When My Dad Died. Understanding Childhood Grief

I’m posting a series called Messy Stories.  These are stories from others detailing pain and heartache; they are stories of cancer, death, divorce, betrayal, and disease; they are ultimately stories that bind each of us to one another in this messy thing known as life.  If you have a messy story,  anonymous or not, I would love to hear about it and post it for others in order that we all might gain insight and understanding from our different journeys.   Send me a message at jessplusthemess@gmail.com

This story is from my eleven year old son, Caleb. 

I didn’t think my dad would die. 

Instead I thought that God would heal him completely and that he would be perfectly fine within the next week or so, but I was wrong. 

After my dad died, I was very, very sad because after all the fun things we’d done together he just went away.  I was horrified when I saw him there, lying motionless in the bed, no breathing, no heartbeat and it felt strange seeing my mom cry after his death. 

I believed he went to Heaven that day.  My mom had told me that he had been a very Godly man so I believed he went to Heaven after his death.  I thought it would have been really strange if my mom had found a new man to marry especially if we ended up having new kids in our family. 

I often thought it was all God’s fault because he could have healed him instantly, and occasionally I still get mad at God about his death.  I really got distracted at the last part of the funeral because I had so many of my relatives there, and they would all comfort me.  The last part of the funeral was basically a party with all sorts of fun stuff.  Even a few of my classmates showed up.  At my school my classmates had all made a bunch of cards for me and a different class made me one of those bound notebooks that said, “What I think Heaven is like.”  Inside there were a bunch of drawings of what other kids thought heaven was like and at the bottom of the drawing there was a little note from each of them saying they were sorry my dad died and all that stuff. 

I will always remember my dad and how kind he was to me. 

Just keep livin…

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Messy Stories.

I received a message the other day after my post on the miscarriage.  It’s messages like this particular one that gut me as I put myself in somebody else’s shoes as I’m sure my story of loss and love guts other people when they put themselves in a similar position.   I asked if she would mind if I shared her story and she agreed.  Her story is one of many that makes me realize that we’re all in this messy thing called life together.  We are here to encourage one another, love one another, cry together, rejoice with each other, and lift one another up in prayer.  I ask as you read her story that you just pray, pray for her, pray for someone you know personally who is going through heartache, pray for the children around the world who are starving tonight, simply say a prayer for someone who has it way worse than you or I do because there is someone out there, someone whose journey bleeds heartache and pain; someone who has not seen the light of day for a very long time.  Sincerely pray for that person. 

I’ve known Kristin for a few years now.  She entered my life a year or two before my late husband Jason passed away.  I don’t think she ever really knew him as a healthy person, but I could have those details off, not always remembering that period of life with a lot of clarity.  I remember she brought our family a meal one evening that we devoured, and I still make her recipe to this day.  She has been through her own heartache this side of eternity, but she has also been through an incredible amount of blessing.  She was divorced as a young woman, divorced from a very bad situation.  She remarried a young man who brought his own pain from a previous life, divorced against his will from a painful situation.  They found true happiness with one another, pursued their dream of living out in the middle of nowhere, had a child together and that was that.  I’ve mentioned to her, at least one time that I can remember, that it might be “time for another one” especially as her child has grown, never in my wildest imaginations having any idea how much pain those words probably brought to her in those moments.  Here is her story.

