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


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.