I wonder

I have wondered since Charlie died, how often is he around us? I hope he visits often. Then after Cami’s birth I’ve wondered if he watches over his sisters? I pray each night that he does. I also wonder if Cami can see him when he is around?

We have a large photo of Charlie on our wall, about eight feet away from where I nurse Cami. When I burp Cami, it is not uncommon for her to look at his photo and just grin. And Cami doesn’t do that to other photos at all. Maybe it’s my imagination but her smile at Charlie is a smile of recognition and love.

packard_family_13 (31)And sometimes when I change Cami, she’ll look over my shoulder, past me, and smile. There is nothing there but it’s as if she is smiling at something or someone.

The other night Hailee was sitting up on one of our bar stools and Cami was sitting in her bouncer close by. Suddenly, Hailee fell off the stool and landed right above Cami’s head on her bouncer! I mean Hailee was literally less than an inch away from landing on Cami’s head! Had that happened, it would’ve really hurt and injured Cami. Hailee’s landing position, where she just barely missed Cami, subsequently felt too perfect. Later that night as we were going to bed, I told Chad that I wondered if Charlie had somehow intervened and protected his sisters. Chad looked at me and said, “I thought the same thing.”

I don’t know how often Charlie is around or how he is involved in our life. But I believe he is and actually plays a very important role in our life. I look forward to one day learning all the ways he was involved. I imagine I’ll be surprised how much he really is around and influences us in a variety of ways. From simple ways, like making his sister smile, to more complex and profound ways I can’t even guess at.  But until we are reunited and I get this knowledge, I am left to wonder…

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How grief has changed me

This is a hard question to answer as it’s hard to see through any eyes but my own. And grief is still shaping me…so it’s an ongoing journey. But as a year and a half has passed since we lost Charlie, enough time has passed that I’ve observed certain changes that I can name and describe.

Here’s what I’ve observed so far:

Let’s start with the bad and conclude on a positive note.

The bad:

  • I’m way more anxious! I am terrified of burying another child. You know after you do hard things you didn’t think you could do and you say, “that wasn’t so bad!” and you think you could even do it again! (e.g. childbirth, graduate school, a marathon, etc). Well, losing a child REALLY IS THAT BAD. Even though I’ve proven to myself that I can push into and through the devastation of losing Charlie, not ONCE have I thought, “That wasn’t so bad.” No, it was unadulterated HELL. And I think, “I could NOT do that again!” And I’m terrified it COULD happen again. Hence the anxiety.
  • I laugh less. I watch Stephen Cobert with Chad sometimes and find him incredibly funny…and yet I notice it takes so much to elicit the actual laugh to come out of my mouth! But this is slowly changing, I am happy to report. A few weeks ago I went to dinner with some girlfriends and for the first time in a LONG time, I laughed so much I cried. That felt so great!
  • I’m not as funny. I’ve never been a comedian by any stretch…but I could throw out some clever one-liners here and there. Hope that comes back too…
  • I’m less adventurous. I used to consider myself quite adventurous. I was always planning the next epic European vacation with Chad. I was also quite impulsive and really liked this about myself. My impulsivity led to some awesome memories like jumping off an 80 foot cliff, jumping onto the hood of a moving car, breaking into a football stadium with friends late at night to run around, walking deliberately downtown to check out the commotion around a bomb threat, etc. I didn’t say my impulsivity led to the smartest moments, but I sure had a lot of fun! That impulsivity and sense of adventure is seriously squelched by the anxiety. I won’t even consider a trip to California to visit family and friends because I’m too anxious about Cami (bad side effect of Charlie dying on our vacation). I even got nervous leaving Cami to go get a pedicure the other day!
  • I’m less independent. Chad made this observation and I’m not totally sure what he meant by it. I still consider myself largely independent…but perhaps I’m emotionally more needy? And maybe it’s unfair to put this as a negative, because I think it’s been good for me in my relationships with Chad and family and friends to rely on them for more emotional support? I’ve loved the sense of connection with others that has come from moments of raw vulnerability. It’s scary but my relationships are deeper and more meaningful now.
  • My brain fires more slowly. Seriously! Just like pregnancy brain is real, so is grief brain! But worse! I think I repeat myself…but I’m not sure. I get vague senses of deja-vu…but I don’t have the memory I had before. Like…I have deja-vu about this post. Have I said all this before? I can’t remember…and I’m too lazy to go through the 120+ published posts to find out.
  • I have less patience. Sadly I wish losing Charlie made me a better parent. Perhaps it has in some ways (e.g. more loving). But grief requires so much energy I often don’t have much left over for an independent, exuberant, emotional four-year old who doesn’t practice good listening skills.
  • My passions disappeared. But this also is slowly changing, for which I am grateful. For well over a year after Charlie’s death I was just “going through the motions.” I felt dead in side. Nothing could get me fired up. I just didn’t care. In some ways that was refreshing because it put some things in my life in perspective. I could let go of things I used to care about that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But I missed being passionate. I missed feeling energized and excited about things. While my passions aren’t nearly what they used to be…I can feel some of them lighting up again. I am also developing some new passions…passions that are vague and ambiguous but wonderful to feel nonetheless. I hope as I keep moving forward, those passions will take shape and carry me to new places!
  • I’m a little socially inept. I used to be decent at small talk and show enthusiasm in social situations. I used to be pretty good at meeting new people. Now I’m all sorts of awkward and quiet. I no longer know what to say. And it just gets complicated and anxiety provoking meeting someone new and not knowing what questions they will ask and what level of self-disclosure to reveal.

