Life in Pieces

Groucho Marx

I had such a wonderful week. But today was a different story. Today was just one of those days when I wanted to curl up in bed and cry.

I have many more good days than bad days, but when bad days come, they hit hard. They take the breath right out of me and make me forget all the reasons I have to be joyful.

It’s difficult to feel happy for other people when their lives seem so put together while mine is in pieces. And sometimes I get jealous. (I know that breaks God’s commands, but I’m only human.) And it isn’t really about material things. I mostly measure my life in experiences. Making friends, mission trips, vacations, getting my Master’s, buying my first house, creating a family, etc…

It’s hard to watch friends hit milestones before me. I’ve worked so hard to be where I am and sometimes I feel like I’m not getting anywhere. God seems to have hit the pause button on my life a few times. In the two years that we’ve been married, we’ve lost our son and dealt with job loss twice. Only by the grace of God have we survived.

And that’s pretty much what I’m doing. Surviving. Taking one day at a time. I try not to look too far into the past or into the future. The Devil is quick to remind me of the sadness in the past, and tries to convince me that the future will only hold disappointment. Most of the time I succeed in stifling his nonsense. But occasionally he sneaks up on me, lurking unnoticed until it’s too late.

By then, the only resolution is to cry it out. And maybe take a nap. Naps are always good for the soul.

Today I got discouraged and cried and took a nap. Tomorrow is a new day. A new chance to remember the hope I have in God.

With hope and love,
Kristen

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A Future and a Hope

As I stood in the jewelry store, getting my wedding ring cleaned, I watched a blonde-haired, blue-eyed toddler play as her parents picked out jewelry. “Such a happy girl,” I thought. Suddenly, she turned towards my direction and ran to me with open arms.

I laughed and picked her up as her momma frantically ran after her, trying not to lose sight of such a tiny girl in such a busy place. The mom, oblivious to the fact that I’d recently lost my only child, let me hold her and entertain her for a few moments until she was ready to move on to the next thing that attracted her bright, curious eyes.

My smile quickly faded as I let her go–thoughts swirling in my head of hopes and dreams that may never come to be.

People ask me often if we’ll try again any time soon. The truth is, I have no idea. There’s a constant battle between my head and my heart–neither of them knowing exactly which side they’re on. My inner monologue goes something like this:

Oh, let’s try again, please!

Um, no. You’re not finished grieving.

Well, I’ll never be “finished” grieving.

But what if you have another boy? That could be rough.

What if I DON’T have another boy? That could be just as hard. 

Well, you’ve always wanted a girl.

Yeah, but I’d feel really guilty for being excited about a girl. Or any baby for that matter. 

And there’s always a possibility that you won’t/can’t have anymore children…

It’s that last thought that tugs at my heart the strongest. What if I can never have another baby? (Don’t get me wrong–adoption is always on my mind. As a matter of fact, there’s a red-headed, freckle-faced teenager running around somewhere that will always have a piece of my heart. It just hasn’t been in God’s plan for her to be part of our family, no matter how hard I’ve prayed for it.) However, after experiencing pregnancy and holding my baby in my arms… I can’t imagine not at least trying for more biological children.

I often find myself starting (and quickly stopping) sentences like, “When we have kids, I can’t wait to…” Then, there’s no stopping the flood of other thoughts that follow. You can read more about my thoughts on that here.

I was really hoping I would get to the end of this and have some incredible insight to share with you–some word from God about how I’m getting through it. But, alas, here I am with no new wisdom, no encouraging word other than “hope“.

But then again, maybe that’s the only word I need, the only word we need. Hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

With hope and love,
Kristen

The Dreaded Returns

Last night, I finally felt like I was ready to return Ryder’s stroller and some clothes to the store. The idea of returning them really wasn’t the hard part. (Having them out of my eyesight is, honestly, what I needed.) The hardest part was just walking into the store — being in the very place where Sam and I had excitedly made the perfect registry, seeing other mommas toting their bright-eyed babies from one aisle to the next.

