Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Finding Peace In Your Grief Journey

Since joining the world of baby loss parents, I’ve met many, many moms and dads who have had similar experiences. While no two losses are exactly the same, there are some common factors. As a therapist, I tend to pay more attention to the grieving process and the common factors that may stand in the way of finding healing.

Negative, defeating, discouraging thoughts will always come. Often, they come as seeds planted by others’ words, or the experiences we have. After a loss, they may come in the form of statements such as, “You need to just move on,” or “Don’t cry,” or “aren’t you over that yet?”

I’m sure you’ve heard your share of well-intentioned but hurtful comments. People often say hurtful things, simply because they just don’t know what TO say and end up with a foot in the mouth.

While you may know some of the things others say, or the things you say to yourself aren’t helpful, and usually aren’t even true, it’s easy to fall into the trap of treating yourself as if they are true and dwelling on them. Its easy to do, surrounded and weakened by a fog of grief, but it doesn’t allow for healing.

What often happens if there are such barriers to healing, is that it goes beyond typical grief and can develop into long-lasting depression and anxiety, characterized by guilt and anger. The grief process naturally lasts a long time, and I believe it would be safe to say it leaves a scar that never fully goes away. With that said, the barriers can be like glass in the wound that keeps it from healing properly. It may not always be obvious, but if it gets bumped in some way, it’s like it’s still very well raw and fresh.

Today, I want to ask you if you have glass in your wounds. What unhelpful thoughts keep you from finding that peaceful healing. Are you thoughts leaving you feeling guilty? Angry? Bitter/resentful? What is standing in the way between you and finding peace? Are there lies you are telling yourself that maybe you would never tell another parent here? For example, “I should be over it by now.” “If I had only….” “I shouldn’t have/If I hadn’t ______then this wouldn’t have happened…”

One of the best ways descriptions I could possibly give for working through your grief would be to find a purpose and peace in your experiences. This isn’t possible, though, if you focus only on the unhelpful, guilty, resentful, negative thoughts. It’s not possible if you continue to focus on blame. It’s not possible if you don’t give yourself permission to experience the grief and feel what you feel. It’s okay to admit if your heart is broken, or if you miss your children. It’s okay to admit that you are grieving, even if it has been what others may consider “too long.” It’s not about them. It’s about you and your journey to finding peace with your loss.

Most importantly in your journey to finding peace, it’s important to focus on what is helpful and healing. For me, personally, I have found peace by focusing on the fact that I fully believe that God loves us, that He’s not selfish, and doesn’t allow painful things to happen to us for our own amusement. Scripture tells us that He is Love, and describes in a very detailed way what Love really is. I believe that, and believing that helps me find peace. I believe, as scripture also says, that God has plans to prosper us and not to harm us – to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11-13). So if God loves us, love isn’t selfish, and He has plans for us, there must be a loving purpose in my daughter not being with me. Because I believe this, I can honestly say that I would still rather have had my daughter with anencephaly than not at all. She has touched the lives of many and will continue to do so through our non-profit, founded in her name. God had a purpose for her, even though her life here was short. A final thought that has helped me find peace is that I believe fully that Heaven is for real, and I will live my life in such a way that I will be with her again.

I’d like to leave you with a verse that helps me keep my focus:

Philippians 4:8

New International Version (NIV)

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I've Never Been Here Before

I recognize that things have been rather quiet from me this pregnancy. As I wrote in my last entry, it's been hard for me to be very vocal for multiple reasons. Now, we're getting pretty close to time to meet this new little fella. Full Term. 37 weeks. I've never been "here" before! Granted, the last pregnancy was under entirely different circumstances. There were two sweet little ones and Carys had an abundance of amniotic fluid - not surprising that I went into labor early with them.

This is "normal."

Is there ever really such thing? I'm getting to experience a "normal" pregnancy with all the normal quirks and symptoms (and some discomforts I didn't really experience with the twins too, but hey, I'll take it).

Yet it doesn't feel normal. Even now, I feel like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. I have absolutely no reason to actually believe anything will go wrong from this point... he has been growing and everything has gone completely as expected, but it's still hard to just relax. I've heard so many of the horror stories.

Did you know it's Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month?

This is part of it... the aftermath of pregnancy and infant loss. Even normal things don't really seem normal after loss.

Throughout this pregnancy, I've allowed myself to be distracted by so many other things (largely feeling stressed about work)... but I wonder how much of it is my way of coping too - trying to keep myself from focusing too much on the what-if's. Once a baby loss mom, always a baby loss mom. Even had another dream last night about Paxton falling and having what seemed to be a potentially life-threatening injury. Just like the last one, it was some kind of brain trauma. I know every parent has those kinds of fears, but for me, it's another reminder that I need to get the fall flower arrangement to the cemetery for my baby girl.

I do have peace in knowing that whatever happens, God has a plan and we'll be okay. I just still find myself pleading, "God, please don't ask that of us again..." I know very well that if He did, it would be because He had a very big, loving reason for doing so. I know that He'd give us what we need exactly when we need it. I know that and I believe it... but at the same time, there's such a part of me that is just still so weary. The part of me that longs for Heaven regularly - the eternal home where things are stable and God's love and peace saturates EVERYTHING. That part of me hopes that Heaven comes before any more major losses. Maybe that sounds bad to someone who hasn't been through a journey like ours, I don't know. I'm being honest though.

We've not announced this little darlin's name. Not really because we're trying to keep it a secret, it's more because we've just not been sure ourselves! We're continually being asked, and I can't give a definite answer, even though we're about 99.9% sure. What we do know, however, is that we plan for his middle name to be Isaac.

During the last pregnancy, the story of Abraham and Isaac came up so frequently. I wasn't asked to sacrifice Carys on an altar, but we were asked to sacrifice our hopes and dreams for her and trust that God had other plans for us. I had to be willing to let her go before I could find peace. I know all too well that the same could be true for any other loved one. I have to be willing to let go, no matter how much it hurts, and trust that God will provide. That certainly includes this new, very loved little boy.

God always provides. Sometimes, we're just too busy clinging to things we need to let go and we completely miss what He may have for us. Trust isn't always easy. It's not always comfortable. But God always provides.

Proverbs 3:5-6
New International Version (NIV)
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Jeremiah 29:11-13
New International Version (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.