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Archive for the ‘thoughts on grieving’ Category

Life is busy. For every one. Not a single person would not shake her head and say “Life is so busy!”; “I have no idea where that time went!”; “I just don’t even know what to do first!”

Yes, it is true. I have a busy life too. Or so I think. But when I try to slow things down, really stand still and attempt to make a list of exactly what I have done, I have an almost blank list, nothing much to add to the usual “busy” stuff and getting from one place to another. So I am not sure how I used to be on Facebook (somewhat) regularly, or write all these posts on this blog.

I guess, there was a time when I had no choice but to force upon myself the luxury of grieving. Yes, the luxury. Where you spend the days washing your face with tears, pulling your hair out, shaking your fist at the sun, and all bright beautiful days, searching for and putting together broken pieces. Everything fell to the wayside. The house crumbled, the yard went insane, and homeschooling went out of the window. Instead I read every book on stillbirth that I could lay my hands on. I crawled through the internet, seeking information: I needed both an explanation and an accurate forecast for the next pregnancy. I read blogs like crazy, with a feverish urgency to connect with others who have experienced similar losses, who could understand my broken heart.

And I started this blog.

And then I neglected it.

The frequency of posts on this blog has plummeted. What does this mean? 500 years later, when an internet archaeologist chanced upon my blog and run his proverbial magnifying glass over the debris of my blog, what will he think? Will he classify this under the category “experienced loss and then moved on”? Or perhaps “Time heals all wounds”? Or “Signifies death of blogs; age of Twitter”?

Well, yes, I have moved on.  There is no choice but to move on since there is no going back- don’t I wish I could go back and change everything?!

I have not forgotten, but the scab does form over the wound, and yes, life gets busy again (full-time grieving can only be a short-term luxury), and the mind gets distracted. But my heart still aches. I still cannot raise my head and look at a star without thinking of my little star voyager. I still sometimes when opening the car trunk or a cabinet will think I may see a shriveled up baby in a bundle, forgotten by his terribly neglectful mother.

Most of the time, it is the struggling and healing process after that comes to my mind most. It is just too painful to go back to that day. So, when I was approached by Janel Atlas to contribute a chapter to the book They Were Still Born, I wondered how I would tell my story. Much as I knew it would be a difficult writing process, I was eager to write it, to add my voice to the stories of loss, hoping that someone will hold my words in her hands and nod her head vigorously, and perhaps, find a glimmer of hope after.

Writing my piece plunged me viscerally back to the event itself: the shock, disbelief, the searing pain of saying goodbye forever, and then turning around and realizing that no matter how hard, one has to trudge on. As such, I chose to write my piece in third person, thinking it would distance myself from the pain, and also attempting to view my personal story from a distance. I had also hope that, by not giving the grieving mother a name and a face, that others reading the story will be able to identify with it better, and feel that their story could have easily fit in there, and that the hope and healing could be theirs too. However, writing in third person did not make it easier, because it still did not allow me to dissociate my past self with my present self. They are still very much the same person. In writing my piece, I also read back to my blog posts close to the horrific experience, and I winced and flinched at the flooding of strong emotions. Also I felt I used so many words!! So many exclamation marks!! So, I decided to scale back. Used minimal words, and refrained from a direct telling of the emotions experienced by “the woman” but to let the story unfold by itself, to let the reader fill in the details and experience the emotions for themselves. I imagined it was a silent movie and the reader would choose the soundtrack that they preferred and changed the scenery as they like. It was an endeavor to distill everything down to a somewhat skeletal story so that every reader can tailor it to their own experience, their own stories, and yet be able to identify with the events, the same shock, disbelief, pain, and healing… and know that it is truly possible, since she had done it.