It was a big step. I was so proud of myself. My sweet mom came with me since she had been the one to purchase them in the first place. I knew better than try to do it alone. Sam had offered to do it, but I was determined I could handle it. (Yeah, I’m stubborn like that.)

When they asked why I was returning it, I simply said I didn’t need it and they were satisfied with that answer. I thought, “Well, that was easy!” and let out a sigh of relief.

But then they realized the clothes were past their return date since they weren’t a part of the registry. They told us we could still return them as a “no receipt” option, but I know that’s not worth it since you only get the lowest price of sale. My mom asked me what I wanted to do. I broke down. I started crying and all I could get out was “I don’t know but I don’t want to keep them.

The cashiers immediately understood that something was wrong. All I had to say was “I don’t have a baby” and it clicked. They started apologizing profusely, saying they could easily override it and get us our money back. They were apologizing and I was apologizing right back because I felt terrible for making them feel bad that they made me cry. And, of course, my mom was in tears, too.

They could only give me store credit, which really doesn’t do me any good, but…. I quickly realized that I needed to buy a gift for a soon-to-be-three-year-old little princess’ birthday. Perfect!

So it all worked out. Maybe not as smoothly as I had hoped. But it worked out. And I feel better now that it’s done. Whew!

* * *

If you haven’t been through a similar situation, you may think a task as simple as returning things to a store shouldn’t be a big deal. But it is. It is a very big deal. It’s an event that I never once thought about, even after learning that Ryder wouldn’t make it. I was so stuck in the moment that I wasn’t prepared for the future, even the near future.

There has been a constant battle in my head since I came home from the hospital empty-handed. Part of me says, “Get everything baby-related out of the house. I can’t possibly look at it for one more second.” But the other part says, “No! Keep everything! I NEED it! ALL of it!” My brain doesn’t seem to grasp the concept of compromise right now.

When I posted a snippet of this story on a baby-loss group on Facebook, I was told by a couple of mommas that I was very brave. I think I am much more stubborn than brave. As a matter of fact, I consider myself to be quite cowardly. I would most definitely play the part of the Cowardly Lion if I were traipsing through Oz. But, like I’ve said before, life will go on with or without me. So I might as well put on my mask of bravery and fake it till I make it.

{Joshua 1:9}

{Joshua 1:9}

With hope and love,
Kristen

[Side Note:  I’ve heard from many sources that Target is a nightmare when dealing with registry returns. Apparently they don’t extend many mercies in this particular situation either. I haven’t had personal experience with this, though. We had set up a registry there, but hadn’t yet had a baby shower. I just want other loss mommas to be aware and prepared. Never be afraid to contact management or the corporate office if you feel like you’ve been treated unfairly by a place of business.]

Be Present

be present

I’m trying to be more “present“.

I’ve always been a planner. Everything has to be scheduled. I don’t adapt well to changes in my routine.

In the wake of losing Ryder, there were many unscheduled or last-minute visitors. I welcomed them because I needed breaks from my sadness. A surprise visit from an encourager was a relief — a relief from the weight of my sadness — even if it lasted for only a few minutes.

A month and half has gone by and visitors are few and far between now. And that’s ok. But now I am having to make the effort to go. Since I haven’t returned to work yet, it is so easy for me to spend the day on the couch sleeping, eating, and binge-reading blog after blog.

And that’s ok sometimes.

But it’s not ok every day. For the last week or so, I’ve made a point to spend more time at my kitchen table than on the couch. I try to “get ready” every day, just in case something comes up. That way I can’t make excuses to stay home.

There are still some days when I can’t imagine leaving the comfort of my home. I just need to stay home and feel. (Grief can’t be ignored; it only gets louder if you try.) But for the most part, I feel ok getting out and about these days. It’s good for me.

My husband and I are two very different people. He’s an extrovert who always feels more at ease when there are people around. For me, the introvert, there are times when I feel that people are just so exhausting. I love my friends dearly, but sometimes my soul just yearns for the quiet. (Even if I’ve been in the quiet all day long.)

