Archive for March, 2008

There Is No Timetable

How to Help Your Grieving Friend, Part 4

Grief is not necessarily linear. You can read the Wikipedia entry as easily as I can about the stages of grief, and even there you will find that “normal grief” doesn’t always progress in a certain order.

There are grief cycle theories all over the place, I’m sure. That’s not my area of expertise, so if that’s something you want to explore further on your own, I would encourage you to, but know that just because it can be explained in a book doesn’t mean that’s exactly how it will work itself out in the life of a real person.

Your friend might seem to have it together just fine in public. She’s not always walking around with mascara streaks and constantly beating her breast, so that must mean she’s fine, right? She may have just had moments or hours of intense grief in her personal time, and somehow, by the grace of God, managed to make herself presentable enough to go to church and not be a blubbering mess. Respect that—it’s a major accomplishment for her.

And if she doesn’t make it to church or playgroup or the moms’ group for a month or more, don’t freak out. It’s difficult to reenter life as you once knew it, feeling like a completely altered being. I remember wondering,

“How do I fit in with my single gal friends in their early twenties? I feel even less like them now than I did before.”

“Am I allowed to go into a group of acquaintances who are having a lighthearted conversation and just be a part of it like I used to be, or is that weird?”

“Am I betraying the memory of my child—am I letting her disappear—if I go to work today and have work-related conversations?”

(As a side note, my single gal friends in their early twenties have been some of the most remarkable supporters.)

For a couple months after losing Felicity, I was in perpetual motion when I was in public and even in private sometimes. There always seemed to be plans and people that kept life going. And though I was feeling extremely sad sometimes, the reality of our loss did not hit me for some time.

There may be a relative calm before the storm. At first you’re dealing with empty arms, your milk coming in then drying up, stitches healing, your dark line down the middle of your once-full belly disappearing—those are acute grief experiences. As time goes on, however, there are all kinds of realities that your friend will have to face. As the finality of the loss begins to sink in over time, grief can actually become more devastating than it was at the beginning. For me, that was sometime in mid-January, almost 4 months after Felicity’s death. Another friend from church who experienced a stillbirth 20+ years ago recalled to me that months 4-9 were just awful for her.

I’m not saying that this is the formula—months 4-9 will definitely be awful. I’m saying that you need to be in tune to and vigilant for your friend, even if a couple months have passed and she seems to be okay. Her private moments probably contain a lot of agony. And when the acute grieving experiences are past, chances are it’s just the beginning.

(Read other posts in this series.)

March 31, 2008 at 5:32 pm 12 comments

She’s a Scatterbrain

How to Help Your Grieving Friend, Part 3

Forgetfulness and disorganization are also things you should assume your grieving friend is dealing with. Before losing Felicity, I was the organized one in our family (and I’m not even that good at it to begin with). I just tend to be the one who takes care of the details of life, anticipates events on the calendar, and makes the lists.

Since losing Felicity, I’ve had a very difficult time keeping my appointments, remembering a conversation with someone that required action on my part, returning phone calls, etc. Sometimes I lack motivation, but often I have good intentions; I just can’t follow through.

Just like tiredness consumes the body, grief overpowers the mind, making it what I like to call “scrambled eggs.” I know, it’s very technical language.

There are things that I used to take for granted, like being able to organize my family to go on a trip. So when our Christmas voyage was upon us to go out east to visit my family and friends, less than three months after Felicity’s death, I wandered around my room at the last minute, listlessly throwing things into a pile that would eventually get packed into a suitcase. And when I ran out of suitcase space, things started getting thrown into plastic bags and jammed into whatever space my forbearing husband could find in our trunk.

So how does this affect you, the friend? First, if you make plans with her, hold them loosely. Second, if you can remind her in a way that is not overbearing, do so a couple days out, or maybe the day before. I personally wouldn’t recommend phone calls. Just find out from her if she’s an email or phone person. And if she says she will remember, and then forgets, don’t take it personally.

(Read other posts in this series.)

