Thursday, December 20, 2012

trying to find joy at Christmas

Christmas is said to be 'the most wonderful time of the year'... 

When your child has died, it is hard to feel 'wonderful' about anything....especially any days that suggest any type of celebration.  Birthdays suck, holidays suck, every day is draining.  High expectations are placed on the bereaved.  People don't want to see you hurting, and they don't know what to say.  Often, they expect you to be cheerful, and it's really the last thing you want to be. 

When your heart is broken, there is no joy, and there is little hope.  What was once 'normal' has been shattered.  Nothing seems right, and even your most favorite songs, meals, movies and traditions lose their luster.

Last year, my husband and I realized, two days before Christmas, that we could not bear the thought of being home over Christmas, so we took a last minute trip to Las Vegas - a place where no one really seems to care what day it is.  It was great - we were able to get away, and we didn't have to face the 'traditions' that used to be associated with Christmas.

This year, has been hard, too....I'd even say it's been harder than last year.  Last year, our Christmas was "blessed" with the cover of shock as we tried to go through the motions.  This year, we are still trying to go through the motions, but unlike last year, the shock has faded, so this year carries all kinds of Emotion as we face each day.

My heart is torn.  One part of me has always loved Christmas.  The decorations, the giving, the kindness and joy.  The other part of me wants to ignore the whole thing.

Deep down, I feel like we need to do something for Catelyn, to remember her....even if our hearts ache, even if we don't feel joy.

We did purchase a small tree to set up in Catelyn's room.  I think it's 18-24 inches tall.  I found a few ornaments I had picked up last year, and I bought lights for Catelyn's tree this year.  My initial thought was that we could write little notes to her and tie them to the tree as a special tribute to her... 

I truly thought it was a good idea, and that it would be therapeutic to write to her all of the things I want to say, but to be honest, the tree is still in its box sitting in our kitchen, and I don't think it will be used this year, especially since today is the five days before Christmas, and we are heading out of town tomorrow.

At a time when so many are feeling joyful, I can't help but feel hopeless. 

I miss my daughter.  I try not to focus on the fact that she is gone, but sometimes I can't overlook it either.

Catelyn would be celebrating her 3rd Christmas this year, and then her 3rd birthday on December 30th. 

She had one Christmas and one birthday with us.  She was 360 days old when she celebrated that first Christmas, so it was fun watching her try to figure out opening gifts.  Between celebrating with her great-grandparents, her grandparents (on both sides), and her aunt & uncle - not to mention my husband and I, she had plenty of practice!  She was so dainty as she scraped the icing off her cake piece (quite possibly the cleanest 1st birthday pictures ever!!!). 

She was so fun to watch, but we don't know what future Christmases and birthdays would've been like if things had gone differently. 

It's heart breaking to wonder about, and yet, it's hard not to.

So how am I supposed to find healing or even joy in a time when I feel so broken? 

Well, recently, I heard about a blog called Theo's Christmas Stocking.  Theo died at 9 months of age.  His family has spent 7 Christmases without him now.  As the first Christmas without him approached, they decided to ask friends and family to help them honor his life by asking a favor.

I realize that it's not fair to ride on the coattails of someone else, but the idea was so beautiful, I could not help but want to do the same for Catelyn.

So, what my husband and I are asking is that our friends, family, and even strangers, consider doing something kind for others in Catelyn's honor.  Simply send us a note telling us what you did via email or mail if you know our address. 

We will save any messages we receive and read them on Catelyn's birthday (December 30th).

Please note, we are not expecting anyone to do anything that costs money - the idea is just to do good things for others, and to think of Catelyn as you do them.  Besides, there are plenty of free things you can do for other people that are meaningful:
This request may come easier to some than others, and that's okay too.  Some people may want to do things year round, and that is great!  The email address will be available year round, though it may not be checked often, since the goal is to read the notes on Catelyn's birthday - 12/30.

Please know that we are appreciative of anything and everything done in Catelyn's name.  And, no matter what type of giving suits you best, it is my hope that each of you can find joy in the gifts you are giving to others.

We could not move forward in our grief without the love and support of each of you, and we are so grateful for everything you do.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

no magic

As a person who is already mourning the loss of their child, I find myself feeling especially helpless as I see people around me who are grieving.  I feel like I should be able to offer some kind of comforting words, and find myself realizing that there are no right words to say...ever.

There is no magic way to take the pain away.  There isn't anything that can 'fix' the situation.  As a person who likes to fix things, this makes me feel so incompetent.

Recently, I have put my foot in my mouth, trying to talk with other grieving people, more than I care to mention....oh yes, I have.  It just goes to show that when tragedy strikes, no one, not even the bereaved, knows what to say.

The best thing that any of us can do is listen, without expectation, to what is being said to us.  I truly believe that we cannot offer any "right" words of comfort.  The best thing we can do is LISTEN.  Let the person who is mourning say (or not say) what they need to.  Offer support through actions and not words.

When we try to offer words of encouragement, they usually get in the way of what our intentions are.  We find ourselves, accidentally, trying to hurry the course of grieving along.  It's not that we don't believe, or even understand, that grieving should take a long time, it's more that we want to remove the suffering.  We want to make it "better".

There is no "better"....not immediately, and sometimes not even after a couple of years.  "Better" comes with time, and often lots of time.  Each day gets a little "better", even when the days are feeling worse.

I am going to try to illustrate this timing by looking at astronomy (which you will soon see that I am no expert in - sorry Ms. Burrichter if you should read this).

In school we learn that it takes the earth approximately 24 hours (or 1 day) to make a complete rotation on it's axis.  At the same time, it takes the earth approximately 365 days (or 1 entire year) to completely orbit around the sun.  Because the earth is tilted, and also rotating on its own, as it moves around the sun, we experience different seasons at different times.

When we experience a loss, in our own way, we become tilted (like the earth), and we begin to experience different stages of grief (seasons).  We continue to try to move forward (orbiting on our own axis) the best we can in life (while rotating around the sun), and eventually we realize that we've begun to heal (made a complete revolution around the sun).

The biggest difference between grieving and astronomy, is that there is no set timeline for the seasons, and we can't rush it either.  The seasons (stages of grief) come when the come; we don't necessarily get the luxury of knowing that in a certain amount of time this will all go away.  We have to accept that healing will come when it's supposed to.  We may not feel healed in one year, or five years, or even fifteen years, but we keep moving forward.  It's all we can do.

Not everyone will understand, and perhaps most people won't, but it's not up to us to worry about that.  We have to look out for ourselves and do the best we can.  Our world is now tilted.  We're going through things differently than we did before. 

Our "better" will come, but it may take a while.

If you are struggling with grief, find people who will listen to you and not try to force you to find "better".  Find people who have the power to listen and don't have to fix things.  If you can find 2-3 people who can support you, it will help.

At some point, if you look backward, you will begin to see how far you've come, and though your "rotation" may not be complete yet, you can see that you are moving...you may not feel it (much like we don't feel the daily rotation or annual rotation of the earth), but you will start to see it.

we are not experts on anyone's grief

As many have already heard, there was a very tragic shooting at an Elementary School in Connecticut yesterday.  I believe I last heard that 26-28 people died, at least 20 of which, were children.  My heart truly aches for all of the families whose lives have been forever changed by this incident.

At this time, the tragedy is too hard for me to think about in great depth, but a few days ago, I was researching websites on bereavement counseling, and found a couple of really helpful websites:  one is somewhat more geared towards people who want to be grief counselors, and I feel that the other is more for anyone.  Either way, they both have a lot of good information to offer:

http://www.omh.ny.gov/omhweb/grief/

http://www.selfinlight.com/Bereavement.html


A couple of important points found on the former website are as follows:
"We are not the experts on anyone’s grief...we must meet the grieving without expectations about what should happen or what they should be feeling....there are no experts..."  
“Without time to incorporate change, the mourner’s assumptive world is abruptly destroyed. Control, predictability, and security are lost, and the assumptions, expectations, and beliefs upon which the mourner has based her (his) life are violated.”

