Thursday, February 28, 2013

My Body, My Body ...Why Have You Betrayed Me?

Dear Ms. Body,

You failed me!  Why?  For the last year, I nurtured you, I feed you, I kept you safe.  I took you to the doctor at every inkling of possible illness, blemish, or concern.  I provided you with nutrients, extra sleep, and occasionally brisk walks for exercise. When you felt weak, I listened.  When you swelled, I responded.  I gave you all of my patience, my youth, my belief.  I sacrificed my beauty, my comfort, and my sanity for you and her, and look what I have gotten in return.  A dead child. A broken body. An angry and lost soul. 

You betrayed me Ms. Body. I trusted you.  I trusted you with my child.  My life.  I was told, "trust your body" and "Mother Nature knows best"  by doctors and mothers alike.   Well little do they know that, Mother Nature is a nasty B**ch!  And guess what Ms. Body, you aren't much better.  You played the cruelest trick of all on me.  You gave me hope. Hope that my child would live.  Hope that you were capable of keeping us safe.  Hope that everything would be okay.  I trusted you!  But with one fail sweep you took my trust and smashed it, like a glass Christmas ornament hitting the ground and shattering into tiny pieces.  Those pieces were the remnants of my hope.  Now gone, laying helplessly on the floor, waiting for me to step on them, barefoot, to remind me of my pain and loss again, and again.

And you do, Ms. Body, remind me of my pain everyday.  If it wasn't at first with, the swollen vagina or the giggly baby pouch.  Then, it was with the weak pelvic floor muscles that allowed me to soil myself.  And now, with me forever worried I will wet myself in public due to you not doing your job anymore.  But, hey, you stopped doing your job on that sad day, when my daughter died.  What makes me think that you would start doing it again, doing what you are supposed to do, which is support me and protect me.  You had already let me down once, shame on you, and shame on me for believing you would decide to change your mind and be my faithful companion again instead of my enemy.  No, Ms. Body, you are worse then an enemy, because you were my confidant, and now all I know from you is betrayal. 

You, Ms. Body, are like a jester in a minstrel show.  Pulling me close, misleading me, making me believe I am safe.  That no harm will come my way.  But, like the jester, at my most vulnerable and safest moment, at the "finish line", with the slight of your hand you perform your trick, and poof, in that instance you take all my security and hope away.  You killed my child. You killed my dreams.  You killed my innocence.  What a cruel, cruel trick you played. Are you satisfied Ms. Body.  Did you get what you wanted?

And why? What was the point of this trick?  Did you want me to never trust you again?  Because, Ms. Body, that is what has happened.  You were supposed to be my protector.  You were supposed to be HER protector.  And instead you killed her, and my soul along with her.  I can't trust you again.  You failed me.  Not in a small, insignificant way, but in the biggest way possible.  I know some would say that my own death would be your ultimate failure, but in some ways, this betrayal hurts more.  You have failed to produce and protect the life we made, and then leave me to pick up the pieces and move on.  As if you wanted to watch me struggle,  to grovel, to grapple with life, like a jester smirking as you watch, on looking, at my pain with glee. 

How Ms. Body, how, are we going to live together in this world?  I can't trade you in for a new model.  I can't pretend you don't exist or that this didn't happen.  So, how are we going to get through this.  You seem to have all the power, you like having all the control, why don't you find a way to fix this awful problem, since you created it in the first place.  This was your doing, not mine, not ours, but yours.  It should be your problem to fix.

Ah, but there is no fixing this.  You see, you also don't control everything.  You don't have the ability to bring my daughter back.  Yes, you keep telling me that we can create a new one, a new child.  But, you don't realize, that a new child will not replace her!  She is lost forever.  And how could I trust you with another life form?  How could I trust you with my next child?  What are you going to do to make me believe you could  or would do better next time? 

We already created a perfect little girl.  Did you know, that's what the doctor's called her, PERFECT, even in death.  Even after you let that infection ravage her body and destroy her life source the placenta.  She measured perfect, she looked perfect, she smelled perfect, she felt perfect.  Were you too jealous of her because she was perfect?  Did you think I was not worthy of perfection?  Who are you to decide such matters.  You are not God.  You too will die someday, and yes I will die with you, but Ms. Body, part of me is already dead thanks to you.

