Capture Your Grief – My Journey

For the past two years I have joined Carly Marie’s ‘Capture Your Grief’.

The first year, so soon after Xavier’s death, offered a much-needed creative outlet for my grief.  I documented my thoughts and feelings through images and words.  Sharing those with other bereaved parents was powerful and validating. Sharing those sacred images with those close gave me some release.  When all I wanted was to scream “My baby died!  Stop world and recognise my baby died!” the project offered a place to be heard. I screamed through those words and images. I wanted them to be confronting, honest and brutal. I wanted some small measure of my pain to be evident.

 

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Last year was different. The scars had started to heal over and my grief was no longer  raw.  I was more contemplative, more reflective.  I was able to document lighter moments and hope.  I wanted the images to reflect a softer side of my grief and the beauty of my son.

 

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This year, I have been unsure about whether to take part.  My grief has moved into an entirely different place. I see myself as a bereaved mother, but no longer a grieving one.  Against all odds, my life has moved into a place I am happy with. And I have to ask myself, do I have any grief to capture? What will this project mean to me now?

The past two years, I joined in as part of my healing journey.  This year, I will join in to mother my son.  I don’t pretend that the place in my heart that belongs to him has closed over.  It has not.  But living with that pain has become second nature.  The ugly shoes* of child-loss no longer pinch.  My need is no longer to scream his name, but to speak it.  And so the images I create this year will bear testament to a love that continues and a gentler part of this journey.


You can take part in Capture Your Grief 2014 by following the instructions in Carly’s post.


An Ugly Pair of Shoes
Author Unknown

I am wearing a pair of shoes.
They are ugly shoes.
Uncomfortable Shoes.
I hate my shoes.
Each day I wear them, and each day I wish I had another pair.
Some days my shoes hurt so bad that I do not think I can take another step.
Yet, I continue to wear them.
I get funny looks wearing these shoes.
They are looks of sympathy.
I can tell in others eyes that they are glad they are my shoes and not theirs.
They never talk about my shoes.
To learn how awful my shoes are might make them uncomfortable.
To truly understand these shoes you must walk in them.
But, once you put them on, you can never take them off.
I now realize that I am not the only one who wears these shoes.
There are many pairs in the world.
Some women are like me and ache daily as they try and walk in them.
Some have learned how to walk in them so they don’t hurt quite as much.
Some have worn the shoes so long that days will go by
before they think of how much they hurt.
No woman deserves to wear these shoes.
Yet, because of the shoes I am a stronger woman.
These shoes have given me the strength to face anything.
They have made me who I am.
I will forever walk in the shoes of a woman who has lost a child.

Poetry in Grief – How to be a Mother?

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After losing Xavier, I knew that I would need to figure out how to mother him still.   But it seemed an impossible task.   I had lost confidence in myself as a mother and the things I prided myself on.  I wrote this poem, trying to articulate and search for my new kind of motherhood.

 Mummy

I know how to be a mother
to a child of flesh and bone.
But how to be a mother
when his world is not my own?

I know how to change a nappy,
I know how to give a feed,
but how can I be your mother
when I don’t know your every need?

I know how to give comfort,
I know how to dry tears,
but how can I make it better
when I never learned your fears?

I know how to play peek-a-boo
and I can do it for quite a while.
But how can I make you laugh
when I never saw your smile?

I know how to plan a birthday
what presents please a son
But how can I give you a party
When your birth day was your only one?

How can I be your mummy?
What’s the best thing I can do?
For I am still your mummy
And I love and cherish you

I will light a candle to remember
I will leave butterflies at your grave
I will talk about you often
Honour you and be brave

One day we might meet again,
I’d tickle your little tummy,
you’d laugh and squeal with delight
and I’d hear you call me “Mummy.”

What do with the days that belonged to your baby

DSC01048In the first few weeks after Xavier died we were busy.    There were dozens of terribly sad, nearly impossible tasks to fulfil.   And even as those horrific tasks centred around Xavier’s burial and good-bye, they somehow diverted our attention away from our new reality. With shock as our armour, we numbly went about organising his funeral.  Even as grief overtook us, we were at least engaged in activities for our son.  The very last things we would do for our son – but Xavier was still central to it all.  Our house was regularly full of people.  My beautiful sister was my family’s saviour and she stayed with us for more than a week,  helping us with the day-to-day tasks that then seemed as improbable as flying to the moon.

