Thursday, December 31, 2009

Joy Possible

Caitlin was remembered by her Grammy and Godmother this season. It was so nice. Many people avoid saying anything about the children who have died; it's too sad perhaps for the season. As a bereaved mother, acknowledging the sadness in the beginning makes way for the joy that's possible during this season. Our family remembered Caitlin and we hung her ornaments on the tree. My camera didn't capture her name and the tiny angel that hangs from pink hearts, but my heart did.
Thanks family. Love you.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Before the Snow Covers

After leaving the only holiday party she had the courage to attend, and enduring the traditional tunes with "I'll be home for Christmas" and "I'll have a blue Christmas without you," she realizes that the impending Noreaster threatens more than a safe ride home. It threatens to cover her daughter's stone and may prevent the opportunity to visit before celebrations and travels commence. So before the snow covers it, she drives to the cemetery, well aware that this behavior falls squarely under the heading of "crazy bereaved mother." And owning this label, she drives into the dark cemetery, kneels and whispers, "I'm sorry sweet baby girl. I miss you. I love you." She kisses her daughter's stone and allows a feeling of relief to sweep over her, knowing she made it before the snow covers and hides where her daughter is buried with its white blanket.

"My daughter is buried here," she explains to the police officer who prevents her incident-free exit. "I know I'm not supposed to be here after dark, and I'm on my way out, but I just had to visit before the snow covers." "OK, then, have a good night," he replies and drives on. Her tears fell in equaled furry to the snow.

Friday, December 18, 2009

She Holds My Fragile Heart

During a visit to the cemetery, I take a walk through the stones of the loved ones of others. And I see this statue. I didn't interpret it the way others might perhaps, that the angels hold the souls of our loved ones who leave their bodies for what is unknown to the living. I saw instead my child holding my heart with care.

I am so very tired.

Monday, December 7, 2009

I Can't Use This Here.

So, I get this comment recently, and I have no idea what the commenter meant by it. So I didn't publish it with the post of which it was related. I didn't recognize the name from those who frequently offer their comments and contribute and help to make meaning from this loss and share in the work of grief. The name has no link, so I left it where it was in a holding pattern in the moderation space. I left it there as I tried to figure out the purpose of the comment, "Everything comes to man if he will only wait. . . ."

My first thought was, "I can't use this. I can't use this here, in A Fifth Season."

I can't use this statment in my place of pause to reflect and parent my child's memory, because I'm her mother. I am a woman. That matters. I don't accept that "man" is inclusive of all humankind, especially when my gender is a beautiful and important facet of my relationship with my daughter as she was in life. How I experienced her death is also highly influenced by my gender. I can't use "man" and "he" in this space. It carries little meaning. Perhaps the message was for someone else?

I take a mental walk away, and begin click to "reject," but that's not my way. I'm hooked on rumination. I look within and I look without, because I think it's important that I understand to the best of my reasoning--and that is the purpose of this Fifth Season.

I consider "Everything comes," and smile. "Ha," everything is already here. What I have is what I have in this moment. Sometimes, I feel sadness, and more frequently of late my emotions are quite stable and when I laugh, it's quite hearty. I know how luscious a laugh is, and when it comes, I welcome it. When sorrow and tears come, I embrace them as well--truthfully I can't say that I welcome them, but I can say I honor the experience, and in that sense sorrow is welcome as well.

Perhaps the most, frankly, irritating word of the phrase is "wait," because it suggests wanting or needing something that one doesn't have. I shall now commence to kneading and stretching this word through a range of possible meanings. No, I don't have energy for that. I realize that "wait" is pivotal. The obvious question seems to be "wait for what?"

"Nothing." I have nothing to wait for. I have what I have and love those who are here and not here (my sweet baby, Caitlin), so I am back to "I can't use this here." I reject the comment. Perhaps, the commenter will share again, only next time express what he or she truly means to share. As John Mayer sings, "Say what you mean to say." But, no matter, I know what it means for me. I can't use this, here. Peace.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Moment Among Light bulbs & Plungers

I walk through the store, getting groceries. We've been living on take out and bagels and coffee and Dun.kin donuts, and so I must buy milk. I see a child, likely older than the four-feet might suggest who pushes a cart with Daddy beside and mom behind. And the child has DS and I can't stop staring and I realize that Dad has caught me and has misunderstood. People don't like to see others stare at their children who have special needs, and he gave me a look that I would describe as "protective."

"Hello," I say and smile with the tears waiting in the wings, and I pause and make eye contact.

He softened and and replied, "Hahwah---ya." That's the way they say it here in this part of New England.

"Good, thanks."

I pass the mother and smile at her as though she knows me and she returns the expression.

Turning into the very next aisle the tears make their entrance and I'm so pissed and jealous and sad and can't afford to lose it in the grocery store, not after two years. I'm supposed to be stronger now. Healed. Carrying the load. I stand there thankful that others don't need the light bulbs on the left or the plungers on the right of the aisle; they all are buying milk. I can have my grief moment staring the nightlight size bulbs.

They have pink and blue ones.

I struggle to cry without sobbing sounds, but I hear a squeak behind me. I release my hand from holding my now sweating forehead and turn away from fake study of the light bulbs and push the cart, though here they say it like this "carriage," and that feels more crappy.

Monday, November 30, 2009

That Love is a Verb--That's What's Most Important

This may surprise some, but this is another statement that no longer rings true for me.

"I know that the only important thing is whether or not the baby is born healthy."

