Monday, September 22, 2014

Feeling Seperated and God Musings

Lately I have been struggling a lot with feeling separated from God. The odd thing about it is that I am probably putting more effort into my relationship than I have in times past when it felt very immediate. I try to pray more, at least two times with personal prayers and frequent smaller prayers from requests or thoughts of other people that pop up randomly throughout the day. I have tried breaking out the Bible and listening to Christian radio.

And I wonder why is it that when it feels like I need him, he seems quiet?

I wish I could say this is isolated, but it seems that a lot of parents that have lost a child go through this. I wonder sometimes if it is even for a purpose, maybe to say "this is what it would feel like if you didn't have me, so go out and share". I don't know. I have prayed for my heart to be changed, so that if it is me I could remove my road blocks. I have prayed for things to become clear.

But it is quiet here. No convictions or obvious push.

So if you are reading, I am asking for God to speak to me again. A nudge or a hand of comfort... just something.


And what happened to Lazarus?

I still have nights where I wrestle with my reality. Almost three years later it hits, as the air grows cooler and pumpkins reappear. Those are the nights of no sleep, and thankfully they are growing fewer and farther between... In the beginning it was every night.

Sometimes as a Christian there are simply no easy answers to tragedy. I struggled with the plan... it didn't feel right that a loving God could choose for this happen. And then I struggled with it simply being a result of random dumb luck in a fallen world. And after wrestling with God, I came to a conclusion. If I believe that there is a God that has grace and is bigger than me, I have to submit.

If you know me, submitting isn't really easy. This stubbornness has allowed me to succeed when I should not and survive when Perry died. Far from a complete fault, I believe there is a reason that I have it, but it is so hard to let go of the reins.

By submitting, I don't mean putting on the face that I do not hurt, I mean to say that I feel that I need to accept that either way that it was part of a larger intricate plan or a piece of what God has allowed by free will. I need to stop wrestling with the why because I may never know here. And either God is who we believe him to be or I am right (Perry should be here regardless) and his will is ultimately wrong

Job didn't know why he lost his children, only as a reader are you allowed to glimpse. He questioned God, and while he didn't receive an answer he received the answer- who God was, and that was enough. I don't know how this all works... and in reality I think part of the lesson of Job is that we don't know. Jobs friends quoted scriptures and yet they were wrong. Perhaps even as others try to give us a reason, perhaps we are equally wrong to waste our energy battering the walls of our mind for an answer that we are not given to know.

I have been struck a lot that as a Christian we aren't really taught how to deal with tragedy beyond the superficial anymore, we are taught that admitting hurt is wrong because we aren't serving as some sort of beacon to the world. But honestly, many churches focus on health and wealth now and take a single scripture to create entire religions. (And hence God answers all prayers the way we want and either you aren't faithful enough or are weak. You know the ask and you will receive scripture that is constantly quoted in every tough circumstances and then placed quietly away when the tears come anyway.). And when Job's friends used a single scripture in all contexts it was not correct then.

I have been struck more and more lately by the old hymns. They talked about suffering and you weren't faithless because of it, but talked about heaven and submission. There are many examples of faithful Christians that suffered even though we tend to focus on the Lazarus's. And you know what? The suffering and submission seem to sometimes go hand in hand, and it isn't really 'popular' today to talk about, no matter how necessary to learn.

I have done my multiple Lazarus prayers. I have driven by so many times thinking if I just have more faith this one time, the outcome will be different and there will be a little boy waiting for me by his grave. In my mind he ages, and should be a sweet faced three year old standing there or perhaps playing with the seashells as he waits for me.

I have asked why God seems silent, and I simply think that the answer is that in the midst of suffering sometimes we aren't ready to hear him. I believe we are not abandoned, but the quiet is difficult sometimes. I have asked many times why I did not receive my Lazarus miracle and why I do not today.

