STOP- Read Part 1 First
What happened after we came home from the hospital and it all started to sink in?
This is where my memory goes a little fuzzy. I think at this point my brain was about to actually explode with the constant bombardment of thoughts, regrets, what-ifs, and what-nows.
The first two or three days I didn't get out of bed hardly at all. I came to meals because I wanted to show the boys I was still alive, but I didn't eat. I only slept when I gave in and took the sleeping pills offered by the hospital.
I cried....and cried...and cried.
I tried to plan a memorial service, but I didn't really know what I was supposed to plan. In retrospect, perhaps asking for some assistance from our pastor would have been important or even helpful, but I admit that thinking clearly and doing logical things was somewhat out of my pervue. Fortunately (unfortunately?) my mom is in ministry and has done several family memorial services in the style I was hoping for and she was able to help me (read- gently, and when necessary not-so-gently, push me) to make decisions.
We found a place and time and scheduled it far enough out that all of our family could be there. Unfortunately some people were not able to "get the time off". A fact that still burns me to my core. In all honest, some family relationships have probably been permanently damaged by that fact, although I doubt the other players realize it. Our midwives and close friends and family were able to be there for us and we will be forever grateful for those people who shared the day with us. We had already chosen god-parents for Kenna, and although there wasn't ever a baptism for her, we honored those people and both were invited to participate in her service.
After the service was over is when reality hit for me. Everyone was gone, my house was quiet. My kitchen was filled with flowers and arrangements from people who had been unable to attend. Everywhere I looked I was reminded of what we had just done in saying goodbye. All I could think about was, now what?
And I didn't have a good answer. I sunk into a pretty sad little state of not being a very good mom, not being a very good wife, and in the spirit of honesty not being a very good person. I know there were days I didn't get off the couch all day. I think back and I wonder what my kids were doing while I laid there staring at the television? It is a miracle they didn't hurt themselves or each other, because I fear I might not have even noticed if they had. Tim's work cooked for us for awhile and it was thankfully almost a month before I had to cook again. If it had been my responsibility I don't think we would have eaten more than some cold cereal!
I don't really remember what I was even thinking about those days. Some days stand out as really bad days (the first baptism at church was agonizing for me), but mostly I don't remember much of anything.
Then one day I decided that I was tired of being so sad all the time. I decided that I could and would be bigger than all of the grief that was plaguing me. Several years earlier I had heard an ECLA Bishop speak on 3 types of Christians...the blinding daylight Christians who experience an ah-ha moment, the beatiful slow sunrise Christians who have a gradual acceptance of faith, and the land of the never ending Christians who can't really put a date on what they believe but faith has always been a part of their life. At the time I identified strongly with the land of the never ending sun character because the description was quite accurate for my personal faith journey.
One of the downfalls the Bishop mentioned, however, was that sometimes land of the never ending sun people simply accept that their faith is always there and don't take the the time to acknowledge or grow that faith. (Forgive my probably poor reiteration of this concept!) One day I was sitting around, probably feeling sorry for myself and I decided that if my faith was still there (and I believed it was, I just wasn't sure what to do with it) then I needed to make a choice to rely on it.
The problem was I didn't really know what that meant, so basically I tried everything! I had a teacher in high school who had us dress up for testing days with the philosophy that if we looked good, we would perform well. So every day for weeks I wore a skirt and a collared shirt. I knew a "good Christian" would read their Bible...so I did that too. I didn't know where I should start or what to read so I just started at the beginning and kept reading. Sometimes devouring huge sections in one day, not really taking in more than a few verses, but I kept doing it. I played Christian radio from sun-up to sun-down. Every morning when Tim would leave for work I would turn on Joyce Meyer and listen to her messages on having a positive mindset. For those of you who aren't familiar with Joyce, she is excellent to listen to when the mind is dragging you down because she will beat into your head the idea that you can make a CHOICE to not listen to the negative thoughts.
To put it lightly I was an extremist and it was all for show....I was desperately hoping that something would sink in and I would figure this all out. I started going to MOPS because someone invited me and someone else invited my best friend the same week. With Jamie's company I was able to keep going and keep going, even though it took me 3 months to even tell them about Kenna.
After a while, something started happening. I didn't feel so burdened with grief all the time. I didn't fear going out in public anymore. I started to feel empowered to live my life again. Little by little my life started coming back together again. It was a REALLY slow process and sometimes it felt like I took 3 steps back for every 1 step forward, but piece by piece I figured out how to live with my new normal. That meant learning how to grieve, but also how to live at the same time. Choosing to both live and grieve.
