Veterans Book Group: A Journey

The mostly blue cover features a an illustration of people gathering at the Vietnam Veterans Wall, drawn in the primitive style.

by Rohini G.

Last year we embarked on a powerful journey of connection through reading and discussion among veterans in Howard County. This journey continues in 2021. Our facilitator, David Owens, USNA Class of ‘94, shares his thoughts in a candid interview.    

David, you are a former Naval officer and an entrepreneur with your own media production company. You are also the facilitator of a Veterans Book Group (VBG) at the library. Tell us more about all these different hats that you don so effortlessly.  

I do indeed juggle a lot, but I love it! I want to be someone who makes communities better, and thus volunteering (Veterans Reading Group, etc.) makes me feel more satisfied. I’m a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and spent six years active duty stationed at Naval Station San Diego. I was also a news reporter for 15 years after leaving the service. 

Running a small business has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done, and much of the success of the company centers on human connecting and teambuilding. I learned many of those skills in the military and try to bring those abilities to the reading group as well.  

The Veterans Book Group was a first for Howard County Library System and a first for you. What prompted you to take on this role? 

First of all, I love this reading group, and I hope it continues! I wanted to be involved in the group because I love to read, and I like listening to other people’s opinions on things. This has been the best of both worlds for me! We all read the same book, yet we sometimes have different perspectives, which helps us all grow. Additionally, it is awesome to meet new people and connect with them. 

What makes a Veterans Book Group different from other book groups? 

Just by the nature of the job, military members tend to have experience working in high intense environments with diverse groups of people. I believe those experiences facilitate deeper discussions in our group. I also believe there is increased sensitivity and empathy among the members because we understand some have had life-altering experiences during their service/lives. As for the readings, we are a relaxed group that gives members plenty of time to read all the books. 

Would you like to share any special memories or experiences from last year’s VBG? 

Last year we were honored to have author Madeline Mysko (Bringing Vincent Home) join us for a session. She was so gracious, and having her talk about how the book was really a reflection of her own experiences brought a realness factor to our discussion.  

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Covid-19. Our group initially met in person, then held our final few meetings virtually. Howard County Library and Maryland Humanities were great at adjusting on the fly. Being able to remain connected to people brought positive energy for me, and provided a bit of normal human interaction during such a difficult time. 

I understand that participants at VBG read novels, short stories, articles, and just about every format. What was your favorite story, book or excerpt from what you read last year? 

Again, I have to give a lot of kudos to Howard County Library and Maryland Humanities because they work hard to assist the facilitators in selecting a good cross-section of books. Bringing Vincent Home was my favorite. The characters in her story were so identifiable and really hit home for me. I honestly had to remind myself on several occasions that it was actually a novel.  

You are embarking on another journey with VBG in 2021. What are your plans for this year? How are you feeling about it? 

I am really excited about the diversity of subjects in this year’s books. We will explore issues with the VA (Dead Soldier by Carmelo Rodriguez), as well as a few eras that might not get read as much (Korean War and Civil War). We are also planning to invite authors to our discussions; in fact, Carmelo Rodriguez has expressed a desire to speak with us. I’m looking forward to the journey, and I know the group is going to have a lot of great discussions and connections! 

The Veterans Book Group 2021 starts on February 2. For more information and to register, click HERE.

Happy Holidays!

Snowy background with a white felt snowman wearing light blue scarf, mittens,. and hat.

Howard County Library System wishes you all the best during the holiday season. Thank you for reading our new blog, which we began in May. We hope you’ve enjoyed the reviews and maybe discovered a new electronic resource or two.

We published nearly 95 posts this year; here were some of the most-read posts of 2020:


Bypass the News Paywall
Jessica listed the many newspapers that HCLS subscribes to … so you don’t have to!

Review of Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Kim reviewed a quirky movie that defies easy classification, but delights nonetheless.

Bundle Bags
Cherise explained the new service that HCLS began recently. Fill out the form and receive a bag of books, movies, and more!

Happy New Year! Hope you continue to enjoy Chapter Chats!

A Community Memorial for the Covid-19 Pandemic

A black silhouette of a bare tree sits on a blue background, with red letter that read "Remembrance Trees" and a white ribbon with a message on it.

