Saturday, March 31, 2012


Anger. It's a BIG component of grief. I have never been an angry person, never struggled with anger. I don't think I'd ever even confessed that sin until losing Caleb. I have been so surprised by how much anger is caught up in grief. At first the anger took me by surprise, but not knowing grief, I thought it would be a fleeting thing, something that would pass once the first weeks and month passed. But then it stayed. I struggled with how to see my new self with all the anger I had. Struggled not to call myself a terrible sinner and horrible person. Since I had never experienced such anger before, it was so foreign to me. Like a new house guest that stays and never leaves. I had to get used to the anger, acquainted with it, and learn to live with it.

The thing I have learned with anger from grief is it comes in the most unusual forms. Like little things I am angry about, not just the big picture kind of things.  My husband was angry this week because of the diapers. He said he got angry because the diapers we are using for Abigail have been sitting in the nursery for a year, and that made him angry. I too find myself angry about random things.  I found myself pondering this morning why Caleb's death has to be labeled "pregnancy loss." It made me angry. Is there any other point in a person's life where they get termed like this? Toddler loss, teenager loss, elderly loss? Nope. Just pregnancy loss. And I get it, but as a mom who had it happen to her, I don't get it at the same time. Caleb lived inside my womb for 38 weeks and 4 days. If he were living outside my womb we would calculate the time like 9 months, 2 weeks, and 4 days. Then I get angry about that. I know people would remember a 9 month old had he passed away. I think they wouldn't be as scared to bring his name up, or show his pictures around. Think about how much life a 9 month old has lived. All the developmental changes that take place from birth to 9 months are incredible. And that is how long my Caleb was here, but it gets diminished down to "pregnancy loss." Just makes me angry.

There are things I could go on and on and on about that make me angry these days. But that's not really relevant, nor necessary. The point I am trying to make is that expect anger to be a part of the grieving process. If you know someone who has lost a loved one, expect them to be angry. Expect them to have the anger flare up at the oddest times, for what seems like no reason at all. I am trying to manage my anger. I know that anger can be a form of love. My anger since Caleb died shows my deep love for him and the injustice I feel about all of it. My counselor compares it to a toddler throwing a temper tantrum. I am angry because I don't know how else to communicate my sadness, my sorrow- and that's ok. Its just another thing I have to learn to manage. I try to take my anger to God, try not to let it effect my other relationships. I am starting to really accept the anger, make a room for it in my heart and give myself a lot of grace in the trying  to handle the anger. I have given up putting time limits on myself and when I will be anger free. I don't think that will ever happen until I am reunited with my son and have him in my arms. I have to let go of the "nice" girl persona that I used to have and be real. I am angry, but it will not dominate me. The emotion of anger can live side by side with the other emotions and that doesn't make me a bad person.

Anger. It's there.It's a part of grief. Don't be scared of it, let it come. That's my two cents on anger.

Monday, March 26, 2012

My Lifeline

Yesterday at mass I was organized enough before hand to remember my Bible.  At a Catholic mass the readings are in a book in each pew, but I often like to have my own Bible to read Scripture from. As I was walking into mass, I felt the weight of my Bible in my hands and I flashed backed to last April, May and even some of June. My Bible was my lifeline then. I literally did not go anywhere without it. I took it with me to my 6 week doctors appointment, to the grocery store, out to dinner, to mass, everywhere.  And I don't have a small cute Bible. Its somewhat big and bulky and...... I didn't care. I didn't care if people stared at me, I was carrying around the only thing I knew (or at least hoped) could help me.

I needed to feel and hold and see a tangible reminder of God's promises, goodness, and love. Nothing in my life mirrored the things I knew- God was good, He was faithful, and He had a plan. I remember needing my Bible like I needed oxygen, I couldn't breathe without it. And for those first few weeks and then months, I lived and was sustained off of the Word of God. The Holy Spirit led me to verses that spoke exactly to my heart and my situation. For the first time in my life I clung to Scripture in a way I never had before. And it healed me, or at least got me on the road to healing. The words I read from our Lord started to mend my broken heart. They made me feel not alone, like maybe God did care what I was going through, maybe He was still with me and He did have  a plan, even if everything around me screamed chaos. 

For anyone going through tragedy I recommended saturating yourself in scripture. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you through the words. At that time in my life I didn't even have the capacity to put words together to pray to God. The words I read in Scripture helped me begin to sort things out. I was reminded as I read and re-read stories of faithful others in history that had gone before me. They had trusted God when all signs told them not to. And He was faithful then and I knew He would be faithful again. 

