Sunday, September 14, 2014

Anniversary #3

September 14. No matter how hard I try, it's unavoidable. The third anniversary of the worst day of my life. 

I wish I could say that I am okay. I'm not. I'm just way better at hiding it and keeping myself occupied. It doesn't affect me the same day-to-day but I will never fully be okay. I've just gotten better at living with it. But today, I can't fake it. Today sucks. The week leading up to today sucked. I've cried myself to work and back home again every day this past week. I've tortured myself by looking at her pictures and watching the one, sad, three minute video I have of her. I am beating myself up over the fact that I only have this one video. Her two month life condensed down to 3 minutes. Why didn't I have the foresight to realize that I might want to see more of her, to have further proof of her existence? Instead, I was stupid and naive and thought I didn't want proof of her illness. I thought I had plenty of time left to take happy videos. I thought I had the rest of her life and by the time I realized that wasn't the case, she was so sick. I just couldn't bring myself to capture those moments. 

She was so sick, guys. Like the sickest you could ever imagine a human. She looked dead before she was gone. And then she died. It still kills me to relive that day, when they gave her to me to hold in my arms and say goodbye. How they turned off all the machines and shut her ventilator off. How I screamed as they did it and screamed as the doctor listened for a heartbeat and pronounced her dead. I still can't believe this is my reality. That this is her reality. That her life had been reduced to a 3 minute video, some pictures, and a cemetery plot. Thinking about it takes me to a deep, painful place that I wish didn't exist and, today, I have to confront it. This day is never going to go away. September 14 will always be the day that my daughter died.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Third Birthday

Here we are. It's July 24. Again. The day that would have been Naya's 3rd birthday.


Today has been very humbling. I am absolutely blown away by the amount of support we received today. So many people reached out to offer us their love. It's days like this that remind me how many amazing people I have in my life. I am so lucky to have friends and family that will never let my baby girl be forgotten. You have no idea how much this means to me. As a bereaved parent, you are constantly struggling with the fact that every day moves you further away from your child's death - and therefore their existence. You spend a lot of time trying to rectify this in your head and figuring out a way to make your child seem real to you again. When people take the time out of their day to remember and even celebrate your child, it is incredibly touching and healing. Thank you all for all you do to make my world so bright. 

Although I have been anxiously anticipating it, this day hasn't been what I expected. (As any veteran bereaved parent knows, the anticipation is always worse than the day.) After a good, nasty cry this morning that was deep and soulful, I actually felt pretty good the rest of the day. I had made a conscious decision a few months ago that I wanted to take the day to myself. I spent the afternoon at a local spa and took a yoga class, ate lunch, sat in the hot springs and got a massage. And I thought about Naya. I felt closer to her than I have in a long time. Although it is painful and heartbreaking, today is also the day that I was lucky enough to bring a perfect little girl into the world. A little girl that changed my life in so many ways and made me a better person. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to become her mother.


Happy Birthday my sweet girl. I love you more than you will ever know and I always will.




Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day

I wish I could say that Mother's Day didn't affect me anymore. I wish I could say that I looked forward to a day of being showered by love and attention by my friends, family and social media like a normal person. I wish I could say I enjoyed and relished in it. But the the truth is, no matter how far I've come in my grief process, Holidays are still very hard and Mother's Day (along with Christmas) seems to be the hardest.

While people who haven't lost a child (or their mother) might not understand, everyone is else is probably enthusiastically agreeing with me right now. Mother's Day is rough. It's a day where a family gathers together and celebrates their love for one another. It's a day where moms can expect to see their children - and show them off! It's a day where a mom gets to relish the beautiful family they created and how much they appreciate the children who made them moms. And when you are missing one of the crucial elements, it makes it almost unbearable.

That is why I have decided to stay away from social media today. I don't in any way want to diminish other's happiness - I am truly happy that people are celebrating and posting pictures of their families today. They should! Family is truly the most important thing in life and it should be treasured and celebrated everyday. But my fragile heart still can't handle it. It might be a crappy thing to say, but I am jealous that everyone else has all of their children and I don't. And every happy family picture is just another reminder of what I am missing. Most days, I can handle it and it really doesn't bother me. Mother's Day is just not one of them yet.

Please don't think this post is any way disparaging those who wish me a Happy Mother's Day. I truly do appreciate it and am thankful that you thought of me. Please don't judge me if I don't respond until tomorrow. My heart just needs a little extra help today and, being this far into the grief process, I have learned when I need to concentrate on myself.

Much love to all the mothers out there today. And an extra little squeeze to all who are missing someone. I know you need it. <3

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Return

Yes, I am still around. And I think about writing all the time but then I stop myself. I've been trying to understand why I always find an excuse not to write at night after putting the kids to bed - I am tired, I have work to get done, I want to sit on my ass and drink a beer while watching Netflix, but none of those reasons felt genuine to me. The other day, the real reason hit me. I have been avoiding writing because doing so forces me to confront my reality. And I've become really good at avoiding it.

