Shifting

The morning I woke up after having the dream was the closest to feeling completely happy I’ve felt in a long time. My daughter didn’t feel eleven years, or another world, away. Her essence clung to everything around me. The warmth of her body hung heavy in the air. It’s as if she had just walked out of the room! I had been in her presence.

Details of the dream were difficult to hold onto at any length. Flashes of images, throughout the day, helped bring them into clearer focus. Over a few hours, I stitched the pieces together into a complete picture. Even remembering I’d been incredulous, during the dream, at being with my daughter again!

A six year old piggy tailed Becca came rushing into the room to see me! A pink and purple puffy jacket squished in my arms as I picked her up into a hug. I held her tight as I kissed her flush face and she giggled! Her sticky little hands held my face and she kissed me!! Somewhere in the dream I asked myself how this could be happening. I pushed it aside and concentrated on the joy of having my child in my arms!

My mother started to pack up Becca’s clothing which signaled to me that my parents trusted me to take care of her again. I don’t know why my child was staying with them but I was elated that I was able to take her home with me. The little voice, that seemed only interested in relaying bad news, told me that this wasn’t real. Not to be too happy because it would all be over soon. As I watched my daughter rushing around gathering her toys I told it to go away. Seeing my daughter so happy, so alive, was amazing and I didn’t want it to end.

But, as dreams always do, it ended.

As I am apt to do, I spent the day ruminating over and picking apart everything that happened in my dream. Why had my parents been caring for my daughter? Why wasn’t she living with me? Becca had been so happy to see me, as if she’d not seen me in a while, how long had we been apart? I’d completely forgotten about her pink and purple jacket . . . why had she been wearing that particular coat? How had I forgotten about it? Why did I remember it now? Had Becca chosen to appear to me as a six year old, and if so, what was her reason? Honestly, I drive myself crazy some days trying to figure things out! I can’t help myself.

My mind whirling with dozens of question I told myself to stop. Out loud I said: “Just stop.”

None of that matters. What matters is that you spent joyous time with your child! You had a beautiful visit with your daughter. A visit that is all too rare. Don’t lose sight of what is important here. So I stopped dissecting dream moments to find hidden meaning and instead put my attention towards the incredible joy in the experience.

To me, though this realization may seem small, it is truly monumental when applied to the entire journey through the aftermath of child loss. The change in perspective from one vantage point to another means a world of difference to the viewer. It’s like looking at the day to appreciate what we can see instead of trying to find what we know is missing.

When our child dies we are plunged into deep mourning. There is not one piece of our world that has not been touched by our loss. To know this truth is to understand why we spend a very long time focusing on the child’s death and not necessarily their life. I don’t believe it is a conscious choice we make to do so. It’s all part of the coming to terms with and eventually accepting that our child has died.

Very simply: we need to celebrate their life instead of only mourning their death. Easier said than done . . . believe me. But, as the years pass, how she died isn’t the first thought that comes to mind. Notice in the first sentence of this paragraph I wrote the world “only” before mourning. We will always mourn. The tragic fact that our child died before us will forever bring a great sense of loss and sadness. However, the beauty in the fact they lived and the memories we carry will begin to present themselves more often. That’s when the shift in perception changes our lives.

This shift can be difficult. It was for me. Being happy felt like a betrayal to my daughter. Still does. Not thinking about the unfairness of her death made me feel as if I was saying her death was ok. I’m not. Her death isn’t ok. How she died, because of someone else’s decision, makes me rage. All the things she missed out on are unacceptable. Some days I won’t be able to think about anything else but how my daughter was cheated. Her twenty three years (and six weeks) held so much more than the split second in which she was killed, though.

For myself, I have to concentrate on how my girl lived, not how she died. Just as in my dream, I need to tell the voice to go away and let me concentrate on the years filled with our life. Often, I repeat it to myself many times a day. It’s easy to slip back into mourning. Expect to slip . . . a lot. I still do and I am in the twelfth year A.D. (After Death) and I expect it to continue. Just don’t get mired there. Our children don’t want our lives to be completely about their deaths.

The life our child lived, and lost, is both an anchor and a balloon for us. On the hardest days the weight of their absence will drag us to the bottom of the ocean. On the best ones, the memories we carry will be balloons that lift us toward the sky.

Let the shift in perception happen. Allow yourself to be lifted more often. Your child will smile with you. And, together you will fly!!

An added note: The photo above was taken by a very dear friend, Kristina, who makes it a priority to put my Becca’s name wherever she visits. This started with people writing Becca’s name in the sand for me and has blossomed into a tradition very near to my heart. I’m blessed to have many different photos of her name around the world. She’s been seen in places she’s never even been!!

 

 

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Beloved Sons

When I got pregnant with my twin boys, my daughter was not just angry, she wanted to move to Nana’s house. At ten, she was used to having me all to herself for an entire decade. Becca was pouty and misbehaved more frequently than she had ever before. My little girl, with the generally sweet disposition, was being impossible.