Sunday, December 9, 2012

TCF memorial candle lighting

Tonight was one of those really tough nights. 

Good was mixed with bad, heartache was mixed with joy...

The Compassionate Friends, an international grief support group for parents, siblings, and grandparents, held their candle lighting ceremony tonight.  At 7pm, in every time zone, all across the world, people lit (or are lighting) candles, as groups or individuals, to honor the lives of the deceased.  It's a very powerful and touching ceremony.

My husband and I participated as helpers in the ceremony.  We greeted every person who came in, we passed out ornaments that were shaped like doves and stated 'love', 'joy', or 'peace' on the body, we lit the ceremonial candles with another couple, and we joined all of the participants as each of us lit an individual candle for the child/sibling/grandchild we miss.

It was so touching to be a part of something so important, and yet, it was hard.  It was hard to hear the music choices, one of which was 'From a Distance' (my friends from grade school could attest to the fact that song has made me cry since I was in 5th grade and my grandpa died).  It was hard to see so many people gathered to remember so many children.  It was hard to watch the PowerPoint presentation of so many faces and names.  It was hard to listen to the song that was played as we lit candles to remember our babies/siblings/grand-babies.

As I watched the faces streaming across the presentation, I was sad to recognize names of children I have heard so many times in The Compassionate Friends meetings I attend nearly every month, yet it was sort of nice to see the faces of some of Catelyn's angel friends.  Catelyn's name approached, and I felt myself growing anxious, almost as though her picture couldn't pop up fast enough, and when her beaming smile crossed the screen, I felt like it should've been up far longer. 

It's so hard to only be able to see her face in pictures or video, and even if I look all day, it's never long enough. Oh, don't get me wrong, we have ~2500 pictures and a decent handful of videos of that little girl (yeah....she was only 20 months old), and I am SO grateful for each and every one of them....

But what I wouldn't give to be able to hold her again....to smell her hair....to run my fingers through her hair...to kiss her goodnight.....to hear her laugh and tell me things.

At the end of this month, we will reach Catelyn's 3rd birthday.  Three-year-old's are wicked-smart, highly observant, and they have no 'filter' of what they should and shouldn't say....I can't even imagine the things she would know or say or do....

At 20 months, she was so wise already.  She knew that when it was time to leave, we'd give everyone a hug; she knew that she had to put on her hat & shoes before we'd go anywhere; she knew that she had to say 'please' if she wanted something - which was usually 'up', and she'd say 'uppies' to request it; she knew how to put on her shoes....and everyone else's!; she knew how to dance, sing, sign, & speak German & English; she knew she ought to pet the kitty 'nice' ly, though she hadn't quite mastered how to lay her hand on him gently (and he didn't seem to care); she knew she was supposed to go to the pool & play on daycare days during the summer, and she knew what it meant when mama or daddy appeared and weren't in swim clothes....and so much more.

It seems I've become side-tracked from what I was trying to say.  I was a part of something vastly important to so many people tonight, and it was nice to be able to let my heart ache in the company of so many others, though it was so sad to see so many people tonight, too.

I'm grateful for The Compassionate Friends, and having so much support from people who understand all too well what it's like to endure the death of a child/grandchild/sibling.  Even though many of us may have had mixed emotions tonight, it was still a good experience overall.  It's nice to have a designated day when all of our loved ones are honored, and candles are pretty much lit for 24 hours straight....our hearts ache, but it's heartwarming.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

telescopes

I feel like I fell into a pit or a well that is just wide enough for my body to be wedged inside.  And, of course, I didn't fall gracefully.  Instead, I am stuck with one leg tucked up by my head, the other leg dangling straight down, and one arm crammed next to my head while the other presses awkwardly into my side.  I can't scream for help because I can barely breathe.

I am physically and mentally stuck.

I am stuck, but somehow I have been given a telescope.  With the telescope, I can see life moving on above me, but I still can't get free.

Every day I fight a battle to get up and get out of bed.  On a good day, I can convince myself that getting out of bed is for the best, and that I have a responsibility to my job, my husband, and the other people around me to be 'normal'.  On a bad day, though, I stay in my jammies and sleep and watch tv all day....and usually cry....

I'm 14.5 months into the grieving process, and I can only imagine that some of these statements may seem odd, but please realize that a great portion of the first year of Catelyn's death was spent in shock. 

As soon as the doctors walked into the room our family, friends, and pastor waited in, my brain knew what had happened, but the second those men walked into that room, the shock took over and built a brick wall in front of my face.  The wall was placed there to protect my heart.  My mind wasn't so easy fooled, though, and it caught on right away to what was happening. 

Thus began the battle of my mind versus my heart.

Continually, my mind knew what was happening, but my mind was smart and knew that there was no way my heart could withstand the pain.  The knowledge.  The reality that Catelyn was gone.  So shock took over as best as it could, and my mind was forced to wait....wait for the brick wall of shock to begin to crumble.

It turns out that shock doesn't crumble or fade overnight.  So, the first year of Catelyn's death, was basically spent moment-to-moment, trying to get through, not worrying about what was coming next, just trying to live in each moment and accept it for what it was - ever changing, often painful, and slow moving.

Now, I am not a mason, so I don't know a lot about building brick walls, but I can only guess that when a wall is put up too quickly, there are bound to be mistakes.  Perhaps the mortar didn't take properly, or proper alignment wasn't used, or erosion wasn't accounted for, but for one reason or another, when a wall is put up too quickly, that wall will not hold forever. 

So, bricks started falling somewhat early within the first year, causing my heart to realize what had happened, one glimpse at a time.  And, as one might imagine, the slowly falling bricks helped ease some of the pain of reality.  But, about the time that things started to seem like they were manageable, a large chunk fell off of the remaining wall, and reality really hit, which brings us to present.

For the last 2.5 months, I have been living in reality, truly realizing that my life has changed forever.  But, not only has my life changed dramatically....other people's lives have continued to move forward.  It's so hard to realize you have stayed complacent for a year, and everyone else hasn't. 

When Catelyn died, it was like a fell into a deep, dark, well.  Life kept moving forward, and I was stuck in place.  I've now found myself in the well, but I don't know how to get out.  I'm trying, but I can't figure out the next move. 


I feel disconnected from everyone....and of course I do.  But, if I don't talk about where I'm at, and how I feel, then no one will ever know what I am going through.  And though no one may have the same experience, at least you might be able to get a glimpse (even if only through a telescope) of what it's like for me, and I'm okay with that.  After all, we are all different, and so is our grief.  I like to say we are like snowflakes and that no two people ever grieve the same. 

It's hard for me to feel anything but sad these days, but I don't want you to feel sad for me.  I just want someone to understand that this is a part of the process, and things will improve, but don't rush me or try to change my thinking.  I'm at a point where I need to work my own way out.....so listen when you can, or offer encouragement when you can, but don't try to tug on me....I'm in a fragile place, and if you pull too hard, you might break me.

Thanksgiving...it's harder than it looks

It's Thanksgiving Day today.  I don't feel very thankful. 

Don't get me wrong, i know I have things to be thankful for, such as an amazing husband, a warm house, a cat, a job, a family and friends who love me....

It's just very hard to find reasons to celebrate anything.  Though last year was the first Thanksgiving without her physical presence, there was a great deal of shock clouding the vision of my heart.....so in a way, this is my first Thanksgiving without Catelyn.

This morning I was watching video footage from Catelyn's first and only Thanksgiving.  In the video, she is grabbing tons of ads for Black Friday, and crawling around with them, swishing them around, and then finally sitting to try to 'read' them.  It was so sweet....so simple....so Catelyn.

I have another video from that week in 2010, where she discovered her dad's shoes on the floor, so she picked one of them up and hefted it from left to right, dropping it on occasion, and scooting around with it. 

She was wonderfully inquisitive, and persistent.

So, I guess I'm grateful......grateful to have the technological advances that allow me to keep Catelyn's memories alive, and hear her voice and see her mannerisms.....grateful that Catelyn lived long enough for us to have memories with her.....grateful that she was able to show me joy in the simplest activities.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

where i am

Today is Sunday.

