1 month in Heaven…My Grief Observed

February 6, 2010 at 5:37 PM 3 comments

One month ago today Hailey passed away. I miss her more and more every day. I didn’t know it was possible to miss her more than I do, but I guess it is because every day gets harder.

This past month has been more than just a roller coaster ride, more than my life being turned upside down, more than a tornado ripping it apart … it’s been overwhelming. I hit extreme highs in joy and extreme lows in sorrow – sometimes hitting both extremes multiple times in a day…sometimes one extreme lasting a day or two only to be followed by a day or two of the other extreme.

I didn’t now what grief would be like. You can always imagine but can never be prepared. I had lost grandparents and other relatives over the years, and of course their passings were difficult. But nothing compares to the grief I feel over Hailey… my dad comes close, but for some reason grieving the loss of my own child is the most painful.

Even being prepared for Hailey’s death before it came did not make this process any easier. It’s still terrible. It’s terrible, and it’s awful. I began to mourn her before she passed away. I was scared of what life would be like without her and how I’d handle it… or not handle it. Nothing, not even the sadness I felt when she was alive, could have prepared me for this process of dealing with her death.

I started reading C.S. Lewis’s book A Grief Observed in which he observes his own grief with the loss of his wife. In the first passage of the book he writes, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.” When I read those words, I was kind of taken aback. He was right. It did and does feel similar to fear. And unlike Lewis, for me, sometimes, I am afraid. I am afraid of this new life I have without Hailey. I am afraid I won’t make it through the day. I am afraid of depression.

When I started this blog I told myself that I wanted to be honest in my thoughts and feelings regardless of whether they were ‘correct’ or ‘right’ or not, so I will continue to do that. Today I want to share about my grief. I know, not the most positive and encouraging thing for you to be reading, but I need to do it for me.

The morning Hailey passed away I was in a deep, peaceful sleep. I awoke to Josh lightly shaking me and telling me I needed to wake up. In my sleepy state I became aware that something wasn’t right. It wasn’t time for me to wake up yet. I looked in my husband’s face trying to wake up and figure out what was wrong. He just kept telling me I needed to come see Hailey, and I could see the tears in his eyes. My heart literally dropped to the bottom of my stomach. I asked what was wrong…is she okay? is she gone? He just kept telling me quietly to come see Hailey. I started crying. A soft cry. I knew. He didn’t have to say it. I knew. I went to her. She didn’t have her oxygen in her nose. She didn’t need it. She wasn’t breathing. She was lying there swaddled tightly in her blankie looking as beautiful and as peaceful as ever. I stupidly asked, “Can I hold her?” The entire time I had quiet tears streaming down my cheeks. I picked her up and held her close. I kissed her forehead. Her soft skin was still warm against my lips.

I won’t go much more into detail about that morning. But I will say, it wasn’t what I had expected. Not that I knew what to expect. The quietness of it all. The almost peacefulness in it. Before Hailey passed I had wondered what it would be like when she did. Would it be painful? Would it be ugly? Would it be peaceful? What would I do? I had thought that I might go hysterical or throw up when it happened. I really thought that was going to be my reaction. But when the time came, it wasn’t. My reaction was quiet. My tears were there. But it wasn’t hysterical crying, it was soft sobs, soft streams of tears trickling down my face. It was all much more quiet, and slower than I had imagined. When I tried to envision it I didn’t know if I’d want to hold her or touch her lifeless body. But when it did happen, I had to hold her. One last time. And the hardest part was letting her go and see her carried out the front door of house. She would never come back. Not having her in my arms was the hard part. Is the hard part. Even after she had been taken, the day was very strange. Again, very quiet. I didn’t now what to do with myself. There were lots of tears and lots of hugs. But it was almost like my body was in survival mode again like it was immediately after I gave birth to Hailey and we learned she was very sick. Survival. It’s like your body goes through the motions and does what it needs to do and the mind, almost incapacitated, is along for the ride.

The next couple of weeks were so busy that my mind barely had time to wrap itself around what was happening. God gave me supernatural strength that carried me through her memorial service. I was strong (for the most part) and no one expected me to be. I felt like I had to be strong for everyone else. And I did feel strong. I wasn’t faking it. I remembering sitting in front of Hailey’s casket outside at her burial. It was cold, and they put a blanket on my lap. Josh sat next to me with his arm around me. Our family behind us. A tiny casket in front of us. I remember crying and sitting there the entire time and even thinking then that it felt like an out of body experience. It was so odd. I couldn’t wrap myself and my mind around what was happening. It was happening whether I was ready or not.

Everything that happened following Hailey’s death is like a whirlwind. We were away from our home in Alabama. We were busy every day visiting with family and friends. And things with my dad were becoming worse and worse. Eventually my mind and heart shifted focus to my dad who eventually lost his battle with cancer. My grief for Hailey at times got put on pause.

