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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I don’t play that song anymore…

The other day I was thinking about Ella, and the song Tears in Heaven came to mind. I remembered that is was about Eric Claptons son, but I couldn’t remember exactly what had happened and where the song came from. My curiosity led me to his wiki page, and I read the tragic story of a sweet little boy gone too soon. At the end of my reading I came across a quote from Clapton–and his explanation for not playing that song anymore. He said too much time had past and he didn’t feel he could convey the song in the same spirit in which he wrote it. He was devastated back then, and he wasn’t so much now. Loss of a child thirty years later…He also said he didn’t want to go back to that place.

I’ve thought about this a lot recently. The two songs I’ve written about Ella are now played far and few between. They bring me back to a very dark and sad place, a place that I don’t really have the luxury of living in now that I have another child to care for. The other night I got a request to play climbing clouds, and I actually turned it down, I said it was too sad and I didn’t want to go there. Its very strange to me that we can choose to “go there” when it comes to grief. The mind can lock things away and put walls up around certain memories and thoughts that are too painful to feel constantly. My grief for Ella is always there, but I do not always choose to dwell on it.

Recently I had a heart-to-heart with a very close family member, during which she told me that she was confused by my appearance of being ok, and this blog where I continually confess I am not. She didn’t understand how I could feel both. How I can function and smile, and be in so much pain underneath the surface. I am a complete paradox. If you have not experienced a life-shattering death…I can understand your confusion. To put things bluntly, sometimes I don’t want to think of my daughter and be sad. Sometimes I don’t want to think about what happened at all….but I do think about it all the time. I am resentful of my grief at times, while at the same time thankful for the opportunity to love. What I am struggling with is the definitions. I don’t want my daughter to always make me cry. I don’t want her name to illicit tears of sorrow and remorse. I don’t want to think about her helpless precious body….

I wish I had funny stories about her. I wish I could say “remember how she always used to do this…” I wish that there were other ways of feeling close to her. That is what I am struggling with currently. How do I love her and honor her and think about her and smile? I want to. There was a time that I would’ve slapped myself silly for thinking such a thing…but I am realizing that I don’t want Ellas life to just be something sad that happened in my past. How do I carry her on with me in life? Not only death…

Even when I smile, even when I laugh, even when I see pink tutus and hear a little girls voice speak momma–there is a current of unfulfilled desire. Sometimes I can handle it, other times I can’t. But she is always here with me in my heart. This is new territory for me…and it’s scary. It’s acceptance in a lot of ways. It’s faith. Faith that this is not the end of the story. I haven’t been ready for that faith or perspective until now. I am desperate for it. I will never understand why she is not here, but I am thankful that she wasn’t taken from me in a brutal way. Ellas gift to me has always been compassion…I know there are FAR worse ways to lose a child.

My words aren’t exactly coherent or graceful now, but I feel the need to begin to unpack some of these realizations, and fears. Not a lot of time has passed, not even two years since her death. But so much has changed. Our family has changed. Seasons have changed, and I have changed. Ever since her death I’ve not only mourned for her, but for myself. I mourn for the person I used to be. The woman who didn’t lay in bed every night playing out every scenario you can fathom of all the horrible things that could happen. I miss the old me so much. I miss my carefree spirit. I miss how oblivious I was. I miss not worrying. I miss being able to live in the moment. Mentally I haven’t occupied a single moment in the present…I’m bound to look behind and wonder why, and bound to look ahead in fear. I can’t go on like this, missing out on the joys of the simple things in life that make it worthwhile. I see this about me, but I don’t know how to change. I just know that I need to. Because time is flying….and I don’t want to look back and realize that I spent my whole life living in my past, and worrying about my future.

So I’m navigating. Learning to be grateful. Learning that love is always constant, but does not always surface in the same ways. I am realizing how very human I am, and how my need for a great big God is the all encompassing desire of my heart.

I am missing you always Ella, and I am learning to celebrate your life in joy and seasons. I still miss you terribly. You are the tear and sigh behind every smile, but I want you to be the smile behind every tear and sigh…You are both my sweet darling daughter. I love you, and I am learning that I don’t need to prove that anymore…

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The times that mattered the most…

For all of my grief journey I have been carried by love. God has sent angels here on earth to comfort us (Jason and I) as we mourn the loss of our firstborn Ella. We have received this love and comfort like beggars starved for bread. It was and is essential to us, like the air that we breath. This love, understanding, and compassion has fueled our empty bodies and sown up our broken bones so we can go on living, and running our race. There have been countless times when I failed to realize, either blinded by my own grief, or blinded by my own neglect of who was truly there all along. Past blogs have been about the incredible hurt, rejection and disappointment I felt from the few who could not give me all that I asked for. Why did I focus on them? Why could I not see the MANY people who grieved with me, and listened to me, and helped me along? For whatever reason, my perspective has shifted and I feel morose for all the time I spent on being disappointed in the few people who could not understand my pain. My past perspective was most likely inevitable…but I  share this with you because maybe for you it doesn’t have to be. When you are disappointed and hurt by someones inability to love you in the way that you need, focus on the people who do get you, and Do love you. I failed to do this fully until now. It is a perspective that time has given me.

I have compiled a list of people, too many to count, and pictures of the times and instances that mattered the most to me. These actions, words, and gifts meant literally the WORLD to me. It would be a fallacy for me to walk on and never acknowledge the actions and love that YOU have all bestowed upon a broken couple. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for not fearing to feel your own heart break. Your compassion is courageous.

