Thursday, October 30, 2008

Didn't Go

I didn't visit the cemetery.

I just couldn't bring myself to go.

I honestly had intentions to go, but I was too scared. And too sad. I knew that I would break down and I did not want my son to see me like that. I also wanted to read a letter to each of my girls, but was unable to prepare them. I didn't feel right going there unprepared.

I guess it just wasn't time yet.

I feel terrible that I have all these opportunities to visit their grave and don't go. But I just can't. It is too painful. Someday I will find the courage to visit them. Someday I will find the strength to kneel down in the grass and touch their headstone. Someday I will sit with them and read the letters I wrote while I cry and miss them. I think what I dread the most is not the going there.

It is the leaving.

Leaving the cemetery on the day of their funeral made their death so real. And I fear that leaving them again will only make it more real. You would think my empty belly and painful scar would be enough to convince me of that already. How much more real could it get right? Was holding each of my babies in my arms as they took their last breath not enough to drive it home? Is an empty nursery and quiet house not convincing? Do their death certificates and the deed to the cemetery plot leave any question that they are gone?

Yet with each passing day, somehow, the reality sets in even more. I don't even know how but it does. And the pain of those moments is excruciating. I know that seeing their headstone is going to hurt profoundly. And I am just not ready for that yet. I will be someday, but not today.

I hope my girls understand. I think they do since they don't really hang out there anyway.

I miss you sweet girls. I miss you so much.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Anxious Observer

At my aunt's memorial service on Saturday I could not help but watch my uncle and cousins the entire time. I observed anxiously, trying to read them. I recognized in their faces the intensity of their pain. Their body language exposed their grief. I empathized with their brokenness in some ways but not in others. It is hard to watch people you love hurting so profoundly, especially when my own pain is still so fresh. I know how unbearable it really is. I worry for them.

I prayed today for them and for every person in the world that is grieving, has grieved, and will grieve the loss of some one they love. Watching others grieve stirs up so much of my own grief it almost makes me sick. I feel scared and sad for others who are experiencing such pain. I watch helplessly as they uniquely endure their loss. I feel anxious because I know how hard and lonely this journey is. And it is lonely. So unbelievably lonely. I hurt for them as I myself hurt.

I know how devastating losing Aubrey and Ellie has been for me and I can only assume that other kinds of loss, although not identical to mine, are just as devastating. My uncle asked me how long the pain lasts. I couldn't really answer him. I told him that his loss is different than mine and that he is different than me, but for me it has not yet ended, that it will take a while. He thanked me for being honest but I could tell he was not encouraged. I too wish the pain would pass more quickly, but it doesn't. It takes a lot of time, too much time in my opinion.

I know that God will help them through their grief just as He is helping me through mine. I know that God will carry them just as He has carried me. But it will still be hard for them just as it is hard for me. They will have many hard days and tear-filled nights. I still have many of those ahead of me. I can only watch anxiously and pray for God's comfort for all of us. He has enough for all of us thankfully. Even when we feel like enough does not exist.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Sliver of Light

The last four days have been the hardest in a long time. I felt like I was caught in a storm again. It is so easy to feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and disoriented. The waves of grief were pounding me one after the other. And I struggled. I felt like I was hanging on for dear life but unsure if it was even worth it. I wanted to let go and just be overcome.

Grief is a lot like water. It can be relentless, eroding away every coping mechanism, striping me of any strength or strategy to endure this sad season of my life. Aubrey and Ellie's death has truly shattered me and sometimes I feel as though the pieces will never be put back together. I am simply broken, forever.

But today I saw a sliver of light. I felt a hint of warmth on my face. I was in a storm but now the storm has subsided and the clouds are clearing. Light is breaking through. And there I am, holding on to a life raft, tired and soaking wet, bobbing up and down with the small swells of the sea. The waves are gone. The rain has past. I am still in the ocean of my grief with no land in sight, but for the moment there is calm, there is light, and there is warmth. There is hope.

