When Funeral Homes Fail Pregnancy Loss Parents

By Sarah Rickerd
on October 06, 2016

When Funeral Homes Fail Pregnancy Loss Parents

This post was supposed to go live on October 1st, to mark the start of Carry Your Heart’s recognition of Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month.

It’s an important occasion for so many of us that have been personally touched by miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss, and it’s been brought into sharper focus for me by the phone surveys I completed in August and September with nearly 45 of the 411 participants in the Funeral Home Experiences survey Carry Your Heart carried out this summer in coordination with Bereaved Parents of Madison, Inc. and Cress Funeral & Cremation Service.

My life right now revolves around infant and pregnancy loss, as I’m not only heavily involved in the remaining launch work of Carry Your Heart, but I’m also preparing to head to Philadelphia in a few short weeks to speak on the subject at the National Funeral Directors Association’s annual convention.

Because of this, it’s sometimes hard for me to remember how desperately needed awareness of these subjects still is.
But then, I get on the phone with women who have been through the tragedy and grief of infant and pregnancy loss, only to find themselves completely let down by their medical and funeral care teams.

Then, I remember how critical it is that those of us in this line of work continue to gather and share our community’s stories.

I write for a living. It’s rare for me to find myself at a loss for words. And yet, here I sit - here I’ve been sitting for more than two weeks - trying to figure out how adequately honor the depths of the pain experienced by one of the women in our survey who entrusted me with her story.

Jennifer has graciously allowed me to share her story here. I can only hope that what I’ve put together below does Jennifer and her love for her beautiful son Andrew justice, and that it encourages the funeral professionals reading this to take a closer look at the way they support families like hers.

Jennifer’s Story

At 38 weeks pregnant, Jennifer Livingston lost her son Andrew to sudden, unexpected stillbirth.

After feeling no movement for most of a day, Jennifer went to the doctor, where it was confirmed that there was no heartbeat; that her son had passed away just a week before his scheduled c-section.

Jennifer’s loss is heartbreaking enough on its own. But the experiences she was put through by her funeral home - the institution to which she’d entrusted her family’s care - defy, to me, explanation.

The problems began with her family’s first contact. In a serious display of unprofessionalism, Jennifer’s sister-in-law, who made the initial phone call, was forced to explain the situation three times before she was connected with someone who could help her, leaving her - understandably - distraught.

At the arrangement conference her sister-in-law was finally able to schedule, Jennifer and her family were told she’d be able to see Andrew before the visitation, at which point the casket would be closed to those attending the visitation and memorial service.

She was also told to drop off an outfit for her son’s burial the day before the service - a task that she, too overwhelmed to do so herself, entrusted to her mother-in-law, who paid the overnight shipping fees to rush in a sweet, perfect little suit.

On the day of the visitation, Jennifer arrived at the funeral home to learn that she would not be able to see her baby boy again; that Andrew had not been prepared for viewing, and that his casket had already been closed.

The funeral home brushed Jennifer and her family off. To them, it was a clerical error - one of those that simply “happens” in the course of business.

To Jennifer, it was being robbed of her last chance as a parent to say goodbye to her son.

After the service, Jennifer was handed a bag with Andrew’s name on it. Inside was the suit her mother-in-law had so carefully selected as his burial outfit.

In shock, Jennifer asked the funeral home what he was buried in.

“He was buried in a diaper,” the funeral director responded in a hushed voice, his eyes averted as if it was clear he knew he’d made a mistake.

Never once did she receive an apology, or follow-up of any kind.

Parenting in the Face of Loss

If you’re a parent, stop with me for a second and imagine how this must feel...

You begin with the trauma of your child’s unexpected death (as another interview subject so succinctly put it, “I wasn’t planning a funeral; I was planning a future.”).

Now, reeling from the incomprehensible loss of that child, your one chance to say goodbye is stolen from you.

The moment you’ve been steeling yourself for - the courage you’ve summoned to undertake the simple act of saying goodbye, forever, to someone you love - is snatched away in an instant of callous disregard.

Then, to have one of the last acts of caring, parent for child, that you’re able to perform - the selection of burial clothing - be treated so indifferently is unimaginable.

Jennifer will think about the son she lost every day for the rest of her life. She’ll wonder what he would have looked like, what he would have enjoyed and who he would have eventually become.