It's been 14 months, today, since Catelyn died.

I didn't realize how hard the anniversary of her death would be, and the last two months have broken loose a lot of emotions that hadn't even come out yet.

The day of Catelyn's angel-versary (the anniversary of her death), was filled with heartache as I remembered nearly every moment of Sunday, September 11th, 2011.  It was so hard to recapture each of the moments of the day: from things seeming good, to going very badly. 

...but it was even worse, in some ways, because it felt like she had just been in my arms a week before, even though a year had passed.

Over the last two months, I have begun to realize something that I didn't feel last year.  Life is moving forward without Catelyn.

During the first 12 months of grieving, I consciously knew that life was moving forward, but it didn't really feel like it, I guess.  As I was telling Catelyn's story recently, I felt the reality slowly creep up my side, and encompass my heart.  And with it, my world changed from light gray to black.

Catelyn is dead...
Catelyn is dead, and i feel like it's my fault....
Catelyn is dead, and i feel like it's my fault, and there is nothing that I can do about it.

I am not a person with high self-esteem to begin with, and I've felt like such a loser lately.  Feeling the devastation of the death of a child is pretty much a daily reminder of things I cannot change, and that only makes me feel worse.

Believe me, I know that I couldn't have done anything more than what I did to try to save her, but there aren't words to describe how personally the knife of death cuts when you outlive your child.

I know quite a few people who have lost children, and I have no idea how they have made it through the pain.  I am hopeful that I will be lucky enough to find the courage and strength to face each day, as they have.  At this point, though, I don't want to deal with this anymore.  I would like to lock myself away in my bed and never leave the house in hopes that I could make the pain subside.  (and don't worry, I'm not going to do anything hasty, and I see a therapist who knows all of this)

The pain is strong, and it's like nothing else I've ever experienced.  We've done so many positive things in Catelyn's honor, trying to keep the memory of her life both strong and positive, but in a way, it's like placing a band-aid over an appendage that just got ripped off....it doesn't stop the bleeding, and it doesn't eliminate, or even lessen, the hurt....

Recently, I read a quote (I can't remember who wrote it) that said:  "We all die twice in our lifetime: once when we actually die, and again when our name is said for the last time."  I am confident that Catelyn's second death will not occur for many, many, many years to come.....long after I am gone, but that brings such minute comfort in a time when the pain is so great.

At the Compassionate Friends meetings I attend, we have always said you can't outrun your grief, it will always catch up with you.  I had never thought I was trying to outrun my grief, but now I'm not so sure...

Things feel so grim right now.  The only thing that I know for sure is that I miss my baby girl.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

sometimes amazing things happen

I went to work the other day and found out that one of my co-workers is an apprentice at the tattoo shop in the town I live in.  We started talking a little and I mentioned that my father-in-law got a tattoo at that shop somewhat recently.  He asked me what it was of, and I mentioned it was a ladybug.

Now, I knew that the odds were good that he would probably know about it, and I felt bad bringing it up (I haven't told everyone that I worked with about Catelyn), but wasn't prepared for what he would say next.  It turns out he actually drew the sketch for my father-in-law's tattoo!

To me, it's incredibly cool that someone I know (even if they didn't know at the time that they knew the family) was the artist for such a sentimental tattoo. 

Seems like it was meant to be....

Unexpected gifts

Catelyn's bouquet at the edge of her garden.
Recently, my husband and I attended our cousin's wedding. 

About two weeks before her death, Catelyn was asked to be the flower girl in that wedding, and while I wanted very much to go to the wedding, I also knew that it would be hard to endure.

As we walked into the church, I immediately saw a picture of my baby on a side table, and knew the picture was there to remember her life.  What a special gift.

I teared up as the 'replacement' flower girl walked down the aisle, and tried not to lose it as the bride came down (weddings usually make me teary anyway, with all that love pressed into one moment).  I eventually cried, as one of my favorite songs was sung, but tried not to let it show too much.

After the ceremony, the bride and groom released each of the aisles.  As they approached us, I lost it.  The ceremony was so perfect, the bride was so stunning, the couple was so happy, but my heart wasn't completely in it because I missed Catelyn so much. 

I wondered what Catelyn would've been like as she strolled down the aisle at the church...would she have stopped to greet her grandparents on the way down?  Would she have been too intimidated to go all of the way down the aisle?  Would she have hammed it up?  Would she have remembered to throw the petals down? 

The ceremony was a mixture of silly, sweet and fun.  The matron of honor (sister of the groom) gave a beautiful speech, and mentioned that it was hard because there was someone missing who should've been there.  My thoughts went to Catelyn, though I knew she wasn't speaking of her.  She was actually speaking of her grandfather, but the words were perfect, and my eyes filled with tears yet again. 

At the end of the night, as we talked with friends, and told the bride how breathtaking she looked, we received a surprise.  The bride asked if we had been given Catelyn's bouquet.  I was stunned.  I replied we had not, and the bride handed me a miniature bouquet wrapped in the same silky ribbon as the bridesmaids bouquets.  She said that she had specifically created a bouquet for Catelyn with a butterfly tucked into it, and wanted to be sure that we received it.  My heart was overflowing. 

There are so many details that go into wedding planning, and to know that Catelyn was remembered within that planning was so wonderfully touching. 

Thanks to the thoughtfulness of the bride and groom, Catelyn was still a part of her first wedding.

Celebration Blahs

My birthday was last week....it's forever 15 days after Catelyn's angel-versary, so it's not really a day I enjoy anymore, which is kind of sad, because I used to LOVE birthdays.

On Thursday this week, I was talking with a friend, as we went out for my post-birthday celebration.  We were talking about lots of things, and Halloween came up on the list.  I said that I don't know that I'll be up for it this year.

Celebrations really aren't fun for me anymore.  Instead of creating happy feelings, they tend to stir up a bunch of emotions that don't match the intended mood.  Birthdays and weddings (a time of joy and celebration) remind me that Catelyn doesn't get to have those things, Christmas and Thanksgiving (a time for friends and family) remind me that my family isn't all here, and days for laughter and silliness (such as Halloween) aren't fun because my heart is broken, and I don't want to be silly.

As we talked about Halloween, I said that if Halloween was a holiday that allowed people to be sad and depressed, I would probably love it so much right now.  We could dress like death, and feel sad, and it would be marvelous!

Then we giggled at the idea of a purposefully sad holiday that allowed us to feel gloomy, hurt, let down, angry, and all of the other things that happen with grief.

I realize that the idea may sound inappropriate to some, but the twisted and bereaved side of me thinks it's a fantastic idea.  It is likely that those who haven't lost someone close to them won't care as much, but I think that those who have would love the opportunity for it to be 'okay' to be sad and broken one day out of the year.  At this point in my grief, I would absolutely look forward to that day.  A day not insistent in laughing, fun, silliness or smiles (though if those things happened while remembering our loved ones, that would be fine).  It would also be fine to cry or sob, scream, sit around in your jammies all day long, look at pictures, pull out all of their things, watch videos and more.  I can honestly say I would look forward to that date.

Then again, one day is not really enough...perhaps it should be a week....  :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

a very good show indeed

Tonight, I was watching a tv show that I had never seen before, called "Go On".  The only thing that I knew about the show is that it is supposed to be a comedy starring Matthew Perry. 

What I didn't know going into it, is that Matthew Perry's character has recently experienced the death of his wife.  After a little research, I realize that I saw the 2nd official show tonight (excluding the pilot).

So, there I was, watching this show about a man whose wife has recently died.  He's trying to make his life 'normal' again, and he's going to a group therapy for people who have experienced various life changes.  I didn't know much about the backstory, because this wasn't the first episode.  What I did realize is that there are still people in his life that haven't heard the news. 

One of the people he had to break the news to was his landscaper.  After he told the landscaper, the landscaper began to build a fountain in the yard, in memory of the wife.  It was brightly colored, and had a large woman (perhaps Mary?) at the top of it.  It certainly didn't fit the modern landscaping in the backyard, and some might even say it was tacky.  Nonetheless, it was something that the landscaper needed to do. 

