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grief

How to Help Your Child Navigate Grief, Morgan Grady, children and grief, car accident, explaining death to children

This is not the post that I thought that I would be writing tonight,  How to help your child navigate grief. I wish I wasn’t. My kids aren’t allowed to eat raisins. Sounds crazy, right? Yep, I’ve spent about 13 years getting weird looks and judgy faces from playdate moms because I politely declined their offer of raisins and grapes to my children. Oh yeah, did I mention that when I send grapes in my daughters’ lunches, I quarter them? Yep, even at 11 and 13-years-old.  And now, I will always pick them up from college when they come home to visit or they will fly. I will not allow them to drive alone in holiday traffic.

You are all scratching your heads wondering why I am outing myself as a crazy, helicopter mom, right? Before you judge me, get to know my “why”. We are all a sum total of our whys in life. We become what our life circumstances mold, bend, flatten and tear us into.

My children are not allowed to eat raisins and grapes because when Bella was just around 18 months old, she almost choked to death on one. Not coughing and freaking out, she was full on turning purple, could not make a sound, there was no air moving, suffocating before my very eyes…choking.

I did everything my brain could think of to do to dislodge that thing. I was seconds away from performing a makeshift tracheotomy. She could live with a hole in her neck. She could not live with all oxygen deprived from her brain. Luckily, I knocked it loose and cleared her airway before my husband got back to me with the kitchen knife. You think I’m kidding? I.am.not.

READ ALSO: The First Cut is the Deepest

I saw the most important thing in my life slipping away before my very eyes and I refused to watch helplessly. That is not how I function. There are things that happen so fast and so furious that we cannot do anything about it. I know this and I know ultimately I have no control over anything but I can’t quit, not on the people I love. And why can’t they eat grapes? Why are they quartered? Because a grape is just a fucking raisin in training and that sneaky bastard is not getting the chance.

Why will I never let my girls drive home in holiday traffic alone while under my care, you ask? Because life is unexpected and cruel in ways that you can’t imagine until it hits you like a mac truck. This is where we get to helping our children navigate through the grief part. The horrible part of the story, in case the toddler choking on a raisin didn’t scare you enough already.

As I’ve mentioned, probably a zillion times on this blog, my daughters’ dance ballet at our local city ballet. Dance is a huge part of their lives and the people they meet there, the girls, boys, men and women they spend hours a week of their lives with are important to them. Those people are family. When there is blood, sweat, tears and blisters shared between people you become more than just acquaintances. You love these people who you laugh, cry and live with day in and day out and we mourn them when they are gone.

READ ALSO: Tiny Ballerina

Well, on Sunday night, we suddenly lost one of these family members. She was a young, bright and beautiful woman who taught both of my daughters. They loved her for her big heart, giant spirit and infectious smile. She cared about her students and it poured out of every part of her. But now she is gone in a very sudden and shocking way. I’m not going to share all of the gruesome details but she was traveling to visit her mother and was the victim of a tragic car accident. My girls are gutted. Our ballet family is gutted. I can’t even imagine what her actual family is going through.

One minute my daughters were brushing their teeth for bed and the next they are Facetiming with friends and everyone was sobbing uncontrollably. I felt so helpless. I’m sad. Hearing of her passing shocked me. It sort of stops you in your tracks to lose someone so young, so much alive, so unexpectedly. The grief is palpable.

What could I do? There is no Heimlich maneuver to be done to soothe your grieving child. There is no tracheotomy to be done to remove the hurt. You can’t call the ambulance. You can’t take death off the menu of life. All you can do is hold them and explain that this is just one part of life. You have to go through it with them. Hold on tight and reassure them that you are there for as long as life permits you to do so but in the end, you have to be honest. At 11 and 13-years-old, I had to reiterate that life, in all of its pain and glory, is finite. None of us live forever.

READ ALSO: Teaching Your Children about Loss

If you believe in life after death or a higher power, you let your child know that while those of us left behind feel pain and sorrow from the loss, those we lose feel no pain. They are beyond that. They are at peace.

Now, I don’t really know if I’m comfortable with telling my children that there is a better place or a worse place because I’ve never been dead, so I don’t really know. I, personally, hope that there is a peace beyond the pain and I think that peace might look and feel different for everyone. But in the end, I hope my peace involves all of those people I love surrounding me on the other side. Like a world of only the people, places and things that I love.

Whatever it is I hope that lovely, young, vibrant soul went to her place of peace immediately. I pray that she didn’t even see it coming. I’ve never wished for an instant as much as I hoped it happened in an instant in this case. I’m praying for peace for her family because I know their hearts are shattered into a million little pieces. And I pray for sanity for her parents because when your heart is so broken, it’s easy for the mind to give way. I’ve had a taste of loss and it nearly broke me. The thought of losing my girls in their twenties, just as their life is beginning, guts me.

