Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy Birthday, Baby Sister

As lovely as our celebration is today, it doesn’t take away any of the pain of missing our sweet girl.

birthday cake and the blessings jar

Alaska's quilt from Grandma Dawn

building a shelter at the museum

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Borrowing Your Love

#writeingrief Day 23--On borrowing love and seeing myself as they see me


How would you love me in this? 


First I imagine holding you as you look up at me with (probably) blue eyes. Maybe a milky smile. Maybe your tiny hand would reach up and touch my face. But if I were holding you like this, I wouldn’t be this me. I would be Before me because you would be my little girl who lived, and I wouldn’t know After me. We wouldn’t be preparing to celebrate your birthday tomorrow because December 31 is the wrong date for your birthday. We would be buying snacks for New Year’s Eve not birthday cake ingredients. 


How would you love me in this?


If I imagine borrowing your love and looking at me through your eyes, I imagine tiny Auburn. My baby who was due on New Year’s Day. I imagine similar (probably) blue eyes for you and that you are (maybe) a boy. You would have known After me. You would have seen my face bursting with love for you and your big brothers and your angel sister. I would have smiled at you through tears sometimes, but you would know my love. You would give me the best snuggles, and you would cry and cry. That sound would be so very welcomed. I would tease you about trying to cry for two. Trying to give Alaska a voice. You would see me as one of your favorite people. Your milk machine, full of cuddles and kisses for you. 


How would you love me in this?  


As your brothers do. First they are silly and wild. Those two boys are best friends and dramatic opponents, and they swap roles multiple times a day. I can usually tell by the tone of the yelling, but sometimes, like today, the squeals of pain are from hilarious pranks. They are also helpful and caring. They clean and cook and want to play family games. 


Your brothers are sincere in sharing how they feel about you. They ask questions and tell me when they can’t sleep because they are angry that you died. They debate what kind of cake to make for your birthday, Alaska, and what outfit to buy in your memory that we will donate to a shelter and hope it will find its way to a little girl who needs it. They wonder at how to celebrate your birthday and how to celebrate Auburn’s due date without you here. They share their love for you and for our family, and they miss you, too. 

Dear Mommy, We're ok.


Dear Mommy,

We’re ok. We found each other, and we are ok. We love you and Daddy and Elliott and Asher. We love each other. We wish we could have joined you, but we can’t. I’m a big sister now, so I will take care of us. (We are in a place of peace, though, so don’t worry.) I want you to know that we are a family. We will stay together. We know it hurts you that we can’t be there. We know that you long for us. We want you to know that you’re ok, too. You and Daddy and Elliott and Asher. You’re ok. You have our love. Our family is strong. You are the best mommy. We know how much you love us and how much you have loved us for every second of our forever. Keep loving us even when you feel like the world is telling you to let us go. (We know you will love us forever. We know your love has never been a question.) We will see you someday. Our whole family will be together again. First you have to live. Breathe. Stay. Love.

We love you forever, Mommy.

Love, Alaska



#writeingrief Day 22


Monday, December 29, 2014

I Remember...

#writeingrief Day 21


I remember what it used to be like to read a book. I could devour a book, a series. One book each day. I’m not a fast reader naturally, but with practice I became faster. I was a very focused reader, so I could just jump into my book and block out the world.

Reading is different now. I had to reread Looking for Alaska last year after Alaska died. I couldn’t read anything else. I tried, but I just couldn’t get through a book. It was work. My mind couldn’t focus on the words. I couldn’t jump into the world and disappear no matter how much I wanted to escape from my own reality. I read Alaska again thinking that maybe it would help me press the “reset” button as a reader. I don’t know. It sort of worked. Or at least I have read a few books since I finished my reread of Alaska. I’m not reset, though. There isn’t a magic button for going back to the reader that I once was. I haven’t devoured a book like I used to since Alaska died. If I have, I can’t remember the title. I have reread books and thoroughly enjoyed them. I have listened to audiobooks. Audiobooks are so much easier because I can be doing something--cooking or putting together a puzzle or walking or cleaning.

Reading isn’t what it used to be.

Writing now has similar obstacles. I was geared up to do nanowrimo this year. I had an idea that has been brewing for years. When day one rolled around, and I struggled through 500 words (500 really shitty, off topic words), I knew that it probably wasn’t going to happen. I even tried to just write whatever came out thinking that I could just nano 1667 words a day no matter what. I didn’t need to write the novel I had been planning; I could just write whatever I needed (perhaps a sort of writing reset). I didn’t do that, though. In the past few days I have come to see Write Your Grief as my nanowrimo for this year. I think I need to write this before I can write anything else. I can’t force a novel that doesn’t want to be written yet. And, honestly, my novel is probably not a novel anymore. It’s a memoir. Not the memoir that I have been writing for years, but a new story. This story of my grief and life with grief. Life in this land of baby loss. Fuck I would love for it to be a different story. Some stupid bullshit struggle that I would have had. Or some novel that was a decent idea that I may or may not have gotten around to writing.

