Sunday, March 29, 2015

On Redemption

#writeingriefDay 11

Saved. Fixed. I have written about this. About how I can't be fixed. About how I don't need to be fixed. 

I know that's what those who love me would like to do. I would like to fix things for my people who hurt, too. I'm not sure there is ever a situation that I direly wanted to fix that I could actually fix. 

What I could do is witness. And that is what I need. That is all that I need from my people who want to fix me. 

As for the bullshit some tout about needing to be broken in order to be better, I don't know if I can touch that today. I see grief memes about redemption and whatnot almost every day if I actually scroll through my feed. I just can't buy it, and I can't stand that some people do buy that. It doesn't feel honest to me. It's trying to label something that cannot be labeled. Trying to explain it away with a pretty story. You can't take a dead person and put a bow on top of their ashes and make it anything than what it is. 

I hope with every ounce of my being that my story ends with an alive baby sibling for my sons. If that happens, will I feel redeemed? Will I feel like I earned it or maybe like my dead daughter. dead babies. were meant to die? No. Fuck no. 

I will forever ache for the babies I have lost. 

And if my story ends with more loss? Will I have earned that somehow? Am I meant to continue to give birth to death? Over and over and over. 

I wish life worked out so that magical thinking actually got results. No, I don't even know if I wish that because that is not how it works.

I wish my daughter had lived. That's really it. No redemption story will ever make me want anything else. I can want my daughter to have lived while also fiercely loving a new baby who lives. I can want both of those things just as I can be broken and joyful and furious. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Take It Back

#writeingriefDay 10

I don’t know what to do with this. I don’t know how to write into the present absence. I don’t know how to talk about how the loss carves its way into everything. 

I don’t know how to do that right now. I don’t wanna. But I do. I need to. I need to write it even if I don’t know how. 

The first part of this prompt that really struck me was the part about how early grief can be two months or two years. And when I first read it, I thought that two years seemed like so long to be in early grief. But then I realized that it’s been over 14 months since Alaska died. Fourteen fucking months?! What? Is this real? Have I been the mom of a dead daughter for more than fourteen months? 

No. no no no no no. This can’t be. This can’t be real. No. 

I don’t want this. This isn’t mine. Take it back. Why won’t anyone take it back? I’ve been asking, demanding for more than 14 months now. Give her back. 

It was so easy, you see. She was growing, thriving with that little beating heart. You can’t take that from me. You can’t just have that be my world in one moment and then just take it away. I didn’t tell you that you could do that. Goddamn it. 

Supposedly this gets easier over time. I don’t buy that. I don’t want it to get easier. How can living without my daughter. my babies. ever get easier? 

And when I write that, I wonder at how pathetic it might sound. And from the outside looking in, maybe it looks like I’m just fine, like I have moved on. It seems important to note that I am living my life and looking mostly just fine while always carrying this awful truth that is doing life without my babies. It’s not quite correct to say that I’m doing life without my babies when I have living sons and when all of my children are still with me. I guess I meant that I’m doing life without having all of my children here with me with hearts beating. 

“you lose them everywhere” Yep. And for always. Even looking back at Before, I still know. I look back and want to slow the time. If I can’t stop Alaska’s heart from beating, maybe I could just stretch time a bit? Nope. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

#writeingriefDay 9-Mess around with NO. 

Ok. You asked for it. 
No. No, you cannot tell me to be grateful for the blessings that I have.

No, you cannot question whether I should use such ugly words.

No, you cannot ask me how I am doing and expect me to beam at you and blow golden sprinkles up your butt.

No. I don’t wanna. I don’t want to pretend right now. I don’t want to pretend for this audience, so I am not going to go. 




No. You shouldn’t be offended by my no. You shouldn’t give up on me. Please don’t give up on me. Keep showing up even when I shout NO at you.

But, no. I’m not going to go back to that person I was before. I don’t know her. I try to poke my face, see if she’s in there. Try to remember her. She’s gone. 


No, you can’t do anything about any of it. You can just take me as I am. You can love me anyway. Or leave me. I’m ok. I have people. 


No heartbeat. 

No diapers.
No carseat. spitup. little girl giggles. 

No pink skirts. No little sister shirts.

No heartbeat. Again. No. 

Fuck you, no. Thank you, no. 


No birth certificate. No death certificate. No funeral. 

No. no. no. no. no. no. no.

Yes. Yes. I have a daughter. Yes she died. Yes she is loved. Yes she has a name. Yes. 

And no, nothing can take her from me. Not even death. Not even no death certificate. Not even no heartbeat can take her from me. Them. My babies. My little loves.

No. No nightmare; this is real. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

My Words That Need to Be Written

Day 8- Write about “the obstinance of words.” 

I love that this prompt so stubbornly wrote itself. This is always how writing is for me. Sometimes I relent and let the words have their way. Sometimes I think I can win because I’m stubborn, too. I never win with words. Ever. Well, maybe I win when I listen to them. When I trust. The words know what needs to be written and know that I haven’t a clue. 

When I think I know just what I will write, I usually find out that I have lost all of the words. 

