The Headstone…. another piece of grief

There are many things that are difficult in this life of grief. In fact most things have proven difficult after the loss of Ellery. My body and mind are constantly juggling or multitasking grief (if that could possibly make sense). What I mean by this is, being happy while immensely sad, trying to keep organized when the life that you knew  is flipped upside-down and there is nothing orderly about it, and trying to think and focus while every thought contains a thought of your child no longer here……. it’s overwhelming, it’s difficult and exhausting.  My own mind is a freak show in a scary circus act.

There are a few things in particular that bring me to my knees with gut wrenching, agonizing, outright uncontrollable scream crying (yes, I may have made that term up but believe me there is such a thing as scream crying…. fellow bereaved mommas can probably relate) And those are….. #1) Going through her room. I still CAN”T do it, BELIEVE ME I have tried. EVERY TIME I try, I can’t breathe and I become hysterical. I grasp at her little clothes trying to imagine her scent and picture her alive wearing the outfits and what she would be doing. I see her in her crib and stare at her drool marks on her pillow. How do I preserve this?!?!?! How do I preserve my memories that are distancing from me? HOW?!!!!!

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#2) THE Headstone! “Oh dear GOD!” I have cried out those words so many times. “HELP!!!” It has taken me 2 years to get the headstone ordered. Seriously……. picking out your daughters headstone. WHAT ON EARTH?!!! Going through every picture I have and trying to pick the best one…… ugh! I wanted it perfect but seriously…… a perfect headstone?!!! I am sure I drove a few people crazy…. and to those people who may be reading this THANK YOU for your patience. The Headstone for me was the last tangible thing I was able to do for my daughter. Most people get to take their daughters prom dress shopping, or plan for a wedding…… I spent 2 years trying to design the “perfect” headstone. I needed to make this slab of granite “tell” EVERYONE who drives or walks by what a special, beautiful, and loved little girl she was. Two years ago shortly after Ellery died, my daughter Aubryn who cherished her baby sister came up to me with a poem she wrote. It blew me away! This poem was so profound for a grieving 8 year old to have written. I knew that there would be nothing better to be inscribed on her stone than this meaningful poem written by her sister. Please read!

Look Up To The Stars
A bright light shines bright in you.
That bright light will guide you.
It will glow, shine and sparkle
and say I’m sorry
I had to go so soon,
but I’m watching you from the moon.
Until you come to see me, be as happy as you can be.
Look up to the stars….
See me smiling at you and you will do that too.
Love Aubryn

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The Headstone is finished and was placed November 30th, 2017. We went this past weekend to see it. Walking up to the place where my daughter’s little body resides 8 feet under, to see this piece of granite that tells of my babies life……. AGAIN brought me to my knees and ripped at my heart. Although there is no such thing as a “perfect” headstone, this is as good as it gets. It is a beautiful stone that represents a beautiful little girl that brought so much LOVE to OUR family’s life. The headstone is just another way to share with others the loving spirit of  our precious little Ellery!

“Until you come to see me, be as happy as you can be.”  We are trying baby girl….. we are trying.

 

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2 years, 3 months and 26 days……….

 

2 years, 3 months and 26 days……….
That is all the longer we had to hold you, hear your sweet voice, teach you, kiss your soft cheeks, tickle you……..

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Mommy’s Girl

 

2 years 3 months and 26 days……….
Those numbers play over and over in my head. I hold tight to all the beautiful memories I acquired in such a short period of time. I am scared to death of forgetting- luckily I have your daddy and he tells stories of you that fill my heart with happiness. I cling to those sweet memories of the days prior to that horrific night. There is an indescribable feeling of pure LOVE associated with those last precious days. I think that was and is GOD’S gift to me! I still see your curls bouncing in the wind as you ran across the park yelling mommeeeeee! Those are the memories I will cherish till I am with you again. I try so hard Ellery to keep my mind at bay, away from the tragedy and trauma. When my mind goes to that awful place it is like a parasite eating at my soul. I still have those awful days and sometimes weeks, where I have a hard time resurfacing from the quick sand of grief but I hold strong dear girl for you and your wonderful family.

