Helping Someone Who Is Grieving
Every day in the United States alone, 26 babies are stillborn.
This is Ruth's story:
i don't have any leather pants to strap on, as i have been invited to do on the homepage, but i'm gonna share my story. i'm 37 years old, happily married, and the proud mother of three (living) children.
last year, almost this exact time of year, i found out i was pregnant with our fourth child. the news came as a bit of a surprise, as i was on the pill, and we'd thought we were "done" - our kids are 12, 10, and 8.
after the initial shock wore off, we were thrilled. it was going to be so much fun this time around, knowing what we already know about having kids and whatnot. all the stress of just keeping the little buggers alive and well until they started school was behind us. we could relax and just enjoy having a little one to hold and snuggle.
at our 20 week ultrasound, we discovered that it was a girl we named ruth, and her umbilical cord had only two blood vessels instead of the usual three.
the doctor explained the problems this could cause, and after educating ourselves about the risks involved, we felt confident that we could handle whatever GOD chose to bring our way. her due date was set for january 11, 2013. because mine was considered a high-risk pregnancy, i had weekly ultrasounds scheduled for the last two months of the pregnancy.
on january 2, just nine days before our due date, my ultrasound revealed that there was no heartbeat. ruth was dead.
i headed to labor and delivery to be induced. early the next morning, I delivered my baby girl who had already left this world.
the pain and shock have been enormous. i am so grateful to my husband for being my strength over these last 4 months. he lost a daughter too, but somehow he manages to rise above his grief when i need him.
our families have been wonderful, letting me grieve in my own way, never judging, always loving. we never did find out what happened; why she died. now the big question is, do we want to try for another baby? we know we can't replace the one we lost, but it just seems so sad to end our baby-making years with a tragedy.
if anyone reading this is interested, Jason Collins, MD of knoxville, tennessee is an ob-gyn studying the causes and risk factors for stillbirth. i was able to get in contact with him after losing ruth, and discovered that this tragedy is all too common: every day in the united states alone, 26 babies are stillborn.
i'd become concerned during the last few weeks of my pregnancy that the baby wasn't moving enough, but when i contacted my doctor, i was told that it was fine; babies slow down as they get bigger.
listen up, everybody! babies DO NOT slow down. all pregnant moms: do a kick count. be a pain in your doctor's ass. drive the nurses at the hospital crazy. do whatever it takes for that little one.
s/he is counting on you.
GOD bless all of you who read this. GOD bless ALL the unborn babies.
thanks, the band, for letting me have the floor for a moment.
Grief takes a different form for everyone, and coming to terms with a sibling's death can take some time.
This is her story.
Not going to lie, grief is one tricky bitch.
The past month has been the worst for me grief-wise. Little triggers have happened and when they do all I want to do is cry, cry, and cry.
Some days are better than others, I’m sure all of you know this. If I can get through the day without tears I find it a victory. However it’s not long before something reminds me of my sister and I shut down.
The whole process is a total nightmare. Never in a million years did I think losing my sister would make me into a broken, hot mess. I am usually - to quote Phil from Duck Dynasty - "Happy, Happy, Happy" despite that what has happened to my family is sad, sad, sad.
At church not long ago, we sang "Jesus Loves Me" during communion and for some reason it got to me. It reminded me of Jenny so I cried, which made dad cry too. Good one, Mags.
Later at lunch dad told that Jenny’s main caregiver, the one who had been with her for 20 years was diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Fuck. We can’t win, can we?
The following Tuesday I had choir practice and since it was nice out, I decided a quick trip to the cemetery was in order. I was concerned about the flowers I had put out since 11 inches of snow was dumped on us. The flowers were fine along with the solar light dad had gotten but the pretty pink pinwheel didn’t survive thanks to the high winds.
As I pulled up the pinwheel from the fresh ground, I noticed the death date plaque was put in place. Cue the waterworks. I stood there a few minutes then went to toss the pinwheel. I noticed the pieces of the pinwheel were strewn about not far from where Jenny was buried. In fact, one was near where my grandpa was buried just a few feet from Jenny. I collected them in order to try and fix them.
I went home and sat in the rocker that used to be in Jenny’s room and cried. I felt silly to be crying over something so ridiculous as a dollar pinwheel that can easily be fixed or replaced. I blame that time of the month for that one. I was extra emotional then.
What triggers my emotions and what doesn’t is another funny thing.
A week ago I went into Jenny’s nearly empty room. I felt that heavy feeling you get when you’re sad but it quickly vanished. Later when I got home and heard a song on the radio, boom, it hit me.
The following Friday I was at the store when I ran into someone who once again expressed their sympathies (another thing I am tired of). Then I ran into one of Jenny’s longtime caregivers. After we exchanged hugs and hellos she told me it gets harder and harder every day. Then she dropped an unexpected bomb on me. Jenny’s room was painted.
I knew this would happen because eventually Jenny’s room would be given to another client who needs it. But to paint it so soon? After a month, when we were told to take all the time we needed? Granted, there isn’t much left but how am I to go there now and not see the cheery yellow room that was Jenny’s? It was too much. I ranted at my dad about it later because I was angry, and when I got home I was exhausted again. I cried.
