Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Loss::Part 1

This might be a little uncomfortable for you. It might hurt to read. It might hurt to imagine. It may make you feel sad, or scared, or just something you don't like. But, I really feel that I need to talk about it.

I need to talk about loss. Not just any loss, but the loss of a child. I don't do this often. Normally, I just talk about Emma on her Angel Day and birthday. But it isn't something that is spoken of very often, and it is something that happens all too often.

No one wants to think about losing their children. It happens to other people, it never happens to you. And then it does. And it hurts. And you don't know how you are going to survive this pain. And you don't know anyone else who it has happened to, because it is just a hypothetical situation that you have just found yourself smack dab in the middle of.

So, now you know someone. Me. This is going to be a two part series, what to do if you find yourself in the middle of this nightmare, and what to do if you know someone who is in the middle of this nightmare.

First I'm going to address what to do if it happens to you. I know, you don't want to think about it and really your first inclination is to close your browser as quickly as you can right now so you don't have to entertain the thought. Please don't. Please bear with me.

When Emma died, I didn't know what to do. There were decisions to be made, decisions that I didn't want to make. Where to bury her? What should she wear? What kind of funeral or should we have a funeral? What casket to get? What do I do with my increasingly engorged breasts? Tissue and organ donation? HUH?? Those are just a few of the basic questions that you have to deal with.

Decide now. If something were to happen to one of your children today, where would you bury them? Would you donate their organs or tissue? After Emma died and we'd had a chance to hold her, we were led back into a room in the hospital (or maybe it was before we had even gotten to see her, I don't remember, it is still so fuzzy), and a social worker came to talk to us. She asked us where we wanted to bury her. I was 26, Jeremy was 24. He had just graduated in May with his Undergrad from The University of Kansas and in August, still hadn't found a job. We had no idea where we'd end up. My family was in Kaysville, UT and my brother and his family had just moved from Kansas to Utah. So, we decided to bury her there. The next question was, do you want to donate her tissues and organs? My answer was of course. I wanted nothing more than to help someone else's child live if I could.

We were then taken to see her. I won't go into detail about this, it was very difficult and quite spiritual. When it was time to leave the hospital, it was the worst moment of my life. I couldn't fathom going anywhere without my baby. For the last 16 months, she'd been a part of me. She had relied on me for everything, and now I was just leaving her?!?! My brain and my body couldn't understand it.

Despite knowing that she was gone, I continued to pray for the Coroner to call and say that she sat up on the table and was alive. He didn't. My milk continued to come in and I was in as much physical anguish and emotional. I couldn't sleep and when I did I would dream of her. I would wake up panicked looking for her, sure it was all a really bad dream. But it wasn't.

Emma died on Saturday and on Monday, we flew to Kaysville to bury her. Jeremy and I sat side by side on the airplane, holding hands, knowing that our baby's body was in the cargo area. I prayed that the plane would go down and that this misery would end. It didn't.

During this time, I had opportunity to talk to other Mother's who had lost their children. My dear friend, Michelle, called me the night it happened. She had lost her sweet baby at 19 weeks gestation. She cried with me and offered me words of love, encouragement and understanding. I also spoke with Moms who had lost their children at various ages. The one thing that I kept hearing over and over was that it won't always hurt like this. Know that it won't always hurt like this.

We buried Emma and it was hell. I really don't know how I got through it all. I would only listen to Billy Joel's Lullaby over and over and over. The last time I held my sweet girl in this life, we had some very spiritual experiences. Experiences that strengthened my faith and my resolve to live my life so that I could be with her again. They are experiences that I draw on quite frequently.

After two weeks, we went home. When we got home there was food in our refrigerator and a clean apartment. Friends would call, but then it slowly stopped. Everyone went back to their lives, as well they should. We just didn't know how to go back to our lives. Our lives were forever changed and we didn't know what to do about that.

In the last 5 ½ years, I have learned some things. I have learned that it will always hurt. It will. You will always miss your child. You will always wish that there was more time. It doesn't matter if your child dies suddenly or from a long term illness, it will still hurt. It doesn't matter the age of your child or how much time you had with them – losing a child is losing a child – plain and simple.

If it happens to you -- please, I implore you, please be gentle with yourself. Know that it isn't your fault. This is something that all parents struggle with. These children are given to us to take care of. We are the ones that they look to, we are the ones that nurture them and help them in every way. They are dependant upon us for so many things. With young children, we control every aspect of their lives. But this is something we can not control. This is something that is so far out of our control that it is unfathomable. Our brains just can not wrap around the fact that we can't change this. Be gentle with yourself and know that this is part of God's plan. I know that it doesn't help hearing that. God's plan doesn't fill your arms. But, with time, God's plan can heal your heart.

If it happens to you – find others who have been there. Find others who you can talk to about it. Mothers – realize that the Man in your life may not want to talk a lot about it. He may listen to you until the cows come home, but may not want to talk to you about it. That's ok. We all deal with grief and loss and death in very different ways. If you can't find anyone to talk to, talk to me. I'm here, I've done it and I can help.

If it happens to you – don't give up. It is the first thing you want to do. You want to go and be with your child. Nothing on Earth is strong enough to hold you here. But, look at your spouse. The person who helped you create this beautiful child. Look at that person who is hurting as much as you are. Cling to him. Hold on to each other for dear life. Cry together, talk together, pray together. This will help not only your broken hearts, but will strengthen your marriage.

