Saturday, January 16, 2010

Signs of Doing Poorly

It's been a difficult start of the year for us.  Bryan is now full swing back into his seminary classes after taking a semester off.  He did an intensive week class at Dallas Theological Seminary while we were in Dallas for Christmas, and the past 2 weeks have been filled with paper writing and studying.  We've barely seen each other.  This has surely contributed to the rough weeks we've been experiencing.  We also started the year with some discouraging and difficult circumstances that led to a number of very dark days for me.

I have found myself thinking for the first time since Samuel died that I'm not doing very well.  Neither is Bryan.  My fuse is short, and my patience is thin.  In fact, I have actually blown up at the people dearest to me three times in the last week.  In my nine years of marriage to Bryan, I don't think I'd ever yelled at him before last week.  And my poor children have experienced my anger twice when it was utterly unmerited.  I have been horrified by this rage boiling out of me, and honestly, it's been quite shocking.  In addition to being uncharacteristic, I haven't had any warning that it was coming, and suddenly I've been beside myself with anger.  I am frightened by this new manifestation of grief, and I've been searching my soul to see if I can discover what's fueling it.

As far as I can discern, there are a multitude of contributing factors.  Most obviously, I miss Samuel and am still in the throws of grief.  I also feel disconnected from my dear husband because of how little time we've had together (I am a huge quality time person).  Furthermore, I am frustrated by some significant circumstances in our lives that are causing me a lot of stress and fear.  And I've been having some pretty horrible dreams (unfortunately this is very common for me), and they have painted a bleak picture of our future.  In one of them, I was pregnant again and was at an ultrasound.  I found out we were having our 4th boy, and moments later I learned he had a more serious heart defect than Samuel.  We were going to have to live all of this all over again.  Later in the dream, I gave birth, and the boy was rushed away immediately.  I spent the rest of the dream trying to find him and learn if he was ok.  It was an awful dream.  On top of that, Bryan and I have both noticed a decided trend that our friends are moving on from Samuel's death.  After months of being deeply and amazingly cared for, it is becoming infrequent that people check in and ask how we're doing or tell us they are praying.  This is perfectly reasonable and natural, but it's left Bryan and I both feeling increasingly isolated and occasionally even abandoned.  I don't fault anyone for assuming we're doing better or for not being able to stay in this place of pain.  I get it.  But it's still hard.

This past week Caleb was the Star of the Week in his class, and we had to gather some pictures to take in to preschool.  Caleb, Joel, and I looked on my computer at pictures and videos from when Caleb was younger.  As I watched videos of Caleb playing with Joel as a baby, I had a visual picture of what I am missing in Samuel.  The joy and delight of Caleb entertaining his baby brother was heartrending to see.  And I kept thinking about how both those little boys in that video are younger than my boys are now.  I had 2 "babies" to care for.  Now I have none.  As the days go by and Caleb and Joel grow in independence and abilities (as they should), Samuel's absence grows too.  The baby I longed for is nowhere in this house.  His room and drawers full of baby clothes are an ever-looming picture of  what is missing.  These days I hate going in Samuel's room.  I feel like I miss Samuel more with every passing day.

On Tuesday I spent a couple of hours journaling, and I realized something pivotal.  I don't think I am angry about Samuel dying, though I admit I could become angry if I cease paying attention to my soul and sincerely searching out my heart.  Instead, I think I am angry about the picture of our future that I have assumed God is painting.  I have been trying to gird myself up for more heartbreak -- either in the form of another sick baby who dies or in the form of no more children from my womb.  And this has me a bit panicky and overwhelmed.  I have unconsciously been trying to adjust to a whole new future -- one in which all my children are in school in 2 more years, and I'm lost at home and wondering what in the world to do with myself.  I have always thought that I had at least 5 more years as a fulltime mom -- and hopefully more years than that.  So in addition to plain, hard grief, I've been trying to reinvision my entire future.  It's been more than I can bear, and understandably I must say.

This past week I remembered something I learned while pregnant with Samuel and while he was in the hospital.  God gives me the grace I need for each moment -- moment-by-moment.  He doesn't give me the grace I will need for the year all at once in January and leave me to budget it out so that I'm don't run out before the end of the year.  Each day, He grants me the grace I need for that day.  It's like the manna God gave the Israelites in the wilderness.  They couldn't hoard it for a week's supply of food.  They had to trust God afresh every day to provide for them and to meet their needs.  When I was pregnant, I could live each day joyfully and peacefully, but when I looked ahead to delivery and the days following Samuel's birth, I was scared and jittery.  In August, I could face each day and enjoy my son, but when I thought about tomorrow, or probable upcoming surgery, or taking him home, I got very shaky and started to fall apart.  I learned to live each day in the shelter of God, and God was so faithful to us.  I need to do that again.  God has not given me what I will need for whatever is ahead; He has given me what I need for today.

