Capture Your Grief – Surrender and Embrace 

The feeling of having to surrender isn’t new to me. Our first experience as a couple having to learn to surrender and embrace the journey we were on dates back to about 6 years ago when we experienced challenges conceiving a baby. At the time it was all consuming and an emotional roller coaster. Every time I encountered a moment where I felt in control I was quickly reminded I had none. I believe this experience prepared us to deal with health issues of our second son. The path we walked with him and navigating that experience prepared us for the death of our third son Teddy.

The day we were told Teddy had no chance to survive outside the womb was the ultimate test for us in surrendering. We had no control of his outcome. It was going to be as his life’s journey was intended; short but powerful. I couldn’t make him better, I couldn’t protect him or our hearts from being broken. All we could do as a couple was to choose love. We chose to give him all the love he deserved, a lifetime’s worth and embrace the fact our time will be short.

As our journey has progressed and he was born then our goodbyes were said, each step we were faced with a choice and each step we chose to surrender and embrace our reality. It wasn’t always an easy choice, many times I needed to consciously talk myself through it. I do know once I let go it is much easier to find peace. To feel grounded in the journey.

It has been 10 months or 304 days ago that we said our goodbyes and surrendering looked different. I was no longer surrendering to allow for space to fill Theo with love but to give myself grace as we navigated grief. When powerful and heavy grief sets in it can be scary. It can be so overwhelming that you wonder if you will ever feel joy again. At first I felt an urge to fight the feelings and tried so hard for everything to be like it once was. Grief from the loss of a child is so large it resembles a massive wall that it is impossible to push through. After a few waves of peace came through I learned that no matter how heavy things felt that I soon would be given a break and the heaviness would lift and feeling sad would be replaced by joy. Knowing this allows me to surrender to those heavy days. To feel them, deeply and fully. It allows me to emerge with personal growth as I am picked up by a wave of peace.

Recently I have learned to surrender to peace. Not long ago I had the realization that feeling peace for any lengthy period of time made me comfortable. I felt like I was moving away from Teddy. I had to work my way through feeling that my level of grief = closeness or amount of love I feel for Theo. My heart and mind now know this simply isn’t true. Intellectually I knew this not to be true but the connection between your mind and heart can often experience a disconnect. Now that my heart has come to terms with this, surrendering to the peace and allowing it to stay for as long as it can has really helped me be more present in our journey.

Surrendering and embracing to all life’s experiences allows you to be more present in them. To feel them more and to absorb all that they truly are. It isn’t easy but many things worthwhile aren’t.

Capture Your Grief – Myths 

When I think of myths I think of all the things I may have thought to be true at one time or some experiences I have encountered. So here are a few from my perspective.

Myth #1 – Everything happens for a reason.

Truth – Many positive things come from terrible situations. Many people are given gifts and feel grateful for these gifts that have come because of the tragedy but I am not a believer that EVERYTHING (somethings yes but not everything) happens for a reason. I think we all have the potential for huge personal growth during trying times but that individual has to be open to accepting gifts and do the work so growth can happen. I also believe that challenging times are the biggest teachers but I also believe lessons can be learned in a multitude of ways.

To tell a parent who lost a child in an accident whether it be at birth or years later that it happened for a reason could possible end with hurt feelings. This isn’t a phrase that provides comfort to most I have met and even those that believe their loss did happen for a reason often don’t want it pointed out.

I believe Teddy’s life was meant to be short. I believe he is my greatest teacher and leaves the most beautiful legacy of love. I know in my heart things were meant to be this way for us, but we aren’t everyone.

Myth #2 – With time you will get over it.

Truth – I am not sure what being “over it” even looks like. I don’t have a goal to get over it. I will forever think of my son, I forever will speak his name, I forever will wonder what life would have looked like. I expect I will always have moments that will take my breath away, moments that I wish from my entire being that things were different and moments that bring me to tears. I also have a vision of being able to allow waves of peace to come and stay for very lengthy periods of time, a time when thinking of him warms my heart and makes me smile more than it makes me cry and long for him, and I believe with time this will all feel lighter, the loss will be easier to carry, but being “over it” won’t happen. Not in this lifetime.