March 27, 2008 at 10:18 am 17 comments

Just Know That She’s Exhausted

How to Help Your Grieving Friend, Part 2

We’re going to begin this series with some of the assumptions you can probably make about your grieving friend. That way, if you understand some of what is going on with her physically and mentally, you can help in an informed way, and not just be grasping at straws for what you think might be helpful.

It’s been helpful when my friends have been aware and understanding of how tired losing Felicity has made me. In my experience, grieving took more out of me physically than I was expecting.

At first we were so wired and numb that we were staying up until 2:30-3:00am every night, just wasting time. Life felt really pointless, and we had little motivation to take care of ourselves. Not that we were on a terribly self-destructive course, it’s just that life feels so trivial and small.

So, obviously we were feeling pretty tired when we were staying up until the wee hours of the morning. But did that stop us from doing it? No. Eventually the pendulum swung the other way, though, and we were going to bed around 8pm. And I could sleep until 8am the next morning and still want to go back to bed by 11am.

(Confession time: Abraham still lets me sleep until I wake up (around 8am) and gets our son out of bed every morning and gets his breakfast so I can get sleep. We’ve found that I require more sleep than he does, normally, but especially in this time of grief.)

Also, sleep disturbances were really common for me. Once I got to sleep, if I woke up for any reason, getting back to sleep was really difficult. Everything from waking up to go to the bathroom to horrific nightmares would interrupt my night, and once I was up, I could count on not getting back to sleep for a couple hours.

In the loneliness and quiet of the night when you are the only person awake in your house, thoughts come fast and furious. So even if I was sleeping, it was often extremely fitful. I felt like I was sleeping in 1-2 minute segments. Thankfully I’ve been experiencing less of that now.

And of course, if your friend is grieving over a later miscarriage or infant loss, they have the physical recovery of delivery to deal with and hormones that are attempting to re-regulate.

It’s hard to know what to do when your friend is this exhausted. It might mean that you bring dinner or go to the grocery store or babysit her kids—we’ll get to some of these incredibly important practical helps soon. But it’s important first to just know your friend’s physical struggle.

We are weak human vessels. When there is a lot going on in the mind and heart, the body just can’t sustain a normal activity level. Know that for your friend.

(Read other posts in this series.)

March 26, 2008 at 2:37 pm 28 comments

How to Help Your Grieving Friend

Not surprisingly, I’ve had lots of conversations with other families who have grieved a tragedy like ours and reflected on my own experience in the past few months.

For those of you just arriving on the scene, we were expecting our second child, a daughter, to arrive somewhere around September 25, 2007. We went into the hospital on Saturday morning, September 22nd, because I couldn’t shake the feeling that I hadn’t been feeling the baby move as much as I would have expected. We arrived in the triage, were hooked up to monitors and ultrasounds and told that our baby was no longer living. We delivered her that day. We named her Felicity Margaret.

It’s been six months since she left us, and I’ve had good and bad experiences since. I thought I would try to relay some of the helpful things you can do to understand and help your friends who are grieving. Of course this is all from my own experience, and I certainly am not a grief expert in any authoritative way, I just know what I’ve gone through.

So if you think this would be helpful to you now or in the future, I hope you’ll read along, think, comment, pray, and act on behalf of your friends or family members who are grieving. You can be a profound blessing to people you may not feel like you understand.

Posts in this series:

March 25, 2008 at 8:46 am 72 comments

You’re not a stalker

I’ve noticed a tentativeness among women in the blogosphere that I want to come against right now–you are (probably) not a stalker.

I know there are more people who read this blog than people who comment, and that is totally fine. But I’ve noticed that when a stranger or visitor does get up the gumption to comment, it’s usually laced with all kinds of insecure apology-like statements, like, “I don’t know you at all…”, “I just happened upon your blog…” or something to that effect.

My husband started a new blog a month or so ago, and he has people from all over the world visiting and commenting, mostly men, but some women too. I have noticed that men don’t feel the same compulsion to apologize profusely for reading another man’s blog, as though they accidentally stumbled upon his secret diary.