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2 years, 3 months and 26 days……….
WHAT NOW?!!!!! I don’t know what to do. We now have reached the day that you have been in your Heavenly Home longer than your earthly home here with your family that loves you so much. It sickens me to think I have lived longer without you than with you. I can’t help but think…… what’s next?!?! I still selfishly want you back every single minute of every day and I have a longing like no other to hold you, smell you and kiss those sweet, sweet cheeks. I truly have no idea how I have survived this long without you. In the beginning, I lived from second to second (I honestly thought I was going to die and at times I wish I would). The extreme grief strangled me… constricting my throat creating anxiety, panic attacks and nightmares (those have subsided a bit but occur way more often than I would like…… just another thing I am learning to live with). The immense sadness applied a kind of pressure to my heart that made it feel like it was going to stop beating, like it was broken. It WAS broken, it IS broken and it will ALWAYS be broken. I have hope that it will gradually heal, or the pain will lessen. I know it will NEVER be the same. At times I still suffocate from the overwhelming grief (especially these last few weeks with Holidays approaching).  I get the feeling like my heart will just stop beating because of the pressure, pain and sadness.  The the difference now is, I WANT TO LIVE and I want it to keep beating! I want to live for your amazing siblings, your wonderful daddy and for “gamma gampa” because I know all too well the kind of pain I would put them through if I didn’t survive this grief. I also want to live for you Ellery so I can carry out your legacy…. spreading LOVE, Kindness, and Joy to others through your beautiful little spirit that is with me always! I feel you Ellery in the wind that brushes my face, the warmth of the sun. I see you in the beauty of the trees, the birds, and the “bubberflies”. I hear you when I take the TIME to just listen. You are a constant reminder of what really matters in life…. LOVE!

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2 years, 3 months and 26 days……….
However short that time frame was, you changed our family. You made us better, happier, kinder…….. you changed our lives and we were blessed to have been able to LOVE you………. WE WILL LOVE YOU FOREVER!

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2 years, 3 months and 26 days……….
It feels like an eternity without you and my heart aches. Your LIFE and DEATH have gifted us perspective (of what’s important), compassion (for other’s and “life’s situations”), realization (bad things can happen to good people- live in the present), appreciation (for life and love- the greatest of gifts) , and taught us life is about LOVE. I would give it all back in a heartbeat but I can’t…. because I can’t, I am GRATEFUL that my eyes have been opened to see this life from a new lenses despite the agonizing pain.

Love Always,  Mommy

2 Years…………

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Perfection

 

How could this be?!?!?!?! It has been TWO WHOLE YEARS since I have held my sweet Ellery, kissed her little cheeks, smelt her curly hair, tickled her little belly, heard her say “wuvvv you, mommy!” I think about what she would look like now (she would be 4 years,3 months and 26 days old). Would she still have curly hair or would it just be wavy as her “big girl” hair would have grown in? Would she be talking like a “big” kid or would she have a baby tone …….. what would her voice sound like? How tall would she be? Would she be stubborn about her clothes like her sister Emilyn or would she be more laid back like Aubryn? Would she be super sensitive like her brother Brahm? There are so many questions that will never have answers, dreams that will never be fulfilled. My life stopped that day….. our entire family was stunted that day. I still see Emilyn as a 4 year old (the age Ellery would be now…. if that aint mind boggling). I see Aubryn as an 8 year old and Brahm as 10. I see them physically growing taller and maturing but part of me can’t accept them getting older…… maybe it is my unwillingness to embrace the passage of time or my fear of forgetting our life before. The mind is a crazy thing and it’s even crazier when you are grieving. You want time to pass fast so you will soon reunite with your child but at the same time you want it to stand still, cherishing every living moment because, who knows….. it may be your last.

I am not gonna lie, these past two years have been excruciating. They have been the most difficult, painful years of our lives……. yet  infused with GREAT JOY, BLESSINGS and plenty to be THANKFUL for. Still, the heartache can’t even be described with words because there are non that could even come close to explaining this aching of child loss. I have searched and searched on how to get through this by reading countless grief stories and listening to how other people are managing their own grief. I truly cherish these stories and the people grief has brought into my life, they have helped me. However, what I have figured out is……. this is MY grief journey and it is unique to me, my husband’s is unique to him etc.etc. etc.… We live in a world of quick fixes and coverups and there is not ONE darn thing that can fix this……there is no fast way to get through this….. and I will never get over this… THIS IS MY STORY…. I must FEEL it and it is PAINFUL but it is part of who I AM NOW!

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED SO FAR……

I have felt anger, guilt, envy and all non serving emotions you could possibly feel and ya know what…… IT IS OK.  In fact I think it would be a bit abnormal to not have such feelings after a loss.  I have also learned to “let go”  much quicker to  all of these emotions  when they rear their ugly faces. Letting go certainly lifts the suffocating weight from my chest (it’s funny how that little song has played such a significant part in my life).

I have learned the true meaning of forgiveness and that is liberating- let me tell you. There is actually a HUGE difference in “saying” the words and actually performing the action, and by action i mean “letting it go” and that is true forgiveness. I hadn’t TRULY experienced this is my “pre-grief” life.

I have learned so far that the grief DOESN’T go away but it shifts, it hides and it sneaks out when you least expect it and there is no stopping it. Grief is kinda like a little kid and a tantrum- you just gotta let it happen however embarrassing it is.

