Winter is long.
This winter seems longer than usual.
Maybe because we got snow earlier.
Maybe because it was too cold too soon.
Maybe because we’ve spent too much time indoors.
Whatever the case, winter is long and I want spring. I want the butterflies to come back.
I’ve always loved butterflies. I spent lots of time as a kid chasing butterflies and trying to catch them, until I learned that they can die if you touch their wings. True or not, boy did I feel guilty hearing that.
There was always something that drew me to butterflies. There’s something so calming and comforting in their delicate nature; something so beautiful in the way they flutter by seemingly just to get your attention. Perhaps that’s why grieving souls choose butterflies as a symbol of the loved one gone too soon.
As I sat at the computer writing the first draft of a social media post to let the world know that Melissa died before she was born the song Butterfly by Weezer came on and I was instantly flooded with emotion. I had always felt a connection to the song, but this time a whole new emotional connection was made. Just like a butterfly Melissa was too delicate, her time with us far shorter than was fair. I noticed butterflies more the rest of that summer.
Through various support groups/online resources I learned that many people are drawn to butterflies after losing a loved one and that they believe when a butterfly flies across your path it’s your loved one letting you know they’re there. I didn’t really buy into that – it’s a beautiful sentiment, but a little hokey for me.
And then on Easter, the first one after Melissa’s death, a butterfly flew past me and came back almost flying into me. It was fun to think it was her saying hello, but I was still on the fence with the whole symbolism thing. The next time it happened I was at the butterfly conservatory for a wedding when a butterfly landed on my foot and stayed there for the whole ceremony. I was still not convinced. And then came Mother’s Day. When I crossed paths with another butterfly on Mother’s Day I was convinced that maybe it was ok to think it was her dropping in to say hello. And even if it’s not, it’s a beautiful reminder of her and some days I just need that.
I’ve seen a lot more butterflies the last couple years. Maybe I just pay more attention to them, maybe not. Either way, for a brief moment, it makes my heart hurt less.
I miss the butterflies.
I look forward to chasing them again.
*I guess you’re as real as me Maybe I can live with that Maybe I need fantasy A life of chasing Butterfly
*Butterfly by Weezer
Songwriters: Josh Honigstock / Myron Davis
Making choices on behalf of your kids is tough. How do you know you’re making the right choice? What if the choice you make is the wrong one? What if they hold it against you later?
When it comes to the tougher stuff I try to do my best at keeping their best interests in mind. It’s a little easier making tough decisions knowing it’s for their own good, that they will be better off in the future.
But when it comes to grief and death it feels impossible to know what’s right.
Do I talk about death too much? Too little?
Should I talk about Melissa more? How much detail should I share about her life and death?
Do the kids see me cry too much? Should I feel less shame for crying in front of them? Why do I feel any shame at all?
What about the loss of family? Friends? Pets?
Do they need to know how people died? Should they go to the funeral?
How do you explain why people die?
So many questions.
After Melissa died I made the choice to be open with The Boss about what happened. I felt that it was important The Boss know and understand she has a sister that lives in Heaven, that Melissa lived and died in my tummy, that we will never really know how she died, that we will always remember her.
I wanted The Boss to know that it was ok to talk about her. That sometimes it’s sad to talk about her and that’s ok.
The Boss was too young to understand what was happening at the time. It’s only within the last year that she’s started talking and asking questions about Melissa. It breaks and warms my heart all at once. It also reminds me that the choice to be open and honest about life and death is the right one. She is comfortable talking about death and asking anything and everything.
Last year the world lost a wonderfully humorous soul that I was lucky to know and The Boss was lucky enough to see not long before he died.
I really wasn’t sure about bringing her to his funeral, but ultimately decided that it was good for her. She didn’t fully understand what was happening, but she understood we were sad because someone died. She gave me great strength and comfort, kids are good for that. A hug from a kid can do wonders.
Since then, every once in a while The Boss will ask if I remember swimming at her friend’s grandpa’s house, ask me why he died – she’s not interested in how, only why, and these questions always come out of the blue and always in the car.
A couple weeks ago she got me good:
Boss: My friend’s grandpa can talk to my other sister, right?
Me: Um, pardon?
Boss: My friend’s grandpa can talk to my sister Melissa because they’re both in Heaven.