HCLS and InLACE, the Initiative for Latin American Community Engagement, are partnering to offer Remembrance Trees, a community memorial for the Covid-19 pandemic from Dec 9 – 21, and Remembering Together, a virtual event on Monday, Dec 21, 6 – 7 pm. These efforts look to honor those loved ones who have passed and those who are struggling near and far due to the Covid-19 pandemic — and to help us remember that while we might be distanced, we’re deeply connected and can support each other.

Patricia Silva of InLACE approached the library and asked if HCLS wanted to collaborate on this important, meaningful idea during what will be a challenging holiday season for many.  HCLS’s Katie DiSalvo-Thronson spoke with her about the inspiration and hopes for these projects. For more information about Remembrance Trees and Remembering Together, visit hclibrary.org/remembrance.

How did you get the idea for this effort?

I first was thinking about this because so many people were dying and how much despair they must have felt and how lonely people have been. When you hear that the families couldn’t say their goodbyes, that bonds were lost… We need to honor them.

I haven’t lost anyone, but when I hear people talking about their friends, sons and daughters being sick or dying that makes me sad and makes me want to reach out with information or emotional support and it makes me want to honor those lives. 

Our losses are not reflected only in death, but people losing their jobs, not being able to have food in the house, or facing mental health difficulties. This pandemic affects your hope. What I want to honor also encompasses people who are living with those struggles and uncertainty.

What do you want to remember during this memorial and event?

I think that every life counts and no one should endure this alone. Solidarity.

For you, what does “community” mean in this moment?

Well, it’s a tricky one, because community is something that is immediate around you – but when you become a citizen of the world the notion of community just gets bigger, broader. I live in Howard County, but what happens in my native country of Brazil also affects me.

The other day I was walking through my neighborhood and I saw a lawn sign that said “together and apart.” I think that the same time that social distance makes us physically distant from each other, it could give us a sense of connectivity. We can support each other in ways that are less physical and concrete because what we do and don’t do impacts other people’s lives. If we do social distance, that will impact the curve and fewer people will get sick. The beauty of it in my view is that applies to everything. If we reach out to family and friends to support them, that can save lives, that can help someone. We are in this together. That’s true!

Who should participate in this memorial and event?

Oh my gosh! This is open to everyone who wants to express their solidarity, and in any sense grieve and mourn and remember.

Patricia Silva is InLACE’s Co-Founder and President and a community advocate.

We Need Diverse Books

The book cover depicts three people in silhouette seated on a bridge, overlooking the water, with bright sunshine in the center behind a partially cloudy sky.

By Alan S.

I know that is a groundbreaking title there. Anyway, this post is a personal illustration of connecting with book characters because they are like me. Before anyone else can point it out – yes, I am a white guy. Yes, I am a white, heterosexual male. Yes, there are many books about people like me.  This post is not about me wanting more books about me. I’ve always agreed that we need more diverse books. I can’t imagine why anyone would disagree with this. Kids need to be able to read a book about a person who reflects their personal experience. Intellectually, I always knew this. My last two books have been a good illustration of how a connection to the characters improves the reader’s experience.

I read The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (also available in ebook and eaudiobook from OverDrive/Libby). It takes place in rural Tennessee, and in the author’s words from the book jacket:

“I wanted to write about young people who struggle to live lives of dignity and find beauty in a forgotten and unglamorous place. Who wonder what becomes of dreams once they cross the county line. This book is my love letter
to those young people and anyone who has ever felt like them, no matter where they grew up.”

I grew up in a place that could be considered forgotten and unglamorous. A small town where many kids dream of escaping to a bigger and brighter world. A small town where some days it seems like your dreams will die. I felt completely connected to the characters and could see a little bit of myself in them. Because of this, the book meant more to me and I was more emotionally invested in the story.

The book cover depicts a girl literally pieced together from different bodies, with an oversized arm and an arm of bones, a ribcage, a heart, an oversized toothy smile, and a single eye looking up.

Immediately after Serpent King, I read Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero. I like the book, but I don’t feel the same connection to the character because I am not a Mexican-American girl living in California. A Mexican-American girl will feel that connection here, but not necessarily in The Serpent King.  It’s important for books like Gabi to exist for that girl. She does not have the plethora of books about people like her that I’ve benefited from my entire life.

I didn’t realize how lucky I was growing up a reader and finding myself in all of the books I read (like the creepy clown in It, for example), and even though I realized it as an adult, it didn’t really stand out to me until I read these two books back to back.

I do think it is important for me to read books about people different from me, but sometimes it is really nice to read a book that feels like home. Everyone should have that opportunity.

