Tuesday, December 21, 2010

finding meaning

I think we all want to find meaning in life. A purpose for our being.

I feel as though I have led two different lives. Before Kathleen and after Kathleen. My first life was pretty comfortable, you may even call it normal. I would go for daily walks on the beach with my son. I attended mom's groups and hung out with other normal moms. My church ministry was multimedia which kept me rather busy. It was a different life. Not necessarily a wrong or meaningless life, just different.

Then Kathleen was born and it turned everything upside down. Her short life brought so much pain into mine that sometimes I wasn't sure how I was going to survive, and I wondered if the rest of my life would be a matter of surviving rather than living. I wondered how God could and would use all of this. I was no longer the same person and couldn't continue to do the same things. Of course I was still a mother and did the things a mother does. But there had to be more. There had to be something I could use this loss for, this pain. Something that would give it purpose, give it meaning. The things that had given my life meaning in the past, no longer cut it.
The words of Ecclesiastes would go through my mind:
“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

After my loss I spent a lot of time online connecting with other bereaved mothers. I had no idea there were so many and it seemed the numbers were increased daily.. I found that this mutual support and encouragement through the journey of grief and also subsequent pregnancies were invaluable. But I had a burning desire to do more, something face to face. I just didn't know what. And so I waited, wondering. Wondering what I could possible contribute, how I could make a difference.

Two years later the doors opened and I became a volunteer photographer for forget-me-not, taking pictures of babies that have passed or will pass or may pass so that the families can have lasting memories. I found that there was something I could do for others and that my pain had meaning. I know it may seem strange to some that I find my meaning and purpose in other people's pain. But reality is that this kind of loss happens so very often, more often than we know or would like to think. I am brokenhearted for the families and wish things were different for them, but in the midst of the pain I feel alive. I am no longer just surviving, I am living. But if a while passes and I don't get a hospital call (maybe another photographer gets the call, maybe the family chooses not to have photos taken..) I start to get irritable, frustrated, restless.
I don't expect you to understand but without the pain, without this ministry, my life feels meaningless.

But then I get a call and I know that my life has meaning. I believe our lives have meaning when we serve God, and I believe we serve God by serving people. As I go into the hospitals with my camera I know I am doing just that. I am serving, I am finding meaning - meaning for my life, and for Kathleen's short one.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

I promise

Dear Kathleen

I promise I won't forget you.
I know I think of you less often. Each day the memory of you become more distant. The memory of holding you, seeing your perfect little face, perfect little fingers. The memory of you, being real. I have less time to think of you these days as I take care of your little brother and little sister. Less time to remember, to grieve. Maybe I also think of you less because I am happy. I hope you are happy for me. But please still forgive me. Forgive me for going on with life without you.

Sometimes when I hold your little sister I think of you. Wonder for the millionth time what you would have looked like. But mostly I think of her, enjoying her many smiles and little coos.

I think of you when I go to my monthly support group. It is my evening to remember you, focus on you. It is our evening. But I didn't go this month. Instead I went out on a date with your daddy. I felt guilty but I hope you looked down at us and just smiled.

I thought of you yesterday when I held a little nineteen week baby girl in my hands. As hard and as sad at those moments are, I also cherish them. Cherish them because they bring me back to you. I know most won't understand that. They won't understand why I want to hold onto something so painful, so devastating. But in the pain I feel close to you, my little beautiful girl, my little Kathleen.

So I may not think of you as often, but I promise I will never forget. And I am who I am because of you. I do the things I do because of you. In me you will always live on. That is your legacy.

I love you and I will always love you.
Your mommy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

an amazing gift

I have been granted an amazing gift, a little girl, a daughter.
She is all mine. Well, she will be when the adoption goes through.
But she was mine from the moment I held her, four days old.

A year ago it was hard to believe I would ever have more children.
Now I have three. Three to hold, love and see grow up.
And one in heaven, that I will never forget, always cherish.
God works in mysterious ways. In ways I never imagined.

"I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD". Psalm 27:13-14
This is the verse God gave me as a promise May 2009.
A promise I have meditated on many times,
wondering if and when it would come through.
It came through when I held Kaden in my arms.
But God's goodness did not stop there.
He knew my desire to have a little girl, and He granted it.

Kaitlin fills the hole in my heart that yearns for a little girl.
She will never fill the hole that yearns for Kathleen.

But above all, I have seen the goodness of the LORD,
in the land of the living.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Occasionally people ask me if I am healing.
It is an understandable question but also puzzles me.
The answer depends on how you define healing.