But now, where her memories of her short time with him could have been turned into treasures through the compassionate care of funeral professionals, she’s left imagining him buried in the cold, hard earth - clad not in the outfit that was carefully chosen for him, but in nothing more than a diaper.

Can you even imagine an older child or an adult being buried in their underwear alone?

If you haven’t experienced pregnancy loss and this description seems overly dramatic, know this: the love parents feel for their children and their instinct to care for them does not begin at birth.

If you’ve brought home a living child, you know what it is to want to do right by your child; to want the best for them and to struggle over whether or not the decisions you make on their behalf are the right ones.

Pregnancy and early infant loss parents often feel this too, yet our ability to act on any of these impulses feels limited to the small window that exists between the child’s delivery and their burial or cremation.

The impact of every decision made during this time can seem magnified; the sum of what should have been a lifetime of parenting compressed into something as simple as choosing the only outfit a child will ever wear.

These experiences deserve the dignity of recognition by funeral directors. They deserve the sacred space granted to the families of older children and adults, without question.

Caring for Pregnancy Loss Families

I want to end this post by telling you that, out of all the surveys we took and all the follow-up phone interviews we conducted, Jennifer’s story is unique. That every other participant felt nothing but care and compassion from their funeral professionals.

I can’t do that.

I heard about good experiences, for sure. In the best cases, the funeral directors involved cared for the children entrusted to them as tenderly and as lovingly as their parents longed to themselves.

But I also heard about funeral directors who referred to the child as “it” to grieving parents; about funeral directors who joked in front of parents about whether the child’s birth or death date should be listed first in the program, and who carelessly wiped away ashes from a child’s urn while handing it to the parents.

We have to do better.

On Sunday, October 23rd from 3:30-4:30pm, I’ll be giving a presentation titled “What I Wish My Funeral Director Knew: Supporting Pregnancy Loss in Families” at the NFDA convention.

Join me because you don’t understand what it means to be a pregnancy loss parent, or why the families you serve care so much about the children they’ll never get to meet.

Join me because you’re afraid you’ve been underserving - inadvertently or intentionally - this misunderstood community.

Heck, join me because, in this digital era, the negative experiences of one family like Jennifer’s can be shared from person to person through social networks or in online reviews.

But join me. Come hear our survey participants’ experiences and learn 10 key takeaways you can put into practice right away that’ll better prepared to appropriately support the pregnancy loss families you serve.

I hope to see you there.




Closer Look: See Our Traditional Heart Charm in Action

By Sarah Rickerd
on September 29, 2016


A while back, I put together a post taking you behind the scenes on what went into creating our first design, the Traditional Heart Charm.

Today, I want to show you the piece in action. Check out the video above, or view the transcript below for more details on this beautiful necklace!

Hey there, everybody - Sarah Rickerd here from Carry Your Heart Jewelry and Gifts. I wanted to take a second today to show you our Traditional Heart Charm Pendant.

This is the first design that we did as a company, so it's very near and dear to my heart. It's shown here in the medium size, though it's available in a smaller size, as well. It can be purchased as either a necklace or a bracelet. The pendant itself is solid sterling silver, as is the 1.8 millimeter curb chain that you see here as our necklace option.

This pendant can be customized in a number of different ways. You can see that this one in particular has been embedded with a pink birthstone. That's the October birthstone or it's suitable for anyone who's lost a girl or a woman in their lives.

Our in-stock collection, which ships same day when ordered by noon EST, also has pendants with blue and crystal gemstones, which are the March and April birthstones, though all the other months are available as part of our custom collection that just ships about 3-4 weeks after ordering.

This pendant can also be engraved with initials, names and dates. If it didn't have this birthstone here, you could put a 3-initial monogram on the front in one of our 3 different fonts or 3 styled monograms or if you wanted to engrave the back, you could fit a maximum of 3 lines of 10 characters in our script, block, or formal fonts.

What I wish I could show you through the video is how solid this piece feels in your hand. We carved in the back of the piece to create a second heart, which echoes the front of the piece. It almost becomes like a worry stone that you can hold in your hand whenever you need comfort. It's a beautiful piece.

Again, this is our medium sized Traditional Heart Charm. You can learn more about it on our website at www.carryyourheart.net. Thanks for watching!



