Monday, April 23, 2012

The Second Year: Your Child Is Still Not Here, Your Pain Is Still So Real

The dreaded second year...however necessary and unavoidable, still dreadful. I don't mean to sound without hope, because I have experienced a great amount of healing in the year and a half since the loss of my daughter, Evelyn, but never did I grasp what I was going to have to endure in the "years" after...for me, now in the second year after my loss. In the first year, hindsight looking back you are actually still in a broad state of shock. You have a lot of coping mechanisms working for you, hormones, adrenaline, numbness, all of the above. I am not a grief expert, and I haven't even really researched into this...I am just speaking on what I felt, and what I can generally attest to knowing the little that I do. You are trying to figure out how to "survive" again. Get up...get out of bed...take a shower(at some, be around people, eat, drink...just survive. It is a serious task to do all of these. You forget to eat, you forget to run a simple errand...every day is a marathon and a great success if you make it through just one more day. The second year, the shock has worn off considerably...and you are cycling through all those dreaded milestones, holidays, etc...AGAIN. They say all your "firsts" are really hard....and they are...but you have shock on your side. Not in the second year. You are thinking...I gotta go through this again?? New Years, my birthday, Mother's Day, and of course your child's second birthday. And now, you are feeling things a lot more, you feel more in touch with reality. You don't have that out of body feeling anymore...your spirit is back in your body...feeling, experiencing everything. The reality hits. Your child is still not here, and your pain is still so real. And you somehow feel expected to be OK by expect this from yourself a little more, and you certainly feel it from others. Whether you project that on yourself about others...or if others really feel that way, it doesn't matter. You feel a sense that you should be "moved on" or "better" by now. So, you act all normal around close friends, family, co-workers, etc., but inside you are practically dying a second death in the second year. You put a smile on...and behind closed doors you have breakdowns, meltdowns, cry fests...regularly. You try to become a productive member of society again. You force yourself to do things, or at least I do...that you absolutely DO NOT want to do...or feel right or good about doing. I love my family...but those are the most painful times for me. The entire family gathering together, eating dinner all at the same table...talking, looking at each other...all eyes are focused, when all you want is for people to barely notice you, so you don't have to think what they are thinking that you feel, to remind you of how you feel...and it is always there, in the back of your head...pain, grief, loss, agony. Every bite of food you swallow, it feels like you are feasting on a handful of thorns, painfully forcing each bite down, so you appear normal. Sitting, eating, talking, laughing, when all you are doing on the inside is crying. My daughter is supposed to be sitting there with us...and I feel her loss the most during those times. If it was up to me, there would be no family gathering, no laughing, no feasting...only mourning...because that is all that feels real to me right now. Every time you make a decision or think about making a decision that goes against the grain or is out of the norm for you or your feel like you are rocking the boat, when your boat has already been capsized, and "mayday, mayday" has been echoing in your head for 18 months now. Oh, the life of a grieving mother...God is good, but the day to day realities just suck sometimes. I look forward to the day that I can honestly say, I'm OK. I think it's important to be honest about how you are feeling in order to heal, and instead of just being a complainer in writing this, I hope to help another grieving mother know she is not alone in these feelings that are not always so pretty...and that it is healthy to express them. His grace showers over it all...the good and the ugly. Still thankful for another day in His presence and the gift I've been given in my salvation...if nothing else, today.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

We Can Plan, But Only God's Will Stands

If you have lost a baby, the discussion of people's future plans raise a certain amount of unrestand I have found this to be more common among us who have experienced full-term losses...when it is least expected to lose a baby. It is especially bothersome when it comes to the plans of pregnant moms and dads. They say, "we are going to do this when the baby is here, when the baby is born, when we get home with the baby, when the baby is six months old...etc." The most ambiguous of all is the "birth plan." I absolutely do not fault these this is what we all did, myself included; however, it doesn't make it any less strange, especially when you hear it from those that know about your recent loss or who were very close to you during your loss. It almost feels disrespectful when they speak with such certainty about their plans around you, and you almost want to say, "were you not there when I was doing and talking about all these things...did you already forget what happened to me? And did you forget that YOU aren't the one that will decide this or that, or if any of us will even be alive tomorrow?" It's not that we want to rob these people of the joy of daydreaming about their baby and their future wishes for the's just something about that absolute certainty with which they speak of these plans around you, that make it seem almost offensive.

Like I stated earlier, it really is no fault to these parents, and I am not faulting them at all. I'm just being honest in expressing this after-loss commonality that I share with most moms who have had a similar loss as mine...the kind of loss when the very time you are supposed to hear the first cry from your child...there is no sound at all. You ask, "well, should they not speak about these things at all? Or make any plans? And are you not happy for them?" And my answer is no, no, no to all of those! It would be really nice however to hear someone say, "you know, if it's God's will and everyone is "healthy," we would love to _____ or _____with baby Sally." Or to go further..."We know, especially after witnessing what _____ went through that we are not guaranteed this baby's life. We have so much respect for what he/she lost and pray everyday that we have the chance to care for this little life on the outside." I know, that I will CERTAINLY speak on this level if I am blessed to carry a baby again. We should really have this mindset about all things in life...any future plans...because everything is in God's hands and up to His will...not ours. I am focusing on the pregnancy topic because this is the category that hits closest to home for me right now as I lost my daughter, Evelyn, a year and a half ago, two days before her due date due to a cord accident.

I guess no matter how much empathy you think you have for someone and their loss, you can NEVER quite fully grasp what has happened to them or put yourself in their shoes, or know what to say...and especially not be able to fathom that it could EVER happen to you. And to these people's defense...they may speak this way because it terrifies them to ever let their mind go there for that place where they saw you experience the greatest loss of your life, and to think it could happen to them just as easily. And because they have never been through it, it is unknown territory, and in their mind, they can't imagine going through it and making it out they don't think about it. It is just not an option for them and their baby. And so, they continue to make their plans with the assumed outcome of a healthy and living baby...but not for me, never again.

I came across this scripture not too long ago and find it very relevant to this topic about our future plans:

James 4:13-16
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

I take this scripture very seriously...and how could I not? My daughter's life, and the experience of losing her days before her due date has taught me not to take one day for granted or to boast about any future plans that I have. Even I still do this out of habit, but I certainly have a greater respect than ever before for God's power to give and to take away, and ultimately for knowing that it's His will that will prevail and not mine, nor my plans. I don't know if there is any greater "planning" or "preparation" than that that goes along with expecting a baby. And I don't think you can ever quite respect what I am talking about here unless you were like me, sitting in a room FULL of baby stuff...from two showers and nine months of preparing...stuff coming out of your ears...processing that the little one inside of you...who you have been waiting nine months to see and hold...has taken a detour to heaven instead...and that you won't have the opportunity to take care of this baby after all, nor will you hear her first cry or see her smile. And if you hadn't been so certain the baby would eventually be living and breathing in your arms, you might not have prepared quite to the extent that you did for something so uncertain, something that is completely out of your control, that rests in God's hands alone. He will have His will regardless of your plans...only God's will stands. Instead, you would just live each and every day, not boasting about tomorrow, but praying and trusting in His provision, believing in His goodness and sovereignty, never fooling yourself that you are in control, hoping for, but never expecting tomorrow. Simply resting in the knowledge of your salvation.