Myth #3 – God wanted another Angel.

Truth – God did not want another angel. He has plenty and didn’t need my baby for himself. The God I know would never be that selfish. With life there are imperfections, there are events that are out of God’s hands and during these times God is beside you. He weeps the tears you weep, he holds you tightly and feels what you feel. He didn’t do this to me, he is there to support me and guide me because it happened. I also know he is loving and protecting Teddy until we can be together again.

Myth #4 – It is easier because you didn’t have much time with him. You didn’t really know him.

Truth – It isn’t easier or harder it just IS. I can only compare it to imagining the magnitude of loosing another son instead of him and my heart would feel the same. Memories are only a piece of grief. Many times memories make it easier and times they it make it harder. The grief of a baby is no different to any other being. You see them missing from every aspect of your life. They should have a first birthday party, a first day of school, go on dates, graduate, get married all these big moments, as well as the small ones. I should have three boys to tuck in and kiss at night, I should have three to buckle in the car, three to buy a treat for and a million other moments in a day that should happen but don’t. I notice when it is two and not three. Love doesn’t start when a birth takes place, love starts when the idea of becoming pregnant is ignited. We knew about Teddy for three years before I was pregnant with him. We paid fees every month to keep him safe until we were ready. We talked about him, we envisioned our life and we thought it was intended. Our love was fierce for him the day he was made not the day he was born. Crazy enough, I loved him before Patrick his older brother. (Oh science!! Crazy eh!)

Myth #5 – You are lucky you can always have another baby. Or you are so lucky to have your other kids.

Truth – That is like saying “you are so lucky you still have one leg”. Ahhh ya they probably are but they were meant to have two. They still feel that leg missing emotionally and physically. Having one leg doesn’t make up for the leg that is lost. Or to say when someone looses a parent “You are so lucky to still have a Dad”. Pretty sure that person wanted their Mom as well.

I am not greedy but I wanted all my boys. I am blessed to have two with me but the third should have been as well. My other two can’t replace him, they can’t make up for his loss. Having another baby is also not a replacement and it comes with many emotions. Pregnancy after loss is not a stress free nine months. Once the baby is here you also experience all that you couldn’t with the one you lost. These reminders are bittersweet.

We all have blessings and we all have challenges and I believe if we can honour the challenges for what they are and leave out platitudes people’s hearts will feel respected and healing will be easier.

Capture Your Grief – The Unspoken

When you are pregnant with a baby that is going to die many things are left unspoken. There are many reasons why I left things unspoken and why others did too.

I often left things unspoken for the benefit of others. Whether it be the old lady or cashier in the grocery store or an acquaintance I passed by, I didn’t want to burdened them with a reality such as mine. What a great way to ruin someone’s wonderful day, by telling them about what looks like a healthy pregnancy is going to end in death. Not talking about it was also at times a gift, I could mentally slip into feeling all what I would have felt had things been different. The excitement of 3 boys under 3 years of age, talking and thinking about how busy I would have been. It also left me feeling like a bit of a liar at times.

Then there was the prenatal yoga class that I attended every Friday. Only the instructor and a good friend knew my baby wouldn’t be coming home with me. I even attended our last class knowing he was currently in heart failure. We all talked about our pregnancies, and the details but I always left out the fact mine wouldn’t end like theirs. I did this for me and for them. My reality for other pregnant Moms could be emotionally triggering and for me I did it because the end wasn’t important while I was there, it was me connecting with my baby doing something I did for my other two babies and something he deserved.