If healing means no longer feeling an intense pain,
so intense you think you will literally die with the next breath
and death would be okay because it means you will be with Jesus and your baby,
then I am healed.

If healing means you can look at the pictures of your baby
without an overwhelming sadness,
then I am healed.

If healing means you no longer remember all the insensitive things that were said to you after your loss,
then I am healed.

If healing means that you can be at parties and celebrations without a constant urge to run away because you have nothing to celebrate and your smiles and laughs are all fake,
then I am healed.

If healing means that you can have fun with your other children, fully enjoy them, be silly and laugh,
then I am healed.

The list goes on.

But if healing means you don't think about your baby in Heaven every day, long for it and miss it,
then I am not healed - and I don't want to be.

If healing means that you don't feel the literal pain that other bereaved parents go through,
then I am not healed - and I don't want to be.

To answer the question..
I am as healed as I want to be.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

more than we can handle

God does not give us more than we can handle.

I have heard that phrase numerous of times.
Our nurse was the first to say it,
while we held our dying Kathleen in our arms.
At the time it seemed comforting, a nice thing to believe.
Then the days went by, the weeks, the months.
My pain grew deeper and stronger and I started to wonder.
To wonder if this was really a promise of God.
So I opened up His book and came to find..
there is no such verse. No such promise.
But what He does promise us is strength when we are weak.
Rest when our burdens are heavy.
Peace when our hearts are troubled.
He promises us struggles in life, but a Heaven without tears.

So here is what I do believe..
God does in fact give us MORE than we can handle.
He allows it so we will rely on Him, not ourselves.
Rely on His strength, not our own.

As another blogger puts it:
My entire LIFE has been more than *I* could handle,
but I've yet to come across anything in my life
that has been too much for God to handle.

Or to paraphrase the phrase..
God doesn't give us what we can handle...
God helps us handle what we are given!

Monday, August 2, 2010

what if

What if Kathleen was still here?
What would our lives look like?
It's hard for me to imagine life with her.
Life that is less painful, less complicated, less stressful.
Life that is less challenging, and more comfortable.
Maybe even boring??

I thought of this today and realized how full my life is.
Full because she is not here!
Because of her I have met some most wonderful amazing people.
Because of her I am a better person, more compassionate.
Because of her I feel more, cry more and maybe even laugh more.
Because of her I feel fulfilled as I help others who too have lost.
Because of her I appreciate life and the miracle it truly, truly is.

As much as her absence hurts it has blessed and enriched my life in so many ways. I probably don't even see all the blessings yet. But slowly, slowly God is revealing them to me.

What if she was still here?
If she was here maybe Kaden wouldn't be.
So I hug my little boy and I thank Kathleen for her many gifts.

Monday, July 26, 2010

little girls

I admit it, I would love a little girl.

I don't know if it's because I lost one that I have this longing,
or if it's just a natural desire for any woman. After all,
most girls grew up wishing they had a real doll to dress in
pretty pink dresses and little hair bows.

Please don't get me wrong, I am SO grateful for my boys.
I adore them and would not trade them for anything in the world!
I don't want to trade them, I just want to add a girl to the family.

At times I think of adoption.
But is that forcing something that perhaps isn't meant to be?
Maybe I am destined to only have boys..
Or I could turn it around and say, maybe I don't have a girl
naturally because I am supposed to adopt one?
Please God, show me.

Sometimes I feel like I had my one chance and I blew it.

It hurts inside when I see little girls, particularly around the age of two. Each time it reminds me of what I have lost and what could have been. It makes me wonder what Kathleen would have looked like and what she would be doing at this stage. A year ago I wondered if she would be walking. Now she would be walking, and running. Maybe she would not be into pretty dresses and dolls, but cars and dirt - and that would be okay.
I just want my little girl.

My mom sent me a picture of her and my second cousin. She was so adorable. I wished with all of my heart that it was a picture of my mom and Kathleen. That I would have been able to give my mom a granddaughter.

Little girls are all around me.
They always leave a little sting of pain in my heart.
It's like a wound that just won't heal.
Like a scar tissue being stretched.
I am learning to live with it though. Or am I?

I want my two boys. I want my Kathleen. I want a little girl.
And that's the truth.

Friday, July 9, 2010

the small stuff

"Don't sweat the small stuff", we say.
But what is the small stuff? Isn't it all in the eye of the beholder,
a matter of perspective molded by life circumstances and
life experiences? A perspective that can change over time and over night?

Mine changed, once again, last night as I went to the hospital to take pictures of a little six month old girl. She was a SIDS case that had been resuscitated and was now brain dead. Suddenly everything becomes small stuff. I am reminded that as long as my family is healthy and alive, nothing else matters.