Plenty of funny things happened throughout the show, but a lot of it was quite real to the experiences I've had over the last year.  People trying to do and say the right things without succeeding, people trying to guess what the bereaved are feeling, the group trying to figure out how to (you guessed it) go on.

And then, at the end of the show, I cried.  The people from the life changes group had ended up at Matthew Perry's home, and they heard music coming from the back patio.  When they stepped outside, the fountain had been completed, and it was simply beautiful.  Tears streamed down my cheeks as I thought of all that our friends, family, and even strangers have done for us.

It was overwhelming to watch a tv show about something so close to my heart, but it was such a relief to see it, too.  I don't know if the show will be a huge success, but I truly hope it will be.  After the show was over, I watched the pilot and the 1st official episode on nbc.com - a very good show, indeed. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

First angel-versary

Catelyn's first angel-versary has come and gone.  September 11th was such a hard day this year.  Every emotion seemed to renew and resurface.  At a point where I thought I had started to progress, it was frustrating to feel like I was back at square one.  It seems like it was just a few days ago that we were in the hospital, waiting things out, and yet again, it seems that the impossible has happened.

What is there to say at this one year mark?  Beats me.

If you would've asked me anything about the one year mark previously, I wouldn't have known what to say.  And honestly, I still don't.  What I do know is that the pain is real, and it's back, and it's pretty much just as fresh and strong as it was when Catelyn died.

There are probably people wondering how it could be so fresh one year later.  Since Catelyn happened to die on September 11th (though 10 years following the United States tragedy), I can best relate it to the events from 9/11/01. 

This year, through Facebook, I was able to watch countless friends and family members write messages of support and remembrance of an event that happened 11 years ago.  They wrote everything that they remember:  where they were, what they were doing, how they felt, how this changed their lives and perspectives....   Each and every one of us was affected.  We felt the pain and agony of the numerous lives lost together.

It is really no different for me with Catelyn's death. I remember where we were and why, how the week had progressed, what we did that day, the realization that things were no longer 'okay', pleading for Catelyn's life to be spared in multiple places within the hospital, and ultimately receiving our news of reality.
 
When a tragedy occurs in your life, it affects you, not just for one day, one week, one month, or even one year, but for the rest of your life.  Much like the families affected in September 2001, my husband, myself, our families, and our friends will always remember where we were, what we were doing, how we felt, and how our lives and perspectives were changed when we received the news of Catelyn's death.  Over time, the pain may fade a little, but reality will always be there.  And, just like the countless people who lost children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins and friends on that dreadful day in September 2001, our hearts are forever impacted.

Next year, about this time, Catelyn's angel-versary will surface again.... 
Will it be different?  I don't know. 
Will I feel that panicky feeling as I realize that, as much as I want to, I cannot change the events of 2011?  Possibly. 
Will I make sure that no matter where I am on that date I will find a way to remember my baby?  You're darn right I will.

Monday, August 27, 2012

lasts...

I could probably put together 5 new posts for sure before the sun goes down today, if I took the time to just write all my thoughts.  Don't worry, I probably won't, but I could.

So, I had mentioned in another post, that I am on this inadvertent timeline - counting down the events from last year, and what we did with Catelyn.  I'm on a countdown of 'lasts', if you will.

Even though Catelyn died on September 11th, in it's own way, this is the week of lasts.

Yesterday marked the 'last' time that Catelyn sat in her pew at church.  At the church we belong to, we all sort of have our 'own' spot.  Some people actually call others out for being in their spot.  It wasn't that way for us, but we did have a favorite pew on the far right side, up towards the front...maybe 4-5 rows up from the piano.  On the last Sunday of August 2011, I was scheduled to sing a duet for special music.  I wasn't sure how Catelyn would react.   She'd heard me sing her whole life long, but I had this feeling that part way through the song, I'd have a little girl running up the aisle, wanting to share snuggle and singing time with her mom.  I was wrong about her reaction, which was okay (though secretly, I wanted her to run up the aisle to me!).  She sat quietly and never looked up that I saw.  She was happily tucked between her grandma and daddy on the cushion of the pew, scribbling on her knock-off, star shaped magna-doodle, which she absolutely adored.  When I was done singing, she briefly looked up and went right back to what she was doing.

Aside from two funerals (one of which was Catelyn's), I have only been back for one service at that church.  It's too hard to go and sit where we once sat, and I really don't want to sit anywhere else.

On the last Tuesday (I think) in August 2011, my parents came up for a nearly week-long visit with our family.  My husband picked Catelyn up from daycare, and brought her home saying 'grandma and grandpa are here!'  My parents say that she came charging into the room and then stopped in her tracks and looked closely at them because they weren't the grandparents she had envisioned.  (I can imagine her stopping, but the part that I think they leave out is her still running in to say hi.  She knew very well, who my parents were, and she loved spending time with them).

My parents are going to come up here this weekend.  I am looking forward to seeing them again - it's been since April (wait, no, it was May, because we all went down to surprise them for their 40th wedding anniversary!).  I imagine that the memories, for all of us, will be challenging.  Catelyn was an amazing girl. 

As these 'lasts' continue, it all becomes real again....Catelyn's death.  At her birthday it was hard, but with this upcoming anniversary, it is especially real.  The loss is always with us, but there is something about approaching these particular dates that just reminds me of how real her death is. 

I miss that girl so much.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Give blood, give hope

This is my plug for the American Red Cross

Tomorrow, my husband and I will be sponsoring a blood drive in Catelyn's name.  We have a list of over 30 people who are giving blood at places other than our drive, and we know that at least 50 are already signed up to donate at our drive, and we have over 30 people signed up to help us run the drive.

It's overwhelming.

Simply put, we cannot begin to fathom the response we've seen from friends, family, and even strangers, who want to save lives in Catelyn's name.  We have received all kinds of food and juice donations, we have friends and family traveling from other states, and it seems like every time we turn around another person is getting involved in some way. 

It's amazing.

Catelyn received two blood transfusions last fall.  She would have been a candidate to receive more, but her disease entered her bloodstream and took her life.  I have a friend who just endured five transfusions, and I am happy to report she is finally back home after a grueling stay in the hospital.  We cannot predict the future to know if we will ever need a transfusion, but what we do know is that blood transfusions give hope, no matter what the outcome is. 

So, the next time you find yourself with an hour to spare, please consider donating blood.  If you cannot donate yourself, please consider spreading the word.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

humor isn't always funny

There is a company that creates tongue and cheek e-cards; many people post them on Facebook.  I will admit, some of them are downright hilarious to me.  Sometimes, even days, weeks or months later,  I laugh at the thought of them. 

Overall, the writers seem to be very clever folks.

While humor is definitely based on opinion, there was one e-card that I saw on Facebook within the last few months that I found quite bothersome, and not at all funny.  I could see where the thought process was trying to go, but I couldn't get past the ignorance of it, and was honestly hurt by it. 

So hurt, in fact, that I almost posted it on my own Facebook wall just to lash out and make everyone feel bad who had posted it.  After a little thought, I decided it was in poor taste to post it in retaliation.  Who am I to make others feel horrible for having a sense of humor on a subject that is sensitive to me.

Instead, I have decided to write out my feelings, so that others will understand my point of view - whether it is the same, different, or otherwise as their own.

Here is the e-card:

Ouch.

It doesn't really get more painful than that for a bereaved parent.  I'm sure that this was just meant to be a joke, but this picture cuts so deep that I still haven't laughed at it......not even once.

I don't blame my friends for finding the humor in this.  In another time and place, I might've found humor in this picture, too.  Clearly we all have our moments in parenthood where we don't meet up to our expectations of ourselves - things rarely ever go as planned.  Frustration happens, anger happens, tantrums happen (hopefully by the children more often than the parents).

I get that parenting is hard.  I know we are all just doing the best that we can, and I am certain that sometimes it must feel like an accomplishment just to be able to say our kids survived our mistakes.

BUT...