Most of the time I trust this process. I let myself bitch and whine and carry on about how I don’t wanna write or how I just can’t do it or how I don’t have the words anyway. The words aren’t enough. They never quite suffice when it comes to love and pain and beauty. 

They try with their curves and their edges and their hooks. 
They try with their rhythm. 

With absence and space. 

They try. 

But the words cannot pierce the truth. I can hold Truth in my hands, my bones. I can cover Truth with words, trying to reveal it so you really see and feel it. I can hand my Truth over to you so the words stamp your skin, but they will smudge away before reaching your bones.

What is the point of this then? What is the point of chasing these words when I know that they will never quite get there? What is the point of this when people question the words that I use or they presume? 

And when I hold my Truth in my hands, do I really know what I’m holding? The words help me find it. The words help me sort it out. They help me wade through the utter bullshit that I believe because I won’t trust myself to look too closely, so I just grab on to some idea that I heard. 

Why do I trust the words? Why do I trust that the words that write themselves are my Truth? I don’t know. It’s a feeling. It’s knowing that sometimes my fingers know things that the rest of me doesn’t know. Like passwords. I cannot say my passwords or type them, but my hands know them. Sometimes when I think too hard about my passwords, I type them in wrong. And again. And again. And then I have to face the goddamn security hoops to prove I’m a human. 

So, yes. I trust my words. I trust my process. I set my timer and write. I let myself whine and then find my way to the words that need to be written. Not the words that I want to write. The words that need to be written. The words that fester when I don’t find the time to sit down with them. 

These are the words that need to be written. These are the words that I will continue to write even when people question whether I should write them. These are the words that are in front of me, always. These are the words that I will follow even when they are contradictory.

You are welcome to hold them, but just know that if you question these words that need to be written, I will write them anyway. Stand in front of me. Right there. Stay still. My words will write circles around you. I will write until the ground breaks and you fall through and just go away. These are my words that need to be written. My obstinate words.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

On Habits of After

Day 7-Writing into the habits of grief.

I don’t wanna. I don’t. want. to. go. here. 

“They aren’t habits we chose happily…” -Megan Devine

Nope. They are habits I would give back if it meant I could wake up from this nightmare. I know I won’t. I know my wishing will not unhappen the death that is what I have birthed. Is this wishing a habit? Is Should Be a habit? 

I am really struggling with this one. I keep thinking about the people who judge and what they might think. 

“But I want to hold on to the grieving/ as a way of holding on to you.” -Megan Hall

Me too. 

“It hardly seemed possible.” -Megan Hall

Yes. This is exactly it. It doesn't seem possible that this is my life. It doesn’t seem possible that I am sitting here without my daughter. She was growing along and then she died. And now I’m writing about habits brought on because that happened, but it doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make a goddamn bit of sense. And I’ve started saying goddamn a lot lately. And it fucking feels good. I have always refrained from saying goddamn. Even After. But now, I’m fucking fired up about some shit, goddamn it. 

Swearing is a habit of After. And holding my breath. And not caring about habits from Before. 

What even is a habit? I feel like I’ve been writing about this for two days now and thinking about it for almost a week, and I don’t even know what a habit is anymore.

a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up
synonyms: custom, practice, routine, wont, pattern, tradition

“one that is hard to give up” Grief is a habit. I don’t want to give it up. I don’t want to let go of the only thing that is left of my daughter. my babies. 

Saying no is a new habit of mine. No, I can’t come to that. No, I won’t do that. No. And I won’t apologize anymore either. No...I’m not coming. I’m not sorry. And I’m not going to give you an excuse to make you feel better. Just no. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015


#writeingriefDay 6-Again, this was written some time ago. 

Write into habits. I’ve sat down with this prompt three times this week but haven’t written a word. 

Write into habits. Habits. Habits. 

Checking my bump. First it was bloat and then it was baby. And then she died.

Habits. Waking up in the middle of the night for a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of milk. Until I didn’t. I didn’t wake up one night just days after Christmas 2013. I noticed, but I didn’t think much of it. After I found out she was dead, I realized that not waking up starving meant something. Of course it doesn’t matter because Alaska died, so it doesn’t matter that it took me a few days to catch on. 

Peanut butter sandwiches never tasted so good those days. I don’t eat those anymore. 

For a while I thought maybe the peanut butter sandwiches killed her. Or maybe it was my hairspray. Or toothpaste. Or maybe I shouldn’t have worn tights. 

Now I know that isn’t true. I mean I don’t have proof or anything, but I know that peanut butter sandwiches didn’t kill my little girl. 

And I know that whatever did kill her doesn’t matter. Why doesn’t matter. 

And habits. I’m having some major delays with this prompt. I just stop and hold my breath for a few seconds and don’t write anything.

Habits. Write into habits. Pregnancy comes with many habits. Take your vitamins, exercise, eat healthy snacks. 

What habits does Empty have? Breathe. At least try. Eat. Just enough. Feel. Try not to feel. Feel every bit.

And After? I’m not sure. I’m still stumbling around out here. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Beauty in After

#writeingrief Round 2 Day 5-This post was written moons ago.

