Monday, June 29, 2009

Sugar--Doesn't Make You Hyper

So, I head from the new MSNBC Dr. Nancy show that recent research studies dispelled the myth that sugar makes children hyper. But, of course, I'm thinking about how that relates to me! Cause sugar seems to be a substitute for comfort, at least today. I'm back from a long drive (3 days) home, and I can't stop eating cookies. One peek at my email and I sunk into that drowned and overwhelmed feeling.--and took those cookies with me. So, I don't need to be hyper, but rather numbed, so maybe that's what sugar does?!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Losing Some Sensitivity---FINALLY

I held another baby today, a baby girl. I cooed and bounced and chatted and removed sharp objects, and all was well.

I listened to two seasoned mothers chat about motherhood and raising children. I listened and offered no comments and felt no tears, just a slight painful tug.

So, I think it means that I've lost some of my sensitivity. And that's fine with me. I need some respite from possible "holding a baby" and "mommy talk" events to derail my equilibrium.

FINALLY. And it's OK. I still thought about Caitlin, but mostly felt me loving and missing her, and knowing she's gone and that these events just "are what they are." Other people's stories that I happen upon.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Blogging and Healing

Some bloggers have written in the past (and recently) about when their real life family and friends discover or read their blogs. Some find it disconcerting that real life and e-life has met on the blogosphere. Others have invited their family and/or friends from real life, then found it to be frustrating. Still others fear that the blog will be discovered. And even though they may track visitors by area of the country, it's not like they get a "Hi, Sweetie, it's me your BFF from HS!!!" Instead the blogger can be left to wonder, "Has my e-life been discovered?" Often the follow-up question is "And how do I feel about that?" Still others have a completely open blog to friends and family as well as their e-life friends and family.

I'm convinced that the bereaved community (and the IF community) blogs a bit differently than perhaps other bloggers. I tend to read confessions of real life struggles. Dead baby mamas tend not to waste time painting themselves as better than perfect; they don't have the energy because they are busy trying to survive. I also tend to read "thinking out loud" posts, when the bereaved make sense of how their lives are situated living without their child. (I do quite a bit of this.) We also write stories of what real life looks like and feels like now. The trip to the grocery store means something more than getting a jug of milk; it can be a painful emotional roller coaster ride. I've read plenty of honest rumination of past firmly-held beliefs. The bereaved seem to be fearless in pulling their beliefs apart and refashioning them to help them survive. The bereaved blogger also seems fearless in tackling the expression of ambiguous emotions (what others call negative emotions) of anger, jealousy, rage, and depression. Sometimes the rants remain as rants, but most often the blogger will write his or her own resolution and usually, in my opinion, finds a healing way to live in the "normal" world where babies don't die. That process of acknowledging emotions, telling stories, exploring life philosophies, and sending out e-hugs in the form of comments to other bereaved is a primary reason for blogging.

Why blog? Why not just keep a diary, or use your real life support group of family and friends?

Well, navigating the normal world when traveling a grief journey typically takes longer than most of the "normals" understand. Some will say "move on," hint at moving on, or ignore the dead child. Some who read wonder at the raw emotion that leaps off the net, and think that we are wallowing. There is so much more to write on this subject, but I'll close with this.

For me, blogging has been an immense help to me by being a vehicle to explore, express, and find meaning. Although, I had/have lots of support from family and friends, I could tell I was wearing them down. And help comes in the form of the many comments fellow bloggers leave in support, and in reading the many posts of other parents who struggle with many kinds of loss. Sometimes I have nothing to post, so I work on healing by leaving as many comments as possible.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Blog-Hug to What "Makes My Heart Smile"

Amy over at "Surviving the Day" added me to her 10 favorites. I had missed the post somehow, but today was a day I needed it. I've been thinking about letting my blog fade, because I've been feeling like it needs to evolve. Since I've been part of this bereaved parent online community, I've watched other bloggers turn a corner, fade, or create new blogs to better express the different facets of their lives that have grown from this grief journey. 

That said, I still don't know how my writing will transform, but today, I felt blog-hugged. So thanks Amy for including me, and like you I found it difficult to choose only 10, and because many of my favs would be the same as Amy's, I decided rather than to pick 10, I'd add 10 to the list of favorites.  Here they are: 

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore at "Becoming

Mommy (You can call me OM) at "Overeducated Mommy"

Hope's Mama at "Tuesday's Hope

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Light of a Child

My sisters and I visited the Phoenix Art Museum, and I was drawn to this painting. (I forgot to note the artist's name and will credit the painting as soon as possible.)