I remember when I could turn away from the pain of the world just enough to get lost in a book or a story that I created. I remember when I could write without stopping. I remember when... None of that matters now. Not really. It’s just the past and the Can’t Have. Now I breathe even though it hurts and smile even though my face muscles don’t really remember how. And it’s not the genuine smiling that is awkward. It’s the smiling out of politeness that feels like a betrayal of my face.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

What Matters

#writeingrief Day 20


The time doesn’t matter. This is about the loss and the love. We can’t control our human reactions or constraints. We can’t control our reality. We can’t control much of anything, can we? Perhaps just how we respond to our reality. I don’t know why I have the urgent desire to fix every little problem, especially when I know someone who is in pain from grief or illness. I don’t have that same reaction to my own pain. I know undeniably that it cannot be fixed, so why do I have this weird instinct to tackle and tame another’s pain? We have this way of measuring time with our clocks and calendars. Our sun and moon. Our sky. But is what matters how many days that we had with them? How many months since they have been gone? How many minutes until we will be with them again? Is it the time that matters? Last year I wrote a blog post called 19 Days: A New Calendar. And I ticked those dates (still do). How many weeks pregnant I Should Be (Why, hello, little unicorn! It’s been a few days since I wrote about you). How many hours. Days. Months. Whatevers since Alaska’s birthday. Since Auburn’s. But none of that matters. I don’t love Elliott more because he has been my son longer than Asher or their baby siblings. Love cannot be measured like that. Yes, we forget details. We just lose them in the maze of thoughts. The lost memories can potentially be found, right? Those memories are still there even if they are stuck under a heap of useless information. Even if we could rewind back to the moment just after the loss, our person is still dead, and we still love them. And if we jump ahead to the moment just before we die, our person is still dead, and we still love them. This love and loss is more than our human realities of forgotten moments and counting minutes. This love and loss cannot be diminished by memory or time. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

On Kindness and This Blessed Season

#writeingrief Day 6--I was afraid to post this when I wrote it a couple of weeks ago. I didn't want to offend anyone's sensibilities or something. My writing isn't about anyone's sensibilities, though, is it? It's about saying what I need to say. It's about exposing my truth in grief. I cannot, should not censor this truth. And so, without apology, here is another piece of my truth. 


“Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day…
only kindness that raises its head from the crowd …
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.” ~from Naomi Shihab Nye's "Kindness" 


“Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore.” I’m not sure whether I agree with this. Nothing really makes sense anymore. Is kindness really the only thing that sends me into the day? Does kindness really go with me everywhere? What would it mean to offer kindness to myself in my grief? 

I guess it means that I make myself get dressed. I allow myself time to write. When I don’t want to write, I may make myself do it. Force may seem like the opposite of kindness, but sometimes I have to make myself get up out of the hole I’m in. Writing seems to be the best way to do that. When I stop writing I stop telling my truth, even if I’m the only one who reads it. Even if I don’t go back and read it. So if I am saying that offering kindness to myself means that I am writing, then kindness is perhaps the only thing that makes sense anymore. Kindness to myself, that is. Kindness could be equated with truth telling. Kindness doesn’t need to be sweet and smiling; kindness can simply be allowing myself (or making myself) feel everything. It’s permission to be pissed and sad and happy in the same moment. 

When I first thought of kindness, I thought of the outward kindness that comes from the actions of another person. That type of kindness doesn’t make sense. Kindness from others that happened because Alaska died is perhaps useful in the sense that I am treated with a gentleness that I need, but so much of that kindness is cancelled out by thoughtless remarks or triggers that seem to do more damage than the kindness or love from another can prevent. This really sounds like an asshole thing to say. I don’t mean that I’m not grateful for the kindness of others, but those actions sometimes are reminders that I am now considered “special” and need to be handled with care. Well, I was special for a while. A few weeks, a few months. Most people have moved on. They don’t realize that I turn around and there is another in-my-face reminder that my babies are dead. 

‘Tis the season for celebrating right now. 

‘Tis the season for kindness and joy and stupid fucking holy songs. 

I should be spending this Sunday afternoon with my daughter and her big brother. Or I should be pregnant, so close to the birth of our little Auburn. Should be. Should be. Should be. No. I can’t have those things. I’m not deserving of those things nor am I undeserving of those things. I’m just living this reality that is both the best and the worst--what I have and what I can’t have. 

I would like to say fuck kindness. 

Fuck the outward pleasantries that mean nothing and do nothing to bring my babies back. 

And fuck this blessed season. 