When a baby is diagnosed with a condition that is not compatible with life the medical field is often in a hurry to end the pregnancy. There are a long list of circumstances when this is the best option but in our case it wasn’t. I wasn’t in danger and my baby wasn’t in pain. After meeting with a high risk OB it seemed like I had two options and only one he would have chosen. The first was to terminate my pregnancy (which would be giving birth but to a smaller baby) or continue on with the pregnancy but it would be stressful and anxiety ridden. The option he didn’t present and left unspoken is the option to carry the baby as long as you can, fill the baby with love, embrace every moment you have together and come to peace with the fact your time together is short and your baby will die. I wasn’t full of anxiety, I was filled with love and the day he was born I felt peace. The truth is everyone makes different choices for different reasons. All options should be given. Ending a pregnancy doesn’t equal less pain, doesn’t make it easier and doesn’t lessen the grief. Holding your lifeless baby and saying goodbye changes who you are regardless when the baby is born.

Now 10 months later I often find myself leaving something else unspoken. “How many children do you have” I respond with “2 boys”. No one wants to hear in passing you have 3 but one is dead. Yet every time I say it my heart is crushed for Teddy. He is my third son. I have 3 boys. We are a travelling family of 4, but in my heart the 5th is always with us.

The list of things left unspoken is vast. There are reasons for this on both sides. To be honest, I am okay with some of it left unspoken. I do wish one day speaking about the death of a baby or child isn’t uncomfortable, it is met with empathy rather than an awkward silence and people not sure how to respond. If it is talked about more often it will become more natural. Babies die, children die, and adults die. It is just life. It is hard but a reality. The length of life doesn’t define quality, or the impact that individual has on all those who are left behind. Theo had great purpose and didn’t need years to achieve it. He lived, he died, he matters and will forever be loved.

Capture Your Grief- Support Circles 

In my experience support comes in many forms. I have family, I have friends, I have my Sisters-in-Loss, I have acquaintances, I have strangers, and I have professional help. Each having a place they own on this journey with me. The support from each is different but all equally valuable.

I have a circle who are very good at providing and helping with basic needs, such as food delivered to my door, flowers, thoughtful gifts, beautiful cards and letters or emails.

I have a circle who send messages to ensure I know how deeply I am loved and in particular a dear friend from out of town who religiously sent a text everyday letting me know how loved I was during the early months when days were so hard. I am not sure she will ever know how much of a gift that was. It was a lifeline in those early days.

I have a very small circle that are willing with coffee/tea and a treat in hand to walk through my door and listen to me when it is hard, when things get messy. They can hold space as I cry and feel my heart hurting without getting uncomfortable. They listen, sometimes offer advice but mostly give permission to feel what I am feeling and agree how badly this all sucks.

I have those in my life who aren’t comfortable with any of it and would prefer my old self to return. Or those who think enough is enough we are approaching 10 months in a few days and they are done with asking or talking about it.

I have a circle of online support. Those who I don’t see in person but are always willing to extend love, prayers and encouragement.

The circle of Sisters-in-loss I have are by far some of the most loving, and emotionally giving, kickass women I have ever had the privilege to share space with. My heart is forever grateful to have these woman in my life. To be able to have another Mom who feels what I feel and for them to have space in their heart that is also broken to love me through my journey is a gift from above. These women are heroes.

I have created a circle of professional help that without it my journey would be a mess I am sure. The circle includes my dearest friend and Reiki Master, a Shaman, a Grief Counsellor, our Minister, and newly added personal trainer. Becoming more physically active has really helped recently.

The one man circle I would be lost without is my husband Ryan. He is the foundation of this journey. He is my rock. I have never received love in my life as fiercely as I have since this journey began. He has been so determined that nothing will break our marriage. His commitment to me and our family is something that I believe is so rare in this day and age. My heart is safe in his hands, and he is my protector against all. Our love runs deep. It is something that isn’t easy to articulate but what I know without a shadow of a doubt is it is a gift from God. We both know we were meant for each other and we were destined for this journey. Together nothing feels impossible.

