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I’m moving. Soon and far. The wanderlust side of myself is reveling in the change and the new adventure of it all. The sentimental side, however, is crying rivers of tears inside my head and heart. All three of our children were born in this house. That fact alone could have kept me content here for the rest of my life. There is a certain old-time appeal to the idea of birthing and raising our children here, and growing old and dying here. It is not going to happen that way now.

Since Eliana only lived two months, there are very few physical ties to this world. One is our house. The other is the hospital. She was born and lived one month at our house. She lived one month and died at the hospital. Now I am leaving both behind. I’m also leaving my friend’s mom’s house, where Eliana made one of just two social outings. My other friend’s apartment is here, the place of her second social event. The doctor’s office I took her to is here. The urgent care we went to is here. The funeral home, the last place I ever held her, is here. Every place she ever was, is here, and I’m leaving.

I won’t be able to drive down the street, and pass any of these locations anymore. I won’t be able to go visit the nurses at her hospital and chat for a few minutes with someone who actually knew her. I won’t be able to sit in my recliner, or lay down in bed, and close my eyes and relive the moments when she was right there in that exact spot with me. I suppose to someone who has never lost a child that might seem like a good thing. To anyone who has, though, we know that part of getting through this depends on clinging to whatever memories we have of our children, because that is all we will ever have of them. There will never be any new ones.

I’m also leaving the only people who are witnesses that my child existed. People here saw her. They held her. They came to the house, to the hospital, and to the funeral. To them, she is more than just a picture on a wall. She is a person. I’m moving away from all the people who care about my baby, or about me. I’m leaving the only people who know me and love me enough to support me in all the things I do in Eliana’s memory, the things I need to do to survive this life without her.

Her birthday is going to be the last day I see most of the people I know. How could the day be any sadder? Two months after that I will be in a new place nearly alone on the one year anniversary of her death. The only thing I can think of that is worse than dealing with my child’s death, is trying to deal with it alone. I’m scared of how hard it is going to be.

I will still have her urn, and her pictures, and stuffed animals, and everything else that was hers, and that I’ve collected since she died. It just isn’t the same, though. It feels as though her essence or spirit is here, and I’m leaving. It is somewhat ridiculous, as I do not believe that at all, but that is how it feels. I’m aware that feelings sometimes have little to do with reality, but  knowing that does not stop how much it hurts to be leaving this place-leaving it without her.

img_2272_edited-11I’m moving, but a part of me, a part of my heart, will always remain here, in the bedroom of this house where my sweet baby took her first breath, and in that hospital room where she took her last. I may have to move, but I will never move on.

One of my closest friends is pregnant and is due on February 21st, just 6 days after Eliana was born. Needless to say, we have had many discussions about the various emotional responses we’ve both had. I am both terrified and excited about the possibility of her child being born on the same day. What an incredible cyclical sort of irony there would be in that-a living testament to the reality that life goes on. It never occurred to me to ask, but I realize that her baby must have been conceived somewhere around the time that mine was dying.

To be honest, there are few people in this world that I could have been truly happy for if they had told me that news at that time. She happens to be one of them. It has been both painful and healing to watch her go through her pregnancy. It’s like watching a fuzzy movie of myself one year ago. The discomforts, the growth, the expectations, the waiting-all the things I went through at the same time I went through them, but from a distance.

Because it’s her, I don’t hate her for her pregnancy. I don’t hate her for her happiness, or for her complaints. Because it’s her, I don’t assume she is naive about the fact that sometimes babies die, and I know that she does not take this gift she’s been given for granted. She knows, and that makes all the difference.

I have a much harder time with strangers, or for that matter, with acquaintances who know I lost Eliana, but who never said anything to me about it. It may be unfair, since I don’t know for sure what has happened in their lives, whether they have ever lost a child. Unfair or not, I have to fight the resentment I feel over the thought that they don’t know how lucky they are, and anger over all the times I have to sit and listen to them griping about inconveniences I would give anything to have back. I want to scream at them to shut up and go hug their babies, that they might not have them tomorrow. But I don’t.

Would I have listened if some crazy lady had started ranting to me about appreciating my kids while I still had the chance? Would I have understood if a newly bereaved mom had cried to me to not wait until it was too late? Was I only able to truly let in the horrible, unbelievable truth of child death after it had already happened to me? Was it just too terrible for my mind to accept until I no longer had a choice, because I was living it?

