Waves and Radiation

I’ve been waiting days to talk to my hubby about gravitational waves.  This past Sunday I woke him up jabbering about it, trying to understand it, hoping that if I repeated what I’d heard and read on NPR, it would make sense in my elementary-school-level-science brain.  I don’t pretend to have a scientific mind at all, but the idea of gravitational waves had me fascinated at 8:00am on a Sunday.  My husband mumbled something about wanting to go back to sleep and asked if we could please talk about it later when he’s fully awake.

That was days ago.

Time for scientific discussions is hard to find for two working adults with a 2-year-old tornado of a toddler.  Our conversations are brief and mostly revolve around his care.  The rest are delegated toward our other responsibilities.  Having a conversation about something as huge and as trite as gravitational waves seems like a luxury reserved for a date night, to be savored slowly like a gourmet decadent chocolate dessert.

As it was, we finally discussed it in between bedtime and our latest Hulu binge-watch session of Parks and Rec, during the washing of the dishes.

Lest you think this post is an attempt on my part to spout some kind of science lesson on a blog that is mostly about wrestling with loss, allow me to set your mind at ease.

Because in the middle of our discussion, in which we played the parts of two excited children sharing what we think we possibly understood about Einstein’s theory, my brain went elsewhere to my own black hole that is tearing a cosmic gash in the fabric of my universe.

Days pass and I stay busy.  So very busy.  I’m trying to reach some new goals in between reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and emphasizing the importance of learning shapes and colors to my dear sweet son.  I also have a job and friends and I don’t let myself think about grief and sadness because it slows me down at best, or stops me for days at worst.  It’s always there.  I just try not to get too close to it.  I stay on the outskirts, finding meaning and purpose and making sense of it from a safe distance.

Until something changes.  A hiccup, a trigger, or a series of choices all at once.  I find myself asking why.

Why am I here.  Doing this thing.

It could be anything.  Literally any stupid little thing, as insignificant as lingering outside for a moment to feel the breeze.  This time, it was something I had read about being a fan of a band.

I had written something similar myself a year and a half ago, but then I found myself reading someone else’s perspective, and I started thinking about it again in the background of my mind.  I even had a dream about it.  For days, I just thought about these gravitational waves and fangirling over a stupid band, and in my reality and my here-and-now, both seemed rather foolish from the perspective of a work-from-home mom who can’t even find 5 minutes to have a conversation with her husband that isn’t about Sesame Street.  Who gives a care about some band? I asked myself.

Oh, that’s right.  I do.  I did.  And it has become sort of a joke now, I guess, amongst my friends, in the way that when your friends know something about you, they use it to rib you.  And I usually just roll my eyes and roll with it, because I know I’ve set myself up.

But sometimes, in the harsh light of day, it’s a little embarrassing.  From a certain perspective, while harmless, it’s still foolishness.  And sometimes I think perhaps I’ve made myself into a spectacle, and I’m tempted to set the whole thing on fire and burn the fangirling to the ground.

Why am I here?

Why do any of us do anything?  We are made up of a million choices, the result of millions of decisions.  More if you want to go even further back.

But for me, everything about who I am now is orbiting around a single event in my universe, the waves of which I still feel and affect everything I do.

And as the spiral grows tighter, and my subconscious draws closer to the reason for my reasons, there at the heart of this orbit, pulling everything into a giant vacuum, is a quiet dark room with three people in it, and two of them are dying.  One of them is already dead.

It was almost 5 years ago, but it’s happening now.  It’s always there.  I just try not to get too close to it.  I stay on the outskirts, finding meaning and purpose and making sense of it from a safe distance.  Black holes spell death for celestial bodies.  At any moment, I risk getting pulled into oblivion.

But I choose not to let it define me, and by doing so I have relieved some of its power.  A universe expanding, I am constantly creating and building in all directions – even if some of them seem foolish.  It’s a blip on the radar, a moment in time, a band or a breeze.  It’s why I am here, but it’s not who I am.

I hope one day soon I will finally be at peace with all of this.  For now, I just try to avoid feeling alone at all costs.  I know I am not – I know there are some out there who are living with their own black hole, some of whom may even be reading these words – but truthfully, more often than not, the feeling of being alone pursues and haunts me, and it’s terrifying.

For now, I just try to take a moment to reflect on things like gravitational waves.  Sometimes they are long and loud and sometimes they are ripples, but still felt, and if you look closely, you can see them in eyes, across faces, between the lines and beneath the surface, as we delicately balance destruction with expanding hope at the speed of light.

 

 

Capture Your Grief – Day 5. Empathy

Empathy has been defined as “your pain in my heart.”

True empathy can be found in that dark, scary place that all of us are afraid to go.  You know the place I’m talking about – the saddest, loneliest, scariest place in your mind, full of unpleasantries of every sort.  Embarrassment, fear, shame, hopelessness.  No matter our story, we’ve all been there, and we all hate it.  It truly feels like a god-forsaken wasteland of despair.

