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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.

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Another Mother must bury her Son

 

Image

Today I am carrying someone else’s burden. Earlier this week my mom called to let me know that a former classmate and nephew of some dear friends of ours was dying in a hospital in Miami. Hearing the news really broke my heart, and I found myself unable to really focus on anything but praying for him and his family. I prayed fervently all day..that he would know he was loved by the God of the universe, and that angels would be sent to comfort him and his family. I prayed for healing. I prayed that his parents would not have to bury their son. I prayed as a mom who has lost a child. I’ve mentioned in other posts that my relationship with God has changed since Ella’s death tremendously. I no longer ask for selfish things that I want. I don’t ask God for protection, or blessings, or good health…I only ask Him the things that I truly believe in faith He will answer. I believe that God wants to hold Alex more than anything…that He wants to heal him from the inside out. I prayed for Alex to accept that love, regardless of his life or death. I know from experience that God doesn’t answer every prayer the way we want Him to or the way we expect–so I’ve changed the way I pray. I pray knowing that God is able, but for whatever reason He is not always willing. 

I believe that God did answer my prayer to cover Alex with love and warmth and light…even though he has died. His death has shook me again. In three weeks or less I will give birth to a baby boy–God willing, and Alex’s death has made me realize all over again that I do not have control. Alex was someone’s son, someones nephew, someones brother…he was carried with love in the womb, just as I am carrying my son. I can’t help but think about my son when I think about Alex. It breaks my heart knowing that I am powerless to save my son from disease, cancer, heartbreak, and even death itself. Finally, I am at the place where I can at least admit that Ella’s death spared her from knowing pain–and this does give me a little comfort sometimes. But today I am carrying his mothers burden –she had to watch her 26 year old baby die. I can’t imagine going through 26 years of things, of clothes he wore just last week, of sheets, and pictures, and memories. I hate that I cannot take away his mothers pain. I can only bear it, and all I can pray today is “Lord carry them.”

 

The picture above is of my sister Brooke at Ella’s first Birthday. We released lanterns and it was very special and symbolic of letting go all over again. I want to share a beautiful poem that she wrote about Ella, and her questions and grief…

 

Are you here with me?
Can you hear my voice….
There is so much noise
Am I one among many, or can you recognize me?
I see a blade of grass, it grew apart from the field

it is shaking in the constant might of the wind

But it has no bend in it, Can you see me standing here?
Surrounded by outstretched limbs and reaching branches, almost as fists shaking in the sky

Angry so angry
Do my words reach you? My whispers in my head, do they matter?

I’m afraid they are meaningless words that float through empty space, and then sink to the soles of my feet
If I had an anchor I would trade my sails in for it any day
Will this wind ever die down? If only my troubled heart could reach you, and rest

Just rest in whatever dose of healing you would lavish on it
All the happy words and easy phrases, shallow unbelieved praises, spoken from uncompassionate faces

Apathetic to any tragic life changes, eager to judge my response to MY personal anguish
There is this ache that burns like an ember resting on your skin

Tearing through layer by layer, melting flesh to reach your bone

And as it restfully burrows in your whole body ignites within as a raging flame, spreading head to toe, heart to head to mouth

What I speak comes as black smoke left from ashes smoldering in a pit
Never will my eyes see a beautiful thing and truly recognize it, or an ugly imperfection without surprise or expectation
You give and take away, but for some reason it feels as though you have stolen from me

From us
I imagine If I extend my hands I could release this frailty of belief and trust and that it would shoot from my hands into your being

And I would know that you know how little I have to hang on to and you would send out your life rafts to rescue this drowning soul

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The Sound of Silence

I’ve been meaning to write for awhile now, but my continued fear of others and myself has kept me silent for too long again. This sharing never gets any easier for me. Fear of hurting people and fear of being misunderstood can keep people in a lonely silence. I want to share a journal entry I wrote a few days ago on Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving I wasn’t feeling particularly thankful…After examining myself, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t sad, or depressed…but that I was standing back at angers door. I had to remind myself again, that its ok to be angry. Anger is an acceptable emotion when your child, your hope, your daughter has died. 

