Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Day 30: Growth

After experiencing such unimaginable heartbreak and trauma, I feel that I more intensely feel sadness. I feel more connected to the pain of the world. I've felt for others and have been genuinely moved by their stories in ways I never imagined would be possible. Inversely, I also feel like I am able to more fully experience joy, laughter, and fulfillment in ways I never was able to before this grief broke me wide open. It's like there's this emotional spectrum, and now that I've traveled so far down the dark end, I'm able to travel just as far in the direction of lightness.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Day 29: Healing

I've been at this grief thing for nearly three years, and it's a journey that I don't think ever completely goes away. However, that doesn't mean that healing doesn't exist. I am still discovering what is most healing for me along this path. My incredible children have been so healing for me in many ways. My family, my friends, my career, they've all been healing in different ways. Photography has been healing. Writing has been healing. Reading others' stories, one by one, has been healing. I can't possibly capture all of these things with a photograph, so I'm sharing a collection of cards, jewelry, ornaments, and statues I've received from women in this community (mostly through the mail but some given in person). Not everything I've been given by others in the community fits on this shelf (so if you've sent me a gift you don't see here, please don't be offended!), but these tokens of friendship and support remind me of what has been most healing for me.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Day 28: Special Place

This is a shelf dedicated to Elias and some of the gifts we've received in his memory. He has his place in our home just as any other family member does. I consider it a sacred space and often feel called to pray or meditate near it.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Day 27: Signs

Most of you know that Elias's name and a butterfly are engraved in stone in his memory at the Children's Memorial Butterfly Garden. The balloon release there this June 2013 was the first formal remembrance event we attended for Elias after William's birth. I was so grateful to have Evelyn and William with us, to have them both healthy and safe, and yet I missed Elias so much and hoped he knew that William was NOT his replacement, that no child could ever replace another. It was a day of such conflicting emotions that I wasn't sure how to feel, and yet it was a very special day in that I could "parent" all of my children.
I said a little prayer to Elias and hoped it would reach him, hoped he knew how much we love him, hoped he was happy that William was there with us. It felt like a million little prayers, some thought, some felt, some spoken, being lifted up to him. As we released balloons, looking up we noticed something truly spectacular - a twenty-two degree halo rainbow ring around the sun. I had never seen anything like it before.
They say your child will "wink" at you from beyond, and I have had many little moments like that, but this one was absolutely incredible. What more perfect sign than a rainbow to represent Elias's love and acceptance for his little brother, our "rainbow baby" (a baby after a loss) William? To have that rainbow in an unbroken circle, a perfect ring to represent eternity? It was a very moving experience and was the catalyst for change in my heart: I would no longer wonder how Elias felt about his baby brother, because I knew to my very core that there was just pure love.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Day 26: Community

No words can adequately express what the babylost community means to me. I have befriended women and men from many corners of the world through my grief. I have never before felt so much a part of a global community of people as I do now, and although it is full of heartbreak, it is just as full of love.
They have comforted and inspired me.
They have opened my eyes, my mind, my heart.
Some of them only briefly touched base, shared stories and parted ways, while others struck a chord that ran deeper. Over the course of time, friendships forged from pain evolved into something even more meaningful, fulfilling, and beautiful.

Attached is a meditation painting I received in the mail from another babylostmama. Every time I see it on the shelf I am reminded of this awe-inspiring community.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Day 24: Artwork

Here are just a few of the many paintings, drawings, and ornaments that other people have made in honor of our son. I will forever be grateful to have these in remembrance of him.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Days 21: Honor & 22: Words (catching up)


