Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Alone for Christmas?

We're leaving in 2 days. Up until now I haven't been anxious or nervous, just excited. But now, with 48 hours left before our trip the only thought that keeps running through my head constantly is "I cannot leave him." I hate the thought of leaving our son alone on Christmas while we will be 1000 miles away. People say "he is in your heart, he is always with you." Yes, I know that, but there is something tangible about his body, his tiny body being alone in the cemetery with no one to visit him on Christmas.

I want to get him a nice floral arrangement for his grave since we will be gone. Something that shows other people that our son isnt forgotten this season. But the problem is I have no idea what to get. I have visited a few floral shops and browsed online but there is no category for "grave for child." It is times like these that I really wish there were some sort of manual on how to parent your child who has died. I dont know what to do for him. And the truth of it all, and I am sure this is where the frustration lies, is:

I cannot do anything for him. He needs nothing. He wants for nothing. He doesn't need me.

And I hate that. Having a living baby has shown me how much a child does need their parents. Except when your child dies, they don't need you. Tomorrow we are going to his grave to visit him before we leave. Then we are planning a visit to steak n shake to eat the famous cheeseburgers that he (I) craved when pregnant with him. And back home to open gifts that we have put in his stocking that go to Abigail and the puppy. Im happy that we are finding a way to include him, but at the same time mad. It was never supposed to be like this. I want to know more about him besides the fact that carrying him made me want cheeseburgers. I dont want to guess at what he would want to give Abigail, I want to take him with me to the toy store to pick something out for her.

How could I have played a part in creating this beautiful child and then carried him for 9 months and know so little about him? How is that possible?

Missing him today a lot and wishing I knew him better, wishing I didn't have to leave him and knowing at the same time it makes no real difference to him whether he is alone or not on Christmas.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Go On Living

When I heard about the tragedy in Connecticut I cried. The tears came and all day I felt weary and weepy. So sad. So senseless. So horrific.

In prayer this morning I was again crying and asking God, "show me the goodness." I have learned from grief that sometimes the only way out of the "pit" is to re-direct your gaze. So this morning that is what I tried to do- turned off the news, stopped reading the facebook posts and instead opened my Bible.

"Show me your goodness Lord for "I believe I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (psalm 27:13)."And all I could think of was the sadness of Christmas this year for those families. I then asked God,

"Ok, maybe just show me a family that will be happy this Christmas, one that is celebrating with a new life, perhaps a new baby? Maybe a family that waited a long time to get their child and now this Christmas can truly be joyful." And in an instant I heard him whisper "that is you." 

Sweet Jesus! I almost missed it. My own story- loss, tragedy,senselessness, and then hope and new life. I have the chance this Christmas to show God's goodness. The way God can restore (like that word-Joy?) a broken heart, a broken life, and a broken dream. He can, He does, He will. For me, for my husband, for all those families in Newton.

Is it easy?no. Is it impossible to hold onto hope in the face of such tragedy? Without grace and without God, yes. And in the end I am reminded of the power of living. Living and going on when everything around you screams its not worth it, just give up. Living in the goodness of the Lord requires courage. Courage to look a horrific event in the face and still choose to move forward.

Mary did this, actually on the first Christmas. As she hustled her newborn baby-literally God's goodness alive- from that stable back onto the donkey in a moment of uncertainty. I wonder if she could hear the screams of the mothers in Bethlehem as they watched as Harod's soldiers murdered their innocent children. I wonder how she managed to keep moving forward knowing all the tragedy that was behind her, the tragedy that seemed to be a direct result of her child being born. I don't know how she did it, only that she did. She chose to move forward despite the heartache. She chose to be a living reminder of God's goodness. And I cant help but smile when I think of how mad that must have made satan. Because evil doesn't win in the end-goodnes does. Evil may win the battle but not the war.

I will continue to cry for the families that have suffered so deeply. I will also choose to live this Christmas when everything inside of me screams to just give up, stop fighting. I will live to honor their children. I will live to honor my firstborn. I will be joyful because I know God is bigger. I know his restoration and it is real.

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain."Revelation 21:4

"Amen! Come Lord Jesus!!"Revelation 22:20


Thursday, December 13, 2012

This Christmas


This Christmas my heart feels heavier for others' loss than our own. Knowing what agony that first Christmas without Caleb was and knowing that so many others are going to experience that this year just leaves me feeling drained, sad, angry, and longing. Longing for , the one who will wipe away every tear. Loving this song this advent season. I never paid attention to the lyrics until this year. Its so fitting for where my heart is. Longing for a savior, for someone who will help save us from the darkness. Praying for all those families who have someone missing.



"Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
 And deaths dark shadows put to flight....

And give them victory over the grave"



Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Updates

Wanted to point out that I added a new section called "the letters" on my blog. It explains them all if you click on that page. Enjoy!

Also wanted to share this post with everyone. Reading others journeys after babyloss has been so healing for me. In this post, Brooke, who is 2 years from losing her first baby Eliza, talks honestly about the holidays, grief, and just what 2 years of being without her baby looks like. I couldn't stop nodding my head as a read her words. Grief is so universal and so similar sometimes. My favorite line in her post "Oh My God. You guys. My baby died." Yup still feel like that most of the time. Its all there right below the surface. Hoping you read this post and feel less alone or gain some insight into loss further on down the road.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

When the healing doesn't come

From the moment we got back from Caleb's funeral I started praying for healing. I wanted to be healed of this massive wound that had left a hole in my heart. I wanted my life to be healed of the brokenness it had become. But the more I prayed for healing, the less it felt like healing was actually happening. As the days turned into weeks and then into months I found myself even more broken. My life was still in pieces and it felt like God had "skipped over" the healing when it came to me. It all hurt so much and the pain kept getting worse, not better.

So in an attempt to find healing I went on a "healing" retreat this summer. The kind I am sure some of you have seen only on television. Where people pray over one another and are healed from their aliments instantly. The kind where people speak in tongues and the Holy Spirit moves in powerful ways. And I went, and I believed that God could heal my heart during that 3 day retreat. While I was there I prayed, I cried, I had other people pray over me. I left with a still broken heart. It wasn't healed, or at least not in the way I thought it should be.

But something beautiful did happen on that retreat. I finally stopped caring about being "healed." I left that retreat with the grace to embrace my brokenness and accept it. I stopped praying for healing and just started praying that God would show Himself to me through the brokenness. I finally threw away the timelines in my head and heart of how healed I should be based on the days, weeks, and months. I learned to love myself in the brokenness.

This revelation was big for me. It led me to write a whole talk on it and base our fall A Mothers Love retreat on the theme of brokenness. If you have lost someone or something dear to you and are in search of healing, know that it might not look the way you think it will, and that's ok. I truly believe that I will never be "healed" of Caleb's death this side of Heaven and that is alright. My love for him is so deep that it should leave a mark on my heart, a big scar that is a testament of the pain I endure, which comes from such an intense love.

Thanking God today for the "healing" that didn't come that way I wanted it to and the brokenness I got instead.


"You are God, you are good, forever faithful One, even if the healing doesn't come"

Must admit that I heard this song first on Angela's blog post here. An awesome post about God's love.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Holidays

Thanksgiving week is here. And I can honestly say that this year the grief is so much different than last year. I am not necessarily "looking forward" to the holidays, but I am not dreading them either.

There is a big part of me this year that wants to do the holidays twice. Go through them once as a normal mom with a 9 month old. Be there for her as she experiences all the "firsts" the season has to offer. Be able to be present for her and watch her be filled with joy.

