Tag Archives: Grief

Happy Whatever Day

21 Jun

Happy Avoiding Facebook Day.

Happy Rehearsing Your Response to ‘Happy Father’s Day’ Day.

Happy Uncomfortable Pauses That End With ‘How’s Your Wife Holding Up?’ Day.

Happy Getting Your Story Straight When Asked If You Have Any Kids Day.

Happy Politely Declining The Father’s Day Gift/Special/Award At Stores/Restaurants/Church Day.

Happy Nodding And Shrugging When Loved Ones Tell You What A Great Father You Are/Were/Would’ve Been Day.

Happy Being Happy For Other Fathers Day.

Happy One-Year-Til-Next-Father’s-Day Day.

Happy Avoiding Patronizing Articles And Blog Entries Like This One Day.


A fast note to other dads who have lost, because, damn it, this is our day too: you’re on my mind. If you’re anything like me, Father’s Day isn’t something you look forward to, it’s something you sort of wait out. You don’t want to abolish the day altogether, you just want to cue the music and flash the Oscar speech sign because it’s running long: WRAP IT UP.

Maybe you’ve just lost your child or children and this is your first Father’s Day and all you see is ocean in every direction.

Maybe you lost your child decades ago, but you find yourself stealing a minute alone for the one who should be here but isn’t.

Maybe you have other living children and you love them fiercely and you love this day, but it still stings.

Maybe it’s not a child you lost, but rather a wife or a parent or a sibling and the whole Father’s Day idea seems sort of off, particularly this year.

To you: Happy Whatever Day. On a lonely day like today, I’m glad you’re in the world because it means someone else knows how I feel. Maybe that’s a selfish way to look at it, but I’m going to cut myself some slack because, eh, it’s Whatever Day and we all deserve a break.

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Fire, Glass, OH MY GOD

4 Jun

broken_glass

I had a loose mental sketch of this year’s entry. It was going to be called “#braveface” and it was going to be about a new sort of grief (new to us anyway) that we’ve only recently begun to understand and that’s the grief surrounding infertility and miscarriage. Take my word for it: it was going to be a really sensitive and stirring post with fat, salty tears in both the telling and the reading. Boy, were you in for some kind of treat.

But forget all that. I’d rather talk about something that happened a couple of hours ago.

TOT readers will recall that, a year ago, I wrote something to fellow grieving parents who are, like us, trying to figure out how to navigate the unique pain of losing a child or children. I mentioned some of the things we do on June 4. Nothing exotic, but we take time for our boys. We take the day off work. We try to get out of the house. And on the minute of each of their births, we light a candle and say a word or two.

And that happened. We’re blessed to have friends and family who remember three little men who would’ve been four years old today. People are kind and thoughtful with texts, comments, cards and even the occasional gift. “We love you.” “We’re thinking of you and RDO today.” “We remember.”

It genuinely makes the day easier. And in a strange way, I’ve almost begun looking forward to June 4. It’s painful remembering, but it’s also good. It’s a relief. And it fills my heart to hear from people who love us and love children they never got a chance to meet.

Anyhow: a couple of hours ago.

We were doing our thing. Rudyard was born at 6:28 AM, so we lit a candle on our mantle near his urn and said a word or two. Through the years, the mantle has gotten pretty busy with gifts, art and mementos. There’s a lot going on and most of it’s dedicated to the boys, so it makes sense to pick that as our Remembering Place.

7:03. Desmond. We lit a candle, took a moment or two. Oscar wasn’t until 8:40, so after Desmond’s candle, we took some time to do morning things, like brewing tea and replying to a few texts and emails on our phones. My sisters had gone out of their way this year to purchase memorial gifts and we were in the process of thanking them when I discovered our wifi was out. Specifically, our living room wifi extender wasn’t giving a signal.

The wifi extender, I should add, that’s plugged in just above the mantle.

Best thing for that is the old unplug/replug, so, careful as you please, I reached around the artwork, knickknacks, cards, mementos and flaming candles and grabbed the wifi extender. I pulled. It stuck. I worked it back and forth, harder, harder.

If you can see where this is headed, you’re smarter than I was.

