Moving on from grief; my journey to accepting acceptance

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Moving on from grief; my journey to accepting acceptance

As I walked into my house late, arriving home just before midnight after a long ten hour travel day, carrying my youngest to her bed, whose birthday happens to be the following day, a quiet stress in the back of my mind as I have nothing planned. She wakes in and out of sleep as I place her down asking to watch the Trolls movie before bed , as I shush her that its very late and to go back to sleep. I walk past Lily’s photo that sits outside what was Lily’s room but is now Hopes. I pause for a moment, as a tiny quiver of shock goes through me, why did I enjoy this trip so much? For so long, five years to be exact I cannot remember really enjoying anything, not fully, not appreciating what or where it was we were, we have gone to Hawaii twice and Mexico once since she died, I “enjoyed” those family trips, but if I am honest, I was never happy during them, not as I felt during this trip. Was it not having thought about her as much? No, that’s ridiculous, of course I thought of her, but perhaps the veil has lifted, maybe the dark clouds that I felt attached to my heart lessened their grip. She is always in my heart but during this trip it was not like it is when I am at home surrounded by her memory, her presence, our loss.

Having just returned from an incredibly satisfying family trip, one that was to be underestimated but had over returned; that was fully dreaded, line ups, fast food, adults in costume, ugh, Disneyland. But we planned to see lots of other parts of California as well. Who knew the republic that is the state of California is so beautiful; San Clemente pier, Huntington Beach, Pasadena Ranch, even LA and Anaheim were cool to drive through, which started my pondering……

Guilt approaches my thoughts, but I quickly realize, no, that is not right; I deserve a reprieve from my self-imposed guilt. I am proud for the hard treacherous journey my grief has taken me through, what I have learned, how I have changed and grown. I am happy I was able to enjoy such a memorable family trip with my still living children, to be present for the first time in….well, how long makes me sad for them, my beautiful children that are alive, the ones that have received less of their mother because she has been stuck in a whirlwind of her grief. The one that has yelled too quickly because of their interrupting, poorly timed ways, their normalness, brought noise into my grief, where I wanted so much to simply be alone in silence. I have loved them, fed them, clothes and cleaned them, yes. But the mom that used to wrestle and laugh so freely has been trapped in a broken heart. That realization alone makes me sad for them, for me. I needed my time, I cannot believe five years past in a fog, although, it was thickest the first few years, it is lifted seemingly, I think. I am sure it will roll in from time to time and I welcome it, but I am also happy to feel happy again. I am happy to have a random dance party with loud noise at no notice with my kids. If asked, I wonder what they’d say of the last five years. Probably not much, as we all know, we are all way more self centered then we see. They may not have even noticed my withdrawal, not as I felt it, or see in hindsight. I was harder on them and they loved me more.

My heart now an ache for the time that has past, five years in a child’s life is huge, and the physical, emotional and mental growth that happens. I cannot go back; I can cherish specific moments of course, but am happy to feel other enlightening emotions again. Happy to be the present mother they deserve. I still miss and love my child that died five years ago, but my acceptance of her death has come with the revelation that I cannot change the past, nor need to dwell in its circumstances. But do need to focus on what we had and still have. This by no means that she will be forgotten just remembered differently, without the pain of guilt and remorse; but with love for the luck of having had her for a moment, along with the life lessons she has taught.

