The New Year brings a new beginning. It is a chance for some to start fresh and to take a step forward leaving behind the not so great memories of the years past. It is a chance for others to take a stab at a new resolution that usually involves being more of someone we want to be.
The New Year is very interesting. Nothing really changes from December 31 to January 1 but for someone reason it seems like a fresh start, a new beginning.
Our life is filled with lasts and new beginnings. When I think of my children it brings tears to my eyes thinking of these: the last time nursing, holding them during church, sitting on my lap reading stories, and dancing like crazy people in our living room. (Always the one downstairs so our neighbors don’t see.) Milestones like these we don’t often think about but these small moments will all have an end. One day as we walk out of church they will never again sit on my lap because they have grown too big, too old. (Their mom will be begging them for one more time!)
But with every end becomes a new beginning. The last time having my daughter sit on my lap means she is now big enough to ride her bike without training wheels. The last time rocking her to bed at night means she is big enough to start walking and exploring the world. Even though I would do anything to keep these moments from ever ending, it is so amazing to see them learn and grow.
The last time we held Adelyn as she earned her wings it was a new beginning for all of us. She got to leave behind her broken heart and body and sit with God brand new and healed. We were forced to start fresh and start a new life, as our life changed forever. We gained perspective, we deepened our faith in God, and we got to work!
The power of God is amazing and he allows us to start each day new. So in 2017 don’t try to be perfect but simply everyday try to better then the person you were yesterday. When you fall…get up. When you hurt someone, apologize. When you hug, hug longer. Be kind, be you, and everyday thank God for the new day.
We don't do what we do to inspire. We do what we do to survive and to thrive. Grief takes you on a journey. The journey is like a book with only the first chapter completed. Many people have a similar first chapter but everyone writes their own ending. Our book is not completed yet, only God knows the ending.
Two years on our journey now I am stronger than I have ever been before but in the next breath I am crumbling. My heart is overflowing with the love and joy for my husband, girls, family, and friends but in the next beat my heart is broken into tiny pieces.
You may not see it every day but many days I fight a battle. We fight a battle. The loss of a child is so deep...one day she was just taken from us. The depth of the pain a grieving parent feels is unexplainable and I hope you never have to experience it.
I don't share these emotions so you feel sorry for me. I share my journey because I know there are so many others on the same journey. When you have not lived the pain you cannot understand. Many days you feel crazy, you feel alone, and you are tired. Many days people with good intentions deepens these wounds by saying too much or not saying anything at all.
Grieving and helping someone who is grieving is just as personal as your thumbprint. Everyone is different and everyone needs something different.
Those of you going through this difficult time of year even though you feel alone you are not. So many people love and care for you, they just don’t know how to help, what to say, or what to do.
To those of you who don’t know what to say, what to do, or how to help start by saying that. Start by saying our angel’s sweet name and ask how you can help. You don’t have to have the perfect words, we don’t expect that. We don’t expect anything but we need to know you remember, you care, and you are there.
I never would have guessed this is the book I would be writing but I am. This is my life and my journey. I will be the author and together with God I will continue to write my story.
(Below is a great example of a way to help! Two years ago when we lost Adelyn my sister left these little notes around the house for me. These are two that I still carry in my wallet everyday!)
These words are often spoken to us when going through some hard times. We see quotes, sayings, and poems about “being strong”. But what does “be strong” really mean?
As a grieving mother these words mean something very different to me now. It does take a strong person to put one foot in front of the other when their world has been shattered. It does take a strong person to find a way to put those pieces back together. It does take s strong person to breathe each day as their life has been forever changed.
In our society I feel that the words “be strong” have such a negative meaning to them. Seriously, take a second and when you hear the words “be strong” what do you think? I think of be tough – don’t cry. This can be the case depending on your situation. However, to me those two words now mean….
Be strong enough to let others see you cry.
Be strong enough to let the world see your heart is broken.
Be strong enough to ask for help.
Be strong enough to have bad moments and bad days.
Be strong enough to admit it is hard.
Be strong enough to be weak.
To face grief head on you have to be strong enough to be vulnerable. You have to let it be part of your life, including the ups and downs. If you are not strong enough to be weak you are just hiding from your grief. It will forever be a shadow following you around and one day it will win.
So next time stop and think about what these words mean before you say it to someone. Maybe being strong isn’t the best thing for them at that time, at that moment. Maybe they need to be weak and vulnerable and they need you to be their strength.
There are so many days and times I sit back in awe and wonder and watch our daughter Amelia. She is now four and I am just so amazed by her. The love and admiration I have for her words cannot describe.