Me: Yes, they can talk to each other. What do you think they talk about?
Boss: I don’t know…
I choked back tears the rest of the drive, I don’t even remember what she said after “I don’t know”.
I will appreciate that beautiful moment forever.
Children have such a unique, beautiful perspective. So simple and so beautiful.
This is the moment when I knew that I made the right choice not shielding her from the sadness in life. To her it was simple – Melissa died and went to Heaven and so did her friend’s grandpa, so of course they can talk to each other just like we can here on Earth. Without even trying she comforted me in a way I didn’t know I needed; she brought me peace I had been searching months for. And she reminded me that maybe all those tough decisions aren’t so tough after all – that there is light and love in the dark places too.
It’s not the first, but it sure feels like it.
I thought each year it would get a little easier.
Instead I am consumed with sadness, every little thing tripping me up. Those damn little things.
It started with an ad for a tree ornament – Baby’s First Christmas. The tears came before I had a chance to close the app I was in. If I could have thrown my phone out the window, I may have. It’s probably a good thing the windows don’t open on the 3rd floor.
This would be your 3rd Christmas so why did that ornament hit such a nerve?
Then came the tree. Your big sister picked out an amazing one this year.
I fought back tears as I took a photo of her proudly standing in front of her tree before Daddy cut it down.
I fought back tears as I unwrapped the decorations.
I fought even harder watching your big sister decorate the tree.
I walked away feeling guilty because the moment was too much for me.
Then came the song. Blue Christmas.
Every morning a snippet of a song plays on the PA at the office. Today was Blue Christmas. The words pierced through me and I couldn’t escape. I couldn’t turn it off. I may have covered my ears. I’m sure I’ve heard that song many times since you died, but maybe today was the first time I really heard the words.
There have been lots of little things in between and surely more to come before the end of the season.
I wasn’t prepared for this. This year was supposed to be easier.
Maybe next year…
*I’ll have a Blue Christmas without you
I’ll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me
*Blue Christmas, written by Billy Hayes, Jay W. Johnson
For a long time I refused to admit that I changed. I was the same me I always was. The only thing different about me was that my heart was broken and would never heal.
Want me to hold your baby? Sure, I do love baby snuggles
Want to talk about your pregnancy? Let’s do it, I have a little experience there
Watch a movie with a pregnant woman in it? Yeah, I like movies
Talk about life as though I haven’t changed? Yes! Because I haven’t, right?
I don’t know when it happened and I don’t think there was one big moment, but at some point I realized I had changed. Some changes were big, and some small, but they were changes nonetheless and I needed to accept that. It wasn’t easy. The common sense part of my brain wanted to smack me – of course I had changed. How could I not? Why was I trying so hard to pretend like I hadn’t changed?
Because it’s hard to admit you’re vulnerable.
It’s hard to admit that while you are so excited for your pregnant friends, you are also terrified for them.
It’s hard to admit that birth announcements bring more jealousy than joy.
It’s hard to admit that those baby snuggles bring lots of tears.
It’s hard to admit that you wish you could hibernate for months at a time.
It’s hard to admit that you’re an angrier person than you were before.
It’s hard to admit that you’re far more sensitive than you were before.
Some of the changes are a little easier to accept:
I have accepted I will never again be able to watch the movie we were watching when my water broke.
I have accepted there will be songs I likely won’t be able to listen to all the way through ever again (Last Kiss is one of them, along with Lightning Crashes by Live, and Miracle by the Foo Fighters).
I have accepted I will avoid movies or shows with baby loss associations and sometimes I’ll fast-forward through pregnancy/birth scenes. Yes, this means I’m not watching This Is Us and no, please don’t tell me I need to watch it.
I have accepted that I will not be able to attend showers for babies not yet born.
I have accepted that every time I hear or see the name Melissa a wave of grief will hit me and I may struggle to breathe.
Everything in life changes us. But even when change comes from something traumatic, something life-altering, we shouldn’t be afraid to admit and accept that those experiences change us.
For me, admitting I had changed was the first step in bettering myself for the benefit of myself and my girls.
I changed the moment I knew I was pregnant with Melissa and I changed in so many more ways the moment I gave her one last kiss.