Does that mean that the fact that my husband is unemployed is insignificant? That after thirteen years of marriage we still don't have our own home? No, having a job and a home is important for our family and it is the best for our children. But I know God is our provider and we will be okay. We still have each other.

Does that mean I always feel privileged when Kaden wakes me up about six in the morning, pulls my hair while feeding, and cries when I put him down for a nap? Does it mean I feel grateful when I am scrubbing his pooh stained clothes? Absolutely not. But today I am.

I wish I always felt privileged, grateful and just happy that me and my husband and my boys are alive. But I don't. We all loose focus. We all need reminders of what's important in life. To not sweat the little stuff. Like the fact that my husband comes out of the store with children's tylenol instead of infant's tylenol even though I told him twice. Or that Kaleb spills grape juice all over his beige pants even though I told him to be careful. Or that getting the family together to celebrate my birthday seems like an almost impossible task. These were all things that frustrated me and upset me a few days ago. But today it is small stuff and I am grateful.

Sure it's okay to want things, like a job and a house, but I think there's a reason why the bible says: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6. We can bring all the small stuff before God and ask for His help and His blessings - all while we remember we have so much to be thankful for, that He has already given us SO much.

Thank you God that today we are alive and well.
And now my baby is crying..
Thank you God!

My beautiful Kaleb in the park.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Kathleen's shelf

Kathleen has a shelf. Just a shelf. A shelf tugged away in our office. Nothing pretty. Just a 29 dollar book shelf from Walmart.

She has a single shelf. I wish she had a whole room. A room filled with pretty furniture, dolls, teddy bears and cute pink clothes. I wish that each day she would make a mess in her room like any child does, and that each night I would get the privilege of telling her to clean up. I know she has all she will ever need, could hope or dream for in Heaven. Yet I wish she was here with us. I wish I could buy her the whole world. Instead her clothes is packed away in a small suitcase and her belongings and memoirs sit on a shelf.

A brown bear that laid on her casket, two white teddy bears, and a little lamb that came with a poem.

The Shepherds Hand
Taken swiftly as the purest dove
into the the Shepherds open arms of love,
straight from this world of harm,
your beautiful face so full of calm.

One day in Heavens glory we will meet,

O for that day will be so sweet,
but until that time my dearest little lamb,
rest in the Shepherds loving hand.

On the shelf sits a pink stone heart. I wish I could remember who gave it to us.. Some memories seem to be lost in the blur, others are branded into my mind.

Like I remember clear as day leaving the hospital without a baby and instead with a memory box. No words can describe such devastation. The emptiness, the pain. This was not the way it was supposed to be, this was not right. I should be going home with a baby, not a box. A box that now sits on this shelf. Inside of it is a stack of cards. I wish they were cards congratulating us on a new little baby girl. Instead they are cards with titles such as "in deepest sympathy" and words such as: "We are given many precious gifts as we go through life. Some we are allowed to enjoy for a long time... others only briefly. But each gift has the power to change and enrich us, to make us better human beings". I know her brief life was a gift and I know many good things have come from it - yet I wish God would have used other ways to make me a better person and that she was still here. But as another card reads: "Nothing beautiful in this world is ever really lost... those we cherish will always live on in memory". So I look through the box and I remember my baby. I look at the pictures, the hand and footprints, the hospital bracelet, her certificate of birth, a card that says she was born on March 27th 2008 at 0259 weighing 210 grams and measuring 22 centimeters. I hold the little fleece blanket she was wrapped in and hope somehow it will smell like her, but any scent is far gone.. I don't need these things to remember her, yet they do make her more real. I look at these things and I know I didn't make her up, that she was not a figment of my imagination.

I look at the velvet bag that sits on top of the memory box. It contains a small urn with her ashes. We thought about spreading it out over the ocean not knowing where in the world we may end up, but God never allowed it to happen. So her remains are still with us and probably always will be. Wherever we go, she goes.. Her remains that is, because Kathleen's home is in now in Heaven. One day that too shall be our home and we shall see her again, but until then I cherish the few things we have, the memories of her.

Memories on a shelf.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

giving thanks

These are thanks that are long due. Thanks I should have given the months following Kathleen's passing, but I was too consumed with grief, and then it never happened. It may be a boring blog to read, and the people I am giving thanks to may never read it, but it's a blog I need to write. If I forget any or don't mention you by name, please forgive me. Much of the first year is still a blur to me.