How to Help Your Child Navigate Grief

This is why I will never let my daughters drive home from college in holiday traffic. This loss has altered my perspective forever and there is nothing that will change my mind. I know that it doesn’t make a difference who is driving and that accidents happen all the time. We can’t stop them but I can do what I can to make them less likely.

 

How to Help Your Child Navigate Grief, Morgan Grady, children and grief, car accident, explaining death to childrenRest in Peace, sweet Morgan Grady.

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grief,loss, parenting, miscarriage

Five years ago this morning, I broke the news of my miscarriage to you in a blog post, as I was undergoing my D & E. It was the only way that I could process any of it. It was the only way that I could carry on and your support meant everything to me but every day since, I’ve had to live alone with that loss like we all do. Try to make sense of something so senseless.

Recently, I did something that surprised even me. I shouldn’t have looked. Until, I saw it, in person, in the flesh, it wasn’t “real”. It was just this terrible thing that happened to me five years ago. It was the bill I paid for what is referred to by the medical billing department as a “missed abortion”. It was a child I will never hold. It is the faint whisper of sadness that lingers forever and leaves me melancholy just around the edges. It wasn’t real in the way that you could see it with your own eyes.

But I’ve seen it now and I can’t unsee it.

Last month, we took the girls to Chicago for Spring break. It’s my hometown and the girls have been many times but they’ve never done the touristy things so we took them to some museums and the zoo. It was a fantastic trip.

Then, I saw something that I’ve seen before but with fresh eyes and a heart that’s survived a miscarriage.

As we entered the exhibit, one I’d seen before, I suddenly felt anxious. Like I needed to know. I was borderline obsessive and I couldn’t control myself. No one noticed what I was doing but I think the Big Guy caught a glimpse of the desperation in my eyes as I walked up to the dial upon entering the Your Beginning exhibit and turned it to the first trimester; I wanted to pinpoint specifically the 4th day of the 11th week. What could he do?

grief, loss, anniversary, parenting, miscarriage

 

The exhibit was different than before. It was completely in black, darkness was everywhere and only the fetuses were lit up as if my very soul had put this exhibit together. It is somber. I tried not to do it. You’re not supposed to do it. You’re supposed to carry on. Push it down and pretend it never happened. You’re supposed to move on. Go on living as if your entire life is not tinged by the hole in your heart. 

I didn’t want to make a spectacle with my mom, my sister, my daughters and my husband there. I didn’t want to go down that rabbit hole of grief facing anger and sadness head on but I had to know, so I turned the dial.

Such a little thing and to anyone who didn’t know or even just wasn’t paying attention, this was naturally inquisitive behavior. Only I never twisted the dial to progress to the second trimester. Instead, I left it frozen in time, suspended in disbelief, as is my daily existence since that day 5 years ago.

I try not to overthink it or linger too long in my loss. The emotional time bombs are less and less frequent but I remember every single day. I have two children but I am the mother of three but most people don’t know that.

It’s not like I wear a t-shirt that says so. It’s not like I’m marked in any way but on the inside, I am scarred. I don’t howl like an injured animal as I did on that day or fall apart anymore; so silently I continue on, remembering but not making too big of a deal about it.

Pregnancy loss is so common that some people believe it’s almost normal. I could never subscribe to that way of thinking because for me it was profound. For me, losing my pregnancy changed me forever. But still, after a while, it feels like it happened to someone else and you learn to live with it. It feels like a wound that’s healed and the scar has faded and you hide it beneath your clothes so no one has to look at it or think about it or feel sorry for you ever again.

grief, loss, parenting, miscarriage, anniversary

But you want to feel it. The pain makes it real. It reminds you that it happened. The pain is the only thing that proves your baby was here at all. So, I looked and now, I can never forget.

The scarred wound of my miscarriage has been ripped wide open.

On the morning of my D & E, I frantically demanded that they perform another ultrasound. In complete desperation, I refused surgery without one more ultrasound. I was desperate for rescue. I needed this to all be a mistake. I needed my baby to be alive.

But when they did the ultrasound, there in black and white, the perfect baby with absolutely no heartbeat. He looked like he was sleeping. Like a little astronaut exploring the space of my uterus and that was the last thing I saw before my heart shattered into a million tiny pieces. I broke, just before they wheeled me into the operating room and I’ve detached myself as much as I can since.