Every mother loves her child. The love between a parent and child is not understood until you experience it. This love and bond changed when we lost Adelyn and as we continued on this path together as a family.
There have been some very difficult moments and difficult conversations. As parents we decided early on to be honest and straight forward with Amelia about Adelyn. I don't know if this is right or wrong - only time will tell. Because of this we have had to talk about death more than your normal household does. As I am sure you can imagine this brings up some interesting conversations sometimes. Even though I don't believe she fully understands some of her comments have been difficult. One comment a few months back she said to me when we were going to bed, "Mom some day I don't want my baby to die." or another time she made a comment to me "Well, mom you know you won't be here forever, you will die."
Those are just words that shouldn't have to come out of our four year olds mouth. There are times that it angers me that, this has happened to us and that we have to talk about it. We just take it as teaching moment and to talk about Heaven and God.
Then there have also been just amazing and powerful moments. To have Amelia pray at night for the sick babies and their families. To have her be part of helping me make blankets and how excited she gets that they are going to the babies in the hospital. These moments I hope will shape her into being generous, compassionate, and caring.
My love for her has changed so much because she has been my strengths and my rock. Who knew a three/four year old could help her mommy through the most difficult time in her life. I am not saying I love her more than any other mom, but it is a different love and a deeper love. I don't feel I will every be able to express to anyone or her how thankful I am she is in our lives. I don't know if I could be where I am at without her. She is four...she is sassy..but she is my blessing from God!
Thank you baby girl. You are an amazing little girl and you will be an amazing big sister to our next addition!
Some days I feel like I would do anything to be young again. Not to be able to relive certain moments or to have a “do over”. I would love to be young again to be naïve, innocent, and simple. When you biggest worry was how to break up with your boyfriend or where the party was that night. (Sorry..those were my worries – maybe I partied too much but that is a different blog!)
The past several months there has been so much tragedy, loss, and sickness to so many people we know. I sit back and wonder if this is just part of growing up and unfortunately I think it is.
When I hear of these tragedies I just wonder why. Why them? Why now? Why? Why? Why?
I don’t believe God made my baby girl have a heart defect.
I don’t believe God choose to give cancer to our loved ones.
What I do believe is God is there to help us understand the why. Does he necessarily send us a message and one day it is clear, no. He helps us heal so we stop wondering why and we become at peace.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could learn life lessons without having to go through so much pain? In all reality I don’t think it is possible. I feel we have to be broken to be fixed.
Tragedy and difficult times will strike everyone at some point in their life, and unfortunately some more than others. We can never be prepared and we should not live life scared of when or where.
What we should do is make sure we are not too busy making a life that we forget to live it.
We need to make time to build or relationship with God just like we do our family and friends.
We need to stop worrying about the small things.
We need to wake up every morning (even Monday’s) and thank God for giving us another day.
We need to enjoy everything about those we love.
I am still trying to live life that way. It is hard. It takes effort each and every day and honestly some days I don’t have the energy too. I am trying.
Would I really do anything to go back being young again? Sometimes it sounds amazing. Other days I look back at what a different person I am now than before Adelyn and I thank God for the growth and changes he has made in me. When I think of where I was then and where I am now…I change my mind and wouldn’t go back. Those times may have been easier but these times are much more fulfilling.
Where my heart has been broken God has helped fill the cracks. I have found God. I have a purpose.
One year later…
I have been thinking about this milestone for a while in anticipation of how I would feel. A large part of me was very nervous. I feel that we are in a good place, very much at peace in our lives. I was nervous that this milestone may set us back.
Where we have come from is somewhere I never want to be at again. It is so hard….literally no words can describe it. It is hurt, sadness, and pain that makes you physically ill. I remember for the first 3-4 months I walked around every moment of every day with a pit in my stomach. I woke up every morning heartbroken that it wasn’t just a horrible dream. I cried several nights on my way home from work because I toughed it out all day and could not fake it any more.
That part of our journey as hard and as difficult as it was has helped us learn so many life lessons and a few of those are below.
We have learned time does heal. (But please don’t ever say that to someone that is grieving…not what they want to hear!) We will never get “over” missing our baby girl. We will always have a piece of our family missing and she took a piece of our hearts with her to heaven.
We have learned how to live our new life. How you pick up the pieces and how you live after going through a difficult situation is a choice. Everyone does it differently and there is no right or wrong way. We still are not perfect but we are starting to figure it out again. We are trying to get used to our new “normal.”
We have learned how much people care. The success of Love Adelyn in our first year is mind blowing. When we started brainstorming ideas, we never would have dreamt it would take off so fast. In a society filled with so much negative news we sometimes forget how amazing the majority of people really are. So many of us want to be a part of something larger than ourselves, we want to make an impact, and we want to help others.