The Times That Mattered The Most

-when you sent me two ornaments, one of a mom holding a girl for Ella, and the other of a mom holding a boy for Beck
-when you sent me flowers every month in honor of Ella’s memory
-when you bought me a jar of 1,000 white buttons just like the song I wrote
-when you made a daisy flower crown in honor of your niece, and when you wear it on days you especially miss her
-when you randomly buy me white roses from the grocery store when you can tell I’m having a hard day
-when you told me about your miscarried sibling and how you long for the day to meet them
-when you text me ever so often and simply ask how I am doing, for real
-when you made my songs about suffering and loss so beautiful-you moved my soul
-when you call my mom and ask her how she is doing
-when you called me and left many messages of encouragement…you never spared me your own tears which are so precious to me
-when you continually listen to me pour out my heart and you never judge me
-when you told me you understand my sadness better now because of your healthy children
-when you left flowers at her grave
-when you cried over her grave
-when you wrote a beautifully vulnerable email to my husband sharing with him your life’s greatest loss
-when you made a dozen clouds and gave them to me…full of inspiration and love
-when you went out of your way to tell me on your wedding day that you missed her too, and when you placed a rose on your table just for her
-when you sent me flowers on her angelversary, and how you always tell me it’s ok to feel whatever I am feeling
-when you let me dump all of my ugly thoughts and feelings on you time and time again over the phone
-when you texted me after you had your little girl, and you had the sensitivity to ask me how I was doing
-when you showed me the bracelet you made and wore with Ella’s name on it
-when you helped heal my body and spirit with your guidance through yoga
-when you reached out to Jason and I and let us stay in your home, and blessed us with many gifts…a keurig and some amazing books about still birth to name a few
-when you told me I was brave
-when you shared with me your wisdom on life, grief and eternity
-when you took my story and made it into the most beautiful art
-when you put yourself in my shoes and envisioned exactly what I felt when I wrote my song kerosene
-when you sent me such a powerful and personal painting inspired by my song and by Ella
-when you, so many of you share your precious babies brief lives with me
-when you care about my grief amidst your own for your teenage daughter gone way too soon
-when you kept reaching out to a stranger via fb, then eventually meeting me and listening to my heartache
-when you always curl up on my lap when I am feeling completely devastated
-when you buy me little angels from the thrift store, they are Ella’s angels
-when you shared your poem of your own despair and questions regarding Ella’s death
-when you carry our sadness despite your own depression, mental illness, and homelessness
-when you made me a photo album of pictures of when I was pregnant with Ella
-when you send little gifts and tokens that remind you of Ella
-when you had custom made decorations with lyrics from climbing clouds on them
-when you two helped me make my memory wall with Ella’s clothes and blankets
-when you sent me a collection of bible verses about grief that I look at every day
-when you cried the tears that I couldn’t cry when I was in shock
-when you mention her name at every family gathering

-when you made a custom piece of art for Beck’ room and included a white rose for Ella

-when you choreographed a beautiful dance to climbing clouds in honor of my family and Ella

-when you made dozens of precious clouds for my album cover and let me keep them all-each one reminds me of her, you gave me a precious symbol I will treasure my whole life

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6

Numb

Dear Ella,

I don’t know if I have the courage to be honest right now. In fact, I know I don’t. I am consciously blocking thoughts of you out of my mind…because I fear my worst fear happening all over again. Does this make me untrue?I feel so cheated, and ill-equipped to cope with the life I have been given. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point I hit, or thought I hit “pause” on my grief button. I entered a strange survival mode. Survival mode is a lot like living like a robot. I wake up each day and force a lonely emptiness on my mind, as I will my consciousness to a barren and wasted mind-scape of nothingness. The first thing I see everyday is your cloud hanging above my bed, then I see the dress you never wore, and the quilt that never kept you warm. I see, but the eyes of my heart are dead and unregistering as I begin to will the pain, acceptance and even reality away. I build my wall of resistance and I try to defy my grief by convincing myself it is better to feel nothing. Numb. I’ve become numb after growing so weary of feeling every little thing so intensely. The pain of feeling constantly judged, the pain of feeling like I’m never enough, the pain of my pain going unrecognized, validated or even spoken of. I have grown so tired of the pain of not having my should be almost one year old baby girl here with me. Death denies me my motherly right everyday, would you fault me for wanting to deny it back? My pain and tears have been replaced with numbness and fear. My mind oscillating between the two as I try so very hard to feign indifference. I don’t know how to function when my only frame of reference for being a mother is birthing and burying a dead baby.

And I think to myself, Ella…I wish I could have heard you cry. But then I realize how selfish that is, and that your first breaths were not cries–in fact I’m sure you opened your mouth and either a song came out, or a laugh. Not here though. Why is it that the thing we do after we draw our first breaths is to cry? It seems sometimes that there is nothing more to life than that first cry. These walls and this “get through the day” mentality will all come tumbling down in a matter of time…with the birth of your brother. I see the tidal wave of hope and also of renewed despair and grief. A wave that will haunt me for all that we’ve lost again..but that will also soothe with new life. I hate living in this almost realized paradox of life and death. Soon the floodgates will open, and my heart will be open again to feel the intense love for another one of my children. I know I cannot keep it out, and I do not wish to–but for now it’s all damned up. I am broken. I am surviving. I have lost track of how many times I have spoken to the silence, and to your dad “I just want both of them.” I want to have my little Ella, and I want my little prince. I miss you Ella…and I know I am going to miss you in new ways that I didn’t think were possible when Beck is finally here. I am so scared to miss you more…but I want to. I am afraid I will not be able to stand what is coming…so for now I wait and watch fearfully and numbly…I know that this will all change as the new waves of joy and grief are coming. 

 

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