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


"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.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Dear Geoffrey,

Thank you. The card you sent to my dead son to wish him a happy one year birthday was very touching. Even though you are a fictional character and I know the card was generated by a mass mailing list, it still moved me. The cute picture of the baby eating a cupcake on the front with a 1 on it and you by his side was adorable. The message on the inside which read "someone special is turing one, and that's a big accomplishment!" touched me so much. Someone special is turing one this month,  he just isn't here to celebrate with cupcakes or to use the 5 dollar gift card you sent him. 

I must say I was taken back when I opened the card. Kind of like a stabbing feeling in my chest and then having to remind myself to breathe. I just didn't think you would remember his birthday, Geoffrey, but you did. Thank you. I am keeping it in Caleb's scrapbook, seeing as this might be the only birthday card he gets.  I wonder about all the other babies you sent a card to who aren't there to get it. I wonder if their mommies broke down in sobs and then clung to the card the way I did. Oh Geoffrey, thank you for validating that my son was here; here long enough to be on a big list somewhere with all the other one year olds. Just one more thing- can you remember to send him another one next year? He will would be two. Thanks Geoffrey for the birthday wish for my special someone who's turning one. 

Caleb's Mommy

This card came yesterday in the mail. I must say I wasn't prepared for it at all and it's just another example of a grief trigger. Things that you don't see coming that derail you and send you spiraling. I don't know what I cried more about- the fact that my son wasn't here to use the gift card from Toys R Us or the fact that I was so touched he got an actual birthday card. (Its so cute, really!) I will never get to see him get birthday cards, so it meant a lot to me. Another reason why its a good idea to be gentle with your grieving friends around the one year anniversary of their loss. Lots of grief triggers that derail a person on a normal Thursday afternoon while getting the mail.....

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Clinging to the Light

This week has been hard. Holy week. Not the week we lost Caleb according to the calendar, but liturgically the week we lost him. In a way I have two anniversaries to grieve. He was born the Saturday before Palm Sunday. His funeral was that Tuesday- the day of the chrism mass. In the Catholic Church every year the bishop invites all the priests in the diocese to a mass to bless the oils that will be used the upcoming year (things like confirmation, baptism, anointing of the sick). Today its a year later, another chrism mass Tuesday. And I felt compelled to look at the funeral pictures we have. I haven't had the courage to look at them since we got them developed. But today I longed to remember.

And about half way through the pictures (and about a box of Kleenex) I stopped at this picture.
What made we stop was the light from the candle. The blue candle is the Easter candle. We have that candle in our home. I asked for it. I knew the last time it was lit was Caleb's funeral and also knew that at Easter the church would get a new Easter candle. The candle is currently getting part of it melted down to become Abigail's baptismal candle. Its a way for each of our future children to have Caleb's story be a part of their story. I loved this picture because I remember the hope I had when I saw that candle lit. I kept thinking "Lord, I cannot get lost with a candle that big. Everything is so dark, but that candle is big enough to overcome the darkness."

And now a year later- its still dark, but the light does overcome it. April is here whether I like it or not. In 11 days we will light another candle, a tiny one this time and welcome our daughter into the family of God. And while that is so joyful, the pictures say it all. We still lost our son. He's still not coming back any time soon. I think the upcoming anniversary has just made everything seem so permanent, the reality is sinking in that we really lost him. I know not forever, but for now, its too long. Feeling this song today as I keep trying to cling to the light in the darkness, knowing that one day I will be with Caleb again in our Heavenly Home.