I was told by a friend of mine that I’m empathetic. I feel more than most people; births, marriages, sicknesses and especially deaths have more of an effect on me. "Lucky me," I replied sarcastically. They told me it was a good trait to have and more should have it. Then how come I feel like shit and cry at the drop of a hat?
I’m tired of being sad, crying at any given moment. Tired of complaining to people about it when I’m sure they’re tired of me too. I used to be so strong. It took a lot to get me to cry but I don’t think I’ll have that strength again. I heard that Dad said I was his backbone through all this.
Some backbone. I feel spineless.
I know it takes time to heal. I get that, but it just seems endless. I’ve considered going to a grief support group in April. It’ll be hard with my schedule but I’m going to try to work it out because I think it just might help.
I enjoy writing on here, I’m glad there’s understanding for what I’m going through.
I'm not strong.
I'm broken, afraid, grieving, mourning the loss of the man I still love. I'm in constant pain. I miss my life before the accident, before I was broken. And yet you pat my hand and say, "You're so strong. You're handling this so well." You refuse to acknowledge that I don't feel strong. You refuse to see that I'm hanging on by the skin of my teeth.
My pain, my suffering makes you uncomfortable. We don't talk about these things in our family. I want to break down and cry, I want to wail and ask why this happened to me.
I know that life is not fair. I have known it since I was molested by a relative when I was five years old. I was reminded when I was raped at seventeen. I had my nose broken when I was eighteen on Martin Luther King Day because my skin was the wrong color. I've never thought that life is fair, I know better.
I never brought those things up because I was taught that strength is suffering in silence. Strength is not talking about your feelings. Strength is keeping other people's secrets, even when you shouldn't. Strength is taking care of everyone even though your heart is breaking. Strength is putting others' needs first, even when you can barely take care of yourself.
But I can't do it anymore. I'm not that strong.
I refuse to hide my pain. I need you to bear witness. Just listen to me when I cry, hand me a tissue, hold my hand. I don't expect you to fix things, there is no fix. I just need you to listen.
Please don't tell me I shouldn't feel broken, useless, discouraged, and so terribly hurt. This is how I feel. If my feelings haven't changed in the last 531 days what makes you think you can change them by telling me not to feel this way? I'm not strong and you saying I'm strong doesn't make it true.
Please just be there when I cry. Hold my hand in the car because I still have flashbacks. Listen to me when say I'm hurting and just need to talk.
I'm not strong.
Not right now.
Maybe someday I'll be strong again.
The loss of a sibling is one of the most heartbreaking losses anyone can experience, and every person grieves differently.
This is her story.
It has been a month since my sister Jenny died.
Although it doesn't seem possible I'm still stricken with grief.
Jenny was born three weeks past her due date with cerebral palsy. No fun for my mother. When she was delivered via C-Section, the umbilical cord was around her neck. She was immediately rushed to another hospital 40 miles away - this was in the 70's before Life Flight helicopters existed - fighting for her life. Mom didn't even get to hold her before she was taken away.
The amazing thing is that she survived. In fact, she beat the odds and lived to be 41 years old. My parents were told by other parents with a child like Jenny that she wouldn't live past her 21st birthday.
Jenny was unable to walk. She had scoliosis, was wheelchair bound, and was tube-fed. She was unable to speak but made sounds like a baby. Because of her condition, she had to go through endless surgeries and numerous hospital visits. My childhood involved long car rides to hospitals and hours in waiting rooms.
Because of her condition her organs often shifted. She would sometimes have a bloated and hard stomach with blocked bowels, which meant more trips to the hospital. She also suffered from horrible allergies and could get sick at the drop of a hat. She was often hospitalized for pneumonia.
My sister actually was close to death countless times. In fact, my Grandfather helped pay for her headstone and her funeral was already paid for. How many people do that? Who has their own child's death planned and paid for?
My sister graduated in 1993, then was placed in a group home under a program called Mosaic that was able to provide a home for my sister and her long time roommate, and could provide the around the clock care that my parents couldn't because my mother's early symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis surfaced at that time. Dad had his hands full with a fifteen year old autistic son, and nine year old (normal) me.
I accepted my family.
I never asked why Jenny was the way she was, or my mom, or my brother. It was normal for me. I tend to be more compassionate towards people because of this. One of my best friends has CP too and gave birth to my super cute nine month old nephew.
My sister did lead a normal life regardless. She went to the casinos in Branson and she loved music, including Polka. She was a very bubbly and happy woman.
Now for the hard shit.
February 7, 2013.
Her death was so sudden. I can replay like it was yesterday. I was on the night shift at our local hospital where I work the switchboard. My Dad came by my office window, stricken.
At first I thought it was Mom (she had just home from her hospital stay that Monday) but Dad tearfully said it was Jenny. She was not breathing and was being rushed in. I hugged him and told him I would be there as soon as I could.
