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.