family traditions we just talked about, try to involve your Rainbow Baby as much as possible, dependent on their age.
The fourth way that you can honor your baby in Heaven and raise your Rainbow Baby to know them is to do acts of kindness as a family in their memory.
Our family leads a non-profit in Bridget’s memory called Bridget’s Cradles. As you may know, we donate cradles to hospitals in all 50 states to hold babies who were stillborn in the second trimester of pregnancy. Although our boys are too young to volunteer, at least yet, the ministry is a big part of their lives as they see their Mommy and Daddy serving each week.
They know that it's important to love and comfort others in Bridget's memory. So whether it's that you involve your kids by volunteering, giving, or doing an act of kindness in memory of your baby in Heaven, I believe it's essential that they see their sibling’s life continue to have an impact on this world.
My friend Casey and her husband Jake, every year in memory of their son Jack, who was stillborn in October, 2014 and is buried next to Bridget, they do random acts of kindness in memory of Jack. They print out little cards with his name and then they have their friends and family do these random acts of kindness and hand out the cards in his memory.
So on our blog, I have an example of what a RAK card [and RAK stands for Random Acts of Kindness]. I have an example of what a RAK card could look like, as well as a template that you can do on Canva, if you would like to make one in memory of your baby.
And we also have a blog post with 50 ideas on acts of kindness that you can do in memory of your baby. You can even include your name and email or a special hashtag on the card, if you'd like for people to contact you to share stories of how they were impacted by your random acts of kindness.
Some examples of random acts of kindness that you can do in memory of a baby in Heaven would be to make care packages for moms who've experienced the loss of a baby and deliver them to your OB’s office or hospital. You could also donate to a pregnancy loss support charity in memory of a baby, or bring cookies to the labor and delivery unit nurses that delivered your baby. You could also order someone a personalized gift in memory of their baby in Heaven.
You could bring donuts to your local police station or fire station, or donate toys, books, and games to a children's hospital. Another example would be to pay for the person behind you at the Starbucks line or for someone's groceries when you're checking out at the store. You could leave a surprise note or a gift card in someone's mailbox or at their front porch.
You could donate dog treats or needed items to your local shelter, buy canned goods and needed items and drop them off at a food bank. You could take a bereaved mom out to coffee or lunch and talk about your babies in Heaven, or send a hope-filled book to a mom who has recently lost a baby.
You could also ask a local park, city, or cemetery if you could pay to plant a tree in memory of your baby. There are so many ways that you can bless others in your community in memory of your baby in Heaven and have your Rainbow Babies be a part of the experience with you.
You can visit our blog to find 50 ideas for random acts of kindness that you can do in memory of your baby in Heaven. They will also be linked in the Hope Guide, which can be found on our website as well.
I hope that these ideas will help your Rainbow Babies and living children remember, and honor their sibling in Heaven. I have found that raising my boys to remember their sissy in Heaven has given me so much comfort and peace in my own grief journey, and I pray that it brings hope and healing to you as well.
Before we close. I want to talk about a hidden blessing of having a child in Heaven. My husband and I have found that we have been able to present the Gospel more clearly and frequently to our boys. Because Bridget is in Heaven, we talk about life and death more often than most families.
Our oldest son talks about how exciting Heaven will be and asks us specific questions about what it will be like. One time when we were eating dinner and looking out the window, beautiful sunbeams broke through the clouds and he started saying the most profound and cutest thing ever. So I took my phone out and started writing down what he was saying verbatim. Here's what he said:
Branton Opliger: [00:17:44] “It’s God’s light. It’s light from Heaven. God is shining it. Now we know where Heaven is. I’m going to send Bridget a kiss and see if she can catch it. She said she catched it. She sent me a hug when I gave her a kiss. It’s beautiful! That’s God’s light, right? Maybe when it’s time for Heaven I can watch Jesus come down. And He will say “Guys, ready to come to Heaven?” And we will. And Bridget might be looking down. Mommy, did you know I even hear God talking to me? He’s saying I love you Branton. Over and over and over again. This is the beautifulest thing I’ve ever seen in the sky.”
Ashley Opliger: [00:018:32] Wow. His words took my breath away. Truly, it was one of the beautifulest things I've heard, my sweet boy standing in awe of what he perceived to be Heaven. This little moment felt holy and sacred to me. A sweet gift from God, hiding Heaven in his heart.
The Bible says: He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has set eternity in the human heart. Yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end (Ecclesiastes 3:11). And I believe that having a sister in Heaven has only made his heart yearn for his Heavenly home all the more, just like it has from my own heart.
I am grateful to Bridget for giving our family the opportunity to talk about Jesus in a real way with our kids. Not that we wouldn't have talked about him before, but I know that our conversations are much deeper and more tangible because we have a family member there waiting for us.
Jesus' work on the cross means everything to us. He has rescued us from our sin and promised us eternity with Him. There is no greater gift for a grieving family, and there is no greater gift to the human soul as salvation. Our sweet daughter's life is helping us minister to her brothers and allowing us to share the Gospel with them and many others.
Her life had a purpose and continues to have a purpose, and so does your baby in Heaven. He or she was created in God's image, fearfully and wonderfully made. Your baby wasn't a mistake and the time he or she went to Heaven wasn't overlooked by God. He had numbered their days before one of them came to be, They are now alive in Heaven and we can see them again through faith in Jesus.
Philippians 3:20-21 says, “But we are citizens of Heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak, mortal bodies and change them into glorified bodies like His own, using the same power with which He will bring everything under His control.” This is our hope. So sweet mommas, let me pray for you.
Jesus, thank You for the ultimate gift of salvation, for dying on the cross for our sins so we could be forgiven and made right before You and our Father in Heaven.
Thank You for overcoming the grave so that we do not have to be permanently separated from You and from our babies. We are grateful for the hope of Heaven we have through You. Lord, I pray that you will allow us to teach our Rainbow Babies and older living children to know who You are and the wonderful gift of salvation You offer them.
I pray that our baby in Heaven, who sits with You now in Your presence, would be a shining light that points our children on earth to put their faith in You. May our living children always seek You, love You, and have hope in You. Show us how to honor You and our baby in Heaven during our time on earth. Help us teach our living children to remember their sibling in Heaven through the traditions and conversations we have as a family.
Let us serve others in their memory and share the Gospel, our greatest hope, with the world. Thank You for our children, those in our arms and those in Your arms. We love You. We praise You for who You are and what You have done. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Ashley Opliger: [00:21:57] Before we leave this episode, I wanted to remind you that you can find this content on a special blog post that I wrote for laurelbox’s website. laurelbox is a company that specializes in curated gifts for bereaved moms. You’ll be hearing more about them in a future episode, but in the meantime, we’d love for you to check out their website. They also have beautiful rainbow-themed gifts you can give to a mom who is expecting a Rainbow Baby, as well as sympathy gifts for a mom who has lost a baby to miscarriage or stillbirth.
We will share some of their products in this episode’s Hope Guide which can be found on our blog. We also have a separate blog post that shares 50 ideas for random acts of kindness that you can do in memory of your baby in Heaven.
There’s a free downloadable PDF with the list of ideas and it also contains a link to a free Canva template we created of random acts of kindness cards that you can personalize with your baby’s name, Heaven Day, and photo. We will link that blog post in our show notes as well. We pray these ideas will bring healing to you and help your family honor your baby in Heaven.
We will be back with another episode on September 1st with special guest, Lori Beth Blaney from the organization Rachel’s Gift. You won’t want to miss that conversation, so we will see you back here soon. In the meantime, we will be sending you our love and prayers.
Ashley Opliger: [00:23:15] 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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