November 6, 2008

Tiny little steps...

Dear Friends,

First, let me start by saying thank you for all the supportive comments and well wishes for my family and my birthday. It is absolutely amazing that you have become my life line these past weeks....especially in my darkest moments. I don't know any of you and yet I can count on you as if you were childhood friends for compassion and support. I am truly grateful.

After my last post, I decided to attend my first SHARE support group meeting here in Naples. I think I was at the point where I felt if I didn't start letting people get close enough to help me, I would soon self destruct with my own feelings of hopelessness and grief. Of course, Ryan and I scheduled time with a grief counselor at the end of the month, but I felt some sort of intervention was probably wise before then. I've been in pretty bad shape lately.

SHARE is a nationally based support organization for parents dealing with early pregnancy and infant loss. I'd been hesitant to seek out any personal contact with this group mainly because I was nervous about sitting in a room with other parents who have lost children. I haven't handled Christian's death very well and to hear others share their own stories of pain and loss...well, I just didn't think I could handle it. It breaks my heart when I read personal stories of loss from families who have reached out to me here on the Internet. I am always left emotionally crushed and crying a puddle of tears. I couldn't imagine looking at someone face to face and hearing their story. I was completely fearful of falling apart in front of people I didn't know. Thankfully though, I pushed through my fears and doubts and went to the meeting.

Because Ryan and I hadn't spoken to each other in days, I decided to go alone. Although I was sad at the time, in hindsight, I'm glad I went by myself. It allowed me to speak freely about my grief and get fresh perspective on what I'd been feeling these past weeks. Ryan has been working overtime trying to "fix" me... He wants to protect me and help heal my broken heart...but I haven't allowed him interfere with my own grieving. I guess that's why he "tinkers" so much... he likes to fix things - objects that are broken... and it helps him with his own feelings of loss. But I'm not an object...and the way I feel changes so radically on a day to day basis. I believe, in some ways, it makes him sad that he can't fix me too. I've tried sharing with him that I have to go through this process... I MUST go through this process...but I know he hates seeing me so sad.

At any rate, it's created this huge silent space between us... filled with emotion but no words... It's hard not being able to speak openly with your best friend and it makes me sad to think we had arrived at this place despite our efforts to be supportive of each other.

Before I met with the group, I felt as though I was going crazy! I felt "mental" and wondered if, perhaps, I needed to rethink medication for depression. I know that sounds terrible but being emotionally lost really does tend to play on every weakness and every doubt we possess. And I really have felt that I've lost my way.

But at the meeting, as I listened to other mothers speak about their children, I learned I am not unique in my journey with grief and loss. Women were talking about issues I've been too afraid to speak about...too afraid to share with people out of fear of being judged. I learned I'm not going crazy after all. And most importantly, I learned that what I'm feeling is normal. Prior to Monday evening, I never thought I would ever know the feeling of what normal is again. Of course, this is my new normal..but it feels good to know I'm going to be okay.

Initially, I struggled with finding my voice as I began sharing my story...Christian's story... with the group. I cried openly as I shared how much I missed my son. All the hurt poured out of my heart as I said out loud and brokenly, "My son died 10 weeks ago." I shared my feelings of helplessness as Christian lay dying in my arms. And I shared the emptiness I feel when I close my eyes at night. Everyone understood exactly how I felt. It was good to share. Strangely, the experience felt much differently than when I share my feelings openly on the Internet. When I'm writing, my thoughts never get verbalized out loud. There is something very healing when you give your feelings a voice.

We talked for about 2 hours before the meeting ended. And afterwards, I was emotionally drained... but in a good way. I felt as though a huge burden had been lifted from my chest.

Unfortunately, I could not express my relief to Ryan when I got home. I slept in Christian's room again and prayed that God would help me find the words to heal the silence which had been driving me and my husband apart.

The next morning, however, Ryan made it easy for me. He really is a wonderful man and I am so blessed to be married to him! He came into the room with a cup of coffee and a shy smile...it was such a small but tender gesture. His little peace offering made way for me to reach out and meet him at least half way. He made breakfast for me and we made small talk with each other...trying to ease the awkwardness we both felt...but not feeling completely comfortable.

