The Ninth Month

Saturday,May 3, 2003

Today I realized that it is good to do my grief work. I was sorting the kids’ clothes and putting away the things that are too small when I came across about six of Abigail’s outfits hanging in Sarah’s closet. That is, these were outfits we bought for Abigail but she never wore. Once I felt that familiar pang, I realized that it would be a GOOD thing to think about them and cry. So I pulled them out of the closet and looked them over and cried a while. I started really thinking about all the things we’d never do with her and started talking out loud to her. It was a good thing to do, even though it hurt, because it always hurts anyway. I need to quit determining if a day is good by whether or not I was sad but by whether I did things that are good. And so today, I did some grief work, and it was good.

I have also found that journaling every night or every other night is SO HELPFUL to me. I actually feel myself calming down after I journal, and if I go too long in between, I can feel the stress building. It's like it's when I take the time to process everything that's been happening to me and what I am feeling. Walking helps, too, but I don't seem to get so far in my thoughts then.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

On the drive to Mohican State Park for 2 days of training for work, I found that I was again questioning if I am doing this (grieving) right. Why is it so easy to start questioning? Why is my confidence so easily shaken?

Tuesday, May 6, 2003

The last two days I was out of town for more training. I was actually taking C’s place since she is on Maternity leave, so of course yesterday during the breaks some people came over and asked about C. and the baby. Then one man talked about how his daughter was also expecting any day now, blah, blah, blah. I really didn’t need to have that conversation. So I excused myself and went over to the door and cried. And during that time, I prayed and asked how I was supposed to handle this. How do I make this into grief work, that is, into something positive? And so I just cried some and got the emotions out. Then I went back for the next session and I managed to get interested in the session again (not an easy task, since the topic was Hazardous Waste! :-). Then in the line for lunch someone started talking about babies and his sisters going back to work after the second… But before I could find a smooth way to bring Abigail into the conversation, he was on to something else. And I was OK with that. Maybe because the something else was basically about work. Maybe because I am moving a little.

Anyway, I did better during the afternoon because there were fewer conversations about babies and because I knew that Steve was bringing the kids for the evening. And once they arrived, all was well. It was really amazing. They were SO excited about being at the lodge and that we would go swimming, etc. Seeing things through their eyes with their joy and excitement was just what I needed. I am so proud of ALL my kids, and I really needed them there last night. They had so much fun and I had fun because of them. Then this morning we ate breakfast and lunch together and we got to hike down the path afterwards. That made the whole thing so much easier to deal with than having to socialize. It was definitely the right thing to do to bring them. And I am amazed I didn’t talk about Abigail with anyone at all, but I was OK with it. I feel like I am progressing. I had some hard times but I let myself cry and was able to recover. Is this new? Am I dealing with it better and is it healing me? Is it just a stretch of “good” days? I feel good that I have really achieved something.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Today I did more grief work. A. sent me the tape from Marie’s funeral and I thought, “I don’t think I can watch it. It will be too painful.” And it was because they both mean so much to me that I wasn’t sure I could “relive” that time in her life. It wasn’t overtly related to Abigail; it was more related to seeing her go through that difficult time and I didn’t want to see her in that pain. So I put it aside, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Is it healthy to “purposely” do something that will bring on the emotions, or does it mean I am “stuck” and trying to live in the past? All that I am learning from my groups and my experiences lately tell me that it is better to deal with things head on when they come up instead of trying to avoid them but failing. And so I thought that was best in this situation, too, since I was already in that uneasy limbo. So I decided to watch it, alone; I didn’t want anyone in there with me while I dealt with the emotions.