The image of mother and child is universal. The Madonna and Child is the image I see most frequently in my experience, likely because I recognize the figures, because of my religious background. Though, every culture that you might explore will have this image as a prominent feature in their Art, both Folk Art and High Art.

As I studied this "Mother and Child" painting, I noted that the light of the child is where my eye is drawn. And my mother's heart and mind rest in there. I note this darkness that seems to be hung around the mother. I find it meaningful that where the light emanates seems ambiguous. Does it come from the child? Or the mother? The brightest light is found at the center of the child, but that light blends with the body of the mother and so, to use a not very pretty analogy, it's like a flashlight. The light comes from the flashlight, but the brightest light you see is where you aim the beam, the flashlight itself remains dark. (Yeah, I know that ruins the beauty of the painting. Sorry.) Or perhaps the child is the light and it permeates the mother's body and becomes part of her.

As I study this light of a child, I see the painting transform to fit my experience as a bereaved mother. I envision another painting like this one, hung to the right of the original, with the same mother and the same light. Only in this painting, the child is gone. The light of my child has permeated my body, mind, and soul and though I no longer hold her in my arms, I know that light. I have not forgotten. I still love. I am still a mother.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Come Back as Music

The lyrics from "Let Me Be The Music" by David Friedman speak to me. Firstly, because it suggests that we return to this earth not in that ashes to ashes way, where our bodies are reclaimed by Earth and other life springs from the earth, but rather we return in sound. We return as music, a sonorous reification of love.

It's cool, I think. Really cool. I cannot find a free sound file for you to hear the music of these words, but hope the lyrics might speak to you and provide a bit of hope for you as you read.

Seasons come and season go, and somehow they were meant to show, that life and love are never really gone.

So when my journey here is through, I'm certain there is just a new hello, and so when I travel on

Let me be the music. Let me be the music of love I have known. Let me be the melodies in the wind and the trees that sing to the lost and alone. Let me be the sweet refrain in the sound of the rain or a rippling stream. Let me be the lullabies that close the eyes of children when they dream.

For music has no walls or bars, it bridges time and space. It only asks the senses to surrender. It sweeps us to the stars and makes us one in its embrace. It has no fences. It has no gender.

So let me be the music, the beautiful music of love. Let me be the voices of spring that rejoice in the things that blossom and grow. Oh let me be the music, to come again as music. The beautiful music of love when I go.

Oh let me be the music when I go, when I go.

Things to Do While Awaiting Blogger Inspiration

Find out what color your mind is? Yup, it seems that by answering less than 10 questions you can discover the color of your mind. Turns out mine is Green . . . and that means . . .

Of all the mind types, yours has the most balance.
You are able to see all sides to most problems and are a good problem solver.
You need time to work out your thoughts, but you don't get stuck in bad thinking patterns.

You tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the future, philosophy, and relationships (both personal and intellectual).

My, didn't that make me feel all terrific. I'm balanced! Whoo-hoo. Well, on to the infamous FaceBook. FB is infamous because it's not a particularly bereaved-mom-friendly place, and because if you need some time sucked out of your life you can take a quiz about your favorite internet subject---yourself!!!! So I took one that would tell me what career I was.

Ouch, I say. I do think about the problems of others--in fact it is an essential component of my career. I am no longer attracted to needy people. I gave that up for life many years ago. I still respond to people who need my help, but I have learned to say "no" to protect myself. Ouch, though that I help others so people will like me. That one hurt. It's a nice natural result, people tend to like you or be nice to you for a bit when you help. It starts with "thank you." But, many times people are not responsive, but I still like helping, because sometimes the feeling of doing something nice is about me and not them. Weird, huh!

OK, this one doesn't fit into the "fun" or "ridiculous" category, it's actually quite serious. Project Implicit has several tests one can take to discover what thoughts you may hold implicitly even though those thoughts may state explicitly something to the contrary. So, I took a test to see if I prefer white or black people, and if I had positive or negative associations with either group. Here was my result:

Your data suggest no difference in your automatic preferences for White people vs. Black people

That was pretty cool to see, because I'd taken this test several years ago and both times it came back with slight preference for white people, and so this time I felt like there was evidence that I've grown and become more intune with what I consciously strive to achieve. BTW this test gained a good deal of attention when it provided data that suggested that even African Americans had a preference for whites and associated negative words with blacks. The data was disturbing to many, especially to those of us in the field of education. What were we teaching? Were our actions promoting tolerance? Are there equally positive and negative images and messages of both blacks and whites in our media?