Jessica, I haven’t said anything on Facebook (at least not on my wall) about what we’ve gone through the last couple years but my heart breaks with you and for you. I have had six, yes 6, miscarriages since May/June 2012. The surgery I had shortly before we moved up here Fall/Winter of 2012 was supposed to “fix” the problem. We waited about a year before really trying again. I’ve had three more since then. There are no words that I’ve found that convey the feelings and emotions that follow a loss like that. Most of the time I’m thankful that I usually seem to lose mine early on, most of the time I’m the only one that even knows yet that there is a new life forming inside of me. Most have started different pregnancy signals (moody, tired, cravings, smelling EVERYTHING…), each of them have been somewhat different though, as I would think it would be with each child that would have been born. It’s hard, it sucks, it hurts when it’s done, over, finished, and final. My life keeps going though. Our daughter still needs me. Wes still needs me. I still need God. Most days no one would ever guess that I have days that I can barely function because of the overwhelming grief that wells up and rears its ugly head. Those days I try to stay quiet between the tears, knowing full well God loves me so much and His heart is broken with me. He got to watch His Son grow up knowing what was coming and knowing what would be best for us, the rest of His children, and He let His Son die. Not only die but go to Hell, thankfully my little ones don’t have to endure that too because Jesus already did. The first one and the last one have been the hardest so far. The first one, because it was the first and a friend of mine was pregnant at the same time, her daughter just turned two. The last one, because my sister in law and I were due one day apart. I was due on Emma’s birthday in May and Lisa is due the day before. Christmas was hard. I love her so much and am extremely happy for her and her husband, they have waited so long for this little baby, a boy. We were planning to make the announcement at Wes’s birthday dinner, I lost it two days before that. Lisa made their announcement. I had to bounce back like lightning and be excited for her. I said “I know why I lost this one, it was so you could have the lime light you deserve during your first pregnancy.” And I meant it with everything in me. I have Emma already, we had the special firsts, the attention, the gifts, the constant “How are you feeling today?” questions; she deserves that too. Watching her tummy grow plucks my heartstrings, I get waves of jealousy that fade as quickly as they come on. I long to have a do-over pregnancy; which seems silly when I type it. My pregnancy with Emma had complications and breastfeeding didn’t work for me, my chest just didn’t follow through with its obligations and I was completely dry by the time she was four months old. There were only two to three days that I actually made enough for her not to have to supplement with formula during those four long months. I had had dreams of producing so much that I could donate to local milk banks to be able to help those that couldn’t nurse or had adopted. Instead I was the one that needed help, but I refused to reach out because I was ashamed. Reflecting back on it and looking at the little/big girl in the living room with me, I’m overwhelmed. She’s fine, smart, healthy, stubborn, cute, and usually helpful. She’s beyond okay. She’s my blessing. Every miscarriage helps me see how much more blessed I am to have her! We don’t know if she’ll have a sibling here on Earth or not, we won’t be trying much longer. At some point we need to just move on. Wes has said he won’t let me hit double digits with the miscarriages, and he cringed as he said it, wrapped me in his arms, and started crying. It’s hard on him too. (I had one with my ex-husband too, so that would only be two more before I’m at nine.) I can’t say I know what you’re going through but I can relate to the pain of losing a life only you have had the privilege of knowing. It was there, you were excited, you made plans in your mind, you probably had a few sleepless nights due to shear excitement and an over active mind, I imagine you were able to have conversations with your hubby about at least some of these things. Then one single moment changes it all. Wipes it away. Clears the slate as if nothing was there. Except there was something there, something you won’t forget, something that changes you. That part I know. That part I understand. That part is what has caused me to write you and let you know, you are not alone. Everyone is different, everyone processes things differently, but one thing remains. Life. Your life. Keep living! Don’t give up! Love on the people you do have, make special time with your hubby; he’s dealing with it too.

Just keep livin!!

Something So Common…

I don’t really know where to start as I put my thoughts to the keyboard once again.  I still feel kind of spacy, not quite with it, preparing for one life, a life of pregnant bliss, and then 2 seconds later that dream so immediately eradicated from the realm of possibility, but my mind hasn’t quite caught up with what has happened; it has instead been taking its dandy ole’ time in getting the cliff notes version with what has been going on with my body.   So excuse me if this is a bit random, but lately it feels like I’ve just stepped off of the Magnum XL where I’ve been ripped to shreds, my hormones thrown all over, slapping every walking, talking human being (especially the men) upside the head, and my heart has fallen out of my chest and plopped itself down in front of all of humanity, a throbbing, pumping, pulsating, angry, weepy heart.   Yup, that’s about how the past few weeks have felt.

  I’ve contemplated different thoughts to write about including many surfacy, fluffy ideas:  a post on Christmas gifts, a recap post on the month of December, a more serious post on sex, (don’t worry I’ll get to that one later) all ideas meant to detract from the ache of what’s been going on in my heart and mind. Some days have been difficult.   Some have been joyful, some painful and many days, growth defining moments.  The days have had me in tears one moment and laughter the next, praising God in the morning and cursing life in the evening.  They have been emotional, for sure, to say the least. 