Does my anger and resentment toward the clueless really just stem from jealousy over their lack of knowledge of this agony I now call my life? That may be it. I’m jealous-of not knowing, of not feeling, and of not understanding the grief of losing a child. I don’t want to know what this is like. I want to be clueless too.

I wish I could go back. I’d give up my greater empathy, my fundraising, my collection drives, what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown, who I’ve helped and all the people whose lives have been touched by my baby’s story. I’d give it all up to turn back the clock. It was too high a price. Losing Eliana is not worth whatever I may have gained from the experience of going through it. Selfishly enough, it’s also not worth whatever others may have gained from it.

Nobody is given a choice, though, about whether they want to go through hard things. I would certainly never have chosen for my child to die, no matter what good may result from it. And I suppose if I had been given a choice, I probably would have thought that going through my friend’s pregnancy, with it’s eerie deja vu timing, was way too hard too. Better to put it off-too hard to deal with right now. But as soon as she told me, the whole thing just felt right-difficult, but right.

And now, I’m greedy for this baby, so anxious for him to be born. I want to hold him in my arms and be comforted once again by the thought that most babies are healthy, that most babies don’t die. I need to cry on his little head, both in sadness over Eliana being gone, and in amazement over the miracle of birth and life. He is both a reminder of the past, and a hope for the future. I need to love him, but from a distance. I need to test out the waters of opening up my heart again to a baby, to work through the fears and confusion and guilt of loving again after losing her. I’m grateful to my friend for loving me enough to put up with all the weird, convoluted emotions I already feel for her little boy.

The people on the grief support forums have a term for a child born after they’ve lost one-a rainbow baby. That’s what this unborn child is to me. He may not be my rainbow baby, but he is the rainbow baby. He’s the baby born after Eliana, the baby that represents promise-promise for his parents, promise for me, promise for the future, and promise for the world. There will always be pain, but there will also always be joy that follows it, just like the rainbow after the rain. Sometimes it appears right away, and sometimes we have to wait a while to see it. It has been a long, rough storm, and I’m looking forward to seeing a rainbow.

I should be asleep right now. We are supposed to be getting pictures taken in the morning. But as I was putting Elisabeth to bed, she started sobbing, choking out that she misses Eliana. This happens, not frequently, but enough that (sadly) I am used to it. Used to it or not, it breaks my heart all over again each time it happens.

She talked more tonight than usual. She kept asking why Eliana had to die, and said how sad she was that the doctors couldn’t fix her. She cried about not getting to hold her more, and that she didn’t get to come see her more often at the hospital. She was so upset that Eliana was taken so soon after I had her. Her face was lined with pain when she told me she didn’t get to kiss Eliana goodbye at the funeral. To experience my child dying is the worst thing I have ever gone through. Watching my other child try to deal with her death is the second worst thing.

Toward the end of our talk, Elisabeth brought up having our pictures taken tomorrow. I asked her if she would like to take Eliana’s teddy bear with us to be in the picture, since Eliana can’t be here with us. She said she wanted to. It was something I had been thinking about doing all along, but it’s nice that it can be something to comfort Elisabeth too, not just make me feel better.

To be honest, I was having serious issues with the idea of having family pictures taken again. I know, I know, you don’t have to say it.  It’s something we need to do.  We have to do it for the girls.  I’ve heard all the admonitions. Perhaps unless you have lost a child you cannot really understand my strong resistance to having our photos done again.

My baby is not here. Eliana will not be in these pictures. Eliana will never be in any of our family photos again.  It seems so wrong sometimes to go on doing the normal everyday things that she cannot be a part of any longer. These thoughts race through my head, round and round without resolution. Motherly guilt and feelings of obligation compete with the gut-level conviction that I don’t want them done again……ever.

I’ve heard more than one person say that they have tried to complete a puzzle, only to discover that there is one piece missing. Do you know what they did with the puzzle? Donated it? Kept it and ignored the missing piece? No. They threw the puzzle away. I think there is something about being human that makes us hate an otherwise beautiful image that has one little missing piece. Just like I, motherly guilt and all, am going to, on one level, hate the otherwise beautiful image that is going to have one piece missing. The face that won’t be there is just as loved, and just as important, as the faces that will be there.

Elisabeth was able to go to sleep after letting her sorrow out. I’m not so lucky. Here I sit, typing away instead of getting my beauty sleep. I may look a little tired in those pictures tomorrow. The smile might be on my lips but not reach my eyes. At least I’ll have a good reason. Before I even see the proofs, I’ll know that there will be something wrong with them. I’ll get some anyway, but I’ll know that behind the image is a family grieving the loss of their daughter, their sister, and their granddaughter. It will be a picture of a family that is incomplete.