Forever yours, but wished it wasn't so,

Ms. Soul

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Anger - My Overlooked Emotion

When Nick and I went to our last couple’s therapy session a few weeks ago, we talked about the different stages of grief that we both were experiencing.  I wasn’t sure where I was in the stages of grief, I was sad, so I said depression, maybe.  Nick was irritable, which was anger for him.  I noticed he started getting into the anger stage when he would have conversations with the T.V. and get annoyed at reality T.V. stars and sports players.  It was slightly amusing and gave me opportunities to laugh at our grief.  But, I said in therapy, that I’m not angry.  Or, I don’t get angry.  Maybe I don’t get angry, because I don’t see a point in it.  Or, maybe I don’t get angry because it’s the stage my dad seemed to use the most growing up and I found it futile.
I guess I thought I was immune to the anger stage.  After all, you don’t have to go through all of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief in order, or you don’t have to enter a stage at all.  I would tell myself that one reason I didn’t get angry is because I didn’t believe in God.  I didn’t have him to fight with, to try to have conversations with him questioning why he did this, or put me through this.  I didn’t have to ask him, “why me, don’t you love me?”, “why my child”, or “what did I do to deserve this."  These conversations and feelings of anger never happened for me.
I also never got mad at the doctors.  I knew logically, after much research, that this was a fluke.  Something that couldn’t have been prevented and something that they could not have predicted.   And I wasn’t angry at myself.  The doctor’s had assured me that I did nothing wrong.  It wasn’t anything that I ate that caused the infection, it wasn’t anything I did, or didn’t do.  It was just a random, cosmic, unfortunate act of the universe, and instead of me winning the lottery with these odds, it was me losing my child.
I thought that I was immune to anger.  I thought I didn’t have it in me.  Logically, I knew that there was no one, no being, or nothing to be angry at.  It wasn’t my fault or Nora’s fault, or anyone else’s, not even God’s.
But, while working in therapy, I realized that there is one thing I had lost my belief in due to this traumatic event.  There was one entity that I no longer trusted, even though I had to everyday.  There was one thing that failed me more than anybody or anything in this world could have, and I have been mad at her from the moment I knew my daughter was dead.  Mad doesn’t even begin to describe it, I have been downright P*SSED at her.  She failed me, and betrayed me, and traumatized me beyond belief.  

She, my daily companion, my trusted guide in life, deceived me.   She lead me to believe that I would be okay, that she knew what she was doing, that I should and had to put my trust in her.  This devilish her, is my own body.  My anger was not at God, or doctors, or myself, but at my body.  How could she have betrayed me?  Who did she think she was anyway?  She turned out to be the cruelest of jester’s, blinding me with her magical trick of thinking I could bring life into this world, and then with a slight of her hand, at the very last moment, she deceived me, and my world would be forever changed.
So, I have learned that I am not immune to anger.  It has been with me this whole time.  From the moment I heard the words, “no heartbeat," I have been silently harboring a sense of resentment and hate for my body.  The lovely lady I trusted with my child and my life, my every day existence, was now my worst enemy. 
It’s bizarre that I can be so mad at my body, but yet during the month of February it has been with my body that I have begun healing myself both physically and emotionally through my grief.  My healing techniques for February have been about exercising at least 30 minutes every day and cooking nutritious foods to nurture myself through my grief. 
In therapy I have started to work through this dichotomy of both healing and hating my body within the same space and I guess, within the same body.  I am slowly working towards resolving my anger at my body through exercises in therapy of writing a letter to my body about my anger and betrayal by it, as well as working towards writing a letter from my body to my soul, giving my body a chance to tell its own side of the story.  But right now, I just think my body owes me an explanation and I will focus on being angry at my body until I am ready to move to the next stage of grief. 

I hear it only gets more messy and difficult from there, because as a therapist I know, under anger lies your true emotions, the ones we are often afraid to feel or confront.  And I’m already having a hard enough time to admitting to anger.  This could be a long, difficult road for me to run…I guess I better slow down and walk or even crawl through it instead.

~Still Breathing…Lindsey 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Letters to Nora - January 10th, 2013

Below is my first journal entry to my daughter after her death.  This is when I began, without realizing it, journaling in order to heal, and work through my grief.

