Friday, October 19, 2012
Grief 101: Understanding grief
It goes without saying that I am learning much more about grief than I ever wanted to in my life. Things I was so ignorant to, before.
Grief is such a vile monster. Grief is so life sucking. Grief is a dark yet soothing place. Grief is where I feel closest to my Vienne. Grief is something that causes people to either draw near or pull away. Grief is irrational. Grief is unpredictable. Grief is intimidating. Grief is awkward and uncomfortable. Grief is a true bitch. (I feel entitled to my profanities at this stage in my life. I'm not going to apologize.)
I have been frustrated and irritated these past few days since my last post about the "Answer". Not at anyone...just at myself. I am thankful for the "answer" that I received because it brought a hesitation or stillness towards my anger at God...but it did not bring a peace about the loss of Vienne. That's the difference. Even though I have been demanding an answer, at the same time I feel that it is too soon to receive one that is so clear. This is where I get irrational. I am not ready to have peace. I am definitely not ready to "be ok". See, this is where I am finding that some people get confused. Grief over the loss of a child is hard to understand and you truly cannot unless you've been there. The way that Mark and I feel is that when we have something closer to a "good day" or a "peaceful moment", we feel further away from Vienne. We feel closest to her when we mourn and weep and feel heavy and dark. I know that doesn't make sense. I know that Vienne is light and laughter. But, the fact that every day is another day further away from the time when she was alive and every day further along is another day of "moving on" is just painful to us. We are soooo fearful of moving on...because it feels like we are leaving her behind. We do not like to be "wished well"...we do not like prayers for "peace"...we do not like attempts at encouraging us or bringing us joy. For you see, there is nothing that will bring us peace about our daughter being dead.
The reason I have been so frustrated since my last post is also because I have sensed this almost relief from people that there might be a glimpse of me "healing" or "getting better". And, I do not want that yet. It is too fresh. Too raw. Too soon. I understand that friends just want to see me happy again. But, I cannot feel rushed to carry on and get past this. I panic when I sense that pressure. I have heard that the "public" gives you 3 months to grieve and then there is an unsaid expectance to move on. I have also heard that the 3-6 month mark is the hardest on those who are grieving...a lot is due to the fact that friends have pulled away and moved on and expect you to move on...and then those who are grieving are left alone. I am soooo freaked out about this thought. I cannot be left alone or expected to get better. How can you be expected to live without your beloved child...one that you have passionately loved and spent almost every moment with for 4 1/2 years?!
I must clarify, though, that I have received INCREDIBLE support through this. My friends and family are beyond amazing. Overall, I do not feel pressure from those I am closest to at all. The commitment in consistency from them has blessed me more than they know. And, the way this has dramatically affected everyone, even those I do not know, has astounded me. I am just writing this/sharing this out of fear for the future. Things I have been told to be aware of or to expect. I really do not expect, though, to be abandoned by my dearests friends. I don't.
And, for those who do not know what to say ~ I get that. I get the awkwardness. The discomfort and nervousness about saying the wrong thing. Truly, I do. I have learned so many humbling lessons, even through this. You see, my stepfather Tom, lost his daughter 6 years ago. She was murdered. It was horrible. And, sadly, I just didn't know how to act around Tom. I did not know her. I was not close to him yet. And, I was incredibly uncomfortable with grief. I failed my stepdad in so many ways that it brings me to tears now, in shame. He needed the support that I am receiving now, and he didn't get a fraction of it. But, now I understand. I understand that we need to be asked how we are doing. We need to talk about Vienne. We need to talk about our grief. We need to feel comfortable to cry...or to not cry. I am so blessed, though, to have Tom by my side through this...he has been one of our biggest supporters. His emotional availability, empathy, and spiritual encouragement are priceless. So, all this to say that these have been my lessons in grief. I share them with you so that maybe you can glean from this.
Please don't be afraid of us. Honestly, the best thing to say is "this is the most horrific awful worst unimaginable thing ever! And, I have no words, Jenny". Just acknowledging that makes me feel a tad better. If you want to pray for us - pray for strength for us to cope through the rest of our lives without Vienne. If you want to hang out with us, please ask us about the grief. Please do not be afraid to talk about Vienne. Just, please, do not ignore her. We are not ones to shut it down. It soothes us to talk about it and about her. (as you can tell - I am a very open and honest person...just from this blog).
