Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Boiling the Ocean, One Cup At A Time.

Peanut -

Momma ran into a co-worker today she hasn't seen since she was pregnant with The Pickle.  A wonderful, kind young man who was simply devastated after your passing, since he has a son just a few months older than you.  We actually became friends after sharing exhausted-parent infant/toddler stories as we were both navigating first-time parenthood.  After you died, our milestone-sharing bond was severed.  His joy upon learning 2 years ago that we were pregnant again was cautious, tempered.

And then there was today.  It has been so long since we've seen each other, and he is a new dad again.  A beaming smile greeted me - one without the fear of "what do I say?"  We talked freely about our kids, until it came to his son...the one who is just a few months older than you.  The one who just turned five.  It hit me like a sledgehammer between the eyes.  Five.  Holy cow, it's turned 4 1/2 in March so we would be in the "almost five" zone.

Something about that fact is horribly difficult, sad, and paralyzing.

I share this because I've realized that trying to manage and anticipate what grief has on the menu for the day is like thinking you can boil the ocean.

First, why would you want to?  Boiling the ocean means you would miss out on the mystery of its dangers.  You would kill and devastate all the beauty those dangers have to offer before you have the change to realize what seems dangerous at first is actually beneficial.  Healing and restorative.  Just like grief.

Second, it just isn't practical.  The ocean is turbulent, vast and dictated by forces larger than this earth.  You could try to boil it one cup, gallon, or any other measurement but, at the end of the day, you will be lucky if you get a nice warm bathtub.  But, sometimes isn't that enough?  Or even more than enough?  Why try for more?

Third, the ocean has its own rhythm.  At times she is calm, peaceful.  But a storm can rage from seemingly nowhere and calm just as quickly.  Momma relates to this in so many ways.  A good day can turn dark in a flash - the mere mention of a boy who just turned five can apparently send me into a tailspin.

More than anything, the notion of thinking humans can boil the ocean is our way of trying to be in control.  That's human nature, right?  But there are some forces more powerful and wise than we can ever imagine.  Forces that understand what the earth, heart, brain need to experience to heal, restore, thrive.  At times that process is painful and wounds get re-opened.  But the scar tissue that re-forms is tougher and more resilient.

Anyway, at the end of Momma's interaction with her co-worker there was a genuine request - I asked to see pictures of the kids.  And, that request brought a smile.  A glowing, appreciative smile.

Peanut, days like to today remind me just how much you have changed this Momma's heart and soul. I am a better person throughout because of you.

<sigh>  I miss you, your strong neck hugs, and sense of connection.  Those long blue-eyed gazes and butterfly kisses.  I love you so very much.  How much?  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

Peanut's 6-month photos from March 2010.  Our little Irishman.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Small Victories

Peanut -

Momma got on a plane last week.  Yep.  That's right.  Momma flew...without fear.  For the first time since December of 2010.  That was the last time Momma took a work-related trip, just weeks before you passed away.  Momma was speaking at a conference and felt obligated to make the trip, one of many I took for work in 2010.  <sigh>  I wish I could get back all the days and nights I lost when you were alive for the sake of my career...

After you passed away, Momma was physically unable to board a plane, which Momma and Dadda learned the hard way when we tried to escape to Sanibel Island for Mother's Day.  It was 4 months after your death, we were trying to conceive The Pickle, and Momma simply couldn't face the holiday in the house where you died.  But I also couldn't get on a plane.  After two failed attempts and related panic attacks, Momma and Dadda said, "Enough."

Since then we have resigned ourselves to a life tethered in St. Louis, MO.  Dreams of flying to Disney World and various beach get-aways have tickled the edges of Momma's mind, but fear has prevailed for the last 3 years.  Until last week.  A small but powerful victory.  Momma got on a plane.

There was so much guilt in my heart, but also a sense of responsibility.  While I didn't want to leave The Pickle, this was also something that needed to happen to free our family.  To allow us to continue to embrace life.  To stop cheating Dadda and The Pickle from enjoying vacations surrounded by powdery sand, sea shells, and Mickey Mouse.

Momma didn't do it alone.  You were there, encouraging me every step of the way.  And a little bit of Xanax, too.  Yes, I'm not too proud to admit it.  There are some battles where we need to admit we need assistance, and this was one of those for Momma.  And with the powerful tools of Peanut-love, Momma-belief and minor medication, we won this one.

