Who Understands?

Grief is a crazy trip.

It’s something that never really goes away, it just settles in the cracks like dust.  The slightest movement, thought, smell or feeling can stir it up.  If stirred up enough, it can become a fog.

 

After our daughter departed for Heaven, grief came over me in waves.  Some were small, some were large.  To this day, ten years later I have a literal phone anxiety issue.  Not everyone understands this.  If you do, or if you suffer from the same issue, I would love to hear from you.  I can text, email, chat in person, you name it,  but phone calls STRESS ME OUT.  Now, if I am 100% certain of the mental state or attitude of the person on the other end of the line, I can do it, just fine.  But– if there is the slightest question of there being bad news, sadness, unpredictability I can’t handle it.

The ringing of the phone and an unscheduled phone call is worse.  If I can schedule the call, like “Hey, would you like to chat later today at 5?”  It’s ok.  If someone calls me out of the blue at a random time and the ring cuts through the silence….  I might panic.  My heart races, I sweat, it’s anxiety time!

I think people have the wrong idea about me, I think they feel snubbed if I don’t call.  I try to explain, but that’s a difficult thing to understand for other people who don’t experience it themselves.  They might think I’m making it up, or should be able to just overcome it myself by staying calm.

 

 

Dear Grief:

You’ve overstayed your welcome, but I understand you are pretty proportionate to the amount I loved someone so I get it.

 

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My Messy Walk with God

I grew up in a loving home and attended church off and on at different denominations.  As an adult I hadn’t been to church much and after a bad car accident had that feeling of “if I had died today, where would I have gone?”   It ended up being the perfect timing for going back and learning about God, I had no clue my child would be vanishing from my life in just a few short months and that I would be crying out to this God I was just getting to know.

I came to faith and decided to pursue God, to really get to know Him, to read the Bible, to try and shape up my life.  Not legalistically, but practically -I had always heard that hymn (and maybe you’ve heard it too- How deep the Father’s Love for Us) that convicts me and makes me think.

Here are the lyrics, I’m highlighting the ones that grab my heart the hardest when I hear them.  If you prefer to hear it, here is a beautiful version from two sweet ladies from our church (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0a5Oveznmc)