Let me assure you of a few things, and hopefully that will make the commenting flow more smoothly and eliminate the need for explanation:

  • This is a public blog. I fully expect and hope for people who I don’t know to read here and comment. If I wanted comments only from people I know, I would publish a private blog.
  • I really, really like meeting new people. It energizes me. Ask my husband.
  • You have probably found this blog through a couple different avenues, all of which are perfectly legitimate, and thus not stalker-like: 1.) the Desiring God blog, which my husband Abraham manages and writes for often; 2.) my husband Abraham’s brilliant blog called 22 Words; 3.) clicking through from one of my friends’ blogs where I’ve commented or where I’m listed on their blogroll; 4.) random googling.
  • I blog to connect with people that I wouldn’t normally get to connect with on a regular basis.

Often times, I find myself on someone’s blog after a series of random click-throughs, and then I go to relay the interesting thing I read to Abraham, and I can’t even remember how I got there. Does that make me a stalker? I don’t think so. At least I hope not.

This is by no means meant to be some heavy-handed bullying tactic to get you lurkers out there to comment. I just want you to know that you’re free to if you’d like to.

Of course the possibility still remains that you are, in fact, a stalker, but that is something you will need to deal with on your own time, probably with the aid of a professional counselor. Nevertheless, I’m banking on the probability that you are just another normal man or woman like me, who likes to read blogs, and found mine.


March 24, 2008 at 10:39 am 118 comments

He has done what he said.

There was a powerful, beautiful song sung at church this morning written by Dan Adler, called “Resurrection Chant.” It had a driving drum rhythm and a Middle Eastern feel to the musical line. Anyway, the words that kept bringing tears to my eyes were, “Our Lord has done just what he said….”

I do not do everything I say I am going to do. It gave me new faith today, thinking that, in the past, Jesus has done all he said he was going to do, so in the future, I can count on him doing all that he has yet to do. It gave me hope for so many things, one of them being to see my little girl raised from the dead, with a new resurrection body, no longer in a grave, but functioning and perfectly whole.

It’s coming. It may not be soon, but it will come. “Our Lord has done just what he said….” He will do all that he has promised.

He said he would rise, and he did rise–alleluia!

March 23, 2008 at 7:33 pm 5 comments

Today is the 22nd.

We just got back from a trip to the snowy cemetery. With our 5 inches of very packable snow, we constructed a small snowman for Felicity. And we threw snow at each other. And I helped Orison make a snow angel. And we cried.

Abraham said some beautiful things today if you go here and here. The portrait was done by a woman in the church, who Abraham secretly commissioned, as a surprise for me. It hangs over the place where we once had her little bassinet.

Six months is a big milestone for me, personally. There’s something that happens when a baby turns six months, where they become so much more interesting, independent, personable. I just loved that phase with Orison. Not that I don’t cherish every phase, but for some reason, six months feels almost magical in my mind. It’s also significant to think that it’s been half a year. In some ways it feels like a lifetime ago, and in other ways it feels like yesterday.

Thank you for thinking of us and praying for us this weekend.

March 22, 2008 at 1:50 pm 12 comments

Madness, not just in March

I’ll just say it up front–I am so, so glad that my husband is not “into” sports. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy the occasional game on a TV somewhere that he just happens to be in front of , or even that he doesn’t get pretty excited during one of these said games. I guess I should say, I’m really glad that he doesn’t follow sports.

I don’t want you to think I’m thankful for that simply because I don’t like sports–I do. I enjoy a minor league or major league baseball game immensely, most college sports, World Cup soccer, and though I’ve never been to one, I imagine I’d enjoy a professional football game a lot. I enjoy playing sports–volleyball if it’s not too competitive, badminton, softball/wiffleball/whatever, kickball…. I will participate in most yard games and sports if given the opportunity. And I like running a moderate amount also.

I don’t think I could get excited about it if my husband were always rattling off sports statistics from the past 5 decades or always ditching me on weekends to watch “the game.” I mean, I can appreciate having “a team” that you always follow and know about, but so many men know everything about every team in every sport!