One final tug and the extender came flying out of the wall, crashing into our meticulously manicured memorial. The objects of our solemnity flew through the air and exploded onto the ground. Rudyard’s candle burst into a million pieces, with glass, flames and hot wax ricocheting through our living room.

Carey was screaming her head off (they haven’t invented a font big enough):

“OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD!!!!!”

We flew into action, isolating the cat from the scene, sweeping glass, vacuuming rugs, chipping solidified wax from the floor and walls. In the end, we had to move couches and impromptu-redesign the Memorial Area. There was swearing and bickering. At one point, Carey cut her hand. Our Mourning Morning was a mini Roland Emmerich film, a cacophony of injuries and destruction.

We replaced candles and put the room back together in time for Oscar’s moment (whose candle Carey lit, as I can no longer be trusted).

But, you know, as we were in the backyard, beating glass shards from the rug, I told Carey, “I’m glad this happened.”

“What?”

“I’m serious! I am!”

“Well that’s dumb.”

And she’s probably right. But, man, that’s life and that’s grief. You can meticulously plan all you want. You can manufacture all the solemnity in the world, but in the end, you’re gambling against the reality of the chaos curve and you’re going to find that the curve usually wins. Life, grief, whatever you want to call it isn’t as pretty as we’d like it to be. It’s not a Fellini film, it’s a 2nd grade play. The music tends to swell at the wrong time and the actors will likely trip over their costumes, get distracted, flub their lines. Forget all about grace and majesty. Just get through the performance without burning down the stage and call it a win.

Grief sucks. Death is bullshit. Really: it’s a bonafide pile of glistening, sun-kissed bullshit.

And what can you do? My sons are gone, but I get to say I met them. So maybe it was under the messiest possible circumstances. Maybe that’s better than not meeting them at all.

Since that’s pretty weak as a wrap-up, here’s one last thing: my wife has, in the past, had the good taste to post music that reminds her of our triplet sons and I think I’d like to do the same before I go. About a year and change ago, I discovered three songs, all covers, that I found myself playing over and over and I realized each one made me happy because each reminded me of one of my boys.


Rudyard’s song is the last thing anyone would expect me to post, but, man, Josh Weathers destroys it. The big, salty tears I promised earlier are all here and when I hear this, I remember my brave boy:


Desmond’s song is the least surprising thing in the world. It’s his namesake and it’s as fun as he would have been. I think, when the Beatles wrote it, this is what they were going for:


Oscar’s song is how I like to think of Oscar: clever, strange, innovative, funny. It’s one of the greatest songs of all time, performed in a way The King never intended:


Today, boys, you would have been 4.

Love you. Miss you.

The Land of Do-As-You-Please

4 Jun

“Hello. My name is 1)_____.
Today I’m grieving the loss of 2)_____,
who passed away on 3)_____.
He/She/They was/were my 4)_____.
His/Her/Their loss makes me feel 5)_____.
In closing, I’d also like to say 6)__________________.”

 

Three years into grief, it’s not difficult to conjure images and memories of those first days and weeks. “Overwhelming” doesn’t quite say it, it’s a hurricane of cheek-cracking, Shakespearian proportions. You’re asked to dig down into your own guts and scoop out reserves that you’ve never suspected were there. When you’re at your lowest moment, you’re making decisions that, at the time, you imagine will haunt you the rest of your life if you choose poorly.

“Cremation or burial? Urn or Casket?” “Memorial or no memorial and if so, when/where/how and who’s coming?” “Should I begin some sort of tradition?” “Should I join a support group?” “If we still want other children, shouldn’t we take immediate steps in that direction?” “Should I take depression medication?” “How much time should I take off from work?” “How much time do I have to cancel this or return that?” “Should I travel?” “Should I sell the house and move?” “Should I kill myself?”

“What if I do this wrong?”

And you ask for help and guidance and, with luck, you have people in your life who are as helpful as anyone could reasonably be. But their help essentially comes down to one, single, frustrating piece of advice:

DO WHATEVER YOU WANT.