I have learned that some people appear to run like heck from grieving parents. I don’t really know the answer to this one. Maybe because it is too scary and sad. Maybe they don’t know what to say or do…. or it is a scary reminder that this could happen to them. Maybe it’s too hard to see others suffer so much. Maybe they are just too busy. That’s all I can think of.  I truly don’t think people intend to be hurtful but a bereaved heart is so fragile.  However, I can only assume but you know what they say about those that assume…………    On the contrary,  there are those that encapsulate you with LOVE!  Thank you to those who have stood by us, prayed for us and with us, held us, been present with us and continue to walk this journey with us….WE are forever grateful! And thank you for SAYING her name- ELLERY.

I have learned to live with panic attacks. PTSD is real and it isn’t just those who have been to war that suffer from it. It is reliving trauma over and over and over. Something as simple as the phrase “dead weight”, ambulance sirens, helicopters, pools all bring upon a certain level of stress and panic that I am slowly learning to deal with. IT IS HARD!

I have learned you loose who you were and start the journey of finding out who you really ARE!  You truly embrace what is important in life- LOVE and “let go” of what is NOT! You also try to live a life to carry on your child’s legacy.  The last thing a bereaved parent wants in this world is for those to forget that their child LIVED!

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Ellery’s Baby Picture
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Ellery’s Little Sister Bryar (photo credit December Orpen Photography)

Most importantly, I  have learned to praise God and be grateful for the MANY blessings in my life while filled with immense sorrow and grief. Last February we were blessed with a beautiful baby girl, Bryar Ellery. She is our gift within our grief. She has shown us light within the darkness as well as our other children. I can say that our living children have given us purpose to go on and live, along with our Faith and Hope of being reunited with Ellery again in HEAVEN.

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Our 5 Children (Photo Credit Cam’s Little Light)

 

22 months down the road……….

 

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I miss those eyes!

 

It seems fitting that I write today as it has been 1 year since my very first blog post and it is 22 months today that my precious Ellery past. You see I don’t sit in my house counting the days to the next month of her passing. In fact I try really hard to keep busy so the days pass and I don’t know what day it is. But as the clock keeps time, so does my mind. The pain of each passing month provides a sting with it. I acknowledge it for what it is and I accept these feelings that I have today just as I do every day. They are part of me. You know what? There are still days that all I do is cry till the kids come home. No I don’t just sit there and cry – I multitaskingly cry (Yes I know that is not a word but to me it means- perfectly functioning, doing many things all while crying) AND I have gotten pretty damn good at it!

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Eller Feona- 10 lbs. 15 oz.  My beautiful baby girl!

I have learned grief has to come out and it WILL come out weather it’s now or years and years from now and it DOESN”T care when it shows it’s face. It’s also like a baby growing in a momma- as time passes it grows and grows and grows. At some point that baby is coming and there is no stopping it and sometimes its messy ……just like grief (seriously grief correlates with the circle of life so much. It is birthed, it grows with you, it distances itself but it is ALWAYS there and its not easy) The longer you hold something in the more painful it is to let out. From my own experiences I have found if you don’t let it out some way- I’m talking, bawling, running, exercising screaming, writing etc. etc. etc. it manifests in NOT SO GREAT ways! I have seen the physical manifestation in my own mom barely being able to walk at one point (she is doing so much better now). I have witnessed my daughter getting migraines so bad it paralyzed one side of her body. My son developed a debilitating OCD behavior (we are beyond grateful that he is functioning so much better) My husband has been sick so many times since Ellery past. That is what grief can do to you physically- emotionally is a whole other ball game and consciously I deal with that EVERY single day. This does not in any way mean that there is a right way or wrong way to grieve and no two people grieve the same- that is tough too! I do believe it to mean though that we need to open up or hearts and listen and follow the grief road that works for us. So really no matter how much “advice” one receives- grief is unique to the individual and there is NO FIXING IT! Grrr, I just hate that because I want a FIX!

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Soooo big!

Grief is a BEAST that brings up everything from your past, present and how you deal with things in the future. Grief is a teacher, one that I wish I NEVER had to encounter, one that you would complain to your parents everyday because they were mean and hurt your feelings. Grief doesn’t care how you “feel” it is there to teach you the HARDEST LESSON in life……. learning to live without your loved one… My Loved One…. MY ELLERY! A lesson I have NO other choice but to LEARN and HOW I learn it leads to the quality of life I have left. I am one determined MOMMA! I will make sure I provide my kids the best life I can give them- even with this very BROKEN heart. I don’t mean with THINGS like toys, electronics etc. etc. etc.  I mean fill their hearts with LOVE, GRATITUDE, HOPE and FAITH! It is the only thing that is going to get me through this life till I am right there with my Ellery again.  I know I will fail many times but I will never give up.

1.5 Years… 18 Months… 547 Days… 13,140 Hours

 

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Wow and oh my goodness! Can time really pass by like this?????  It truly feels like an eternity already without you, Ellery.  I sit here and try to imagine you….. your voice, your smell, your smile, your face, your hair, your hugs, your sweet kisses and fear and panic creeps over me that I am forgetting. My biggest fear is I will forget the little things. People tell me, you will never forget but it is already fading. My love for you will never fade but the clear crisp memories do and I am so scared Ellery. I am so thankful I took all of the pictures and the videos that I did but I always want more.