Shortly after we ate, I headed out for a day of pampering for my birthday. I received a gift certificate for a day at the spa and so I indulged myself with a massage and facial. After the emotional release the evening before...the pampering I received at the spa was icing on the proverbial cake... I was complete mush when I finally headed home!

It was late in the afternoon before I actually saw Ryan again. We headed off to Home Depot to pick up some items I needed to complete some home projects around the house... and as we headed into the store, Ryan stopped in the middle of the parking lot and pulled me into his arms. All he said was, "I've missed you". We stayed like that...hugging each other close for several minutes completely oblivious to traffic moving around us. I'm sure we were a sight standing in the middle of the Home Depot parking lot holding on to each other tightly!!

I can tell you the ice finally melted between us. Weird as it sounds, it felt like I was home again. We went about our shopping as if we had never skipped a beat. By the time we left the store, we were laughing and teasing each other like we always do.

We made my birthday dinner together and I opened cards and gifts. One particular envelope was simply addressed, "Mom". I figured it was a card from my dogs as I receive one from them for every occasion. But, as I opened the card, I read the words, "For My Mother"...it was a card Ryan got me from Christian. I can't tell you how beautiful the words were that I read...just absolutely precious to me. I closed my eyes imagining my son telling me the words I know I will never hear from him. And although there were tears on my cheeks and the too familiar pain in my heart...I was happy.

My friends, it was a good day.

I wasn't brave enough to take the first step toward healing my relationship with my husband...but thankfully, he took the first step for me.

I did finally seek out a support group for help with my pain... and it was good.

We are moving forward...tiny little steps ...but we are going forward. Thank you my friends for helping me and my family along the way.

Love,

Leah

52 comments:

Amber said...

See, I was doing really well...no tears...until the card from sweet Christian. UGH!
I'm so very glad that you are stepping into physical arms of people who can walk this journey with you!!!! You are absolutely amazing...you are...as is your family.
Praying for healing...and peace, in the midst of the storm.

Jaci said...

I have been worried about you. I am so glad everything is working out. The card Ryan gave you was awesome, I have tears in my eyes, I can only imagine what you felt.

Rebecca CA said...

tiny little steps are better than no steps I am so glad that things are looking up. May our wonderful Lord help both of you as you take these steps

Kathy said...

So very happy to hear about answered prayers! May each day get a wee bit better.

Prayers continue,
Kathy

Anonymous said...

Leah,

Have been checking in on your blog for some time now. Your post tonight brought tears to my eyes...sometimes, the strongest thing you can do is realize you can't be strong without the help of others, and it's wonderful that you went to the support group. I hope you keep going.

I'm also so glad you and Ryan are taking some little steps. You are both on a completely new road, one you never expected to be on and one for which there is no map. Keep taking those little steps, and go easy on yourselves...there is no "right way" to adjust to this "new normal". His thought to get you a birthday card from Christian gave me goosebumps - what a perfect thing to do. Happy Birthday, Leah...I am thinking of you both and praying for you. Hang in there.

Hugs,
J. in OH

Suzie said...

SO happy to hear that things are looking up for you two. I have been praying so much for you my friend. I hope this is just the begining of the healing process for you.

The card from Christian made me cry. My husband did that with my mothers day card from both him and Cooper. It was so touching. Men can be surprising.

Still thinking of you daily. And praying for you too!

Ray and Megan Clark said...

I am glad you were able to find a place to share. I am so happy that things are getting better between you and Ryan. I am praying for you and your family.

sea star said...

Love and prayers on your path to healing.

Kenzie said...

Leah-

SO thankful that these tiny little steps are helping heal your heart! The may seem tiny, and yet, somehow they are absolutely HUGE. To be able to share those deep feelings of grief with others who truly understand... well, there are no words. And to be able to feel safe in Ryan's arms and feel protected... that is how the Lord wants you to feel. It's like His arms are around you too!

I'm so proud of you!

Love & praying,
Kenzie

Debbie said...

The tears are flowing!! I am so glad that you and Ryan are working your way back to each other. You've lost your son, you do not want to lose your husband!!! Glad you are getting help in a way that you are comfortable with!! Keep smiling!!

