The Path to Healing: My Grief Journal

I am continuing this journal in blog format so from this point forward the NEWEST entries will be at the TOP.

Use the links at left for the older entries:
Month 21 = May 2004,
Month 22 = June 2004, etc.

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Sunday, August 29, 2004

It is amazing how good I feel. After last week, with the increasing anxiety and sadness in anticipating the birthday, I did what I needed to Friday and now I feel like myself again. I am still kind of surprised. After all, I only have one prior birthday to compare it with, and that was last year - eons ago. I am in such a different place emotionally with my healing than last year.

However, the last week felt much more like it used to, and I guess that concerned me. But now I am back on an even keel; I truly am where I thought I was. Anniversaries are just a very intense, emotional time.

It did surprise me, though, that the familiar feelings returned so easily. The paradox is that I have travelled so far from there; yet I'm really not far at all. Such is grief I guess.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Today is Abigail's birthday. I took the day off work so I could take the time I needed to focus on her. Last year was Nathan's first day of kindergarten, then we had church in the evening, so I felt like we were just rushing around trying to "squeeze in" her birthday celebration. And I fell apart the next day, as would be expected.

So this year I was ready to do it right. We were planning to go out on a friend's boat and have a fun family outing in her memory. Wrong. Last night we took Steve to Statcare for a nebulizer treatment because his asthma was so bad he could barely breathe. He also has a secondary chest infection which is resulting in fever and chills. But he was feeling enough better this morning to go out on the boat.

However, Sarah woke up whiny, and we soon learned why. She spiked a fever and began throwing up. It is obvious she feels bad since my energetic, into-everything girl just wants to lie on the couch. We were still all able to watch our video of Abigail together, though.

Part of it was put to music, and for those parts Nathan said, "that almost made me cry." He also wanted to watch the raw video with everyone talking in it. So we did. It wasn't as emotional as I thought it might be - and we relived some of the funny parts - Abigail pooping on grandma and reminding the kids that first she pooped on me, which they thought was hilarious. Watching the kids hold her and interact with her - Nathan being so protective of her and Sarah singing B-I-B-L-E to her. I also realized that although I didn't sing to her (something I have regretted at different points in time) the kids did. So that was a "new" comfort to me.

But after that, it was clear we had to go to Plan B. Unfortunately, I didn't know what that was. I was angry, and tearful, of course. Why do I seem to be unable to have Abigail's birthday on a day that we can devote to her? Why does everything else seem to get in the way?

But recently, God has been convicting me about trusting Him. After all, He carried me through Abigail's life and death and through my grief; certainly He can carry me through anything else life throws my way! I have really been feeling this about my job - whether or not I am to stay where I am. Instead of stressing over the "not knowing" what will happen, He has taught me that He is enough. I don't need to know until it's time. And that's a huge lesson for me.

So anyway, this morning, I think it was the same thing. I began praying, saying that, "obviously what I want to do today is not what I need to do, so please show me what I need to do." I think God was again telling me to trust Him, that He will make sure my needs are met.

And so, suddenly, I thought that Nathan and I should spend the day together. I asked him if he wanted to go with me to the cemetery and then go to Bluebird Farm to hike the trails that he always wants us to hike but we never have the "right shoes" on when we are there. He was excited about it, a day for just the two of us.

So we went and picked up the 2 pink roses I had ordered and went to the cemetery. He and I got to work cleaning off her stone and trimming the grass around it (I don't go very often; I just don't feel the need that often). He really enjoyed it, especially using the spray bottle. Then we tried arranging the roses different ways, taking pictures so we could show Sarah since she loves flowers.

While there, I opened the cards and a gift I had received in honor of Abigail's birthday. Of course, I cried, but it felt good. It it so comforting to have people remember her on her birthday. It means so much.

Nathan and I then went on our hike, and was it ever HOT! It would have been a perfect day to go out and swim from the boat as planned, but that wasn't to be. He so enjoyed interpreting the trail map and following the trail markers. It was very peaceful.

