Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Grief in Everyday Life

We were at our neighborhood pool recently, and I saw a very pregnant woman there with her family.  It occurred to me, "I was that woman last year!"  As I thought back to a year ago, I remembered how big I was in the summer.  I know all pregnant women claim they were huge when they were pregnant, but in my case, it was true.  I can back it up with facts: when I was 36 weeks pregnant, I was measuring 43 weeks pregnant!  A full term pregnancy is 40 weeks.  I was 4 weeks before my due date and measuring 3 weeks past my due date.  Mostly this was because I had polyhydramnios -- or too much amniotic fluid.  Pictures of me from last summer look downright uncomfortable.  I don't recall feeling uncomfortable, but I sure looked it.  As I thought about my pregnancy with Samuel and how, because of my enormous belly, my close friends would just laugh at me when they'd see me, it hit me: Samuel's first birthday is a mere 5 1/2 weeks away.  How is that possible?  I don't feel at all ready for his birthday.  How are we almost a year away from when he first came into the world?  It leaves me a little shaky when I think about how quickly this anniversary is approaching.

Last week I "visited" Samuel's grave for the second time.  Other than the burial, I had been there only one other time, and that was in September.  (On a side note, I think I hate the word visit in reference to a cemetary.  I'm not visiting Samuel.  And visit has such lighthearted, nonchalant connotation.  It feels all wrong for going to my baby's grave.)  I didn't really want to go, but we had an errand to run a mere three mintues from the gravesite.  I am never up that way, and it felt wrong to be around the corner and not go.  As we set out on our errands, Joel asked, "What errands do we have to do?"  I told him the list and then said, "And we might go see where Samuel is buried."  Joel immediately asked with joy in his voice, "We're going to Heaven?!"  I felt so bad that he was confused and tried to explain that we were going to his grave -- a place where we can go to remember Samuel.  We talked about the white box, and mostly I felt at a total loss about how to explain it so Joel could understand.  Caleb seemed to track with me from the beginning, and he tried to chime in and explain it to his little brother.

When we got out of the car, I was holding Joel in my arms and immediately started crying.  It was a sniffing kind of cry, and Joel asked without looking at me and recognizing my tears, "Mommy, what are you smelling?"  I choked out, "I'm sad, honey," and he said, "Sad about Samuel?"  We walked over to Samuel's grave and looked at the temporary marker.  I read it to the boys, and we stood there for awhile, me crying continually.  Joel squatted down and put his finger into the earth: "Samuel is in here under this dirt?"  I told him, "Joel, Samuel's body that didn't work is buried under this dirt.  His heart that didn't work and his lungs that didn't work and all of his body -- which wasn't healthy -- is in the white box under here.  But the part of Samuel that loved people or would have laughed or smiled or been sad or happy, that part is Samuel's soul.  And Samuel's soul is in Heaven with God and Jesus, and he's very happy there.  This is just a place where we can come to remember Samuel."  Joel looked pretty perplexed, but I didn't really know how else to explain it, so I hugged him close, and we stayed a little longer before heading out.  It was hard to go to the grave -- really hard, but it wasn't horrible, and it makes me think I could go back without so much dread and trembling beforehand.  And we're finally working on his headstone, so soon it will be a relief to know his permanent marker is there.  Maybe someday it will be a place I go to feel connected to my baby and to joyfully remember our time together. 

The last two Sundays at church, there has been a new lighting effect on the walls during worship.  The production crew uses some sort of screen to project what looks like branches of a tree with lots of extending twigs on the wall.  Bryan leaned over and told me, "I like that new effect," and I vigorously shook my head in disagreement.  When he asked why, I tearfully told him, "It reminds me of what the vasculature of Samuel's lungs should have looked like."  It still surprises me sometimes what sends me lurching back into grief and commences the onset of waves of sorrow.  I spent the rest of our singing time in tears.  There are painful reminders everywhere, and there is just no way to predict when they will assault me and when they will sit passively by and let me pass unaccosted. 