Here's what I know. That's not the most important thing, either. Because when your child isn't born healthy, as mine was not, the most important thing is that you become a mother and that you engage in love as the verb it is, in all it's messy and scary and difficult and powerful and beautiful ways. Most parents hope for health above all, though some must come to an understanding that health cannot be the most important thing--especially when your child isn't born with health.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Take Care of Yourself

I've been meaning to write about this for a bit. I joined a weight loss group and lost 35 pounds. Big whoop really. Well, no, it was a "big whoop" and I am and was truly happy about my efforts and my seeming success at taking care of myself. I recently took a quiz to check my "habit profile." And my score sheet says that I need to work on "taking care of myself." The second item that was "revealed" was that I need to "manage my feelings."

Ha! You think! @#$%

I don't really want to take care of myself sometimes. I don't want to know what my feelings are sometimes. I just want to anesthetize with food and drink. But, at some point, I have to keep going don't I?

I hear this statement frequently, "If that happened to me, I could never survive."

It does encourage me to know that my efforts are recognized. That some growth and healing and strength in carrying this grief is acknowledged by others. I suppose I'm surviving, but I don't really have a choice do I? Though, sometimes, I think, "Ah, so here I am surviving something that others couldn't. This something must really suck." And it does. As I said, it can be nice that they seem to want to recognize my "strength"? My "courage"? My "what" exactly, though? The world keeps turning, the clock keeps ticking, and death goes on with my life in tow. I feel frustrated that there is this comparison resulting in me "winning" the survival game. UGH. Who wants to win anyway? It doesn't help to feel more courageous than another. She's still dead. It doesn't help to feel stronger than another. She's still dead.

If it happened to you, you would survive. I don't know how I know. I don't know, really. I do believe it, though.

Blogging has been a help in "managing my feelings," but now it's time to get to the "taking care of myself."

Well, to that end all I can muster is a "Gone with the Wind" Scarlett sigh, "I'll think about it another day."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gone Two Years

Missing Caitlin today. Still can't call it an "anniversary," but it is an important time marker; she's been gone for two years. Now she's forever in our hearts--it's not enough for a parent, but it's what we have.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Quote

Courage, it would seem, is nothing less than the power to overcome danger, misfortune, fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good; that everything is meaningful even if in a sense beyond our understanding; and that there is always tomorrow.

--Dorothy Thompson

It's Happened Again; Politics Intersects with Grief

"The U.S. ranks 31st in life expectancy (tied with Kuwait and Chile), according to the latest World Health Organization figures. We rank 37th in infant mortality (partly because of many premature births) and 34th in maternal mortality. A child in the U.S. is 2 1/2 times as likely to die by age 5 as in Singapore or Sweden, and an American woman is 11 times as likely to die in childbirth as a woman in Ireland."

I simply do not want any other mother's babies to die.

I read a lot of opinion pieces, but what usually grabs me are facts. Not the typical way of responding, though, most people are moved by stories and emotions, and in fact we make our most important life decisions based on feelings and not facts. But the facts above frighten me--children die and mothers die more here than countries with less than we have. Then I get angry, to be told that this is a government take over of health care, by the very people we pay to take over running the government on our behalf. I desire politicians to act on statements that they care about the American people, but so far, I hear that they are willing to accept the deaths of children and their mothers for the sake of who?--the very children and women who die? No, I suspect it's for the power or security or profit for themselves. I feel discouraged that some try to tell me it's OK to not want to contribute to the health of others, and encouraged me to think that only other people's children die for lack of care.

Please vote compassion and care, not greed. Please read the facts. We don't have the greatest health care system in the world. We seem to value money over life. And still with the latest bill that restricts health care for those who would have an abortion, the conservative population does not support reform . . . I'm stymied. Please, vote compassion and care. Let children and women live.

(Ah..... DH reminds me that Jesus was a liberal! Love DH. Matthew 25: 34-40. Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the king will answer them, "Truly I say to you as you did it to the least of my brothers (and I say sisters) you did it to me. Matthew 5:43-47. Love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But, I say, Love your enemy. In that way you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.)

[Oh crap . . . . . . OK, I've done what I can't stand, I've bible-versed you. I'm sorry and well, there it is. I'm simply saddened that we can't see to the prevention of the deaths of future children . . . . I'm saddened. ]

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Like Slog

It's like slog inside my mind, when I'm thinking along and all is going smoothly. The words flow as I articulate what I mean, and then my thinking runs into a thick swamp of dead reeds, murky water, mud, and a toxic oil spill. And I must step forward and slog through, dragging myself through the thoughts, searching wildly for images within my mind, and reaching desperately for sounds to make words to string together. All the while, I push down the panic that I won't survive it. I won't survive this grief moment. Hoping the tears will wait as I slog my way through to the other side, with the sludge still clinging to my body as I open my mouth and eventually successfully speak. The damage is apparent, and it's embarrassing and frustrating. The experience resolves itself first with emotions of relief, then sorrow and anger, and finally the unsettling fear of the next swamp to come.

Another grief moment at work, that rendered my lecture a lesson in what it looks like when the mind succumbs to grief and the brain doesn't function as it should. I have amazingly supportive students, but I hadn't planned on explaining to them what I struggle with periodically. I planned on teaching them, but my stammering made me appear like someone who had no business teaching them, and so I told them--"I've experienced a traumatic event in my life that left me with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A trauma causes very real chemical changes in the brain, and sometimes it affects how I speak." Then I said something like "Oh crap, I didn't mean to tell my students that."

A new fear is creeping in--will this grief destroy my career? Will a bereaved mother be relegated to only grief as her work? I worry. I worry.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Saint's Day

I went to visit Caitlin's grave yesterday, and thought a lot about All Souls Day coming up, and celebration of All Saint's Day today. According to my religion, I need not pray for Caitlin's soul to be purified in purgatory, as she entered the kingdom of heaven with no sins to purge. I supposed I am to be comforted by that, but I wish that she were here and could be well on her way to racking up some "sins." She deserved to live here on earth with her mama and daddy. At the same time, it is comforting to think of her in paradise with the saints.

