I just got back from leading a retreat in Tuscany and it was as magical as you would imagine. But what made it even more so was that Julia Anderson was in attendance. Thank to you guys!
Let me back up. Julia is a reader of my site and follows me on social media. She had taken my yoga classes in Santa Monica years ago and then fell in love and moved to Norway but continued to follow me online. She posted on my Facebook in August that she needed to reach out to me desperately. Luckily my mom (God bless her) saw the message and told me, so I reached out to Julia. I didn’t know who she was. But I reached out despite having my screaming brand new baby in my arms.
And am I ever glad I did. You know how you have those Sliding Doors moments in life? Remember that movie? Where you realize things could’ve gone another way if you chose this door instead of that door. I mean, it’s always like that in life, but sometimes we are so keenly aware of a parallel life if we had chosen differently.
She was writing to me from the hospital in Norway. I started to read her email and called my husband over to take my baby Charlie.
She was writing from the hospital because she was 40 weeks pregnant and 6 days and was to be induced the next day. But her baby’s heart had stopped beating. I continued reading through my tears. Of course I was in shock that I was receiving this email since I didn’t remember her from my class. She told me that we were the same age, that in fact, we shared a birthday. She said she had met a Norwegian man and fallen in love. She said she was desperate and needed to know if I had any resources for her. She had been following my Facebook page for years and knew what kind of safe environment I had created and she had remembered seeing posts about one of my best friends, Emily Rapp Black, whose baby Ronan died from Tay Sachs a few years back. She remembered that and emailed me, before anyone else, from the hospital.
Standing there with my arms still warm from holding my son, I felt guilty and angry and devastated and I yearned for my boy back and I wanted to fly to Norway and I wanted to build a time machine to go back in time and induce her baby earlier and I panicked and I felt an ache like I had never felt before, an ache so profound that I felt like I was dying. I kept reading her words and wondered why some of us have to experience such pain in this life? I felt like I was slipping out of my body.
Thanks for getting back to me so fast. I have been following your posts for a few years. I know about your loss in the past, about Emily’s tradegy, and you write about loss sometimes. I lost my second baby at 40+6 today, less than 24 hours before induction tomorrow. His heart just stopped beating this afternoon. I feel so lost. if you have any advice for me on where to turn, what to read or anything I can do to find peace please let me know..
And the answer to why some of us have to experience such pain in this life is a non-answer. There is no answer or platitude. Everything doesn’t happen for a reason so fuck off if you were going to throw that one out as an answer. I know that sounds harsh but I am so tired of people throwing out things like that when someone else (or myself) is experiencing grief. Let them feel it. There is no “reason” my friend’s baby died. Or why my dad died so young.
Yes, you can find gifts in things. Maybe. Yes, maybe you can look back and see where you learned something about yourself or the world or how that terrible thing opened you up in some way. Or not. There’s just no answer and as I slipped out of my body, I slithered onto the floor and wanted to hide there and pretend Julia was not emailing me because it felt like too much. Too much with my new baby to process this. Too much to even imagine this kind of loss.
But I only stayed there for one breath before I came back to being in my body, being there with her. Bearing witness to her pain. I thought about how I always ask the people in my workshops to be unflinching, to not look away. So I did that. I stayed with her.
I understood then the power in connection. I had understood it before, but this was a whole other level to me. How this ripple effect could occur and how we can help each other go through even the darkest nights of the soul. Even the death of a child. Could I make it go away? No. But I could stand with her in her pain. I could listen. I could offer support. I could refuse to say shitty platitudes or tell her that her son was in a better place. I could connect her with other women who had gone through. So I did.
With her permission, I shared the photo she sent to me after she delivered her beautiful Aleksander.
From her own Facebook:
Last Sunday, Runar Andersen and I experienced the worst nightmare of our lives. Our son died inside me one day before I was supposed to be induced to give birth. As planned, I gave birth to our beautiful Aleksander and we got to spend couple of days with him. Our perfect viking was born 4.3 kg/54 cm. This is the most profound and meaningful experience of my life, and the amount of love I feel is just overwhelming. The love Runar and I share, and the love and support from family, friends and kind and caring people from Jen Pastiloff ‘s online community that we have never met is what carries us forward during this excruciatingly painful time. I realize that life is so cruel and unfair, but love and caring help us survive..
There were hundreds of comments, both on my instagram and my Facebook offering support and telling Julia that they too had had experienced a similar kind of loss. I was astounded. As naive as it sounds, I didn’t realize how many people, especially people I was connected to, had experienced this. I read the comments and cried. There were literally hundreds upon hundreds.
I suggested to Julia that she come to my Italy retreat at the end of September since she was in Norway. I knew the deep healing work that was involved at my retreat and I knew that there were some people coming who had experienced deep losses, and the loss of children. I knew we would hold her.
So here’s what happened. As she slept one night in Norway, I posted on my Facebook that I wanted to raise money to bring Julia to Italy. Most people already knew her from my sharing about her story. By the time she woke up in the morning, enough money had been raised for her to have a private room at my retreat. It was well over $3,000 dollars.
She said yes.
And she came.
And she held my baby.
She laughed and cried and connected with us and spent time alone and had healings done and ate and slept and did everything I had hoped she would do.
While we were having dinner one night we decided to start a scholarship fund for someone in need (emotionally, as she was, or otherwise.) We decided to call it the Aleksander Fund after her son.
I came home last week and the first donation of $500 came in. From Julia. She wants to pay it forward.
I hope to get enough money raised to send someone in June (June 17-24) and in September (9-16) to my 2017 Italy retreats with the Aleksander Fund. Julia says that she cannot imagine a better experience in a time of pain and crisis.
That truly makes me feel like I am doing my work. And that work is love. At the end of my life, when I ask one final, “What have I done?” Let my answer be: I have done love.
In fact, I gave Julia a necklace by Blooming Lotus Jewelry that said just that. I have done love.
If you want to donate, please click here or below:
One of the things I learned from my mentor Wayne Dyer was to ask, “How may I serve?” This fund is an opportunity to do just that, and, it allows everyone to pitch in. I believe so many of us want to help if we only knew how. The donations can be as small or large as you like. People pitched in to get Julia to Italy with donations from $5 to $300. It all mattered.
Thank you for helping me create this gorgeous community. I could not do any of what I do without you. Also: the scholarship doesn’t just have to go to Italy but that is my week long one. Others are weekend length. If you want to sign up and be part of the healing you can go ahead and book either June or Sep in Italy here. Or, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise that your life will be changed. And so will the people who we help to get there.
All my love, Jen
ps- I found out that a baby born after a loss is called a rainbow baby. Charlie is my rainbow baby (I had an ectopic pregnancy a couple years ago.)
Some of my retreat attendees spotting a rainbow after our wine tasting at the villa.
After Julia got so much support from my community, she started her own support group for people who have lost children. Please connect with her if you are in need of a space like that here or leave a comment below if you need other resources.
Also know this: Julia helped us by attending the retreat. Everyone who got to hear her story or share a meal with her or hug her, was made better for it.
My friend Amelia Barnes’ book, who also lost her baby:
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To apply for this scholarship please send an email to Scholarship@JenniferPastiloff.com with Aleksander Fund in the subject line.