Tuesday, December 24, 2013


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