I sometimes think that is the secret of surviving child loss - you learn how not to think about it. Because when you do, it is overwhelming and painful and just plain sucks. By ignoring it, you are able to go on with your everyday. You are able to go to work and not spend the day crying in the bathroom. You are able to spend time with your family without dwelling on the fact someone is missing. You are able to laugh when something is funny, get excited when something good happens, and look forward to the future. These things don't happen when you are constantly thinking about your dead child.

I've been doing a lot of yoga lately. It's mainly to help with my sore hips from all the running/hiking I've been doing but I've found that I've come to enjoy it for an entirely different and strange reason - savasana. If you are not familiar with the term, savasana is a pose that you do at the end of your practice in which you lie on your back with your eyes closed and you breathe and relax your body into the floor. It is typically known as the corpse pose. Usually, I find it relaxing but lately, I've found myself in uncontrollable tears and it all stems from one thing - Naya. I think about her at other time but it's all superficial. During savasana though, my brain takes me to that deep, dark place that I keep hidden. The place of realization that she is dead and never coming back.

This has made me realize that I obviously have a lot of anguish built up and I need to get to a place where I can get my emotions out again. It may hurt while doing so but my body is desperately craving the release. I can't think of a better venue then here.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Grieving with Glee

I used to be a huge fan of Glee. The first two seasons, I never missed an episode and was faithful in buying the DVD's right when they came out (this was before the show was on Netflix) so I could binge watch whenever I wanted. After my daughter died, I attempted to watch the show again but lost interest in the plot line, especially since at the time there was a lot of focus on the baby girl that Puck & Quinn gave up for adoption. It was just too hard for me to watch. I honestly have not followed the show since and have no idea what the characters have been doing since 2011. But once I heard about the tribute they planned to honor Cory Monteith's (The Quarterback), I knew it was a not-to-be-missed episode. I was not disappointed.

Interestingly, Glee decided to move focus from the subject of Finn's death and instead concentrate on the way his friend's and family were dealing with it. The episode concentrated on grieving. And boy, was I blown away by how accurately they portrayed grief. It was obviously written/directed/acted by people in the midst of the grieving process and it showed. They got it. The pain, the irrational anger, the sadness, the laughter, the terror, the complication of emotions, the fear of the future, the tears that seemed to come out of nowhere. The show did a fantastic job of taking the viewers on the grief roller coaster that the bereaved are oh so familiar with. It was quite painful yet beautiful to watch, particularly because you know the actors weren't acting. Those emotions were a true representation of how they were feeling after losing their friend.

There were many moments in the episode that portrayed the grieving process eloquently and, sadly, familiarly. In one scene, Santana gets so irrationally angry at Sue for not allowing candles at Finn's locker that she screams in her face and pushes her into a bookshelf. While I never resorted to physical violence in the early stages of grief, I remember feeling like I was a ticking time bomb who could go off at any second. I fought back the urge to yell at people, sometimes unsuccessfully, quite frequently. I realize now how hurtful and irrational that behavior is but I also know that you can't control it at that stage because it is almost impossible to think rationally when your heart is broken. Another moment that had me in tears was when Rachel said “Nobody treat me with kid gloves, OK? I don’t know what to say either.” Damn. Isn't that the truth? I know she was speaking from experience in that scene, as she is most definitely experiencing that in real life. I don't know how many times I've walked in a room and literally felt the pity pouring out of everyone. It's such a strange feeling because you know no one can help it and the have the best intentions but it is just so damn uncomfortable. It just magnifies the abnormality of an already abnormal situation and makes you feel like even more of an outcast. And honestly, it's two years later and I still don't know what to say.

The most pivotal scene of the episode is when Finn's family began packing up his room. First off, this act alone needs to be acknowledged. Packing up your child's belongings after their death is one of the hardest things that anyone ever has to do. The only reason I even did it was because we needed the room. Second, this scene focuses on Finn's family. While his friends are hurting, it is his family who is going to be affected the most by his death. Their life is forever changed and nothing will ever be normal again. I was in tears as Finn's mom said the thoughts that go through the heads of all grieving parents, “You don’t get to stop waking up. You have to keep on being a parent even though you don’t have a child anymore.” I have to wonder if a grieving parent wrote that line because it is so scarily accurate. They will always be our child and we have to wake up and face the fact that they died every single day.

Huge kudos to Glee for being brave enough to focus on the act of grief rather than the story of Finn's death. Grief is such a taboo topic in our culture and it was very comforting for those of us who have gone through it to have such a mainstream show confront the topic and show how normal it is.


