Sunday, October 19, 2014

Being Vulnerable = Being Connected

One of the items on my dream board is to always share my story.  I included that because I have come to realize that it is a CRUCIAL piece to my healing process.  For about 6 months, I wanted to forget my story and erase my past.  That was probably one of the deadliest thoughts I could have ever had.  It was the grief talking. I wanted to run away and start all over.  After I came to and realized my story is apart of me and who I am, all kinds of doors opened.  I found myself talking about Micah more and talking about my grief, which in turn made me feel alive. I found that spark inside myself again. By the way, those doors didn't open by themselves either.  I put myself out there, I shared my vulnerability, I shared my anger, and in return I unlocked every door that was keeping me trapped in that dark room I like to call HELL.  The minute I stopped sharing my story I turned that key, locked myself in that room and STOPPED living.  I have no doubt that so many other parents are doing the exact same thing.  I am writing this now in hopes that ONE grieving parent will read this and have the strength to set themselves free.

Our children are our entire lives.  They are why we wake up every morning, they give us strength to get through the tough days, they keep us grounded and make us realize that any insignificant life issues we face will slowly fade away when we walk through that door and see their smiling face running towards us screaming " Mommy" or "Daddy." Those are the moments we live for.  As grieving parents we need to hold onto those moments and keep talking about them. As long as we do that, they will always be here and we are the ones that have to keep their spirit strong. If we don't then who will?

Connection is why we are here on earth.  We are neurobiologically wired to seek connection with other humans.  Connection gives us purpose and meaning to our lives.  Shame is the fear of disconnection.  No one wants to talk about it and the more you don't talk about it the more you HAVE IT.  The shame a grieving parent feels is excruciating.  It's not the shame you are thinking of. (ie: an alcoholic might feel shame for the choices they've made in the past). I can't speak for everyone grieving but I feel ashamed of the fact that I am an outcast.  I feel like a freak some days.  I don't feel connected. I feel ashamed of most of my emotions because I'm not sure if they are normal.(whatever normal is anyway)  We feel like if people find out about our shame we won't be worthy of connection. We feel like we are doomed.  The idea of being "seen" is terrifying but in order to reconnect with humans again we have to be SEEN.  Being seen means being vulnerable.

I've learned there is nothing to feel ashamed of.  It is completely normal to be vulnerable and to feel weak because LOOK at all we've lost.  We lost our lives essentially.  We lost that spark that was lit when our children were born. We lost those special moments to look forward to.  We don't have those smiles and hugs to share at the end of every day.  But if we don't open up and expose ourselves then we will never be able to connect with the world again and we will never FEEL again.  We have to break out of that dark room by sharing our story.  We are responsible for keeping our spirits alive along with the spirits of our children.  In doing so, we just might help change the lives of EVERYONE around us and how awesome would that be to know that lives all around us are changing for the better because of OUR son or daughter's legacy.  That right there is called CONNECTING, INSPIRING, EMPOWERING, and most of all LIVING. Let's make our short time here on earth the very best it can be. We can't let the darkness suck us in.

I know for a fact that Micah has changed hundreds of lives.  Last Wednesday(Oct. 15th) was "Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day." That will be a day I will never forget.   I stepped out of my way for a moment and allowed myself to be vulnerable. I didn't hide from the world and light my own candle in the sad darkness I had been living in.  I took a risk and invited all of my friends and family(hundreds of people) on social media to join me in the celebration on that special day.  The amount of people that participated in the "wave of light at 7pm" in memory of Micah and many other angels was INCREDIBLE.  My phone was blowing up all night, through the night, and into the morning.  I felt like Micah was alive again.  I felt like I had just given birth to her and everyone was congratulating me.  I was bringing her to life again and it felt so good.  I can't even explain the feelings that flooded my body.  I LET MYSELF BE SEEN!  I wasn't afraid.  I realized in that moment that I am so grateful to be able to experience such deep, passionate connection and LOVE.  Some people walk this earth and never experience this GREAT LOVE.  This is why being vulnerable and sharing your story will change YOUR life and the lives of everyone around you. It is why we are here on this earth.  Don't be scared to feel again.  I know it is a risk but I have told myself over and over again that I would never trade my story for the world. Would you trade yours?  Micah and I are theeeeee most powerful act of love that I will ever experience. I want the world to see it = I want to CHANGE THE WORLD!