Anonymous said...

I'm crying tears of joy for you and your sweetheart...and i imagine that Christian is looking down at his mom and dad with a happy heart too..Blessings.

Anonymous said...

Even though I've never met you, I was worried about you too... I found a link to your blog on the Stanfield Journey... anyway, I started crying when I read the part about you and Ryan hugging in the Home Depot parking lot. Maybe that was because we bought a new door at Home Depot last week -- it is just so ordinary to go there!! Glad that you both are in a better space. I haven't had a baby die, but I did have a miscarriage around this time last year... and I know if I feel bad and think about "what might have been" like I do -- it would be far worse for you.... I'll be checking in on you and yours, God bless, Denise in Canada.

Anonymous said...

Leah and Ryan
Glad to hear things are getting better, tiny steps are great. Sounds like a great love to me.

Hugs
Lisa

Becky said...

Leah -
I prayed for you often as I awoke the past few nights. I have never experienced the physical death of a child, but rather a 'Spiritual' death of one. I never knew a person was capable of so many tears and I never knew such sorrow. One day I determined that although Satan had ahold of her, he was not going to have me and that was a turning point.
I am so thankful for those tiny little steps you have taken. You are such a blessing Leah. Thank you for sharing your life with us. Although none of us are walking in your shoes, you are our sister and when you hurt, we do as well.

Anonymous said...

I know you do not know me I have not posted before but read your blog daily and waiting with you for Christian! Im sooo happy things are getting better for you. Your strong and the love you and Ryan have for each other will get you through this. Im glad you went to this group. It will help you talk about what your feeling and what you cant to others...Good job!!!! by the way happy belated b-day!!!!

Anonymous said...

Leah and Ryan - I am not sure why I read your blog right when I get to work, because after I read it I usually have to redo my eye make-up. Praising God for small steps of healing. Grief is much easier dealt with when you go through it with someone you love. Congratulations on taking the step to the support group - grieving the loss of a child can only be truly understood by those that have. May your pain ease with each passing day and your love for each other continue to blossom and grow.

Many thoughts, love and prayers from Illinois

boltefamily said...

Praying for you as you take baby steps forward. It is not an easy journey, but you are doing it. One small step at a time. I will continue praying for you and for Ryan and your marriage as men and women grieve so differently.

afizzano said...

PRAISE GOD! PRAISE GOD! PRAISE GOD! Much Love to you both.

Lady-in-the-Making said...

Dear Leah - I'm so proud of you and I don't even know you.

Good job, Mama. Christian is proud too.

You'll NEVER, NEVER, NEVER have to leave him behind. He'll just be with you in a different way. Easy for me to say, I know. But I truly believe that little Christian would want his Mama and Daddy to love each other and try to be happy.

You are such an inspiration to me. I'm going through a debilitating clinical depression and I don't have your strength. It is a very low point in my life and I've finally given in to medication because I can't mother my children without it. I feel like such a failure. :(

Anyway - I didn't mean to dump my problem on you! I just wanted you to know that I am so proud of you.

Email me! We'll do lunch sometime! :)

"Dale's Wife"

Shell said...

I have been reading your blog for quite some time now and I don't believe I have ever left a comment until now. I wanted to first of all let you know that your family is in my thoughts and prayers. I am so proud of you for having the strength to reach out for help, you are truly an amazing woman. Too, the fact that you and Ryan are making progress is wonderful.

Jennifer Burgett said...

People here at work must think I am nuts. . . .reading a computer screen and crying tears for someone I don't even "know". But I do feel like I know you and feel like we are friends because of the prayers I lift up on your behalf.

It takes a strong person to seek help and you are very strong. You may not think it right now but when you look back at this moment in your life, you will see and know that you are indeed a very strong woman.

I pray that as time passes, you and Ryan will continue taking tiny steps together to heal the pain and become as one again. I know the pain will never leave you but your "new normal" will return.

Carla Burlando said...

