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Walking in Darkness: Part 2

** The contents of this post may offend your sensibilities, gross you out, and/or not be something you wish to fill your pretty little head with– you have been warned. **

Walking in Darkness

If you follow my blog at all you are probably wondering… part two? What was part one? Well I am getting ready to revamp the blog a little bit and that also means renaming some of the previous posts and giving them a featured image that makes more sense. Here is part one, if you missed it last time. Now, on with this post:

I have NOT been coping well with my mom’s passing– when I should be turning toward God I find I am more inclined to turn away. I used this analogy recently to explain my feelings about God right now to a friend of mine:

You know those movie or TV scenes where Person A is angry, sad, scared, etc– feeling lots of hard emotions– and Person B, who may or may not have anything to do with the feelings Person A is experiencing, either approaches or just happens to be in the way of Person A and Person A lashes out fiercely against them? Incoherently screaming at them, beating them hard in the chest, unleashing all of the pent-up rage that has boiled up inside for too long? And Person B, stands there and takes it, eventually trying to restrain Person A–not to protect themselves, but to protect Person A– because Person B knows the rage and emotion comes from a primal place of fear, sadness and longing and really they aren’t trying to restrain Person A so much as they are trying to embrace them and let them know they are not alone?

I am Person A. God is Person B.

But I am still raging.

BLAH BLAH BLAH, I know God didn’t CAUSE my pain and BLAH BLAH BLAH it is not right or okay to be angry at Him and BLAH BLAH BLAH again and again with all the things people say to you when you tell them you are angry at God.

Just because I know it, doesn’t mean I feel it AND it doesn’t help to hear it again– you are not telling me something I don’t know.

Eventually I’ll let God embrace me but not right now– I can’t.

This isn’t meant to just be a rant about God but it felt like the place to start before I moved on to why I am really writing.

On March 5, 2018 my husband and I were informed the heart of our 8 week little life was no longer beating.

Yes, I was pregnant.

Yes, I just experienced a miscarriage.

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The only photo of my precious child before their heart stopped beating. 2/23/2018

But because my body had not “purged the tissue on its own” I had to do it with medication. I had to FORCE the husk of my unborn child out of me. Wanna guess how you do that?

Let me just tell you. You shove four little pills into your vagina as close to your cervix as you can get and lay flat for four hours and wait for the meds to do their thing. My doctor also prescribed me a percocet so I didn’t have to feel the gut wrenching physical pain of forcing the miscarriage to happen. So then I wake up, deed having been done, and deal with the weirdest period ever for the next week, week and a half.

That’s how, IDEALLY, it is supposed to happen. Except I woke up, four hours later and nothing happened. SO, I got to take the remaining two pills orally and wait to see what would happen– and this time, I didn’t take a percocet. I get very nauseous when I take medication like percocet and vicodin so unless I am going to go to sleep immediately after taking it, I would rather be in pain than be sick.

So I felt every massive, gut-renching cramp as my uterus seized up and spit out the amniotic sac with the tiny little fetus inside. It was by far the most horrific thing I have ever experinced.

Apparently, 1 in 4 pregnancies end in a miscarriage… I realize that is only 25% but that seems high to me… especially since I know of only like FIVE people in my life who have openly told me (or the world) they have experienced a miscarriage/still birth. This means there are a LOT more women out there not sharing their stories… and as a result making us ALL feel alone during these tragic moments.

Just as a side note, we should most definitely not be doing that to each other– or ourselves. I’m not saying walk around introducing yourself like, “Hi, my name is Valerie and I’ve had a miscarriage. What’s your name?” That is obviously silly, but the notion behind it is not. What do we have to lose by being open about this sort of thing with our sisters? What do we have to gain? Personally, I think there is a lot more to be gained. #sisterhood

Back to the regular scheduled programming: Here is my pain. My mom is gone– that hurts like hell. We accidentally get pregnant, there is mixed emotions of elation and fear not to mention thinking about how my mom will never see this child, but I warm up to the idea. This baby will be a light for me, for my family, for all impacted by my mom’s death. Then in an instant it is gone, the little glimmer of hope, the bright spot in my darkness vanishes, and I am left wondering why give it to me, to us, at all if it was just going to be taken away? The cherry on top, though? The one person more than anything that I want to comfort me is gone…

Gone.

