1

I Feel Your Pain

I am sharing this post as part of a blog series I guest write for– an organization called STONES. I was asked to share about my journey through grief. In case you don’t know what a STONE is, I am going to give you a quick recap.  A
stone is a physical representation of hurtful words, self-defeating mindsets, insecurities
and personal tragedies. We all have STONES, although we do not get to choose which
ones life throws at us–like in the case of personal tragedies.

Until two and half years ago I didn’t have many stones in my life. I was a pretty confident person who felt like she could do anything. I didn’t really struggle with poor self-image, anxiety, or debilitating fear. That all changed after a world-tilting loss. My husband and I lost our firstborn daughter unexpectedly in utero. One day she was alive, the next day she was gone. I will never forget the moment our Doctor told us there was no heartbeat. My heart literally stopped, and the wave of emotions hit my husband so hard he almost threw up. That’s the raw stuff of life, and our hearts were splintered into a million pieces.

Maybe you are like me and you must live with a new reality; you carry the stone of grief
and like me you will never forget when your world was shattered.

At first I was too afraid to talk about this Stone, because grief often makes me feel alone. I often buy the lie that no one else has deep pain from personal tragedy or that I
shouldn’t make people sad—because that’s all I’d be doing by being real. But then as I
was lying in bed thinking about what I wanted to say to YOU, my little sisters, I thought
of the few that were BRAVE enough to share with me their own personal tragedies,

stories of deep loss. Some of you lost a friend to suicide, some of you lost siblings to accidents, even murder. I listened as you broke open your hearts and shared with me the most precious parts of you. You shared the love you had for your friends, siblings, parents. That courage will never get old to me, and because of your pain I feel I must remind you, you are not alone.

Thank you brave, young woman for speaking out about the pain that you feel. I know
how hard it is to be perceived as a “downer.” I know how out of control you feel, and
maybe you even unfairly blame yourself for this tragedy. Maybe you have picked up
self-harming habits because your pain is so great and you have NO IDEA how to handle it. Your stone of grief is a very HEAVY and COMPLICATED one. You carry it day and night, and until you find someone trustworthy and compassionate enough to help bear the load, most of the time you are alone.

I will share with you how my stone of grief had so many layers, and still does. Before life threw this Stone at me I never had anxiety or near panic attacks. But now this has been my daily struggle to overcome. The anxiety usually comes from feelings of lack of
control and incredible fear that I will lose someone else close to me in a horrible way.
This is so “normal” for those of us that carry this stone. Another way this stone has
really crushed me is my self-image and security. All of the sudden I found myself so
profoundly uncomfortable in my own skin. I felt like a failure to some degree, and the
weakness that I couldn’t help exude seemed to scare people away. I began to shut
down and go inward in social settings. I just wanted to disappear. But I didn’t
disappear…Thank God!

Sadly, I’m not here to tell you that you can leave your stone of grief and just walk away.
No, some stones, believe it or not, stay with us our whole lives—and this is one of them. I am here to share with you how I have handled this stone, and for those of you who haven’t had a personal tragedy I can hopefully help you help a friend in need of a loving ear.

Because this stone is so foreign and new, I often times wish there was some kind of
guidebook for how to handle the stone of grief. I don’t have a book recommendation, but I can offer some advice from my experience. The first advice I would give would be to surround yourself with people who love and care about you. This may sound silly, but
it’s really quality over quantity. Before my daughter died I had many social type friends,
but after she died, most casual friends found it very difficult to handle my grief. They
didn’t say anything, and if you’ve lost someone you know that the worst thing someone
can say is…NOTHING. So I lost a lot of friends, but the ones that I kept were people
that were not afraid of my grief. Sometimes you may feel that people are afraid of
“catching” your stone. They may avoid you, talk about you behind your back, or make
you feel awkward. Maybe they even make you feel like it is your fault. It’s not, and you
owe it to yourself to gently remove these people from your inner circle. Your heart has
been broken and you need to protect it from people who are truly too selfish or oblivious to care.