That’s not to say I don’t sometimes get ditched for the latest book or game of Scrabble–trust me, I do. But I’m all about having married a nerd. I’d have it no other way. You can take your March Madness, April Absurdity, May Mania, etc. As long as I can find a book to read near him or a knitting project to work on while the Scrabble game takes place, I’m not excluded in any way from being a part of what he’s “into.”

I love you, my non-sports-follower husband. Let’s let our madness run through the entire year.

March 17, 2008 at 7:41 pm 12 comments

We’re nearing the end of March…

and I have yet to get any Girl Scout Cookies!!! I was a Brownie & Girl Scout when I was little, and though I didn’t do it for long, those cookies somehow get into your bloodstream and make you crave them for a lifetime. If I were in Erie, I’m pretty sure the little suppliers would be at every local grocery store for the duration of the sale, but I haven’t seen any in our neighborhood. Perhaps Girl Scouts aren’t as popular in the urban areas? Is it a suburban thing here? Or perhaps it’s just not as popular across the board?

Anyway, I’m really hoping for a box of Thin Mints and Samoas (the coconuty-chocolate ones). And if I really go crazy, I might get a box of Tagalongs, too (the ones with the peanut butter inside). I have gone so far as to email the regional chapter of the Girl Scouts to find out where I can get some, but I have yet to receive a reply. Apparently they do not understand the gravity of this situation. 🙂

Moving on… we had a lovely Palm Sunday weekend. Actually, yesterday we had a pretty big group over for Sunday dinner. I haven’t had a group like that over since before Christmas (and I honestly have no idea how I did that, I must have just been insane–I can hardly recall it). But it was a lot of fun to do it yesterday. I was totally exhausted at the end, but it was still fun. It’s been so long since we’ve had plans on a weekend that Abraham turned to me last night and said, “Having plans on the weekend makes it go by so fast. Let’s not have any of those anymore.” 🙂 We’ve really cut back since September. In some ways, we’ve decided to have fewer plans, in other ways it has just happened. I think it’s a good place for our family to be right now.

March 17, 2008 at 8:35 am 14 comments

Here’s what’s going through my brain, in no particular order:

  • It’s 45 degrees and sunny in Minneapolis today! I am so excited for SPRING!
  • Is it seriously Easter in a week and a half–what in the world am I going to do? how am I going to make this special/a learning time for our family, esp. Orison?
  • What’s going to happen with Danielle?
  • Felicity would be almost 6 months old–that’s my favorite baby phase.
  • I went to visit a preschool with Orison this morning. I know it will be good for him, I’m the one with issues. It’s only 2 mornings a week for 3-year-olds, but still, I’m freaking out.
  • I have about 300 pictures arriving from Snapfish soon, and that’s just from the past few months. How am I going to organize all of them???
  • I have choir practice tonight (don’t forget… don’t forget).
  • I work tomorrow (don’t forget).
  • I have got to get my income tax forms organized and beg my dear friend Dorothy (who you might be surprised to know has her MBA and thrills at the thought of doing taxes) to help me yet again this year and get them done.

March 13, 2008 at 1:19 pm 5 comments

“I lived through that.”

We had dinner last night with new friends who feel like old friends. The reason I say that is because their first child died four years ago in a hospital in Turkey, after she went into labor at 24 weeks while in a middle-eastern country. The medical technology was just not available to deal with her problem. She had an emergency c-section, and when she came out of the sedation, her child had already died. The hospital let them have him for about 10 minutes, and then they never saw him again.

We talked about loss, not just of our children, but of all kinds of things–hope, faith, dreams, naiveté. We also talked about restoration of a lot of things–hope, faith, dreams–but the naiveté doesn’t ever return. Once you’ve experienced tragedy and suffering like they have, you never live the same way, thinking, “those things happen to other people, not us.”

They now have a two-year-old daughter who is just a delight. She and Orison had a blast together. It was so amazing to listen to them playing together and laughing.