For those who have experienced the death of a child, this is "e-card" is downright cruel.  It has cut me in a way I didn't even imagine to be possible.

I feel the need to defend the reality on this...

The survival of a child does not indicate that parenting was ever good.  There are so many good parents who have lost children, and so many unfit parents who have not.

None of us is better than any other.  We are all doing the best that we can in life.  However, I feel the need to bring this up, especially as a person who jokes around a lot. 

Jokes aren't always funny; without meaning to be, some jokes can be cruel and painful. 

Perhaps this posting can serve as a reminder.  For me, the reminder is not to make so many jokes, for others, it might be the same. 

The bottom line is:  one person's funny, just might be another person's pain. 

So, if you are the jokey type (like me), then please especially try to think about your 'audience' before you deliver a punchline.

Friday, July 27, 2012

9 years and 1 angel

When I started my new job, a couple of months ago, I made sure to tell my immediate co-workers about Catelyn's death.  I wanted to be able to bring it up first, so that I could feel more comfortable and not dread each moment, worrying about when the question would come up, or how to answer.

I do have Catelyn's picture on my desk, because it's wonderful to see her, but I didn't want to spur a lot of conversation about 'how old is she?  is she your only child?' etc...

A couple of weeks ago, one of my co-workers was talking with me, and asked how long I've been married.  I replied, 'As of next month, it will be 9 years!', and then I thought, 'Wow, can that be possible?'  (side note: while I understand that, at 32 years of age, I am old enough to be married 9 years, part of me feels like I'm not old enough to be married that long, because 32 is, in fact, young!)

The response was, 'wow, you waited a long time to have kids'.

Ouch.

Now, I am the kind of person who tries VERY hard not to pry into the lives of others, especially when it comes to children.  I don't know anyone else's circumstances, unless they volunteer it, and I refuse to ask because I realize that a lot of things factor in:  health, fertility, choice, etc...  Perhaps I am oversensitive to the thoughts and feelings of other people (okay, let's face it, this is true), but I don't feel it's my place to ask.  The ability and desire to have children can be a very a sensitive subject, and I just don't want to dredge up a lot of unwanted feelings for other people.

So, I replied, "Well, it wasn't by choice.  If I would've had it my way, I would've been pregnant within the first year of my marriage."  We, then, had a discussion about how it took her a couple of years to get pregnant with her first child and then it was smooth sailing after that.

I didn't go into it, and I'm not really sure why I'm talking about it publicly, but my husband and I went through a couple of years with no luck, and because I had some health related concerns, we then started undergoing testing.  Even with the testing, nothing was ever fully confirmed, but to be honest, we were beginning to think we'd never be able to have children.  So to this day, we don't know why it took so long, but what I can tell you is:  I was ~ 4 months pregnant at my 6 year anniversary, had a 7 month old by my 7th anniversary, had a 19 month old by my 8th anniversary, and for my 9th anniversary, I will have an angel.

A lot can change in 3 years.

Thankfully, I wasn't asked if we are planning to have more children, because I might've kicked her for prying....or more likely, become tearful and had to have walked away. 

For the record....a decision has been made, but I am not publicizing it at this time - and please don't ask, because it IS personal.

Monday, July 23, 2012

reality bites....

Last night I was reading Donna's Cancer Story on a blog called Mary Tyler Mom (MTM).  Donna was an amazing little girl, taken too soon by cancer.

Donna fought her cancer for 31 months, and last year her mom wrote a post a day for 31 days - each post covered approximately one month of Donna's fight.  I read the first 8 of 31 posts about Donna's fight, and when I realized that it was well past my bedtime, I closed down the blog. 

Within the last entry that I had read, though, MTM said that she found herself looking at her baby, who was the sickest in the room full of patients, and being jealous of the other cancer kids who weren't as sick.  She commented that you know how sick your own child is when you are jealous of other cancer patients.

As I read those words, part of me could relate, and I guess that transferred into my dreams, because I dreamt that Catelyn was still alive, but that instead of our true reality -  a few days in the hospital, where we expected she would be well again soon enough - we were told that Catelyn was facing a terminal illness, and that we would make the best of each day as they were given to us. In my dream, my whole outlook was changed.  We weren't just cuddling up on the couch or in the recliner with Catelyn talking about when we'd get back to our regular life, we were making the most of each and every second.

This may seem like torture, but I assure you, it was not.  My dream, was amazing.  We were back at the Children's Hospital with Catelyn - she wasn't dead, she was just sick.  While you could tell she wasn't herself, she still had a bit of Catelyn pep - some people, including me, would even call it sassiness.  But it was enjoyable, no matter how you phrase it.

We were regularly visiting the hospital to do treatments to help her live longer.  Though her timeline was unknown, I didn't even care.  I was holding my baby again.  She wanted to snuggle with her dad and I (just as she did in reality), and she was a busy bee - playing with games, reading books, eating and drinking (unlike her actual stay).

It was odd, even though I was dreaming, I somehow knew that her previous reality had been altered, and I was so grateful for the second chance.

The problem was that this dream seemed so real.  Too real

The kind of real that makes you look for your child when you wake up.  The kind of real that brings your life to an alarming halt.

I haven't had one of these dreams in months...probably not since about a month after Catelyn's death. 

My reality was that I woke up and expected Catelyn to be there...but she wasn't. 


What a crushing blow landed by reality.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

found pennies

Perhaps you're familiar with the phrase, "find a penny, pick  it up, all day long you'll have good luck'.  Here is a 'new' twist on that phrase.

My parents came out for a visit at Easter, and my mom brought a stack of shiny pennies with her....20 to be exact.  She explained, after she placed them, that she brought one penny for each month of Catelyn's life, and she pushed them into the ground at Catelyn's cemetery plot so that Catelyn wouldn't have to look for pennies.  I didn't fully understand, but she went on to explain that  she had always heard that 'found pennies' are the angels' way of telling us they are thinking of us.


About a month ago, my husband and I were working on a project in the house, and we had walked over the same spot time and again.  At one point, he looked down and saw a shiny copper penny laying next to our cat.  He asked where it came from, but I was on the phone at that moment.  As soon as the call ended, I reminded him of my mom's words.  He commented that he felt it explained why the cat was lying next to the penny, as he loved Catelyn too. 

Secretly, I was devastated to not to have found the penny.

Each day, at my job, I collect the change from the sales the day before.  The other day, as I counted the collection, I noticed that there were 4 pennies.  I had never seen such polished pennies. 

This may be a stretch of the imagination to some, as I hadn't technically 'found' them, but as I gazed at their sparkle, I truly felt that they must be a quick hello from Catelyn.

So, be on the lookout for found pennies, and be sure to pick them up.  Someone is trying to tell you hello.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tough days happen....

I purposefully requested yesterday off from work. 

My husband and I are sponsoring a blood drive, next month, in the community we live in, and yesterday was the meeting where we gathered with area coordinators to discuss details of the event.  As some might imagine, this meeting stirred up a lot of emotions for me. 

While we didn't talk a lot about Catelyn's story, it was there with me.  In my heart, in my mind, in my gut, lurking behind my eyes, and welled up like a giant knot in my throat.

I think about Catelyn every day. 

Every.   Day.

But, I try not to focus on her death too much.  Instead, I try to think about the life that she lived.  I refuse to forget her, so I choose to remember her.

Because she is with me all of the time, however, I think that sometimes I forget that she is gone and isn't coming back.

So yesterday, talking about the blood drive, and realizing what was lost as friends (new and old) gushed over my sweet girl was extremely hard.

Emotions were dredged up from places I didn't even realize existed. 

It hurt.

The day of the blood drive is going to be very hard for me. 

As I sat with the coordinators yesterday, I mentioned that in December I could hardly stay in the waiting area with my husband as he prepared to give blood.  As a matter of fact, I sat in our car and cried on the phone to my dad for most of the time (a good 20 minutes for sure).  I will cry a lot on the day of the blood drive.  Some people will understand, some won't.  Some will cry with me, some won't. 

My husband and I are grateful for the opportunity to sponsor such a meaningful event.  No matter where you live, we hope that anyone, who is able, will give in some way to the Red Cross.