First of all, thanks be to God who put the right people in the right place at the right time, and who has carried us through the biggest storm of our lives. There were times when I wanted to give up, but I know He never gave up on me and continued to hold me and carry me and love me.

Thank you Orleine for watching Kaleb in the middle of the night as we rushed to the hospital.

Thank you to Athletee, the nurse who helped deliver Kathleen. You were a tremendous support and encouragement. You treated Kathleen with immense respect and care. I am forever grateful!

Thank you Christina for coming to see Kathleen. It touched me so much that you held her and spoke so beautifully to her. You will never know how much that meant to me.

Thank you Mark and Trent for visiting us at the hospital. Your support and presence was truly appreciated.

Thanks to all the people who sent us flowers, cards, text messages and who brought meals. It all meant a lot to us.

Thanks to those who contributed to paying for house cleaning. Thank you Rachel for arranging it.

Thank you so much Kelly for watching Kaleb numerous times, allowing us some time to ourselves where we could grieve and cry. Your continuous love and care was invaluable.

Thank you Jess for the cute little lamb and the beautiful poem.

Thank you pastor Steve! Your support, encouragement and prayers will never be forgotten. Thank you for arranging and leading such a beautiful funeral.

Thank you to the about 50 people who came to Kathleen's funeral. Your presence and support meant the world to us.

Thank you to Bells Beach Christian Church for paying for Kathleen's casket. We will never forget your generosity.

Thank you Elizabeth for hosting the reception and for everyone who contributed and helped make that happen.

Thank you Simone for being the most incredible friend during the hardest time of my life. You were always there for me, allowing me to pour my heart out, to be real. I treasured that so much. You were my haven. Thank you also for not forgetting her birthday, for the beautiful flowers.

Thank you Linda for your tremendous support, for being my mentor. Our talks about life and God meant so much to me.

Thank you Teresia for being an incredible friend. We have never met but our daughters passed on the same day and we will forever have a special bond.

Thanks to all my online friends. The mutual support has been and still is invaluable.

Thank you Emma, Pam and Kate for being so caring. It was hard for me to continue coming to playgroup but your presence made it easier.

Thank you Lisa for bringing me along to the Passion Conference. I know that it was God ordained and that I needed the encounter. I am very grateful to you.

Thank you Sarah for our coffees and chats together. Your friendship and encouragement meant a lot to me. You kept my faith strong.

Thank you Dawn for framing my daughter's quilt so beautifully. And thank you to the lady who made the quilt. I don't know you, but your gift is forever treasured.

Thank you Bec for the massage gift certificate. It was such a sweet and thoughtful gift.

Thank you to Carol, my counselor. My meetings with you were helpful beyond words. You allowed me to grieve, to feel what I felt for as long as I felt it. You taught me that grieving is the way to healing. Thank you for all your words of wisdom, about death, life and God.

Thank you to everyone from Empty Arms, my support group. How sad the circumstances that brought us together, how wonderful to be surrounded with people who understand. I appreciate everyone's friendship and continuous support.

Thank you to my husband, my best friend. I can never thank you enough for your love and care, for standing by me in the darkest of time. For loving me when I was far from lovable. I could not have asked or hoped for a better husband. Thank you!

Thank you to my son Kaleb. You did not grasp the tragedy, but you were always willing to give me a hug, or bring me a Kleenex. You made me smile.

Thanks to everyone who prayed for us.

Thank you!

The many candles lit at her funeral.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

at least

At least you have another child.
Oh how often I have heard that sentence.
Oh how I hate it.

It's a sentence that makes no sense at all.
One child does not replace another.
One child does not nullify another.

It makes no sense.
If you had two children and one died would you just say:
oh well, at least I have another child.
No, it makes no sense.
Unless you didn't really consider Kathleen a child.
But she was a child. My child.
Just because she only lived to be 19 weeks does not make her
less of a person, less of a child, less my daughter.
"At least it happened at 19 weeks and not 40" someone said to me.
What were they thinking?? What difference does it make? None.
But only those who have traveled the road truly understand.
I loved her from the beginning, and I still love her.

At least you have two beautiful boys.
Yes, my sons bring me much joy. Much happiness.
But my sons do not remove my longing for Kathleen.
They do not remove her memory. On the contrary.