I played some of her songs on my ipod as I sat at her grave. All her angels and other items I've brought were still there, which always makes me relieved and grateful. The frog toy still makes noise, but the smiley face one has succumbed to elements and no longer makes the bird and squeaky noises it used to.

Today has more special meaning, as it's Caitlin's grandfather's birthday. So, I'm remembering him holding her and remembering the hope I felt in those days of her life. Perhaps she has already whispered a gentle "happy birthday, Papa J" with her angel voice on the wind. If not, I'll relay the message soon.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Survived by His Parents

A ten-year-old boy succumbs to H1N1, and a family member has died. Another mother and father have lost a child. I read this distant relative's obituary and paused at "survived by his parents." A quiet sadness overtook me. Death is final, but I consider these phrases "survived by his children" with "survived by his parents." If only the former could have been this boy's obituary. If only . . . The death of a child feels like the death of hope. I slump with heaviness to know that when the parents die, their obituaries will read "preceded in death by their child."

I am so very sorry for their loss. So very sorry.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Did I Get Enough of What I Want?

Another blogger wrote a post about the Womens Conference, and in particular the conversation titled, "Grief, Healing, and Resistance." This session brought this question to me. "Did I Get Enough of What I Want?" One of the panelists, Elizabeth Edwards describes a statement she made after seeing her son in the morgue, and telling a friend that she was so glad that she had her son for 16 years. And she continued to explain how she came to see that as a gift.
It was not as long as I wanted, but, you know often times you don't get all that you want, but if you get some of what you want, isn't that great? And I look at it now as a gift.
The tears come because I too see Caitlin's brief life as a gift. And I didn't get enough of what I wanted--I wanted to bring her home from the hospital and continue parenting. I try to transform her life as a gift, only the desire to parent a living child is becoming stronger rather than receding as that transformation continues from debilitating grief to transformed pain of loss to gratefulness for the gift of motherhood she gave me. The question will linger, however, and I wonder how DH and I can resolve it. If we have the courage and means to resolve it. I fear that, well actually, I'm resigned to having some of what I want, rather than having my desire for parenting a living child fulfilled. I'll be OK. I always am somehow--and that's a gift or a curse, to live with getting a taste of what I want, though rarely (except on the day DH asked me to marry him) getting enough of what I need. You know, it's that I am loved enough----but have not found the ways to love enough-------

Perhaps the conversation might bring a question to you. Here's the link.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I Will Tell You What I Know

It never goes away. This aching painful broken feeling never goes away.
but, you will smile broader than ever before, because you will know how fleeting a moment worth a smile is.

That's it. That's all I got.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I Think This is What We Do

Stand on our own tails to prevent ourselves from falling into the pit. ((((((Hugs))))) fellow bereaved parents.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Let it Be

I sometimes listen to music on YouTube, and I wanted to hear this song again because it's still rattling around since that Walaid, Delayed, and Detoured day. I usually open another tab and let some music play, while I work or surf for other information. But, today, I wanted to study the lyrics as I listened, because there is clearly a reason my mind and heart are not done with this song. I was reminded how inspirational the song is for me personally, especially as a bereaved mother. Also, the connection to the religious iconic figure from my faith is pretty powerful as well--beautiful words the writer hears whispered from a bereaved Mother. While I'm ruminating, I catch an error in the lyrics typed for the video, "here will be an answer" instead of "there will be an answer." Well, there it is, a kernel of something new I gained from focused study on something my mind wanted me to look at (though it didn't know about this error), I think that error might be a typical unconscious statement of how this song is used to speak to how the song may have the power to comfort.

Here's what I mean: "There" means, the answer will come someday, but "here," means an answer, and for me meaning, is here already, embodied in melody and voice. Meaning that is fashioned in my mind and heart as I remember Caitlin in the here and now, perhaps as the light that shines on me. And answers are here within myself, as I explore my connections with my religion and my reason.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Waylaid, Delayed, and Detoured

Yikes, the day I had yesterday . . . . here it is without a breath . . .

I'm immersed in some new possibilities for my career and I get waylaid on some paperwork and am late to a meeting, an hour late, but I go anyway because when I get in the car I hear "Let it Be," and I think, "yeah, just let it be. You already know how hard life can be. This whole late to a meeting that's nothing," so I keep driving and arrive at the meeting, whereby some dolt says, "You have children don't you?"

"Oh, yes we do. We had a daughter two years ago and she died." And I hear this big intake of breath, but seriously I'm so irritated because "where the hell were you?" This was big news in this group for some time and you were there, but whatever, there are some people who won't remember--they have their own hidden tragedies--and I don't really have the time and energy to get that upset, I mean really, just let it be, ya know. Who cares that he didn't pay attention it's not all about me, and that's hardly the most insensitive thing I've heard, so get on with the conversation and the work you have to do. You don't have to be waylaid by this.

I move on to connect with another colleague and whamie another delay in my "let it be" mantra with the whole,
Well, I couldn't commit, because I'll probably be out in May. . . . blah blah blah . . . I won't be able to do anything until after May . . . .blah blah blah . . . . .out in May . . . blah . . . May . . .

