Why Am I Still Surprised?

How is it that my carefree Sunday turned into a heart-stomping fest?  With the excitement that followed our football team’s stunningly beautiful win this weekend, my husband and I were determined to do nothing the following day – except eat and drink leftovers from our game get together, and watch football.  There was nothing we felt like we needed to do but that, even around the house.  We felt the need to continue the celebration with a care-free day and end to our weekend.

 

Somehow, even though the day started fine and relaxing, at some point for me it turned heart-wrenching.  I couldn’t really tell you why or how.  I just suddenly felt this overwhelming aching in my chest and sadness in my soul.  It just sort of creeped in, until I was sitting there on the sofa, knitting and crying.  I had clearly given myself permission to sit and do nothing except what I wanted to do, so why was my body not cooperating.  Did it not understand what I meant when I said it was OK to have this day of nothing?

 

I have been doing so much work over the past couple of years.  I have been trying to be kinder and gentler with myself and my life.  I have been cutting myself some slack.  I have been trying to place myself in nurturing environments, and avoiding those that are unsafe to me.  I have been practicing self-preservation and calmness.  Recently, I have been doing a lot of trauma work as well, with seems to have helped some with my almost-constant physical feeling of anxiety.  I should pat myself on the back.  I do need to work on this, as I will beat myself up in a second, but not take the time to give myself praise for the positive things I do for myself.  Amazingly, practicing these things and learning to put myself first is incredibly hard.  It’s not natural instinct.  But, I understand the importance of it, and can see a definite difference.

 

After all of this, I still feel surprised sometimes when a large wave of grief hits me.  We’ve been in survival mode now for some time.  You get through the days as best you can.  The days turn into weeks and then months.  We find ourselves enjoying things as best we can, when we can – which is more often than you might think.  Sometimes, enjoyable times seem almost effortless, where we can have fun and almost feel like our old selves (almost).  Sometimes, these things feel exceptionally bittersweet.  You might be having fun doing something, and be crying, or wanting to cry, and the same time because you can feel that missing piece of your soul.  You just feel that emptiness and aching there, even though you are enjoying yourself.

 

When the grief “wave” hits, the emptiness and sadness become so overwhelming, it is hard to function in our day to day.  I know its ok and expected.  But when it hits, like it did yesterday, I feel completely taken back by it.  Why do I still feel surprised at this?  Its not as waves never hit us anymore – they come fairly frequently, and sometimes we feel like all we’re doing is treading water.  And it does not hit and go away.  I now feel swallowed by it, and expect it to stay for some time.  The seasons are changing.  The dreaded holidays are coming.  This aching, sadness, and emptiness we feel is so freaking hard to function with, it makes me feel like giving up all over again.  It will pass at some point, and I will once again try to use that time to amp up motivation and energy to do the day to day things that suffered in my life during the overwhelming time.  And then it will hit again and I will feel almost paralyzed again by grief.  And the cycle continues.  And I know this and expect this.  It’s fine, and honestly, I have accepted this as a part of life now.  I know this will continue as long as I live in some capacity and frequency or another.  I have the knowledge of these things.  I have tools to help me.  But why am I still surprised?

Happy 29th Month Birthday

Evan,

Happy Birthday, love!  I tried to write yesterday on your actual day, but my emotions were overwhelming and draining.  The seasons are chaining…yet again.  It’s football season.  We just got back from our beach vacation.  We miss you.  We feel you missing in our lives.  The only way we could describe that feeling is…heavy.

I am finding it hard to believe that next month, you would have been 2 1/2 years old.  Before I know it, it will be our 3rd set of winter holidays without you.  And then after that, I will be searching for the perfect “3” candle for your 3rd birthday.  Just hard to believe.

The more time that goes by without you, the more I realize how intertwined our souls are.  I feel you in every moment of our lives.  With every breath I take, I feel you.  We are connected.  It means I sit on the beach and look out into the sand and the surf, and without even consciously thinking, I see you – our little beach bum boy running around playing in the sand and dipping your feet in the water.  It means I sit on the couch and see you sitting on the floor, playing make believe and smiling.  I feel like I can almost touch you sometimes as I picture you snuggling close with us on the couch.  Almost.  The almost is the killer.  