When Your Loss Becomes Your Living

By Sarah Rickerd
on September 19, 2016

When Your Loss Becomes Your Living

In April 2013, my husband and I lost our first child and only daughter to stillbirth. After seven months of a perfectly normal pregnancy, her loss was completely unexpected and left us both devastated.

Just two months later, I received a LinkedIn message from a company in my area, asking if I’d entertain an unsolicited job offer. Always up for a new challenge, I asked for more information.

It’d be a director of marketing position.

Great - that’s a step up the corporate ladder from my current position.

It was with a tech company in my area.

Perfect - I’ve spent years working with startups and I love the energy of a growing, innovating business.

It was in the funeral industry.

Whoa… hold the phone!

In August, I accepted the position.

In the space of four months, I went from newly bereaved parent to the newest hire at a software company that provided funeral homes with websites and memorial stationery programs.

To say the transition was jarring is something of an understatement.

To be clear, I wasn’t working as a funeral director. I wasn’t being asked to work directly with broken-hearted families, grieving in the same way I still was.

But even in a supportive capacity, reminders of my loss were everywhere.

Opening up the industry’s trade publications meant coming face-to-face with ads promoting the exact same urn I’d chosen for our daughter. Developing new memorial products for our partner funeral homes meant, by necessity, creating remembrance books and stationery packages themed for the loss of baby boys and girls. Checking over new partner websites before they went live meant regularly viewing live obituaries for dearly-missed children.

And in a twist of “you can’t be serious” fate, it meant attending the industry’s annual trade show, only to find out that our company’s booth - the location of which was chosen nearly a year before I signed on - was right across the aisle from a business selling children’s caskets.

Over time, the impact of these constant reminders of my daughter’s loss softened. Rather than tearing the cracks of my broken heart open further, as they had at first, I began to see them as opportunities to remember and connect with my daughter.

I began to write for those same trade publications, sharing first-person perspectives when I could on what funeral professionals needed to know in order to better support pregnancy loss parents. My experiences developing child-specific memorial products and reviewing children’s obituaries became reminders to get out my small box of mementos and send some love to my daughter.

One of the clearest messages I’ve had from my daughter happened at that same funeral convention that so shocked me with its brutal reminder that enough children die each year to necessitate entire companies dedicated to their care.

Completely worn out from working our company’s booth, from staring down a display of child caskets for three days straight, and from the physical and mental challenges of being 10-weeks pregnant with the rainbow baby who came a year after our daughter’s loss, I ran out of the convention hall on a quick errand and came face-to-face with a street musician playing one of the three songs I’d listened to on repeat in the rawest moments of my post-stillbirth grief.

I may have needed a few minutes in the hall’s restroom to calm down and compose myself before returning to the floor, but the comfort that experience brought me was immeasurable. I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Today, I’m involved in care and support for bereaved parents in even more direct ways. As the owner of a jewelry and gift company supporting the community - and a passionate advocate for reform in the way funeral homes handle pregnancy loss - I’m getting ready to return to the funeral directors’ convention this fall. This time, instead of exhibiting, I’ll be sharing data my company has helped gather in partnership with other bereavement organizations on how funeral professionals can best care for parents who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth.

I’m writing about my story and my experiences - opening up about them in ways that don’t come easily to a naturally reserved person like me. I’m connecting with other bereaved parents; crying with them as their stories both break my heart and inspire me to continue bringing much needed change to the funeral industry.

There are times I have to step away; times I have to draw on the folder of funny YouTube clips I keep on my computer to distract me from the pain so many families are facing.

But honestly? There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

I carry my daughter in my heart and my memories. She lives on in me, and in that way, everything I do becomes her legacy as well. I want to make her proud, and it’s a gift to me that I’m able to try and achieve that goal everyday with the work I’m doing to improve funeral care for bereaved parents.

Losing My Daughter Made Me Fearless

By Sarah Rickerd
on September 16, 2016

Losing My Daughter Made Me Fearless

In high school, I was shy.

I wasn’t just the kind of “aww, shucks” bashful most kids grow out of. Maybe because of my childhood lisp, I was so deathly afraid of making a mistake or looking foolish that I would literally shake every time the teacher looked in my direction.

In college, I stuck close to a core group of friends that I already knew from high school. I didn’t break down barriers or push boundaries. I didn’t challenge myself, thanks to the “what ifs” constantly swirling in my head.

What if I make a bad decision, and I have to admit that I was wrong?