Peanut, something else has been tugging at Momma's heart these last few months and it feels like the right time to address it head-on.  Many friends and readers of this blog have commented how our journey has made them more patient as parents, forced them to re-evaluate priorities and to be thankful for their blessings.  But, I have to be very honest...parenting is hard.  I wish I could be a "perfect" parent.  That I never got frustrated or felt a need to have "Momma time."  But that just isn't reality.  As much as Momma is always and forever grateful for her Peanut and her Pickle, I am human.  I am imperfect.  And I am the best Momma I know how to be.  I love my family with every ounce of my heart.  And that is - that has to be - good enough.

Momma read "Guess How Much I Love You" the other night.  I refuse to read it to The is your book.  He has "Goodnight Moon" among other books.  But this one is yours.  When I read it I can feel your neck hugs.  Your fingers tickling my eyelashes. I can hear your soft sighs, and whispers of "Momma..."  I can smell your wonderful, soft scent...a little bit of Dreft mixed with Downy...a little bit of lavender.  I can feel the feather touch of your blond curls. are still so present in my mind, my heart.

Dear Peanut, I love you so very much.  How much?  Come on silly boy - you know!  To the moon - and back.

- Momma

Pure joy...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rabbit Hole

Peanut -

Momma watched a movie with you last night.  We didn't share a bowl of popcorn or snuggle under a blanket together but we definitely shared the experience.  I felt you on my shoulder, in my head and heart the entire time.  Momma surrendered to a full body cry session...that hasn't happened in a while.  And it felt wonderful.

In the months right after you passed away, Momma heard about a (fictional) movie called Rabbit Hole.  A movie, based on a play, that chronicles the first few years of a married couple's life after their 4 year old son dies unexpectedly.  (Spoiler Alert: car + dog = son's death)  The Universe protected me from this movie for 3 years and waited until I was ready to truly watch and absorb the story in its entirety.  So, it snuck up and caught me while randomly flipping channels last night.  In less than 60 seconds I was riveted.  While the circumstances in our stories differ, the emotions and impacts are all too familiar.  However, this is how Momma sees all grief journeys...different, but the same.

When this movie was released there were interviews with the cast and crew that revealed how difficult this movie was to shoot.  Grief support groups wouldn't allow them in to observe - that would violate the fundamental purpose of the group.  And if you aren't a part of "the club" no one will truly confide in you. do you shoot a realistic movie?

I will simply say this.  They did.  Peanut, this movie was so hard, so wonderful, so impactful to watch.  It reopened wounds I thought my heart had patched with scars.  It reawakened my need to get in touch with this grief journey.  It reconnected me to you and this life-long journey I will take with you in my heart.

Peanut, I miss the way you would look at me with your ice blue peepers and try to absorb my eyes, thoughts and emotions while you cupped my face in your palms.  I miss your expressive hands and the way you would lace our fingers together.  I miss our eyelash butterfly kisses and nose nuggles.  I miss the whisper softness of your blonde curls.  I miss your warm breath and the smell of lavender nighttime bath lotion on your skin.

I miss you.

Peanut, I love you so very much.  You are still very much here and alive in Momma's heart.  I love you, to the moon - and back!

- Momma


Monday, February 17, 2014

The Birth of Your Blog

Peanut -

Three years ago, over Valentine's weekend, Momma started documenting her grief in a personal journal. The depth of my grief was swallowing me whole, and I had lost the ability to verbalize the pain, the hopelessness, the despair. That journal reawakened Momma's ability to express her thoughts and emotions much more eloquently via the written word than she ever could verbally. At the same time, it became a very dangerous, private, hidden outlet for Momma to share the demons hidden within her grief.

Just a few weeks in to the journal exercise Momma decided to instead share her experiences and emotions in a much more public space - this blog. This was Momma's way of not only sharing the journey, but forcing some accountability onto herself. Accountability to survive. To live and thrive.

The Momma from three years ago could never picture being where we are today. Momma laughs every day. Not just a half-hearted laugh but a head-thrown-back belly laugh. We talk freely with The Pickle about his Angel Brother, noting the absence of good literature to discuss situations like ours with subsequent children. We pledge to help others by sharing our story.

Peanut, we aren't just surviving. We are living. Living full of love. Full of pride that we have you in our lives and hearts. That we have you watching over us.

