Saturday, December 15, 2012

I doubt many who read this post are feeling very "Christmassy" right now. How is it possible to feel what the carols declare- "It's the most wonderful time of the year"? There are families of 28 people who are taking steps put into the horrific world of grief. While I myself have never had to cope with tragic loss, I suspect that it is a depth of despair all of its own. The permanency and finality of death is quick, fierce and without warning in tragic loss. Allan and I often remark about how grateful we are that we were allowed some time to prepare and wrap our heads around the fact that our children were never going to get well. As if somehow that makes it all OK, right?

While I don't know much about tragedy, I know quite a bit about not feeling "Christmassy". The feelings of my youth and early adulthood of joyful anticipation that can't be helped when the downbeat of your favorite carol is heard is gone. The fa la la ing while we bust open the box of decorations after a year of being stored in the basement is tempered at best.

For me, those beats and decorations are a key to the lock box on the depth of my emotion. Bringing up those boxes, lights and setting up the play list are actions I take, each year, with the hope that I can find that frolicsome, exuberant joy I last felt 10 Christmases ago. It doesn't come. We trim the tree, deck the halls and blare the music- with an attempt to have fun (which we seriously do do). What doesn't come is that depth of joy that is in my soul. While I sing and try to "Rock Around the Christmas Tree" with my Bugs and husband, my blinders on, my head is down and my heart is braced. I hand out decorations for the tree and choose not to tell stories about how the ornament came to our home and to our tree. Most of our ornaments illustrate a gap in time. Here are the ones from my youth. Here are the ones when we got married. Oh look these came as a gift for Eric, and these came in his memory. These are for our surviving bugs. Oh wait, here are the ones for Ava and in her memory. It's just plain hard.

Emily and Alexa were 6 weeks old for their first Christmas. Allan would hold up each crying and squirming baby and say, "It's Christmastime, you have to be jolly." We've told each of our children the same thing every year while they are crying or arguing. As you can well imagine, this annoys them. (We hope it will provide a fun memory in their adulthood, however.)

You know what? I've discovered that you don't really have to be "jolly" at all. (Don't tell the Bugs, PLEASE). You can celebrate, decorate, dance in the kitchen and see the beauty in the twinkling lights. You can experience the wonder in the eyes of the children. You will always have to delete names off the Christmas list, remember those gone on. You will always have something in the season that reminds you of the time when your loved one was with you. That's just part of living.

For me as much as Christmas is a tough "time of year" and it's smells and decorations open up a flood of  memories I would just a soon not have to have, I have to celebrate. I have to step into our traditions and merry making no matter how dampened my soul feels.


Mary was greeted by an angel and was told she was to deliver the Son of God. This child is the reason that I can get out of bed everyday. This child is why I keep pressing on when I just can't take the overwhelming grief. This child is why there is anticipation in the Christmas season. This child is why there is hope in our future.

I doubt we will ever ever understand the  "whys?" and "how could God allow that to happens?" that we LOVE LOVE LOVE to wonder about. God does love and protect us. I know because I am living proof of being two seconds from the edge of the cliff. I also know that there is evil in the world. It was unleashed with that bite into that apple. There are people who have suffered such trauma and torment in their lives- whether at the hands of others or with struggles with mental health- who are so far removed from humanity that they can't, won't hear God.

Don't you think that when those shots were fired, God cried too? He doesn't want this for us. He is the only one that can ease the pain of death. How do I know? Because He does for me, daily.

It is OK to be happy and have a nice time when others are suffering. It is OK to pray for those whom you feel need it while you are enjoying your family. It is OK to not feel appropriately "Chistmassy" as those sleigh bells and jingle bells dictate. And while I have been there and tend to hover there, I do have joy and fun in the season and feel "Christmassy" in the eager expectation that God has all of our lives in His hands.

