Finding Comfort in Grief: Piper’s Gift to All of Us
By Caryn Gehlmann
Coping with grief is a unique journey for each of us. There are patterns and stages yet each of us goes through it a little differently. I was so honored to meet Claire Olson this year. Her story of finding comfort in grief and what she learned through the grieving process is very inspirational! This is especially so when you see what she’s doing now to comfort and support others through her work with Piper’s Purpose, a group that provides resources to those participating in a family’s grief journey. This interview will touch anyone who’s grieved, but especially those who’ve experienced pregnancy and infant loss and felt a lack of understanding and support.
Tell us a little about your background and the inspiration behind Piper’s Purpose.
My husband and I live in Indiana, however, I grew up in Portland, Oregon. We have 4 children and 1 on the way. I have had various careers in my life, but currently, I have refocused my time on family, expanding Piper’s Purpose and exploring starting a business in life coaching with my mother.
Piper’s Purpose has organically evolved over the past year. It began when we lost our only daughter, Piper, halfway through our pregnancy unexpectedly to Trisomy 13. There were times in our journey with medical providers that we did not feel supported and were not given ample information to make decisions and then manage our grief. However, our RN who worked with us at the hospital where we delivered Piper helped us in many ways. One thing we were given was a small pink blanket — it meant so much to us. It was a tangible item, it was pink and it held her in it. Coming home from the hospital within 48 hours of finding out our only daughter was no longer living was a blur. We had to tell her 3 older brothers ages 2, 6 and 8 what had happened. We had to manage our own response to losing Piper and theirs.
After we were home for a few weeks, I decided to knit a blanket to donate back to the hospital and asked others to help. We had no intention of creating Piper’s Purpose as it stands today but we believe that Piper knew her purpose all along and we are grateful she trusted us with it. We currently make donations to hospitals that include items for families experiencing loss, books to give to living siblings and are expanding to support medical providers with trainings and opportunities for them to be appreciated. When I begin to think that maybe the group will fizzle out, I get an email from someone needing something or giving us feedback so we keep going. This work has allowed me to say Piper’s name many times, continue healing and parenting her the only way I can.
Any other thoughts on the importance of supporting the grieving process that you’d like to share?
The gift of grief that Piper gave us was not recognized right away, I had to work through first time-sensitive decisions, then shock, then scary Post-Partum Depression and then learn to live with my grief. I believe through my journey that choosing to dive into my grief and not be scared of it has allowed me to deepen my connection with my life and live with more clarity and intention. This is one of the greatest gifts Piper has given me. We intentionally include Piper in many things, as a healthy way for us and our children to feel safe to process and share fears versus becoming prisoners to unrecognized emotions.
Our society overall, beyond the pregnancy and infant loss community, has created a great deal of shame, expectations, misinformation and silence around real grief. My experience has shown me that while there is a need for friends and family in grief support, there is also a need for professional support. Children and adults manage and understand grief differently and it’s important to have support from professionals for all people in the family. So much relearning goes into beginning one’s grief journey. Professionals that can work with someone’s grief process provide a structured framework to better incorporate family and develop more realistic expectations of those around them during different phases of grief. They can also help differentiate grief and depression which may need a different approach and possibly medication.
Many don’t know how to support someone who’s grieving and either say too much or too little and hold the person to unrealistic expectations. When in doubt, show up and sit with someone grieving. Tell them you love them and you remember their loved one. It’s even ok to cry WITH them, sometimes that helps the person feel less alone.
How were you introduced to essential oils and Essential 3?
I Googled “heart comfort pillow“, saw them on e3’s website. I reached out and the rest is history. e3’s owner, Caryn, was such a magical intervention. She was one of the first businesses we talked to as we started Piper’s Purpose. We could have talked for hours. She was kind, professional, acknowledged my experience. I could tell she was passionate about her work and the love of her family. I felt in good hands with her and I loved her ideas and enthusiasm as we discussed our partnership. She helped me stay motivated to keep going with my early ideas of Piper’s Purpose.
What do you believe are the benefits of aromatherapy and other healthy ways to find comfort in grief?
There is so much that someone grieving cannot control and it can feel discouraging to figure out what to do to help yourself. Many of the products and essential oils Caryn has shared with me can really support a person on a spiritual, ritualistic, and deeper physiological level. Smells and textures are important to experience on a physical level of healing. When grieving “self-care” transcends a “fun afternoon with girls at a spa, or bubble bath and a glass of wine,” it becomes a necessity to survive. Using essential oils, and other healthy products can fuel your body and spirit and stimulate your brain in order to better manage the day-to-day responsibilities of life alongside grief.
Do you have any personal favorite essential oil blends, recipes, or applications?
My favorite scents include Lavender, Peppermint and Eucalyptus essential oils. I’ve also come to love some of the great aromatherapy tools at e3 like their essential oil roll-ons and bracelet diffusers. I did end up getting a Comfort Heart pillow and I also love the Shower Mist, Orange Blossom Flower Water, and Face Mask Spritzers!
Thanks, Claire for sharing with us how we can find and give comfort during the grieving process. To receive more suggestions on how to incorporate aromatherapy in your life, sign-up for our newsletter and you’ll get 20% off your first order.