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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.

Video
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24

Tomorrow we are at 24 weeks. I have been avoiding my blog the last few weeks like the plague. Afraid I’ll go on another rant, or find myself sobbing at the computer screen as I try to figure out how I feel. In fact, I’ve been avoiding a lot of things in my life lately. Avoiding awkward situations that I simply don’t feel capable of handling. Avoiding writing my feelings. Avoiding talking about them. Avoiding looking at little girls. Avoiding dreaming about the good things that can come from this new baby. Avoiding listening to the songs I have written about Ella. Avoiding watching the music video that is plainly our life. Avoiding her empty room. Avoiding opening up these very present and real wounds again. I’m sure it’s normal. All I can say is that I’m tired of being broken. Tired of being afraid. So damn tired of crying and missing Ella so bad it hurts every fiber of my being. I am avoiding myself…

So much of this pain is psychological…my last post was about the doppler. Well I have only used it a handful of times. This might be surprising but I find that since I have it, I don’t need it. When I have a moment of dread and panic I simply wait. I don’t do anything really. Just sit and breathe with my hands on my belly and wait. Baby always complies..usually within minutes. I feel bad sometimes for putting so much pressure on Him. I think that this whole charade is something about the control. If I at least have the illusion of control then I don’t have to use it.

Anyway…back to the avoiding. From 19 weeks to about 22 may have been the darkest time for me. I felt like I was “relapsing” which sounds ridiculous because I definitely should know by now that grief comes in waves, and you just keep going around and around. But it surprised me. The anxiety came back…and the sorrow…the sorrow so heavy I felt like she had been ripped from me yesterday. I think grief is so odd and beautiful.

Within that time period I also released my first single off of my new EP called Climbing Clouds. The single was released with a video that is entirely and incredibly autobiographical. Releasing that into the world so to speak was incredibly freeing, terrifying, healing, disappointing, and a myriad of other emotions. To say that things have been a bit tense with exposing myself in this way is a huge understatement. The need to retreat and hideaway has been the primal instinct ruling most of my avoidances. In between releasing the video I have also been touring a bit more, and with that–playing my songs for the public about Ella. Make no mistake, being an artist–someone who writes and communicates to connect is exhausting. I feel so burnt out and tired of being up front. I feel like I am exposed, needy, weak, naked, broken, and that I must continue to be these things in front of everyone regardless if I feel like it. This is my life. To share songs, and my life with others who are lost and hurting. Lately though, I really wish it wasn’t. The bottom line is I’m tired of being vulnerable. It’s getting harder. I am tired of being so blatantly honest to the many, many people who ask me if this is my first child. I’m tired of having bad days. I’m tired of sharing my story and I don’t know why. Other than the fact that being vulnerable is scary. Sometimes vulnerability and honesty are met with awkwardness and rejection. That’s a really hard pill to swallow when all I really need is love and acceptance. I know that by putting this all out now, at midnight no less–I am uncorking myself again. Opening up again. Releasing. Unclogging. Speaking honestly…but even as I type this I don’t want to go there.

Every morning for the past few weeks when I wake up and go to the bathroom I look across the hall and see Ella’s room..with the door wide open. Jason keeps opening the door every day…and every day I close it. It’s actually physically hard to close–the door gets caught on the carpet every time, but I close it every day nonetheless. I don’t want to look in that empty space. I don’t want to look my loss in the face. I don’t want to think about what could have been. And I don’t. I angrily close the door. I know that this action is a small manifestation on what is happening in my mind and heart internally. I don’t know what to do about it at the present. I don’t feel like sharing will make it better…but I guess it can’t make it any worse. My mom came over today and asked me how I was doing, and I just brushed her off and said I was fine. I might have been fine, but I don’t really know honestly how I am because like I said..I am avoiding myself. You know how I avoid myself? Distraction and busyness. I make sure there is never a moment I am alone with my thoughts and feelings. There is always constant noise, constant stimulation, constant fixation. Online shopping…work….pinterest…emails..facebook…youtube…cooking shows. It all leaves me feeling terribly empty and dissatisfied. Come to think of it, I’m avoiding God too. I don’t really want to think about Him at all. I don’t want to talk to Him, and I don’t want to tell Him how I feel, or what I want, or even what I need. Every prayer I have uttered for myself since Ella has died has felt like a small victory to me. It’s hard to talk to God. I don’t feel like I know Him anymore, and at times..most of the time I don’t feel like He is safe anymore. I’m afraid to admit this…but I think I must diagnose my true beliefs and be honest with myself..and probably with God too. Life has really lost its luster. The small things that used to bring me joy now seem pretty meaningless…with the exception of my husband and this baby. Baby has brought me little folds of joy…little quiet glimmers. I don’t think anyone but God knows how special they are to me, and how feeling him move inside me really brings me a little piece of heaven. I need that heaven, and with every day I abandon myself to the joy as much as I can. I’m pretty sure that is all I can do for now. But it’s all so sacred still. I really can’t be free to rejoice and smile and laugh and plan and think about the future with the world, family or even friends. We haven’t bought anything yet, decorated, or signed up for any classes…we will cross these bridges when they come. I know at some point I will no longer be able to avoid doing those things..but maybe avoidance has a time and place. I will try to avoid worry about the future and be content with the day I have been given. Ha, way easier to say than do. Anyway, I am going to share the video with you..because this is the time and place. One thing I can’t avoid is my undying love for my daughter…here is Ella’s first song…one of many.