A few of my ah-ha moments came through MOPS. The first was a speaker we had who explained the meaning of a refiner's fire. I have always loved that song and she was telling us about the actual process of refining silver and how the silver smith knows exactly how much heat the silver needs before it can come out of the fire. Apparently the way that the silversmith knows is that they can see their own reflection in the silver at the moment it needs to be removed. For me I felt so empowered by the idea that God is my silversmith. That God knows when I need to come out of the fire. He knows exactly how much fire I not only can handle, but NEED to be the reflection of Him that He wants me to be. I may not have liked the particular color or flavor of the fire I was in, but I came to this place of acceptance knowing that for whatever reason I was in that fire and I was needed there. In honesty it helped me accept my fires as something of purpose and not something that I should run away from or be ashamed of. They are part of it and they have an end point. That idea has become somewhat central to my continued healing in ways to use the trials I have experienced to help and support others in the same or similar situations.
My other stand-out moment also came at a MOPS meeting. We watched the movie "Facing The Giants" together. At one point, one of the characters talks about 2 farmers who pray for rain, but only one who prepares his fields. At the time I was REALLY struggling with my pregnancy with Kylee. I was so downhearted all the time waiting for it to be over. I was having a hard time being excited or positive about the outcome. I was also in a really tough time with my grief in general. Six to nine months seems to be a tough time for many of the moms I have talked to (irregardless of pregnancy) and I was right in the middle of that. Preparing the field became almost a mantra for me, as it did for the main character in the movie. That positive affirmation was invaluable in helping me make it through to the (almost) end of my pregnancy.
All of this is not to say that I no longer struggle with grief. Quite the opposite, in fact, I struggle almost every day. I had some fairly serious depression last year, neccesitating medications to cope at times, and my anxiety is extremely high to this day. I was so anxious through my entire pregnancy (even after my new mantra helped) that I am quite sure that I only went into labor when I did because of stress. There are nights even now when I can't sleep because I am sure that this is the night that Kylee won't wake up.
I get overwhelmed extremely easily and usually my coping skills are a fairly good indicator of when I need to back off because I am doing to much. The most interesting thing I have learned about myself through all of this is the importance of truly resting and putting aside extra commitments to take care of myself. Because of the all encompassing nature of my grief I am no long physically capable of doing too much. I fall apart and have had to back out of some previous committments as a result. I have gotten much better about saying no and putting myself and my family first.
I also still struggle with how to incorporate Kenna into my life. I can't talk about her enough, yet I know that hearing about her can be a burden to others. I worry about imposing my grief too much onto others who have long moved on. I still attend a montly support group meeting when I can and read everything I can get my hands on.
I struggle when I hear of milestones of babies who were born near Kenna's birthday. First teeth and walking have come and gone, but I have a feeling I will still be sad when those kids go to kindergarten and graduate from high school. I never know how to respond when I am talking to another mom so I generally don't say anything, leaving the other person clueless to just how much those milestones hurt. It's a thousand times worse if the child is a girl. I don't usually cry about them anymore, but I used to. She will always be missing when I look around our home and often I can physically feel her absense.
As I told Tim recently, I am still waiting for the day that it doesn't hurt so much. He wisely responded that he doesn't think that day is going to come and he doesn't think it is supposed to. He is so good about remembering Kenna and assuring me that my own feelings are not only acceptable, but normal.
One of my goals in writing this is to be completely open with friends and family about where I am today and where I have been. (The other goal would be putting it all into words for myself...the blog just happens to give me an audience to do that.) I hope that if you ever have questions about Kenna, her life, my grief, or anything else you will not hesitate to ask me. Leave a comment and I will either respond in comments or write another post on the topic.
I would like to end this series with my own words from a piece I wrote for a writing contest.
It took time and there are days that I still hesitate before I can convince myself to get moving, but I did it. Truth be told, I got out of my own way and I let God do it. I stopped being the obstacle that kept Him from working in me to provide comfort and healing. The most important thing He provided was hope in the promises that He has a greater purpose for my life than I have the capability of understanding. All of my experiences, including Kenna’s death, are shaping me to be the woman of God that He desires of me. Our God is a God of comfort and a God of hope. I have learned that even in our darkest times, we can turn to him and he will provide for our needs. We simply need to accept his promises and open our hearts and our lives for Him to do his work. When I look around the table at MOPS these days, I see some of the most encouraging and inspiring women and know… and I also see 5 beautiful new babies, including one of my own.
“For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”