Then go through them a second time as a grieving mom who is without her baby boy. To set aside time to mourn all the things I will miss about not having a 20 month old this holiday season. I still have a hard time parenting both children, mixing my two roles. Sometimes I think separating things would be easier, but that is not reality. This year the holidays feel more of a balancing act than anything else; learning how to balance joy with sorrow. "Give us joy to balance our affliction" Psalm 90:15

So in anticipation of the holidays, I thought I would post a few ideas of how we survived the holidays last year, what we are doing this year, and how we are including Caleb. Hope this helps others get some ideas or at least feel less alone in their grief.

Last Year
-I missed Caleb so much and thought about him constantly.

-We didn't "do" Thanksgiving at all. Stayed home in our pajamas all day, ate frozen pizza, and watched Harry Potter.  It was wonderful and felt true to where we were in grief.

-We didn't visit Caleb's grave. I just couldn't go there, so we didn't.

-I didn't listen to Christmas music, didn't look at the holiday cards we received in the mail, and didn't put up a tree.

-Stayed home. Didn't join the crazy crowds and did most of our shopping online. Crowds gave me anxiety and so I avoided them.

-Spent all of Advent and Christmas Season away from our home parish, avoided babies, and tried hard to remain anonymous.

-Had "exit" strategies for how to leave a place if one of us was struggling.

-We made a Christmas Memorial for Caleb. It included a few pictures of him along with a small tree with ornaments on it of other babies who had passed away. This gave me something to do and helped me realize I was not alone. Every time I felt sad because my child wasn't with me I could look at the ornaments and think of all the other families who had a child missing as well. There is comfort in solidarity.


This Year
--Still miss Caleb very much and will think about him constantly.

-We will go to Thanksgiving-back to the old traditions. But we are still having our frozen pizza for lunch that day and have decided we will do so every year:)

- I want to go to the cemetery, maybe...we will just have to wait and see how we are feeling. I hate the thought of not visiting him on these important days, but also hate the thought of going.

-Still going to do the memorial for the babies, but this year maybe get a tree instead of just branches.

-Might put up a tree and decorate, but not putting any pressure on myself to do so. If I feel like it I will, if not then I won't.

-Will brave the crowds for shopping but in segments so it's not too overwhelming.

-I think I will try to listen to Christmas music, maybe even bake something.

-We will hang Caleb's stocking with gifts inside of it for his puppy and sister.

-Spend Advent and Christmas back at our home parish, still afraid to see 20 month olds....

-Will be celebrating Abigail's "firsts" while mourning the ones that Caleb never had


The holidays are incredibly hard. Find support groups, find friends, find someone who will understand and let you grieve. Don't be afraid to say "no." Find ways to incorporate your loved one into the holidays. Let Jesus guide you one day at a time. Praying for all those families who are going through the holidays without one of their children.



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mary is a hover mom-parenting after a loss

Anyone who has ever buried their child knows that parenting after that is hard. After losing Caleb it felt like we were thrown onto Planet Your Baby Died, while everyone else still lived on Earth.  Trying to navigate this new planet is one thing, but trying to parent on it is even more difficult.

I have read two blogs recently that have made me turn my focus to parenting after a loss. One of the blogs talked about the frustration she has at never knowing what kind of parent she would have been. Because after the loss of your child, you change, your theories change, your personality changes, and well your parenting is forever altered. I share this same frustration and feel like our society rarely talks about the effects of loss on parenting. I wonder sometimes if I would be a better parent, one with more joy and energy had Caleb not died. Instead I fear that my parenthood is made up of so much worry.

And I know babyloss parents can relate. That is why I had so much gratitude for this post on Glow in the Woods blog. I go to this blog from time to time and appreciate the literary style of the writing done there. It is not Christian, but full of baby loss things and often I find comfort in knowing I am not alone. Kenny's post did just that. After losing his daughter at 38 weeks pregnant, he writes about the anxiety and fear that is his constant struggle every day, even now 5 years later. He put words to things in my heart that I could not articulate:

My daughter’s seven plus pounds are still etched into my arms. It’s been more than five years since we got to hold Roxy Jean for the first and last time, but the weight is still there. It’s not a thought on a shelf, but it is the shelf that all other thoughts sit on. Parents that have lost children know what I mean when I say that our lost child is the background music to every conversation. It is the silent “..and” at the end of every declaration, every sentence that Terra and I say to each other.   

“I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow (and Roxy is still dead)”
“I’m going to pick up Mason after school (and Roxy is still dead)”
“I can’t WAIT to go on vacation (and Roxy is still dead)”
 
These words are what I live every day. I loved the shelf analogy because I feel like its so true. Caleb's death is the shelf which all things in our life sit upon now. Later on in his entry he talked about the fear for his remaining family members:
Five years later and here we are in a house: Terra and I, Mason and Lila (and Roxy, who is still dead.) Four people walk around with five shadows. I have been somewhat concerned, at least once a day since Roxy died, that every member of my family is going to die in some random, horrific fashion. I dream of car crashes and cancer. The grief has become a moving target as the years go by, but the FEAR, when it’s turned on, is always the same. Every fever Lila has. Every time Mason wants to ride his bicycle in the road. The mountain of cold, glassy terror is there, and every day I have to move it to manage. 

Concerned once a day that every family member will die! Wow- thank you Kenny for making me feel less crazy. I also experience this daily. In my mind I have killed each of my family members over  hundreds of times since Caleb died. Cancer, car crashes, choking, drowning,freak accidents. They all come and go in a split second every time I see Nathan's number come up on my phone when I am not expecting it, every time he is late, every time Abigail is sick or I hear her cough while eating. Each time I turn on her baby monitor to see her sleeping I prep myself with "And she will be dead and then you will calmly go call 911." I honestly don't even realize I am doing it anymore, its just there.
And then in the comments section was a beautiful, honest comment from another mom who also put words to why I hover over Abigail:


Now that my living son is approaching his first birthday, we hear more and more from people that we need to leave him alone with others more frequently. He needs to learn independence. He needs to learn how to be with other people. He needs to become more comfortable with others' care. And couldn't we use some time to ourselves? I don't know how to explain to them that I'm not trying to spoil him. It's just that I can't stand the thought of someone else being the last face he sees before he dies. Because I just know that at some point he's going to die. I hope that fear that I carry with me every second of every day won't be realized. But in my experience, babies die. How can I just ignore that fact? I know it with every fiber of my being. I'm just waiting for it to happen to him like it did to his brother. And when it does, I need to be there.

I understand. I dont want to spoil her, or make her less independent. I just want to be there when she dies so she isn't alone. Ugh. 

And so the point of this post is not to show how crazy (normal) babyloss people are and how parenting after it is hard (well, ok that is some of the point, but not the main point). See, I kept wrestling with this and I was up in bed last night thinking about how much losing Caleb has effected my parenting. If it has made me a better parent or worse one. I wasn't getting anywhere, so I started to ponder Mary. Our Lady, the Mother of God, who has first hand experience with her child dying. And I thought of how she was effected in her parenting after watching Jesus die. When Jesus declared "Woman, behold your son,"(Jn 19:26) while on the cross, Mary became the Mother of all. Her parenting began in a BIG way after watching her son die.

As I sat with this thought, I began to cry. Because I realized that Mary is a hover mom too. That her parenting was effected after her son died. She is constantly with us, by our side, helping us get to Heaven because she can't help it. She fears that we will go to hell the way I fear Abigail will die. And she will stop at nothing to protect us and guide us to our Heavenly home. She is the ultimate Hover mom, staying around even when her children don't want her there or ignore her. She pours out her love for all and refuses to give up on even the worst sinners. She can't-she is their mom and because she has seen death- her love is that much more intense. It propels her to love her children even more, perhaps even in a "crazy" kind of way.

I am trying to take this thought and apply it my life. It brings me such comfort to know that Mary cannot leave me because she is such a hover mom over me. It also brings me peace to know that my love for Abigail is more intense because I have seen death. I do hover over her, I am attached to her in a way I don't think I would have been before, but I love her with an intensity that is fierce.