If you are looking for a way to help the families in Newtown, CT and those that you know suffer sadness, why don't you simply ask God be with them? Ask God to be with you and show you how you can influence one life in a positive way, in a way that He wants you to? If you have never tried and are wondering if it is worth it, I can assure you it never hurts to ask, and patiently listen for the answer.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Tears are Different

Not only are the emotions in my soul different, the tears actually feel different. 9 and 3 years later I grieve for my babies in different ways. When Ava first died and a large percentage of the time since that day, my grief for her eclipses my grief for Eric. Not out of lack of sadness for him, but I had 6 years of getting used to him being gone before she passed.

But it's not only that. When Eric was born we were full of joy. We had our first child. My dreams of becoming a Mom came true. Everything was a first. His birth story is filled with excitement and joy. Filled with anticipation of the future.

For Ava the sweet memories are not as abundant and flowing. I was worried my whole pregnancy. I don't know if instinctively knew that there was something wrong. I don't know if I was freaked out at the prospect of having a 4th c-section and being the mom of 4 children under 5. Whatever the situation I found myself in the hospital the night before Ava's delivery on IV fluids trying to hold off for a day to get me to 35 weeks gestation. That night in the hospital was horrible. I came home, undelivered, looking and feeling like I was beaten up. After being home for a few more hours the contractions, while unproductive, kept coming one minute apart. At 2 I went in for my c-section. I will never forget how excited the Bugs were and how I felt the need to temper their excitement. I remember thinking "Am I ready for this...." with an air of imminence. There was not much room for sweet memories. I had a rough recovery and the hospitalization was not too great. The day we discharged is the day we learned Ava could not hear. It was on what would have been on Eric's 6th birthday.  I remember the witnessing the unabashed joy the Bugs had for Ava. The plans they would make for "When Ava is 1...5...etc". I remember trying to temper their exuberance without trying to squash their spirit in hopes to prepare them for what I feared what was around the corner.

These differences are playing out as we are faced with another birthday week. I feel freer to remember the sweet things about Eric. The sweet things about Ava are muddled with a sick pit of the stomach feeling. Busting through that to HER sweetness is not an easy road. It makes all that we were given and subsequently lost so much more poignant.

Then there is the birthday observances. We try to meet the Bugs' needs. This means that Allan and I have to do things that we don't necessarily want to do.  They are kids and they need the tangible, free expression of love. I suppose that is a good thing as sometimes it's easier to bury your head. So this year, on Ava's birthday we went to the grave and laid flowers for Eric and Ava. The store didn't have yellow roses, so we settled on pink and added some yellow baby's breath.

When I first saw this, I wanted to run away. It's too much to bear. But I've learned to bear the enormity of our grief. I am trying to focus on how each of these sweet babies were God's gift to us. Because, really that is exactly what they were. No matter how differently their stories and lives are etched in my memory.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I Miss Her

Well, I realize that it may seem I've fallen off the face of the planet. As life takes over time seems to get shorter and shorter. In my months of blogging silence I find that I've been worked and reworked and God is molding and forming me in ways that I am just now begining to uncover. The tricky part in the discovery is the unraveling of the knots inside your soul. It is just plain hard to take a good hard loook at yourself, and see what needs to be untied.

I have a massage therapist who has physcially helped me achieve what I train for. I would run and beat myself up. Then she would find the knots and methodically and compassionately work them through. The process can be painful, but the release from the tension and the renewed ability for my body to respond and function to the best of it's ability is such a relief. Sometimes the muscles tighten quickly and the feeling is gone in a flash. Sometimes it hangs on a little longer and I can breathe easier.

This is how God reworks your soul. You are numb and you can't tell the source of the pain and anguish. He lovingly, expertly massages the knot. As that area in your life bubbles to the surface it is a tough pill to swallow. Then you live with it for a bit. It becomes familiar and you see it from a different angle. Only then can you work on changing the behavior, the thought pattern or the activity. Then SNAP the old grabs hold of the new, the knot is tied again. You find yourself needing to dig deep again and find courage to face the ugliness that has been laid at your feet.