Some pics from Oct. 15th

My great friend Alyssa and her husband Dennis were there to light a candle with me along with my mom and my other angel momma friend, Bethann(not pictured). 

These are some posts from my family lighting their candles for Micah! 

My sister Holly's 4 kids:

My brother's daughters: 
Kasey - 10

My brother Dave and his girlfriend Stacy lighting their candle all the way from Arizona while on a work/vacay trip. 

My sister Julie lit her candle along side Micah's handprints <3

I want to give a HUGE thank you to everyone that posted, emailed, or texted pics of their beautifully lit candles in memory of Micah.  I am so grateful for all of you taking the time to share your love.  I feel connected with the world again, I feel like I have a purpose and I have my vulnerability to thank for that.  Even if you have never lost a child, you can benefit from exposing yourself to other humans.  The minute we start sharing is the minute we start living.

Happy Sunday =)


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Tips on How to Talk to a Grieving Parent

"I've been surprised by people's genuine kindness and empathy as much as I've been repeatedly shocked and disappointed by their lack of it."

This is a quote from a recent article that I read, which was written by a mother, Samantha Hayward, who had also lost her child.  She wrote the article in hopes to help educate our society on how to address grieving parents.  The subject is so taboo and there is clearly not enough literature on how to handle the topic or talk to a parent that is suffering the horrific loss of his/her child.  I'm assuming that it is not talked about because others do not want to open that door for fear of what lies behind it.  The pain is something they never ever want to feel or even want to try to think about.  It's as if they FEAR the FEAR.  This article really made me feel like I wasn't alone.  Samantha made me see that there are so many other parents going through exactly what I'm feeling. (annnnnnnnd it makes me so sad to even type that sentence because that just means so many other children have left this earth way too soon...UGHHHH Why? Why do children have to die?  It is not okay.) 

After crying a whole lot and processing that article, I decided to take Samantha’s 10 tips and modify them to fit me and my personal opinions on the topic. She talks a lot about the things people would say or not say and how they both could hurt her feelings and ultimately lead to the end of some relationships.  We all know that NO ONE intends to say the wrong thing to a grieving parent, but sometimes it may be better to say nothing at all.  I understand that knowing when to say something, when not to, and what to say in this situation can be quite confusing.  So, here are a few tips to help you decide whether to bite your lip or when and how to show the perfect amount of affection to a loved one who is grieving the loss of a child. 

My tips: 

1. Please stop with the comments about how lucky I am to even have gotten pregnant in the first place. Of course it was a blessing, believe me I know what kind of miracle it is to conceive, carry, and give birth to a healthy baby, but must you throw it in my face that I "should" be feeling grateful when I just had to make a decision on whether to bury or to cremate my first and only baby?  Also, for parents that have other children, I am sure that it hurts just the same when someone says how lucky you are to have your other children to come home to, as if that makes it easier to deal with such a loss.

2. There are still some times that I just need to take a day off from work and hide from the world, which I just did a couple weeks ago.  Please don't assume that I've thrown in the towel or I've lost my mind because "it's been 2 years now  and I shouldn't be calling out of work” or even WORSE, be so thoughtless to wonder "what's wrong?"  Good LORD I would love to rage at someone when they ask me that!  Like, are you serious?!  My kid is dead, gone, like no longer on this earth and you are wondering why I'm crying or why I can't come to work?   The ignorance blows my mind sometimes.  So please don't assume that because two years have gone by that I should be "better" at dealing with my grief.  I'm anticipating that I will still need some mental health days 5 years down the road and there is nothing wrong with that so please be aware that your loved ones have the freedom to grieve whenever and however they need to. It does not mean they've gone off the deep end.  It's normal. 

3. Grieving for a child lasts a lifetime.  If you are wondering when your friend or loved one who has lost a child will eventually stop grieving, STOP RIGHT THERE.  There is no such time.  It is FOREVER and please recognize that and tell them they are allowed to grieve to the end of time or until they are able to see and hug their child again. (I recently told my hair dresser my story and one of the first things she said to me was that exact line about "grieving until the end of time."  I just had to hug her when she said that because she made me feel incredible. I felt free from judgment as soon as she said that. THANKS AGAIN ELAINE.