It’s not meant to add to the frustration, but, of course, it does. And to be fair, what else would you expect them to say? It’s your loss, your grief.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve received a handful of emails and blog comments and even one or two in-person questions from people who have become reluctant members of the club Carey and I have belonged to for the past 3 years, namely the Brother/Sisterhood of Grieving Parents. “What should I do?” they want to know. “What did you do?”

What we did and what we continue to do isn’t a guidebook or a roadmap for others by any stretch, but today, on my boys’ third birthday, I thought it might be helpful to get specific.

A few things we’ve done:

 

urns

We decided on cremation and chose urns for our boys. A friend of ours (and client of Carey’s) runs a mortuary and was very helpful in presenting options to us. He suggested mixing their ashes and keeping them in one urn. Since we’d gone to such lengths to preserve their individuality, we preferred to give them separate urns. Rudyard’s is the reddish-bronze, Desmond’s is the silver and Oscar’s is gold. We keep them on our living room mantle.

 

sunflowers

At the memorial, we presented the urns in the center of three sunflowers which were in three square glasses. Since then, each week, Carey brings home three fresh sunflowers from the store. We’ve kept a steady rotation in the glasses ever since. Sometimes they’re in the kitchen, sometimes in the dining room, sometimes near the urns. It lifts our spirits to see them.

 

albums

On the day, we took over 100 photographs of the handful of moments we had with our boys. While, it’s true, we’re choosy and protective of who sees them, we had prints made of all of them and keep them in a couple of small photo albums.

 

carey-tattoo jer-tattoo

We decided on tattoos to remember them. Carey has their names in script on the side of her foot and I designed their first initials with the date of their birth into artwork for my left wrist. It’s the only tattoos either of us have.

 

office-artwork

Recently, Carey and I collaborated on a piece of artwork for our studio/office. The birds are three finches done in black ink and white acrylic. The background is collaged from pages from vintage books by Rudyard Kipling and Oscar Wilde and also some sheet music of the Beatles’ Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da, which mentions Desmond.

 

Last year, for reasons beyond my understanding, the news media became intrigued by our story. Specifically, our memorial video, which shows footage of our boys’ remains shortly after their passing. We were interviewed by The Daily Beast, BBC World Update and Good Morning America about our story. It was a great opportunity to talk about the pain that parents of stillborn children experience.

Our interview with Dan Damon of BBC World Update:

 

From time to time, I’ll take part in open mic events at a coffee house in Long Beach. In the past, I’ve read a story inspired by the boys and, last week, I mentioned them in a presentation I gave about my personal passion-issue, which is gun violence in the United States. Amid true-life anecdotes, statistics and a brief history of firearms, I spoke about the Sandy Hook tragedy, recalling the blessing it was to have the opportunity to comfort my children as they passed, a privilege taken from many parents whose children are victims of shootings.

In general, whether it’s home decor or small life decisions, we gravitate toward ‘three’. It’s subtle, but visitors will see triads and triptychs of flowers, artwork and other odds and ends around our house. It’s subtle, but it’s our way of remembering.

We did join a support group. In fact, we participated in two of them. Easily the most helpful was New Hope, which offers grief support programs and services. In fact, it introduced us to some of our closest friends.

 

candles

And finally, each year, on June 4, Carey and I take the day off. I’m a guy who, though I’m loathe to admit it, isn’t always above working on Christmas. But, for us, June 4 is sacred. No clients, no freelance, no popping into the office to make sure my art director is meeting his deadlines. We design the day specifically to make sure absolutely nothing is going on. On the minute of each of their births, we light a candle to remember. And we then proceed to do whatever we want, which is often very little.

 

If your’e a grieving parent reading these words, understand that none of the above are obligations. Three years in, Carey and I are winging it, just like you are. If you’re worried you’re going to make the wrong choice, don’t. Your grief is yours and you get to decide how to live in it and through it.

That said, one piece of “don’t” advice for those who have experienced recent loss: don’t put it off. You’ll be tempted to delay decisions about burials and memorials and other things that require fast attention until your head is clearer, but trust me when I say it won’t be easier later. Allow yourself the freedom to choose something less than perfect. Less Than Perfect is going to be the status quo for awhile and you’ll need to find a way to work within that.

