Tag Archives: grief

My Goodbye Moments

Its so far out of town you think you’ve missed it. But then we get here.

Clicky clack shoes on the road as we both walk from the car, the only noise until my not so silent tears fall down my cheeks. This is when they start.

Looking down at our feet and entwined fingers, the orange catches my eye; it is so much brighter swinging over the black of the road.

Except for holding Daniel’s hand I wish no one to attempt to invade my space or heart right now. Greet me if you wish, but you can’t penetrate my shield in these moments. I am here for a reason, a purpose and this is my last chance. Like a fierce mumma bear protects her cubs, I’ll fight for these moments.

They are a precious gift. Moments to freely celebrate life and acknowledge the death of our dear precious one; others have moved on from this life altering event, simply because its not their life. Though the grief is yet to fade for us.

Grief is so isolating, in so many different ways. It is a wicked dictator. The battle for control of the mind is intense and exhausting. You so wish to not be alone through it, but you can’t invite anyone in as they have to decide to push through the darkness. It is difficult for everyone.

These moments today at the “pregnancy loss memorial service” are a chance for the final goodbye I didn’t know I’d been holding tight on my lips.

With Emmanuelle I walked into the florist knowing that a sunflower was exactly what I wanted… today I walked back into the same florist and I didn’t know. I wanted orange but I didn’t know, nothing was right… then I chose a chrysanthemum. It was perfect.

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I didn’t want to sit down. I didn’t want to meet the chaplains. I had no energy for ‘polite.’ These were my moments, to be raw. To allow my grief to be seen. To not be a tightly shut bottle, all held together. This was my space where I have all the permission I need to be a grieving mother. To sob like I have more dead babies than alive babies. To not be ok, to feel. To be so broken, but stand strong because I’m also not.

I knew what the service would be like; I knew most of what they’d say.

That God loves all he has made…. knit me together in my mothers womb…leave in your safekeeping…. joy into mourning….we ask you today for courage and strength.

 

We laid my chosen bright orange flowers.

We looked up and saw a rainbow. It hadn’t even rained.

We released our balloons.

We turned and walked away. Daniel still held my hand. Our shoes clacked, but once again my arms were empty. I can’t go to one of those services again. I don’t think I’d survive. Daniel says to me, “Last time Yvette, last time.”

This is when my tears stop. For now at least.

But my love for Steven James never will.

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“How very softly you tiptoed into our world, almost silently, only a moment you stayed. But what an imprint your footsteps have left upon our hearts.” — Ferguson

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Risk in Adventure

 

“The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.“ 

Alvin Toffler

I finished high school and spent four years at bible college- I could argue spirituality, biblically and theologically quite well, in fact sometimes I opposed just for the fun of it. From a twenty-one year olds perspective with such little life experience, I had certain faith in a big God despite any circumstance. Then when we lost Emmanuelle I had to unlearn and relearn so much of what I thought I knew about Jesus. In most ways it was easy to accept the sovereignty of God and place our grief and loss in His hands believing it was a safe place. Yes there was hurt and confusion, but sovereignty; who can expect to fully understand that? The ending of hope and beginning of faith.

I spent months and years relearning what I knew about Jesus; to truly profess His goodness from the deepest darkness and valley. Relearning my understanding of sovereignty, faith, trust and goodness in the storm. My whole worldview, my faith and really my whole person became totally different, I changed. It has taken me years to chisel out of the cement casing of grief; a place devoid of my own identity and all joy to finally feel the light and live in the world again. But in that place I knew and trusted Jesus, so I emerged with Him as I had found Him there.

My struggle now is how much can I unlearn and relearn about Jesus…. again? I did that once before, through grief and so many questions without answers. Now, to move forward from here, I have to unlearn and relearn once again. But they are fresh wounds, some are still scabby….

In your first pregnancy your body doesn’t know what it’s doing, the uterus is stretching for the first time and it takes time. With our first I was smaller at 15weeks then I was at 7weeks with Steven (five pregnancies later). My body remembered what to do and did it.

