Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Seeking

Every Advent I re-read the same book. Its by author Carol Houselander and its title is The Reed of God. It's not specific to Advent, but its a quick, short book with tons of good meditation points in it. For the last four years I have read it each Advent and always gotten something different out of it.

This year was no exception. The other day a friend was visiting and asked how I was doing with the holidays and grief. "Good," was my response and then we talked about self care and how I think that's been a big part of why I'm doing so well this year. But I kept thinking about it after she left and thinking there was more I wanted to say, but didn't have the words.

The truth is I don't know how its going. So I picked up the Reed of God and read these words from the chapter on Our Lady's Seeking:

"If you have ever loved anyone very deeply and then lost them through separation,estrangement, or even death, you will know that there is an instinct to look for them in every crowd. The human heart is not reasonable; it will go on seeking for those whom it loved even when they are dead. It will miss a beat when someone passes by who bears them the least resemblance: a tilt of the hat, an uneven walk, a note in the voice."

Those words describe how I feel this Christmas. My head knows my son is gone, but my heart is not rational. I'm still seeking him out. In the faces of 3 year old boys at the mall as they wait to sit on Santa's lap. Among the presents under the tree, looking to see if his name is on any of them. In all the Christmas cards we receive with happy,smiling families and babies. Everywhere and anywhere-my heart is still searching. It refuses to believe that another Christmas without him is here. I just want to yell "surrender, I give up!" and have the game be over and my son returned to me. I just want him here, in our home where I can see who he would be growing into. The hardest and most overwhelming thing for me is the idea of having to go through so many more Christmas seasons without him.

Sweet Caleb, I'll always be searching and seeking for you, especially during the Christmas season.




Meditating on this song-its told from the perspective of Joseph as he searches for Christ after they lost him. It feels like how I feel now searching my heart and home for my son. And of course, the answer is the same- "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know, in my Father's house I'd be?"



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Somewhere to go

When your baby dies, its hard to find somewhere to go. I remember that just about everywhere I went brought pain in those early days: the grocery store, church on Sunday, getting my hair cut, social gatherings, family events, doctor visits-they all brought some level of pain. Grief triggers were everywhere-children running around or friends trying to awkwardly ask how I was doing or what I had been up to. I learned early on that it was safer to say "no" to things and to do my grocery shopping at odd times in order to avoid people.

However, there was one place I could go and I want to share that- religious communities. In my town there is a religious community of monks and sisters about 20 minutes away called the Community of St. John. This is a group of people who have committed their whole life to God and taken vows to be celibate. They spend most of their days in prayer or simple work.

I was able to go and pray in silence in their chapel. At St.John's, silence is usually in place. The monks and sisters do not talk except at certain times of the day. This may seem weird but for someone grieving it was a huge relief! I didn't have to make small talk or hear things that hurt. No one bothered me or knew me. Also-there were NO BABIES and no pregnant ladies! The silence,lack of babies, and the stillness of the community drew me in and gave me comfort.

I was able to help in the kitchen by preparing meals for the monks. This gave me something to do instead of staying home all day to cry. Also-the silence rule was present in the kitchen so I was able to work in peace. No one questioned when I had to leave if I became overwhelmed-they were just happy to have the extra help! The Sisters from this Community also provided me with a place to rest during a silent retreat. They let me enter into their routine during my stay and helped me take the Easter Candle from Caleb's funeral and turn it into Abigail's Baptismal candle.

 Easter Candle at his funeral
 Turned into Abigail's Baptism Candle for her baptism


In addition to this community, I sought out others to visit and be with during the first 6 months after Caleb died. I went on a retreat with the Sisters of Life. These women embraced me and cried with me and let me share my brokenness with them. I still keep in touch through letter writing with one of the sisters. She took a  picture of Caleb with her and still has it in her prayer book and prays for my family. I also spent time talking with another Sister from the servants of the pierced hearts of Jesus and Mary. She gladly let me show her pictures of Caleb and prayed for me throughout my pregnancy with Abigail. She even came to visit me in the hospital once Abigail was born! What a blessing her friendship was.

The Religious Communities were there to gather me in during such a hard time. They gave me a place to go during the day, somewhere to pray, and most importantly-faith. I saw the outward habits these people wore and the way they had dedicated THEIR WHOLE LIFE to serving God in such a radical way. I would think "if they can serve God and love Him in this way, then maybe He isn't so bad?" I could feel my heart softening in their presence. The intimacy I saw the religious men and women share with God was something I was desperate for.  At the time, I was too angry with God to go to Him but these people-they were right here in front of me and helping me. They truly were my brothers and sisters and they helped me carry the tiny flame of faith I had helped me keep it burning.

I would encourage anyone in the pit of grief to seek out a religious community.  It can be scary to go there alone, but no scarier than most places you now face. Almost always the sisters and monks in these places are warm and welcoming and very friendly.

One final note- another great resource for help is your local parish priest.  Our parish priest saw me often for one on one counseling sessions. I now see another priest from the town over about once every 3 months. I call this "spiritual direction." We meet for about an hour and talk about where I'm at with God and the things I'm struggling with. It has been a huge blessing to have a priest acting in the person of Christ to guide me through the darkness.

So in conclusion-seek out the religious people around you! Do it! You will not be sorry!

 Brothers' chapel at the Community of St. John
Inside the Brothers' chapel

 Inside the Sisters' chapel


 Sister Isabelle is the one on the far left his this picture. She helped me so much and was one of the first people to meet Abigail after she was born!
 Sisters of Life!!


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas Again

I've been feeling so many mixed emotions this year as Christmas nears. I was going to write a whole post about it but then I read this. Brooke sums up everything I'm feeling and wanted to say much more articulately than I could-so go, Read it.


"Three years ago I didn't know it would be still be so hard to miss her, this baby I never got to know on the outside"


"Grief keeps changing but the sadness stays the same."


Yup...everything she said.....

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Good Tips for Grieving During the Holidays

Thought I would share this post because I found it very true. The holidays are so hard for those dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Holidays and Grief

Monday, November 18, 2013

Traveling with Grief

Traveling with grief is not fun. I have taken 4 or 5 big trips since Caleb died and I thought I would share my thoughts on 1)what its like traveling with grief and 2) how to handle traveling with grief.

Ten days after our son died we stepped onto a plane headed for Florida to "get away" to a friend's condo. I had no idea of grief at that point and I thought nothing of traveling since I had never had any real issues with traveling. Waiting in the airport for our flight made me feel anxious. Every minute there was another minute that someone with a live baby could show up. Boarding the plane I had major anxiety about who would sit next to me, would they have a baby? Or be pregnant? Or try to strike up conversation? I lived in constant fear of breaking down and back then breaking down looked very ugly and scary. Being trapped in an airport and then on the plane made me feel like the oxygen was slowly being drained and I was going to suffocate. I ended up finally breaking down once we landed and were grocery shopping. The checkout boy kept asking us if we had had a good Easter. When Nathan said "no,not really," the boy would not leave it alone and wanted to know WHY we had had such a bad Easter. I lost it at that point and ran crying out of the store. The first of many scenes grief would make me have....but at least I made it until the evening to break down!

The next trip was five weeks later and not much better because for half of it I had to travel alone. Although this time I brought my crucifix, my rosary, and a book to keep me busy. I wanted to make it clear from the beginning that conversation with me was not going to happen. I was in no state to have "small talk" so I learned how to put that vibe out there. All I remember from that trip is having a major break down once we arrived at our location and feeling panicked because the only way back to my "safe zone," my house, was getting back on another plane. It was all too much.

