Grief Is A Thief

Blog post

Written for Still Standing Magazine – March 21, 2018

Grief is a thief, stealing so much from the grieving and those close to them. The wake is messy with shrapnel flying and everyone in your life being hit by it to a degree. If you are close to the eye of the storm coming out unharmed is a miracle. Doing so probably means you either weren’t as close as you thought or you are one of the few that were able to swim through the mud being a fierce protector of the grieving Mom’s heart.

Grief, after your baby dies, isn’t only about grieving the baby you lost but also grieving the life you once lived. You grieve relationships you had with friends and family that once felt loving and easy and no longer are. You grieve all you had envisioned for your future that no longer can be. The ripple effect is so great that one day you wake up and reflect on the life you once lived and it feels like it belongs to someone else, with little resemblance to the life you now live.

People may give you grace and understand the profound sadness that comes when your baby dies. What is often misunderstood is the pain that is caused by the ripple effect of grief and all that was left in its wake. We feel the pain to our core when we see who ran and hid, who judged you, who justified their own behaviour, who talked to others about you and who was clearly lacking love.

Once the fog clears and you see the landscape you are now living in, it is impossible to un-see it. You see your heart was truly only safe with only a few people and feel intense pain from being abandoned or let down by those you thought were put in your world to support you and help protect your heart.

Relationships are easy when living is easy. The real litmus test of a relationship is when you have to ride the waves together. When the person you trust to have your back catches you without hesitation as you are falling, when your sadness isn’t frightening, or inconvenient, and they are more than willing to meet you just exactly where you are.

Relationships over time evolve, that is natural. When a life event like this happens you as a person is forever changed and with that, the relationship you once had is also forever changed. People either choose to love you through it and allow the quick evolution to flow and become more connected or choose you no longer fit into each other’s lives.

Grief is a thief. It steals so much from everyone involved. You are left with the gift of seeing who is still standing beside you and gently holding your heart. Grief steals so much but also gives the gift of deepened, stronger and more meaningful relationships once the aftermath is cleaned up. It is those relationships you know will last a lifetime because they stand on the foundation of unconditional love.

I am so sorry if you are a Mom who not only lost their baby but also had grief steal so much more from you. You didn’t deserve it.

Thank you to all who swim through the mud, those who stand in the fire, the ones who take the responsibility to safely hold the heart when it is broken, and those who can love stronger than the shrapnel of grief. You are the grieving Mom’s greatest gift.

Photo by Kat Smith from Pexels

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Balancing The Lies Amoung The Truth

Blog postOriginally written for Still Standing Magazine – February 20, 2018

Some days I was a truth teller and some days I was a liar. What I wasn’t expecting was how easily the lies would roll off my tongue. Chatting about how busy I was going to be, talking about how three little boys under three will be noisy and crazy, how blessed I was to have them. These are the expected conversations while out and about with a one and two-year-old boys while visibly pregnant. People would comment how glowing I was. I clearly mastered the art of lying with my whole being. It must have been the smile, and belly rub as I agreed my life would be hectic.

The truth be told there would never be three little boys, my house wouldn’t be filled with the noise and the hectic life they envision, and I talked about. My hands would be full but with a mountain of grief, not three little boys. I knew my baby was going to die, he just didn’t stand a chance with multiple heart defects.

Telling the truth was possible but I had to feel safe. I was so protective of him and my choice to carry him for as long as possible. That choice isn’t right for everyone and I was sometimes judged. The lies were easier to tell than the truth. The truth was hard, it was hard for others to hear and incredibly hard for me to tell. At times I carried on with these lies with people I knew eventually would learn the truth. People like my esthetician who does my eyebrows, I even contemplated never going back after he was born because she would then find out I was lying to her every visit

He was dying, I knew it, but it was so hard to be honest about it. It was that look I would get when the truth was told, it cut so deep to see the instant pain within someone else’s heart my truth just inflicted. Everyone who knew us felt his loss, I didn’t own it alone, he wasn’t only mine. He was a neighbour, a friend, an acquaintance, a relative, my son and his name is Theodore.

