Longing

Memories of trauma are very painful, but happy memories hurt sometimes, too.  Just differently.  Yesterday, I made my best friend a traditional English custard tart.  Gas marks changed to degrees Fahrenheit, and cooking time changed from 40 minutes to 60.  Other than that, though, it was the exact same recipe I’d made loads of times before.  But as I cooked, I felt ghosts of memories dancing about me.  Painful happy memories.  I saw my family devouring a freshly-made tart, not even bothering to let it chill even though they all preferred it that way.  I saw my sister as a very small child eyeing the oven with anticipation.  Laughter, love, family.  Things were chaotic and violently dangerous at times, yes, but they were my family, and that was our home.  I really miss them.

Feelings toward abusers can be complicated.  I don’t mean in the formal Stockholm Syndrome way, but rather in the just human way.  When my father died, my brother-of-choice told me he knew my father did Really Bad Things but recognised, as well, that he had been my father.  That has stuck with me some nine years later.  It was a profound statement, really, and encapsulates the point of this post.  Sometimes people assume that survivors will feel happy, relieved, or any number of ‘positive’ emotions when their abusers die.  That’s often not the case.  Most of us *knew* our abusers quite well.  I didn’t develop attachment to trainers or abusers in the organised cult group, but I did love my parents as parents.  I felt their losses just as any other child would have done.

Looking back on happier times is, in my opinion, very necessary.  It’s a lovely thing to remind me that my past isn’t *all* bad, and it keeps me semi-sane.  However, it’s also a reminder of what was lost.  Grief is, paradoxically, a consequence of deep love, and I’m fortunate to have had that kind of love in my life.  Still, reminders of those losses can cut through to the centre of me, and they sometimes come at the most unexpected of times.  A custard tart and a hundred happy memories of a family that has gone.  I keep them with me and tell the good parts of their stories whenever I get the chance.  The old adage that ‘love never dies’ gives a bit of false hope.  Love might not die, but it certainly transforms into something a little sadder than before.  Happy memories couched in pain.  Reminders of not only what was lost but also what made those people important in the first place.

Dark Days: an original poem

Dark Days

These are the dark days
When everything around you turns to death
When night takes on a life all its own
And wreaks havoc among the beings of the light

These are the days when nothing feels the same
Life is a hall of mirrors
Each reflecting a monster
Overtaking sanity and faith

These are the days of pain and anger
Of hurt unspoken, screaming to be avenged
Of memories whispered in shadows
And scars blazing in the sun

There was a time long ago
When roses bloomed through ice
When thorns were soft as silk
And tears were simply sunrays

Those were the light days
Before time started to fail
Before life became unbearably short
Before tombstones became timelines

Those were the days when everything felt steady
Life was a summer afternoon
Flowers blowing in the breeze
Filling the air with beauty and wonder

Those were the days of peace and laughter
Of love promised, given freely
Of comfort in time of need
And protection surrounding a family

Now is the time of grief
When sorrow takes your hand
And leads you through its garden of darkness
With hope, trailing slowly in the distance

Lights of Memory

Not long after my mother died, I went on a spiritual quest of sorts.  I talked to clergy from many denominations, telling them I didn’t even know whether I believed in a deity.  The one person who responded in a way of comfort was a rabbi.  He answered my statement by saying I didn’t have to believe in a deity.  Rather, I had to live my life the way I believed in fairness and compassion to others.  Having done that, he said, there will be no worry about what’s on the other side.

We talked for hours that day.  The sanctuary truly felt like a holy place, and I relaxed my control more than I intended.  After that, I went through the process of conversion classes, set before the beit din in what was a very uncomfortable judgement period, and joined the congregation.  It was an extremely personal experience.  I kept it relatively quiet.

Whilst I no longer follow that path, I do hold some of the beliefs quite dear.  Chanukah is still very much a holiday of peace and light to me, and I still observe it every year.  This year, on the last night, I lit memorial candles alongside the menorah.  The lights surrounded my daughter’s urn and the little angel statue, making a beautiful glow.  Beauty out of tragedy.  Lights of memory in every sense of the word.