For more information about where to find diverse books, please visit the We Need Diverse Books website. They have an excellent resource page of current, active sites that offer recommendations for diverse titles, as well as a great blog to help you discover new authors.

Alan has worked for HCLS for just under 25 years, currently at the Savage Branch. He enjoys reading, television, and most sports.

Longest Table Tips for ‘Impossible Conversations’

Screen shot from a Zoom meeting, with Daryl Davis gesturing toward the screen.
The Longest Table 2020

By Katie DiSalvo-Thronson

Are you heading into some holiday conversations you already dread? Or wishing you could talk to someone about a position they hold that you deeply disagree with, but feel unsure how to do it? 

When you think about someone who voted differently than you in the last election, are you wondering, “can I even talk to them?”

Last month, Howard County Library System held The Longest (Virtual) Table with Daryl Davis, an exceptional man with a lot to say about having hard conversations. Davis is an internationally celebrated blues musician who has also led more than 200 KKK members to leave the organization through personal relationships and dialogue. He is motivated, as a Black man, by the question: “How can you hate me if you don’t even know me?”

Davis is the author of Klan-destine Relationships, the topic of a movie Accidental Courtesy, and an excellent podcast interviewee (see “The Silver Dollar Lounge” from 2014 and “How to Argue” from 2017).

At the Longest Table, Davis shared parts of his amazing story, reflections on recent events, and ideas on how to talk someone out of hate. His experiences can help us see that people – even those holding extremely problematic positions – are capable of change. His ideas can help us connect with people whose beliefs feel impossibly different than our own.

So what does Daryl Davis suggest? Here are some of his top points, paraphrased:

  • Remember we all want the same five things.
    People want to be loved, to be respected, to be heard, to be treated fairly, and they want the same things for their families that you want for yours.
  • Give respect and get respect.
    Ask questions. Listen. “While you are actively seeking information from someone else, you are passively teaching them about yourself at the same time.” On social media, find a positive way to respond. The way you listen and respond will help people listen and respond to you.
  • Plant seeds as you engage in a long game.
    Give someone something to think about that troubles their world view. Then, engage again: “You must come back and water the seed – that’s the key.”
  • Lower their walls and keep them down.
    If you listen respectfully first, they will feel the need to listen to you next. “Defend yourself but don’t attack them,” and “keep your emotions in check.”

Davis’s approach demands intensive time and skill as well as self-control, and it may not be one we can all use all the time. His focus is not everyone’s: some people think it is more important to change policies and systems than to convert individual racists. However, we can all honor and appreciate that he has dedicated decades of his life to “putting a dent in racism,” along with his courage and selflessness in following this path. 

Like good music, Davis’ messages resonate well and widely. How could your ‘impossible conversations’ change by remembering shared humanity, showing respect, and teaching others with the example of how you live? Watch/listen to Daryl Davis in his own words today!

Katie is the Community Education and Engagement Manager for HCLS. She loves people, the big questions, the woods, and chocolate.

Veterans Day and Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five arches in a tombstone shape above the subtitle, Or the Children's Crusade, and the author's name.

By Eric L.

We celebrate Veterans Day today, November 11, and it’s not just an extra day off each year. As a young person, I didn’t realize the significance of the date and why it doesn’t float like similar holidays. Veterans Day was not explained to me in school; in fact, the significance of the First World War wasn’t very clear until I took a college-level class. However, I won’t blame my teachers; there is a high probability that I was not paying attention.

I have always liked history because it seems like a big story, and I love those. I still, fortuitously, fill the gaps of my historical knowledge through books, very often through fictional stories as a gateway to the actual events. So please read them, you can borrow them for free

Kurt Vonnegut is arguably one of my favorite writers for his indefatigable humanism and wit. Sadly, I’m a huge fan of what people call gallows humor. He served in combat for the U.S. Army during the Second World War. In short, he was captured, detained as a prisoner of war, survived the fire-bombing of Dresden as a POW, and experienced horrifying things. His work Slaughterhouse Five, or The Children’s Crusade: a Duty-Dance with Death addresses this experience. The title refers to the former slaughterhouse where he and other POWS were held, and the fact that they were really children when they fought the war. Many of his works are about war and post-traumatic stress it causes. Strangely, Vonnegut was born on November 11, 1922, what would become Veterans Day.