"We are broken but not damaged." -Megan Devine

Writing into the beauty is intimidating. We do certainly have a beauty that is unlike anything I have ever known. I couldn't see it Before. I didn't want to see it. I knew it was there but was afraid to look too closely. maybe it wasn't mine to witness yet. I don't know, though. I don’t want to say that I had no right to witness Before. I just couldn't, wouldn't. 

We are broken but not damaged. YES. How does this work? How are we broken but not damaged? I don't know HOW. I just know that this is the way it is. This is the truth of After. We walk around in the shell of Before. We do what we need to do and people may think we are doing it wrong. They may tell us that we shouldn't talk that way or write those ugly words. We should be grateful for the blessings that we do have and should focus on the positive. 

We are not damaged for feeling so deeply. That is not damaged. 

"Do not medicate away this melancholy." -Jeff Foster

Jeff Foster tells us to feel all of our feels, tells us to go into the melancholy. 

But how often do people see the bereaved as damaged? How often do they inflict damage upon the broken? We are broken not damaged, but we can be damaged. Even though whatever is said or done cannot compare to the reality of living in After, we can be damaged. By words. By thoughts. By actions and inactions.

I wish that I could protect us from being damaged. 

Do we have to learn how to protect our own heart? I am walking around with this armor up trying not to let in the poison. I can't really protect myself from those chemical burns, though. If it isn't dumped on me by another person, I find the bottle sitting on the sidewalk and dump it on myself. If I don't do that, it comes flying at me from nowhere, poison dousing my clothes. Dripping down my arms. Sizzling a new path over my skin.

Is this beauty? 

What is the beauty in After? It's the community. The support. The understanding. The witness. It's the vulnerability explored through words that cannot ever fully reach the truth. It's the trying to reach the truth.

What is NOT the beauty in After? It is not a lesson learned. It is not being grateful for what we have. It is not loving harder. It is not a gift or blessing. The beauty in After would be traded for our living love.

I would trade it for just one breath. I would trade it for one moment of her voice. I would trade it for a kiss, my lips to her cheek. I would trade this beauty for just one sleepless night with my girl and her beating heart. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

It Just Is

#writeingrief Round 2
Day 4-

I couldn't write this yesterday. I felt frozen. I couldn't even sit down and write into feeling frozen. Maybe I was just being lazy.

So today I am forcing myself to sit with this prompt. 

I was instantly hesitant when I read that we are supposed to go into this seeking comfort. I don't wanna. Why? Just because. No reason. I don't know. I'm scared. I can't think of anything. It's too much pressure. What do you expect? 

And of course there you have it. A list of excuses. Empty ones. And no one expects anything. Except that I just show up to these words. I don't even have to write into them if I can't. I can just read the prompt and leave it at that. 

What is it about choosing weather that has me incapable of stringing a few words together? Maybe it's that weather feels like a stranger lately. Winter means running from the house to the car to the school to the car to the house. And an occasional walk when the windchill isn't too ridiculous. 

And those walks in the winter weather are refreshing. It's the air. Crisp to the point of painful some days. But breathing in the frozen air helps me center somehow. The road under my feet and stretched in front of my path guides me, propels me forward even when I don't wanna go for a walk. (I don't wanna.) 

"What kind of comfort do you find in such impartial Nature?" -Megan Devine

Spending a few minutes out in the weather reminds me that nature does not care whether I am pissed or sad or happy or confused. Nature doesn't care about my emotions and doesn't judge. It just is. It just is hot and sunny. It just is cloudy. It just is a blue-sky, cold-ass day. It just is. What I bring to it matters not at all. Why is this comforting? Maybe it's the reliability that you get what you get. I can tell Nature that I'm over winter. I could request a blizzard. And each would go ignored. The weather could come along and claim an entire town but leave one tulip standing. So I'm comforted by the reliability of my lack of control over the weather. I have no idea what to make of that.

Death: You get what you get. (I just wrote that and would like to delete it.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Spiral

#writeingrief Round 2
Day 3-

Earlier today I came across a very timely paragraph I wrote about five years ago when I attended a week-long writing institute on genocide. In preparation for the institute, we created identity boxes. In my identity box, I included...damn. I can’t remember much of what I included, and I just searched for the box and can’t find it. I know I had items to represent my family and my job and my identities as a reader and a writer. One of the first activities we did with the identity box was that we were given a slip of paper that said the name of one of the items from our box. The item on this paper represented what was taken from us, and we had to write about how it would be to have that taken from us. My paper said “son.”

I’m frozen at the thought of one of my sons being taken away. I’m trying not to cry about it right now and this is only an exercise with a word written in pencil on a small piece of blue paper. I guess that says something about how it would feel if it were true. About how people feel when it happens to them. I think my response would be to fight...but I can also see how it could be easy to just fade away, give up. And now that I wrote that I have decided that, no, I would fight. I would fight...I hope I would fight.”

So that was Before me, and I remember how I couldn’t allow myself to fully go there but that I was holding back deep sobs. When everyone around me realized what I had been given and how I reacted, they protected me from going too far into that scenario. When I read this today, I recognized how little I understood but also that I was onto something: I would fight.

Or maybe give up.

No, I would fight.

I hope I would fight.