The Red Cross is actually experiencing a blood donation shortage right now, and needs to continue to build a supply.  If you are able to give, perhaps you will consider sending a message to this blog.  We can count blood given at external sites/drives too.

Please remember, blood donated to others provides memories to families that would not be available otherwise.

Friday, July 13, 2012

a recent email to a friend

This morning I was writing to a friend, who inquired about my day on the 11th (as Catelyn passed away on September 11th, and 10 months have now passed).  As I wrote my message, I really felt like part of it was share-worthy on my blog, so here goes:
For about the first six months after Catelyn died, the shock was so severe that I felt like it was important to recognize each month publicly.  It felt like if I didn't, that it would be like she never existed.  Fortunately, by about the 7th month, healing finally began to ensue, slowly, and the 11th of each month stopped being so horrifying.  I was finally able to start finding a little peace, and actually make it through that day without even thinking about the significance. 

I finally began to realize that Catelyn is a part of me every day, and that, while her death is still horrible, that isn't the part of her that I wish to focus on.  I want to preserve the better times and memories of her life.  The 11th is actually no longer a day of focus for me, although September 11th will be a different story, I'm sure.

So, with that said, the 11th was actually a good day.  My huband and I enjoyed several conversations about Catelyn, but not, at least for me, based on the date of the month....simply out of the joy of thinking of Catelyn.

Some days are so very hard, and the realities of her death still creep up on me, for sure, but, remembering Catelyn's life brings such joy, that it's hard not to make that the focus.  Even though the memories are usually followed with the pain that she isn't here to create more, the joy is still worth it.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A memory

My husband informed me that he made an appointment for our cat to visit the vet this week for his annual check up.  As we were talking about the appointment, we were reminded of a fun story.

At last year's check up for the cat, Catelyn came with me to the veterinarian.  At the appointment, I was trying to remember the assistant's name, and could not.  As the vet came in, the assistant left the room momentarily.  As she returned, Catelyn said "Hi Sara", and then it hit me, the assistant's name was Sara! 

Everyone was so impressed, especially because she could say Sara as clear as day.  The comment was even made that the assistant spent a lot of years being called 'wa' in her household because none of her siblings or cousins could say Sara when they were little.

I then explained that Catelyn's daycare mom was also named Sara, so Catelyn learned that name early.  It was a pretty fun experience.  As my husband said, Catelyn pretty much made the day of any person named Sara, as she exclaimed "Hi Sara" in her chipper little voice.

Even when she would get confused and called me Sara, it was still sweet.  She was such an awesome kiddo.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

counting down

Something has been on my mind for about a week now.  I've started to become aware of the fact that I'm on a sort of 'countdown'.  It seems that the closer I get to the one year anniversary of Catelyn's death, the more I'm counting down. 

What is it that I'm counting down?  Is it the number of days until the 1 year mark?  Is it the number of seconds, minutes, hours, days, or weeks I can go without thinking of Catelyn? 

The answer to the previous questions is no.  First, I don't like thinking about the # of days that it's been without Catelyn, and second, I always think about Catelyn....always.

The inadvertent countdown that I've found myself a part of, is thinking about the current date, and trying to come up with something I might've done with Catelyn at this same time last year. 

Please understand that I'm not purposefully trying to do this countdown.  I think it might stem from a deep part of me that needs to remember her, and remember that she lived.

Actually, it's a crushing countdown that I find myself a part of. 

Every day I watch Catelyn's playmates growing bigger and stronger and smarter.  I find myself looking at children her approximate age, and comparing them to what I think she'd be.  I remember many of the moments that my husband and I shared with Catelyn, and how amazing she was.  It's hard not to wonder what she might be like now, but I can only look at who she was. 

Fifty-percent of me would like to bring this horrifying whirlwind to a stop, but the other half of me hopes it never ends, for fear that if the countdown ends, so will my memories. 

Instead of hating the countdown, I think I have to learn to love it...embrace it....let it be a part of me, but not control me.  I have to let myself be at peace with reality, as best as I can.

What is my reality? 

My child is dead.  She's not coming back, ever.  I don't get to hold her, touch her, smell her, kiss her, read to her (directly) or sing to her (directly).  It's quite possibly THE hardest thing I'll ever have to go through in my life.

Do I get bitter?  Yes. 

Do I get frustrated?  Yes.

Do I get mad....sometimes, but overall, I try not to.  Why not?  Because there is no point. 

Anger will not bring Catelyn back, and it doesn't help the situation, at all, to get toxic emotions involved.  Plus, at the end of every day, I still believe that the doctors and nurses, and everyone else involved, did everything within their power to save her life.

Do I get sad?  Heck yes!  It's nearly always the small things - saying 'whee' when I hit a bump too hard backing out of our driveway, opening a container of yogurt, hearing someone yell 'no no', saying 'hi baby', watching wheel of fortune, seeing toddlers content to wear sunhats, petting the cat, going to any pool, etc.
 
How do I get through it? 

Carefully....

Basically, I try not to look too far ahead.  I try to take each moment as it comes, and I try to take each day one at a time.  When none of that works, I try to remember to breathe.

So, when I realized that I'm being haunted by this countdown, at first, it made me feel extremely anxious.  Especially about what will happen when I reach the weekend of Labor Day.  Then, it made me sad....mostly because I can see life is going on without Catelyn.  And now, I realize that all I can do is breathe through it....let each moment and memory surface, and then see how it goes from there. 

Sometimes the hardest part is not really being able to do anything.  Again, nothing I can ever do will change the outcome of that dreadful day.  However, as long as I keep going forward....keep hoping...keep loving...keep remembering...keep dreaming...keep talking about Catelyn, then she lives on.

This countdown sucks, but I guess it's a good reminder that I can use the memories that are being dredged up to help Catelyn's memory live on.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

sunhats

Oftentimes, those who are grieving, will comment that it's the things that are least expected that will catch you off guard.  Basically, there is no way to be prepared for the things we don't expect, and that can be very hard.

I had an unexpected reaction to an unexpected moment the other day, and I happened to be at work when it hit.  Meals are provided at my job, and the office staff gets to choose whether to eat from the dining room kitchen or from the snack bar at the pool.  I, personally, don't mind either choice....in the dining room kitchen, I usually order a cold-cut sandwich, and at the snack bar, I usually order a grilled chicken sandwich.  Both are tasty, and the decision is usually based on what time of day it is, more than what I'm in the mood for.

The other day, I decided on the grilled chicken sandwich, which meant trekking down to the pool to pick it up.  I walked out the front door of the clubhouse (yes, I am lucky enough to work for a country club), and I headed down towards the pool.  As I walked along the path to the pool, I noticed several men taking their last shots at the 18th hole, and quipping about their ability to finish well.  One man in particular was upset about not birdie-ing twice in a row.  It made me chuckle.  As I looked ahead, I noticed two women with their little ones in the baby pool.  I kept walking, but couldn't look away as I noticed that both 'babies' were wearing sun hats, and had sweet little chubby legs and bellies that reminded me so much of Catelyn.

I think I actually felt a piece of my heart shatter.  I tried to shake it off, and went to grab my sandwich and head back to my desk.  As I walked past the women and children in the baby pool, I made certain not to look back over.  I searched for the golfers, but couldn't find them, so I focused on the parking lot I was heading towards.  I told myself that it was completely okay to feel sad, but that this really wasn't a good time, so I needed to keep my chin up and let it pass, and all would be well.  I got back to my desk, and I tried not to focus on missing Catelyn, and answered the phone as it began to ring.  I noticed the lump in my throat and tried to stifle my sadness and sound cheerful as I responded to the call.  As I hung up, I noticed the warm river streaming down my cheek, and reached up for a tissue just in time to be spotted by a co-worker who said, "are you crying?"  I replied, "I'm trying not to".  He asked "was it something I did?", and I said "no, it's personal, but I'll be okay".  After that, I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.  I thought it was good, but I was wrong.   As another co-worker approached, I stood up with tears in my eyes and said "I have to walk away for a moment" and rushed to the bathroom.