The second thing I want you to know is, it’s not your fault and whatever you are feeling
is ok. I spent so much time beating myself up over feeling certain emotions. Emotions I
had NO control over. If I was happy, I would beat myself up that I wasn’t sad enough. If I was sad, I would beat myself up over not being happy. You must learn to be patient with yourself and allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling.

The reason that I can still get out of bed in the morning after my daughter died is
because I FEEL and FELT it all. I didn’t bottle it up, hide it, or avoid my stone. I didn’t try
to bury it. Instead I used all my pain and wrote songs, and pages and pages of music
about my daughter and the anger and sorrow I felt over losing her. These songs turned
into music videos of my story—and now they are being watched all over the world by
other parents who have lost children. That is the power of sharing your grief.

Maybe it doesn’t look like that for you. Maybe instead it’s going to a grief support group
and finding out you are not as alone as you feel. Maybe it’s following a blog of someone
else who has experienced a similar tragedy. Maybe you channel your pain into
something beautiful, like starting a 5k in honor of the one that died or writing a poem or
painting a picture.

There are still days when I wake up very sad and even depressed that she is not here,
and nothing will be able to fix that feeling. I just have to feel it, because I loved her
deeply and I still do. I have learned to live with this stone—sometimes it feels like a
boulder, other times like a tiny pebble.

Time does not heal all wounds. But time does change them. They get more bearable in
time. This does not mean they go away or the pain is not as deep. It’s just different.

If you carry this stone of grief like me, know you are not as alone as you feel. You
cannot see what personal tragedies people have gone through by looking at them—but
more often than not, you may find that your stone of grief will be a LIFELONG bridge,
connecting your broken heart to another broken heart.

I know mine has.

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5

“I wish it’d been easier, instead of any longer”–Patty Griffin

Well it’s been exactly a month since Ella’s first birthday. It’s taken me roughly 30 days to muster up some more courage, and take inventory on this heart and mind of mine. Initially I wanted my next post to be about Ella’s birthday, and all of the things we did to honor her. But I’m not sure I want to share that yet…it was special, and sacred..and not everything needs to be catalogued and recorded on the web. Some things can just exist in the hard drive of our hearts, and be encoded in the wire frames of our souls. I’m not a very disciplined person. I have many thoughts in a day, song ideas, and poems that I never write down. I think them, and for some odd reason that is enough for me. The aftermath of this “thinking only process” for an artist is usually catastrophic–and induces a chaos of thought that must be spilled out one idea, poem, lyric, and word at a time. I am ready to draw out the blood again in this wound. I am coming here to express the infection, the pain, the pressure…medically and metaphorically I am ready to relieve the pressure. It has built up again. 

I’ve had a lot of thoughts as the seasons have begun to change again. I wake up, look out my window…and think about how much I hate change. I hate that my grief is changing. I hate that it is inconsistent, and unpredictable. Change evokes a scene in my mind, where I am riding in the back of a flatbed truck, driving away from Ella. I strain to keep my eyes on her, and slowly she becomes indiscernible. The landscape begins to change, and I can only see a speck of where she stood. Do I even see her anymore? This process is hard to articulate for me. Fear of coming across “healed” or “better” frightens me to the core. Not that those aren’t good things to be, but I simply do not wish to be those things. I do not wish to forget. I do not wish my memories to fade. I do not wish for time to keep spinning on. My mind and heart are resentful of time. For a person to die as a baby, is for them to remain in that pure, unaltered innocent state for all of time. But babies are supposed to grow, and a year and a month are supposed to produce tangible, physical change. The paradox of time passing, but Ella staying the same to me–a hope, a dream, an un-song song is wearing me completely thin as of late. My grief like the seasons is changing, and even I am incapable of controlling it. That is what is so frustrating to me. I want to be able to control my own grief, and have it manifest in ways that I see fit, or ways that I want to feel. Acceptance is part of grief, and I feel it go down with a bitter burn with every swallow of a new day. Acceptance is hell for me right now. I can’t deny what has happened, I cannot change it, and I cannot go back. It’s a very bitter, lonely, quiet place to sit. Acceptance comes without tears lately, and this burns the most. Yearning to weep for myself, and for the lovely little girl I will never get to hold here–but I must accept, and the tears do not flow as they once did. I know I will cry again for her, I can even cry now–as I am expressing a great many fears, and sorrows…but I wish to ache for her at all times. I do in some regards, but like I said..it is changing. Unless you have walked through this journey of loss and grief, my statements may not make a lot of sense. The griever knows that time and change are a bittersweet friend that at one moment we embrace, and the next we wish to divorce. I am incredibly uncomfortable in this state of change, with nothing left but acceptance. 