*Oh, where oh where can my baby be?
The Lord took her away from me
She’s gone to heaven, so I got to be good
So I can see my baby when I leave this world.
Do you live in your head?
Lately I’ve found myself stuck inside my head and I don’t know how to get out.
There are 2 major problems with living inside my head:
It’s exhausting surviving the day
I can’t concentrate. My attention span is almost non-existent. Trying to stay on task is near impossible. It takes so much longer to accomplish everything. I zone out. I get lost scrolling through social media not ever really looking at anything. I distract myself reading news or playing games on my phone. I fight to stay on task.My work suffers – I don’t have confidence in the projects I complete. I don’t take initiative. I avoid extra work.My household suffers – Stuff piles up on every available surface. Tumbleweeds of dog hair roll by. Laundry sits in baskets waiting to be put in the machine and then sits and waits to be folded and put away. There are some weeds that might be as tall as me in one of the gardens.
I suffer – Everywhere I look there is something that needs tending to. It’s too stressful. There’s too much to be done. It’s too overwhelming to start so I don’t. And if I do start I’m quickly distracted by something else. And then more stress. And then I get nauseous. And then I get a headache. And all I want to do is crawl into bed and sleep until I know everything will be better.
I over-analyze EVERYTHING and create problems that may not exist
The bulk of my day is spent going over past conversations – Did I come across as confrontational in that email? Did I say something I shouldn’t have? Why did I say that? Why did I say that like that? What if they misunderstood? Why do I talk too much? Why didn’t I say anything in that meeting? Yes, that person is most definitely mad at me because of what I said/how I reacted. Yes, that person is totally thinking about this as much as me. I should apologize or address it in some way. I apologized and they haven’t responded. They weren’t thinking about it and now I made them think about it and NOW they’re mad at me for bringing it up.
Are you lost yet?
I’ve always been like this, but it didn’t impact my life the way it does now until I lost Melissa. I used to be able to recognize it quickly and correct myself, talk some sense into myself. Not now. I’m usually weeks into living this way before I realize it. I don’t even know how long it’s been this time, but I know it’s longer than I’m willing to admit. I had a moment last week when I realized I’ve been stuck in my head so long that I don’t remember what it’s like to live otherwise. I want to get out, but lately it seems like there’s trigger after trigger and when I’m triggered I shut down. I’ve got a long way to go to figure out how to deal with the different triggers I encounter. It’s the ones that catch me off guard that do the most damage.
I’ve made a promise to myself to get better, to be better. I’m going to experiment with some methods to deal with triggers and stress and hopefully start living outside my head more often.
I’d love to hear what other people do to deal with stress and how you live in the now and not in your head.
*And I’m not the girl that I intend to be
I dare you, darling, just you wait and see
But this time not for you but just for me
And I say
Oh, how am I gonna get over you?
I’ll be alright, just not tonight
Someday, hey oh, I wish you’d want me to stay
I’ll be alright, just not tonight
Say it’s comin’ soon,
Someday without you
All I can do, is get me past the ghost of you
Wave goodbye to me
I won’t say I’m sorry
I’ll be alright, once I find the other side of
I don’t swear often, but when I’m mad swearing helps.
I’m mad at life
I’m mad that life can be so real, so cruel at times, and cause just as much pain as joy.
I’m mad that I can’t protect my loved ones from the pain life causes.
Sometimes that pain makes it hard to find the light, hard to feel like everything will be ok. One of the biggest lessons I was thrown when Melissa died was that I am not in control of my life or the lives of those I love. Despite our best efforts, there is so much of life that just isn’t in our hands.
When Melissa died I joined the bereaved parents club. Membership to this club doesn’t discriminate and isn’t voluntary. And this club has evil friend clubs for those who have lost a sibling, a parent, or a friend. Too many of my friends are joining these other clubs.
As much as I want to shelter loved ones from these clubs, from pain and heartbreak, I can’t.
And I hate that.
I spent a long time putting back together the pieces of my broken heart. One piece will forever be missing, but the rest of it is loosely back together (still waiting for the glue to dry). I couldn’t have done this without the love and support from some amazing people in my life. I feel grateful that even if they weren’t sure how to support me, they did, and mostly with minimal effort. Seriously, sending a text message is minimal, but meaningful so don’t ever underestimate the impact that effort may have.