Need to Remember

#writeingrief Day 19-What do you want to remember? What do you wish to forget?


It’s not what I want to remember. It’s what I need to remember. The need to remember everything is a desperate feeling that all of it will be lost. These last few months have been full of flashbacks of my time that I had with Alaska when she was alive.
Telling the boys that they were going to have a baby sibling.
Pushing people away when they tried to touch my bump.
Debating names and finally deciding.
Telling people our name choices.Not caring when they said things like, “Don’t name your daughter Alaska.”
Waking up starving in the middle of the night and eating a sandwich.
Making guesses about whether we had a new son or a daughter.
Seeing our healthy, alive baby during the first ultrasound.Buying dresses that had plenty of room for a growing bump.
Feeling the tiniest flutters of movement from baby Alaska.Feeling her move for the last time that I remember. (And now wondering whether she was distressed, perhaps dying in that moment.)
Snuggling in bed with my family, watching a movie on Christmas night. Perfection in that moment: Putting my hand on my little bump and holding our boys.
Wondering whether I would need to get a new winter coat.
Taking pictures of my small bump.
Watching as my doctor moved the Doppler around on my belly.
Joking that we must have quite a stubborn little one who would be giving us a run for our money.
Taking the phone call that told us we had a little girl. A daughter. Deciding for sure that her name was Alaska Eileen.

This need to remember the happiest times in my life is answered with the need to remember all of it. The rest of the story.
The still baby on the second ultrasound screen.
The “no heartbeat” and “we can’t find the heartbeat” and “your baby died, I don’t know why.” 
The six failed attempts at starting an IV and the bruises left behind. 
Holding my belly in the hospital bathroom. Grasping it from every angle. Trying to commit the feeling to my memory. Knowing that in a few moments or hours that knowledge would begin to fade. 
Searching for pictures of babies who would be the same size to prepare for what we would see. 
The contractions that didn’t work.
Flipping out at my own mortality.
Quitting so that I could just get home to my alive family.

I don’t want to forget any of it, but I know I have already lost details. I can’t remember what it was like to be pregnant with Alaska. I have these little snippets that are covered in her ashes. I will take these grey memories, though. I will cherish them for as long as my mind will let me.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

My Wish for Those Who Grieve

May you...
Give yourself permission.
Breathe deeply.
Say her name when you want to. his name. their names.
Cry when it hurts.
Laugh when you can.
Treat yourself as a most cherished loved one.
Know that I see you. I hear you.
Scream and swear and break whatever is in your way.
Feel the love that you had for her. for him. for them.
Release anything and anyone who needs to go.
Say what you need to say (or not when you can’t).
Feel all of it for as long as you need.
Linger there or let your fingers just skim the surface.
Go back whenever you want.
Hold your breath and hide in the corner if that is what you need.
Say no. Say yes.
Stay. Leave. Return.
Forgive yourself.
Be gentle with yourself.
Tear shit up when you have to.
Feel this light, this wish, this blessing, this love that I have for you.


#writeingrief Day 18--A blessing, a wish for those who grieve.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Gentleness

#writeingrief Day 17

Before I got out of bed this morning, I listened to an excerpt of Megan Devine's book Everything Is Not Ok. Megan’s voice is absolutely perfect. With her guidance, I breathed all the way into my lungs and into all of my constricted parts. It hurt to breathe like that, but it also felt just right. I listened to the excerpt again just a few minutes ago. Again it hurt to breathe, and I lost the entire middle chunk of the excerpt because my mind went racing around chasing thoughts that I had been trying to suppress.

And now I feel like I am breathing the tiniest amount of air that I can. I have to really concentrate on purposeful breaths, but as soon as my mind loses focus, I go right back to the shallow stress breathing.

Merry fucking Christmas (my brother left me a voicemail today that said this, and it made my day just a little more bearable). I have been fighting the urge to post one of those “year in review” photo montages that Facebook has generated. I tried blocking them, but I can’t, so I just ignore each one that pops up. I have had to hide mine more than once. If it shows up again, and I decide to post mine, I will likely add the caption “good riddance and fuck off to 2014”. And that would be crazy. Maybe somewhat justified, but also straight up crazy.

Why don’t I just avoid facebook? I could do that, but it’s where our writing group meets. I have connected with friends in the baby loss community on facebook, and I don’t want to lose touch. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether I cut the wifi and flush all of our devices because grief is everywhere. It really is the lens that I’m looking through. I was going to do some associations to demonstrate what I mean, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Grief is everywhere.