But I’m trying to be more open to “noise“. I’m finding that a little noise is good for me. Sometimes joy is noisy. Sometimes joy is louder than grief. Sometimes joy comes in the form of a too-loud restaurant or a house bursting at the seams with friends and their laughter.

So I’m trying to say a few more YESes than NOs when I’m exhausted and Hubby says, “Let’s call so-and-so and see if they want to hang out.”

With hope and love,
Kristen

It Is Well

There is something so revitalizing about the sun. And I don’t just mean for plants. If you’re not from my neck of the woods, you may not understand what a joy it was to see the sun today. We haven’t seen the sun in what feels like ages. There has been so much rain that much of the state is flooded, which is saying a lot since we’ve been in a drought for years.

I’m grateful to have spent much of the afternoon in the sun. We had lunch on the patio at the 801 Grill with friends from church. Then, we went to our photographer-turned-friend’s birthday party. It was so nice to be outside and enjoy the breeze!

{801 Grill}

{Lunch on the patio at the 801 Grill at Fresh}

Last night, we had fun skeet shooting with our Sunday School class. It rained for a few minutes but was otherwise a gorgeous night. Check out the sunset!

{Beautiful East Texas sunset}

{Beautiful East Texas sunset}

This morning as I got ready for church, I prayed that not only God would speak, but that I would hear. And boy, did I hear.

A dear friend led worship today and she sings with such power that all I can do is close my eyes and praise the Creator.

We ended with “It Is Well With My Soul.” I’ve heard people say, “I felt like that sermon was for me” or “that song was for me.” I’ve never really felt that way before, but there’s a first time for everything… and today was that day. It was exactly what I needed to hear. Music always soothes my soul, but today…. today it was a reminder that God’s got this. I am His child and all things work together for my good (Rom. 8:28).

If you’re not familiar with the story behind this song, it’s a heartbreaking one. The writer, Horatio Spafford, was a wealthy man back in the 1800s. When a string of unfortunate events turned his life upside down, many considered it to be divine punishment. But he knew better. He wrote the song shortly after hearing that his four daughters had died on their way to Europe from America when their ship sank. He had sent them on ahead with his wife, planning to meet them soon.

“Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.”

When life handed him grief and heartache, he turned to God. I yearn to be as faithful.

It’s hard to praise God when things are tough. It’s hard to be thankful when things are taken from you. But He knows our hearts. I’m figuring out it’s ok to be angry with Him. I think He would rather we come to Him with our hurts than turn away from Him. I know good and well I can’t do this alone. And I’m so thankful I don’t have to! Isaiah 46:4 says, “I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Oh, how He has rescued me!

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine.[…] So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:6-7

We haven’t been promised an easy life, but we have been promised that He will walk with us.

Even so, It is well with my soul.

With hope and love,
Kristen

Tiny Moments

Sunset

{Tonight’s beautiful sunset}

Last night, while sitting in a local coffee shop, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and came across a picture of Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton from Fresh Prince) and his toddler son at a golf course. My instant reflex was to turn to my husband and say, “Look honey! That could be you one day!” It’s something I’ve said a million times since we’ve been married.

But as soon as I opened my mouth, my breath hitched. It hit me like a wave. The terrible heartache that comes with the sudden realization of yet another life moment that Ryder will miss out on.

So many life moments. So very many teeny tiny moments that I’d give anything to share with him.

Our friends talk about whether or not their babies are sleeping through the night, or needing to get a babysitter in order to get out of the house — conversations we don’t get to have.

Some days I wake up and just don’t feel like doing life. I just want to lay in bed and sleep until tomorrow comes. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day. Maybe tomorrow I won’t be sad. Maybe tomorrow life won’t be so exhausting.

But I can’t stay in bed all day. Life will go on with or without me. And I’d rather not be left behind. There are friends to visit, meals to eat, errands to run, sunsets to see. I don’t want to regret the life I didn’t live. I want Ryder to be proud of me. I want him to know that I’ll be ok. And for the most part, I am.

