Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Oops!

This was written weeks ago and I forgot to push "publish."

I know that last post ended super dark. It was intentionally done that way. I hate how I feel like Christians have to always provide hope or an upside to something. Sometimes there literally is NO upside to a dark place. And I think we all need to be ok with sitting in the pain and not having to provide a joyful response to in the midst of or in spite of it. When we do we minimize the person's pain.

Of course, I have picked myself up and kept moving. There is much to be done and so much to take care of. I got back to work less than a month after losing Miriam (it is part-time so that helps). The kids needed food and someone had to make it. My to-do list got long and the time got short and I had to get moving.

But, I am still a different person. I'm a person that sees the world differently. I'm told that I will feel both sorrow and joy in a deeper way, but that hasn't happened yet. For now my life moves with a different rhythm. My mind is thinking about heavier things, like what God's role is in suffering, and how we should be interacting with those around us as we all carry different heavy loads of pain along with us.

I am so grateful for the gifts I do have. I have no idea what I would do without Dave, and our two precious and amazing children. We are just plain lucky to have a warm home and food and people that love us while we grieve. There is a LOT to be grateful for.

Yet, the rhythm and melody of life has changed. There is a low tone of sadness that follows me wherever I go. This doesn't mean I cry all the time (I actually cry very rarely), but there is a loss in my life that colors how I view the rest of the world. While others rejoice and celebrate things worth celebrating I offer a smile and kind world and wonder how I will ever feel true joy again. I long to join in their joy and feel it completely the way they do, but my heart just can't. It's too broken at the moment.


I absolutely know that people care about us and love us, but still continue to say words that wound. And that's ok. I am used to it and know it's not intentional. But, it does make social situations hard. And making friends hard. I am a difficult person to get close to and I know it. I know if I were in a completely healthy place I would be an extrovert, but for now I protect my heart and stay close to home. It's how I cope and how I can control one tiny aspect of my life and allow myself to feel safe. I know most people will never know what this loss feels like and they know that so they are so gentle and kind to me. It's so appreciated, but it doesn't take away how I feel and how I get through the days. And that's ok too.

And as this writing rambles along as my thoughts come out onto the page I will close this post for now. This is how I feel today. Tomorrow I may feel differently. But, I'm learning that however I feel it's ok. Today I am sad, lonely, ashamed, angry, but also happy. They are felt simultaneously and warmly. I carry them with me and I share them with you with an open heart. Know that I appreciate every word and smile shared. I know I am not alone, but in this rare quiet moment I reflect and decide that for today, loneliness is quiet alright.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Darkness

After Miriam died the world went dark for me. Dark and still and motionless. Everyone else's lives kept moving and mine completely stayed still. The day we came home from the hospital I was in physical pain, but I didn't care. My heart had been shattered. I had the recovery of giving birth but without the baby. I had never felt more empty in my whole life. 

For 4 months I carried her inside of me. She was my constant companion. Practically everything I did was for her and all of a sudden she was gone. I had so many hopes and dreams for this baby girl. She was going to be so mighty and fierce. She was going to be loved and kissed and hugged tightly and often by us and her two older siblings. But, when we came home she wasn't there. Her body was at the funeral home and her soul was in heaven. None of her was with me.

I wondered how I would get out of bed the next morning. Or any morning. Ever. I didn't understand how that could happen, but I did it. I got out of bed but it was a struggle. I wondered how I was supposed to care for the two kids that needed me. It seemed like far too overwhelming a task when my heart, body, and mind were broken and not functioning.

I shuffled through my days in a fog, unsure of how to function. Friends and church members volunteered to bring us meals and I don't know what I would have done without them. But I couldn't open the door to see the people who brought them. The anxiety of seeing or talking to anyone was overwhelming. People sent emails and texts and I knew it would be impolite to not respond but I just couldn't. Every single task in front of me felt like slogging through an enormous pool of mud. Even my body didn't make sense to me. God didn't make sense to me. All I could tell myself was, "I should have known this would happen. I never should have believed that we would actually bring home a baby. I should have known better."

I cried a lot. But, probably not as much as I should have. When I think to that period just a few months ago I see it through the lens of a very dense fog. I couldn't see anything around me and I couldn't do anything productive. Everything was dark. So dark.

When you are in the literal darkness it can be scary. You can't see what's around you or how to get your bearings. The figurative darkness is the same. Everything you thought that was true about life, faith, God and love seemed so clear before the darkness settled in and clouded your entire view. 