My heart still aches but it’s in survival mode. But on that day in April at the Museum of Science and Industry, I purposefully opened my wound. The pain makes me feel closer to my baby. I walked into the exhibit and I slowly made my way to the 11 wks. Fetus. Yes, the exhibit has fetuses from conception until 40 weeks in formaldehyde. Then, I saw it, the closest thing to my reality; 11-weks and 4 days and 11-weeks and 6-days.

grief, loss, parenting, miscarriage, anniversary

I felt the wind get knocked out of me as it has been almost every time I think of what will never be. My eyes began to go blurry and the room began to spin. It was hard to breathe. There it was; bigger than I’d thought; a fully formed person; with 10- fingers and 10-toes and ears and a tiny little mouth and eyes. It wasn’t a “pregnancy” that I lost, it was a person.

grief, loss, parenting, miscarriage, anniversary

 

I wanted to run away and howl, like I did in my car on that day 5 years ago. But I was frozen and trying to digest the truth. I couldn’t speak. I only lingered. Truthfully, part of me never wanted to leave because it was like seeing my baby for the first time. I know it wasn’t my baby but it was what my baby would have looked like could I have seen him; touched him; held him in my arms.

My miscarriage robbed me of all of that.

No one said a word. I was like thin glass in an earthquake and it was taking everything inside me to not collapse and sob like a baby on the floor. My legs were shaky. I could feel myself getting wobbly. It hurt reopening that wound but it was something I needed to do. In some small way, it gave me closure just knowing/seeing what was. It made him real and less than a memory cloaked in sadness and emptiness.

On this day, I forgive myself and give myself over to the grief. I get no birthdays to celebrate with my third baby but I will never forget he existed, if only briefly. Every year on the 1st of May, for the rest of my life, I will be alone with my grief and allow myself to remember the worst day of my life because it’s the only tangible memory I have of my third child.

Today, I am frail and vulnerable and my heart is heavy because my arms are empty and my house is filled with the laughter of one less than it is supposed to be and I can never forget any of that.

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There are people who come into our lives and make it better, people who make you want to smile. They might not do anything in particularly special but to you those simple actions; a kind word, a crooked smile or a hand and heart of support make them everything to you. These people matter and when they are gone, the space is empty and the emptiness left in their spot is felt. I’ve known this emptiness: when I lost my uncle Narciso, when I lost my uncle Ramon and when I lost my third pregnancy.

Yesterday, our beloved Monsignor suddenly passed away in his sleep. He had the flu and then, he was gone. We’re all in shock. We’re all in mourning. We don’t understand and it’s hard to accept, as it always is.

You see, he was more than just the leader of our parish, he was like everyone’s favorite Grandfather. He was a genuinely kind man with a smile that put you at ease and made you feel like everything was going to be okay. His voice was comforting and he carried himself in a way that was confident yet humble. He was all of this and more but the thing that I adored about this man the most was the way he loved the children. It was a genuine adoration and fully reciprocated by every single child who attended our school in the past 30 years.

My girls go to Catholic school. I was raised in the Catholic church. Priests have always been a part of my life, my family’s life but never on this level. Growing up, our father was someone who we saw on Sundays. Growing up, the Father of our church was on one level and we were on another. It was not a human relationship, it was more of leader and worshipers. Nothing like our relationship with Monsignor.

My children saw Monsignor almost daily. He was the living, breathing heart of the school. All the students were his children. He’d been at the parish and the school for 30 years, so even the parents were like his children. Most have known them since they were small children and attended the school.

He had a special way of talking to children and adults alike that made them feel special and important. When he did the children’s mass, he always got down on their level and talked to them like they were people. He always listened to what they had to say. He never took himself too seriously.

When I joined the school board a couple years ago, I got to know him on a different level; on a human level and I have to say, I loved him for his humanity. I loved that he was openly fallible and that behind closed doors he could crack jokes and give us a hard time, just like any dad would do. But the thing I will never forget is his smile; that kind and soothing smile that put you at ease and made you feel like no matter what you did wrong, God would forgive you and Monsignor wanted you to know it was all going to be okay. Words cannot convey exactly what I am feeling at the loss of this man, all I know is that there is a hole in my heart where he used to be.

My daughters are gutted. The entire parish family is mourning and it feels like nothing is quite right without him here. He was retiring at the end of this school year but he said that he wanted to stay near his “family”, us, his children, and so he had bought a condominium in the neighborhood behind the school just so he could be near us always and still visit and now he’s dead and all we have left are the memories of him.

We’ve been talking about Monsignor a lot the last couple of days and sharing stories about what we loved the most about him. It’s hard to believe he won’t be giving mass again. He won’t be greeting us with his kind smile and gentle eyes. He won’t be sending us into the world with his reassurance and fatherly love anymore but he will always be in our hearts.

I’d like to believe that, if there is a heaven, he’s there with my uncles having a good time and keeping watch over the baby I never got to hold and one day, I’ll get to see them all again.

Until then, I will miss his smile.