It brought me to a conclusion, if only for myself. We are all aware, some mildly, some very familiar with Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s five stages of grief. At some point in raw grief after a loss, we want answers we want to understand what is happening; at times we are so lost we want to know if and when it will end. So Ross’s theory of five stages is where we inevitably find ourselves reading about. At first I agreed with them whole heartedly, it makes sense for grief to have a timeframe of stages, all of which also make sense in completing in order to “move on”, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance but what comes with these stages is not a time frame put on them by Kubler-Ross herself but by society, Somewhere, over time, since her now famous book called ‘On Death and Dying’ was published in 1969, society has given the grieving about a year to get through their stages of grief, a few months to mull in each one. This is where I completely disagree with societies standards on grieving, seeing as it has taken me a five full years to get to acceptance, one could say each stage deserves a full year to fully live in and become aware of the stage your are at. For example the first year I was trapped in denial not even aware I was, because it was the shock that took quite a while to wear off, then a denial that I could not really comprehend that this had happened to me, to her, to us. I honestly did not believe it for a very, very long time, combined with the night terrors caused by the PTSD I suffered, it felt like a dream at times, with me not being able to wake up. Then the anger came, but it came at a time when a lot of people thought I should have been done grieving, after a year. And yes, I was angry, at everyone and anyone that dare mention her name, or their grief! The bargaining came in different forms around year three, begging for bad things to not happen, hadn’t I gone through enough? I would do more to help others if only my living children would be left alone. As depression sets in due to the length of time that has passed, you feel confused, others wonder what’s’ wrong because it has been so long, although in reality, is four years that long? So you begin, again, searching for answers, or help, or ways to move forward because you have spent time in the other stages you are ready to deal with this depression, and not that long ago, as I said earlier, the trip I just took with my family was the first I really enjoyed, felt at peace and allowed myself to be happy. Had I reached acceptance? And if I had why did I feel bad about it? Did I assume I would grieve forever? Yes. Was I prepared to grieve forever? Yes. Often when the tears came less frequently just that fact made me sad, like the further away her life moved, the less I felt her in my heart, but that is not true. I can take as many moments I want to remember her and should be thankful the whirlwind does not just snatch me up as it used to, but it is a process of constant awareness, as well as, allowing myself to still grieve if I felt the need, but also to feel happy with what we have and where we are at, without guilt. Everyone’s journey is different but I think if we can all collectively agree that each stage deserves a year and not to expect someone to feel normal until year five the burden of grief will be lessened on the grievers. But also to so mention it is not limited to this time frame, I have met parents that did not feel “normal” until year seven and ten, what I am trying to say is that the notion that grief lasts a year is ridiculous, the notion that it never ends is also silly though, I once believed it would never end, and I still have moments of intense sadness, clearly not as frequent or uncontrollable but today five years later and I am able to laugh freely without shame, enjoy moments without guilt. I am not saying yours will only last five years, everyone’s journey is different and some grief may only last a couple years. All I know is that back in those first six months when I attended bereavement meetings a blubbering mess barely able to string coherent words together, the common sentiment to me from those that had multiple years, some decades behind them and their grief, they said, ‘it does get better’ and I was so comforted by that phrase. And the fact that they saw my pain and came up to me to tell me it gets better in hopes of lessening my pain. I appreciated those words, as I hope you appreciate mine now. It does get better, in your own time at your own pace.

Thanks for reading,

Namaste,

Sheri

Ps, I would love some feedback, I started out intending to write a completely different post about my vacation without my fourth child but in following my heart and letting my fingers type, I am surprised at the conclusion and turn it took. If you have a similar experience with grief or writing or any other feedback on my conclusion please comment below. Thanks – much love.

The underside of my heart… or bunk bed.

bunk-bed

 

This is the underside of my kids bunk bed, this is what I have looked at, often fallen asleep staring at while holding my little babies as they too fell asleep. A memory that will forever be in my heart. Let me explain, all three of my kids have slept in this bottom bunk, the upside down Spider-Man on the right was placed there by my oldest when he was two and a half, he loved spider man. He went through three different Spider-Man costumes from the ages of two to five because he wore them as a daily uniform. The Scooby doo sticker placed there by my second born who to this day still loves Scooby, often wearing Scooby doo t-shirts and watching it on TV or reading Scooby books at night. The Barbie sticker placed by the recent occupant of the bottom bunk my fourth child, my princess, my hope. Who is the girlish of girls that loves all that is pink or sparkly. She loves it when I wear heels or jewellery, which is rare.

But why is the underside of this bunk the underside of my heart?