January 10th, 2012 

My Sweet Nora,

You were born on August 9th, 2012.  Well, actually, you were never born alive.  But, on August 9th, 2012 at 4:30 p.m. you became REAL to me.  This is the day your father and I saw you on the sonogram.  We had seen you before, but since our last visit you had grown so much. On this day the nurse took your measurements and said you were "perfect".  She used that word.  I knew then that you were perfect too.

That is the day your dad and I also found out that you were a girl.  To be honest with you honey, your dad and I wanted a boy, but over time grew to love the idea of having a beautiful baby girl.  Your dad would be such a good "girl" dad.  He would just be a good dad in general....but I will tell you more about him later.  There is so much wonderful to tell about him.

Anyway, your father and I knew your name already on that day and after the appointment your dad and I agreed, you were Nora Kelly.  You would be legally named, Norine Kelly, after my mom, your grandma Geraldine Norine, and your dad's mom, your grandma Barbara Jean (maiden name Kelly).  But, we would call you Nora for short.

Your dad and I picked out names weeks before, we made a boy list and a girl list, like expectant parents do.  The problem was we only liked one girl name, your name.  It came to me one night laying in bed, and I turned to your dad and said, "what about Nora, Nora Kelly".  He said,  "Yeah, I like it".  We never needed to decide on any of the boys names, I guess it was meant to be, to be you, Nora.

Oh, Nora, how I wish I could have the chance to yell down the hall, "Nora Kelly, you get down here" when you were a sassy teenager, but this story doesn't go that far.  I have to admit, I used to practice in the car on the way to work, looking in my review mirror and imagining you there in your car seat, and I would say, "Nora Kelly, you're so beautiful," in a funny, high pitched, googly parent voice.  I just love the way your name sounds.  Did you know that your name means, "Honor", it's also Irish.

I guess I didn't know when naming you, that honoring you is all I would be able to do for you, as the only way for you to live on in our lives and our hearts.  Darling, I miss you already.  It's been 12 days since you left me, both physically and spiritually, and I miss you more than I ever thought possible.

Your dad misses you too.  He misses the chance of never being able to experience you, like I had the privilege to do, with you inside me, sharing the same body.  I grieve for him for not having that.  Oh, honey, how I wanted to share you with him.  He would have been such a good "girl" dad.  He was so excited to meet you.  We all were, your grandparents, grandma and grandpa F., grandma and grandpa H., Aunt Kristi and Uncle Zach, they are pretty neat.  Your cousin Hannah and her mom, your aunt Carmen.  Even Georgie, your puppy.

But, you see honey, you never breathed the air of this world.  You never saw it's light or heard it's many noises, or smelled it's many smells.  Your eyes and mine never met in the outside world.  You see honey, the day you were birthed into this world, is also the day you died, in my heart and in life.

Don't worry honey, even though we don't walk this earthy plain together, I still love you and will forever love you.  However, now I have to love you from a distance, from a far.  But I will love you forever and always.

Love Forever and Always,


Sunday, February 24, 2013

An Aunt's Perspective: My Journey of Grief

When Lindsey asked me to contribute to her blog, I was honored.  After losing my niece, Nora, I searched the internet for resources available to me, the aunt.  I searched high and low, tried every google combination of words with "aunt, loss, niece, stillborn, grieving, death, baby..."  Not surprisingly, there weren't a lot of resources for the extended family of those who have lost a baby.

Don't get me wrong, I found plenty of resources for the parents and even some for the grandparents, but where was the blog or book from the aunt or uncle's perspective?  I felt like my loss did not mean as much as the loss from the parent's point-of-view, at least in the eyes of the world at large.  This frustrated me.  Where was the validation of my feelings of loss?  The internet couldn't provide it, bookstores couldn't provide it.  Even my husband's work wouldn't validate his loss and he had to take a day without pay in order to grieve with my family.  Whether it is losing a parent, child, niece/nephew, aunt/uncle, close friend...who gets to make that decision as to how important or how devastated you get to feel by your loss?  Loss is loss.  Bereavement is bereavement.  Grief is grief.  My loss was just as real as anyone else's in my family, so why wouldn't the world recognize it?