Yeah, I got that, but I'm in no emotional state to hear happy news about a pregnancy and another new baby, 'cause I'm still avoiding the waylay from the last conversation. So I ask other questions to get us off the whole calendar topic, and I hear in my head, "seriously she wants to tell you about her baby, and it's good news so let her tell it, you can smile, just let it be." I pause and say, "But, you mentioned that you'll be out, what's going on?"
Well, I'm, and no one here really knows this, but I'm adopting and I'm waiting for a call to travel to pick up my baby and then I'll have court dates, and I'm . . .
I couldn't believe how happy that made me. "WOW, that's awesome. Congratulations." Ah that felt good, weird and cool. "Well, you already sound like a great mom, Oh, I'm sorry I don't even know. Do you have other children?" OK, seriously me, you need to let it be, you know better than to ask that question, what if she's had some tragedy . . . .
Oh, no, I'm going to be a single mom.
And she get's tears in her eyes, and I feel so privileged that she told me this terrific news and I told her so and I got tears in my eyes. "Well, this is selfish I know, but I've had a crappy day so far, and well, this is the best news I've heard all day. Thank you."

So, I'm thinking the waylays and the delays are over, but when I get out of the meeting I encounter construction and a detour and land on the wrong highway, and look up at a big green billboard for a women's clinic that reads, "Having trouble getting pregnant? Next left." No, "let it be" on that one, first the angry sardonic words came, "been there, done that, baby died." Then I screamed and cried and missed the detour back on to the road I needed to get home. I managed to calm myself down and took the very next exit and turned onto a another road with a sign that reads "Hospital Road," and the swear fest resumes until I turn the corner right past the hospital where Caitlin was born and I am at last quiet.

Letting the tears flow and letting it be, 'cause all my day's efforts have led me here.

I miss her. I'm not always sad. I'm not always in grief, but today my journey had some waylays, delays, and detours. Eventually I did make it home to fold myself into the arms of my DH, tell the whole story without a breath and cry myself to sleep.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later

I attended one of the readings of the play/docudrama about the hate-crime committed against Matthew Shepard that resulted in his death. I went knowing that this play was about the death of a child, and I think I went because it was about the death of a child. To hear the story again, and honor the life of another mother's child.

The acting where I attended was fine, but the words, taken directly from people from the town of Laramie, were powerful, sometimes mundane, and sometimes profound.

There were some who echoed the familiar, "Oh, we're past that." and "We've moved on," and of course when the words of Matthew's mother are read, we hear that many had told her these words. "Aren't you keeping him alive by doing this?" I started nodding as I heard this. "Yes," were Judy's words, "of course I am. Telling his story keeps him alive."

We don't move on, we don't get past, and we don't even seek to put it behind us, rather we carry it with us. When someone says my daughter's name, I might get a tear, but know that I cherish those tears, they are what I have of her and feeling that love for her that causes the tear to fall is a gift. Others cannot hurt us with "reminders," but they can hurt us by ignoring our children.

As she read the words of Judy, there was a point where my throat caught, and The script called for the actress to tear up and say, "sorry." The actress did a fair job, though, I knew her children were all still living. But it was OK, I knew intimately a bereaved parent's emotions and heard Judy's words and saw Judy's tears.

To Judy, who I don't know, but feel I do, "I am so sorry for the death of your son, Matthew. I am so deeply sorry, and I am remembering him with you on the anniversary of his death. I am remembering him with you." Peace.

I took away plenty of other big thoughts which I may write about here, but first I have to sift through whether they belong on a blog that is meant to be about my daughter and place of pause to grieve her death. There's an online community that gathered after the simultaneous performances. If you're interested you can read about it more here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

This Space is Not For Me

I am immersed in my profession at this time. The profession that "pulled me back in" just when I thought I was out. I thought I was embarking on a new road, where I would grumble about the not enough sleep, the troubles with feeding, and difficulties in running those errands with baby in tow. I'm walking to an office store just shy of a deadline by a few hours to get this big project off my hands, and I stop at an empty parking space. And I study the painted yellow blocks with BABY spelled neatly, but the pavement is cracked with an attempt for repair and the pavement is stained. "Fitting," I think, and I continue to stare. Sadly. It's quite fitting that it's empty because this space, this parking place for a road that I thought I would be on, is not for me.

[This post is part of The 73rd Circle Time: The Show and Tell. Click here to see what others are showing.]

Monday, September 28, 2009

Bereaved Parent Bond

It's no longer a surprise to feel a connection with someone I've just met. A connection that feels like I've met another member of my family. I'm speaking of course of the moment when two parents come to understand that they are both bereaved. When, someone says, "I've lost a child." And the individual's response isn't "I'm sorry," followed by helplessness, or that scary silence or "God's plan," or "Well at least it wasn't" or some other response that is many times comforting, and sometimes not. Rather, the response are those knowing tears behind the eyes that accompany the "I'm sorry" and a "I also had a child die."

"Then you know," frequently accompanies my sigh of relief. I'm relieved not because they suffer the same never-ending missing and the intense overpowering sorrow. We feel relieved, I think, because we are released from worrying about what they will say to us next. We are released from protecting them from how sad we still are. We are released from modifying the horrible, sometimes graphic, stories of how our children died. And we don't feel obligated (though, I understand it's usually a self-imposed feeling of obligation) to put on a strong face so they don't worry about us.

I met Kyle's father this weekend. He asked about my work, and to explain some of my challenges I included the tragedy of our daughter's death. And Kyle's dad responded without a flinch, and understanding eyes. "I'm so sorry," he replied, "we lost our son." Then he put his head in his hands and the tears escaped. "And you try to *move on, but it's so hard." We had a brief exchange about our children, but then back to work.

[I don't much care for the words, "move on," but the longer I live this bereaved existence, I find that several bereaved fathers, including Caitlin's sometimes use this phrase. Caitlin's dad says, it's not meant to be "getting over our daughter," but meant to say "continuing to live." And although DH doesn't use this when talking to me about Caitlin anymore, I'm trying to be more sensitive to how men process grief; and if a dad needs to use that phrase in his grief, then I try to respect that.]