I will never understand how a woman can hold her dead child in her arms and not be an entirely different person afterward. I view my life now in two parts. Before Miriam died and life made sense, and after she died and life made no sense. I always knew that children died and that God made the rain fall on both the just and unjust, but now life just seemed especially cruel since it happened to me. To us. And to be sure, it's not like life was perfect or easy for us before this either. Infertility was dark and hard and confusing and faith shifting. But, the death of a child? It's a darkness, confusion and faith shifting that I didn't know existed. I knew it would feel tragic, but I didn't know it could feel this dark.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Sharing

I haven't written in a few months. To be honest I haven't felt like I had a lot to say. I have no special wisdom about grief or moving forward with your life. And it's hard for me to even know how I'm feeling or how to deal with what I'm feeling when my days are consumed with taking care of two small children. And that's ok, because I have no idea how I would be surviving without these kids. They are the life and breath of my days and true gifts.

And of course, November and December are months of insanity in our home. Mostly because Dave and I both work for the church, he as the Music Director. And as you can imagine his job responsibilities become constant going into Advent and Christmas-tide. So, that leaves even less time for thinking and feeling. Which again, was ok, because I had the gift of preparing for and celebrating Christmas with the kids, and with the buddy being 4.5 years old now, he is starting to really understand the excitement and build-up of Christmas unlike he has before. It was a joy to participate in.

But, Miriam's due date has loomed over my head for as long as I can remember. Of course it was seen as an exciting date while I was pregnant and imagined bringing home a baby. But, after losing her, it was a date of so much sadness. So, Dave and I planned a trip to the beach for January 5th just the two of us. We needed something positive to look forward to in the New Year. So, we planned a trip (that almost didn't happen due to horrible holiday germs, but that's a story for another post) while two sets of grandparents watched the kids. And we actually got to go. And it was filling.

That probably sounds like a stupid adjective. But, it did fill us. To be honest a lot of the "filling" was of food and drink (all-inclusive resorts are glorious), but it was filled with rest. And quiet. And gentleness. It was confirmed that both of us were emptied out introverts by the fact that other than meals we spent every daylight hour lying on the beach reading our respective books. Listening to the sound of the waves. And the quiet. And also some pretty obnoxious vacationers. But, we did our best to ignore them. :)

I'm usually a "beach novel" kind of gal, and I did read two of those while we were there. But, I also finished 5 non-fiction books (there is a lot of daylight and time to read while on vacation in Mexico). Books about faith, and quiet, and God, and life. Books that reminded me that I'm not alone and that my story is important. And that God calls us to speak and live in truth. The truth of our stories. Our family's stories. My story.

So, despite my fears about sharing what I'm really thinking and feeling and the questions I have about faith, and quiet, and God, and life, I'm going to start sharing them. Here. As much as I wish I could find the words when I'm talking with people in person I just can't and don't. My words out loud are messy and foolish and confusing. And I use "like" and "ummm" way too much even when I try not to. But when I write the words they tend to sound nicer and make more sense and seem worth sharing. So, I'm going to try.

This seems like enough words for today, so I'll stop here. I have so many thoughts all jumbled in my mind and heart, but I'm hoping as I write they become (at least slightly) more clear and concise.

And of course, please share your thoughts as well. My hope is that as I write and you read it will lead you to want to share your story too. Or it will remind you of the questions and hurts in your own heart and life. And I hope you will share them with me. I'm kind of obsessed with people's stories (umm... 7 books on a 6 day trip? I would say so!), so please considering telling me yours. Share your blog link or your own personal thoughts as the posts come. All of our lives and stories matter so let's not keep them to ourselves.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Grief Reading

I've been reading a lot. I started with a book the hospital sent home with us. It had a somber title like, "Empty Cradle: How to Survive the Death of Your Baby" or something equally sad like that. But it was pretty good. It had lots of quotes from other moms who have lost their babies which was comforting to feel less alone. When we came home and everything was a blur of numbness, disbelief and depression, knowing other women had been through this and survived and sounded just as distraught as I was made me feel slightly more normal. 

These two books are also being read pretty quickly. One was a recommendation from a friend and another from our counselor. They're both so good in different ways. I'd recommend them both to anyone who has ever grieved or wants to support someone grieving or is currently grieving. 

I really tried to rotate this picture, but it just didn't work. Sorry! 

I'm  learning that grief is a horribly messy process. And incredibly unpredictable and ever changing. I have no idea how I'm going to feel on any given day or what is going to be a trigger for anger or tears. I often think I know what I need and then it doesn't go well. Or I find myself confused about how I feel. 

So when I read this section from "When People Grieve" I breathed a sigh of relief. It's really hard for me to know what to do when I'm not given clear instructions. If you know me you know I just want to get an "A" in everything. And it turns out that there's no possible way to get an A in grieving. There are no instructions and no right or wrong way to grieve. And even if you're doing it "right" or "normal" (which doesn't exist), it still completely sucks. There's no way to bypass the pain and the loss and the doubts. 

I kind of thought that if I did all the recommended "baby loss helpful activities" (hold and take pictures of your baby, name the baby, get counseling, join support groups, go for walks, etc.) that somehow that would help the grief to go away and for me to be "normal" again. I've discovered there's no such thing. 

