Friday, June 9, 2017

The Flow of Grief

Hi's me.  I know it's been awhile.  This may sound weird and maybe even impossible, but when I last wrote I talked to you about the dark times I was in.  They were dark.  And I needed to get out of them for awhile.  So I really had to take a moment and put my grief on hold for a moment.  I had to literally decide that I wasn't going to let myself "go there." I had to turn off the faucet of grief that was flowing at full speed and decide to be present in my current family.  Some of you may be wondering why I don't just go to this place all the time?  Shut off my grief. Move on. Be happy with the children I have.

Let me tell you why....that is impossible.

It's impossible because weeks like this week will pop up.  It hasn't been lost on me that this week I should be bringing home my baby boy.  His due date is Sunday, which means they would've delivered me by now and my baby Benjamin should be coming home to be a part of our little family.  But the reality is that he's not.  And so as much as it pains me to do pains me worse not to....I slowly turn the faucet back on.  I let the grief back in.  With every birth announcement on Facebook or Instagram (as luck would have it there are quite a few,) the flow increases, the wounds open.  Gosh how I wish my happiness and excitement for these families didn't come with the pain of aching arms.  My happiness for my friends is tainted with jealousy and sadness and as horrible as that may sound to you, I don't know how to change that reality.  And so the water flows...

I am lost in my world of wonder.  What would Benjamin look like? Handsome like his daddy or cute dimples like his mom? How would his brothers react to having a new baby in the house?  Would Noah be gentle and take on the roll of older brother? How would Jonah adapt to not being the baby anymore? Would Ben be a happy, easy going baby as I prayed he would be or would he want to be with his mom 24/7? Would nursing come easy or would it be a struggle?  I wonder about so many things.

And my arms, they remain heavy and yet empty.  Turning 38 a few weeks ago, I feel the pressure of my biological clock constantly asking the question, "Will you try again? Will you risk pregnancy again knowing full well what pain could come with it? Will you allow yourself to be vulnerable to the scrutiny of others as you even consider bringing another child upon the earth?" It feels like "now or never" and yet there are so many unknowns.  Not all pregnancies are bows and balloons.  I know that reality all to well.  And yet my family feels incomplete.  Benjamin was a very wanted member of our family.  Can another child fill that void?

Next week, Tom and I will be leaving our boys for 6 days and heading out to Northern Wisconsin to a retreat house called "Faith's Lodge."  It was started by a family who lost their daughter, Faith, and decided in her legacy to open a house for families to come to and retreat from the world and also process the grief of losing a child.  With two busy toddlers, we haven't had a lot of intentional time to really grieve.  We also are in desperate need of respite and release.  It'll be hard to leave our children behind, though they are in excellent hands, and take this time for ourselves.  Maybe when we come back we will come back with a greater peace in our hearts and know the direction our family will take next.

If you wouldn't mind please spare a small prayer for our family this coming week.  Obviously for safe travels for us and for my parents as they care for our boys (God bless them...they don't know what they signed up for!) But also pray that whatever God wants to do with us that we would be open to His healing touch and allow ourselves to enter in to His loving arms.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

If you live in the Midwest then you can 100% relate when I tell you that last week was by far the miserable and depressing week of the year we've had so far.  It rained for days...and days....and days....and it didn't just storm, it rained continuously for days and days and days.  By Friday, I thought I might just lose my mind if I was stuck indoors for one more day with my kids without a ray of sunshine entering my windows and beaming upon my face.  And finally, as if the universe realized that we couldn't take one more day of rain, it stopped.  Mother Nature finally decided to get on our good side and friends the sun once again began to shine.  I remember driving that next morning to an appointment and literally just basking in the sun as it came through my windshield and warmed my face and soul.

 Coincidentally, (or not), this move in nature's hand coincided so very much with where my life in grief is right now.  Can I be totally honest with you all? These last few weeks have been really dark times for me.  Other than when we initially lost each of our children, I can't remember a time when I've cried so frequently and so deeply.  Like those gut wrenching sobs that come from your very core. Those cries that you are afraid to let out because you aren't sure if you will ever be able to stop them. Friends, there's been a lot of those tears in the last 2 weeks.  With Mother's Day approaching this Sunday and Benjamin's due date only a few weeks away, I've had a lot on my mind.  Couple that with the struggles of parenting two toddler boys, one with some special needs, and you've got a mess on your hands.