In a sense, I miss those days. Life is much, much, much easier these days and not nearly as dark. I have to "make" myself sit down for prayer and to open Scripture. I don't need it as desperately as I then did, don't have as much time as I did then. It was a season of my life, an impossibly hard one, but beautiful in its own way. For all you grievers out there, I hope you are holding onto hope- literally by holding your Bibles and reading and praying them daily, hourly, even minute by minute if you need to. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Grief Resource

In my scouring of the Internet on grief and stillbirth, I came across this blog. It is written by a woman whose fourth child was stillborn. She then went on to help people who have experienced  a traumatic death of a loved one. She has also made big strides in the stillbirth community. One of the main things she has done is pass laws in certain states (unfortunately not Illinois) to allow parents to obtain a birth certificate of their stillborn child. It is common practice for babies stillborn to receive a death certificate, but not a birth certificate. I still remember the confusion I felt when I was told Caleb would just have a death certificate, not a birth certificate. I thought "how can you die if you have never been born?" Just another example of the culture of death. Anyways, that's another whole post for a different day. But Dr. Cacciatore is helping grieving parents and others through her wonderful work. Her method for dealing with grief spoke to my heart. She believes in simply sitting with the grieving people, not putting time limits on their grief and when they should move on. She believes in compassion and the idea that walking with someone in grief and just letting them feel what they are feeling is the best way to help them through. She has some interesting stuff and I feel very fortunate to have found her blog. Again, hearing her story and others on her website make me feel normal and I love that feeling.

Here is a video of Dr. Cacciatore's work and progress she has made in the stillbirth community. It is from a few years back, so the quality isn't the best, but still very moving.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Its all blue

Last night Nathan and I were giving Abigail a bath. He went into the closet to get the nail clippers. He came out with a blue bag that had held the nail clippers. He looked at me and said, "its all blue. This is the part people don't see. Everything is still blue." And he's right. Blue nail clippers, blue bath toys, blue laundry hamper, books about trucks and insects, blue towels and wash clothes and burp rags. Yes, we have changed the clothes out, but the other stuff remains blue. And it's all in perfect condition (something else that stings) so there is no reason not to use it. Just hard little reminders each time. Reminders that steal your joy in the midst of joyful things like giving your newborn daughter a bath. And its tiring. Trying to balance such intense joy with intense sadness feels so opposite and hard to due. I am happy, I am sad. I am looking forward to April and Abigail's baptism and yet I desperately want to skip the whole month of April. I don't want to think about Caleb and all the "should have's" and yet that is all I want to think about. I love her, I miss him. And on and on and on the dance of joy and sorrow go.

The hardest thing lately has been the feeling that I should be planning a first birthday party next month. Instead I have absolutely no idea what to do for April 16th. I don't even know what to call it- a birthday? an anniversary? a Heavenly birthday? Where is the rule book???? It breaks my heart that I have no idea how to "parent" my first born. One of the things I have noticed with grief since Abigail has arrived has been my deep need to parent Caleb in some way. I think seeing how much Abigail needs me and giving so much to her, makes my motherhood search for ways to balance that out with caring for Caleb. The problem is, there aren't many ways to parent him. And so I have found myself grieving for him more intensely. Grief is the main way I can show him love, and it seems that any free moment I have during the day I want to saturate myself with grieving him. I am pulling out his scrapbook more and more and going over the same 15 pictures of him that we have. Listening to the same sad songs I did in the weeks and months after he left. I have found myself searching endlessly on the Internet again for anything on stillbirth. The need for "answers" has come back in full swing and the only way to relieve the need is to throw myself in the world of death. Maybe I feel like I would be a better mom if I found out why it all happened.  Truly I think I just want to give him something of me, want to show him that he still matters and I haven't forgotten.

Grief is strange. It comes in waves and seems like just when I think I am making progress beyond a certain phase, bam I am back there again. Many people in grief had said that the second year is actually harder than the first.  I suppose its a combination of the shock and numbness from the first year wearing off. And I think that most people expect to be better by the end of the first year. I did, but now I can see that will be far from the case. I still feel so broken, still feel like I have so much to "process" in my head and sort out.  If you know someone in grief and they are approaching the year anniversary of losing their loved one, please don't assume they are better. Expect that the next year will be just as hard, if not harder. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Same journey, different scenery

It's hard to believe Abigail is almost 2 weeks old. Even harder to believe I should still be pregnant, as my original due date wasn't until March 17th! I honestly thought we would never get through the pregnancy, but we did and are so grateful for a live, healthy baby. The journey of grief continues though. I guess I thought that maybe (just maybe!) when she was born things would be easier, not harder. However, these past two weeks have proved the opposite.

