Thursday, October 31, 2013


I was talking to Kyle the other night about how it probably looks like I am doing well to everyone on the outside. If you look at me, I can laugh and smile and crack jokes of my own. I can sing hymns and I can search the scriptures for truth. I can do pretty much everything I could before, even with reminders of James everywhere I go. 

I am able to stand firm and breath and then continue walking forward. 

Except my brain is swirling debris of what once was. My brain is moving fast, fast, and faster. It is a continuous loop of the events surrounding this pivotal moment in my life. When I speak, it is in before James' and after James.' I am moving clumsily, zigzagging forward.

Within this tornado of my mind there are spiritual truths. I catch glimpses of them as Dorothy catches glimpses of a cow or a fence. They are discernible but exist in an entirely new perspective.

This new perspective if the aftermath of loss. Of sudden, shocking loss. The one you didn't see coming and the events  play over and over in your mind, looking for moments where it could have been different. Obviously I cannot change anything, but I have found this is a natural product of sudden loss. You try and try and try to understand WHY it happened. You read books, pamphlets, blogs, watch videos, grappling for something solid and firm to cling to so that this tornado will stop. 

People often reiterate the Plan of Salvation to me, which in short terms is that before we came to earth we lived as pre-mortal spirits with Heavenly Father and earth is a testing period, a period where we experience mortality and all it has to offer and through this experience we learn and grow and because of the restored gospel, we have the opportunity to be sealed to our families forever. We sing the song, "Families Can Be Together Forever" reminding us of this precious truth. This doctrine has unmistakably brought a great deal of comfort but it has also brought questions. Because technically James never lived. He never breathed air. His heart never beat on its own. The doctrine is much more gray and muddled in this area and so it swirls about me, adding to the questions. 

I know that Heavenly Father is good and that all will be worked out within His goodness, love and mercy. So I find something to hold onto in that. I hold onto his goodness, his love, his mercy. Every day I wake up mourning James and in my mourning and in the twisting, confusing chaos of my mind, there is stillness and there is beauty and that is where God resides. He is making my chaos into something stronger, more beautiful than I could ever imagine. So I look back on my life and all the times He has led me to happiness and I trust. I trust that He is guiding me now, even THROUGH this chaos of my mind. I trust because I have felt his immense love and that love moves me forward everyday.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Look to the Sky

Over the summer, Kyle and Max went on a lot of bike rides. Max got the skin near his chin pinched while putting on his helmet and would worry every time a helmet came near afterwards. So Kyle taught him to "look to the sky." Max repeats this phrase often. He also reminds himself to "look to the sky" when I clip him into his car seat and when I zip up his jacket. I started hearing it often enough and soon I was reminded of a story that was told about the prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Elder Carl B. Cook of the Seventy:
At the end of a particularly tiring day toward the end of my first week as a General Authority, my briefcase was overloaded and my mind was preoccupied with the question “How can I possibly do this?” I left the office of the Seventy and entered the elevator of the Church Administration Building. As the elevator descended, my head was down and I stared blankly at the floor.
The door opened and someone entered, but I didn’t look up. As the door closed, I heard someone ask, “What are you looking at down there?” I recognized that voice—it was President Thomas S. Monson.
I quickly looked up and responded, “Oh, nothing.” (I’m sure that clever response inspired confidence in my abilities!)
But he had seen my subdued countenance and my heavy briefcase. He smiled and lovingly suggested, while pointing heavenward, “It is better to look up!” As we traveled down one more level, he cheerfully explained that he was on his way to the temple. When he bid me farewell, his parting glance spoke again to my heart, “Now, remember, it is better to look up.” 
(the rest of the talk can be found here)

Last week was hard. I had a very hard morning and frustration took over and as an outlet I wrote. I needed to write because I have a firm belief that to express our voice, to let it be heard is to know where you stand. I needed to let myself and others know how I was actually doing.

But through the rest of the week, Max was especially adamant to remind me to look to the sky. As a toddler, he usually requests that I repeat what he said back to him, to ensure that I am understanding him correctly. So daily I would repeat back, "Yes love, look to the sky."