Today and the days ahead are about connecting with my alive family in our home. This is exactly where I need to be. The thought of going out into the world feels emotionally unsafe. It would be consciously making the choice to be under attack with the Christmas cheer and the small talk and the gifts. I cannot do it. You cannot make me. I have to be gentle with myself right now, and even in these safest of circumstances, I cannot breathe, I have a headache, and I feel like the pressure might be too much. I might end up curled in a ball on the bathroom floor anyway.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

On the Condition of My Heart

#writeingrief Day 16


 pink Energizer Bunny 
(it reminds me of my Easter bunny that held a little baby bunny)

Heavy. Stones are cluttered over the surface so you can just see the smooth red muscle in the cracks between the rocks. 
Grief’s claws have become razor sharp slicing between these stones.

Mom and Dad with heart problems: weak heart. heart attack.

My heart outside of my body:
my sons. my husband. just walking around. I have no control over those pieces of me. 

Heart as the dust in Alaska’s urn. Her tiny heart burned to dust. The rhythm of her heart forever recorded on an ultrasound photo. 
When she died, so did a piece of me, of my heart.

And the gore that is losing a baby. 

And the murmur that I have that most doctors don’t notice or say anything about. Or they suddenly notice it after they've seen me many times.

And my heart just keeps the beat. 
With that tiny irregularity. 
With the occasional flutters.
Even when it feels like it’s being squeezed in a giant fist harder and harder as the day goes by.
Just beat. 
beat. 
beat. 

And like the Energizer Bunny it just keeps going and going and going. 
Slogging through the battle scenes: bloody. parts getting blown off of his body. 
But it beats and beats and beats. 
Through the fire. the blizzard. over the frozen lake, falling through ice, submerged, chilled. back to the surface warming by a campfire with the smell of roasting marshmallows. the sound of little boys.
And it beats. And it bleeds. 


Alaska Eileen Peil's heartbeat


Phew. What is it like to see the condition of my heart? It’s strange. I was afraid to sit down and make space for this prompt. I wasn’t sure what I would find. What if no images came up? Even knowing that I couldn’t mess this up even if I ended up writing about something completely different than the condition of my heart, I was scared to sit down with those images. 

Some appeared to me right away after I read the prompt this morning. The Energizer Bunny that reminds me of my childhood toy that sat in my Easter basket. The heart conditions of my mom and my dad that were diagnosed during the summer of 2013. The last summer of my Before. That summer was quite a rollercoaster with my mom’s diagnosis that her heart was weak and that her heart may or may not improve. A few weeks after her ordeal began, my dad (who I hadn’t seen for years) had a heart attack. 

During that time, I was pretty sure that one of my parents would be dead by the next summer. I wasn’t sure whether it would be my mom or my dad or my step-dad (because even then I realized that no one is safe), but I was ready for a phone call. When I got pregnant with Alaska I told my mom right away. I was afraid that her heart wouldn’t heal, so I wanted her to know. And part of me thought that maybe if she could will her heart to get better, maybe our news would help. And I don’t know, maybe our news really did help because her heart has gotten stronger.

Thankfully I didn’t receive a phone call from someone telling me that one of my parents had died. I did have to make a phone call, though. “Our baby died. We don’t know why.” I have no idea what I said, but I could only call two people to say those words aloud. I told my mom and my cousin Nikki. I told them and the boys and my sister Sunshine, and I didn’t really consider what it would do to the condition of their hearts. Mine was still beating while my baby’s wasn’t, so I just told them. And all of our hearts just kept beating even though my world had stopped. No heartbeat. We don’t know why.

Halfway

Day 15--yesterday I reflected on the last two weeks of #writeingrief

I am so thankful for this writing course. It has allowed me to go places with my writing that I hadn’t been brave enough to explore yet. I have shared things that I couldn’t share before. I still haven’t blogged my rant against kindness that I wrote on day six. I’m planning to, though.

I hadn’t shared about opening Alaska’s urn because I knew how crazy it sounds (at least to people who don’t get it). Because some people really do get it. No, we can’t know all or understand everything that another is going through, but we can just be here to listen and to “get it.” This course has helped me to realize that I really can say what I need to say. If everyone stops reading because they think I’m crazy or going to hell, it’s ok. My writing helps me express my grief in a way that I absolutely cannot do any way else.

I eff bomb the shit out of prompts, but I’m not sure what that says about me. I think that I worry about how others perceive me in my grief especially considering all of the swearing. My writing has always included a healthy dose of profanity, though. Even my Before writing.

I have been surprised that each prompt, each day of writing, has seemed just a bit more difficult. I still am not sure whether it’s me or whether Megan has designed the course to push just enough. I’m pretty sure it’s a combination of both. Obviously what is just enough of a push for one person would be too much for another. Each day of writing has taken me closer to Christmas and closer to Alaska’s birthday and Auburn’s should be due date, so each day of living has just been that much harder.

