Monthly Archives: January 2014

I am

Standard

Benton-25

Reentry. Reengage. Begin. Back to life. Disappear. Retreat. Hide. Avoid. Everyday, when I wake up, I am faced with these words, these ideas. I never have a good answer for them, the questions that form in my head. Do I go to work? Do I face “normal” life, even if it will never be the same normal? Do I put together the energy to engage myself in the things I once loved but now mostly tolerate? Do I give myself, as my therapist says, “permission” to do what I can and not to beat myself up for being human and for struggling sometimes? Or, do I skip it and stay home, snug in my bed, moving only to sit in Bennie’s room and read a bit, cuddle the cats, and make some coffee? I suppose I do. All of the above. It’s tricky, this getting “back to life” business. I know, looking back, that I am taking slow steps to get there. I no longer wake up and dread the idea of going out into the world. That’s good. I have done my therapy. I have been reading my books. I have been thinking through my devotionals. I have done the “let’s get drunk and see if that helps” phase…not so much. I have done the angry with the world phase…also not so much. Too much energy to be angry all the time, especially when Bennie was so much the opposite of that…so much love, so much goodness, in one little body. Makes it hard to stay angry, or down, or sad. I am all of those things, but not all the time. I am, mostly, I think sort of distanced. I have moments of feeling, real big feelings like, “ok, I am actually excited by this! I have some energy! I am moving, I am living!” Those are good moments. I also have lots of the opposite. Not the mind numbing, soul crunching kind of sadness and grief that existed at the beginning. But still, grief. Some days, I just don’t have it in me to deal with even the most simple tasks or challenges. I just don’t. Some days, I do. I don’t love what I do every day, but I am at least getting back to it in a slow and steady sort of way. I am more easily overwhelmed and agitated. I don’t like that particularly. But, I am. I am here. I am moving. I am living. I think that’s something.

We are working on the foundation, building pieces of goodness to share with the world in honor of our son. That is good work. Kindness work. The kind of work that makes my heart feel like I’m doing something right. The remnants of, “this only exists because he doesn’t” are still there. Always will be I suppose. Some bittersweet moments. But, overall, a good thing. A positive thing. A useful and hopefully helpful thing. I am getting a handle on that.

I had a moment today where I thought, “I am proud to be Bennie’s mom…I am proud to have known him…I am proud of the goodness he is bringing out of people”. That is a beautiful, heart-filling kind of moment. I think those will keep coming. That makes me happy, with the sad pushed and piled underneath. It’s important to remember that the child that never leaves the hospital is just as important, just as valuable, just as needed and wanted as the one who goes home and grows strong. I think we got that across to some folks today. That makes me feel good. I think people know it but don’t want to talk about it. But we can talk about it. That is good, in a strange way. Because I never thought I would think my loss was good. But, in this case, I guess it is. Maybe it can make it a little less lonely for the next people. That is good. The goodness of Bennie, shining out through us. I am better because of him, both his birth and his death. I am a better and kinder person. I am a more loving and nurturing partner and daughter and sister and aunt and friend. I am more aware of those around me and the struggles they are going through. I am a better listener. I am more present in my interactions and conversations. I am more tolerant of those who are short or rude or angry. I am more able to see that moments matter and a job is a job, not a life. I think all of these things are his goodness, his spirit. I think he helps me remember to be kind and be available. I think I needed that. I also needed him. But, I couldn’t have both and that was not for me to decide. So, I will take the parts I can and hold them close to my heart and use them to make others feel less alone. I can do that. I can. I will. I am.

foundhervoice i am enough 2

Loss

Standard

b3ca99806515d5cf25f1a7f4a2f1ad7b

This week, I have been thinking a lot about loss. It seems that my circle is full of loss right now, each leading me to reflect on my own. This is how it works, right? We take our life experiences and use them to navigate and relate to those belonging to others. It is strangely comforting, this knowledge. I never, in a million years, thought I would think of my loss in that way. My loss, my grief, has for quite some time seemed a bit like a heavy island that I inhabit with a close few. A place that others may visit, but at which I have to stay. I have worked, as time has gone by, to find others who live here. To acquaint myself with those mothers, those fathers, those families who have gone through my kind of loss. It has made me feel less alone, to meet these neighbors that didn’t want to live here either. It has made me realize how crowded this island is, like the streets I see on TV in Bangkok, full of bicycles and cars and trucks carrying people smashed together by life…or in this case, by the absence of life. It boggles my mind, really, the number I have known but never knew. I am grateful for them, but also wish they never had to learn these things that no one should know. How hard life can be, how much it pushes against us without pause. And, ultimately, how very hard it is to face that life with truth. Those hard truths that we all think but don’t want to say. I am weak. I am vulnerable. I am lost. I am scared. I am full of sorrow that I can’t understand. I am in pain. I need help. Those truths, they are billboards on this island I live on. You can’t get away from them, no matter how hard you try. It took me a long time not to fight them. Not to say, “Wait! Hold on! I am NOT those things you say! I am NOT willing to be that person! I am NOT!” In fact, I suppose, I am. Now, those truths don’t make up all of me. They are just at the top of the list these days, filling up more space than they used to. Someone that I don’t remember now said to me, just after losing Bennie, “You are the strongest when you are your most vulnerable.” I didn’t understand that then. I am beginning to understand that now, just starting to know that my loss makes me so much stronger than I ever imagined I could be. Not every day. Not every minute. But, in life as a whole, always.