However, I have to be truthful. Janel told me to contribute the story of my stillbirth and I simply took it to mean- how did it happen, what was it like? So, when I finally received my copy of the published book (!!) and read through it, my initial reaction was that of dismal. The book is a rich collection of stories, but it was not exactly what I expected. There were more ruminations, reflections and spurs to action. It felt like every other writer was more intelligent and thoughtful, and more able to analyze their experience and delineate what the path of healing may look like. I thought to myself, “Oh my goodness! All I wrote was the event and nothing more! I could have added more intelligent analysis and all that! But now it is too late…. this must be the dumbest piece in the whole collection.”

Yet, I was thankful for the experience and grateful to be included so my story can be told. I hoped it would help someone else understand the experience, and know that re-birth is possible. And I was so proud of the book, not just a collection of wonderful stories, but also with an informative section. I had read so many books on stillbirth but seen nothing like this; a book that could offer emotional solace and also empowering information. I almost burst with pride that I could have something in such a book, that I felt sure was going to make a difference to every grieving family who had experienced a stillbirth. Surely they would find a voice or story in the collection that they can identify with, and feel they have informative resources that would enable them to move on confidently.

But would I change my essay given the opportunity? Probably not. It feels now that my piece in the book is like a piece of the puzzle. If I change my piece, I would also change the shape of the puzzle and it would not fit nicely anymore. But I guess it would also depend on the feedback from those who have read the book- if they say, that was an odd piece, then I probably would write something else, because ultimately what I wish to contribute is not just my story, but a step to healing. However, if the publisher would establish a companion page to They Were Still Born, allowing the contributing writers to update on their grieving process, or where they are now in terms of healing, I would be happy to contribute. Life is a meandering path as it is, and it is human nature to wish to see ahead, to find a glimmer of guidance, to know that by putting one foot in front of another and keeping one’s chin up, there will be golden days ahead. Knowing that many others walk this meandering path is a comfort, and bolsters one’s courage. It may not make a big difference, but every little small thing can be amplified when you feel lonely in your grief and darkness.

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How about you? Do you think you have left the path of grief? Do you still have the urge to post on your blog, or connect with fellow babylost mothers?

I miss you all and hold you all in my heart.

 

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It rained almost the whole day yesterday. I love the rain, but it also made me melancholic.

And then, during the night, the wind picked up. It blew and howled all night long. I could hear and feel, our bedroom window rattling, I could feel muscles in the wind, how it was trying to bend trees and test strengths and push limits. How it felt like it had teeth and claws and what a savage animal it could be. It reminded me of typhoon season in Hong Kong, when the rain will pour down in merciless buckets and the sky will literally turn black and the winds will take out everything in its path, a dangerous time indeed.

As I laid and listened, I felt the howling, pressing wind was like a metaphor for how grief can be like. Powerful and relentless. How it can break you. How it rattles, how it can take you by the knees and whip you and shatter you.

I also thought how the volcanic mountains can also be a metaphor for grief. How it explodes, and smother for days and days on end. How it may go to sleep for a time, and then erupt all over again, with added fervor. How, even when it goes dormant, is still a volcanic mountain. And you never can tell if it ever becomes active again, and when.

When I got up this morning, the sky was light and bright. I did not see any damages in our yard and I was a little surprised. Everything was rather still and quiet, and calm. The sun was out, but it is going to be windy today.

I am still melancholic. I miss my son.

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I think I am branded.

Not that I am Cartier or Ralph Lauren or Valentino or Tiffany.

But something along the lines of: Bad Luck!! or Stay Away!!

I already have a sneaky feeling some people may feel that way about me after Ferdinand died, but I have kept my head high and pretended to be haughty but now something tells me that I must be branded. And not only that, I am chopped liver.

It is time for a story.

When I had a young child and a baby strapped to me in a carrier I met a Chinese women at the library’s story time. She is A and she approached me asking me if I speak Chinese and what I thought of the age gap between my two children. She told me she had been thinking of having a second baby but unsure of the timing. I gave her my BS about no perfect timing and children’s temperaments and similar parenting cliches. We found we did like each other and exchanged telephone numbers. A couple of months’ later at story time she excitedly told me she was pregnant.

