Thursday, November 24, 2011

Grieving during the Holidays part 1

I labeled this entry "part 1" because I am pretty sure there will be more. This being my first holiday as a grieving parent I am experiencing everything as a new, raw emotion. My hope is that by sharing my feelings of the holidays, those readers out there who encounter other grieving people will know what to say during this hard season or at least have an idea of what a grieving person might be going through.

So, yes, this is a HARD season. That is the first struggle. I have always LOVED the holidays. Thanksgiving all the way through new years has typically been some of the best times of my life. I even have a birthday the day after Christmas, so that adds to the fun festivities. All of that is gone this year. A "secondary loss" of huge proportion. And as much as I try to  "be in the holiday spirit" I just cannot.
Grief has taken away my happy. This is not bad, and I hope it will return, but right now there is no happy. Thus being around happy people during the holidays stresses me out. I just cannot relate to them. I go to the mall and see all of the toys on display. All of the toys I won't be buying for Caleb. Then I go further and see all the children on Santa's lap or the "baby's first Christmas" things. All reminders of what I am missing this year. It seems like leaving my house this season requires me to sift through one land mine after another.

I had so many "hopes" for this Christmas with Caleb. All of my "hopes" of having an 8 month in our home this Christmas are gone. His Christmas sweater is still here, but he is not.  I have a whole closet full of clothes for someone who isn't here, and who isn't coming. I have a daughter growing inside of me this year, but no son on my lap. These are just a few of the things that are still confusing to wrap my head around and the holidays just seem to intensify these emotions.

So there is the grieving of Caleb this season, the grieving of my hopes that I had planned for him, the grieving of buying him toys, seeing him in his Christmas Church outfit, snuggling with him on Christmas Eve, sending out Christmas cards with his bright smile. And the list goes on and on. I can bet any grieving person is similar to me this holiday season. The hard part is that grieving of all these losses is like a perpetual loop in my head. That is why doing things that are considered "normal" just make me want to run and hide. Maybe some are thinking "alright, but you need to make yourself do normal or else you will never get back on your feet." To them I would say -wrong. There is nothing "normal" about our life right now. We have a full nursery decked out in blue with boy clothes  and a baby girl on the way= not normal.  We are trying to navigate what the "new" normal looks like, and I think that makes people uncomfortable. I think it would be easier on everyone else if we just went along ho-hum with all the holiday traditions and acted like nothing was wrong. But I cannot do that, because something is wrong, my baby is not here.

Please give grieving people in your life extra space this holiday season. Some may want to do the normal things, others may not. It might be hard on your because you will "loose" them in a sense as well. The person you always used to bake cookies with every year may not want cookies at all this year. This is hard for you, but trust me its a 1000 times harder for them. And they have to live with it all the time (remember the perpetual loop).

Our new normal this year for Thanksgiving includes going to the monastery for mass, decorating Caleb's grave with new Christmas things, and then coming home and eating a frozen pizza. This will not be our "new" normal for the next 25 years. This Thanksgiving will look different than next Thanksgiving and so on, so don't worry, we may get back to the turkey eventually. But this year, we just need to be removed from "celebrating." That does not mean we aren't thankful. I am thankful for many things, especial for Caleb's little sister that is kicking inside of me right now. But I am also still very sick and wounded and to go about business as normal would not help heal me.

Talk with your grieving friends or relatives before the holidays and make a plan. If they cannot commit, do not get angry. They have no idea how they might be feeling sometimes until the day of. Be patient with them and flexible and if they want to be left alone, please respect that. Do not feel sorry for them. Truly if we wanted turkey this year, we could get it, but we don't. If we wanted to be around large groups and sing carols we could, but we don't. The things that make you happy about the holidays DO NOT make a grieving person happy. To me, eating a frozen pizza brings me comfort and that is where I am at this Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Good Video

I found this video on another mom's blog and thought it was great. It seemed to capture a lot of what life has been like after losing a child.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Obsessed with death, or not?