It is easy for me to see God in the calm. But He was there in the storm too. He has not abandoned me during this time. He is what keeps me afloat. He held my head above water through every powerful wave. When I could not see, He was guiding me. When I could not swim, He held me up. When I wanted to cast myself into the sea and give up, He quieted the storm and let the sun shine through.

Another storm will come. My hard days have not come to an end. But I am so thankful for God's sufficient grace. I will remember this day when the hard days hit again. I can trust that there is light in these dark times. I have experienced it. God is so faithful. His Word is true. He comforts those who mourn. His comfort is real to me today.

I am still sad. My heart is still broken. God's comfort does not remove the pain, but it does sustain me through it. I feel the pieces being put together one by one. I will always miss Aubrey and Ellie though. And I know I have many more tears to cry for them.

At least for today though I can have a little sun on my face in between the tears. For the moment I can catch my breath and bask in the Light.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Headstone

My dad called me today to tell me that Aubrey and Ellie's headstone has finally been set on their grave and that it is beautiful. I have not yet visited them at the cemetery. I can't bring myself to go. But I have plans to finally see them this weekend while I am visiting my parents to attend my aunt's memorial service. I want to write them each a letter and read it to them while I kneel at their grave. I know I will water the grass with my tears. I will also bring them the most beautiful flowers I can find. Most importantly I am going to spend some time with my girls. I realize they are in heaven and not really in that tiny casket but I think going there will be good for me. It will be a huge step. I will put their letters in their memory boxes when I come home and hold my time at their graveside close to my heart. I need these things to keep me going. Any connection to my girls helps me cope. Any memory I can make with them brings me comfort. I miss them so much.

Doll Clothes

I was in the craft store today and I came across an entire wall of doll clothes. I found all kinds of beautiful and tiny little outfits that would have fit my girls perfectly. Adorable little dresses with ruffles. Tiny sweaters with matching mittens and booties. Even shoes. Tiny little shoes.

I was filled with gut wrenching regret. I should have dressed them before they were buried. I should have found doll clothes for my girls and made them look pretty before they were laid to rest. I am their mother, I should have done that for them. I wish I could go back in time and make a different decision. But I can't. It makes me so sad.

Not dressing them before they were buried is not my only regret. I have many.

I regret not paying more attention while I was pregnant. Maybe I could have prevented their premature birth? I should have protected them better. After they were born I only visited them in the NICU two or three times a day. After I was discharged only once a day. I should have visited more and stayed longer. I never took any video of them. Why did I not do that? I had the opportunity to sit next to Ellie's incubator and look at her while I pumped my milk, but I never got the chance to do that with Aubrey. I hope she can forgive me and knows that I love her as much as I love her sister. I also didn't visit Aubrey in the hospital the Sunday before she died. Everyday I think how God gave me a day with her that I took for granted. Every time I wish for just one more day with my girls I think how I did have one more day with Aubrey that I didn't take advantage of. I feel like a horrible mother.

It is really hard to forgive myself for not doing all the things I should have done. And everyday brings a new regret. It is all part of the process I guess. Part of the grief process. Someday I hope that I can let go of all the ways I failed my girls and accept that I did the best I could under the circumstances. I hope they know that I tried to be the best mother I could to them and that I love them with my whole being.

I hope my love for them can find its way to Heaven.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fed Up

I woke up this morning completely fed up.

I looked at myself in the mirror and I saw a worn out woman staring back. My eyes were puffy from crying the night before and I looked awful. I am so over feeling broken and sad all the time. I just don't know what to do with myself anymore. I want this whole miserable process to be finished. I am sick of carrying it and dealing with it and fighting it and feeling it and wrestling with it and crying about it.

My heart aches all the time. I am exhausted. And I want more than a break from the pain, I want it to end. I just want it to be over.

If only it was that simple.

Nothing about my daughters' deaths is simple. And nothing will make the pain simply vanish. It is something I will carry for the rest of my life. Their loss has complicated my life in ways I did not think possible.