I have not been coping with my mom’s death well and this latest devastation is making it harder; I am still fiercely beating my fists against God’s metaphorical chest as one thing after another comes crashing down on my head.

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.

— C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Even one of the greatest giants of faith struggled with fear and grief at the passing of his wife in the 60’s. I, too, still have much to wrestle with and I am sorry if you have become collateral damage in my path of grief– please allow me some grace while I walk, or sit stubbornly, on this dimly lit or darkened path.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

— Revelation 21:4

I cannot wait for this day.

But this isn’t a post about how to find yourself during a time of great turbulence or how to make your way across the desert unscathed– it is not that kind of post because I have not found myself and I am only 50 yards into the desert and I have already hit a cactus, been stung by a scorpion, and scorched by the sun… I have not yet made it to the other side to tell the tale or hope and redemption.

But I believe these stories are just as important and are so rarely told be cause everyone likes a good “happily ever after”. It is important to know we all struggle, and trudge, and trip, and get snared, and plummet, and bruise, and scar, and collapse. It is important to know there are times when others, like ourselves, do not see the light at the end of the tunnel, but hold out hope that it is there and plod along, however slowly or circuitously the journey may progress.

I am already making great strides, though! I started writing this post in anger and stubbornness because I was unwilling to be anything BUT angry and I wanted to VENT… then as I wrote, something amazing happened. I began to feel a little weight lifted from me and I felt freer than I had in a good long while. Just like the fortune I randomly decided to keep in my phone case shortly before my mom passed away says, “…sorrow shared is halved” I believe sharing my feelings here has helped me to wrestle more completely with them. If you get one thing out of this post I hope that it is to find whatever method of halving your sorrow works best for you and pursue it whole-heartedly– and you are not alone. Unfortunately for all of you, that means you get to hear from me more.

Don’t be afraid to share your mess.

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8

Coping with Death and How to Help

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last family photo we took with mom – 2013

I have been wrestling with this post in my head for over a month now and it still doesn’t get any easier to think about so here I go, biting the bullet, making it happen. This is as messy as it gets…

My mom passed away December 18, 2017 somewhere on the cusp of midnight the next day.

I am still tearing up and holding back sobs as I write that. I am still in shock and disbelief when I REALLY allow myself to think about it. I am still expecting it to all be a joke and she will walk back into our lives and everything will go back to normal.

But it won’t.

Logically, I know this, but my heart doesn’t want to let go to this stupid, nonsensical hope that it could happen…

… so dumb…

When my sister called me, calm and collected, to tell me mom passed out and wasn’t breathing and was being rushed to the hospital my heart sank further than it ever has before… I think in that moment I knew.

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i literally both hate and love this photo. i look awful in it but it is also the only four generation photo i will ever have with my mom, grandma, and the Bean — Fall 2016

I struggled to get dressed as I was already in bed when my husband grabbed my in an immense hug and I just started to bawl. I just knew this wasn’t going to be okay but he told me that we didn’t know anything yet and to not give up hope.

I drove myself to the hospital with promises to call Patrick with developments and his assurance that he would grab the Bean and be there in a flash if we needed him. Seems they were just waiting for the rest of us to get to the hospital before they dropped the bomb on my dad and the rest of us.

I had watched a video posted by a friend on facebook, almost a month to the day earlier, from a chaplain about grieving and in this moment the video returned to my mind (I highly encourage you watch it; grab a tissue). I knew I had to see her but I didn’t want to– I wanted to remember her just the way she was… before… We walked down the long hallway together after hours of waiting and entered her room.

It was like she had fallen asleep except not… that’s the best way I have to describe it. I won’t go into further detail but will tell you it is not something I will easily forget. I couldn’t bring myself to touch her because I didn’t want to know how cold her skin was. I turned and buried my face in Patrick’s chest (whom I had called and arrived shortly after) weeping, really for the first time since we got the news.