And in my search I have read the scriptures and one day past the Lazarus miracle I read on. I read on to where Jesus suffered... and even as the masses were drawn to him by Lazarus miracle, some were already plotting. And the plotting extended to Lazarus- to kill him and remove the evidence of who Jesus was. Sometimes then perhaps the real miracle would cause people to move against what they do not understand. We seem to accept our miracles today only as bordering on good medicine or on at least the explanation of science. If Perry were brought back, when there could be no denial that Perry was dead, would they even allow me to keep him, or tear us apart thinking that there were no way he could be my son? Would they seek to kill him and keep him in his grave? Or, worse yet, believe and simply remove him from me forever to meet whatever fate a human experiment would meet in the name of the betterment of mankind? Do miracles require some sort of ability to choose an alternate explanation and thereby grow people in exercising faith (in choosing that it is God's hands versus being undeniably told?). I don't know.

But as a Christian I can choose to believe that there is a God or as a skeptic that there is not. I choose to believe that Perry was more than random chance and that we are more than simply the universe becoming conscious of itself. And that calls for an acceptance of something greater than myself, a putting away of childish things (everything my way), and a submission.

I know that I will battle that guilt and that questioning of my faith- that desire to continue to pray and fighting the urge to drive by once again. I recognize that my continuing desire to have my son is both a strength of will and a sign of weakness all at once. But it is who I am, and perhaps with time I can keep the desire from anger at what my life is, stop striving, and simply submit. Set that burden down and finish my race.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Why Some Loss Moms and Dads Hate Formal Family Photos

I am just going to throw this one out there.

There are a lot of things I am getting 'better' at, when viewed from outside. But some things that I am not. Or if I am quite honest with you, not necessarily still 'bad' at, but changed. Perhaps permanently.

And the one thing that I hate is really staged family photos, particularly those that line up kids from the extended family. I am just not into it.

The primary reason is that with spontaneous photos it is a glimpse of that moment. Not everyone is always there, and it is ok. Perhaps you get one with just a couple of your kids in a rare very sweet moment that reassures you that somehow they love each other even after fighting over Thomas the Train, Your lap, A Sippy Cup, The Tablet, Dolls, Trucks, Sandbox, Book, Dog, or basically any other noun in this plain of existence. Sometimes you rarely get most individuals (someone still takes the picture usually). In this world of incompletes, the child that is not physically present can coexist peacefully. They still have photos that exist that capture them as part of your family.

In the staged formal photo, everyone who belongs is there, otherwise there isn't much of a point to it. The problem is that either you have to accept that your child is somehow the odd one out, or that someone accepts this as complete. And while extended family may accept this, or see a very different view of the reality, as a loss parent I personally can't (maybe some can, but a lot do not). Everyone else sees who is there, but as a parent I can only see who is not there. It feels wrong. To me there is no point to it, it makes no sense. The concept brings at best alienation as the fake frozen smiles appear, and just pure pain for the most part. My family to me can no longer be a single family photo. It is a collage.

As kids the cousins would all get together and take pictures lined up. It was cute, all the gapped toothy smiles and teenage awkwardness blended together to remind all the parents of not only what had been for each of these kids, but what would follow in the natural order. Like a pair of jeans, I would inherit that teenage awkwardness as one cousin was growing out of it. Future family reunions stretching ahead spanned before us...And then the unthinkable happened. The line of our little group of girl cousins who would hold hands and play red rover under my Grandma's apple tree was broken. Somehow in the confusion of young adulthood one was taken away, and it made no emotional sense. Doesn't really to this day. We haven't taken photos in a line since. Perhaps most of it is simply due to distance, but it felt like the magic of it all left with her.

So be kind, be gentle. Don't fight it or sneak pictures if it hurts someone. You don't have to understand it.

I have to believe that someday photos won't be necessary to remember. And in that moment, we will cry happy tears because it will all be made right. The future will be restored.

But until that time, we will miss you. Both of you. Becca. Perry.