So glad to hear that you are moving toward healing...even if it seems like two steps forward 1 jump back at times. Talking to others is so important, support group, counseler, pastor , friends someone who can undertand and reassure you that you are indeed normal even when you feel completely "mental" :) So glad to hear that you and Ryan have constructed a bridge...I can tell he really really loves you. Take care Leah ,

Jen said...

I have been reading about your journey and I can't believe how well you are doing. I am so glad that you were able to get things out in a group that could totally relate. I am also so glad that you have your best friend back.

This will be the time you need him most. You are always in my prayers. I am a mother and I can't even imagine what this feels like.
You are cared about. Always remember that!

Anonymous said...

Oh Leah, it did my heart good this morning to read this post! I hoped for it yesterday but was so glad to see it today! I sat with tears reading this! I know that the meeting was a huge hard step to make but we can't do things like that alone-there is always someone that has been through similar circumstances and we can lean on them! Someone will probably need to lean on you in the future too! We go through these valleys for a reason! Just hang on to Ryan and get through this together as ONE! You are a team for life! Christian will always be a part of that team as well! He would want to see you happy!!! Happy Birthday again!!!!! This WILL be a good year!!!!
Praying in Franklin, TN

mrsrubly said...

oh leah..i am so happy that all these good posivtive things are going on all around you. the group meeting the praying, the tiny steps that are going in between you and ryan. that's wonderful to hear. also, you have taken a step further and relied on God to take you to that meeting. get that reaasurance that you needed so much for your own emotionally and spiritually well being. oh and the card...i am now crying a small puddle of tears myself. what a sweet gentle thought on ryan's part. that's wonderful.

Catherine said...

I am so happy you are talking again and that your birthday turned out to be wonderful-not the wonderful you are used to-but a new kind of wonderful:)

Anonymous said...

Leah,

I am so glad you have found a support group...we lost our daughter on November 16, 1999...she was 4 months and 20 days...the ONLY thing that kept me afloat was our support group. I am still the best of friends with a couple of Moms from our group...they are still a lifeline for me...especially this time of year. Please remember it takes time..lots of time. Please know you can email me if you'd like. We lost our daughter to SIDS...and one of the first things that I wanted to do was to talk to someone who had 'survived' loosing a child. I do consider myself a 'survivor' and would love to help if I can. My email is thehacketts@sio.midco.net
Take Care,
Tracy in So Dak

Verna said...

I will pray that this first tiny step will lead you to a path of joy even in your sorrow.

lolo said...

good for you, i am filled with happiness for you right now.

Deb D. said...

Dear Leah - you are dear - I checked the blog several times on your birthday and several times after. I was eager to know how your day went. How my heart was touched and relieved to read your beautiful words telling your lovely story. I was so happy for you. You are a wise, wonderful, delightful, beautiful, deep, tender, brave woman. It must have taken such courage to meet with people you don't know to share such an intimate pain. No doubt these dear souls will become precious friends as they are walking a similar road - some farther along than you and able to encourage you along. I was so very, very happy for you. And to hear your telling of Ryan's loving ways - what a peace and joy to witness an answer to the many prayers for you two. I am so happy for you. I know all is not done - not close to being "done" - but it appears you're finding a way - and that gives hope to the soul that the blinding pain may not fully blind afterall.
You are deeply cared for, Leah, and you have many of us walking with you daily, though through cyberspace. So glad there are others who can do it in your actual physical place in the world.
Praying God's blessings abound, and His peace is a daily blanket over your soul.
Deb in IN

Aunt_Nette said...

I too am grieving from the loss of my brother. May 11,2007. Car accident.
I know this is not the same type of grief............but something that has helped me recently was reading the book "The Shack"

MOM Paige said...

My Dear Leah & AMAZING Son, Ryan,

I have been feeling so helpless to shield you both from the pain you are experiencing. Someday, you might realize how hard it is to watch your child experience unthinkable pain & suffering. Mary had to stand by & watch her son die on the cross. I'm trying to be strong & do the right thing. You know I am here for you whenever you are ready!!
Believe it or not, I am so proud of how you are both going through this, in 'tiny little steps' but in the right direction.
My prayers are constant.......Love always, MOM Paige

Robin said...