Supporting someone along a grief journey isn’t easy. You won’t know what they want/need and most likely neither will they. Memberships to those evil loss clubs don’t come with manuals; they don’t tell you how to grieve or how to support others grieving. I am no more an expert on grief than you. I am still the bumbling idiot that has no idea what to say when someone I love loses someone they love. I’ve heard it all and I still struggle to find the words. I don’t remember all the things said to me over the course of my journey, but I remember how much the words helped. I also remember the sadness that came from the silence of some. I remind myself of that sadness when I find myself struggling to put together words of support. It doesn’t matter what I say, but that I say something.
Letting people know you care and are sorry for their loss is what matters most.
Because you know what that support does?
It makes life suck a little less
And the less life sucks, the easier it is to find the light
And when you find the light, it’s easier to put the pieces of your heart back together, at least what’s left of it
*We are far from perfect
But perfect as we are
We are bruised, we are broken
But we are goddamn works of art
Pieces of our hearts are gravitating together but
Before we could be part of this mosaic We had to break apart like glass
Of all the shapes we MIGHT have been… I say, “HOORAY for the shapes we’re in!”
There are many life lessons to be learned from Dr Seuss. One of my favourites comes from The Shape of Me and Other Stuff: everything, and everyone, has a different shape so embrace it!
This post is split into 2 parts; both very much inspired by the book and how loving the shape I’m in has affected my life.
Something very interesting happened to me after I started having kids; I started to care less and less about what other people think of me. One of the biggest barriers I’ve had in accepting myself the way I am has always been to let go of what others think of me. It’s so freeing to not care (at least not as much) and to finally be comfortable with the me that I am.
Maybe this revelation came because I’m a mom, or because I’m a mom to girls, or because I’m just too tired and don’t have the time or energy to care anymore. I recently realized that as of July 2017 I had spent the last 51 of 60 months pregnant or nursing! That’s crazy! In the last 5 years I’ve only given my body 2 breaks – 6 months and then 3 months. My body deserves a break and a round of applause; it’s a lot of work to grow, nourish and chase after babies and toddlers!
I recently came across an old picture of me on vacation with friends and I looked amazing! That was my initial thought when I looked at the picture. Sure, I was early 20s, didn’t have kids, and went to the gym most days of the week, so it’s not a fair comparison to my body now, but that wasn’t the point. I couldn’t help but admire the body I saw in that picture and then I got sad. I was sad for the me in that picture because what you don’t see is that I was terribly anxious walking around in that bikini. I was constantly worrying what people who looked at me thought, which was obviously that I was a whale and how could I possibly be wearing a bikini like that with a body like that. I doubt if anyone even noticed me in the crowds of people also at the beach that day. But me? I was so uncomfortable in my body it was hard to enjoy the beach and all I focused on was my flaws.
This was more than 10 years ago. This was before social media exploded and we became even more bombarded with images of “perfect” bodies. I don’t want to imagine how self-conscious I would be if I was that age now, or even being a young girl or teenager growing up today.
Having girls of my own it scares me to think they may suffer the same as I did. I kid you not when I say I didn’t feel comfortable in my skin until I was 30. I don’t want that for my kids. I want them to know what I know now: Every person who looks at you isn’t judging you; they don’t see the flaws you do. Don’t waste your time worrying about it.
And if people do judge you? Who cares. I am a cushier version of the me from that vacation picture and you know what? I don’t care. I don’t care because what matters to me is the love I get from my husband and my kids. My husband loved me back then and still loves me now. My kids think I’m comfy to snuggle with. They love climbing into my lap or onto my belly for hugs and snuggles.
I may not always love the shape I see in the mirror, but my body has been through a lot and I deserve to give it a break.
Today I am giving my shape a great big, loud HOORAY!
Last week I did something I didn’t expect.
I hopped on the treadmill with no goal, no expectation, my only thought was to just get on it and see what happens, do what felt right. Side note: Can you do something you don’t expect if you didn’t have an expectation in the first place?
Anyway, I walked for 2 minutes and then ran for 13! 13 minutes straight! I ran an entire mile!!!!!
