My daughter Finley was just 6 months old when she died. According to doctors, she died from head injuries that could have resulted only from severe trauma. By sharing her story, I hope to raise awareness on the issue and help stop this from happening to another child.
My daughter was a healthy, happy, beautiful baby — so vibrant with life. She lit up our lives — mine, my husband’s, and her big brother’s. In six months, my son had grown such a close bond with his sister. He was just 3 when Finley died.
The injuries to my daughter occurred while not in my family’s care. While I will never know how Finley’s injuries happened, I have focused my grief on helping raise awareness of shaken baby syndrome. And I have learned that anyone — a childcare provider, parent, sibling, loved one — can lose control and cause unintended injury to a child.
Loss leads to curiosity for years to come
Our own grief has taken a toll, but watching our son work through this process has been the most difficult of all. It is heartbreaking to hear him explain to others that his baby sister is in heaven playing in the clouds, to see how he reacts when we visit her resting place, to help him pick out a hot pink Hot Wheels car for her on her 1st birthday, and to hear him ask about all the other children’s names on the headstones as he walks around the rows near Finley.
He only understands so much right now, and I’m glad he is able to keep her in his life through memories, but I know someday he is going to have more questions. He will want to know what happened and we will relive this all over again. He will experience grief he has not yet had, being too young to understand. That is a day I don’t know how we will handle. Somehow, I know that our sweet Finley will guide us through that time.
Turning heartbreak into hope
Since Finley’s death, I have been working with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin to try to raise awareness on shaken baby syndrome and the issue of child abuse. My husband and I have established Finley’s Fund to focus on child abuse awareness and how to handle a crying baby. The fund is working in conjunction with The Period of PURPLE Crying Program to provide education and awareness for parents on how to handle a crying baby in hopes to prevent injury or death of a child.
Through Finley’s Fund, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin directly supports education, resources and awareness, as well as support for parents and caregivers, to prevent children from being abused. My daughter’s memory serves as a message to all about how precious a child’s life is.
Establishing Finley’s Fund and working with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin to spread her story has been a way to heal. I want parents to know that child abuse happens more often by someone the child knows. Pay attention and question anything that doesn’t seem right — it’s your child. The person should not be offended by any questions you ask. Don’t be afraid to get help or support if you feel overwhelmed or frustrated with your child or any child in your care.
There is no excuse to ever hurt a child. If you have done it, get help now so you can stop before another tragedy happens. If you suspect another person is abusing a child, speak up, ask questions, call the authorities. Let’s all join together and help stop child abuse.
Donate to Finley’s Fund
If you would like to help support this cause and donate to Finley’s Fund at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, please complete our online donation form and in the gift designation section, choose other and type “Finley’s Fund.”
You can also donate by check. Checks should be made out to “Children’s Hospital Foundation – Finley’s Fund” and mailed to:
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Foundation
PO Box 1997, MS 3050
Milwaukee, WI 53201
– Rachel Olson, guest author
Rachel Olson lives with her family in Greenfield, Wis. She is dedicated to raising awareness on the issue of child abuse in honor and memory of her daughter, Finley.