Oh...tiny steps...what a praise report! I am so glad to hear you guys shared a great day! I pray you will have many more...tiny steps!

So Blessed said...

Some times the tiniest steps are really BIG ones...especially when they are taking you in the right direction. I have been praying for you two and I am just so thankful that you have reconnected. This grief jouney is a difficult road...so just keep walking...even if it's with teeny, tiny steps...and know that many of us who don't even know you are lifting you in prayer.

Julie said...

Happy belated birthday! I am so glad that it turned out nicely.

Rebecca said...

Leah...your "Tiny Little Steps" made my eyes tear up! Just when I thought I'd have a dry-eye day... LOL You'll get through everything together, I'm certain. Although I don't know you at all, I have to say that your photo of your "Cat Trapped in a Dog's Body" made me giggle the first time I saw it...MANY lurking months ago. I pray that all that lightheartedness and life-lovingness comes flowing out again soon! It's in there somewhere!!! You've been through a nightmare, but you're fighting through it like the brave mom you are! God bless you, sweetie!

Kim (marygracesummons.blogspot.com) said...

Dear Leah,
Your post today brings me to some much needed tears. I am so glad you were able to verbalize your feelings and get some relief. My husband and I experienced much the same stuff, he had just started a new job and was traveling like crazy when we lost Mary Grace- I felt totally alone in my grief journey within my relationship with him. We were totally seperate at that point on how we felt. When we finally just started talking again and sharing how we felt (even though it was totally different) God started to melt and penetrate my heart. It was such a relief. I wanted him to feel exactly the same way I felt knowing that that's not how it works. Anyway..I am so happy to hear that he made the first step for you and that God allowed your heart to open up to it. It was a beautiful moment. The card from Christian was such a precious thing as well...your boy would say those words to you and he will to your face again some day.
I will keep praying for you Leah, just keep sharing even when you feel you can't.
With love,
Kim

Verna said...

My daughter sent this to me, I want to share it with you.

Dear Mom and Dad,

I wish that I could have said "good bye". It sometimes seems unfair that I was never able to say "hello".

I'm OK now; everything is better. I miss you and always will, but I believe we will be together again, in time for all time. Right now, though, that seems likely an eternity. In time it will be for an eternity.

Please, remember me, use my name, tell my family and your friends about me. Never forget me or pretend I didn't exist.

Thanks for all you done for me. Mom, thanks for putting up with all of the changes in your body; thanks for everything you shared with me. Thanks for talking to me; I know your hopes and dreams for me. Thanks for the songs you sang, and for those gentle pats you gave me while I was floating inside you. You may not realize it, but the rhythmic contracting helped me rest peacefully and reassured me. As I grew I could feel your heart beating better and better, and it gave me such a wonderful sense of comfort.

Thanks for tears you shed for me. I know you did everything you could for me and I am fortunate to have you for my Mother. I am sorry for the sadness and sorrow you have suffered.

Dad, thanks for being there for Mom and me, it must have been so hard for you, trying to be so strong and brave for Mom, when you were confused, upset and afraid yourself. I will miss growing up with you, wrestling, being tossed in the air, just sitting on your lap learning how to use the TV remote control. Please don't ever forget about me. I will never forget about you.

If there is something that I have learned, is that you will not find the answer to the 'why' of all of this, not now anyway. God did not make this happen, but He will help you live, love and laugh again. Sometimes that can seem very difficult when you hurt and want so badly answers.

I want you to live today; be happy. Bring laughter back into the house. Dare to dream again. You know so much better than many that life is often so short and unpredictable. Tomorrow is never guaranteed.

I would rather this be all a very bad nightmare, but I can't do nothing to change that now. However, you can make something good out of my death if you use it for an opportunity to love each other a little bit more, and reach out. There are so many hurting people out there who need a hand, or a hug or a 'hello' or just someone to listen. Don't be afraid to admit that you may be one of them. Be gentle with each other.

On a clear, still night, look for me out there in the peace and quiet. Look up, not by the Big Dipper or the Milky Way, but over there in the corner of the sky. See that small, twinkling you never noticed before?

