Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Back to the Battle

Nope, we're not through with this discussion on grief. I definitely have some more things to say about it. I just needed to process some first in my head before I bare them to the eyes of the world (yeah, right, the world).

Simply stated, my current grief has changed my state of mind. This particular loss, with its slow, draining march, has combined with the recent loss of two grandparents, along with other peripheral losses and reminders of loss to produce a marked effect on my state of mind, or attitude. Is that the same thing?

My predisposition is one of contentment and laughter. I am certainly not saying that I'm happy all of the time. I am saying that my state of mind is typically one of seeing the humor and of choosing to focus on the brighter side of the human condition, even while venturing into the darkest of places. Over the past several months, I have experienced consecutive losses of varying degrees. My inability to take the time between to experience these at a deeper level has left me in a darker state of mind.

Those of you who know me at all know that sarcasm is a natural bent of mine. Many would suggest that sarcasm is never appropriate, but I still enjoy it. However, at times like these it becomes my enemy. I have to be more careful of my tongue because it tends to deal a larger dose of hostility. When I am in this state of mind, I tend to think of myself as a "realist," which is to say a pessimist. I see the negative more clearly than the positive in the photographs of daily life. It's not really depression, although that tends to kick it off. It's just a general state of malaise.

I am not afraid of this current lack of positivism in my life. I've been through it before. I'll get through it this time, too. Exercising my mind and my emotions. Using words to express how angrily I meet this loss and all the losses of my past. Reminding myself of the joys of being a human. These are the remedies for my soul.

I don't know if this is typical of grief or not. How about you? Does a particular state of mind accompany your grief? Is grief a state of mind of its own?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Perfect Weather to Fly a Kite

We had a fantastic weekend. Working outside. Working inside with the windows open. Lying around the house and/or driveway for hours. Fantastic! We capped it off this evening with a full-fledged kite fest. Sophia has two kites, and she's crazy for flying them both. Tonight, however, apparently Barbie needed to get out. Sophia really enjoyed the wind.

She enjoyed wrestling it this way, and that:

After a minute or two, she'd get bored

and run away. Yes, this is an actual run; and yes, she still runs like that. Nothing I can say about that. It's too close to home.

She was on the job when the kite fell down to throw her back into the wind

Then she'd come back for another minute.

The cycle went on for quite a while until she'd finally had enough. Our entire weekend was just full of great moments. I won't even try to get them all down. I remember now why I love the Spring. Open windows seem to make everything a little more pleasant!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sound Staged Dream

This has nothing to do with grief. I have some more to say about that, but I'm going to feel some more before I share. Anyway, I thought I would share this awesome and weird dream I had the other night. Who knows? Maybe it really is about grief, and I just need a chance to explore it. Usually my dreams are relational and impossible to remember the next day. They also usually travel. This time I was stationary.

Okay, so I am in some mall with Erick (I think it was Erick, but his presence was not a primary focus). For some reason I think this may be the Mall of America, although I've never been there. Why am I in this mall? For a soundcheck of the world famous and life changing music of U2. Weeeeeird. You should know that throughout the dream, Bono was a bit of a jerk. However, his jerkness was unoffensive as it seemed to be a direct product of his perfectionism. It was as if somehow a mistake at the sound booth would directly affect the meaning of his song and reflect poorly on his life's work. I am certain that in real life Bono is pleasant and approachable.

On a side note, The Edge was not present. Larry Mullens and Adam or whatever were there, but The Edge was gone for the day, replaced by some random guitarist that I recognized from somewhere.

Erick (?) and I were mulling around and noticed a lot of empty chairs up front. Of course it's just the sound check, so we can move up there, right? As we get approach, I notice a coupe of middle aged sour-looking fans sitting in the middle of the chairs, with all surrounding chairs strung with Christmas garland. The people in the middle informed us that the garland served as a way to save those chairs for others who may or may not come. I plopped down anyway. A woman approached me and emphasized the necessity for her friends to have places to sit when they arrived. I stood in her face and used some pretty uncharacteristic language to pass along my lack of concern for her friends. Even in my sleep, I'm pretty sure I had a smug grin on my face as I ended up punching her in the face, sitting down and enjoying my incredible seat.