Now I know that in the course of a couple of moments, Grief can take me from fighting to giving up and back around to a number of other places. Is this the spiral CS Lewis asks about in A Grief Observed? He asks whether he is going up or down. It’s not that easy with Grief. Up or down? No.

It’s not up or down. It’s both. It’s not just falling or climbing. It’s balancing on a razor sharp spiral and losing your footing and grabbing on as Grief slices at your grip. It’s climbing even when the very tip of the spiral has pierced your guts. It’s bloody and shitty and it reeks. You plead for tears to fall that they may wash away the gore. You climb and climb as Grief rips you apart until you realize that you have to stop flailing and feel the way the spiral shifts around you. And you move with it. And you learn to trust Grief and trust yourself. (You trust Grief to be a sneaky bastard that will shift at the last moment.) You trust even knowing that the spiral razor may wrap around you gently and carefully, lulling you into believing that you are in control, until--at the last second--it constricts tighter and tighter.

And you will fight.

And you will trust.

And you will give up.

And you will bleed.

And again.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

On the Love That Is

#writeingrief Round 2
Day 2-

I keep reading this prompt and hoping that I will figure out how to say the right thing. How do I say the thing that I need to say? 

Will I ever learn to trust this process? Stop trying so hard to do it right? I know that I just need to follow the words. Just write. Just write crap. My only job in this is to write. 

Stop stalling, Sami. 

“And there may be many things we forget in the days to come,But this will not be one of them.” Brian Andreas, from Traveling Light: Stories & Drawings for a Quiet Mind

This line caught me right away on my first read through. I have written a bit about memory and remembering and forgetting. I have wondered whether I will forget my daughter, my babies, someday as an old woman. Will I forget my lost little loves? My children who died? If I do forget, what happens? What happens to the love if the person who loves forgets the love? 

Do I need to go here? I’m not sure I need to go here. Maybe I just don’t want to know what I really think about that. Does love die? Does it disappear, sucked through holes in a diseased brain? Is the love wrapped so tight around every cell that it stays no matter what? It stays, holding on to the ash and the soot. It’s still there as the body decays and the earth and body become one and renew. 

If that’s true then isn’t our world just one big ball of love? If love can hold on to each cell can hate? And what’s the difference? 

And here I am with this Edgar Allen Poe quote that says, “We loved with a love that was more than love.” Well ok then. Shit. I just got completely distracted by Poe’s initials. Auburn’s girl name would have made her initials EAP. She would have shared initials with Poe--just a quick flip of Alaska’s initials AE. 

Anyway. “We loved with a love that was more than love.” Yes. We did. Loved past tense, though? We still love. We love with a love that is more than love. So there. I still love my dead babies. I can do that, right? (Yes. I can.)

The prompt says to show you something of the one I love, of my life that was. I went straight to the grey and the love. Ashes and still love. 

I’m trying to jump back to the life that was. It’s so hard to go there. I’m looking at her picture right now. Her alive body, the grey photo that held so much promise. It was the best place to be, but I can’t show you that because it’s gone. I can’t show you that promise because my little girl is dead. My babies are dead. And they are loved. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Unicorn

I have joined the second round of Megan Devine's Write Your Grief course. If you know grief, I highly recommend her "grief support that doesn't suck." Check out her website here. I plan to blog at least some of what I write during this course. #writeingrief 

Round Two, Day 1-

"There's a journey she must go on now, and she does not want to go."

Before. She was riding around on a beautiful unicorn under the warm sun. Everything was bathed in the golden light. The world, even the shit piles, reflected the light. 

After. She walks through the charred forest. The unicorn--starved and grey--follows just behind her. Occasionally sunlight will peek through the smog and the unicorn will shudder at the spots of light shining off of his horn. 

Fuck. This isn’t working. Is she going to stab the unicorn? I really want her to stab him. Where is she going? What about her family? (The ones who are alive.) She isn’t alone is she? 

She doesn’t want to be on this journey. But where is she going? Why can’t she refuse? 

She can’t refuse because everything burned. The ash hangs in the air, blocking the light. She can’t stay in that wasteland. Can she? 

She doesn’t want to leave, though. She wants to stay here in this same place that burned to the ground. This is where her family is. They will stay and nurture and wait for the green to sprout from the earth. They will stay knowing that everything was burned to the ground and that some places are scarred too deep for new growth. They will stay knowing that they walk among the ashes. They will not run toward someone else’s light. This darkness is theirs and the light, when it does find its way through, that is their light. 

And so they stay.

What about the unicorn? He is grey still even as the earth renews. The unicorn does not get to go back to the light. She stabs him sometimes just to watch him bleed. Just to make sure he is still there. She only walks beside the unicorn now; they never trot around in the sunlight as they did Before. They walk--in the grey, in the rain, in the light. Together still.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Ask Me.

I wrote this for my pact with my #writeingrief friend.  She gave me three lines from my previous writing to write into. I chose the line below. It's from a piece that hasn't been published yet. 

You can find my pact friend here.

"And I am broken but I am fucking fine. And nothing about me is fine, but I will get by."
I have gone ‘round and ‘round with this line. I will get by. I am fucking fine. And nothing about me is fine. But I am fine.