Day 23: Tattoo

I haven't been posting Carly Marie's daily photo challenge here consistently.  It's too much to post both here AND on Facebook.  The response I've been getting on Facebook has been overwhelming, whereas no one really comments here lately.  On Facebook I am also able to filter more who is looking at my posts and pictures, whereas this is public, so I don't feel as free to share certain photos.  I don't like posting photos of myself and others in my life. 
But I will post what I can.
I kind of see myself phasing this blog out, maybe.  I don't know.  I'm torn, because sometimes I really need this space.  Other days, I feel annoyed that it is a public blog that anybody can view, that people can view who shouldn't be viewing, people I have cut out of my life due to their lack of support and friendship in real life.  If they're cut out of my "in real life" I don't really want them having access to personal things like my grief, which I share via this blog.  A private blog doesn't seem to be the answer, but maybe at some point it will be.  I have whittled my friend list down on Facebook and feel so much more comfortable sharing there than I ever used to, and the ongoing support there is incredible. 
So anyway.  Props to those of you who know me and have shown me support there, where I can more freely share.
In the meantime, while I still haven't decided what to do with this space, if anything different, here's the #captureyourgrief photo challenge for today.  My husband's tattoo in honor of our first born.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Day 20: Hope

(What do you hope for others who join this community in the future?)
To make a point to connect with others, to avoid feeling targeted by the universe, to not fear their emotions but to move through them, to know that this isn't their entire identity, to identify and embrace the gifts their child left behind, to recognize the transformative power of grief, to never lose hope for tomorrow.  #captureyourgrief

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Day 19: Support

Yesterday I spoke of betrayal.
Today I reflect on the AMAZING level of support I've received from the people closest to me. My family has been SO supportive, even some of my extended family members, in terms of my grief ...and also letting us know that Elias will always be loved and acknowledged as a family member through remembrance. Participating in walks, lighting candles, writing little notes, giving gifts in his honor around holidays - Elias must feel so loved as a witness to these gestures.
My true friends have been INCREDIBLE. I will NEVER forget those of you brave souls who visited my home in the early weeks after our loss. Those of you who were in awe of Evelyn, held her in your arms, and then held me as I cried. Never in a million years did I imagine that people who haven't known this pain could be so supportive, but they were, and they still are. I had heard that after you lose a child, your friends stop being able to relate to you, and you gravitate to only talking to people who have also suffered the same loss. That is simply FALSE. My non-loss friends have lifted me up and reminded me of my dynamic identity. They've helped me be able to laugh again (without guilt!), to celebrate life, and to find myself. Some of them have known me for years, others only came into my life recently, but together they've woven a gorgeous blanket of support around me that I'm thankful for every day. I wish I had a photo to post of you all.
My husband has been my rock and constant support. We all know that people grieve differently, but it's about mutual respect for one another's mode of grieving. It's okay to go different ways, as long as you end up finding each other again. I'm sure I wasn't an easy person to be around, especially during that time of just waiting for William to arrive. I luckily had two extra weeks of leave due to Christmas break which allowed me to go in for check ups as often as I needed to, and my incredible OB saw me even when the office was closed.  I can't thank him enough for his support!

I am skipping the pic for this one, because I don't have a photo of all these incredible people in one place, plus I don't want to plaster photos of other people all over a public blog.  : - ) 
It still feels good to share my thoughts.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Day 18: Release

Day 18: Release
I considered skipping this one. It's just so personal. But then that defeats the entire point of spreading awareness and understanding, not to mention how healing this project has been for me. I've made it this far; I can't stop here. This isn't SUPPOSED to be *easy*.
This photo was taken six months after Elias passed away, and I was still very much in raw grief mode. Today, I... think about how many things I've worked on since then, how much I've "released" what was weighing so heavily on my heart in this picture. Like so many balloons into the sky, I've let go of most of my anger, guilt, and "what-ifs" (I think I'm entitled to still have my moments).
But I've still got some work to do. What I'm struggling with most at this point in time is letting go of my anger, hurt, and disappointment with people I thought would be there for me beyond the first month or so after our loss. The past two and a half years have shown me so much about the people around me, and I've lost friends I thought would never leave my side, people I was there for during the traumatic losses of their friends and parents, people who said I should be over it already while the grief was still very fresh, people who judged my parenting in my grief, people I opened up to who used my sincerity against me, people I considered "forever friends" who simply stopped talking to me altogether as if I had some contagious disease, people who said they were giving me "privacy" to justify their absence only to never return.
I am in the middle of the process of not only letting go of those friendships but letting go of the toxic elements those people have leaked into my mind and my heart. Letting go of people is one thing, undoing the damage they've done is another. What has helped me is focusing on the friends I've grown closer to these past two and a half years, new friendships I've forged, and how lucky I am to have had some people by my side this entire time.
But that's a post for another day.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Day 17: Time