Crazy, right? Maybe I need to release some aggression. Any volunteers? Erick can't volunteer. I already dropped the f-bomb on him last night and it didn't help (well, not in the long run). So maybe it's something else. Hearing your interpretations should be pretty fun, so go for it!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Healing Words

As many of you know, this is not our first loss in pregnancy. Before Sophia, we experienced another, dramatically different loss. In November of 2005, I found out that I was pregnant about three hours before I was in surgery to remove an ectopic pregnancy (an embryo that implants and grows outside the uterus).

We were shocked at the depth of our grief over a child that we had never known about or anticipated! With that loss, our grief spiked early and hit us like a ton of bricks. This time around, it was a slow march to an inevitable black hole. I stifled all feelings for weeks. Grieving this loss has been a much larger challenge in itself than our previous loss. This process doesn't "look" the way I feel it ought.

I guess the truth that I have found nestled in this drastic difference is that grief cannot be predicted. I kept expecting to have some sort of dramatic end to all the waiting. I thought my d&c would leave me devastated and finally able to feel. Quite the opposite. After coming home, I felt even less than before. I comforted myself that it was due to the pain meds, but it was really just emptiness. Emptiness that I have to live with.

Along with the difference in circumstances surrounding this loss, is the fact that we are different people. In the intervening 3 1/2 years, we have experienced much life - both beautiful and dreadful. Sophia is one very obvious change in our lives. While her presence has changed our grief, I can't say that it has made it easier. We no longer grieve the fact that we are not yet parents, but now we know from experience the unparalleled joy that is embodied in holding an infant that moments before was kicking me in the ribs. We grieve also for her in that she will have to continue to wait to know the joy of being a big sister.

This loss is different, certainly, but not easier.

Both times writing has helped. I write to process externally. Sometimes it's good, mostly it's just me. So if you like me, you like my writing. If you don't, well....

In 2005, I wrote often to cope with our family's first loss. Here is my favorite:

Yahweh, Hold My Baby

Yahweh, what do you call our baby?
Please, come whisper it in my ear.
I know that it cannot be heard aloud
At least not while we're still here.

Yahweh, can our baby see us?
Please let her sit by my side.
I don't need to see or feel her
Just to let her know we tried.

Yahweh, will you hold our baby?
She needs love like every child.
Please hold and kiss her now and always,
And tell her it's only for a while.

Yahweh, I'm so sad and lonely.
Won't you please come and stay?
I try to have hope for tomorrow
But all I want is yesterday.

Yahweh, you know all the pain.
You've seen mine and every other's.
With broken hearts and empty arms,
Our greatest desire, just to be mothers.

I am still sad when I read this, but the grief is just a shadow of its former self. Three months after my ectopic pregnancy, we found out we were pregnant with Sophia. Knowing that her life would not be possible had I carried this first child full term does not make that grief any less real or important in our lives. I think people want to move so quickly to what we have and what our loss makes possible that we miss the entire point.


I have written while grieving our current loss as well. Something that is interesting to me and is evident in the words below, is that I am less personally invested. I am writing to a general audience rather than to God or our baby. I think this is the difference in my grief, and this will be the main obstacle to truly grieving the loss of my child. I have to say that out loud to myself far more than I did in 2005. This was my child.

On Sunday I felt for the first time in over a month, at least as it concerned our baby. I had long lost hope of a healthy pregnancy, although I hadn't admitted its truth. So I went to the cemetery next to Grant Elementary on Broadway. It drizzled, and I was finally alone. I was desperate just to feel something. I did.

-I came alone to the quiet cemetery where my tears could be understood. By whom, I guess I'd rather not know. My jeans got wet from the rain on a bench marked 'Windmiller.' I feel sure that Eugene's wife would forgive my intrusion. I assume she would recognize the posture of one needing rest. There is no grave of my own loved one to sit near and mourn. The tree in bloom between me and my car will have to do. Our baby was too small to merit a resting place.

It's too soon for peace. That is certain. But as I look around me at all of these monuments - some old, some new - meant to mark life and death, I feel an odd relief that our baby will never come here to cry alone. If a monument would help, I would put one right here, but it won't make my love more true or my loss more tangible.