Normal daily living is harder than it has ever been. Simple tasks overwhelm me. I get frustrated with the demands of being a wife and a mother. I just want to be left alone to deal with my pain by myself, uninterrupted. I can't seem to keep myself motivated. I lose track of time. Halfway through something I forget what I am doing. I feel like I am losing my mind sometimes. I constantly fight the urge to check out on life every day. I don't want to cook dinner or fold laundry or go to the grocery store. I just want to do nothing and stare into space and think about my girls.

The present overwhelms me. The future scares me. I used to love being alive. I embraced the present and welcomed the future. The possibilities were exciting. Now all I foresee is a lifetime of grief. A lifetime of sorting out how to live without my girls. And more opportunities for loss and pain. I am scared now. Bad things can and do happen. It is frightening.

I think part of what is making me so fed up is how hard I am fighting to resist giving in to the process. I fight it sometimes because walking through the grief hurts and I don't want to hurt anymore. It is far worse than I imagined it would be. I am scared of how bad the pain might get. I don't want to find out how much worse I can hurt. I hurt badly enough already. I am overwhelmed. I have hit the wall.

It has been a hard last couple of days. The hardest in a while. I hope it lets up soon.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Another Death

Today my aunt died. Cancer. She is with the Lord now without question and no longer suffering. I rejoice that she is whole, but I am still very sad. I loved her. She was always a good Aunt to me and my sisters. She loved us. Her and I also formed a unique bond when my girls died. She also lost a baby daughter over thirty five years ago. She was so broken hearted for me. She knew my pain. I found comfort in that.

I went to visit her two weeks ago. We live three hours from each other. I wanted to spend time with her and tell her how much I loved her before she passed away. She was very sick and in a lot of pain.

I sat in her room while she slept. And when she woke up I rubbed her feet with lotion. She asked me how I was doing and I started to cry. First of all I could not believe that she was asking about me in her condition. I guess that is just the kind of person she was. She truly cared about others. She knew I was hurting. And she was right, I was. She hugged me and told me that she knows how hard it is, that she cried on her daughter's birthday for twenty years, but life is still full of so many blessings. That she feels so blessed to have lived the live she did. She must have said how blessed she felt thirty times.

Hearing her say that gave me hope. She had made it through her grief to live her life, and not just any life, but one full of blessings. If she could I know I will too. It will just take time.

My aunt will be dearly missed by many. A lot of people loved her. I wish she could still be with us, but I do think it is beautiful that she met her daughter in Heaven today. I am sure she never stopped longing to see her baby, no matter how blessed her life was. And that ache in her heart is finally gone. She is with her Jesus and her daughter now. There is peace in that only a mother who has lost a child can understand.

The Nursery

I was standing in Aubrey and Ellie's nursery today trying to think how to rearrange the furniture in it to transform it into a guest room. I was trying to make room for a queen size mattress so that when guests come stay at our house they have somewhere to sleep since the room is not being used right now. I want to put up one crib in the room because I hope to have another baby in the future.

But which crib should I put up, Aubrey's or Ellie's?

I want to give the other crib back to my mom.

But again, which one?

It sickens me that I will eventually have to pick. This is a decision I should never have to make.

I hate these days when decisions have to be made to move forward with life. That nursery was supposed to be for Aubrey and Ellie. It was never supposed to be a guest room. It was never supposed to be for any other purpose than for my baby girls.

I just stood in the door way staring. I could feel resentment and sad anger building up in me. It felt very much the same as picking out their plot and headstone. I hated that day. Every moment was torture. I just hate that this happened and all the decisions that come with it.

I resent so much how everything got so screwed up when Aubrey and Ellie died. Losing them changed everything. My life will never be the same. I will never be the same. And their empty nursery only pours salt on my wounds.

I still call the nursery Aubrey and Ellie's room.

I don't know what else to call it.

There is a rocking chair in the corner I had dreams of rocking them to sleep in. Sometimes I just sit in it and cry. Some days are just so hard.

