Posts filed under ‘Grief’
I just signed up for a scientific study about traumatic loss. Here’s the description from their site:
We are a team of researchers from Arizona State University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Austin College. We are exploring the experiences of those aged 18 and older who have experienced traumatic loss and bereavement. The purpose of this study is to determine the individual, familial, and societal effects of trauma and to improve standards of care to the bereaved and a model of compassionate caregiving and intervention that fosters resiliency at every level.
The lead researcher for the study is Dr. Joanne Cacciatore. Here’s how I know about her:
The first book I read after Felicity died was one called Stillborn: The Invisible Death by John DeFrain et. al., researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. They did a study back in the 80s and published it in book form. It’s mostly stories of peoples’ experiences with stillbirth. It was deeply helpful for me just to read that other people had gone through what I had.
Then, I emailed Dr. DeFrain because the book was out of print. He so politely and sensitively emailed me back and suggested I look into the MISS Foundation, the organization founded by his former doctoral student, Dr. Joanne Cacciatore, who had also lost a child.
I really appreciate her continued research into the topic of stillbirth and traumatic loss. I thought, since so many of us here have lost children traumatically, we should contribute. We can be a means of further research into this painful, under-studied area by sharing our time and our stories to help others.
So here’s what you do:
- Go to http://tearstudy.org .
- Enter your name and email.
- They’ll send you an email right away, and then you just click the link in the email to confirm your email address.
- Wait for them to email you with further details.
I say, let’s do this!
A fellow grieving mother sent me this poem the other day. Her son is buried very near to my Felicity. I visit him each time I go.
I know I haven’t written much about how I’m doing, grief-wise, in awhile. But it’s there, always, and some of it too deep, too painful to share here. Maybe I’ll get there someday.
In the meantime, you can read something that just recently made me cry tears of longing and joy and pain, all at the same time.
from The Seaside and the Fireside
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
There is no flock, however watched and tended,
But one dead lamb is there!
There is no fireside, howsoe’er defended,
But has one vacant chair!
The air is full of farewells to the dying,
And mournings for the dead;
The heart of Rachel, for her children crying,
Will not be comforted!
Let us be patient! These severe afflictions
Not from the ground arise,
But oftentimes celestial benedictions
Assume this dark disguise.
We see but dimly through the mists and vapors;
Amid these earthly damps
What seem to us but sad, funereal tapers
May be heaven’s distant lamps.
There is no Death! What seems so is transition;
This life of mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the life elysian,
Whose portal we call Death.
She is not dead,–the child of our affection,–
But gone unto that school
Where she no longer needs our poor protection,
And Christ himself doth rule.
In that great cloister’s stillness and seclusion,
By guardian angels led,
Safe from temptation, safe from sin’s pollution,
She lives, whom we call dead.
Day after day we think what she is doing
In those bright realms of air;
Year after year, her tender steps pursuing,
Behold her grown more fair.
Thus do we walk with her, and keep unbroken
The bond which nature gives,
Thinking that our remembrance, though unspoken,
May reach her where she lives.
Not as a child shall we again behold her;
For when with raptures wild
In our embraces we again enfold her,
She will not be a child;
But a fair maiden, in her Father’s mansion,
Clothed with celestial grace;
And beautiful with all the soul’s expansion
Shall we behold her face.
And though at times impetuous with emotion
And anguish long suppressed,
The swelling heart heaves moaning like the ocean,
That cannot be at rest,–
We will be patient, and assuage the feeling
We may not wholly stay;
By silence sanctifying, not concealing,
The grief that must have way.
Most of you have already put up your Christmas trees. You’ve strung the lights and hung the ornaments. You might even be sitting and enjoying it right now.
There’s nothing like a Christmas tree at Christmas to make it feel like home. Like family.
We chose, for a number of reasons, to put up a very small tree this year. But in actuality, it’s the third year in a row we’ve used this little thing as our family Christmas tree.
You see, I bought it in the Fall of 2007, just after we lost Felicity and I was going through a major money-spending binge (shock does insane things to you). And then when Christmas came, I was too tired to think about putting up a real tree. Plus, we decided to go on an extensive 4-week road trip at Christmas. (Again, shock does crazy things to you.) We spent Christmas #1 without Felicity in Pennsylvania (in our stupor of shock) among our family and friends there.