I was nearly five months along, in my pregnancy, when I found out there were two babies! And, that they were both boys. I was stunned. I think most people would be knocked off balance with the news of twins! When I entered my parents apartment, to tell them the news, I just handed them the ultrasound picture. I might not have to tell you . . . but, hearing the news, Becca decided to stay with my parents for a few days.

My boys arrived earlier than we had expected. We barely had time to get used to the idea of twin sons. Or, have a baby shower. But we did our best. The shower was attended by family and close friends . . . all who had agreed to bring a “big sister” gift for Becca. The pictures from this event are comical because they show a very sullen little girl who is having no part of the festivities!! But after that night . . . Becca changed. The boys were no longer “the babies” but instead, she started to refer to them as “my brothers”.

Sitting next to me on the couch, she would place both hands on my belly, so she could “touch both of them” she explained. Every night, I would sit with my mouth hanging open so she could talk to the boys. Sometimes, she would even sing. Always, she told them how much she loved them. And, she did. From the moment she held each in her arms. They were hers and she was theirs.

She was Sissy to them. And they adored her.

My boys, though they are twins, can be as different as night and day. Just as siblings do . . . they fought hard, but they loved harder. As boys can, they aggravated her, and each other. I am certain, of the fact, that my boys would not be as wonderful men as they are . . . if she hadn’t been their sister. I am so proud of my sons and all they have overcome in their short years here on earth.

A friend of mine, very innocently, stated she was glad that I had mentioned my sons at the close of my last blog piece. I thought about her question . . . and asked if she thought I didn’t talk about them enough. She said yes. Which I completely understand . . . from her viewpoint. I’m glad she asked, I’m torn, though. My life, being a journey, has many layers upon my path. Is she right? Am I ignoring the boys? More importantly, do THEY feel as if I am ignoring them? I haven’t lost my sons (thankfully) and this blog is about child loss. Even child loss has many facets.

My grief as her mother. The enormity of closing down my child’s life. Becoming a mother changed me as a person. Becoming a bereaved mother had an even bigger effect on my life. Giving birth expands our soul. Losing a child rips it from our bodies. My relationship with my surviving children was deeply affected. How I viewed the world changed in seconds. Every single thing about me was altered.

Including my ability to love my twin boys. I was afraid to love them. To love my children is to lose my children, I thought. Many years had to pass for me to realize my boys wouldn’t be cursed by my love. Overwhelming guilt still floods my chest when I think of the mother I was after losing Becca.

As many times as I have tearfully apologized to them, both Gabriel and Matthew, have told me I don’t need to say I’m sorry. Though I KNOW I failed them, in both big and small ways, they have shown me grace with their words and actions. Forgiveness I still am not sure I deserve. Even though I was completely broken, and severely lacking, my teenage sons stayed with me instead of going to live with their father. They both have a depth of character that I just stand in awe seeing.

Despite the loss of their beloved Sissy, and their broken mother, they have not only survived, but thrived. I say I am proud . . . but who they are has more to do with them, than me. Both of them, love life. They still trust life. They are adventurous and kind and giving and compassionate and generous.

Gabriel is my fighter. He’s more like me than any of my children. He carries an angst and deepness that is well beyond his years. Words flow from his pen as smooth as a stream over water worn stones. Though he struggles with worldly issues, as people do, he remains hopeful and positive. He has an intelligence that seems to come from knowing there is more in this world than what we see and he carries the knowledge from our ancestors. He’s artistic and creative and talented with whatever medium he chooses to use. He’s my poet. I know, he carries his Sissy deep in his heart and she comes out in his poetry.

Matthew is my world changer. He is deeply moved by others difficulties. The pain, I believe, from losing his Sissy propels him forward in his chosen field. Helping others. He has a way of speaking, that not only highlights his intelligence, but soothes people. He is genuine and earnest and still looks at the world in awe. All of the possibilities that are out there . . . he knows he can chase them and catch them. He’s a good man, and just to look into his eyes, you can see he is. Matthew carries his Sissy in his actions to help those around him. She comes out in the love he gives the world.

Yesterday, Gabriel told me they have an opportunity to go to Budapest and film an event for the media company they started with their friend. My boys, having endured so much by the time they reached adulthood, could be afraid of the danger that exists in the world. So afraid, that they might not be able to take advantage of this trip. But they aren’t. They are thrilled to be going back to Europe in April.

As I said . . . they still trust life.

Me, I’m worried for them. A mother always worries . . . especially after losing a child. But, more than I am worried, my soul is joyful that they are happy and hopeful in all they do. I could not be prouder of my little boys who turned into amazing men. I am excited for what the future will bring for them. For us.

In them, my hope resides.