Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Loneliness of Grief

It is easy to feel alone in grief. At first the pain is so overwhelming that you don't want to interact with people. Then the interaction begins to feel exhausting. The easiest thing to do would be to lock yourself away and just hurt.  It feels so simple to stew in the pain, the unfairness, the sheer suckiness of the whole situation.

This was my first instinct. My first desire. I didn't want to see people. I wanted to stay numb and sad. I wanted to wrap myself around my pain and not let go of it. I knew that no one could understand or know what to say or help. I was convinced that if I let go of my grief, then I would be letting go of Teddy. I would be forgetting him. If I found a way to be happy and live my life, then I was betraying him somehow. By being sad, I was somehow honoring his memory and keeping him close.

My instinct was natural. It happens to all of us in terrible situations. It is part of human nature. Lucky for me, I don't have to simply rely on my human understanding of my son's death. From the moment we were told that he wouldn't make it, God found ways to bombard me with reminders of His love. He used family, friends, co-workers, doctors, nurses, and whomever else He found.

I wasn't able to close myself off because I was overwhelmed with love. I was covered in it. Uplifted and comforted by it. No matter what my instincts were, my heart was drawn to the love I received. Instead of a cocoon of pain, I was given a resting place of love. I didn't want it, didn't ask for it, but it was freely given and thankfully received.

I still felt lonely, but never alone. I still felt sad, but never without hope. I still felt angry, but never bitter. I still felt scared, but never without hands to hold. This resting place of love carried me through the first six weeks of my grieving process.

Six weeks is about the same amount of time it takes to figure out how to care for your newborn. As a new Mom, six weeks feels like a day. In that short time period, you have integrated your child into your life and have slowly figured out to be a parent. I have thought about this a lot in the past couple days. Six weeks post Harry vs. six weeks post Teddy.

Both of my sons have changed me. Both of my sons have taught me lessons about life. Both of my sons have blessed me. Both of my sons have shown me that love is a bigger and deeper concept than I can ever grasp. Both of my sons have shown me the wonder and awesomeness of God.

Six weeks post Teddy, I feel like I have my feet back under me. I can laugh and live and still hold him in my heart. I don't have to be grieving to hold him.Crying is still ok, but the constant pain is subsiding.  I didn't come to this place on my own. On my own, I would be a bitter sorry mess of a woman. I came here through an incomprehensible love.  While I was wallowing in my selfish thoughts, God was finding a way to save me from myself. Romans 5:8 says "But God demonstrates His love for us in this; While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." I didn't ask for this. I didn't even know I needed it, but it was given freely and abundantly and I am thankful.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Pain at the Cross.

The night before we lost Teddy, I spent a long time praying. I cried out for a miracle, I cried out for comfort, I just cried. I was terrified of what the dawn would bring. I could not imagine life on the other side. In my nightmare, the loss of my baby led to a bitter and selfish woman who pushed everyone away. I was afraid for my sanity, my marriage and my ability to parent Harrison. I knew that I was too weak for any of it. On my own I was guaranteed to fail, so I cried out and God heard my prayer.

From the moment I cried out to him my terror stopped. There was plenty of sorrow and pain, but I knew that God was with me. Psalm 16:10 says "You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead." I was carried through the worst day of my life, because God the Father had to turn away and watch his own child die on the Cross.

The night before that terrible day, Jesus also spent a long time praying. He cried out for miracle, for comfort and he cried. Though He was surrounded by those who loved Him, there was no one to comfort him. No one to carry him. In order for me to be comforted, He had to face his worst day alone. In order for me to feel safe, He had to be unsafe. In order for me to find peace, He had to face the world without the love of His Father.

In the worst moments, where my heart breaks and I can't breathe, I am not alone. Christ faced the ultimate pain, so that my pain may less. I did not want my child to die. I hate that it happened. However, I find comfort in the fact that God knows what it is to lose a child. I find peace in the fact that Christ's pain made it possible for my child to endure no pain. I find hope in the fact that I was so loved that God willingly gave His one and only Son that I may not have to experience the loss of my child alone and broken, but can look forward to the day when we meet again at the foot of the Cross.

Everyone has a great burden. Illness, money stress, job stress, life stress, depression, anxiety, loneliness,  the list of pain is seems never ending. It is hard to let go of a burden. Pain is a safe and easy home to live in. There the expectations are clear. Once  you begin to leave pain behind and trust in the never ending love that Christ offers things are no longer in your control. Placing your future in God's hands is scary. It is difficult, and it takes constant prayer and submission.

