Sunday, August 25, 2013

Beautiful words from Kristel

"Do you see her?
Do you see her outward beauty? Her hair is always pretty. Her clothes are always fashionable. She is beautiful and slim. 

She holds the hand of the cutest, teeny tiny toddler with her adorable grin. 
She smiles. 
She is polite. 
She may even laugh. 
She visits and listens and cares about others.
But do you see her?
Do you see the "limb" that she is missing?
Do you see her grief? Her gut wrenching pain? 
Do you see a mother without her beloved daughter?
Do you see the hole that is left in her heart?
Do you see her armor she wears to battle each new day?
Do you see a Daughter questioning WHY of her Heavenly Father?
Do you see her strength to continue on without her first born?
When you are shopping in the store, see her having coffee, or have the privilege of spending time with her- do you see a hero?
Do you see a survivor who has gotten up and faced every moment of every day for almost an entire year without her precious girl? 
She is surviving. 
She is a hero. 
She is a mommy to two girls. 
She is my friend. 
She is amazing. 
...We never know what others around us are enduring. Why they may be having a "bad day" or why they act how they do. We are so quick to judge. Let's remember to show kindness and compassion to everyone we meet. To show love. Grace. To be a Light. I need to remember this as I go through my days. We never know how we may be a blessing to even a stranger."

My beautiful dear friend, Kristel, posted this today on her Facebook page after spending the morning with me and Ivy.  I cannot read it without racking sobs.  She is a true friend who sees me...sees past my hard exterior that I work so hard to keep up so that I don't fall apart.  She sees past my grumpiness that seeps out at any frustration thrown at me.  She doesn't take it personally.  She knows.  And she loves me.

Please pray for me.  I don't ask this often...but I am really severely struggling right now.  And, I am fully acknowledging the "spiritual" attack that is being waged on me right now.  Not only am I barely able to manage my intense grief as the 1 year mark quickly approaches....but now we are facing trials with our new rental.  It is a long horrible story where everything that could go wrong has at every turn. We are planning to move this next Saturday and I just don't know if it can all be worked out by then.  My nerves are fried.  My heart feels shredded.  I am worn and exhausted and at my end.

I do not want to live this life I have been dealt.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Out of Denial and into the Darkness


It's my fuel.  My driving force.

I've spent so much energy over this last year to just "keep my sh*t together" seem strong and "together" and pleasant and comfortable to be around.  But as the one-year mark approaches, I am starting to fall apart.  I can't juggle it all, anymore.  As the numbing shock of the last year is starting to wear away, I am starting to feel the darkening pain.  But I do not want to.  I have read that the 2nd year is actually harder because of this....the shocks fades away and the reality starts to really set it.  I feel my "safe" walls crumbling down around me and I can't control it as well as I used to.  Bit by bit, pieces of that not-so-securely-built wall are starting to crumble away.  And what lies beneath is my raw anger and devastation.

What am I angry at?  Oh, everything.  First and foremost, I am still angry at God and myself.  I am angry that my dreams were shattered.  I am angry at the un-fairness of other families getting to keep their two beautiful little girls while I don't.  I am angry when I hear a mother not appreciate her role and gift as a mom.  I am angry at the expectation that I am just supposed to live with this.  I am angry at happy families who have a perfect happy life.  I am angry that Ivy does not get to have the big sister that she was meant to follow and learn from.  I am angry that this is the path I am meant to walk.  I am angry because I feel betrayed by God...and punished by God.

Please know that I already have full confidence that "God can handle my anger".  I know this reminder is said with sincere and best intention but it is not a new concept to me.  It is a truth that I have known and been comfortable with for a good portion of my walk with Him.  I cannot tell you how many times I have been told that as if it is a new and enlightening concept that should be hard to grasp.  But it is not to me.  You see, for me, my walk with God and Christ has always been very intimate.  Christ has been an intimate friend to me...God has been a loving, warm, protective Father.  I have never feared sharing my deepest secrets with Him.  I have never feared sharing my darkest feelings with Him.  I have been angry with Him before.  I have cussed Him out before.  I have always known that He can see past all of that and knows my heart.  So, when I say that I feel betrayed, it is because I have shared this very deep and honest, intimate relationship with Him...and this just feels like personal betrayal.  For He could have stopped this.  (These are my erratic irrational feelings....I know full-well that I am irrational in my anger.  Who isn't, a lot of the time?)


I've been reading a book that was given to me.  It is titled A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser.  Jerry lost his mother, wife, and 4 year old daughter all at once in a tragic head-on collision.  I feel that his book is one of the very best I've read yet, through all of this.  I am only a third of the way through, but his thoughts either mirror my thoughts or have given insight to my emotions and mindset.