Thank you Mary, for being a hover mom over us. Thank you for showing me how to parent after a loss.

Mary, mother of God, pray for us!



Saturday, November 3, 2012

Time lines of Grief

Something Nathan and I learned early on in grief is that we both have different ways and times of grieving. My need to grieve was immediate. His was too, but in a sense he grieved early on by taking care of me. That is how he showed his love for Caleb-by stepping up and taking on the load of both of us while I fell apart. And it was hard, especially when I had to quit work, leaving him as the only one with an income. In that first year he took care of just about everything-cleaning, cooking, shopping, laundry, etc. And I don't know what I would have done without him. He allowed me the space to attend grief groups, go to counseling, and spend hours in prayer just crying. All while he just kept going on in life as usual. At times there was anger inside of me because he could function and I couldn't. I would watch him get up every morning and get ready for work and be jealous that I simply could not get it together like he could. I had to remind myself over and over again that we are very different, so it shouldn't surprise me that our grief is different. (easy to say, hard to live).

Now we are 18 months out from our loss. And I am doing better. I can function again and typically have more good days than bad. This has created the space for Nathan to start grieving. I was surprised to learn that on average most men don't start grieving their loss until 2-3 years after it occurs! I am astonished at this, but at the same time thank God for it. God made men in a way that they can push the loss to the back of their mind and not deal with it until the situation is stable. This allows them the space to take care of the woman. Nathan often said in those early days he felt like we were both in a war, both badly hurt, but he needed to get me to safety first before he could tend to his own wounds.

Well, now I am safe and he needs to start tending to his wounds. It is hard. Lately we are dealing with his grief more than mine. It is not just a "sad" feeling like I would have thought as an outsider. No, he is dealing with anger,anxiety, irritability, lack of motivation, numbness, bitterness, exhaustion from the last 18 months of holding it all together. Slowly, he is beginning to fall apart and allow himself to be broken.

Since I am in a better place, I am able to help him work through this season of his grief. But its hard, and I don't want to do it. He asked that we not plan any social things for the weekends from here until January because he needs that time home from work to really relax and de-stress. This is so hard for me because  I am finally doing better! I spent the last year as a hermit and I am ready to be out and about. But no, I will stay in. I will love my husband and tend to him the way he tended to me.

The temptation is to get frustrated with grief and the time lines it presents. Nathan and I have yet to be on the "same page" in our grief. Rarely have we both been doing well at the same time. And this new season of tending to his grief is another opportunity to serve him and love him. Both of us get annoyed and just want to be done with this. My counselor reminds me that it is called  "grief work" because it is such hard work.  I think the most bothersome part is still having to attribute things to grief. Still having to "blame" our inefficiency,moodiness, irrational fears, and tiredness on our son's death. But its real and as much as I wish our feelings and inabilities were "just because", I know they aren't. I know that we will spend a lifetime mending from the death of our son. I know it might sound extreme to some who haven't walked in our shoes. I would have thought so once too.

Please continue to pray for us. We will get through this phase of grief the same way we got through the others-one day at a time. Try to remember to pray for all fathers who are grieving the loss of their children. They often get looked over and minimized.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Struggling

That would describe this week. Struggling. Struggling to get up, function, breathe, eat, sleep, live. And I saw it coming. Its hard to do a pregnancy loss retreat and not have grief show up at your doorstep once everyone is gone.  And I planned for it, even gave myself two "grief days" (which were Monday and Tuesday and well this is Thursday, so you see how well I planned...). But two days aren't enough time to make my heart less heavy. This week has felt chaotic. The weather throws me off. Since Caleb died I hate when things are out of their natural order. So 80 degrees in  late October really made me mad yesterday. Mad because I didnt have clothes to wear and either did the baby. They were already packed up with the summer stuff. How dare the weather throw us a curve ball like that. And its so little and its so stupid, but it always goes back to the curve ball we were thrown on April 14th and I just hate things when they are not ordered or planned for.

 But that's grief. And that is why its sanctifying. That is why I know without a doubt that this was my path to Heaven. Because grief strips you of everything- your plans, your reason, your functionality, your order. Its all gone. And maybe its weeks like this when I should thank God the most because they remind me all over again that I AM NOT IN CONTROL. That yes, I want to cook dinner and do laundry and be a good wife and mother. But I cant this week and really if those things were all that made up being a good wife and mother, then I would have passed that test a long time ago. This week I am struggling and I am going to offer that to God because that is all I have. A messy house, no dinner plans, dirty diapers that need washing, a short temper with my living  child and an ache in my heart for a little boy who is missing his second fall season.  And tears, lots of tears that seem to flow at the most random times. Lord, give me the grace to offer this to you.

Loving this song today

Monday, October 22, 2012

Thought I'd share this

I loved this post from Angela. Thought I'd share because it's so true. This past weekend's retreat was good, just leaves me with a heavy heart hearing all the stories. It never gets easier to hear a mother tell of how her baby died. Remembering all our babies tonight.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Mother's Love

Since October is national pregnancy loss month, I am leading a retreat for any woman who has experienced any type of pregnancy loss. You can find all the details for this retreat under the tap "A Mothers Love" at the top of this page, or click here. Please pass this along to anyone who would be interested. There is no cost and you can register the morning of.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Since when did death become cute?

As Halloween approaches I am starting to feel a tightness in my chest. Its a hard holiday mostly because I never got to dress Caleb up and do all the "fall things" that come along with the season. It is also a hard time because it seems like now it is trendy to make death cute. I got an email today in my inbox with a whole page dedicated to "cute" paper items for "the day of the dead." There were about a dozen items to choose from all resembling some sort of skull (with flowers too, of course).  Does anyone think anymore? Also, it seems that more and more I am seeing kids costumes overflowing with skeleton items. A skeleton is a dead person whose flesh has rotten away. And that is what you want to dress your toddler up as ? Ugh! I know I am more sensitive because I have a son who is in the ground and decaying as we speak. Maybe that is blunt, but its the truth. So all these skeletons and RIP decorations just make me crazy. They just feel so disrespectful to the dead. Like its all one big joke, well its not.

As a Catholic I feel like we, as in the Roman Catholic Church, do a great job of respecting the dead. After all, Halloween is originally supposed to be "all hollows eve," the night before All Saints Day.  And then on Nov. 2nd the Church celebrates All Souls Day. Masses are said all over the world for the souls of those who have died. The mass liturgy is beautiful and as a mother with a dead son I can say that the words of the mass bring me such comfort. Caleb's funeral was beautiful. I loved it (not the fact that we were at his funeral, but the liturgy itself). It was very royal and respectful and dignified-everything you would hope death would be. It was peaceful. And that is why I struggle with everything Halloween is now. Its anything but peaceful. It makes death out to be some sort of fun thing to dress up as or decorate with. It tries to make death cute. And its not. So in my book 1 for the Catholic Church 0 for the culture and their view on death, especially at Halloween.


skull masks that showed up in my email for me to buy(and these showed up on the cover of the magazine in my snail mail the next day)...

This is the candle you can buy to  go along with the skull masks...




Thursday, September 27, 2012

Introductions and Sweet Potatoes

Introductions and sweet potatoes-two things that sent me into tears today. As fall rolls around I am finding myself involved in more and more things...which is fine, except with all those new things comes new introductions. You know- the usual- tell us your name, where you are from and a little about yourself.

 My name is RyAnne, I am from Peoria.... and that is about as far as I get. My mind races-"Do I "tell them" about Caleb? Do I not? If I do, how do I phrase it? Will they care, will they think its weird, wait its not weird, its my son. Am I making too big of a deal about it by including him? Wait, no he is my son. What if they ask more questions about him? Worse, what if they dont?"