They have been my life.

I miscarried 5 weeks ago today.  I’ve had a hard time coming to grip with the fact that something so unbelievably common can hurt so deeply. I’m now starting to emerge from this murky thing, a cloudiness that I can’t even really explain, a fog of indifference, agony, and sometimes guilt over being okay in many moments.  What a twisty, turvy, icky thing it is to miscarry a child.  This is admittedly my first encounter with this kind of experience, and I blamed my age.  I blamed my husband’s eating habits.  I blamed myself for not taking my prenatal vitamins religiously.   I blamed God.  And then one day I just ran out of blame.

To add to the weight of it all we discovered two days after I officially lost the baby that my former mother in law has breast cancer.  I somehow rationalized that my loss was incredibly insignificant in light of what she and her husband were going through.  I had never met the baby.  He or she had probably died around 8 weeks, and so I coped by shoving my personal issue into a little box, threw it into a “do not disturb” corner of my mind, and didn’t deal with it emotionally but the physical onslaught was only just beginning.  

It continued physically –  on and on and on because that’s what you do when you miscarry.  It was so prolonged because I was told that a D&C had to be an absolute last resort due to my history with classical C-sections.  It continued because I looked my doctor, square in the eyes, with a steely fierceness that I am programmed to show in times of distress, and bluntly informed him that I would be “just fine.”  

I got into my “just fine” mode and actually functioned quite well there for about 2 weeks and then I just didn’t function very well in it anymore.  The first two weeks I was able to trick myself into believing I was having a prolonged menstrual period. I took advantage of the pros of NOT being pregnant and tried to focus on those aspects.   I enjoyed being near my husband again.  I enjoyed being able to kiss him without being repulsed due to pregnancy hormones.  I enjoyed eating food again.  I enjoyed cooking, and I enjoyed sleeping and not dealing with weird pregnancy dreams.  And then one night, around midnight, I awoke with a start, hot tears streaming down my face, as I realized I had just dreamt of giving birth and in my arms I had been holding a bloodied, dead baby that had just come out of me and then I realized that I hadn’t really dealt with any of it.   Not that I had the remotest idea of how to deal with the reality of it all, but I knew I wasn’t exactly passing Jessica reality 101 very well.    I entered that third week with the stark realization that I had lost my baby, and I hated it.

I started praying.  I started waking in the morning 30 minutes before my family did and beseeching God with questions.   I read the books, I reached out to others, I begged God to please stop the bleeding.  Through it all, my moaning, tears, and anger, I heard nothing.  The bleeding continued, the ache remained, and God did not answer my whys. 

Even yet I struggle with feelings of getting over it; IT not being the worst thing in the world, especially compared to other events I’ve been through in life, and more especially in the light of what others around the world walk through on a daily basis.  I’ve made peace with the circumstances, somewhat, in my own twisted, normal or irrational kind of way.  I have accepted that the baby probably had something wrong with him or her and my prayer all along was, “Dear Lord, please not another Luke.”  I love my Luke fiercely and I would fight tooth and nail for any child, but the reality of raising a Luke is very different from the reality of a healthy, “normal” child.  I’m at peace with this baby being in Heaven if that is how the pregnancy would have played out and there’s guilt in that as well.  I was able to pre -grieve quite a bit,  never feeling like the pregnancy was quite like any of the others, feeling just a little too energetic, a little too normal.  There is still a lot of rationalizing I do about why it all happened when it all felt so right in the moment.  

Maybe my mother in law will need me

Maybe I need to focus on my classes that have started.

Maybe I need to focus on the book

Maybe I just need to BE still for a bit

Maybe I need to get a new perspective

Maybe I need to actually come back to the core of what I believe.  Bad things happen.  We live in a fallen world.  Jesus is sharing my pain, agonizing with my tears, and God understands completely what it feels like to watch a child die.  I am blessed, regardless of this circumstance, but it still hurts, it still has become a part of who I am and how I react, and it has transformed me into someone  better, more pure, more raw, more authentic; for that I am grateful.   

Just keep livin!!