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory
Behold the man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
 We are often told that Jesus died for our sins.  I had heard that my whole life, but I will be honest.  Prior to getting to know God through the Bible, I thought this whole blue marble should be focused on me.  I was selfish, I was lost, I HATED being told I was a sinner.  I couldn’t understand why my basic life would be called sin.  I scoffed at the legalistic and the faithful equally.  I couldn’t understand why my “little issues” needed to be changed.
Then it hit me.
Or rather, the Holy Spirit paid me a visit.  It wasn’t my own mind telling me I needed to change, someone was working in my heart.
It was all fresh and new, learning to serve others and think of others instead of myself.  Learning not to just do what everyone else is doing because it’s “normal”, I was in the middle of meeting a new version of myself and thinking differently about things when my sweet baby girl just vanished.  Seeing the lifeless body of your child is the most horrific soul agonizing pain.  You immediately want to demand to see someone, like- who’s in charge?!  Who can I talk to that can get this reversed?!  You can beg, plea, cry, scream, blame, but at the end of the day- it DOESN’T CHANGE.
Within one week of this experience a friend of mine who believed in God said to me, “You just became a Christian, why would God do this to you?”
Ouch. 
It’s a question a lot of people think, but not many would say it out loud to a grieving mother.  But it was something I had thought over a thousand times.
So I asked Him,  God, how could you let this happen to me?  I know I used to go my own way and act more like the world, I know I didn’t seek after you until I was 25, but why?  Why now when I have come to know you better, and wanted you so desperately.  Why would you let my life crumble this way?
Questions were asked like that daily, and it was through prayer and reading that He showed me many answers, although some I may never know until I am in Heaven and then they might not matter to me anymore.
I believe God allowed this tragedy in my life to shape me, to teach me it’s not all about me, to open my eyes to the hurts and sorrows of others.  Could He have taught me another way?  Maybe, but perhaps it would not have been so profoundly effective.  In 10 years I have met so many other Moms who have experienced this massive loss.  Some lost their children to SIDS, some cancer, some stillbirth, medical issues, doctor negligence, you name it- there are so many heartbreaking stories.  So many people who just NEED SOMEONE to listen, NEED Someone to understand, to know they aren’t alone and someone has walked in similar shoes.  I may never have been a listener if my life hadn’t taken those turns.  God doesn’t just shape the life of the person experiencing the tragedy, but He can do so much more with that.
God gave His own Son to bring us to Him. He didn’t have to do that.  He made that choice.  He could have looked down at all of us being “sinful humans”, selfish and narrowly focused and just shrugged it off allowing us to be separate from Him forever.  But He didn’t.
He didn’t have to offer us eternity with Him.
But He did.
Back to the hymn- my voice was a mocking voice my whole life until age 25.
My sin held Him on that cross.
That song was written for everyone who is human, and that included me whether I could acknowledged it or not.
I personally was a scoffer.
But I had to come to terms with the fact that God did not take my child to hurt me.
He did not take her to crush me.
He built me up, brought me through the fire, made me stronger.
I think about my actions now, I think about eternal value and consequence.
I struggle daily and fail often. 
I have hurt other people, I have failed to see needs of fellow humans- but I am certainly so much further than I was 10+ years ago when all I could see was myself.
I want her back more than anything, but I can accept God’s will for my life, and I know it’s not the end.  There is an eternal life offered where I can be a part of a family that doesn’t experience pain.  Trials here on Earth are worth it when they lead us to a perfect forever.  I’ve come to find that I grieve my existence here on Earth more than her departure.  I want me whole family to be where she is.  She’s with her creator, the maker of everything majestic and beautiful, the keeper of the stars.  This Earth is filled with terror, sadness, selfishness and broken-ness.  She is far better there than here.  My heart aches to see my family reunited with her and be in the presence of the Lord.  So for now, I can choose to not be angry with God for the lessons and the trials, but to be grateful and anxious for the next life.  To purposely seek joy when my heart wants to dwell in pain.  Everything we do is a choice.  We can choose to glorify God or wallow.  Some days I still want to wallow, but I know which ones leads to happiness.
If you’re in the middle of this right now, it’s okay to be mad, it’s okay to ask questions and seek answers.  It’s okay to admit to other people and to God that you’re not fine, and that healing is messy and takes forever.  Don’t hide your pain, it’s okay to be a real person- because you are.  My personal plea to those who are hurting and mad at God is for them to let Him know.  Talk to Him every minute that it hurts, through your anger.  It can be hard, but He’s the one who can heal your aching heart and bring you understanding.
He’s also the one who can grant you eternal life with those you’ve lost here on Earth.
And if you just can’t bring yourself to do it, you can talk to me.
I’m here for anyone who needs a listener.  Just message me, I’ll give you my number.
Love to you all,
If I could personally take your pain, I would, because I hate for others to feel it. 😦

The Day She Left for Heaven.

You may NOT want to read this. It’s horrible. Really horrible. But it’s part of my life, it’s part of our family’s story…  I wrote this many years ago.  Truth be told, I’m pasting it here from another blog and can’t find the gumption to read it today.  I don’t want to go there, but I’m pasting into this post because I know other women want to know they aren’t the only ones with horrible stories.  They want to know it’s not just them.  So, that is why I share.  I’d also like to note that the coroner who we felt treated us badly during all of this got dreadfully ill on vacation and randomly died.  There is no chance to tell him our feelings, or to try to right any wrongs.  It’s in God’s hands..