Please don't tell me, at least you have another child...
unless you are willing to tell me
which one of your children would you have sacrificed
which one do you love less
which one

Monday, June 7, 2010

two lives

Sometimes I feel like I live two lives. One is private, one is public. One is real, the other partly fake. I say partly because on rare occasions my public life blends with my private life and becomes real. When I can be happy when I am happy, and sad when I am sad. Usually it is when I am with a good trusted friend, or another bereaved parent. But usually my public life is not so. There are times when my smile is sincere, and times when it is not. Public life can be draining. Sometimes it's just moments. Moments like being on the playground and seeing a girl that would be about Kathleen's age. Those moments can occur anytime, anywhere in my public life. Sometimes that moment becomes a day. Like mother's day.

Happy mother's day. It bothers me that everyone just assumes it's a happy day. For many it is not. For many it is the day they are reminded that they should be a mother but am not because their only child is in heaven. They feel like a mother yet no one sees them as one. For me it is a day where I am reminded I have two beautiful boys to be thankful for. It is also a day where I am reminded I should be the mother of a beautiful little girl. And I am not. It's a day filled with good moments, and sad moments. Good when I receive a card from sweet Kaleb. Sad when I think there should be one from Kathleen. Good when I hang out with my wonderful family. Sad when I hear someone say that my niece is the only girl in the family. When she is not.. But no one wants to ruin a perfectly 'happy' day by mentioning Kathleen. So her name goes unspoken although I think it a million times in my mind. And although I am sad I put on a smile. It's what I do in my public fake life.

Two lives. One is real, one is fake. But I choose to blend them more and more. My blogging is one way of doing so. This is the real me. A mother who has many happy moments. When she hears Kaleb's laughter. When she sees Kaden's big smile. These days there are many of those happy moments. But there are also my Kathleen moment's. My sad moments. I know my two lives can never fully blend. In blogging perhaps but not in the real world. It would be too selfish. It would mean tears on those so called happy days, like mother's day, Christmas, family vacations. So I put on a smile. I pretend. Because that keeps you happy. Because you want to be happy right?

So I keep smiling.
I live two lives.

First family picture after Kathleen's passing. It was a so called happy moment - everyone together and in beautiful Hawaii. But it wasn't everyone. Kathleen should have been a part of it. She should have been in the picture. It was a happy moment. But for me it was an overwhelmingly sad moment. Still I smile..

Saturday, June 5, 2010

safe, healthy, alive

Each night I say a little prayer. I pray that God will keep my children safe, healthy.. and alive. I used to just pray that they would be safe and healthy. I used to pray that for Kathleen while she was still in my womb. And she is safe (with Him) and she was healthy. Still she is not alive (although she is alive eternally). So now my prayer has changed.

Alive.. It's an uncomfortable word to say and pray. I can't think of it and not think of the opposite. Dead. It makes me aware that both are possible. At any time. All moms worry and fear for their children, but once you have lost one it only intensifies.

I try not to let the fear control me, not to hold my boys back. To let them be boys. Yet my heart pounds and my imagination goes wild. What could not have happened to my Kaleb when he rode his bike backwards down the patio stairs? Or when he fell from a bunk bed? It was only a few weeks earlier that I had heard of a boy doing so and breaking his neck.. So my heart pounds. My imagination goes wild. And then I thank God that Kaleb is okay. That he is alive.

I go to check on Kaden while he is sleeping. To check that he is still breathing. He is wrapped, laying on his back, the fan is on - all things that increases the risk of SIDS. Yet I know it can still happen and so I check on him. The other day I put my hand on his chest and felt nothing. Nothing! An intense fear grabbed me. My heart pounded. Or did it stop? My knees got weak. I thought I was going to collapse. Then he took a deep breath. And I thank God that Kaden is okay. That he is alive.

Fear is always there, lurking underneath the surface. It's always there but doesn't have to rule me. I know I can't control a lot of things on this earth. I can put a helmet on my boy but I can't prevent him from falling. So I pray. I can't control all things but I can look to the One who IS in control. The One who is all-knowing, all-powerful. He who can make all things happen, and prevent others from happening. He could have prevented Kathleen from dying. But he didn't. He could have prevented his own son from dying on the cross. But he didn't. God has his reasons. His own son's death had a purpose higher than anyone of us can imagine or understand or comprehend. I don't know why Kathleen died but I do know that all things can be used for good, if we let them. And I know that my children are really not mine, but God's - that He is gracious to allow us to be caretakers. So I take care of them the best I can and leave the rest in God's hands. I leave it up to Him to keep my children safe, healthy and alive.