The nice thing about working for a country club is that they have actual fingertip towels in the bathroom, so I grabbed one, buried my face in it, locked myself in a stall, and proceeded to cry in a semi-muffled fashion.

I told Catelyn that I love her and miss her terribly, and that I'm glad that those babies reminded me so much of her, but that it really wasn't a good time for breaking down, and that I would be done for the day soon, and promised I would readdress my feelings as soon as I could.

With that, I wet my face with water from the sink, patted it dry (though rubbing at it couldn't have made it look any worse), and went back to work.

It's always those unexpected things that catch you off guard when you're grieving.  But, in it's own way, for me, the unexpected events and reactions are good.  They serve as a reminder that Catelyn mattered more than anyone - even I - will ever know.  Honestly, I don't want to be able to guess what is in store for me.  The moments that catch me off guard are more real and true than any moment that I try to prepare for, and there is something to be said for that, too.

father's day

It's hard to feel 'happy' after your child dies, but it's even harder to enjoy the days that are meant for 'celebrating'......birthdays, holidays, mother's day, father's day.....

On father's day this year, I woke up a little later than usual, and couldn't bring myself to want to get out of bed.  When I did get up, I pretty much went straight into Catelyn's room.  Her room used to be pretty simplistic....a crib, a full bed, a dresser/changing table, a rocking chair and a bookshelf.  Now it holds all of that, plus a lot of boxes.....boxes filled with clothes, books, toys, towels, etc.  Things that I couldn't figure out where to store, so I figured that while her room isn't occupied physically, there is room in it to store the 'stuff'.

So, I went in.  I felt the need to try to organize, and while I cleared off the bed from the clutter that it held, and found more bins to organize the things that were out in the open, I still couldn't seem to do the organizing that I was longing to do.  I actually found myself thinking 'I wish I would've taken care of this while I was still in shock and it didn't hurt so much'.  What a bizarre wish, but it's true.  It was easier to do some things when I didn't feel.  It's probably true for everyone.  Don't get me wrong, I'm actually glad I didn't do it then, because I probably would've gotten rid of a ton of things I didn't want to.  I might've taken her crib down entirely, and boxed up the whole room and moved everything somewhere else, like the basement.

Honestly, I'll take the pain of sorting any day, as long as it means I get to remember Catelyn.  Ulitmately, the stuff is just stuff, but the memories that the things offer are the real treasure. 

...Perhaps one of these days I'll begin to blog more of my memories, and not just how I'm getting through.

Monday, June 11, 2012

favorites

Sometimes I wonder if Catelyn had favorites.....

At my new job, the women's organization will be hosting a charity day.  This year's charity is the Shelley Glover Sports Education Foundation.  http://www.sgsef.org/  I've been told that Shelley's favorite color was purple.  That got me to thinking....did Catelyn have a favorite color?

I dressed her in a lot of pinks, purples, turquoises, browns and other colors.....did she even like any of them?   With all of the stories I've been hearing from friends and family about butterflies recently, I have decided that maybe Catelyn really liked orange and white.

We'll never really know for sure, of course, but when I find myself without answers to these types of questions, it's fun to guess.

9 months....

Today marks 9 months since Catelyn died.  Some days are up, some days are down.  I guess it gets easier, but sometimes it still feels like I start over from square one.  Sometimes it's the shows I watch, sometimes it's other people's lives, sometimes it's things I want to do with Catelyn, but cannot.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again.....it's usually the unexpected.

Just the other day, I realized that there are a few things next to my bedside (on the floor) that I cannot bring myself to move.  I have one of Catelyn's little receiving blankets - she'd always snuggle up with them; one of her little socks - it's one of the ones that I sought to replace at the hospital because they were getting a little snug; and one of my socks, which I lent to her at the hospital because it didn't mess up her pick lines that were in her leg, but allowed her to stay warm (it was white and fuzzy, but looked a lot like a cast...we thought we had her next halloween costume figured out).

My husband and I worked in Catelyn's garden yesterday, and as we worked, we listened to WGN radio because the Chicago Cubs were playing ball, and that is one of our favorite pastimes.  As we listened, the announcer, Pat Hughes, referenced an idea for Father's day.  It actually hurt my heart to hear his words because last year for Father's Day, I ordered a Ron Santo book for my husband, and on his special day, he and Catelyn sat on the couch and opened it together.  I'm glad to have that special memory caught on tape and film, but it hurts to know that there won't be an option to do that this year.

Like I said, some moments are up, and some are down, and it changes from thought to thought, experience to experience, and moment to moment....

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Magnificient butterflies

A few people have recently told me of some encounters they have had with butterflies.  Since I've experienced one myself, I thought I'd share.

  • One of my dearest friends told me that she was having a rough day one day, and she felt the need to go outside on her back porch to recollect herself.  She looked up, and high up in a tree she could see a vibrantly colored orange butterfly.  She was impressed that she could see the color from so far away.  She watched it flutter about, and felt the need to say "Hi, Miss Catelyn".  The butterfly, then, came closer to her.  She talked to it just a little, and then wished it well.  The butterfly flew straight up into the air - as if flying directly to heaven.  :)
    by Noga Ami-ra
  • One of my cousins called me today and asked if there were any significant dates for myself, my husband, or Catelyn at the end of May or beginning of June.  I couldn't think of anything.  She began to explain that she camped out with her family over memorial day weekend, and each time she went outside she would encounter this lovely bright orange butterfly.  As we were talking, she encountered three others!  She said that there were a few times that she was pretty sure that she was being followed by the butterfly.  She said she greeted it, and it seemed to show that it liked that by fluttering a little more.  :)
    Butterfly Migration by Nicki Loam
  • I was driving in my car one day, and I had a lot on my mind.  As I was driving along a straight stretch of road, surrounded by farm land, I noticed that my car was being swarmed by tinly little white butterflies.  They were popping up out of the fields, as I zoomed along.  The speed limit is 55 on that stretch of road, so I was sure I was going to hit the butterflies, but I noticed that I wasn't bumping into them.  Instead, they appeared to be hovering around my car.  It was an incredibly unique experience.  I can only attribute it to a visit from a very special little girl who knew I needed comforting.  :)
So, the moral of these stories, if you will, is to watch for butterflies. 

If you experience a special encounter with a winged beauty, I feel that the odds are good that you are being visited by a little girl with a big heart who feels that you need a little extra joy.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

every now and then....

Every now and then I forget..... 

It's just days from being 9 months since Catelyn died, and I still have moments where I forget she's gone.

Inadvertently, something will come up, and I'll think that I'm supposed to pick Catelyn up from daycare, or that I need to make arrangements for someone to watch her because my husband and I both have meetings on the same night, or that I can't run a quick errand at 8:55pm because Catelyn has been in bed since 7....

I don't know if or when those feelings will ever stop, and, quite frankly, I'm not sure that I want them to.  However, the emptiness that creeps in as I realize the fault in my thinking literally makes my chest feel so very tight.

Sometimes the giant steps forward quickly turn into a flailing, backwards, downhill tumble.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Crazy

I saw this on Facebook....it's SO true in general, but especially as a bereaved parent.

Lucky

Recently, I found myself reconnecting with a friend, who also experienced a death of a child in 2011.  We were actually at a bench dedication over Memorial Day weekend, and I looked up and noticed her right away.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  I scanned the program and found a name that I thought might be her child, and then part way through the ceremony, each family had the chance to say the name of their loved one, and she confirmed my thoughts.  I tracked her down after the ceremony was over because I just felt that I needed to connect.  After I walked away, my husband said that he used to play summer ball against my friend's son - what a small world.

While I am so very, very sorry to hear of her loss, I found the smallest bit of comfort (sad, but true) from the fact that someone I had known, in another time in my life, was so familiar with the pain I feel.

Actually, as I've thought about it, I know a lot of people who have endured the death of a child, and I'm not even talking about through The Compassionate Friends.  At a quick count, I come up with close to 20 families, and that's without putting any effort into it.  There are so many people suffering from this common type of loss, and yet it seems so uncommon to us....but think about it:  there are still births and miscarriages, illnesses and suicides, murders, accidents, wars, and more. 