Armor-Yourself1

I have a lovely friend who lost her husband this past week. He was 31 years old. As I write, she is having to go through the rituals…the visitation, the funeral service tomorrow, the hugs, the handshakes, the offerings of comfort, the awkward questions…adjusting to the uncomfortable new skin in which she must now live. I am not so far from those moments and in thinking of her I know how heavy her world feels, how empty and strange and foreign. I wish with my whole heart that she never had to learn the things she is learning. But, like us all, she is not immune to the harsh realities of the world. She has to become one of “those” people who has lost a spouse too soon. One of “those” people who look at the world through new and forever altered eyes and whom the world looks back on with sympathy and often pity. Pity is a hard one. So many times I have said, “They are well meaning…it was a nice thought…they didn’t know what else to do…” So many times I cannot count them. And really, those things are true. Pity, or sympathy, is always veiled in good intent…at least in the case of loss. But often it is also presented with relief…relief that it wasn’t them, relief that they didn’t have to go through what you are, relief that they realize, at least for a while, the blessings in their own lives. I certainly have felt that relief when I have been the comforter, the guest, the visitor to loss. I know how it can make us value things that we so often take for granted. That’s ok. It gives us pause and renewed focus on the goodness around us. That’s a positive thing. But, oh, to be on the receiving end of all that relief is a big challenge. You don’t want it. You want to push back against this reaffirmation for others with your hurt and say, “Don’t make this about you! This is MY loss, MY grief, MY sorrow! Don’t make it about YOUR joy!!!” Again, this is a tricky balance. Because you know it is, “well meant”. You know, in your head, that it is from the heart, even if it is awkward. That doesn’t, at the time, make it any easier to take. I think of her and her loss and pull her close to my heart. I know the road ahead. It is one that leads to that island where you don’t want to live. It is a life changing road, this one she is on, this one that I am on. On it are those big, hard truths. They help us, as new arrivals, to come to grips with our loss, our grief. But they do it in ways that no one can ever prepare you for…my journey cannot be hers and hers cannot be mine. They are slow and quiet journeys, but often filled with moments that rush toward us, full of noise. Deafening at times, our brains scramble and sputter and spit. Our heart aches and pulls us. Time moves forward and we want to go backward or to stand still. Those first days, those are jumbled and confusing and so very hard. And sometimes, it feels like they are happening all over again.

Each person in my circle who is struggling with loss, in death, in marriage, in legal matters, in work, in love…each of them reminds me of those early days. I ache for them, like I ached and continue to ache for Bennie. The same, but different. My journey, but not mine. Life, it seems, is full of loss. What an amazing thing it is that our humanness, at the base of it all, those hard truths…those are the things that connect us more than anything else. We are all the same in loss. We are vulnerable. And with that understanding, we are so very very strong.

you-were-given-this-life_ipad

Frustration

Standard

Today, I am frustrated.  By my job, by people, by life.  And really, mostly, by grief.  I feel whiny and annoyed and underappreciated. Which is also frustrating because I HATE people like that.  They drive me nuts.  I don’t want to do this grief work anymore.  Simple as that.  I don’t want to.  I want to wake up and find it’s all been a horrible dream and that my son is sleeping in his room and growing and thriving.  I don’t want to hear that my journey has helped you through something hard in your life or to be a better parent or a more present partner.  I am glad for you. But to do that, I had to lose one of the great loves of my life.  Most days, that knowledge that somehow this tragedy is helping a broader audience is comforting and good.  So, don’t STOP telling me that.  Usually it helps.  And even saying that it doesn’t makes me feel guilty and ungrateful.  But today, it frustrates me.  I didn’t ask for this.  I don’t want it.  Simple as that.  Yet not simple at all.  Actually so complicated that I can’t wrap my head around it.  Which is also frustrating.  Because I am usually the problem solver, the one who figures out how to help, the one who says, “OK, let’s think about it and figure it out and then do……”   I am educated, I should be able to plod my way through this and find a purpose, find a meaning.  Sometimes I think I am doing that, or trying to.  I work on the foundation or have coffee with someone who wants to talk about their loss, or simply just take time to be kind to people even if I can’t always figure out how to be kind to myself.  Those are good moments.  They make me feel useful and valuable.  They make me feel like I am honoring Bennie. 