For my pain and wounds, it is fresh, and gushing blood is what they remember how to do. I’m afraid to open those wounds and lose too much.

It was easier to unlearn about Jesus after losing Emmanuelle. Then relearn after months and months of longing and trying for another healthy child. To throw out what I used to know, keeping only the foundational truths, and spend over two years building upon those foundations with completely different perspectives and heart state. To so soon do that again, I’m afraid.

 

When Daniel and I were dating we talked and dreamed of a life that was anything but ordinary, we dreamed of an adventure. We craved travel, new things, hard things that would make us grow, children, joy, life, obedience to Jesus no matter the cost. We desired adventure.

Last week my friend shared this picture on his Facebook:

Pretty much, no matter how bad it got- broken bones, getting lost or attacked by a bear- so long as you didn’t die it could be counted as a good adventure.

I don’t know that I really want to put my life in a questions flow chart like this… I fear the questions being blunt and compartmentalized. Never what we imagined or hoped, but life has certainly been an adventure so far!

I think that is part of the struggle, once again we’ve been blindsided with pain, something contrary to our resolved belief. There is disappointment in the unexpected. Do I fear unlearning and relearning again? Do I fear adventure? Do I fear getting suffocated in the cement of grief? That cases me in a moment of time the rest of the world long leaves behind? Every new day brings so much uncertainty as I strip back what I’ve had to unlearn and relearn.

So what do I know is foundational? God is sovereign. God is love. God is faithful. God is good. God is there.

Now, deeper than ever before, those truths have to soak again.

 

What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord…when they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessing… When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings…you keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle…. I waited patiently for the lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on solid ground, and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing.

Psalm 84:5-6; 61:2-4; 56:8; 40:1-3

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 Joy 

You never expect the betrayal. The failure. The frustration or pain. The anxiety. The longing. It’s your body you should be able to trust it to just work and do it right. The miracle of conception is intricately incredible; yet somehow it just happens. God is so clever in his creation of humanity… Except for when it doesn’t work like that.   

Miscarriage, pregnancy loss, acrania .. You lose all trust in your body to do what it should competently be able to do. After you’ve experienced this you lose the joy that is associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Fear, anxiety, worry, concern all rooted in this lack of trust for your body; its failed you once what’s to stop it failing you again.     

The robbing of pregnancy joy is one of the meanest things. It affects relationships; infertility, recurrent miscarriages, pregnancy loss, long journeys to conception, health concerns for mum and Bub, super fertile couples who never have a worry. How do women communicate over so much variation of experience?     

But what is perhaps meanest about pregnancy no longer having instant easy joy- is that it isn’t just pregnancy that you struggle to find joy in. When successful (even the fact you talk like that) it’s child birth and the new life also. It’s sometimes almost effort to find joy in your newborn, not from lack of love, but you have to fight through the fear and memory of storms and death. 

  
 
It’s hard to forgive your body for failing you. But then you have a healthy child after your storms and grief and longing… And slowly but surely this is the deepest healing that takes place and then, joy. But in a different experience, not because everything just happened as it should. But because you survived pregnancy, conquered fear and relearnt how to open your heart to baby love again- and in some ways it’s a deeper more beautiful joy than you ever knew possible. 

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Support 

Five months before our first miscarriage, our little family moved eight hours drive north for ministry. Our families, except my brother, had already moved away from us and then we moved away from our friends who were like family. No one really knew about our first miscarriage….. Then came Emmanuelle. And we were still living hours and hours away from our real support networks. 

My mum got on a plane and stayed… My dad was a few days behind. And my in-laws would’ve been too if they were in the country. But it’s not appropriate for everyone to come invade space.
 
Perhaps the biggest act of support I remember was from four couples within the same immediate family. I was speechless and they made me cry. I was overwhelmed that I could feel so much of their love when they were so far away. 
They placed an online grocery order- for ice cream and treats, snacks and a new DVD for our biggest boy, and ingredients for a few of our favourite meals, and staples like milk, bread and toilet paper. 
Just randomly delivered to our door by a man, and it didn’t matter if I answered in two day old pyjamas. There was no invasion of space, no awkward conversations to be had- but boy o boy did we feel the love! 