But, I digress.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Define "Handle"! @#$%

I'm driving to work this morning and listening to NPR. And if you're a fan or occasional listener then you know that they frequently have interviews that last much longer than the shocking sound bite, and there is little yelling over top of another guest. The hosts were talking to individuals who were struggling with finances and health and other big life issues. And then I hear it, another of those phrases we typically use to comfort ourselves, another of those phrases that is like your mother soothing your bruises with a "there there," another of those phrases that no longer works for me since the death of my child---"God doesn't give you anymore than you can handle."

"Define 'handle'," I yell at the radio and switch it off.

I used to think this statement was a truth, but mostly I used to hope it were true, because it said that I would always be able to succeed. I would always rise to the occasion. I would always have the skills and abilities and health to handle whatever came my way. So, how did I handle Caitlin's death?

I wailed with sounds that I've never heard before and only remember from the palpable sorrow and excruciating pain the wailing released, and those wails continued for long past the year marker of her death.

I developed a stutter with my speech that makes lectures and class discussions embarrassing and less credible to my students.

I gained over 40 pounds in the span of about 4 months.

I forgot doctor's appointments, meetings with colleagues, important document deadlines, and where I put my keys or how to dress with clothes that matched.

I wept uncontrollably at rehearsals, classes, on public transportation, and at dinners and lunches in public.

I became unable to walk in my neighborhood alone for fear of crumbling with grief or forgetting how to get home.

I've developed an annoying habit of calling my husband to see where he is or how he is and I make him promise me, like an innocent child, that he will not die.

And if you're a bereaved parent, you likely have numerous examples to add.

My belabored point? Caitlin's death was plenty that I could not handle, and my behaviors that followed her death provide clear evidence of that. Now, I know that this statement is dear to many, but it's somewhat useless to me any longer. I add it to my other not-faves of "Everything happens for a reason" and "Everything happens for the best." When your child dies and someone says these things to you, it feels like your pain and your reaction to the tragic death of your child is invalidated. Especially, when the statement is given when you are in a state of not handling it. (And what the hell does that mean anyway? How are you supposed to handle it? This whole thing is absurd, and I shouldn't even be blogging this. UGH.)

No one means for the statement to inflict pain, of course. They try to comfort in the only way they know how. They reach in and try to help in whatever way they can. And we are grateful for their efforts. I am grateful to those who have said this to me, but I didn't particularly warm to the statement in and of itself. I felt love by those who love me, but the words, I let gently fall like raindrops to the ground for something else to grow.

Unfortunately, if you let the statement in, it's not particularly comforting or helpful when what you truly need is to be held and allowed to 'handle' it the way you are handling it with sincere and honest grief--and that ought to be acknowledged. It's supposed to give one hope, that we won't always feel this bad. Well (hang on here, this may be shocking), but we ought to honor the pain we feel as a result of being separated from the life of the ones we love. We ought to acknowledge the sorrow. Offering the "handle it" hope when in deep despair without acknowledging the sorrow first feels like a verbal tissue that says, in effect "wipe up." I'm convinced that we must go through this grief and that is how we handle it.

That I am currently much stronger in carrying my grief, is what some will point to and say, "See, God doesn't give you any more than you can handle." Well, this typical 20/20 hindsight may be convenient, but it doesn't change that fact that for months and now at unexpected times and for undisclosed durations, I do have more than I can handle. And I don't handle my daughter's death particularly well at times.

As for God giving this to me---in my mind, that's crap. I simply cannot delve into it or reason this God part of the statement much further than that. My conclusion remains, that God weeps with me.

Oh, I can't stand it. There's a bible verse that states that God doesn't allow one to be tempted beyond what he or she can handle, and then invariably some bible-study expert or preacher will extend the use of "temptation to sin" to any tragedy or challenge in life. I don't wish to go all bible here, or offend my preacher and otherwise Christian friends and family, but I'll repeat--in my mind, that's crap. Comforting for some, but of no use to me.

Ah, so now that I've explored this statement and my strong reaction to it, I'd like to hear how the interviewee was handling his challenges and life struggles. But it's hours (actually days) past the airing of the interview, and so I won't hear his definition of "handle." Because for him, it might be the comforting, hopeful, motivating truth that he needs. But for me, I've filed it in the "of little use to me now" basket.