I’m going to be ok.

With hope and love,
Kristen

Walking with Grief

Since Ryder’s birthday, I’ve found quite a few things to help me as I walk through grief. This blog has helped immensely, but it’s just me and my thoughts. When grieving, you really need outside resources to help you up when you feel so stuck in your thoughts that there seems to be no way out.

People

People have been my first line of defense to keep from sinking into a depression. It’s a lot harder to get stuck in your thoughts when your friends are dragging you out of the house for dinner, to play cards, or watch them sing karaoke. Visitors, even a couple days after Ryder’s birthday, gave me a reason to get out of bed, take a shower, and put on clean clothes. That’s a pretty exhausting feat when you’ve just lost your son. But it’s a necessary step toward healing.

Support Groups

At first, I joined groups on Facebook, meeting women all over the world who have been, or are going through, similar situations. They’ve also introduced me to other bloggers who write about grief. It’s not a fun club to be in, but I sure am glad I’m not in it alone.

This week I attended my first support group meeting. There’s a group in town called Glory Babies for those grieving the loss of a baby during pregnancy or infancy, or those struggling with infertility. You can find out more about the group here.

This week, it was just the founder and me. That made me very nervous. I don’t handle awkwardness well and I’m no good at small-talk. She told me that sometimes there are ten people and sometimes there are none, but that “it is always exactly what it needs to be.” She was so right! We had a great chat. I think I really needed that one-on-one time with someone who has been where I am now. It’s refreshing to know that there is a future. I can make it. She spoke a lot about Ryder’s purpose. It’s exactly what I needed to hear. I look forward to future meetings.

Books

I buy my books like I buy my wine. If it’s pretty, then it must be good. So far, it’s worked out pretty well for me on the book side. Wines… not so much.

Look at this book!

image

{Savor by Shauna Niequist}

Isn’t it beautiful?!? Even the inside is beautiful. And I don’t just mean the blue-gilded pages, though that’s my favorite part. I’ve only read a few of the devotionals so far, but I like it. It’s real. It talks about real life. And I like that.

Each day’s devotional is one page long and starts with a scripture. Then, the author shares a story from her life to tie in the scripture. It ends with a reflection question to think on. It’s really great if you journal during your quiet times.

I’ve always been a quitter throughout my life. I’d start a sport and quickly realize I hated it and quit. I’d start a journal, forget about it one day, then get so far behind that I’d give up and quit. I’d start devotionals, only to get too busy…. and quit. You get the picture.

I don’t want to quit this. I’ve never been one to spend oodles of time in the Word. (I know… bad Christian.) I’ve been more likely to just memorize individual verses or read other books that talk about the Bible. I’ve always been a Cliff’s Notes kind of person. That’s why I’ve always loved the idea of a devotional. Hopefully this one will stick!

I’ve also read I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy by Angie Smith. It was given to me by a couple of church friends when we found out that Ryder wouldn’t make it, and it was exactly what I needed after losing him. It’s actually a very good book for anyone to read. It gives the reader insight into what someone going through loss may be thinking. Angie Smith’s husband is a member of the Christian group Watermark and they wrote a song called I Will Carry You for their daughter who they lost. It’s a beautiful song and we played it during Ryder’s memorial service.

Yoga

I’m honestly not sure about this one yet. Arizona State University is doing research on how yoga helps bereaved mothers through their grief. It’s a twelve week study and I just started it yesterday. It was an intro day, so I just watched videos on technique, breathing, and props that can be used. I don’t even know if I like yoga. But… I was once that grad student begging for participants for research. (It’s really hard to get people to do something for free. Even if it’s the equivalent to a personal trainer.) So I’m going to try my best to stick with it. (I’m not a quitter. I’m not a quitter. I’m not a quitter…)

This is just a small list of things to help with grief. I’d love to hear what has helped you through difficult times!

With hope and love,
Kristen