A year later I traveled again, but with a newborn and not in a plane but in car. This went better, but I remember how draining it felt. Making decisions and planning routes and times was a lot for my post-trauma self to handle.

And lastly I have recently taken two more trips, both with only me and my daughter. One was flying and one was driving. These went much better because I feel like I finally have the hang of traveling with grief.  So here is what I do:

- Self care intensely before and after a trip. This means making things as easy as possible around the house before and after I leave. No more waiting until the last day and rushing around, instead I pack in little stages. The days leading up to the trip I either do frozen meals or we grab subway. Cooking is not a priority so it gets crossed off the list in an effort to store up my energy. I also make sure to pack things like comfort foods and comfort items (diet coke...). I usually bring something of Caleb with me when I travel-like his blanket or picture in order to feel more comfort.

-Don't think about it. Since losing Caleb, every time I travel the actual anticipation of the travel is harder than the actual travel. Thoughts of car accidents and plane crashes flood my mind and every possible terrible scenario runs through my head. I have learned to not give into those and re-direct my thoughts as soon as they come. I don't even engage in them because if I do they take me so far down the rabbit hole that I will be paralyzed by fear and have a hard time even starting the trip.

- Talk yourself through it. I didn't realize I needed this, but when I traveled a month ago on the plane it really helped me. I rehearsed in my head what would happen.  "Ill show up, check my bags, get my boarding pass, get settled, eat, and wait." Just going over that in my head helped take the fear out of the what ifs that could pop up. Sure they can still happen, but going over it in my head makes me feel more prepared, like I have a plan. (and this is something that even as I write this sounds crazy but truly I have had to re-learn how to do things since grief and this is one thing that really helps takes the edge off of stressful, fast moving situations-like checking onto a plane).

- Create a "safe place" once you get to where you are going. We did this on our last trip to North Dakota last Christmas. We knew the holidays would be hard and that we would need to cry. Having a "safe place" like our bedroom or bathroom where we knew we could retreat back into when we got overwhelmed helped. I don't remember actually using it, but just having an escape place made me feel better and made things more manageable.

- Don't think once you are there. Don't think about the 4 days or 2 weeks you have left. Don't think about what could go wrong, don't think about whats going wrong at home. I try very hard to keep these thoughts away while I am on vacation. I just tell myself to get through ONE day, and worry about the rest later.

-BUT if those thoughts do come and if you have to give into them, know that its normal. This happened on my last trip when I decided to follow in my car behind my friend to drive to an apple orchard. I let Abigail stay in my friend's car and then drove myself because we were leaving from the orchard. That 20 minute drive got the best of me. All I could think was "they will all die. I'm driving behind them and I know there will be an accident and I will have to watch my friend die, her little girl, and my daughter."  I started thinking of how I would get Abigail's body back to Illinois (morbid-maybe but real to me) and what the phone call home to Nathan would sound like.

My counselor would call this knowing the "fragility of decisions." I don't see decisions the same way anymore, I see them with their possible eternal consequences, even when they seem irrational. So for those 20 minutes I engaged in the terrible thinking until I pulled myself out and started saying the rosary out loud. I also told myself over and over again that I was normal for thinking those things. That helped and soon enough we arrived safely.

-Let others know that you might not be up to the same pace you once were. Be honest about your energy level and what you realistically can and cannot do.

- Expect it to be different. I really cannot say that vacation is that relaxing anymore since our loss. It truly requires a lot of effort on my part to stay sane and try to appear relaxed. But at this point I have come to see that its another side effect of our loss and there is nothing to do about it. I no longer expect it to be the same, I expect it to take work and eventually maybe it will be relaxing. Because the other option is never traveling again and I will not let that be an option.


Hoping this helps others out there who are traveling this holiday season. I know this will not be everyone's experience of traveling after grief, but it's an honest look at how hard it is for me to travel with grief. Please keep us in your prayers as we head to North Dakota this holiday season.



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Problem with Praise

Praising God always came easy until Caleb died. Then it became a "sacrifice of praise," something that was very difficult for me to do. One of the best things grief has taught me is that praising God has nothing to do with your circumstances. After Caleb died I began to praise God simply because of "who He was," and not for "what He had done for me." Because the reality was-I felt like He hadn't really done much for me, except give me a huge cross to carry. I learned though that the more I praised God for who He was and not what I was experiencing, the lighter my load became. Our hearts were made for worship and even in the valley of death it was necessary for me to worship to allow the healing to come. Praising God turned my focus away from my own sad story and instead lifted my head to higher things, things of His Kingdom.

The problem though is that I now have a hard time when I hear others praise God for what He has done. And I hate that. I hate that I cannot fully enter into giving God the praise that He deserves. It's just that when others start praising God for the list of prayers He has answered, I start thinking about my list of prayers that will always remain unanswered-please make my son live. I start to spiral and think, "Lord, you never even gave us a chance to pray for healing for Caleb. He was just dead,end of story." All of those questions leave me feeling dizzy and I feel like I am back at square one with those dreaded questions I've faced so many times before, "Is God good? Does He really care?Where was He?"

It's humbling to be drawn back into so many of those questions that I "thought" were answered. Even more humbling is the fact that other people's joy brings my doubts into question. But hearing others' praise for answered prayers makes me feel left out, like the one God didn't care about, which I know is not true, but how do you handle that when it feels so true?

How I handle it is going back to God with those same questions again. Sitting with Him and telling Him the honest truth. The truth is that I do feel left out when the praise game starts and that it still hurts.  In the end, I always come back to Jesus. I'm reminded that Jesus does not have all the answers, He simply is the answer. Because in the end its Him, not my children, not my husband, nothing, just Him. Realizing that makes it easier to praise Him for the simple fact that He is God, not for what He has done for me or the things that have gone right in my life.

What I want to do is to be a voice for those who cannot praise God right now based on their "answered" prayers. Those broken souls out there who if they had to praise God based on what their lives looked like, there would be no praise going on. People who have many, many unanswered prayers and questions and messed up, chaotic, broken lives. I want to encourage them (and myself) that praise is so much more than giving God a shout out when things are going right. Praising Him for who He is and not what He can do is enough. I also promise that that praise will help heal your wounds.

Ending it with one of my favorite praise songs:





Monday, October 21, 2013

Another Season

Today I miss Caleb. Last night I missed him and wondered over and over again what he would be for Halloween. The change of seasons always hurts because its another season without my son. He would be so big! 2 1/2 and love candy and want to dress up and carve pumpkins. I hate, hate, hate missing out on all the things I thought were a given. And then this morning I heard this song come on the radio. It stopped me and took my breath away. "Yes", I thought," I remember you. I listened to you over and over again after Caleb died. Why are you on the radio!?!" Who knows why it was on, but I'm glad it was. Gave me a moment to stop and remember Caleb. Thinking and praying for all the families out there going through another season with the one they love missing.



If you haven't read the book I will Carry You, go read it!



I Will Carry You (Audrey's Song)

by Selah, from the album "You Deliver Me"


There were photographs I wanted to take

Things I wanted to show you

Sing sweet lullabies, wipe your teary eyes

Who could love you like this?


People say that I am brave but I'm not

Truth is I'm barely hanging on

But there's a greater story

Written long before me

Because He loves you like this


[Chorus]

I will carry you

While your heart beats here

Long beyond the empty cradle

Through the coming years

I will carry you

All my life

And I will praise the One Who's chosen me

To carry you


Such a short time

Such a long road

All this madness

But I know

That the silence

Has brought me to His voice

And He says ...