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miscarriage, grief, loss, pregnancy after miscarriage

Yesterday, I saw that one of my friends has been posting articles about miscarriage on her Facebook page. Then, I noticed there were more instances where she had shared about this topic. She never said she had one and they were not scholarly or medical articles, they were the kind of articles those of us who have suffered one read. They were the kind of articles we read to make sense of it all. I recognized it because I’ve done the same and written many. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks, she’s probably had a miscarriage and I didn’t know. After all, it’s not something you lead with in an introduction or just bring up out of the blue or at all, especially if you’re not a writer. I forget that sometimes.

I sat there staring at the screen blankly, hoping and praying that I hadn’t made any stupid comments or jokes like people have done to me over the years. Like me, she has 2 daughters in close proximity and like me, she’s probably gotten the, “when are you having another one?” or “when are you guys going for the little boy?” I’ve got to say, these questions always killed me just a little bit inside because I knew that we had been pregnant that third time and we miscarried. It stings but what am I going to do, explain to every single person that asks me that I miscarried? Spend the rest of my life being able to do nothing more than cry.

In the first place, it’s not everyone’s business. In the second place, it hurts to talk about it. It’s still a touchy subject for me and I’m not sure it ever won’t be. Some things change you forever. Plus, when I have told people, that still doesn’t guarantee that they won’t say something stupid. I’ve learned that when people are at a loss for what to say, they tend to fill the space with words that they should have kept to themselves. When does this stop hurting?

It’s been 4 years. This November, I should be celebrating a 4th birthday for my youngest but instead, I will remember while everyone else has forgotten. No, I am not allowed that luxury. I can never forget; the feeling of loss, emptiness and sheer loneliness. I’ve never felt so lonely and alone as I did in those first days after my miscarriage. There were people there who tried to help but having my miscarriage felt as though I had been exiled off to a planet of one, everything else was just noise and none of it made sense.

I don’t cry anymore, not usually. I do think of my lost baby almost daily. If I see a child the age he/she would be or a family with three children or see my youngest with one of her younger cousins. Or when I see our last name and realize that my husband is the end of his line. I still feel like a failure like I did in those first few days.

That’s one of the worst parts of a miscarriage, feeling like your body failed you and betrayed the life you were supposed to bring forth into the world.

I’ve talked about this to my husband and I don’t think he understands exactly what I went through when I lost our baby. For him, I lost a child that never was. For me, I lost the child that could have been; that already was. That loss broke me forever. I have not been the same. I used to feel like God himself betrayed me. This betrayal scarred me too much to ever try again. I knew then and I know now that I cannot survive the pain of a new loss. I’ve still not recovered from the last time.

People who haven’t had the misfortune of losing a child have said the most unthinkable things to me like… “there must have been something wrong with the baby”, “it must not have been meant to be” and, the absolute worst, “in a way, aren’t you relieved?” And the ever popular, “one of these days when you go to heaven, you’ll get to hold your baby.” I know the intention is well but have you ever thought for one moment that the possibility of holding a child in heaven is a poor substitute for getting to hold him/her everyday here on earth? Every time I’ve heard any of these comments, I’ve had to choke back the tears and stifle my rage. Why would you ever say these things to someone, especially a grieving mother? And no, there is no time limit on grief. I can’t just get over it.

Which brings me back to why I wrote this piece in the first place, I pray I never ask any woman who experienced a loss when she is going to try for that next baby (because I probably have without knowing it). I know how even the mention of a new baby after a loss feels like a kick to the guts and I never want to be the person who kicks another mom when she’s down. The scary truth is that we don’t get over it, ever. Getting pregnant again, for some of us, is unthinkable and, for others, one of the scariest things we will ever face.

And to all the moms who have lost their babies, I don’t know when it stops hurting or when we get to stop feeling like a raw nerve, maybe never, but I’m here and I’ve been where you are. I see you. I know the hurt that lives in your heart and I am sorry that any of us ever had to know this reality. All we can do is keep living each day and carrying our lost babies hearts in our hearts. They were here. You are their mothers, forever and for always.

This is my truth about miscarriage.

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signs of miscarriage, miscarriage symptoms, causes of miscarriage, grief, sadness, loss, miscarriage, lost baby, how to carry on after a miscarriage

Lost baby. No crying. You’re lost to me. Helpless, my only option to carry on. 4 years ago today, I lost my world as I knew it and what was to become of it. My life was shattered into a million pieces and scattered to the wind, blown around the universe like a zillion tiny particles of air. But with all that “air” blowing around, for the life of me, I couldn’t breathe all I could do was cry for my lost baby. I cried until I no longer had any tears. I cried until I felt numb. I cried until I felt like an empty shell of who I was.

I couldn’t speak. Words failed me. They formed at machine gun speed in my broken mind but got caught in my throat and I nearly choked to death on them, right there in the parking lot of my OB, again in my bed and for several months following. The emotional time bombs of grief that come with a mother’s loss blew up beneath my feet and left me in tattered, bloody parts; strewn far and wide.