In my opinion, the prefaces of his books, as well as his memoir Man Without a Country (also in audio) are nearly as good as the novels. I find them hilarious. In the preface to Breakfast of Champions (available in ebook, eAudio, or this collection), he describes how Armistice Day marked the end of the First World War. The cease-fire was declared on the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Vonnegut poetically said,  

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me
in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we
still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke
clearly to mankind (504-5, Novels and Stories 1962-1973).

I can only imagine that, to a battlefield veteran, the silence of a cease-fire must indeed have sounded like providence. Vonnegut said that Armistice Day was “sacred,” I assume because it meant an end to fighting in the War to End All Wars. I’m fairly confident he supported veterans of all types, but I too hope the idea of a cease-fire is still “sacred.”  

I very much appreciate the veterans of the military. I admire their courage, and I especially admire my late Grandmother who served as a combat nurse during the Second World War. 

Check out HCLS’s list of titles to remember and celebrate our nation’s military heroes this Veterans Day.

Eric is a DIY Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS Elkridge Branch. He enjoys reading, films, music, doing nearly anything outside, and people.

Local Bike Rides

The photograph depicts a bike trail road sign in green and white against a blurry background of yellow fall leaves.  The bike is beneath a green arrow pointing to the right.

By Eric L.

Autumn is wonderful time, and it’s my favorite. I always enjoy how the humidity fades and cooler air takes its place. As my bio reads, I do really enjoy being outside in nature. Numerous studies show that it is healthful just to be outside.  

I’d recommend that if you’re able, get out there on a bike. Maybe you have a neglected one around the house, or could borrow one to try it out. You do not need an expensive bike and spandex to have fun – just a bike, a helmet, and some comfortable clothing. Start slow, just take a short ride around your neighborhood away from traffic.  

Speaking with people at bike shops, I’ve discovered they’re short on bikes to sell and appointments for repairs and maintenance. Therefore, I’d encourage you to watch this short video I made for the library about how to perform some simple maintenance and change a flat tire. You can borrow, via contactless pickup, a bike tool kit, a pump, and even a professional bike repair stand at the DIY Education Center at HCLS Elkridge Branch.  

After that, you can do a quick internet search on all the great spots to cycle in the Baltimore metro area. I’ll give you a few of the ones I like, all of which provide a nice scenic autumn ride. Find a friend (I think biking is more fun with company), but you may want to avoid any tandem bikes as a beginner and with social distancing guidelines. 

The BWI loop is a paved trail that essentially goes around the airport; it’s about 12.5 miles and does have some hills. It has a nice playground on the loop, if you’re with little ones and an observation area to watch planes.  

The B&A Trail, connected to the BWI loop, is a smooth, fully paved trail which goes all the way to Annapolis. It’s a very pleasant ride, and you need not do the entire thing, just whatever is in your comfort range. There are numerous spots where people get on and off the trail.  

The Grist Mill trail in the Avalon area of the Patapsco Valley State Park was closed for long period of time, but is open (as of now) and is a very smooth and scenic ride. It passes by a swinging bridge and where the Bloede dam was removed (which I find pretty cool to view). What’s more, if you’re more adventurous, the Patapsco Valley State Park has miles of great trails for mountain biking. To be sure, it’s not for beginners (the DIY center can lend you trekking poles if you’d prefer to take a nice long walk to see the park instead). 

My personal favorite of late is the NCR trail, which begins in Timonium and goes all the way to York, PA. This trail is mostly gravel and thus requires a hybrid, mountain, or basically a bike with anything other than super skinny “road” tires. I ride it frequently from Monkton Station to New Freedom, PA. The NCR is slightly uphill (you don’t even notice at times) heading north and thus a slight downhill on the return south. 

You will encounter some folks, as these trails are more popular than in previous years with many looking for socially distanced activities, especially on the weekend. But don’t be intimidated, just let those riding fast pass on by, and stay on your side of the trail. And again, keep in mind to just have a good time and enjoy the beautiful season! 

Eric is a DIY Instructor and Research Specialist at the Elkridge branch. He enjoys reading, films, music, doing nearly anything outside, and people.

Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir by Tyler Feder

The book cover depicts an illustration of a woman in pink sweater and blue jeans dancing with the translucent, ghostly image of her mother, who is represented by a gravestone at their feet which reads "Mom, 1961-2009."

by Carmen J.