Today was one of them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Decision

After Aubrey and Ellie died I was faced with the biggest decision of my life. I was completely devastated and in shock, yet I knew that I was at a crossroad.

I had to decide to walk through my grief to reach the healing on the other side or let my grief overwhelm me and leave me wrecked and miserable for the rest of my life.

To be honest, at first I did just want to lay down and die. I could not imagine ever feeling anything but pain again. Yet I knew that I had to commit to the process of healing even if I could not fathom ever reaching the end. I had to at least try.

And not just for my sake, but for the sake of my husband and son, and for my girls. My girls may have died, but I was still alive and I had to learn to live again or I was afraid my grief would swallow me up. My son needs a happy mom, my husband needs a whole wife, and I wanted to honor my girls by living a full life.

I eventually decided that I was determined to make it through. I was going to make it to the other side no matter what.

Looking back though I see that I had no idea what making such a decision would require of me. I could not fathom the fight ahead of me. I still can't. I am blindsided daily by the difficulty of healing. But I'm along for the ride no matter where it takes me. I literally hold on for dear life and pray that at the end of it I will find the peace I am desperately seeking.

I often reflect on the exact moment I made the decision to find my way through my grief. I was sitting in front of my daughters' casket, staring at it. I have never felt such anguish in my life. I often describe that day as the worst day of my life. Attending Aubrey and Ellie's funeral was my worst nightmare realized and the finality of their death was emotionally sickening. I could barely endure it. I wanted to crawl inside their casket and be buried with them. I could not imagine feeling pain more painful than what I felt that day.

Yet, in the midst of my paralyzing pain, I felt a peace. I believed for the first time since their death that I would make it, that I could keep living even though they were gone. It would not be easy, but I didn't have to figure it out alone. It would be OK. And my girls were OK.

I decided right then that no matter how hard the process became, I would not give up. And so my journey began.

I remember telling myself that now I get to find out what I am made of. And you know what I have discovered?

I am made of tears and snot!

I wish I could say that I discovered how strong I am, but I haven't. I found out that I am not strong enough for this. Losing my girls stripped me of any strength I thought I had. I can honestly say that my own strength has not moved me a single step forward, that God has carried me every step of the way. His strength is what gets me through. His comfort keeps me striving for healing. His words and promises give me hope. I don't know where I would be without God's faithfulness.

The process has proven to be harder than I ever imagined it though. I often want to give up. And at times I probably have. But God gives me a renewed strength and is patient with me as I travel uniquely through my grief.

Every morning I wake up and say, "OK God, it is you and me together today." And He is so faithful. It has been over three months now and I am still pushing on. It has not been easy though. I have been discouraged many times. Grief is messy and confusing. There is no rhyme or reason to the process. Just when I think I can't hurt anymore than I do, somehow I feel the loss of my girls even more deeply. When I don't think I have one more tear to cry, more tears come. When I think I am finally taking a step forward I get knocked back ten steps. Grief is pretty relentless. And I just keep taking blow after blow.

I don't know what is ahead of me. I do know that I still have a long way to go. I do know that I am so tired and still so sad. I know that I hate grief and I hate that my girls died. I don't know how this became my life. But it is my life and all I can do is the best I can.

I remain committed to my healing journey.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Yelling to God

Today has been a hard day.

All I can think about is how God could have asked this of me. In my conversations with God today I find myself shaking my head in painful disbelief. My feelings are deeply hurt. I feel betrayed. How could He require me to endure this tremendous loss? How could He ever allow such a thing to happen? HOW?

Doesn't He know how much this has broken my heart and crushed my spirit? How incapacitating my pain is? That asking me to live my life without my girls is too much to ask of me?

THIS IS TOO MUCH TO ASK OF ME GOD!!!!

How will I ever get through this? Honestly, how could shattering my hopes and dreams and allowing my girls to die be necessary at all for them, me or my family? There were so many less painful outcomes God could have allowed. Why did He allow the most painful outcome possible? Doesn't He know my heart and how much I love my children...that asking this of me is unnecessary and feels cruel?