On January 31st of 2008 the weather channel forecasted that we’d be snowed in the next morning. It was a Thursday and Josh and I were pretty certain he’d be off work the next day because the roads were supposed to be completely lost in the massive amounts of snow. We’d just gotten back from the Urgent Care with our kids, Maddie- our oldest was sick, and we’d taken her to see the doctor. Lila was extremely quiet all evening, we took her to bed at about 10pm and hoped we’d all be home enjoying ourselves in the snow the next day. Somewhere during the night I awoke and decided it was time to change and feed Lila. She wasn’t stirring, so I don’t really know why I woke up, but I changed her diaper and tried to feed her. She didn’t want to eat, instead she acted super sleepy and barely noticed the diaper change so I put her back to bed and fell asleep shortly after that.
I didn’t wake up until sometime after five am when I heard my husband up – getting ready to try to get to work. That’s when I heard his voice in our dark bedroom. Something’s wrong with Lila, she’s not breathing! I dove out of bed, flipped on the light and there she was. Purple and Blue. There was no life in her, she was bloated, COLD, lifeless… it was horrific. I heard my husband saying he was calling 911, but we both knew it was too late. We did what we could, tried to do CPR, over and over and over… Josh took over and I was screaming my baby! and pounding my fists on the floor. He called our neighbor and babysitter because she was trained in CPR and she could get there before the ambulance. And she did. She got there in less than 10 minutes, she worked on her while her husband checked for a pulse. They looked up at us now and then with so much sadness in their faces because they knew she was gone, they were doing CPR for us. They knew it was the only way to stay sane, to think we could help- to stop it, to back it up.. But we knew it couldn’t really be stopped. It was reality. She had died while we were sleeping. Stopped breathing, right there in her bed. She floated up toward Heaven, her soul floating right past mommy and daddy while they slept, unaware.
The ambulance took 40 minutes to get to our house.
Forty minutes of terror, panic, screaming.. We thought Maddie was still in her bedroom, but our little 2 ½ year old had climbed over her baby gate to see what was going on. She saw the paramedics when they arrived, she watched from behind us as they worked on her. To this day she still brings up things she witnessed.. We never meant for her to see that… but we were so caught up in the pain we couldn’t think straight.
We got in the car to follow the ambulance, and I called my father on the phone. They live just a handful of miles away, I wanted them to be aware, to follow us to the hospital, but when my dad answered the phone I was screaming/crying/bawling gibberish… words would not form… He kept asking me to calm down and start over so he could help me, so he could understand.
The ambulance made it 8 miles and stopped in town to take on another paramedic who could shock Lila’s heart. We sat at a snowy intersection waiting for them to pull away and head to the hospital. My husband got out, went to the ambulance to find out what was going on. My parents stood by the door of my car asking me what was going on, would she be okay? I told them I didn’t know. I couldn’t say she was dead. I wouldn’t say it even though I knew it was true.
The rest of the ride to the hospital was painful. The snow was so deep, it took over 30 minutes to drive what should have only taken 15, I sat in the passenger seat screaming, God bring her back, I’ll do anything if you bring her back.
At the hospital I saw them bring her in on the stretcher, they’d cut her clothes down the front and she was in just a diaper, cords attached, needles inserted. I can’t even explain what I felt. It was complete insanity- I had just birthed this baby three months ago and she was gone.
The hospital hallway started to fill up with people who came to be with us, my husbands parents, close personal friends, the pastors from our church, our neighbors, they all held me quietly, rocking me back and forth, their tears dripping off their faces onto mine. I hadn’t thought to put in my contacts, everything was blurry, I was there in my pajamas in a hospital before sunrise mourning the death of my daughter. It all didn’t make sense, it was a night mirror, I thought if only God would wake me up… this isn’t real.
I went into the hospital bathroom, leaned against the wall and slid all the way to the floor. I wanted to die in there. I didn’t ever want to walk out. I was silently begging God to undo the day, to start it over again.
Josh and his mom were both in the bathroom with me, they lifted me under the arms and helped me walk to the room where I was told I could say my goodbyes. My mom stayed by my side holding my arm, it was like we were clinging to each other on the side of a mountain.. There was Lila, dark purple, wrapped in a tiny pink blanket she’d been sleeping with, some sort of clip on her tongue, lifeless and gone. I cradled her in my arms, and held her to my cheek. At that very moment I felt warm, she was being held by Jesus, no doubt in my mind. I remember telling her you’re safe with Jesus, I love you so much, You’re safe with Jesus. It’s gonna be ok.