And always will be.

I thought this was just beautiful. It was written by Linn Keller, who recently read it as a eulogy for someone close to him who died. It paints such a heart-tugging picture, doesn’t it? Sadly, children are often end up being the forgotten grievers.

I am a child.img_3558-21
I stand alone on the playground in the gathering dusk.
I look around and I am sad, for my friend has been called home by a Wise and Loving Parent.
I know this — I know the Parent is both wise and loving, and I know my friend is safe and warm at home — and yes, I know I will see my friend again, in the dawning of the new day.
But I am a child.
A child understands one thing:
NOW!!
A child does not understand later, or perhaps, or tomorrow; a child exists in the moment, and I am a child.
I will see my friend again in the dawning of the new day, but to a child, tomorrow is forever, an eternity.
When one of our own is called in by that Wise and Loving Parent, we look around the playground and cry for them, for there is still light enough to play.  There is still light, there is time, but my friend is gone, and I must wait.

People frequently say things to me, that perhaps they truly believe are going to comfort me, or perhaps they truly don’t think before they speak. Either way, I’d like to dispel another myth. Here it is. The fact that I have living children does not make up for the one that is dead. The fact that I can have another baby does not make up for the one that is dead. The only thing these statements say to me is that the people who speak them really have no clue what they are talking about.

When someone makes one of these remarks, my first thought is usually something along the lines of “Okay, then how about you stick one of your hands out here and we’ll chop it off. Sure, it will hurt a little at first, but you should be able to get over it quickly because you do still have another hand, right? As a matter of fact, after some arbitrary amount of time (determined by me, not you) I do not want to hear you ever mention that you are having a difficult time dealing with the loss of your hand. Don’t ask me for help. You just need to be strong. No complaining. That will just tell me that you are ungrateful for the hand you have left. And would you mind terribly keeping your stump hidden? Looking at it makes me uncomfortable. Hey, where are you going?”

Do you see my point? Nobody would use that kind of reasoning when talking about their hands. Why in the world would that kind of logic apply to one of my children? Bottom line-it doesn’t. It doesn’t apply at all. It is faulty reasoning.

I love my living children. If I am lucky enough to be able to have another baby, I will love that child too. I love them so much it hurts. I love them more than my life itself. But they do not make up, could not ever make up, for my Eliana not being here. They are not machine parts, easily interchangeable. They are people. They are my children. I cannot swap one for another, and in doing so, somehow patch the hole in my heart. The Eliana size hole is there to stay. It cannot be filled with anything, or anyone else. I could have twenty s41588cb110832_5more children, and I would still grieve for my precious baby.

I miss her, will always miss her, much as I suspect you would miss one of your hands (or one of your children) if you happened to lose one of them. That which is precious cannot be replaced. It would be foolish to try. And it is foolish to ask me to do so.

I wrote this poem on November 15th, the day Eliana would have turned nine months old. I scribbled most of it on a piece of scratch paper at the library while my living children played with the puzzles and books. As I sat there surrounded by the other children, some about the age Eliana should be, I just started thinking about all the things I miss. Not big dramatic things, but the everyday, simple things that mean the most when it’s too late and you can never do them again. I miss my baby so much. I’d give anything just to hold 254448-r1-01-23-2her little body against my chest again. Moms and Dads, love your babies. Love them every single day enough to last a lifetime, yours or theirs. You just never know when you might not get another chance to hug them and tell them you love them. Do it now. There are so many regrets. Don’t let this be one of them.

Try

By Deanna Parish


My arms cry

Long to hold you

Long to try

Desperate to do

What they should do

Asking why

You had to die.


My hands cry

Reach to protect you

Reach to try

Desperate to do

What they should do

Asking why

You had to die.


My fingers cry

Weep to touch you

Weep to try

Desperate to do

What they should do

Asking why

You had to die.


My breasts cry

Ache to nurse you

Ache to try

Desperate to do

What they should do

Asking why

You had to die.


My lips cry

Want to kiss you

Want to try

Desperate to do

What they should do

Asking why

You had to die.


My eyes cry

Burn to see you

Burn to try

Desperate to do

What they should do

Asking why

You had to die.

My ears cry

Strain to hear you

Strain to try

Desperate to do

What they should do

Asking why

You had to die.