We have learned that is ok to grieve the way we want to. Such a large part of grief is guilt. We are now very much at peace that it is ok to smile, it is ok to laugh, and if we don’t cry that is ok. Your mind can do many tricks on you and the guilt can be so powerful. We have given ourselves permission to be happy. This doesn’t mean we lover her any less.
We have learned that God is great. Like we have said many times our faith is stronger than ever before. We have learned to slow down and to be aware and you never know when God will speak to you. It is such a comforting feeling to have faith.
We have learned that we will always morn, we will always wish it could have been different, we will always wonder “what would she be like”, we will always be her mommy and daddy and she will forever be our baby girl.
I have not blogged for a long time because nothing was jumping into my head that I felt like I could put into words. I am not a blogger and I would not say what I do is blog…I just happen to have a website that I can put my thoughts out on. Anyway…..tonight I was checking out at the grocery store and it popped in my mind.
As I was waiting to check out I started reading the headlines of all the magazines they were selling: “Taylor Swift having a boy!” and ”So and So Divorced and Never so Happy!” My first thought was, “oh my gosh do people actually read this crap” and then my second thought was, “that is what is wrong with our world.”
Let me explain.
Life is hard. What I have learned through our experience is that everyone has a story. If you do not have one yet, I hate to break the news to you but yours is coming. Life isn’t easy. Life isn’t all puppies and rainbows. I think we all wish it was all of the time but it isn’t. One of my favorite quotes is, “If you want the rainbow you have to put up with the rain.”
Because life is hard it is hard to be a positive, faith filled person. We are surrounded by so many negative factors in our world that can cause us to go down that path….you know the saying misery loves company. I am serious about this. Take some time and look around. You will see and hear:
Let me talk about the last one. Through all of this you can be your own worst enemy. Just recently I have really started coming to peace with the fact that my daughter dying is not a dream, I am not responsible, and it is ok for me to be happy again. It has taken me sometime to not feel guilty about smiling, laughing, or not visiting the cemetery multiple times a week. My mind had been telling me that I needed to be sad; I needed to do certain things to show her I love her. Then finally one day like a Mack truck I thought that is so stupid.
I had to work very hard to turn my negative thoughts into positive ones. What I learned through this process was to avoid as much negative energy as I could because it is an energy drain and I literally could not handle it. I looked to people and places that were positive and would give me hope.
This is not easy and something that I need to continue to work on. However, if you are facing a life event I would encourage you to look around and try to get as much negative energy away from you. It has helped me a lot! If you are in a good place try very hard to be that positive impact, that positive energy for someone else. You never know what story they are living at the moment or that time.
One of my fears is that one day Amelia will take my grief as that she is not enough. That having her in our lives is not enough to make us completely happy. That having her is not enough to fill our hearts. I know she is too young to understand this now, but I have written her a letter for when that time comes.
To my sweet daughter Amelia:
Mommy cries because she misses baby sister.
Mommy is sometimes not patient because the grief exhausts me and breaks me from time to time. Mommy asks you to be extra careful because she now worries more than before.
Mommy needs some alone time every now and then to focus on learning how to live her new life.
My hope for you is that you always remember your baby sister. That even though you never will get to play dolls together, sneak out of the house, or get into fights, that you will know her. That you will know how strong and brave she was. That you will know her love. She will always be there for you when you open your heart and listen. When you get older and times get tough she will always be there to listen and guide you.
My hope is that you will grow up a more faithful, empathetic, strong, and loving person because of your grief for your sister. This has changed who you have become and it has strengthened you.
Amelia, mommy heart is broken and mommy is sad. Mommy will always have a big part of her heart missing because a mommy’s love for her children is something that can never be replaced or repaired.
As you grow up I know there will be some struggles. You will have more questions and difficult questions about Adelyn. Someday you will grieve and it will hurt. Someday you will be sad and you will be angry.
I want you to know that now and when that time comes that…
When mommy cries because she misses baby sister, you are the sunshine that brings back my smile.
When mommy is exhausted from the grief, you are the breath of fresh air that gives me new energy. When mommy asks you to be extra careful she is an awe of how wonderful of a little girl you are.
When mommy is having her alone time you are always on her mind.
I want you to know I will always miss and grieve the loss of your baby sister because mommy loves her just like she loves you. Someday when you are a mommy you will feel how powerful that love is. Even though mommy’s heart is forever broken the love I have for you fills it.
My sweet Amelia I always want you to know how much I love you and that you are more than enough.
My life is now divided – before and after.