When we finished we were very thirsty, so we went to Dairy Queen. Going to Dairy Queen is a pretty big treat for our kids; we don't go very often. And he told me all about the differences between Ford and Chevy trucks and the pros and cons of all the features. It was so enjoyable to spend the time with him. It is what I had hoped to do with the family, but I guess I needed to be with just him instead.

And so now I am home relaxing, feeling MUCH more at peace than I did this morning. I needed it to be a special day in Abigail's honor, one where I did some things in her memory, and one where our family also had a special day. It wasn't what I had planned, but it turned out to be a very special day anyway. God does know what I need, it's me that doesn't always know!

Abigail's Second Birthday

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Today was a rather rough day. I was just melancholy and irritable all day. I had a couple of deadlines at work, since I'm taking tomorrow off, so I was under some pressure to complete them. And I found myself getting irritable and impatient - kind of overwhelmed. It was VERY much like I was about a year ago when I overloaded and just couldn't cope. It was such a familiar feeling, even though I hadn't felt it for a long, long time.

The big difference was that I regained my footing much better than I did last year. But I felt myself going the same direction. I know it's because of the resurgence of the grief and trying to continue to do my job when my overwhelming need is to think of Abigail instead. I can't express the sadness; instead it comes out as irritability and frustration as I try to "carry on".

I hate feeling this way - I hated it before and I hate it now. A. and I talked and she said, "OK, so you'll probably feel like crap for a week, but maybe it won't be so up and down and unpredictable". As frustrating as it is to feel so yukky after feeling so good for so long, it really is nothing like before.

I guess I still have more healing to do; my subconscious is telling me that. And I know it. I just don't like it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Aaaaah, grief. Today was actually overall better than yesterday. A. called me first thing, and just talking with her always helps. I realize how far I have come, and she understands the subtleties and weirdness of all of this.

Tonight at church I was feeling a little bit down, and afterwards very much so. After listening to a zillion announcements, including one about the cucumbers someone wants us to take, I just wanted to get out of there. Amazing, how I just fell back into that old, familiar feeling - not wanting to talk with anyone.

But I fought the urge and the longer I went, the worse it got. Until T. and her sister asked how I was doing and I said it's been a rough week. And they said they imagined it was and that they've been thinking about me. It's amazing how much of a release it is when someone mentions it - lets you know they remember.

I know everyone thinks its bad to "remind" us because it usually releases the emotion, but actually that release is good and some of the emotion is relief and gratefulness that they remembered my baby.

On the way home I realized a couple of things I do and don't want to do for Abigail's birthday. I do want to release balloons, and I want the kids to pick them out. I want to release them from the boat, in the middle of the lake. I do want to go by the florist and get 2 roses for her grave. And I don't want to have a birthday cake, even though Nathan wants one. Maybe it won't be so bad after all.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Today was very strange. All the way to work I was thinking that I need to talk to A. The sadness is right below the surface in a way it hasn't been for some time. It's not that I'm thinking about Abigail more; I always think about her every day.

But the grief, the sadness, is more acute. Maybe her birthday is making me relive it more. I know that trying to plan a celebration is hard, when I wish it was a real birthday party. I'm trying to figure out why her funeral and the playground dedication were so uplifting for me - actually were celebrations, and birthdays aren't. Maybe it's because birthdays are supposed to be a certain way, and anything else is not very celebratory.

I don't know. I know I want to have fun with the kids. But I want to remember Abigail on her day. And how do I do that? It seemed simpler before - do something we all enjoy. But now that the sadness is rising, it doesn't seem so simple anymore.

I don't think I've been suppressing my emotions. I just think they do come to the surface for anniversaries. I am convinced its a subconscious thing - the awareness of the day of the month for a while after they die, and the anniversary of the diagnosis, etc. Sometimes I am just irritable and unhappy and I don't realize right away that it's connected to the anniversary. This one is just more obvious.

