Inspring blog award

I was surprised the other day when I was updating my reading on some of my favorite grief blogs when I learned that Julisa McGraw at http://jmc5407.wordpress.com nominated me for this “Inspiring Blog Award.”

I absolutely love Julisa’s blog and feel like I have a kindred spirit in her along this painful road. I am flattered that she finds my blog inspiring to her as well. My blog is my personal therapy, but I also write it in hopes that others may connect to it, the way I connect with theirs. So, according to the “rules” for being nominated for this award, I guess I have to say 7 things about myself:

1. I am a night person who has been forced to be a morning person since having my daughter Hailee and entering the “real world.” It’s a bad idea to try to have any meaningful conversations with me before 10am. I often get very thoughtful and would love to have long discourses after 10pm…much to my husband’s annoyance.

2. I have successfully been off caffeine for over 3 weeks now! Don’t laugh because this is QUITE an accomplishment as I am definitely a caffeine addict and have been since my youth! I am hoping to stay off it forever this time! But still taking it a day at a time right now.

3. I eat chocolate every day. It’s more than a lifestyle, it’s a moral statement I make against our diet obsessed society. And I love it.

4. I have a soft place in my heart for good science fiction/fantasy books. They have been great retreats in this grief journey.

5. College was the best time of my life, hands down. I loved it so much, I stayed for 9 years! After getting my PhD in clinical psychology, I figured I should probably go get a real job…but I seriously considered going back for another graduate degree in women’s studies.

6. I am curious about people. I am especially curious about what people believe and why they believe the way they do. I love seeing the strength people have to persevere and transform for the better. This is one of the reasons I love working as a psychologist. I just never expected to be put in a personal refiners fire like this one. It has been very humbling and makes me appreciate all the more the courage and strength I have seen other people manifest in their lives and journeys.

7. I love to quilt. I especially love to make baby quilts. I’m itching to start a new sewing project soon.

Now for my nominees:

http://jmc5407.wordpress.com (back at ya! ha!)

http://natalienortonblog.com/

http://mystillbornbaby.blogspot.com/

http://patrickandashley.blogspot.com/

http://www.daysofmichelleslife.blogspot.com/

http://www.maxmcfall.blogspot.com/

http://carterbenjamin.wordpress.com/

It’s so wonderful to be part of this blogging community. While some of the women that write the above blogs will likely never know I nominated them, since I don’t know if all of them know of or read my blog. But they have each, in different ways, been so helpful to me along this journey. Even though I have never met any of them in person, they are amazing women and I am inspired by their determinations to persevere through painful loss.

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On the night you were born

For Hailee’s third birthday, someone wonderful gave this book to her:

 

She loves this book and requests that I read it to her almost nightly.

I think it’s a beautiful book. And every time I read it to her, I think about Charlie.

One evening this week, after reading it to Hailee before bed, I felt I wanted to read it to Charlie for a bedtime story. So I drove to the cemetery at sunset, sat on his grave and with tears rolling down my cheeks read:

On the night you were born,

the moon smiled with such wonder

that the stars peeked in to see you

and the night wind whispered,

“Life will never be the same”

Because there had never been anyone like you…

ever in the world.

So enchanted with you were the wind and the rain

that they whispered the sound of your wonderful name.

It sailed through the farmland

high on the breeze…

Over the ocean…

And through the trees…

Until everyone heard it

and everyone knew

of the one and only ever you.

Not once had there been such eyes,

such a nose,

such silly, wiggly, wonderful toes.

When the polar bears heard,

they danced until dawn.

From faraway places,

the geese flew home.

The moon stayed up until morning next day.

And none of the ladybugs flew away.

So whenever you doubt just how special you are

and you wonder who loves you, how much and how far,

listen for geese honking high in the sky.

(They’re singing a song to remember you by.)

Or notice the bears asleep at the zoo

(It’s because they’ve been dancing all night for you!)

Or drift off to sleep to the sound of the wind.

(Listen closely…it’s whispering your name again!)

If the moon stays up until morning one day,

or a ladybug lands and decides to stay,

or a little bird sits at your window awhile,

it’s because they’re all hoping to see you smile…

For never before in story or rhyme

(not even once upon a time)

has the world ever known a you, my friend,

and it never will, not ever again…

Heaven blew every trumpet

and played every horn

on the wonderful, marvelous

night you were born.

 

The “present” problem

Last night I asked Chad if he felt like the reality we are living feels like a dream. He replied, “Sometimes.”

I read in this wonderful book; A Grace Disguised, this passage:

“Loss creates a barren present, as if one were sailing on a vast sea of nothingness. Those who suffer loss live suspended between a past for which they long and a future for which they hope…Memories of the past only remind them of what they have lost; hope for the future only taunts them with an unknown too remote even to imagine.”