But I will say that reading sections like this make me feel normal. I can take a deep breath knowing I'm not alone and I'm not the only confusing person. I'm not the only one feeling confused and angry and not understanding what I need or want. And I'm not the only person to confuse friends and family right along with myself. 

So to all of you who read this and support us in the midst of us not being good at responding or knowing what to say or ask for or even appropriately thank you, please know we want to do all of those things. So, thank you. We couldn't do this without your love and support. Please be gracious and patient with us as we have no idea what we are doing. 



Monday, September 12, 2016

Emmanuel

Miriam was born and died just 17 days ago. That's not very long. Even when compared to her much too short life. Cards and notes of sympathy and support have continued to come in and mean so much to us. We read each and every one. Whether written on paper on in a Facebook message or email. I look forward to the mail coming every day. But not for the reason I first thought I did. I originally thought I would find hope from the messages. Maybe someone could convince me that eventually everything would be "ok" and that it wouldn't always feel so heartbreaking and sad. But, it turns out that cards written focused on hope and "God's plan" seem confusing, unsettling, and out of place. They make my heart feel uncomfortable and feel unsafe to read. I read them twice to see if I'm missing something, but the truth is that those messages hurt. Even when I thought they would be what I wanted to hear, those messages make me feel ignored. Like my pain doesn't matter. Like Miriam's life doesn't matter. 

Ecclesiastes says there is a time to weep, and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance. But, those times aren't supposed to happen simultaneously. We are in a period of grieving. Ok, so to be honest, when we are with our kids we do dance and laugh. It's impossible not to do those things when we are being strong for our kids. But, when it's just me and Dave? Just weeping. Just grieving. Just asking, "Why God? Why would you give us such joy just to end in death?" Just questions. And anger. I understand that people want to offer us hope. To encourage us to be strong. And to tell us of "God's plan" for our lives. Because they want to make us feel better. But it doesn't work that way.


We don't need cheerleaders. It's not time to brush ourselves off and solider on. The temptation to do that is actually pretty strong as we are infertility veterans who are more accustomed to bad news and being tough and celebratory around pregnant women and babies even when it hurts. It's tempting to go back to that mentality of being a fighter. Of stuffing our sad emotions and hurts down so deep that we don't acknowledge them anymore. And to be honest, that sometimes feels like it might just be the easier road out of this mess of grief.

But right now we need to grieve. Our hearts, and souls and bodies need to be able to fall apart and weep. We need people to sit with us in our pain and acknowledge how deep it goes. What I didn't expect were the loud tears that flowed after reading the card sent from the staff at our fertility clinic. I don't know whether it was a nurse or an office worker, but she wrote, "I just can't imagine the pain you're going through" I don't even know her, but she sat with me. She acknowledged the sadness and grief.

Another friend wrote that she wished she could wear sackcloth and ashes and be a wailing woman with and for us. That image brought comfort to my soul. A visualization of others weeping with us. One friend wrote (electronically!) that what we went through was "unfathomly tragic and that she was so shocked and heartbroken" for us. Those words gave me permission to take a deep breath of both sadness and hope. She was in the ashes without even being with us in person. She didn't tell us to hope or trust or be positive. She just grieved and acknowledged the pain and that gave me more hope and a sense of community than so much else. 

These voices are not the only ones that have been a balm to our souls when we have hit our lowest, but they are the ones that come to mind in this moment. It gives my soul such support and compassion to hear of others feeling sad for us. And grieving with us. I'm remembering how I felt this way about infertility too. Those who acknowledged my pain and the unfairness of it became safe places to release and cry. 

Where do we go from here? We can't stay in the grieving place forever. And we won't. There will always be great sadness about the missing member of our family. No one and nothing can ever take her place. She should still be here with us and she's not. My heart can't even comprehend the loss we have endured even writing it out now seems like a fresh wound. 

But, I'm told those wounds will eventually turn to scars and that God will bind up our broken hearts and carry us out of this season of mourning. But, that comes with time. Not overnight. We will not wake up one morning and realize that we have found some hope to replace the loss of Miriam. From the stirring of God and God alone our hearts will begin to mend and He will plant a seed of hope in our hearts. And in time, I pray that hope will take root where wasteland is currently widespread. But, not today. And not tomorrow. I've been told that two years is a realistic amount of time to begin to feel normal again. That's not soon.

Until then it's time to embrace the grief. Even as Christians we need permission to grieve. To weep and mourn and know that God is there weeping with us in the darkness. I'm more convinced than ever that He sits with us in our despair and doesn't expect us to hope or trust or be positive when our hearts are breaking. Part of how I know for sure are those mourners He has sent to cry with us. The Body of Christ in human form. Emmanuel. God with us.