The good:

  • I have more patience for a crying baby. Cami’s wails hardly ever bother me. And I find I rarely get inpatient with her. I am just so grateful for every moment I get with her, stressful or not!
  • I have a better appreciation of the PRESENT. Historically I described myself as a malcontent. I was always looking for the next thing I was going to achieve or the next adventure I was going to plan. I never really lived in the moment. I was always looking to the future. I don’t feel those intense cravings anymore. I am much more content driving Hailee to school and with a fussy Cami in the back seat and realize with a smile on my face, “This is my life, RIGHT NOW.”  I enjoy living WHAT IS. My “malcontentness” isn’t completely gone because I think it’s an inherited personality trait.  But it has simmered down greatly and it’s nice to be able to breathe in the present moment without feeling the ansyness of wishing I was somewhere else, doing something else. It allows me to see the beauty in every day moments. The beauty I never saw until now.
  • Speaking of the beauty around me, I gaze longer at sunsets. I notice the clouds and the sky and the mountains and the stars. I feel the wind and the air. I breathe deeper, I pause longer, and I appreciate more.
  • Nothing rocked my faith and my foundation like losing Charlie. But while his death resulted in deep, painful questions, it also led to a deeper, more desperate yearning for connection with and understanding of my Heavenly Father. This has been a journey that warrants its own blog post someday. It’s been deeply hard and gut wrenching and while I don’t have the understanding I would like, I have touched peace. And I have felt a quiet and patient invitation to seek Him. I have come to enjoy the process of searching for Him and trying to understand and learn what it truly means to have faith.
  • I have more empathy for others and their own journeys. I feel disinclined to judge others after going through what we’ve been through. I have more patience for the process others go through on their own journeys.
  • I feel more passion to focus on meaningful things in life. I want my life to matter. I want to make a difference. I care much less about trivial things.
  • I’m more service minded than I ever have been. Service has healed me the most, above almost anything else. And the more I do it, the more I want to continue to do service.
  • I feel connected to the world in a way I never have before. I feel connected to humanity on a deep level. I feel connected to this family of grief, pain, and survival. I also feel connected to the earth in a way I never have before. It’s like reaching a new depth of feeling and experience. It’s hard to articulate because it is really something that is just felt. And maybe that makes no sense and just sounds weird, but it’s a nice feeling.
  • I feel strong. I feel brave. I feel proud that I can do really hard things. As a result, I have more confidence and belief in myself than I’ve ever had.

As I am experiencing good changes from losing Charlie, I resent the process less. In fact, I’m beginning to appreciate where this journey is leading me and how it’s shaping me. I’m still NOT grateful for losing Charlie. But I’m beginning to see some beauty in passing through hell. It’s a nice place to be.

I’m curious what others have observed in me from the last year and a half? The good and the bad? And those who are on their own grief journeys, how has it changed you?

Cami three month update

IMG_3192It’s October already and Cami is officially three months old today! She is growing more hair on the top of her head, while losing hair on the back of her head, leaving a nice “grandpa” bald spot. She continues to love her hand and sucking on it is her favorite pastime. She is also sleeping through the night 95% of the time! Only once this last week did she wake up before 6am…and that was technically my fault because the alarm I still set every night, went off at 4:45am and woke her up.

Cami is a very happy baby and LOVES to babble and smile. I love our morning conversations! She is also getting VERY close to laughing! I think any day now I’ll get a giggle out of her.

She also has an impressive scream. If you are holding her next to your face when she is wailing on the top of her lungs, you can anticipate your ears will ring, she is THAT loud!

Speaking of crying, Cami is very attached to me. It’s comical how she’ll be crying at the top of her lungs, and within seconds of being transferred into my arms, she’ll calm down. It’s comical and also frustrating because sometimes as I need to get stuff done! But I really don’t mind spoiling her and holding her (almost) as often as she wants.

She is a great eater…with only one caveat. She has begun to reject the bottle! She was taking a bottle like a champ since six weeks of age. Chad fed her one bottle everyday since then. But all of the sudden a couple weeks ago she decided she would have NOTHING to do with it and only wants me. I love breast feeding and in general don’t mind this…BUT it’s a serious problem for going to work! Or leaving her for more than 4 hours.

Since I started working a few hours a couple weeks ago, this rejection of the bottle is a problem. Last Friday I went to work and was able to get home within four hours. During that time she refused the bottle and “patiently” waited for me to get back. It worked out ok for that day but when I need to go back to work for more hours…it’s going to be a problem. My heart breaks thinking of her stomach growling and her screaming for me. We are still trying to give her a bottle and we’ll see if we can reverse this trend. Fingers crossed!

We continue to treasure every day we get with our rainbow baby. Our anxiety still runs very high but we don’t anticipate that going down for awhile. In fact, as we get closer and closer to the age Charlie was when he died, I imagine our anxiety will only increase. We continue to practice self-compassion about that though…which is all we can really do.

Besides the anxiety, life is really beautiful. I am finding myself enjoying life more than I have since Charlie died. I love referring to “my girls.” I love how Hailee can make Cami talk like no one else! I love all the baby cuddles I get each day! I am so grateful for the three months we’ve had with Cami in our family!

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