Thank you for reading this. And, thank you to all of you who take the time to comment on here or send me an email/message/text sharing your thoughts on my words. I cherish each one. And, I will save them so that I can look back and read everything over and over again. I do not want to lose one morsel in regards to Vienne.
(FYI: For those who have asked, I think I have fixed the comment section on this blog. Now anyone should be able to comment. Just click the drop menu and select "Anonymous" - and please sign your name, then, so I know who you are.)
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love your honesty. I appreciate your authentic grief and I am thankful to be your friend. there is no walking out on you lady! xoxoReplyDelete
I am thankful you are my friend, as well. I feel you walking beside me and am so grateful. Much love...xoxoDelete
Thank you for letting us in as you process. There is nothing than can make this better, but there are many hands embracing you, hoping to hold you together and to support you as you make each painful step forward. Love you friend.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Dear Friend. I love you much. I feel your embrace and know you are there.Delete
Jenny, you are so incredibly gracious and compassionate, to look back and realize where you feel you fell short in your support of Tom. I've thought of him often since Vienne's passing, and how this must bring up some hard stuff for him too. This post should help so many people know just how to support you and Mark, it's perfect. The hardest part for me in the beginning was making new memories, life moving on with or without me. When I see "the public gives you 3 months" it makes me sick. That is barely enough time to move past being in shock. I really just hate this for you, hate it. passionately.ReplyDelete
Sadie ~ Your words are always so heartfelt and meaningful. It is insightful for me to hear your input and perspective, as you have been through this.Delete
I hate this so much too.
Grief knows no "time". There are moments that I still break down over the death of my husband 16 years ago and it doesn't feel any different than it did then. It just doesn't happen as often. While I don't know the pain of losing a child when I think about what you must be feeling it makes me lose my breath. I remember after Steve died I thought I would physically die. But I didn't. Do whatever you have to do to stay close with Vienne, you will never get over it, but one day life will come back for you and that doesn't take anything away from Vienne. I ache for you and Mark.ReplyDelete
Susan...I loved what you said "...one day life will come back for you and that doesn't take anything away from Vienne". I know that you would know the truth in that statement. That is certainly a struggle in our hearts, moving on...but your words resonated with me, rang true. One day at a time.Delete
Yes, thank you so much Susan, for taking the time to share your thoughts and heart. As you've been through a devastating loss, as well, your input means a lot.Delete
My beautiful girl...this post is so important. How true...we just don't know how to handle grief - in others, let alone ourselves! It is navigating an unknown territory full of minefields - for all involved. We are learning much - as are those that are willing to travel this fragile journey beside us.ReplyDelete
I would add that grief can be disturbingly self focused, and in that I am learning humbling lessons. And this type of grief, that which accompanies the loss of a child, is most certainly crippling. I have experienced loss & walked grief...but none like this. One death certificate we should never see is that of our children...never. The devastation in our hearts is so incredibly deep and raw. Each morning I feel faced with the challenge of having to get out of bed and live out another day in this now, new world of grief and loss. Somehow, we get out of bed, don't we? God's strength.
After reading this post and your prayer request, Tom sited an African parable he once heard. The jest of it is that in America, we pray that God will deliver us from our circumstances (when will this be over, Lord? How long?) In Africa, they pray that God will give them strength through their circumstances - not deliverance from them. Our loss of VN here on earth, the pain associated with that loss, will never cease. This is not something we will be delivered from. It will ease, but it will not cease. Your prayer request for God's strength to cope on this earth for the rest of your days without Vienne, is insightful and a very helpful request for those that want to know how to pray.