I have spent eight years laying here holding, comforting, reading to and staring at my beautiful children. I have spent nights beside them when they have been sick or scared from a bad dream. I have escaped to this bed after an argument with my spouse to hold their tiny bodies as a comfort myself. I have cried many times staring up at these stickers, wishing time would stop, wanting them not grow up anymore. But also it is my heart because I spent over a year holding my second born, while my oldest was on the top bunk reading aloud to them both, then singing aloud to them both all the while thru tears, pausing to breathe between the shaking of my breath, I was lucky I suppose they were too little to notice I was crying. Certain books got me, like Robert Munsch’s ‘Love You Forever’ or my kindergarteners favorite ‘The Kissing Hand’ which taught him to kiss my hand every time I left him at school and he needed one on his palm in return to hold until the end of the day or a certain lullaby, most have references to babies in them but mostly it was right after I lost my third child at two months old that I cried every night I put them to bed. I cried because I was wasn’t putting her to bed, I cried because I was terrified of losing them too. I cried because I always end my string of lullabies with a song that has her name in it. I was and am still comforted that I had those moments, as hard as they were, they consoled my grief, being able to be with them and not be alone with my thoughts. The physical pain in those early days was excruciating to bare, but I would go back to feel it in a heartbeat.

Thanks for reading

Namaste,

Sheri

 

 

A Poem that Hurts

A poem that hurts

 

Devastation shock loss

Confusion at it all

Tired thoughts only want rest

No one knows what is best

Stay silent send flowers

Condolences put to rest

Hard thoughts and unwillingness to feel blessed

Shame guilt anger grief

Bitterness bleeds

Hidden tears fake smiles

Uncomforting bothersome others

Faucets of the heart turned on high

While life continues to fly by

Sadness settles in a calm cold chill

Forever wanting to be still

No more thoughts

No more sleepless nights

No time to prove who is right

Struggling to continue while wanting to stop

Annoying hum of a ticking clock

Worlds turning never stops

Must continue whispers the voices

But at what cost

Sanity fairness vanity even

What is left of life’s dreary lessons?

 

By Sheri Hall

 

 

Thanks for reading,

Namaste

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five

I cannot believe you will soon be five.

You should be turning five that is.

It hurts to re-live that night five years ago, when you were born and all there is, was silence.

No beautiful wail escaped your body.

I shook in my own tears as I was expecting this moment, as if I knew it was to happen.

Throughout my pregnancy I was terrified something was wrong. It just didn’t feel right. Then it happened, first with excitement at your arrival then with shock as you were backwards folded in half turning blue on exit. The doctor and nurses worked so hard to get you to breathe as your dad held your hand begging you to try.

I was in my own shock; all was silent. I heard nothing, I only assumed you were dead. when the doctor told me they inserted a tube finally helping you to breathe but you needed to go immediately to the NICU, that I couldn’t see you. My mind could not wrap around what was happening or why. That was the hard beginning to your short beautiful life that has changed me forever. As a mother, as a human being who vows to live empathetically and compassionately helping others. I thank you for your time in my life my beautiful child.

I wish you a happy fifth birthday this Dec 30th  wherever you are my sweet angel.

Love always and forever.

mom.