I knew it would be beautiful and tasteful, but I wasn’t sure exactly how I would feel. And when it first started and I saw them hand Marie to her, I involuntarily inhaled sharply and said, “Oh, God.” And I really don’t think I was using the Lord’s name in vain; I really think I was asking Him to be with me. And it WAS beautiful. And Marie was beautiful and everyone was so peaceful. It was so obvious how much Marie was loved and how much God was with them all during that time. But I cried and cried. I cried, not for me, but for A., that she had to say goodbye to sweet Marie. I cried because she had to be so brave and strong. I cried because she was so thankful for the time she did have with Marie and it’s NOT FAIR that she had to settle for a few hours. And when it was over, I really cried, for both of us. I think it was good for me to see it; I think it will be another step in my healing. Later in the evening I watched it again. This time, the emotions were not so strong. And this time I saw so much more. It truly is a beautiful tribute and reminder of that time.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Mother’s Day. I wasn’t thrilled about it but wasn’t dreading it. I just wasn’t sure how it would be. Steve did an unusual sermon that wasn’t just happy, happy mother’s day, but it talked about mothers and suffering and grief. So it was ok. But at one point when he was talking about labor pains and giving birth, I just got really sad and started to cry, thinking that I can’t believe this really happened to A. and me. It just seems like it is not possible, like it is just a bad dream. Most people clearly were sensitive to how I might feel, although they didn’t really mention it.

I have actually done pretty well during the past week. I am starting to joke around more and feel more like “myself” at times. And it seems like I am letting myself go ahead and cry until I don’t want to anymore. And it doesn’t seem to take as long until I don’t need to cry anymore.

I have also realized something about grief: that you can't avoid the pain. You can't run, or go around it, or hide from it. It will find you and catch you. So just take a deep breath and jump in. Just be ready for it to hurt, but push through it.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

I have been trying to identify one of the feelings I have been having. I have been thinking it is envy or jealousy, but I haven't felt that is really the right word for it. A woman in my support group who lost her son said she felt cheated. And that is EXACTLY the word I am looking for. Envy or jealousy imply that I want something that belongs to someone else; cheated means that I want something should be mine but I don't have. And that is what I feel when I see other babies or pregnant moms or hear others talking about their babies so "easily". I feel cheated that I don't have the time with her that I should have and that I don't have the freedom to talk about her with anyone I choose like I would if she were alive.

And so now that I have properly identified the feeling, I need to figure out how to deal with it. So maybe my best strategy is to realize that, yes, I HAVE been cheated. I WAS supposed to go to have a healthy child. But to also realize that now I have been able to love a child who has blessed me so much and to recognize those blessings. I will think of what I have gained from this experience, (what joy I have gotten from knowing Abigail, how I have changed for the better, people I never would have known, and much richer relationships with some people I already knew) and I will take some action to recognize that: either a note, call, card, or just a prayer of thanksgiving for it. It may not take away the hurt of being cheated, but maybe thinking of the other blessings may provide some comfort.

I really feel like *maybe* my emotions are smoothing out a little. My feeling good has snuck up on me - it was much more gradual than it had been. And more recently I have been feeling like myself again - more lighthearted, joking, and interested in things. I even told Steve I wanted to go see a movie Friday night (ME? Who IS this person?). And then we took the kids to see the Piglet movie Saturday and then to a local railroad festival with a train ride and carnival rides and parade. And I think I was the one who was most interested in going. So I am maybe not quite so high – not so manic - and maybe I won’t go back so low? And maybe not quite so suddenly?

I may really be jumping the gun on these thoughts, but I want to be more aware of them. Another interesting thing lately is that I seem to be able to compartmentalize more easily. And I am not really making the effort to do so. I mean, I can transition from emotional to working / concentrating, etc. and back much better. I don’t carry the previous emotion so much. I seem to be getting it out – crying mainly – until I’m done. And then it’s not an effort to move on, but it’s what I WANT to do. So I can tell I am definitely in a different place than I was before. And it feels so good to feel good.

I am trying not to worry about crashing. Even though I know it will happen, I can still use the good time to rest a little and build up my reserves. And maybe, just maybe, the next crash will not be as low or as long. It feels like I have just come through a very long, very low period, and I have to think (hope?) that they won't be as bad from now on.