I hate to state the obvious, but an unfortunate fact of life is that we will gradually lose the ones we love. In this year alone, I’ve had the reality check of all reality checks as I said goodbye to my sister-in-law, my daughter’s great grandmother, my best friend from high school’s parents, my best friend from my first job out of college, a former colleague (RIP Joe McHugh), and two icons: Kobe Bryant and Chadwick Boseman. Yes, 2020, I’m going to have to ask you to leave, please?

In Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir, the author writes about her experience losing her mother when she was 19 and dealing with the 10-year aftermath of grief. The writing and illustrations are insightful, poignant, and humorous at the same time. The author’s mother died of cancer and the author vividly describes the myriad of emotions caregivers endure, so readers can connect to her story on many levels.

Like the author, I lost both my father and sister to cancer, and I found myself nodding in heartfelt agreement at many of Feder’s descriptions of losing a parent and enduring the magnified heartache of cancer. In particular, she captured the reality of the endless trips to the hospital for treatments and cancer’s physical and emotional tolls on the ill and their families.

As a reader, I connected with Feder’s reflections on how death can be so difficult to talk about for some. No one really knows the exact right thing to say when you hear that someone has died. It’s awkward and uncomfortable and unexpected, much like death itself. I laughed at the author’s inflections of humor and her ability to find humor even in her darkest days.

I’m lucky I still have a living mother. As we celebrated her 80th birthday this year, my thoughts trickled to the thought of what life may look like some day without her. I hate that image. As Feder highlights in the book, I, too, consider my mom to be a rock star and an undeniable force in my life. More time is always what we want with those we love and, selfishly, it’s never enough.

Put this book in the hands of someone who is hurting from recent loss, has someone succumbing to illness, or anyone in need of finding the right words of comfort.

Carmen J is a teen instructor at HCLS East Columbia. Among her favorite things are great books, all things 80s, fall weather, Halloween, and pumpkin spice everything.

HCLS Pregnancy and Infant Loss Resources

by Kimberly J

Black and white image of a tiny baby foot - which measures only as big as the top joint of a fingertip- is shown surrounded by an adult hand.
Photo by Kimberly J – shared in memory of Todd & George

In 2013, I was pregnant twice. Both of these pregnancies ended in stillbirth. The next few months were a bit of a blur. I felt alone, isolated, shameful, and guilty about my body’s failures. Medical terminology surrounding pregnancy loss did little to dispel these feelings. Words like miscarriage, incompetent cervix, and inhospitable uterus felt like they, too, were laying the blame at the mothers’ feet. One day, a book arrived in the mail from a dear friend which made me feel less alone. I found it helpful to hear others’ stories and experiences that mirrored my own. That book was the catalyst for my grieving process and healing. If you are struggling, I hope that one of these books or DVDs might bring the same sense of catharsis and comfort to you. If someone you know has recently experienced a similar loss, I hope these resources will help you relate to them and know how to help.

Don't Talk About the Baby DVD cover shown. Hand holds a dandelion, which has seeds blowing in the wind. Under are the words "Shatter the Stigma"

Don’t Talk About the Baby is a documentary film presenting first person accounts of infertility, miscarriage, and stillbirth. It addresses the cultural stigma of silence around these losses. The film includes interviews from mothers and fathers from around the US. It seeks to normalize the grieving process – and addresses how this grief is often invisible to outsiders, because to them the baby wasn’t visible. Additional insight is provided by a bereavement doula and other doctors. Content Warnings: Contains photos of deceased children. Couples talk about subsequent pregnancies and live births. Features discussion during a religious/Christian support group. Don’t Talk About the Baby is available on DVD from HCLS.

The Brink of Being: Talking About Miscarriage: Bueno, Julia book cover shown over sunset image in pink, purple, and blue.

The Brink of Being: Talking About Miscarriage was written by a therapist who specializes in working with women who have experienced pregnancy loss and infertility. She also shares her own experiences with miscarrying 22-week twins. This book is laid out in a “chronological” retelling of losses – starting at the first weeks, and progressing throughout the stages at which miscarriage losses can occur. A chapter towards the end also speaks about memorials and remembrances. Stories are told in intimate and graphic detail. This book includes chapters on early, late, and recurrent miscarriage. It also offers insights into the perspectives of partners, fathers, family members, and loved ones. Content Warnings: Stories of subsequent pregnancies and living births are integrated into the narrative. Graphic descriptions, including the at-home birth of a embryonic baby. Definitions are given in terms recognized in the UK – miscarriage there is defined through 24 weeks, while in the US, babies born as soon as 20 weeks are termed stillborn.