Looking to the sky does not prevent sudden and devastating loss in our lives. Looking to the sky cannot prevent job loss or divorce, death or illness. But looking to the sky can prevent many of the preventable hardships we face. Looking to sky reminds us of Heavenly Father and that ultimately our goal is to return to Him. To meet him face to face and to be embraced in his loving arms.

There is no doubt that this journey is hard and that even complete and strict obedience to all of God's commandments does not ensure that we will escape sorrow and hardship. Sorrow and hardship often compels our shoulders to slump and our heads to hang, but it is import to make the effort to change our perspective. To look up; to remind ourselves of Heaven above and the many who wait for us.

So I am going to be working on looking to the sky a little more often, after all my toddler tells me to every day.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Praying for Okay

Today started out fine. I woke up to fog and a still scratchy throat from a cold. Max requested his morning viewing of Monsters, Inc. and I obliged as usual because it is still dark and I would still like a few more minutes in the warmth of my bed. Kyle leaves with a kiss (or two) as Max and I finish the movie eating croissants from our late trip to Costco last night. My plan for the day is simple. I will try to fit in a run at the Y and clean the kitchen which includes a mountain of dishes to be hand washed (no dishwasher). I fold remnants of laundry while watching a TED talk about the importance of play and in the process burn the oats on the stove that I forgot were cooking. I am still fine.

I get dressed to work out and Max and I drive downtown while he points out tunnels and cross "walking guys." This is all routine and I smile at the normalcy. We get the Y and I pray for success. Max used to enter the child watch with ease. He would run in and find his favorite bee toy and be delighted until I picked him up. After James' death I, of course, was recommended to wait to exercise until 6 weeks postpartum. So I did and when we came back the bee toy was missing and there were new faces and deep down inside he knows his mom is a wee bit out of balance and so he cries for me. He cries and cries and at first I tried to let him but they come and get you after awhile of course. We talked about how safe and fun the Y is and how mommy goes there to get her exercise which makes her much happier and still he cries. He cries out, "Mommy, mommy!" and I give in.

I didn't always used to give in. In fact I prided myself on my rather rigid backbone but now, now it is soft. Today I try to ease him in and I play for a minute and sneak away, but there are too many parents in the way and he catches a glimpse and screams. I can't. Not today. Today turned out to not be so good. So we go home and I cry while driving, holding my tears steady at stoplights. I am mad at myself mostly for giving in. I am mad there wasn't much more I could do and yes I was a little bit mad at Max for not just having fun there like he used to.

I cried even harder once we got home with Max's head on my chest. He snuggles me for awhile, playing with the tassels of my sweatshirt. I worry that crying so hard in front of him will scar him for life. Is this all he will remember of me, that is mother cried and cried and he was helpless. I think to myself that I should possibly call someone to come and get Max because the darkness is seeping in. I go over who I could call and I cry even more because there is no one I feel like I can call for help. This thought depresses me more.

I know there are people who would want to help and who have helped in the past, but with the start of school and the hustle of life, I feel largely forgotten. People have assured me that I am not, that they pray for me and that they think of me often. However, that does not help me in these moments where I wish there was someone I was comfortable enough with to call in moments of desperation and to feel comfortable crying in front of, but there isn't. I don't know if I can change that either, at this point I don't know if I can let anyone in.

I pray and cry and cry and pray and tell God that I am mad at him. He needs to know sometimes that although I accept this trial, I do not like it. He assures me that he already knows this and I think of what I can do to feel better.

I decide to get dressed, out of my workout clothes and into something warm. I also decide to write. I always feel hesitation to write about my sadness, my darkness. But it is the only way that I can let people in, that I can let them know that.... I am praying to just feel okay. Not happy, not joyful, but simply okay would be a blessing.