Friday, May 23, 2003

The past week has really been pretty good. I feel like I have been going uphill for so long and now finally I can coast for a while.

In talking with others who have suffered a loss, I find it strange that the things that come to mind for me to say are the very things that I get upset for people saying to me! At least I have restrained myself because I had that voice saying, “don’t say that!” I pray for wisdom when others start talking, and the answer I usually get is, “keep your mouth shut!” I guess we have such a strong instinct to try to make them feel better.  I hope I can manage to restrain myself and to maybe be a little more patient with those who say those things since they’re what my instinct tells me to say, too.

And here’s a strange thought I have been mulling around: I am so glad for what I have received because of Abigail’s death: the people I now know, the ways I have changed, the opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives because of this experience that I don’t know if I would want to give those things up to have her back. I miss Abigail terribly, but I so treasure who I am becoming and the blessings from her death that I don’t want to give them back.

What am I saying? Am I thankful for her death? Can that be? Or is it just as A. said recently that we have been truly blessed to be Abigail and Marie’s mommies, that they were very special gifts. And I am so thankful to have been able to be Abigail’s mommy even though it hurts to lose her. Even though we only had her a short time, I wouldn’t trade that time for anything in the world. If I hadn’t had her at all, my life would be much emptier, but I wouldn’t even know it.

So maybe I am just so thankful for her life, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Her short little life has blessed me so much; how can I not be thankful for it? But how can I explain it to people? She gave us so much joy while she was here, and she has enriched my life so much since she has gone. If she were still alive, I wouldn’t have that blessing.

Is it a fair trade? In a way, yes, because it didn’t cost her any hurt or pain, just me. I guess it would be much harder if I didn’t see such incredible blessings coming out of this, if I were a more compassionate and giving person before her death. But now I have had my eyes opened to a new world that I didn’t realized existed. And it is a very painful world. But it is a world where people REALLY need each other and where I can really help someone simply because I understand. And I am getting such joy and fulfillment from helping people who are hurting deeply. Without Abigail, I would not be able to help those people and I would not know this joy. I have obviously not articulated this well yet; I don’t think I have it clear in my mind yet. But the concept is forming and it is amazing to me.

One other thing that kind of surprised me, as I am grieving, is that faith doesn’t take away the pain. I thought God would comfort me and that my faith would “carry me” through the pain and minimize it. But that’s not true. I am comforted that she is in heaven, but that doesn’t take away the pain. Losing them hurts so badly but that doesn’t mean we don’t have faith; it just means we loved them deeply. I have realized there is no way around the pain, faith or no faith.

This morning I was just looking at my kids and I was overwhelmed with how much I LOVE them and how much joy they give me. It's like I am seeing them in vivid color all of a sudden and the intensity of the emotion is startling. I just can't get enough of them. I just want to hug them and never let go. I feel so content and HAPPY, like it's coming from deep, deep inside. It feels so strange and so good to be overwhelmed with joy for a change.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Yesterday I took the kids to the mall since it was too rainy to go to Tuscora Park. Steve was working on the playground. When we were at the fountain, they wanted some pennies to throw in. And Nathan was making wishes for each one. His first wish was that we didn’t have Sarah J. His second wish was that Abigail didn’t die. His third wish was that the family didn’t have to split up (daddy working on the playground while we were at the mall) but that we could all be together all the time. By this time, I was in tears and was hugging him tight. And he said, “oh no, now you’re getting all sad about Abigail.” Then he made another wish that, “you wouldn’t be so sad about Abigail anymore.” And I told him that I wasn’t so sad; each day I am getting less sad and that someday I won’t be very sad at all and that my wish was that I would keep healing until I wasn’t so sad either. And he got a big smile and said, “that was a great wish.”