In the first couple of weeks after Hailey’s passing, I had tremendous strength. The grief was there. But I was strong in it. I found joy in it. I found hope in it. Those weeks and days were amazing. God allowed me to mourn Hailey but His comfort and peace He gave me were so overwhelming. There were good days and bad days, but I got through them all. I saw the light amidst the darkness.

However, this past week, my grief is no longer the same. Things are settling down. We’re getting into a routine again here in Alabama. And my grief has a different face now. I didn’t expect that. I thought it would continue as it had.

Earlier this week I bought a bunch of frames and printed off a bunch of my favorite pictures of Hailey and we put them up in the house. I thoroughly enjoyed doing that. Those first couple of days were good. And I’m glad I have them up and around the house… but I’ll share something that C.S. Lewis wrote that I completely relate to:
“I have no photograph of her that’s any good. I cannot even see her face distinctly in my imagination. Yet the odd face of some stranger seen in a crowd this morning may come before me in vivid perfection the moment I close my eyes tonight…We have seen the faces of those we know best so variously, from so many angles, in so many lights, with so many expressions…that all the impressions crowd into our memory together and cancel out into a mere blur.” It’s frustrating at times.

If I had to pick a moment that changed the course of my grief, I would have to say it was the day I went grocery shopping at the commissary on post. The number of new moms with their babies was too much for me. It was unexpected. Everywhere I turned was a young mom, my age, with her cute, healthy little baby boy or girl. Everywhere I turned. It honestly started to feel like a slap in face or a stab in the heart every time a saw a mother with her child. For some reason that day, I couldn’t take those sights. I started missing Hailey. Thinking of things I would no longer be able to do with her. Started feeling sorry for myself more than thinking of her.

The rest of this week has been the most difficult yet. I miss her more and more each day. The loss is fresh and unbearable. It literally feels like a part of me is gone. And how do you function if you’re not whole? The grief this week was almost paralyzing. I think it’s probably safe to say that I’m feeling some depression this week. The same things that once brought me comfort, I no longer found comfort in. I didn’t have the energy to do anything (not to mention that I had a cold which didn’t help). I didn’t want to do anything. I couldn’t do anything. I felt like my strength and peace had run out. Not run out, more like got ripped away from me suddenly within a day. The grief was raw. Like I had never experienced before. I wasn’t happy. I didn’t want to be happy. I was tired of being strong. I was tired and almost afraid that the world would think I’m okay. Life sucked. My baby, my child was gone. And that is all I could focus on. My purpose was to be her mother and raise her and see her grow. That was all gone. I started getting afraid of my future. My future still is unclear to me. And one of the things I hate the most right now is people asking me what I’m going to do now. I want to shout back what am I supposed to do! Do you know what it’s like to lose your baby? I can barely function and get up in the morning and you want to know if I’m going to be a teacher again and start working! Please stop asking me what I’m going to do. I don’t know what I’m going to do. Right now I’m living day to day. Just trying to make it through.

God has been my strength and provider through all of this. But this week, it was difficult to go to Him. I wasn’t turning my back on him. I wasn’t yet angry with him. I just didn’t feel his presence as strongly anymore. I knew he hadn’t left me, but it was feeling like he had. I started arguing and crying out to him in my head – why me? why Hailey? why my dad? why do we have to live so far away from all of my friends and family? why do you want me to endure all this pain? where is the hope of good in my future that you promise? why does it feel like you’ve left me alone? I felt like Job crying out in despair. I thought and hoped I wouldn’t get to that point in my grief where I yelled at God, where I felt abandoned, where I longed to be with Hailey in Heaven and not here on earth without her. But I got to that point. C.S. Lewis writes about how he went through a period of this too. He described is feelings with a friend. Lewis writes: “He reminded me that the same thing seems to have happened to Christ: ‘Why hast thou forsaken me?’ I know. Does that make it easier to understand?” And this is where I will interrupt with a comment like Lewis adds immediately after sharing these honest thoughts and feelings: I am not in danger of ceasing to believe in God or turn my back on him.

So what is grief? I don’t know. I’m grieving, and I don’t know what it is. I do know that it’s not the same for everyone. And it’s different for me every day. Yes it’s true, some days are good days and some days are bad. But what makes one good vs. bad I have yet to figure out. For me, the first couple of weeks were almost the easiest if I can use that word when I expected them to be the hardest…and now, the last week or so has been the most difficult so far.

