Friday, October 31, 2014

Lessons Learned

This project has been wonderful for me. I didn't succeed in posting every day, but there's a reason for that. As I was writing these blogs I realized what an emotional toll it was taking on me. I left each post feeling spent. I couldn't bring myself to feel that way everyday for a month. So here we are at the end, and I'm wrapping it up by backtracking.

Day 16: Retreat. I truly took this day to heart and retreated for a while. I took a break from blogging, reading, writing, everything and just rested. It was definitely needed, and it's something I need to be more intentional about doing regularly.

Day 17: Explore: Where are you on your journey? I've put a great deal of thought into this this month. As I've been praying and working through it, I can see where I've grown and where I could use some improvement. Where I am today: I'm coming to grips with Hope being our only one. I can see how our losses have changed her and shaped her into the sweet, caring girl she is. I also see where our families have a tendency to spoil her in an attempt to compensate for her lack of siblings. I don't think any of us do it intentionally, but we've all done it at one time or another. Personally I've spent this month praying for peace with where I am right now. I'm trying to be comfortable in our little bitty everyone knows everyone town, I'm trying to accept that God doesn't want us to have more kids right now, and I'm trying to enjoy working at my part time job away from home. It's not in my field, it doesn't pay well, and it's not what I want to do forever, but for now it pays the bills. It's hard work changing your heart. It takes plenty of prayer and practice.

Day 18: Gratitude: I read Ann Voskamp's book 1000 Gifts and LOVED it! I really want the journal to help me do a better job of tracking my gratitude. Every day I'm so incredibly grateful God has allowed me to raise Hope. Being her mom is the most wonderful gift. I'm thankful for Shaun and his support through this. I know I'm not an easy wife on a good day, and our marriage has had more bad than good. This in turn makes me all the more grateful for our good times. One thing Hope and I have done for the past two years is a blessings jar. As often as we can we write down little things we're grateful for. At the end of the year we dump them out and write each one down in a journal. It's my hope that one day we can look back and see how many blessings we could find, even in the hardest years.

Day 19: Give: Shaun always drops change in donation jars. He donates to absolutely every cause out there. This week I noticed the March of Dimes jars at one of our gas stations. Since Carolyn died I've taken a greater interest in March of Dimes. Losing William just increased that tenfold. For the first time ever, Shaun didn't automatically drop his change in the bucket, so I quickly told him to. Then I briefly explained our MOD affiliation with the attendant, who smiled.

Day 20: Breathe: Last week I took two days off housework. I noticed I was getting exhausted and run down, and Shaun asked me to slow down at home and take some time for myself. The first day I felt uncomfortable letting the mess sit, but the second I was more relaxed and better focused at work. Of course by the end of the week those two days were affecting everything else, so Shaun acknowledged the need for him & Hope to help me more. We're discussing chore charts and schedules that we can all work around. It'll take some time, but we'll adjust to me working outside the home.

Day 21: Relationships: Grief has impacted every single relationship I have. For better or worse, nothing is the same. I don't really feel like I have a relationship with William. In fact, the thought of having a relationship with him sounds foreign to me.

Day 22: Self-Care: I really struggle with this, especially now that I work outside the home. I feel incredibly selfish if I take any time for myself. I think I'll talk to Shaun about it and maybe we'll do something special this weekend.

Day 23: Inspiration: Have your children inspired you in your life? Maybe it is someone you found because of your children that has inspired you. Share about who or what you draw your inspiration from. Living an inspired life is one of the greatest things you could ever do. Waking up feeling excited about my day is something that I never imagined would happen after our son died, but it did. I know today’s subject will not resonate with some people as the thought of waking up feeling inspired to be alive is one of the last things you are feeling. So if you feel you cannot take part today, maybe just have a look at what others are saying. It is my hope that this post might inspire some feelings in your own heart to start searching for some inspiration for your own life. 

I'm going to check out the website for some inspiration. I have nothing to say today.

Day 24: Forgiveness: Losing William allowed me to forgive someone I'd hated for years. That's something I never dreamed would happen.

Day 25: Mother Earth: Not participating. We don't own our home, so I can't plant a tree. I may look into the online sites that will plant a tree for you. That we might be able to do.