I feel like sometimes people fluff around in these kind of posts so today, well, I’m going to be a bit more straight forward. Obviously all of these depend on your level of relationship with the family, so please use your own discretion. 


How can you support someone who has just lost a child? 

1) Food 

They won’t feel like it or want it, but parents need it. 
A grocery order is great- no awkward “do I have to invite them in?” “What’s the right thing for me to say?” 

BONUS- if you know them and what they like you’re guaranteed success. 
Frozen meals- text to organise delivery time, deliver in a throw away container that can be frozen and write what’s inside it on the lid. Quick knock and be on and off the doorstep in under five minutes. Don’t expect to go inside and please- if the child has a name, mention it. When you don’t it’s deafening. 


2) Siblings 

A new DVD gift, child friendly of course. Frozen nuggets or potato gems that just need to be thrown in the oven- simplicity. Because the siblings may be the only ones who actually eat, and the easier to prepare the better. A colouring in or ball is great- something for them to do without their parents. 

Say, “on Wednesday I’ll pick johnny up at 930 and take him to the park and out for lunch if that’s ok with you?” While the parents love their children, they need individual space also. Short bursts of love and holding it together is all that can really  be managed to begin with. 

  

3) Practical love  

After about a week, invite yourself over because you want to clean/cook. Come with a chocolate milk or peanut m’n’m’s, and clean the bathroom, vacuum the floor, tidy the kitchen. Or if you can’t, or circumstances don’t allow for that, say- “I’ve paid for two hours of cleaning with this company, when is a good time for them to come?” 
Don’t wait for us to ask for the practical help (Again this depends on your level of relationship). I already felt so much failure, I wasn’t going to then admit that I was falling behind at cleaning my bathroom also. 


4) Remember

Write the date in your phone calendar and set an alarm for a few days before and day of: one month, six month, a year… Send a card to arrive that week- I have one friend who times this so well and I’m so thankful.
The fear is that the child will be forgotten. We want you to remember but if we have to remind you ourselves it doesn’t matter when you say something, because you didn’t remember.



Remember the babies birthday, remember at Christmas and other holidays, especially the first ones, that for us someone is missing. 
Gifts such as an engraved necklace, pandora charm, picture book etc are lovely gestures when done in the right way.


4) TALK (perhaps most importantly)

– Use the child’s name, it doesn’t hurt us more, rather it is powerful that you continue to speak their name. It helps us. 

– don’t say you understand– even if you’ve had similiar circumstance, it’s similiar not exact. 

– be the first to make contact.. Don’t wait for the parent to reach out “when they’re ready.” Text or call or something. Even if we don’t respond, we read/heard it and that’s what we needed. 

– phrases like “this sucks” are appropriate to use. Because sometimes it just does. (Sorry mum)

– ” it’s ok, you can have another child.” – you don’t know that. 

– “There’s a reason for everything, they’re in a better place.” Just. don’t. even. 

– good phrases : “I wish I knew the right thing to say, just know I’m here.” “My favourite memory is….” 

– honestly, just say something, acknowledge our pain, our loss (no matter how young the baby). For a period of time, be prepared to be the one making the effort in the friendship- by chasing, inviting places and listening. 

Mostly- no one can be perfect in how they support a parent experiencing grief. The parent doesn’t even know the perfect way of support, and what worked for me will be different to others. But just try and do something, we’ll never be angry at you for trying. Everything about us and our life has changed, so expect our friendships to change aswell for a while. Please be patient with us. 
Support- simply- just do something, it’s way better than nothing. 





(This is also a great article- where the photo is from)

** In October, for Pregnancy and Infancy Loss Awareness Month, I’m participating in #iwanttotalkaboutit #YellowRosesCQ project with daily writing prompts. 

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Bereaved Mother’s Day | it’s a thing

May 3rd. International Bereaved Mother’s Day. It’s a thing. Like an actual day, that’s not made up.