 

Onto another thought, another wound. In the past few weeks I have thought to myself many times “Why did things happen in the way that they did?” Not the fact that Ella died, but the fact that she died right after my first niece was born healthy and alive? Why did both babies have to be born roughly within a week of each other? Why did they have to both be girls? I feel like things like that are in God’s control, so why did He not intervene? This month has been particularly hard to come to terms with because I now also have a newborn nephew from the same in-laws. After we got news of his birth, a wave of incredibly anxiety and certainty that this baby that I am carrying now will also die overwhelmed me. Honestly, I did not expect that. I did not even consider the fact that at this time last year, they had their baby and then a week later my baby died. One year later, they have another baby..and of course my psyche is replaying everything over again. I wish I could’ve seen that freight train coming, but I didn’t. If I had, I maybe would’ve been kinder on myself..like I am learning to be. The circumstances are unbelievable. They have a girl, we have a girl. They have a boy, we are pregnant with a boy. The question of why our circumstances have to be so mirrored is one that really perplexes me. They represent everything I so desperately want, but still do not have yet. I still feel like a loser. I still feel empty-handed. I still go to sleep with an empty nursery. I still must wait for what seems like an eternity–to have what my heart so desires. I know that some people probably assume that a new baby will somehow replace the one that died, this is not true. I still wrestle with anxiety, and pain everyday, and I have for every day of this pregnancy. Pregnancy has been hard on me. I have not endured knowing or clinging to a guarantee of a happy ending. No one on this earth or even in Heaven can promise me that at the end of it all, on December 25th I will bring home a healthy and alive son. Of course I hope, as much as I can–but I do not expect. I feel resentful at times when I feel that others expect and want me to abandon all caution, I feel it really discounts what I’ve been through. The need I feel to be understood, and known is great. I want my family to understand that while I feel happy for them, and I am so thankful at the healthy birth of their son, my nephew, and their grandson–the burden is heavier for me. I am unable to hold him, or see him, or to celebrate in the way that they want me to because of my fear, my loss, and my reality. I am unable to hold another infant, until I hold my own. The pain, and fear of losing another child is extremely great…and I feel my heart could not bear to witness another joyous completion until I am satisfied with my own. It is simply too much for me. If you are having a hard time understanding, just imagine that every breath you take you hold it in, for as long as you can–you are suffocating with expectation, hope, and fear. You cannot breath, and have not been able to take a breath for a very long time. When I can breath, I will maybe be able to give you what you want…or maybe I never will. The take home thought is, it’s not personal. I never want anyone in my family to make my grief into a weapon, or take it personally. It’s ok to not understand, but it’s not ok to make me feel guilty, ashamed, or isolated because I cannot respond in the way you want me to. As I continue to struggle with the many factors of the past year that made my grief and loss of Ella that much more difficult and painful to bear I dwell on the truth that God is a sovereign God. But why did He not make things easier for me? There is a song that I have been listening to on repeat that speaks right to my heart on a million levels, by Patty Griffin. The line that sums up my thoughts on the agonizing question in my mind is “I wish it’d been easier, instead of any longer.”