And my mind goes in circles until its my turn to speak and I blurt out- "I have a son, he is in Heaven, and another child the Lord blessed us with, Abigail who is 7 months." I can almost always feel the silent relief of the people around me. They never expect death, so when it comes out I can feel the air being sucked out of the room, but then my rainbow baby appears and ahhhh, everything is alright again. Nothing to cure a little death than a happy live baby..... and then my turn is over and onto the next person. And I always feel awkward, I always feel like I am hiding a part of me but at the same time exposing a huge part of me. I feel vulnerable, confused, panicked, queasy, and overall just tired of explaining and feeling different.

These introduction leave me a complete mess and it frustrates me, but like all things grief I have learned to just give into them. Give into the fact that something as simple as "tell us about yourself," is enough to relocate me to the coach all afternoon and  wanting to order take out for dinner. I know its hard to understand for outsiders, but something as simple as an introduction can bring on so much for a griever.

And then the sweet potatoes- Abigail has tried them 3 times now and each time afterwards she spits up for the like next 3 hours. So, something in them doesn't sit right with her. Which is fine, but then it lead me to think "I have no idea what would upset Caleb's stomach. I have no idea what he would or wouldn't like." And that is so hard for me as a mom to him. I am his mom but I know virtually nothing about him. How is that possible? How can you grow a human being inside of you for 9 months and then get deprived of ever knowing them? How do I still not know anything new about him even though he would be 17 months old????

The rational side of me knows and believes that one day I will know him in Heaven. Its just one day seems a long time from now and this afternoon not knowing what he would like for food makes me cry. Big old ugly tears that just keep coming. So a double whammy of sorts today- introductions and sweet potatoes.......again I end with- grief is random and doesn't make sense, but boy is it real.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fairy Tales for Hope

Wanting to promote this awesome project. I have followed this woman's blog for about a year. Her witness to her healing and just trying to live again after losing her firstborn, Hope, at 40 weeks gave me someone to relate to. For Hope's 4th birthday she started a project called "Fairy Tales for Hope." Ill let you read all about it below. The money all goes to charity to help stillbirth prevention. And the prints are super cute! Just wanted to pass this along...

Fairy Tales for Hope

Saturday, September 8, 2012

So its safe to say that Im a little in love with Taylor Swift. I spent almost my whole pregnancy with Caleb driving to work everyday listening to her songs. I would tell Caleb "I know you are a boy, but its ok to like Taylor Swift songs and sing alone once you get here." It was like a little inside joke between us. Me making this BOY inside of me listen to girly girl music. 

Well today I saw this new song from Taylor Swift and the tears started flowing. She wrote it about a 4 year old boy who lost his fight to cancer. The song is from his mother's perspective. Loving this song and its lyrics:

"And its about to be Halloween, you could be anything you wanted it you were still here.."
 
Missing Caleb today...

You can buy this song on ITunes and all the proceeds go to the fight against cancer. 


Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Pit

(I wrote this at the beginning of last week, just didn't get around to posting it until now)

As someone who has been through grief, the hope is that eventually I can get to a place where I help other grievers. To be far enough along in my grief where I can stand on the edge of "the pit" that the person is in and help pull them out. Well Im not there yet. Not even close.

A young boy's tragic death last week and then news of a friend's husband being diagnosed with cancer this week have all sent me back into the "pit" myself. Im scared, Im anxious, Im planning Abigail and Nathan's funeral in my head when I lay down to sleep. Im constantly looking over my shoulder for death. Panic sets in if Nathan is one minute late coming home. And I KNOW KNOW KNOW that death is not the end. I know that! So why am I scared? Why can't I confront all the suffering in the world with the faith that I know I believe? Because I'm human and dang it- sometimes human weakness will always be there. Even Jesus said, “Father, if you are willing, let this cup pass from me; however not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42. He was scared too. Death is scary.

And as much as I try to talk myself down of the ledge or rationalize with myself (worry is useless, nothing has happened yet, try to live in the present moment) it never works. In the end I am back in the pit with images of picking out headstones and planning funerals. I am checking on Abigail every other hour during the night with my phone in my hand ready to call 911 because I just know I will find her dead. Its just another weakness that is brought on because of grief. Before when tragic things happened, I could look the other way, convince myself that it wouldn't happen to us. But now, no way. I know bad things can and do and will happen to us.

When I hear of tragedies it always comes back to our own and then to the unknown of what is ahead. And it leaves me unable to function. I spent yesterday morning in bed for an hour trying to convince myself to get up and just make breakfast. Back to the basics of trying to get myself to do just one thing and then go from there. It worked, eventually, but the whole day I just felt heavy. Sleep didnt come and in the end I just begged Jesus to take it all away. Take my fears, take my worries, take my anxiety. Today is a little better. It takes me a shorter time to recover these days from bad news when I hear it. So in the end it leads me back to prayer, which is good I suppose. Praying for the families, begging God for miracles and learning to accept when He gives them even if they dont look the way we want them to. Hopefully one day I can get close to the pit to help others without falling in myself...today is not that day.

Friday, August 17, 2012

It's all coming back

People said it would happen. Priest, counselors, friends. They said "In time, the old you will come back." And at 16 months out, I can say that I am starting to feel like the old me. The biggest thing I have noticed is that I can get things done with little to no effort. I can go grocery shopping and not think twice, I can multi task, I can have the whole house cleaned and dinner on the table without feeling drained.  I can shower each day.I can see babies Caleb's age and not want to run the other direction. And I have to say, it feels great. I can tell that my grief is slowly moving from right in front of my eyes to more of my side vision. My days are filled with more happiness than sadness. Less tears and more smiles. I make plans, keep them, and then have fun doing them! These all might sound like small things to most people, but after going through grief, they are actually quite huge!

And while I am feeling good with myself, relieved almost, there is still a longing in me to hold onto the sadness. A part of me that misses, yes misses, those days that I spent curled up in a ball ignoring phone calls and crying over his clothes. Caleb felt so close to me then. Now he is becoming more and more of a memory, something of my past, a sad thing that happened one April morning. And I HATE that. But I dont know what to do about it. I cant have both worlds. I cant grieve over Caleb intensely right now  because 1)I have done that already and 2) My life now wont let me. Abigail requires me to live-not just exist.

Grief is so crazy and so interesting. At first it striped me of who I was. Everything I knew to be true about myself was just gone in one moment. Simple things were hard. Things that used to bring me joy didnt. I would look in the mirror and not recognize myself. Life went from light to dark in an instant. At first I kicked and screamed and stomped my foot. But then,  I gave in and got used to the dark. I figured things out there. I finally got to a place where I felt comfortable with the new me grief had handed me. I didnt need the joy, I accepted the sadness and found beauty in it. I didnt need to enjoy life, I could continue to mourn with those who mourn. I had finally surrendered the last bits of "me" and gave into the waves of grief.

Then without asking for it or seeking it out, my old self came back. So now I have to figure this old self out again and how to mesh it with the new self. I am starting to sound crazy and I promise I am not, but I do feel torn. Torn between the land of the living and the land of the dead, which isnt really new; Its just  that these days I am doing more on the living side than the dead side and that feels weird, really weird.