As of late, my thoughts have been filled with two women that I worked with at a previous company....one's daughter was killed by a stray-bullet, and the others' son died as an infant or young toddler.  Both were so very honest and forthright in talking about their children, both alive and deceased.  It's amazing to me how strong they are, as are all parents who endure the death of a child.

Just the other day, on The Compassionate Friends Facebook page, I noticed a woman was wondering how to get through.  She stated that she is 11 months into her grieving, and that her support system is starting to bombard her with their questions and feelings of 'aren't you over this yet?'.  As I contemplated how to reply to her, because I felt compelled to offer my two cents, of course, I realized how very lucky I truly am.

I am lucky to have found an outlet that gives me a chance to express my needs and thoughts to those who are willing to listen.
I am lucky to have people I can rely on - new friends, old friends, or anywhere in between.
I am lucky to have support.
I am lucky to know so many people who have endured this type of grief.
I am lucky to see the strength of so many others, which gives me hope of surviving the pain.

As horrible as losing Catelyn has been, and as much as I miss her each and every day, I am lucky.

Happy.....really....me?

I haven't written in a little while.  A lot has been going on for me.  I transitioned out of my old job and into a new job.  Though it was very hard to leave the people I have grown to know so well over the last several years, and have seen through many milestones including the good and bad, still, it has been a very good change.  Believe it or not, I have actually found myself happy.

Happy.......?!  Wow, that is a word that I haven't said in such a long time.  Especially in reference to myself.

Now, that certainly does not mean that I am 'over' the loss of Catelyn, because that will NEVER happen....after all, she is my child.  It's not like breaking up with someone....you don't get 'over' it.  You just start to find healing as time goes on.

Does it get 'easier'?   Probably.....over time....lots and lots of time...

I certainly wouldn't count the last nine months as enough time for the pain to fully subside, but to find the smallest spark of happiness is something that I couldn't fathom even one month ago.

Monday, May 21, 2012

poetic advice

A stumbled upon this poem by Canon Henry Scott-Holland, and found it very helpful:
Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other
That we are still
Call me by my old familiar name
Speak to me in the easy way you always used
Put no difference into your tone
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed
At the little jokes we always enjoyed together
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was
Let it be spoken without effort
Without the ghost of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was
There is absolute unbroken continuity
What is death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind
Because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you for an interval
Somewhere very near
Just around the corner
All is well.
Nothing is past; nothing is lost
One brief moment and all will be as it was before 
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!


Canon Henry Scott-Holland
1847-1918
Canon of St Paul's Cathedral

Thursday, May 17, 2012

my little waterbug


I just accepted a new position recently, and I've been wrapping things up at work.  I feel like this is a good time for a change of scenery, and, unexpectedly, I received the biggest confirmation of that need just two days ago. 

I arrived at my 'old' job around 12pm on Tuesday.  I walked into the back kitchen area for a moment, and as I did, I gazed, as I often do, out the back window.

However, this time I realized something.  I noticed a man cutting the lawn of the park adjacent to my current place of business, and it hit me.  It's definitely spring (though some days really seem like summer).

To better understand this, you'll need a little background.

My daughter would go to that park everyday, in the nice weather, last year.  I got to watch as she went from an observer of to a participator in play.  I would look everyday for her little hat to be wandering around in the park, and my heart would swell when I'd locate her.  Sometimes she'd be on the massive jungle gym, sometimes she'd be along the length of the fence watch the 'big' kids having swimming lessons, sometimes she'd be running around in the giant yard of the park, sometimes she would swing, etc...

Now, within the parameters of the park is the community pool, and Catelyn loved the pool so much!  In some ways, I actually think she loved it more than she loved my husband or myself.  I only say that because whenever either of us would go to pick her up, she'd start to run towards us in excitement, but would quickly realize that we were there to take her home, and she'd try to run away.

There were even days when the weather wasn't nice out, and we'd go to her daycare to find her wandering around with her beach towel in her hand, trying to remind her daycare mom that it was, in fact, time to go swimming.

She was definitely a water bug.  :)

So, as I stared out the back window of the kitchen, I realized how my heart would not only ache, but also break, each time I walked to the back of the office and caught a glimpse of children running, jumping, sliding, swinging, and swimming this summer.

I'm certainly not trying to run away from the pain, but it was very relieving to know that I wouldn't have to endure that same view this year.

It's certainly hard missing Catelyn.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Media...

I get tired.

I get tired of the media.

I get tired of hearing about the e. coli 'outbreak' that occurred in our area in 2011.

I get tired of hearing about the number of cases that broke out and the one life taken.


I don't like listening to, watching, or reading current news because it occasionally will reference that dreadful time.  

If you were to do a google search of the county and state that I live in with the word 'e coli', you would find over 53,000 articles related to my daughter's death.  No, the articles don't usually state her name, but that doesn't make it any easier, either.

When Catelyn died, it was very upsetting to discover that the media tried calling everyone we know:  caretakers, co-workers, friends, family, and even the funeral home.  They tried calling us personally, and they even tried camping out on the lawn of our church on the day of Catelyn's funeral because they wanted to get 'the story'

Yes, the public certainly has a right to know what is going on for the safety of their families, but grieving people should not have to go through this.  It's very hard to live those moments in general, but to live them publicly is horrifying.

What is bringing this up, you may be wondering?

There was an article written in a local paper on the exact 8 month 'anniversary' of Catelyn's death.

Now, please understand that the article was written to inform people about the attempt to try to discover e. coli in foods sooner, but once again it couldn't help but mention last year's events.

The article even noted that no source of the illness was ever discovered.  Aside from the fact that several households in the same county were affected, no link could be found.

Yes, I think it's great that there is work being done to try to solve this issue because I wish this type of scenario on no other person.

But, at the same time, I'm not over the anger that this all produced 8 months ago, and I can't help but feel it come flooding back - even from a positive writing that may offer hope for other families.

I can see that these writings and publications about e. coli are all for good, but all I feel is pain.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day 2012

Today is mother's day....I didn't know what today would be like for me, but I have a better idea now. 

Today is....
empty...
painful...
crushing...
difficult...

I went out of town over the weekend, and I saw my parents, who are celebrating 40 years of marriage today.  It was good to see them.  As I left, I wished my mom a happy mother's day.  She thoughtfully wished me the same and kissed me on the cheek.  A few of my friends and family members sent me cards, gifts, flowers, messages (voice and electronic).... 

I am appreciative of all of the love and support, but today it almost makes my heart ache more, and not less.

You see, everyone is trying so hard to remind me that I'm still a mom - even if Catelyn is an angel baby, but I'm having trouble with that.

I don't have a child here to wish me happy mother's day - not that she'd know what that means yet, anyway, at 2 years and 4.5 months old.  She can't smile for me, sing me a song, hug me, blow kisses, get a little feisty, laugh, etc. 

Sure, I believe that there are ways for her to let me know that she is here, but it's just not the same.  It hurts.  I cringe every time someone wishes me a happy mother's day.  I don't feel like a mother.  I feel like a failure.....a miserable failure.


Instead of having a wonderful toddler here to be herself (joyful, silly, sweet, kind, etc) and try to understand the point of 'mother's day', I only have my memories. 

Honestly, I don't even remember what we did last year for Mother's day....or even the year before that.

Some mother I've turned out to be....

Anyway, this isn't really meant to be a post that brings you down, it's purpose is to give understanding of where I find myself on this day when we are meant to honor the women that have raised us.

For those of you mother's out there, happy mother's day. 

For those of you who find yourself in a similar place to myself on this Mother's Day, please know that you don't have to be completely miserable today...  It's certainly okay to feel what you feel, but please don't feel like you have to stay hidden away from other people.  Don't be ashamed of who you are and how your life feels like it's turning out.  Tell the people closest to you how you are feeling.  Mostly, try to find even the smallest joy today and keep it close. 

Even the smallest joy counts for something.