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.


The Mail

Keeping this blog has been such an emotional release for me. Every time I go to write something I usually have stewed on it for awhile. The challenge with this stewing method is that grief is a stew of a million ingredients, and pin pointing the one I want to write on is often overwhelming. As I am sitting here on this gray day I’m not even sure of what I want to write about. My love for Ella has once again brought me here to share. Missing her has compelled me to share my heart, and to continue to be vulnerable. I could be unloading my dishwasher, doing chores, working on my music, but I want to be here. Maybe this process of writing my feelings makes me feel closer to her. It reminds me of how much I love and miss her. Writing and sharing with the world at large is saying her life still matters very much to me. She is my beautiful baby girl. 

If things had ended differently I would be posting pictures no doubt, and archiving and wondering at her little life. I don’t see a reason to not carry on with her in my heart and life in any way that  I can. 

Today I got a fetal heart rate monitor in the mail. Jason and I are expecting again and tomorrow we will be 19 weeks. I will talk about the beginning of this pregnancy in a later post–for now I want to focus on the last few weeks and the next three. I have been swimming in an ocean of emotions. Waves of grief, waves of joy, waves of sorrow, waves of longing, tidal waves of fear. Taking the little doppler out of the box and practicing finding the babies heartbeat did bring a certain sense of relief once I felt it, and I am hoping that this little device will offset my panic attacks in between fetal movement. 

The dread that has been plaguing me these last few weeks is unlike anything I have ever experienced. The thought enters my mind “what if the baby has died,” and sure enough the warm burning all encompassing poison of my reality and experiences proves it true. There is almost no room for hope when you are in the depths of dread. There is no way to see around it. It’s a wall impossible to climb. It shuts out faith. It shuts out light, and it is one of the loneliest places to be on earth.

Leading up to the last few weeks the pregnancy has been in the back of my mind. I don’t plan on buying things, I don’t have a pregnancy plan, there are no showers planned, and I’ve been taking it one day at a time. It was possible for me to do this because it was almost like the reality of this new baby hadn’t set in yet. That is a luxury as well as a curse that I no longer have the privilege of controlling. This precious baby is moving everyday, and the movements are unmistakable. The little kicks are so special to me. But they remind me of what it feels like to not feel anything. Ella died around 22 weeks, and I remember for the two days leading up to my appointment I was incredibly paranoid. I honestly had no idea what stillbirth was and I thought there was no way that she had died…but I knew she wasn’t there. I NEVER want to feel that again. 

The only thing that is different between that time and this time is that I now know what could lay before me. Before I was naive, and I believed in miracles to a certain extent, maybe I believed I was immune, and invincible. Now I know how weak I am. Now I know how much losing a child hurts. Now I know what it feels like to deliver a stillborn baby. Now I know what it looks like to see my husband pass out from grief. Now I know that an empty room is such a painful reminder. Now I know how much love hurts. 

It’s inevitable for me to think like this when Ella was my only child. I’ve never had a baby alive in my arms. I’ve never had to worry about nursing or diaper bags. Instead I made funeral plans, and look at a tiny ribbon that was on her head after she was born–the only tangible thing I have of her is a little spot on the ribbon where her skin touched. 

There has been an unspoken count down in my head leading up to 22 weeks. I know that anything could happen after that, and I will just have to continue to live one day at a time. But until then, I am just waiting, holding my breath, trying to love and cherish every minute. That’s all we can do anyway.

Well I guess these are the words that have chosen to come out, and these are the words and thoughts at the top of my heart.