Saturday, March 21, 2015

Babies In Heaven & Dealing with Grief (Part 2 - Emotions & Coping)

HOW TO COPE WITH GRIEF - Emotions, the Grief Cycle, & Lessons from Natalie


GRIEF CAN MAKE YOU FEISTY IN A REAL EMERGENCY

July 2014, Friday afternoon 1pm, my doctor was out of town.  I walked into my laundry room and smelled something that made me nauseous.  That was weird.  Uh-oh.  Why was I nauseous?  I took the 4th pregnancy test in the last week or so.  This one was positive.  I had a few business hours left - maybe I could save this one.  Started praying.

I called the after hours line for my doctor - spoke to someone in another office who is contracted to take over his after-hours calls.  "I'm pregnant, and I miscarry a lot.  It's day 38, and I just had a positive pregnancy test, so I don't know exactly how far along I am.  AS SOON as I find out I'm pregnant, my doctor orders blood work and puts me on progesterone.  I need to have a doctor order me a blood test before Sonora Quest closes, and I need to get hormone pills by the end of the day."

"Well, I'm sorry, Ma'am.  Your doctor's office is closed."  (SERIOUSLY? If it were open, I wouldn't be calling the after hours line.)  "The best advice I have to give you is that if there's any bleeding you should go to the Emergency Room."

"With all due respect, if there's any bleeding this weekend, it will be too late, and we won't be able to save the baby.  That's not advice that will help me.  I need to get a hold of a doctor.  Are you a doctor?"

"No, but this is the emergency line, and if there's bleeding that's what you should do."

"This is not the first time I've been through this.  When I find out I'm pregnant, it IS an emergency, because if we don't act fast I can lose it.  This is my 8th pregnancy, and I only have 3 kids to show for it.  Are you saying that if I lose this baby over the weekend, that I can blame your office for it, because you weren't willing to help me?

"Uh, no that's not what I'm saying."

"Then I need you to either get me in touch with my doctor, or the doctor on call."

"Well, I'll try, but your doctor is out of town...."

No joke.  30 seconds later she called back with surprise in her voice, because my doctor actually answers his phone on vacation.  She said she gave him my phone number and he would call me personally.  And he did call--just a couple of minutes later.  He listened & sent me straight to the lab - he told me we might run into trouble, because there was no one at the office to fax in the orders, but to have them call him when I was there, and he'd see what we could do.

At the lab, there was a run around of course.  They wouldn't call him - they made ME call him.  He was surprised to hear my voice & made me hand over the phone.  I can only imagine what he said, because in seconds the lady at the front changed her tune.  She first tried telling my doctor what he had to do, and ended by saying, "Yes, sir, I'll fax that to you."  I tried not to smirk.

About 30 minutes before the lab closed on that day, I had my blood drawn, a prescription, some anxiousness as I had to wait for results, and I just kept praying that the baby would make it - I didn't want to lose another one.

Here we are.  I'm due any day now, and I am able to credit God & my doctor for saving my baby's life on that very first and critical day that I discovered I was expecting.  I know that God hears and answers prayers, because the doors that were stopped for me were opened, and everything fell into place to get this baby what he needed so that he can make it.

There's something that still makes me cringe, though, about having to say, "This is my 8th pregnancy, but I only have 3 children."  I really hate saying that.  Just 2 weeks ago I had to go to the hospital because of decreased fetal movement so they could monitor the baby & I had to explain all over again when my miscarriages were, when my live births were.  I will be happier when I'm able to tie it up again with a 4th live birth.