At that time I had a good friend B, also Chinese. I introduced A to B and we became a trio.

Our favorite thing was to get together for a dumpling rendezvous. We usually meet at B’s house and we would shred bowls molded high with cabbage. And we will mix in even larger bowls cabbage with ground pork, minced ginger and condiments. Each of us had our theory of what would be the best combination and had our own little tricks and traditions. Between us three we came up with a compromise and the perfect formula. And we would wrap dumplings, many of them. Hands busy, helping the little fingers that want to help, positioning the right amount of filling onto the dumpling skin, crimping the edges, arranging the dumplings. All the time our mouths yakking away and laughing.

Soon, every surface in the kitchen would be covered with trays and plates of dumplings and the cooking then began in earnest. Two large pots of boiling water, and we instinctively worked out a dance between us — alternately looking after the dumplings bopping in the water, stirring, adding more water (the dumplings need to come to boil three times), removing the dumplings with a slotted spoon and then adding more, all the while keeping an eagle’s eye out for curious fingers trying to make away with raw or hot dumplings.

And then, we sat down to eat to our fill. Devouring the hot and satisfying goodness and patting each other on the back for yet another dumpling mission accomplished.

Stomachs filled, we would flop onto the couch, the kids playing near by, babies latched on, and we would talk. We were all Chinese, but grew up in three different countries, under different political systems and varying cultures. We exchanged stories and views. We talked about dreams and shared frustrations.

Good times run out. They always do. A moved to the next town and there she found many neighbors from her own country and was spending much more time with them. Still, we kept in touch and when B had to move to another state, the three of us got together for a warm and fuzzy farewell dinner.

A emailed me twice after Ferdinand died. After Lyra was born, she delivered a meal. She was busy, but still from time to time she talked on the phone with B.

Recently I spoke to someone and she asked, “Haven’t you heard? A is pregnant.” I replied that I did not know and she stumbled and said, Well, it is still early. And I thought, Yes, it is still early, but you know, and I don’t.

And truthfully I did not give much thought about it until I spoke to B a week later and she told me that A called and told her the news. A called B, in another state, to tell her the news. Hello? I live in the next town.

But then, I guess I am the branded chopped liver. Better not to tell me, in case I taint her news. I can understand, I really do. People really want to remain happy with their news and not have to think about the possibility of themselves experiencing the same random bad luck. I represent that awfulness and so I was shunned. I can imagine she would rather associate with people who had happy endings to their pregnancies.

Still.

Ouch.

She is probably as far along as I would have been.

::

I hate to have to admit this but I have lost some friends after Ferdinand died. Some slunk away silently without saying a thing, because they did not know what to say, and then they basically fell off the planet. There are some who gave me space and then vanished into space themselves. There are a few who stuck around, long enough till Lyra was born, but when after that it was evident that my grief had not expired with Lyra’s birth, they gave up on me and disappeared too.

You have to believe me when I say I do not talk about Ferdinand all the time, or sob all day long, or use stillbirth as a punctuation mark.

I am not a perfect friend, but I do not believe I am lousy either.

I think I know why people left. I had thought of something I would like to tell them but they will never hear it, because I have no intention of contacting them again. Not as a tit for tat, but more because I do not wish to make people feel bad. I don’t want them to think, Oh crap, she wants me to say sorry or what? Or that they had not done the right thing or said the right things. Moreover, how do you re-introduce your entry into the “normal” world again? Do you say, “Hi, it’s me again. You’ve ignored me the past x months but I would like to be your friend again. Are we cool?”

I just do not see myself writing an email like that. And I firmly hold the belief that in life, our paths cross for a reason, and part for a reason. And there is always the possibility of meeting again somewhere further down the road. I gave myself a little time to mourn the people who had left my life, and then I have moved on.