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I teach. And the lecture today was about some things about how the brain develops. There's some "chatter" about synapses and density and such and there is info about what age certain things happen in the brain. It's here when I hear myself say, "until about the mid-70s, unless there is a disease that may interfere with the healthy density of synapses and rapid firing of those synapses in the brain." Then I look down and hear myself speak, "and of course PTSD affects that too." And my brain takes a worm hole back to the past, when a year ago, I was struggling to spell words on the board as I lectured from this same spot in the room, and began stuttering as I struggled to stay focused and not feel so scared, and where I tried--desperately tried to think. During that acute grief, I simply could not think.

When we teach we typically use an anecdote to illustrate a point. It sticks when the students know the person whose telling the story. But, this anecdote of

When my daughter died, my brain stopped working well. I experienced Post Tramatic Stress Disorder. It was like slog. I couldn't remember anything. I couldn't spell. I couldn't speak. Numbers were gone from my memory; I even forgot the date of my anniversary. And the fear, the overwhelming fear.

Wasn't shared. I stared at the floor for what seemed like an eternity to me. While the slog returned, and finally lifted my heavy head, and asked with blank and tired eyes, "Any questions?" I begged in my head that no one would speak.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pic for ICLW

I don't have any big thoughts on this, 'cept that the alley is public and empty. Hmmmmmm.

Late to the ICLW Table

Ah, I am late to the ICLW table. I thought that this month, I would be able to participate more fully, but alas, I am struggling again. So, I will say, "Thanks for all who came to visit. I'll be madly commenting beginning NOW!"

I like the ICLW because it gives me a chance to connect with more bloggers out there in the land of bereavement, TTC, infertiles, adoptive parents, and so many more. Scheeeeeuuuuu there are lots of us out there!

This weekend, DH and I left a busy work week behind and visited friends. It was nice. I'd post a picture, but Blogger and I are "fighting" and it won't cooperate.

Ever just feel like no matter what you do nothing will cooperate?

Monday, September 14, 2009

And so . . .

Two things

1. ((((hugs)))) to all of you who held me through my frustration in my previous post.

and so . . .

2. What do I say when someone does say this to me?

"Well, I don't really see it that way. But thank you."

If it's someone who loves me then I speak. If it's a stranger or acquaintance I am silent.* (Well, usually.) And that's where the e-outburst came from, because I take those feelings home, and they scrape across my heart for days. Sometimes the feelings bubble out like a mud-pot, but yesterday the fissure at my core couldn't vent it evenly and the geyser of anger blew.

It's not what people say that I wish to change.* (OK, well I do wish I could prevent them from saying it to me.) But, I'm resigned. I know I will continue to hear this statement, and I know that it is not said to hurt, far from it, it's their best attempt to comfort. Many of you echoed this in your comments. I talk about making meaning, and that statement for some is how they make their meaning.

But, I don't feel like I can tell them that.

Why? Some will be hurt by me because they view it as rejecting their offer of comfort. Some will try to convince me, and then it's really bad. Some will bible-verse me and give me a condescending "Well, I'll pray that you understand someday." Some will feel helpless. And that feeling just plain sucks. Some will fear that my faith is gone. Another sucky feeling. Sometimes, I simply too exhausted and too tired to form words to express my grief.

The burden then is mine, I must learn how to navigate it's effect on me. I'm working on it. It's part of this grief work the bereaved cannot escape.

*Anyone else notice that I'm desperate to escape the reality that nothing is simple and there is no right answer to this even in my own head?! Ha! I laughed out loud.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Never Say This To Me. Never.

"God has a plan. We don't know what it is, yet, but someday we will. It will all be clear."

* If you believe this, don't keep reading, below are some angry words about this statement. This is my space for pause, but I'm not interested in making others uncomfortable.

Never say this to me. Never.

I don't know how I can bear to hear this ridiculous sentiment addressed toward me again. It brings no comfort. To think that there's a plan for Caitlin's death brings no comfort. I have already surrendered to what is--that she is dead. I cannot strip the scab with desperate hope for answers. I have answers; she was born without good health, she had a perforated bowel, became septic and died. Exploring a spiritual reason for her death is an open door to madness. I make meaning from her death. I learn valuable, painful, difficult, beautiful, and loving lessons. But these are not the reasons she died. Meaning making and lesson learning is a gift not a plan. Let God be God and stop blaming him for dead babies by insisting that dead babies are part of the plan. My child will still be dead on that fictitious earthly day when it all becomes "clear"--clear is not a salve. One more thing, if suggested that it will become clear when I die, then I'll be in heaven too and then I'll see my daughter, and then----------I will be comforted.

Never say this to me. Never.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Thousand Times a Thousand Times

I recognize that look. The glassy eyes and a knowing that bad things happen, and a disbelief that everyone around you is engaged in what they are doing and interested in what they are saying and you think, "DON'T you know he's dead."

I'm speaking of course of the young adult whose brother died. We talked after I watched him go through the motions in a class. "I keep thinking I can just go home and see him." I remember that too. That every cell in your body has to be told that your loved one is dead. You tell your story a thousand times a thousand times.

You say it in words, the long version, the short version, the gentle story and raw shocking one. You write it in poetry you never knew you had in you, in essay, and letters, and emails, and forums. You tell the story in images of color and symbol, in nature of trees and birds and butterflies. You tell the story in actions through weeping, hugging, collapsing, and through fervent prayer, ritual, releasing balloons, and lighting a candle. Your entire being is immersed in this death story, this grief, this missing.