But eventually, she had to return to her work.   N had to go back to his office.  Life settled into normality for everyone else.   And my maternity turned bereavement leave stretched long in front of me.

The house was suddenly very silent.   That it could feel so empty – when Xavier had been such a quiet,  small presence – seemed impossible.   Isaac continued at kindy for two days a week. I felt it was important that his routine continue.  I had two empty days to fill each week.   Time that should have been lavished on a newborn stretched endlessly in front of me.  There were so many days I would go to bed at 8pm – exhausted by grief and relieved that I could attempt escape in sleep.

Eventually, I worked out a routine for the days that belonged to Xavier.  I went to a personal trainer and as my will began to wane and the reps got harder, I would dedicate each sit up, each push up, each weight to the babies I knew.   This one is for Xavier, this one for Teddy, this one for Harry …   After each session, I would visit Xavier’s grave and talk to him.  I would bring little gifts and tidy his headstone.  I would lie down and hope that he felt my embrace.  I would sit in the sunshine and feel him embrace me back.   I caught up with supportive girl friends who let me talk about my grief.  I would write.  I would create.  I would try to grieve in a positive way.

Those days remained Xavier’s. I was unable to mother him how I wanted to, but I still used that time to mother him.  That time allowed me to build the foundations of a complex relationship that I still don’t fully understand, but that keeps him close.

Eventually, my busy life started to return.   There were fewer opportunities just to sit still and connect with my baby.  Now, I find myself having to carve time out for Xavier.   Jostling with his brothers for my attention.

As endless and as difficult as those early  days seem, they will pass.  Life has a way of bringing you along her tide.

Poetry in Grief – the First Poem

photo (20)This is the first poem I wrote  after Xavier died.  I was trying to make sense of the senseless and completely convinced that I was being punished.

Where are you?

I used to hear stories of heart break,
And wonder how they felt,
And then I’d feel so grateful for the hand that I’d been dealt.

But then someone changed the rules,
Someone changed the game,
And now our perfect life will never be the same.

I don’t pretend to know the mysteries of this earth,
But I knew how precious life is, I knew a baby’s worth.

I never was complacent – I was well aware,
Of the blessings and the privileges of children in our care.

I thought tragedy was for others, I thought we were immune,
Maybe that’s why he was taken all too soon.

I didn’t have to lose to recognise we were blessed,
We gave him all our love, we did our very best.

He was loved, he was precious, he made us a family,
I don’t understand why he was taken away from me.

Was it the hand of god? Or the finger of fate?
Or was it just all random – just a horrible mistake?

Or was it darker forces? The wages for some sin?
Or at the game of life you can’t always win?

Is there any order? Is there any sense?
Or just a lot of platitudes people like to dispense?

Things are said when you are grieving to make you feel ok,
But is any of it true or just words people say?

At the funeral I was strong, said words that then seemed true,
But now all I have is time and a future without you.

I know I’ll search for answers that I will never find,
And I know guilt will forever haunt the corners of my mind.

Even if they could tell me exactly what went wrong,
Would it make any difference – bring you back where you belong?

Where are you now my precious little boy?
Are you filled with light and with love and with joy?

Are you looking down on me and looking after us?
Or have you just returned to the dust?

Heaven, hell, dirt – in the end I just don’t care,
All I know is my arms are empty and my baby should be there.

Seasons in Grief

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There are seasons in grief.

The first Winter – desolate and cruel. Seemingly unending. Life is frozen in the moment you said good-bye. Everything is grey, turned to ash. Food has no taste. Blooms no scent. There is a hollowness that echoes through every moment. The weight of a missing baby heavy against you. Absence, weighing more than presence. Crippling. It is impossible to concentrate, to still your mind long enough. There are words, and they fall, softly as snow, around you. You know they mean well but the words don’t bring summer back. And the void the baby who left made is so vast that you could fall into it at any moment.

Then, gradually, the Spring. Hope shooting like new grass. The colour starts to return to a faded world. You hear an unfamiliar sound and realise it’s your own laughter. You hold a newborn baby and instead of it ripping you apart, you think about a promise for your future. Life beckons and, with hesitation, you respond. You wonder if it’s okay – to let this in. Whether you are betraying your baby by smiling again. And then you catch glimpses of him – when the light hits a certain way, when a butterfly floats near, an unexpected tiny white feather settling on your hand. If you listen very carefully you can hear him. And he wants you to be happy. You open the window and you let hope in.