All I could do, while witnessing the end of my world, was fall to my knees, howl at the world and sob inconsolably at the inhumanity that the world had thrust upon me. I could not draw breath in the fog of my sadness; I suffocated beneath the weight of loss a little more with each passing breath I took. Each time more painful; crueler.

They say God doesn’t give you more than you can handle but I felt as if God gave me so much more credit than I deserved.
The entire world came crashing head on at me and I was stunned, dumbfounded and all I could do was wait to see if I could withstand the impact. I braced myself and prayed for swift death.

I’m not meant to survive this sort of blow. It’s too much. I didn’t even want to come out the other end because I knew, in that one moment, I would never be the same. I would be changed forever and there is no coming back from that. There is only surviving and that’s not the same as living, as you were.

For months, there was only sobbing and darkness. Solitude and Vicodin were my only comfort. I wanted to go to sleep and not wake up, I wanted to fade into forever because I was no longer any good to anyone. What good is a mother without her child? What is a childless mother? This was not how nature intended it.

Lost baby.

In the mirror, all I saw was pain and loneliness. All that I could feel was overwhelming anger and bitterness. I was in the deepest recesses of hell and no one could reach me, save for my living children. Like a tether to life, like a far off whisper begging me to step back from that ledge. I had one foot here and one foot in another world, lingering in the loss. All I wanted to do was step off that ledge.

I couldn’t make out where I belonged. All I knew is that it hurt to breath. It was torture to exist. I wanted to die. I deserved to be dead. I didn’t deserve to live. I had failed my child.

I don’t know if I’ve ever said that out loud but it’s how I felt. How could I live, knowing the child growing inside me had died? A part of my soul had died. The best part of me ceased to exist. I felt worthless and worse, undeserving to even love the children I had because in losing one, I had failed them all.

It still hurts; not every day and not always. But I feel like I’ve spent the past 4 years changing and hiding in the shadows; afraid the sadness would find me and inflict it’s cruel punishment once again. The grief is too unbearable.

But I hear my daughters laughing and something inside me, tells me that I deserve to know this happiness. I don’t have to feel guilty for living and loving these girls because it’s not wrong to go on living for them. It’s not wrong to feel pride, unconditional love and overwhelming gratitude for the gift of motherhood. I deserve to be here and it doesn’t diminish the loss because I’ve been able to carry on when once all I could do was cry.

I think of my baby that I lost, every single day. I am mother to three children. If I’m lucky, I get another 50 years on this earth with my girls and then, I look forward to finally meeting the child I never got to hold but have always loved just as much as I do my other two. One day, we will all be together and I deserve to live, to thrive, until that day because my children deserve nothing less; I deserve nothing less.

As long as I can draw breath into my body, I will love you always my lost baby.

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three tiny rings, grief, loss, commemoration, parenting, miscarriage

Today, I woke up and remembered that I should be snuggling a 3-year-old in my lap this morning. Celebrating with giggles, random hugs and sweet, baby voiced, “I love you”s. Instead, my lap is empty. The only things I have to commemorate what should have been are three thin stackable rings, the birthstones of the three babies that grew inside me once.

Two I kiss and adore and hug and cuddle into my lap every single day, one I never got to hold, not even once. I looked down at that ring a thousand times today, a secret for only me. Suddenly, these three little stackable rings are my most prized possession. They are not worth much money but to me they mean everything. They are tangible, right there on my finger to look upon at will.

Sometimes I feel like that baby was a figment of my imagination. My third baby is like a whisper that lingers for always in my heart; like the sweet smell that lingers after a breeze carries in the smell of fresh flowers on a warm sunny day. It’s a glimpse of happiness quickly followed by sorrow and only for a moment; never enough time to make it tangible.

For three years, I’ve spent this day alone in my head. There are always people around. Sometimes I wish there weren’t so I could wallow a bit in my sadness rather than pretending that the day is like any other day.

Every year on May 1st, the day I miscarried, I allow myself to feel my loss to my very core. Sometimes it hurts terribly. Sometimes not as much. But to do it again on what should have been the day my baby was born, feels overindulgent. I feel like making the leap from one day to two takes me from normal grieving to “weird” as if you can quantify grief.

I don’t know how this is supposed to work or when/if November 24th will feel like just another day. In actuality, nothing of distinction happened on that day. It’s just a due date that was printed on a scan of a baby that I never got to hold. But to me, that day is imprinted on my heart and I’m afraid it always will be.

Does it ever get easier?

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grief,loss, parenting, miscarriage

I wrote this one for me, to move through the grief that I still feel on occasion. I call them my emotional time-bombs and they go off without discretion. I wrote this last week, before I started feeling this crazy happiness high that I’m on but after I had a good, hard and ugly cry.Or maybe I should say, while I was having the ugly cry. It was cathartic, as was writing this out but I won’t be listening to any Joni Mitchell anytime soon, just to be sure. I’d like to hold on to the happiness for a while longer.