To walk around looking so normal and people always wanting to politely chat about it was a double edge sword. The lies made me feel normal, but they also told my soul all that it will be missing. I had to shelf the grief of the life I thought I would live to stay present with my baby. To give him all he deserved I had no choice but to make my daily mantra “Today I am pregnant, today Teddy is alive” and live today as it could be his last, flooding him with love. Being his Mother, my only job was to love and support him through his journey, I was powerless to do anything else.

Two years ago, Teddy was born and died 22 minutes later, we said hello and goodbye. It was then the truth teller was born. The truth is heavy but speaking his truth lightens my heart. He was real, he mattered, and his truth holds profound beauty.

To all the truth tellers and liars that walked before me and all those who walk behind me I see you, I feel you and I admire your strength.

Time Keeps Rolling

My sweet little boy Teddy, time keeps ticking along and how my heart feels is forever changing. I miss you. I wish I could hold you. I wish I could talk to you, hear your little voice. I wish I could see who you would have been today. I wish I could love all the Teddy quirks, all of who you could have been. Instead so much will be left as a question mark. I wonder if missing someone’s laugh could be harder than missing a laugh you were never blessed to hear.

Two years, three and half months have passed since you were born. It feels so long ago. So much life has happened since yours ended. Your sister was born six months ago. She is incredible and is loved by your brothers intensely. When she was born I could only see you. But she wasn’t you, she was full of life. As that life has blossomed she has become this incredible light in our family. I always say she completes us. Saying this isn’t because you or the boys weren’t enough, or because she fills a physical space you left, but rather the opposite, without anyone of you we would be forever incomplete. She was always intended to be apart of our family just as you were.

Zooey didn’t take your place. Your place is filled by you, our third baby. You are our forever baby, and what a special role that is. Your life has impacted me in ways no one will ever truly know. You have given me a new lens to view the world through. You have given me a perspective of life that spoken words could never truly articulate, it is something that I know only you and I share.

I miss you. I want so much for you to share this life with us but I also know this was never your intended life. I know all of this wishing is for me, and I also know undoubtedly that you are exactly where you should be. I love you more than needing my wishes fulfilled so I accept our reality. My heart will forever be filled with love for you and my mind will always wonder what could have been but having this understanding about your intended life provides comfort and peace.

I will forever shed tears for you. I will forever miss you. I will forever feel grateful for all of you. I will forever feel joy for you. I will forever feel heavy because of you. I will forever feel light because of you. I will always choose love because of you. I will forever honour you. I will forever feel blessed because of you.

Feelings flow like the waves of the ocean. Some days are sunny with a beautiful light breeze at your back pushing you along. Some days are stormy and feelings are crashing all around you. Then we have days that are a combination. In the last two years, I learned to never fight emotions, just like the ocean they can be a force to reckon with so it is best to allow it all to pass through you. To feel it all, to own it, to see it and before you know it the tide has changed and you feel new again. Today my heart is all yours Teddy. I feel your physical absence, and long to be close. The only emotion that is forever unwavering is my love for you. You are loved. You are LOVE.

Your Momma Bear

2018 Dancing with Joy

Welcome 2018

We are half way through the first month and I am only now ready to write about turning over the calendar, wiping the slate clean and starting fresh in 2018.

Each year as one ends and a new one begins Ryan and I always reflect back on our previous year’s goals we had set and see how many we accomplished. This year was different as we normally set realistic and attainable goals for the upcoming year,  then adjust our five and ten year plan and I just wasn’t into doing it. This year I don’t have goals but I do have intentions.

This is a big year. I have six months left before I turn 40. Holy Moly how did that happen! 40 seems real, like no way around it you are an adult once you cross over that bridge. Having the big 4-0 peaking around the corner puts things into perspective. It is another reminder how short life really is. How precious time is. I truly don’t want to waste time this year. I intend to spend my time only doing things that make my heart sing, spending quality time with those that encourage love, laughter and bring joy into our life. Not to say if you are in a place that is hard I don’t have space for it because I absolutely do, helping others warms my heart. But I am no longer going to water dead plants. I am letting go of relationships that don’t serve me anymore, ones that aren’t meant to be watered and that it is okay.