And those of us who see you looking glassy eyed and frightened must help you tell your story.

"How have you been since your brother died?"
"What did you do for Bs birthday?"
"I thought of B and you today when I was followed by a butterfly."

And then our role is to listen, not to fix, not advise, not to distract, but to be a loving receptacle of the story for the bereaved to lay another bit of their loved one gently to rest. And know the honor in that. And say, "I'm sorry."

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What I Wanted to Say

"Come talk to me anytime, if you need to."

UGH. Yuck. And I sucked. . . .

at comforting a young adult who recently lost his brother. I was doing fine up and until my last statement. I said the dead child's name. I didn't wait until there was a "private" moment. The bereaved don't want the death of someone they love to be swept under the rug. They want them remembered and named. It's their new normal; they live with absence.

But after we talked, I said a sentence that was troublesome for me. "Call me if you need anything." What I meant to say was . . .

Know that when I ask you, "How are you?" I mean "How are you since your brother died?" Know that I understand that when you need to talk you are probably so deep in sorrow that you don't have the energy or the cognizance to ask for help or know that you need to release that sorrow. So, I will invite you to tell me about your brother. I will call or send a message. I will not be hurt if you say "no thanks," 'cause I'll know that you need to fold inward. But, I'll wait patiently outside to offer my arms and my ears when you emerge from your dark place. I won't wait until you call me to ask for help; it shall be my burden to offer my help.

That's what I wanted to say.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Second September Without You

On the first day of Caitlin's birth, the nurses cleaned and dressed her and took pictures. In those first pictures she wears this multicolored cap that volunteers knit for babies in the NICU. They laid her in my arms, those first days of September wearing that hat. This past year, I came across this bear in a sale bin. My eye was drawn to it because of the colors; they reminded me of Caitlin wearing that cap in those first days after her birth. I picked it up and saw "September" stitched over the bear's heart. And I smiled.

To mark Cailtin's second birthday, I put together some pictures from her first days. Among the pictures are short videos of me talking and singing to her. The lyrics in the music punctuate my thoughts, "I'm thinking of you."; "Was this be part of the plan?"; "What's left for me to do?"; and "I didn't want to say goodbye."

Happy Birthday, my little sweetie. I miss you.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dear Beloved Daughter,

I've been struggling to find words to write a loving letter to you. I can't seem to reach in deep enough to discover the ones that fit. Your second birthday is tomorrow, and I feel like I have been poured out with no more syllables, phrases, or verse. I have only these.

I love you.

I miss you.

I'm sorry you aren't with me.


Your mother.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Like a Shell

Waves of grief are thus described
Because when they wash over you
They pull you under deep dark waters
Waters where you find yourself as frightened as the first time
Her death pulled you under
Waters where you know helplessness
Again, as it was before
Waters where you wonder

"How will I survive?"

Waters that bash you against the shore and roll you around in cold blackness
Until you surrender to grief's tide
Leaving you at last on the sand and seaweed
You feel like a shell
Perhaps others will see the beauty of your shell, but you feel like your insides are gone

You are gone

Saturday, August 29, 2009

My Blogoversary

And now for something completely self-serving. It's my blogoversary . . . well let me tell it as it played out in my living room.

"It's my blogoversary."

"Your what?" DH asks barely listening.

"Blogoversary, you know like Julie from "Julie and Julia." She blogged for a year and then had a blogoversary and left the pound of butter beneath Julia Child's picture."

"Butter? Your what?"

"Blogging. I've been blogging for a year."

"Oh, that's great, dear."

OK, that's not exactly what happened, but close. Ha!

It's been a year, and I've been reflecting about what the blogging activity has done for me and my goal of becoming the kind of mother Caitlin should have. She saved my heart, you know. She transformed me when she came 7 weeks early and gave me the gift of motherhood. And I was afraid. I doubted my ability to parent her and protect her and help her grow in a cruel world that isn't particularly friendly to children with Down syndrome. And I was afraid that she would see in my eyes, that I had wished for her to be something other than what she was.

Caitlin was very sick when she was born. She had a heart defect and she slept most of the time I parented her in the hospital. I cherish the times she opened her eyes and looked into mine. And, I know she only saw that I loved her. "I'm sorry," I told her one day,"you don't have a perfect mother, but I love you perfectly." DH would say, "I can't wait until we can bring her home and find out who she is." On the eve of her heart surgery, her bowel perforated and she died in my arms to my singing. I was torn open.

I was (and am) well-supported by family and friends, but grief overwhelms takes control, and commands attention. I surrendered. I tasted words, and wrote poetry. I saw images, and longed for skills to bring them to canvas. I created montages of pictures of her and music that I sang to her. I wrote my grief in short stories, as I remembered every detail of a conversation or an experience at the cemetery. I worried that family and friends would grow weary of my grief and my DH was taking care of me postponing his grief. Outwardly he grieved in different ways than me and I was afraid he wouldn't know where to find me when I was in deep mourning.

I found the MISS Foundation and other bereavement forums and I posted and read and read and posted. I had found another place for my anguish to go. MISS Foundation remains a source of great comfort for me. I also discovered the blogging community of bereaved parents, mostly mothers who showed me that this e-life was different than the frivolous, the mean-spirited, the commercial, the everyday, and the academic blogs. Bloggers in this community sent e-hugs, but you could feel them "for reals." They revealed their hearts without fear; the deaths of their children destroyed any fear that remained. I learned that you have to be willing to be vulnerable if you wish to be held.

