Under the Tree--April

It is time for this month's Under the Tree! If you don't know about this gathering, check out Carly's blog for more information. If this is your first time to join us, you are welcome here.

How long has it been since you lost your child/ren? Has your grief changed at all? Is your life becoming any easier or is it just harder as time passes?

It will be 7 months tomorrow since Raelyn went home. I can't believe it has been so long but in the same instant it feels like yesterday. Grief is a strange beast that comes out and threatens to strangle me at the weirdest times. I am still so numb most of the time. I sleep but I don't rest. I wake up more exhausted than when I went to bed. I get home after work and don't want to do anything but sit on the couch and watch something mindless on TV. I don't want to see my family because it seems like everything about Raelyn is old news--like they are patronizing me by even listening to me talk about her. Our closest friends (the ones whose baby was due a month after Raelyn) haven't spoken to us since the birth of their son in February. I realize that we represent any parent's greatest fear, but even after Raelyn was born, we tried to be a part of their lives and we hoped to be able to watch their son grow up and now we don't even get e-mail pictures of him. Things like that are hard for me to deal with and are a large part of my grief--people who I thought would be there for us who aren't. I don't grieve for Raelyn. I know where she is. I grieve for the things I have lost--the experiences I should be having now, the relationships that are now strained and awkward, the naive bliss of pregnancy. I don't know what 3-month olds look like or what milestones we would be approaching. Sometimes life even seems normal. I can laugh and smile genuinely but she is always in my heart and I am always wondering what I would be doing in this moment had things been different.

How do you feel when you see pregnant women when you are out and about?

Most often, I am genuinely happy for them. Sometimes, on bad days, the jealousy flares up. I want what they have. I want that joy. I even want all of the pregnancy discomforts. The ones that hurt the most are the girl who is busting out of her trendy jeans and trying to pull down the t-shirt with her high school mascot on it over her bump or the woman whose pre-teen daughter is holding her toddler sister so that her very pregnant mom can have both hands free to light a cigarette. I have no idea what their stories are. I don't know if they are going to keep the baby or give it up for adoption, if they tried to get pregnant or if "it was only one time" and that baby was an unwelcome surprise. I only know that it feels like they can't possibly want that baby as much as I would or appreciate it as much as I would. I know that is totally irrational but that is how grief works--making the irrational a part of daily life.

What's your therapy in the aftermath of losing your child/ren? Do you go to counseling? Do you do artwork or some kind of exercise or do you simply just let yourself be? What helps you?

I search out music that speaks to me and that I can use to worship God. I am trying to adapt to this new person who calls herself by my name because the old me is gone forever. This new person has her heart out on her sleeve and she feels more deeply than before. The most minor comments or omissions burn her heart and her love flows more freely. Historically, I have been pretty closed off when it comes to my feelings and I have been able to bury them, but this new me feels transparent and vulnerable. Writing here helps me to get out some of those feelings that I wouldn't feel comfortable saying out loud.

That Face

"Bereaved people are like ducks above the surface. Looking composed and unruffled...below the surface, paddling like crazy." ~ Author Unknown

"I know that face... it's my face."

One of my coworkers was commenting yesterday on how well another coworker was handling the sudden loss of her only son at five days shy of one year old last month. As I looked at her in disbelief and tried not to look hurt, I corrected her. I said, "I see her smile and my heart breaks all over again because I know that face... it's my face. I wear that face everyday. She is not handling it well. It's just a face." I told her that this is something no one can "handle". You just keep putting one foot in front of the others and pray that time moves a little faster so that you can get home and take off that face. You have to put it on to go to work, to go see family, and some days, you have to put it on before you can even get out of bed. She agreed, but she will never fully understand and I pray she never has to.

My husband and I enjoy the show "Lie to Me" on Fox and the last episode we watched showed a lady who talked of her great expectations for her weekend with her family. She committed suicide the next day and no one knew why. She seemed so happy but the main character analyzed her "micro-expressions" and slowed down the tape so that her true agony was visible on her face. Sometimes, I wonder if people can see through my "face" or hear the edge that I hear in my voice. I know that I am a different person now. I am less tolerant. I am exhausted all the time. I sleep but I don't rest. I am a mother with no child to kiss. I wonder if all of that shows in my face.

This Easter is the first major holiday without Raelyn. Her due date was January 26 so this was the first holiday we would have really celebrated with her here. It is so hard for me to wrap my heart around the fact that I had planned to teach her the true significance of this holiday and tell her about her Savior and what He sacrificed for her and now... now she is living it! She can sit on His lap and listen to His story firsthand all because of His sacrifice. The hope that we have in Christ that we can be saved from our sins, see our loved ones again, and live eternally in Heaven with Him is all because of His sacrifice on the cross.

But that's not all! His sacrifice provided for His children a promise here on Earth. "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." ~Isaiah 53:4-5. Christ carried our sorrows and brought us peace and healing through His death. I don't have to carry my own sorrow or search out my own peace. All I have to do is turn to Christ and lay my grief before Him. I say that lightly but it is difficult for me to do. I can lay it down, but it seems that I turn right around and snatch it back up again, lay it across my shoulders and continue through life, stooped over underneath the weight of it all. Sometimes I feel that if I lay my grief at His feet that I will be leaving her behind, so I pick it back up and hold it close to my chest. My head knows the Word and the freedom it can bring to my life, but sometimes there is not enough room for that depth of understanding in this grieving mama's heart.