What I have come to learned is that each person no matter what circle they are in deserves a spot in this journey. It is no coincidence that you (yes you reading this), whoever you may be, you were intended to also have a role. No matter how far removed or up close and uncomfortable (or not) it may be, you too were intended to be a part of Teddy’s legacy and journey of love. This isn’t all about me. He called everyone in to learn about a deeper love. To challenge you to choose love especially when it is hard to make that choice.

I have come to love many people for the role they play and I will be forever grateful. This journey can’t be a one man show. It is one of community, one that relies on help, love and support from all, in all different forms.

So thank you for being in one or many of my circles. Thank you for being open to come along for this wild ride and opening your hearts to choosing love even if it was only once.

Capture Your Grief – What it Felt Like. 

Without hope it felt impossible. We were given a sliver of hope he possibly could make it to full term and be a candidate for surgery. That sliver allowed us the ability to be present with our reality. It allowed me to love fearlessly and unconditionally.

The day the doctors told us our dear Teddy had no hope for life outside my womb felt like we were hit by a tsunami. Our world was destroyed and left in emotional shambles. We knew our only hope of surviving this storm would be by holding onto hope and focusing 100% on love. Love was our driving force. There was no room for anger, blame or even fear. Our time together was going to be short and this precious boy deserved to feel a lifetime of love in a few short months.

The day we were told his heart had begun to fail and the end was near felt heavy, our hearts cracked a little bit deeper and our love for him poured out like a waterfall. I felt desperate to ensure he had all the love he deserved and was Mothered by a Mom who loved him more than words can describe. He deserved it all.

Ten days later the end and a new beginning emerged. Theo was born. Our hearts felt peace. The room felt warm and full of love. His heart beat it’s last beat against mine and all things wrong were made right. It was as it should be. He was never intended to live long but he was intended to deliver purpose and that was accomplished.

6 hours later we said our goodbyes. My whole being broke as I handed my beloved baby over, to never feel his weight again, to never kiss his cheeks or hear him cry. He was gone and my heart was shattered as it screamed for my baby back.

For weeks after my arms physically ached to hold him one more time, my chest was heavy as if bricks were laid upon it and the world around me kept turning as mine halted.

Today the fog has lifted, my chest is lighter and the most valuable and cherished lessons have been learned. My days of feeling heavy, and stuck in the mud with fog all around aren’t over but they come less frequent and don’t stay as long. My days of wishing things were different aren’t over, maybe one day I will give up wishing, but today isn’t that day.

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness – Article in Local Paper. 

October is Pregnancy and Infant loss Awareness Month. 1 in 5 pregnancies result in a miscarriage and 1 in 100 births end with a baby passing away before, at or shortly after birth. I personally have experienced both. My early loss was my first son Jack’s twin early in pregnancy in 2012. It was physically painful, extremely scary, and emotionally heartbreaking. Our second loss was December 9, 2015 when our third son Theodore was born and passed away from a Congenital Heart Defect. This loss is profound and has taken our family on a beautiful journey learning to love fearlessly and unconditionally.

Reflecting upon my early emotions from these losses I realized both times we felt alone. We didn’t openly talk about our first loss and with the loss of Theodore we choose to be open in hopes that those who walk this journey after us will find comfort knowing they aren’t alone. No two journeys of loss are the same, but there are threads that are woven in the fabric of a heart broken from the loss of a baby that are mirrored in each loss. I have found being able to speak and write openly about our journey to be therapeutic.

I often wonder why, with something so common, do we have a culture which is uncomfortable talking about miscarriages and infant loss. What I know to be true is that healing happens when the pain is acknowledged, when the name of your baby is spoken, and when you are loved through your journey no matter how messy it gets. Living your forever without your baby is hard, mothering a child you can only hold in your heart feels incredibly overwhelming and impossible at times but with the love and support of your community this can feel lighter. It can feel bearable.