Yet, when someone bravely dares to sit with us in our own darkness, they are bravely sitting in their own dark and scary place at the same time, and that is empathy – courageously feeling the worst emotions in behalf of someone else.

For bereaved parents, finding true empathy is scarce outside of other bereaved parents.  Someone who has never lost a child simply does not have the capacity to understand.  In other words, it doesn’t get darker than this.

However, I am blessed to have friends who try to show empathy, and sometimes that’s enough.

1. They listen more than they talk.  90% of the time we just need someone to listen (or read) and just be there for us.

2. They don’t try to fix it.  It takes humility to realize they can’t “fix” us.  Some people want to be the ones to make us “feel better” by saying just the right combo of flowery words.  But there is nothing they can say to make us “feel better” about our child being dead.  Absolutely nothing.

3. They don’t use words like “At Least.”  Because there is no “at least” in child loss.  (See video below.)

4. They do say things like “I’m so sorry” or “I’m here for you” or “I love you” (and mean it).  These things are ALWAYS good to say to someone who is going through something awful.  You needn’t be afraid of saying the wrong thing if you stick to these words.  Just make sure you follow it up by being a good friend (see #1).

5. They let us be our broken selves without fear of judgment.  I can’t tell you how grateful I am for friends who have listened through my angry tears and have seen my ugly cry and have heard me say horrible things and acted out in unconventional ways to feel my pain.  They know we (as bereaved parents) are unfixable and unfathomably hurt.  But they see through it all and love us anyway, because ultimately I think they sense our courageousness to simply go on living after the Unthinkable has happened.

Finally, I think the following video best illustrates what empathy truly is, and what it’s not.

May we all practice empathy, and may the pain in our hearts turn to healing.

Capture Your Grief – Day 1. Sunrise

image

I remember when the sun rose on the day my son died.  The way the light cracked through the windows in jagged pieces as I covered my eyes and buried them in my hands.  That old saying – something about the sun rising and setting in spite of whatever – echoing in the graveyard that was my mind, and I thought I would scream.  How dare the sun rise as my son dies, as part of me dies too.

It was dawn for the other part of me, the one that survived, the side of me that is still here and the resilient spark of a phoenix that rose from the ashes of this dismal wasteland of grief.  From this resiliency is where I speak now, standing on the other side of cripplingly utter despair, and watch the sun come up again.  And then I think, well isn’t that funny.  The sun and I are not so different.  We go on rising and setting.  But we still get up again.  Day after day, in spite of whatever, even when our brilliance is hidden by clouds.  We go on.

The day the sun rose when my son died, I wanted to die too.  But then I survived another day.  And another.  And another.  Until one day I realized I was not just surviving, but living, and not in darkness, but in light.  And now with time and distance between me and that day, I have strung a hundred days where I am grateful the sun continued to rise, and I did too.

We can do this, one sunrise at a time.

Capture Your Grief 2015

captureyourgrief

Since October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, I have decided to take part in this project.  While I do not plan to post something for each day of the month-long project, I do think having a share would be of some benefit, both to myself and perhaps anyone who stumbles upon this blog.

As the months and years pass, the pain ebbs and flows, the seasons of grief come and pass, but there is something that never changes for me: a desperate need to feel connected.  When I’m happy and experiencing joy, I want to share it.  When I’m in the depths of despair, I don’t want to be alone.  Pregnancy and infant loss can be isolating.  I suffered in silence for a long time, and there are times even now when I’m afraid to tell someone I need to talk and ask for help for fear of being perceived as a downer and a black cloud, or as if I’m too consumed by grief to express gratitude for the joy I do have.

The truth is I live a full, joyful life with my husband and young son, and not a day goes by when I don’t meditate on all the reasons I have for joy.  But the darkness always comes.  The weather can change on a dime, from sunny and wonderful to downpours of rain and tears.  So many times I feel split in two, as if one half of me is living in a colorful world with my rainbow baby, and the other is trapped in the cold, dark, and lonely world of infant loss.

The only way to process and heal myself is to connect these two different worlds and keep a steady balance so the darkness never consumes the light, but lets the light shine through the darkness.  So many of those lights come from connection.

Grief is a journey.  Thank you for taking a moment to walk alongside me.  It is my hope that you can see that despite the ugliness and raw pain, there is beauty in broken things.

Firefighters vs. Rebuilders

A friend recently asked me about firefighters and rebuilders in the aftermath of Loss.  She had been reading a blog about infant loss, and how tragedy reveals the true nature of ourselves and others.  In particular, there are certain people who rush in immediately and try to help put out the fire and control the devastation, and there are certain others who show up later and help rebuild.  She wondered if that had been my experience.

My initial reaction was vague.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how it was also true in my case.  Firefighters had swept in to do damage control.  There were meals and flowers and cards.  There were concerned friends stopping by just to check on us.  They surrounded us when we were too stunned to move, and they worked quickly, but they didn’t stay long.

