When its hard to breathe

It astounds me how I can go from feeling ok, even feeling good and ready to give to others into deep, overwhelming sorrow so intense I can hardly breathe in an instant. The past few weeks I’ve taken a lot of steps forward, in some ways forcing myself to do things that I need to and want to do but are hard. And for the most part this has been rewarding. I’ve found out that I can handle and even find some measure of joy in things that just seemed so painful. These have mostly been events. Going places where I planned to take Naomi and having to introduce her even thought she isn’t there.

Our Respite Retreat was a good, safe place to start that…introducing Naomi to 11 other couples who themselves had each lost children.  I received a lot of healing and strength through that weekend and the wisdom, love and time with the Lord and my husband.

Then last week was our first MOPS meeting of the year and as we went around the room introducing ourselves and our children, I too introduced Naomi to those sweet ladies who will never get to meet her. It was hard but I’m glad I did.

This past Sunday our family went to the Hope PSHU annual heart picnic for children with heart defects and their parents. The hospital had sent us a very kind note along with the invitation, letting us know we were welcomed and that whether we felt able to attend or not that Naomi is always remembered by them and her life celebrated. My husband wanted to go and I trusted that if nothing else it would be good for the kids. As we drove in to the picnic area I was overcome with tears, but I gave it all over to the Lord and prayed that I could somehow encourage someone else instead of just being consumed with how hard it was for me. The kids had an absolute blast with face paint, fun music, pony rides, a petting zoo, ice cream and a visit from Ronald MacDonald. I had a chance to see a few moms of heart babies that I’d met while we were in the hospital and I shared with them the hope I have and celebrated their children’s progress since last we met. Sitting in the warm September sun watching my boys dancing their hearts out in their bright yellow “Hope” t-shirts that were given to each of the patients brought such joy to my heart. Because there was a lot of joy that day and because my beautiful boys have so much joy inside them. I know most people at the picnic looked at them and thought, wow, two boys with heart defects…since all the patients were wearing the t-shirts. But they were wearing their shirts for their baby sister who couldn’t. And the next day when Mr. G asked to wear his shirt again to school, it hurt yet brought joy at the same time. It takes my breath away how both intense joy and intense pain can be so very present at the same time.

Today I was planning on visiting a dear friend who I also met at the RMH (Ronald MacDonald House), whose little boy has been in the hospital off and on since we left RMH. I was looking forward to seeing her, to hugging her, to encouraging her. But after I hung up the phone from her telling me where to park, how to get into the hospital and get to her son’s room I started having flashbacks and the thought of entering into a hospital again sent me into a tailspin like I haven’t experienced. The intensity of emotion and my inability to control my emotions surprised me. It also showed me that even though I might be trying to think of my self as “ok” or “doing better”, I still have very deep wounds that are still healing. And the thing that is so hard for me to let go of is that I don’t have control over the timing of this healing process.

“Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?” (Jeremiah 8:22).

“‘But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD, ‘because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares'” (Jeremiah 30:17).

I need a balm to sooth my soul to lead me toward healing, whatever that looks like. I honestly can’t really conceptualize what healing means. Absence of pain? The ability to live with the pain? I don’t know. The only thing I know is that I have only one place to go…Jesus.

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Lunchtime thoughts on a Monday

When I first came back to work after Naomi died I felt like my office was my refuge. I was able to escape having to be a mother and the intensity of parenting my two young boys for eight hours. I could leave the never ending needs and the organizing and running the house in my dear husband’s very capable hands and escape.

Now, seven weeks on, I am struggling to sit in front of my computer all day. My brain doesn’t want to focus on data and groundwater models and reports. I feel this overwhelming need to create, to live, to remind myself that I am still alive. I want beauty. I want to see the world, to see it in a whole new light. Life feels so very precious. And I want to hold babies…mine and others. How grateful I am that my youngest still wants to cuddle, still wants to sit on my lap and let me hold him…not all day, but everyday.

And I want to capture each and every moment.

*Watching my oldest make banana bread with dad yesterday

*The boys playing Noah’s Ark in the tent in the living room

*Laughing at the closing Olympic ceremonies with my guys

*Pancakes for dinner

*Snuggles and prayers and “mom, don’t stop rubbing my back” at days end

*Kissing my husband awake while little boys climb on my back to hug me and ask “what are you feeling, mom?”  “I’m feeling love for your dad, sweetie.” Big. Huge. Smile on his face…”why are you smiling, son?” “because I love you, mom”

Love…even in the tears and the shouting that, yes, comes perhaps all too often…still love holding us together. we are held together by His love.

This is what reminds me I am still alive. This is the start of what my baby girl has gifted to me in her life. Learning to love. Learning that love is stronger than death.

