Friday, October 5, 2018

Correction: Was

#writeyourgrief into a monthly prompt from Megan Devine at Refuge in Grief. 

When I first read this prompt I had a much different line to pull, but I couldn’t get this one out of my head--an animal who runs and hides. That’s you. Was you. Was.

When we spoke on the phone, I could feel your anxiety building until you panicked and ended the call as quickly as possible. My own anxiety appreciated the end of the conversations because while I always knew that you loved me, you didn’t know me like you should have, so sometimes I just didn’t answer the phone. I couldn’t make myself go through the whole routine of mostly small talk which makes me uncomfortable especially when I’m small talking with my own dad. Correction: When I was. Was.

I know how terrible this sounds, but I did not treasure those phone calls. It was a gauge of how you were doing and a reminder of your absence. The phone calls weren’t easy.

We had more quality time in these final months than we’ve had for probably a couple of decades. But--again--I suck at small talk, so I didn’t have a lot to say. We were together, though, and that counts for something. You got to see Sunny Lou, your little prizefighter, and see how your description of her name definitely suits her. You got to play cards with Asher and talk football. You got to see some of Elliott’s art, but I don’t think you got to talk music. This shouldn’t have been a whole event. All of our memories with Grandpa Gregg should not fit in a neat little paragraph.

I was hopeful after your first hospital stay. I knew you were very sick and that your time was ticking down, but maybe you’d get years. Maybe some really great years. But no.

Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) -- treatment referral and information for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Four Years

Happy birthday, Alaska Eileen. Four years. Four years a forever baby. We love you.

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.)

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.)

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.

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.

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.