What if I make a mistake and somebody laughs at me?

Today, I’m in the middle of a project that involves conducting phone interviews with more than 100 bereaved parents. I’ll be presenting their responses at the National Funeral Directors Association's annual convention this year in an hour-long session.

And all that had to change - all that I needed to give me a newfound confidence and courage - was losing my daughter.

I don’t mean to say that I’m entirely fearless. I worry constantly after her brother, who came along about a year after her loss.

Will his two-year-old tendency to climb anything and everything leave us making that mad dash to the emergency room to cast broken bones?

Will elementary school bullies break the heart of my soft, sensitive little guy?

Will he develop a rare cancer, like that friend of a friend’s child; her Facebook wall covered in hopeful shots of bald heads in grim hospital settings?

And the fear that I can barely voice - will I someday have to bury two children?

Besides these day-to-day worries - things I’m sure are common to most parents - something in me changed when my daughter was stillborn.

It didn’t happen right away. I didn’t walk out of the maternity ward that day in April 2013 newly emboldened (bent and broken would be better descriptors). But over time, I came to deeply understand this: the worst has already happened to me.

Talk about the ultimate in perspective shifts.

If there is truly nothing worse than burying a child, what do I have to fear from putting myself out there, socially and professionally?

Yes, I’m nervous about the presentation I’ll give this October on how funeral professionals can better support pregnancy loss parents. But I’m no longer the kind of dead-in-my-tracks fearful that would have once prevented me from ever even putting in an application in the first place.

When I get up on stage, I will probably stumble on my words (the ancient fear of those who struggled with lisps fully realized).

I’m probably going to say the wrong thing - probably more than once - as I attempt to extemporize on such a sensitive subject. I might be frustrated by the mistakes I make, but now, I’m not so afraid of making them that I’ll let fear hold me back.

The worst has already happened to me.

Saying that feels almost like a challenge (and listen up, universe - I’m certainly not asking for more circumstances that test me to the core of my being the way her loss did).

Awful, bad things will continue to happen to me, to my family members and to those I love and hold dear. That’s part of what being human is.

But there is comfort to be found, I believe, in having stared the deepest grief in the eyes and come through the other side.

I am not the same person I was before my daughter’s loss. Her legacy is the way I live my life, and in that, everyday, I find the strength I need to finally free myself from the fear that controlled so much of my life.

My daughter is the talisman I hold close to my heart.

If I can survive hearing the words, “I’m sorry, we can’t find a heartbeat.”

If I can survive nearly three days in labor to bring her still body into the world in the darkest hours of the night.

If I can survive saying a final goodbye in a letter I both bury with her and read at her graveside.

I can survive anything.

I Am One In Four: Understanding Pregnancy Loss [INFOGRAPHIC]

By Sarah Rickerd
on August 11, 2016

I Am One In Four: Understanding Pregnancy Loss [INFOGRAPHIC]

One of the most common reactions I get when I tell people that I'm a stillbirth mom who own a jewelry and gift company supporting bereaved parents is, "Oh, I had no idea that still happens!"

And really, it's not a surprise, given that pregnancy loss, including miscarriage and stillbirth, is something we don't talk about as a culture. Believe me, I get it. Before my husband and I had our own loss, I would have had no idea what to say to someone in similar circumstances - I completely understand the impulse to want to stay silent and avoid upsetting others.

The problem, as I mentioned in my post on the story behind Carry Your Heart, is that if we stay silent - whether as loss parents or as the people who support them - we risk having our unique needs go unrecognized and unmet.

To help share how common miscarriage and stillbirth really are - yes, even in today's age of modern medicine - I put together the infographic below titled "I Am One In Four: Understanding Pregnancy Loss." Check it out, and if you find it helpful, please either share on Facebook or use the embed code to put it up on your own website.

(Click the image to view it full size)

Share This Image On Your Site

Behind the Scenes: From Concept to Creation with the Traditional Heart Charm

By Sarah Rickerd
on August 05, 2016

Behind the Scenes: From Concept to Creation with the Traditional Heart Charm

As I described in the story behind Carry Your Heart and in a previous “Behind the Scenes” update on the steps I’ve taken to launch the company, the real catalyst for the formation of the business came from my participation in the Michigan Women’s Foundation E-YOU Business Plan and Pitch Competition.