One thing I can say is the anxiety is GONE! I really can't believe how great it is to have that weight lifted. There is a lightness that I feel that is allowing me to re-enter the land of normal people and things. It took a few days for me to realize she was actually out of me. In the hospital one morning I freaked out because I hadn't felt the baby move in a few hours. Then I looked over and realized its because she was out! I guess it took my mind a few extra days to catch up with my body. And sure I worry about her while she sleeps and check on her about 100 times a day, but since I have never had a child die outside of me, I can put that fear into the  "probably won't happen to me category." Its funny how we can trick our minds into believing things.

But the grief over Caleb is still so present, if not more. The anxiety that went along with Abigail's pregnancy allowed me to re-direct some of my grief. Once she was out alive and well, it was like a tidal wave that hit me. I remember sitting in the hospital room only about two hours after delivery crying my eyes out because I missed Caleb so much. The stay in the hospital brought back so much of Caleb's birth that I had tried not to think about. The weird things- anything to do with my senses came flooding back to me. The hand sanitizer smell, the same hospital gown, the same tray of food, the same room set up- all of it brought me back to April 14th. Grief is so related to our senses and I felt it strongly in the hospital. I also had this great desire to go search the hospital for Caleb. Since that was the last place I saw him at, I wanted to see him again. Irrational, I know, but still there.

Having Abigail here only makes me realize how much I missed with Caleb. It has also shown me that people are not replaceable. Yes, she fills the hole in my heart for a child, but there is still another hole for Caleb that she can never fill.  I hoped that once she was here, Caleb's death might make more sense, but in reality its just left me more confused. The anger I dealt with this summer is back. The other day I was so angry I wanted to go out back and smash something, anything. I want both of my children and the questions and anger swirl around and around. I try to sleep when Abigail naps, but as soon as I lie down the questions and flashbacks flood my mind. Its exhausting to say the least. I feel like there are two of me- one who takes care of Abigail and one who grieves Caleb. Still can't figure out how to make those two into one.

Another thing that I didn't see coming was that awful question "is this your first?" I had gotten so good during the pregnancy dealing with the random strangers that ask you about your pregnancy. I was able to answer their questions quickly and then re-direct them before they asked if this was my first baby. But now, there are a whole new world of people to explain my story to. Pediatricians, lactation consultants, nurses, insurance people. Everyone seems to ask "Is this your first baby?" I think we answered that question about 30 times during our hospital stay. And it's alight, its just exhausting. What do you say? Right now I say "my first living child." I don't really like that answer, but I'm too tired to come up with a better one. And it may seem like no big deal, but for me each time I hear that question, it brings up everything again. And until you have had to see countless people's faces drop in sadness and horror every time you mention your child, you just can't understand how hard that question is for someone who has lost a baby.

We got out to visit Caleb's grave this week and it was just what I needed. Having Abigail here and seeing how much she needs me made me wonder if Caleb ever existed. He didn't need anything after he was born, and so in a weird way my mind wondered if I had made him up. But seeing his grave, changing the decorations, and just being there with him made my heart so happy. It verified for me that I did have a son, and he is a part of our family still. I think that is the hardest part, wanting people to remember him. I am not a first time mom, I have a little girl and a little boy. We are a family of four, even though you only see three. Abigail is the little sister, but also the oldest living child. Remembering Caleb and finding ways to mother him will continue to be a challenge but one that brings my heart such healing. I am already looking forward to his birthday next month.

So here we are- a live baby. A sweet little rose from Heaven sent to us so soon after our storm. And we love her, and we still miss him. And we are healing, but we are a far stretch from being healed. And we are grateful, but we still have questions and anger that come up. Grief...ugh I am so tired of it, but there is no way around it- only through it. I know God is faithful, that I can continue to say. The  first mass reading the day Abigail was born was the story of God making a covenant with Noah and his sign of a rainbow to signify that covenant. You can read the reading here.  God continues to hold us through this next phase of grief and even reminds us of the rainbow after the storm.

 Caleb's flag I made him. It says "Big brother Caleb"
 My two babies
 Caleb's tombstone reads " Do not let your hearts be troubled, 
You have faith in God, have faith also in Me."