I've shown her photographs of time beginning

Walked her through the parted seas

Angel lullabies, no more teary eyes

Who could love her like this?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The gift He gave me

Our children change our lives, of course they do. I just never thought Caleb would change me so intensely and quickly. After he died, everything was different. I see the world now through the lens of death and loss. At times, that can be a dark lens. But it can also be a deeper, more satisfying lens. I've been busy lately and while I want to write here, I just don't know what to say or how to get the words out. Life is moving forward and even though there might have been a time when I hated that, I don't anymore. Little by little I feel like God is redeeming my whole life after loss. I've caught myself more than once this week thinking "life is soooo good!" And I honestly don't know how I got to this point! I hated life for so long, was disengaged and just surviving for so many months. But now, Im back and not just functioning, I feel like Im functioning better than before!

Caleb's life and death gave me perspective. It showed me what was really important in life. It made me slow down, way down and see what life was really about. I by no means have it all figured out, but I do think that burying a child gives you a wisdom that not everyone else has. When he died, everything in the world was bad, all the goodness drained. I relied so much on the "truth" of God because I honteslty did not see the beauty or goodness anywhere. But lately it seems like the goodness and beauty are pouring back in. And this time when they are filling up my life, they seem so much sweeter. I appreciate the little things more, the simple things Im able to do like make dinner, travel through an airport without major anxiety, give back to others instead of only receiving. There was a time when I was so broken and I guess thats why coming back together again feels so good.

I can't help but thank my son for this gift, the gift of enjoying life more deeply. His life and death gave me more depth than I could have ever counted on. Thank you, Caleb. And thank you God for being the God that can truly "turn my mourning into dancing" Psalm 30:12

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Small Victories

Lately I find myself glancing at my calendar and sitting there in shock. I'm doing so much these days. I'm able to handle more than I have ever been able to since Caleb died. These are what I'd like to call "small victories," because to other people they seem small. But to someone who has been through grief and had their world torn upside down, doing the following things really are a big deal:

(In no particular order)

- I hosted a party, with like 15 people at my home. I cleaned, decorated, made food, and hosted. All without collapsing afterwards. In fact, I even felt rejuvenated from it!

-Decided to get a part time job. Woah! Big step for someone who quit her job after her son died because it was too much. I really didn't see myself working again, but I found something fun and small and hopefully will fit in with our schedule. It feels great to have the "professional" side of me back again.

-Booked a trip to North Dakota for whole week without my husband! Travel after Caleb has been filled with anxiety. But for some reason, I just felt like taking this trip was another step in learning to live again. I used to travel alone all the time. But since Caleb's death Ive been afraid, anxious, and overall resistant to doing anything by myself, let alone traveling. So I took the plunge and next week Abigail and I will get on a plane and fly by ourselves to North Dakota to visit friends and family for a whole week!

- Started up Bible Study this year and feel like I can actually participate. Last year it took all my energy to just show up and sit with  "normal" people (non-grieving people) and try to function. But this year, I don't have to try, I just get up,drive there and enjoy the day.

Those are just some of the main things I'm doing lately, but they feel so good. I think when you have had everything taken from you, and then you start to get it back, there is a certain sweetness to it. Only grieving people can understand how much energy it takes to just function and for so much of the last 2 and a half years I have been  "just functioning."

Saint Irenaeus has a quote that says, "the glory of God is man fully alive." I've been reflecting on that a lot and thinking about how much glory it brings to God when I fully live my life. Yes, God is there in the brokenness, but He never wants me to stay there. And while I will always carry the wounds of Caleb's death on my heart, just like Jesus carried his wounds after he rose, there is still a lot of life to live. I want to glorify God by living fully alive, by drinking deeply from life and being intentional with my time. Small victories which are allowing me to become fully alive and hopefully that brings God glory.




Saturday, September 7, 2013

Our Lady

Our Lady, Mary, the mother of God, has been close lately. Today is the start of a nine day novena I'm beginning to Our Lady of Sorrows. I used to wonder why Mary had so many titles she went by. Now that I've gotten to know her better, it makes sense. So many titles for such an incredible woman. And we all have different titles-mother, daughter,sister, cousin, friend, boss, neighbor,etc. We have a title for whatever relationship we are in, and so does Mary.

Our Lady of Sorrows
Our Lady of sorrows is the name given to Mary to honor her sorrowful heart, the one that was pierced (Luke 2:34-35 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”) The novena I'm saying is a nine day prayer I say every day leading up to and ending on the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows. I'm praying for all the moms who have lost a baby, for our ministry and for my own heart. I think its going to be good and I can feel Mary pulling me deeper into the mystery of herself as I begin this prayer time.

Another one of Mary's titles that's been sticking out to me lately is Our Lady of Ephesus. Of what? Exactly. I had never heard of this title until last summer when I picked up a book about Our Lady of Ephesus. Catholic tradition has it that after Jesus died, St. John took Mary and moved her to Ephesus, a town in Turkey. There she made a home in Nightingale Mountain and lived quietly until her death and assumption. I say quietly because even though Mary lived in the town of Ephesus, St. Paul had to come spend 2 years there evangelizing and converting the people! This shocked me when I put all the pieces together. How is it possible that Mary lived somewhere and the whole town was not conformed to Christ? I mean, who knows Jesus better than Mary? But for some reason, she was silent in Ephesus and lived her remaining years there.

I started feeling the tug to pray to Our Lady of Ephesus about a month ago-and I had no idea why. It just kept coming to me and during times when I would feel sad or miss Caleb, I would simply say-Our Lady of Ephesus, help me. Then on August 15 the Church celebrated the assumption of Mary-the day when her body was taken up, or assumed into Heaven. Another common name for Mary on this feast day is Our Lady of Ephesus!It's believed that her body was assumed into Heaven from her home in Ephesus. While I was praying that day, I was asking Mary specifically to help me with my vocation. It had been a rough week and I was feeling pulled in different directions and not sure if I was doing my best as a wife and mother. Then I heard her say,

"Just make a home without your son."

I realized why I was so drawn to Our Lady of Ephesus. It was because it was the only place Mary had lived as a mother without her son. For whatever reason, Jesus asked Mary to stay here on Earth after He ascended into Heaven. We don't know how long or why. So Mary stayed and she made a home in Ephesus, a home without her son. That must have been painfully hard. So many memories. I can almost  picture her sitting at her kitchen table, perhaps the one Jesus made as a carpenter, and crying because the house was so silent, so still. And that was her path to holiness during those years. She wasn't asked by God to be out in the streets telling people about her son. "Its too painful to talk about him," she told me, "people wouldnt understand my relationship with him, I didnt have the words for it, so I stayed quiet in my home." 

It was a prayer filled with grace for me. Since then I've really tried to re-dedicate my time to making a home without my son. Because I know that's my path to holiness right now. So many times I don't have the words for what happened in my heart when my son died. Its too deep and sensitive to try to explain to people, especially now over 2 years out. So quietly I'm going to build a home without my son. And there will be tears and continued heartache over his absence. There will also be Our Lady of Ephesus to guide me and cry with me because she knows how hard making a home without your child is.

As I reflect on the last month in my prayer I can see Mary with me constantly. As I continue to try to live again and breathe again and function again, she's there cheering me on. My prayer is that Mary can comfort you in your time of loss. I know some non-Catholics may be scared to go to her, but truly she always leads us closer to Christ. She's his mother and longs for us to be united not with her, but with her son. So please, if you feel called, pray this novena with me. Our Lady of Sorrows is there-she gets its, she's cried too many tears to count.