And for awhile I endured the unfairness (though, if anything, this experience has taught me that nothing is fair in this world), assuming that I was not entitled to feel this way despite the fact that she was as real to me as she was to Lindsey and Nick, my parents, his parents and sister and niece.  I had spent 9 months, like everyone else in my family, excitedly awaiting her arrival.  I had bought her more elephant patterned clothes, blankets, and toys than one sane person probably should.  I daydreamed about what we would get to do together, what my life would look like now that I was an aunt.  After awhile I decided that I would be my own resource; that I would figure out how to wade the waters of grief on my own and with the help of my family.

Then one day my sister approached me about starting a blog for her grief.  I thought it was a great idea.  I frequent several blogs on a daily basis and through them I have found blogs written by others who have lost their children.  So I knew that this would be good for her, and when she asked me to participate because she had noticed a lack of resources for extended family members of these situations, I realized it would be good for me as well.  In fact, I was so excited to finally provide something that both my sister and I see as a need in the area of loss...outlets for the extended family.

But I am still trying to figure out what I will write on this blog.  The loss of Nora is effecting me differently, which is to be expected.  Most days (I am sad to say) work keeps me distracted from my grief during the day and television and wine keep me distracted at night.  I know that this is me ignoring the emotions that I need to sift through, but some days I just can't consider opening the floodgates to my grief.  Mostly I have been overwhelmed by my grief and the everyday situations of my life (I actually started a new job 4 days after losing Nora, then my husband's grandma died on the day of Nora's service--suffice it to say, the first week of 2013 really sucked).

So to sum up what I have felt over the last 2 months: exhaustion, overwhelmed, numbness, lack of motivation, frustration, anger, deep sadness, emptiness...I'm not quite sure what categories those fit into on the ladder or spectrum of grief, but I'm not really viewing my journey of grief through that lens.  Right now it is more like a roller coaster, I feel what I feel when I feel it, unless it's at work then I push that as far down as humanly possible because I need to be "on" for my students.  (I'm sure Lindsey will think this is unhealthy...but it is how I am starting this process).

Luckily, my family, friends, and even my coworkers have been supportive of my grief, realizing that this pain I feel is raw and real, that my life has a Nora-shaped hole that will never be filled; not by my future nieces and nephews, or my own children.  In fact, those first few weeks after losing her I literally felt like a piece of our family was if she had always, in some fashion, been a tangible part of our family though she had only been in our life for 40 weeks and 4 days.  When I envision our family now, I see all of us, my parents, Lindsey and Nick, Zach and I, but then there's this hole...a hole where Nora should be.

I will always feel that hole, but now I am getting used to the emptiness.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A February Healing Technique - Blogging Through Grief

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.”
William Shakespeare, Macbeth 

 My sister wrote a beautiful blog post for Stillborn and Still breathing, called Moments a few days ago.  I read it and tears came to my eyes.  It was her first post on my blog.  I texted her after and said, “I’m glad I invited you into my life more and more.  I feel the same way about everything you wrote.  Your post was beautiful.  Thank you.  Nora has and awesome aunt.”   

She responded by texting, “How do you do it.  That was fairly hard for me to write”. 

I wrote back, “I cry every time.  But, it helps me grieve and heal.  It gives me a chance to be her mom, like it gave you a chance to be and act as her aunt.  It makes her real.”

Blog writing and posting has allowed me to feel that my daughter is real.  Often after a parent experiences prenatal loss, and has not had the opportunity to connect with their child outside of the womb, there is a sense of “did my child exist?”  It’s a complicated grief that I am wading the waters of slowly.  However, blogging has provided me space to BE a mom.  I don’t get to be a mom to a living child, but writing and posting my thoughts and feelings on a webpage, helps me reclaim my role as a mother. 

I am a mom.  It is hard to believe sometimes since Nora is not here.  But, this blog space helps me define my role as a mom, and also come to terms with the kind of mom I have to be.  A mom to a dead child.  It serves the same purpose as my journal to her, but in a different context.  Often times as we become parents we get to be “Mom” or “Dad” in different venues and in different ways.  The blog and the journal combined, help me make my role as a parent more complex, like those with living children get to do. 

When it comes to healing, so far, blogging has been a wonderful tool to work through my grief.  Not just because of adding a complexity to my role as a parent, but because it is creative and, when I make the blog public in March, it will allow me to connect with others through technology. 