4. The loss of a child can destroy a relationship instantly.  Bill and I split 8 months after Micah had passed, and it was so incredibly hard to adjust to that new life.  The thought of not being with the two most important humans in my life, for the rest of my life, was so UNBELIEVABLE.  I felt like someone just took a bulldozer to my perfectly framed home that I had spent months/years building, and not to mention, I was about to decorate the shit out of that house with love, laughter, memories, and so much more.  POOF! GONE! Even though relationships end, it doesn't mean that all ties must be severed.  I mean how could you NOT talk to the ONE person on this earth that went through something so horrific with you. It's kind of like when someone saves your life, and you are forever connected to that person because in that scary moment he/she was by your side in your most vulnerable moments. Same thing happens when two parents lose a child, especially when they both hold their baby as she takes her last breath.  It is a bond so tight that no one, not even God could break.  Bill and I will always be there for each other. PERIOD.  So please stop with the weird looks or the assumptions that Bill and I are getting back together or maybe the thoughts that one of us is leading the other one on. STOP.  We are not getting back together and we CAN text, call, and see each other as much as we would like.  We understand each other’s pain, and we want to grieve together some days.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. 

5. Acknowledging Micah's birthday or the anniversary of her death the first year she was gone was incredibly heartwarming and touching, but when you don't bother to acknowledge it year after year ( in my case the 2nd year) it is completely gut wrenching.  It makes me feel like I should get used to nobody acknowledging the fact that I did spend 9 months pregnant, I did go through a long inducing process to end up having a c-section, I did have a beautiful daughter, and I did spend hours upon hours at CHOP taking care of my baby. That all HAPPENED and I'll be damned if I don't honor her life every single year.  This is one of those cases that saying something is much better than not!!  Acknowledging and celebrating my child on her birthday is essentially what every parent would hope for.

6. Feeling left out.  I do notice when I don't get invited to certain dinner dates, events, or outings.  Don't think that I haven't noticed the few people that dwindled away and couldn't handle the work it might take to stay along for the bumpy ride with me.  I understand it is WORK to be friends with me now, I am not always a walk in the park, but I also don't deserve to be pushed aside because you are tired of my grief.  Really???  Is your life so hard and busy that you can't make time for me anymore?  Don't try and be friendly in the future because it's obvious what kind of friend you are.  One not worth having.  Good friendships are just as important as a marriage.  For better or worse.  They take work, effort and do not sustain themselves.  If that seems like too much for you, then see you later…

7. Please don't say "I want the old Michelle back."  Believe me, I want the old Michelle back, too, but that will NEVER happen and coming from anyone else, but me, sounds like a complete insult.  It's as if I am currently not cutting it for your high standards, and if the old Michelle isn't coming back, then I guess you won't be hanging around any longer. My entire world got flipped upside down and left in a million pieces.  Therefore, it is going to take me some time to put everything back into NEW SPOTS.  At the same time,  try not to forget that in the midst of all of that, I am grieving TWO losses: my daughter's life and my own, because I no longer recognize who I see in the mirror each day.  

8. Please include me in mommy convos! Do not be afraid to ask me or include me in conversations about my pregnancy, birth story or things Micah did as a baby.  I constantly hear other mothers sharing their stories with their other "mother" friends and for some reason, I am never included in those conversations, even though I am sitting right there. It hurts so much when I am left out of those conversations. It makes me feel like I am NO LONGER A MOM, which is not the case.  Those conversations are definitely triggers for me.  I've learned to barge in and say, "well Micah used to do that too," and I honestly get so many different reactions.  It is not weird to talk about someone who has passed.  You make it weird when you react like a moron and can't keep the convo going. My advice to someone who is in those conversations and is thinking "should I ask? No, maybe she is having a bad day?" You can always say "Do you mind me asking about Micah?" That right there could turn a bad day into the best day of the week for me!

 I hope that I gave you all some helpful tools to take with you so that you can one day pull a grieving friend under your wing and say all of the right things.

Please don't fear us, as we do not bite!  We might bark a bit, but we WON'T if you make an effort to be kind and considerate. We CANNOT do this alone, and we NEED your love and support, whether you believe it or not.  Your words matter, A LOT =)