Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Heartmade Blessings

My daughter was six months old when her brother died.  While we were deciding which funeral home was best, Liv learned how to high-crawl.  She was at home sleeping when I gave birth.  I don't even remember if she was in the room with him at any point.  My sisters did a great job of keeping her at home and entertained.  

But, moving through this process, the one thing that I keep coming up against again and again is, "Will she ever understand?"  Will Liv understand that these pictures on the wall are her brother?  Will she want to hear the story of his birth?  Will she ever find a way to feel close to him?  

As always, I hit the search engines.  I tried to find suggestions from other mothers.  Of course, there are very few people who decide to get pregnant only two months postpartum.  (Nothing but drama for me, I say.)  But a few people had great ideas, and that's how I found Karla Biggs, one of the many volunteers at Heartmade Blessings.  Heartmade Blessings crafts afghans for bereaved parents, children and the families of fallen US and Canadian soldiers.  They call their product "Comfortghans," a sweet tribute to the solace this gesture brings to so many families who are hurting.  Karla was good enough to answer some questions I had.

What inspired you to join Heartmade Blessings?
"I was just a couple of days out of the hospital with having another surgery.  When I went to check the mail there was this box sitting in my entryway.  I had no idea what it was and did not know who it was that had sent it to me.  I know I had not ordered anything and the return tag was not someone I knew.  I opened the box to find love, hugs, thoughts, and prayers just pouring out of it.  It was then that I was reading the letter that we send with our comfortghans that I realized that this was made for me.  I had never been so touched in my life to know that strangers would come together to let me know that I was not alone and that so many were thinking about me and praying for me.  It is something I will never forget.  From there, I found the website and soon after joined.  This has been almost 10 years now."
What goes into each afghan for bereaved parents?
"When we receive a request for an afghan, we will post on our list for an assembler.  From there, once one has taken the request the afghan becomes theirs to assemble.  The assembler will figure what color to make the comfortghan in (if one is not asked for) that she feels would be appropriate.  Meaning if for a male it would be in browns or neutral colors, female may be in pinks, yellows.  Any color works and is always put together with love and hugs.  An assembler will receive her 11 squares as she also has to have one of her squares in the afghan and then choose what color she wants to assemble with.  If a color has been asked for, we do try to get as close to it as we can. One color that we really do not want to use is black.  On occasion a request will come in for one and we never turn away a web request."

What was the first afghan you ever made?
"I believe it may have been an afghan that I did for a preacher that was involved in a car accident out front of our home.  There were always accidents on the corner by our home and my husband and I both being EMTs would grab our bags and hit the door.  We helped this gentleman and he became a dear friend to us. It was such an honor to be able to make this afghan for him and know that he would feel all the things I felt and maybe more in the comfortghan. It was also very touching to me that I was able to hand deliver this afghan to him as most of our afghans are mailed."

What has been your favorite project so far?
"I am not sure I have a favorite project so to speak but can tell you that our OPH (Operation Purple Heart) Program makes my heart break and keeps me pushing on.  Our OPH Program is where we make afghans for the Fallen Heroes Families that we have lost to the war. These family members are Blue Star families and once their loved one has passed, they are then turned to Gold Star families.  Our OPH afghans are done in Red, White, Blue, and also in Amethyst and White. They are very touching to make as with any of our afghans. We also make OPH afghans for our Fallen Canadians.  These are done in Red and White.
          "We have members on our group that are also Patriot Guard Riders (PGR).  We stand the flag lines for our Fallen Hero and their family, from the time our Hero comes home to the time he/she is at their final resting place.  My husband and I are PGR and we ride our bike, but we also have members that drive in their cars, which we call "cages."  It is a true honor to be able to be there to support the family and to give respect to our Fallen Hero.  We have a domain that was done by Edith Smith, who is Co/Owner of HMB, http://www.heartmadeblessingsfallenheroes.orgWe also have Facebook and always enjoy seeing those who have received an afghan from HMB post pictures once they receive their afghans.  It is very touching to us to know that our mission is complete, knowing that all we have put into the afghan is being felt by the one that it was made for."

What's the best part of your work?
"The best part of my work is the rewards I feel once an afghan is complete and has been sent or given to the person(s) that it was made for.  That is rewarding to my heart."

What advice do you have for angel-mommies?
"Being a mommy and losing a child at 6 1/2 months into my pregnancy was so hard and I am not sure to this day that I have words that could express how I feel.  My advice I think would be to take it one day at a time and to never put a time limit on grief.  We all grieve in different ways, the memories we have or dreams we had are lasting and one's mind will always wonder and ask why.  The love and support that family and friends give us will help with those one step at a time."

Do you have another favorite charity we should know about?
"There are so many charities out in the world.  I personally help in anyway that I can to the Wounded Warriors, and to the Gold Star Families.  I have belonged to other groups over the years but HMB has been my true home.  I cannot tell you about all the wonderful people we have on this group that will go above and beyond to make sure that we try to provide comfort to those who need it most."

I originally set out to find a way to help Liv get closer to a brother she would never meet.  What I didn't expect to find was a new lesson in grief from Karla Biggs.   She felt her own pain and craved to support others who had lost their babies.  But she took it one step further with Heartmade Blessings and kept reaching out to others.  She remembered the universality of pain.  We are all part of this club no one wants to join, but now we cannot live without.  Whether through miscarriage, SIDS, or the horrors of war, we are all bound together by our angel-children.  And so often, helping others is the best way to help ourselves. 

Since Carpenter's death, I've poured myself (somewhat haphazardly) into volunteering for other angel-mothers.  It has been therapeutic for me, but that's not the case for everyone.  Perhaps your suffering is so great you cannot stand the idea of volunteering for a perinatal loss charity.  Perhaps instead you could find comfort in giving back to other people suffering the pain of loss.  Because we can all agree that no matter when you lose your child, be it a week after conception or 20 years later, the pain is still unbearable.  And we all need a little comfort.  

To request a Comfortghan, click here.
To make a donation (of postage or afghan squares), click here.
To volunteer to help a family in need of a little love, email
And to let Heartmade Blessings know what a great thing they're doing, click here.


  1. Beautiful Annie, Thank you so much for giving me the honor to be apart of your journey. God Bless you and your family always. You have deeply touched my heart with your inspiration for others seeking the same answers, feelings, hurt, feeling lost, lonely, and most of all for knowing that we must all move forward in life, but knowing that we never have to forget the precious memories and dreams. You are a true Blessing to every life you touch. You did mine!:)

    1. Thank you, Karla! You are such a dear and I'm so glad I've found you!
      God bless,