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Our little Evan tree is doing ok.  Not too long after we planted it, Japanese beetles (didn’t even know we had them!) attacked the heck out of the tree.  It was so bad, I was preparing myself that we were going to lose the tree – trying to get used to the idea of digging it up and throwing it away.  After removing many of the completely dead and eaten leaves, putting up some defenses for the beetles, and lots of TLC, the leaves came back even more red and bigger.  The top half of the tree has these new leaves growing back, but the bottom half of the tree has the greener leaves (which is what they become in the spring/summer hot weather).  Some of those green leaves are partially eaten or dead, but not enough to pull off.  They are doing ok.  So the bottom half looks a little sad and the top half looks bright and vibrant.  We’ll continue to work on it and maybe one day the tree will look like the same tree throughout :)  We were so glad that the tree seemed to come back though!  It’s now one of a kind :) And now that we know we have a beetle problem, we will be sure to be proactive in fending them off.

We love you, Evan!     

 

 

To Evan’s Daddy

Our little boy was so amazed by you and loved you so much.  I don’t just say those things because I think or hope that’s how Evan felt.  I know that’s how he felt.  The way he looked at you, with pure amazement, melts my heart to this day.  The way he would grab your fingers when he felt you close was breathtaking.  And let’s not forget to mention that he was a spitting image of his old man :)

The way you calmly talked to him puts a smile on my face.  The way you held him as we were letting him go makes my heart sing and ache at the same time.  And the pride that radiates from you as Evan’s daddy is blinding.  You are so proud of him and will brag about him anytime, any place.

And everyday my heart breaks a little more, knowing that you must endure this life with me, without our son.  And I will never understand why.  Our life will always be missing someone most special.  Missing our person.  Our lives will never be complete.  Ever.  No matter what.

So many of the Father’s Day cards that are out there are about “Dad being cool because he plays sports with me or takes me fishing” or “Dad fixes things and takes care of things around the house”.  There are so many more important things that being a dad is.  Those things don’t make someone a good dad.  The way you love your son unconditionally, with every ounce of energy you have.  The way you sacrificed yourself for his well-being.  The protective way you watched over him, even when there was nothing we could physically do for him.  You were there.  You are there.

And that’s what makes you the best Daddy Evan could ever ask for.  There are no cards out there that say that.  It’s hard to even put it into words.  But just know that it’s true and that you did everything in your power for our son, and you continue to do so in his memory.

And as I’ve told you before, I can vividly picture Evan above, surrounded by his friends.  He’s pointing down at you, with the biggest smile on his face, glowing with pride, and saying “That’s my Daddy!”

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Mother’s Day

This past Mother’s Day was so perfect.  I got to stay in bed in the morning, later than I normally would.  Grant had gotten up and was obviously busy downstairs.  Preparing a surprise for me, I was sure!  I smelled all kinds of wonderful aromas coming from the kitchen.  I heard little screeches, laughter, and whispers.  I heard footsteps coming up the stairs.  A little boy climbed into bed with me, with the biggest smile on his face, so proud of all that he had helped Daddy with that morning.  I requested snuggles and kisses, although all he wanted to do was show me what he had made for me.  We all sat in bed and ate breakfast, plenty of smiles and kisses to go around.  We talked about what we were going to do that day – take a walk and just be outside to enjoy the beautiful weather.  It was perfect.

And then I realized that I had in fact woken up, and it was Mother’s Day.  But, I had been blank-staring into no space in particular – imagining what this day could have been.

In reality, it was nothing like that.  It started out fine.  I shared some sweet messages with family and friends.  While I know no one needs to go out of their way to wish me a “Happy Mother’s Day”, they did, and I hold that so near and dear to my heart.  It means so much more than they would ever know.  It saved the day.

Somehow at brunch with my husband, our conversation turned to a topic that always ends in tears and heightened emotions.  I have no idea how we got on that topic, but that put an end to a near-salvageable day, as it usually does.  It was bad, really bad.  And it was not at all what I had in mind for the day.  The hard feelings just wouldn’t go away, and we couldn’t seem to blow past it, as many times as we revisited it to try and set it aside and move forward.  But this day is already an overly emotional one for both of us.  I think we both know how much we rely on each other to get through.  Having those times when you feel like you are so far apart from the one you need the most, well, that is next to unbearable.  Another conversation for another post perhaps.    

This day was supposed to be about me and Evan, our family of 3.  It was a day meant to celebrate my becoming a mother over 2 years prior.  I was supposed to be celebrating that Evan was the best thing that ever happened to me.  It was supposed to be a peaceful attempt to make the day about me, being proud to be Evan’s mom.  This day is always bittersweet – the good and not-so-good.  But, I felt like I was drowning most of the day.   

The day ended better.  We managed to get ourselves together and carry on with our day.  Time with my family always tends to help me to relax and be in the moment.  I just wanted to start the day all over and skip the parts that weren’t meant to be.  But instead, we agreed to attempt to make the next day a better one.  And it was.  

