"Life isn't about surviving the storm...it is about learning to dance in the rain." Anonymous

Sunday, January 20, 2013

It Takes a Village...

This post may be a little long and rambling, but I have some emotions running about in my head today that need to be unloaded.  So, I will apologize ahead of time.

The other night in support group, the topic of the elephants and how they grieve came up.  For those who know me personally, you know that this story really fascinates me and makes me think about why people aren't as naturally willing to help others through grief.  Someone brought up the idea of geese and how they support each other through the loss of one of their own.  So, of course, I came home and started reading elephant stories.  I know it is wierd, but it is one of those things for me that inspires me and interests me.  I used to be this way about the Amish culture--I was very interested in their customs and read alot about them. 

Did you know that there is a lady by the name of Joyce Poole, who has studied elephants in the wild and wrote a book called Coming of Age with Elephants?  She writes about a clan of elephants who are on the move when one dies suddenly.  Several of them try to revive her and finally, they move on.  The next day, they all returned to mourn her and pay their respects to one of their own.  Poole talks about the emotional depth of elephants and the strong desire they have to remember those whom they have lost.  Wow, how I love elephants!!

Hilary Clinton is famously known for her 1996 book It Takes a Village, in which she makes the point that it takes a village to raise a child.  Well, I have decided that it takes a village to grieve a child.  The journey we embark on the minute we find out that our baby is gone is not one we can travel alone.  It truly takes a village...a community....a group of people around us who can help to lift us out of the awful devastation. 

It is always surprising to me when I realize who lives in "my village".  I am reminded sometimes, that it is not necessarily those closest to me who are my greatest support.  While that is a sad realization and the pain of that truth never gets better, it is what it is.  Many of you may have heard me talk about the "mean wells", those people who mean well and think that they are helping, but are very hurtful and callous.  The mean wells don't live in my village.  My village includes my loss community.  The friends I have made along this journey.  The other parents I know from support group.  The friends who remember my daughter's name and her birthday.  The people who I have never met in person, but know from online forums who have helped me more than they will ever know.

I bring this up because yesterday I got my feelings hurt.  Crushed, really.  By my grandmother, of all people.  She is DEFINITELY not a part of my village and it has taken me 3 years to accept that.  Let me start by saying that yesterday was such a good day--I got my hair cut which always puts me in a great mood. I spent some time with my closest friend in the afternoon.   I was looking forward to going out to dinner with my husband.  I decided to call my 94 year old grandmother to check on her, since she was ill this past week.  My grandmother is very opinionated and does not get along with many people.  She also does not like imperfection in others, even though she is not perfect herself.  She has always been this way. I know this and am usually ok with it.  Well, she proceeded to ask me how much I weigh and what size pants I wear now.  I haven't seen her in months, so I wasn't sure why all the questions.  She continued to tell me that I used to be skinny (which I did) and that I look "horrible" now.  I started to cry and told her that after 4 c-sections, I am not going to look like I did in my 20's.  She said, "Four?"   "Yes, Grandma, four."  "Oh, you must be counting that one baby that didn't make it."    Yes, I was.  I always count her.  I have the surgery scar to prove she was born.  She is part of me and my family.  She is actually part of hers, too, but she doesn't see it that way.

So, I spent the whole night in tears.  Sometimes, I feel like I lost more than my baby.  I lost relationships that I have had my whole life.  It really stinks. 

I went to mass this morning and lo and behold, the choir sang "I Can Only Imagine" during communion.  Most people don't know this, but this song seems to play whenever I am down.  It's almost strange how it has become the song that I associate with my baby.  So when I heard it this morning, I knew that she was sending me a message, letting me know that she existed and that she is here in all of the beautiful things around me.  She is part of my village and that makes it very special.  I am so thankful for my "herd of elephants" who support me and carry me everyday through this journey called grief.

All I can do is take it one day at a time and rely on those in my life who inspire me and support me.  Having those people around me makes me a very lucky girl.

Friday, January 4, 2013

My 21 year old self

Yesterday, I was listening to a very thought-provoking segment on the radio.  The radio host asked listeners what advice they would give to their 21 year old selves.  Maybe it's nostalgia or maybe it is because I just celebrated my 40th birthday 3 weeks ago....but I really started thinking about this.

Someone asked me once if I would want to go back to my 20's and I said , very confidently, "no".  I have learned so much and experienced so many things that have really impacted my soul.  I can't imagine going backwards.  Now, there are certain days that I would love to relive, but I wouldn't want to stay there.

So, here is my list.  My advice to my twenty-something self:

  • Laugh more and don't sweat the small stuff.  The small stuff usually figures itself out.
  • Don't think twice about not making the Mercer dance troupe....deep down, you know you are not a dancer and rhythm is something you were not born with and that is ok.  You are going to have such a great time cheering during your last 2 years of college.
  • Take some time to visit Aunt Jinny and to sit in her wonderful, vintage kitchen and eat her fried chicken.  No one will ever in your life make chicken like that.  And she won't be around much longer and you will miss her.
  • Don't worry if you don't have a date or plans for the weekend.  Stay home and eat dinner with your parents and watch TV with them.  They aren't getting younger and they really can be quite entertaining.
  • Don't agonize over when he is going to propose to you.  Just enjoy him and being young.  He will ask you when the time is right and you will make a happy home together.
  • Don't second guess your nursing career because you have to start out working nights.  You will meet some of your dearest friends working these crazy hours and you will have fun, too.
  • Take guitar lessons--you really enjoyed playing in the Phi Mu washboard band.  Besides, you need to know how to play more than Our House and You've Got a Friend.
  • You are strong.  The bad grade you make on your grad school project or the fact that the contract on your first house falls through or the flooded basement in the house you finally buy--those things are just bumps in the road.  Believe me, there are worse things.  Much worse, but you will live through those, too.
  • In a few years, you will be pregnant with your second daughter, who will not survive her birth.  The week before she's born, you will have an ultrasound and the sonographer will be in a huge rush.  Ask her for one last look and tell her not to rush through your ultrasound.  Make her give you a picture.  It is the last time you will see your baby kicking and moving around.  This is one of those really bad things that I just mentioned.  Her death will hurt your heart and alter your path in life.  But remember, you are strong.  You will be ok.  You will not be taken down and will be stronger and better because of it.
  • Lastly, cherish every single minute of every single day.  Cliches are started for a reason--the time really does go so fast.  How you choose to spend it is entirely and completely up to you.

Well, I have always been long-winded and I don't look for that to change. What would you say to your twenty-something self??