Novena to Our Lady of Sorrows-Starts on Page 7

Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Lady of Ephesus, Pray for us!



Mary's house in Ephesus!!



Thursday, September 5, 2013

Because I don't have the words

I can't seem to write these days. I have the feelings, but no the words. Good thing someone else has the words. I found comfort in this post tonight and these words:

I didn't kill her, yet I have spent nearly five years forgiving myself for her death. Only you understand that.

I loved these words. The guilt never goes away, even if I tell myself that there is no guilt-thats a lie, its always there. Feeling everything in this post tonight. 





Thursday, August 15, 2013

Secondary Losses: Siblings

Grief is so big and so fascinating. Sometimes its as if my body can feel the grief before my mind knows whats going on. Like my body gets the first wave of it and that signals my mind to start tuning in. I'm getting better at picking up on my body's reaction to grief the further along this path I go. The last few weeks I noticed that I was spending a lot of my free time doing mindless online puzzles. Something I did a lot in the heavy, dark days of grief. Then I noticed that I was listening to more and more Adele. She's my go to for angry girl music. I really loved this song and video and found myself watching/listening to it over and over and over.

(This is one of my favorites- I love all the smashing of things)

So after a few days of this trend I took a step back to say "what is going on here?" And like all things, in order to process them I have to talk them out. So I stayed up late one night and told Nathan all of the things that had been going on and how I was feeling grief-more particularly rage/anger- and I didnt know why. It helps having an outsider look at your situation and he was able to hit the head on the nail-siblings.

In the last two months we've had an explosion of friends either announcing their second pregnancies or bringing home their second babies. Lots of "little sister, big brother" t shirts going around with birth stories and pregnancy updates. And my body knew before my brain did that it was all piling up and beginning to be too much. 

Secondary losses in grief are losses that come secondary to your loss, but still need to be grieved. Once I realized this is what had been bugging me it was easier to handle. Abigail is the second child, but I never got that excitement that you usually get with bringing your second home. Introducing them to the big brother or sister and watching the two interact. Day dreaming about the two becoming friends and growing up close is something I never got. And then the numbers game starts-shes the second but also the first, Hes the oldest but she's the oldest even though shes the youngest. Shes the only but not really. two pregnancies, one baby. Or two pregnancies, two babies, but one live child? Either way I spin it the math never adds up. 

And so I have to grieve that. I have to take deep breaths when I hear others talking about new siblings. I have to put a "pause" on some social things for a while until I can get my feet under me again. I decided to take a "media" fast from blogs and facebook for two weeks just to get some breathing room. So far its been good. 

I also took my grief to God. After talking with Nathan late into the night, I sat there crying over the injustice of not having Caleb with me. I wanted to be bold with God so I told Him , "SHOW ME! You need to show me that I physically have TWO children. And I dont just want a butterfly to land on me and that be my sign. I want a REAL experience where you show me that Im a mother of two, not just one."(not that a butterfly isnt a good "sign" I just wanted something more concrete)

He answered it, of course, and in more than one way. The day after I prayed that prayer I had a play date with my Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep photographer (we've become friends) and another mom friend who is looking to volunteer with the organization(yeah!). I got to spend the morning talking about Caleb and showing off his pictures. And then-the best part-my photographer said she was going through her old files and found the ones of Caleb and there are  more that she never gave me and wondered if I'd want to see them!! I was in Heaven! Only someone who has lost their child understands how precious pictures of that child are. I was blown away and felt like God was saying-Im showing you!

I also received an email that week from a former student I had worked with in FOCUS. She had read my blog and wrote the nicest words about Caleb and it totally blew me away that she was not afraid to come into my darkness. Lastly, Nathan's mom and aunt came to visit and we talked a lot about Caleb that weekend. He was brought up so many times and we even got to bring him balloons to spoil him. God certainly wanted to show me that I have two children. I guess sometimes I just need to ask.

Dealing with secondary losses is hard. What I'm beginning to see is that these secondary losses are not going away. They continue to grow with each new life experience we encounter that we didn't get with our son. It's important to try to find a name for them and then you can begin grieving them. Right now Im gearing up for the beginning of what Im calling my own "grief cycle." From August to May is when  the grief triggers with Caleb come up. We just finished at our parish a 9 day novena to St.Philomena. I prayed that novena to get pregnant with Caleb and my prayers were answered. I can't help but think of him when August rolls around and that novena comes up. Praying for peace and comfort as I head into year 3 without my son. 


Thursday, August 8, 2013

August

This past weekend we had Nathan's mom and aunt stay with us for a visit. Nathan's aunt lost her first baby to anencephaly at birth. It was refreshing to be able to talk openly about loss and about our children who are not with us. She wanted to spoil Caleb a little and take him some balloons and a new pinwheel! It was a beautiful day and Im glad she got to see Caleb's special place.





Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Processing

With the retreat behind us, I think my mind is finally catching up and Im able to start processing some of it. I never know how to answer when people ask me how it went. Good? I mean the fact that there even needs to be a ministry like this breaks my heart. The fact that mothers and fathers are still having to go through burying their children makes me sick. But its happening, and so since its still happening, Im glad we can offer something to help them through. I've done 3 retreats so far, but this one was different in the fact that couples were there, not just women only. I was able to hear the' stories and not get in the pit with them-thats a big step for me. Overall, I left the day feeling alright and not nearly as emotionally drained as usual. I think having Nathan there to co-facilitate with me helped a lot.

We are planning to do the third women's retreat in the fall. So far we've done one on emptiness, one on brokenness and then this final one will be called "Into the darkness." In the next few years Nathan wants to develop 3 mens retreats to balance the women's ones. So that's that. Please if you could continue to pray for this ministry and what God wants to do. Thank you for all the prayers for the couples and us this past Saturday, we appreciate them so much!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Go Time

Gearing up for our retreat on Saturday. Asking for prayers for my husband and I to actually do a good job (and not waste people's time-always my fear!) leading the retreat. Also prayers for the couples, that they would have the courage and energy to show up and that God would give them some healing through the experience. Registration is open the morning of, so if you know of anyone who is in need of this ministry and hasn't signed up-just send them on over Saturday morning. Thank you in advance for the prayers and for so many of you out there who are helping behind the scenes.

I'll leave you with this verse that I've been reflecting on all week:

"With such affection for you we were determined to share not only the Gospel of God, but also our very selves, so dearly beloved had you become to us." 1 Thessalonians 2:8

Doing this retreat requires Nathan and I to share a lot of the Gospel, but even more of ourselves, our grief, and our son's story. But it's worth it because that's the whole Gospel message-give and you will receive. Praying that the Lord would open hearts this weekend and heal the brokenhearted.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

You're Still Missing

I put Abigail down for a nap. I start the process of cleaning and picking up the house while trying to stay quiet. These months, when the grief is less intense, have been refreshing.  I can go days without breaking down or crying and mostly when I think about Caleb I just feel happy that he existed. But even at a time when things feel most "normal," my heart still knows he's gone. As I put things away I keep thinking, "theres something else." I couldnt shake this feeling today of something being out of place. And then it hit me-he's still gone. It sucks to realize it over and over again that your baby died and isnt coming home. I searched for this song today because it always says what I cannot. He's still missing, and even in the good months,even when everything seems to be falling in place, my heart still feels it, still feels the empty space that he should be filling.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Two Weeks to Go...


For any couple who has experienced a pregnancy loss at any stage. Please contact me for more details and to register. Spread the word!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Do we Know?