Day Eight Memorial Distance

Suicide Awareness & Education

Over the next month (November 2012), I am going to be putting together resources for a post and/or page about suicide awareness and education.  This is in memory of my sister.  As someone who has survived the loss of two people from suicide and who has attempted it herself, I feel very passionately about making information available to people.  My therapist and I are working very hard on grief issues, particularly surrounding my sister’s death.  For the first time since her death almost twelve years ago, I feel strong enough to do something like this in her honour.

My plan is to arrange information in a series of posts under the categories ‘suicide’ and ‘suicide awareness’ depending on the amount of information gathered.  If you have anything you’d like to share– stories, resources, et c– please contact me by email at ec1_englishrain@yahoo.com  You can also click on ‘Email me’ on the homepage of this site.  I understand that anonymity is imperative.  When you email, please let me know how you would like the information credited.  You don’t have to be a survivor of suicide, someone who has attempted suicide, or anything like that.  The only requirement is that you have something to add to the conversation.  Please note, though, that extremely graphic information could be turned down or at least marked as triggering.  Again, it depends on how much information is received.

Thanks so much for all your help.  Let’s do this for those we love and all those touched by suicide.

Unexplained Panic

I’m dealing with something I do not understand and hoping some of you who read this blog can give me some insight.  This is a rough time of year, of course.  We’re coming on the first anniversary of my daughter’s death, just passed the 11th anniversary of my sister’s death, and are in the middle of the holiday season to boot.  My anxiety level is so high it’s literally making me ill at times, and things are relatively unpleasant at the best.

The bit I’m not understanding is panic.  Recently, my best friend and I had to make a change of plans.  The small change in our routine really set me off.  I just had this assumption that he was out of my life.  That *used* to be a response– I would assume that spending time with others would make him realise how horrible I was, and he’d want me out of his life forever.  That has *not* been a reaction for a few years now, though.

Even more recently, he found himself a bit under the weather.  Nothing serious at all.  Just the typical pre-winter cold.  Again, I panicked.  Would he get enough rest?  Would we be able to see each other?  Would he, knowing how much changes were upsetting me, push himself to do something he wasn’t quite up to?  A million unpleasant thoughts popped about in my head, and I was literally worried sick.

Today, he got a bit of nausea.  Again, nothing serious.  Likely, it’s just lunch that didn’t feel as though it spent enough time with him the first go round.  That brought the panic to a full-on attack.  My mind immediately went to the idea that my best friend would die, and I’d never see him again.  That quickly led into the thought of not being able to spend any time with him at all over the next week, even if he did survive.  He has plans the next two Saturdays, so Fridays seem almost critical.

I am *not* one to panic.  As a matter of fact, I’m typically the one who stays calm whilst everyone else panics.  Why, then, are simple changes in plan or status making me panic?  Today, my reaction to my best friend’s stomach issue was a full-on panic attack.  He isn’t aware of that; it’s not his responsibility.  Still, I phoned him to hear his voice, so I know he *sounds* fine.  He says he’s a bit tired and has some lingering nausea, all perfectly normal.  I’ll be pacing the floors until I know for definite I’ll see him tonight, though.  Every minute of not seeing him seems to count double right now- it’s like my mind is registering the fact that every minute could be the last minute.

So what’s going on with this panic?  PTSD involving grief issues?  I have no idea what to call it, how to frame it, or how to work with it.  I also have no access to a decent therapist to help.  This is making what’s already a difficult time of year much, much worse.

