Thursday, October 31, 2013

Acceptance

There's a lot of chatter around "acceptance" for babyloss parents. It's one of those words that thoughtlessly gets tossed around. Indeed, acceptance is one of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross' famous yet much-misunderstood Stages of Dying. I pretty much accepted that Toren had died from the moment we were told there was no heartbeat. Even before we were told. The nurse was moving the monitor around and said "I'm just trying to figure out what position this baby is in..." and I knew. But here's what I think of the idea of acceptance - it is leveled at the wrong people. I wish the world outside of the babyloss community could accept what I am saying about my experience as Toren's mother. Don't fight it. Just accept it. He's my baby, my child, my son, and I will always be sad that he died. I will never be ok with it. Just accept it. I wish the world would accept that he is a member of our family and that that will never change. Stop resisting me on this, it just makes things worse.

I've been thinking about when my grandmother died. My Nana. She was 92. She didn't cease being a person when she died. She didn't stop being my Nana. No one said to me, "I guess you weren't meant to be a grand-daughter." No one said her life wasn't meant to be. No one even remotely implied that I should try to forget her. My GP didn't say, "It would be best for your daughter if you moved on and had another grandmother." And when she died, no one said they couldn't find her heartbeat. She was simply allowed to have died. And she's been allowed to maintain her place in the family ever since.

At school the other week, one of the other parents asked me if my daughter has any siblings. I said, "Yes she has a baby brother who died." I showed her his photo on my phone. I am Quick Draw McGraw with that thing. She was compassionate, offered her condolences, then after a few breaths asked "How old was he?" Not, "What's his name?" There may be many innocent reasons why she asked this, but my griefbrain translates this as: "How sad do I need to be about this?" Just accept that it is sad. It won't kill you. It didn't kill me (not literally) so you will be fine.

When friends are looking for ways to support bereaved parents, one of the biggest things they can do is to accept. Accept that child as a person. Accept that child as a member of the community who has died and everything that entails. Accept that that child has his or her place in the family and that can never be altered. Accept what the parents are saying about their experience. All of it, not just the nicey-nicey easy to digest I'm-so-transformed-by-my-child's-life stuff. The crappy stuff too. Feel free to extend that to anyone going through anything difficult. It is their experience, accept what they are telling you about it. Accept your own sadness about it.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ghosts

My daughter asked me what a ghost is. I told her, "When people talk about ghosts, they are really talking about memories." She didn't say anything. Just kept looking at me. So I told her that people make ghosts out to be scary, or funny, because sometimes, memories are hard, or sad, like when our baby died, and people don't want to remember them. But we need to remember. We need to hold on to the people we love who have died, even though it's sad. She seemed ok with that.

Last night we attended a beautiful event for All Souls Night at our cemetery. We lit a candle and burned some incense for Toren, wrote his name on a shrine, and decorated candles. There was music and singing, torches and lanterns everywhere. It was a  refreshing change from the usual Halloween fare which positions death and dead people as frightening or a source of laughs. I'm glad she's getting a balance between the usual fun for little kids, and having an opportunity to honour those who have died, remember their place in our lives, and treat their memory with reverence and respect.















Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fog

The fog here recently reminds me of those early days of grief when I couldn't see, or think, clearly. I have heard many bereaved parents talk of a "fog" when their baby first dies. I suppose it's some sort of protective mechanism, not allowing us to see too far ahead, to see too clearly. I think if I could have seen further on, to understand better what a burden the loss of our boy would mean, it probably wouldn't have helped me.

I still in many ways feel to be in the "early days of grief".  I haven't been taken back to those same feelings - thank goodness for that - just thoughts of those days.





Friday, October 18, 2013

Knowing Him

Friends sometimes tell me they're sad that they didn't get a chance to get to know Toren. For a long time I've felt the same, but now my perspective on this has started to shift. Not know him? Not so sure about that anymore. It's so amazing that friends are expressing to me their desire to know him. Normally, we don't really want to "know" someone. We say, "Where do you work?", not "What experiences have you had in your life that have marked you and changed you and forced you to transform, however reluctantly, and make you feel a weird mixture of gratitude and resentment?" Anytime someone asks a bereaved parent about their child, that is someone who is not afraid of knowing. Knowing someone or something on a deeper level. I remain in awe of that.

It does annoy me that I have to use stereotypical notions of what a baby boy is because I don't know what it's like to have a living child who is a boy. I gravitate towards toy trains, cars, superheroes, the colour blue. When I walk past a construction site (pretty easy to do in Vancouver), I think to myself, he would have been interested in that. Now he would be 21 months old. Would he be following his big sister around or doing his own thing? Would he be playing with the other little boys in our social group? I think he and his sister would have gotten along like a house afire. In support group someone said to be careful not to idealize your dead baby, and I guess by extension, the sibling relationship. Screw it, I'm doing it, it's all I've got. They would have adored each other from the get-go.