I'm Catholic. I'm pro-life. And I had no idea until Caleb died that babies were being killed inside the womb of mothers who desperately wanted them. That there were adult women out there with families and other kids of their own who were "terminating or interrupting" their pregnancy. Why? Because the babies they were carrying had "defects" or "terminal diagnosis" and would not make it once they were born. These babies are being cut short of their already short lives in a "decision" that is usually swayed by the medical professionals. My heart breaks for these babies, but more for their parents who have to make a "decision" that should never be a decision in the first place.

I want to say that I firmly believe that termination of pregnancy at any stage is wrong. I believe that interrupting a pregnancy (inducing before viability when the baby has terminal diagnosis so that mother does not have to carry to term) is wrong. I also want to say that I firmly believe most couples make that decision without the knowledge, support, care, compassion and love that they desperately need at such a traumatic time. Most women are told that if they choose to carry their terminally ill baby that the baby will suffer in utero.

I want to share this story of what it is like for a mother and father who are joyfully expecting their third child only to be told, "sorry,your baby has defects, please terminate."This story broke my heart open and pushed me to write this post. The cruelty and harshness this couple was treated with is unacceptable.  As one mother who commented on the story put it "I can live with killing my baby, I cannot live with torturing her." WHAT! Are you kidding me? That's the best we can do as a society? Give parents the option between killing (through abortion or induction) or torturing-(carrying to term)? There has to be another way....(Just for the record-Suffering is a subjective phenomenon. Its impossible for the doctors to know for certain that a baby would be "suffering" inside their mothers womb...wouldn't aborting them also cause suffering? Wouldn't inducing early so that they are born premature and cannot survive cause suffering? We do not have the technology to judge weather a fetus is "suffering" inside the womb. So this common lie that the doctors tell their patients cannot hold up against philosophy and reason).

My husband just finished his ethics position paper on this exact topic, so I'm a little fired up about it. What I'm fired up about is the fact that there is so little being done to stop it. And I'm not talking about posters being held outside an abortion mill. That doesn't reach these parents, that doesn't relate to them, that doesn't help them. We have to do better people. As a Church, we HAVE TO DO BETTER.

So what do we do? What am I doing? 3 things that I think would help change this horror:

1.Change the minds and hearts of the medical professionals-I'm not in a position to do this, but I'm hoping someone who is does something about it and soon.

2. Bring perinatal hospice to all Health Care facilities. Think of hospice for your elderly family members- it helps make the end of life as peaceful as possible. Now add perinatal on to that and its a group who tries to make the life of a baby with a terminal diagnosis as peaceful as possible for mom, dad,family, and all involved.

As a pro-life Church we should be at the forefront of this. Perinatal hospice meets the family where they are at and gives them a way to make memories with the limited amount of time they have. In one study done, couples given the choice to terminate the pregnancy or carry to natural death (with a terminal diagnosis) with the help of perinatal hospice, 85% chose to carry to natural death!

No one wants their child to die-not now, not 3 months from now. Every parent wants more time with their child, not less. With perinatal hospice we can say to the parents, "we will walk with you during this dark, dark time. We will help you when so many are unwilling to help." So perinatal hospice-my husband is working towards it, I'm spreading the word and praying for it. You can do the same.

3. Spread the word about whats happening. Like I mentioned in my first paragraph-I had no idea this sort of thing was happening. And Ive been pro life for a long time. I'm convinced that most pro-lifers have no idea that this type of thing is going on. When we found out about it, my husband and I started calling it the "underbelly" of the abortion movement. No one knows it happens, and therefore it continues to go on.

But how can spreading the word about it help? Well because it keeps happening to couples who have no idea it happens. So maybe you know about this and you also know about perinatal hospice. And then your cousin, or another mom in your play group or co worker or neighbor gets pregnant. Then they go in for the 20 week ultrasound and instead of leaving happy knowing the gender, they leave devastated knowing their baby will not live. You can help direct them. You might be the voice to try to give them another option, one that does not involve torturing or killing their precious child. The more we bring this to the light, the better.

As a Catholic community of pro-lifers I feel like we have an obligation to fight against this. It's  a touchy subject in the pregnancy loss world. I want to emphasis again-I'm not judging the people that choose this-I'm judging the act itself. Its wrong to abort.period. Its wrong to induce early before viability just so the mother doesn't have to carry to term a terminal baby. It does the couple no favor. It often leaves them with the guilt that no parent should have. Doctors think it will help end their grief and suffering, but the reality is that it prolongs it and often leaves them regretting a lot of decisions.

James 2:14-17 says

"What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself"

As a Church we cannot simply let these couples fall through the cracks or simply mutter a prayer and move on...They need more, they need a better option, one filled with compassion and empathy.

I want to end by saying if we fail to do anything about this then we let the culture of death recruit another disciple. I cannot handle that, I won't stand by and let it happen. Please pray with me, educate yourself on this, spread the word. Give mothers and fathers another option -kill your baby, torture your baby....or the only option- carry your baby until natural death, make the most of their precious life.

Link to Perinatal Hospice


Video on what perinatal hospice is about:



Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Right Where I am 2 years 2 months


I'm still here. Yup still here, I survived. That's what being right here, right now feels like-I'm shocked I'm still here. How have I survived for over 2 years without my baby? I don't know- that's why I'm shocked. When everything happened I was sure that I would never really live again, but here I am doing it.

It doesn't feel like its been over 2 years, except when I look around and realize that life has moved on. Caleb's little sister is almost a year and a half and really the time has kept on ticking. Unbelievable to me because in an instant I can be back there on April 14,2011 and feel everything I felt that day-in an instant. But right now I feel mostly shocked that I'm still here and that it still hurts this much. I thought if we finally brought home a live baby, then I would feel better. And I do-don't get me wrong, Abigail made everything better. But (there's always that but) it still sucks. I thought once we got a live baby we would feel like we finally belong. But we don't-I still feel out of place. Still feel weird when conversations about babies come up. I guess right now I'm just trying to accept that our family will never look like other families. We will always be broken and apart from each other and that's hard to swallow each and every day.

At 2 years and 2 months I no longer run from babies or cringe. But pregnancies, that's been harder lately. Every time I see a woman with a big belly I immediately feel like someone kicked me in my gut. The universal sign for life is a large pregnant belly, but to me instead of seeing life all I see is death. Then I think "what will that do to me?" To have my perception altered forever so that life no longer means life, but instead death. Right now I don't know what it will do,but I know it feels scary every time those pregnant bellies start showing up. I want to run up to the moms and ask them "is your baby still moving, are you doing kick counts? When was your last ultrasound, is the cord wrapped around the neck?" And the list of irrational(or rational?) thoughts streams in and I'm at its mercy until it passes. I just don't like pregnancy-end of story and right now I'm not sure if I ever will. (side note-if you're a pregnant friend-I'm happy for you, I just physically get scared when I see pregnancy. It has nothing to do with the person, but the state of pregnancy in general)

I don't cry that often, instead tears come to the surface and then I'm able to shove them back down. I'm so much more sensitive to things than I ever was before. I don't watch the news-too many sad stories. I have to be careful about how much of the world I'm absorbing. When the Boston bombing happened or the tornadoes-I simply have to shut them off. I say a prayer and move on. This might seem cold hearted, but if I hear a news story or read something about those tragedies, my mind instantly drags me down the rabbit hole of Post Traumatic Stress and it feels too close to me. I cannot handle other peoples' crisis. Its like my cup is full (even after 2 years) and adding any more to it will make it spill over. So I avoid the news, facebook updates about tragedies, or online pictures. Its all too much for my mind to handle and that's alright. I'm thankful that there are people who can help people in crisis but right now, I'm just not one of them.