I have been disappointed that my writing sucks on most days, but I haven’t spent time revising. I just read the prompt a couple of times, set my timer, write for 20 or so minutes, and then give it a quick once over before I post. When I have revised this writing for my blog, I have tweaked things here and there, but I have been surprised that I decide to include almost everything. I know that it’s not my best writing, but I have had a difficult time changing the pieces. There is just something about exposing the raw words that are written at a first sitting that feels honest.

I didn’t know that I would go back so often to gray and burning and ashes. I didn’t know that I would get so violent with Grief. I didn’t know that I would be able to talk to Grief the way I did. I didn’t know how hard this month would be. I thought that I knew, but I didn’t really get it. I didn’t know that this course would help me take just enough pressure off of myself to get through to the next day and the next and the next.

I didn’t know that I would continue to second guess myself in my grief. I didn’t know that I would continue to allow people to make me feel like I’m not doing it right. I didn’t know that I would find that poem in that newspaper on day seven. I didn’t know that writing would help me be brave enough to say what I needed to say to the actual people in my life. I didn’t know that I would still struggle this much even though I am taking care to be gentle with myself. I didn’t know how satisfying it would be to tell kindness to fuck off. And I didn’t know that it wouldn’t really be satisfying at all.

I didn’t know that I would be part of an incredible community of writers.

I didn’t know that I would be here on this day because I had so many other plans for life that didn’t include writing through my grief in December 2014. I didn’t know how naive I actually was until--suddenly--I wasn’t.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Home

#writeingrief Day 14 on what I would show my lost little loves of home


I am the only home that you knew. If you had lived, you would have joined us in our modest, old house. The floor would have gotten cluttered with evidence of you--blankets and diapers and toys and most of all your growing form surrounded by your big brothers and mommy and daddy. We surely would have been on the floor playing with you, and possibly rescuing you from the big brother wrestling ring. You would squeal with delight at your brothers’ antics, and you would have some excellent front row entertainment. We would all gather around to watch you sleep and grunt and play.

The place that I would absolutely take you is our living room floor.

I would also take you to your brothers’ ball games and concerts and practices.

And I would take you to Grandma and Grandpa’s ranch and watch them spoil you silly.

I would take you to the store and out to eat, and I would be frazzled to be out and about with three kids. I might even joke to someone that they can have one of you (people say those kinds of comments often; it’s one of those stupid things people say without thinking about how it might sound to someone who has lost a child).

So I would take you out and about, but I would most cherish our moments in our house--just the 5 of us.

People say that it is beautiful that the only home you knew was filled with love and that you were in the safest place in the world. I get where they’re coming from (I’ve said that myself), but as usual these days, I’m also going to call that bullshit. You died in that “safe” place. We don’t know why. You may have been strangled by your cord--the vessels that brought nourishment to you. On one hand I hate my body because it’s where you died, but on the other hand, I cherish it because it’s where you lived. It’s why you lived. It’s home.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Once Upon a Time


#writeingrief Day 13

Once upon a time a wise old witch went to a party uninvited and unwelcomed. Unnoticed. No one even saw her. She didn’t speak, and she didn’t make eye contact with any of the party goers. She just watched the party from right in the middle. In the carefree business of partying, everyone walked on by. She didn’t understand how they made it look so easy, but in the past (before she was wise and old) when she had tried to join in a celebration, she was awkward. People welcomed her to those parties, but she could easily blend in and be forgotten.

So the wise old witch watched and listened. She closed her eyes and imagined what it would be like to partake in the festivities. Even in her daydream it felt awkward. Plastic. She didn’t need this crowd when she could have an intimate gathering with close friends. Sometimes she could sit unnoticed at those friendly get togethers, too, but somehow that was ok.
The wise old witch knows the Truth:

Sometimes bad things happen to good people.
Everyone dies.
Life isn’t fair.
Fairness is a myth.
Fairytales are gruesome. Grimm.
Shit happens.
I love you anyway no matter what.
I hear you.
I see you.
Take my hand.
Your Person is going to die, too. Someday.
LOVE.

She dosen’t always tell the Truth, though. She knows people don’t want to hear it, but sometimes, the wise old witch can’t help herself. She just blurts it out and says she doesn’t care if people think she’s crazy. She says that she shouldn’t have to filter the Truth. She should be able to say whatever she wants and needs. She says that if people leave her, she’s ok with that. She knows that anyone who loves her will stay. Anyone who loves her will allow her to say what she needs to say (even when she’s lying).

The wise old witch doesn’t go to parties anymore (if she doesn’t absolutely have to), but she still likes to be invited. She doesn’t go because she can’t. Maybe she’ll go again someday, but right now she can’t. It’s ok that some people will stop inviting her. She knows that those aren’t her people because her people are patient.

The wise old witch would like to put her gift back. She would like to go back to before she really understood the Truth. That’s another Truth she knows: No do-overs.