Monday, May 26, 2003

Today was Memorial Day. This weekend was harder than I thought it would be, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as Easter was, so maybe I AM getting better. Saturday I took the kids to Tuscora Park where we all had a good time. Then we headed for a BD party. Steve was working on the playground all day and would meet us there. I was getting more and more stressed as we approached, and when I pulled up and saw all the cars there, I just REALLY didn’t want to be there with all those people. I stayed with the kids for a while at the trampoline until Steve came. Then as soon as I could get free from everyone else I asked him if I could leave.

I just saw no point in suffering through the party, not wanting to talk to anyone or even be there. I would just be concentrating on hanging on the whole time and worrying about how it looked. And for what? I COULD leave. Getting through this wasn’t going to be any grief work. So I just came home and felt a lot of relief as soon as I left. But I also cried some on the way home. I think I was really disappointed that I had trouble at the party. I had been doing so well and I was really feeling that I was improving. Some of the things I have been thinking over the past few weeks have really encouraged me. But then to kind of get down and to have this problem were such a letdown. I guess I was expecting that since I did so well that I was “past” that type of thing and didn’t expect it any more.

K. and I got to talk today. And I told her about how I have been doing and that I thought I really was doing better lately but that I was disappointed that I’m not doing better right now than I am. And she said that she can tell that I am doing better when I told her how I know that some of the things that bother me now are really not going to bother me in the future; that they won’t keep me from having peace or feeling better. If it weren’t one thing, it would be another. And she said that me realizing that shows her I am doing better.

And she said that when we talked Thursday night and I told her about how I felt about the blessings I have received from losing Abigail and how I really don’t think I would trade it, she felt like I really believed it. I had said it before, and others could have told me, but until now I really didn’t seem convinced. And now I do, which she has observed is that I am getting better. We talked about how we have to come to these conclusions on our own when we are ready. We can’t be rushed into them, because if someone tries to tell us these things, we just feel like they don’t understand or are minimizing our pain. But it made me feel good that she has observed that I am getting better at the same time I have.

Steve hooked up 3 of the swings on Abigail’s playground so the kids could start using them even though they are still working on the tower and slides. And while I was pushing Sarah on the swing she asked, “Is Abigail gonna come swing?” And I started to cry and said, “I wish she could.” And Sarah twisted around on the swing and was looking at me the way Nathan does and asked, “Are you sad? Why are you sad, mommy?” And I told her I missed Abigail. And later I told Steve what she had said and he said, “Yes she is.” And I liked his answer much better than mine.

I am not sure what to think about this weekend. I got more down than I had in a while, but I seemed to be able to bounce back better. I got more emotional than I had in a few days. And I guess I thought that since I was doing better (and SO happy with the kids on Friday) that I was immune to the down times and the blah times and even the emotional times. I think I am rushing things. I think I am so glad to feel better that I am thinking I am a lot better than I really am. And I still need time, a lot more time, to work through these things. And it bothers me a little that I have discovered that I really need contact with my safe people each day and how much that helps me (or hurts me if I don’t get it). SHOULD I still need that each day? Here I go again. This is unfruitful. I mentioned this to K. and she said, “So what if you need to do that each day?” It’s like talking with those people give this whole experience meaning and really helps me.

One thing I have been stewing over lately is how I HAVE changed; how I want to help others and I make it a priority to take the time to do it and help them. But I can right now because I am not absorbed in my life right now, but in my grief. And so I am always thinking about others in the same boat. And so helping them is not just to help them but also to help me. So I worry that once the pain is not so fresh, not so sharp, and not so constant, will I still be sensitive to helping others? Or will I gradually become too busy moving on with my own life to stop and help others who are going through it? If I will, then I’d rather not move on myself and get healed. I want to keep this part of the experience sharp and raw so the positive changes in my life will remain such and will be a blessing to others. I am glad to be a blessing to others now while it is fresh, but I want to continue to be always. How can I do that?