The fact is, He wants your burdens. He sacrificed His one and only Son for the right to carry your burdens. He lost his child to gain our burdens of pain. What an incomprehensible act of love! What an amazing gift! Don't throw it away. Don't hold onto to pain and bitterness and ignore this glorious gift of grace. Honor the fact that a Father lost a Son. Turn to the Cross, and give up the burden. I will be standing here with you, just as weak, just as broken, just as amazed and just as loved.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bringing Teddy Home

Yesterday, we brought Teddy home. After a month of waiting, we were finally able to bring him to his home. It was not in the way we dreamed it would be before June 9th, but it was a relief to have him with us. His urn is small handcrafted tiger wood heart. A gentleman in Salem crafts these beautiful pieces by hand, and I loved when I saw it. It seemed appropriate to for our son to rest in a handcrafted locally sourced art piece. It is a beautiful piece of art.

Holding it yesterday, I realized that this was the first time I had gotten to hold my son. I held it tight in my hands and whispered "I Love You" over and over again. I know that Teddy's earthly remains are all that are in that heart, and that his soul is happily residing with his Maker, but their is now something in our house that is his. He is no longer an abstract idea hidden away. We don't have to wonder what is happening to his body, and hope that is being cared for. He now has place in our home.

This may all seem morbid, and I wouldn't have understood it before it happened, but it brings a high level peace to have him here. I still cried, am crying. However, he is with us. We know where he is, and a huge weight has been lifted from our shoulders. For the first time, I feel like we can begin to move forward.

For the rest of our lives, that small heart will be with us. Reminding us that love is not easy and nothing in life is guaranteed, but that love, faith and hope can bring us through the roughest of storms. I now know a new level of love.  We read Corinthians 13 at our wedding, but it has become more clear in the past month. Especially this part: " Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things Love never ends."

In the past month, we have learned to love in a new way. We have learned how to do the above, but we have also been on the receiving end of great love from our friends and family. Love is this hope of light in the darkness of sorrow. I cannot always demonstrate it, but I can always feel it wrapped around me. Protecting me. Love that was proven at the Cross and given freely.  I need it every day.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Moments of Choice

There is a moment in each day where I have to stop myself from thinking about what it would be like to still be pregnant. About how he would be moving, or how I would be decorating the nursery, or getting to the point where Harrison could see and understand what was happening.

There is a moment, or moments, in each day when I want to sink into myself and not come back.

There are moments in each day when I feel desperately alone.

There are moments in each day when I am terrified of what the future holds.

There are moments in each day where I am afraid to interact with others, or feel so painfully aware of how awkward I am.

There are moments in each day where I am jealous of anyone who is pregnant or has a newborn.

There are moments in each day where I feel like a failure.

There are moments in each day where I count down how close I am to going back to the "real" world of work.

There are moments in each day when I am desperate to go back to June 8th and know what it is to feel normal again.

It is a month later and these moments still come. Every single day. I now know that I won't drown, but I am still treading water and haven't yet started to swim to the shore.

Each of these moments is a choice. I can embrace my bitterness and resentment, or cry out to God for help.

When I embrace the bitterness and resentment, my world shrinks. I focus solely on me. I shut myself off from Justin and Harrison. I revel in my anger. I count all the reasons I have been wronged. "Why me?" is my ongoing mantra. Shrunken, selfish and sad. I wallow in my grief.

When I cry out to God for help, my world expands. I am immediately calmed. God uses those around me to soothe me. Justin comes along to comfort me, or Harrison makes me laugh. I count my blessings to ward off bitterness. I feel hopeful. Comforted and cared for I find peace in the refuge of God's love.

These are not daily choices. They are hourly, or minute, based choices. I am not always strong. I do not always make the right choice. However, I find myself choosing peace more often. I find that scriptures that were memorized in Awanas or in school come back to soothe me.

Grief is like an ocean. There are moments of simple waves, and full blown storms. Treading water I am impacted by all these changes. Bitterness pulls me under and threatens to drown me, but the my Savior can calm the storm and give me strength.

I am learning to reach for His life preserver more often.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Run, Run, Run

Today I ran. I didn't run fast, and I didn't run far. I just ran. I ran to move. I ran to get back in shape. I ran to feel like I controlled something again. I ran.

