Saturday, December 31, 2011

Stop with the Reasoning!

One thing that I wish people knew about grief was that it isn't reasonable. It's not linear, not nice and neat like steps up a ladder. It is dark, confusing, scary, and cloudy. What grieving people need most when they are grieving is a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen to them.

Before experiencing grief I would have just thought it was a feeling. Probably lots of sadness with maybe some depression if things got really bad.  Now having experienced grief I can say it is more like a sickness than a feeling. I have been surprised at how physical it is. There are days when I have absolutely no energy or feel physically sick to my stomach.  This is the hard part about grief because even though grieving people may look fine on the outside, really they are like sick people. No one would expect someone who is in the ICU unit to come to a family gathering, but they expect a grieving person to show up and act normal.

I feel that people's misunderstanding of how grief really is leads them to try and reason with the grieving person. I have been given this reason in a number of ways by a number of people. It seems when I am honest with people on how life is (hard) or how I am doing (still sad) they seem to want to "reason" with me. To tell me how having two stillbirths hardly ever happens. They tell me to count all the blessings I do have . They tell me that worry will have bad side effects on Abigail. It seems that people want to try to "fix" things by reasoning and the truth is, nothing can be fixed.

And on and on the reasoning goes. It leaves me feeling like I owe them an explanation of my feelings and thoughts. It leaves me feeling like something is wrong with me because I am not doing "reasonable" things like shopping for Abigail or decorating in pink or counting down the days until I get to hold her. Reason just does not work on a grieving person. There is no amount of reason that can convince me that I will bring home a live baby until I actually bring home a live baby. No amount of reason that will make the tears less, the pain stop, or the memories fade.

Would you reason with someone who was sick with a bad infection? No, you would greet them with compassion and understanding. My husband and I often say it feels like we have been on the cross since April 14th. When Jesus was hanging on the cross, people did not come to reason with him. Mary, John, and the Mother of God followed Him to the cross to comfort him and give him empathy and compassion. There were no remarks such as "Don't worry Jesus, it will all be worth it in the end," or "Just a few more hours then we can put this all behind us." He was on the cross and the only answer was to be with him in the sorrow and misery, not to reason with Him, not to "fix" Him.

Instead of reasoning with grieving people, just let them be. I promise it will not be forever! From what I understand and have read about grief, over time it becomes more of a peripheral vision kind of thing instead of right in front of your face thing. The "sickness" become less and less but still has moments of intense flare ups.  I am still in the right in front of your face stage. Typically when a person loses a baby it takes 18-24 months before they feel and act "normal" again. It hasn't even been 9 months, so according to the average I still have a ways to go. Be gentle with grieving friends, especially grieving mothers. Listen to them, don't try to "fix" things, and just simply be that shoulder to cry on.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The best remedy for grief I have found

This is Siena. We got her one month to the day after Caleb died. I had always wanted a puppy and while we were in the hospital delivering Caleb I asked my husband if we could get one. He said after everything we had been through we could get 2 puppies if I wanted! Needless to say, one was enough and we decided on a Welsh Terrier.

I have spent so much time with this puppy the last 8 months. She has cried with me, made me laugh, and cuddled with me. She gets me out of the house to go for walks. I truly never knew how therapeutic pets could be. Siena stays by my side and loves me through everything. She is always happy to see me when I come in the door and give me lots of love and affection.

Siena continues to be a light in our darkness. She is a living memorial to Caleb (we call her Caleb's puppy).  Last January we picked new saints to pray to for the following year out of a saint box our friends had. We drew one for Caleb and he got St. Catherine of Siena. We thought it was fitting to name his puppy after his saint. So far, Siena lives up to her name sake. Very fiery but compassionate and not a mean bone in her body just like Saint Catherine of Siena.

I would recommend getting a pet for any grieving person (if they are able to). My schedule worked out nicely in order for us to bring home a puppy.  Perhaps if you know someone who is grieving and you have a pet, you could bring the pet over for a visit. There is nothing like unconditional love from a furry friend.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Baby's Birthday

This was written on Christmas, posted today! Sorry for confusion!