So I guess I'll just keep stepping because that is what I have done all along this terrible but beautiful journey. Dark then light. I got good at dying, real used to Good Friday. Standing at the cross was all I knew. How is it that now it's the Easter Sunday kind of living I am struggling with? I know that living in the resurrection does not mean leaving behind Caleb. Why does it feel like that though? The further I get from my own "good Friday," the more I want it back. Strange, but that is where I am at now.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Glad they dont understand


I was reading an article today here.  I could relate. After spending time with another babyloss mom this week, she mentioned the same thing, "people just don't understand." And she is right, they don't. But there is such a big part of me that is glad they don't understand. Glad they never had to burry a child or leave the hospital empty handed. I have spent almost 16 months grieving the loss of my son and there have been plenty of times that I felt let down by others. Someone telling me to do this, or that this would help, or that I just have to move on. People saying things that hurt so bad without them even realizing it. And at first (ok, maybe for a while) I was upset. Frustrated that they didn't get it, that they couldn't understand. Mad that I was feeling let down by people closest to me. But then God helped me see that of course people will let me down. They are only human. Of course people cant understand. If they could- why would I need to go to God? There is a beauty in being "let down" with or "disappointed" by others while grieving. I think it helps us lean on God even more. So, like the article at the top says, I am glad others don't understand. It means 1)they haven't had to lose their child and 2) it helps me run to Jesus more and lean less on this world for comfort. It can be hard when others don't get it, but God always will. Sounds cheesy writing it, but its true. God understands my heart better than anyone and He is the ultimate healer. He has and always will "get it" and for that I am thankful.

Disclaimer- I dont mean to come off sounding like others have not helped me. They have! I have been helped so much by so many in the last 16 months, but there will always be a separation between those who really "get it" because they have been through it and those who have not.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

You could have stopped it

When Caleb died, at first, I leaned on God every minute to get me through. I didn't ask questions, I just clung to Him while the storm raged. It's been 16 months now and the storm has settled. The questions are starting to come to the surface a lot. I can seem to understand that God did not want Caleb to die. He hates death and suffering just as much as I do. But then my mind wonders to the next question,"But God could have stopped Caleb's death and He didn't."I know God is all powerful and all loving and in my world that would equal my son here. But he isn't here and I'm left with that nagging question of "why didn't you stop it?Why didn't you step in at the last minute and save him?"

A few weeks ago at mass, after receiving the Eucharist, I was praying and again my heart was asking that question. God answered. I felt Him telling me "Because I don't run from death. Because I'm not scared of death. Because I have conquered death. Because the dead still live. If I went around stopping everyones' loved ones from dying, it would give the enemy power. It would show that I was afraid of death and wanted to keep my children from it. But I am not scared, that is why I died on the cross. I overcame death. You can overcome it too. You have experienced death and you still live. Death is not the worst thing. Death is not the end."

Wow, that left me with a lot of peace. I am still pondering all of it and don't really know where to go with it. But I wanted to share it for those grieving out there and questioning. I'm a firm believer that God can handle any questions you have. Bring them to Him and then sit with Him and rest in Him.

Here is my new favorite song. I feel like it was literally written for me. It speaks to my heart and the words seem to come from God Himself. I feel like in this grieving process sometimes all I want to do is run from God, not to Him. God continues to show me over and over again that He is the red against my black. His blood is the red against the darkness. He has overcome death. My favorite line in the song is "the dead will live again. You will see those dry bones dancing, in a death-defying marvelous parade." Oh Caleb, I can't wait to see that parade one day- miss you sweet boy!




Monday, July 16, 2012

Opening it up

I have been traveling some this summer. Weekend trips here and there plus one family vacation. And with every single trip comes anxiety. I never used to get nervous about traveling (with the exception of my trip to Thailand in college!)I loved going places and never thought twice about leaving. But now, I'm a nervous nelly. Its all I can do to keep my panic attacks under control. Most of my trips are spent worrying or battling negative thoughts that come into my head about what could go wrong.I am hoping this is the grief sinking in, and truly I think that it is. I wondered though- have any other grievers out there experienced this? What did you do to fight it? What worked, what didn't?  Do you think it is related to the grief you are experiencing?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The start of the seconds....

Lately I have been feeling the physical effects of grief almost daily. I have no motivation, I'm exhausted for no good reason. Each morning I just want to pull the covers over my head and hide. I have zero initiative. And this has been going on for about 2 weeks. I couldn't figure it out. Mentally and emotionally I felt great. I wasn't missing Caleb that much. Overall I was happy. This month of the year I have few memories with him, so less grief attacks. I'm not particularly stressed out in any way. So it remained a mystery and eventually I just  gave into it. Friends would call, I wouldn't answer. I just didn't have the energy. Sometimes I would even wait 2-3 days to check my voicemail. The laundry remained in the closet piled high. I just couldn't "get with the program," so to speak.

Then 4th of July came yesterday. And breakdown city last night. The 4th of July is the first major holiday I am having to live without Caleb, again now for the 2nd year. Last year I didn't really care because he would have still been a baby and we would have probably kept him home. But this year, he would be almost 15 months old. I can only imagine how he would have loved (or hated-if he is like me!) the fireworks. And last night as Nathan and I stayed home, we heard the fireworks and I lost it. I cried and wanted to see my Caleb in his 15 month old self. I felt the pain like it was raw and new again and wanted to curl up in a ball and just be somewhere other than here.

Another trigger I think was the fact that last 4th of July is when we found out we were pregnant with Abigail. It was the first big step of life pushing me forward. The first time that I had to actually put my grief on the back burner in order to care for another baby. And so all of those memories, emotions, feelings came flooding back. I am still constantly shocked by how much the seasons and senses play into grief. How they can literally sneak up on you and you have no control over them, no matter how many times it has happened before. That is the thing that drives me the craziest about grief- you cannot beat it no matter how hard you try. It has a way of taking you captive each time until you just surrender and give in.

Once I pulled myself together last night, it all started clicking. I think my grief has been worse because of this stupid holiday that was approaching. It may sound weird, but others who are grieving out there get it. Sometimes in grief your body just knows before your mind does and starts acting out. So yesterday was the start of the 2nd year of holidays without Caleb. And its still as hard as the first.

Today I am taking it easy-a self care day. These usually last about 1/2 a day before I feel the guilt so heavy it forces me to get dressed, shower, and act like I belong in the land of the living. If you or someone you know if grieving during the second year, still be compassionate. Its just as hard, but a different kind of hard. Holidays, even small ones like 4th of July, can be difficult to get through.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

For my Caleb Benedict



I heard this song recently and couldn't stop thinking of Caleb. It's strange because the words talk all about hearing and seeing your baby, which obviously I cannot do. But the line that stuck out to me was "I could never count all the ways that you changed me, baby." Caleb made me a mother and he defines so much of my motherhood. He has changed me more than any of my other children will. I just miss him today a lot. Like one of those days where your heart doesn't stop aching. So in honor of my sweet little boy here is a song for you. I will always love you!
     
Last picture I have of the                                  sweet baby boy
 two of us while he was still alive

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Grief at 13 months, 24 days


I wrote previously on where I was in my grief journey at 8 months. I wanted to keep doing these updates from time to time to chronicle for myself where I am at and also for others who are walking this journey too. Maybe it will help another person out there to feel more "normal" after reading these posts during their journey.

13 months and 24 days. I can't believe its been over a year. It seems like just yesterday that I held him and birthed him. But then somedays it seems like it never happened at all, just something that I made up.  That seems to be the trend these days- some days Caleb feels so real and it's overwhelming to think he is really gone. Other days it feels almost easy to forgot the whole thing happened. Just pretend we are a happy family of three with our beautiful healthy daughter and that life is great.

I'm still sad. Still don't really know how to do "happy." I feel more comfortable at funerals than weddings; at sad things more than happy events, at cemeteries more than baby showers. I just feel most like myself when I am faced with suffering, either mine or others.

I'm broken. I feel like the first year after losing Caleb was like lying in a hospital bed after a bad accident. You know its bad, but all you can do is lay there and heal and try to stay alive. Now, after a year, I have survived. I am out of the hospital bed and the bandages are coming off for the first time. I knew the damage was bad, but now I am seeing it for the first time. And I'm horrified at just how broken I am. There are days when I don't think I will ever be whole again. And so the rehab starts. The "learning to live again" starts. And its hard. Re-entering into the land of the living is awkward and exhausting. I just feel like I have so far to go, so much work to still do, so many questions to still ask.