Also, one last thing to the newly-grieving parent. It’s been said so many times to Carey and me that we’re in full-blown cliché territory, but it bears repeating, so, begging your forgiveness:

It will always be hard. But it won’t always be this hard.

Today, if you’ve lost a child, you’re in my prayers and my heart is full for you. I’m sorry for your loss. But I’m overjoyed you’re with me, with us, in the world.

 

1) Jeremy
2) Rudyard, Desmond and Oscar
3) Saturday, June 4, 2011
4) sons
5) destroyed, angry, burdened, confused, broken
6) I miss my sons very much

 

 

Best Possible

23 Jul

It’s been nearly a month since I’ve posted, but I’ve thought of my blog and those who read it often. This post isn’t so much an update as a, well, a Something. A couple of weeks after the boys were born and passed, I began writing a short piece without any sort of idea where it was going or who would be likely to read it. Maybe it would be just for me.

Tonight finds me at an open mic night at Seka Coffee House in Long Beach. I’ve been given 5 minutes to do whatever I want with a captive audience and I’ve decided to read what I wrote. Due to time, I’m only doing an excerpt, but the full text is below, if you’re interested.

It’s called Best Possible and it was inspired by my sons.

It’s after sundown. I’m in my car and I’m driving somewhere, only I don’t know exactly where because that’s up to my passenger, who’s giving directions, calling out the turns and the exits, the merges and the yields. I ask him about the destination and he says “trust me” and I’m not altogether sure I do, but I will.

He’s in his 40s, maybe even 50, and his hair’s starting in with the gray, but mostly he’s pretty thin up top. He’s paunchy and pale, with a voice like my father’s, only a little deeper, and a profile like my mother’s, only a little more beaky and it’s been a few days since he’s shaved.

Point of fact, he looks exactly like me. Or anyway, exactly how I’ll look in 10 or 15 years. Truth is, he’s my future self and he’s returned to his past, my present, to tell me to stay on the 710 south.

“How many kids do you have?” he asks me and I tell him he already knows and he says, “humor me, would you?” and I tell him the truth, which is to say I had 3 boys, but now they’re dead.

He shakes his head and winces. “I’m sorry,” he tells me. “You’re one of those. Two of my sons also passed, but the third, Oscar, he made it. He starts high school in the fall.”

The place we arrive, it’s sort of a little studio, the kind where they teach children karate, only it seems to be closed. My passenger, the future me, says, “go ahead in.” I cut the engine, undo my seatbelt and hesitate. Finally, I ask him if he has any, I don’t know, advice or something. He itches his nose and rakes his fingers through his hair the same way I’ve done since I was a toddler and eventually says, “oh, sure. You should exercise more.”

I leave Future Me in the car and head inside. The door’s unlocked and the lights are off, except for a little desk lamp on a tiny, wooden table in the center of the room, between a couple of chairs. In one of them sits Future Me, who I could’ve sworn was in the car just a second ago. He’s slightly older, or maybe younger. Something’s different and it’s hard to put my finger on exactly what, but he’s focused on his paperback copy of The Brothers Karamazov, the one collecting dust at home on my shelf in my office, and if he notices me, he doesn’t say anything.

I sit in the opposite chair and eventually break the tension by telling him I’ve tried to make it through Karamazov three times and I always fail miserably. He looks up and chuckles and says, “this is attempt number five for me and it’s a real climb. Would it kill these people to have a regular conversation once in awhile? Page 170 and I’m ready to murder all three brothers.”

We spend a few minutes talking about books we like and books we don’t and he mentions Ayn Rand and I tell him she’s one of Carey’s favorites and he says “who’s Carey?” I’m not sure if he’s joking, but I say, you know, she’s my wife and he closes his eyes and smiles. “Carey, right. From college.”

I’m for mystery as much as the next man (and in this particular case, that’s me too), but I eventually ask him who he is, what this is. He points to a little door in the back of the studio that reads STAFF and says, “you’re going to have to go in there, sooner or later.” Then he hands me a raffle ticket with a number hand-written on it and says, “I’m you. The you that gets you ready.”

I open the door.