The thing about grief, or even just life, however, is I've been here before.  Maybe the grief didn't look just like this.  Maybe there were less tears and more anger.  Maybe it didn't last as long and possibly I hid my struggles better, but I've been here before and I'm going to guess that you have too.  Not all of you reading this have lost children like I have, but many of you have lost a loved one.  Many of you have struggled with a child and weren't sure how to parent them despite trying your damnedest to.  Some of you have gone through divorces with spouses and break ups with friends.  You may have had to watch a family member or friend suffer with an illness.  Perhaps you yourself have struggled with depression and anxiety.  The bottom line is we've all been here in this spot before.  And although you may not know what it's like to lose a child (thank God for that) you do know what the dark days feel like and let's agree, those days aren't good.

The good news is, because I've been here before in some sort of capacity, I know something else too. I know that I won't be here forever.  One day soon, just as the sun reappeared this week, I will resurface again too.  The tears will dry up for awhile, the bags under my eyes will get a little lighter, and the smile on my face won't be forced or pained.  Just like that, the sun will shine again in my life.

Sometimes when we have been in the darkness for so long, reentering the light isn't always easy.  Just as if you've been in a darkened room for awhile and suddenly someone turns on the light and instead of being refreshing or welcoming, it's blinding, painful, and uncomfortable.  But eventually, your eyes adjust and you learn to walk in the light again.  You learn to embrace the light and remember how good it feels to let it fall upon your face.  And because of the darkness we learn to better appreciate the light.

None of us like the dark times.  We all wish that we could have the joy of heaven here on earth.  But one thing I have learned is that because I've been in deep, dark pits of despair, I have come to greater appreciate the joy of the good moments.  Because I know darkness, I know greater joy.  Because I know darkness, I appreciate the good moments.  Because I know darkness, I've learned to love with a deeper love than I ever knew possible.  Because I know darkness, I know light.

So friends, I pray that by sharing a piece of my darkness with you today, I am encouraging someone somewhere who may be finding themselves in my shoes to hold on for one more day, one more minute.  Your darkness and mine is only temporary. We will know joy again.

And just like Annie promised us...betcha bottom dollar that tomorrow, there'll be sun!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Life is...Hard

It's been a hard week for me for some reason.  I can speculate what the triggers are and why it's happening, but it doesn't really matter.  Life just feels a little hard right now.  Things feel overwhelming.  Grief is rearing it's ugly head in unexpected moments and with unexpected feelings.  On Monday, I had a mini meltdown after the cleaning crew came in and packed up my entire basement leaving me feeling very vulnerable; like I just let the world see the mess that was my basement, and really felt like the mess that is inside of me.  The mess of feelings, uncertainties, and looming questions gone unanswered.  I messaged my friend who keeps me company during the days with a running conversation.  I told her all that I mentioned above.  I told her life felt hard right now and the feelings felt BIG...too BIG.

Later this week my friend sent me the following article.  I was going to try and articulate how all that she said reiterated all that I was feeling.  But instead I think I'll let you read it for yourself.

My prayers for you all is that this week you are able to sit with your suffering, look it in the face, and let someone else in.  Life is indeed hard sometimes.  We all have our crosses to bear.  Don't feel like you have to carry that cross alone.  Don't feel bad for admitting that your cross is too heavy right now.  Find a friend or confidant to carry your cross with you.

We wait until heaven....

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Mother of All Mothers

Today....Good Friday....I can't help but think about Mary.  If there ever was a mother who knew the grief of losing a child, it was her.  Not only did her son die, she watched him die a barbaric death that He didn't deserve.  It was the ultimate case of unfair.  Even with her knowledge of what was to come, I can imagine the horrifying grief she endured those days and the disbelief that would follow....

In losing my son, I found my Mother.  I found the Mother of God who when I couldn't talk to God, I could go to her because she understood.  She held her dying child at the bottom of his cross, and I picked up my cross when I held my dying son in our hospital NICU department.

So on this day I can't help but to stop and say a prayer of Thanksgiving for the gift of my spiritual Mother who would wrap me in her mantle, hold my hand, and quietly remind me that she understood as the tears ran down my face.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
 that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection,
 implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided. 

Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother;
 to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. 
O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, 
but in thy mercy hear and answer me. 


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Permission to Rest

It's 12:45 on a Wednesday, my children, who started waking up at 4:30 this morning, are both taking nice long naps.  Noah, our oldest living son, doesn't nap much anymore, but a tantrum of epic proportions and a way too early start to his day won out today and he sleeps.  And my goodness, I almost forget about that tantrum when I peek in on him to see him sleeping soundly.  So when I suddenly found myself with a few quiet hours on my hands I almost didn't know what to do... and then I did.  I won't lie, I did wipe down the bathrooms, picked my 5 items for my daily minimalizing challenge I am currently in (life changing...I've gotta tell you all about it another day), and did manage to shower.  But you know what else I chose to do? Guilt free? I chose to rest.