It’s almost May 1st. You know how I can tell? It’s the lingering feeling of trepidation that I’ve been feeling. At first, I didn’t know what was causing it. Just the slightest tinge of sadness, floating around the edge of my existence; smoldering beneath the surface. I can feel it; the loss. It’s been three years, when does it stop feeling fresh?

Most days, I push it down. I try to forget to pretend that something’s not missing. I’ve stopped crying. And then other days, like today, I hear a song like Both Sides Now and my heart just breaks open into a million pieces and I bleed all over my keyboard. I can’t stop the flood of tears and I’m not even sure that I even want to. Life is sad sometimes.

Bad things happen to good people and it’s not fair. Not one bit. I’m an awesome mother. I would have been a great mother to my third baby. I would have loved him so fiercely. There wouldn’t have been a single day that he ever wondered or doubted it but we’ll never know, he and I.

This hole. It is not something that I will ever be able to fill at all. It will always be there and I’m not sure that I know how to feel about that. I look fine to everyone. They don’t know that I walk around feeling totally and utterly incomplete. Part of me is missing and it always will be. That’s the saddest part of all.

I think there are profound things in this world that can alter your life forever. I’m a survivor. There is not much that you can throw at me that I can’t move past. I refuse to be knocked down by life but this one thing, of all the shit I’ve gone through in my life, this thing, I’m having the hardest time moving past.

Grief is a tricky b*tch.

Every April, I walk around like an exposed nerve and it takes me a couple weeks to figure it out. I try to forget the hurt but I can’t. It will not be forgotten. It demands attention. This is how I commemorate what almost was. This is how I slowly fill the hole. I allow myself to acknowledge that it matters to me. I allow myself to be vulnerable to it. To give myself completely over to it. I allow myself to flood my keyboard from time to time and to cry so hard and so ugly that my face stings and hurts.

I miss all of the “what could have been”s. As I type this, I am painfully aware that my house should not be quiet and still. There should be a toddler running amuck, walking and talking and making my life fuller. I shouldn’t have this much time in my day. My lap should be filled and tiny giggles should be everywhere but there is only silence.

Every year at this time, I feel more alone than I should and the loss feels fresh. I recoil a bit but not enough to be noticed. This is my sorrow, my hurt to feel. I don’t want it to be a “thing”. We have so much going on at this time every year and I don’t want this to be the wet blanket on life. This moment is mine and mine alone. It makes me feel closer to the baby I lost, to feel the pain so I write it out.

I’ve never been the person who screams out in pain. I hold it in and I draw strength from it. That is how I survive it. I have to feel every single ache in order to get through it. Sometimes that does mean screaming and raging against the world in my own way, other times it means an almost catatonic silence. I’m not sure what it will mean this year. I only know that right now a song by Joni Mitchell playing in the background crept into my soul and brought me to my knees.

What is the expiration date on grief and how do I make this pain go away?

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loss, grief

I’ve been a little quiet on here lately. I’ve been wiped out physically and emotionally with life. I don’t really know how to tell this story because it’s not mine to tell without making it “all about me” which it is not but I need to write it out because that’s how I process emotions. This is just me feeling the ripples on the peripheral and it’s been enough to knock me on my ass. This is life, try as we may to resist, we personalize and internalize all tragedy that touches us; no matter in how small or large a way.

We received a passing text that a young girl, a cousin’s 16-year-old daughter, had been in an accident involving a vehicle. It did not seem life threatening. It seemed like a courtesy call, just to let us know. We prayed for her. We prayed for her parents because that is what we do. When family is in need, you suit up, you play, you fight and you pray.

A day later, the innocuous “accident” necessitated an induced coma. We prayed harder. A couple days later, we found out that everything was going well but she would need surgery. No big deal. We prayed harder still.

I started to get twinges of residual fear of loss. Everything was “fine” but for me, I’m always afraid of losing those I love. I’ve experienced loss before. I’ve experienced the overwhelming fear that engulfs you during near loss. Losing a 9-year-old student to meningitis, in the matter of a weekend, changed my perspective on life. I KNOW the fleetingness and fragility of life. These experiences, they are what have shaped me and made me the mother that I am today. Losing children is different than losing grown ups because it is so unexpected. I am terrified of losing my children. That’s why a cold is never just a cold. It’s the reason why I still wake up to check that they are breathing in the middle of the night. I am painfully aware that every single moment could be our last together. I hate that I know this. I envy those who do not.

Then last week, my husband texted me to look up to the sky. It was once more filled with paper lanterns, ascending to heaven. I ran outside in my nightgown to stare, silently and reverently at those beautiful lanterns ascending higher and higher into the night sky, disappearing among the stars. My heart stops every time I see this sight but tonight, it was almost too much to bear because you see, just prior to this, I had gotten the text and nothing more.