So each night I say a prayer.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

babies on display

On a recent trip to Portland we visited OMSI science center. The last exhibition I entered was titled 'prenatal development'. I was drawn in as I wanted to see Kathleen again. Of course not my actual Kathleen but a baby at 19 week gestation. I felt a great need to remind myself again of how much a baby she was. I quickly passed the early gestations and reached 19 weeks. I took a picture. Then I turned my attention to another baby, gestation 23 weeks. I noticed the fine blond hair on his head. It was then I realized this baby was real. That they were all real. If I had taken the time to read the sign on the way in I would have known that 'the embryos and fetuses in this exhibit are real. They are presented here to offer an unique look at the journey each of us made from a fertilized egg. Acquired from medical universities and hospitals the survival of these embryos and fetuses was prevented by natural causes or accidents'.

I wanted to run. And I did. Only to return five minutes later. I was intrigued by the beauty, by the perfection, by the creation. How many chances in life do you get to see actual babies at these
different gestations? I only stayed a short while. I could not contain all the emotions inside of me. Emotions of sadness and sorrow. Someone laughed. I shed a tear. And left.

I wondered if the parents to these children ever knew their destiny? They were all collected before 1940. At least these days we get to hold our babies and have a say about what happens to their little bodies. Those parents probably didn't.. And I wondered how visitors reacted to this display? With disgust? With awe? I am not even sure yet of my own reaction. A huge part of me screamed that this is just wrong. That these little humans should not be on display, suspended in liquid. That it is undignifying. Yet seeing these little babies was so powerful, fascinating and thought provoking. It would be virtually impossible to see this display and not be amazed at the creation before you. As a sign said by a baby at 32 week gestation: “What started as a single cell has developed into highly organized systems of billions of cells”. How true - a highly organized system, formed by God, loved by God.

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:13

I don't know if the display was right or wrong. I am not looking for answers either. My only hope is that someone may see this display and decide against abortion, from ending a life that should have been. How can you not when you see that little body, those perfectly formed little fingers and toes? Or maybe someone will have the opportunity to grieve a baby they lost but never got to see. Maybe models would have the same affect, maybe not.

I thought about posting my picture but I won't. If you want to see these babies you can - either at the exhibit or online. It will be your decision, not mine.

Would I want to see it again? I don't know. But for those who do see it, may good derive from it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

circle of silence

So you are a bereaved parent. You want to talk about it. You need to talk about it. But when you do people around you get uncomfortable. They don't know what to say. And the things they do say are usually not helpful. Or they change subject. And you become quiet. You don't want to make people uncomfortable or force them to talk about your child. Yet the longing continues. You are quiet but inside you are screaming. And without release the longing only grows more intense. Until the day you burst, or withdraw..

So you are a good friend or a family member. You want to talk about it. But you don't know what to say. And you are afraid that bringing up the loss will cause unnecessary pain to the bereaved parent. You don't want to cause pain or tears. And so you stay quiet.

It's the circle of silence.

Both want to talk about it but no one does. We want to avoid discomfort. But how can there not be discomfort when the death of a child is the subject? And why is that not okay? What's wrong with tears? Tears that in truth you the friend did not cause. They were already there waiting desperately to be released.

Did you know that 98% of bereaved parents wants to talk about their loss? If you assume your bereaved friend does not want to talk, then you are really betting they are a part of the 2%. Is that a bet you are willing to take? A true friend wouldn't.. But what do you say?

I am so sorry for your loss. For what you are going through.
I am here if you need someone to talk to or cry with.
I can't comprehend your pain, but it must be so hard.
I don’t know what to say...

Ask simple questions, and listen.

Break the circle of silence and listen.

Thank you Jolene for breaking the circle of silence.
It's because of you I write this blog.
Thank you Leanne, Linda, Lisa, Tami.. the list goes on.
But it could be longer.

Will you break the silence?
The circle of silence.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

forgive me

Today's sermon was about making peace. Peace with yourself. To forgive your past sins that God has already forgiven and get rid of all the baggage we carry around. I have things I carry around. Not sins, but regrets. Things I don't seem to be able to forgive myself for. Things I could have done better, differently. Things I feel embarrassed about. Things I feel guilty for. I know I am not to blame, I know I didn't do anything wrong, I know I reacted 'normal' - my logic tells me all these things, yet my heart aches from guilt.

Guilt for not listening to my own body. If I had listened and taken it easy, maybe Kathleen would still be here. But (my logic says) you listened to the doctors who said all was fine. You didn't know the future. You didn't know...

Guilt that I had given birth to her at a gestation where she could not survive. That I couldn't stop it. But (my logic says) you can't stop a labor. You can't control when it starts, or when it stops.

Guilt that I felt relief once labor was over. Relief that the physical pain was over. Relief that the anxiety of the past seven weeks had come to an end. How could I feel relief when I had just given my daughter the death sentence? But (my logic says) it is 'normal' to feel relief when pain ends, when anxiety ends.