Day 26: Healing Ritual: Shaun meditates. When he first told me years ago I expressed interest in learning. Life got in the way and he hasn't been able to show me yet. I'll ask him to this weekend. Hope isn't here, and after this journey I'll need it.

Day 27: Express: Something I wanted to see this month: The chance to write a letter to our children. What would you say to them today? What would you say to the sibling that's here? How do you picture their relationship in the future? (There's an article I shared on Facebook about sibling grief. It's on Still Standing Magazine if you want to read it.)

Day 28: Wisdom: Keep moving forward. Even if it feels like each day is only a babystep, keep going. You're one step closer than yesterday.

Day 29: Reflect: What is your relationship with your grief like right now? I don't have as much jealousy as I did before. I still hate holidays, though, because I should have more children to prepare. It's not fair that others have so many and I only have one. When I think about it, I still struggle with anger at God for withholding the blessing of children from us. So I try not to think about it. I pray for my heart to change. Some days I feel it has, then other days something will trigger a whole new wave of grief. I have to remind myself I still have a year and one month in my twenties, I could have two babies before I'm 30! I don't think I will, but I have to remind myself anything is possible. My motto has always been "Hope for the best and prepare for the worst". In this, it is so hard to prepare my heart for no more babies or more losses. Each month I hope and pray this will be it. I'm praying for God's will and PEACE with whatever that is. I'm trying so hard to find peace where I am, and it's not coming at all, and that hurts. Holidays and special days I physically hurt from trying to be peaceful.

Day 30: Intention: I intend to honor my children through praying for a child their age. I know plenty of them, and I know their moms wouldn't mind me praying for them.

Day 31: Sunset: Picture Coming Soon!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Project Heal Day 15: Community

Day 15: Community--A Wave of Light

Obviously October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. What many people don't realize is there is one day set aside in the month to highlight awareness. That day is today, October 15. All around the world at 7:00 pm families lit candles to represent their children in Heaven. Though we're missing two little ones, we only lit one candle tonight. It's one more than we've ever lit before. This year is the first time I remember hearing about the Wave of Light. This community has been so wonderful for me. For months I turned to the MEND publications for comfort. Since attending a meeting in June, I've been able to reach out to others through Facebook as well. Our amazing leader was kind enough to send me flowers today in memory of sweet William. One of my cats has a flower obsession and kept jumping on the table to sniff (or eat!) them. I yelled at her twice before moving them, and Shaun promised her I would throw her out if she touched them. It was quite funny, since she's more his cat than mine. When I moved them to the top of our tallest bookshelf she glanced from them to me and back again before deciding to give up. I'm thankful they're safe for now!

Anyhoo, without this community I would be so lost. It's nice to be able to check Facebook once in a while and see other moms miss their babies. It's nice to read articles from moms who buried their children many, many years ago. It's comforting to know I'm not alone, and while the pain may dull from time to time, it never fully goes away. So often we see others carrying on and feel pressured to be as 'normal' as possible. It's nice to have those friends who understand when you just can't be 'normal' anymore. It's nice to let your guard down without fear of judgement.

On the flip side, I spoke with a friend today who didn't know me before William. This poor lady met me with tears streaming down my face, and she wrapped me in her arms many, many times that first year. She's held me up in prayer this whole time, and continues to pray for me regularly. Her friendship is so special to me, because it's proof that I can do 'normal' things like build friendships after completely losing my mind. As we were talking today, she continued to refer to my 'strength'. I don't see myself as a strong person at all! In fact, more often than not I feel very, very weak. I'm so thankful for friends like her who aren't afraid to push me farther and help me find my strong characteristics.

Now I know many of you reading this have never experienced a loss like mine. I know many of you never will. Praise God!!! I'm so glad there are women who will never feel my pain. If you're one of the lucky ones, please take the time this month to reach out to one of your friends who has lost a baby. If you don't think you have any, post something about miscarriage and infant loss awareness month, and I'm sure you'll find them. One in four women loses a baby during pregnancy. For decades women didn't talk about it, and were encouraged to 'move on' quickly. Let these women know you care. If you know their child's name, SAY it! If you can afford to, send her a card or some flowers (any day this month, it's never too late). Just let her know you're thinking of her and you care.