*Just for the record, I actually love this photo. It captured a moment in time and everyone is actually in it. What I hate is photos that set out to capture deliberate sets of people when one person is missing. If it is clear as mud, I am totally ok with it. I still love you if you can not follow that logic.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Nearly three years

Wow, I am still here. I mean I am not surprised because I had no intention of leaving, but at times it just did not seem possible. The load was/ is incredibly heavy.

But here I am, and sometimes it seems like things are changing. I do not know if healing is the right word, but I guess a new normal is coming. Sometimes I thought I would never reach it, other times I didn't want to (because letting go of that ugly raw pain is hard, because it is sometimes what you have left of your child in the present).  And yet it is coming.

Sometimes I do not cry every day... in the beginning I couldn't cry anymore because my body had no more moisture to spare. I am starting to look at chores again beyond the bare bone basics.... in the beginning getting out of bed to shower was a victory and a clean house was not on the radar. I buy clothing in advance again... in the beginning every unworn outfit stung (I saw them all as sad shadows of the ghost of a future that was never to be).

How did I get here? I guess I learned to cut myself a little slack. I learned to keep Perry with me in a way that felt real to me. I learned to set boundaries.

The angry is going away for longer periods. Bubble people no longer send me into fits of fury. I can largely sympathize with the minor setbacks in life again, or hurts that pale against death . I see most people as complicated lovely messes again.

I am changed. I still carry the aftershocks of Perry's death with me, still cry in the car or during hymns at church.

But I am surviving.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Blown Away Again

Sometimes you feel like you are adjusting to this backpack you wear and then it hits you again. I found myself last week with a day to myself, around Perry's birthday. I had already sent the sleep sacks to hospitals in preparation for some sort of vacation.

Unfortunately plans do not always work out for various reasons, and of course Emily and Paiden chose this time to become ill.... so the vacation turned into a staycation with short jaunts.

For the first time in over a year or two I lay in bed and couldn't convince myself to get out. I drug Emily's Thomas the train set into our bedroom and let Emily have a tablet next to me. Breakfast was cereal in Paiden's monkey trap cup and a pop tart for Emily.

For a long time I just watched Paiden playing with the toys and cried. I kept reviewing Perry's birth and inevitably his death and I could find no peace in it. I know at some points I got up, fed everyone, changed diapers, and did the bare functional things. But I don't really remember much about that day. I suspect the kids might have still been a bit down from the illness, they both slept a lot anyway.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Dear Loss Families- Pain and Love

Dear Loss Families,

Your pain does not equal your love. My love for my son is greater than the pain.

Somewhere along the way we have come to believe this, but it is not true. You can let go of the pain, even if it feels terrifying and like losing your child. You will never forget, you will never be who you were, you may not get rid of that heavy emotional backpack you are carrying here as you walk the earth, but it is ok to dig out of the black pain pit.

I have come to the conclusion that somewhere along the way we came to believe this fallacy, and that that all pain is equal became PC because we somehow validated our loses by pain level.... Well all pain isn't. And I won't lie and say that one loss hurts more or less, or even equal (whether the same exact loss or a different type, or your child was a different age), because I have not walked in your skin. Please do not do the same to me. I thought my miscarriages were the worst, but then I lost my son. I have heard other loss Moms say that the miscarriages hurt them as badly after experiencing both. Or maybe you aren't offering as much support to the Mom who lost her child seven years ago, because you assume she hurts less than the new Mom, but she is crying out that it hurts as badly to face his 8th birthday alone. You know what? None of us are lying. Old loss or new, baby or grown adult with children.

But I am going to tell you that regardless of your present pain level, your feelings are valid. You are not doing this wrong. You do not love your child less or more because of pain level. You deserve support. So don't argue about who hurts more or say all is equal, or deny that each loss has different aspects you may not understand. We do nobody, including ourselves, any favors.

Just support each other.

Once you can finally internalize this, perhaps you can allow yourself to heal a little without guilt.

The pain olympics or PC "all is equal" are both traps. Because you can't let go of the pain without guilt. Because then, what does it mean if you allow yourself not to hurt as badly or equal to what it did in the past? And unfortunately grief has a way of returning you to the beginning a lot, so in the moments you can breath again without deliberately focusing, let yourself.