I am so hurt. Truly crushed. And desperately sad.

I know that God understands my anger. After I get done yelling my disappointments to God I often realize that I am not really angry but desperate to vent my pain. I just miss my girls. Living without them is so hard for me. I would really like some one or something to blame for all the pain I feel. I have tried to be mad at God but I just can't be. I have tried to blame Him but I truly know that my girl's death was not his fault. And I know that He was merciful to them. I am not mad really. Just horribly sad and broken hearted.

At times I do wish I could punch God for allowing this to happen though. But in reality no punching is necessary.

God knows how I feel fully and completely. I don't have to make Him hurt like I hurt, He already carries the burden of my pain. He knows the full weight of it would crush me so He helps me shoulder the load. His presence in my life and the fullness of his comfort is as real as my pain. It is possible to feel so sad and yet be comforted by the Lord at the same time.

And thank God for that!

I will probably never know how God could have allowed this to happen, but I do know He does not expect me to endure without His help. He will sustain me until the day I meet my girls in Heaven, however long that will be.

I lean heavily on that promise.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Due Date

Today would have been my girl's due date.

I knew this day would come and I knew that it would be hard.

To be honest though I don't find it any harder than any other day without my girls. Since Aubrey and Ellie went to be with Jesus my days have been the hardest of my life. It does not matter what the date is, each day is another day without my babies.

Waking up each morning still brings tears. My favorite place to cry is in the shower because the water washes my tears away and muffles the sound of my sobbing. Getting on with the rest of the day is easier some days than others.

For some reason I often cry in the car. Days that require a lot of driving are harder than days at home. And once I crawl in bed I always cry again. Some nights I shed only a few tears, other nights many tears. It just depends. I miss my girls most at night when the house is quiet and dark. I listen to the silence and think of them because I know I will never hear them cry for me. I don't even know what they sound like. They never cried while they were alive because of the breathing tube in their throat. It makes me sad that I never heard their voices. It is just one more thing I will never know about them.

I didn't have an emotional break down today. I wasn't a mess. I just felt deeply sad all day, like I do everyday.

I thought a lot today about what my sadness feels like. My sadness is acute and constant. It envelops me like air, always all around me, eerily silent and always present. I can't see it, it isn't tangible, but I feel it with every ounce of my being every second of every day. It lives in me too, unchanging and unyielding. Sometimes my sadness surges like a storm, pummeling me with intense emotions, battering me with painful reminders of what I have lost, and when those storms come I am often left feeling kicked while I'm down. But even when the storm dies down, my sadness does not subside. It is always there, lingering. I think I have all the symptoms of a real broken heart. Seriously, my heart actually hurts. I don't think a broken heart is just a figure of speech.

My sadness has become a part of me, a part of who I am now, and slowly I am learning to function with it. I think it will be a long time until I feel any relief from my sadness. Losing my girls is the most painful thing I have ever experienced. I don't expect it to ever fully go away. This kind of pain doesn't just leave one day.

But I do trust that God will help me learn to live with it. And I know he has carried me during the worst of it. I have crumbled under the weight of my pain at times, and I have felt God carry me through those times. I know that while He is holding me He is also holding my girls and all three of us are in the arms of our Savior together.

It is the closest I can get to my girls in this life.

I am thankful for God's grace during this time, but I would still trade it all to have my babies back. That is just the honest truth.

I just miss them so much.

Monday, October 6, 2008

So Many Losses

On Sunday I was driving in the car to my GriefShare class. I was all alone, thinking and missing my girls.

Their due date is right around the corner and I often ponder how life would be different if we were still expecting them any day. I recalled that when I was pregnant with them I constantly imagined what the day of their birth might be like. I hoped and prayed for a natural, medication-free birth just like I had with my son and I was looking forward to surprising all the doctors when I gave birth to twins without an epidural.