Thank you so much for all your support and prayers.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Before I forget, here's the link to Project Heal. If you would like to join me on this journey, you're more than welcome. You don't have to post it publicly, and you can start today with day one. It's your journey.

Day 14: Dark/Light-- I've had periods of deep darkness over the past two years. My most recent one was about a month ago, when I wrote a blog that I was immediately unhappy with. My darkest moments are usually around my period, or when a slew of friends have babies at once. It's even worse when both happen together. During my periods of darkness I try to find songs to help me through. Unfortunately I find it very hard to read books then, so there's big gaps in my book logs.

The light has come when I crawl out of the darkness. Those days in between cycles, when everything feels possible and normal, that's when I'm in the light. In some ways those days are just as challenging, because I know the darkness is never far away. It's never gone completely. I long for the joys of Heaven where there's no darkness, no pain, and no tears. It's so strange to always miss a piece of your heart.

This was my attempt at a sunrise pic this morning. The sun didn't cooperate and I never was able to get a good shot. Surprisingly you can see more color in the picture than in real life. I'm sure there's an allegory there...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Project Heal

I'm trying really hard this year to follow Carly Marie's Project Heal. To keep myself committed, I will be posting the updates on my blog daily for the rest of the month. I know I'm a little late, but better late than never, right? I'll list days 1-13 tonight, and do the rest (hopefully!) as I go. Prayers are appreciated during this time.

Day 1: Sunrise-- I haven't been able to take a photo of this yet. I'm setting my alarm tonight and praying the rain will stop long enough for me to snap a picture in the morning.

Day 2: Heart-- This is the heart picture I drew. Not my best, but I'm just learning to express myself through sketching. 

Who were you before your children died? I was a young, carefree mom. I tried to find a balance between protecting my daughter and letting her spread her wings. I felt anything was possible. What did you love about that person? I loved her zest for life and passion for God. She wouldn't let anyone or anything stand in her way of praising Him. Did you dislike anything? Who doesn't dislike things about themselves? Do you see your life as before and after or do you see yourself as always been changing? I see my life as pre-Jason and post-Jason. Jason's death (on my eighteenth birthday) was the end of my childhood. I was ushered into adulthood through grief, and though he was only a friend, I feel it prepared me for the grief to come. I'm still learning to grieve for all the friends and family who've gone before me. 

Day 4: Now-- I try very hard to stay behind the camera. This is a rare selfie after a fresh haircut and a little weight loss. Who are you now in this present moment? I'm a mom trying to figure out how to grieve my babies while raising the gift I have. I'm learning what it means to be a Biblical wife, and how to serve God in many ways. What are you feeling? Excitement for what lies ahead. I don't know what it is, but I'm confident positive changes are coming. Have you been irrevocably changed by the death of your children? Absolutely! I'm more aware that every second with our children is significant, in the womb and out. How are you different now? I notice family sizes. I notice age gaps in children. I'm trying not to be judgemental of families who have chosen a number of children to have. I'm learning who I am in Christ, and how to embrace being a child of the King. Do you love anything about the new you? I love my awareness of the world around me. People, places, animals, everything! What do you want to become? I want to be confident as a mom and wife. I want to be a good sister, daughter, daughter-in-law and sister-in-law. 

Day 5: Journal-- I'm working on a poem. I'll post it when I'm done. 

Day 6: Books-- Here are the links to the books that impacted me the most. Click on the title to see the Amazon listing. Not affiliate links.

Day 7: Do you have a special place that you visit to “be” with your children? A place that you feel connected to? Maybe it is their grave, or a beautiful garden, beach or forest. What does this place mean to you? Why that place? I don't have a special place, other than William's grave. I've considered setting up a nook in a spare room in our house, but I haven't been able to make it work yet. Whenever I'm on a trip (a rare occassion!) I try to find a quiet place to retreat in the morning. I wish I could find someplace local. I don't like going to his grave very much; it makes me feel guilty for not having a marker there. 