This is how long it's been since Elias passed away, which is exactly how old Evelyn is. There's no "losing track" over time when you have a surviving twin, and yet we are so incredibly grateful to have her with us. She's what pulled us through. We celebrate the unique individual she is but of course at times wonder what it would have been like to have them both here to raise together. Every day I'm thankful for the gift of this sweet girl, our daughter, the Tiny Titan.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Day 16: Seasons

This is the time of year where I start to feel really overwhelmed. We have the onslaught of fall Halloween festivities followed by Thanksgiving (which we host), and then we are remembering Elias and celebrating Evelyn, quickly followed by Christmas festivities, New Year's, and now William's birthday (and then my birthday). I try to slow down and cherish all of it as much as possible, snap photos, breathe it all in. Holidays in general, not just the fall and winter ones, are much more meaningful for me now. I think that is part of being a mom. You see the holidays as a child all over again. I love celebrating the holidays with my children and finding creative ways to honor Elias throughout them.  #captureyourgrief

Monday, October 14, 2013

Day 14: Family

Had to blur this a bit, as I am not totally comfortable photo-sharing on a public blog.  But in keeping with participating in #captureyourgrief, here's a family pic of us with our first born forever in our hearts.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Day 13: Book

In the early days of raw grief, this book was a great comfort, as its author had been through loss and captured the experiences so well.  Not just the actual experience of loss but the aftermath and the dark humor that comes with it all.  Loved this book.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Day 12: Article

As a Local Leader for this film, the first major film I know of that directly centers around stillbirth, I feel inspired to share the story of its filmmaker, because he is such an incredible gift to the loss community.  Helping to lift the taboo of speaking about child loss, one step at a time.  This is one pretty huge step, this film.  Reading his experience resonated with me on many levels, and I appreciated the male perspective which is so often silenced.

Day 11: Emotional Triggers

The space where I imagine he would be.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Day 9: Music and Day 10: Beliefs

I keep this ornament on Elias's remembrance shelf.  It's from my dear friend and fellow twinlostmama.  My faith has been tested and shaken but hasn't been shattered.
Okay so I don't particularly like this group or even this genre of music, but in the early days of raw grief while still in the hospital recovering from my csection, this song was in my head for some reason. And so it's come be associated with the boy I'll always be missing. I didn't know all the lyrics at the time, but this kept running through my head, "'Cause I want nothing more than to sit outside heaven's door and listen to you breathing". I just wanted to know that my boy was okay.
The whole song isn't really relevant, but it can also be interpreted as a song about searching for God in the midst of darkness, which I can certainly relate to as well.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Day 8: Color

Elias shares his colors with his siblings, but I'm okay with that.
The twins' nursery was decorated in earth tones, a gender-neutral woodland theme (where Evelyn derived her interest in owls). The bottom photo is a closeup o...f a quilt that was kept over his crib.
His birth stone (along with his sister's, of course) is turquoise, so that color remains very meaningful for me (and was, oddly, the color of my bridesmaids' dresses six years ago!).
Baby blue sometimes reminds me of my first son, and we have purchased things in his memory that were that hue. Evy wears a blue flower clip sometimes in his honor (for instance, during the Walk to Remember we just attended). Baby blue has come to be associated with William as well though, as his nursery is baby blue and navy blue with red and pea green accents. Like I said, I'm okay with the intermingling of children and colors. : - )

Monday, October 7, 2013

Day 6: Ritual

Our family lights a candle for him on every major holiday, and we get a Christmas ornament to put on our tree for him each year.
We honor his birthday by having a butterfly on Evelyn's cake, writing him notes on balloons, and releasing them into the sky.
As a family, we go to the Butterfly Garden at the park where his name is engraved, and we release a balloon for each year he's been in heaven, usually the day before his actual birthday.
Every day I say, "I love you buddy."