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THE GRIEF CYCLE

Whenever you experience loss, there is an emotional grief cycle.  My husband and I started to get worn out from the roller-coaster of emotions you experience with loss.  For a while I thought I was going crazy, until I was given a book about grief.   Then I realized I wasn't going crazy - I was normal!  There are stages to grief.  You can feel all these feelings in any given order, you can feel several of these feelings at one time.  You can cycle through, think you've dealt with it, but then find yourself back on a previous stage.  Everyone's process is different, but everyone goes through it in one way or another.  Here are some stages I pieced together - some from memory...some from Google. :)

1) Shock & Denial
2) Pain & Guilt (I felt so incredibly guilty with my 1st loss.  Logically I knew it wasn't my fault, but I still felt guilt, and so did my husband.  It was so hard to cope with.  We felt guilt again with the others, but we were able to work through it better as we knew we were doing everything in our power to keep the pregnancies.)
3)  Anger & Bargaining  
  • (Anger is a slippery slope.  It's a natural emotion & some even find it helpful depending on their circumstance.  But for me, ANGER itself was the most destructive in the grief cycle & it brought me down the lowest.  There was a moment in time that surprised even me where my anger with the situation shifted to being angry AT GOD.  I honestly think I was only angry AT Him for a day or two when  I finally told myself, "I can't be mad at the only One who can actually help me."  I knew I needed Him & that I couldn't get what I needed from Him by being angry AT Him.  I consciously shifted my emotions & tried to let go of the anger all together. However, even after I chose to not be angry with God anymore, I felt like that anger broke down parts in my testimony - it seemed to take a long time to repair the damage in my testimony that my anger towards God broke down.  Having even a short time of being angry WITH GOD as opposed to being angry with the situation, caused me to have more questions and work through more disbelief in areas of my faith that I had never had issues with before.  Even thought I never quit believing in Him, I think was somewhere between 9 to 12 months before I felt like I had worked through all the weak places in my testimony that were caused by even just a couple days of Anger that was directed towards God.  It was an important lesson to me to be careful with anger.  Move through anger as quickly as you can before it destroys other things in your life.)
4) Depression/Reflection/Loneliness
5) Upward Turn
6) Reconstruction & Working Through
7) Acceptance & Hope

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HOW TO COPE WITH GRIEF IN THE BEST WAYS - 3 LESSONS FROM NATALIE

1) VALIDATE THE EXPERIENCES OF OTHERS & VALIDATE YOUR OWN:  Have you ever known anyone who takes the approach that "You have NO IDEA what they've been through?"  In anything they've ever experienced, what they have gone through is always worse than what you could comprehend?   Usually those same people refuse to listen to you far enough to truly care what you've been through and they can't see how you're trying to help them, because they dismiss what you've experienced as being less.  I have decided that people who take that approach to life really just isolate themselves.  It is true that we all have different experiences, and it is also true that at any given time we may or may not understand the exact path another had trodden, but I personally believe that we're all here on earth to learn the same lessons, even if our paths teach us those lessons through different means.

After Natalie lost McKay, I wanted to help her, and I wanted to share something with her that I had learned through my experiences with grief.  Because I'd had miscarriages & felt like McKay's situation was different because she actually got to hold him & had to bury him, I said to her, "Now what you've been through is worse...but I just wanted to share something that might help you."  Natalie, in all of her kindness, stopped me mid-track and exclaimed, "Oh, please don't ever say that!  What you've been through can be worse, because you never got to hold your baby."  For the first time in my experiences trying to cope with miscarriage, Natalie validated my pain more than anyone else ever had - including myself.  When she validated my pain, she helped me to validate my own - all these years I've been trying to say - "It could be worse - this or that person has it harder - it wasn't as bad as it could have been because....."  I even minimized it and would say to myself, "I shouldn't be having a hard time with this...."  And while it could have been worse, the truth of the matter is it's still been hard.  Trying to look at the bright side CAN be helpful in seeing your own blessings, but validating your own pain as well as the pain of others can open the door to more healing.  

2) LESSONS FROM BABY CHARLOTTE

I feel so sad for the DeTemple's.  They have had more extreme heartbreak this year.  I finally felt ready to try again for a baby last year, and I couldn't believe it, but they were ready to try again shortly after they lost McKay.  Once again, we were pregnant together, and we encouraged each other through some scary early days & complications of pregnancy.  We gave each other hope, and prayed for each other's babies to make it.  We've both learned in some of the same ways and in different ways that as a mother you should savor each moment of life that you can while you're pregnant, because it's time with that one individual person you're mothering - and they're still special whether or not they make it to a full term birth.  The time you have with them - no matter how long, is a gift.  We were supposed to have babies who made it full term just a few weeks apart later this year.  But once again, the unthinkable has happened, and Justin & Natalie have lost their next baby.  Her name was Charlotte Celeste.  She made it farther than McKay, but she was born too soon.  My little baby boy moves and kicks like crazy, but the night that Charlotte died, he didn't.  Truly, in my heart, I believe that our children are friends, and that he was sad for Charlotte that night.  We all were.