On July 24th, 2015 - coincidentally, the second anniversary of what would have been Lena’s due date - I paid my $10 fee and submitted my application.

On August 11th, 2015, I received the email stating that I’d been selected as a finalist, and was given instructions to prepare to pitch my idea at the program’s final competition on October 16th, 2015.

Panic set in.

To submit my application, all I had to do was provide a 2-page business plan summary, documenting my vision, my background experiences and some rough financial projections.

Essentially, I could write “I plan to launch a jewelry and gift company supporting bereaved parents” without any evidence - or any idea, really - of how I’d actually go about doing so.

Participating in the competition, on the other hand, required a 10-page formal business plan, a 4-minute pitch presentation and a Q&A session. Assuming that my odds would be slim if I couldn’t actually demonstrate how I’d bring my vision to life, I knew it was time to get to work!

Fleshing Out the Concept

I’d pitched the Michigan Women’s Foundation on a line of jewelry built around the line in the popular e.e. Cummings’ poem that reads “I carry your heart with me. I carry it in my heart.” The first step, therefore, was to explore how to translate that concept into jewelry.

I knew I’d need to eventually hire a jewelry designer - given that I had no experience creating jewelry myself - but I wanted to go into any meetings prepared.

I started by compiling a design brief sharing my requirements and the ideas I had. For example:

  • I knew I wanted to create cast pieces in sterling silver, so I set requirements that would limit the finished size of the pendant to no more than 0.75” x 0.75” and the finished material volume to no more than 1 cm3.
  • I knew I wanted the final design to work both as a necklace pendant and a charm bracelet charm - meaning that it needed to look good in both 2D and 3D applications.
  • I wanted to create something that would have a delicate, feminine look, but that would also feel substantial in the hand. I envisioned grieving parents holding the pendants and charms in their hands, and knew that I wanted something that would feel comforting in this way.
  • I knew that, whatever final designs I chose, I needed something that could be customized, whether through engraving, the inclusion of birthmonth-specific gemstones, meaningful symbols or other elements.

The big challenge that remained was the question of how to evoke the idea of carrying a person’s heart in your hands. While I ultimately wound up starting with a more literal take, I also explored more abstract ideas, inspired by the images below:

Abstract takes on heart and hands/parenting

  

Abstract takes on carrying

   

I do have pieces in the works that feature this more abstract take (stay tuned for more updates - use the form at the end of this post to sign-up for announcements!), I decided - given the time crunch - to stick with a direct interpretation of the theme for the first line.

The Psychology of Hands Holding Hearts

You’d think that, with that decision made, I’d be near the end of the development process.

In reality, I was just getting started.

Before I could dive into any kind of production, I had to deal with a difficult question: how exactly should the hands be holding the heart?

Exploring this question began the most old fashioned way possible - with me cutting out paper hearts and holding them in my hands and taking pictures in the mirror:



I had envisioned the hands cradling the heart in a protective, almost swaddling way. Turns out, even the smallest changes in finger placement can evoke very different emotions!

To move the project along, I used a design contest website that let me partner with 25 freelance designers to mock up different “hands carrying heart” concepts.

The results were a completely mixed bag:

Some designers went artistic

Others went very simple with their mockups

Still others begged the question of what emotions the position of the hands conveyed

I love the design above, as a design. But I rejected it as a jewelry design, however, due to early concerns that the placement of the hands looks too possessive - more grasping and holding than supporting and carrying.

(What emotions the position of hands on a piece of jewelry conveys is pretty much near the top of the list of things I never thought I’d care about!)

I also explored everything from stock imagery to the mural on a building outside my Grand Rapids office for inspiration. Thankfully, there are plenty of examples of hands holding things out there!



Working in 3D

As I was busy exploring designs - and with the October 16th deadline looming large ahead of us - the question of prototyping came up.

As I am, again, not a jewelry designer, it wasn’t like I could sit down and experiment with different metals and construction processes on my own.

(Although, I’ve since taken a few jewelry fabrication classes, and I’m still not sure I could do that!)

With the deadlines working against me (and with no idea how to do anything else), I decided to use the 3D printing website Shapeways for rapid prototyping.

If you haven’t been on the Shapeways website, take a look. It’s truly amazing how far this technology has come. All I needed was a 3D model, and I’d be able to print a working prototype right from the site.