Guilt that I almost didn't hold her! What mother does not want to hold her child?? Her dying child? But (my logic says) you were scared of what she would look like. You were in shock. You did not think clearly. How grateful I am for my nurse who encouraged me to hold her. Who could think clearly for me when I couldn't...

Guilt that I didn't tell her I loved her!! All I remember saying to her was "I am so sorry" and then I just held her, silently. Why did I not speak to her? She could hear me. Why didn't I tell her over and over how much I loved her? But (my logic says) you were drugged. You were in shock. And she knows you love her. You told her in the womb, you've told Jesus to tell her. She knows.

So here I am, feeling guilty, yet reasoning with myself. You see, I know that I didn't do anything wrong. I know I acted on the knowledge I had. I know that I did the best I could for one being in shock. Yet the guilt is still there. Most of the time I'm okay, but then without warning it creeps back to the surface. Guilt.

Maybe guilt and grief just go hand in hand.

How do I explain something I don't even understand. Why am I writing this when I don't understand. Maybe my hope is that by sharing, healing will begin. That guilt will lessen.

Maybe it won't. Maybe what I need to hear is that Kathleen will forgive me. Even if there is nothing to forgive. And if there was, she would. But I just wish I could hear her say it. Say 'I forgive you mom'. I know that's not possible. Or is it? Mackenzie (from The Shack) did. God allowed him to see his dead daughter, talk to her, tell her he loved her, ask for her forgiveness.

Forgive me.

Friday, May 21, 2010

bursting my bubble

Today I burst my protective bubble and faced pain.

I went to the hospital with another woman, mother, bereaved parent, to take pictures of a newborn. It wasn't a happy day though. Not like when my Kaden was born 3 months ago. This baby was stillborn. Beautiful and perfect but without life. I was there with 'forget me not' photography - a part of Providence Hospital services that takes pictures of babies that have passed away, or will pass away. Something I never imagined me doing. Something I never wanted to do. Something I thought I couldn't do. But God works in mysterious ways and God works our hearts.

When I was first faced with this opportunity my initial reaction was 'absolutely not'. I cannot face this pain, this raw pain of newly bereaved parents. I know what they are going through. I can feel what they are going through. I physically hurt for them. How can I go there and keep my composure? I imagined that to be impossible. Yet my second reaction was to pray. To hand this over to God. As I did I knew in my heart I was meant to do this. At least give it a try. And so there I was at the hospital.

It was painful. But I held it together and I survived.

And I could go home to my baby. Hold him and kiss him and thank God that he is in my life. What a miracle. What a blessing. My day went on. Not unaffected, but it went on. I took care of my family, I went shopping, went to the playground, even did a family photo shoot. And from time to time my thoughts would wander back to this family at the hospital and I'd say a little prayer for them. That they would find comfort in the midst of the pain. That they will receive all the support they need on the hard journey ahead. My heart is broken for them - but it is broken every day, and that's okay. I am learning to be okay with it, to live with it. The Lord will use this broken heart. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).

We CAN do whatever God wants us to do.
So today I burst my bubble. And I'm okay.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

our protective bubbles

Not too long ago I listened to a sermon. A sermon about how most of us tend to live in protective bubbles consisting of our safe lives, family and careers. We don't want to face the world around us. A world of pain and suffering. Of 26.500 children dying every day from hunger and poverty. Facing it is too hard, too painful, too overwhelming. So we live in our protective bubbles, protecting us from anything raw and too upsetting. If we are faced with it, we change the channel or turn the newspaper page. But Jesus didn't turn his back on the suffering. He was "a man of sorrow.. acquainted with grief". He had compassion for the sick, the widows and the orphans. He didn't protect himself from the pain of the world, the pain of people. Instead it broke his heart and moved him. Shouldn't our hearts be broken by the things that break the heart of God?

But a broken heart, that's hard. It hurts. It's much easier to not face it. To not think about the many parents out there even in our little part of the world that have lost a child or am going to, knowingly or unknowingly. Even I don't want to think about it at times. It's hard to keep on just doing your daily life once your thoughts are on the pain and suffering, to be unaffected. Yesterday I heard of a couple loosing 4 daughters age 2-11 in a fire. How devastated they must be. And yet the world continues on like nothing has happened. At least so it seems. I remember going shopping shortly after I lost Kathleen. Everybody around me was just going about their daily business. I wanted to scream. I wanted them to know that I had just lost my precious baby. That my world was collapsing. But inside I knew that no one really wanted to talk about it. And still don't. Unless they too have lost.. The death of a child seems to be a taboo subject. Why? Is it because it's too painful to talk about, to think about? Is it because they don't want to be reminded that awful things happen, and that it could possibly happen to them? Or do they think it's just best to forget and move on? But there is no moving on after the loss of a child. We can only move forward, slowly. We will never forget. We don't want to. We shouldn't. Rather we should use that pain to help others. Others in pain.