The STAFF room is less of a room and more of an indoor arena. Not exactly a stadium, but it’s in the neighborhood. There seems to be a big event going on in the center, on some kind of red platform, complete with concert-style lighting.

Also, the place is, well, packed. Old men, young men, everything in between. Some in outrageous outfits, some in understated suits. A handful seem to be drunk or high and others still are handicapped. But the big thing they all have in common is they all look exactly like me.

“We’re waiting,” says a voice next to me, who turns out to be a very pained-looking, mid-twenties me, propped against a wall, clutching his sides. “You’ll want to get comfortable, most of us have been here awhile.” I ask what we’re waiting for and he says, through gritted teeth, “we’re all waiting for some one-on-one time with the guy on stage. The one in the center.” I ask who’s in the center and he says, “it’s me. You. All of us. But he’s the Best Possible Version.”

I thank him and begin making my way down the aisles. But before I do, I ask him if he’s having kidney stone trouble. “How’d you guess,” he says and I tell him to try a shot of lemon juice each morning. He says, “no kidding?”

Every 10 or 20 minutes, the sound system barks out a number. I take a look at my raffle ticket and it looks like I have a few thousand ahead of me. I do my best to get situated.

Hours turn into days turn into months. I spend a lot of time talking to other me’s, listening to my life story over and over, sometimes with only slight variations from my own experience, sometimes wildly different. Since we all have the same name, we refer to each other by our numbers, which is kind of cool and makes us all feel like Patrick McGoohan.

It’s the old versions of myself, the guys who are 80+, that really flip my shit. They don’t seem in any hurry to convince any of their younger selves of anything and they’re mostly short on words of wisdom. It’s all Que Sera Sera, which is the opposite of the frantic teens and reckless 20s.

I hear stories of me’s that were and others that weren’t and others still that were, but maybe not quite in the way I remember. For example, I attended Samford University, met and married a girl named Molly, and began art directing video games. I also sold my first play when I was 18, which was called Whatever Gets You Through The Night and divided my 20s between trying to get stage shows off the ground in New York and living with my dad in Hartville when money was tight.

I had an affair with a coworker when I was 31, divorced Carey for her, and turned to getting high when that ended in tears. In high school, I was screwing around with Matt Brainard and wound up getting hit by an icicle, which took off my left leg. At 52, I published a book on 15th century Spain that less than 100 people bought and at 25, I lost my life to a drunk driver.

There are a few trending themes. Carey’s in a lot of the stories, the lives, maybe even half of them. Art and writing, in some form or another, are in nearly all of them. I tend to wind up with at least one child. I’m typically either Christian or agnostic, but sometimes Buddhist and in one case, I’m even a Scientologist, if you can believe that.

The only thing I’m consistently sure of, with each story I hear, is that I’m simultaneously inspired and disgusted by what I’m capable of.

Finally, my number’s up.

I head up the stairs to the red platform, head buzzing with all the conversations of recent weeks and months, trying to keep straight which me I am. At the top, on a small, tan couch, sits the Best Possible Version of me. He’s older than I am, significantly older, with silver-crazed eyebrows and leather suspenders. He looks tired. Ready for whatever I have to throw at him, but still tired.

He stands when I approach and shakes my hand. “It’s your time,” he tells me. “What would you like to talk about?”

We sit. I tell him I’ve been thinking about that parable where everybody puts all their problems in a big pile and winds up taking back their own problems for themselves when given the choice. I tell him the story’s bullshit, as I see it. I’ve met a lot of me’s recently and there were quite a few of them whose life I’d choose over mine. I miss my sons. I want a life where I get to see them grow into men.

Best Possible nods. “What do you want to ask me?” he says.

I tell him I want to know what he did so differently from the rest of us. Was it faith that made him better? Or adversity? Or was he just born with a better soul? How did he avoid all the mistakes the rest of us seem to make?

“I avoided nothing,” he says. “I’ve probably made more bad choices than anyone here. Not just because I’ve had time to make them, but because I’ve been terribly, terribly stupid with my talents and my relationships. If there was something to screw up, I screwed it up. I could tell you my story, but you’ll have to take my word for it: it’s a real heartbreaker.”