And you know what? That sucks. It’s sucks that the day exists. That each day more parents lose children; women continue to become mums of angels. That this day exists as an attempt to repair “mothers day” for all the mums it misses.

But you know what else…. While it sucks that today exists, sometimes I need other people to remember, to acknowledge, to use our babies name.

To call her Emmanuelle.

I’m in such a different place this year to last year. Last year I was full of equal parts grief and longing.

This year, I hold a nearly nine-week-old baby in my arms. You’d think maybe that would make things ok. But our baby boys birth actually was the most evident proof of my heart that Emmanuelle is always going to be, I want to say affecting me, but it doesn’t sound right and I don’t know how else to say it.

See losing her, going through labour for her to be born sleeping, even though we knew that would happen from her diagnosis…. It impacts my days. Her loss impacts my days.

At the ANAZAC day March last week I saw a little girl, she would’ve being just over one, with beautiful red hair learning to walk with her daddy. It ached my heart, a longing, and sadness, missing a childhood of a little girl I never knew except for in my dreams.

One part of me hates that this day exists… The other part of me is grateful for it. Grateful that today I feel like I can admit just how big an effect my angel baby continues to have on my life. I can mention Emmanuelle and people won’t think- ‘gosh just move on already!’ (Not that I know if anyone thinks that)

Grateful that today, my minute, half hour or hours of sadness are warranted and ok.

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So yeah… Today’s actually a thing. A day to acknowledge some of the bravest women you’ll ever meet.

Women who keep getting out of bed. Women who still love the children they have on earth. Women who keep breathing. Women who while forever changed have to fit back in a world with people where nothing is different. Women who live with a little piece less of their heart. Women who speak loudly for change. Women who feel awkward whenever you ask how many children we have, and struggle with how to say the truth. Because we have more children than you can see in our arms.

And that’s reality for us; someone is missing from our lives. Someone isn’t here feeling all the love in our heart for them. These women are mothers, brave mothers.

Bereaved Mother’s Day. It’s a thing that needs to exist. You don’t need to say anything- though you can if you want- just give that momma you know a hug.

here– is a link that answers the question “”I’m just wondering what to SAY to a Bereaved Mother on her day? Happy Mother’s Day clearly doesn’t apply. Do I say I’m sorry or I’m thinking about you? Can I ask how she’s feeling? Does she want to talk about it?””

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grief fog

part one: grief storm

 

Noun

  1. A cloudlike mass or layer of minute water droplets or ice crystals near the surface of the earth, appreciably reducing visibility.

 

I’ve been trying to write this for a month. Trying to find words, not even flowing words, just words to explain about grief after the storm. I have perfect illustrations to describe what I mean, but I can’t write them. I’ve struggled to write anything.

After the storm of grief, you live in a fog; I’ll get to the explanation… I hope.

Living in grief means your life becomes accompanied by ‘ifs.’

You can think back to the scenario or circumstance and run the ‘ifs’ over and over in your head.

              If I’d already been on a higher dose of folic acid just because I was…

            If that sperm hadn’t met that egg…

            If I’d done this instead of this…
The ‘ifs’ roll into a ‘maybe’…and the pain in your heart when reality rushes back in hurts a lot.
And then there are the harder ‘ifs’

             If Emmanuelle were healthy, it would be her birthday this month.

            If she had lived, she would be turning one.

            If she were alive, I would never know grief like this.

            If she was here, I would not be so broken.

           If she were with me, I’d be a completely different person; I wouldn’t have lost part of my heart.

Putting ‘ifs’ into your present circumstance bring an ache for what was, to grow suddenly to fit now. This stings with impossibility.

           

No one prepares you that after the loss you will live with constant ‘ifs,’ that hit you in strange moments, and cause your mind to wander and heart to ache.

Grief is different for everyone.

For me after the grief storm it became a fog.

I could see nothing around me, I couldn’t see what way to move, I couldn’t see a future, and I couldn’t see life. I couldn’t see my life.