Right now I tend to focus on little boys who are 2. I see them at parks or in the grocery store and I let my mind wonder before I can grab it back. Its so tangible now to see a 2 year old little boy and think/wonder what Caleb would be like. Its so hard and my heart breaks again each time that I realize I have no idea what he would be like at 26 months old.

Right my anxiety is manageable as long as I'm working out. I can tell the weeks I stop working out that my anxiety rises. Its like my body needs to be physically exhausted in order for my mind to slow down too. I still see a counselor about once a month. She helps me navigate through the rougher edges of life and gives me tools to handle awkward social encounters.

I want to help others, no I need to help others. I don't know how else to parent Caleb except by going back into the darkness of pregnancy loss and helping others along their journey. And at the same time-it has nothing to do with Caleb. Its like after we lost him I saw this huge need that wasn't being filled and my heart longed to bring Christ into the black hole of loss. I truly believe that by helping those experiencing a pregnancy loss I am helping some of the poorest and spiritually in need out there. So I'll keep trying to help..and not just help, but dream big. Right now my husband and I are doing a lot of talking, a lot of dreaming of things we would have wanted after our loss. We feel called by God to, in a sense "build a city," for those who have suffered this particular loss. And its exciting, the missionary in me gets excited. Big dreams for a Big God and I know in His time they will come to fulfillment if its His will.

At a little over two years out I'm still in disbelief when I hear about another baby dying. But then I'm also in disbelief when I hear of one being born healthy. Its like my mind cant decide which one really happens-and the reality is both. It's also starting to dawn on me that we are just at the beginning of the fertile years when it comes to our peers. So the pregnancy talk and more babies isn't stopping anytime soon. Sometimes it feels like a cruel joke- the thing that hurts the most for you is the thing that brings others the most joy. But that's not entirely true because at a little past two years I can somewhat get excited about new babies again. And even start thinking about the idea of a third pregnancy for us. I've come a long way from where I was.

Mostly right now, right here, I'm doing well. The pain comes and goes and can be hidden easier than before. I went to the grocery store this morning and ran into a couple with a brand new baby. I smiled and chatted and told them how cute the baby was. Then at the checkout the cashier asked if Abigail was my only child. I was able to say no, that she had a big brother in Heaven. I managed all of that trip to the store without it even phasing me. There was a time not too long ago that that same trip would have wiped me out for days.  So I guess in some ways I'm moving along this path.

At a little over 2 years I'm starting to get to a place where I can accept our family and what has happened. Not just accept, but start of thrive again, instead of just survive. Nathan and I are talking of going to Rome in October this year. For some reason this trip feels so important for me in my grief journey. Like this trip would be proof that our life is ours again. That we can actually live, not just get by. Of course  I'm worried about leaving, worried about traveling, worried about anxiety....but I'm at a place in grief where I just don't care anymore. Ive lived with it long enough now that I refuse to live in fear of it. I want to live...I want to really live....

Caleb, 2 years and 2 months is too long to be without you. I say to your daddy all the time, "do you think he knows, really knows, how much we love him, how much we miss him even now?" I hope you do sweet baby boy. Missing you...



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What to do with the stuff?

This was a post I wrote over a year ago when we started getting ready for Abigail's arrival. I have been meaning to post this but kept forgetting to add the pictures. So here it is, late but hopefully helpful....

One of the first things I remember my mom saying in the hospital after saying goodbye to Caleb was " I can have the nursery all cleared out." It hit me like a ton of bricks. If learning you have to go through labor for a dead baby and then trying to make funeral plans wasn't enough, I now had to decide what to do with the nursery we apparently did not need anymore. Again, no reference point, none of this was ever in the baby books. Without hesitating I said "no,leave it all." I don't know why I said that or what reasoning I had, but somewhere deep inside of me I knew I needed it there.

When we returned from the hospital the nursery door was closed. I remember walking in and seeing everything piled up everywhere. The two bouncy seats we had out in our living room were thrown in there, along with the car seat which had been taken out of the car and a few other random things. It sort of looked like a tornado had hit it, not the clean and neat nursery I left. So I shut the door and retreated to my room. Throughout those first few weeks and months we cleared a path through the nursery and actually made it into a memorial/ prayer room. It became a great source of prayer for us, a quiet place we could go. I remember a priest friend of ours coming over and I took him in the nursery. He said "Wow, there is a presence here, very peaceful. Not creepy like the movies would make it out to be." It made me laugh because I knew it was true. While people would see having a nursery still in tact after the baby dies as morbid, it actually wasn't. There was peace there.

We decided to keep the nursery up as our living hope. We knew we wanted more children and in time we prayed we would be able to bring them home. Besides, seeing it empty would be harder, we already had so much emptiness. So we prayed, we hoped and we kept the door shut to make visitors feel less awkward. But to us, it was so important in the grieving process. I spent hours going through all of Caleb's clothes, his baby towels, onesies, burp rags, and blankets. I needed to grieve over everything. I needed proof it was all real, he was real.

I think the temptation when someone loses someone is to clear things out as fast as possible. To this I would say- wrong. It just tries to make the person move on from their loss, when in reality they are not ready. I knew I would be ready to change the nursery when the time came. 1 day after delivering Caleb was not the time. Friends recommended I donate the items to charity, but that didn't make sense to me either. They were my son's things, all I had left of him. I also hoped for another boy down the road and knew I wanted to save some things for that boy.

If someone has a loss, let them take time dealing with their loved ones things. Everyone responds differently, but to just get rid of everything overnight like that person never existed is not natural, because they did exist. The grief books I have read recommend letting the person who experienced the loss go through their loved ones things. You can offer to help, but please do not do it for them. It might seem easier, but I have found so much healing in sorting through Caleb's things myself and facing that pain. I have had to grieve all his "baby's first (insert holiday) onesies" that he got. I needed to grieve his Christmas sweater and his pair of swim trunks I had bought him for the summer. Again, grieving it made it more real and confirmed that he actually had existed. If someone had done it for me it would have been taking away precious memories from me.

Last weekend Nathan and I decided it was about time to clean the nursery up. Since finding out we were having a girl, I have been thinking in my head of a way to keep the old nursery and incorporate the new one. I think we did a good job. I was able to sew new curtains and pillows. We changed the sheets to pink and basically added a lot of bows to things. I still am not ready to change over the clothes. I need Abigail in my arms alive in order to do that. Also, we don't have any clothes for her right now, so the closets would just look empty which would hurt more. Here are some pictures of the switched nursery-boy to girl. I won't lie and say I was happy to do it- I cried and was sad, but it felt cleansing at the same time. I think it helped that we didn't make any huge changes, just added some pink here and there.

If someone you know lost a loved one, give them time to sort through all the "stuff." Don't be pushy, trust that they will know when the time is right.  Ask them if they need help with any of it. One idea that I got was to make a memorial quilt out of Caleb's clothes. I am excited to start this project. I know we will use his clothes again if we have a boy, but there are somethings that are just so Caleb and I don't want them on anyone else. I am going to take those and sew together a small memorial quilt that can be hung up on display. This is a great idea for any person who has lost a loved on. A way to memorialize the person and allow the living loved one to remember them in a special way. It might only be clothes, but for a lot of people its all we have left. Don't be concerned if someone doesn't change over the room or redecorate right away after they lose someone. It all takes time and in time it will come.

Pictures of the nursery set up for Caleb:


 Blue walls with polka dot theme....lots of gifts we still hadn't put away!