It sounds so ridiculous and impossible to convey what I mean.

How am I, you ask? (Alright. How are you?)

“How is she?” (You ask someone else.)

I wonder if it’s a good idea to speculate about how someone is with someone who is not that person. I wonder if an outsider can ever really know how someone is. You maybe can’t trust the person to tell you the truth, but I think that “How are you?” is so much better than “How is she?”

Because no one but me can answer that question. You can ask me other questions, too. You can ask me things like, “But how are you REALLY?” or “But HOW are you alright?”

And then you can just let me say that I am alright, really. I am alright because that’s what you do when your daughter dies. babies die. Alright. Ok. Fine.

And you can say, “I wish I could fix this for you.” (You can’t.)

And then perhaps, “Why are you so angry?” (My daughter died. babies died. If that doesn’t answer that question then nothing will.)

“Should you really be writing and sharing all of this?” (Ah. Am I making you uncomfortable? It’s ok to look away. But, yes. I should be writing and sharing. The writing of others saves me, and if I stop writing, I will disappear. You may not notice if I disappear, though.)

“Why can’t you just move on? let go? It’s not healthy to be so dark.” (The darkness persists. If I hid this, it would still be here. The only thing that would happen would be that I wouldn’t be making you uncomfortable. And I would disappear. Disappearing is not healthy.)

What else might you ask me? I’m right here.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Safe Zone Is Bullshit

I wrote this piece earlier this week for a writing pact that I made with a #writeingrief friend.

The safe zone is bullshit. I wonder how many times I have written that sentence in the past year. How many times I have thought it but didn’t say it. How many times I have wanted to scream it at someone. 

The safe zone. I mean who came up with that stupid ass phrase anyway? There is no fucking safe zone. At no stage in life is there a safe zone. None. Mortality is right here in your face. Right here all of the time. Every second. We know more old people who die than young people. Right? Probably. But I know plenty of young people who have died. The safe zone? Healthy young men die. Babies die. Unexplained. Reason unknown. Lightning strikes or cancer. Accidents. Influenza. Injury. There is no fucking safe zone.

What else is bullshit?

What is safe? 

“protected from or not exposed to danger or risk” 

Ok. So “safe” is just an illusion, right? Safe is nothing. Safe. Fuck safe. 

Protected from risk? Not exposed to danger? My babies were in the "safest place in the world," and they died. 

Safe is also: “not likely to be harmed or lost.” 

That’s what the safe zone is referring to, right? Statistically not likely to die. Fuck statistics. Ok? Fuck them so hard. I fucking hate those numbers. Your baby is UNLIKELY to die. That’s all it means. But tell that to the parents whose babies die. Tell that to us and then ask what we think of it. Bullshit. That’s what I think. Statistics are bullshit. The safe zone is bullshit. And none of it matters. Looking at statistics for reassurances does NOTHING to actually change the outcome. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that our chances of having an alive baby are still pretty good. The only thing that actually matters is that my babies died and will remain dead. I mean...obviously that’s not the only thing that matters in the scope of my life. With this question, though, the only thing that matters is that they are dead. Because they lived. They mattered. They are matter.

matter noun
  1. the physical substance in general as distinct from mind and spirit; that which occupies space and possesses rest mass

matter verb
  1. be of importance; have significance
synonyms: importance, consequence, weight

The safe zone is bullshit. I want to punch people who mention the safe zone. Well, I think I want to punch them. I’m not really into punching people, but in this case, my arms truly want to carry my hand toward the face of the person who talks about the safe zone and collide. Boom. Fuck the safe zone. Fuck it. Because it’s bullshit.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

When I Think

#writeingrief Day 26--An exercise in taking phrases and sentences that I have previously written and making something new from those words. So here is what I wrote a few weeks ago when I was writing for round 1 of Write Your Grief.

When I think secret...
I think about how the safe zone is bullshit.
I remember when she was hiding from me in my dream, and I got to seek her, my alive daughter.
I realize that living with missing pieces, living with the scars, means that I do so under concealment. Scars are secrets. Concealment means that people will think I’m ok (not crazy).
Sometimes the secret is from myself--like trying to grow our sweet (should have been) rainbow baby with the joy and the fear and the love, but trying to cover the fear as much as and for as long as I possibly could.

When I think about my dreams, my potential world takes on a new meaning.
Dreams seemed so easy. Before. Giving our boys a new sibling who lives.
Along with everything else, dreams need to be put back together, but my puzzle has holes.
Dreams After: a feather on my sleeve and calling to her, “Alaska...Alaska…” Dreams are the only place where I have seen her alive body.

When I think about what I can’t believe…
I can’t believe that I can be shattered, but I can also be steady.
I can’t believe I broke my son’s birthday wish and his heart. The joy was taken away with just a few words.
I can’t believe that we lost our babies even though I knew we could.
I can’t believe that I really can hold grief and joy and pain and beauty and love in one space.
I can’t believe the judgement.
I can’t believe the guilt.
I can’t believe that my heart can be full and broken.