As I Drive

Where my mind goes as I drive, I think back to those long torturous drives that I had grown to detest, anticipating the anxiety that arose as I approached my destination. I have grown to hate the radio because of those long drives, angry at its insistence to play happy annoying songs, angry at its ignorance of my need to hear sad songs or silence because the music or talk it emits draws upon too many emotions that at the moment I cannot focus on. All I can focus on is my arrival at her side. I circle the building, over and over looking for free parking, I could park in cozy and safe underground parking but at fifteen dollars a day times forty two days so far is not realistic, so I circle, praying for someone to leave, desperate. Finally I find one a bit further away but I do not care. I need to get inside. I need to see her. I exit my car, often forgetting all that I will need for the day and eventually having to run back to get them. I run, my legs ache it feels as though I am not moving very fast, I push the doors open and begin my agonizingly painful walk down the long, white often empty corridor, trying to avoid the smells that surround me, wanting desperately to just magically appear at her side every morning; but having to endure this long routine of getting to her. I finally reach the room; I rush to scrub my hands, remove my rings, and sign my name on the visitor’s sheet although they should know who I am by now. I drop off the extra snacks I have brought for the kids of other families that visit in the adjoining family waiting room. I remember the first time I brought my other children here, in shock, not prepared for them to whine for food and having none. I did not want other new comers to have to feel that, I wanted to help. I wanted someone to help me. I felt so lost, so confused, so scared. Finally I get to her side, I see that they have been poking at her again; I hold back my tears as I stroke her beautiful little face, that is splattered with dried blood from their obvious failed attempts at finding useful arteries. Why. My mind so often wonders why. Why me, why her, why does this happen to anyone. I try to pick her up but it is so hard with all the tubes and IVs, so I lay my head on her tiny body, the body I grew inside my own, the body that grew unable to breathe on its own, the beautifully perfect on the outside but so broken on the inside body, that now has become mine as well. Broken; my heart is broken, my mind, now broken, unable to understand the jargon being spoken to me by doctors, specialists and surgeons. I am unable to function I just want to hold her and have everyone else shut their mouths. Stop talking to me; stop telling me to leave her so we can have a meeting about a future no one knows for sure. Stop making me drive all the way here every day, getting stuck in traffic wondering if when I get here will she be the same, will she still be there. The panic that has grown in me over these last few weeks is almost unbearable I say almost because I am still here. I just want to take her home; I just want her to be normal, to be able to breathe on her own, to not need multiple surgeries to fix the problems with her heart. I just want to stop feeling scared and sad. I often think back to all those times I knew something was wrong, all those appointments with my doctor where I could not stop crying nor could I explain why I was crying, I just knew something was wrong because of the morbid, guilty thought I often had was if I have a miscarriage that may be better. Then she came, it was traumatic to say the least. She was folded in half, I needed a caesarean but it was four in the morning and no anesthesiologist was on so I was supposed to wait till she got here, but I could not wait, not anymore, I was already two weeks late. I kept pushing, another thought that will leave me riddled with guilt, what if I just waited, what if I did this to you. So out she came, folded in half, not breathing and turning blue. The room went silent. Hours passed before someone came back to talk to us. I did not even know until months later that your dad was asked to hold your hand and talk to you as they tried to resuscitate you. A moment he is haunted by today. They told us you were being transferred to the neo natal intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital. They told us we should follow. They told us I would be admitted there. That they had to insert a tube so she could breathe but with an unknown amount of time without oxygen that she most likely had brain damage, there is even a name for it: asphyxiated birth- birth without oxygen. One of many new words I was forced to learn very unwillingly. That they would do what they could for her but that there were no guarantees. This was the first of many long, silent drives down to the hospital, to see my daughter that was born not breathing my daughter that we also later would find out was born with congenital heart disease: three holes in her heart, an abnormal trachea and needed a feeding tube. Her first surgery was when she was just 5 weeks old. But I knew none of this on that first drive. I was in shock, in denial, a part of me assumed that when we got down there, she`d be fine. The brain is funny that way. That was the first drive until 52 days later we made the last. We did not know it was the last of course, not until we got there and learned of the results from the latest scans, I did not know that was the beginning of my anxiety that surrounds driving now. We learn that the chance of you surviving, being so small and so fragile already, that the chance of surviving the surgery needed to fix you was slim if any chance of survival at all. We were told they would operate if we asked them to. But did we want to lose you on the operating table or in our arms. It is quite odd to have people speak to you this way, so matter of fact, about your child. That is going to die. They offered to move you to hospice but did not know if you would survive the transfer. So we held you, right there in the pediatric intensive care unit as they removed your tubes, always in the back of my mind was the thought -what if she breathes on her own, what if. A saying that will haunt me forever: what if. But you did not breathe on your own. Your dad and I held your amazing, precious little body until we could not. We walked silently back down that cold, white corridor for the last time and drove in silence for the last time that long treacherous drive home; never to see you again. Never able to drive again without thinking of the first, the last and the fifty lonely drives` in between trying desperately to see you.

That is what I think of as I drive.