Some may seek a cemetery to find God. I came here to escape him. Today's rain may very well be God's tears shed for my baby's unfulfilled promise. I know in my heart that my god did not have this loss in his "larger plan" for my life or this child. But I still cannot seek his face. It is too soon to experience the peace that I would find there.-

If you have written to move past your own grief and would like to share it, please do.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Respite

When grieving, not all moments are bitter. There are many, many sweet ones, made all the juicier by the grieving. We have had too many of these to count recently. Sophia has been the funniest, wittiest, most congenial and cooperative version of herself. I take absolutely no credit for this and consider it proof of God's care for us. Not that she's normally ill-tempered, but she is two.

One of my favorite things she says these days is when she climbs up on the couch, pats the seat next to her and says, "There is plenty of room for you next to me, Mommy." Who could resist? Her "I love you"s have been more frequent and voluntary. Her hugs just a little more lingering. Her kisses just a little easier to steal. Anyway, all in all, she's been a dear girl and a wonderful friend through all this.

I've tried not to let her suffer for my distraction. It's definitely been the house, but that will all catch up. It still hasn't been warm enough for me outside, but we have made more trips outside because she loves it.

Truly, there is no more relaxing activity than digging in the sand.

Unless, of course, it's going for a stroll.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Starting from the Same Point

After a very good conversation with Erick last night about the topic of grief, I realized that today's post should be about how I define grief, particularly as I'm relating it to different areas of life.

Grief as people normally think of it relates to the large and often crushing losses of life: death, divorce, loss of livelihood, unexpected and unresolved end to relationship, disability, and the list goes on. This type of grief is large and takes up a great deal of our energy for at least a portion of our lives. Well, at least it does if we allow it. If not, we end up living only partially. Grief of this kind, most experts agree, seems to involve five stages: 1. Denial and Isolation, 2. Anger, 3. Bargaining, 4. Depression (Sadness), 5. Acceptance. I don't like assigning these stages numbers because each process seems to move in and out of all of these stages, even simultaneously. While all of these stages seem to be present after these greater losses in life, I believe they present themselves differently for each person, even within that person - differently for each loss.

The second point I was trying to make is that grief is often short-circuited, if acknowledged at all, in other areas of life. I would agree these other losses are not as threatening to one's existence, but they still have the potential to derail us. For example, I said that choices we make leave others untried or unexperienced. An extreme example that I hope will help others understand what I mean is this: When Erick and I chose to begin starting a family, we were ecstatic and joyful to welcome Sophia. However, we had made a choice that our lives would never be shared between only the two of us again. No more running out for pizza at 10:30. No more sleeping in till 10:30. No more freedom or ease or uninterrupted conversation. I would not trade our current reality for any amount of riches, ease or opportunity; however, if I don't acknowledge the choice we made, I could become resentful of Sophia's presence in our life. Marriage is harder when children are present. Is it worth it? Of course! But even asking that question is a form of grief - particularly of the final stage of acceptance. I don't think that all the stages of grief are necessarily present in this second type of grief. Even if they are present, it seems that they could be less apparent and vital to the process.

I wanted to address my definitions of grief because if you are reading this with another definition or confusion about the less threatening types of losses, then we can't get very far. I hope that this post has been less confusing than I think, but I welcome questions and the chance to further clarify my position.

Maybe in the mean time, I'll take some pictures of Sophia. Nothing like a little distraction to ease the tension.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Good Grief

Earlier in this blog, in a post or comments that I'm too lazy to search for, I believe it was alluded to that our culture does not spend enough time actually talking about grief. Or death. Or pain. We let the artists take care of that. We shed a few unexplained tears at an emotional, even if poorly written, movie - and feel better. A book or song that holds no obvious emotion for us, gives us the excuse to let the waters flow, if only for a moment.

I am going to make an argument that we (humanity) do our best living when we are grieving. Not just loss of life, but of comfort, innocence, understanding, friendship, opportunity. The human experience is full of choices, paths taken and others not taken. Each choice we make leaves a whole path of opportunity that we must grieve. Of course there are many things that happen in life, which were not a product of choice, and those leave empty spaces that can only be filled with the tears of true grief. Now, I'm not the type that wants to live in a pit of blackness, reliving each misery or mistake of my own or others. I don't find satisfaction in dwelling on the losses of life, but it's my opinion that by actually grieving our losses, we give them far less power in our present and future.