“They are taking her off of life support” all the air left my body and the scar tissue that covers my heart slowly started to tear away and then was suddenly and violently ripped open. In that moment, I knew that even our emotions have a never-ending echo in this world. Even those wounds that we thought have long healed have only scabbed over and the slightest pull at the wound can refresh those terrible pains.

My heart broke for her parents and everyone whose life she had ever touched, who’d heard her laughter or seen her smile for the friends and family who were left behind to mourn the devastating loss; to feel that unfillable void that never leaves, especially a parent.

The day of the wake, I was nervous. Terrified to face the pain, to see another parent experience that all consuming, never recovering, life changing, spirit crushing, faith testing pain of losing a child. I immediately recognized it on the faces of the parents, the blank stare of heartbreak so complete that if someone touches you, you might literally crumble to the ground. If you’ve ever felt it, you recognize it in others.It’s like being a head to toe exposed nerve, everything hurts; even the air you breathe. Just existing is almost too painful to tolerate.

I KNEW there was nothing I could say to make it better and after my own emotional break down 2 weeks ago on stage, I knew my own wounds were still healing. I KNEW what that mother was feeling; I’ve felt it myself. I KNOW there is no comfort to be had. I KNOW that THAT pain is inconsolable and there is no recovery. I lost my child before I ever got to hold him in my arms, I can’t even imagine the pain it is to lose a child that you held and loved for 16 years. But I wanted her to know that I understood, that we loved them and that we are here for them in any way we can to help them survive this because that’s what happens when you lose a child, or a pregnancy, you survive it. I would not try to tell her that it gets better, or that it ever stops hurting. I would not tell her those lies.

She asked me in her exhausted, numb, wanting to die state if she would ever feel better. I hugged her tighter and told her that I loved her. I did not answer because her wounds are still too raw for the truth.

The truth is this, you just keep living until you feel alive again but you will never be the same ever again and the honest answer is that eventually you will feel better than you do at this moment but every moment will be tinged by the loss of something that you loved more than life itself; something you will never get to hold or look upon again and that is almost unbearable if you think about it too much. You slowly have to let it go. You have to forgive yourself for living and you go on, with the hope that one day, you will hold them again, even if it’s just in your mind and only for a little while.

So, as this beautiful young girl’s mother told me through her sobs, I am telling you,

“Hold on tight to those babies of yours because you never know which moment is the last.”

 

If you are the praying type, please keep these parents in your prayers. They need them. They will for a long time.

 

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miscarriage, loss, grief, May 1st

Is there a right or wrong way to experience loss? Is there a time limit on grief? I don’t think so.

May 1st is my annual day of mourning. I don’t know if this is normal or not but it’s what is normal for me. My miscarriage changed me forever. It’s how I get through this. It’s the one day of the year that I am completely still and I allow myself to feel all the feelings because quite honestly, this week just knowing that the anniversary of such a terrible event in my life was approaching had me walking around feeling like an exposed nerve. I changed forever on that day and I‘ll never be the same. No matter how hard I try or pretend to be.

I have cried at song lyrics and at the sound of the giggles of my daughters, knowing that one is missing. There is a hole in my heart that will never be repaired; not for my entire life. When my littlest daughter cuddles into me at bedtime and asks me for baby brother or sister, I hold my breath, push down the lump and pray I can hold back the tears long enough for her to fall asleep. Most days it’s a tiny little ache that I hardly even notice anymore but other days, it’s a sharp shooting pain that steals my breath away and others that confine me to my bed and the space in my head where I am allowed to dwell in my heartbreak.

It’s just one day and it doesn’t seem enough but at the same time, how do you quantify loss?

When I had my miscarriage, I wanted to die. All I could do was cry.I wanted to sink into one of my deep, tear stained sleeps where I had sobbed myself into exhaustion and never wake up. I was given pain killers and sleeping pills to help. I can’t tell you how many times in that first month that I mixed them, hoping to “accidentally” not wake up. The only thing that kept my weary mind and body grounded in this world were my girls and the Big Guy. I’ve never told anyone that.

May 1st is the day that I had my D & E. Two years ago, I went in to my obstetrician’s office for a little spotting, just like I did in both pregnancies previous. Today was the day that my entire world crashed down around me. Then, it became real. My body failed me and my heart shattered into one million tiny scattered pieces. May 1st is the day that I lost my baby. I was 10 weeks and 4 days pregnant. I will mourn that day for the rest of my life.

I feel like people don’t understand; not my family or my friends and certainly not the general population. I feel like people are thinking that I should get over it. After all, “It” was just a pregnancy. It wasn’t like I had a child who lived and then he died. The thing that I feel people fail to understand is that “IT” was not an “it” at all. It was my child; it was a Bella or a Gabi. In my heart and in my mind, I loved that baby just as much as I love the two I get the privilege of kissing good night every blessed night.  I lost everything and I won’t ever get over that.