Our daughter loves her creative ballet class. She is also becoming more physical on the playground than she was when she was smaller, with more adventurous climbing and more feats of derring-do. This summer she started barreling ahead with writing and learning French. These aspects of her life interest me greatly of course, anyone can know them quite easily, but on a deeper level, I'm fascinated by who she connects with, how she makes decisions, what catches her attention, what she asks us about, what she finds the height of hilarity, how she interprets things, how she reacts and responds to events around her. I love watching her in ballet class, less as an "activity" and more as a way of expressing her Self.

I'm starting to do the same with him - moving away from thinking about whether he would have become an engineer or a musician or a counselor, whether he would have had blue eyes like his daddy and his sister or brown eyes like me, if he would have become a reader like the rest of the family. I'm moving more towards thinking about whether he would have been compassionate, kind, open-hearted and giving. All the things that have become more important to us as a family since he was born.

Yesterday she wrote his name and said, "I think he would probably have liked ice cream."



Not know him? If you have sat with our family, in both joy and grief, you know us. Maybe not completely - that's probably not possible for anyone - but a lot of the important stuff. And if you know these things about us, you know him.



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Shining A Light

Last night we met with friends from our support network to watch BC Place glow purple and blue to raise awareness of infant loss. Last year on this day we stayed home and lit our candles for the Global Wave of Light, people around the world shining a light on their babies' hidden lives. This year it was nice to get out and gather with a group, to stand together, each with our own candle, while a huge symbol of support from the community glowed in the distance. Pretty amazing.

This can be such a lonely path to walk. There is so much to manage on one's own, so much that is hidden, so much that is hard to describe and hard to share. Last night, for a few hours, we didn't have to do it alone.

Monday, October 14, 2013

What I Gave Birth To

A different perspective on parenting.

Compassion for people who have terrible things happen to them, then feel bad about feeling bad about it.

A clearer view of friendship.

Rage.

A surprising appreciation of grief. (Hate it too.)

Dormant anger.

A greater interest in death, which I no longer think of as "morbid".

An alternative understanding of strength.

Impatience with people who think the best way to deal with difficult experiences & emotions is to suppress them.

Anxiety.

The revelation that learning other people's stories, no matter how hard or sad, does not take anything away from me but rather, enriches my life.

Disgust of phony, pasted-on smiles.

Mistrust of those who think the ultimate goal in life is "happiness" at all costs, rather than acknowledging one's true feelings and trying to live as authentically as possible.

Sincere gratitude for the good things in my life.

The need to examine the difficult things that have happened in my life, rather than continue to suppress them and put up unhealthy coping walls.

Greater awareness of my own vulnerability. And everyone else's.

A commitment to be guided by my own story and my own experiences to combat the forces of self-doubt.

A stronger desire to help others.

My voice.





Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Happy Face Sad Face

Today I brought my daughter with me to pick up some supplies for this year's Awareness Walk. At the dollar store she wanted a balloon and decided on a happy face balloon since the rest were birthday balloons. Afterwards we went to meet a babyloss mama and her new baby at a café. There were lots of babies there, and most of them seemed to be boys. A little boy about Toren's age came up to play with the balloon but she didn't want him to. I don't push her on this. I asked her about it, she didn't say much so that was fine. She deserves as much respect as anyone else. The little boy's mother didn't seem too happy about this but I just couldn't care.

On the car ride home, she suddenly said "We should get a balloon with a happy face and a baby on one side, and a sad face and a baby on the other side."



Toys

There's a toy I put with his things that she keeps taking down to play with. She takes it down and plays with it for a few minutes, then I put it back. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. It's starting to...annoy me. The nutty thing is, it's her  toy from when she was little.

I am still having to deal with toy conflicts between these two kids! Who knew.





Sunday, October 06, 2013

Miscellaneous

Today I was sorting through photos and I was looking through a folder named Miscellaneous. These are photos I take that are not photos of our daughter, of holidays, of anything specific. Just things that caught my eye at the time. I realized that many of those photos were inspired by Toren. If he had not died (and lived), it wouldn't have occurred to me to take them. I would just be taking photos of him, doing his little boy things, his 21-month-old toddling things. And suddenly it seemed utterly foolish that those photos were in a folder labeled Miscellaneous. There was nothing miscellaneous about them.

"mis-cel-la-neous \ˌmi-sə-ˈlā-nē-əs, -nyəs\ adj: including many things of different kinds"

Those photos are not about "many things of different kinds", only one thing - love. I take those photos because of my new grief-sight, and I grieve because I love. So I moved them into the folder named Toren.