As far as my energy goes, most days it's back to normal. I don't really have to think twice about running to the store or going to the mall. If I encounter hard situations, I'm usually able to bounce back easily. Social functions still seem to drain me. I used to be such an extrovert and now, well I would rather just stay inside. The conversations, the small talk, the updates on people's lives- it all makes me tired and requires a lot out of me. Just interacting with people still feels unnatural. Still feels like trying to ride a bike for the first time. I'm still scared of where conversations could go and that leaves me anxious. Caleb seems to be on my mind and consume my thoughts about 70-80 % of the day. I am either thinking about him,missing him, or reliving some part of that day. Its like a constant soundtrack in my mind that is stuck on repeat. I don't mind it so much anymore, almost used to it.

I hate the word dead. It seems to be all I hear- dead end, dead right, dead serious, battery is dead, dead weight. I never noticed before how often the word "dead" is used as an adjective. When I hear it, it feels like a stab every time.

At 13 months and 24 days I am comfortable with failure. I used to think that the effort you put into something would equal the outcome. Now I know you can do everything right and still get a poor outcome. You can try your hardest and still fail for no good reason and that's just the way life goes. I accept that more now.

Pregnancies are hard, but I am getting better. I don't think I will ever be able to think pregnancy is fun or exciting or something to look forward to. For me it will always be something to get through. I have had to mourn that lately.I just think differently with pregnancies. A friend recently told me that two relatives in her family were expecting at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The first thought I had was, "that will be so hard when those babies die. The holidays will be forever ruined." I just hate that that is where my mind goes first. Then I have to take steps backwards into the "normal" person side and tell myself that most babies live. Its exhausting. I have also had to grieve certain aspects of my birth stories that will always be different. I will always be induced, I will never know what natural contractions without pitocin feel like. I will never have my water break on its own then have to rush to the hospital. Small things, but still things that need to be mourned.

My brain still seems slow. I have caught myself driving and all of a sudden I don't know where I am going. Like completely forget what road I am on and why. Then I concentrate and think hard and it comes back to me within seconds, but it still feels scary. It is hard for me to admit that I am weak.  That I can't remember birthdays or send thank you's like the old me used to. That I don't have it all together,that some days the best I can still do is just get dressed.

I'm no longer scared of infants. Now my fear is of babies that are about a year old, especially boys. I will always see Caleb in children that would have been his age. Sometimes I can find beauty in that, other times it just breaks my heart.

I still want to shop for him. In stores I gravitate toward the baby boy stuff automatically. And sometimes I actually believe I am still shopping for Caleb. The other day I saw the cutest baby boy bath toys and thought "Caleb would love those." Then in about 3 seconds it hit me- he doesn't need those, remember he is dead." Oh yeah- how could I forget? But I do. Its as if my heart and mind can't get the message that he is really gone. I am still nesting for him, preparing for his arrival, even though he is never coming home.

Our life is getting back to "normal." Less nights spent crying, more night spent eating dinner then going out for ice cream. Prayer seems to be harder these days than ever before. It seems that when I was in the midst of the storm, I clung to Jesus and He was so close. Now that we are out of the storm and on safe land, I have a lot of questions for Him. A lot of things I want answered that I know will never be answered. Prayer seems to be so intense and intimate these days that the most I can do is an hour a week.  Every Sunday afternoon I sneak off to pray a holy hour. I love this time and I dread this time. It requires me to look at my life and really bring those things I don't want to talk about, up with Jesus. I usually leave the hour exhausted mentally and emotionally. It is hard work, but I feel like we are making progress. It is necessary work in order for me to keep a relationship with Our Lord.

I love Abigail. Her life is so tied with Caleb's and every day I am thankful for her. She has helped fill that hole in my heart that longed for children. At the same time, I am a little obsessive about her dying. Transition phases seem to be when the fear and terror come out the most. When we first brought her home, when she started sleeping longer at night, when we transitioned her into her crib. I always think she is going to die. Its not a matter of "if" for me, its a matter of "when." Some days I can control how I think and give it back to God. Other days I just hover over her make sure she is still alive. I just don't want to bury another child and now that I know how fragile life is, it scares me. I know babies can just up and die with no warning, for no reason.

Mostly at  13 months and 24 days I just want to be done with this whole grief thing. I am desperate for the world to know just how hard this is, living every day without my firstborn. But everyone and everything moves on, and while I know people don't forget, they still move on. I want to show people just how hurt I still am and how much healing I still need-but I don't know how. I have given up on the "old" me ever coming back, but sometimes I feel pressure to bring her back. To delete the sad story of Caleb and just get on with it already. I guess right now I just want people to know-its still so hard, just a different kind of hard. There is more light, but the damage from the storm seems to still be extensive and all around.

That's where I'm at - 13 months 24 days.




Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I forget

Sometimes I forget that our first child was stillborn. I look at Abigail's room and think "this is the best color blue, but why didn't we paint it pink?" I forget it was already decorated for a boy before it was decorated for her. I forget that I am trying to lose weight from two pregnancies, not just one. I forget that the snow globe in Abigail's room that I wind up each day during her nap was actually a memorial for Caleb. Inside the globe is a staircase and a saying about climbing the staircase to Heaven. When people ask when Abigail was born and her weight, I answer them and forget that we had to induce 3 weeks early because her older brother died. I forget that the bottom drawer in the nursery still holds all the sympathy cards we received after Caleb died. When I am with new friends, I forget that the reason we are friends is because both of our children died. I forget that I even belong to this club sometimes. I forget just how messed up this whole thing is. I forget how hard grieving is. I don't want to forget my son, but somedays its just what I do to in order to keep living. Sometimes I just forget.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Top 10 things I am thankful for b/c of Grief

Grieving is so hard and can be so much work. Only a year into it, I have learned that it requires so much of you, often when you have nothing to give.  Even though its the hardest thing I have ever done, good has come out of it. I was reflecting this weekend on some of the blessings I have received since this grief came into my life. Here are the top ten in no particular order:

1. A better marriage- we are stronger b/c of our loss. We know each other at a whole different level. I honestly could never imagine going through this with anyone other than Nathan. He has been my rock and together we have gotten each other through the darkness.

2. I don't sweat the small stuff. I don't care as much about what people think of me. I see more of the "big picture" of life and can usually let the small things slide by a lot easier.

3. I'm not the planner I used to be. I'm more laid back and flexible. Plans are for people in control and I have learned that I really have no control over things.

4. I am comfortable with failure. I used to think that the effort you put into something would equal the outcome. Turns out that isn't always true. Sometimes things go terribly wrong even when you do everything right. Sometimes you fail for no good reason and I'm more comfortable with that than I used to be.

5. My friendships have grown, changed, and rearranged.  I am able to go deeper with people. I have met some incredible women in the baby loss world and I am thankful for their friendships. Overall, I'm less obsessive about my friendships. I've learned that there are seasons with friends. I try to take what I can get and savor each moment when those seasons come and go.

6. I let others take care of me more. This was something I struggled with before grief. I did not like to be the weak one. I didn't want to be the one who needed help, I wanted to be the one giving help. I have had to literally let people take care of our every need this past year (still are needing people-even after a year!). From meals, to money, to you name it- we have had to have help with it all. And it has been humbling to know that sometimes we cannot take care of ourselves. It has taught me to be a gracious recipient and that sometimes the most charitable thing you can do it to let someone help you.

7. I have more compassion than I ever thought possible. I am not a naturally compassionate person. I was always more of a "suck it up and get on with it," kind of person. At the beginning of my pregnancy with Caleb I asked God for compassion. And He answered me! Now I have compassion for people that makes me want to cry with them. I am much more understanding with others weaknesses. I just know that life is hard and you can't always "suck it up and get on with it." Thank you Jesus for compassion.