Recently I was chatting with one of my best friends and telling her about all the new books I have read recently which are about women who have had a pregnancy loss. At one point she said, "don't you think you would feel better if you just stopped surrounding yourself with those stories?" My immediate response was "no," though I couldn't give words to why.

After she left the thought stayed with me the rest of the day. Was I just some sick twisted person that loved reading about death and dying babies? Was it becoming an obsession for me? I reflected on it more and I think that I can now give voice to why reading stories of other babies who have died is so comforting to me.

1. They make me feel not alone. Having Caleb die inside of me left me feeling like some sort of side show freak. I had never met anyone who had this happen to them, heck I had never even heard of it! Reading other stories of women who have been through a similar situation help me feel "normal" in a strange way. Like maybe I am not the only one this could ever happen to.

2. They give me hope. Let me use this analogy. If I was diagnosed with cancer and suddenly started reading books about cancer survivors, no one would think twice, in fact they might even encourage me. It's not that I would be surrounding myself with cancer, because well I already would have cancer. Instead I would be surrounding myself with hope. This is what the stories I read do for me. They show me the survivors of pregnancy loss. I get to see that there is life after the unthinkable happens and often these women use their pain and make it into something beautiful. They go on to start charities to help other women or counseling centers. Reading their stories gives me a lifeline to believe that just maybe I can come out of this alive and use it to help others.

So while it might seem a bit morbid to the average person, surrounding myself right now with stories of others losses is actually helping me. If you know someone out there who is grieving any type of loss do not be surprised if they dive into it by learning more about it and others who have had a similar loss. Once you come face to face with death, you are no longer scared of it. It doesn't seem morbid to me to read about death because I have peace with it. Holding my dead son made me come face to face with my own mortality. I no longer can be the carefree 27 year old who puts off thinking about death until later on in life. For goodness sakes my last name is already on a gravestone. It doesn't get more real than that.

Please be patient with your friends who are grieving and know that they too are wrestling with their own mortality. Death and stories of death might sound frightening to you, but to them its their new normal. You entering into that awkwardness of death, even if its been months since their loss, will mean a lot to them.  Reading stories of others in trying situations gives us hope that God can indeed turn the worse thing into the best thing and use our pain and brokenness to make something beautiful.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Letting things Go- Effects of Grief

Today was my last day of work. Strange because I am a teacher and most teachers do not leave their jobs at the beginning of November. The decision to leave my job was a hard one to make. Like so many things after Caleb died, I thought I could just go back to "normal." There is no normal after you lose a child, just a new kind of normal. Once I began teaching again in August I could feel the weight of it all. After much prayer my husband and I decided it was best for me to step down.

My initial reaction was to be mad and angry. After all, I never asked for my son to die 10 days before he was born. I get so angry at everything that has happened and the grief it has brought me. Truly I feel like grief has taken so much away from me. But, this is only if I choose to see it this way. I can also look at it as a new opportunity. I fully believe that anyone who is grieving will have to let go of  ALOT of their old selves, but maybe that is not all bad? No, I am not capable of teaching anymore. Physically and emotionally I am in no position to be in front of children all day and hold everything together. But, there are other things I am equipped for because of what has happened. I am starting a pregnancy loss ministry and trying to reach out to other mothers living without their children. I have faith that God will use my wounds to make something beautiful.

If you are going through the grieving process I challenge you to see the new possibilities that God is calling you to because of your situation, often the situation you did not ask for or want. If you are watching someone you love grieve, give them freedom to let go of their "old selves." I cannot tell you how much it meant to me the day I came home in tears and my husband said, "you can quit teaching right now, you don't just have to stick it out and get through it." He gave me permission to let go of the old me, even when I didn't want to.  It is so hard to leave behind teaching, so much of it was who I was. I know that God will lead me though to new things and if I choose to see it that way my load gets a little lighter.