Jason and I feel so keenly aware of our empty home, especially lately. We were so ready for a life change with Ella, and we had planned and prepared for the next stage of life. Laying on the couch tonight, Jason commented that he feels cheated…cheated out of being a father in the way he expected. Cheated out of all this time without our daughter. If I’m honest I feel I was cheated too. The silence of her birth and death has only grown and gotten louder for us, not quieter. As we see other babies grow, our longing for the hole that only Ella can fill deepens. The empty room, quiet hallways, hassle free life, date nights, clean rooms, good sleep, and clean floors only remind us of all that we have lost. Even as we anxiously await the birth of her brother, I cry and mourn for the relationship they will never have here on earth. We hear the silence at all times, and we are keenly aware of it’s presence. Sometimes I wonder if others hear it too.

 

I know I should be grateful, but I don’t feel very thankful

Thinking about my little girl, she should be here now

Two Thanksgivings past without her

She has made me so lonely

She was born in silence, and the silence has remained

It is deafening

Do people realize or hear the silence of our home?

Oh it aches, we try to distract ourselves and make some noise

But we will never hear her song

I’m angry again, I didn’t realize it until now

I’d almost mistaken my lack of tears for apathy

Attributed my silence for time gone by

But all the while I’m boiling underneath again

I’m so angry, and the anger doesn’t go away–often comes out and is misplaced

I’m angry she’s not here

I’m angry at the silence I feel we are forced to live with 

The emptiness of our hearts and home is evident to us

The sound of our silence is the only sound we hear

 

 

 

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Healing Through Creating

So the past few months I’ve been enthralled in production and writing for a new album. The process started before Ella died, and it has taken me and my producer a long time to get it finished. There have been countless times when I wanted to give up, and throw in the towel on these songs and this journey. Every morning I go to the mountain of depression, discouragement, and apathy. Every morning I get out of bed, and put one foot in front of the other. This project has literally been a thousand tiny baby steps for me. A few months ago I had an idea that really inspired me, and has helped me to complete this. I came to the point when I would listen to these songs, and sing them–and I would see them. I would see Ella’s tiny little hands, and see my husbands face…and all of the pain and heartache we have been through. And it donned on me that I need to bring these songs, and this EP to life through film. I think it’s such an important part of my healing journey, and the healing journey for other mothers–who will see themselves in these videos. Grief and loss is so hard sometimes to put into words–people who haven’t been through it don’t understand the extent of the loss. The fact that you had a million hopes and dreams for this child, and they are all dashed to the ground.  I want to show that. I want people to see a mothers grief in an empty room. I want to show a fathers grief in a burnt room. I want to show the child disappearing from a future that will never  be. Thank you for your support. I am in the final hours of this campaign and every little bit will help this dream come to life. Let’s do this for our children.

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Cussing At You

A series of short journal entries that show me grappling with my faith. I felt like they needed to go together.

 

 

Where is my Shepard, Where is my refuge?

I’m bound for more bad weather

And I’d feel a lot safer if I knew that it was you

The waves came without warning

And I know that I am bordering on defeat and doubt

It’s just before, I never had to go without

If you could find it in your gracious heart

To not only do your part, but mine too

I’ve been told that there is nothing your Love can’t do

Well tonight I’m a drunken sailor

And I’m afraid I’m cussing at you

__________________________

 

Tight rope and we can’t let go

Or we’ll wreck ourselves

And the whole pain will be for naught

Do you exist?

It feels like you don’t

My faith is paper thin

If this is a battle, don’t bet on my win

 

_____________________________

Nothing I do will ever be as important to me as it once was

No, I do not want to go out to dinner and talk about your life

Mine is not alright

They’ll have to forgive my terrible social interactions

I’m not feeling capable of much undeserved compassion

Really, I’m on the search for my new distraction

Throw myself into song

Throw myself into deed

Maybe that is what happens when we are in need

We give that hope and pray that we hold someone else’s