The Truth is all she’s got left.

On Breathing in the Wreckage

#writeingrief Day 12 attempting to reflect on the words of  Mirabai Starr



If you want me to "breathe in this wreckage" today in a gentle and loving way and with compassion for myself, you might have better luck elsewhere. I can’t even quite wrap my mind around that first part. Just the breathing is a challenge for me today; it’s a bit harder than it was yesterday. If you want me to breathe in this wreckage then I am definitely going to need time. And quiet. I know that I turn into my pain, and I allow myself to feel my grief. I know that I do because it demands that I do. However, I also know that I have not felt its full weight. I don’t really believe it’s possible to feel the full weight all at once. At least I don’t believe that it’s possible for me right now. I think that I’ve felt all of it over time, but I don’t think that I have the capacity to just breathe it all into my body right now in a gentle and loving way.


I’m not entirely sure why I would want to breathe it all in all at once anyway. What is the purpose of this? Am I trying to find peace? What if I don’t want to find peace? I’m afraid that finding peace--REAL peace--would mean that I’m over losing my babies. 

That it would mean that losing them doesn’t hurt. 

That it would mean that I’m fine without them. 

That it would mean that not only am I fine, but I’m fucking thriving without them. 

Or that it would mean that I might not be able to get out of that hole.


Folding into the pain probably doesn’t mean that any of my fears would come true, but I don’t know what would happen. What I do know is that pain is proof that my babies are loved, and somehow peace and healing sound like acceptance. Maybe it’s easier to just be in pain. When I was in labor with Alaska I didn’t want any pain medication. The nurses and doctors tried to get me to take something, but I just wanted to feel all of it. I wanted to feel every second of the experience, and I wanted to give that to her. It didn’t work out that way for me, but I tried.


And now the pain is always with me, but I do have times when I can genuinely laugh alongside it. Because I'm ok. I'm not ok, but I'm ok.

Yesterday someone asked me where my Christmas spirit was. I said, “It died.” They sort of laughed, and I said, “And I’m not even kidding. It’s dead.” And that is true. My Christmas spirit is dead. Not only dead but burned and destroyed. But it’s also not true because I can feel the spirit through my boys. And I feel it through them and only them.


What does it look like to be inside the fire of grief taking one breath in front of the other? Is it the peaceful scenario I’m imagining? Or does the fire scorch the inside and the outside as we breathe it into our lungs? Does it destroy? What does it destroy? Can it burn away all of the ugliness and just leave the love? But without the intensity of the pain would the love be diminished? Can love be diminished? Nah. Nothing can take that from me.

If you want me to breathe in this wreckage then you have to let me do it on my own time and in my own way. If you want me to breathe in this wreckage then you have to let me do it by myself. I don’t think I can take anyone into the fire with me. 

I just don’t know anything right now. 

I’m so confused. 
Tell me what to do. '
(I know you can’t.)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Overwhelmed and Twitching

Some of my writing reflecting on the words of May Sarton from #writeingrief Day 11

I was determined to make space, inner space for a poem.Loss made everything sharp. 
I suffer from these brief weekends, the tearing up of the roots of love, and from my own inability to behave better under the stress. The poem is about silence, that it is really only there that lovers can know what they know, and there what they know is deep, nourishing, nourishing to the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. 
For a little while, it is as if my nakedness were clothed in love.But then, when I come back, I shiver in my isolation, and must face again,and try to tame the loneliness.
~May Sarton, from Journal of a Solitude. 

I’m not sure where to start with this one because there is so much here. I’m almost overwhelmed by how much is here. Of course this is coming from a place of feeling overwhelmed with life and the joy around every fucking corner. I can’t seem to write to these prompts this week without eff bombing everything. It’s funny (not at all). I know that some people who previously read my blog quit because I swear too much in my posts. When I found this out, it hurt like crazy. I just thought that everyone who loves me would get it. Would get why I need--and have every right--to swear my fucking face off. I mean I think I have that right, don’t I? And when I start questioning things like this, I question whether this entire monster is even real. I question whether I should be in this much pain over merely losing my babies. And then I get really fucking pissed off that I’ve been led down this path. And why do I even care what anyone else thinks? I don’t care if everyone thinks I’m fucking going to fucking hell because I am angry that my babies died. I mean I’m pretty sure that God gets that it’s fucking infuriating for a mere human to lose a baby. And again. And how much can we take? And how much do we have to take? And when does it stop? And fucking WHY (not that that matters)?

I realize that I haven’t even addressed the prompt at this time. I guess I had something else to say today. Perhaps that was my way of making space for other writing. Here goes…

“Loss made everything sharp”
Yes. Hell yes. The good stuff and the bad stuff and the boring stuff. It’s all sharp. All of it can slice through me without warning.