About What Was Lost: Jessica Berger Gross, editor. White vase is filled with ivory dandelions.

About What Was Lost is a compilation from 20 different writers who share their own stories of loss. This anthology offers a catharsis with honest (sometimes painful) re-tellings of private grief. Authors share their personal experiences and feelings about abortion, miscarriage, twin loss, and premature infant death. Each story and experience is unique to the author and reflects many perspectives on pregnancy and infant loss. Content Warnings: Subsequent pregnancies and live births are discussed. Abortion loss is covered in multiple accounts.

High Risk: Stories of Pregnancy, Birth, and the Unexpected: Karkowsky MD, medical scrubs and gloves in the background of the text.

High Risk is written by a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist (MFM) also known as a high-risk OB/GYN. She seeks to fill the void of information about what might happen. Told from a medical point-of-view, this book seeks to answer the call, “I wish someone had told me.” This book concisely details some of the most common diagnoses that bring patients to a MFM. It offers information on the processes, medical terminology, and decision making during pregnancy complications. In the chapter on stillbirth, the most common causes are discussed and dissected. The author also addresses some of the reasons behind the medical avoidance on the subject of stillbirth. This book presents a history of medical knowledge/treatments around pregnancy complications and the current standards (or lack thereof) of care when loss occurs. While it tells stories of real patients, it is from a detached medical perspective.

Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos: Knisley, Lucy, Knisley, Illustrated image of a pregnant mother with baby inside her belly

Kid Gloves by Lucy Knisley is a graphic novel available in both paperback and as an ebook via Overdrive. It portrays the author’s struggle with early miscarriage and the depression that followed her losses. These feelings of isolation and sadness are compounded by shame, guilt, and loathing of her own body. She recounts advice that eventually led her to healing… to treat herself with “kid gloves.” Lucy later receives a medical reason for her miscarriages, and goes on to recount her experiences through a pregnancy (with complications) and the eventual birth of a living child. She addreses the history of birthing practices and the notion of “natural” childbirth with humor and accuracy. Content Warnings: more than half of the book recounts the author’s successive pregnancy and battle with pre-eclampsia.

Return to Zero movie cover. Family of 3 is shown next to water, with mother and father looking into distance with a sailboat in the background.

Return to Zero is a fictional film portraying stillbirth loss. It is based on the true story of writer/director/producer Sean Hanish and his wife. This movie shows how stillbirth shatters the lives of a successful and prosperous couple. The shock and disbelief Minnie Driver portrays when confronted with the semantics surrounding her upcoming birth echoed my own experiences with stillbirth. You never think that you’ll be asked about funerals and autopsies on the day you’re going to give birth. The movie goes on to depict the daily struggles of both parents as they navigate holidays, baby showers, and well-meaning outsiders. They are helped through a successive pregnancy by a doctor who has also experienced loss. Reception to the movie has led to the founding of RTZ: Hope which aims to shine a light on pregnancy loss and stillbirth. Content Warnings: Photos of deceased children are shown. Stillbirth labor and delivery are depicted. Subsequent live birth is portrayed. Return to Zero is available from HCLS on DVD.

Three Minus One: Stories of Parents' Love and Loss by Jessica Watson, Sean Hanish, Brooke Warner. Sunset image of a butterfly drawn in the sand with the beach surf at its edges.

Three Minus One is an ebook available on Hoopla from HCLS. Inspired by the Return to Zero film, it is a compilation of over 80 individual essays, poems, and pictures submitted by mothers, fathers, relatives, and friends. Most of these stories focus on stillbirth and infant death, with several perspectives from families whose doctors declared their babies “incompatible with life” before they were born. Other topics include the loss of a toddler, the elective abortion of a Trisomy 21 baby, and miscarriage. This collection is a journey through their grief and pain, but mostly focused on the love these parents have for their children. Many explore what it means to move forward, for this after is nothing like what came before. Content Warnings: Photos of deceased children are shown. Several narratives include subsequent living children.

Three book covers shown: Healing Your Grieving Heart After Miscarriage, Healing Your Grieving Heart After Stillbirth and Healing a Parent's Grieving Heart.