The rebuilders, however, were fewer in number.  They arrived slowly, one by one, over the course of many months.  They brought movies and games and laughter.  Sometimes they brought small gifts or just their company, which is the same as gifts.  Some of them just sat in silence with us.  They helped us rebuild the foundations of our selves, and helped us create a “new normal,” a new status quo of being.

At first I was inclined to feel more affection toward the rebuilders.  After all, their presence was usually longer, and therefore felt more.  But then I realized I was doing a disservice to the firefighters, who came in at the most dangerous point in the game and did whatever damage control they could.  Both parties were essential to our survival, and I am grateful for the love we have been shown.

But there is another group for whom I am grateful.  They are the rebuilders who continue to come back years later.  They know this is a long term project, and we will never be able to completely rebuild on our own.  They don’t come with judgments and time limits over how long this is going to take.  While others have grown frustrated over never seeing a finished product, wondering why we are still not “over it,” they understand our hearts will never be completely healed at this time.  Neither do they reminisce about the people we once were, or seem shocked that we cannot and will never be those people again.  They accept us for who we are today, as angry or as miserable or as devastated as we might be.  They don’t mind the scenery of broken souls and stunning ruins.

It’s those people that make me a better person, not just in healing, but in the work of helping to heal others too.  There isn’t much fanfare and you don’t get a medal, but the grueling work of healing hearts and being there for people has a reward of its own kind, a healing change within yourself that you don’t even know is happening until one day you realize that giving of yourself and your time has sealed some of the cracks in your own heart while you were busy collecting pieces of theirs.

Whether firefighter, rebuilder, or friend, we all need each other, and we will all be called upon to help our loved ones if and when disaster strikes.  There is wisdom in knowing that one day we will all face tragedy of some kind.  And in the face of tragedy, whether it’s our own or that of someone else, we all discover who we are and what we’re made of.

 

something i lost

I miss the little boy who would be here now.

I hate the memories I have surrounding his death.

But they are intertwined with the memories surrounding his birth.

So I clutch them like shards of glass.  They cut me open and make me bleed, but I cannot let them go.

I still feel the bitterness of Loss.  The loss of friends, relationships, laughter, and the person I used to be . . . all the things I lost when my baby died.

The weight of the loss is immeasurable.  “Losing a child” is a euphemism, a cop-out.  I lost an entire lifetime of memories.  I lost the rest of my life as I knew it when I was still pregnant.  I lost my innocence, my childlike joy.

In some ways, I feel as if I’ve lost my sanity.  I don’t try for a “normal” life anymore, and I have given up on ever feeling “normal.”  Nice-crazy is now what I hope to achieve.  I’m broken and strange, and a stranger to myself, but I can still be nice, and I hope that the language of kindness that I speak is enough to make up for what is lost in translation.  Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t.  But it’s all I can offer right now.

I love this losing and this loss as much as I hate it, and I hope that someday the love will win the war over the hate.  But each day is a battle, and sometimes I win, and sometimes I lose.  Today I am losing.

On days like these, I sit by the side of the road on my journey of grief, and I wait for tomorrow.

I miss him, but I love the feeling of missing him, because it’s the same as loving him, and it’s that inextinguishable love as a mother that I know I will never, ever lose.

IMG_5546

 

I Carry You With Me Wherever I Go

Wesley and I in 2011.

with Wesley in 2011

I carry you with me wherever I go.

You’re the kind words I speak.  When I’m called upon to assist others, you’re the gentle tone I use.  You taught me how to use words softly, to build up and strengthen those who are small, and those who feel small.  You yourself were small, just a little bigger than my hand.  You taught me how to be gentle.

You’re the compassion I feel.  When I see others struggle with pain, disappointment, fear, death, sickness, or other problems, you’re my reason for offering to help.  You showed me a love greater than myself – the depths of which regularly become filled with love and concern for others.  You’re the place I go when I need to remember what it feels like.  You taught me how to have empathy.

You’re the courage I possess.  When I’m scared of the future, or when the fear of death creeps upon me, you make me feel brave, because you were brave.  You faced the unthinkable, but you still fought with everything you had.  And even though you succumbed, you bravely passed away.  You taught me how to be fearless.

You’re the faith in my heart.  When I have my doubts, the Hope of seeing you again is undeniable.  The knowledge of your condition in a sleeplike state is of great comfort to me.  I know you are not somewhere missing me, and neither are you gone forever.  You are simply waiting to wake up.  You are the reason I want to be there when you do.  You taught me how to have integrity.

You’re the love in everything I do.  When I’m holding your baby brother, there you are.  You are the soft caresses on a sleepy little head, and the kisses on little cheeks in the morning.  You are the patience in helping with first words, first steps, and all the accidents and messes that have been and are yet to come.  You are the love that shines through it all.  You are teaching me how to be a mother.

Of everyone I have ever met, it was the greatest privilege to have met you.

You have made me so much better than I would have been without you.

So I carry you with me wherever I go.

And when we meet again, I will be the very best person I could ever be.  The very best mother for you.