Technology is an important new tool in the grief process, which I believe we naturally utilize.  I haven’t had time to look into it, and will do so more next month, but I am curious to see how much research is out there on the use of technology in grieving.  It seems like this would make a good graduate thesis.  

~Still Breathing...Lindsey  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Spending Time with Nora - A January Healing Technique: Journaling

My therapist keeps asking me, “How are you going to memorialize or incorporate Nora’s story into your life.”  At first I kept quietly answering, “I’m not sure yet”, and would shrug my shoulders.  I did respond later with ideas I have received from other grieving families such as buying presents for her on the day she was delivered, every year for the age that she would be at that time, and then donating them to children in need.  I thought this would be a nice idea for our future children to get involved in and to let them know they had an older sister.  But that is once a year and down the road. 

So, what I came up with was writing letters to Nora.  Two weeks after Nora’s death I read the book Love Mom, by Cynthia Baseman, about a woman who experiences a stillbirth and tells her story through letters she has written to her daughter.  I liked the idea of writing letters to my daughter as she did in her book.  I hadn’t brought up the idea with my therapist, but in my second session with her, only two weeks after Nora’s death, she asked me if I had wrote a letter to Nora yet.  As a therapist, I knew this was a common practice in helping people heal, and had used it myself when working with grief with my clients, but I hadn’t started yet, so I just shook my head with a silent no. 

A few days after that therapy session with Amber (my therapist), and three weeks after Nora’s passing I decided it was time to buy a journal.  I set out to find the most beautiful journal I could for my daughter.  If this was going to be the place where my daughter and I met, then it had to be perfect, like her.

The journal that spoke to me was a brown hard cover medium pocket journal that has embossed green, and red, and blue flowers on the cover.  Inside the journal, the pages were lined and there was a ribbon tassel to mark my spot.  I knew it was the right journal when I saw the first page in the front, where the words read, “This journal belongs to”.  I knew right then what I would write in that blank space after the words “This journal belongs to”.  I would fill it in with the three wonderful words, “Nora and Mom”. 

This journal would be just for her.  It would be our sacred place.  I wanted to keep all my other thoughts and insecurities out of it.  It would not be that kind of journal.  (I guess that is why I started the blog.)  The journal has become the place where I spend time with my daughter.  It’s a place where I get to be a mom.   

When I wrote her name in it for the first time, tears came rolling down my checks.  Then the words just kept coming.  Here, in this space, I got to talk to my child.  I got to tell her my secret dreams for her that I would not get to as she grew older.  Here I was able to tell her stories from my pregnancy with her, which I feared no one else would now want to hear.  Here, in this journal I told her stories about her dad, her grandparents, and even her dog brother Georgie, who one time howled so loud and long that Nora did a summersault in my belly.  Here I would write bed time songs I wanted to sing to her, and here I would talk to her as if I was talking to a new born.  I would tell her about the world, the people in it, the wonders of it all, and show her the beauty of it through my eyes, like every parent gets to do when their baby is born.  

The best part of this journal was when I signed my name.  I didn’t sign it like I had all my other journals in the past.  No, I didn’t sign Lindsey; I signed, Love Always & Forever, Mom.  Do you know how good it felt?  Do you know how good it still feels to sign Mom?  It’s the only place where I get to really feel like I deserve this title.  It’s the only place where I get to be a mom, her mom, is in our journal we share.  It’s the one act I have left every day where I get to intentionally be with her, as her mother.  

My therapist recently asked me how I plan on parenting Nora. I looked at her oddly, with a raised eyebrow, and thought to myself, “you must be nuts and a little too touchy feely for me”, but again I shrugged my shoulders and let the answer to the question go unheard and silently by.  But, with my letters to Nora, I do parent her. I set aside time to be with her, to be intentional about my words to her. To tell her how much I love her, how much she is missed, and share my life experiences with her.  This is parenting, in its most simplistic form. I guess this is how I parent my dead child.   This is how I have to parent.  This is how I get to parent. 

I’ll take what I can get.  

Sporadically, you might see blog posts titled or labeled as Letter’s to Nora.  These are my moments in parenting.  These are my deepest and truest feelings, more personal than the words on this blog.  Please be gentle with me when you read these post, remember I’m still learning how to be a parent, which is the hardest job in the world.  Even harder when you have no child to parent and all you are left with is a journal.    