I wish we could just skip over the birthdays. It is strange that I am saying that, after doing so well for so long. I guess it's the cycle of grief.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Yesterday we had a bridal shower for KT. after church. Before we went over, I talked with T. who said she wasn't going to go. We talked about how difficult those sorts of events are anyway, and how it is so hard to see others being so happy when your heart is torn out. Strange how outsiders think "it will do you good" when in fact it usually just makes it worse. I told her it was great that she was paying attention to her needs and doing what she needed.

The shower was fine. A couple of times when people joked about talking him into the 3rd and 4th child, the sadness crept in. But it was very brief and I had a great time.

Today a few times I was kind of jolted into the reality that it's Abigail's birthday Friday and this really DID happen to me. Strange how after all this time, I still feel that "revelation" at times. A couple of times that thought made me feel like bursting into tears - very briefly - but I didn't.

Interesting how those thoughts right now are of sadness, not anger. I guess it's just the cycle continuing.

Not sure what I want to do for her birthday - found a little tiny balloon that says I love you that I want to put by her grave. And I do want to watch her video with the family. I know it's on Friday, but I just haven't pulled it together yet.

I started writing a poem as well. I'm not as creative as last year, since the emotion is not so intense, I guess. Oh well, just going with the flow. At least this year I will be able to focus on her birthday all day, which reduces the sense of urgency in a way since we can kind of play things by ear.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

It's been a very busy month. I've said recently that August seems to be the month that we do a lot of family "vacationy" activities, even though we don't actually travel anywhere. So far we've been to Tuscora Park (a local park with Kiddie rides, playgrounds, mini golf, and fishing) twice, Kennywood, boating, and Nathan has been in the parade in the local festival. And we plan more boating and a trip to Idlewild Park in the next 2 weeks.

I really do enjoy these times; the kids have so much fun and I really love watching them. I am especially intrigued by watching Sarah and how much she loves the rides. She is at the perfect age right now for these parks.

Tuesday we went to Kennywood with another family from church. It was a terrific day: I thought of Abigail several times during the day, but very matter-of-factly, not with great sadness. Mostly how if she were here we wouldn't have been riding this or that ride but hanging out mainly in the kiddie ride section. By no means am I glad she wasn't there, but we were able to have a great day and enjoy the fact that our kids are getting a little older and all the advantages that go along with that.

Today we had our company picnic at Tuscora Park. After the lunch, when the kids were out riding the rides, I was talking with C.'s husband. He asked if I liked having a boy and a girl. Now I know he knows about Abigail and so I just answered the question without more than a passing "actually I have 2 girls" thought.

About 5 minutes later, a couple of retirees from the plant came up and started talking with me. She commented about how big the kids are getting (they retired before Sarah was born) and asked if we were going to have any more. I said, "no, we're done." And she said, "two is good, a boy and a girl." I know that they don't know about Abigail and it felt awkward and a little unpleasant not to mention her. But I didn't see the point in telling them about Abigail - I only see them once a year at most - and I just didn't want to deal with their reaction to hearing she had died.

Those conversations didn't bring on the heart-racing, panicky feeling that they used to. My first thought was still of Abigail, and I still always mentally include her with my other children, but it is no longer so desperately important for me to have her mentioned "equally" with the other kids. I don't feel so guilt-ridden when I don't mention her.

Although I do wish I was comfortable enough to mention her without worrying about their reaction. I still let it stop me when my thought is of her but I don't verbalize it. So maybe further healing will take me to that point? Or by then will I not even feel the need to talk about her at all?

I am happy about that "accomplishment" - it does mean I am still healing. However, my boss's boss and his family were there. They have 3 kids, including an infant a few weeks old and a boy who will be 2 next month. Aaaagggghhh! A newborn and a toddler the age Abigail would have been. Hit me with a right and follow it up with a left!