When I think about the very beginning, it’s almost impossible to imagine.
How very blessed. It’s the same love, though. It’s the same love that carries through.
My grandfather died before I was born; my daughter died before she was born. It’s not how it was supposed to go. Why couldn’t she get just a few breaths? Is air such a limited resource that she couldn’t have just a few? She could have some of mine. I’m not using them all up these days anyway.

The thing about “supposed to get our happy ending” is…*shrugs*...the safe zone is bullshit. Anything can happen. (Clarification: Anything can happen to anyone at any time.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dead Baby Birthday

#writeingrief Day 24-This was written on Alaska's birthday on December 31, 2014; it's the rest of the truth of that day. Dead baby birthdays aren't all quilts and angel food cake. Dead baby birthdays are filled with a deafening silence and sprinkled with "Happy New Year" greetings. 

I don’t know where my writing will go today, but I know that I have to write. I feel like I am fighting an incoming panic attack. I woke up with a headache and stomach ache this morning. I can’t breathe. I have waves of dizziness. My heart is being crushed by a force I can’t fight. I just want to zone out and experience oblivion for a few minutes, but I can’t because today is a birthday party.

Happy birthday, Alaska Eileen. <3 
One of Asher's notes we found in the Blessings Jar.
Happy birthday
today is New
Years Eve We
will be celebrating
your birthday
it will be a special
 Elliott finally solved his Rubik’s cube. The boys and I played at the Children’s Museum. I cooked and baked a cake. When Brandon got home we ate lasagna and birthday cake. We opened our blessings jar that we started last year after Alaska died. We opened Alaska’s only birthday gift--her quilt from her Grandma Dawn. We played games and will continue to have a very nice day. As lovely as our celebration is today, it doesn’t take away any of the pain of missing our sweet girl.

It's tricky to talk about. If you share the scarce moments of peace,or alignment or grace, people outside your grief process may jump on it,shrieking with joy that you've found it! You've found the gift!When it isn't that way at all. (Megan Devine at Refuge in Grief)

This quote from the prompt strikes me as I have found this to be true especially with my blog. People comment on my posts about these moments of peace. These precious moments are very true parts of grief. They are just as true as the pain and the ugliness, but it really messes with me when people show so much love on my writing that reflects positive feelings. I have stopped blogging because of how effed up I’ve gotten over this. Realizing that this audience interaction is part of blogging, I just quit. I would never want to compel readers to comment or not comment because I know that anyone who comments does so in the name of love and community. Megan’s words really resonate, though, because receiving attention for feeling positive makes me feel like readers are judging my anger or sadness. The ugly parts of grief need to be written and need to be felt. It is important to write both the beautiful and the ugly. Positive thinking cannot cure this pain. It can't.
My perception of what everyone is thinking is partly informed by what a couple of people have said to me, but it’s mostly my ego running wild with my imagination and deciding that I my grief is being judged. I realize that most people aren’t even paying attention at this point, but the occasional conversation or blog comment pops up to remind me that some people do have an opinion about how I grieve. I recently posted my blessings for those who grieve on my blog, and many people commented and sent love. I always appreciate those comments. 

The next day I felt the need to answer that post with my writing on kindness (namely that it could fuck off) because that intense anger is the truth also. In contrast to the many comments on my blessings post, one friend commented and one liked that post, and I was so thankful to them for this gesture that told me that it’s ok to be pissed. That they love me anyway. I could shut the comments off, and I could stop blogging publicly, but my sense of giving my voice to baby loss and offering this platform for others compels me to keep writing.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

On Badass Moments

Since the session of the Writing Your Grief course was over last week, I have been writing from random pages in Looking for Alaska. Reading has been difficult for me since Alaska died, and in the last few months, I haven’t been able to finish any books that I have started.

It’s not you, books, it’s me.

Audiobooks help bring me the stories that I crave while I can busy myself with cleaning or cooking or playing solitaire so that I focus on the story rather than read several pages and have to go back (or more likely quit). Tonight I chose my page by turning on a timer and stopping it quickly .48 seconds meant that I would turn to page 48. This turned out to be one of the pages that I don’t have marked; it’s a fun scene in the novel, though. This book makes me laugh and cry (always has), and this is one of those pages that had me laughing. Two words stood out when I read it the second time tonight: badass moment.  

It seems a bit silly to write about those words, and I’m not entirely sure why they stood out. When I think of badass moments in my life, I come up blank. I could maybe find something if I really let myself go there, but tonight I want to say that this community of writers that I have come across through WYG is full of beautiful badassery. Really the simple act of breathing during grief is badass some days. The simple act of breathing. Did I just say that? Breathing used to feel simple, a natural process that could become laboured with stress or exercise. Breathing with grief is a new task altogether, and sometimes it’s the only thing that gets done in a day. Just breathe while the heart goes boom (like in that terrible, awful, icky “Sledgehammer” song). That song. I’m not sure I’ve heard a worse song. Sorry. I’m a hater.

Sledgehammers are badass, and I don’t think they actually go boom boom boom like a lust-struck heartbeat. Sledgehammers tear through walls. Sledgehammers destroy and clear a path to build something new. Is that what we’re doing here with our grief writing? Tearing through walls that will keep coming back? Sometimes with ugly patches and sometimes made with better materials but always, always destined for the sledgehammer.