The way Mother’s Day should have been was so much better.  We wouldn’t argue about those things, because we would both be the people we were before we lost Evan.  We would be those people who blissfully went about their lives with their beautiful little boy.  Sure, life would have its challenges, but we would be just like everyone else we know – going about our lives and believing that everything was perfect the way it was, not knowing what it meant to lose everything.  Those were the days.  I miss being that person.  That mother I was able to be from my pregnancy until April 23, 2012 – I want to be her forever.  But my world has been flipped upside down and burned to the ground.  I may be that mother – loving, protective, nurturing, just wanting to spend all my time with my little family of 3 – but I am no longer that person.  We are no longer those people.  

2 Years and Evan Tree

In the wee hours of the morning, two years ago (yesterday), our son Evan passed away in my arms.  As I dozed off with him in my arms, I held my hand over his chest and felt his heart slow more and more.

Grant had held him first – the first baby he had ever held and the first time either of us was able to hold Evan.  It was so bittersweet (that’s not even the right word) to see him so happy to be holding his son, but being devastated to know that we would need to say the words “we’re ready” in regards to the doctors and nurses to pull the plug on his ventilator later.  His kidney had stopped working and dialysis was not working.  Evan would continue to swell more and more and would die from kidney failure.  We were warned that he would swell to the point where he was unrecognizable.  With all of this talk, my mind went to one thing.  I knew what all of this meant – we would finally be able to hold him.  I didn’t fully associate this night with him dying.  I was flooded and blinded by the idea that this meant we would be able to hold him for the first time.  It never really occurred to me that it would be the last time.  I guess I knew it would be, but it didn’t occur to my heart.  My heart didn’t really comprehend the idea of our son dying.  I think for Grant it did.  I could see it in his eyes and his face.  His son was going to die soon, and he felt that to be true.  That came days and weeks later for me.  I think it never seems real, for either of us, but our emotions seemed to be slightly different from each others.  I remember so much about that night and those early morning hours.  I remember so much about the entire hospital stay.

I kept checking Evan’s diaper to see if, by some miraculous event, he had peed.  I was looking to see if his kidney had started working again.  They told us it was possible that it would start again a few days earlier, but that it could take days or weeks.  They explained that they would be able to perform dialysis on him, as long as it continued to work properly.  Once it stopped working, there were no other options to make him better.  Except, perhaps this miraculous event I was hoping for as we held him.  Of course, that never happened, but I was pretty hopeful for it.

Now, two years later, I still remember all of those details.  I remember the emotions.  I remember how Evan opened his eyes and looked up at each of us during our turns of holding him.

Two years later, my observation that the days after an important milestone day are always the worst.  That holds true still for this day.  The night before the two year anniversary, I started feeling it very intensely.  My anxiety increased more than usual, my chest got even more heavy than it usually is.  I just felt it.  We tried to decide on what we were going to do the next day, even if it was nothing.  It always seems that it’s better to have a plan on a big day such as that.  Even if the plan gets canceled on the day of, and you don’t feel like doing anything, that’s ok.  We couldn’t decide the day before, but came up with a couple of options.  When we woke up the day of, I realized why you make the plan ahead of time.  None of our options seemed do-able.  I kept saying all of them seemed second-rate; just not good enough.  I knew that we didn’t need to do anything special per se, but trying to make the decision on the actual day was just not the way to go.

Lucky for us, we finally came up with a plan that we were both happy with.  We went down to Mellow Mushroom in Richmond to eat lunch.  We had first discovered Mellow Mushroom in Charlottesville, during the stay at the hospital.  We had a pretty great lunch.  We left to run an errand and then headed to a local nursery to finally pick out our Evan tree.  We love the idea of a red Japanese maple. There is something light and airy about them, plus they tend to stay red throughout most of the year and give a hint to Evan’s red hair :)

I think we picked a good one…

Our Evan Tree

It is the perfect size for our smaller, town home-sized back yard.  It will get about 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide.  We already have it planted and will soon edge out a flower bed around it.  I will finally be able to put in my Evan garden, and a big part of it will be our Evan tree. :)  We are really happy with it.

The whole day itself wasn’t terrible.  The weather was beautiful, we were out and about picking out our tree and planting it.  Then we went to pick out and pick up materials for the next step in finishing the first floor of our home.  And then we had some leftovers for dinner and spent some quiet time around home.  We got some wonderful calls and messages from family and friends, just letting us know they were thinking about us and missing Evan.  That means the world and makes the day that much more do-able.