And while I write, the darkness flows from my spirit and through my fingertips and onto this virtual paper. The movement of my fingers is exercise enough to bring endorphin and my heart is no longer pounding and the tears are gone and Max is playing quietly and my prayer has been answered, I feel okay.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Sometimes a Shadow Wins

Right after James' died, I felt buoyed up by prayers and the shock of surprising loss. I thought, hey this isn't so bad, I can totally handle this. Except as time goes on, the reality sets in and that buoy effect happens less often. The thing is, it has to. You have to deal with the reality that all your hopes, dreams, plans, and wishes were quickly swept away. You are left to take a good hard look at your surroundings, at yourself and try to figure out where to go from there. 

I started reading a WONDERFUL book, A Grace Disguised by Gerald Sittser after hearing a quote from the author in a infant loss support group (it was as depressing as it sounds). I picked it up at the library and have had to read it bits at a time because it is SO dead on to how I am feeling. I read a chapter or two and process the clarity he provides. One passage hit me hard, he describes a dream where he is chasing the setting sun, desperate to stay in the light but inevitably twilight comes and he is terrified by the darkness. He knew he would be, he knew that he would feel like he was in darkness forever, "I felt absolute terror in my soul" (Sittser 33). He talks it over with his cousin and sister and they provide crucial insight, 
   "Later my sister, Diane, told me that the quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise.
    I discovered in that moment that I had the power to choose the direction my life would head, even if the only choice open to me, at least initially, was either to run from the loss or to face it as best I could. Since I knew that darkness was inevitable and unavoidable, I decided from that point on to walk into the darkness rather than try to outrun it, to let my experience of loss take me on a journey wherever it would lead, and to allow myself to be transformed by my suffering rather than to think I could somehow avoid it" (33-34). 
I mulled over this idea and realized I had to do the same. I often told Kyle that I felt like grief was chasing me and I was stumbling, trying to escape it's grasp. I would fake cheerfulness and smiles to avoid facing the reality that my baby died, inside me.

Well as soon as I decided to really accept the darkness, it came. It is as dark as I imagined. I would fall apart at seemingly trivial things and I would emotionally check out. As I would check out, my mind would race over who I was and what I was doing. In the darkness, I confronted the very worst in myself. I felt guilt and above all total selfishness. Anger for my own selfishness and fear crushed me. I felt as if I could never be good and therefore I could never be happy again, it was complete depression. Kyle would leave and take Max to the park and I would burst with tears and shake and pray that someone would ring the doorbell and come to my rescue. In my darkest moments I would think that everyone would pretty much be better off without me. Not in the sense of ending my life, but in the sense that the worst parts of me brought misery to everyone else and I should leave to prevent more harm. As I struggled to pray, these thoughts would overwhelm me and I would think, Why is no one here? Why am I alone in this? But truthfully I had to be. For when you are truly alone and no one is physically there to scoop you up and rub your back, that is when the Savior enters.

I have heard it described by some as a "swooping in" feeling. But for me it was merely a small positive reassurance. I was not lost beyond repair. As soon as I held onto that morsel of truth, more truth would come.  My selfishness is my weakness, but that weakness could be made a strength. I could be happy again. Slowly the light would come and I could get my bearings again. I could palpably see and THINK truth.

The darkness must come, it is necessary to enter it when accepting grief. But in darkness, you cannot truly see. So you grasp what is handed to you, and much of that are lies in the form of twisted truths from Satan. Of course I have selfish tendencies, but in darkness that was all I was given for awhile and so I thought that was all I was. It is terrifying to examine oneself so drastically but even when in complete darkness, you cannot stop praying for light. I truly thought it would never come, that I was set up for complete misery forever. It can come, ever so slowly, but you must let it in.You must not let go of that small shred of hope that if others are happy, you can be as well.

Now, I don't write this to cause alarm or worry. I write because I need to be heard. I need others to know that this is indescribably hard. I need others to know that I am not always as cheerful as I look.

During the buoy period I told others that I would let them know when I needed help. But I didn't realize that when you need it most you are paralyzed to ask because you don't know what you need. It is a sad truth, but a truth nonetheless. So of course I need help, but please don't ask what I need, because I don't know.

So here I am. Letting you really know how I am, where I am. Sometimes a shadow wins. But, you only notice the shadow when there is light to create it; I am so grateful for that light.