What's Left

What’s left
What’s left to do?
Just sit and cry
And think of you

My ribs ache from violent sobs
Emotions rage and then are gone
My mind is mangled with wild thoughts
Of why and how and please, oh please
I beg a magical release
from all this sorrow and all this pain
By your return to my earthly arms again

And when I’m spent
Made numb and sore
I hope for miracles no more
Bereft of spirit
And dead to life

What’s left
What’s left to do?
Just sit and cry
And think of you.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I Looked Up

Weeping in the sunshine
Goldfinch flit past my eyes
Flashing bits of brilliant sunlight within my reach
Gentle breezes caress my bare arms
Drying my wet and heavy tears
Coaxing me
enjoy this Day
Coldness from the rock where I am still
Seeps into me
Spreads throughout me
I take my tears and go inside to wait for Night
Darkness always receives me
I will find no distractions from Grief

I looked up
Turning my face to the darkness
Waiting for a familiar coldness
Listening for my sobs
But, I am not overcome
I marvel instead at the near moon
Light surrounded by blackness
A white curved glow piercing the expansive nothing
A hope quickens within, and a thought forms
If the moon in it's passivity can conquer the night
I can in my patience conquer this death that eats me

Today I wept in the sunshine
Tomorrow I will smile, remembering the moon

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Four Elements

In the movie, Angels and Demons the four elements, Water, Air, Fire, and Earth, feature prominently. I'm highly susceptible to ways that may provide a framework for understanding this grief journey, and since a reminder of the elements in the movie, I've been reflecting on these elements. I've thought about how they intersect with my life now, and how they might provide a framework for understanding other aspects of this grief journey. After reading a bit (here's one page from online), I discovered that once these elements were fused, but then the forces of love and strife broke and separated them. It was, or perhaps is believed that individuals possess a preference for one of the elements. So I took a quiz (apparently I thought it could tell me something I didn't know, heh heh): I most identify with air, water, and fire, and I least identify with earth. Yeah, I'd say that makes sense. I'm pretty upset with earth right now. The element where my child now rests.

Water washes my wounds, transforms and releases pain through my tears, and gradually wears a new path for this journey.

Air provides transparence to see what is and sustains me as I inhale disbelief, anger, despair, and exhale hope, peace, survival.

Fire burns metaphorically throughout my life destroying me within and without, making room for new growth and a new normal.

My child lies in the Earth. Her body is swallowed and claimed by Earth. Silently resting. Absorbed. Eventually transformed. But the earth is for her, and not yet for me, I am not at peace with this element. Water, Air, and Fire need more time to fuse what strife has separated.

Water is comfort.
Air is hope.
Fire is renewal.
Earth is death.

And yet, healing has begun.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Visit to the Cemetery--May

When I visit Caitlin's grave, I cry a little less. I stare more and even my mind is numb. I notice the changes in the items I've brought to her, brought to help me connect with my daughter. The angel still wears a content smile despite the now flawed paint. The squeeze toy that once delighter her in the NICU crib remains, though sometimes still soaked from the rain and with bits of grass from the recent cutting. It still sounds, but I have to squeeze it a couple times to get it going. The first butterfly is gone, the puppy is gone, and some of the silk flowers are gone. I brought her another squeeze toy, a frog this time. I'm getting ready for the day the other is gone or doesn't work anymore. 

I still talk to her, but my words come haltingly and sometimes I begin only to have the numbness take away the rest of my thoughts. The voices of the other mourners are silent now, as well. I once looked out at the expansive cemetery and could feel the pain poured into each stone with a name. I knew the agony. I try to conjure their longing, but now their pain is at rest. Odd. It was so real, as tangible as the earth beneath which my daughter lies. 

Monday, June 1, 2009

Short Movie Review: The UGH Rating

I should like to note that all birth scenes, particularly dramatic ones, should be avoided or there ought to be a warning label provided for bereaved mothers who experienced traumatic birth and subsequent death of their children. We have "gratuitous violence," "sex," and "mature language" (that one makes me laugh as there are plenty of mature people out there who wouldn't think of using that kind of language). 

After seeing Star Trek, I must give it three out of four "UGHS". The baby lives, but seriously, it was the crappiest part of the movie for me. I survived it--with eyes closed--and managed to enjoy (yes, I did enjoy the movie) the rest of the story. 

Anyone else want to weigh in? Any other movies that require an UGH rating?