You may be in intense pain today. And I am sorry we have to be here at all. Don't feel invalidated because you believe the woman who lost her entire family in a plane crash hurts more than you. Even if she does, it does not take away your loss or the love for your child. Don't feel that you have to say you hurt just as bad... because it doesn't matter. How you feel is how you feel. It is ok to believe you hurt less than her or you hurt less today than when your child first died, or whatever you feel. And a big part of seeing beyond your pain is to realize that others have been given a horrible blow in life too.

And then offer support.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Offering

Recently I was reading about Isaac and Abraham. The story where Abraham offers up his son as an offering and his hand is stayed by God.

It occurred to me that as grieving parents, it feels as if this is what we are being asked to do. While the choice was never given to us regarding our children, at some point we are very angry at God. We want to be angry at him.... even if perhaps it is not what he wanted, we think he should have spared our child. Isn't that in his power?  So anger turns towards God.

I know that at times I am made to feel that it was a flaw of my faith that caused him not to answer, but I have come to understand that it is not the case. The purpose, the reason, is not known to anyone who breathes on earth. Plan or a result of the fall, I will never know here.

As a Christian missing my child there comes a point where I am beginning to realize that while I can not choose to get Perry back or offer him up physically, that I do have to give him to God.

This giving does not mean that I do not hurt or cry, it simply means that I am choosing to trust God. I am choosing to believe, at least for this moment, that a day will come where all is made right... that God has not shortchanged an infant or his mother.

This is a very hard step.

I will probably waffle a bit on it... giving up the anger feels a lot like giving up the child himself. Which I don't want to do... that pesky persistent belief that if I hold on tighter God will give him back. That if I am stubborn enough God will deem my 'faith' big enough.

Someday perhaps I will figure out how to hold on to my son with love alone, even as I offer him up to God. It doesn't really sound right emotionally or mentally as I read the line in my mind, but I know I have to find a way to do it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Confessions of a Grieving Mom

Lately Perry is weighing on my mind and heart. I have trouble sleeping. I pray to see him and am disappointed when I wake up without any comforting dreams.

Maybe it is because his birthday is approaching, I am not really sure. We just celebrated 3 family birthdays in March- I am now the lone holdout outside that month that entails a celebration that others will acknowledge. It should be me in December and Perry in June. I just feel this bitter sadness that another year is passing without a little boy here to celebrate. Sometimes I feel like people think everything is ok because I have another little boy, but here I still am wondering why I have to carry this.

It isn't because I don't love Paiden, if anything I love my kids with a fierceness that comes from knowing loss. He has been a complete blessing, another wonderful sweet tempered baby boy, but he is his own blessing and is not Perry.

And I still miss and want Perry.

I am tired of Perry leaving our family in small ways... no longer on official paperwork or in casual conversation. I have a falling feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think about things we do as a family and yet Perry is not here with us. People introduce us as having two children, when it isn't true.

And so I found myself contemplating the family zoo membership form. Anytime I fill out 'family' paperwork I have a brief moment of feeling queasy. I hate every time I am forced to leave him off.

The paperwork asked for names and birthdays of children.

And I paused. I didn't want to leave him off.

So I didn't.

It isn't fraud, it doesn't cost them anything. But it meant a lot to me.

And I am not sure if God lets those we love check in on us or at least watch from a distance, but sometimes I hope. In a way the zoo card was a small open invitation- and a message that he is still family.

Friday, March 21, 2014

How to handle a grieving parent or family member when it comes up in casual introductory conversation

So the dreaded question many parents who have lost a child fear: "So how many kids do you have?"

We don't dread it because we want to avoid mentioning our child; we dread it because of the feeling that we are doing something wrong if we make the other person feel awkward or if we show emotions that make them uncomfortable.

So what do you do when it comes up in conversation with a stranger?