Today is Christmas. It turned out to not be as hard as I thought it would be. That seems to be typical of grief- the things I think will be hard are not and the things I think will be easy are hard.

While at mass this morning I really felt God's abundant love and grace moving.  I cried through the entire thing and it all started with one word in the opening song "adore." It hit me like a ton of bricks. Today is the Christ child's birthday- and so many people forget it or ignore it or don't even care. There are so many people who do not "adore" Him.

I cried for Mother Mary. After burying Caleb, I began to relate to Mary in a way I never could have before. Today my heart ached for her. I know how terrible it feels to have your child ignored. The child you loved and carried within you for nine months, your own flesh and blood. For me one of the hardest things about having a stillbirth is the silence. Few people bring it up and the majority act like nothing ever happened. It pains me when people don't recognize my child.

But here is the thing- Caleb was just human. In a way, its easy to understand why people ignore him because he isn't all that important to others. But Jesus, Mary's son, was also the son of God! He took on our sins and by His blood we are saved. And today was his birthday and people forgot. I went to Mary in prayer and told her I will always adore her son, even if everyone else forgets him. I used to think that Mary wanted people to know about Jesus because, well, he was Jesus. But now I realize it was also because he was her son. Just how I always want to talk about Caleb when someone asks, because he is my son and I am proud of him. I only knew Caleb for 38 weeks and 4 days and I have so much to say. Can you imagine what Mary can tell us about her son whom she spent 33 years with???

The Catholic Church is incredible with her devotion to Mary. It is not in a "worship Mary" sense, but more in a "go to her and she will tell you about Him," sense. Today I grieved with Mary, for Mary. It was her baby's birthday and so many people don't care.

For all of you mothers out there who have lost a child, please remember that you can go to Mary. She too held her dead son. She knows what its like to have people forget your baby. May we never stop asking Mary to tell us about her little boy, the Christ child born in a manger.

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 16, 2011

Right where I am- 8 months

I was inspired to write this post by another mother's blog. Her idea was to write about your grief wherever you are in the grieving process. So here goes:

8 months. 8 months since I gave birth to Caleb and then three hours later handed him over to a nurse and watched her walk out of the room with him, never to hold him again. 8 months since we said our goodbyes this side of Heaven.

I am a completely different person than I was 8 months ago. I am exhausted all the time and getting plenty of sleep doesn't help it. I feel like time has stopped, even though I know it hasn't. To me it feels like April 14th all the time. It feels like I am stuck watching everyone else's life go on around me and I can't figure out a way to make mine start moving again.

 I still cannot be around babies. When I see one in a store I immediately go the other way. This makes me feel strange, not normal, like a crazy women. I spend ALOT and I mean ALOT of time prepping for situations that used to take no thought. Every time I leave my house I usually have to go through a list of "painful" things that I could encounter or see and talk myself through how I would handle them. Simple questions like "Do you have any children?" require me to have a handful of pre-planned answers for various situations so that I don't break down crying at the check out counter.

I am constantly worried that everyone around me will die. When my husband leaves for work each morning I wonder if its the last time I will ever see him. When friends and family tell me they are pregnant I immediately get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I start thinking about all the things that could go wrong with their pregnancy and how their babies could also die. I never say anything out loud, instead I smile and say "congratulations!" The motto "fake it til you make it," rings constantly in my head during most social situations.

I am not social like I used to be. Large groups and crowds give me anxiety. I feel the weight of possibly having to explain myself, my life and then I just get overwhelmed with.... what? I don't know, just overwhelmed in general. I feel isolated, handicapped in a way that only I can feel, but no one can see. Having a full nursery stocked with everything and no baby makes me feel like I am living in the twilight zone. I keep wondering- what happened? How did it go from so perfect to so empty?

I don't cry as much or as often as I used to. The grief attacks are less now. One place that is constantly hard for me is Church. I manage to cry there almost every Sunday. Its where my arms feel the emptiness the most, where the reminders of how it should have been seem to stick out the most. I wrestle with God. But I am closer to Him than ever before. I feel a pressure from holy people who want me to grieve a certain way. I don't feel that pressure from God. I love the crucifix. I love that our church has one and that it never comes down. Jesus nailed to a cross stays up though all the happy times in the Church, kinda like my grief. I  have had good times in the last 8 months, but the grief is always there. The crucifix has more meaning for me than it ever had before. That was Mary's son on that cross and I often cry with her as only mothers who have had to bury their children can. Mother Mary is a constant companion to me. I feel most understood by her.