“No… no, no, no…”, was all I could muster.

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bridal show for brother and future sister-in-law — Summer 2017

Eventually everyone left the room except my dad, my sister, and my brother. I brushed her hair with my fingers, whispered my last “I love you”s to her, and then the four of us held hands and prayed over my mom.

I can confidently say if you have not yet entered a storm of equal or greater ferocity as that of losing someone you care DEEPLY about, suddenly and unexpectedly, you DO NOT know what true faith is. Seriously.

Don’t try to tell me differently either.

The strength and confidence and hope you have to have in order to believe in a good and loving God when something like this happens is immeasurable. I am still wrestling with my feelings about God in light of this new age my life has entered– the age without my mother.

And guess what?

I don’t want to hear how:

  1. She is in a better place.
  2. She is dancing with Jesus.
  3. She is no longer in any pain.
  4. She was so proud of me, my siblings, little E, etc.
  5. (insert other common platitudes spouted at the grieving with the intention of giving them comfort)

You know why I don’t want to hear it?

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my mom made everything more fun and exciting and our trips to Disneyland are some of my best memories — Spring 2007

Because I already know it. In fact, I have probably been on the giving end of these phrases, and if I have said any of these things to you– I am INFINITELY sorry. For those of you who have never experienced this sort of loss let me just tell you… nothing you say to the people who are grieving is going to a) make them feel better about losing their loved one or b) snap them out of the grieving process and back to normal. We don’t want to hear it because as selfish as it is, for some of us, we would MUCH rather have them here with us– this is their place.

WAS their place.

I am struggling with this as we speak and as I continue to wrestle with my emotions, beliefs, and knowledge I do not need the cliche Christian sympathies to add to the inner turmoil in which I am already engaged.

Let me stop being a bitch for a moment and tell you what might be more helpful:

  1. Saying things like, “I have no words”, “we love you”, and  “I’m so sorry”. I am telling you, I would rather hear you are sitting with me in my pain and at as much of a loss as I am than hear you have all the answers– because chances are you don’t and, further, I probably know you don’t either.
  2. Letting your actions speak louder than your words. “Let’s do [insert various social mediums– coffee, lunch, dinner, a movie, girls night, etc.] soon” is not helpful to me unless you back it up with action. I am not at a place where I am going to reach out to you to set up this “lunch date” you have offered to take me on. I may need it. I may even want it. But I am not going to want to burden you– and don’t you dare say it isn’t a burden. You know how you SHOW me it isn’t a burden? You propose a date, you set up a time, you plan the outing and then invite me to it. That is how it works.
  3. Random texts and message letting you know you are thinking of me. My mom was really, I mean REALLY, good at making people feel known and valued and sometimes it was just small things. I won’t ever have someone in my life who thinks of me like my mom did but it does help when I randomly hear from people who care.
  4. Love on my daughter. One of the hardest parts of this whole thing for me is knowing little E will never remember this amazing woman and the incredible love she had for her. Help me keep my mom’s memory alive for her, so she can remember her grandma through your words, stories, and love you have shown her.
  5. This is kind of a don’t, but also a do– Unless I ask for resources on grief, death, etc., please don’t offer them up to me. If it comes up naturally in a conversation, great, but pushing something on me that I might not even want just yet is not helpful. However, I have recently started a new Pinterest board I have dubbed “The New Normal” where I am pinning quotes and articles and such that I may want to look back on when I decide I am ready. If you have any suggestions for that pin board, I would gladly take them to read later. Here is one quote from that board that has really resonated with me:

lost all of them

Man… This post became so much more convoluted than I had intended. I was going to write two separate posts but it just kept flowing so I just kept writing. Maybe later I will split them and make them more coherent and defined but for now this was more of a cathartic thing than anything.

If you made it to the end here I’d love to know, if you have experienced a loss, what are some ways people have best helped you during your time of grieving? I also want to know how to be better for people in the future.

(Featured Photo taken By Cherrie Lonkar of Hello, You Photography)