Friday, April 24, 2009

Under the Tree

How long has it been since you lost your child/ren? Has your grief changed at all? Is your life becoming any easier or is it just harder as time passes? These are some of the questions for us to think about and talk about as we share our grief Under the Tree.

Caitlin died over a year and a half ago. It's odd to measure how long I've been parenting her memory in days or months or years. For me it doesn't help to mark the dates as the months go by. I have a personal dislike of the term "angelversary" though I know it's healing for lots of babyloss mamas. I'm not particularly happy that Caitlin is in heaven, I'm of the mind that the best place for her is here on earth with her mother. Plenty of time to get to heaven, and so that brings me back to how long---it's been a year and a half, but we all know that it's forever in mother-speak.

Has my grief changed? Yes, acute at first, where I was barely able to breathe. I walked around for about a year hunched over and stared with wide eyes, and friends and colleagues would notice that my mouth would hang open. I first lost weight and then packed it on as I tried to fill myself up. The periods of wailing and pounding my first were followed by periods of silent rumination over her pictures or listening to her music at her grave site. Then the numbness set in with no sleep and wondering if I would ever feel anything again. Then the days came where laughter would erupt from me. And troubles that "should" send me in a worry-spin barely phase me. Those days remind me of a song lyric by Cindy Bullens (also a bereaved mother) "I laugh harder and I cry louder, and I take less time to make up my mind."

Is life easier or harder? I have had a "pearl of wisdom" that goes like this--It doesn't get better. I used to tell myself this (and began telling my students) to get myself to move forward and address the challenges that faced me, rather than throw up my hands in defeat. "It doesn't get better." It sounds a bit harsh, I suppose and not particularly hopeful, but here's what I mean. Life doesn't get easier. It's hard work. And if one wishes to thrive in life, to experience a little more joy than sorrow, to navigate "crap" with grace, then, I'm convinced that accepting that challenges will increase in difficulty is a good step in identifying what needs to be done to overcome those challenges as well as building the skills necessary to handle what comes along. The second half of the "pearl" is "so you better figure out how to handle this."

How have I managed this second half in light of Caitlin's death? I've grown in understanding. I've embraced the mother I was when she was living, the mother I am in her death, and the mother I continue to believe she deserves to have. I listen more. I notice more--the buds on the trees, the color of the birds. I look into people's eyes more sincerely. I say "no" and when someone hurts me, I tell them to stop. There's plenty of evidence that I have trouble "figuring out how to handle this," in that I don't answer emails or phone calls very well, and I forget to send thank you cards. Though, I keep trying.

Both grief and joy are welcome in my heart, meaning I let it hurt as bad as it hurts and I let happiness in when happiness comes.

As usual one question under the tree is all my heart can explore. Thanks for prompting some healing. Peace to all.


  1. I appreciate your perspective. It's true, it doesn't get better. We are forever changed. Few people understand that, evidenced by a comment on my blog today. :)
    You offer so much strength in your pain, as you navigate through life. I am so grateful that you share your journey with us, always offering insight and hope.
    And, I don't like the 'angel' thing either. At my Compassionate Friends group, some refer to the date of death as a Rememberance Day. I'm not sure if I like that either. But, I can't imagine liking any term for the day my baby died.
    Peace, my friend.

  2. Beautiful answers. Very meaningful. Thank you for opening your heart and allowing me the chance to read it

    '-It doesn't get better.'

    I believe this. I don't think our grief gets better necessarily we just learn to deal with it better

  3. Absolutely. "It doesn't get better"... maybe a little easier to manage, but certainly not "better".

    Thank you for being so honest. Thinking of you.


  4. What beautiful answers. Thank you for sharing!!

    Also thank you for the sweet comment hon.


  5. You mentioned the 'pearl of wisdom' and then commented about knitting and pearling... and I got this image about the pain the oyster goes through in order for something we view as a thing of beauty to be created... then I started thinking about the pearls you mentioned... the buds on the trees... looking into people's eyes more... I started knitting and pearling after you made sometime beautiful from your pain... and you're right- it's hard work to face this pain and experience more joy than sorrow. Thank you for sharing your heart as always. (and sorry for my random train of thoughts... I just couldn't get the imagry out of my head)

  6. We are forever changed by our losses...and we will miss our babies as long as we walk this earth. You share your heart so honestly...thank you.

    Praying comfort for you on this journey...

    In His Grace,
    Kelly Gerken
    Sufficient Grace Ministries

  7. I agree that counting each day that has passed, marking it on a calendar, is not helpful. I used to do that in the very begging - one week, two weeks, then each month on the 25th. But after a while I stopped. I never forget the date Liam was born, but following his absence in calendar numbers was not healing.

    I do love what you say about embracing the mother you were and continue to be to Caitlin. I feel the same.

  8. You are absolutely right ... it does not get better. Our children will always be dead. And that's just wrong - no two ways about it.