~ Still Breathing...Lindsey

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Grief Commandments

Grief Commandments

1. The pain is great because the love was great.

2. Sadness and Happiness can both live within grief.

3. Just because I'm grieving, doesn't mean I need to hide my joy and laughter.

4. I will not grieve alone.  I need others to help me heal.

5. Nurturing myself emotionally, physically, and spiritually, is healing.

6. I will go on living and loving life.  The life of my loved one has been swallowed by death, but I am not dead. Grief will not consume me.

7. My process is just that, mine.  I can not compare it to others.  I must go at my own pace.

8. I will dedicate my joy and hope to my loved one through a live well lived.

9. My pain is a part of me.  I need to accept it in order to release it.

10. I move forward through my grief each day.  It is always there, but each day it gets a little better.

11. I will be intentional about my grief.  My grief does not control me.  I chose to control it.

Part of the reason in creating this blog was to start being intentional about my grief.  I needed an outlet for my grief.  I needed a place to put it.   Along the way I started to research grief and experience grief through different outlets.  In doing so and going to a grief therapy group at Faith's Lodge, I received the following hand out called Ten Resolutions for Mourners, by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S.  I grasped onto these resolutions and found truth and courage in them. Also, as a therapist, I love new resources, and if they are helpful, as this one was, I believe that everyone should have access to them. 

Then, my journey through grief and all its pain and sorrow, led me to wanting to find more joy.  So, I read The Happiness Project in the days that followed Nora's death.  Don't get me wrong, I needed to experience my grief in all it's complexity, but I also still wanted joy in my life.  After all, isn't that why I hurt so much, due to the absence of joy, the joy that my daughter had brought me, that was so quickly taken away.

If you ever read The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, (Which I suggest you do), she talks about establishing her Happiness Commandments for her life.  So, while reading her book and then being introduced to Larry Barber's Ten Resolutions for Mourners, I decided to make my own Grief Commandments.  The Commandments were me setting my own intentions about how I was going to handle and approach my grief.  They were kind of cheer leading statements and mantras for me to remember and use when my grief became overwhelming or I wanted to isolate within my grief and leave the world behind.  They were statements that reminded me how to navigate the grieving process, in my own way, and in my own time. 

So, below are Larry M. Barber's, Ten Resolutions for Mourners, that inspired me, along with Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Commandments, to come up with my own Grief Commandments, that are listed above and also as a page link to my blog.  I encourage you to make up your own Grief Commandments in an effort to be intentional about your grief.

Here are Larry Barber's Ten Resolutions for Mourners listed below:

Ten Resolutions for Mourners:

  1. I will mourn the death of my loved one and not avoid grief and its uncomfortable emotions.  Grief is overflowing love for a person no longer physically present.  To avoid grief, you must deny the love you have for that person.
  2. I will mourn in ways that are healthy and healing for me.  Hurting and healing go together in grief.
  3. I will mourn in places and with people that make me feel safe, comforted, encouraged and cared for.  I need the help and support of others who will listen to my grief and not judge or give unwanted advice.
  4. I will express my grief emotions in ways that will not hurt others or me.  Just because I hurt does not justify my hurting others.
  5. I will reach out to others for help in my grief and, in return, to help them in their grief.  In grief it is our turn to receive help graciously.  When we see others in grief, it is our turn to give help, support and encouragement.
  6. I will grieve the loss of my loved one and, at the same time, accept and adapt to the changes their death brings to my life.  My accepting the reality of grief doesn't mean I have accepted it as good.  My life has changed forever by their death and will continue to change.
  7. I will take good care of myself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually during my grief.  My grief takes all my energy and resources making me vulnerable in many ways.
  8. I will make choices in how I deal with grief rather than just letting grief happen to me.  The death of my loved on has made me a victim once, and I am refuting to be victimized by the death any further.
  9. I will honor my loved on in my grief through memories and my actions each day.  The best memorial I can leave in honor of my loved one is a life well lived in which I can still experience joy, hope and peace. 
  10. I will be patient with myself and my grief.  I will give myself time to grieve and heal.  Grief doesn't run on my timetable or at my command.  I will understand that grief takes as long as it takes.
Copyright, Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT, December 2012

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

An Aunt's Perspective: Moments that Shape Us

Moments.  Life is filled with them.  Throughout our lives many moments shape and define us; mold us into this human we were "meant to be."  I'm still trying to sort out how this moment will define me, but as I watch my sister grieve the loss of her daughter, I can see the woman she was meant to be. The woman she was all along.  She is strong, determined, passionate, compassionate, and occasionally stubborn.  I see all these things and more, and it only reinforces everything I've believed since I was a little girl.