Then for Christmas 2008, we had just moved into our current house a couple weeks before and the only thing I had time for (and room for among the boxes) was this little tree. Combine that with having a 4-month old baby, and it wasn’t exactly the right time for me to move forward with any elaborate Christmas decorating.
Now it’s Christmas 2009. Christmas #3. (For those of you living without loved ones, help me out here: do you mark your holidays like this? I don’t feel like I have the same inclination to mark other holidays like Thanksgiving or Easter this way. But at Christmas I miss her a lot, and I feel the passage of time more poignantly.)
Anyway… Christmas #3. Another Pennsylvania Christmas. So I figured, “Why go to the trouble of doing a tree when we’re not even going to be here?”
But Orison had other plans.
In his Christmas excitement, one night after dinner, he’d had enough of this waiting around thing (I’m pretty sure it was December 1) and decided to light a fire under Abraham and I. He came into the kitchen and announced that we were all going to the basement right now and, “Dad, you’ll carry the Christmas tree. Mommy, you’ll carry the Advent calendar. And I’ll carry the boxes.”
“Ready… set… go!” And all of a sudden we were putting up a tree after all.
(And no, we didn’t make him carry the boxes.)
I’m planning a couple more posts about what makes our tree, our family tree, special for me. What makes your Christmas tree special for your family?
On September 22, we marked Felicity’s second birthday. We don’t do anything extravagant, just things that recognize the significance of the day in our hearts.
At the cemetery Abraham and I try to give each other a few minutes of peace and reflection while we alternate caring for the other kids.
Morrow was alert and aware of his surroundings this year, as opposed to last year when he was one month old. At thirteen months he’s a busy one! He enjoyed the birthday balloon the best, more specifically bopping his brother.
And he enjoyed crawling all over the cemetery (note the filthy knees). He eventually found some goose poop on a veteran’s grave and decided to give it a taste. Abraham used most of a bottle of water trying to flush his mouth, hence the soaked shirt.
My girlfriends had already brought some of these flowers. It was like a welcome banner for us. And it meant a lot to know that they’d been there.
Orison really likes to take pictures, so here’s one he snapped of the rest of us:
Orison kept himself very busy while we were there. He often brings his bike to the cemetery, but this time he had no training wheels! He hadn’t exactly gotten the hang of it until this day, so bad mommy didn’t even bring his helmet (I totally wasn’t expecting him to get it!)
It truly was a special gift from the Lord to have something to celebrate through our tears. I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience or something while I watched him—how did I get here? how did he get to be so old? how is it that he’s taking this huge step of independence right before my eyes?
It felt like a launching forward.
Happy birthday, Felicity Margaret. We miss you.
I have people contact me pretty regularly who are intersecting with stillbirth and child loss for the first time. Some are experiencing it themselves, but more often than not, they’re friends with someone who’s just lost a child.
Most of them have no idea what to do. They’re at a loss, completely unprepared to comfort in something so mind-numbingly awful.
It took me at least six months to want to read a book about loss, grief, or death. It took me a couple months to even read anything. It felt so trite and small to read something that wasn’t about death, but then it felt like too much of a bad thing to read about grief and loss when I was just trying to make it through a day with death all around me.
Lots of people want to give a book to the grieving person. It’s not a bad gift, especially if it’s a good book about grief and loss.
But I want to challenge you one further—read the book first.
I want to tell you a story about what that meant for me. A few months ago, I was given a present from one of our dear friends—an unmarried, male friend. It was wrapped in the way you might expect an unmarried male to wrap a gift, in a brown paper bag with my name scrawled on top in permanent marker.
I waited to open it until later in the night, after he’d left. I unwrapped the package and found a book, a book about stillbirth. I opened the cover to find this inscription:
This is a book I recently stumbled across by a woman whose first child was stillborn. It moved me very powerfully, and I wanted to give it to you… “We read to know we’re not alone,” say the characters in Shadowlands. I hope this book makes you feel less alone.”