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{this moment}

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember

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(more moments at soulemamma)

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About Grief

Grief is not a disorder,
a disease or a sign of weakness.
It is an emotional, physical,
and spiritual necessity,
the price you pay for love.
The only cure for grief is to grieve. -Earl Grollman

“There are three needs of the griever: To find the words for
the loss, to say the words aloud and to know that the words
have been heard.” ~ Victoria Alexander

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of
weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than
ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of
overwhelming grief… and unspeakable love.” ~ Washington
Irving

“Often healing becomes confused with having no pain at all, and no side effects anymore. Healing is not erasing what happened, but rather learning to LIVE with it.

Healing in and of itself is a pure indicator that something devastating has happened. Something painful, maybe even life-threatening.

Healing – with time – becomes possible, but always always leaves a scar.” –Franchesca

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The hurt and the Healer

I posted this on our family blog somesmiths.wordpress.com earlier today, but thought I’d post it here as well…deeper thoughts regarding the song I posted this week.

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There is a song by Mercy Me by this title that has gotten a hold of me in the last couple of weeks. The words of the second verse quite succinctly describe where I am at:

Breathe
Sometimes I feel it’s all that I can do
Pain so deep that I can hardly move
Just keep my eyes completely fixed on You
Lord take hold and pull me through

I have been really, really struggling, missing Naomi so very much. Some days I’m able to function and talk and go about life alright. But other days it takes everything I have just to keep breathing. And the odd thing is that I never know when I wake up what kind of day it is going to be. Its messy and painful, not only for me but for all those around me. I see how my hurt and pain is reflected in the eyes of my husband, in my sweet boys, in the hearts of those who also held Naomi in their hearts.  But as the momma who loved her before anyone else in this world even knew she existed as I sat in a Starbucks in the Wisconsin Dells studying for my professional geology exam having just taken “the test”, who carried her in my womb for eight short months, who pumped over 800 ounces of milk for her in eight weeks, there is a pain that I know only I can carry.  I see now what people mean when they say that unless you’ve walked through something like this it is so hard to truly convey how much it hurts.

One of the things I’ve found myself doing a lot, though, is trying to minimize what I am feeling. I’ll hear of other tragedy that someone is walking through and I think, well, that would be worse. I don’t know why I do that. Its like I’m trying to convince myself that what I’m feeling isn’t the most awful thing in the world because if it was then I don’t know if I could go through it. Part of me is still trying to deny how much this hurts.

Yet even as I grieve and wonder how I’ll “move on” or heal from this (I really don’t know that I’ll ever heal completely this side of heaven) I hear the quiet whisper in my soul of a Voice that Knows. He knows what it is to watch your child die. He knows what it is to see your precious child in pain and suffering. He knows how it feels to be separated from one that your heart loves so completely. And His heart is broken by Love. One amazing, astounding difference though, He chose to be broken. And His Son chose the suffering. He decided to allow His Son to suffer, to bleed, to die. He watched and ultimately had to turn away as not only physical death overtook this Precious Son but spiritual death, the wretchedness and ugliness of all the evil the world, hid Him from the Father’s sight.  This is the suffering I will never have to endure because my Creator did. For Love, for me so that I could be called His daughter and so could Naomi. You see I was given the gift of loving and watching Naomi, though she suffered and died, be carried away in the arms of Jesus. And I was given the incredible gift of love for her that I carry still with me each day. Because of the Love of the Father that was stronger even than death, because after He watched His Beloved Son die a horrible death Jesus came back from the dead and I, we, no longer grieve without hope.

Hope!

Many days I wait for hope to spring up in my heart. Nancy Guthrie, who has written a book called “The Book of Hope” talks about how important it is in these difficult times that we ask God to help us grieve with hope. And just a little at a time I’m finding hope to hold on to…as I think of heaven and Naomi there with Jesus…where I too will be one day, when I see a butterfly, when my baby boy (who is no longer a baby!) snuggles close and kisses me, when I pick up my knitting needles and start to create something new, when I talk to another momma who has also endured the loss of their child and is clinging to hope, when I hear the whispers of the One who Loves me from the beginning of time, who died for me.

So I keep breathing. And keep waiting for hope and for the One who brings it with His Presence.

Here is the Mercy Me song. I hope you take a few minutes to listen…

p.s. Would you pray for us as we prepare to attend a Respite Retreat over Labor Day weekend. We’ll be with 11 other couples who have also lost a child. The retreat will be led by Nancy and David Guthrie, who themselves lost two children. Also, please pray for our boys as they will spend three days away from us, something they’ve not done since we were at the hospital. Thank you so very much!

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