There is a huge portion of my story with Teddy that I never write about, that many don’t know. It has to do with a significant person in my life. I haven’t written to save them from the truth, the truth about how their role has effected my heart and my journey. What I have chosen for 2018 is to find peace with letting that role in my life to be a void. It is a role that no one else can fill. There is no amount wishing or wanting that can change the damage that has been done. Because of Teddy’s death the cracks in that relationship were revealed. For the first year I ignored the reality. I didn’t have the strength to see it, deal with it, acknowledge it or try to fix it. My second year I saw it all so clearly, I saw who they are, what my role was in the relationship and how unhealthy it was. I truly wanted it to be fix, I have been working to understand it and find peace with the knowledge I have gained but sadly there is no fixing it. So as we are moving in the third year without Teddy I believe with letting go I can make room for peace in that area of my life.

I have learned with death it is never just one loss. It will effect many relationships and areas in your life. I have also learned it isn’t all about loss because you also gain new relationships, deepen existing ones, and receive multiple gifts that comes in countless forms. It is true, the day your baby dies so do you and with time you figure out who the new you is.

So 2018 & the big 4-0 I am ready for you!! I am ready to become firmly planted in the new me. I intend to write more and not just about Teddy. I intend to dive into my untapped creativity. I will work on being completely present while Mothering. I intend to be the wife my husband deserves, he is amazing and deserves the best. I intend to love and care for my body and overall health as taking it for granted would be so unfair to all those who would give anything to have health. I intend to water all the wildflowers in my life, dance with joy and hold still for others when life is heavy. Lastly, I intend to remain connected in faith. I will listen when God whispers, and I promise to act. In the past I would feel called to do something, to reach out to someone, or whatever it might be and I wouldn’t act because I felt uncomfortable, I was unsure how it would be received but not this year. I am putting worry aside and will have faith that when an act comes from a place of love it has purpose and maybe that is where the magic will happen.

Cheers to you! Let’s all dance with joy together!! 2018 is going to be awesome and when it isn’t we will be okay, all things are possible when we help each other carry the load. Just holler over at me if you need help pulling the weight and I haven’t noticed. 💖

Happy 2nd Birthday 🎂

Dear Teddy

Today is just another day for the billions that fill this earth. To your parents it is the day our world stopped turning just two years ago. This day will forever be the most significant day of our lives, as will the ten day pilgrimage we walk leading up to it. In the past two years we have learned to allow our world to rotate once again but it will never spin quite like it once did. Our hearts will always beat with a hollow sound since you took such a big piece of it with when you left us. To so many today is meaningless or holds other significance to us it is everything. I honestly think only those who have suffered a life altering experience could possibly fully understand.

As your Mom two years sounds like a huge amount of time. It is 731 days to be exact. I feel like it was yesterday and forever ago all wrapped up in one. So many of those days I wondered if I was going to be able to keep walking further away from that moment in time where we parted ways. I wondered who I will become, would I ever feel whole again, and would I ever find the old me.

Whole? Nope, it is impossible. You are gone only to reunited when my days are done here. Who have I become? I became a woman who has learned all about grace and giving it to so many. Some who truly deserve it and some who aren’t as deserving but you my love have taught me to choose love. It has been a learning process and I haven’t mastered it but you have changed me with that one simple lesson. What I have also learned is choosing love sometimes isn’t easy, sometimes it creates waves, and sometimes it cuts ties. Will I ever find the old me? Nope nor do I want to.

The first year without you I was so consumed with putting one foot in front of the next, working tirelessly to try and find peace with all that life gave me when you left. This last year has been about seeing the aftermath of your loss, all that has been affected in other areas in my life. The relationships that grew and became so strong, the relationships that didn’t weather the storm so well, the ones worth fixing and the ones that are healthier to release.