Let’s back up a little so you might understand the need for so many exclamation points… I used to love working out. I loved going to the gym (see vacation picture above), but no matter how hard I worked I could never run. My lungs always felt like they would collapse and if they didn’t, my legs would quit. Even at my best gym-self I couldn’t run more than 5 minutes straight and it took me a while to get to that.
After The Boss (my first daughter) was born, I walked a lot. She wasn’t a day sleeper, but would sleep in her car seat so I would push her in the stroller to make her nap. It helped me lose baby weight and made me feel better about myself, but I didn’t realize the impact it had until one day 3 years ago when I hopped on a treadmill. I had been involved in a conversation about running and how the biggest obstacle is mental. The next day I decided I’d get on the treadmill and see how it goes. I ran for more than 5 minutes straight and I hadn’t been to the gym more than a handful of times since The Boss was born. I couldn’t believe it! And the strangest part? I actually enjoyed it. Never before had I had any sort of positive feeling toward running or anything on a treadmill.
I started running a little more frequently and even completed a 5k a few months later. This was big for me and was something I never anticipated I would do.
Shortly after the 5k I was pregnant again and couldn’t run if I saw an ice cream truck.
After Melissa died I found it impossible to get up and move. I did nothing for 3 months. I got pregnant again and was terrified to go to the gym, but I wanted to try to do everything I did the first time I was pregnant because I needed to do anything I could to help this baby survive. I didn’t go often and when I did I lazily hung out on the elliptical for 20 minutes.
After The Peanut arrived safe and sound I once again found it impossible to get up and move; trying to get out for walks felt like the hardest thing to do. Needless to say, I’ve been to the gym maybe 3 times since she was born, that’s July 2016, for the record.
So all this to say that I think it’s freaking amazing that it’s been well over 2 ½ years since I’ve actively worked out/ran and I was able to go as long as I did and, for the most part, enjoyed those 13 minutes. Even if I don’t get the same results the next few times, I’m proud of myself.
I’m proud of myself because I was actually able to be in the moment, not thinking about the end or what comes next, and it paid off
I’m proud of myself because I took the first step (thousands, actually, but who’s counting?)
I’m proud of myself because I was able to ignore my inner dialogue that so easily fills my head with excuses and negative thoughts like “you can’t run more than a couple minutes so what’s the point?”
I’m proud of myself because I have been absolutely terrified to lose weight
Losing weight means that I am losing the last physical reminder that Melissa was real, that I carried her to term, that she lived and died. The number I see on the scale is the same number I saw when I found out I was pregnant with Melissa and, until today, I have been so scared to see it go down. But I think I might finally be ready. I think today I proved to myself my body is ready and it’s time for my mind to catch up.
Today you would be two. The day started like any other birthday day in our house – I got up and made birthday pancakes because birthdays deserve pancakes. This year we coloured them purple. We even made some with chocolate chips because chocolate makes most everything better. They were delicious, but my heart didn’t feel better.
I hope they have pancakes in Heaven.
Today you would be two. My phone has been lighting up with messages to remind me it’s your birthday, not that I need a reminder. But these are not the happy birthday Melissa messages I should be receiving. These are messages wishing us love and strength to get us through the day. Each one bringing me to tears, but I am thankful for each one. I am thankful to know that people still remember you.
I hope you read them along with me.
Today you would be two. There is no cake. It isn’t fair. Birthdays deserve cake. 2 year olds deserve fun coloured cake with lots and lots of sprinkles. I should be worrying about how long the sugar high will last and not worrying about whether I’m going to break down when I go to order ice cream because we decided we will always celebrate your birthday with ice cream. I’ll make sure your big sister gets extra sprinkles.
I hope they have sprinkles in Heaven, every kind of sprinkle there is.
Today you would be two. I didn’t get to see your excited face when you came down the stairs and saw lots of balloons, balloons just for you. I didn’t get to throw my arms around you, give you a giant kiss on the cheek and tell you how much I love you. Instead I dusted your little pink box, gave it a hug and kiss, and cried.
I hope you feel my hugs and kisses in Heaven.
If only I could build a stairway to Heaven.
If only I could visit Heaven for just one day.
Happy Birthday sweet girl
*And it feels
And it feels like
Heaven’s so far away
And it feels
Yeah it feels like
The world has grown cold
Now that you’ve gone away
I’ve shared a lot since Melissa died.