I have also been very burdened for those in Haiti.  I think having experienced suffering so deeply and personally this year, my eyes are simply more aware of suffering period.  It penetrates my soul instead of bouncing off of me.  I can't quit thinking about the people there and what they must be feeling, witnessing, and experiencing.  The amount of grief they must be under is incomparable to anything I can imagine.  I am grateful for the way in which my heart is burdened and I am continually prompted to pray for them, but it is painful, and my heart is weary.  

When I think about all these things, it's no wonder I have been unwell.  I have been dealing with so much internally and emotionally.  I don't have any emotional margin.  I feel like I am very precariously balanced, and any one thing more will send the whole thing toppling down.  But, again, that's looking ahead.  Do I have what I need for this moment to trust God, live peacefully, and enjoy my many blessings?  Yes.  Do I have now what I will need for tomorrow?  Nope.  Will I have it when tomorrow comes?  Most certainly.  So, I will strive to live today in light of God's goodness, presence, and promises.  And whatever tomorrow holds, He will be with me when it comes.


  1. I have posted once before - I received a link to your blog and a prayer request shortly after Samuel was born. It was from the friend of a sister of a friend in your Church (or something like that) :-) Since then I have cried for you and prayed for Samuel and your entire family. I just wanted you to know that I still think about you and Samuel daily and check your blog several times a week to see how you are doing. I wish there was someway to help or something I could say - I am sorry for your continued pain. Just now that you have touched many people through the honesty of your thoughts in your blog and you continue to honor and glorify God to everyone that reads it. Also know that Samuel is not forgotten, even to a stranger in Dallas who will never meet your sweet family :-) I will continue to pray for you and hope you can continue to heal. Sincerely, Ashley

  2. Kathryn, I have so many responses right now. I'm going to try to put them down in an email. I received your beautiful thank-you card and have responses to that, too!! You are on my mind daily--not only because I care about you in your grief, but also because you have always been such an important friend to me.

  3. My heart is burdened for you and Bryan. I will continue to pray for you and him. I love how you put it that "God gives me the grace I need for each moment -- moment-by-moment. He doesn't give me the grace I will need for the year all at once in January and leave me to budget it out so that I'm don't run out before the end of the year. Each day, He grants me the grace I need for that day." Cling to that promise. And, thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing your heart. Your testimony reaches much farther than you will ever know.

  4. Kathryn,
    Scott and I continue to pray for you, Bryan and the boys. You are loved!
    I am praying that you are having an amazing time in Disney.
    Never hesitate to let us know if you need anything.

  5. I don't know that I've ever commented, but I check your blog daily and have prayed for you and your sweet family and will continue to do so! Thanks for your great blog and words of honesty. You are a great mom, Kathryn!

  6. Kathryn, I have agonized over my comment. But here's what I finally settled on...
    I think you have reached that point in the grieving process where you have to figure out how to live in two worlds. In one world, you live in August of 2009 with a heart so shattered you can hardly believe you are still alive. In the other world, you are a wife and mother to a very alive and running family. I imagine it's that "alive and running" part that's the rub right now. As August gets farther away, the constant needs of your family take you away from the place that Samuel lived.
    You are walking one of the hardest paths we have on this Earth. Be kind to yourself. Cut yourself some slack. Don't beat yourself for your shortcomings, especially now. Just as God gives you to grace to live moment by moment, He gives your family grace to understand and love you right through the tough moments. As one momma who has completely lost her cool with her children more times than I would like to admit, I can attest that they forgive and go on loving like nothing happened. Use them as teaching moments. It's not pretty, but it certainly is life.
    You are surrounded by love-even if we do a poor job of showing it.

  7. Kathryn, Samuel is not forgotten. I have posted once but I check and read your blog as often as you post. I have prayed for Samuel and your family and will continue to do so. Though I don't know you I think of you often. I have small boys like you do and every time I think my world gets rough I think of how hard yours must be right now. You help me be a better mother.
    We have a good friend in common and she cares deeply for you. You are an amazing woman.
    I hope you have a great time at Disney and reconnect with your husband and family.

  8. Do not despair. Anger is a natural part of the grieving process and will not always be in the fore front. Your faith and love will carry you through. My love and prayers are always with you and your family -