Monday, November 24, 2008

Grief becomes a Sunflower

I'm not sure how to respond anymore. Just when I think I understand Grief, she shows me another side to her. It's not my intention to wallow, but, rather to pay attention. I am grateful for all of you for your messages and cards of love and support for our family as we navigate this life without Caitlin here with us on this earth.

It's not my intention to wallow, but I'm not really sure of what that means anymore. With a year now officially gone and marked from Caitlin's last breath and heart beat, I struggle to see how any of this pain mingled with joy that she made us parents, be anything but worthy of "wallow." Every tear we cry, and word I write seems hardly savory or indulgent, but rather quite necessary. We would hardly expect someone to not pay attention to the most important events of their lives, birthdays and weddings, and so, Caitlin’s death seems quite equal in importance.

I worry, though. I worry that my expression of grief makes others sad. But I must trust that these expressions are the outward signs of love. I must trust that this truth will resonate with others who love. It is not my intention to make others uncomfortable with talk of death of our child, but rather to be truthful and through honest expression of sorrow and joy, to heal myself and others who choose to accompany me on this journey at times.

Recently, someone remarked as to my use of a sunflower as my profile picture on a wepage. I remember the sunflower picture, and the reason I chose it (yes, Beth, I think it was sign of sorts, if we are so privileged in life to receive or send these.). I was walking in AZ on the ASU campus in June and thinking, "there is no way I can continue to teach and think that what I do is important when my child is dead." And, in the AZ sun, it's hard to remain in despair, and the walk led me past the tallest sunflower I'd seen. It was so out of place, on campus in the concrete next to a stair well, and, yet not out of place at all. After all it's a big research university so likely the plant is part of some study that garners $$ support and will win faculty retention and likely secure tenure, but I digress (a good sign of healing, I'm sure. Insert wry smile here.).

So, I see the sunflower, but not as a sign of bright happiness, but as a testament of misery looking for what will warm her, what will heal her, and what will make despair less and life better. For the sunflower, the answer seemed to be the sun (insert second wry smile here, quite simply for the "duh" factor), but for me it's my daughter, Caitlin Anne.

I felt quite rooted to the ground and miserable, and my only release and hope was to turn myself toward the sun, toward my daughter, toward what I cannot touch or hold. And in desperation, I try to soak up as much of her loving rays as possible.


  1. I really relate to what you say about worrying that your expressions of grief will make others sad or uncomfortable. And yet, when I read your blog, it only seems heart-wrenchingly beautiful, and familiar. Sometimes it makes me cry, like when I watched Caitlin's video, but I chose to engage that because it felt healing and connecting to do so.

    I have wanted to tell you how much I appreciate the description of your blog, especially the phrase: "as I parent the memory of my child, and my child, in loving return, parents my heart." Thank you for giving words to something I feel but did not know how to say.

    Thinking of sunflowers,

  2. There is a sunflower growing from the gutter above the education center at work. What a statement of life, courage and randomness. With winter on the way, the sunflower is now fading, adding another look at the beauty of grief. I thought of you when the flower was pointed out to me.


  3. This is a really beautiful post. The final paragraph brought tears to my eyes, as I, too, trope toward the sun.