My anger at God has now waned. That anger, and even hate, frightened me, shook my faith and crashed my trust in a God whom I rarely, if ever, questioned before. I simply trusted Him. And seeing my kids go through that, while I fully understood - that too, frightened me. But, if we had no relationship with God, if we did not believe, we would have no reason to question him, to be angry. That would frighten me more! Because we need Him. So, I see now that at least our anger was relational...and it's so ok. In relationships we have emotions, feelings - joy, anger, sorrow, distrust, on and on. And those are the things that can build and strengthen our relationships. Why would it be any different with God? As long as there is relationship happening, I won't fear. I question Him, but I'm not angry at Him any longer. Angry at death, yes. But I have to get back to trusting my Jesus, regardless of the unknown...maybe even because of the unknown. What I do know is that He loves me...He loves us...He loves Vienne. Passionately.
Julie you are such a wise Mama. Such a GOOD mama. Your daughters are so lucky to have you.Delete
I love you so much, Mama.Delete
*Yes,Echo, I am soooo blessed to have my Mama.
I am the one blessed. As a mama yourself, my dear daughter, you well know when I say...it is my privilege to have been gifted by God with you and Kate...and now Vienne, Ivy and Miri. I am rich in this...so rich.Delete
Beautiful words, Julie.ReplyDelete
Jenny, never for one second did I expect you to get over this or find any peace anytime soon. Although I cannot truly understand your grief since it didn't happen to me - I completely realize that you will never ever be the same again. Vienne was your whole life. Part of your soul is gone and the hole she left behind will never be filled. Nobody should expect any kind of closure from this kind of devastating shocking loss, and definitely not in 3-6 months. Honestly (maybe I shouldn't say this), as a fellow mother I wondered how you would get through this At All. How you would go on for Ivy. How you wouldn't just give up after being knocked out by a blow this strong. That maybe you wouldn't think life worth living without her. So if you are sensing relief from us -that's the relief I feel. That you are getting up each morning and chosing to live. No expectations from me, and no time limit for your grief. Much love to you.
Thank you, Lisa. That means so much to read.Delete
You are right - of course, I have wanted to end my life. Who wouldn't? But, of course, I have Ivy. And, Ivy is amazing. Just as amazing as her sister. Going on, still feels in possible, though. I keep telling Mark "I just don't want to do this...I want to go home. I want our life back". It is shit. It is just true true shit.
Lisa...sweet girl. I remember picking you up for school to go to Westside, oh so many years ago. We didn't know you yet...but we did quickly. Such a blessing that you have remained a steadfast friend all these years, honey. Thank you for that.Delete
When you speak of Jenny being "giving up after being knocked out by a blow this strong"...we ARE knocked out. BUT..the fact that my girl IS choosing to "get up each morning and choosing to live" is, indeed the bare minimum...and I am So thankful for it. There are many reasons to go on living and she and Mark are choosing those reasons...Ivy probably being number 1. She is BEAUTIFUL! And so reflective of her sister, yet different. I have to keep from wanting her to be 4 years old RIGHT NOW so I can somehow soak up VN - which is impossible and competely weirdness, I know. I will treasure each moment. What else is there to do?
We don't know each other, but I know a little about your story, and am a mom like you. Just for some background, I was good friends with kinsey in highschool, my name is jaimee, I lost my little girl almost 4 years ago. Just reading your post and I agree with everything you're saying. I was and still am afraid of moving on further, and feel like grieving is when I'm closest to her. I'm sure you've heard many people tell you many things, but from a mom who has lost a little one too, this is your journey, your life and your daughter.just as you chose her name, you will choose they way you grieve for her. Ignore what society expects of you and do what your heart feels. -jaimeeReplyDelete
Jaimee ~ Thank you so much for taking the time to share your heart and thoughts. I am so sorry for the loss of your Girl, as well. It is all just horrific.Delete
I appreciate your words and input...as someone who is walking this road, as well.
You don't know me, but please know your blog has made this mom smile at my kids more often, hug them tighter, play with them longer, snuggle up closer, be more patient, and thank Jesus for them much much more often. Your daughter's pics, videos and memories have touched me deeply - how my kids would've loved her gentle spirit. I pray regularly that God would give you what you need. I don't know what that is - I can't even begin to imagine - but please know I am so, so, SO SORRY for your loss. This truly is every parent's absolute worst nightmare, and no one deserves this pain.ReplyDelete
Thanks for articulating so well what grieving parents need and what they DON'T.
Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful words. Every single comment truly means so much to me. Just knowing that I am not alone is big to me.Delete
Julie what a wise and discerning mama and friend you are to your Jenny, Mark and Vienna.ReplyDelete
Jenny, I pray that the Lord will give you strength to walk each step and take each breath, moment by moment. I can't even begin to comprehend your loss, and I thank you for sharing your heart and emotions through this heart wrenching journey, of missing your baby Vienna. May you continue to hold her close to your heart as you face your day to day challenges.
I will continue to pray that the Lord will give you, Mark and your family strength throughout your painful journey as you remember your beloved, precious little Vienna!
Zebby, my friend. Thank you for your prayers all the way from Haiti. It means so very much. You are right smack in the middle of the devastation wrought on many, many families suffering the loss of children over there...as well as little ones who have lost their parents. Lord bless you and strengthen you as you pour out into their lives. I love you.Delete
Your rawness and rage is totally justified. I wouldn't, couldn't give you messages of encouragement or "well wishes" because I know if I were you this blog would be full of profanity and crazy rage. You are an inspiration, if other's have issue, screw um. I am not sure how you will move on or smile, but by Grace I suppose. How long that takes you, if ever, is your journey and I will follow it and pray for your family for strength.
I have been thinking back to when we got caught up on Facebook. I remember reading you describe your Vienne and I was intimidated by it. You knew how rare and special she was, I was a bit afraid that my Braeden would be too much for her sweet little self. Then life got crazy, babies and stupid cancer and I missed out. Will forever regret that Jenny. And, if you ever need someone curse, scream, or punch at, I am free for a beating. I copied the instant message you sent me almost two years ago. You are stronger then you give yourself credit for hun.
January 24th, 2011:
My little girl is probably very different in personality. They all shine in different ways, don't they?! She is very shy. Meticulous and intentional w/her actions. Terribly sensitive, even to tone inflections. She wants to please. Very creative and focused. Quiet yet goofy in the privacy of her home and good friends. I think that she still acts a bit younger for her age...but I relish the last bits of baby in her. She has always been teeny tiny (now 23 lbs) and I've thought that she acts her size! She was never the first to reach the developmental marks, like walking and such, but always took things at her own thoughtful observant pace. She has been almost too easy and it has made me afraid to have another because I know that it wouldn't be possible to get a repeat of her!!
Thank you so much, Robyn. This was so sweet to read. Your words touch me and remind me that I am not as weak as I feel sometimes.Delete
Thank you for sharing the excerpt of what I wrote about my Girl. It's crazy to read that and see how much she grew even from then. Still was always the sweet sensitive girl...but she definitely developed into a more outgoing child in her last year.
We can definitely get together sometime in the near future. No more regrets.
Jenny, my name is Stephanie. I went to Ecola with your husband. I heard about your awful loss through Lacey and Seth! I have kept you guys in my prayers over the last month and half. I thought a few times about sending a message to you via facebook, but I just didn't even know where to begin. I read your blog posts and my heart just literally aches. I pray strength for you and your husband. I wish I could have met Vienne, it sounds like she was the light of SO many peoples lives. She sure is beautiful!! Know my thoughts and prayers continue to be with you!ReplyDelete
Thank you so much, Stephanie for taking the time to share your touching thoughts and heart. It does mean a lot.Delete
Thank you for sharing and letting us know how we can best support you through all of this. This is your process...your journey; our job is simply to surround you with love so that you will know that you are not alone. I love you Friend.ReplyDelete
Jenny...I am crying, HARD, after reading this, and I want to thank you for writing it. Thank you for articulating so well what all of us who have lost a child feel so fiercely...the added pain of being farther and farther away from our child as life gets back to "normal." And the pain that I feel when I see someone I haven't seen in a long time, and I want them, so badly, just to say SOMETHING about my son. Especially when they knew him...and knew how much he meant to us.ReplyDelete
You couldn't have said it better: the relief that is sensed, the desire for us to be better, to be happy again...it isn't what WE want. It just makes us feel alone, alienated. We want to remember. We want to talk about him. We don't want a "new normal." We just want to hold our son again.