Grief can be peaceful at times – almost when I least expect it. And grief can be ugly at times. It can completely wash over me and make me feel like I’m drowning. And I was afraid of that grief. I thought that I would be ‘less of a Christian’ if I felt that kind of grief. But I don’t think that’s true. I’m not turning my back on God. Even on the days I want to give up and don’t have a ‘godly’ perspective, I still believe in God. I may feel like he has forsaken me, but deep in my heart he will forever remain my Lord and Savior. So even on my darkest days of grief where the longing for Hailey is unbearably…which apparently I am not immune to like I had hoped…and I seem to have lost my source of hope and joy and comfort and peace… I really haven’t. I think I’m learning that God does not always have to allow me to feel joy and hope in this situation. He knows my pain better than anyone including me. And according to His word there is a plan for it and he wants to work good in it and there is a hope for my future… but I want immediate relief. I want that all now. And he is telling me no.

The final passage I want to share for today from A Grief Observed is this:
“‘Do not mourn like those that have no hope.’ It astonishes me the way we are invited to apply to ourselves words to obviously addressed to our betters. What [Paul] says can comfort only those who love God better than the dead, and the dead better than themselves. If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which is was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to ‘glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her [daughter] on her knees, or bath [her], or tell [her] a story, or plan for [her] future, or see her grandchild.”

So here is the verse that He has put on my heart in the darkest of my days this week and remains there today: “Be still and know that am I God.” Well I have nothing else to do but that. So I will ride out the storm and wait for my rescue. It will come… there’s just no telling when or how.

Today is the one month anniversary of my baby girl’s passing. And surprisingly, even as I write this post, today is not the hardest day I’ve had so far. I would have expected today to be one of the worst days yet. But for some reason it’s not. I think I need to let go of all expectations, because in this season that I’m in, hardly anything is as I expect it to be. I’m able to find some comfort again today in the knowledge that she IS in a far better place. And I also have to say without God (even when I feel he is gone) and without my husband, I can’t imagine how much worse this could be… So thank you to God and my husband for carrying me through these times when I can’t pick myself up off the ground.

“I must think more about [her] and less about myself.” C.S. Lewis.
“Be still and know that am I God.” Psalm 46:10

To my munchkin – I miss you today. I miss you everyday. I can’t believe you’ve been in Heaven for a month now. I hope you’re having a blast hanging out with Jesus. I find comfort in trying to imagine all of the amazing things you get to do and experience in Heaven. I know you’re having a great time and you’re in the best hands to be in. Praying that God gives you some extra hugs and kisses from me. Love you forever, Mom.

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Entry filed under: Me. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

Tangible Reminders of Hailey Random musings…mostly about my guilt-complex

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ilea  |  February 6, 2010 at 9:24 PM

    Krissy, you're my best friend and I love you to pieces and I wish that I could take some of your anger and grief and despair onto my own shoulders just so that you didn't have to have it all anymore. I am so grateful that you have Josh beside you and a loving God in your heart because I believe that they will sustain you. Keep writing and keep being open, because that will sustain you too. On a somewhat lighter note-Remember my Buffy obsession (and how I get my life experience vicariously through books and TV)? Well, there's an episode where Buffy's mom dies and Angel comes to see her and they are talking about tomorrow. Tomorrow scares Buffy much more than the funeral, because tomorrow everyday life resumes. She says "Up until now I've had a roadmap, things to do every minute having to do with Mom…And everybody expects me to know how to do it because I'm so strong." Sometimes going back to the routine can be the scariest thing ever because what was routine isn't really your routine anymore. Everything is different. There's not a roadmap anymore. There's just…the unknown, and what is scarier to humans than that? I was really impressed with you at the memorial. I felt like an absolute wreck, and there was actually one point where YOU were comforting ME, obviously the silliest thing that could be expected of you at that time and place. You were crying but you seemed so composed as you greeted everyone and accepted their condolences and their tears and their grief. It was a pretty amazing thing, to see you and Josh coming together that way to support each other and still find it in your heart to support the rest of us too.And whenever you get really angry, I highly recommend Buffy on X-Box…it's great stress relief to slay virtual vampires 🙂

    Reply
  • 2. kathy  |  February 6, 2010 at 11:28 PM

    …there will be times when you can't pray…don't have the words…don't have the energy…WE (your family and friends) will bathe you in prayer…we will pray for you and it won't matter if you can't pray…God will ALWAYS be faithful to carry you…to shelter you beneath His wing…

    Reply
  • 3. shayna  |  February 7, 2010 at 8:08 PM

    Blessed are the poor in spiritBlessed are they that mournBlesssed are the meekBlessed are the MercifulBlessed are the pure in heartBlessed are the peacemakersBlessed are the persecuted

    Reply

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Dedication

"God gives, God takes. God's name be ever blessed." ~Job 1:21

In Loving Memory of Hailey Marie

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