It is ok to say "I am sorry", but there is a huge difference in what you do next. If you look away you are telling the person that it makes YOU feel awkward... and sometimes it makes them feel like they have done something wrong. When they haven't. It is ok for them to answer this question in any way that feels true to them... even if they stutter, pause, cry. Because they are dealing with a lifetime of this reality and not just a moment, grieving parents deserve an occasional pass on the social impetus to never make the other person feel awkward. Looking away turns their child into a social taboo- saying that you do not think they should be talked about or that they should only mention living children. It ends the conversation- signaling that they have done something wrong. Which may not be what you intended, but is how it is taken by a parent. This parent may have been rushed by others to 'get over it', when really that isn't an option as normal will never be the same. They are essentially made to feel like they are doing 'it' wrong or should be lying better and your reaction may be reinforcing this.

After you say "I'm sorry" just hold eye contact for two or three seconds. If you don't know how to handle it past this point, if it someone you will have continued contact with you can always say "I want you to know that we can talk about your son/daughter, but we don't have to if you do not feel like it. I just wanted you to know it is ok either way and I recognize that he/ she is still your child." If it is someone you won't see again, you can leave it at the brief eye contact at the end or say "I can only imagine how complicated that question was to answer." Granted every parent is different, but this would at least work for me.

The two second rule can also apply anytime someone who is deceased is brought up by someone who cared about them. Looking away rapidly ends conversation. Whether it is about a parent on Mother's or Father's day, or perhaps someone sharing a memory about a child, give them just a couple seconds of good eye contact.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Loving this post, musing on emotional fishes and loaves miracles

So I recently found a post I really love.

I love it because of the compassion given all around. Sometimes the glib funny answers that serve one person's purpose cause only harm to another.

I've been a little wounded on some issues. And one that I really didn't understand and couldn't put into words is how I get upset when people brush away the concept of a birth Mom as also being a 'real Mom'. Part of me thought it was because sometimes the best people can do is to be incredibly unselfish and let a child go to a loving family. Because the real selfish people won't give a child up- they will keep them for years with neglect and the child isn't raised, they just sort of grow.

Those 'real parents' make me angry, because I loved my child and raised him and yet I didn't get to keep him. I would have done anything to keep him (and I am glad that I have never been forced to really ask myself how far because that is a really big heart of darkness area for me).

But I really sympathize with the bioparents that do give a child up with love and are sometimes whitewashed out of the picture through insecurity. Life given through birth is beautiful and should be recognized as a gift- not as taking away something from the parents who are raising them, also real parents.

And I realize it is because when people brush off the first 6 months of a child's life or the birth Mom it makes me furious.

Because in many ways, I haven't got to raise my son. Ok so maybe God, a loving father, is raising my son better than I can, but I love him desperately. It wasn't my choice. I wasn't a bad parent. Just because I got to keep him for a short time doesn't make me less of a real Mom. Just because my time was only comprised of time I carried him, birthed him, and less than 5 months in my arms doesn't make me less a real Mom than any other parent who raises a child. And yes in many ways I 'raised' him, even though we only had a brief moment together. In some ways more so than most parents because I have had to do some things for my son that, God willing, YOU will NEVER have to do- figure out how to bury a child and yet keep them alive and meaningful in a world that wants you to forget. Anyone who has done the same for a parent understands in some ways what a huge painful loving thing this is, and yet for a Mom who has 'lost' a child it is very much a part of being a parent in the story books where life doesn't end happily ever after. As much as changing the first poopy diaper was, or as much as helping my Daughter get ready for prom will be one day.

I only really had largely a beginning and the ending with him here. So in some ways I feel like a 'bio' parent and in some ways a 'raising' parent too.... Sometimes a grieving parent feels like they have been made an orphan. What if the sound of your child's name was wonderful to your ears and you woke up one day without them and then a week after the service this music becomes taboo to even say?

Confusing? Try being me.

But I love this post. Because in real life things aren't need and tidy, feelings of love and loss and abandonment mingle in confusing pools with multiple experiences coexisting. Some things simply are.