As most little girls do, I idolized my older sister; I still do.  I wanted nothing more than to be like her and hang out with her and follow in her footsteps.  As a child, all I wanted was for my sister to invite me into her life. It took some years, but my sister and I grew close when we both went away to the same colllege (I truly did follow in her footsteps).  We still (occasionally) fight like sisters, but marriage has evened us out a little bit (except for that one time at that one bar...).  The point is, at one point she did invite me into her life, and we became friends.

Our friendship started around college and slowly took shape as we got older and went through various stages in our lives.  We were there for each other during some difficult times.  I offered the more tangible support (cooking food when she's sick, dropping everything to do a task needed, run an errand, etc.) but she has always offered the more mental health support (talking me off my crazy ledge, giving me rational advice...she really is a good therapist).  For some time I was frustrated, feeling that I always gave 150% but did not receive the same in the end (we grew up with "the everything is even" mentality).  It took me awhile to realize that we all have special gifts, and I was unjustly calculating things that are not calculable.  

As I said, marriage evened both of us out (I suppose I should say our husbands did that...we married some even-keeled and rational men) and I have stopped "keeping track."  We still bicker, though I would say we haven't in over a year, but that is what sister's do.  After we were both married our priorities shifted, so the little issues between us didn't matter as much anymore, we could just hang out and be friends.

Over that year after we both got married I felt like she was inviting me into her life more and more each day.  I was happy with our relationship and where we were as sisters and as friends.  But I've never felt more invited into her life than when she told me she was pregnant.  That memory I will cherish forever.  I was beyond elated when I found out that my sister and her husband were going to be parents, and that be default I would be an aunt.  I couldn't wait to be an aunt and to shower that baby with all the love and affection one person could hold.  I began to take stock of all the traits I loved about each of my aunts, creating a list of all the things I wanted to be and do with this tiny human growing in my sister.  As the months passed, my definition of what an aunt is began to take more shape.  Play dates, overnights with auntie, exciting adventures, and shopping extravaganzas were all being planned in my mind as my niece grew.  I was determined to be the best damn aunt any child had ever had anywhere.  I was going to be an aunt, and that word alone came with so many exciting responsibilities that I couldn't wait to accept.  

In those days after losing Nora, I tried really hard to remind myself that I AM an aunt.  That I always will be.  Nora's death doesn't take away my title of aunt, it just shifts my definition of what an aunt to her is.  We may never get play dates, or shopping trips; I'll never see her dance in her first ballet recital or play basketball or soccer; I won't be clapping in the crowds when she graduates from high school; I won't get to share in the excitement of her wedding day.  There are so many things that I won't get to do with her, but sitting here and counting all of the memories and moments I don't get with her doesn't make me any less of an aunt.

That is how this story, her story, has shaped me right now.  I know that she isn't done, that this story...this journey...will continue to shape and define my life, and that I get to choose how this will shape me.  I know Nora will help me as I go, but I get to decide how this moment defines me.  Right now, no matter what way you look at it, I am an aunt, I am her Awesome Aunt Kristi.  I always will be.  And that is all the definition I need for right now.

The Lens of Grief

·        I can’t be sad all the time.  I feel that people expect me to.  People, who know, look at me when I laugh, and I wonder if they think I am being cruel that I am not showing my grieving every moment of everyday.  I don’t think people understand that the love for my daughter and the loss I feel for her, I carry with me every second of everyday.  I can feel her.  I can feel her presence and I can feel her absence. 

But I can’t be sad all the time.  It hurts too much.  I welcome happiness, it need it now more than ever.  It’s not pure joy anymore.  I believe that happiness and sadness can live inside each other.  It is as if one cannot exist without the other.  Two opposites puzzle pieces needing each other to create the larger picture and experience it in all its glory.  But my sadness isn’t your typical sadness; it’s beautiful because it grew from love.  Its grief and grief is pain born out of love. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Man Beside Me, The Man I Failed.