This reality makes living in the present even harder. It’s ironic because I think living in the present is the only “solution.” As a therapist, I have often recommended the book The Power of Now as reading material for those struggling with anxiety. I have read it myself and loved its contents. I don’t have the book on me so I can’t quote it perfectly, but a line I used to love was, “there are no problems in the now.” I used to use this as a mantra when I, myself felt anxious or overwhelmed. But that mantra isn’t true anymore. There is a BIG problem in the NOW: I am sitting with a gaping, bleeding hole in my heart! Every breath, every moment, is another breath, another moment living while my son is dead. Living in the NOW does not offer me solace or comfort.

But like that quote said, living in the past or future doesn’t work either. I think of Charlie all the time still. But those beautiful memories are accompanied by pain. I can’t think of him without feeling sad. I hear that eventually that will change. But at this phase of grief, memories are tied to intense heartache. And what of the future? I like to hope for sunshine and rainbows and peace, but who knows if and when that future will arrive?

So what do I do? I guess I try to accept what is now the present. I still believe in living in the present. As surreal and hellish as that present can be at times (perhaps most of the time). I also know beauty can be found in the present, even as I live this nightmare. I am often struck, multiple times a day, by the beauty and joy found in this face:

And there are many beautiful moments still to be had in the present. Moments like this:

and this:

and moments with family:

I know I will feel the sorrow of losing Charlie for the rest of my life. I will ache and long for him until the day I die. But I also believe I can feel sorrow and find joy. Hopefully as I continue this journey, those moments of joy will extend beyond moments into longer increments of time: days, weeks, even months. But right now I am grateful there are those moments interspersed here and there on this dark road.

Grief surge

I can’t always predict when grief will surge over me. But I am quickly learning that I always lose when I try to fight it.

Grief came today…hard. It was a beautiful day. And the day held the promise of a lot of fun with family and Hailee’s cousins. But as we drove up to Park City, my heart began to feel heavier and heavier. Then suddenly it dawned on me; the last time Hailee had played with her cousins, Logan, Leia and Audrey, we were in Hawaii when Charlie died. My subconscious remembered before I did.

I did my best to push aside those memories and thoughts and concentrate on making new memories and having a good time; or at least allowing myself to enjoy watching Hailee have a good time. But that darkness enveloped my heart and in the afternoon it became too much.

So I let grief take over and I went on a two hour hike by myself in the mountains.

The first hour, despite the beauty of my surroundings, my spirit refused to be consoled. I just walked and cried and talked to God. When I got towards the peak of the mountain, I sat on a stump, pulled out my phone and watched videos of Charlie. I just let the tears roll down my face for quite awhile. No one came by and disturbed my grief moment, for which I was grateful.

When I felt ready, I got up and started walking down the mountain. That hour of indulging my grief was necessary and important. While the heaviness around my heart wasn’t completely dissipated, I felt I could re-join my family again. I also found myself paying more attention to the beauty around me and allowed nature to extend its healing arms toward me. I loved hearing the wind blow the aspen leaves above me.

I loved being far enough into nature that only the sounds of nature reached my ears. I loved seeing numerous squirrels scamper up trees and watch me from perches. I loved feeling the sun on my face. I loved how many butterflies I saw warming their wings on wildflowers. Even though I felt very alone in my grief today, I never feel entirely alone when I seek refuge here.

I was frustrated grief took me away from connecting with my family today, especially since they came all the way from California to be with us. But grief doesn’t allow me to write the rules. It only necessitates that I follow them. I am grateful my family was so understanding to my inconvenient needs today and gave me the space I needed to allow my heart to mourn.

Increased love

Since losing Charlie, I have been amazed by how much my love has increased for this man:

Chad and I celebrate 10 years of marriage in two months and I have never loved him as much as I do now.

Losing a baby puts an insane amount of stress on a marriage. I can see how easily the death of a child can easily rip a marriage apart. While we grieve differently from one another, throughout this hellish journey Chad and I actively strive to move toward each other, rather than apart. And in the process we have shared some of the most beautifully painful moments together. These are moments I wouldn’t wish on any other couples, but they have also unified us and connected us in ways I never felt possible.

This man is amazing. Let me just give you an example of what a wonderful husband he is. One day the other week, I was crying on the couch, looking at pictures of Charlie, while Hailee took a nap. Unexpectedly I heard the front door open and Chad walked in. He had come home to meet someone to repair our sprinklers. When he saw me crying on the couch, he immediately came, sat by me, wrapped his arms around me and just held me. Then, after the gardener came to repair the sprinkler, Chad didn’t return to work. Instead he went and gathered my swimsuit, cap, and goggles, told me to go swimming, and kicked me out of the house while he stayed home with Hailee the rest of the afternoon.