One concept that he wrote about has been nagging at me ever since I read it - That in avoiding the pain, you only cause yourself to get worse but that we must face the pain, walk into the darkness, in order to start some sort of healing.  And, healing does not mean that you get over it or past it or "better".  No.  Healing means that you start to learn how to live with the pain, for the Rest.  Of.  Your.  Life.  Jerry states it perfectly in the preface of his book - "This book is not intended to help anyone get over or even through the experience of catastrophic loss, for I believe that "recovery" from such loss is unrealistic and even harmful expectation, if by recovery we mean resuming the way we lived and felt prior to the loss."

Here are a few other statements of his that I very much appreciated ~

"My suffering is as puzzling and horrible to me now as it was the day it happened.  The good that may come out of the loss does not erase its badness or excuse the wrong done.  Nothing can do that."

" mourning became too deep for tears.  So my tears turned to brine, to a bitter and burning sensation of loss that tears could no longer express.  In the months that followed I actually longed for the time when the sorrow had been fresh and tears came easily."

"I was assigned both a tremendous burden and a terrible challenge.  I faced the test of my life.  One phase of my life had ended; another, the most difficult, was about to begin.  When the emergency vehicle arrived at the hospital, I stepped out into a whole new world."  (or for me, it was when I walked into that bathroom and found her under the water...)

"I discovered in that moment that I had the power to choose the direction my life would head, even if the only choice open to me, at least initially, was either to run from the loss or to face it as best I could.  Since I knew that darkness was inevitable and unavoidable, I decided from that point on to walk into the darkness rather than try to outrun it, to let my experience of loss take me on a journey wherever it would lead, and to allow myself to be transformed by my suffering raher than to think I could somehow avoid it.  I chose to turn toward the pain, however falteringly, and to yield to the loss, though I had no idea at the time what that would mean."

"My decision to enter the darkness had far-reaching consequences, both positive and negative.  It was the first step I took toward growth, but it was also the first step I took toward pain."

"I did not get over the loss of my loved ones; rather, I absorbed the loss into my life, like soil receives decaying matter, until it became a part of who I am."

***  "When we plunge into darkness, it is darkness we experience.  We feel pain, anguish, sorrow, and despair, and we experience the ugliness, meanness, and absurdity of life.  We brood as well as hope, rage as well as surrender, doubt as well as believe.  We are apathetic as often as we are hopeful, and sorrowful before we are joyful.  We both mourn deeply and live well.  We experience the ambivalence of living simultaneously in the night and in the light.
...The darkness lingers for a long time, perhaps for the rest of our earthly lives.
...The choice to enter the darkness does not ensure we ever completely come out the other side.  I am not sure we can or should.
But is it possible to live this way?  Is it possible to feel sorrow for the rest of our lives and yet to find joy at the same time?  Is it possible to enter the darkness and still to live an ordinary, productive life?  Loss requires that we live in a delicate tension.  We must mourn but we must also go on living."

"I knew that running from the darkness would only lead to greater darkness later on."

I look back over this past year and running is all that I have done.  In asserting that, I have realized that running is really just called denial.  How did I not know that I have been living in denial?  I function best by denying this ever happened.  I don't want to face that pain.  It hurts like freaking hell!  So, I ignore it.  That's why I smother my tears and avoid all the sad places and things.  If I avoid it, it won't hurt and maybe just maybe, I can get through yet another day.  My life is just about getting through one day at a time.  Diving into that darkness just sounds like going in reverse.  But, I also know that denying and avoiding it hasn't faired me well either.  It's been making me physically sick...and darker inside.  And, now it's starting seep out the corners.  It's becoming a harder struggle to smother it all the time.  Facing the pain sounds horrible.  And what does that actually look like?  Well, this author dove into his darkness and pain by staying up late at night and going through old photos and memories and bringing on the tears and weeping.  Sometimes, I don't even know if I know how to do that anymore.  I can look at the photos.  I can watch most of the videos.  So, I'm not exactly sure what that is going to look like for me.  The only video that is brutally unbearable to me is the video that Kinsey made for Vienne's memorial service.  The songs that play in that video and the feelings that surround all those memories at that service and during that time make me sick to my stomach.  I have only watched that video 3 times since.  And, then I don't want to over-watch it and become numb to it.  So, I guess this is a topic that my counselor is going to help me navigate through.  I have to start facing it because I have to start forgiving myself...and I have to start protecting myself from a "greater darkness" that could occur.