 Changing table all ready to go with tons of diapers


Pictures of nursery for Abigail:
 Added the Carr family Tree of Owls...one for Abigail, one for Caleb and a mommy and daddy owl..
 Kept the lime green crib skirt from Caleb's room and his comforter, added pink owl blanket and pink polka dot theme...
 You can't see it, but the wall writing says, "For this Child I Prayed." We had it made for Caleb and kept it up for Abigail. It also has two little birds flying around it.
 The mobile in the corner was made for Caleb but I added the pink strips for Abigail. I also glued a pink ruffle on Caleb's lamp
 The curtains that I made
 Added a pink dress to hang from the shelf, and a beautiful drawing a friend did in honor of Caleb...I also glued a small pink bow to the blue piggy bank!
 Home made Diaper Stacker....my sewing lessons came in use...and 
my friend Courtney who helped me!
Added a pink rug, and made the toy chest a little prayer memorial with Caleb's scrapbook his Bible, dried flowers from funeral and Easter Candle. And of course JC:)


What did you do with your loved ones things? Did you keep the nursery of clean it out? How did it make you feel?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Fathers Day

What a weird day. Lots of happy out there today but for those who have lost a child, there is lots of sad.  We don't make a big fuss around here for mothers day or fathers day, because they were hell that first year. I remember the feeling of just trying to survive.  We were out of town trying to "have fun," and get away and forget about grief (didn't work-it comes with you). I had asked Nathan what he wanted to do on Fathers Day, but he didn't know. Thats the hard part in grief-you dont know yourself, what you will want, or how you'll feel.

We knew we had to go to mass. We tried to prep ourselves for it. I asked him, "Will you stand up or not when they ask the Fathers to stand?" He said, "I dont want to stand." So I said, "do whatever you want." We sat there at mass for what seemed like forever. I watched as my husband held a little wallet size picture of Caleb in the palm of his hand all throughout mass. I fought off tears of rage, sadness, and anger. I just could not believe that this was our life-that all he had for Fathers Day was a wallet size picture of his baby. The Fathers all stood up but he didn't. I just wanted the stupid day to be over with. My family was mad at us because we weren't coming to the Family barbecue at my mom's house. But we couldn't, we were a wreck.

So thats what I think of when I think of Fathers Day. It breaks my heart every time. Thats probably why we still dont make a big fuss about it and just try to get through the day. This morning at mass I whispered to Nathan "sure is better than two years ago, huh?" And he agreed and even stood up this year holding this sweet rainbow in his arms.

Praying for all the Fathers out there without their children today and the mothers who have to accompany them through this...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Coming up for Air

That's what June and July feel like-coming up for air after being underwater for a long time. These two months, these two sweet, sweet months hold no natural triggers for me and my grief. No due dates, conception dates, anniversaries of any sort. Caleb's story goes from August until May and then I feel as if I get a break. Don't get me wrong, Im still thinking about him, still grieving him, but the weight just isn't there, the heaviness is gone. And it feels nice. Refreshing. Freeing. Like I have a chance to inhale before I go under again. Because even though I want to believe its gone, its not. There will be an "under again," moment or day or month. But for now Im enjoying these two months. Looking forward to continuing to live life to the fullest. Thank you Lord for this chance to come up for air.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

We have a God who can make something from Nothing

Father Barron gave a great sermon this week on the mass readings....a good reminder for everyone who feels like they have nothing right now...

God can make something from nothing

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Those first few weeks

I've come across three new families in the last 2 weeks that have had a full term stillbirth. My heart breaks for them and what they are going through. And my thoughts keep wondering back to those first few weeks and how I survived them. Maybe I've written about it before, but I feel moved to write again about some of the things that got me through the day during those first few weeks. I know it wont be the same for everyone, but maybe it will help someone...

The first week was a blur, funeral and burial. Then the second week we went to Florida to get away. Then the third week Nathan went back to work. Here is how I stayed busy:

-Called/emailed/facebooked every single friend I could think of and asked them to come check in on me. I knew that for me, being alone was too hard on me and that at least once every 2 days I needed someone to check on me. Also I knew that my husband could only handle so many crying phone calls at work in one day-I had to find other outlets. I asked my friends to call me, email me, to check in on me because I knew I wasnt capable of keeping that kind of communication right away. (*I called the single friends because it hurt too much to have friends with kids come over)

-Tell Caleb's story over and over again. For me it was healing every time I would tell his birth story. We ask so many women with live babies over and over again their birth story. I knew that just because he died, his story was still one that needed to be told. I just remember having to talk about him all.the.time. Thank you to those of you who listened to me!

-Listen to faith talks. I had a list of websites with good talks from pastors and priests. I treated listening to them like taking medicine. Every four hours I needed to revisit either a scripture passage or listen to a talk. The waves of darkness were so intense that if I didnt check back into the source every 3-4 hours I was sure to get lost. For those looking for things, here is what I have found and loved:

wordonfire.org
podcast- Bethel Church, North Coast Church, Bayside Church (California), Bethany Baptist Church (Peoria), Reason for our Hope with Father Larry.

All of these have multiple sermons to pick from that can really get you from one minute to the next.

-Have something to look forward to-for me this was food. I hated life and so I found comfort in food. Making a cake-sure! Getting a third diet coke for the day-perfect. I had to have something little to look forward to each day or else I would not get out of bed.

-Spend time in adoration...or a chapel. When I was able to get the motivation I would often go to adoration. I found though that inside our church was better because I could cry freely there. Adoration often had too many people crammed into a small space. Find somewhere that you can be alone with the Lord and just pour your heart out over and over again.

- Get rid of facebook. Just do it! You dont need to see the babies. You dont need to see other people and their happy lives. Facebook became a huge downward spiral for me and eventually I deleted my account. I re-emerged 16 months later and I now can handle it, but back then-no way!

-Read every book I could get my hands on that had to do with pregnancy loss. I needed to hear that this had happened to others, that I wasnt alone. Under the resources tab on the top of my blog there is a page with recommended books-get them, read them, feel less alone.

-Make a scrapbook. I had a dear friend come stay with me for a week and together we made a scrapbook of pictures of Caleb. It was healing to be able to do something tangible to remember him. We also made one for both grandmas so they could remember him as well.

- Attend a support group. I found griefshare and it was perfect. I looked forward to it all week. I felt right at home and gained so much wisdom and healing from this group. Some of the secular support groups were a little too secular for me right away. I felt more encouraged by going to griefshare and hearing others who still believed in a God than hearing people at the secular support groups curse God. My point is- make sure the support group is right for you-that being said its good to go to two meetings before you decide to stop going.

-Dont think about the future. Whenever I would start to get anxious on what to do with my life I would try to pray a Hail Mary. God had made a promise in scripture that He would provide, so worrying would not help.

-Carry my Bible around with me everywhere. I needed to literally lean on the Word of God. I felt safe with it and it gave me the confidence to go to the store or get my hair cut. Just knowing it was in my purse and I could pull it out if I needed encouragement helped so much.


That is all I can remember for now. Hoping this helps give someone an idea of ways to stay busy and get through one day at a time, or one moment at a time. Praying for all those who are going through a loss.




Monday, June 3, 2013

Bringing it to the Light

A few weeks after Caleb died we had a dear priest friend come over. Well, actually I called him out of desperation. I was in a bad place and everything was so dark. I needed to see a person "in persona Christi" come and minister to me.  I still remember his words as I sat on the couch crying.

He said, "so you want a big Catholic family? I'll take you to other big Catholic families I know and show you their live children. Then we'll go to the cemetery and see the graves of their dead children. Having a large family means accepting death in some form, that's just the way it is."