Everything I encountered; circumstance, friends, medicine; all were through the filter fog of grief. A situation was not joyful for me, because I observed it through dark pain. Changes of relationships, growth or loss, was all because of my grief. This fog was thick, I could not see through it and I could see nothing but it. It was so thick it was nearly tangible; the darkness, pain, and sadness were intense. No matter how hard someone might try they could not penetrate its force and interact with the ‘me’ underneath it all. I think that’s because I got lost in it and lost a part of me to it; therefore who they were looking for couldn’t be found there.

See the storm broke me, in the fog I scrambled to try and put myself back together; but I couldn’t see anything. So when I emerged, yes I’d done a bit of a dodgy job and I may still look a little broken and cracked. But you know what, when you’re surrounded by grief…. well, it’s the best I could do.

 

grief storm

* photo from yellow roses. Yellow Roses is a support network for families in the Central Queensland region who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death.

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Grief Storm

noun
1. A disturbance of the normal condition of the atmosphere, manifesting itself by winds of unusual force or direction, often accompanied by rain, snow, hail, thunder, and lightning, or flying sand or dust.

Sometimes you have some warning that a storm is coming; you see the deep dark clouds slowly creep to consume the bright light of the sun. Other times out of nowhere, you look up at the clash of thunder and there is just a second before the rain begins to soak the ground and forcefully pitter on your roof.

Storm season is a real thing where we live; wind, lightening and constant pouring rain resulting in flooding is an annual thing. I remember hearing one time on the radio or something that if you wear sunglasses while driving in the rain it helps you see better… know what? I tried it- it kind of does… But that’s beside the point. When the rain is pouring heavy it crashes on the screen and blurs all you can see. You can’t go as fast as what you were travelling, sometimes you need to pull over. Who would’ve thought water could have such power!

Whether you’re expecting it and a have a small amount of preparation time or if it suddenly comes upon you- “suffering over affliction or loss,” grief is a storm. It comes hard and fast and surrounds you. It is dark and noisy and keeps you awake through the night. It blurs your vision and slows down your life. Sometimes you pull over because you can’t keep going anymore. Other times you keep moving but it is some of the most dangerous driving you will ever do.

Sometimes the storm is big enough people will notice- seventeen days ago our little town experienced a category five cyclone. In the last twelve hours before it hit it escalated from a category 2 to 5. The morning of, we had the news on; reporters were on our main street- coverage shown across Australia! Our boy kept pointing to the screen saying “I been there! I been there!” Everyone knew it was coming… they didn’t all feel it though. They saw the heavy winds, felt the expectation… but then power was lost. And those that lived here, we had no option but to experience it…. See the drops of horizontal rain; hear the roar of the wind and watch in anticipation as strong solid gum trees danced before crashing to the ground.

I’ve since tried to explain it, but the destruction is unimaginable…. Trees that had stood before the roads existed blocked roads. Power lines were broken and all power was lost. Swing sets and trampolines disassembled across neighbor’s lawns. Roofs and walls destroyed, crashed in by things or torn apart by winds.

This house, it became a dollhouse. I don’t know if you can see, but there is a calendar on the wall in the office, the bed is still made. It is one of numerous houses in town that became an unlivable dwelling.

dollhouse

The demolition power of grief is unimaginable. Destroys all that holds you together and makes you livable. You’re left bare and raw; totally exposed, there is nothing to keep things in, there is nothing around you to protect you.

The storm and its accompanying forces destroy your world. The day of the cyclone our town was on national news, 18 days later everyone else has forgotten; but the piles of rubbish and destruction still line the streets, tree roots are still upside down. The dollhouse is still there, exposed… the bed is made.

Grief destroys your world; for longer than others care to recognize or acknowledge or see… All you know becomes unlivable. What’s left is traumatized foundations that you don’t know if they could withstand even the lightest of sprinkling rain. The storm slows you down and stops you. You don’t know how long it will last, there is nothing to do but wait.

Wait in your little hidey-hole, without power, and watch out the small window and see the vigorous storm perform all the destruction it likes to all that made your world.

Grief is a storm, and you can’t control it or the affect it has on you.

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