The Joy of Grief

It has become somewhat of a tradition to write a blog post on or near my daughter’s “day.” Grief is such a richly varied experience and I have found it to be a kind of beautiful gift. For this reason, there is always something to say beyond the obvious reality that it sucks to have your kid die.

I couldn’t say that I’m glad I lost her, but today and many many other days in the last 7 years I can say that while I lost more than I ever wanted to, I gained many things I didn’t even know I could.

The biggest gain is that I’ve seen God come through for me in a way that I only ever vaguely believed he would before. A week or so after Sarah died, when I realized that I could not grieve in a healthy way, I asked God to take all of it and give back only what is good. While I could recount many occasions in the last 2,555 days that I felt unpleasant emotions; screamed, cried, numbed up, felt sorry for myself, choked on the emptiness, laid in the cold mud of life without her, thought of who she would be now, felt anger at a passing pregnant woman… I have felt all of those emotions and more, but every one of them came at just the time I needed to feel it. Each one helped me heal a little more. Since asking him, God has been utterly faithful to carry all but what I was supposed to walk with in the current moment.

When people find out about Sarah they almost always say, “I don’t know how…” or, “I never could handle…” But of course they’re right and neither could I. Although it might seem weird that feeling pain has been a gift, it’s the way that I have been set free to grieve without guilt or shame, without wallowing or getting stuck too long. I haven’t made this happen, I have only accepted whatever piece came my way….

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My Favorite Ghost

My daughter Sarah is not alive anymore, but sometimes she lives so vividly in my thoughts it’s as though she is alive. But she’s not. It isn’t sad, but it is.

When I’m driving in the car she sits in the back seat and kicks her legs and laughs at something silly I said. Walking down a long hallway, she may skip beside me, she may hold my hand. And sometimes, when I’m sitting in a chair, she gets up into my lap and lays her head on my shoulder for me to pet her hair like I loved to have my mother pet my hair when I was little…

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The Most Awkward Holiday

Most holidays have their darker side. There are the happy celebrators and then the rest of the population with all of their varied and complex feelings. For anyone who has lost, anyone who grieves, each holiday has its own fresh pain.

And here we are at Mother’s Day. 

I can’t remember the first Mother’s Day after I lost my daughter, but on the second, I was working at Starbucks. Displayed for the customers,we had taped pictures of our kids for people to look at while they waited for their coffee. I should have called in sick, but I deluded myself into thinking it wouldn’t be weird…

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Trauma Brilliance

Some of the best moments of marriage to my ex husband were the weeks following our daughter’s death.

I won’t say that they were the only good moments, because that would just not be true, but they were some of our best.

The day of Sarah’s birth and death, we were both some kind of mighty beings. After all, I pushed a human being out of my body with no drugs and after over 24hrs of not eating or sleeping and undergoing unbelievable amounts of physical pain. I actually had burst blood vessels in my eyes and when she was finally on the outside of me, they laid her gooey, curled up body onto my chest and I thought, “Huh. That’s a baby.”

I guess it was exhaustion induced ambivalence.

It didn’t take long, though before indifference turned to wonder. Drained and bleary wonder.

We were, I think, too tired to do anything that day but obey whatever was happening each moment…

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Untold Biographies

People don’t talk about the fact that babies die. I didn’t know it happened until it happened to me.

It’s treated, I think, much like bulimia, suicide or drug abuse. So many people have experienced those things in some way, but they don’t go around talking about their experience.

Why? Probably because it would be awkward and probably a huge downer to any conversation.

I used to work with a young woman who was actively and openly bulimic. If you know any recovering drug addicts, you know the kind of honesty this woman displayed, except that she wasn’t recovering. She was in it full time, but somehow managed to have no shame. I don’t think she was proud of her obsession, but she knew it for what it was and she didn’t pretend.

When my daughter died she was 19 hours old. The autopsy says she was 12 hours old and my theory is that had she not been under the hands of the paramedics at 4pm that day, she wouldn’t have lived until 9:30pm. They did everything they could do, but her lung infection was much more agile and had done too much damage before there was anyone fighting it off. Anyone besides herself, of course….

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Wanderlust and Wonder

Geography is not my strong suite. This, despite the fact that I have a strong desire to visit every nation. I think this desire stems from the fact that of all things I am mostly relational. Even my enjoyment of nature comes from the fact that I unconsciously (and consciously) interact with animals, nature and even inanimate objects as if they are secretly human. So when I meet someone from another place and I get to know them a little, I want to see where they are from.

I saw this documentary a few years ago that took place partly in Mongolia and afterward

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I would sit around imagining what it would be like to be there in person. What does the air smell like? Is the air fresh like my hometown in Washington or is it still and full of decades of bodies and meals cooked like downtown Chicago?..

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The Un-Adult Truth

The house is napping and I am in the basement with the books. It’s a daylight basement, which is really more of a rainlight basement.

Although I grew up in the great Northwet of

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Washington, I have spent just enough time away to gain a nostalgic perspective.
In small towns like Carnation (where I am today) I look outside and immediately remember movies like The Journey of Natty Gann, which then make me think of logging trucks, and big men wearing plaid and big beards.
Or I remember walking  from school like a pencil line connecting the dots of puddles the whole way home….

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Counting Thursdays

January again.

This year I had better intentions for the month. I had planned, not only to be busy but also to be happy. The funny thing about my “happy plan” is that the only thing involved in the “plan” was that I choose to be happy. Certainly this is a possible thing to do, but I might have been smarter to give myself helps along the way.

This doesn’t mean I’m unhappy today, it just means that the melancholy I felt a little yesterday and the grumpy I felt a bit this morning were both confusing surprises to me. I tend to deal better with emotions when I know why I feel them.

But here is what I realized this morning. I was thinking about the coming week because my roommate had asked me if today was my daughter’s birthday. “No,” I said, “it’s (and I had to count the date and days on my fingers) Thursday.” This, then made me realize a lot of interesting similarities that are occurring this year that haven’t occurred since she was actually born….

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What to Expect

Without planning it, my room decor and bedding all match. I noticed this as soon as I cleaned up a little.

Maybe there will be surprises like this around other corners.

It’s not that I put a lot of stock in the much anticipated new year. They happen with increasing frequency. What I do put stock in is God’s character, which I have recently discovered to be wild, deep, loving and fearless. I want to be like him, sure, but more than that I want to just keep seeing him more and more. And somehow the year ahead feels like a clean canvas upon which he will paint something beautiful….

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