Then, I find myself getting stuck on the fact that all the good that is coming from this is only happening because of loss.  And that just sucks.  Now, much of the good is also coming from the goodness that was and is Bennie.  I get that in my head.  And I think someday that will be easier to embrace.  But not today.  Today I am frustrated by the fact that I can’t just get there NOW.  I am impatient.  I am full of worry about never being able have that feeling of love and joy again.  I worry that I have lost such a big piece of my heart that it’s not going to heal.  I am frustrated by the fact  that the grief sometimes takes over so much that I can’t deal with my daily life and the things that come along with that in a productive or positive way. Small things become big.   I am frustrated by the fact that, before we had Bennie, I feel like I had come to terms with the idea that perhaps parenthood (at least from a biological perspective) was not in the cards for me.  I was OK with that.  I was embracing the idea of foster care or adoption.  I was open to those ideas, or I was working my way toward that and accepting the idea that my body, once again, was not on my side.  I had found some peace about all of those things. 

Then, I got pregnant.  And I finally had respect for my body, that had always been a rather negative thing in my mind.  Finally, it was doing something amazing and good.  I had a great pregnancy.  I actually LIKED going to all the doctors appointments and hearing GOOD news.  It was refreshing, in a lifetime of going and hearing bad news.  I never knew my body could be the cause of joy.  It was a revelation.  And then Bennie was born…which was phenomenal and perfect and blissful in so many ways.  And then, well, you know the rest.  And while I understand in my head that my body was NOT the cause of his issues, sometimes it is easy in my heart to blame that body because it has been my go to habit for longer than I can remember.  It’s hard to break that habit. 

All that that leads me to have to examine the “why” question.  Which I don’t want to.  Because I know the answer.  There is no why.  There is no reason.  There is no logic.  Which, again, I get in my head.  And some days I get that in my heart.  But today, I am endlessly, ceaselessly frustrated by that because dammit, I WANT a why.  I WANT an explanation for all this heartache.  I want to march up to God and just shout, “What?!  What could this possibly do to help my life?  What?!  I need to know.  I need to understand.  How in the WORLD will this teach me anything I didn’t already know?”  Again, I know the answer to some of that…because I have learned enormous amounts about love and relationships and faith and strength and vulnerability.  So, alright.  I get some of it.  But ultimately, I am frustrated by the fact that there isn’t really an answer and there never will be.  I hate that.  And I have no idea what to do with those feelings…other than feel them I guess.  Sometimes, though, I just don’t want to.  I want to go back to the life I knew, but I never can…and in many ways wouldn’t want to…but sometimes I just want the ease of that life…the ease of knowing that the daily annoyances were just that…annoying and on the surface and not weighted by grief.  It’s a heavy thing to carry around with you, that jumble of fear and worry and love and joy and hate and anger and hope and loss.  Some days, it feels like a thousand pounds.  I don’t like those days. 

My therapist said today that new grief often revives old grief.  That our current experience of grief reminds us and brings back to the front of our minds our previous experiences of grief or loss.  We connect them because they are the context to our story.  That makes sense.  It does not, however, make it easier.  Or better.  Or more manageable.  In fact, I think it actually makes it harder.  Because now not only are you trying desperately to work your way through THIS loss but you are also having to remember and process parts of all those other losses, one on top of the other.  I suppose that’s why they call it grief “work”. 
Magazines-24 (9)

So my negative impulses about my body image are reinforced by the normal after affects of pregnancy because for most, there is a beautiful new baby to focus on so those issues, like weird digestion and a never fully recovered bladder and cesarean scars that pull and a messed up sleep cycle, are seen as annoyances because there is such a positive thing to focus on…but I don’t have that part…so I just focus on the fact that my body is once again annoying and not working how I want it to and hard to deal with.  It’s a vicious cycle.  And I start to worry about all the infertility, but not really diagnosed infertility, that we dealt with before Bennie…and that circle of questions…can I get pregnant again?  How long might it take?  When is it healthy?  Am I running out of time?  Can I handle that monthly disappointment again?  Will my body cooperate if I do get pregnant?  What if I never get to feel that closeness and connection again?…now that I know what it was like, how will I live without it?….they circle and circle like sharks around a chum basket.  It’s really hard to stop them.  Especially now when my heart is so tender and my arms are so empty.  And THAT is an enormous frustration.  I know from before that I have to stop it because ultimately most of that is out of my control…that whole, “let go and let God” mantra…yep, I’ve been through this before.  I get it.  But it is easy, so very easy, to say that.  I can say it a million times and understand it on an intellectual and even a spiritual level.  It’s that 3rd part, that uninvited guest, that 3rd wheel…that emotional part…that is tricky.  And frustrating.

frustration