I had no clue leading up to your death that I wasn’t just loosing you. The loss is widespread, some days it all cuts me to the core and other days I find my way to forgiveness, understanding and peace. Losing you to me is easy to make peace with, it is the rest that has truly tested me. Those losses feel so unfair. It seems so cruel to take you, my precious baby, my heart, my soul but then to have such a widespread ripple effect. No one seems to tell you about the true aftermath. It seems like as you sort one thing out and come to terms with that new reality, another layer is peeled back and the next ripple is revealed.

I have no idea what the theme will be about for this next year. Third year’s a charm? Isn’t that a saying? I hope so. . . but maybe doesn’t apply here.

Today for me is not just another day. Today we celebrate you, we mourn you, we feel you, we acknowledge your importance, and love you. As time rolls on you might not be top of mind for many, you aren’t here, people never met you, but to us you are everything and you are as important today as the day you made my womb your home, the day you were born, the day you died, the day we had a funeral for you. You matter. You are loved, you are missed. Your absences felt always, today and forever.

Birthdays aren’t always cupcakes, balloons and laughter, sometimes they are like today, heavy hearted. It’s just real life.

Loving you today, and every other day to follow. Thank you for being my teacher.

Happy 2nd Birthday my love,

Your fearless Mommy

Full Circle

Tomorrow marks the first day of our final 10 days with Teddy two years ago. There are two types of deaths, the sudden and those that play out over time. Teddy’s death played out over ten days. Prior to that as much as we knew he would die we remained hopeful. Hope is a life line. Without it, it all felt impossible. Two years ago we drove to SickKids in Toronto for a routine fetal echo. Two years ago we sat in a room, a doctor walked in with a look written all over his face. I knew by his eyes Teddy journey was ending way sooner than I was ready for. It was the moment my stomach hit the floor and my heart caught up to it shortly there after. It was confirmed the end was near, he was an incredibly sick little boy and the doctor thought he might survive a few hours to maybe a day. He gave us ten. Ten days that were incredibly hard, so hard there isn’t a word in the English language to articulate it properly. Ten days that were the greatest gift Teddy and God could have ever given me. Because he didn’t die instantly, because we had these days together I don’t have one day that feels hard to relive but ten. It is the ten day pilgrimage to the birth of our third son, the only day in my life that will ever hold the full range of beauty. The birth, the death, the baptism, the love, the only and final good bye.

Two years ago I was preparing for his birth, his death, his funeral. Last year I was busy creating cards to celebrate him while spreading his message of love. This year I hold our newborn. Every year is so different from the last. I believe as each rolls on I will reflect on each year and see the growth, the pain, and the gifts. The common threads through it all I believe will be how my love is unwavering, my gratitude is abundant, my heart longing for him, and his importance in our family.

Sunday we baptized our precious Zooey Helen. A day filled with love, but leading up to it felt heavy, and a day I actually wasn’t ready for. I spent time in the couple weeks leading up to it trying to figure out my emotions and sort out what was really going on. I couldn’t bring myself to order a cake, I couldn’t arrange the party afterwards. I was paralyzed and it wasn’t something I haven’t ever experienced before. I want Zooey to have a Mother that can be fully present in her moments. I wanted this for her birth and for her baptism and the reality is it is impossible. Those were experiences that I shared with Teddy, and doing them again was hard. The truth is her brother died. He died before she was born and because of that, it comes with sharing at least those two moments with him. He didn’t have any more moments in his time with us so they are the only two they have to share and I believe Zooey would generously give us all of that. She might even be honoured to do so.