I kept going "shit, shit, shit." My sister was not breathing. I would have to make the announcement that a cardiac arrest patient was coming in. Fuck.
I sat in agony waiting for the dreaded code phone to ring. It didn't. The call came through on the switchboard, but I knew already. I somehow made the announcement overhead and got a hold of everyone. I called the Hospital Chaplain who knows my family situation, but because of HIPAA I couldn't tell him it was my sister. I squeaked out he needed to come for a code patient and hung up.
I sat at the desk with my head in my hands taking deep breaths, praying that I could be relieved so I could be with my dad and Jenny. Within minutes the other shift arrived. I hastily explained what had happened and was out the door in a flash.
I ran into the arms of the staff member who was with my sister when she stopped breathing. She explained to me Jenny's stomach was so hard that she screamed out in pain. As they had tried to move her to her wheelchair, she had stopped breathing. I began to cry "I called the code on my own sister."
Once in the ER the doctor pulled us aside and said the dreaded words. "It doesn't look good."
Basically there was one choice to be made: turn off the machines and let her go. She had gone without oxygen for a few minutes between her house and the hospital, so her chances of pulling out of this one (she had pulled through once before six years ago) were slim. I had seen her brown eyes; they were glass.
I admired my dad for making that call, even though she already had a "do not resuscitate" order. I don't think I could have. Forty-one years gone, just like that. She laid there turning blue and cold. I'll never forget that image. We're pretty sure it was her heart.
I hated myself afterward because I had so much guilt. Because of my work schedule, I hardly made it over to visit her. The last time I saw her was her birthday in October. I labeled myself the "bad sister."
The rest of the day was a blur. We had to start making the arrangements and phone calls. I stepped up to be a good daughter. I felt I owed it to her.
The hardest part was telling Mom. Dad and I told her, but she just kind of looked at our tear-stained faces, said "Well this was something I didn't want to hear" and changed the subject. I almost wanted to shake her and scream "Your daughter just died!"
I later asked Dad if it even sank in because of her MS. Dad said it would eventually. He later told me he spoke to staff at the nursing home to make sure they would sit down with her and explain to her what was going on and that it was okay to be sad.
My brother was a concern too. Being autistic, we weren't sure how he'd handle it. Dad said he seemed to understand. He volunteered to be a pallbearer. He doesn't like crowds or being around people that much, but he held his own and was happy to return to his job and activities.
I felt all kinds of hurt in the days after her passing and her funeral. I'd never experienced this kind of pain and I'd been through the worst. I'm no stranger to death, either. I've lost three grandparents, and had a cousin that committed suicide. Everyone says it's different when you lose someone closer to you like a parent or sibling. The two-week mark was the hardest. I cried so much.
I feel like this has aged me.
I always joke that I'm 29 going on 40.
It's a month later and I still get sad. I foolishly tried to rush the grieving process along because normally I'm a pretty happy person, despite all the struggles my family faces. Everyone says it takes time.
On August 20, 2001, my first son Benjamin rocketed into the world. As he drew his first breath at 2:50 PM and wailed at the indignity of being expelled from my uterus, I wonder if, hundreds of miles away, a college student named Dave felt something stirring within him. I can't be sure. School was just starting for him; parenthood was probably the last thing on his mind.
But on that day, Dave became a parent. He just didn't know it yet.
Two years later, in January of 2003, his first child, Benjamin, a nearly-mute 2-year old reached up his arms and allowed Dave to pick him up. It was a rarity for Ben to allow someone he'd just met minutes beforehand to hold him. Even more rare was that he bonded with him instantly. Two hours later, safely in my car, he spoke his fourth sentence. "Aw...bye, Dave." Over and over, he repeated that, sighing sadly after every repetition.
"Aw, BYE DAVE....*sighs*"
On September 10, 2005, my son Benjamin walked me down the aisle. At the alter, Dave spoke his vows first to our son, then to me. The child who is not related--by blood, at least--to my husband, he is the one who is most like The Daver. Always has been.
March 30, 2007, Benjamin Maxwell became a big brother to Alexander Joseph. Dave slumbered on through my labor thanks to a migraine, but was there by my side to watch as his second son came into the world. Angrier than a wet cat, Alex met his father by peeing on him. I found it apt, considering I would have dragged my numb ass over to kick DAVE'S sleeping ass, had I been able to.
Alex was, as he always is, on my side.
On January 28, 2009, our last child came into the world surrounded by chaos. The girl with curls like a halo (who kicks ass), Amelia Grace, she cast her big brown eyes upon us and nothing has been the same.
Today, April 15, 2010, at 1:45 PM we said goodbye to that part of our lives. No more will we welcome more children into the world, but we will help our children grow and learn about this crazy, mixed-up, wonderful world that we live in.
I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't a little heartbroken to see Dave's vas deferens sitting in those jars, sadly separated from his body. Not because I want any more children, or because I'm unhappy with the decision that we made. It was time to put that part of our lives to bed.
So I'm going to take a quote from my then-two-year old because I don't know how else to end this bittersweet day.
Aw, bye, vas deferens.
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