I am not close to this boss at all, and I made no effort to cross the room and greet him or his kids. In fact, I don't agree with many of his lifestyle choices, and so it is very hard for me to see him with healthy kids when my daughter is gone (it's not FAIR!). At one point his wife was waiting near us at a ride, and we spoke briefly, but that was it. Needless to say, I did not mention the new baby but moved on quickly. Possibly that seemed strange to her since she had him there and everyone is always oohing and aahing over new babies, but hey, I didn't need to spoil my pleasant day with that.

I am glad, though, that I was able to enjoy C.'s baby, H., who is about 18 months old. He rode the ferris wheel with my kids, and I even won him over enough for him to overcome his shyness and let me hold him. I had no sadness with that; only enjoyment.

As I look back over the day, it was very, very good. Almost all joyful, with Abigail on my mind but the sadness not right behind the thought.

Her second birthday is Friday. We're planning to go out on the boat if the weather's right and have a small celebration. I'm still not sure exactly what yet. I still miss her a great deal - when feelings of the "unfairness" hit me is when it hurts the most - but overall I would say I am happy. And definitely blessed with a wonderful family.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Last night some members of our congregation brought their niece to the service. She is about 6 weeks younger than Abigail, with bright red hair. They bring her periodically, and I always feel very drawn to her. So after church I went over to talk with her and she showed me her shoes and her "hair pretty". Then she walked up to Sarah and started pointing at the lady bug on Sarah's shirt. Watching the two of them standing together was very difficult for me.

And afterwards, her aunt was going on about how energetic she is and how she wore her out during the afternoon. And I kept thinking how I wished I had Abigail here to wear me out all afternoon. And of course, I ended up crying and had to walk away. I nearly began sobbing, but somehow managed to suppress it.

It is very strange how I am so drawn to her even though it hurts. It's as if I NEED to feel the pain so I go to her. In the morning I had held a 3-month-old for quite a while and had no difficulty, even though I was thinking of Abigail the whole time. But last evening, with the toddler her age, the tears flowed freely.

I then went over to talk with T., who had lost her son in May. She was having a tough time last night as well. So we ended up literally crying on each other's shoulders for a while.

Sometimes I feel as if I've been grieving forever, and other times it still feels so fresh.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

I can tell my grief is much closer to the surface than it has been for a while. I'm sure it's the fact that it's August and Abigail's birthday is upcoming. And the weather, being so beautiful with blue skies and big puffy clouds reminds me of her playground dedication, of the day we brought her home, and of the day we buried her. Joy and sadness combined; a rather typical feeling lately.

Last night we had a small party for Sarah's 4th birthday, which is actually on Tuesday. We held it at Tuscora Park and had another family join us there. Nathan and Sarah were very excited of course; they love the park and the rides. I always enjoy taking the kids there. And last night I especially enjoyed seeing Sarah, so grown-up and independent, deciding what to ride next, carrying her own ticket, and waiting in line so patiently. I am so happy for her, for her new achievements.

Sarah on amusement park ride
But I got teary-eyed more than once, as I watched her on some rides alone; the others too big to ride with her. The seat next to her so mockingly empty, reserved for the sister that should be there but isn't. And watching her proudly ride on the carousel with the bigger kids, no longer needing mommy to go with her, I couldn't take my eyes off the parents holding their little ones onto the horses. That should be me with Abigail. I truly did enjoy watching Sarah and Nathan have fun, going on the roller coaster again and again, but my mind kept coming back to the missing member of our family.

Even 2 years later, I still want to tell people that I have another child. I still want to tell them about my beautiful daughter. I am still proud of her, and I still miss her terribly. But the pain is not nearly as deep, and joy outweighs the pain most of the time now.

And I hurt for Sarah, my little girly-girl. She loves Barbie and princesses and jewelry, and her big brother regularly declares those things "stupid". He loves her, but he's a brother. And the family we are closest to, K's family, is 4 boys. So Sarah is constantly surrounded by boys. And though I know she'll really like that in about 10 years, I feel cheated for her that her sister is not here to be a girl with her. Sometimes I just really feel how much it stinks.