I needed a place to put my longer posts and the ones that were personal and exploratory. And that's when I started this blog. I can't say that on this blogoversary that I'm celebrating, rather I'm grateful. That when my precious child, Caitlin died and I couldn't seem to find enough fuel for the raging grief fires that ravaged my heart, mind, body, and soul, there was another place for it to burn. This e-space offered something real life couldn't deliver, a place of pause. A Fifth Season where the world could and did stop turning while I ruminated and made meaning of Caitlin's life and death.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Compassion: Not as Easy as It Looks

Compassion is what you'll frequently hear from a baby loss mama when she describes the gift or lesson she received from her child or as an outgrowth of her grief. The practice of compassion is more likely to increase after tragedy or traumatic life events.

It's not as easy as it looks, though. And a recent unfortunate blog post by a mother who by all accounts is a compassionate loving mother to her children, her family, her friends and her blog readers, seemed to illustrate this thought. She chose to use some words that unfortunately hurt a community of women, she didn't intend to hurt. She apologized, but for me it seemed to illuminate something bigger.

Compassion: Not as Easy as it Looks

Because, from her comments it seems that she intended to hurt someone. She intended to hurt those who she perceived had judged and hurt her by their comments. There's plenty of evidence that others have been quite hateful toward her role as a mother, though perhaps not to her personally.

Being compassionate is more readily possible when the compassion is given to those who readily receive it and with whom we have a relationship or perceived connection. It's no great surprise to anyone that we are typically less compassionate to those we don't connect with, or lay outside of our social, religious, ethnic, or economic class.

Plenty of comments were left for the blogger, some genuinely trying to help her see that she had hurt the IF and loss community and some who aimed to explain why her words were hurtful. And yes, there was plenty of plain meanness posted, and several so ugly it was unfathomable to me. The blogger fended them off as best she could and seemed to respond in kind; if poster was reasonable so was she, if sarcasm was reeking, she added a stench of her own.

An e-conversation erupted on another site to discuss the post and the comments. Those posts were full of injured and angry words (mine included) and the site provided a safer place to express the hurt--a place where no matter what we said, we knew it would be received.

Compassion: Not as Easy as It Looks

As I read the posts (after posting mine) from beginning to end, I could see the struggle of many to be compassionate to the blogger who had injured the community. Some tried on the perspective of the blogger, and a few angry injured posters removed their words. The blogger apologized twice, and a brief discussion ensued as to the veracity of her apologies. One commenter stated, that the blogger did not want to understand, but wanted to be right.

The desire to be right, I'm convinced, is an obstacle to being compassionate. If your goal is to be gain agreement, sway others to a point of view, then you aren't in a position to listen, learn, and love. And when we're in this mode of teaching others what's right, we aren't particularly receptive to be admonished for words or behaviors that aren't caring. Sometimes, I think we know our behavior isn't compassionate and it's easier to shrug off any criticism, but when we aren't aware (as I believe said blogger was unaware) and taken by surprise that we have acted poorly we find that compassion is not as easy as it looks.

We try defensiveness, trading barbs for barbs, and eventually we may apologize. But will we choose compassion next time or will we merely pull our circle closer around ourselves to prevent another lecture or gentle chide? Could we agree to disagree? Could we learn to use, "for me" or struggle with disclaimers, rather than make proclamations? Will we be willing to accept admonishment and aim as Maya Angelo states, "When we know better, we do better."

Our unfortunate blogger's last statement was that she felt "beat to hell." I read each of her comments and responses and it's clear to me, she's working hard to be compassionate. I thought she didn't know how, but truth is we don't know how until we know better. I'm convinced that to practice compassion we need to hear from those we may have injured (and that frankly sucks); and to be part of that practice, we also need to make our injuries known. I learned a great deal tonight with this e-life event. I wish we had all been kinder (acknowledging that so many were kind) and hope we are able on this arduous journey to practice compassion, 'cause it's hard work.

Compassion: Not as Easy as It Looks

Peace, Kim.
Peace, baby loss and IF community.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Note on Dentist's Chart

Had an emergency-of-sorts appointment at the dentist's today. I woke up Saturday morning to find that I was crunching on a bit of my own tooth. Even though I use a mouth guard, the gnashing, clenching, and grinding has gotten worse. Doesn't take much of an introspective look at why it's increased. Caitlin's 2nd birthday is coming up and with it the season of her life and the season of her death.

I sat in the chair and the dentist makes "small" talk, about his sister who just had a baby and who doesn't want to go back to work, about his wife's second pregnancy and how she had little to do at home, and about babies and babies and babies, and I'm thinking, "Scheezzzeee, can't we just put a note on my chart that reads--Dead baby mama."

As I sat there unable to respond, I found it not-so-amusing that I had to endure conversation that prompts the kinds of thoughts and emotions that likely cause me to slam my teeth together as I sleep. Then an ever so slightly amusing visual played out in my head like a silent movie [Cue music] and I wryly smiled to myself as I had the urge to slam my jaws together! For the good doctor's sake, we should really get a note on the dentist's chart!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Honet Scrap Award

Fellow blogger and friend at Becoming Whole nominated me for this blog award. Thanks, Becoming Whole, I'm honored.

The rules are:

1. Choose a minimum of 7 blogs you find brilliant in content or design.

Knocked Up, Knocked Down
Surviving the Day
Still Life With Circles
Tuesday's Hope
La La Land
Heart Heal Hope
Shanti Mama

2. Show the 7 winners’ names and links on your blog, and leave a comment informing them that they have won the Honest Scrap award.

3. List at least 10 honest things about yourself

OK, here goes. Below are 10 random honest things about myself complete with nonsensical segues:

1. I like to use the phrase beer:thirty 'cause I think it's funny and was my version of "It's Five o'clock somewhere," for many college years! This is number one because I just saw my first Jimmy Buffett concert! I know I'm out of the pop culture loop.