8.I am a better mom. I appreciate Abigail and am so thankful for her. Losing Caleb has also made me a better mom because I know Abigail isn't mine. She belongs to God and He can take her back whenever He chooses. I don't want that of course, but its the reality that I accept. Each night before I go to bed I ask God for just one more day with Abigail and that she would bury me. I'm able to understand better the whole "letting your child go," part of parenting. Since I have lived through it, I know what it feels like to give one of your children back to the Lord. I would never want to do that again, but the reality is there that it could happen and because of that I feel like I am a better mom.

9.I'm not scared of death. I want to go to Heaven more than ever before. Knowing that Caleb is in Heaven and waiting for me makes it seem not as scary. It makes death seem like the great moment when all things will be made right. I have seen how much suffering is in this world and truly I have no desire to be attached to this place. Heaven is my home and although I knew that before Caleb, I now feel that and long for that.

10. I'm closer to Jesus and His Mother. I have enough to talk to Jesus about for the rest of my life. He has taken me out to the deep waters and together we have come back in one piece. Mary has walked with me and held me so much of this journey. I was a praying person before this all happened, but after going through everything I really believe in the power of prayer. I know I would not have survived this past year without the prayers that were being said for us. Its very humbling to see how little you are when something like this happens. You begin to rely on the supernatural in a way you never could have imagined before. Jesus is real and He has used this grief to draw me deeper in a relationship with him. Thank you Jesus for being faithful.

So those are the top 10. Mostly I wanted to write them for myself to reflect back on during the hard days. But also, I wanted to show that good can come out of bad. That terrible things can happen and re-shape you for the better. And lastly to give hope to those battling the storm of grief, hang on, there is fruit that can come from the suffering.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Why Mary doesn't look Happy

Growing up Catholic and then becoming a Catholic missionary, I saw lots of pictures and statues of Mary, the Mother of God. I always wondered silently to myself, "why doesn't she look happier?" I mean here is a woman who was chosen by God to be the mother of our Lord. What a privilege. She had the perfect son, the perfect child. And yet, in most of the images of our Lady she appears to be, well, just not happy. She usually has a peaceful look on her face. Her eyes, however, tell a different story. Her eyes always appear to be sad.

When Christ died for us on the cross He gave us His mother to watch over and guide us- to mother us. Now Mary's role included Queen of Heaven and Earth and Mother to all of God's children. I am convinced that this is the very reason Mary looks the way she does. She cannot turn away from the suffering, even in her happiness and joy.

I have been praying a lot on this in the days leading up to Mother's Day.  I want to be happy. I should be happy. And I guess there is a part of me that is happy. Abigail is alive and well and in my arms. And as one sweet lady put it at church today (I am sure she didn't mean it this way) "Oh, honey, this year you can stand up when they bless all the mothers." And all of these things should bring me joy and do bring me joy.

But underneath I still have so much sorrow. More so for others this Mother's Day. I know the depth of pain I feel at losing Caleb. But my heart aches today not only for his absence, but for all the mothers out there who are suffering. Knowing how much pain people are in really makes it hard to celebrate. And I think that is why Mary is portrayed the way she is. She has joy, she has peace, but the majority of her heart is filled with sadness. Sadness for those who choose to turn away from her Son. Sadness for those who have never heard of her Son. Sadness for those who are suffering. Sadness for all the mothers who have had to hold their dead child just like she held her dead son.

So this Mother's Day we will celebrate (still not sure what that looks like or how to do that). But I will struggle with happiness because my heart is like our sorrowful Mother's- its sad. And like Our Blessed Mother I will continue to trust the Lord with all the suffering I encounter. I will continue to ask Him for peace and the grace to follow His will, just like Mary did, no matter how much suffering it brought her.

Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows- Pray for us








Wednesday, May 9, 2012

In Anticipation of Mothers Day

Its May, the flowers are in full bloom and  Mothers Day is just around the corner. Most people have pleasant thoughts when they think of this holiday. Fun times with moms and children, breakfast in bed, and recognition at Church as they pray for mothers.

For a whole other group of people this holiday is heart wrenching. Far too many mothers will be spending this mothers day without one or more of their children. The following post is one that I wanted to share that sums up some great thoughts on mothers day. The writer, Molly, lost her baby girl to stillbirth at 39 weeks. She had such a great post about getting through mothers day that I had to share it.

Molly's Mothers Day Post

The second post I would like to share sums up what I am feeling this Mothers Day. Having a live baby in my arms and another one up in Heaven, I am feeling divided between two worlds and trying to balance how to mother both of my children. I attend support groups for pregnancy loss where we talk about how to "survive" mothers day. Then in the same week I go to a live mommy and baby group and plan a pot luck lunch to "celebrate" mothers day. I just feel so tossed between two worlds lately and not sure where I fit in. The post  below was written by a mother who lost her first child to stillbirth. She describes so much of how life is like when parenting after a loss. Two lines from her post that I love :

"My life these days feels so defined by my motherhood. And my motherhood still feels utterly defined by my dead child."


" The death of my firstborn, on most days, just seems too huge for me. It has been almost two years and while her loss has been integrated in to our lives now, I still don't understand it. I will still never make sense of the senselessness of it all."


Post on "Invisible Motherhood"


So enjoy these two blog posts from other baby loss mom's around the world. Please pray for all those mothers out there who are going to be spending mothers day without their children. Pray for those who are trying to get pregnant and desperately want a child of their own. Pray for those waiting to adopt and finally get to meet their child. Pray for those who have lost their mother and feel the absence of her on Mothers Day.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Doubt

Doubt is common in grief. Doubt that God exists, doubt that He is good, doubt that He is in control when nothing in your life feels ordered. I think sometimes people assume since you are Christian it would be wrong to doubt. Like you wouldn't have faith if you doubted. From what I have gone through I don't think it would be human to not doubt. The doubt seems to come in waves. Lately I seem to be doubting God's plan or that He is in control of things. Early this week I learned of another blogger I follow who just lost her rainbow baby last week. The baby died of brain damage due to the mom's uterus rupturing just 6 days before her scheduled c-section. This is after she has already buried one of her children. And all I could think was "noooooooo." And the doubt came and washed over me in waves.


What kind of a God allows this to happen?


What kind of a God sits by and doesn't intervene?


Is there even a God?


If there is a God then where was He when this happened? (And looping right around in a nice, neat fashion) "Where was God the day Caleb died? Why didn't He stop that?

Ugh, the doubts. They don't stop. And so I spent a few days ignoring it all. I would look at my Bible and think "no." I just couldn't even go there right away. Part of me felt bad for even praying to a God who would allow this mother to suffer so much.

After cooling off a bit, I sat down to pray. To pour my heart out to our Lord and tell Him how angry I was. I went to confession and what I left with was exactly what I needed to hear. The priest told me "You are struggling with the fact that you aren't God."

That line has stuck with me now and I keep reflecting on it. I do struggle with not being God and being able to control things. I also struggle because when tragedies happen, I cannot fix things. And that is where the doubt comes in. If I am going to give control of my life over to someone I want need to know that He has things under control. But what about when they don't seem under control? What about when a mother losses two of her babies in just 15 months. What then?

You give the doubt back to God and submit that you in fact are not God. His ways are not our ways. That doesn't mean we have to like the plan or agree with it. I know God hates suffering, that is why He sent His only son to die a horrible, gruesome death. I also know suffering is a part of this fallen world. In the end I bring my doubts to God and realize that I do need a Savior in this fallen world. I may not like His way, but really what other way is there?

"Master, to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life?" John 6:68

Doubt. Its there, and I don't think its a bad thing. We have a God who passionately loves us and wants a relationship with us. He wants to know our doubts, our fears. I wouldn't be "real" if I didn't experience doubt when tragedy strikes. Death was never meant to be in the picture, its a result of original sin. So bring your doubts to God and let Him walk with you through those. It might takes weeks, months, years but He will stay with you.