Day 8: Resource-- I had a sweet friend who drove the hour from our hometown to be with me in the hospital. Her husband talked and prayed with Shaun while she talked and prayed with me. She was there for me in the first eighteen months after like no one else. I will forever be thankful for her prayers and presence. There are many women who continue to lift me up in prayer and listen whenever I need an ear, and I'm thankful for them as well. We've reached out to March of Dimes and try to walk every year. I've also found great solace in the MEND publications. 

Day 9: A New Memory-- Hobby, activity, organization, something in memory of your child. While I've dabbled in a few things, I haven't found 'the one' thing yet to keep my memory of my children alive and keep me focused on the positive. I'm strongly considering journaling (if I can commit to it and find the inspiration. Ugh...) or coloring mandalas (if I could get the supplies). I haven't been able to stick with anything yet. I'm open to suggestions. I think I might do better if I had a partner, so if you'd like to start something together, let me know!

Day 10: Support-- I feel like I've touched on this so many times. One surprising source of support (to me) was my husband's family. Getting married is hard, and living far away from relatives makes building relationships more difficult. Shaun's family has been a great source of strength and comfort, and for that I'll be forever grateful. My family has also been supportive of all my endeavors. They've put up with my bad attitude more frequently than I would care to admit. One of my sisters even accompanied me to a support group. It doesn't get much more supportive than that!

Day 11: Altar-- The closest thing I have to an altar is my teddy bear (William) sitting on top of my makeshift dresser. He's sandwiched between two old American Girl dolls, so I don't really consider it an altar to him. I don't like the idea of an 'altar' per say, but I wouldn't mind a memorial garden or something in my backyard. I talked for a while about painting snus containers with words that have helped me since losing William, but I couldn't get the wrapping off them easily and I gave up. I would like to paint rocks or something similar to place in my yard. Maybe someday.

Day 12: Music-- There were amazing songs that helped me through losing William. In the hospital we listened to "Blessings", "Long Way Home", and a Ginny Owens song that I can't place now. That's frustrating. In church we've sung so many songs about going deeper and wandering farther, trusting God to lead the way. The songs that mean the most to me are the ones that talk about God carrying us through the crisis, or helping us to endure the storms. There are so many I really can't name them all. Music has been a great solace. I love it so much. One non-Christian song that has helped is "Firework" by Katy Perry. Sometimes you just need to hear that you're amazing. Another random song is "Reflection" from the Disney movie Mulan. I love Disney movies anyway, and I've always found that song encouraging. 

Day 13: SEASON. What season to you associate with your children? Summer. Is it the season that they died in? Yes. Or maybe another reason like a beautiful time you spent together. What emotions arise in you when that season comes around? I get fearful as we approach William's birthday. It's also Shaun's grandma's birthday and Hope's is two days after, so I feel pressured to do everything right. This year I tried to have a normal day, and I don't think I'll ever do that again. You can't have a normal day on the day your child died, no matter how hard you try. What is it in that season that triggers memories and feelings for you? The holidays trigger most of my emotions. We found out we were pregnant around Easter, so as happy as the holiday is, for me there's a deep sadness as well. I spent the Fourth of July with friends knowing I would give birth to a dead baby in the next day or two. Surprisingly that holiday went well this year, but I think that's because Shaun was there and we celebrated it differently than we ever have before. We served with our church. Maybe I need to find a way to serve on William's birthday. It's a thought. Do you look forward to this season because you feel more connected to your children or do you dread it? I absolutely dread every single holiday, associated with William or not. It's a reminder how small my family is, how insignificant I am, and how everything could be better. I hate holidays (Note: Yes, I know these thoughts and opinions are irrational. I work very hard each day at not succumbing to my fears. Some days I'm better than others.). Have you ever wondered what you could do to ease the fear of what that season brings up for you? Sort of. Shaun and I have talked about it a bit. I think changing things up and not always seeing the same people on the same day helps. 

Wow. That caught me up completely. I'm a little afraid to put all this out there, but that's also why I started this blog. I want moms to know they're not alone. Grief is messy, and it's a long process. If I offended anyone in writing this, I'm truly sorry. Thanks for reading.

Oh my goodness, I almost forgot! I've been praying to see a real rainbow after every thunderstorm since William died. I've seen a few, but it's been well over a year since I saw the last one. On the way home tonight, we saw a full DOUBLE RAINBOW!!! What an amazing reminder that God keeps his promises!