Day 7: Me Now

 I can say that in general, I find myself looking forward far more than looking back. However, I need to cultivate a healthy space of remembrance and honoring Elias after completely shielding myself from many things during my ...pregnancy with William (my own and others’ grief primarily). As you all know, I didn’t even formally announce my pregnancy with William. I thrived on privacy, its intimacy and safety. I stand by this pregnancy-after-loss survival tactic fully even though I have been judged for it. Now that William has safely arrived, I am finding my way back to the loss community but am re-examining my level of involvement in it, recognizing that my needs are changing as I strive for integration of this loss as part (but certainly not all) of my identity. This photo challenge has helped me to not only reconnect with this piece of my identity but to also embrace vulnerability, which I was unable to do for nearly a year. It’s healing, but it’s also terrifying. So where am I? Striving for balance. Loving all of my children unconditionally. Trying to embrace something a bit more fluid than compartmentalized. It’s almost impossible to describe. It’s like taking a blurry picture and having parts of it come into focus more clearly than others, having faith that over time you will be able to view the rest of it with a similar degree of clarity and precision, having accepted that patience, reflection, and sincerity is needed to get you there.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Day 4: Legacy

I cry harder than before.
laugh harder than before
feel the sadness of the world more than before
grasp onto moments of happiness more than before
stand up for myself more than before...
set healthier boundaries than before
choose my friends more wisely than before
embrace spontaneity and challenges more than before
live more authentically than before
love more genuinely than before
breathe each moment in more than before
feel more than before.

 I AM more than before.

Day 5: Memory

When I think of my child, I think of pure love. He was held his whole life. He had his sister by his side his entire life. He only knew innocence, purity, and our love for him.
I think of Elias in more symbolic terms, because I know his spirit is so much bigger than anything here. He’s on his own journey. Butterflies, stars, and the moon all remind me of him.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Day 3: Myths

 A parent's love is unconditional. It transcends life and death. To believe that a parent needs to "just get over it" is to lack any and all understanding of the love shared between a parent and a child. To believe that I sho...uld "just get over" my first born son, a precious child I carried for 37 weeks and lovingly prepared a nursery for, is to disregard him as a person and as part of our family. To accept me as a friend is to accept my whole family, not just the children you can see. I am a changed person. Get to know the new me. I don't need "fixed" or to "get over it" or to pretend my son didn't exist in order to spare your discomfort.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Day 2: Identity

Day 2: Identity
We had his name chosen long before our son came to be. When we first started talking about starting a family, we agreed to start looking at names WAY in advance, because I am a bit of a name nerd and get way into this stuff.... Flipping through the name book, my husband read the name “Elias” out loud with such enthusiasm, and immediately I fell in love with it. I'll never forget it. We were walking in the park in our back yard when we chose his name. This was two and a half years before he was born.
Out of all of our children, his name was the only one that we both readily agreed upon, as if it had already been decided. Later, I learned that it was a popular name in Finland, and I was excited to honor my paternal heritage through his name. 
 My husband passed his name down for Elias’s middle name, a family tradition. (And, since Elias will not be able to pass his name down to his own son for a middle name, we passed it down to his little brother.) Elias means “The Lord is my God.”
He was our first born and will always be our forever baby.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Photo Challenge: Accepted! Day 1: Sunrise

Participating for the first time in Carly Marie's Capture Your Grief Project.

Not sure I will be able to post all my photos here daily, as I am already posting them on FB, and that might get a little ridiculous to keep up with.  Hoping to get them all here though eventually.