I’ve talked about how hard life is without her, how much it still hurts, how it affects me every single day. While I am open about life after loss, very few people know the intimate details of our last moments together, both when we thought she was still living and once we knew she was gone. Today I’m going to share one of those details.
One of the things we did to celebrate Melissa’s first birthday, and will continue to do for years to come, was indulge in a Peanut Buster Parfait. Sounds nice, right? Well, it was purely selfish. See the thing is, that dessert was the last thing I had before my water broke and we headed off to the hospital to learn our baby no longer had a beating heart.
That dessert was the last time I truly enjoyed something with no feelings of guilt, no sadness in the back of my mind reminding me that a piece of my heart will be missing forever.
That dessert was the last time I was truly happy.
Sure, I’ve been happy since then, but it’s not the same.
There have been so many joyous occasions in the almost 2 years since Melissa has been gone – weddings, healthy babies, birthdays, Christmases, and a healthy-living-breathing Rainbow Baby for us.
I was happy for all of these events, but a cloud was always over my head. I was, and still am, always on the verge of tears.
Weddings remind me that I’ll miss out on one and that my living children will have a sister missing from theirs.
Healthy babies remind me that mine died.
Birthdays remind me that Melissa spends hers in heaven and we spend it without her.
Christmases, and all holidays, remind me that a stocking will always be empty, a place at the dinner table will always be missing.
My Rainbow Baby reminds me that she might not even be here if her sister hadn’t died. Can you imagine how guilty that thought makes me?
Oh, and ice cream? Just seeing ice cream reminds me of Melissa and that’s enough to bring the tears closer to the edge.
One of the biggest differences between those events before and after loss is that my brain is constantly racing and it makes it that much harder to enjoy them. I can’t turn off the thoughts and that makes living in the moment almost impossible.
One of my only saving graces is my living children. They need me most minutes of every day. They are good at keeping me busy, which helps keep me in the moment rather than sinking into the darkness.
They keep my one headlight burning bright.
And if I can feel like I’m driving with one headlight then I think I’ll be ok.
We all have our thing; we’ve all been through something we didn’t want to or didn’t think we could handle. Or at least that’s what I think.
We’ve all heard some form of an “I can’t imagine” statement.
I’ve had my share of these statements over the last year.
“I can’t imagine what you’re going through”
“I can’t imagine what you’re feeling”
Some days the flood of feelings and emotions I go through are enough to leave me wondering what I’m feeling. Today I’m feeling brave, terrified, and, for some reason, willing. Willing to open up, willing to share, and willing to help you imagine what I’m going through. So here goes…
Imagine a piece of your heart being stolen and you can never get it back
Imagine that piece of your heart being stolen for no reason; your baby died and there was nothing anyone could have done to prevent it, that her cause of death is nothing more than a “best guess”
Imagine living with the guilt every day that something you did caused her death, the guilt that you couldn’t protect her
Imagine that getting out of bed is one of the hardest things you do every day
Imagine having to get out of bed every day because there’s these little people who need you more than anything else in the world
Imagine being in a place so dark and so lonely you don’t know how you’ll escape
Imagine not wanting to escape that dark, lonely place
Imagine planning memorials rather than birthdays
Imagine all of this while being pregnant with your potential “rainbow baby”
Imagine being terrified every day because there is no guarantee that pregnancy will result in a living, breathing baby in your arms
Imagine the flood of emotion that hits when you feel “lucky” to hold that living, breathing rainbow baby in your arms
Imagine never wanting to let her go because you know you’re not in control and you can’t protect her from everything
Imagine missing out on life because it’s just too much to be out and to have to talk to strangers about how many kids you have
Imagine all this when you ask me how I am and I reply “I’m ok”
Because I am ok, most of the time.
I’m ok until I think about planning my baby’s memorial day and not her birthday
I’m ok until someone asks how many kids I have
I’m ok until it’s my birthday, my other kid’s birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, or any special day
I’m ok until someone says the wrong thing
I’m ok with being ok
Ok is as good as it gets for now
And for those times I’m not ok, when I find myself in that deep, dark, lonely place I remind myself of a song lyric I’ve carried with me for over 20 years…