 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Two Years

Today, was the two year anniversary of Naya's death. In some ways, it feels like it was only yesterday and in others like it was decades ago. All day, I have been thinking about how different it feels from last year. How different I am. How I have grown, have learned and have changed from a year ago. 

I am not sure i can even adequately describe how heart wrenchingly awful that first year is, although I am sure if I go through my posts, I could probably put myself there again. I can remember the feeling of waking up everyday wishing I was dead. How I spent most of my time constantly searching for any little sign of her, even though I knew she was gone. That first year is very irrational. You are thinking that you have the power to bring them back, be it by the sheer force of your pain or the amount of anguish in your heart. You believe that if you somehow think the right thing or retrace your steps in the right way, you might somehow figure out a way to turn back time and make their death never happen. You spend that first year living in your head, reliving your worst nightmare over and over just in case you might be finally able to find a way to think yourself out of it. You are in such denial that you can't/don't want to conceive of the idea that life is going to continue without your child. You don't want to face that reality because of how badly it hurts. 

The second year has been much different. That feeling of tremendous despair isn't there anymore. I don't know if it was just having Rhone or the fact that I had made it through a whole year without her but I was able and ready to start living again rather than just going through the motions. I learned to love, to laugh and to feel real happiness again. And, despite the guilt, it feels good. I want to live. I want to wake up in the morning and see my children and my husband and live my life. I will always wish that she was here but I have come to a place where I realize that she is not coming back. Maybe it's acceptance or maybe it's just dealing with reality. I still search for her but it's not in the same desperate way as it was in the beginning. I search for her because it makes me smile. Thinking about her, although it brings tears to my eyes and a pain in my heart, makes me happy. It makes me feel close to her. It makes her feel real and I have learned to treasure that. Despite the fact that she is gone, Naya will always be me daughter and part of our family. I will always love her and miss her. I am thankful for all she has given me. The relationships that have grown, the extra love that I feel for my children, the beauty that I see in nature, my sense of responsibility as a citizen of the world -  the person that I am becoming is because of her and for that, I am grateful.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Keeping Busy Helps Me Forget

My little sister posted a "why you no update your blog" meme on my Facebook wall last week so I figured I should do some sort of update. I have had a busy, busy summer but in a good way. In all honestly, updating my blog has been the last thing on my mind lately. After I put Rhone to sleep and finally experience that sweet relief of "free time," I have to admit I've been using it for less than admiral purposes (mainly drinking a beer, watching television and playing Peggle, all on my bed). But I figured that I better write something to let everyone know what has been happening.

So the last time I wrote, Dan had just been laid off. Let me tell you - what a blessing in disguise! Yes, we had a hard month and paying Cobra is a bitch but he is finally out of that place and moved on to bigger and better things in a new work environment. Instead of working 70-80 hours a week, he is now home by 5:30 every night and has an actual work/life balance. Rhone loves all the new daddy time he is getting and I love seeing him while it's still light out. Thank you all for the support and positive thoughts thrown our way.

I also made a big decision this summer. I have decided that I will return to school (in the next few years) to obtain my MSW to eventually get a job as a social worker in a NICU. My goal is to attend Berkeley, so I have spent the summer making some initial preparations. I ordered my transcripts, started studying for the GRE and began volunteering at the hospital where Rhone was born. Right now, I am in Labor & Delivery and will begin in the NICU in the next few weeks. I am not doing much (stocking closets, putting together forms, doing discharges) but I actually really like it. Not that there hasn't been any tough moments. On my first day, a baby passed away and they happened to bring him in the nursery as I was getting a tour. It definitely startled me but I handled it surprisingly well and managed to ask the nurses questions about what they do for families after babies pass and if they offer any support. I am going to be involved in setting up an infant loss support group at the Hospital now, so I guess it was serendipitous that I was in that place at that particular time but still. What a freaking coincidence. I was proud of myself for holding it together at the time but I cried all of the way home. It was my first test of seeing what I am going to have to deal with and I am not sure if I passed or failed. I do know that I am probably never going to not cry on the way home after a baby dies.

Naya's birthday was on July 24. It was actually a really nice day. We had hummingbird cookies made for her and did a balloon release at the cemetery. Although it was another marker of what we have missed out on it was nice to spend the day reflecting on her. I do have to say that the good days have been more frequent than the bad but I still miss her desperately.





Dan and I also decided to visit CHLA for the first time after we attending a friend's wedding in SoCal in early August. I was incredibly anxious as we drove up to the hospital but the experience wasn't as terrifying as I thought it was going to be. While we were there, we visited with one of her nurses and walked around the healing garden and down the street towards the Ronald McDonald House so we could look up to her room. We talked about how weird it was to be there when we are in such a different place emotionally. While it was the place where she died, it is also the place where she was alive and where she was loved by so many and that brought us great comfort and hope. I am looking forward to returning this fall to present the hospital a plaque from the March of Dimes dedicated to their NICCU in her memory.