My blogging position today.  If you look closely you'll see my son's uneaten breakfast and spilled cereal all over the floor.

I won't pretend that there aren't at least a thousand things I could be doing right now.  But something I have learned in my grief and in my motherhood is that sometimes choosing to rest is the wiser choice for me.  We all know that grief is emotional and mental, but we often forget that grief is also physical.    

In this fast paced world it's often hard to find the time to just allow yourself to rest.  Ask any parent on the planet and they will tell you the struggle is real.  But I don't think it's even necessary to be a parent to feel this way.  Even my 3 year old resists rest.  He's too busy to stop and allow his body the rest he needs.  He wants to go, go, go! And sometimes it takes an epic tantrum for both him and us to realize he needs more sleep.  And aren't we all the same? The laundry, the errands, the dishes, the meals...we need to go until we collapse into bed at the end of each day.  Now add in grief and you become a real hot mess!

This used to be me, and honestly many days it still is, but one thing I learned in my grieving is that I needed to not only work through my emotions and feelings, but I also needed to listen to my body. I needed to know that there were times the dishes and the toys would have to wait and I was going to allow myself to nap with my kids or sit quietly in my, what I like to call, "Old Lady" recliner.

Our culture tells us that our houses need to always be immaculate, our kids need to be in every activity from soccer to Girl Scouts to ballet, and success in life is achieved by being the most productive person on the planet.  So when I found myself deep in the trenches of grief and knowing my body needed to recharge, I knew I needed to rest, but couldn't shake the voice of GUILT that echoed in my mind.  "Lazy," it told me.  "Not good enough.  Get over it already. No wonder you are out of shape and overweight." 

Friends, it took a lot of tears, reading, and conversations to finally get to the point that I was able to shut that ridiculous voice down.  When I gave myself those moments of rest whether it was sitting on the couch for 20 minutes with a cup of coffee, sleeping for 2 hours while my kids napped, reading a book or blog, or working quietly on a craft or art you know what? I became a better mom, wife, and person.  Even my house was a little cleaner and more organized because allowing myself those small moments of rest allowed me the recharge that I needed to be more focused on my call in life as wife, mom, and homemaker.

Then this Lent I found rest in the most unexpected of times...I found "rest" at 6 am when my alarm goes off and I crawl out of bed (OK...after a few hits on the snooze button) and quietly grab a cup of coffee, my Blessed Is She daily devotionals, my Bible, and I take time (sometimes it's only 10 minutes before someone wakes up and sometimes I have an unexpected prayer partner that day) to rest in Him.  Scripture tells us, "Come to Me and I will give you rest." Matt 11:28 Starting my day off (or some days my kid's nap time) by resting in God's word and presence has also brought a much missing peace and focus to my days.  

So friends find rest in your life.  Whatever that looks like to you.  Unplug, unwind, and relax.  Say no to a few invitations.  Put yourself first for a bit.  Decide you're worth it.  Find rest and let your body soak up all that it needs.  Let the guilt go.  You're worth it!

We wait until heaven...

Monday, April 3, 2017

Jesus Wept

Yesterday at mass the Gospel reading was the story of the resurrection of Lazarus.  If you are unfamiliar with the story, the shortened version is this.  Lazarus, brother to Martha and Mary and dear friend of Jesus, has died.  Jesus is called to come to Bethany, but is delayed (by his choice).  When He arrives, Martha tells him if He had only come sooner He could've saved Lazarus.  And in His final miracle from the Gospel of John before His passion begins,  Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. (You can read the actual gospel here....the story teller did a much better job.)

I bring up this gospel, because although I was familiar with the raising of Lazarus, and had heard it many times before, yesterday in Mass I heard one line very differently than I had ever before.  The shortest verse in the Bible.  Jesus wept.  Upon hearing his friend had died and before raising him from the dead, He wept.  I don't know about all of you, but when I envision a person weeping, I see gut wrenching sobs, rivers of tears, and weakness of body.  So when the gospel writer chose to tell us that Jesus wept, he was telling us something great.  Jesus truly God and truly man, shows us His vulnerability and humanness as He mourns the loss of his great friend.  He knows the miracle that is about the ensue, but He takes a moment to allow himself to feel the loss of his friend in front of a crowd of people.  Jesus wept for the loss, He wept for Martha and Mary who had just lost their brother, He weeps for the soul of Lazarus.  Wow.  For the first time, I really saw Jesus as a man and a person, and not as a God looking down up earth from His thrown ready to perform His miracle.  In that moment, we see a man who feels and experiences all that we humans feel and experience.