Tonight Momma has decided to share a chunk of her heart. A journal entry from this day three years ago. This is painful to read and revisit. For anyone reading this who is early in their heartbreak, just know...I'm here today living full of love, grace and joy:

Peanut - I wish I could see you, sitting on my lap facing me, covering your face with my hair. Bouncing up and down, trying to head bump me - all the while with a giant grin and your funny laugh. While I was watching TV tonight I felt a giant, empty hole next to me. It was so wonderful to have you next to me - you would lean right into my side, rest your head on me, and I would wrap my arms around you. It was so fun watching you turn into the sweet, funny little boy you had become...I was so looking forward to watching you grow up. It is so unfair: why did the Universe take you, my heart and my soul? You are all I ever wanted - all I had hoped for, and everything I dreamed. I want to continue on to make you proud, but life is so empty without you. I know you're still present...I feel you every morning at 4:34 am. I think you're still talking to me in that moment. Oh, my sweet's been three weeks and I miss you more than ever. How can my heart still be beating when it is so broken? You brought so much joy that I want to hang on to that - but I can't help but be sad, hopeless and angry. I just want you back. I hope time helps me understand. Please know, I love you. - Momma

Peanut, I hope you feel me thinking about you every day. That you hear me talking to you every moment. That you see my dreams where we are reunited. I believe you do...I believe.

More than anything, I love you sweet 'Nut. How much? To the moon - and back again!

- Momma

Oh, how I wish we'd had more of these...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Early Days of Grief

Peanut -

I don't know how to refer to January 26, 2011.  Many bereaved parents use the term "Angel Day" but that feels wrong, like it's glorifying your death.  Almost as if it's an event to be celebrated.  Maybe in some religions and cultures it is, but not for this Momma.  In the absence of an alternative, I have bounced between Angel Day and simply The Day You Died.  While the latter is more raw and course, it aligns more closely with what's in my heart.

This three year milestone in our journey of grief and living has been surprisingly significant.  Possibly because three years ago Momma couldn't imagine life feeling at all hopeful or happy or anywhere close to normal a few years down the road.  Or maybe it's because Momma remembers enjoying the winter 2010 Olympics with a tiny four month-old Peanut, projecting how much fun we would have watching these winter games again in 2014 as we looked for sports that would interest you down the road (Momma always thought you would be an ice hockey star).  Or, it could be watching your little brother blossom into his two year-old self, with new words, expressions, humor and personality every day.  So far beyond what we were lucky enough to experience with you.

No matter what the underlying reason is, this year has been particularly difficult.  Momma has been reliving day-by-day exactly what decisions we made, actions we took, in the moments, hours and days after your passing.

- On January 27 we wrote your obituary.  Picked an urn from an understandably limited array of child-appropriate options.  Planned the day and time of your service.  Had lunch with my parents where I ordered white chicken chili and wanted to throw it against the wall just to watch the bowl shatter.

- On January 28 we met with the minister who came to the hospital the morning you died.  He didn't know you but was so touched, so saddened.  He presided over your service but was very respectful of Momma and Dadda's wishes to focus less on scripture and more on what you loved most - your books and school and toys and family - and people's remembrances.

Without asking, our best friends were at the house at all hours.  Ensuring Momma and Dadda were fed.  Had water, soda or a drink, when needed.  They gave us space to cry and to laugh - even when it felt so wrong.

Tomorrow, January 29 is the day Momma bought a dress for your service and had to face cheerful, friendly salespeople - and I had to be nice rather than shouting, "I'm buying a dress for my son's funeral!!!!."  The day I printed the handouts and made sure we had your favorite music ready to play and realized your brothers, sister and aunts had created beautiful, extensive photo memory boards to display.

And January 30th marks the day of your service.  January 31st is the day when life shifted gears again and we moved into "how to face the future" mode.

But for today/tonight Momma is focused on these days.  The days we were numb.  Much like people who have lost an arm or limb have phantom pain where the absence of the lost limb is excruciating, these are the days when the absence of your hugs and laughter were debilitating.  The absence caused pain where the presence had only provided love and warmth.

I choose to focus on these days as a way to remember what is most important. To fully, truly appreciate how blessed I am to have the love of my Peanut, The Pickle, my step kids...that Motherhood takes many different forms but all of them are a gift.  A gift we must earn and appreciate every day.

Peanut, I believe you can feel what Momma is sorting through this week.  Please know it is all rooted in a deep love you you.  To the moon - and back!

- Momma