I was a little taken back. All Nathan and I had ever wanted was a big Catholic family-ya know lots of kids running around. I thought when we were engaged our biggest marital problem would be how to provide for all the children we wanted. Funny now 4 years in our marriage if you saw us on the street we would look exactly like the typical American family with our one child, nice house, money for vacation, and plenty of free time-not exactly the big Catholic family we envisioned. But that's a whole other post for a different day. What I want to talk about today is bringing things to the light.

I took my priest friend's words to heart. I started to see what he was talking about. Slowly friends and family members came from all over telling us about the child or children they had lost during pregnancy or as an infant. I was shocked. How had this never been brought up? I think it never gets brought up because people don't want to bring it up. And I get that-its an incredibly sad/scary topic and I dont think we should start bringing it up at wedding showers just to make sure the bride knows how terrible things could go once she starts her own family. But I do think we can bring it to the light in different ways. By remembering our deceased children and speaking their names. By including them in our family count. Im at a place now where I say "I have two children, one here and one in Heaven," when asked how many I have. And sometimes (alright most of the time) it makes people feel a little awkward, but thats alright. I don't go into the details, but I give them enough to acknowledge my son.

I feel that if more people started sharing their children who have passed away then maybe it wouldn't be such a taboo subject. I want Abigail to grow up and know that yes, she lost a brother, but so did this family and that family and on and on. Because the reality is just what my priest friend said- having big families comes with death. There are more of us out there then there appear. I know not everyone feels comfortable sharing and I don't want to push everyone, but I do want to encourage those who do want to share not to hide your story. Tell your story, speak your child's name, give witness to your pain. In doing so we can bring into the light the taboo subject of loss.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Questions at the Cross

This Church I found online is pretty awesome....loved this sermon on questions at the cross....

Questions at the Cross

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Father of the Poor

Come Holy Spirit, Father of the Poor.....

So many times I have said this prayer silently to myself since Caleb died. The Holy Spirit goes by many names: comforter, counselor, advocate, teacher, and on and on. But the one I love the most is Father of the Poor. Those who have lost children are some of the most spiritually poor amongst us. I felt that way- yes, I had a house and food on the table, but inside I felt very,very poor. And the poverty of being a bereaved parent extends into everything you do. There is no situation that I enter into that is untouched by my experience of losing my son. And over two years later-so many things still hurt. So many conversations are still hard, words are said that sting, and my heart is still breaking.

In those times I lean on the Holy Spirit, Father of the Poor, to guide me and do what it says-Father me. After Caleb died I felt abandoned by God the Father and duped by Jesus(you know-like when Jeremiah had his interior crisis-Jeremiah 20:7 "You duped me O Lord and I let myself be duped.") But the Holy Spirit? It was like this new person of the trinity that I had yet to discover. I can honestly say that while my relationship with God the Father and Jesus did take a hit (and I'm still working on those relationships), my relationship with the Spirit grew stronger. I didn't have the "baggage" so to speak with the Spirit that I did with God the Father and Jesus. This all might sound like I've lost my mind, but truly the trinity is real and my relationships with the three persons of the trinity are very different.

The point I want to make this week, coming off of Pentecost, is that the Holy Spirit is real and very alive. He will take you in, the poorest of the poor, and comfort you. I know it because He has done so time and again in my own life. So if you are struggling today, pray "Come Holy Spirit, Father of the Poor," and let Him guide you through the heartache.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sharing

I've been following Kenny on Glow in the Woods for a few months now. I get excited each time I see that he has posted something new. I wanted to share his most recent post on the 5th anniversary of his daughter's death. Such a beautiful song at the end too!

Glow in the Woods

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Source of Encouragement

One of the big ways I've found encouragement along this grief journey is by listening to great preaching. I cam across Bayside Church and their podcast this past weekend...and so far I've been listening non stop! I wanted to share this message with you from this past Sunday entitled, "How to Feast in a Famine." I listened to it in iTunes but you can watch it as well. Enjoy!


Monday, May 13, 2013

Grief is not a choice

With the arrival of May I feel a lightness returning. The 2nd anniversary was harder than I thought. Having Easter so early and then having to wait until his birthday made time move reeaaallllly slow.

Now May is here and Im starting feeling my old self return. I actually want to cook dinner for my family, return phone calls, run errands, and shower. Coming out of the fog has made me realize even more that grief is heavy and when it comes to you, there really is no choice. I spent the last two months feeling weighed down, unmotivated, and emotional. During that time it's like my willpower is at an all time low or non-existent. Anxiety comes all.the.time. There is nothing I can do to stop it and my thoughts run away from me constantly.

Now as soon as my mind starts to wonder and I think about something terrible happening, I have the strength to stop it and re-direct my thoughts. I don't have that kind of strength when grief is heavy. I cant say it enough, but grief is like an illness that renders you incapable of doing your usual things.

I think my husband said it best when we finally made it through the end of April. As he reflected back on the month he said, "Next year we just need to ask more people to pray for us during this month, because we cant do it ourselves." I couldn't agree more. It's humbling to let your normal self slide away while the grief comes and makes itself welcome. I spent a lot of time staring at the wall the last two months and overall just feeling out of it. The point I want to make is- grief gives you no choice. No matter how strong you are, you cannot just suck it up and keep going. It has a way of knocking you down and keeping you down. And then magically it lifts and is gone just as quickly as it came.

So if you are grieving and feeling the weight of it-hang on. Try to ride out the storm because fighting it wont help. If you know someone grieving please understand that they have no choice. They want to get out of bed, they want to call you back, but the just cannot muster the energy. They want to be that same person, but they just aren't. Pray for them. I think it would open up a world of healing if we could be praying for others specifically during those trigger months, no matter if its been weeks, months, or years. Praying for all those struggling right now and feeling the weight of grief.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mother's Day-Spread the Word

In the years we've been married, each Mothers Day has carried with it sadness. The first Mothers Day we had been trying to get pregnant for about 6 months. Seeing all the moms made me feel so left out. Then the next Mothers day was just after we lost Caleb. I didn't even attempt to go to our regular parish mass because I knew they would ask all the mothers to stand up and I couldn't handle that. The next year we had Abigail and while that made it wonderful, it was still hard. I really just don't like the hallmark holiday and could do without it...but since thats not the case I decided to do something to make it a little more bearable. The year we lost Caleb the mass we went to was at a monastery with monks. The particular monk saying the mass knew what had happened to us and at the petitions he prayed for all mothers, especially those who had lost a child. I felt comforted by those words and the fact that someone acknowledged my situation. So I decided the next year (and this year) to send out the following letter to all the parishes around Peoria. I am asking that pastors remember the following people in their petitions this Sunday. Please feel free to pass this letter along to your Church, prayer group, whoever! I think if we acknowledge some of the hurting people perhaps it makes their hurt a little less? Thank you!


Dear Father,

This upcoming Mothers Day I have a very personal and important request. Mothers Day 2011 was just 3 weeks after our first child,Caleb, had passed away as an infant. I purposely tried to avoid mass at a parish on that Sunday because I knew that all the mothers with live children would be recognized, but I would not, even though I was a mother. The year before that (Mothers Day 2010) my husband and I had been trying to conceive unsuccessfully and the pain of seeing all the other mothers stand up was overwhelming. This mothers day I want every mother to be remembered and prayed for. That being said could you please remember the following people in your intentions and blessings as you honor mothers this upcoming Sunday:

-Mothers who have lost a child

-Mothers trying to conceive a child or waiting to adopt a child

-Those who have lost their mother

Thank you for your time!