I ask him what makes him the Best. Did he cure cancer or something?

“No,” he says, “you need to listen to me, here. I haven’t led a good life and I spend my time choking on regret. But I look around and I see all these versions of myself and I ask every single one the same question: how do you feel about the men assembled here?”

I say I love them.

“Yes,” he says. “So do I. And they all love you, too. They’d do anything for you, because they know you from the inside. Isn’t that the perfect way to feel about someone else?”

I say Yes it is.

“I doubt any reasonable person would call me the best version of anything,” he says, “but I sit up here because one of us has to and I thought it might ease the burden of a life that didn’t turn out how I’d planned. You already know what I’m going to say next, don’t you?”

I nod and say You’re going to offer me your seat.

The old me slings an arm over my shoulder: “Yours if you want it.”

And if this is a dream, here’s where I wake up.

And if this is what it’s like to be dead, here’s where I find out What’s Next.

And if this is just a story, here’s where I clue you in about the sort of story you’ve been taking in.

And no matter what I decide, the numbers will continue to bark from the sound system and the long procession of me will continue up and down the stairs, maybe some staying in the Best seat, others not wanting to bear the weight. The artists, the husbands, the leaders, the abusers, the addicts, the fathers, the heroes, the professionals and the basket cases, everything I ever could have been and ever could be are waiting their turn.

Like Patrick McGoohan, though, I’m not a number. I’m a free man.

And while I may not be the one who decides how my life turns out, how my story goes, I do have a say.

Today I say Continue.

From Noelle

21 Jun

Posting this week will be sparse, even though I have half-drawn thoughts on Father’s Day, E. Coli and other odds and ends wasting time in my WordPress Drafts folder. Our boys’ memorial is this weekend, see, and all available moments are being directed that way.

I mentioned last time that Carey and I have been lucky enough to receive a lot of notes from a lot of beautiful people and today I decided to share one of them. Noelle runs her own blog over at These Mountains Are Mine and, rather than picking through what she said and presenting it in bits for the sake of modesty, I’ll just give you her whole letter.

It’s difficult to explain what it’s like to lose your children and Noelle doesn’t claim to know, but I think she has an idea:

Jeremy,

I appreciate the mention on your blog and I hadn’t originally planned to write to you, but after reading your most recent post I figured maybe you’d want me to. I originally wrote a much longer post specifically inspired by your blog. But, after rereading it, I decided not to post it.

I thought maybe my honesty about my lack of understanding would offend or be misunderstood. So instead I decided to steer people towards your blog and experience the story for themselves.

But I’ve decided to share some of the original post with you:

There’s something about the loss of a child that changes you, isn’t there? I haven’t experienced this personally, but I have family and friends who have, even recently. Tips for Triplets dad, Jeremy, got to me today. I read the story of his three sons. It was heartbreaking and beautiful all at the same time. I blame his writing skills for my emotional breakdown. I’ve heard these stories before, but the way he wrote it conveyed all the emotions they were feeling and suddenly I understood.

Losing a child of any age is heartbreaking. It’s just out of order and isn’t suppose to happen. But I’ve never truly understood before, the concept of equal heartbreak for a child who was never born. I know friends who’ve lost babies. I know that they still think about them, love them, grieve for them on their birthdays each passing year, and believe they’ll be in heaven waiting for them someday. Above all they consider that child as much one of their children as any. It’s hard for me to relate and sympathize with those feeling because I guess I’ve just never experienced it. If you miscarry and never name or meet your child can you really already love them that much already? I’m guessing the answer is yes, but the story of the sons that Jeremy lost takes it even deeper for me. They were each born into the world, held in their parents arms, talked to, loved, and then they died. That has to be one of the most heart wrenching situations. He introduces and describes each boy, their unique names and characteristics–I have no doubt they’ll never forget their sons. I’m not sure that I will ever forget their sons.