And, eventually I hope to come to some sort of understanding with God.  Right now I feel like He and I are just going to have to agree to disagree on this one.  I will never agree with His decision to say "no" to our desperate pleas to save her life.  I will never agree with the plan for my child to die.  There will NEVER EVER be a point in my life when I will stop and say "oh!  I get it now.  I see why Vienne had to die."  NO.  Never.  There is NOTHING that could occur in this life that would be worth sacrificing my child's life for.  So, I am just going to have to disagree on this one.  And, I believe that is ok.  There are plenty of choices He made in the New Testament that I have never fully agreed with or understood.  But, the main thing is that I do still believe in Him and I do believe He is the one and only God and I do believe that His Son was sent to die here for us. (But, the loss of His Son was WAY different than my loss...yes, He lost.  But, He also got Him back 3 days later!)  And, loving Him right now....well, that's something I'll have to work on.

So anger is my fuel, my driving force.  And, the anger that boils beneath the surface helps me to keep going and denying or avoiding my living hell.  Yup.  That pretty much sums it up.  Pretty, isn't it?  I don't really have it all together AT ALL.  I am a mess.  A running angry mess.

But, I am aware of it all.  That's one thing in my favor.  I am so blasted conscientious and self-aware.  So, I know the things I need to work on.  In an earlier post, I alluded to some changes that are going on this summer.  The main and only one worth mentioning is that we are moving again, at the end of this month.  We are moving back to the area we were living in when Vienne passed away.  I have been running from it for this past year.  It is time to start facing the step at a time.  We love the area we were living in and realize that there is no other place we'd rather be.  We love all that it has to offer in places to walk to (4 parks, 3 coffee shops, our health food grocery store, a splash pad, a play boutique, a library, restaurants, walking paths, toy store....).  And, mainly, we also realized that we want to raise Ivy in the area that her sister loved and show her all of her sister's favorite places.  So, we will return.  And, it will be a good stepping stone for us.  My first step into facing the darkness.

Here I go....

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Happy Birthday, Emily!

Today is Emily's 5th birthday.  Emily was a dear friend of Vienne's.  I would say that during their 2nd and 3rd years, they were each other's very bestest friends.  It was always way too precious to watch these two very sweet girls play together.  Emily was always kind and loving to Vienne.

Emily's mama, Kristel, and I actually went to high school together!  We reconnected later in life, over Facebook, when we learned that we both had girls of the same age.  Kristel and I were instant friends and so were our precious girls.  Kristel has been one of my biggest most compassionate supporters in grief, over this past year.  Her broken heart over our loss of Vienne has touched my heart deeply.  She is a constant support system to me.  I love you, Kristel and couldn't be more thankful for our friendship.

Unfortunately, Vienne and Emily didn't get to play together over the last year of Vienne's life, so I only have photos up to 3 years old.  My hope is that this little post will be a treasure for Emily, someday, to look back over and see photos of herself with her sweet Angel Friend who lives in Heaven.
Love you still and always, sweet Emily!  xoxo

(Vienne and Emily met a little bit before Vienne's 2nd birthday.  These photos capture the time when they first met and played together.  How darling are they?)

(so sweet and sharing...right from the start)

(this was from our pre-Thanksgiving gathering that we traditionally like to hold with friends.  V is 2 1/2 and Emily is a little over 2 years old.)

(Here is a most adorable video of both girls at age 2.  Kristel had posted this video of Emily, showing off all that she knew about animals and numbers.  It was so stinking cute.  Anytime that Kristel would post a new video of Emily, I would show it to Vienne - it was her best friend, after all!  And, Vienne would obsessively watch them over and over.  Before I took this video of V, she had watched this over and over spouting off all the animal sounds with Emily.  By the time I took the video, she was a little worn out and starting to get goofy.  I love her sense of humor.)

(this was at Vienne's 3rd birthday party.  When Emily arrived, they clung to each other in excited glee.  This embrace is just one of the very sweetest.  This is how we should hug our friends.)

(one of my most favorite photos of these two!  Sweetest photo of two beautiful girls.)

(a joyful Emily)

(Emily and her lovely mama, Kristel)

(that summer, after Vienne's 3rd bday, we went to the zoo together)

(and they forged our trail!)

(sweet girls just loved each other so so much)

(this is another of my very favorite photos of these two!  They are sitting in the grass, at the zoo, deep in sweet conversation.  Don't you just wish you could hear what they were talking about?)

(that same summer we also went to The Enchanted Forest together, along with our dear friend Lisa and her daughter, Makayla.)

(Emily in the crooked house - I love her little pose here)

(all 3 girls looking over the edge.  Their hair is all the same color - they look like sisters from the back.)