Thanks for reading

Namaste,

Sheri

Thoughts…

Do your thoughts wander…. from one to the next, in odd fashion? Have you ever obsessed over the same thought over and over? Lost sleep over ‘too much thinking’ Cant turn your brain off. I think it is a trait that is innately human. We learn, we obsess, we overthink… When series of events cause us to overthink or overlap our thoughts, we get anxious or afraid at outcomes we cannot control, one wonders why we are so wired to worry about what we cannot control. perhaps sayings like: always stay positive or never give up, you are what you make of your self  and maybe even you are what you eat. Cause us to grow up thinking we can control our outcomes or what happens to us. But often things happen that we do not want to and things do not happen that we do want to. That is life.  We believe we can control situations as long as we follow steps a, b and c, unfortunately there are always unaccounted for endings, like the one we don’t want. In a way things happen to us that will teach us, where we can learn and grow but also serve as a reminder we are not in control and need to accept that and ultimately let go.  If we can look at life as a journey, with probably more downs than ups, a journey where our overthinking will overlap our thoughts and intentions and that is ok. We maybe can enjoy the journey better in a way that we do not or have the need to be right or positive or as it should be. I am not a fan of the saying everything happens for a reason but I do believe that we are meant to learn what we can from things that happen that we did not want to. The greatest thing to learn from is death, loss and grief. How we learn to cope. To grow. To accept. These things take on so many forms for so many people. Some depression. Some become adventurists or less shy or more introvert as they ponder their own mortality, as inevitably it pops up when we lose someone. we tend to think about others around us dying or even ourselves. It is a scary train of thought that precedes the death of a loved one. It takes years to get over a loss although you never fully recover. I believe it takes us consciously accepting the fact that we do not or can not control the outcome of most things and therefore allow ourselves to be free from the guilt that also follows death. The what if? that haunts your thoughts’ There is no easy solution to grieving but to let it happen. Get lots of sleep, lots of water, long walks. fresh air, talk to friends, write in a journal, but most importantly stop obsessing that you could have done something differently, that its your fault. Because we are not gods, we do not control what happens as much as we try to believe or are raised to think we can/do.

Thanks for reading,

Namaste

Sheri

I see you’re sad

I see you’re sad. You are trying to hide it but I can see it. Others won’t, you are functioning as you should, but I see the slight differences. You used to laugh so freely now it’s forced; you dressed always over the occasion and easily looked the best, now you wear my favorite attire in time of raw grief, comfy clothes that are always ready to nap with you. I sense the change in you; you are quieter staying inside yourself protecting your heart. I see it because I know, I have been there. Your mind is reeling from the loss that it feels fuzzy sometimes confused or hard to make pointless conversation, not sure what to say so it stays silent. You become an observer. Watching life move on when you can’t. You don’t find things funny or silly it is too hard when you experience the certainty of life -that is death. Your appearance seems unnecessary, we hide behind hats; literally to cover our face; hide our sad. We assume people do not notice because we are out, we are functioning, we attempt to smile when need be. They don’t know we sleep more, eat less or less healthy because who cares right. But I see you’re sad. I feel your grief when I look in your eyes. I know your pain when you force a smile or conversation or simply walk away because you can’t take it. I know, I see it and I am sorry.

Thanks for reading,

Namaste,

Sheri

 

Written for my close friend because I see her pain but oddly enough do not know what to say or do knowing she needs to walk her own path through her grief.

 

It is ok to be sad

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I feel you rolling your eyes, as I hit post. Another grief post you think! Your pain is no longer because it wasn’t your child you lost, it was mine, so you did feel sad for a bit after, you don’t understand how or why I am still grieving or posting sad stuff about grief. I get it its not your loss, you don’t feel it every day like I do and you don’t want to remember it  as much as I do. You might think I am bitter or want sympathy, I don’t. Just know that my heart hurts when I glance at the spot on the floor where she stopped breathing, that I have trouble thinking of moving because this is where she lived for 2 short weeks. Every time I hear a story of tragedy or a life lost I cry for her. Am I stuck? no I am human. I am a mother that gave birth to a beautiful baby that struggled to live, to breathe, that spent 5 weeks in the NICU, not sleeping, not feeling and slowly breaking. That was almost four years ago I know, you think I must have moved past this pain, I have another little girl right. She is my savior, yes. but also my daily reminder of my first little girl that is not here. Would they be best friends? or Would they fight a lot?  I wonder. And yes that too makes me sad. Immediate grief after a tragedy is overwhelming, its consuming and then time takes it away, little by little the intense memories fade and it is easier to ‘pretend’ life is what it is.