(Maybe I’ve been too narrow with my opinion on uses for the sledgehammer; apologies to the sledgehammer operators out there.)

Knowing and Not

“And so I never knew you, did I? I can't remember, because I never knew.  
... I needed, I decided, to really know her, because I needed more to remember. Before I could begin the shameful process of forgetting the how and the why of her living and dying, I needed to learn it: How. Why. When. Where. What.” (from Looking for Alaska by John Green)
I know this desperation of wanting to learn all of it when the answers are unreachable. No one knows. No person on this earth knows what happened or why or how or when or where. Any solution that is proposed would be a guess. People offer guesses and speculation about why my daughter died. My babies died. But why doesn’t matter. Why doesn’t fix anything. Why. why. why. Yes. I get it. I ask that every day. Why. Why the fuck. How? Goddammit. Just take it all back. Bring her back. “And so I never knew you, did I?” No. I never knew her the way I wanted to know her, but I did know her. I knew my Alaska. She made herself known to me, and I love her unconditionally. I knew her. I did. I feel so defensive about this because of the perceptions of others. I have written about this quite a bit because it really is part of this grief. There is this weight hanging here, and it has been dropped on me many times: You should not grieve your unborn daughter. Your babies. They did not matter. You did not know them. They were not real people. You thinking that they are your children is crazy. You need to get over it. It seems just when I feel the weight has been removed, someone says some bullshit like that or I read it online. Just when I feel in control of that particular anvil, Wile E. comes along and slices the rope. Trying to justify my grief is a waste of time, but I’m not entirely sure how to stop playing that reel over and over. Perhaps I just keep on. I just come back to the same place which is my love for my babies. I just come back to holding the truth that I have lost my precious little loves and can cry if I want to.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Small Bump

#writeingrief Day 27

My small baby bump.
I didn’t want people to touch my bump when I was pregnant with Alaska. I’ve never been comfortable with people touching me, so I was very protective of my bump. I don’t remember being as vocal about it when I was pregnant with my boys, but I was younger. Ten years ago I was more inclined to put up with that sort of shit. At Thanksgiving 2013, my mom tried to touch my belly, and I freaked out. I told her that I wouldn’t come to Christmas if she did it again. My stubborness won, but I believe she got another pat in at Christmas. It didn’t bother me quite as much since my bump was at least an actual bump because baby was above my crotch area. I still feel somewhat guilty that I didn’t even want my own mother to touch me, but I also know that I had every right to say no.

And this takes me to the hospital when I was in labor with my dead daughter. Each time I went into the bathroom I pulled my gown tight around my belly to look at my bump and try to will my baby back to life. At that point I would panic and wonder if the ultrasound had lied. What if my baby was actually alive and the delivery is what would kill my baby? I tried to will my baby to just move again, and then I remembered that I hadn’t felt any of those tiny movements for days. And then I remembered that a couple of days ago, I had stopped waking up in the middle of the night to eat a sandwich. And I knew that two ultrasounds of my still baby were not lying. No heartbeat. But maybe I could still wish my sweet little love back to life, right? Maybe I would wake up from the nightmare.

With every trip into the bathroom I became more desperate until I finally tried to just will my mind to memorize my small bump from my tiny baby. Please, could I have this exact feeling of holding my child embedded into my body?

And this begging, desperate wishing, praying, bargaining continues even today. Please, could we just rewind? Could we rewind and change the story? Could I just look in my rearview mirror and see my alive daughter in her carseat? Could we rewind and relive those months where my daughter was alive even if she still has to die? Could we just go back there for a few minutes so we could be alive together again?

Nope. It’s not going to happen. That’s not how this works. It’s ok to still ask when you need to ask. I’ll be here to remind you that no, it’s never going to happen. We can only move forward from here. Tick tock.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Empty Persists

“Do you know what happened to you?” (from Looking for Alaska by John Green) 

I just read about this character who experienced a concussion, and it makes me wonder whether there are any similarities to when I found out that my daughter was dead.  He suffered a physical trauma that was intense for a couple of moments, and he knew that he was concussed. I suffered the emotional trauma first, and then the physical trauma, and finally the trauma of Empty. The trauma of the blank space where there--just moments before--grew one of the most important people in my life. And Empty persists forever. This Empty cannot be filled.

You ask whether I know what happened to me. I do. But I don’t know why or how, and I know that why and how don’t matter. Why and how don't change anything. Perhaps knowing those answers would help in the trek to have an alive baby, but why and how do not bring my daughter back. My babies back. I don’t know when either. I don’t know when she died. 

When doesn't change anything either. When is not what matters.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

On Love for Self

#writeyourgrief Day 30

I would really, really like to skip this one. Love for self. Really? Do we HAVE to go here? Because I don’t wanna. I know that when I’m resisting something and really trying to fight it, I should probably make myself do it. But seriously. I don’t wanna. 

Because I love me, I am going to make myself go here. I am going to make myself dig into this damn love fest of a prompt right now. Scratch that. It’s a self-love fest. I am in full on snark mode right now. I’m being a shithead. I know that it’s essential to take care of myself. Love seems a bit extreme. Do we have to call it love? 