As we shared our pictures and mementos of Felicity’s birth with them (at their request, which felt wonderful to have someone ask to see her), she marveled, “I lived through that. God brought me through that.”

March 11, 2008 at 9:06 am 8 comments

I have incredible friends!

I am having one of the best days ever. It’s definitely one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. Today has been “Bless and Pamper Molly Day,” at least that’s how I feel.

It kind of began yesterday, when Abraham informed me that he was taking me out for breakfast without Orison. I love going out to breakfast, and we rarely do it. I don’t know why I like it so much, either. Most of the stuff on the menu is available at home–eggs, wheat toast, pancakes–but I never make hash brown, those are always a special treat.

So this morning, we get ready, Abraham takes Orison over to the Tong’s for babysitting, and we hit the road. We had a great time talking about the future, blogging, ideas, etc. Then we drove around for awhile. We were going to go to the Como Conservatory, but there must have been an event there or something, because we couldn’t find parking anywhere!

We just drove around, and eventually ended up by a Target, and we stopped in to buy me a binder and dividers and page protectors so I could organize my knitting patterns. This is a task I’ve been hoping to do for a long time. And I love practical, so this was special for me.

Then Abraham said, “I need to swing by home. I forgot something for later.” So we arrive home to find my friend Jenna and another girl at our house–there had been a cleaning brigade there while we were gone!!! Turns out the other girl, Jancy, is my good friend Amy’s cousin who’s visiting for the weekend from Georgia. And she was more than eager to be a part of the work, I couldn’t even believe it. So my house looked so clean, AND there were fresh flowers everywhere I looked.

Jenna told me that our friends Mike & Brian from small group had been in the kitchen earlier. I was hoping my wish had come true, so ran in to look–A SHELF!!! You see, there is this one cabinet in my kitchen that doesn’t have an upper shelf, it hasn’t had one since we moved in 3+ years ago. I’ve been telling Abraham how much I’d like one, and now it’s HERE! I don’t have a lot of cabinet space in my kitchen, so having just one more shelf feels like my whole kitchen life has changed.

They left, and there was lunch made by my friend Megan waiting for us! Megan is a “family and consumer science” teacher (what most of us know as home ec.), so pretty much anything she touches is lovely, delicious, pretty, etc. Needless to say, I was excited.

Then Abraham told me, “There’s another surprise coming at 1.” One o’clock rolls around and guess what it is

a massage.

Yes, a massage. In my house. She brought her table in, her music, her wonderful rubbing lotion… it was fantastic. I had an hour massage in my sitting room upstairs!!!! I was just laying there, marveling, listening to celtic instrumental arrangements of some of my favorite hymns, getting a massage. I had so many knots in my shoulders that it kind of hurt at times, but it was a good hurt, you know? I told Abraham, “I think she needs to come every day.”

There are scads of people I need to thank for this day. Jenny & Amy, the brains and enthusiasm behind the project; Jenna, Jancy, Rachel, Christina, Shannon, Lindsey, Megan, for your incredible cleaning and cooking job; Brian & Mike, for the shelf that I love; Catherine, for caring for my son so all this could happen and doing my laundry; and Jessica, for the amazing massage. And of course, Abraham, who played along with this lovely scheme for making this day absolutely wonderful.

I am thankful to God for such fantastic friends. I am thankful to God for God. He really knows me, he really loves me, he really cares for me in all of this. I have been clinging to this with white-knuckled fists for 5 months now, asking him to help me believe it. Sometimes he sends peace that doesn’t make sense so I can know it. Today he sent friends to help me know it.

March 8, 2008 at 6:59 pm 14 comments

Have I matured or something?

This is a totally random thought, just up from the kitchen. As a child, I could think of few things I hated more than Swiss cheese. It was so gross to me back then. But now I LOVE it! Is it a grown-up taste? Because right now I’m sitting down with a slice and some Ritz crackers (I know, that’s not a very grown-up taste, but they’re one of my faves), and I am totally psyched for the snack I’m about to have.

March 7, 2008 at 8:46 pm 6 comments

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