We attended Charlotte's funeral service & Natalie offered to let me hold her baby.  I wouldn't have asked to hold Charlotte at the funeral home, because I had my own personal reservations about death & personally felt like it would be too morbid or too hard to do.  Not to mention it was Natalie & Justin's time to grieve over their daughter. I figured holding a baby at the mortuary would feel similar and/or worse than the way I had felt when I lost my babies to miscarriage.  I never would have asked to hold Charlotte.  But to my surprise after the service, Natalie offered, and handed her baby to me.  What amazed me was that initially it was something I thought that I wouldn't want to experience.  But what I learned in those few minutes of holding Charlotte, is that somehow, it made all of those reservations about death seem "okay" - I can't even explain what I mean, because I can't craft the words, but what I do know is that when I held her cute little 12 oz body with wrinkly skin & and looked at her cute mouth, eyes, nose, and hair bow...I could feel in that moment that there is peace in regards to what will be.  I felt that it was actually a beautiful and rare opportunity to hold a little angel baby in a circumstance like that, and I'm so grateful Natalie shared that experience with me.  Charlotte is a real person, and she is not gone forever.   (Image from Charlotte's Service from Natalie's facebook).


We sang a gorgeous arrangement of Silent Night at Charlotte's service - I will always think of her when I hear the melody - "Sleep in Heavenly Peace".

Silent Night, Holy Night,
All is calm, All is Bright...
Round Yon Virgin, Mother & Child -
Holy Infant so Tender and Mild....
Radiant Beams from Thy Holy Face...
With the dawn of Redeeming Grace...

Because of the Lord Jesus Christ, we can know that all is calm and all is bright.  We can know that lost babies sleep in heavenly peace.  And we can know that the dawn of Redeeming Grace is what saves us from forever heartache in parting.  Jesus was born to save us from the pain of losing children.

3) DIFFERENT EXPERIENCES ARE NOT ALWAYS DIFFERENT

One last example of how Natalie opens her heart to others is an example like none other I've ever seen. She validates the experiences of others even if it's different.  In turn, she receives companionship and healing, instead of isolation in her grief.  She posted this as she left the hospital in January:


"My brave and beautiful sister Katie placed 2 babies for adoption and she knows what it's like to leave the hospital with empty arms and no baby in the back seat (On TWO separate occasions just like I've had to do). She told me not to leave the hospital with empty arms, so I didn't. Thanks sis for your love, example, and expert advice. 

I'm so BEYOND thankful for my little miracle Lincoln, that he could fill my arms as I did the thing no parent or mother should ever have to do, leave your baby behind."

When I read this post of Natalie's, I just cried.  An onlooker may have looked at these two sisters and their situations and thought the experiences were opposite.  But how beautiful that Natalie validated the pain her sister experienced, and that Katie validated the pain Natalie experienced; together they could find healing in the traumatic part of their experiences that was exactly the same.  Both of these women are very courageous.

Taking this approach to grief is what Christ would have us to do.  It's the way He meant it to be. It's non-condemning.  It's selfless. And it's strengthening.  In this fashion we can learn from each other, and in this way He helps show us that we are NOT alone.  Even though our paths might seem different, there are similarities that remove isolation and bring us closer to each other and closer to God.  If we will allow it, He will ease our burdens and heal our hearts - and some of the best healing He can offer to us comes from those around us.  We need to remember that strengthening others also strengthens ourselves.


Instead of saying to others, "You have no idea what I've been through", may we find what's the same and uplift each other through whatever pain we might experience.


(Part 2 of 3)