Yes. We’re calling it love. Get over yourself.

“Because I deserve to be loved.”I’m not sure I believe that. Does everyone deserve to be loved? Do I really NOT believe that? Of course I fucking believe that. Each person is someone’s son or daughter and deserves to be loved. Some people in this world haven’t experienced the parental love and care that I believe they deserve. 

So since I believe that everyone deserves to be loved then why don’t I believe that for myself? It’s pretty effed up to think that I’m somehow the one exception to that rule (I know I’m not that special). The mother of my children doesn't deserve to be loved? The wife of my husband? The daughter, sister, aunt, friend that I am doesn't deserve to be loved? 

Is it self-love selfish? Or could denying love for self be the selfish approach? I’m not sure I want to go there. Self-love is tough. 

Because I don’t wanna, I am going to try to write a blessing for myself. Because I’m being a shit and don’t wanna, I’m making myself do it. Right now. As soon as I stop stalling.

May you write when you need to (and when you don’t wanna).
May you drink your water.
May you drink coffee (but only one glass, maybe two).
May you find reasons to smile and then actually smile.
May you realize that you don’t have to smile.
May you answer the phone (or don’t).
May you know that it’s ok to have a smaller circle.
May you know that it’s ok to let go.
May you stop deciding what other people think about your grief.
May you do yoga.
May you breathe.
May you scream and swear.
May you cry.
May you speak what you need to say (in the moment it needs to be said).
May you hesitate when it’s right.
May you forgive yourself.
May you stomp your feet but do it anyway (or don’t because you know when to push yourself).
May you read a book because you find a story that just won’t stop.
May you play.
May you speak to yourself as you would a loved one. 
May you … (fill in the blank with what you need in the moment).

So there we have it, I think. Love for self. It’s essential, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s ok. Love yourself because you deserve it and you want to, and if you can’t do that, then love yourself because your person would want you to. Just do what you have to do, but forgive yourself if you can’t. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

I Will Write

#writeingrief Day 29

These are not just words. We write because someone has died. I have always identified as a writer, and I have always turned to writing through my pain. Well, sometimes I avoided writing or “forgot” that I could write through pain, but writing has always been here for me. Waiting. It’s truly what I need to do to sort things out.

Of course here I am sorting through that which cannot be sorted.

That which will not be sorted.

The unfixable, unsortable, undeniable grief.

Even though something cannot be figured out, we can still run our fingers through it as often as we need to. We can still try to get to know it even as we know that it will surprise us. You know the sneak attack.  It will find us when we expect it and when we think we have found a reprieve.

If writing helps me poke at this Grief and stab her and dress her up when I know that she will not accept attempts to make her sparkle, I will write until all of the words are gone. I will write this story (this it’s-not-a-story-it’s-reality), and I will trudge through the forest. I will scrub the soot off of my memories. I will write.

We write because someone has died. We write because our person died. Or persons. I write because my babies died. Death. Death is the one truth we know. The inevitable. I walked through a cemetery the other day, and I felt very comfortable. We have something in common, this cemetery and I.

And even though I know that the thought of feeling this sisterhood with a cemetery would have disturbed me 13 months ago, now it’s just the way it is. I would do every bit over again even if I knew that my babies would die. The love does not die. The love remains. I suppose that’s the other truth we know, isn’t it? We wouldn’t grieve like this without the love. To borrow Megan’s line here, “I know that seems obvious.” Sometimes, though, I don’t think it is obvious.

I think we forget and outsiders forget that at the root of the pain, the wound, is the love that will continue to ooze from the wound. The process hurts, it fucking sucks, it’s messy, and it’s necessary. Sometimes it’s beautiful. (Can I say that?) We write this story because we love.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Invisible and Visible

#writeingrief Day 28-I will be posting out of order. I'm not reading to post what I wrote on Alaska's birthday or on Auburn's due date.

"The invisible causes changes in the visible.The visible gives evidence of the invisible." ~Megan Devine

This. Yes. I am forever changed by my sweet babies who were all but invisible to the world. How do I give evidence of the invisible? This is where I’m blocking. I feel like I don’t give evidence. Strangers look at me when I’m out with my boys and see a mom of two. People who know about my daughter, my babies even, probably mostly see me as the mom of my boys, the teacher, the wife, the whatever I am.

The world can see the shape of you in me by the shape of my flabby tummy. My empty bump that persists thanks to my wavering motivation to exercise my body. Sometimes I want to sweat it all out, and sometimes I want to stay in the hole. Screw this body. This failed temple. This burial ground. This mass of bones and blood that does not quit. Just sometimes.

The world can see the shape of you in me by the way your brothers wobble in orbit. Do we call them bereaved brothers? I suppose so. Words are difficult for me in this space. Your brothers are resilient. They thrive even as they miss and love you. That’s all. (It’s not, but words aren’t sufficient here.)

The world can see the shape of you in me by the way I interact. It’s not a new development that I much prefer a quiet gathering of close friends or family to anything to do with a crowd, but I think missing you has made me more protective of this preference. I have no guilt when I choose to stay home and offer no apology for saying no.