I remembered something about myself as a child today. My mother had two miscarriages and a stillbirth. I think the still birth was the most painful because they’d already found out the gender and named her…Naomi. She was born, buried and mourned. I remember that growing up I always told people that I had a sister in heaven named Naomi…I really considered her my sister. I don’t even know what it’s like to have a big sister (and honestly, if she’d been born, I probably wouldn’t be here anyway), but I considered her to be very real and she was just a story my mom told me, before my existence. I also remember telling people that really there were six kids in our family, but three were in heaven. I had it in my head that the other two were boys.

Maybe it has something to do with being wanted. When you lose a child that you wanted in your life and should have been…you just lose a child. Once you give your child a name, and a face, how can you get them out of your heart?

I guess the answer is…you can’t.

I know I can’t really understand, but I was absolutely struck by your sons story. I appreciate your honesty about your feelings. I also appreciate your cinematic references. 😉 But most of all I admire your courage. You know, the messy-sometimes angry-courage that it takes to keep blogging and remembering your sons. They have found there way into many of my conversations, and they absolutely will not be forgotten.

Since I have no idea how to end a letter to a stranger, I suppose I will just share with you one of my favorite poems…

At the end of my suffering
there was a door.

Hear me out: that which you call death
I remember.

Overheard, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.

It is terrible to survive
as consciousness
buried in the dark earth.

Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in low shrubs.

You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:

from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure seawater.

Noelle
http://thesemountainsaremine.blogspot.com/

Thank you, Noelle.

Remaining Men Together

14 Jun

Last night found us at a support group for bereaved parents, you know, like us.  I’m not exactly sure what it’s called, but something like Failed Pregnancies, which is about as appropriate as anything, I guess.

It was surprising.  I can’t exactly put my finger on why or what was so surprising about it, maybe the fact that it was small (only about 8 or 9 attendees) or maybe because no one there looked like parents of dead children.  In fact, they didn’t really look like anything other than the sort of people in front of you or behind you at the grocery store.

Sharon, the organizer, invited everyone ahead of time to share their “stories” and I suppose I was expecting something along the lines of Hello, I’m Gloria and this is my husband Chester.  We were just so excited about our pregnancy and so shocked when we discovered a heart defect at 18 weeks.  It’s been 3 months since we lost our baby and each day is still a struggle.  We named him Kilroy.

This most definitely wasn’t that. The stories were epically lengthy and hugely detailed. And when I say detailed, I mean medically. I can tell you all about these ladies’ vaginas. Not to mention their cervixes, placentas, amniotic fluids and so on. But most of all, I can tell you everything that went wrong with their unborn children. From the nuances in the doctors’ tones of voices to the phone calls with grandma to which episode of what was playing on television the morning their water broke.

Grief is strange and interesting and scary. We’re a group of people who have very little in common other than the fact that we’re reluctant members of a local chapter of a very big international community: we’re all in the the Dead Baby Club. And we’re all there because of this big, weird, sticky-yellow thing with tentacles and 1,000 little eyes called Grief. And we’re trying everything to get it to leave us alone. From curling up in a ball, fingers in our ears, to embracing it full-on, to ignoring it altogether, to laughing at it, to feeding it, to starving it, to yelling and screaming and hacking away at its shitty limbs, even though brand new ones appear to regrow almost immediately. The only thing that seems to satisfy this prick is the last thing any of us want to give it: lots and lots and lots of time.

Eventually, it was our turn to talk. I wasn’t sure what to say and I stumbled around a little before admitting I’d never been in a support group and the whole thing felt weird to me. “Like that scene from Fight Club, where all those men with testicular cancer are sitting in a circle talking about how much they miss their balls,” I told them.

Carey told our story better than I did and she cried. And nearly everyone else there cried too. We were hoping that the more seasoned people in the group would say something about how much easier it is now than it was 9 days after their babies died, but they didn’t. One or two women mentioned how difficult it can be when well-meaning people say things that don’t entirely help, like the old “remember, the Bible tells us that God will never give you more than you can handle” and other gems. I suppose Carey and I have been fairly fortunate in that regard, by the way. Nearly all encouragements and sympathies we’ve been given have been genuinely encouraging and sympathetic, which helps a lot.

(Side tangent, though, because it’s a pet peeve of mine: the bible doesn’t say anything about not giving us more than we can handle. It’s true; I looked it up and everything. It mentions something about how God will never allow us to be tempted us beyond what we can bear (1Cor. 10:13), but that’s a different thing entirely. End/rant.)