I know that you are for me
I know that you are for me
I know that you will never forsake me in my weakness
I know that you have come down
Even if to write upon my heart
To remind me who you are
~~Kari Jobe--"You Are For Me"~~

Wonderful Songs

I bought the latest release from Mandisa yesterday and her songs really spoke to my heart. With song titles like "He is With You" "Broken Hallelujah" and "You Wouldn't Cry", the songs have to be powerful.  (This is not a promotion of any kind--this music just helped lift some of the funk.)  I cannot find any of the music online yet so I will let some of my favorite lyrics speak for themselves.

This first song is an affirmation to me that my God walks with me not only in the middle of the storm that I am facing, but also when I am screaming at Him or when I have turned my face away.

He is With You

He is with you when your faith is dead
And you can't even get out of bed
Or your husband doesn't kiss you anymore
He is with you when your baby's gone
And your house is still and your heart's a stone
Cryin' God, what'd you do that for
He is with you

He is with you in the conference room
When the world is coming down on you
And your wife and kids don't know you anymore
He is with you in the ICU
When the doctors don't know what to do
And it scares you to the core
He is with you

This song brought tears to my eyes while simultaneously lifting my heart from the depths.  It is hard for me to walk forward to the throne of God--the most wonderful, beautiful, perfect God of the universe--when all I have to offer is brokenness.  I know that is all He asks of me, but it breaks my heart to know that even the good gifts that he has given me are covered by feelings and emotions causing them to be impure sacrifices to Him.  Sometimes I feel that I cannot even give Him my best because it is so inadequate.  So not true...

Broken Hallelujah

When all that I can sing
Is a broken hallelujah
When my only offering
Is shattered praise
Still a song of adoration
Will rise up from these ruins
I will worship You and give You thanks
Even when my only praise
Is a broken hallelujah

This last song caused those tears to stream freely down my cheeks, but these were tears of peace and joy.  This song was meant to be written from the perspective of one of her friend's stillborn son Andrew.

You Wouldn't Cry

All you saw was pain
All you saw was rain
But you should see me now
Moments filled with tears
Lasted all those years
Disappeared somehow
You never said goodbye
On your knees you cry
You're still asking why, but

Blue has never been bluer
True has never been truer
Honey never tasted so sweet
There's a song in the breeze
A million voices in praise
A rose has never smelled redder
The sun has never been brighter
If I could find the right words to say
If you could look at my face
If you could just see this place
You wouldn't cry for me today

What you think you see
Isn't really me
I'm already home
You've got to lay it down
'Cause Jesus holds me now
And I am not alone
Your faith is wearing thin
But I am watching Him
And He's holding you too

This picture of Heaven is a comfort to me and I hope it encourages you as well.

Life is difficult

There are so many things in my head right now. This week has been really difficult for me. Sunday was the six month anniversary of Raelyn’s death and in some ways I feel like it is just now hitting me. I was really dreading Sunday, but I woke up doing okay. I thought about her a lot in that time after waking but before the alarm goes off. I tried to remember all of the details about her and her short life with us that I could and I was okay—kind of peaceful, but in a dazed sort of way. It wasn’t until the worship started at church that I lost it. I couldn’t even sing, I was crying so much and my chest hurt. I don’t know what song they were singing and it didn’t matter—sometimes it is just so difficult for me to praise God and proclaim His goodness when I don’t feel it or see it. I know He is just as good now as He was before and He will be forever because He doesn’t change, but sometimes it is hard to acknowledge all the goodness even though I am covered in it.

Monday, we all went to load up some furniture from Philip’s Granny’s house so except for the driving time, I didn’t really have opportunity for thinking/remembering too much.

The last three days at work, though, have been rough. I feel manic or something. You know that Southwest Airlines commercial with the really nice ticket lady whose head rotates and she becomes evil—I am that girl. I can laugh, joke, and be nice to all of my coworkers but the moment that I turn around to walk away, my smile dissolves and whatever light I had mustered to cover the pain in my eyes goes out. I go home and just vegetate, even when my husband is home. The numbness is just overwhelming and the worst part is that I am afraid to talk to anyone. I wonder sometimes if I am making too much out of this—I was the only one in my life who remembered about that day. I know that everyone has stuff going on and the world doesn’t revolve around me but I feel like people just want me to move on and quit bringing her up. (Please, if you read this blog and you know me in real life, don’t be concerned—this is why I blog, to get these feelings that I can’t say out loud off my chest.) Every time I try to talk about my feelings with someone I get a suggestion on what to ‘do’ about my feelings. I don’t want suggestions or advice because there is no answer to this. There is nothing short of having my two-month old daughter in my arms that will make this any better.

It is kind of like Christmas. (just go with me here) When you’re a child and it comes time to open presents, tearing off the wrapping paper is almost as fun as discovering the gift inside. You know you’re getting a gift regardless of the paper, but the wrapping is still beautiful and it makes getting to the gift that much more fun. The gift that I have received is the gift of everlasting love, endless grace, and eternal salvation. Sometimes it is wrapped in blessings that I cannot fathom. Sometimes it is wrapped in peace that passes all understanding. Sometimes it is wrapped in sadness. The wrapping does not change the gift; only the path I must take to get to the gift that I know is inside.

I know God’s hand is upon my life and that the Holy Spirit walks this road with me. I know that I am blessed beyond measure with the gift of salvation. I know all of this with my head because the Word says so, but on those days when my heart forgets that the only reason I am walking is by God’s grace, life is difficult.