Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Grief vs. Wallow
So, someone I loved recently said they were concerned I might be "wallowing" in the sadness of losing Zac. I didn't like that word. It implied that I am stuck where in the past of what I can not change...and I truly don't believe that is the case...anymore. My reply was "if wallowing defines a mommy's grieving heart and trying to figure out the new norm of life I am in...then so be it". I love this person dearly with my whole heart, so I refused to be offended or hurt. I understood where it was coming from. BUT, it got me to thinking...how does a person define grief over wallowing...and which does society view as more acceptable. Well, I went on line and looked up Grief to see how it is defined. Bare with me...it's long. GRIEF: Grief is a multi-faceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something to which a bond was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social and philosophical dimensions. Common to human experience is the death of a loved one, whether it be a friend, family or other companion. While the terms are often used interchangeably, bereavement often refers to the state of loss , and grief to the reaction of loss. Our responses to loss are varied and researchers have moved away from the conventional views of grief (that is, that people move through an orderly and predictable series of responses to loss) to one that considers the wide variety of responses that are influenced by personality, family, culture and spiritual and religious beliefs and practices. Bereavement, while a normal part of life, carries a degree of risk when limited support is available. Severe reactions to loss may carry over in to familial relations and cause trauma for children, spouses and any other family members; there is an increased risk of marital break up following the death of a child, for example. Issues of faith and beliefs may also face challenge, as bereaved persons reassess personal definitions in the face of great pain. Then I went to dictionary.reference.com to look up Wallow. Wallow: 1) to roll about or lie in water, snow, mud, dust, or the like, as refreshement: Goats wallowed in the dust. 2) to live self-indulgently; luxuriate; revel: to wallow in luxury, to wallow in sentimentality. 3) to flounder about; move along or proceed clumsily or with difficulty: A gunboat wallowed toward port 4) to surge up or to billow forth, as smoke or heat: waves of black smoke wallowed into the room. Weeeeeell...I don't really like the term wallow. 3 out of 4 of those meanings don't really seem to apply. I don't think I enjoy laying in the water, snow, mud, dust or the like as refreshment...I think I'd prefer a warm bath with some nice smelling salts or bubbles. I don't see myself as living self-indulgently in the luxury of my sorrow or sentimentality. And I don't know if I'm a surge or billowing force...but maybe in my defensiveness I can surge or billow clouds of anger, hurt and defense. HOWEVER...I CAN relate to the third point. I suppose I have felt like I've been floundering, moving along or proceeding clumsily or with (occassional) difficulty as I try to figure out the new new norm of life. I realize how differently people view pain, loss, grief, sorrow and the process of finding the "new you" so to speak. I spoke to a very special person yesterday who was INSTRUMENTAL in helping us through the loss of Zac and through the NICU days with Evan, and we talked about how years ago society never spoke of the loss of a child. It just didn't happen. And how our society of parents now almost demand it. I see the differences in generations. I see through stories of others (grandparents who lost a child and how it was never spoken about...yet an adult grandchild can still see the pain in their grandparents eyes) how loss was dealt with, and how it is being dealt with now. I still see people viewing the topic of death in a "hush hush" kind of way...and that is so sad. Why is so "wrong" or so "bad" to speak of loved ones past? I still LOVE talking about memories of my Gedo! I still remember how much I loved listening to him laugh and play the fiddle. I have a tape (yes, an actual audio CASSETTE!) of a family gathering while he was still alive and he played the fiddle, my Baba her guitar, my uncle the Symbala (sorry, don't actually know how to spell it) and my aunt and uncle their guitars. You hear the music, you hear the talking and the laughter...and even though it STILL brings a tear to my eyes...I love it! And what is so wrong with listening to it and remembering? What is so wrong with holding on to those memories? And when I go to visit my Baba, I still sneak out by myself to go to my Gedo's grave. And I just chat "with" him. And ask him to hug all my babies in heaven for me. Is that wrong? Nope. It's my thing!! It's the same way I feel about Zac. When I became pregnant with the boys and was sent to the specialist (because we knew I'd be high risk with multiples again), we knew we could bring a video cassette (yup, an actual VCR cassette!) to record each of our ultra sounds. I remember the day we brought that tape home and hooked up an old VCR of ours and showed our family our sons! It was awesome!! I haven't watched it since...but some day I want to. And some day I'd love to show Evan too! Is that wrong?? Heck no! It will always be Evan's decision, but as for myself...what is so wrong in cherishing that memory? I don't believe anything. Is that wallowing? No. It's cherishing. And allowing a piece of the past to bring a smile to my face. Does it make me sad that we didn't get more of the recordings we dreamed about? Ya, of course it does. Does it make me sad that we didn't get more ultra sound pictures...certainly. Does it make me regret that I never recorded the sound of both my boys heart beats on NST test days? Yup. But...do I wallow in those sad thoughts or regrets...nope. I can't change it. Events happened that I couldn't control. I don't think that allowing pieces of our past a special place in our minds and hearts and conversations is a bad thing. Sure...if I couldn't function daily, if I couldn't keep my focus on my sweet Evan and my husband, if I lived in a constant state of tears and anguish...ya, then something would need to really change. But I cherish my memories and my moments. And like in the definition of Grief...there was a bond. Not just an emotional or dream like bond...but a living physical bond to both my sons who bumped around, kicked, stretched, hiccuped, stretched my belly to the beautiful belly I always dreamed of. So, that bond can't be removed. It doesn't stop being a part of who I am. These little beings were a part of my physical being. They were attached to my body. And although