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.


“Why Don’t They Care?”

I woke up this morning with a throbbing sliver in my mind. A little thought that had crossed my mind and kind of embedded there–causing some minor swelling, irritation, and hurt. Grief makes us more sensitive…most of the time I am afraid to admit to this. The vein of loss and grief that runs through my whole body is covered by a very thin piece of skin–rubbed the wrong way, or slightly knicked and  everything goes bloody and wrong.

Emotions, and tears aren’t as on the surface as they were five months ago, now they dwell much deeper. But it really doesn’t take much to bring out the sensitivity and pain. The thought that I had at 6 AM this morning which kept me up was “Why don’t they care?”

A few months ago I made some really great decisions for myself–I got off of facebook and quit following anyone on Instagram who was a new parent. This decision came after about three failed attempts to get back online and cope with what I saw. Every time I would log back on my grief would make the sweet images of babies feet and happy mothers a tidal wave of unbearable sorrow. I didn’t need that. I made the decision and I feel like it has made me more free to grieve on my own terms. It’s important that we as loss moms maintain some kind of control no matter how small.

Well after doing this for my own sanity I couldn’t help but notice that some people quit following me back. They were no longer commenting on my pictures, videos, or even my blog here. This sounds borderline narcissistic to me when I read it back, but I think the root of this hurt is the fact that I am so sensitive right now and have been since Ella died. My expectations for others probably are too high, but once again the people I am talking about were close to me. That’s why it hurts, because I notice their absence. I hear their silence loud and clear. Silence is the worst thing for a grieving mother to hear. So the thought occurred to me–what would cause people I love and care about to quit following my life and quit caring? Did they really think that I don’t care about them and they are just cutting me out? Did they lack the ability to comprehend why I would remove their feed from my life? Was it really impossible for them to imagine how painful dozens and dozens of pictures of their new family would be for me? I am left guessing that they didn’t understand anything, and that has to be ok with me.

My struggle to remain authentic but pure of heart has been one of the most agonizing trials and fires I’ve ever been through. My heavenly Father has tenderly reminded me time and time again to apply His grace to every situation that stings, and that healing balm of grace will make all wrongs right. It’s so hard to walk this out, and I fail miserably. But I want to love so unselfishly. I want to assume the best. I want to keep no record of wrongs–because I see this as the only right, true, and good way to live. The latter–being bitter, unforgiving and justified is a lonely, cold place to be.

So where do I go from here? How do I let go of the hurt of people acting like she was never here, and I have a “problem.” How do I overlook no calls, cards, or texts on Mothers day. How do I forgive silence? How do I assume the best when it so blatantly feels like the worst wrong that has ever been done to me? I honestly don’t know. A miracle I suppose. Grace is a miracle no matter how we look at it–it’s undeserved favor, love, and forgiveness. I do know that past hurts I have written about on here have been removed–and I feel free of them. I can only hope and walk towards the goal of freedom from judgement and bitterness. It’s ok for me to be hurt ,disappointed, disillusioned and let down–but the fork in the road is always bitterness or grace. I am hurt at their silence and reluctance to say her name. I am hurt that I no longer receive any texts, calls, or comments acknowledging my grief–and their own. In my eyes they lost too, but it feels like her life was so insignificant to them. That’s what hurts the most. Right before I fell back asleep I thought to myself–maybe they would miss my sweet Ella more if I wasn’t her mother.

This post has reminded me to check in on those I’ve been silent with. If you have not experienced a loss their are practical ways of being there and being supportive. Little notes checking in, a meal, an invitation to open up, a sweet text message that says “I’m thinking of you today,” or “I miss her too.” Cookies, flowers, cookbooks, and cheese are always nice too :)! I have a wonderful family member who sends me care packages of goodies almost every week. I realize not everyone can do this, but it is such a healing ministry for me–to know she cares. She doesn’t have to say a lot, but her actions exude love and compassion.

Well thats enough processing for now. I am going to try and live my day in the most free way I can. I miss my daughter–and her life has changed me. She has added so much more depth and compassion to my soul. This is an eternal gift that I can take with me across the threshold of life and death. She has been a part of my refining.