Through Shapeways, I was fortunate to connect with 3D artist Liz Landis, who took my very scattered notes and thoughts in stride and got to work on the first model.

These were the very first designs she sent over:



Seeing them come to life was jaw-dropping. Having an idea and watching it come to life is a process I’ll probably never get tired of. But as with any creative process, I had some feedback.

From this initial concept, we wrapped the fingers around the heart more and added additional detail where the fingernails and knuckles would be. We also cut some of the bulk off the back and changed the angle of the cut through the hands so that the piece would lie flat as a necklace.

In future iterations, we would change the cut of the back to have a more gentle slope and add options for pieces with single necklace and charm bails (aka, the rings at the top of the piece where the chain would attach).

The final models

   

Moving from Models to Production

Now, I have… 3D models. A great start, but still not enough to make as compelling of a case as I wanted to at the business plan competition.

As tight on time as I was running - and as tight as I was on budget, given that I didn’t want to put too much money into a company I wasn’t ultimately sure I’d launch - I opted to order a few 3D-printed prototypes in polished nickel steel, which could be delivered faster and cheaper than hand-polished sterling silver.

While they were useful for the competition’s sake, I knew that there was much more work to be done to get the concepts production-ready.

3D printing, for instance, would never be cost-effective to scale. The 3D-printing process (without any costly finishing and polishing options) also left tiered, stepped artifacts that you can see if you look closely enough at the prototypes above.

Enter Julie Sanford, owner of Studio JSD in Grand Haven, MI (and all-around jewelry and metalsmithing bad***).

With my recent competition winnings in hand, Julie connected me with AU Enterprises in Berkley, MI, who would be able to help me with precious metal casting on a production-scale. I’m eternally grateful to Thelma and the team there for their patience with my endless questions (I can’t believe they didn’t hang up when I answered their question of “How can we help you?” with “I’m not actually sure”).

To begin work with them, I needed to send in models of our designs in castable wax. Through the process of lost wax casting, these models would be surrounded by a rubber material (the “investment”) and then melted out through holes left by the sprue pieces attached before investment. The result would be a hollow cavity in the shape of our models that could then be filled with sterling silver to create replicas.

Fortunately, Shapeways was able to 3D print our models in castable wax, which Julie then cleaned up before they went to AU. In addition to smoothing out some of the artifacts left from the 3D printing process, she carved out a small indentation on the back of each piece - essentially creating another heart shape. Now, when you hold the finished pieces in your hand, you can press your thumb into the space in the back - almost like a worry stone, but with more comforting and less worrying.

The initial set of castable wax prints

The backs of the pieces were carved out to make them fit comfortably in the hand

Off the cast models went to AU, where the first set of molds and castings - our “metal masters” - were created.

Here again, Julie was instrumental in removing the cast remnants of the sprue (which you can see most clearly in the charm on the lower left), polishing the pieces and repairing any small defects that resulted from the casting process.

With these final alterations made, the metal masters went back to AU to cast the first production line, which I displayed at the soft launch in March 2016 at the West Michigan Women’s Expo.



Looking to the Future

The finished Traditional Heart Charm is a classic piece of jewelry with more formal stylings than the Modern Heart Charm (whose creation I’ll detail in another post).

It’s currently available in two sizes (small and medium) with either a single necklace bail or a single charm ring on top.

In the hand, the piece feels solid, and its weight is comforting. It shines brightly, and the available engraving and customization options create virtually unlimited ways to make it your own.

Even given how challenging the process of going from zero to finished concept has been, it’s been an honor and a privilege to see it come to life.

But launching this line and the Modern Heart Charm line doesn’t mean I’m finished. From memory chests and gift sets to cabochon-customizable jewelry pieces, there’s a lot coming down the line.

Stay tuned, and thanks for all of your support!



Happy Launch Day!

By Sarah Rickerd
on August 01, 2016

Happy Launch Day!

It's August 1st, 2016, and that means... we've officially launched! 

So what does "Launch Day" mean? After all, as a family friend asked recently, haven't you been up and running for a while now?

Well, yes and no.

Many of our initial concept pieces were displayed for the first time at the West Michigan Women's Expo, back in March 2016, while others were wrapped up in the months that followed. But although we've had our designs squared away since then, we hadn't yet begun formal production, which meant that every piece was handmade and required 6-8 weeks of waiting to produce.