I imagined Kirk's face as he saw his little daughters come into the world. He was in Iraq when our son was born so Aubrey and Ellie's birth was going to be a first for him.

But mostly I imagined that special moment when we would take our first family picture. I wanted one of those priceless once in a lifetime photographs of Aubrey and Ellie in my arms and our son in my husbands' arms, looking delirious with exhaustion and joy, marveling at our perfectly beautiful family. It didn't even matter to me if I looked terrible from hours of labor, I had my heart set on that picture. I prayed for that picture and thanked God in advance for that miracle moment.

But it would never be.

As I drove I started to cry. It hit me that I was grieving the loss of that moment. I was and still am grieving the loss of that once in a lifetime photograph, that picture of my wonderfully blessed life.

Losing my girls has truly cost me so much.

As the loss of my daughters continues to sink in, I feel new losses all the time. I didn't only lose them, I lost every memory that never came to be. And I grieve the loss of the memories I'll never have.

Just when I think I might be coping a little better a flood of new grief comes over me as I am hit with the magnitude of Aubrey and Ellie's deaths. Just the other day my mom showed me two darling overcoats she bought for my sister's two small daughters. They were pink with white fur around the collar and the sleeves. When I saw the coats my heart got so sad because they were exactly what I wanted to dress my girls in. I had dreams of dressing them in matching coats with white tights and black Mary Jane shoes. I have to grieve the loss of ever dressing them up as I hoped.

Before Aubrey and Ellie were put in their casket I was asked if I wanted to dress them in something to be buried in. I said that I didn't because I didn't have anything for them. That they were so small the only clothes that would have fit them were doll clothes. But in reality I didn't want to dress them because I was too scared to see them again. To this day I regret that decision. I am grieving the loss of that opportunity. I should have dressed my babies. I should have looked at them and touched them and dressed them and put little hats on them and wrapped them in a blanket and held them and kissed them one last time before I put them in their casket to be buried. But I was scared. I was so devastated with grief that I didn't have it in me at that moment to say yes. I will always regret not saying yes.

But I know Aubrey and Ellie forgive me.

The hard part is forgiving myself. And letting go of what will never be.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Nightmares

Since Aubrey and Ellie died I have had nightmares. Scary, tormenting nightmares. I had a lot of them in the beginning. But they occur less and less as time goes by. They used to be terrifying. They seemed so real that I would wake up confused and upset. Sometimes I would even scream or cry out in my sleep. Now I don't have nightmares as much, but I constantly dream about them, which is just as emotional. I dream I am holding them, but I wake up with empty arms. It makes me sad.

The first night after both my girls had died I had a dream that I was in the middle of the ocean treading water in rough seas with one of my babies in each hand. I was desperately trying to keep them above water. I was using all my strength to keep swimming but over time I grew tired and I dropped my babies into the sea. In my dream I was frantically grabbing for them but the waves knocked them out of my reach. They slowly disappeared in the water and I was helpless to save them. Just as I started to drown I woke up. I cried for hours after that.

I think my dream that night represented the helplessness I feel. I struggle daily wondering if I could have done more to help my girls live. It was so frustrating just looking at them through the incubator glass. I felt as though I failed them. I should have kept them in my belly longer but my body failed in the worst way. Now they were sick, and not getting well, and there was nothing I could do but pray.

I often feel guilty for not knowing how to pray for Aubrey and Ellie. I am so thankful that God knew what my girls needed even when I didn't. I find peace in that. It was disheartening to not know what was best for my own children. I remember praying Please God, just do something. I don't even know what I meant by that, but God knew. He heard the desperate plea of my scared and broken heart for my precious daughters.

And eventually God did do something, He took my girls to Heaven. I find comfort knowing they are whole now and not suffering, and I trust God. I know He did the most merciful and loving thing that could have been done for my girls under the circumstances. But not a second goes by that I don't ask God why He didn't let me keep them. I really wanted to keep them. I know I will see them again someday, but in the meantime I still miss them. I really really miss them.
 
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