I knew then my life WOULD NEVER BE THE SAME. I was not going to be a typical person, with a typical life, I would never be normal.
While I was saying goodbye there was another family on the other side of the curtain at first. Their baby had be found unresponsive that morning too, but it was saved. I looked them in the eye one time and thought to myself that I hoped they knew how lucky they were that theirs was spared. They looked at Lila with panic and pain and knew it could have been them. The tables could have been turned..
Before we left we stood in a circle, there were many of us, we prayed, we cried… then it was time to go. To go home without my baby. The snow was deep outside, everything was covered in perfect white snow that hadn’t yet been plowed. Lila had had a short stay in the ICU when she was born for cleft palate and Josh had kept telling me, “I know you want her out of the ICU, she’ll probably get to come home when it snows, she’ll get to see the snow.” That was around Thanksgiving, she got to come home after 13 days, but it hadn’t snowed. That morning as we were driving away from the hospital I cried and told Josh, “You were right, she went home when it snowed.” She went to her heavenly home.
Now if you are still with me, imagine the pain I was feeling and add to this the fact that the CPS decided they were going to come to our house that day and interview us. Within four hours of us leaving the hospital. They didn’t wait for an autopsy, they decided to see if we were unfit, which we are the farthest thing from unfit… they came – toured our home, asked to show them where she slept, wanted to see our other child. It was awful. To have strangers in your house checking to see if it was your fault. And if that seems rough add to that the fact that three days later our local coroner came and did the same thing. He came to our home, made us put a baby doll in her bed just the way she was when we found her and then he took pictures for his files. Can you imagine the anger/grief/hatred I felt that day. I couldn’t believe that we were being put through this- it was enough that our baby had died. He told us he was working on the autopsy, that he didn’t want to say sids, that she had tiny spots of pneumonia in her lungs, but it didn’t look like enough to have killed her… He went back and forth and eventually I guess he ruled with viral pneumonia, but our doctor scoffed at that. When I questioned the deputy coroner she made me feel like a moron. She informed me how “important” the coroner is and how “respected” he was in our community. I was angry, I didn’t care how respected he was, he had made my heartache so much worse. Our pediatrician thought for sure it was a sids death. Lila had just been at the doctors office two days before to be seen for a cold. They had listened to her lungs and checked her for everything including rsv and found nothing, just a sniffle. Listening to the professionals go back and forth about her death did not make it any easier. It did, however, make me realize that only God knew the answer.
I wish things had been different from beginning to end, I wish I didn’t have to give up my baby girl- but things wouldn’t have been so horrid if the CPS and coroner had kept their distance like they do in some places. My second cousin’s baby died from SIDS the same weekend that Lila did, and oddly enough the baby was born the exact same day as Lila… She had no autopsy, no cps, no coroner to deal with… just the grief. I wished more than anything I had known my rights then… That I could have been strong enough to stand up for myself and tell them that just because we live in some small town in the middle of nowhere doesn’t give them the right to prance in there and make a bigger mess out of a tragedy. I hope and pray that never happens to another mother. That they never know the pain of wrapping up a fake baby and placing it in the bed so some man they’ve never met can photograph a “reenacted death scene” right there in the privacy of their bedroom.

Until God takes me home, I’m going to keep on reaching out to other mommas because that is the best way I know how to deal with all of this… to be there for someone else who’s hurting. And to all of those reading who don’t believe in God, He is real, and he does love you. He gives, and he takes away, but he’s in charge. I don’t understand why He allows things to happen to us, and I don’t need to.. All I need to know is that faith in his son and his work on that cross is my saving grace. I honestly don’t know where I’d be right now without it. Call me a preacher, a volunteer, a bible beater, whatever you want- but I can tell you, when you’ve held your own lifeless child in your arms and have been sent a feeling from God that strong – that she IS safe- you can’t help but want to tell the world about Him.

 

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