We received a card today from the palliative care team at Akron Children's Hospital, who had helped us a great deal with Abigail's birth plan and who served as her pediatrician during her short life. How much it means to receive a card from someone remembering Abigail's birthday! It isn't difficult to mark a date on a calendar and send a card to someone like that, but most people don't do it. I realized today that most people don't really know when anyone's birthday is. They may vaguely remember when one is approaching, but until they get the invitation to the birthday party, they don't realize when it is. And it is even more important to us that they remember the birthday of those who have died, but when we don't invite them to a party, they don't remember. I wish more people realized how important it is.

I was just reading an article in a magazine this morning about a couple who was pregnant with their first baby and early on they said the common phrase: "I don't care if it's a boy or a girl, as long as it's healthy." Now most people have probably said that at one time or another, meaning that they won't be disappointed if it's a boy or a girl. But the healthy part really irks me.

I know they don't mean anything by it, but that phrase "as long as it's healthy" seems like it's making some bargain. Like buying a car - I don't care about the color as long as it runs well. But what if it doesn't run well? Is the deal off?

What about if the baby ISN'T healthy? Is that deal off, too? The baby won't be a disappointment if it's healthy but if it isn't it will be? I will love it as long as it's healthy but if it isn't healthy I won't love it anymore? I will continue the pregnancy as long as it's healthy but if it isn't, I won't?

Good or poor health does not change the fact that this is their baby. And it shouldn't change the love for that child, nor the way that child is treated.

I know I'm not articulating this well, but I just feel that phrase minimizes my daughter's life. And, it just hurts that people can say something like that so light-heartedly without realizing just what it is they are saying. I'm glad they won't have to face it, but it still hurts.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

It is very strange, now that Abigail's second birthday is less than a month away. I am becoming very aware of it. I'm not all weepy, but very aware and I am sure it will affect me. When I had a "sad spell" in late June and early July, it probably was due to the anniversaries, even though I wasn't consciously aware of it until afterwards.

I'm not sure what I want to do for her birthday. I want to take the day off and do something fun with the kids. Nathan doesn't start school until the following week, so everyone will be off. Steve's mom suggested we go the zoo, and my immediate (silent) reaction was, "NO"! That surprised me, but maybe it's because I need to be sure the day is all about Abigail and I'm not yet sure what I "need" to do on that day.

Yesterday we all went to the Train Festival in Dennison and I saw a young boy, about Nathan's age, who had Down Syndrome. And I was greatly saddened because I connected with him due to the similarity between Down Syndrome and Edwards Syndrome. Except that little boy was still here with his family and Abigail isn't. I just added a page to this site about Down Syndrome, and so I have been reading more about it lately. And although I can understand the devastation and difficulty parents of trisomy 21 children face, I still wish Abigail had that instead!

I came across an article about grief and the importance of not losing the support system that is at our jobs by changing jobs. I began thinking about that: in my current job, everyone knows about Abigail. And, though I'm not always breaking into tears or anything (anymore), knowing that they understand the situation is comforting. I also have an incredible support person in C. If I left this job, I would lose that support from C., and I would again be faced with the "how many kids do you have?" question and how to answer that, again and again. Although it's an easier question to answer than it used to be, it's still not easy. And it certainly would be an unwelcome distraction in acclimating to a new job.

So I am continuing to prayerfully seek God's will about the job. I am trying to reason through things, to keep a more positive attitude at my current job, and to trust God to clearly show me the direction He wants me to go. I am finding it very interesting, though, that as frustrated as I have gotten over the past several months, that now I am seeing and appreciating things about my current job more and more.

I am absolutely convinced that God wanted me there when I went through this experience, and for the immediate aftermath of initial, intense grief. God used my coworkers to make a nearly unbearable and impossible situation bearable. And maybe He is telling me to move on, or maybe He is just trying to wake me up to what He has continued to give me in this job. I just don't know yet.

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