Holidays Suck

We’re headed in to the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, and I am feeling anything but festive.  In fact, I just want to duck my head until it’s over.  But that brings 2012, apocalyptic crap & other fun with SRA.  Back to holidays…

My daughter’s stillbirth happened on 27 Dec.  I’m already anticipating that anniversary.  Now, actually, I keep thinking of things in terms of last year.  My best friend and I are doing our typical jaunt to Nashville to celebrate his birthday, and, being rather selfish about things, I can’t keep my mind off of last year.  When we were in Nashville last year, I bought some maternity clothes.  I felt the baby kicking on and off all day, and that evening, my best friend’s mother got to feel her kick strong against my side.  I thought of those as her tiny way of participating in the celebration.

This year feels hollow.  I should have a six-month-old hanging about.  She probably wouldn’t have gone with us for the shopping trip, but we definitely would have brought things back for her.  I picture what I think she would look like, what I think her giggle would sound like, and how she would look all excited for the holidays.  Then, I think of how thankful I am that at least I still have her urn and the things from the memorial.  My beautiful baby who will never see a holiday.

I’m guessing she heard the noise of my best friend’s family Christmas celebration.  I’m guessing, too, that she was happy, because she was definitely active.  That celebration was probably her last memory, for lack of better terms.  I felt sick that day, but nothing major.  Just a little like I had a stomach virus.  It’s hard, still, to believe that the baby was gone a day and a half later.

So, yes.  I am not feeling festive.  I might not even go to the holiday celebration this year.  My mind is filled with memories of last year.  The joy I felt when I found out I was pregnant, the love we all had already for that child, and the anticipation of what our lives would be like.  The terrible end of the holiday season last year haunts me, though.  I’d rather this year’s holidays pass without having to give them a nod.

Hills & Valleys

I can’t seem to climb out of this grief valley right now.  I know I will, but for now the sun is rather dark.  That’s an interesting effect of grief- sometimes, sunny days truly do look dark.  It’s beautiful outside today.  The temperature is mild, the humidity is low, and there’s barely a cloud in the sky.  Still, I just feel like covering my head and waiting for the outside to reflect how I feel inside.

All of this got me thinking about the moment just before a funeral starts.  Most acutely, my grief involves my daughter.  I can’t imagine a more painful blow than the death of a child.  My world will never be the same, and it’s still not close to stable again.  In the moments just before my daughter’s memorial service, I wanted to run as far from that chapel as I possibly could.  I didn’t think I could get through it.  The music we chose was already stabbing at me, and I just knew the prayer of committal would drop me to my knees.

We had a little table set up with things to honour my daughter.  Someone gave me a beautiful ceramic angel in the palest of pink colours, and I ordered a sunset picture with her name written in sand.  The nurses took a picture of her after they had cleaned her and I had dressed her.  All of that looked somewhat out of place next to the tiny urn that held her ashes.  Life and death, beauty and desolation laid out right there before our eyes.

When the reverend came in, I stopped breathing.  His presence made things so final.  This was really the memorial service for my daughter, and she was really dead.  I made it through the service, staying relatively composed throughout it, talked to the reverend very briefly afterward, and completely fell apart in the safety of my best friend’s arms once we were alone.  Even now, as I write this almost nine months after the service, I feel like my entire body is breaking open.

Hope is missing from my life, as is the feeling that there is a rhyme or reason for the world afterall.  Even with the trauma in my past and all of the losses before this one, I was able to keep some hope and faith in something larger than us.  Now, I truly have trouble accepting that any supernatural being would be so cruel as to end the life of a child.  The service had a Christian theme.  My best friend’s mother, a devout Christian, planned the service, and I was ok with that.  At that point, an appeal to any being at all to take care of my child was fine.

We used the song ‘Still’ by Gerrit Hofsink.  I think anyone who has lost a baby can relate to this song.  You can listen to it here, and the lyrics are listed below.  If you’ve lost your baby, my deepest condolences go out to you and your family.  I hope that, regardless of faith, this song is a comfort to you.