What 18 month without you has been like………..

Holy cows, where do I start?! Our broken hearts have continued to beat for 18 months without you…..547 days 13,140 hours. I now truly experience what a “heavy heart” feels like. It now feels like my entire chest including my lungs are covered with a web that is tightly being pulled, squeezing my heart and not allowing my lungs to expand…… in other words…..HEAVY GUT WRENCHING GRIEF.  I have been learning to listen to the innate intelligence that GOD has given me to release some of this but it sure comes and goes. At times I’m not sure I will survive it. However, I am learning to function and carry it a little better. I want people to understand child loss but I would never want anybody to step into my body and truly know what this feels like. There are just no words that can explain what losing you feels like.

I feel our life is like the movie Ground Hogs Day, but a nightmare version. Every morning I wake up and say “oh God” as I realize our reality! When I go to bed and it catches up with me I cry and let it out…… it’s too painful to keep in. I thank God for you Ellery and your siblings every night and I ask for God’s help and for you to give me a sign! You hear me don’t you? I know you do and sometimes my mind is just so full of grief I don’t see your gifts, but I keep looking! Many nights are sleepless as I am awaken with panic. Really, that can go away anytime soon. If you could talk to the Big Guy upstairs and tell him to help your mama out that would be wonderful! I have woken up a few times to see you in the trees, I rub my eyes and close them and reopen to make sure that I am really seeing the outline of your face…. and I do. It brings me so much comfort.

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And your daddy… Your daddy misses you so much Ellery. He has it “pulled together” on the outside (which is certainly more acceptable when putting yourself back into society) but I worry about him so much. He is a strong man as you know and his LOVE and determination is carrying this family but he hurts so badly.

Let me talk about your siblings a little….

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Aubryn still talks about you all the time. The most important gift she wanted for Christmas was a shirt with pictures of you and her that said SISTERS FOREVER! She loves it and cherishes it! She has written a beautiful poem for your headstone Ellery….. that is if Daddy and I can get that done. Picking out a headstone?!!! I still am in disbelief Ellery!

Brahm he has made HUGE strides. After you left us his anxiety and OCD were debilitating and your Daddy and I were so worried. He now shows no signs of OCD and is way more relaxed. I thank God for that. He misses you and feels like he is forgetting. Will you visit him in a dream someday soon?!

Emilyn still finds feathers all the time and yells “THANK YOU ELLERY”! I love it. She tells stories of you, sometimes I wonder if they are true but I really enjoy hearing them. I think you are prodding her to sing. She breaks out in song all the time and many times it’s the Children Songs that you loved so much and Let It GO (I still can’t seem to get myself to listen to that soundtrack or watch the movie) . It gives me chills and I feel you.

Ellery, as I’m sure you already know, you are going to be a BIG Sister. I feel you have already met this new little one and handpicked he or she for our family, cause frankly it feels like a miracle. It has been so hard for mommy. I miss you so so so much! I don’t know what I feel. I know I already love this new baby but my heart is so heavy. I haven’t touched your room yet. I haven’t put away your clothes or changed your sheets. Your crib sits there the same as the day you left.  I physically can’t do it and I get angry when people tell me I need to.

I have also found that it is hard for people to witness grief that is why they stay away or give suggestions on how to “fix it” (truly I don’t blame them). Unfortunately there is no “fix”, there is no miracle drug, drink, food, exercise or amount of time that will “FIX” this. One thing that I have realized is people cross our paths at just the right time and others leave or stay away when you would expect them to be there. This is another nudge (used to feel more like a slap in the face but not anymore) to tell me that life doesn’t work how I think it should, life “happens” how it is supposed to and that’s out of my control. It is truly a gift and a blessing the people that have stayed in our lives, the new friends that have  entered our lives,  the people who are walking through the grief with us, the people are  helping us, and praying for us.  We are grateful and thankful beyond words and it would be so much harder without them!

Ellery you are in Heaven and I am here. I now have to live with your memories in my heart rather than your body in my arms. That feels impossible but as the months on the calendar have continued to turn, I am proving it possible. I love you Baby Girl and I miss you with every ounce of my being!