All of that precedes my saying that I am grieving, and I am going to share it with you. This is a risk on my part. I hate leaving myself open to being pitied. Please don't do that, and if you do, keep it to yourself. I want to use my grief as a starting place for our conversation. I am not an expert on grief, although I (like each of us) have had many losses. I am not asserting that my loss deserves more attention than any other. On the contrary, my tendency is to remind myself of those who suffered infinitely greater loss than I and seem to endure with a tender spirit. That is true, and it's not the point either. I simply want to talk about grief. What better way than to walk you through some of my own process.

That's all for today, but I do want to set a few ground rules. Obviously, I want this to be a conversation, so please comment if you have something to say about grief. Please do not comment if you feel the compulsion to tell me that you're sorry for my loss. I know you are, and I appreciate it. That's not the point. So in the next days or weeks or whatever it takes, I'll share with you some writings and thoughts and random ways that I process. Enjoy. Or don't. Either way, you'll need to grieve the path you didn't take. ;)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


These past few weeks have been stressful (to say the least) for Erick and me, but they have probably been some of Sophia's best. I know that I have a much lower threshold than usual for toddler behavior, so I am choosing fewer battles, which means next week will be a nightmare in that regard. Really, though, she has been about as sweet and hilarious as I can remember. That, of course, is very bittersweet given our current circumstances, but I am really trying to enjoy it.

An example of a slightly less demanding home is that here she is, probably at ten in the morning: no pants, talking on the phone to her daddy, while watching TV. Awesome. An example of how she can be her daddy's girl. Ha! Just kidding! Or am I? Now you'll think twice when you call us, won't you?

Monday, April 13, 2009


Just when it was cute and fun to be a pirate, the headlines go and ruin it. Shouldn't we be able to come up with a different name for these modern pirates? I don't know - burglars, smugglers, kidnappers, sea criminals - something that I don't typically encourage Sophia to pretend to BE.

Now I have to endure an inner battle each time she puts on the pirate hat and eye patch (and this probably happens more here than with most 2-year-old girls). Should I really be encouraging her to pretend to be someone who ransacks ships and holds people for ransom? Probably not. It was one thing when I could pretend she was just a harmless 19th century pirate. Their pillaging, etc. was far enough in the past that it could be distorted and softened with images of Johnny Depp and, yes, Errol Flynn. But it will take some pretty serious casting to make these current characters into lovable but messy pranksters.

Just saying.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Poop Stinks

This post has nothing to do with poop, but it just seemed like the only way to start.

I've been on radio silence for a while for one main reason. We've been having a rough stint. Last Monday, almost two weeks ago, I was planning a very fun post. I had an ultrasound scheduled to make sure that everything was okay in my - yep - early pregnancy. I was 8 weeks, and the ultrasound technician could only find an empty sac. That was not good news, but it wasn't necessarily the worst news. The basic idea was that I could have been off on dates and less pregnant than I originally thought or it could be something called a blighted ovum. That means that an embryo implanted but only the sac continued to grow. The only way to know for sure which we were dealing with was to wait nearly two weeks - until yesterday morning - and have another ultrasound.

Two weeks of waiting was pretty miserable, but we managed to carry on with life in the most normal way we could. I worked so hard not to think about what we were waiting on that I ended up not doing much thinking at all. That's why no I couldn't think of any posts.

So yesterday morning was the ultrasound. Poop stinks gives you an idea that it did not turn out like we had planned. The sac was still empty and hadn't grown at all. So this week I will need to have a procedure to end the process.

So that's where we are. After two weeks of stopping feelings in their tracks, we are finding it to be a challenge to access them now. It will happen when we least expect it. With people who care close and each other closer, we'll make it through this as we have anything else.

Most of you already knew about all of this, but it always helps me to get things out in writing. I appreciate you hearing me out, but I don't really need feedback. I've disabled comments on this post. I just don't want anyone to feel the need to find something to say.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cover Your Eyes

On Saturday, we made a quick trip to the St. Louis Zoo. As usual, Erick and I had as much fun as Sophia. She was pretty tired for some reason, so we had to take breaks between the animals for her to get excited for the next one.

In the main building of the zoo, they have an incredibly large shark, squid and sting ray on display. On the way into the zoo, she freaked out a little, but by the time we were headed out of the zoo, she was already prepared for the fright. Without any reminder from us, she said, "I won't look at the shark." and put her hand over her eyes.

Just peeking through them a tad.