I have always thought that I would continue to record this journey of grief until the first year has passed, and grief has faded a little, and life resumes a more normal rhythm, but I am realizing again how I keep imposing a time table on myself.  I keep expecting grief to operate on some sort of calendar where predictable markers come into play.  But as we approach Samuel's first birthday, I am almost dumbfounded by how real and hard grief still is.  I feel like the last three or four months of grief have been fairly similar -- a steady sorrow in the midst of continuing and mostly joyful life.  It's an undercurrent most of the time, but it's always there, and it's very, very real.  There are no signs of it fading anymore than it already has anytime soon.  I am realizing how foolish I was to think a year of grief would mark any significant ability to leave this blog behind and quit documenting what I'm feeling and experiencing.  It continues to be a healing and truly helpful part of my grief journey, and so I think I'm going to ditch my pre-set plan of blogging for one year.  Whenever it seems right to stop, I will.  But until then, this place will continue to be where I come to emote and to find a little peace after I finally jot down my emotions and the latest parts of my journey.  So, I guess I will blog on. 

And on that note, I will call this entry done because I haven't the slightest idea how else to end it.  :)


  1. From my perspective, it seems like a good plan to keep things open and allow yourself the freedom to blog as long as you feel like it. I was struck by your words about picturing a time when you might be able to come to the grave and feel a sense of connection with Samuel's memory there--like glimpsing a possible moment in the future. In this context, I was also thinking how important it must have been to have Joel and Caleb there. On the one hand, it must have been so difficult to explain the grave to Joel. But on the other hand, Joel's concern for you and Caleb's loving helpfulness are surely what helped to make the experience bearable. It's remarkable that the grave-site, for all its disorienting strangeness and recollection of unbearable experience, can also be a place of family love.

  2. Please keep blogging as long as you keep writing about your grief. We are still reading and praying for all of you.

  3. Kathryn, I found your blog through a friend's blog and I have weeped with you as you shared you grief. I pray for you frequently and am amazed at how well you are handling truly one of life's hardest tragedys. Your faith is so re-assuring and deep. I love that about you. I am SO sorry that you have had this road to follow. I have petitioned God to comfort you in ways that only He can, and to allow you to have another baby in His perfect timing. Thank you for being so honest. Keep writing! I continue to pray for you and feel honored to "know" your precious family.

  4. I have been following your blog since last year. My heart aches for you and your family. I wanted to give you a blog award since you have such a touching blog. The information is here:

    Continuing to pray for you and your family.

  5. I know what you mean about difficulty in "visiting" the grave site.

    Trudie's grave is not near my normal travels. So a couple of time of when I was in the area, I felt I "should" stop by. I now know that when I do, it will trigger all the sadness all over again. I get to feel the grief anew.

    This is probably not a bad thing. I've learned that I can learn things about myself in my grieving that I didn't know before. But it is tough. I call them my Thank-You-God-May-I-Have-Another moments [reference to a scene in the movie "Animal House" ].

    And I, too, have experienced that God will support me when I need extra help.

  6. i've been reading your blog since samuel was born and while we've never met, you have touched my heart in the most inspiring and beautiful ways. thank you for sharing so honestly; you truly have a gift for expressing yourself. please know that through your experience and your words, God is teaching me so much ... so so much. i pray that our loving Father continues to be your Source and your Strength.

  7. I have been thinking and thinking about what I would write when I finally commented on your blog. I started reading it just a week ago when you sent Caleb off to his first day of school. I was reading her blog about my nephew's first day of kindergarten when I noticed the link to your blog on the side of her page. So I started reading...and read for 2 hours that first night! My sister-in-law, Allison Russell, works with Bryan at North Point, but you both look so familiar that I'm wondering if I've had the opportunity to meet you by chance on one of my visits there! (I also interned there when I was in college, but I'm not sure if Bryan was already working there.) But I just wanted you to know that (even a year later), you, Samuel's mom, are still touching people's hearts and being an inspiration to all who read your blog! I have sat in front of my laptop with tears streaming down my face at the honest approach to your family's grief...and I've never even met you. Although I do feel like I have known you for years, now! :) Thank you for writing, even when it's hard and you don't really know what to write. It truly is an inspiration. I have been studying Isaiah 61 in a Bible study recently (Beth Moore's "Breaking Free"), and you have exemplified for me, one of my favorite verses from that passage. " comfort those who bestow on them aa crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor." (vs 2-3) I love the final part about becoming an oak of righteousness and a display of his splendor! Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us! Sincerely, Alyson Moody