Your breath becomes shallow and you want to flee, throw it aside and never look back. The realization is ugly. The process is hard. Fire has to burn hot to make metal malleable. Walking through the fires in life need to be hotter than the basic nature of our stubborn, habitual natures.

Then one day, even though the sting is still there you see it and you can learn to handle it. For me it's been the disaray in our home and how I've been parenting the Bugs in the aftermath of the last 9 years of our lives. How does God bring it to the surface? For me it's with His Holy highlighter and a glimmer of the "Amy" that has so long been suppressed. Sometimes because life has burried her, sometimes because it's too painful to remember the "before".

I miss that "Amy". I am so grateful that there are components still there. Of course they will be as that is who God created. But being made is stagnant. We are meant for change. He did not just make me. He FORMS me, He MOLDS me. He BENDS me. As I walk through this life He pulls me closer to who He NEEDS me to be; to become the one He planned for me to become. So I know that the knots will come back, the massage will be painful, but not unbearable. I have to train my mind to not fight it and to relax through it. I need to allow myself to let Him work through me as I continue on my journey. I know that it will never be easy, but it will never be more than I can work through and handle.  Through my tears and my feeings of guilt I can press on.

It can be the same for you as you miss the "you" of your happy time. The process is actually pretty stinky while in the throes of it. But the result is beyond your hearts desire. Follow His plan that is made for you. Join me on the hard unpaved path. Work out the kinks and let go of the pain. The reward is glorious. the journey is courageous.

"My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." Phillipians 4:19 (And who says VBS is for the kids?)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Peaks and Valleys

Emily came up to me yesterday, tucked herself in the crook of my arm and told me that she misses Ava. I asked her if she had anything she regretted. Of course, I then had to describe what "regret" is to my 7 year old. She told me that she wished she could reach into her "Ava Book" and wrap her arms around her sister.

She's been really going through the fire lately. There is a new level of understanding and concept of loss that she is processing and trying to organize. With it comes a new level of pain and sorrow. Professionally, I know that as a child's ability to think on different levels expands, that child will have to grieve on a different level and in a new way all over again. As the mom of a child walking the walk it catches me off guard each time.

I realized that my sweet child is not afraid to miss her sister. She's not afraid to let her arms ache to hold her, to smell her, to remember how she was really here. Guess what? Through December and most of January I hit a wall. Early in December I got a stress fracture in my leg. I have yet to run since 12/2/12. I was in a great deal of pain until a couple weeks ago. I was trying to muddle through the "festivities" of the season. I was spent. I didn't want to do anything, my body hurt and my soul was broken and sad. For some reason the complexities of all that Allan and I personally LOST was all I could ruminate upon.

My daughters are amazing. They are allowing themselves to feel the loss. I have been afraid to allow that. I prefer to focus on what we've gained through the loss. It's easier that way. But we have to focus on the actual hole that Ava left in our lives. I think it's the only way to keep it from burrowing deeper into my soul.

After Eric died, I did FEEL the achy, empty arms, the loss of a future, the pain of dreams doused. With Ava...sometimes...I can't. It's just so hard to allow that feeling to develop and manifest itself. So there was the wall at Christmas. The black, painful pit. The one with the mud walls so there is nowhere to grasp. There was nowhere to hide. I couldn't pound out the thoughts in my mind through running. Instead, I had to sit still and let the pain in my leg become the precipitous to that which was trapped in my heart.

Sometimes, I think God allows you to feel that way so that you remember to cling to Him more. In throes of the bleak days I wonder where He really is. I know He is there, but I feel like I'm slipping. Really I think that He is helping me along. He allows me to feel the pain and ache so that I can reach a higher peak.

I get frustrated having to be "on" and guiding my children through this emotional maze they are trapped in. I am glad I can do it. But it gets old. Really really old. Then there is a sweet child, wriggling herself into the crook of my arm, seeking comfort. I then notice that she in fact helps me. I wish I could be as brave as she.