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I’m Alive

 

As I sit here, the song “I’m Alive by Kenny Chesney is on my heart. Songs, I guess seem to be speaking to me lately. You see my husband communicates through music. He is not a man that expresses verbally his feelings often, but if I go through his playlist it really tells his life story – what he feels and his grief.  See this song was added to his playlist quite a few years back when the market was going south and work was harder to find (he is a self employed contractor), pay for jobs was at a low (supply and demand) and people that owed us LOTS of $$$$….went under. Stress was almost insurmountable! However, he was still able to be THANKFUL and GRATEFUL for what we had. I on the other hand was a bit bitter, and angry at the people who left us high and dry and scraping by (I now have learned you can’t hang on to anger, it only hurts you and no one else), BUT I have ALWAYS been thankful for the blessings in my life.
FAST FORWARD

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Never could we have imagined what we were about to be face……..the death of our sweet, beautiful, funny, joyous Ellery. I can honestly say in the first few weeks I wasn’t thankful to be alive, neither of us were. I will never forget sitting in bed both sobbing in each others arms and saying we have two choices…… a) we kill ourselves (don’t judge for most bereaved parents this thought pops in your mind)….. or b) we survive, we “fake it till we make it”. We both knew option A. wasn’t really an option and we made the decision quickly that we had to survive this with the hope to one day thrive.
1st HOLIDAYS

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Last Christmas together

Nothing can prepare a bereaved parent for the Holidays….. NOTHING! The first holidays were quite a blur to us. The first Halloween we walked like Zombies (how fitting) in our neighborhood trying not to make eye contact with anyone, but our excited children brought us joy! Thanksgiving we left to visit my cousin. She bought a candle and stickers for the kids to decorate in remembrance of Ellery! We got to light it and acknowledge our daughter and sister. That my friends meant the world to our family. We kept insanely busy….. which was a great distraction for us and the kids, but the cement block was still there compressing our hearts. Christmas was dreadful we kept the same tradition of going where we were “expected” to go but we were different people. So being in circumstances like holidays where “business is as usual” was very difficult for us. Our exposed, broken hearts were so raw and the mention of our sweet girls name …. Ellery… was barely spoken in fear of hurting us more…….. I believe. We thanked God for carrying us through the holidays and were grateful for January.

 

NEARLY 16 MONTHS LATER

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Now…. here i sit….. almost 16 months later…. almost 4 months into year 2 of learning to live without our precious daughter Ellery. I was told year two could be worse than year one and to be honest I kinda scoffed at that. How could that be possible??? But now I can see that is VERY possible! Year one you are blessed with the “grief fog” lots of support and the blessing of looking back at what you did a year ago with your precious child. Year two….. the fog lifts and the raw air hits, the overwhelming support is gone (only a few beautiful souls left to weather the storm with -I am beyond thankful for their comfort) and you are left with the what if’s, what would be’s and the eternal missing and aching. I still can not say that year two is worse for me, it’s different…… meaning, it’s not easier, less painful or hard it’s just different. I cry a little less, the anxiety has subsided a bit and I feel like I am starting to be able to tame this wild stallion of grief a bit and I am beginning to understand it a little more but it is STILL terribly difficult.  The loss of Ellery  has caused my heart to be broken  open and holds so much sorrow, but it has also allowed me to experience overwhelming gratitude and appreciation for what I do have in my life.   As the song would say: (I’m Alive: by Kenny Chesney)

“So damn easy to say that life’s so hard
Everybody’s got their share of battle scars
As for me, I’d like to thank my lucky stars that I’m alive and well…
It’d be easy to add up all the pain
And all the dreams you sat and watched go up in flames
Dwell on the wreckage as it smolders in the rain
But not me…I’m alive

And today you know that’s good enough for me
Breathin’ in and out’s a blessing can’t you see
Today’s the first day of the rest of my life and I’m alive
And well…I’m alive and well”

I can honestly say thank you Lord for my life and the blessing that surround me.. big and small! Thank You for our family, friends and new friends that have continue to stand with  us. Thank You for opening my eyes to see the grandness in life while holding my fragile heart in the palm of Your hand.

 

I am still riding toward the very front of this rollercoaster of grief…. where it’s scary, unexpected and takes your breath away but one day….. I too will be sitting in the last seat helping others with their ride. As for now…. “today you know that’s good enough for me. Breathin’ in and out’s a blessing can’t you see” !

A GIFT WITHIN GRIEF

1ST DAY OF SCHOOL
FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL 2 YEARS AGO

 

This was the day that I was supposed to cry because our spunky Emilyn would go to Kindergarten- tears every mother of a Kindergartener shed. The tears of realization that another baby is getting bigger and starting a new phase of their life. Tears that she is becoming independent and doesn’t need me as much as she once did. The same tears that I cried with my other two children. However, I would get through it knowing I was going to have time with my last child Ellery. INSTEAD ELLERY IS STARTING HER SECOND YEAR IN HEAVEN AND I AM HOME ALONE.

Today should have been the day Ellery and I would be playing at the park, reading, napping dancing singing and cuddling just as we used to. This was supposed to be OUR time to be together as the other children started school. I can envision her squealing with excitement as the bus would approach. Excited to see the bus yet more excited to see her siblings. THIS IS NOT MY REALITY ANYMORE. Instead, I sit here today overwhelmed with the raw sadness and the reality of my life –living life without Ellery. I sit here with just pictures and her memory and I cry tears of a broken mama- Not the same tears I cried as I sent Emilyn off to Kindergarten.  Heart-wrenching, knee dropping, breathtaking sobbing,  agonizing tears only a mama that has lost a child can know. 