“my own inability to behave better under stress”
Ok. My rant above is probably a good example of this. My twitchy face that I try to poke and press up against the cool wall to see if I can get it to stop is--maybe--an example of this.

“For a little while, it is as if my nakedness were clothed in love”
For a little while. Yes. A reprieve where I can hold on to the only thing that really matters. Just the love that I have for my family--all of them. Can I really break it down to that one detail? Just love? Sure I can. For a little while at least.

“But then, when I come back, I shiver in my isolation, and must face again and try to tame the loneliness.”
This is true. It always comes back to this empty, lonely place. This takes me back to waking up on the gurney and turning to the nurse, “I’m not pregnant anymore, am I?” And still almost a year later, I feel the weight of that emptiness over and over. It’s not that I’m in the same place as the early days where I would literally wake up and have to remind myself and my body that I was empty, but it still hits me full force and knocks me back: Empty again and again and again.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

On Colors and Thestrals

#writeingrief Day 9


Color. Gray. Pink. Blue. Rainbow.

I have written about gray. Just gray. Ashes and ultrasound photos. 

Pink. The “girl color” that both of my sons love. Both boys wear pink shirts and have pink things (headphones, shoelaces). Since Alaska died, it seems that they both want more pink things. I don’t know if this has anything to do with losing their little sister. I know that we would have had more pink in our lives if Alaska had lived and that I like it when the boys choose pink even if it has nothing to do with our sweet girl.

The last day of my Before I was wearing a black and gray dress with a pink cardigan.

Blue. My eyes. The boys’ eyes. Alaska’s eyes? Would she have joined our blue-eyed club or would she have had her daddy’s eyes? Elliott has found many blue feathers since Alaska died, and we have had some nice moments where we saw blue jays flying around. I think of my babies with each blue jay encounter. Alaska’s birthstone for December is blue. I haven’t taken my blue earrings out since she died. I can’t do it. I can’t take them out. They’ve gotten snagged on my clothing a few times and yanked out of my earlobe, but each time I have panicked and found the earring. They are just cheap studs that were at the bottom of my makeup bag. I had taken my hoops out when I was in labor with Alaska. When I got home After, I found the earrings and put them in so my piercing didn’t close. And now I just can’t take them out. I thought maybe that I would take them out after our should-be rainbow baby Auburn was born. That didn’t turn out as we had planned, though. Blue.

Rainbow. Our little rainbow baby should almost be here. And there’s that stupid “should be” again. I know should be is a myth. Meet Should Be, my pet unicorn. Maybe I should slaughter the stupid fucker. I mean it’s not very useful to “should be” my way through life.

My pearly white unicorn is best buds with a thestral. I’ve been able to see thestrals for many years, but I have wondered whether a mom who carries her dead baby inside of her body would see thestrals. And if she happened upon the thestrals before she knew that her baby was dead, would she see the thestral then? And if she saw the thestral then, would she realize why she could suddenly see it? If a mom were riding a thestral at the moment her baby died, would the creature suddenly appear? I realize that the person is supposed to see and understand the death, but a mother’s body surely knows when her baby dies--the change from growing a life to holding death, delivering death.

So yeah...colors.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Grief Mentors

#writeingrief Day 8

In reflecting on grief mentors today, the first people who come to mind are characters from The Walking Dead--specifically Michonne and Carol, both bereaved mothers.

It was just weeks after I lost Alaska when I saw the episode where Michonne told another character that her son had died. I felt so connected to her in that moment. It was around the same time that I was facing the dreaded “How many kids do you have?” question. Seeing her strength in speaking her truth has helped me speak my truth. Saying those words aloud is unbearable sometimes. I can’t make the sounds that would say that I have a daughter but she died. When someone says, “You guys should really try for a girl,” I want to scream at them that we HAVE a daughter. She’s dead, but she’s still our daughter.

These mothers, though. Oh they just kick so much ass. They have both had moments where they almost quit, but when they wake up from the despair, watch out. These two mamas will slice through anything. I feel that way sometimes. I identify with that strength (but don’t fucking call me strong). This is hard to explain. I think it might be easier to be a bereaved mother in the zombie apocalypse. They can literally slice all the bastards in half. They have to move forward or die or turn. They don’t have to listen to everyone’s bullshit drama. They don’t have to worry about what to wear or how they look. They fight or die or turn.  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

December Special (or Holiday Delivery)


Your choice, she said.


Expert advice: First, delivery.
Let us help you, they said.

We reach down, she said.

Concentrate, she said.

Calm down, they said.

Rest, they said.


24 hours later
Expert advice: Problematic delivery.
Choose, they said.
You’ll stay safe, they said.
Calm down, they said.


Expert advice: Tools and suction, they said.
To protect you, they said.