I don’t linger in my loss anymore these days. I live each day knowing that a piece of my heart is missing and it hurts when I think about it. I give myself this ONE day of the year. I don’t need permission or to explain it to anyone. I just need this one day to not buckle under the weight of my own heart, to not choke from the lump in my throat, to cry until there are no more tears left and to be mad as hell that where my baby should be, my arms are empty and will always be.

The pain of losing a pregnancy or a child is like no other pain. If you’ve never experienced it (and I pray that you don’t) just take that all-consuming, unimagined love that you felt for your baby the first time you held her and then multiply that by a million in the opposite direction. That is what I feel like on May 1st, like I am being hit by a Mack truck and the worst part is that I know its coming.

I know I’ll always take pause in remember the day that my world was shattered. Some years the anniversary will hurt less and some years it will hurt more. But every year, on May 1st, I am giving myself the day to feel all of my feelings , even if I feel absolutely nothing but flat exhaustion. Or maybe one of these days, I will be happy dressing my daughter for her wedding or witnessing the birth of my 1st grandchild  and I won’t be overcome with grief or even tinged with sadness. No matter what I feel, it’s okay but I have to do this for myself.

Part of me shut off that day. I pushed it down, way down so I could function but it’s there bubbling beneath the surface. There are feelings that are so overwhelming that I’m afraid to let them in and that is what today is for, to sit still, alone and feel whatever feelings come up.

Can we ever truly recover from loss?

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los, grief, national pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day

It’s been a crazy emotionally draining few weeks. The kind  that makes you take stock in who you are, where you are and what your life has become. Weeks that makes you stop and catch your breath and reassess what is important to you.

On Tuesday evening in casual conversation, I asked a my daughter’s ballet teacher when she was due. She said Thanksgiving and just like that, I was punched in the gut. Thanksgiving last year was my due date, this year I should have a one-year-old sitting on my lap. I don’t. It’s not fucking fair! I just want to collapse into a pool of snot and tears and cry until I can’t cry anymore.

It all started last week when the Big Guy and I were having a conversation about the big things in life, already happening. He feels like all the big things have already happened for us. He specifically mentioned our children and though he never said it, I felt that it was unspoken that maybe our loss was on his mind, even if he didn’t realize it. This made me sad because, I already blame myself and on some days the loss is too much to bear.

Then I had to take Bella to the hospital for passing out cold in my arms and for those split seconds I thought she was dead. I really did and my whole world exploded like a nuclear bomb went off and wiped me off the face of the earth. As I sat there in the emergency room waiting to hear the results, my mind went back to that moment on May 1st, 2012 when I sat on a stretcher waiting for them to wheel me back for my D & E. I remember seeing a mother holding her 18-month-old daughter on her lap as they awaited surgery for the child and I said to the Big Guy then, “At least I am not here with my sick child!”

I was thankful not to be sitting there with a sick Bella or Gabi waiting for them to be wheeled back to get surgery when in fact I was sitting there with my baby in my belly with no heartbeat. I had completely separated myself from the situation and that is how I’ve survived the loss. The Big Guy looked at me like I was crazy. I probably was but when I sat there with Bella on that Thursday morning, I felt more helpless and useless than I’ve ever felt before.

The baby that we lost has been on my mind a lot lately; practically daily. Maybe its because its fall and I know that the due date is right around the corner. Maybe it has something to do with seeing beautiful pregnant women everywhere I go. Maybe it has been triggered by the losses of my friends in the past few weeks. Or maybe I have still not yet let it go.

When I first lost our baby, I was terrified of ever feeling that pain again. I still am but every once in awhile I see a glimpse of what if? I allow myself to wonder. But I’m older now  and so are the girls and it feels like the gap is unsurmountable. That part of our life has been forcefully surrendered and I know I could not survive another loss. That I know for sure. It put me in a very dark place that I never want to revisit. But still it hurts, I don’t know if it will ever stop hurting; the loss of our unexpected blessing.

When will I stop marking time by events of loss? I feel like I am coping well and not dwelling on the sadness and then just as suddenly, my heart is in my throat and BOOM! emotional time bomb.

Maybe we should have tried for another baby. Maybe it would have helped take up some of the room in this hole in my heart and then I realize, no, you can’t fill that void. I just have to learn to live in my loss and not being able to give my daughter a little brother or sister. When will I stop feeling like I need to be still and hide on these annual occasions of conception, miscarriage and due date?

It’s all I have. I never got to hold my baby in my arms. I cling to these tiny milestones like they are my last breaths. When will I be able to exhale?

Our babies who have gone on to heaven may not be here in our arms but they are always in our hearts. During National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, please remember what we can never forget.

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