Today is October 15th- International Awareness of Stillbirth, miscarriage and infant loss

A day that makes me sad but grateful to have met and to be a part of a community of women, amazing women, that too have suffered a loss, something that is not openly spoken about but should be, something that people are uncomfortable to bring up, leaving the person(s) that suffered the loss alone. Why are we told not to share a pregnancy until 3 months? in case you lose the baby right, we don’t need to upset people like that! but then we suffer alone with our loss. Not right. After I lost my daughter, after she was born at full term, after she was given a birth certificate because she lived past 21 days (the time the government thinks your baby needs to live to be considered a human!) even though we all know as soon as we see that pink or blue line we have a child in our life, whether they live past 21 days or not, to be deemed a person! Different issue, I move on. The stigma that surrounds uncomfortable feelings needs to stop. People need compassion not shame. I don’t know how to change the world into thinking its ok to be sad, we do not need to ‘pretend’ to be happy all the time. As Buddha says ‘Life is suffering’ I believe we have pockets of happy moments or happy feelings but if you truly look at the world and live true, you see that it is about surviving, surviving tragedy around us, surviving, genocide, rape, famine , disease, homelessness, joblessness, then death. Acknowledging life’s struggles does not make us ‘negative’ it makes us real and if you let yourself feel the sad you will better be able to appreciate the happy.

After I lost my daughter, so many women came up to me and told me about their losses, a women lost her son when he was 21, another suffered multiple miscarriages’ but never told anyone, so many stories, so many women that suffered alone because society made them feel like they had to hide their shame because it wasn’t ‘happy news’ I call bollocks! I will continue to share my grief and encourage others to share because we are here for such a short time, all we have is each other. To help, to love, to pick each other up and hug.

Namaste

Thanks for reading.

Sheri

My Space will soon be 4

The space

There is a space in our family that cannot be filled. At one time it was tiny, 18 inches long, yet to reach three pounds, long and lean but tucked into a bundle dripping with my tears.

That space inserted itself into every day. She was milestones unmet, crib sheets unused, car seats returned. The pain of her absence stubbornly followed my every moment. Tears in the shower, aching emptiness in my chest and constant wonder over the functioning world.

Our space grew as we did. Two years old, a height evenly between her brother and sister, toddling in places she should be and shouldn’t.

This space came and went. She woke me up in the morning and reminded me over again how life had changed, she was a hair color I would never know and words I would never hear and this spot in every photo where I knew she should be.

As our space got older we got stronger. At four she was probably all kinds of things, probably tall and thin, probably inseparable from her sister, probably the one to like hugs more and dirt less.

We could almost see her, the little person she would have become and this hurt so much more but sometimes less.

When our space inched past 6 she was so far from the baby we held we weren’t sure how to imagine her. She might be the tallest or the shortest or have straight hair or curly forever tangled in a brush.

She wasn’t just remembered by us anymore, her siblings drew her into their imaginations, painted her into our world, dripping with vibrance and swirling colors. Their thoughts of her made our hearts burst and break at once knowing they had glimpsed our emptiness. She was their space to hold too.

Our space will be 8 soon, we’ve held her for that long. She would be begging me for purple in her hair or loving it cropped short. She should be trading clothes with her sister and sharing her bed at night or hiding her things so she won’t borrow them again.

She is the sister my daughter is sure would fix every annoyance from her brothers. The daughter I imagine would have made our life that perfect kind of ordinary. And the child I would give anything to have back.

She is the space we will always hold, she’s changed form and size and intensity over the years but there’s no force greater than what she’s left for us. A family forever holding her place.

See more of this article at: http://fourplusanangel.com/2015/09/the-space/#sthash.c9obvphA.dpuf

View original at: http://fourplusanangel.com/2015/09/the-space/

I love this post written by Jessica author of ‘Four plus an Angel’ it came in my inbox at the most necessary time. I couldn’t have written this feeling, these sentiments or thoughts any better so I have shared it with you.

Namaste,

Thanks for reading.

Sheri.