If it happens to you – don't forget God. It is easy to be angry when your child dies. You want to blame someone and God is the easiest one to blame. I admit it, I blamed Him plenty. I asked why, I bartered, I begged and pleaded. Then, I came to the understanding that this was His plan. I didn't have to like it, but I eventually accepted it. I received comfort knowing that I would see my sweet girl again someday. But that comfort was pretty slow in coming. Pray for understanding, wisdom, strength, courage, peace and comfort. Know that He will not leave you alone, He will not leave you comfortless, He will be with you, always. Know that He lost His Son also, that He understands your pain better than anyone. Don't forget The One who blessed you with this sweet child.

If it happens to you – and how I pray it doesn't – know that you are not alone, ever.

Original Art work by Jean Keaton


trublubyu said...

found you on mormon mommy blogs and was touched by your post. i don't know your story, but can imagine that you are a person who is grateful for the small things. thank you for sharing your personal insight. it will bless others.

TopHat said...

Thanks for this. I've never been through it so I feel like when people deal with the loss of a child, I can't say or do anything. Reading about it helps me understand it a little more, I think. I don't know if you've been to, but she has great posts on miscarriage and child loss that have helped me understand it a little more.

And you rock and I hope you get to go to BlogHer this year. :)

kate said...

I am writing this with pools of tears streaming down my cheeks. You are an amazing writer and a fantastic Mom (and friend). Thanks for being so open. hugs, Kate

Mom's Sewing Vault said...

Kim, how very brave and beautiful. Thank you.

Heather of the EO said...

I appreciate this a lot, Kim. I can't imagine and won't pretend I can, but I'm understanding more because of you. Thank you.

exhale. return to center. said...

Kim ~ I wish I could reach through the computer and hug you. Please keep writing. You have such a gift. Thank you so much for opening your heart. ~Erin

Karin said...

I just wrote a really long post and lost it...oh well. I'll try to remember some, but the main part of my comment was to say that the best thing for me to help process my feelings of loss was face-to-face support. It took me a long time to learn that. Several years in fact. My Evan is coming up on his 10th birth/angel day. A few months ago I found the local chapter of SHARE. They are a national group who provides support to parents with pregnancy and infant loss. Their monthly meeting is tonight (Thursday) at the Hospital in their classroom. I've also attended their balloon launch and it was a tender experience for our entire family. I think it provided my children an excellent place and time to process through some of their own grief-none of them were alive, but it has changed the dynamics of our family. I tell them about Evan and they want to know about him. It has been very important to them since Buggy's hospital stay that Evan is indeed a member of our family and death does not end that relationship.

After our loss I felt as if an immediate pregnancy compounded the grieving for us ( I know that you dealt with a pregnancy right after your loss as well) I was so ambiguous. I didn't bond well with my baby because even though I was glad to have this new little baby, he wasn't the baby that I should have been holding. Of course, I loved him, and I've tried as well as I could to mend that relationship, but there will always be differences with him.

You are grieving so much for your little girl, and that is right and normal. It doesn't feel good. It will always hurt. Although, it won't always hurt as much. And then, when you think you're finally doing better, something triggers the death all over again and you're in a heap on the floor. You're right to be gentle with yourself. I highly recommend the group. They are kind, supportive and a safe place to share.

Rachel said...

Kim Thanks for this blog... and I look forward to the next one. When you lost your Emma, I just didn't know what to do. I cried and cried and cried and finally found the courage to call you... I think of you and your family often and I am still mourning with you... from far away.
Thank you for sharing; this is beautiful. :)

Stephanie said...

simply beautiful post - how we miss that little sweetie in our home - how grateful I am that she has been Merry's personal angel:) are an outstanding writer - and I am very critical of writing (just ask your brother about when he was an undergraduate wanting me to proof his papers;)

AbeSaves said...

Thank you for sharing your sacred expression regarding the loss of your precious daughter. I have been trying to put my thoughts together to comment for a few days now but I just can't seem to add anything else to what you have said. Just know that I appreciate you so much and your willingness to put yourself out there to for all of us "club" members. I have never even heard your voice, but consider you a true and dear friend.

I have to tell you that we have the same portrait of Abram and Jesus. It was given to us at Christmas by our family. I am sure that you treasure yours, just as we do ours. May God continue to bless you and your family. xoxo

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry about your daughter. It's astonishing how many parents do go through that hell. You don't realize it until you're desperately searching for someone who understands what you're going through. This is a great post.

mommamia said...

I found this through the comments over at Her Bad Mother. We lost our son in March of 2008. He was 22 yrs old and had suffered through a long illness. Thank you for mentioning that The Man in your life may not want to talk about it.
We have processed the grief in different ways and I'm just now realizing that its OK.

Thank you so much for posting this.

Anonymous said...

I love this post and I am going to include it in my Feb. celebration about my own Angel Baby, I've been working on a post about "the funnies" that happened during the days leading up to the memorial and how differently hubby and I grieved this will be a great addition, hugs and love from another Momma!

AzĂșcar said...

I want you to know that I read this post, shed tears, and now there's one more person who will remember Emma.

Anonymous said...

Over the past five years I have watched in anguish as eight of my friends bid farewell to a child. I have never wanted to help someone more than I have wanted to help them. Yet there was nothing I could do to bring their children back. I see how they are surviving and hear their sweet testimonies of the resurrection and the ministering of angels. I watch my daughter grow up without her best friend and I ache for her when she cries at night. I still cry too. I cry for my friends who have to go on every day without their children who are never forgotten and who should be here with us. And today I cried for you too. I think of these children as a sweet preview of what we have to look forward to in the future. What joy we'll have with them playing around our feet. Michael, Adrienne, Allie, Bethany, Brinlee, Alicia, Evan, Lydia...and Emma, (and sweet Orion who will leave us soon). Gone, for a time, but never, ever forgotten.

Laura said...

Thank you for writing this. I can't imagine how painful it was for you. I suffered the loss of a child as well and so your words ring home with me. I am glad you have persevered and continue to help others.