I could hardly read his words through the thick tears in my eyes. All I could say over and over, through my sobbing was, “He read the book. He read the book!”
What was a single guy with no children doing reading a book about stillbirth? I’ll tell you what he was doing. He was loving me in one of the most profound ways I’ve experienced from a friend since Felicity died.
This was no quick-fix, at-arms-length gift from someone who didn’t know how to handle someone like me. He had decided very consciously to enter into our pain, into our hell, even just for 184 pages. But that decision meant more to me than almost anything. It was a decision to love.
Too often we panic when we don’t understand how to interact with someone who’s going through tremendous pain. I think one motivation for simply buying a book and giving it is to say, “Wow, I don’t know what all this is about, but this person [who wrote the book] must know something. I mean, they have a book about it.”
Another thing it can communicate is a desire to keep things neat and tidy. If we’re really honest with ourselves we might find something a few layers deeper that’s saying, “I don’t understand this. I’m not very good at all this stuff. So here, here’s a book! That’ll help them, right?”
And neither of those is wrong, necessarily. Buying a book for a hurting person is not unkind; I don’t mean to imply that at all.
But what if we said, “Wow, I have no idea what they’re going through. Here’s a book about it. That’ll help me understand them better, hopefully.” You can equip yourselves to love hurting people! This will give you mileage in communicating and relating with the brokenhearted if you can join them in their brokenheartedness. It’ll help you cry a few more tears for the one who hasn’t stopped crying.
I don’t know if any of you will take this advice. Maybe a few of you will. If you do, I want to thank you in advance on behalf of grieving people everywhere. It will be a transforming step of blessing for them… and you.
Last night we lit candles. On the eve of our daughter Felicity’s 2-year homegoing anniversary, our dear friend Barbie read us a beautiful piece she had written. She adapted it from something written for her on the 2-year anniversary of her son’s death back in August.
We lit candles for love, joy, memories, tears, hope, peace, and strength.
I wasn’t expecting this at all, but the stanza about joy was the one that touched me the deepest. I don’t feel like I connect with the word joy very much in my grief. So I was surprised by joy, even as the tears ran down my face.
Here’s what she wrote:
We light a candle for JOY:
For the joy of a wedding;
For the joy of Orison’s birth;
For the joy of Morrow’s sweet life;
For the joy of Felicity’s name;
For the joy in hearts that waited for her;
For her joy in the presence of our God;
For the joy, for the Felicity of our risen Lord.
Happy birthday, Felicity Margaret.
Every day is a re-living day for someone.
Today is a re-living day for so many, remembering the day their lives were changed forever, knowing they would never hear the voice or touch the warm flesh of their husband, wife, mother, father, sister, brother again.
I know that many of us relate to the anniversary of 9/11 by remembering where we were or what we were doing when the news hit us. That is, of course, a normal way to relate to that traumatic news. We do our own re-living of this day when do that.
That was my first reaction this morning when I saw many people Tweeting what they were doing eight years ago when they heard that news.
But soon after that, God brought someone else to my mind—someone I don’t know, the collective “someone” who lost their beloved husband or wife, their treasured son or daughter. This is the someone God brought to my mind today.
We all remember the scenes of chaos we watched via the major news broadcasts. But I want to try to remember that there were people actually experiencing that swirling, smoking, screaming chaos. There were desperate people racing to Ground Zero to try to locate any news about their precious loved one. People dialing again and again into the jammed phone lines, searching for the voice they would never hear again on this earth.
This morning I heard a devotion on Psalm 56:8
You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
This is the segment that struck me the most:
The [Hebrew] word for bottle (no’d) does not refer to some small capped jar, but rather to a skin-bottle used for large quantities of liquid. It’s as if David, after affirming God’s awareness of his sorrows, cries out in hope: “Collect all of my many tears in your canteen!”
So for all the families and friends who have cried so many tears of longing and devastation these past eight years, God has a big enough canteen for all of them. They’re all there and known…collected.
I want to be with you in my heart today, marking your re-living day. Some of the tears in God’s canteen marked “Molly Piper” are there on your behalf today.