Friday, August 28, 2015

Lessons in Loss - 6 months out

6 months ago this week my life changed suddenly and drastically. My 3.5 month old baby boy, Noah, was called home to the Lord. When he entered Heaven, the physical aspect of me entered a version of hell on earth; my soul, however, was awakened to God's beauty and grace. My journey through grief has only just begun but I have learned quite a bit during the first half of this year without him.

1) Love continues to grow beyond the grave. 

Noah did not make me a mother. His big sister did. I know what it feels like to birth a child and watch her hit all of her milestones. I know what it's like to let her sprout little wings and fly. I know what it feels like when your heart beats outside of your chest in the form of a little human that your body grew. The love a mother has for her child is insatiable. It is unquenchable. It could never be matched by another form of love (apart from God's) this side of Heaven. It grows daily and deeply. You love your child this way simply because they are yours but watching them grow and change each day, observing their interactions, listening to their voice, and knowing all of the things that make that child unique nurtures your love for them.

But what about when you love a child that disappears right before your eyes? I carried Noah for 40 weeks inside of my womb. Then God granted me 14 weeks and 5 days with him in the traditional form of mother and child. I knew everything there was to know about him. I spent every moment of that time making sure he was perfectly cared for. I watched him grow and change. I loved him with a love deeper than I could ever put into words. Then one day, literally in the blink of an eye, he was gone.

The love I had for him did not slowly start to slip away from me as the time has ticked on without him. In fact my love for him has only grown stronger. The love I have for him has transcended time. It has crossed through worlds. It has permeated everything I do and everything I touch. It is a love that meets Noah each and every day as he walks along streets of gold. It is the same love that will meet him at the gates of Heaven whenever I am called home too. It is the kind of love that I wish everyone in the world could experience but I pray no one else ever has to.

2) True empathy is a gift and not everyone has it.

The people who have helped me most are the people who willingly try to put themselves in my shoes. They are the ones who desperately want to take the pain from me for just a moment. The selfless ones. The ones who would bear this burden just to provide me with a second of relief. Those people are special and they are rare and yet God has strategically placed quite a few of these angels in my life.

For the most part, people are only able to understand and appropriately respond to what they are personally able to feel. If they have not felt your pain they can not fully understand it. This often leads to very well meaning people with great intentions often saying things to you that are in actuality deeply hurtful.

"At least he's no longer in pain." "God had a better plan for him." "The most beautiful flowers are the ones picked first." "God must have needed another angel."  "I hope you have better luck next time." These are only examples and they are offered with the purest of intentions but each of those phrases are like the twist of a knife. Before I lost Noah, my mouth spoke similar words. They are basically kind sentiments but they provide little comfort when they are in reference to the child you would give anything to have back. These words actually remind the person experiencing such deep pain how few people truly understand what losing a child feels like. You really just don't know until you know.

To say this is not to negate the appreciation I have for the kindness and love so many people have shown me. I have encountered a multitude of genuine and thoughtful hearts over the last 6 months, people that truly want nothing more than to help. They just don't know how and that's okay.

There are also people who have their "this could never happen to me" wall up. These are the people who are not even trying to understand because letting your pain in makes them feel too vulnerable. This can be extremely difficult for the bereaved mother and it is where grace is necessary. No one is perfect. We are human and we are built to protect ourselves from harm. I don't blame anyone for never wanting to feel an ounce of the pain of child loss... I certainly didn't want to either but that choice was taken from me when Noah died.

In these moments, when a person has just said something to us that pushes a button deep within and we think "What is wrong with you?! Why would you think it's okay to say that to me?" We have a choice to make. We can forgive them because a) God tells us to b) they really meant well c) they have absolutely no idea what this feels like and couldn't possibly understand OR we can slip deeper into the pit of isolation that losing a child creates.

3) God can pick you up out of the pit.

There have been countless times where I have felt like I could not possibly go on, times when I have cried so hard that I thought I would stop breathing. There have been moments when I have felt desperately alone, like I had been abandoned by the One who promised He would love and protect me and my child.

I have felt hot tears fall with a heaviness that did not exist before Noah died, enough tears to fill a swimming pool by now I'm sure. I have crumpled on the bathroom floor, by his door, and at his grave. I have cried out to God to give him back. More than anything I have prayed for God to just "please help me." It's the simplest of all prayers but it carries great power because it comes from the most intimate places of my soul. God hears my cries of desperation. He and I both know that He is the only one who could possibly help and He does. Every single time.

I know I have many more unbearable days in my future. I know that they come on suddenly, often without warning. I know they run the risk of ruining me... but they won't. God promises he will never leave me or forsake me. Not now. Not ever. I have learned that I can never fall so deep into despair that the Lord's hand can not reach to lift me up. His hand will always find mine.

He has picked me up off the floor. He has pulled me out of bed. He has wrapped his arms around me and held my hand time and time again. He dries my tears and steadies my breath. He calms my heart and fills my soul with His love and with His hope. He whispers in my ear that our child is deeply loved and perfectly safe in His arms.

