Wednesday, April 23, 2014

We miss sweet little Noah so much. This was one of the first pictures that I was able to catch him smiling at around 3 months old :) The mess of blankets under him is because he was "helping" me fold his laundry :) He was and is so deeply and completely loved. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Kids grieve too

It's true that kids are more resilient than adults. I feel like too often though, people don't realize that kids grieve too. They feel the pain of a loss, they hurt, they miss loved ones, they suffer. They go through all of this and do it without the ability adults have to adequately verbalize or even recognize what they're feeling and how their loss is affecting them.

This week Aurelia finished her therapy, grief counseling, whatever it should be called. I think the most benefit came for us in learning how to help her talk about her grief. Daniel and I were with her for her play therapy sessions and we learned how to help a child grieve a loss. They have difficulty expressing their pain, so they need their parents to guide them in talking about it. Kids also need a lot of repetition and will ask the same questions over and over again, not needing a different answer, just needing to hear the same answer reaffirmed.

It's been so hard watching her get so uncharacteristically upset, collapsing in an overwhelming fit of tears when she doesn't understand and can't explain why. A three year old doesn't have the ability to recognize and say "I'm not really throwing a fit because my blanket is wrong, I'm upset because my brother and I shared this blanket and he's not here to use it anymore. I'm upset because I miss him, this reminds me of him and I want him here." Instead it's tears and disproportionate fits that seem completely nuts, even for a child.

A lot of helping a child grieve is helping them express themselves and their grief in a way the does work for them developmentally. For Aurelia, one way is play therapy with her babydolls. It's telling us how she doesn't trust anyone else to take care of (hold) her dolls because "they won't be okay". We play with her babies in a lot of the same ways we played with and cared for Noah, and we talk about situations with her babies that help her express some of her feelings and some of her loss.

Kids need a lot of repetition and grieving is no different. A few days ago Aurelia and I were sitting in the living room and out of nowhere she asked "Mama, did Noah die?" I told her "He did". She looked down, crinkled her mouth like she didn't like that answer, then said with a heavy breath, "and now he's in heaven." She knows Noah died. She knows that. But she needed to hear it again, she needed to ask again. 

Her therapist said that at this point, because she's this young, what is going to be the best help for her is just having the kind of parents who would think to provide her with grief counseling. I thought that was sweet of her. What she meant though is that what is going to help most with her grieving is being aware of her. Being aware of what's normal for her and what has changed. What will help is being patient and calm with meltdowns, understanding that there is a lot more behind them than simply "being a 3 year old". It also means being aware that children do grieve, and that we have to pull ourselves together and be strong enough to help her through her grief while healing from our own.

Distraction and pouring my heart out

I've been letting myself heal and grieve in whatever way feels the most helpful, and for the most part its been distraction, distraction, distraction with small sprinklings of facing reality when I feel strong enough to do it or when I can't avoid it. I've been trying to stay busy, busy, busy and thanks to the warmer weather it's been easier to do. A lot of our healing is just going to take time.

A dear friend wrote a sweet message to me about a week after Noah's passing and in it he said "keep busy with projects, go for walks, the park, do projects and constantly be concentrating on a task. The idle mind is the mourners playground." I've clung to that and it's been the best way to handle things right now. It feels kind of weird basically avoiding things but for now it's what we need. We face it in small pieces rather than drowning in the heartache all at once.

There are still things that we need to do (packing all his toys and clothes away into storage, taking care of some loose adoption ends that a friend is helping us with, etc.) and when we feel strong and in a good place emotionally then Daniel and I tackle them a little bit at a time. A lot of the things we need to take care of just bring a lot of pain with them. 

Once the numbness of shock wears off you're left with the heavy, crushing, smothering pain of the new reality. Some of my hardest times are when I'm already feeling fragile, I can't distract myself and I find myself overwhelmed with everything from the past few months. 

Pouring my heart out
So, distraction has been our friend for sure. Sometimes what I want though is to feel it all, to let it fill and ravage me, and spill my heavy, bursting heart to whoever wants to hear it. Most of the time I vent it all to a friend who asks, sometimes though it ends up being me blindsiding whoever asks "how are you?" first :) A few people have been caught off guard when they say "Hey! How are you?" and I respond with "Pretty awful. How are you??"