I was scared to become a mom. I didn't know what to expect.  I was worried about how it would change my body.  How it would change my identity as a woman. How it would fit in with my career.  If I would be good at it.  Mostly, I was afraid about how it would effect the relationship with my husband.  I love him and us more then anything in the world.   I feel now that it is selfish for me to even admit to feeling these things in the past.  To admit to my fear about the change that comes with being a parent, but my husband wasn't afraid.

Nick was ecstatic.  He wanted to be a dad more than anything!  Watching his excitement throughout my pregnancy helped calm my nerves and diminish my fears about becoming a mom.  His enthusiasm provided me with strength and created a sense of well being and anticipation within me as well. Nick read all the baby books, while I was reading all the pregnancy books. He would highlight passages in books about child development and share with me ways we were going to parent Nora when she was 6 months-old to 10 years-old. Nick researched baby products and sent in all the recall notification cards after we bought an item. He watched "The Happiest Baby on the Block" DVD with me and took notes about how to calm your screaming baby.  He took the car seat to the police station as her due date drew near to make sure it was properly and safely fastened in the back seat of the small SUV he had traded in his two-door sporty bachelor car for.  As I was quietly shaking with fear inside about becoming a mom, he was already a dad.

The man I had chosen to stand beside me as a husband, was already a devoted and loving father.  I had chosen wisely when it came to picking a loving and caring husband and father to my future children and I was proud that I was the woman able to make this man's dream of becoming a father come true. So, when the moment came when we left the hospital without our little baby girl Nora, I felt like I had failed this man. His dream of being a father, of his little girl walking towards him as she took her first steps, or hearing her first word be daddy, or walking her down the isle at her wedding someday had all been shattered.  They were shattered because of me, because I failed him. I failed her. I failed us.

I kept saying I was sorry in the days after her delivery to Nick.  (I don't like to call it her birth, because I don't believe she was ever really born into this world, since she never took a breath outside of the womb).  I was sorry for not being a good mom.  I had failed in keeping my child safe.  I had failed at giving my child life.   She was delivered into this world dead.  She never even had a chance and neither did he.  My husband never had a chance to hold his screaming, breathing, and kicking daughter.  He never got to experience her movement the way I did, he never got to see her eyes open and stare back at him.  He never got the opportunity to be the dad to Nora that he had so lovingly prepared for.  And this was because of me.

Did I cause the infection that killed her?  No.  Was there anything I could have done to save her?  The doctors say no.  I believe the answer in my own heart to be no.  But, I still feel like I have failed my husband.  In my guilt and blame of myself, I feared that it was my fault that she died not because of something I did, but because of something I didn't do.  I didn't want her enough because I was too scared.  I didn't get excited enough for her, so that must be why she was taken from me, from him, from us.  I wasn't a good enough mom.  I wasn't good enough to bring her into this world and keep her safe, and wasn't good enough because I had been selfish when thinking about my future.  My worries had not been about her safety or her well being, but about my own.  Was this why we weren't allowed to have a single moment with her outside of my body with her alive?

I know this is all what is called "magical thinking".  I know that her death was some cosmic random act of the universe with no purpose, no meaning, and with me not having any control or hand in it. I know that it wasn't my fault.  I know and am lucky that my husband doesn't blame me.  He actually loves me more and more each day.  As I do him in return.  We have been brought closer by the lose of our daughter.  He doesn't believe I have failed him.  This makes me feel proud to be his wife.

The question is, do I believe I have failed him.  Part of me does, yes. But mostly that part of me just wishes that things could be different.  That instead of causing the man beside me to cry from horror on the day his daughter was born, I wanted him to cry from joy.  I wanted to be the woman that brought his beautiful daughter into the world and bestowed on him that gift of true unconditional love that is between a daughter and her father.  I know in my hearts of hearts my husband would make a great "girl" dad.  I also know that Nora will be forever "daddy's little girl", but as a wish and a memory.

I know I didn't fail him.  I know that I didn't fail her.  I know part of me will always feel as if I failed myself.  I know that most of all, I just wish it could have been different for Nora, for me, and mostly, for the man beside me.

~ Still Breathing...Lindsey

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