How can we make a difference in this broken world? By facing it. By facing the broken people, the pain and suffering. Let's rejoice with those who rejoice; but mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).

Let's face the world, good and bad.

Let's burst our protective bubbles.

A gift from http://namesinthesand.blogspot.com/
They burst their bubble, and faced the pain.
May God bless them as they help others.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

measuring loss

Sometimes I don't share with people at what gestation Kathleen was born. I just say she was born prematurely. They don't understand she was a fully developed baby. How can they? They didn't see her. Her little but perfect body. Perfect fingers and toes. Oh how I treasure those prints. How do we measure loss? In time? The lady I met at the playground the other day who lost her daughter at age 16, has she suffered a greater loss than me? Or my friend who lost a baby at 12 weeks, has she suffered a lesser loss than me? Do we take into the consideration that she had been trying for 10 years when we measure her loss? Or how about my friend who lost a baby at 6 weeks, but for the sixth time. Or is my loss in fact greater than the lady I met in the park because I didn't get to experience 16 years with my daughter? No, loss can not be measured. Not in time. Not in amounts. Not in any sort of way. A loss is a loss. A loss of dreams. A loss of hopes. A loss of a child.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

holding my baby

I love holding my baby boy. I feel so blessed and overwhelmed. You will often find a little tear in my eye but it's usually a tear of joy, not of sorrow. I still find it hard to believe that he is here, alive and well. It seems like yesterday that I held him for the first time, so full of happiness, so full of relief.

Yet as I hold him I think of Kathleen, more than I have in a long time. It makes me realize so much more what I have lost. What I have missed out on. I wonder what it would have been like to hold her, full term, alive and well. I wonder what she would have looked like.

The other day I asked God if she suffered the two hours she lived. It's a thought I have been struggling with lately. It seems odd that I haven't really considered this until now. I have had so many other thoughts, just not that one. In this journey of grief you never know when things will surface. But God answered me. He said, "It is not important. You held her, and now I hold her - that's all that matters".

We held her.

Friday, May 14, 2010

who am i

I am a bereaved parent but I am more than that.

I am a Christian, growing and learning slowly, realizing it is a life long journey. When I think I am finally truly trusting and leaning on God, He stretches me a bit further. As much as it is uncomfortable I want to be stretched. I want to become the person He intended me to be. Who that is I don't know quite yet. I probably will never know. But He knows. He is molding me. Continuously. And I know He is doing so through life. Through circumstances. And God is my helper, my rock in hard times. He hasn't spared me from the loss of a child, but He has helped me through it. Because of it I believe I am now stronger, more compassionate, more sensitive. I am a better person. But I can be better.. So the molding continues.

I am a proud wife, married to my best friend for 13 years. I am so glad I am sharing this journey of life with him. I could not imagine anyone better to do it with. His love and care carries me through when I need a shoulder to lean on.

I am a mother of three. Kaleb who is four years old, Kathleen in heaven who is two, and Kaden who is twelve weeks old. My boys are such a blessing and bring me so much joy in life. Their smiles and laughter brighten up my day. I am blessed indeed.

I am a scrapbooker. A photographer. A videographer. A perfectionist with its advantages and disadvantages. My husband calls me an artist, bless his heart.

I am not a writer. Don't expect anything profound in these blogs. It is just a heart poured out from a non-philosopher and from someone who's first language is not English but Danish.

Who am I? I am still figuring that out. Aren't you?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

butterfly tears

Just over two years ago our little family released some butterflies. Sounds beautiful doesn't it? Yet silent tears were flowing down my cheek. It was my daughter's funeral.

I see a butterfly and think of her. Kathleen Rebecca. How can I not? She was only with us for two hours but we loved her from the beginning and she will always be part of our family. We will always love her, always miss her.

I am writing this blog because of her. Because I need a place to share my thoughts, my feelings, my journey - a journey that she has taken me on that I never imagined. Because of her I am changed forever. I see things differently, I respond differently. She has impacted me and I know she will continue to impact the world - more than some do a whole life time. She will not be forgotten. She lives on in me. She is part of me. She is my daughter, now and forever.

Now and forever.