Healing Your Grieving Heart is a series of books available for Howard County Library patrons via Hoopla. They are written by Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a grief educator who offers practical ideas and concrete action-oriented tips to aid in the mourning process. Each title in the series addresses the unique concerns for each situation – from confronting what you did or did not see during the miscarriage process to taking & displaying pictures of a stillborn baby. The author offers practical, bullet-pointed ideas on how to practice self compassion while grieving. His tips are based on advice solicited from families who have experienced these losses. I found it helpful in a concrete way, when so much about the grieving process feels murky and disorienting. The author offers 100 ideas in each book. If some don’t feel right to you, his advice is just to skip it and move on. Self care is central to his philosophies, but moving from the emotion of grief to the action of mourning takes work and reflection. There are many titles available, but these three are most relevant to my post today:
Healing Your Grieving Heart After Miscarriage
Healing Your Grieving Heart After Stillbirth
Healing a Parent’s Grieving Heart

The content provided is for informational purposes only; it is not intended to be used instead of professional medical opinion or advice. All information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.

Kimberly J is a DIY Instructor and Research Specialist at the HCLS Elkridge Branch. She is the mother to two living sons and two stillborn sons.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

Upclose photograph of a statue of a grieving woman with her eyes closed, looking downward.
This statue of a grieving mother sits in the Star Garden Cemetery, reserved for babies who died before they had a chance to live.

by Kimberly J

For women who know they’re pregnant, about 15 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage.1 About one pregnancy in 100 after 20 weeks of pregnancy is affected by stillbirth, and each year about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States.2 In 2018, the infant mortality rate in the United States was 5.7 deaths per 1,000 live births.3

Loss affects approximately 1 in 4 known pregnancies. Which means if it hasn’t happened to you, it has happened to someone you know. Yet, this subject is often surrounded by silence. That silence is isolating and discouraging. Not knowing what to say or what to do are the most common reactions when someone you know or love is experiencing this kind of loss, but silence is not the answer. Absence of support and acknowledgment can compound the grief and loss felt after such an event.

If you have experienced this type of loss, I am so sorry. After my losses, I started a journal of sorts and labeled it, “Things to Help?” In compiling the resources listed, I kept that thought in mind. Below is a list of materials and resources to hopefully help anyone experiencing such a loss (and those who love them) break the stigma of silence and shame. I hope these resources aid you in processing and working through the grief you may be struggling with. Sometimes, just knowing you are not alone can be of comfort.

“When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes.

– RONALD REAGAN, 1988
DECLARING OCTOBER PREGNANCY & INFANT LOSS AWARENESS MONTH.

Local Resources – Central Maryland

Rising Hope Perinatal Hospice & Bereavement Program: at Howard County General Hospital – This program is free of charge and offers support during and after pregnancy. They offer emotional and practical support as well as referrals to support groups, therapists, and funeral directors. Contact: Amanda Meneses, 410-884-4709, adeane3@jhmi.edu – View their brochure by clicking HERE

Springboard Community Services: (formerly Family & Children Services of Central Maryland) is a local nonprofit that aims to make mental health services available to all. They provide social services including counseling and group therapy. Their website is www.springboardmd.org

Stillborn and Infant Loss Support (SAILS Maryland): This is a newer group supporting central Maryland families and run by Sadija Smiley, who has experienced loss herself. This group seeks to help those who have experienced a loss feel less alone. On their website, bornintosilence.org, they have compiled a list of national resources and created a remembrance wall to acknowledge lost babies.

Dear Mama: Hosted by HCLS (Sponsored by Friends and Foundation of Howard County Library System and The Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County. In partnership with Worcester County Library). This is a thematic multimedia exhibit depicting pregnancy and motherhood through the eyes of emerging artists of African descent. The aim is to create for the viewer emotional resonance as well as understanding of the health disparities impacting women of color. Join us for a day of dialogue and healing as we discuss the physical and emotional health of black mothers and mothers to be. This event will take place online on October 24th from 10am – 2pm. Register here.