Except these words had been running in my head every time I had trouble falling back to sleep:

Please do not be afraid to look upon my grief. It is not contagious. My grief is a part of my life, it will never go away, unless my heart is dead, and I no longer can love. Grief and love are intimately connected. So yes, even though it is not contagious, it may still touch you one day. Actually, it will. You may already have grieved, and mourned, without knowing it. If it had not been in your past, it will be in your future, because you are a living being, who actively participates in life, and therefore you have people, and things that you love, and one day you will lose them, and you will grieve.

Haven’t you had to give up a crummy little toy, that the adults could not understand the significance of? Have an adult ever pry a flimsy little craft from you, and told you to put it in the garbage can? It was nothing glorious, but you put your heart and soul into it. It was clumsy because your little hands could not handle the glue and the scissors to fit everything together perfectly, but it was a manifestation of a precious seed of your idea and you saw it came into being, and even though it was fragile and seemingly imperfect, it was a part of you, yet the grown-ups could not understand and told you to dump it. Had you cried then, or felt no one understood? It was kind of like that for me. My son did not look very pretty. He was small and fragile and he flopped about when I tried to dress him, but he was born out of love and I loved him very much, even if I held him for precious few hours. Some people wished I would just forget about this imperfect thing that happened, but how could I? He was our little son. You may sometimes have laid in bed and thought of your precious little craft or doll, and I do too. It is really the same.

So, my grief is just a part of my life journey, and you probably think it looks so jarring, and I guess it is. It was a shocking thing to experience, but life is full of surprises, including nasty ones. But slowly it had become a part of me, and I learn to live with it. I did not pick some of my experiences, so I can only choose my attitude. And you may not agree with the way I had dealt with my grief, but that does not mean that I am wrong. I am not sure there is a right way to live with grief, but everyone certainly needs to figure out their own way, and your patience will be so appreciated.

Please do not fear my grief. It is not death. On the contrary, it is throbbing with life. Only the living can grieve, even if they may feel like dying or feel they are dead. Grief is the dance between the dead and the living.

I feel grief, because I have feelings. Grief is a feeling, albeit a big one. Feelings are how we respond and interact with this world and our experiences. They come and go, but they always exist. I am not afraid to feel what I have to feel, because they are all about who I am and what my life is. In meditation we watch feelings come and go. We acknowledge these feelings and honor their place in our lives. Enlightenment is not about having no feelings. It is about embracing these feelings with grace and wisdom. It is appreciating these feelings and feeling compassion for all beings knowing that we will all have these feelings. Sometimes my grief is a small puff of passing cloud. Sometimes it is a light breeze, or a fleeting lightning in the distant horizon. Other times it is a raging storm that will not let up. It had also been a burst of rainbow.

I feel grief, I experience it, but it is not my name. You need not fear me. I am not an inconvenience, although I’ll admit sometimes I do not make for pleasant company. But I’m afraid there will always be times when I would not make for jolly or charming company, even if my son had not died. And the truth is, no one is always perfect company. This is just life, and we are all trying our best.

Postscript: I wrote this post last week, but scheduled it to go live this week, not wanting something negative so close to my anniversary post. I got a call from A this past Saturday. She wanted to know if we will be using our cabin for Labor Day weekend, for she would like to use it,.  Being at 20 weeks, she was feeling very uncomfortable in this heat. I guess you can call this killing two birds with one stone, telling and asking in one call. Although I suspect the main topic was the cabin.  We had already planned to go up to our cabin to do some clean-up and maintenance; she told me I need not apologize. I felt even more like chopped liver. She waited that long to tell me, and only because she would like to use our cabin. At least I know she is not as far along as I would have been, but 8 weeks ahead.

Why do I have to write this, I asked myself. Why can’t I just let it go? In this process I have made my friend look bad, and I do not profit in the process. As they say, you can’t slung mud at someone else without soiling yourself. I think in a way I am grieving another lost friendship, and trying to process it. Nothing is permanent, things change. I do not harbor ill feelings for my friend. I am just sad it has to fizzle off like this. Maybe it still would, even if Ferdinand had not died. People just grow apart. Simple. This is just life, isn’t it?

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