My heart cries

Screams to love you

Screams to try

Desperate to do

What it should do

Asking why

You had to die


My soul cries

Searches to find you

Searches and cries

Desperate for you

Lost without you

Asking why

You had to die

My God cries

As He holds you

As He tries

To tell me to do

What I should do

Trust in Him through all the whys

And cling to those who didn’t die

I would like to respond to one of the comments posted recently, and address some of the concerns people seem to be having about me, my life, and my writing. Sorry for the length, and the bluntness, but I had to get this off my chest.

===========================================

As a matter of fact, I have experienced death, many times over. Of course I am aware that death has at some point touched most of us. All I can tell you is that losing a child goes so far above and beyond the grief I have felt over the other deaths, that I do not feel adequate to describe the pain. This blog is my attempt to do so.

Deaths I hear about on the news do in fact cause me much concern. So much so that I have a difficult time watching it without crying. But there is a limit to how much a person can do from afar. With information being shared globally now, I think most of us have had to put up a wall of sorts. To allow ourselves to feel this depth of grief for every death we hear about would make us want to curl up and die too, not motivate us to fight for something better.

I understand that many people don’t care about lives not affecting their own, but I am not one of those people. I tend to care too much, to the point that I have to be careful not to overextend myself helping others to the detriment of my own family. I realize many people reading this don’t know me personally, but that should be even more reason to be cautious not to categorize me erroneously.

Most people avoid death. That is part of being human. People who wish death for themselves or others and act on that wish are considered mentally ill, and we try to help them. A deep respect for life naturally leads to an avoidance of death. Sometimes it’s a fine line between when to keep fighting and when to let go. Of course death is a part of life, but no parent welcomes the death of their child. We can speak in grandiose terms about accepting death, but it is much easier to accept for a person who has lived a long and full life, than for a child just barely starting theirs.

Grief is hard, painful, sometimes debilitating work. It takes time. It takes energy. This blog is part of my grief work. My writing is what accepting life and death looks like. It is making room for all the pain, so that it doesn’t crowd out the other things in my life. I know many people get concerned about me when I write the way I do. But guess what? This is reality. I do not write about the good stuff, because I don’t need an outlet for positive feelings. This is a journey of grief, remember? Not the journey of my whole life, just this aspect of it.

I am not going to sugar-coat what I am going through to make other people more comfortable. This is what losing a child feels like. This is what it does to a life. This is how horrible and agonizing it is to experience it. I am much more concerned about the people who bury all their feelings down inside and don’t ever let them out, than I am about myself. The feelings are there no matter what. Healthy behavior is to acknowledge them, experience them for what they are, let them run their course, and they will mellow on their own. Grief left unexpressed, like pressure inside a bottle, will explode unexpectedly if not relieved from time to time.

I know many, many people who have lost children. I can assure you that I am not grieving any harder, or longer, or deeper than any of them. There are people years, or even decades, into their grief that are still expressing the same feelings that I am. We will not ever be normal again. This is the new us. You can get used to it, or you may choose to step away. We do not have the luxury of that choice. We cannot choose to step away from our pain. It is our new adornment, a weight hanging around our necks. It is permanent. We will not ever “get over it.” We will not ever “snap out of it.” We will not ever be the people we were before. And we will not ever, ever stop grieving for our children. This is who we are now, take it or leave it.

Some of us are not strong enough to stand up to the people telling us things “for our own good” and “because they care.” Some of us don’t have the energy or courage to respond to the hurtful, thoughtless comments that people make. Some of us try not to make waves by objecting to the rude, insensitive behavior displayed by people who are supposed to love us, or by people who don’t even know us. So I will do this not only for me, but for everyone I know who got pulled kicking and screaming down this road that is so scary the average person won’t even think about the possibility of having to travel it. We walk this road every day. We are bloody, and bruised, and broken, and yet we have to keep walking, on and on, without our children.

I will not be silent. I will not keep my grief contained in the privacy of my home. I will not pretend I’m fine when I’m not. I will not hide away like some sort of monster, only allowed back out when I can appear normal again. I am going to speak up, so that the next time you run into someone going through this, or it happens to your friend, or maybe you lose your own child, you will know that this is what is normal. This is what grief looks like, and it’s ugly. But we can’t go around it. We can only go through it, step by aching step.

If you want to look, and listen, and learn, then I welcome you to keep reading, hard as it may be. If you don’t, you are welcome to stick your head back in the sand. But our pain is our reality, whether you choose to accept it, or look the other way. If you can’t handle walking next to us on this dark road we are on, and choose not to, we understand. We would have chosen a different road too, if we had been given a choice.

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