And while that amount of waiting might be acceptable if you're creating a custom piece for yourself, it's not acceptable if you're someone who's searching for a gift for a loved one who's recently experienced a loss.

Today's launch is our way of saying that we're ready to support those experiencing either of these circumstances. We're proud to be able to offer:

  • Custom Collection pieces, which can be customized with any of the monthly birthstones and different engraving options. These pieces typically ship within 2-4 weeks, depending on the customization options selected.
  • In Stock Shopping, which is our line of jewelry and gift items that can be shipped out same day (when ordered before noon EST) to provide immediate support to those facing recent losses. Many of these jewelry pieces are available with embedded crystal, pink or blue gemstones, allowing you to tailor the piece to the recipient's loss and/or personality. 

An engraved piece from our Custom Collection

If you're shopping for a custom memorial for yourself, you'll find more details about available birthstone and engraving options within each of our product listings (choose the "Custom Catalog" link in the navigation menu above to sort by jewelry type). 

And whether you're shopping for a custom piece or for one of our in stock items, you'll also see an option to send a gift message with your order, should you wish to convey a message of support to your loved one.

What's Next?

Despite today being our official launch day, we're far from finished! Here are a few of the things you can expect to see over the next few weeks and months:

Gift Sets

Carry Your Heart is working on a series of gift sets that answer the question: "I want to show my support during my loved one's time of loss, but I'm not sure what's appropriate." 

Coming by the end of the month, these gift sets will offer thoughtful, tasteful items, selected based on feedback from loss parents on the gifts they wished they'd received - all presented in a keepsake-quality gift box designed to do double-duty as a resting place for any precious mementos you carry from your children.

Memory Chests

Also coming in August, Carry Your Heart's memory chests are built in the USA from solid, hand-chosen walnut. The boxes are lined with black velvet, and are available in both 8" x 10" and 8" x 6" sizes (the 8" x 6" box will offer an optional memory photo upgrade that enables the display of a 4" x 6" photo). 

Our memory chests will be available for custom engraving - stay tuned for more details!

New Jewelry Concepts

If you've followed our story from the beginning, you'll know that we have a few jewelry concepts in the works that aren't currently available for purchase on the website. Rest assured, they're coming! We're working with vendors now to get these additional designs launched by the end of the year.

To receive updates on these lines as they're available, use the email newsletter sign-up form below.

Thank you again for all of your support and for all of your well-wishes as we go through the launch process. It's been a wild ride getting to this point, and we can't wait to share what the future holds for Carry Your Heart as we continue to grow!

Research Opportunity: Bereaved Parent Funeral Home Experiences

By Sarah Rickerd
on June 28, 2016

Research Opportunity: Bereaved Parent Funeral Home Experiences

If you're a parent who has experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or early infant loss and who used the services of a traditional funeral home in the last ten years, I want to hear from you!

I've been honored to be invited to give a presentation at this year's National Funeral Directors Association annual convention on the subject of how funeral directors can better support bereaved parents.

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Behind the Scenes: Carry Your Heart Updates - June 28th, 2016

By Sarah Rickerd
on June 28, 2016

Behind the Scenes: Carry Your Heart Updates - June 28th, 2016

Last summer, to enter the Michigan Women's Foundation business plan and pitch competition that would eventually lead to the creation of Carry Your Heart, I had to put together a two-page concept paper describing what my idea would entail.

Turns out, it's a lot easier to write "I will launch a jewelry and gift company supporting bereaved parents" than it is to actually do it!

To say it's been an adventure would be an understatement, so today, I want to take you behind the scenes and share what's gone into getting the company to this point...

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Finding Hope in Loss: The Story Behind Carry Your Heart

By Sarah Rickerd
on June 24, 2016
4 comments

Finding Hope in Loss: The Story Behind Carry Your Heart

On Sunday, April 21st, 2013, in a fit of second trimester energy and the hopeful expectations of a woman pregnant for the first time, I make the kind of dream board collage I used to create in middle school. But where Brad Pitt and our fantasy beach house used to occupy serious real estate, this one is packed full of the smiling faces of family magazine models, happily depicting the life I imagine my daughter and I sharing.

Later that night, my husband and I curl up on the couch to watch the movie, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.” The sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach doesn’t go away as he clicks off the TV, and I realize it’s been hours since I felt her - our first baby - kick.

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