Before Adelyn I was genuinely happy, maybe naively happy. I lived life carefree, my glass half full and loving life! I was thankful for by blessings. We enjoyed life and loved it!
After Adelyn I am not going to lie there has been some very dark times. I don’t think that should surprise anyone. Some days early on I wouldn’t want to go to bed at night because I knew I would have to get up and doing it all over again the next day. Days leaving work I would cry the entire way home as all day long I held it together.
After Adelyn I feel physical pain. It is so hard to describe it if you have not experienced it but I literally feel my sadness. I cannot tell you exactly if it is in my heart or my stomach. My heart is broken but the best way I can describe it is always having a pit in my stomach. You know that feeling you get when you are nervous. Sometimes it also does literally take my breath away.
After Adelyn I question if I will ever be as genuinely happy as I was before. I look at pictures of before and I look at my smile and eyes and question if I will ever get that completely back. Yes, I still smile and yes I am still happy but that carefree, 110% happy – I don’t know.
But, I am ok with that because….
After Adelyn my relationship with God is the strongest it has ever been. We talk multiple times a day and in my darkest days he is there for me. He shows me signs frequently that she is with him and they are with me. I cannot encourage you enough if you do not have a close relationship with your faith find a way to build it.
After Adelyn my life has purpose. Holding our baby girl as she earned her wings I quickly realized how fragile life is. We now how purpose to serve God and to serve others. We are now more generous with our time and our blessings. We get up in the morning to accomplish something specific and not just go to work and come home, to repeat it all again the next day.
My life will always be divided but do I ever want the before back? Never, even with all of the pain and suffering I love the life I have now and it is all because of our little angel. I am now a better mother, a better Christian, and a better person.
The whirlwind of grief is the perfect storm. One minute the sky is a beautiful blue, the flowers are slightly swaying in the wind, and the birds are singing in the background. The next minute the ugly storm clouds fill the sky and they cast a dark shadow over the entire land, and those birds that were beautifully singing have disappeared. So long story short grief is a lot like the Nebraska weather.
I am certainly no expect when it comes to grieving. I will not author anyone else’s journey down this hilly and windy road but I am the author of mine. Losing a child brings way more questions than answers. Immediately the logistics of planning a funeral you have never fathomed are your first questions. I remember after Adelyn died I asked the Chaplin, now what? Through that process there were many people along the way to help. Now, days and weeks after the funeral you face alone.
Do not interrupt that, that we did not have support. That is the farthest from the truth. However, the reality is you always feel alone. No one can say anything to take the pain away. No one can bring your baby back. No one can help. It is a journey you travel alone. Even being married we do several things together to remember Adelyn. We share stories, we cry, and we pray. But, we grieve alone.
Many people ask what they can do to help. This is such a loaded question because it depends on the moment, the minute, and the second. The emotional swings of grieving remind me of being a junior high girl…DRAMA!!! It is amazing how you can feel so many different emotions throughout the day and it is exhausting.
I have learned a lot about myself over the past five months and I want to share a few things that have helped me along the way. Please feel free to comment and add anything you would like!
Prayer: Like I have shared before my faith was not the central part of my life before Adelyn. The power of prayer and church has been amazing and life altering for me. God has provided and answered my prayers in so many ways. I look back to the day that Adelyn died. We prayed for God to grant us a miracle or if he wanted her in heaven to take her soon and less than 24 hours she earned her wings. We are not mad at God for not giving us the miracle we prayed for. The very special ones belong with him.
Sleep: This is sometimes easier said than done but sleep has been so important to me. I definitely find I am more emotional and irritable when I do not get enough sleep.
Routine: I am a very structured person so I am not surprised that this has helped me. I find I have my best days and weeks when I stick to a very strict routine. I believe due to the emotional swings, my body is acting a bit like a child’s and I need to know what is coming next.
Coffee: I LOVE coffee and I feel if it is the worst bad habit I have, I am doing ok. No, but seriously it has helped me so much. Days I wake up and just don’t have pep in my step I treat myself to something I love and that is coffee! I tell myself, you deserve this!!
Journaling: I have never been much of a writer before but since Adelyn died journaling has helped me so much. There are so many times I just want to talk and to share and I have found great relief in just me, my computer, and my thoughts.
Finally, one piece of advice I received was to just slow down and take one day at a time. This is difficult for me but that is what I am focusing on. When my emotions get a little crazy I just find something that will bring me back to the present. This is something that I am trying to be more aware of not just in my grief process but just everyday life. We are so busy running the race called life that often times we don’t take the time to stop and enjoy the moment. I encourage you to do so because these are the moments that five, ten, or twenty years down the road we would do anything to have back.