I think about the complexity of love and human emotions when I think about each of my kids. In a weird way, they each individually have all of my heart completely. Like the miracle of the fishes and loaves it doesn't add up mathematically and yet I know it is true with my whole being. So too with a child's heart/love perhaps- maybe the heart can be filled completely with love for one parent and yet still have that desire and longing for acceptance and love by another?

I know with grief, at times your heart can be full of love for one child and still filled with complete void and brokenness for the loss of another. It doesn't make for a bad parent- I guess it just means they gave more than just a piece of themselves to each child. The grief / love for one takes nothing away from the love for the other.


Paiden turned one and had his first haircut. I was happy, thrilled and yet....?

During the haircut, I kept thinking of Perry and how his first birthday was supposed to be his first haircut. No way could I imagine before all this or any parent would want to think about how it actually happened. And yet here it was before me in my mind as Paidens hair fell to the ground. We stopped and gathered locks for his memory book and I couldn't help but think of Perry's little book. I was also a little worried- what if he looked even more like his brother? Would this be a wonderful glimpse into Perry or that bitter salt that grinds in unhealed wounds? Did I want this or fear it? And yet I did want it. I want Paiden to grow. I want him to reach milestones- that even if they are triggers in their own way, I want them for him and for us.

All the milestones- his own passport, reaching 5 months, sitting on Santa's lap, his first tooth, sitting up by himself, crawling, standing, and the first step, have been wonderful but bring on quasi should have been memories. Because he is mine, I embrace Paiden's, but yet they are no less painful in their own way as the random milestones of strangers. I know that for the rest of my life I will see a thin transparent Perry in my best moments of Paiden's. I will think about him as Perry gets a driver's license or as he graduates.  I will wonder about who he would have married when I sit at Paiden's wedding. I will wonder about the wonderful grandchildren that I will never get to meet. I think about all the family pictures that will never be.

The barber said "Look Mom, in a few minutes he won't look like a baby anymore, he will look like he is two years old".

And at that moment Emily let lose. "I don't want his hair short. He won't look like baby anymore." Baby was or is her nickname for both Perry and Paiden. And she wailed. The barber remarked that he had never seen a sibling react this way. I can't help but wonder if she had her own little emotional pack she carries around. Photo

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Grieving wears on you.

I remember looking at a Mother who lost her child and thinking that she had aged really rapidly. The onset delays a bit, but it seems like it hits full force a few months down the road. Wrinkles settle in around your eyes and grey invades your hair.

I wonder if my friends or coworkers think the same about me?

I guess it doesn't really matter, but I do think hard grieving triggers an aging process. I think it is one of the reason for the above.


I haven't been writing a lot. It's not to say that things are better, just that sometimes I plan out a blog in my mind and that is enough to work through whatever I am fighting with that day. Or sometimes I'm just so worn out that I run out of time.

But I keep coming back to the thought that things will never be the same. I will in some ways never be as happy as before- not because I'm depressed, but because so many of the things I delighted in were small things. The way I loved my bee hive and the pollen sacks on fuzzy legs. How I loved picking out new baby chicks, tiny mysteries to see what they turned into. I adored my dogs, the soft velvet spot where the ear joined their head. All that sort of pales now- because my family is so much more important to me now that these things do not seem to be as much. Which might be where it should be, but a lot of the joy is gone. The odd thing in finding out what I value most besides God, is that now it is not complete and my joy will never be full.

There are good days. Please do not mistake me in that. I love the way Paiden tries to brush his hair with the back of the hairbrush, mimicking. Or how Emily writes "I lub you." But somehow in the back of my brain I try to remember if Perry ever did the same thing with the hairbrush, or what milestone of his own he'd be reaching now.

There's a battle that your mind wages. You want to enjoy the little things, and yet at the same time your mind is wondering how you can forget what has happened enough to do it. You feel almost like a traitor to yourself. Isn't that what you are angry about sometimes, that people are capable of forgetting?