One more thing before I go, thanks a lot for everything you did for me. Thanks for caring and sharing. Thanks for trying and crying. I love you lots. And Mom and Dad, "good bye", "good bye for just a little longer."

Love you

Anonymous said...

Dear sweet Leah & my amazing son, Ryan,
I feel so helpless to shield you from the pain and suffering you are going through. Mary, helplessly watched her beloved Son experience unbelievable pain & suffering. I pray to her for strength & courage.
I am so proud of how you are 'taking tiny little steps' to process this pain & heal. You know I am there whenever you need me.
My prayers are constant.
Love, MOM Paige

Emily said...

Oh Leah, I am so thankful you found the peace and healing you needed to make it through the day. You are absolutely normal. Grieving is very important work... and usually far more exhausting than any full-time job, but so necessary. Keep pressing through and being real. Healing comes a moment at a time. I'm lifting you up, as a mom who knows!

Betsy McK said...

Wow how amazing to read you latest entry after the prior post. God has begun to answer many prayers in a mighty way. I'll continue to lift up both up in prayer as you work through this healing process. Sounds like your support group is just what you needed.
(((HUGS)))

Erin said...

Dear Leah... I too lost a son. My beautiful, handsome, tall, smart, funny, kind 17 year old James. My heart aches for you, as I have felt everything that you are feeling. Many mothers who have lost children have reached out to me also, and I am always struck by the sameness of our stories. It must be universal for mothers who've lost their children to feel as though they are walking around with a limb cut off... I just feel such sorrow for you, and love too, and I hope that you know you are not at all "crazy"--- grief feels crazy at times. I have felt that way too. My husband said to me after our boy died, "Every morning when I wake up, I am surprised that my heart is still beating"... but our hearts do somehow continue to beat. I am thinking of you, and praying that solace comes to you at the times when you feel that you cannot bear any more pain. Fondly, Erin

Anonymous said...

Leah ... where are you? How are you?

Anonymous said...

Leah,

Just missing you in blog land and praying that you are healing and okay.

Donna

sumi said...

Leah...this is my first visit to your blog, and I will come back soon to read some more. Right now my bed is calling...LOUDLY!

I thought it was interesting what you said about giving your fellings a voice. I always said how much blogging helped me when Jenna went to heaven.

But as I pondered your words I realised that it's true...talking is just...different.

I have a friend who always wants to hear about Jenna. It blesses me immensely, but somehow I never quite know what to say and what to leave unspoken. I am going to make the effort to be more open in my conversation with my (very supportive) friend...thanks to you.

Hugs to you, girl. May Jesus hold you close.

Anonymous said...

Leah,
It has been so long since you posted last. I hope and pray you are doing okay. We would love an update.

Judy said...

Just wanted you to know that I'm still praying!

Anonymous said...

I hope that you are to busy healing, to update your blog. I hope that you and Ryan are rediscovering each other. I believe that this weekend is your Thanksgiving. The beginning of the holiday season. I wish you so many blessing. Thank you for sharing your story and your beautiful son Christian. You are an inspiration to many. May God bless you.
Smiles,
Lisa

LucieP said...

I have never been in your shoes but I have been in situations where I have felt pressure from every side....including inside which is sometimes worse.
Finding small ways to relieve it will make it better in the long run...bit by bit...step by step.

Don't be hard on yourself. You are amazing...God made you that way...whatever that way may be...it was purposeful and intentional.

Communicate in ways you can at that moment.

What worked today may not next week but worry about today...

Guys do-they operate with acts not words usually....I'm so happy to hear that you are finding ways to meet in the middle here and there....

Years ago, would you have ever thought part of your bday celebration would be at Home Depot?

Well thank goodness it was!

Anonymous said...

Update please! We are thinking about you. xoxoxo

Anonymous said...

Checking in on ya'll--hoping that you are getting into the holiday happenings and not had a minute to update all of us. We are praying for you to have a spirit filled season where you will feel the warmth of prayers from all around. Enjoy and invest in one another--make some memories! Blessings coming your way!

Lisa said...

Hi Leah,

I found this site from another blog and thought about Christian. You should check it out and see if they can't write his name in the sand for you. Thinking of you always...

http://namesinthesand.blogspot.com