they are no longer inside of me...I still feel it. I still feel that bond and attachment. I will never forget the days after the boys were born and feeling so lost! Thinking that I could still feel their movements. And when I would get the chance to visit both of them in NICU in their separate bays (yet another memory that makes me sad...I wish SO BAD that my boys could have at least been together once...even just side by side in the same bay. That lost memory still hurts), as I watched Evan move about...it was like I could feel those movements inside me. Zac was under medication that put him in a semi paralyzed state so I didn't often see movement from him other than his eyes travelling toward my voice as I spoke to him...but even in that...I could feel him inside me...my little guy with no where to go and no fluid to float around in. But through all the sadness and grief...whatever circumstances that comes by...there has to be a way to emerge from the storm of sorrow and loss. Yes...I can see how people would easily get swallowed by their sorrow. That was me when we lost our first twins in 2007. I got swallowed HARD by the sadness...and it scared my husband wondering if he would ever get his wife back. I love him so very much for the way he helped me come back!! I love him for sticking by my side!! And in the past year and few days of Zac's passing, the sadness and sorrow remains...and always will. But...I HAVE to emerge! When I lost our first babies I purchased a book called "Grieving the Child I Never Knew" by Kathe Wunnenberg. Part of one chapter talks about hiding in the basement through a storm and that for a few moments one can disonnect for a while. But there is a paragraph that I appreciate... "But the pain of your loss hasn't gone away. With time you must realize you cannot live in the basement forever. When you finally ascend to face reality, you may be surprised to discover shattered dreams, a broken heart, emotional debris, uprooted expectations, and damaged relationships. But you will also find peace in knowing that the strom has passed. Sure, you may have a lot of cleanup work to do, but there's unlimited eternal aid available. God will help you face the truth and will work with you to repair the storm damage. You will feel safe in His presence and in His Word. He wants to be the One to whom you run for shelter as you continue your journey." It is so true that through grief many changes occur. Especially relating to relationships. Loss is uncomfortable. It's hard for people to continue sitting by your side in moments of tears, especially when they have not gone through a similar situation. There is awkwardness. Moments where people don't know what to say...or if they should say anything at all. Yes, I would love to hear Zac's name spoken along side of Evan's when referring to their birth...but I know there will be many times...probably all times...where that won't happen. I have to come to a place of acceptance that MY loss is not the loss of another. That I can't expect people to respond to our loss in the same way that I do. I can't be offended when Zac's name isn't spoken. All I can do is wrap him in my heart for a squeeze. And try to be understanding and accepting of how others process the present and future. Yet, I don't want there to be the sense that his name should never be spoken. It's just all so wierd and hard to wrap my head around. It will never be the way I hope, and I have to find a way to accept that. I CAN be forever grateful for the life I DO have. And I am. I know I don't talk about that as often as I should...but I AM grateful, and I AM healing, and I'm NOT wallowing, and I AM trying to be the strong person everyone THINKS I am. I WANT to be what everyone expects and assumes. I WISH that some relationships hadn't been damaged through my grief, but I ACCEPT that life can change things and people. It doesn't mean I still don't care. I always will. I want people to understand and accept that there is NO TIME FRAME for grieving. You can walk along side me and encourage me and help me to live in the moments of life and help me smile and laugh and live. But don't push me away, and don't get uncomfortable around the emotions of my reality, and don't make me feel like a lepper for moments where my eyes might get misty, and please...don't pretend that I didn't lose a child. You don't have to talk about it...I get that it can be uncomfortable...but don't forget or pretend that I am the mother of two sons. Evan is this amazing joy. He is this unimaginable abundance of joy and love. I know I've said it before...but I can NOT imagine my life without this little guy!!! Without my son. It would destroy me. I've been looking back at pictures from the first of his early days...and I am blown away. For all that he has come through...he is my strength! And he is where my energy and love are poured in to. I so badly want to be the very best mommy I can possibly be for this precious, amazing gift that I have been given. Yes...I am the mother of two sons, but I am the mother of my living child...my Evan. And I can't allow him to be overshadowed. My journey now is to find healing. To find strength. To find courage. To find the abilty to raise Evan knowing about our faith. And some day...to find peace with all that has happened. I often shudder thinking of all that could have happened to Evan. He was just as frail, just as early, just as compromised...although he had health on his side. He was healthy, and is. He was strong, and is. He was courageous, and is. He was a fighter...and still is! He fills me with amazement! I want to be an example of a hurting, grieving mother...but also of one that wants to find her way back to life...fully. Not for a moment do I want darkness to overshadow the light of life. Yes, I'll always be sad...but I am finding joy again where it was lost in the pain of losing Zac. I've always had joy where Evan is concerned. Don't ever doubt or question that!! I will have many ups and downs. The journey is nowhere near over. I'm learning how men and women grieve so differently, and some day will post about that too. And I know that life involves loss...and the journey. But for now...I just want to send out huge hugs to the many many many parents who have lost a child. To the many people who have lost loved ones. Know you are loved. Know you are not alone. Know that you are thought of...even though I don't know you personally or your circumstance. Know I pray for peace and not darkness to consume you. I pray for support and network systems and for communication to remain open between you and your spouse. I pray for God's comfort...even if God isn't a part of your life. I don't know who all I am talking to. But I still want you to know...I care!