———————————————————

‘Still’ by Gerrit Hofsink

I’ve been waiting for you
For such a long time
You’re always on my mind

And I’m lying awake
Most of the night
Waiting to hold you tight

Now that I do
And look at you
My heart is breaking
This can’t be true

Chorus:

Lost you before I found you
Gone before you came
But I love you just the same
Missed you before I met you
On earth we never can
But in heaven we’ll meet again

Close to my soul
Close to my heart
Right from the start

Lost in time, lost in space
Can’t wait to see your face

Now that I do
And look at you
My heart is breaking
I know it’s true

Chorus

Sometimes I find myself wondering what to do
With this pain that I’m going through
But I know one day, God will take me away
And I’m coming home to you

And when I do
And look at you
My heart is healing
I know it’s true

Chorus

Knives


Knives

Each one cuts a little deeper.

Jagged paths that leave shrapnel in their wake.

Yet their destination is simple:

They go straight through to the soul.

Sparkling silver blades

Reflect the darkness left behind

As body and mind are stripped

Of all that makes a person human.

Scabs thicken around each wound

Creating a shell where a person used to be.

Grief unimaginable shows in the eyes

Even when the shell is smiling.

Forever changed.

The world forever darkened.

Hope replaced by terrible knowledge.

As one scar starts to heal,

As one scab peels away,

The knives cut through again.

Ghosts

Last week I had the absolute privilege and honour to stay with my family of choice who live at a distance from me.  I only see them once a year, and I cherish every minute of our time together.  Even though parts of the week were a bit mad, it ended with the peace, fun, and love we’re used to feeling while we are together.

Through the entire trip, my mind stayed on my daughter.  That’s not something I was expecting.  I take a bus to my FOC’s house, which amounts to roughly a 20-26 hour ride.  About half-way through, a man sat next to me and told me my daughter wanted to say she loves me and is safe.  Everything inside me went cold.  I guess that should have made me feel better, but it does not.

If the man’s connection actually reached my daughter, that means she can see and hear me.  Does she miss me?  Does she feel grief?  That made me feel like a failed parent, which is not hard to do.  Throughout the week, I thought about how my daughter would have eventually made those trips to visit the FOC with me.  She would have fit in to the stride of things, as well.

As we went through the week, my daughter danced through my mind constantly.  The grief felt acute.  Something about being surrounded by the love and acceptance of my FOC brought light to the glaring hole in my life.  I ached for my daughter.  I imagined her laughter, her smile.

Unfortunately, my sister-of-choice became very ill and had to be hospitalised.  While my concern for her was very deep and I would have done anything at all to help, the hours we spent at the hospital reminded me of that night almost eight months ago when my baby died.  That memory played through my mind so strongly that it seemed to be happening in the present.  I couldn’t breathe.

Surrounded by my FOC, though, I felt safe.  They had no idea my grief was acute at that point; they were struggling so much with simply getting through the issue they were facing.  Adding to their pain would have been the most selfish thing I could do.

I’m happy to report that my sister-of-choice is home from the hospital and seems to be doing very well.  I hope she stays strong and safe.  Hospitals are miserable places.  Even though people heal and are born in hospitals, those buildings are still so full of death and pain.  I wish my sister-of-choice all the best.  Please keep her and her family in your most positive thoughts.  I know they appreciate it.

Memorial Poem

I have no idea who wrote this poem, but I am incredibly grateful to him or her.  A fellow bereaved parent recommended the poem to me when I was floundering about trying to find the perfect words for my daughter’s memorial cards.  It’s not the greatest in terms of the techniques of poetry, but that is of absolutely no matter.  If you or someone you know is in that same position, maybe this poem will help:

The world may never notice

If a Snowdrop doesn’t bloom

Or even pause to wonder

If the petals fall too soon.

But every life that ever forms,

Or ever comes to be,

Touches the world in some small way

For all eternity.

The little one we long for

Was swiftly here and gone.

But the love that was then planted

Is a light that still shines on.

And though our arms are empty,

Our hearts know what to do.

Every beating of our hearts

Says that we do love you.