Statewide and National Resources

MIS (Miscarriage, Infant Death, and Stillbirth) Share: This parent-led support group currently meets virtually to offer information, support, and comfort to parents at any stage of the grieving process. Specialized support groups are available throughout the DMV area. Find a brochure about their services by clicking here. Their website is www.misshare.org

Center for Infant & Child Loss: The Center is run by the University of Maryland Department of Pediatrics and is committed to increasing the understanding of sudden infant and child death, risk reduction practices, grief, and compassionate intervention. Contact: 800-808-7437. Their website is infantandchildloss.org

The Compassionate Friends: This is a national group offering peer-led support for bereaved parents, siblings, and grandparents who have experienced the death of a child of any age. Call the national office: 877-969-0010 or visit the website for local chapter information: www.compassionatefriends.org

Star Legacy Foundation – Maryland Chapter: This group seeks to decrease stillbirth rates through education and fundraising for research. They are also a resource for grieving families, who can call 952-715-7731 (ext. 1) to speak to a grief counselor. In addition, The Star Legacy Foundation coordinates volunteer efforts to make a difference locally with bereavement care packages and training for hospital staff. The Maryland chapter website and contact information can be found here.

MARYLAND CRISIS HOTLINE: 1-800-422-0009: This statewide 24 hour intervention and supportive counseling hotline is for depression, suicide, loneliness, family and relationship problems, shelter needs, violent or threatening domestic situations, chemical dependency issues and others.

Online Resources

  • CDC STILLBIRTH RESOURCES: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has compiled resources for information and scientific articles regarding stillbirth. Also featured on this site are stillbirth stories from volunteer contributors. Visit the website here. Trigger Warning: The “Family Stories” section contains photos of deceased children.
  • Glow in the Woods: This site hosts online forums and archives “for babylost mothers and fathers.” The forums are labeled to help visitors avoid triggers for those that want to share, but are still sensitive to hearing about others who are trying to conceive (TTC) post-loss. The archives are filtered by category, allowing you to find narratives where the experiences/feelings mirror your own. Subjects in the archives range from depression, anger, and guilt to intimacy, memorials, and family. The website is glowinthewoods.com.
  • INSTAGRAM:
    • @LoveCommaDad – This account consists of a series of videos from a stillbirth and miscarriage father who shares loss stories and advice from other baby-loss dads in their own words to offer support for one another.
    • @RefugeInGrief – Most posts on this account feature the hastag #perfectlynormal – letting you know that whatever you’re feeling, this reaction is a normal part of the grieving process. This shared grief experience can be helpful, though infant/pregnancy loss is not specifically mentioned. Run by Megan Devine, author of It’s ok that you’re not ok : meeting grief and loss in a culture that doesn’t understand
    • @Miscarriage.Stories – Part of the nonprofit Managing Miscarriage, this account offers a place for sharing miscarriage stories. This account encourages submissions from followers in order to break free from the isolation and silence that usually accompanies miscarriage.
  • PODCASTS:
    • Stillbirth Matters! -from the Star Legacy Foundation – there are currently 30 episodes, mainly interviews with medical professionals, fathers, and mothers. The focus is mainly on stillbirth and infant loss stories. However, several episodes speak directly to infertility and pregnancy loss
    • Managing Miscarriage – this community-sourced podcast provides a forum for women to share their stories. It highlights narratives from women who have experienced miscarriage as well as expert perspectives from doctors. There are currently 76 episodes.
    • Sisters in Loss spotlights faith filled black women who share their grief and pregnancy loss stories. According to the NIH, black women are twice as likely to experience late miscarriage and stillbirth than white women. New episodes weekly; episodes include resources and strategies to heal and find a path forward after loss.

The content provided is for informational purposes only; it is not intended to be used instead of professional medical opinion or advice. All information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.

Kimberly J is a DIY Instructor and Research Specialist at the HCLS Elkridge Branch. She is the mother to 2 living sons and 2 stillborn sons.

1. “Miscarriage (also called early pregnancy loss) is when a baby dies in the womb (uterus) before 20 weeks of pregnancy. For women who know they’re pregnant, about 10 to 15 in 100 pregnancies (10 to 15 percent) end in miscarriage. Most miscarriages happen in the first trimester before the 12th week of pregnancy. Miscarriage in the second trimester (between 13 and 19 weeks) happens in 1 to 5 in 100 (1 to 5 percent) pregnancies. As many as half of all pregnancies may end in miscarriage. We don’t know the exact number because a miscarriage may happen before a woman knows she’s pregnant. Most women who miscarry go on to have a healthy pregnancy later.” Source: March of Dimes

2. “Stillbirth affects about 1 in 160 births, and each year about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States. That is about the same number of babies that die during the first year of life and it is more than 10 times as many deaths as the number that occur from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).” Source: CDC

3. “Infant mortality is the death of an infant before his or her first birthday. In 2018, the infant mortality rate in the United States was 5.7 deaths per 1,000 live births.” Source: CDC