 He truly is my best friend. He amazes me how much he is mindful of my emotions and my needs through this grief journey. He does such a good job that often I worry he’s not getting the emotional support he needs in return.

But our awareness of each other, and how much we need each other has increased exponentially since Charlie died. We touch each other more, hug each other more, snuggle more, call each other more, express love to each other more, and work as a team more than we ever have.

We may be a bit battle worn from this journey, but our love is stronger than ever. I couldn’t be more grateful to journey this road with my best friend and love of my life: Chad David Packard. And I could not ask for a better father to our children!

I know this Father’s Day is a bittersweet one for him. But I hope he knows how much he is truly loved, needed and appreciated by us. Happy Father’s Day San!

Scared to be vulnerable

It’s interesting how my wrestle with faith continues in my everyday life. So, in my heart of hearts, I want to believe, and do believe that God is actively involved in our lives. I still don’t know what that means for the death of Charlie, but I don’t want to think he’s a passive, observing God. If that were true, why are we commanded to pray to him? Why would we be encouraged to ask him for things? Why would He send His son here to die for us if He just sat back and watched things happen? So, while I still don’t understand him, I feel he IS THERE and is involved in my life.

In some ways this is very comforting to me. In other ways, this is harder for me. As I continue to feel so raw and vulnerable and continue to reel from the loss of Charlie, I feel so scared to ask God for things. Before losing Charlie I used to pray for protection for myself and my family every night. I still pray for that…but now my heart wrenches every time I ask Him for that protection. I find myself begging him that I will be allowed to raise Hailee. That I will be allowed to see her grow up. When I ask for that, I feel so desperate and also so vulnerable.

I used to have faith that if I asked for things, especially righteous things, that I would get them. If I just had enough faith, those desires would come true! And that played out perfectly my whole life…untilthat horrible day. I am now aware that there is no guarantee that we get what we ask for.

And then I think to myself, what’s the point in asking for things? Can we, or do we ever really sway God’s will? If we get things we ask for, couldn’t we just say that was God’s will in the first place and we would’ve gotten them regardless? And if we ask for things and are rejected (even painfully, tragically rejected) how is that helpful? It just leaves me battered and bruised and feeling so hurt.

As I was writing this though, a thought came to me. It feels profound to me, personally, but I may not be able to express it well. As I’m writing about this topic and thinking about it, I suddenly thought of my Savior and the Atonement. We read about how during the Atonement, he asked that the cup pass from him and that he might not have to go through with it, but then he also submitted himself to his Father’s will. Normally when I’ve been taught about that moment, it has been explained as an example of the depth of suffering our Savior went through on our behalf and his ultimate willingness to do the will of the Father. But in this moment, as I thought of it, I had a new thought:

I can only imagine that Christ knew it was God’s will that he follow through with the Atonement. BUT HE STILL ASKED THAT THE CUP PASS FROM HIM ANYWAY. Beyond being a demonstration of submission to God’s will, maybe Christ was also demonstrating that it’s OK TO ASK FOR THINGS WE DESPERATELY WANT, even if we don’t get them. Maybe it’s ok to be vulnerable to God this way. Maybe God wants us to ask anyway. 

And I do have faith that some prayers are answered. On that horrible day, on the ambulance ride to the hospital, as I watched the EMTs doing their best to revive my baby, I was praying non-stop. But it didn’t feel right to ask for Charlie to come back to me. I knew in my heart of hearts, that Charlie was gone. So instead I just kept praying for Heavenly Father to be with me. I just kept telling him, over and over, “Please, I NEED YOU.” And He did answer that prayer. In a way that is too personal to share in this venue, but I can say He answered my prayer by blessing me with the most spiritual experience of my life. I will be forever grateful for that answer in my darkest hour.

Something to work toward

Today I ran 4.5 miles! For many of you, that may not be a feat. But that is the furthest I have run…ever! I am not a runner, at all! I swear it’s not in my genes. I’m not being modest. I’m being honest. I have only run a couple 5k races and never had ambition to do anything bigger than that.

Until now. When I learned about this: Race for grief I knew I wanted to do it for Charlie. This would require training for a 10k; double what I’ve ever run. When I unwillingly started this grief journey, I was very out of shape. I didn’t exercise AT ALL while I was pregnant with Charlie and I was just beginning to exercise before he died. And running, historically, is my least favorite form of exercise.

But since losing Charlie, I have found exercise to be a great antidepressant. And more than anything, training for something meaningful, where I can run in memory of my sweet angel, has been very therapeutic. I am subsequently pushing myself further than I ever have and am super proud of myself for running the 4.5 miles I did today!

I have two weeks to increase that distance to 6.2, and as long as my gimpy knee hangs in there, I’m confident I can do it!