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BACK TO SCHOOL THIS YEAR

Today I sit here ALONE, the world continues to spin and the clock continues to tick but my life is at a standstill. The first year you go through life looking back on what you did with your child the year before. You reminisce about the JOYOUS memories you had with your child. Then comes a year…….. your first set of memories after the year mark are NIGHTMARES. And that is where I am. Thirteen months later when society expects you to be “moving on”- I sit here with this stranger that I don’t recognize – ME!

I used to be a dreamer, a goal setter, a visionary an extrovert. Grief has changed me to an unrecognizable person in the mirror. Others see the same person on the outside and some hope for and expect the old me- but she does not exist. I am still figuring out WHO I AM and it is uncomfortable. I see life from a new set of eyes, a very valuable set of eyes.  THESE EYES ARE A GIFT WITHIN THE GRIEF.  I see life as full of beauty amongst so much sadness. I see the good in the world through all of the evil. I truly KNOW without a question of a doubt what is important and I know what is not. I now know the real meaning of FRIENDSHIP and that Family doesn’t have to be blood. I know that TIME DOES NOT heal all wounds but may lessen the pain.  I know that holding on to ANGER only hurts me and FORGIVENESS (wether it be my self or someone else) is the KEY.  I know that Faith in God and lots of HOPE is how I put one foot in front of the other. I also know that I am HUMAN living out this journey – I get angry, hurt, sad, want to give up and cry more tears that I ever thought possible. Even though my heart has been completely broken (to the point I can’t even believe it can still possibly beat), it has been broken open to allow SO MUCH MORE LOVE IN. I feel a depth of LOVE and COMPASSION that I never new could existed –AND THAT TOO IS A GIFT!

Dear Ellery

safe in the arms of Jesus
Safe in the the arms of Jesus.  Image by Mindy Allsop

As I am sitting down to write you this letter I am looking out the window and I see a beautiful Cardinal in the tree right in front of me. The little signs you send give me a flutter of peace. I am so beyond thankful for these signs that I cling to.

Oh Ellery, where do I start. It has now been a year without you. As the weather is nice the memories of our last days together come flooding into my mind and the tears are flowing like raging rapids. I remember bringing you to Mendards to pick out patio pavers the Wednesday before you left us. I even brought the Ipad with (which I have never done before) so you could listen to your Children’s Songs. Of course, the Ipad didn’t have service so you couldn’t watch your YouTube Children’s Songs. You screamed as we followed one of the worker around. I apologized for the screams and he said, “I find it quite entertaining”. Of course I didn’t find it entertaining at the time but what I wouldn’t give to hear you screaming “CHILDREN’S SONGS”.

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One of our last family pictures.

I remember bringing you with me that week to pick up the kids at VBS and you would run the halls, shaking the shaker eggs and opening them so the beans would spill out. I would pick up the beans while you opened another. Several of the camp kids would ask you to say “I tooted” – one of your most famous sayings- because it was the cutest thing EVER. You were a ham and loved by many.  People were just drawn to you-my precious Ellery.

I remember going to the park that Friday night to play kickball (Guess what?! There will be a community get together today to play kickball in remembrance of you. Your spirit, baby girl, is touching more lives than I could have ever imagined). You and your dad and siblings went there first and of course I came a few minutes behind toting water and snacks – as I always do. I will NEVER forget how you ran across the park with your little legs kicking from side to side- how they did when you ran. You were yelling momeeee, momeeee- like you hadn’t seen me for days when it had just been 5 minutes. You jumped in my arms and hugged me with all the LOVE in the world. My heart yearns for those hugs Ellery and for the tickle of your curls against my cheeks. I remember you playing under that weird dome climby thing, laying in the rocks and dropping rocks on your face and eyes. We had to pull you by your tootsies to get you out of there and to get the rocks out of your eyes. The little pebbles didn’t even seem to bother you. You were alway so adventurous Ellery.

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One of the last pictures taken at the lake the day before Ellery left us.

I remember Saturday going to the lake for Daddy’s family get-to-gether and watching you swim all day. I can see you eating crackers with your little belly showing out of your swimming suite. You had so much fun and you were so very pooped by the time it was to go home. I also remember VIVIDLY grabbing on to your Daddy’s hand as we left the lake, looking in the rear view mirror saying, “look a at these kids, I feel like we won the lottery”. Little did I know I had only 24 hours left with you. The last beautiful memory Ellery that I will cherish for the rest of my life was hours before you left us. When you got up from your nap and it was just the two of us……..I held you and danced around the house with you- dipping you upside down as you loved to do. You giggled and kept wanting more… more… more. I am so thankful for our LAST DANCE Ellery- SO THANKFUL.