Waking up this morning though, I feel the effects of yesterday.  The days and weeks afterwards always seem to be the worst.  And there’s been a lot of tough days in the past several months between the holidays, our birthdays, Evan’s birthday, and now we’ve passed the two year mark.  We are now into year 3 without our son, and that itself sounds like the most insane statement.  I cannot even fathom that right now.  So I won’t.

We just miss him.  We ache for him.  We feel him physically missing from our lives every single day.  There is no way to escape that constant, daily heaviness and tightness in our chests.  It’s just how it is when you’re living without your child.  Nothing will ever change that.

We love you so very much, Evan.  We are always missing you and always loving you and always will, forever and ever.  We think and talk about you all the time.  You are so much a part of our lives, but not in the way we would like.  We hold out hope that we will see you again one day.  WE LOVE YOU :)

 

Happy 2nd Birthday, Evan!!

Dearest Evan,

Today is a very special day. Today is your 2nd birthday. Daddy and I are so lucky to have been able to celebrate it
today. We truly have the best family and friends. We only wish with all our hearts that you were here to celebrate it with us.

This day two years ago was the absolute best one of our lives. I can’t believe we went from that to where we are now. Who would have ever seen that coming?

We celebrated today for you. We celebrate because you bring so much joy to our lives. We celebrate because we love sharing you with others. We celebrate because your life has so much meaning.

We hope you had a wonderful birthday today, Evan! We hope you celebrated your big day with all of your friends and that there was lots of laughter, smiles, pointy birthday hats and of course, cake :) We love you so very much – there just are not adequate words to describe our love for you.

Holy Crap…It’s March

How in the Hell is it March already?  And April never fails to come after March.

I’ll tell you what – this taking things hour by hour and day by day is working ok for us.  Some days are harder than others.  There have been many nights where I lay awake, not wanting to fall asleep because I don’t want to wake up the next day.  But, we’ve gotten used to it.  We do it because we don’t really have a choice.  But there is a downside, I guess, to taking things day by day.  Suddenly you wake up and realize that your son’s SECOND birthday is almost here.

Where has the last year gone?

I am not sure how to feel about Evan’s birthday coming up at the end of March.  I wish I could say that I already know the details for his second birthday cookout, like we did last year.  I wish I could say that I am busy planning that, like I was last year.  I wish I could say that I had been staying up late each night, trying to perfect the sugar turtle cupcake toppers for the cupcakes for that day, just like last year.  But I haven’t.  Not even close.  I am actually feeling dread leading up to the cookout.  Maybe because we haven’t really told anyone about it yet.  Maybe because we don’t even know what time it is going to be yet.

Maybe because I’ve been meaning to post pictures from last year’s party and haven’t done so yet!  I also have so many journal writings from things in 2013 that I never put onto the blog that I want to share!  I’m not ready!

I knew Evan’s first birthday was coming.  Ever since he died, I knew that if we made it to his first birthday, we would celebrate it.  And honestly, most of the parts of me feel like, OK, we made it through the first year – aren’t we done yet?  Don’t we get to go be with Evan now?  A whole year of putting one foot in front of the other was enough to last me a lifetime, so don’t I get to go now?

Now we have almost made it through year two, which I now know to be just as hard, if not harder, than year one.  I have a feeling I will be kicking and screaming into the third year.  The THIRD year?!?!???  Wait, what?  When did that happen?

And I feel terrible for not having the party planned by now.  I feel terrible for not being overly excited about it.  The guilt is heavy.  The sadness is heavy.  I wish I felt some hope or happiness that the day will be just fine and lovely – just like last year.  Honestly, I just want to curl up in a ball and waste away.  And I know it will be nice.  I know it will all work out.  The days and weeks after an event, holiday or anniversary are always the hardest.

I love our little man with every single ounce of energy I have.  Every single cell in my body loves him so much, that they are on the verge of bursting.  Our sweet little family of three (five if you count the cats), always missing one.  And that one makes all the difference.

Somehow for us, two minus one will always equal zero.

This Place We Call “The Pit”

I had been having some days here and there where I was starting to get through the days by thinking of them day by day, instead of minute by minute.  There were an increasing number of days where I would wake up, a chest heavy from emotions and sadness.  The despair hit me.  I knew I just needed to get through the day – one day – 24 hours.  One foot in front of the other.  Put that mask on to hide your pain, and get out there and conquer the day.  Not really in that determined spirit, but functioning for 24 hours seemed doable.  And for some days, it was.  I surprised myself so many times.  I’d go to bed and think “Huh, I made it through the day in one piece.”

For the past several weeks and months, I find myself back in The Pit.