Against all odds, Summer enters your life. There is joy again. There is sunshine and there is life. There is beauty and purpose. There are so many things you once never thought possible. And against this brilliant blue sky, the knowledge that you lost a baby feels uncomfortable. How could you have lost someone so precious and be happy? How is it possible that a life full of love and laughter can also accommodate such enormous loss? You once thought that you could never be happy again – that life could be bearable at best. Yet, here you are, filled with contentment. The photos that once could only illicit tears now bring a melancholy smile and there is gratitude for being part of a precious life, no matter how short. You have come to some sort of peace. Not an acceptance, or even an understanding, but a life that can accommodate loss and still be beautiful. You feel him in that sunshine and it warms your heart.

Autumn falls. Little reminders. The tug of winter. Things that were once easy, become less so. An anniversary approaches, a birthday, Christmas, Mothers Day, Fathers Day. Days that remind you of the great hole in your life. Or perhaps it is a word, a memory, a song that cuts at the wound not quite healed. A chill enters. You try to shut the door, to close it out, but winter is insistent and sometimes grief has its own agenda.

And then Winter can come again. Never as long or as cruel as the first, but the sadness creeps back.

But no season lasts forever and love lasts through them all.

Poetry in Grief – New Reality

 

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I wrote this poem when feeling very lost about a reality that did not feel real.   When I felt like I had fallen down Alice’s rabbit hole and every single thing was up-side down.

New Reality

I should have a messy house,
My time consumed in his care.
I have a messy house,
Little things too hard to bear.

I should have sleepless nights,
Tending to his every whim.
I have sleepless nights,
My thoughts are all of him.

I should be meeting new mums,
Cooing over their new kids.
I have met new mums,
Who have also lost to SIDS.

I should be on a break from work,
Spending time with my newborn.
I am on a break from work,
Can’t go back whilst still so torn.

I should be juggling two boys,
Wishing I had more hands.
I am juggling two boys,
I’m not sure my eldest understands.

I should be talking about him,
About how he fed and slept.
I am talking about him,
So that his memory is kept.

I should be crying over photos,
Sighing he grows too fast.
I am crying over photos,
The only memories to last.

I should have a living baby,
I should be happy and fulfilled.
I don’t have a living baby,
Just a life left to rebuild.

What this blog is. Why this blog is.

IMG_3363In the weeks after Xavier’s death, I spent a lot of time online.  I would search for those with similar stories.  Those that were grieving in the way I was.  I would search for hope in the words of those who were further ahead in their grief.  I would search for understanding in the words of those who had recently lost.  The SIDS and Kids forum became a sanctuary for me.  I would check it constantly – not just to see if anyone had replied to my own thread – but because I hoped there would be some small new bit of information.  Some words that I could take with me through the day and that would give me comfort.

Through that forum I met a wonderful mother who had also lost her son.  She was grieving in a similar way to what I was.  Her eloquent and articulate words struck my soul and we struck up an online friendship.  We emailed each other for months and month – epic emails with our hearts poured into them.  I would be struggling with something and she would come back with clarity.   She would be wrestling with a unknown feeling and I would put my finger on it.  She became my rock and her emails the highlight of any given day.  There was love and healing and magic in those email exchanges.  They allowed me to mother my son, share my son and work through my grief.  They allowed me to get to know her son, even though he was in a place I could not go.  Whilst we are both now busy with new little additions to our families, our love for each other, and our love for each other’s boys continues.  We are bound by words.

Once Elijah I was born, I felt I wanted to reach out to anyone who was searching the internet as I had been.  Those that were looking for words to comfort them.  That is why this blog was born alongside my rainbow baby.  Over time, I have blogged about things other than loss.  I had ideas in my head that I wanted to express and this blog provided a platform.  I have recently started a new blog with a dear girlfriend, and that will become the place I blog about parenting my living boys and the million ideas that race around in my brain.  This blog will be solely dedicated to positive grieving and connecting with Xavier.  This place will belong to him.  And it will be a safe place for those searching for respite after losing their child.

I believe in the power of words.  I believe that articulating a feeling gives you power over it.  I believe that writing down a fear helps dissolve it. I believe that words connect people.  I believe that words can pave a road to healing.

That is why this blog is.