2. I'm still having trouble getting back to reading since Caitlin died. I can read blogs and articles, books if they are about grief and poetry, but I can't seem to sit still and turn the page of a book or journal, especially when it's related to work. UGH

3. I admire smart articulate women who seem to be able to wade in the waters and aren't afraid to stir those waters occasionally with some pretty vigorous swimming.

4. Year two of life without my daughter feels like sludge. I struggle with inertia and listlessness. But, I do smile more than in year one.

5. I'm a classical music elitist snob, but I have a "secret" love of country western music like Sugarland, Rascal Flatts, and Kenney Chesney--who sings "Keg in the Closet," a song that reminds me of the years of "beer:thirty"!

6. I am intolerant of people who yell. I am distressed by those who think if your voice is louder your ideology is "righter." In real life, I walk away and let them know I'll be back when they have calmed down, and when I'm assaulted with it on TV, I turn the channel.

7. I seek the opposing point of view. I laughed out loud when I heard a TV entertainer say, "And if you don't agree with me, then why are you watching anyway." I seek the opposing point of view, because I wish to be informed and live in the world as it is and not as I wish it were, and because I wish not to demonize those who disagree with my point of view, and because, above all I choose to grow--and growth, I believe requires cognitive discourse.

8. I love NPR, I just do. They talk about stuff for a long time and they interview people who write amazing books like Daniel J. Levitin, and deliver information about programs like Musiccorps, and they rarely interrupt and almost never yell. And they provide plenty of cognitive discourse. Lovely, better than beer:thirty!

9. I know the difference between a scientific theory and a theory.

10. I think it's ridiculous that in conversation, professional or casual, that everyone is referred to as "guys," as in "Hey, you guys let's do this." I sometimes imagine a world where we refer to everyone as "gals" to discover if "guys" is truly gender neutral. Perhaps someday I'll get to respond with this, "Tell me why again, it's an insult or inappropriate to refer to everyone as a "gal?" or "Hey, gals, it doesn't matter, it's just a figure of speech. Now gals, let's play some football"!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Three Random Pics: Three Random Thoughts

This is another pic of one of the frogs who comes to visit us on our deck. When I catch 'em on my porch, I am compelled to take pictures. There is such interest in their faces. And recently I learned that the two snakes who took residence in a pile of bricks close to our house, eat these very kinds of frogs!

The summer has been a time of getting things cleaned out. We shredded hundreds of documents and took lots of clothes and shoes to the St. Vincent DePaul bin. I included a bag of my pregnancy clothes. Plenty of tears during this event. I couldn't help but note the irony in seeing that I had purchased three polo prego shirts with butterflies on them---a symbol now of Caitlin's spirit in this world, now transformed, but beautiful.

And this, is proof to me that I still have joy in my heart. This was captured while I was teaching my pre.scho.ol music group. And my smile surprised me, I barely recognized myself.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Gift From Kay

I saw the ocean first when I was very young, that was pretty cool, as I was a landlocked child. My shoes got washed away with the Pacific tide. That was cool, except the part where I didn't have any shoes to go home with. The next time I remember seeing the ocean, I was an adult. And the first thing I did was write my name in the sand and watch the waves wash it away. Each time thereafter, whether I visited the Atlantic or Pacific (Those were my two choices.), I found a stick and wrote messages and drew flowers and such. Sometimes I would add a stone or leave the stick to help me out.

Though, I must admit, the writing didn't hold a great bit of meaning for me, other than it's what you do when you see undisturbed sand of any size that begs to bear a message. And now that simple activity of writing in the sand has become a sacred ritual of sorts for me and many other bereaved parents.

After Caitlin died, I was struck by how profound it was to write her name and know that that seeing her name in print was tangible evidence that she was here. If felt like that's all I had left of her. I saw her name in stone where her body lays, and I was overwhelmed.

I wrote her name in the sand on a visit out west; at the family beach week on the east coast; on a beach on the Cape, the town beaches that are close to my home, when there wasn't/isn't a beach I write it by arranging stones, or I draw her name in the snow. When I discovered Carly's site and requested Caitlin's name to be written on a beach in Australia. I wrote her name again and captured the tide as it came to wash the letters back into the Atlantic. Most recently, Kay at "Eternal Names by the Sea" sent me these photos of Caitlin's name on a white sand beach in Australia.

Thank you Kay, for your kind gesture. I'm always comforted to see her name. I'm grateful.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Using Photobucket: Tutorial for MISSters

Dear Forum Users,

Here's my quick tutorial for using Photobucket. Photobucket is a free service site where you can upload your photos and then post them into webpages, forums, blogs, and the like.

Go to
It's best to do this in a new browser window.

And sign up or sign in.

Once you're here you can likely navigate your way to success, but I know that doing things for the first time can be frustrating, so here are the steps as I follow them to post my pics on the forum.

Click on upload pictures. (See next note concerning picture upload size.)

To avoid uploading large files, BEFORE you click on upload pictures, click on "more options" and change the upload from large to medium (that's my suggestion for size for posting on the forum). Then click save, so all images will be uploaded to this size. This will also make the upload time less. You can change the settings at any time.

A window will open for you to select the folder and image you wish to upload.

The image uploads . . .

. . . and when it's finished you click on the picture and a menu pops up . . .

Choose the IMG code and copy it. Navigate back to the forum and paste the image into your message. It will look something like this.

When you publish your forum message, you will see the image. Mine looks like this.

Remember that you can edit your forum posts if you don't copy the right code the first time.

Happy posting. MISSing all our precious children.