The day Theodore was born and left our physical world was the day a new me was born. I have had to be gentle with myself as I struggle to figure out whom that new me really is; how to navigate the world with a broken heart that will never mend and with a void that can never be filled. I see my son missing from every moment of my life. It is impossible to see my two boys and not see the third missing. I also see him present everywhere. He has many ways to tell me how close he truly is especially at times my heart hurts the most.

Experiences like these leave you at a crossroads choosing between walking the path that allows you to form a hard shell over your shattered heart or becoming open, vulnerable, and honest. Knowing the path would be harder but so much more rewarding, we chose the latter. Our family is forever changed in most beautiful ways because we are walking this journey by choosing the route that leads us to love fearlessly.

Many couples have silently carried the loss of a baby for decades. A parent doesn’t get over a loss like this but the loss can feel lighter with time and sharing helps lighten this load. Throughout this month, share your experiences with one another. Talk about the babies we no longer can hold, use their names, and ask questions. It is time we break the silence and embrace the truth about life. Babies die. It is heartbreaking but true. There is no shame and it doesn’t need to be uncomfortable. We can comfort and lift each other up, if we can be open with the reality that this happens to many.

http://www.intelligencer.ca/2016/10/03/healing-comes-easier-when-we-discuss-our-loss

Capture Your Grief – Who Are They? 

Theodore Rutherford Williams. Also known a Theo, Teddy, and my forever baby. He is a son, a little brother, a Grandson, a nephew, a cousin, a friend. He was a boy who was loved long before he was transferred to his forever home, my womb. He spent 3 years in the freezer and 3 months of that with his brother Jack. He is a teacher of all things to do with love. He has been my biggest blessing and largest heartache. His life was short but full of purpose. Every second of heartache is worth it to have spent 3 years in my heart waiting to be transfer to my womb, the 30 weeks in my womb and the precious 22 minutes after birth. My gratitude for him choosing me as his Mother is unending. He shows me how close he is in a multitude of ways, I feel so blessed.

Heartache & Joy Can Coexist. 

I am not expert on grief. Grief and I have only been acquainted for 9 months. But I have become an expert on my grief, not my husband’s, and certainly not yours, but my own ever changing journey of grief.

This is the thing about grief; no two people have the same journey; not even if two people lost the same baby, or father, or sibling, or pet. The journey will always be experienced differently. It only makes sense to me that this would be true since we have all experienced a very different life leading up to that loss. We all have very different relationships with our support networks and different relationships with those in our lives who aren’t supportive. But mostly it comes down to the fact that we simply have a very different lens through which we view the experience.

Meeting those who have experienced a loss very similar to my loss of Theodore has shown me that as much as we have similar threads woven in our hearts, we are all very much on our own journey. The authentic sharing of our hearts and feelings allows space for these differences. A deeper connection is made when a thread that feels so close to a thread you carry is exposed or when you hold space for a thread that isn’t something that you have experienced or feel but can love that person whole heartedly while meeting them where they are at.

The last few weeks have really made me take a hard look at my journey and all the experiences I have gone through. I have encountered some of the most beautiful people who can surprisingly do all the right things, which often include doing nothing but sending love openly and acknowledging where I am at without judgment. Then there are those who are able to offer love as long as it doesn’t distract from their personal happiness. Experiencing this a few times I have realized our society is very uncomfortable with allowing heartache and joy to coexist. Life isn’t linear. It has many twists and turns, hills, valleys and mountains. It has moments that leave you bursting with love and joy as well as moments that are heart wrenching. It is unreasonable to think that we would all be at the same place at the same time. The only way to fully support each other through real life is by allowing both heartache and joy to coexist in a beautifully open way. One simply can’t distract from the other; allowing both to be present makes it authentically beautiful.