I have realized throughout the past few years I have these moments that I am forced to go full circle. Zooey’s birth and baptism were one of those times. As I was figuring what I was really feeling with the baptism I was lead to look at what I feel when I am at Church. This building houses so much life for Ryan and I. Even before we were married Ryan and I attended Church. We always sat upstairs in the balcony. As we were planning our wedding I would sit there envisioning this magical day that was in the horizon. We said our vows, promising on that stage to love and support each other with God as our helper. I had no clue at that moment how much we would actually need his help in the next few years. Once we were married my dreams of our wedding day switched to envisioning the day we are parents and could proudly baptize our children. But years went by as we watch so many other families doing what we desperately wanted for ourselves. We sat in that balcony praying fiercely to be blessed with a child, and held back tears as we watched the other families go before us . Finally our day comes, not once but four times, only one of these baptisms wasn’t on that stage, it was in the hospital only hours before we said goodbye forever. Our Teddy made his way to that stage but it was for his funeral. So where we said our vows and baptized two children I stood reading Theodore’s eulogy. We never did sit upstairs regularly since that day. Instead we sit up front one seat back from where we sat that day we honoured Teddy and those seats almost always remain empty. So as the weeks went by and Zooey’s baptism approached I would often look back up and think of that girl. The girl who once thought optimistically of the life she thought we were intended to live with no clue the significance the walls around us would hold. I thought about those tears I would hold back in church and would fall once we left after witnessing a baptism. I wondered if any of those families felt as I did on this past Sunday. Not knowing their story, they too could have felt very conflicted. Could there have been someone else looking upon us not knowing our story and feeling what I once felt? This Sunday during the service after Zooey’s baptism Pastor David talked about judgment and as he spoke I thought about not the judgements I have made but more about all the assumptions.

The circle is complete, our last child is baptized, the day was perfect and exactly as intended. I am grateful for having those hard days that forced me to look deeply and sort out what it was about. I see it all clearly now, I see the importance and the role faith has played out in our life together. Zooey’s baptism allowed me to connect the dots in a way I am not sure I ever would have without it.

I am not sure what these next ten days will feel like as I make my way through them. What I am sure of is it will be a mixed bag, it will be different from the last two years and different from all the rest to follow so I intend to remain very present, to find gratitude for this unique journey, to feel it all, and to grow as much as possible through it.

Being blessed isn’t about living an easy life, but living one rich with lessons, with growth, and having the ability to find gratitude even in the hard moments. Because we are blessed our life is rich.

xoxo Momma Bear

Shrapnel of Grief

44 days ago we welcomed Zooey Helen into the world. 688 days ago we welcomed and then said good bye to our dear Teddy. Exactly 100 months ago Ryan and I consciously started trying to create our family. 3 days ago we had our final midwife appointment for our lifetime. It marks the last day of the family growing stage for us and sent us off lovingly into the family raising stage of our life. Having spent 100 months creating and growing a family this final appointment left me reflecting back on all those days, all the moments of being broken, being brave, all the joy, all the love and everything in between for us to be walking out of that office on Tuesday with a full heart and arms.

Those aren’t just numbers that represent a day passed, they are numbers that represent the most changing time of our life. The numbers are a representation of the time which allowed for growth and for a total rebirth of who Ryan and I are today. The last few days has had me reflecting on relationships. How they have evolved, how new ones have emerged, how some have been lost. Going through fertility challenges and then experiencing a loss of a child I see how many common threads they share and how they equally can put a strain on many relationships in your life. It is hard for everyone. I see how true the saying “people are in your life for a season, a reason or a lifetime” and I see throughout the years how some have fit into a category.

For the most part I am totally at peace with how relationships have evolved even the ones that didn’t survive the storms or the ones intended for a season. I do struggle with how people have been effected by our personal struggles. There is one person in particular I haven’t been able to shake how everything has changed, how so many days I wish I could go back in time and we could be who we used to be to each other. It was always easy, being together was always good for the soul, leaving feeling better than you arrived. It felt safe, she is always loyal. She always has good advice, and ear to listen and heart full of love. Time together never felt like enough, we could talk for hours over a simple cup of tea. She would be the first at our door when life once again handed us a shitty deal and always the first to celebrate when life was being kind and the first to meet our babies. I can’t stop wishing she wasn’t hit by the shrapnel of my life, my grief.

Moving through grief your perspective is narrow. It is hard, so hard to see all sides of situations or even at times when you do, your heart hurts so much it is easy to feel angry anyway. It makes it so hard to be a good friend. To be the person you once were, the person who had room for problems others faced. With this particular friend two things happened which I can see so clearly now. Life wasn’t always light for them, but as many people they weren’t able to bring their problems to me when my plate was so full. By not doing so shared moments were passed, and space between us was created. Someone else filled the void created by not being the person they went to for support. It changed the landscape of the friendship, I missed out on parts of their life. Being a person that I care deeply for, it was so easy to be hurt by them, even when they didn’t do anything wrong, the layers of grief changed our day to day interactions.