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Thanks for the kiss Ellery during Emilyn’s 5 birthday.  There were a few other passed loved ones there as well. Can you spot all the orbs?

Ellery, this year has been beyond difficult for us. We love and miss you so much. The only way we have made it this far is knowing God and you are surrounding us and protecting our fragile hearts and carrying us when we can’t seem to carry ourselves- and the signs you send us. Daddy has been super strong for us. He submerses himself into staying busy at work and playing with your siblings. I can see the pain in his eyes but we love each other so much and take care of each other as good as we can. I know you watch over him and change the radio station in his truck to KTIS at times. That warms his heart. Also when I was sobbing in your room and Daddy had to hold me cause I couldn’t stop and the radio came on in our bathroom. Ellery, that calmed me down and showed me again that you are close by. Thank you for also turning on the radio when Daddy and Em where in the garage to the SHeDAISY song “Don’t Worry ‘Bout A Thing”. Em couldn’t figure out how that possibly happened but it couldn’t have been more perfect and appropriate timing. Thank you baby girl you know your daddy loves music and those signs are perfect.

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The Swallowtail butterfly we see at the most significant times!

Brahm talks about how he misses you and loves you. He has been having a tough time but is such a kind and wonderful big brother. He sees you in everything B- the color Blue, Bunnies, and “bubberflies”. Oh the “bubberflies” Ellery. I bet you smile when you see us chasing them all over especially the magnificent Yellow Swallowtail. I had never noticed a Swallowtail before but now they show themselves at the most appropriate times and make our souls happy.

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Beautiful orb with Emilyn taking her birthday pictures.

Emilyn and Aubryn miss you so much. I know you would be having so much fun playing Barbies with the girls and singing. Emilyn sits in your room all the time when she wants to be alone and do her thing. Thank you for leaving the feathers everywhere for Emilyn. She does find them in the strangest places and immediately yells out “THANK YOU ELLERY”!

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Aubryn and huge double orb that appears in several pictures  indoor and outdoor.

Aubryn misses you something terribly and she LOVES to talk about you. I bet you giggle at the stories she remembers. She is a tough cookie and I know you are close to her broken little heart. She just wants to hold a little girl again like she did you- boy that tugs at my heart. She has taken up writing which is a way she let’s it out and grieves. I am so proud of her. She has written a beautiful poem which we will put on your headstone when we muster up the strength to go through the process. Here is her poem, it is simply beautiful:

Look At The Stars
(what Ellery is saying to me)
A bright light shines bright in you.
That bright light will guide you
It will glow, shine and sparkle and say
I’m sorry I had to go so soon but
I’m watching you on the moon.
Until you come to see me
be as happy as you can be.
Look up to the stars and you will see me,
smiling at you.
You will do that too!
Love Aubryn

Ellery I just want to thank you for choosing me to be your mommy! Even through all of this pain and suffering, I am so glad we got to LOVE and hold you for the short time we did on this Earth. You were a gift to us and brought so much Joy, LOVE, and laughter to our lives. We will miss you everyday for the rest of our lives and YOU will never be forgotten. I will continue sharing Joy and Kindness in your name for the REST of my days here on earth until you GREET ME IN HEAVEN.

Love Always,
Mommy

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Our family picture with a double orb right where Ellery would be standing!

HELP!

 

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                                                                                                        ELLERY HELPING COLOR EASTER EGGS

So this song popped in my head last night –Help! by the Beatles. I am not a huge Beatles fan in any way and I have heard this song in passing but in no way would this song be on my “playlist”. Everything these days has meaning- from the butterfly that flew between my husband’s and my head as the casket was lowering – to the dragonfly I found flying around the inside of my house this morning. YES – a dragonfly in my house…. flying around. And all the signs in-between have meaning and come when I need them most. When my inner self is nudging me, it means something and I NOW intentionally listen. So in the middle of the night, I gave in and googled the lyrics:

“Help!”
Help, I need somebody
Help, not just anybody
Help, you know I need someone, help

When I was younger so much younger than today
I never needed anybody’s help in any way
But now these days are gone, I’m not so self assured
Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ’round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me

And now my life has changed in oh so many ways
My independence seems to vanish in the haze
But every now and then I feel so insecure
I know that I just need you like I’ve never done before

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ’round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me

When I was younger so much younger than today
I never needed anybody’s help in any way
But now these days are gone, I’m not so self assured
Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being round
Help me, get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me, help me, help me, ooh

This nagging song is exactly how i feel and the timing of it is impeccable as my body and soul is silently crying for HELP.