The other day I went to return a dish to a friend who had made dinner for us. She asked if I had time to stay and talk, so I sat down on the couch with her and poured out every painful detail of the last few months. Every last horrifying, unbelievable detail. I felt so much better leaving her home. She took and carried part of my heartbreak.

We have a pretty fantastic family doctor's office. The other day I called their nurse with a question about Aurelia, and after she helped me with that she asked how Daniel and I were really doing with everything, with grieving, with healing from all that had happened. She stayed on the phone with me and helped strengthen and encourage me.

I'm so thankful to everyone who is there to listen to me pour my broken, often angry heart out, and thankful to those who so gracefully handle being blindsided by a dam burst of heartache :)

This is the advice I've learned and been telling myself for our grieving:
Face what you can, when you can.
Spill your heart when you want to, keep it inside when you don't.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Days of Healing

I always want my blogging to be either cathartic or helpful to others in some way. Yesterday's blog post I feel was neither. I don't feel any better having shared how hard it is to watch Aurelia grieve. Maybe it helped a few people understand the complexities of grieving adults with grieving children -- I hope so. I had never thought about the difficulties of helping your child grieve while you're grieving until my cousin (a mother of two) became a widow a little over a year ago. I guess if anything were to come from the last blog post please let it be an understanding of how grief affects an entire family, and how hard it is on parents to watch their children hurting while they are trying to trudge through their own pain. 

I think there have been enough people who have written about our kind of grief (losing a child) in enough detail that I don't feel the call to add to their voices. I don't feel the need to share this part of our path as strongly as I did our struggles through infertility and adoption.

I don't think describing the painful parts of our grief will serve my purposes of catharsis or helping others. Instead, going forward I want to focus on sharing how we're surviving and how we're going to make it through this. Every day I'm going to focus on our path of healing. I'm going to share what we're doing and the things that are helping us put ourselves back together. These will be our days of healing. Rather than sharing the painful steps of our path, I'm going to share the small joys we find along the way, and how we keep moving forward.

Isaiah 53:4
"Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows..."

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Life isn't fair

Life isn't fair. I know life isn't fair, and I don't expect it to be. Lately though I've been wanting to cry and angrily yell at the universe that one thing in life is completely, unacceptably unfair. Kids should not be so acquainted with loss, with grief and with a loved one gone too soon. It's. not. fair. 

It's not fair that she knows people can just die, long before natural causes take them in old age. Kids shouldn't have to know that. Kids should get to be oblivious to early death. Kids should get to carry on with their magical, imaginative lives, thinking everyone they love will always be there with them.

It's not fair, it's not right. Kids shouldn't have a reason to beg and plead for their favorite person to come back to life. Kids shouldn't have to struggle to understand why they won't see the person they love. Kids shouldn't have to be faced with all of this. Kids should be playing, trusting, loving and enjoying life. They shouldn't hurt and suffer and struggle through loss like this.

It's not fair for a little three year old to be feeling and dealing with everything she's had to go through. She shouldn't have to be facing all the anger and hurt that's changed her sweet personality. It's not fair that I can't protect her from all of this. It's not fair that her trusting, happy view of life and adults has been scarred.

Watching and trying to help a child grieve while grieving ourselves has been excruciating. There is so much more pain and loss to this than simply the death of her brother. The few weeks Noah lived after leaving our family were full of devastation and heartbreak that we couldn't have prepared for and that will take a long time to heal from.

Child grief manifests in some of the same ways as adults (none of us have really been able to sleep well) but in many more ways it's so different. It's so hard watching her act out her new understanding of how she sees the world what she's experienced. It's so hard answering her painful questions as she struggles to make sense of all the hurt.

It's not fair, it's not right, it's not fair! Why should she have to know such heartache?! Why should she have to know loss like this?? I hate that I can't take it all away from her. I hate that I can't protect her from it. I hate that I can't carry it for her. I hate having to explain it to her and try to help her through all of this while I'm barely, and a lot of times not even, keeping it together myself. How am I supposed to help her through all of this when I'm barely making it myself?? It's not fair, and at least for kids and with death, it should be.