The Pit tends to be a place where you cannot function properly.  It’s full of darkness and despair.  That mask that was more routine to wear during the day will just not stay up.  There need not be a reason or explanation for being in The Pit.  Nothing specifically pushes you back down there.  It just happens.  It will always happen.  You start living things minute by minute or hour by hour.  Things don’t seem manageable anymore when you think of them day by day.  It can be a very dark place.  There is love in the pit, and there are always others here with me.  Sometimes we throw tantrums to try and escape the abysmal that we call The Pit.  Other times, we sit on the bottom of it and just take it in and let it wash over us.  Sometimes, there’s no use fighting it.  It just makes everything more heavy.

It is these days or weeks or months in The Pit that I am reminded that grief is not linear.  There are not steps or stages.  There is no end to it. 

I will welcome a chance to breathe deeply with a lighter chest.  I need a break – even if for a minute or two.  It is so very draining to be in The Pit, day in and day out, feeling like you cannot breathe.  And with the days and events that are coming in the next couple of months, I don’t know that I see that break.  Everyone has a breaking point…

Simply Beautiful…

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Dana at Portraits by Dana created this beautiful portrait of Evan for Grant and I.  It was our Christmas gift to ourselves :)  She did an amazing job capturing every little piece of him, tube and tape-free.  Not to mention, I feel like this portrait captures his essence, his soul, his very being.  It’s almost as if she took the vision from my mind and created a perfect piece of art.

Not only is Dana’s work amazing, but she is such a sweet and caring person.  So much of her work is for parents who have lost their children.  And she does it so lovingly and tenderly.  What she does for them is so much more than just a drawing.  It is something to cherish forever.  It creates another piece of our children that can live on forever.

We are so glad that we decided to get this done.  We are so thankful that someone like Dana exists, both as a professional and as a person.  Thank you thank you thank you.

And, of course, I could stare at him all day and reflect on how he used to gaze at us :)

Coming up on 2 years…

Happy 22 month birthday sweet Evan :)

I can’t believe in two short months, that we will be celebrating your 2nd birthday.  It feels like it has been much longer since you were born.

I have been very out of sorts lately.  Work is unfortunately causing me incredible amounts of stress and unhappiness.  I don’t have time to take a breath or have time to myself.  And it’s not only about the time itself, but the space it takes up in my mind.  My mind is never clear – it feels so cluttered.  I don’t have time to just “be” anymore it seems.  I miss you constantly, but my personal “Evan” time is being taken away, and this momma is not so thrilled with that.  Something has got to give, and it won’t be in my personal life.

My “Evan” time to me means time spent crying over missing you and wishing you were here.  It means smiling while thinking of how precious you are or picturing you running around the house and saying cute things.  And that smile – oh that smile :)  It means knitting hats in your memory.  It means spending time with Daddy.  It means spending time at the cemetery and changing the decorations.  It means getting our house in order so everything is not in disarray and we aren’t living in a pigsty (I know you wouldn’t want that).  It means being able to blog more.  It means being able to spend more time with my loss-friends, new and old.  It means rearranging and organizing your many spaces your physical things occupy in our home.  It means being able to write more things down – letters to you, details of your life, feelings, grief.

I just want to be able to be myself, because all of these things are who I am and what I want to do.  They are just other ways that I can feel even closer to you.

But also know that while it makes me unhappy (almost distraught) to feel like I do not have time, both physical and mental, for these things, it doesn’t change the amount of Evan we have in our lives.  I know I say this over and over again, Evan, but you are so much apart of our lives.  You make us who we are today.  Without you and your love, we wouldn’t be who we are.  We wouldn’t be whole.  We were just talking about you today.  We were just talking about how much we miss you.  We were just talking about how you are almost two years old.  Your are always in our minds and always in our hearts and just on the tip of our tongues.

I will get those things back – that time.  I have to.  I cannot continue to live without it.

In other news, I received word that our Molly Bear will be in production in February!!!  I am beyond excited and cannot wait for the day when it shows up – weighing 6 lbs. 13 oz. – just like you :)  I am not sure what it will feel like to have that weight in my arms again.  I only felt it once.  I just know that what Molly Bears provides to families is simply amazing.  What a wonderful idea of a fellow bereaved parent that has changed thousands of lives.

Well, my love, once the snow melts I will be bringing your Valentine’s Day decorations up to the cemetery.  I think it’s time that the Christmas stuff comes down (although I am going to leave the snowman – with hopeful thoughts that we will get more snow this season :) )

We love you so so much!!!  Thank you for sending the snow today – it was beautiful :)

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