Eventually I chimed in again: “It pisses me off. All of you seem to be really nice people who deserve your babies. Doesn’t it piss you off?”

Vigorous nods.

“I think I might be starting a season of anger here which I’m really not excited about, but it seems inevitable and, you know, I’d rather just skip it. I don’t want to be an angry person. But I went back to work today for the first time since our children died and it made me really really upset that I’d be driving home soon and when I got there my kids wouldn’t be there. It’s stupid. We’re just people, we’re not equipped for this. I WANT MY SONS BACK.”

I suppose mini-tirades are what support groups are for.

One of the moms in the group recalled a story where a woman lost her child and the hospital gave her a discarded Pampers box to keep her mementos in. Since then, her “ministry” I guess, she paints decorative boxes and gives them to parents who’ve gone through what we went through. In fact, we were given one of her boxes the day Rudyard, Desmond and Oscar were born and passed and it’s meant a lot to us. It was nice to be able to thank her for it.

I suppose we’ll go back. It’s more helpful in hindsight than it was in the moment, but I’m glad we were able to meet these people. I hope to stay in touch with them and I really hope Carey stays in touch with them.

I think we’ll need them.


Speaking of needs, I’ve had an ever-mounting pile of guilt the past week and a half over failing to adequately respond to the beautiful words, prayers and desperately-needed encouragements Carey and I have received, particularly online. Frankly, in this, the hardest thing we’ve every experienced, neither of us have ever encountered anything like the outpouring of love and support we’ve been lucky enough to receive.

I know I’m a broken record here, but thank you. Even now, we return to our blogs and our Facebook pages when we’re in our darkest moments and it helps every time, particularly when we share them out loud to each other.

But it’s not just kind notes. We received some gorgeous flower arrangements that have brightened our home and lifted our spirits. “I’m so happy people have been kind enough to get us flowers,” I told Carey a couple of days ago. “It’s pretty and thoughtful and, best of all, temporary.”

She knew what I meant. While framed poems and knickknacks and other sentimental objects can be great, there’s a stressful side to it too. We’re doing our best to continue the home-purge that began months ago because the new Bear Family Mantra is “Live With Less”. And more stuff can easily turn into more to manage because we feel too guilty packing it away or, god forbid, getting rid of any mementos from this period of our lives.

And then there’s the food.

I can’t tell you how sweet it’s been the last couple of weeks to not have to worry about where our meals are coming from or making time to purchase or prepare them. People just keep showing up to the house to drop off lunches and dinners and snacks and desserts and groceries. And not McDonald’s, either. Good stuff, real food. I don’t think we’ve ever eaten better in our lives. The generosity has been overwhelming and, trust me, we’ve been taking full advantage. I mentioned to Carey the other day, after our friend Christy brought by a delicious meal from Ambrosia, “except for the grieving part, this really is the life, isn’t it?”

A couple of people have asked about “donations”, whether it’s for our bills or for a cause we’d want to support in the boys’ names. As far as our bills go, thankfully, we’re ok for the moment. In terms of a charity or something, we’ve been trying to think of something, but we’re really not sure. Carey in particular has a few different causes she’s passionate about, causes that we already give to regularly, especially the ones that involve kindness to animals and/or the environment. But we’re not sure if it’s strange or tacky to use what happened to us to draw attention to our particular missions. Admittedly, though, I don’t know how these things typically work. Erm, any thoughts?

Finally, there’s this very blog. I don’t know what to do with this place and, let’s face it, even the name of it now almost borders on insulting. I know of several other blogs that have made the unfortunate transition from Expectant Parent blog to Grief blog and I can’t decide if that’s what this should be.

But, fact is, our boys lived. They existed in the world and, however humble, their brief lives left an impact on the world. I’m hesitant to dismantle this site altogether.

At the very least, though, it really is time to take down our baby registry link and update the FAQ. You wouldn’t think something like that would take tremendous willpower to do, but it does.

Yes, we are Men.  Men is what we are.

Deep breaths.  Welcome to Grief.