Please say prayers for this family who has now had to burry both their son and their daughter in just 15 months.  


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Still Standing

Great new resource for mom's who are grieving. Still Standing is a new online magazine for mothers who are going through infertility struggles or the loss of their child.

Monday, April 30, 2012

It's only been a year

It's only been a year. This phrase is why I love going to the counselor. I kept saying "But, it's been a year....I should be better..." And she would reply "RyAnne, its only been a year." Who knew that such a little word could make such a big difference? That little word held such compassion, such love. There was freedom in that only. Freedom to keep grieving, keep falling apart, keep healing because in reality it has only been a year.

Maybe that is the best thing people can say to someone with a loss when they don't know what to say. "It's only been (insert how much time)" The only takes the time pressure off the person and lets them know that they are exactly where they need to be in the grieving process. Grievers can feel so much pressure from friends and family to "move on" with their grief and just be done with it. But unfortunately grief  doesn't work that way. It's a lifelong journey with ups and downs and time isn't really relevant. It's only been a year....and that's where I'm at.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Practicals of Grief 1

I'm starting a new blog series of "the practicals of grief." For me, getting through grief has been unlike anything I have ever gone though. The hard part was there was no manual book. Many of the struggles I have had are trying to learn how to live again in my "new normal." This is hard because sometimes I need a practical solution to something that was being caused by grief. I have started collecting a few of these practicals that really help me to continue functioning in the midst of grief. Because even if we want it to stop- life doesn't and those of us grieving have to find a way to keep on living.

So practical tip # 1- How to manage the crying?
(I can't really take credit for this tip because I saw it in a grief share email I received.)

The problem- crying all the time to the point where it interferes with  your work and daily life.

The practical solution- find a time at night or in the morning where you can have 30 minutes alone. Set a timer for 30 minutes and listen to sad music or look over old photos of your loved one. Then, let the tears come. Allow yourself to cry of the whole time until the timer goes off. The next day set the timer for 29 minutes and do the same thing. You decrease the number of minutes each day. This way you get your tears out in a healthy, safe environment and are hopefully able to function again without the tears causing such a disruption. After 30 days of this, the tears should slow up.

I found this tip to be great and very practical. The month of April has been hard on me. I found myself crying multiple times a day and couldn't really get a handle on it. So I started letting myself cry every time I took a shower. I would pull out my saddest music and allow the tears to come. I couldn't believe how much better I felt after a few days and how much more control I had over my emotions. I was able to get through the days again without breaking down all the time.

Hope this practical tip helps. It's not enough to say "just stop crying." The tears are healing and have to get out one way or another. This way you can hopefully have a little more control of when they come.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

What goes up must come down

It seems that this logic applies to grief. With Abigail's baptism, then Caleb's birthday so close together, things got really busy. Busy in a good way. And the actual day of Caleb's birthday was great- no tears. Just fun times with friends and family spent remembering a little boy who was very much loved. And the rest of the week continued that way- happy.

And then slowly the sad feeling seeped back in. I tried to ignore it at first (sad-no can't be) then tried denial (sad-who me?) then tried a last ditch attempt to use guilt to keep the sadness away (you have a healthy child, and Caleb is in Heaven-what's there to be sad about?) Alas... it still came. It's so frustrating because this ALWAYS happens and by now I should be used to it, but I'm not. It seems like when the happy times come  they just don't last long before things come crashing down again.

 Last night I finally succumbed to the sadness in the cake isle at Schnucks Grocery Store. I was there for a support group meeting (yes we meet at a grocery store, more on that later) and I needed to get a cake for Caleb's birthday. Because that's what you do at a pregnancy loss group, you bring a treat to celebrate your baby's birthday. And I hated it. Hated picking out a cake for a boy who won't eat it. Hated not knowing what characters he would want on his cake. Hated not knowing what flavor he wanted. Hated that I was putting about 5 minutes thought into the cake when we had just spent much more time and money on Abigail's baptism cake. So I held the tears back, composed myself and went with brownies. The rest of the night continued to be slowly dominated by the sadness and ended in a all out grief attack when I returned home from the meeting.

 It is Friday morning now at 10:15 and Abigail and I are still in pajamas and I have spent the morning crying over Caleb's funeral pictures. So, I guess this is the down part. I know this is a part of grief and I am trying to give myself permission to fall apart. But its still annoying, still feels weak. My hope is that as the days and years move on the up/down roller coaster of emotions won't be as intense. Maybe the happy times will last longer and the sad times will be shorter? For now, I'm just going to keep riding the roller coaster and try to hang on.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Happy Birthday Caleb!

This Monday was Caleb's one year birthday. The amount of love and support we felt was amazing! Thank you to everyone who made this day so special. From the delivery of flowers and balloons to the text from Aunty Laura at 6:24 in the morning (the time he was born) to the massive amount of cards that came in the mail- the day was great! Well as great as it can be with your child in Heaven.  Thank you everyone- his birthday turned into a great memory instead of something to be dreaded. Here are some pictures!

 At the cemetery decorating Caleb's grave. Family pic with everyone- puppy included!

All the cards! There were at least 50 cards. Thank you! 

Happy Birthday Caleb- we miss you!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fear-Revisited

"No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. At other times it feels like being middy drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want others to be around me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me."C.S. Lewis from A Grief Observed


This week we went to a funeral for a 14 year old boy who died during holy week. A tragic, unexpected death that leaves the parents shocked and numb. And I can't help but feel afraid again. Not so much for myself this time, but I am remembering the feeling of fear that came with Caleb's death and I wonder if this boy's parents are living that fear intensely right now. Fear. I was so afraid in those first few days and weeks after Caleb died. When I picked up C. S. Lewis's book to read A Grief Observed, the words I posted above were the first few paragraphs. And  I could instantly relate. Fear. Strange, because like Lewis says, "I was not afraid, but the sensation was like being afraid." I remember one night 2 weeks to the day after Caleb died where I shook with fear. If you had asked me then what I was so afraid of, I couldn't have put words to it. I have never been so scared in my life and my body was conveying that feeling in outward appearances of shaking and wailing. I remember being in the airport on the way back from Florida (where we went the week after he died, to "get away.") and feeling terrified. Again, no reason, just so scared. Almost neurotic watching everyone and feeling so vulnerable.

Fear comes with grief. When the rug has been pulled out from under you and your world comes crashing down, I guess its only natural to feel frightened. It took me a long time not to feel afraid. And even now there are times where the fear rushes back in and consumes me. The gospel story I reflected on during that fearful time was when Peter was walking on the water. He was consumed with fear of the waves. I had always thought Peter must have been weak because he was so afraid of the waves, like it would have been so easy to just keep your eye on Jesus and avoid the storm. My grief has taught me how wrong I was. The waves ARE scary. To not be afraid is not human. Knowing where to go with that fear is the real difference in faith. And where does Peter take his fear? To Jesus.


"But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Matthew 14:30.

"Lord Save Me,"became my prayer in the first few weeks and months. Peter was afraid, who wouldn't be? But he took his fear to Jesus and Jesus did save him from the wind and waves.  For all grievers out there know the fear is real, its part of grief. Letting the fear come and then taking it to Jesus is the only way to get through the fear. If you could all please pray for the parents and siblings of the 14 year old boy who passed away. Pray for the couple, their marriage, and for Jesus to help them through any fear they may be experiencing.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Mother's Love

A Mother's Love-A Pregnancy Loss Support Group


A support group for women who have suffered a pregnancy loss at any stage. Whether it be a  recent loss or years ago, all are welcome. Group meets second Monday of every month.

 This month's meeting is Monday, April 9th  from 6:00-7:30 in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Room at St. Philomena Church.