(me and the girls on the silly little train)

(this was at Emily's 3rd birthday party at a splash pad)

(so precious....both girls sitting quietly together on the edge of the water)


Thursday, August 1, 2013

anxiety and self-worth

I know my posts are growing fewer and further between.  Journaling my grief lately just hasn't really appealed to me.  The reason is all the same...I am just tired of it all.  Crying doesn't really make me feel better.  Writing doesn't really make me feel better.  Remembering doesn't make me feel better...  It's all the same.  Nothing will bring her back...and so the pain will always remain.

There have been a lot of changes going on in our lives this summer and I'm sure I will update on here, sooner or later.  I like change, actually.  I kind of thrive off of it.  It also helps to give me something to obsess over...which is something that I look for these days.  Distraction.  I earnestly look for new distractions to obsess over and keep my mind busy so that I won't stop and dwell on my sadness and empty heart.  Otherwise I just constantly feel dead inside.

One good update to write about is that Mark and I have finally found a counselor that we really really like.  We have been to see him about 4 times now and we are really impressed.  He was referred to us by a friend at our church and I couldn't be more thankful for her adamant referral of him.  A counselor who actually truly deeply cares?  Wow - who would've thought that would be so hard to find?  In just 4 short sessions, this man has taken us under his wing.  His compassion towards us is palpable in every way he talks to us and, most importantly, listens to us.  He has certainly gone above and beyond what I believe most counselors would typically do.  For instance:  He requested that we bring photos and videos of Vienne so that he may get to know her a bit.  He asked permission to read this blog and then he actually DID and wrote us a heartfelt email about how much she touched his life and how angry he feels for us.  He spotted some hydrangeas while on a bike ride so stopped and photographed them and framed them and gave them to us! (photography is a hobby of his)  Wow.  We are astounded.

But, beyond what he has "given" us in ways of compassion and support, he is also slowly starting to bring light to some areas that I struggle in.  One mainly being my self-worth, especially after losing Vienne.  I never originally thought that I struggled in that area...but he is starting to point some small things out that are giving me much food for thought.

The main reason I started to search for a counselor again was because my anxiety continues to worsen and worsen...which has, unfortunately, started to affect my physical health.  My doctor recently asserted that she has come to believe that the majority of my maladies are being caused by my nervous system (or anxiety and grief).  She took a thermogram of my abdomen, hoping that she might find some physical evidence of what's been making me ill...and it came up blank.  Nothing physically causing this...which is why diet and herbs haven't helped.  Since that discovery, we have been starting to address my nervous system.  Counseling should also help.  (I should clarify that, yes, I do still have gluten & grain intolerances...there are physical problems that have always been, but they have been worsened through my grief)

As our counselor is getting to know us, he has started to gently point out some things about how I talk about myself.  I guess I have a tendency to interject small yet negative adjectives about myself when explaining things.  For example:  "I struggled with my vanity and my pride when...." or "I know this is weird but...".  Nothing overt...but small unnecessary negative comments.  He also asserted that he gathers that Mark and I are very selfless people - conscientious and thoughtful and caring.  Nothing wrong with that at all, though he did point out that sometimes that means we might not take time to actually care for ourselves.  This gave me something to think about.  I know he is right.

Allowing my self-care to be put on the back burner and a tendency to interject negative comments about myself all points to my self-worth, in my eyes.  When looking at my struggle with my anxiety, I see how that also reflects a struggle with my self-worth.  My anxiety gets most intense when things get out of my "control" or don't go as expected or planned, especially in my mothering.  I am most paranoid about my mothering to Ivy.  Of course I struggle with that.  In my disillusioned mind, ultimately, I failed Vienne.  With EVERY over-the-top intentional effort I made for Vienne since the moment she was conceived, I still somehow failed in the end.  I know I did way more for her than most moms even do.  Mothering is my passion.  It is what I am good at.  But despite all my efforts and plans and intentions I still lost her.  I still feel punished.  And, so to make up for that, I struggle with putting standards on myself as I mother irrational fear that I could fail her, too.  I know this is all irrational.  I know most of you who read this want to argue this and tell me that I'm such a great mom.  I know I'm a great mom.  Deep down, I do know this.  But, that voice still reminds me that I failed.  And, I know that is the "voice" that the counselor wants to focus on addressing.  I want to have something to blame.  It's hard for me to let go of that.  On the days I don't blame myself, I blame God.  Two very difficult things to reconcile. that's where I'm at in my head these days.  Striving for distraction so that I can just plug along.  It's almost a month until the dreaded one-year-anniversary of her death...the absolute most worst day of my life.  Fun times ahead (note my heavy sarcastic tone).

(me and my first baby girl)