And then ever so gently, the Lord began to show me, his daughter that He loves as much as He loved Lazarus, that when my boys died, He wept with me too.  Bad things happen to good people.  Humans are flawed, people die...yes, sadly even babies.  And trying to understand it or make sense of it all is way too much for my brain to handle these days, but one thing became very clear to me as the priest read the gospel yesterday.  I don't know why my boys died and I don't know why God didn't provide me my miracle of Lazarus, but I do know without a doubt, when I was weeping and mourning the loss of my sons, Jesus was weeping with and for me, his daughter.

Maybe this is just new to me, and maybe not, but to understand that God joined me in my sorrow, and  shared in that human moment of sorrow with me changes my perspective so very much.  Yes, Christ was there to gather into His arms my children at the gates of heaven, but in a way only God can He was holding me and mourning with me.  And even if He has greater plans for my family that will come from this loss, I know that He also was very much with us in those intense moments of loss.

And you know what friends? He's there with you too.  When our hearts break over grief and loss, His heart breaks too.  He's not only the conductor of all of humanity, but He's also our father and greatest supporter.  Just as it breaks my heart as a mother to see one of my children hurting or sad, it agonizes Him in the same ways.  Yes, He has greater wisdom and knows greater purpose than we do, but he weeps with His children.

My grief journey changed directions a little bit yesterday.  Yes, I'm still sad and wish every day that I had 3 living children to mother here on earth while still carrying my 4th in my belly.  Yes, I will always wish that God spared and saved my children the way He spared Lazarus.  But now when I question and wonder where God was when I losing my sons, I know with out a doubt, He was there, holding my hand, and crying tears with me.

Until Heaven....

Also yesterday morning I read a wonderful reflection on this gospel in my daily Blessed Is She email.  If you'd like to read more on how this story relates to our grief click here.  Also, if you don't know about Blessed Is She...You should.  (Well if you are a woman...)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Look for the Helpers

I'm falling apart

I'm barely breathing
With a broken heart
That's still beating
In the pain
There is healing
In your name
I find meaning
So I'm holding on, I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on
Barely holding on to you


Tomorrow will be 3 months since we said good-bye to our son, Benjamin.  I've found in the major events of my life the 3 month mark is when I'm tired of being strong (or at least pretending to be) and the numbness of the past 3 months suddenly turns into lots of other emotions....sadness, anger, exhaustion, and deep, deep loss.  In the grief world, it's also at this point that most people have returned back to their lives (as they should) and you feel alone in all of this.  You feel that if you ask for help you are "needy" and "should be over it" already.  But anyone who has lost a loved one, will tell you that this most definitely isn't the case.

I don't tell you all of this for pity or so that you'll feel sorry for you, but rather what I've finally learned or that I am still learning.  You may be familiar with the saying from the late Mr. Rogers that says, 

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."  

This past week I met with my therapist and I was telling her that I had a moment in my prayer time this week in the daily readings from the Psalm that said "The Lord is kind and merciful."  I've read that Psalm many times in my life, as I'm sure many of you have.  But the Lord challenged me this time around.  If the Lord is indeed as kind and as merciful as I believe Him to be, then He can't be the same God who is making the tragic and difficult events in my life occur.  Those can't coincide.  So my therapist posed a question, she asked me where then did I see this kind and merciful Jesus in the tragedies. The answer that came to my mind was in His people.  

My brother who came over at 6:30 in the morning so my husband could meet us at the hospital when our son was recovering from a major seizure.  The friend who dropped off groceries on our porch because she knew we wouldn't want to be away from him.  My mom, who when I asked, got on a plane to come stay with us so that I could have some extra support as I navigate this grief with two young children to take care of.  The cards in the mail.  The meals prepared.  The kind messages and comments in social media.  I began to see Jesus in His people, both the expected and unexpected.

Sometimes we miss God, because He comes in ways (and people) we don't expect. God hasn't left me alone or abandoned me.  He is kind and merciful and in those time when I needed Him most He sent His people.  And I needed to be reminded of that fact.  Because I was very much questioning and accusing God of His role, or lack there of, in my life lately.  I was reminded of the scripture that says, "The Lord is always close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18. I just missed that from Him.  I didn't recognize His face in the faces of my helpers.  

Then today as I drove down the highway after dropping my mom off at the airport, and life once again was resting on my shoulders, the song from Lifehouse came on the radio, and I was reminded that despite the tragedies and difficulties, I find meaning in God and that I can keep holding on, because He is near in the people He has put in my life. 

So thank you for those of you who showed me Jesus.  Thank you for the times in my life that were the hardest, you were there in the ways I needed.  

And I challenge all of you....look for the helpers,  they are always there if you look hard enough. 

Until heaven....