After digging a bit deeper within myself and wondering why people struggle with the notion that heartache and joy can coexist, I found myself returning to the judgment piece. Often people who have experienced a loss of any kind feel judged. Those surrounding a person experiencing loss are often peeking in a window to that person’s world looking for signs of them “getting better”. People love to say statements such as “you are doing amazing” or “you aren’t getting better” or even “you seem to be getting worse”. The truth is all of that is garbage. It is just a judgmental perspective even when said out of love. The truth is “better” or “getting worse” are just your judgmental observations of my grief and have nothing to do with me. I have just been me experiencing my emotions. They may last a minute, a day, a week, a year, or a lifetime and anything in between. I don’t feel better or worse, I just feel. Sometimes it is heavy and may look like it is getting messy and sometimes it is light and beautiful but one isn’t better than the other. It truly is nothing more than IT JUST IS.

Maybe if people can view the hard stuff in life without judgment and accept it for what it is, then it will become easier to allow space for it right beside another person’s beautiful happy moments in life.

Because no two people’s experience with loss is identical it makes it impossible to compare journeys and leaves no room for judgment. The hard truth is you simply can’t fairly judge what you don’t know. It has been said a million times but, there is no timeline for grief. I personally don’t agree with labeling stages of grief. It just is. Meeting a person where they are at, with no judgment, while loving them through it all is the only way to support one another in life.

My only advice to loving a person experiencing grief is to acknowledge their feelings, give them endless amounts of love and recognize that your impressions and judgments about their grief is truly about you and not them. They are just feeling what their heart feels just like you do every day about a million other things.

 

 

Your Thread is Forever 

Teddy playing with his brother last Sunday morning. (Look for the green orbs)
Teddy my sweet,

I come to you today with love and gentle arms that hold you dear. Life has been ever changing since you came and left our physical world. My life has always been forever evolving, I have been given a blessed life in that way. Since you enter my life, my world changes so quickly, sometimes from moment to moment and sometimes in ways that are permanent but it is those shifts I am most grateful for.

I have days that my heart is so heavy I wonder how I can carry this weight for the rest of forever. I also have days where my heart is light, it feels beautiful, I see things that remind me of you and instead of sadness it brings joy. I know I need to walk the path that leads me to joy. To the place you would want me to be, yet walking it is scary; to let go of the heartache, to allow it to slip a way without fear it may never come back. I have been so scared to make this choice as it feels like I am walking away from you. My brain knows this is not the truth but my heart can sure make it feel as if it is. I am choosing to be brave, I am choosing to allow some of the pain shed from my being allowing space for more joy to grow.

You are a thread that is woven into the fabric of our family. A thread that is so important because with it we are stronger. This is a thread that can never be removed, can never be forgotten, and now without it we simply wouldn’t be us. I have had fear people with time wouldn’t see your thread woven into the fabric of our family. I have had fear people wouldn’t see how important you really are or how much you matter. The truth is I know, your Dad knows, your brothers know and those who love us know how special  you are so maybe that is all that really matters. It is enough that only we know and those that are close to us who choose to understand will also always know and maybe it is time for me to be okay with allowing you to just be uniquely you and loved by those close to us just as you would had you lived.

I know as I walk this journey with you I can’t make a wrong turn but I can make better turns. I can make choices that can foster a life with more love and more joy and by doing so doesn’t take away from you but adds to you and your value to our family. I want our family to be woven with a multitude of colourful threads all equally important as the next. Your colour will always shine bright and be visible to our family.

Walking the path to joy isn’t always easy. I have learned that we need to protect our hearts sometimes. We have to take time for ourselves and that is is okay to not put ourselves in situations that triggers heartache. Recently those who truly love us, have been extremely loving as we have chosen to tend to our heart’s needs and we are so grateful for the unconditional love we have received.

Teddy, I am always here, I will always love you. Till the day we meet again you will be loved, this much I know is true.

Your Mommy

PS – Thank you for showing up in our pictures this last weekend. I love it when you show up.