Reading your blog has been a gift to me...as I haven't been able to cry in a while. I have felt numb and not in touch with my emotions, and so I am grateful to you for writing Grief 101. I am a friend of David and Kinsey, and have been praying for you since Vienne's death...but now I am also incredibly thankful to find that in your writing, you are helping others, like me, to feel less alone...less crazy...less numb. I am looking forward to reading your other posts, and to hearing more about Vienne.
Grateful for your honesty,
Another grieving mom
This is such a tragedy and I loved being able to talk about Vienne with you this morning. What a precious girl! I don't write my feelings well but my heart aches for you every day and I want to be there for you. See you again soon friend. - CoriReplyDelete
Hi Jenny, it's Sue your Mom's neighbor. Mindy (my daughter) has been following your blog and she mentioned to me this evening that you are now feeling like you are losing the memory of VN. You are not, you are beginning to tuck her away in a little compartment within your heart for safe keeping. It's been over 40 years, the loss of my son who was also 4 years old. You will never forget VN. I can still smell my son's breath and remember how he sounds when he calls me "mom"? I believe part of the grieving process is to manage the grief the way your heart and spirit needs to manage it for your own mental, emotional and spiritual health. Don't beat yourself up Jenny. Tuck her away for safe keeping. Believe me, you will never forget. She will talk to you in your dreams and poke you in your thoughts. Believe me SHE won't let you forget, not that you would anyway. She is always with you. Please call if you would like to talk. SueReplyDelete
Sue, my sweet neighbor and friend - I was so blessed to see your comment and to know Mindy has been following here in our journey, getting to know VN even more than the bit that you did. I know how difficult this has been for you, particularly initially, as it brought to the surface some emotions and memories of your loss that perhaps had been tucked away for awhile. Thank you again for the blue princess dress that you gave VN 2 days before her passing. That dress completely filled her last 2 days w/joy and w/sweet memories for us. You are a blessing to us.ReplyDelete
gah Jenny.... you are amazing. each post I read guts me and brings me to tears. Something I learned through grief as well. tears aren't bad. They just want to be cried and felt. I completely hear your heart and where you are at in this... and not that you need ANYONE'S permission to do so - but I stand with you in this - this is your journey... no one else's - only you and Mark know how to walk this out. The pain isn't going to magically leave one day. And why should it - she is and was by all means perfectly amazing. And I never got to meet her. But just from watching her little spirit in videos I can see how special she is. I so wish we lived closer to walk with you guys through both the dark and numb times. Sure there will be plenty more happy times to come... and we've been blessed to walk through some of those with you in the past... but right now the dark and numb moments are when you need support. I'm so thankful to hear of your amazing friends and family who are surrounding you now... please please please don't hesitate to let us know if you need anything... I know we live all the way in TN - but we are here for you... our hearts break for you... I wake up days so heavy with you on my mind and heart, I don't even know what to pray... so I just pray for that moment.ReplyDelete
Keep walking, keep writing, keep letting people love you... You know the Lord loves you deeply... even though it doesn't feel like it... keep talking/yelling at Him... it's ok. He hears it and loves us anyway... Let Him love you even in that.
we love you deeply. becki, devon and fam
Mark and Jenny,ReplyDelete
I've been squarely in the "I have no idea what to say" camp for weeks now. Then, our trip back to Oregon began to take shape and I went from that to true fear. As much as I deeply ached to see you guys, I was mortified at the actual idea of seeing you again.
Thank you for breaching this for those of us who find ourselves frozen by fear of doing the wrong thing. As I was able to see Mark last week and hang out with him in a place filled with Vienne's things, something changed. The fear was not gone, rather countered by the fierce need to interact on a meaningful level with those close to me who had experienced such loss, regardless of whether or not I had the right words. As I walked in and gave Mark a hug I was confronted by my own sense of inadequacy. I think "I got nothin'...I'm so sorry" were the words that came out.
I wish to God we were closer so that we could more tangibly express ourselves to you guys.
We love you, we miss you, we grieve with you.
Jason & Nellie
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