There was moments I became so angry, which was just deeply hurt feeling because I felt like I lost so much when Teddy died. There was loss in every aspect of my life, from close family members, to friends and basically everything in life as I once knew it. Everything changed and at times it was so hard to accept.

This friend had the most beautiful baby boy only months before Teddy was born. We shared our maternity leave when my second son and her daughter were born. It was amazing and when we found out we were pregnant again together we were so excited to share this experience once again. We were going to have two boys within a few months of each other, we both were looking forward to the life we would all share throughout the years. Then my baby died and it was simply impossible to do so. It was just one more layer of loss.

Being 100% honest I so desperately wanted to still be included, but I couldn’t and it was so hard to accept. As more time rolled on and the time we should have spent together drinking tea and talking about life was turned into me being swallowed up in grief and her no doubtably feeling our absence but also building closer relationships with others. Teddy was meant to be her son’s best friend, that was the way we intended it and she also lost that. She felt his loss deeply, I know this to be true. Our friendship was set up to be rocked purely by the situation we were presented with. I was so mad at her at times, but it was never her. It was real life. I wanted her to be drinking tea and sharing baby time with other Moms, I was just so mad and hurt I no longer belonged. I was so tired, I couldn’t ask for what I needed. I just wanted my friend back, I just wanted to be the friend I once was again. I wanted it all to be light, and to be easy but it just wasn’t possible.

I remember the day before Teddy’s first birthday I popped by the baby group as the group leader wanted to hand out Teddy’s Choose Love cards in celebration of him. I arrived and the four girls I should be with had Teddy not died were drinking tea, chatting and all four of their baby boys were there crawling around. They looked so happy, as they all deserved to be. They didn’t see me. I left with such a clear visual of what I desperately wanted and was missing. Unfairly I was hurt by this friend, she did nothing but kept living the life she deserved and the one I wanted for her. But sadly of the four girls it was her my heart chucked daggers at, because it was her my heart was truly connected with and missed deeply. I became angry my baby was dead, and I didn’t get to spend my morning with friends, instead I was driving around alone distributing cards in memory of him. It felt so unfair. I wanted my baby to be alive as well. I wanted the life we had envisioned.

At the time it was so hard for me see it all as it really was. Intellectually I always knew but my heart was broken and this was a layer of it and emotionally was not capable of seeing it clearly. I am so grateful for perspective. I see how much she loved us through it all, I see she was given an impossible hand to win with, I see she felt our loss deeply, I see she loved Teddy as well, I see she also felt his absence and I see she too probably wished I could be the old me and for everything to be different. She lost her friend as well, her #elsupremo.

Grief is so powerful, it doesn’t have mercy on those around it. Shrapnel flies and so many people get hurt. I know in this process many people have been hit by our shrapnel. I am so sorry for each of you and in particular this friend I speak of. Grief is messy, holds no boundaries and is unforgiving. Time though allows for perspective, it allows the fog to lift and clarity to be regained. If you have been hit by someone’s grief shrapnel please give them time, give them grace and give space if needed but just hold on if you can, clarity will come once again. You may never receive the loved one you once had, they are forever changed but maybe just maybe together you can find your way to building a stronger house than the one that had blown down if you still have the foundation remaining.

I am grateful that the foundation to this friendship is still there. I am grateful and hopeful she will be in the category “for a lifetime” and that with time we will rebuild our house. It might not be the pretty tea house it once was, but I have faith it can be stronger. I have moved through the heaviest parts of losing my son and am now in a space where I can once again be a friend, one who can help carry the load of others because mine is once again lighter. I look forward to helping carry some of her load when needed as time moves on. I will be forever grateful she didn’t shut me out, she always stood by even if it was at a distance, I know being hit by our shrapnel has caused pain, and I am so sorry for that. She chose to love us even when it wasn’t easy. #alwayschooselove