I appreciate life much more. The simple things- hot chocolate and a game of scrabble are enough to get me through a week. I see a beauty in the seasons that I never noticed before. Even now when the trees are bare, the sky is grey, and the ground is cold- it all speaks to me. Its like God is showing me through nature what my heart feels like in this season of my life. My marriage is stronger. My husband has been through it all with me and I feel a oneness with him that I don't think we could have had otherwise.

I am learning a "new normal" each and every day. The parts of my life that used to work don't anymore. I have had to stop teaching because it was too much. I have taken up sewing and get a lot of accomplishment from finishing a simple project. I feel like my whole life is one big session of rehab therapy right now. Learning how to function all over again. My short term memory is frazzled. Its as if I cannot unlock certain parts of my brain that used to be wide open. Take for instance the pumpkin pie situation a week ago. I went to the store to buy a pie crust and could not for the life of me remember where they were. Like, not even a clue. All I could remember were the graham cracker and oreo pie crust, so I went with those (those are no-bake in case you are wondering and ruined our pumpkin pie). Its like I knew it was wrong, but I couldn't tap into the right answer. This happens for a lot of little things. All of which make me feel even crazier.....

I am also pregnant with Caleb's little sister. Most of the time I feel like this pregnancy is an episode of the twilight zone. I get mentally confused from time to time and wonder which child I am carrying. I know its Abigail, but some mornings I wake up and touch my stomach and think "maybe you will come today, Caleb." Then like a huge wave it all come crashing down on me- he's gone, dead, never coming back.

 I have all blue stuff for a girl that is supposed to be arriving in March. I cannot prepare for her. I feel a deep need to do the opposite of whatever I did in my pregnancy with Caleb. I love Abigail so much, but I miss him so much too. Grieving one child and anticipating another leaves me emotionally drained. I tend to have short stretches of days where I grieve Caleb intensely, then like a light switch I will forget about him and start worrying about her. Then I get myself so exhausted that I try to put both children out of my mind until my strength come back. Then the cycle starts all over again. Its like a constant dance between joy and sorrow and it leaves me spent.

My friendships have suffered. I feel guilty for not calling people back, not making an effort to see them. But then I am honest with myself and know that I cannot be the person I was and that some of those friendships are forever changed, possibly gone. I try not to dwell on this too much. I just try to look forward more than backward because there is nothing I can do to change the past.

The temptation to play the "victim" card is heavy. I have to draw myself out of the "poor me" attitude often. It helps me right now to be around others who are suffering. I feel like I can relate to them and its less of a temptation for me to let jealousy slip in. My heart seems to go through other people's tragedies when I hear them. Before when I heard about bad things happening I would think "that is sad, I will pray for them," and move on. Now, I feel this emotional attachment to them. I have to physically stop myself from going to their homes and crying with them. I have so much empathy for people who suffer, which is a good gift to have. It also leaves me drained and I have to be careful not to take on other people's suffering because I will end up back in the pit myself. "Weep with those who weep" means so much to me now.

Overall, I am moving forward. It just doesn't feel like it on most days. I was never prepared for a dead child. There are no books for "how to grieve your child week by week the first year." Its like we planned a trip to Hawaii and ended up in Alaska with nothing we need. Losing Caleb has shaped me forever in a way that I can only begin to see now.  My hope that I cling to is Jesus and eternal life. I also know that I promised Jesus I would serve Him in whatever way He needed me to. Apparently, this is it. It is a rare gift and some days I can see it that way. Few people are capable of entering into others sorrow and this is a gift I feel He has given me. He is faithful and that I can say with a loud Amen.

That is where I am 8 months later. Caleb, I love you and miss you!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

You're Missing

I heard this song on another blog and love it. I can't stop listening to it, expecially these past few weeks. The holidays just seem to highlight that Caleb is missing.