We gave birth to twin babies July 18, 2007 only to discover a couple of months later that Nicholas had a fatal genetic disease called spinal muscular atrophy. He passed away November 27, 2007 and a week later his twin sister Olivia was diagnosed with the same disease. She passed away January 12, 2008. This is a memoir of their lives, as well as a place to share my journey through everything that has happened.
I've been very kind to myself this week. I've treated myself gently; I rested when I was tired, worked when I needed to focus on something, met friends for breakfast when I needed a boost.
I had anticipated that this week may be difficult and arranged to not be at work. I am grateful to have the freedom and consideration to do that. It was good that I did. One of the things I would have never expected about grieving is how much energy it takes.
You know, the week started out as I thought it would. We had just returned from a family weekend getaway, and as Sabrina went off to school and Corrie went off to work, I was home alone with my thoughts. Since this week is a significant anniversary for us, of course last year this time was on my mind. I succumbed to depression.
I feel Nicholas & Olivia's absence in everything. It is something that is always present with me. I think I've reached a point of acceptance where this is just the way things are. But it's things like family weekends where they should have been there, and putting up the Christmas tree, and being reminded of what my little boy went through before he died that make it just too hard to accept some days.
And that's where God rushes in and lifts me up. He carries those things that are too heavy for me to bear. My friends, I speak the absolute truth here. There is no way that a person can suffer unspeakable loss and emerge whole without the saving grace of God. He met me right where I was at and I have been renewed and comforted. The reality of Nicholas' death has been before us every day since November 27, 2007. Tomorrow we will remember our little boy. But we will also honour our journey over this past year and celebrate God's goodness to our family.
(from Healing a Parent's Grieving Heart - 100 Practical Ideas After Your Child Dies by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.)
1. You have the right to experience your own unique grief. No one else will grieve in exactly the same way you do. So, when you turn to others for help, don't allow them to tell you what you should or should not be feeling.
2. You have the right to talk about your grief. Talking about your grief will help you heal. Seek out others who will allow you to talk as much as you want, as often as you want, about your grief. If at times you don't feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent.
3. You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions. Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt, and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as a part of your grief journey. Others may try to tell you that feeling angry, for example, is wrong. Don't take these judgmental responses to heart. Instead, find listeners who will accept your feelings without condition.
4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits. Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. And don't allow others to push you into doing things you don't feel ready to do.
5. You have the right to experience "griefbursts." Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you. This can be frightening, but it is normal and natural. Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.
6. You have the right to make use of ritual. The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved. It helps provide you with the support of caring people. More importantly, the funeral is a way for you to mourn. If others tell you the funeral or other healing rituals such as these are silly or unnecessary, don't listen.
7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality. If faith is a part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs. If you feel angry at God, find someone to talk with who won't be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.
8. You have the right to search for meaning. You may find yourself asking, "Why did he or she die? Why this way? Why now?" Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not. And watch out for the cliched responses some people may give you. Comments like, "It was God's will" or "Think of what you still have to be thankful for" are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.
9. You have the right to treasure your memories. Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. You will always remember. Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share them.
10. You have the right to move toward your grief and heal. Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever.
I have had quite a few caring questions lately about how we are doing. The more perceptive of those around us (or those closest to us) recognize that November could be a difficult month.
The beginning of the end.
Or, the beginning of the ... beginning? Forgive me for being eternally optimistic, but there has been no ending here. We celebrated Sabrina's birthday in a way we were not able to last year. We have been loved on and cared for by family and friends. God has been present, cushioning us and protecting us from November in many expected and unexpected ways.
I look outside my window and am comforted by my Christmas lights. My brother bought them and put them up after Nicholas' funeral as a gift to us. I didn't let Corrie take them down this summer because I love to see them and be reminded. I read the comments on my blog posts and am encouraged by Corrie's mom. She always has words of love and grace when I need them most. I treasure each one of them. An aunt leaves me a voice mail and tells me she loves me. Friends tell me they're thinking of us and praying for us. I know my dear friends on the prayer team are holding our family up in intercession.
I still have a lot of questions. I heard a great quote that "trust means that you will have unanswered questions." I choose to trust and believe that there are very good answers somewhere to my questions. I still miss my children. They are as close to me as breath. Nothing will change that.
I have learned that there are very few things in my life that are truly under my control. November and its memories are not under my control. They exist, just as they are. What I can control, is how I respond to them. That, my friends, is what replaces despair with hope.