Another choice, they said.
Box or burn?

#writeingrief Day 7-This was an exercise in found poetry. I used a newspaper from December 9, 2014.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Giving Grief a Voice

#writeingrief Day 5



I was standing in the kitchen when I saw her sitting against the wall, knees bent up. I turned toward her and asked, “Why are you following me?” She looked up at me with my eyes.

“I’m always with you," she said; I noticed the dark circles under her eyes--my eyes--and the sagging skin that hung from her face.

"But who are you?" Her scarred arms rested on her knees and when she moved blood oozed from cuts that covered her body. I couldn’t focus on her entire form at once.
I had to step toward her to hear her soft voice. She said, "You can’t stop me or hide from me. I'm always with you. You know who I am." I couldn't stand looking into those eyes that she stole from me. Her hair was long in some places but had been torn out in other spots, so her scalp bled where chunks of hair should have been. "I know what you're thinking. I'm ugly. You can't fix me. You can’t dress me in better clothes and shiny shoes."

She was right. I looked down at her feet. They were bare and bloody. I screamed at her to leave me alone.

"I won't," she said.

"Get the fuck away from me! I don't want you here!" I picked up the knife that was drying by the sink and stabbed her in the chest. I expected an explosion or a pile of goo like in the movies when fantastical monsters are killed, but she just looked up at me with my eyes.

"You can’t kill me; you can't hide from me; you can't ignore me. Haven't you noticed when you try to hide from me I latch on, digging into your body one nail at a time?"

I looked at her hands. A small needle-like blade extended from each finger. Almost invisible but razor sharp.

"You've felt these. In your neck. Your heart. Your gut. All over. Look at me. Each time I pierce your skin, I bleed."

I noticed her scars again and the open wounds. "Why wouldn't you just leave me then? Why make yourself bleed?"

"Don't you see how we're connected? Take my hands. Look at me," she reached up toward me, but I turned away. The moment I stepped out of the room her knives were in my back.

I couldn't shake her free, so I fell face to the floor and spoke to her. "Ok. Ok, tell me what to do."

Her weight moved off of my body, so I lifted my head from the floor. "Take my hands. Every day. Look at me, hold onto me, talk to me. I'll still bleed, but this way is better."

I knew she was right, so I took her hands and we walked together. I flinched and a fresh red drop traced a line down her arm. “Just hold on,” she reminded me. I held her then with a strong, careful grip.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

12/11/13 8:52 AM

#writeingrief Day 4-The ugly truth.


It was 8:52 on a Wednesday morning. Not just any Wednesday morning, but December 11, 2013. That was the first time I heard her heartbeat. It was the biggest relief of my life. When I got to my car I burst into tears--thankful, prayerful tears of relief and love and joy. I hadn't even realized that I was so worried until after.

Since that day exactly one year ago, I have looked at my little girl's picture every day. I have the image memorized; at the top it says 12/11/13 8:52 AM and below is the only picture we’ll ever have of our little girl--her profile in the grainy grays of the ultrasound. I have been dreading this day as time has moved toward 12/11/14. Today. And guess what happened at exactly 8:52 this morning? The bell rang. I have been anticipating this, knowing that I wouldn't be able to miss that time on the clock because the bell always rings at 8:52. Of course nothing happened in that moment. Alaska is just as dead as she was yesterday, but each minute that ticks by means I'm further from my alive daughter and my Before. It becomes ever clearer that my Should Be is actually my Can't Have. 


I don't know what to do with my hands. I wish I could tell them why they don't have a baby to hold, to change, to tickle. My hands expected all of the baby related tasks, and they don't appreciate holding the cold metal heart that keeps Alaska's ashes. They don't understand why we have a teddy bear to squeeze instead of diapers to change. They'll grasp Beary and hold the heart and fight the desire to rip the stupid bear to pieces.

I don't know what to do with my hands. They are so cold today, most days. Waiting for the soft, chubby baby skin to lotion, wash, clothe. Still waiting for new baby smell to linger on my hands and remind me of a frenzied morning. These hands will never understand why they still wait.

A few weeks after Alaska’s urn came home I decided to let myself open it. I needed to see her physical matter with my eyes. I had a moment where I wondered if maybe--when I took both of the screws out of the opening--I would see her fully formed and alive. Maybe she would be moving around inside of the heart. Maybe she would be alive and would grow. Maybe it was all a mistake. I thought all of this in a flash. It’s one of those insane thoughts that comes with grief. I didn’t find her alive body inside the heart of course. Just a tiny bag of ashes. Just the gray and the smell. You know the smell. The burning, the ashes left behind from the fire. It’s my new baby smell.

It’s hard to know what to do with my empty hands. Cut them off. Burn them. Mix them in with her ashes. Cover them in new baby smell.