Today we went to mortuary to arrange to have Teddy cremated. I have never been in a mortuary before. I have never answered questions about cremation before. I never picked out an urn before. What type of urn? Has his body been released? Don't worry, we will take good care of him. We are so sorry. If there is more than can fit in the urn, we will provide them to you. We won't throw them away. I like the names you have chosen for your children. I felt within and without of my body. Terrified, devastated and relieved to finally control where he will be and what will happen to him. I know Teddy is happy in heaven, but it was torture to take care of his earthly body. I never thought I would be doing this for my child.

We have been on a journey towards and into parenthood for 4 years. For 4 years we have dealt with infertility, and adoption, fostering, the miracle known as Harrison, the second miracle known as Theodore, Ancephaly and his death. For 4 years, my body has been discussed, analyzed, medicated, the home of a growing child, the food for a child, more medications, more hormones, once again the home for a growing child, forced to bring that child into the world too early, the maker of unwanted milk and once again on medications. For 4 years this has not been my body. It has been a thing. Sometimes I have hated it. Other times I have loved it. I have never once felt in control of it.

I control nothing. The future is not set, and there are many unanswered questions in my life. Whether there will be more children? Whether there won't be? What our normal is now? How we move on? What my job will be? How I can prioritize my family and let go of work stress? How I will ever feel 100% percent happy again? I control nothing.

In some ways that is good. I don't need to control everything. I need to learn to let go and have faith that God will take care of tomorrow. I need to not live in fear, but in hope. I need Jesus to take control, because I don't have what it takes. I don't have the strength to get through this.  I am exhausted. I feel old. I feel like I don't fit in my skin. I am a bit lost.

Because of this, I ran. For a half an hour, I was in control. My body was mine again. It was hot. I thought I couldn't do it, but I ran. I ran until I was numb. Past when the app said to stop and I was feeling sick, I still ran. When I was done, I took a cold shower and cried in locker room. I didn't cry at the mortuary. I needed to run to stop feeling numb. I am running towards healing. I am running towards a new normal. I am running the race set before me looking unto the author and finisher of my faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is not set down at the right hand of God.

I am enduring my own cross and running helps. Ultimately I am running to be able to run a 5k around Teddy's due date. We decided it was best way for us to honor him. Some people have asked to run with us. When we pick a race, we would be happy to share that day with you. Until then, I will keep running.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

No Words

Life is beginning to return to a state of normalcy. I am slowing reaching back out to people, the days don't center around grief, we are learning how to be again. Miscarriage is a subject that a lot of people find difficult to discuss. As I re-engage in life, I have struggled with how to share my story, or what to talk about. I am blessed to have people who let me be awkward and recognize my struggles, but it is still hard. Grief comes in waves and you can't always control your reactions.

I had to walk out of a store that had a robot nursery display. That was how I planned to decorate Teddy's nursery, and I found myself sitting in my mini-van sobbing in the middle of downtown. There was an emotional moment after watching my husband play with a friend's baby, and when Harrison spent a whole afternoon pointing out babies. As hard as all of this is, I am fortunate to have a lot of support.  Through this blog, I have heard from women who lost children and never told anyone, or those they did tell didn't know how to help them. I can't imagine how lonely and devastating that must be.

It is difficult to discuss miscarriage because it feels so personal. I have experienced the death of my grandparents, and it was painful but they lived full rich lives. How do you mourn someone who didn't get a chance to live? How do you express your deep sadness at the loss of the dreams you had for your child? At the same time, it is terrifying to explain the deeply personal decisions that surround our loss.

The complete loss of brain function, the imminent miscarriage, the  added risk of anemia, the potential for our unborn son to be in immense  pain, all of these factors swirled around what we found to be the most difficult parenting decision of our lives. We cried in the ultrasound rooms, doctor offices, the car and pre-surgery suite. Justin cried his way back to the waiting room, and I sobbed so hard I had to be calmed before I could have anesthesia.  It is easy to share here, in this mildly anonymous environment, but it is so hard to share face to face.

I am thankful for those who have reached out and shared their story of infant loss. Knowing you aren't alone helps. Each day has it ups and downs. I am in a season of loss and change, and it is taking a lot faith to keep breathing in and breathing out. I am awkward and uncomfortable, but God has surrounded us with such patient and loving support that I have found a way to share my story. I pray that all the other mothers who suffer the same loss receive the same grace from those around them.

Thank you friends and family for your continued love and support. Thank  you for your prayers, your meals, your ears, and your presence. Thank you for recognizing Teddy as a person and mourning with us. Thank you for all you have done. You are true blessings.