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Our support group leader last night talked about the roles our loved one filled in our lives and the holes that now exist since they are gone. And the thoughts on the holes and how I am feeling about Abigail lately have kind of come together. I think that I had some holes in my life that I wasn’t aware of. Maybe they were small, or not all the way through, or maybe I had just grown used to them. But either I didn’t know they were there or they didn’t bother me enough to worry about them. And since Abigail’s death, the new relationships I have made, the deeper relationships that have been created, and the ways I have changed to help others have been such a blessing to me. In fact, I think that they are filling some of those unknown holes and it feels so good. They are fixing things that I didn’t know were broken. In some ways, my life is so much richer now. And the pain is so much more intense and deep than I’ve ever experienced before, but so is the satisfaction and joy and fulfillment from these blessings. So they have to be filling those holes. So while they are not directly healing the holes in my life from losing Abigail, they are healing and strengthening me in other areas so I can focus on healing the hurt from losing Abigail. And I think some of those holes are starting to heal.

He had us bring something that represents our relationship with our loved one. I love it when we have things like that to do because it really makes me think about things and process the memories and thoughts and significance of certain items. Anyway, after thinking of several things, I finally settled on the song we played at her service, "Visitor from heaven" because it so accurately reflects how we feel about her. I told them how I had the CD for about 8 years and the first time I heard that song I cried and I remember thinking that if anyone ever loses a baby they have to use that song at the funeral. I just never thought it would be me. When he started the song, I felt the adrenaline rush and prepared for the emotion. And it was emotional, but I didn’t cry. I was fidgety and uncomfortable, kind of exposed, but I didn’t cry. But everyone else did. And afterwards, C. gave me a long hug and said that at that time she felt that my loss must be worse than hers. I started to cry and had to take deep breaths; I nearly started sobbing, which surprised me since I hadn’t felt like crying during the song. It is interesting that C. said that; I had felt the same thing when I heard her story. The sessions are very draining but so helpful.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

I have really had some "lightbulb moments" lately when I have focused on identifying what I am feeling and it has been good. I feel like I am miles ahead of where I was a month ago. It is like I am on a different plane now. I feel like I have a base, a foundation of some peace and comfort. And that base is sort of restraining the grief, keeping it from getting so hysterical. 

Yesterday we went on Nathan’s school field trip. On the bus I talked with another teacher about her 9 month old daughter. We talked at length about baby names, hair color of the kids, birth experiences, etc. I was ok with it. And I included Abigail very naturally and unselfconsciously (it surprised me that I didn't keep going 3 steps ahead in my thoughts and getting uncomfortable). Nathan's teacher knew about Abigail, but we had never talked about it except right after she died, but I didn't know if the other teacher knew. But after the fact I realized that a couple of times the things I said would have prompted a question if she hadn’t known, but since she said nothing, I realized that she did know. But I really enjoyed talking about Abigail and her life, not her death. That casual, easy sharing of those things is one of the things I feel cheated of. Finally she asked if we knew about it ahead of time. And I told her and we talked about T18 and the pressure to terminate and more about Abigail's life. And it seemed so natural and easy. I feel so good about that conversation. And that she felt ok with bringing it up. And I could tell Nathan's teacher felt the same way; she was very interested to learn more about it but was hesitant to bring it up. My only regret is that we got there before I got to say much about how hard it has been emotionally. I know it appears that I am doing very well and am OK with it. For the moment, today, I am. But I want to be able to articulate the struggles a little bit so they don't just think that faith triumphs over pain. But at least maybe they understand a little more about it and that it is OK to mention a baby who has died.

Lately I really don’t think the other shoe is going to fall. I mean, I will go down again, but I feel so DIFFERENT. I have gotten comfortable with the grief - it is no longer alien to me so I have stopped fighting it and I am riding it now; going with the flow. And I think that is making a big difference. I don't think it will be like it was again. Maybe I'm wrong, but I just think something major is different now.

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