Time will not heal my wounds, but God will. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

How I'm REALLY doing

I've been asked (often) lately how I'm doing... "like how are you REALLY doing?" It makes me giggle because I wonder if I'm really doing that well or if I'm getting really good at convincing people that I'm holding it together. I think the answer is both. There are days that I'm truly shocked at how "normal" life is. I'm surprised by how often I've laughed and enjoyed the day I've had. I forget how many times I feel my insides wince... at the sight of his closed bedroom door (which I pass 100 times a day), at the picture of a friend's sweet little baby that is right around the age Noah should be, when my daughter asks why baby Noah's in heaven, when I look at the kitchen counter where his daily medications used to sit. I could go on and on.

The sad fact is that I'm just getting really used to missing him. It's not that I miss him any less; in fact, sometimes I think I miss him more. I know I love him more. I feel like I live in two different realities. Noah was only physically present (outside of my belly) in my home for about 2.5 months. My days before Noah arrived were spent much the same as they are now - revolving around his big sister. We bounce back and forth between her bedroom, playroom, the living room, the bathroom, the backyard, the car, etc. over and over each day. Nothing has changed about that. So sometimes it feels like he wasn't even here. That sentence is physically painful for me to type but I would be lying if I didn't admit that. Thank God feelings are not truth.

The fight or flight portion of my brain wants to make it seem like I am fine because really nothing's changed. Life is just as it was before when it was just me, my husband, and our daughter, right? WRONG. I don't blame my brain for trying to protect me... for trying to make this whole nightmare in some way okay. The problem is it is anything but helpful and that the rest of me remembers a vastly different story.

I look at the pictures in my house and I see a little girl holding her baby brother. There is a door down the hall where all of his things are just as they were the day he died. I close my eyes and I see his beautiful little face looking up at me, telling me the sweetest stories I've ever heard. I have stretch marks on my hips and a dark line down my belly that still serve as proof that I carried him. I have memories of a cold, rainy Christmas day in Boston praising God that he made it through open heart surgery.

I can feel his absence as tangibly as I can feel his sister's presence. I swear when I close my eyes he is right in front of me. I can feel my hands under his head, my kisses on his chest, the weight of his body against mine. I remember it all. It all screams "he is real!!!" And while I fully believe he is still very real, that his spirit is very much alive, and that he is enjoying all of heaven's splendor, I still wish he were here with me. I wish "normal" didn't feel so wrong. I wish there wasn't a constant awareness of the little boy who should be here with us. But at the same time, it is that awareness of his physical absence that causes me to search for him in everything I see and to turn to God for my next breath because breathing is really hard when half of your heart is gone.

If you ask me how I'm doing I will tell you that I'm okay. I'm sad and I miss my baby literally every moment of the day, but I am okay.  I'm okay because hope flutters through my heart (and sometimes through my yard) and reminds me that this is not the end. I repeat the words "I will see him again" over and over again when the days without him are long and hard. Those words fill the empty places where he should be. Those words will carry me through until they don't need to anymore.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Letting the Words Out

My mind swirls with words. All of the time. This isn't new to me but it is becoming more and more difficult to control. I lie in bed willing myself to sleep but instead I listen to the silent words fluttering around my head. Words that really need to escape... for my own sake and maybe for the sake of someone else too. It is at least my hope that the continuous ramblings of my mind will find someone else in their darkness. So I decided to start this blog to release the words. 

I share my heart because my heart is broken and organizing the fragments into words is healing. I share because this hand I've been dealt is really hard, unimaginable to so many who have not been dealt this stack of cards. But I am not the only one who's life has taken a jeering, really, REALLY unwelcome turn. I often say that losing my baby boy has been the hardest thing, the worst pain imaginable, and it is. But I can only speak for me. This is a part of my story, my journey... It is the hardest and most painful piece of my life to date. I hope it is the most difficult road I will ever have to walk but I know I am not the author of my story. Nor am I able to compare my story to that of another broken person. 

Each of our stories are completely unique. Each of our hurts run so deeply. I can not say that the death of my son is the hardest thing anyone could ever live through, that would be ignorant. It is MY hard, not yours. Your fight may be far worse. The hand you've been dealt may be infinitely harder than mine. I don't know because we each own our individual experiences. All I can say is that I hope you never have to know this particular brand of hurt and if you share it with me, I'm so very sorry. 

Sometimes I feel very lost in this big world of various kinds of pain. I wish I could re-write my story. If yours is hard I'd like to re-write yours too to spare us both the pain. But I'll tell you something, it's cliché but it's the truth... There is beauty in the breaking. The kind of beauty that can only come from being on your knees looking up to the only One who can mend your broken. And oh how He mends. The shaping of our souls is so painful but you find gentleness in His hands.

Most days I truly have no answers except the only one that matters. God loves me, and he loves you, even when that love really freaking hurts. So if your story hasn't gone the way you would have written it, hey, I get it. Mine either. You're not alone. Our hurts are not the same but if we let Him shape us they will bring about the same kind of beauty... The ugly kind. It's a thing and it is so powerful. God is always reaching out his hand for us to take a hold of. But sometimes God's hand looks like a very ordinary person sharing the hard parts of their life so that another person can latch onto it and realize we aren't ever alone. And although we've got nothing figured out we can trust in the One who does. Draw close to Him and He will draw close to you... and your story might draw someone else to Him too.