We are approaching the year mark this month July 26th 2016 and I feel like I can’t do this anymore. We have gotten through an entire year of the firsts but the DAY is coming, gripping at my being- tugging me back down in the depths and pits of sadness, grief and despair. I will no longer be able to say…. a year ago Ellery was doing this…….. a year ago Ellery and I …. a year ago…. a year ago… a year ago…….
Help me if you can, I’m feeling down, And I do appreciate you being round. Help me, get my feet back on the ground. Won’t you please, please help me, help me, help me

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                                                                    BIG SISTER EMILYN HELPING CHANGE ELLERY’S DIAPER

ACCEPTING HELP!

My whole life I have been quite determined to take care of myself. Never ask for help but always willing to go above and beyond to help others. A very difficult thing for me through this grief journey has been accepting help. I guess I have always felt undeserving of help and we can make it somehow. WRONGyou can not do this grief journey alonewe have just lost one of the most precious gifts in our life- Ellery. When “your feet are off the ground” and you don’t have the brain capacity to fathom the impact the loss of your child has- you NEED help. Fortunately, we live in a very compassionate community of friends and strangers. My husband and I are not from around here and our community took us under their wings and embraced us and continue to embrace us. Thank you for your HELP!

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                                                                        BIG BROTHER BRAHM HELPING TAKE CARE OF ELLERY

 

ASKING FOR HELP!  Grief is Isolating

Most bereaved parents don’t reach out to ask for help. To me it seems the phone weighs more than an elephant. To pick it up when you should, when you need someone most is nearly impossible. What I have found is many people expect you to reach out if you need HELP-I can understand that because that is how things usually work. (I also understand why people don’t reach out- THEY JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO! I am right there with them, I don’t know what to do either. The people that have helped me the most are the people that listen and don’t try to fix me or solve my unsolvable grief)  Unfortunately the bereaved lives in a different world that only fellow bereaved parents understand and a FEW others empathize with. If I did call someone during those times – what do I say, what do I do, what do I need?????? I need my baby back and no one can bring her back. Other than that, I don’t even know what I need. This grief thing is as unpredictable as a wild animal – one minute you can breathe and the next you are attacked- crouched in the corner of store crying your eyes out. Grief is isolating and it takes a lot of energy to reach out to anyone and to submerse yourself back into the living. Knowing this I encourage you to open your ears, your heart, your arms and speak the CHILDS name- this can HELP a bereaved parent!  This may be hard or uncomfortable but remember you don’t have to live with it every minute of  EVERY DAY!

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                                                                            BIG SISTER AUBRYN HELPING TAKE CARE OF ELLERY

 

HELPING OTHERS

Through this journey my LOVE and compassion has grown strong for people. I don’t know how I would have helped others if the tables were turned– I have to remind myself of that often and forgive those that have disappeared from my vision or don’t speak of our precious Ellery- as I know their hearts are with us. My journey is still just beginning but if my words can Help someone else then it is a start on the right path. AND it’s OK to ask for HELP!

Let It Go!

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Wow never in a million years would I have thought that song would have such an impact on my life in so many ways. When the movie Frozen came out, having 3 girls obsessed, I often found myself singing along too and I loved it…. yes I admit it! I love all of the Frozen songs and know them ALL by heart. It doesn’t get much better than watching your girls dance around the house pretending they are Elsa and Anna and singing their little hearts out. The image makes me smile and cry at the same time now. My Ellery loved those songs and one of her first phrases was “Let it Goooo” (along with “oh my gosh look at her butt” yeah not gonna try to explain that one.) She even had the ticking of the clock down to the song, “Love is an Open Door” (many of you know what I am talking about). Ellery would lip sync the entire soundtrack. Oh do I miss that!

After Ellery died. Let It Go was excruciating to listen to (it was sung at her funeral and played as we released the balloons at her gravesite) and when I hear that song it is like someone is sucking all of the air right out of my lungs. Emilyn, my youngest living child, breaks that song out every now and then. It brings a tear to my eye each time and some painful joy but I know it is one way that a 5 year old grieves for her sister- and that is IMPORTANT.  Needless to say, those 3 difficult words now resinate with me in differently than before. This is what Let It Go means to me:

First……… Letting Go of Ellery’s physical body

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How do you let go of your little girl? How do you let someone put her body in the cold ground never to be held again?  That AWEFUL night that is seared in my brain forever, the coroner had to take her away from us after holding her little lifeless body in our arms for hours. I also remember when they were lowering her casket I grabbed on to it not wanting to Let It Go, knowing the finality of it all- I WAS NEVER GOING TO HOLD MY BABY GIRL AGAIN ON THIS EARTH. People would say to me, “that is not her anymore, she is in heaven” or she is in a “better” place. Tip # 1 Although I believe heaven has to be a better place than all of this suffering here on earth, a bereaved parent never wants to hear “she’s in a better place” – in my ego driven mind the best place for my baby is right here with me. I know that I will NEVER LET GO of her memory or that precious blanket that you see above.  I sleep with that blanket every night in hopes of catching a glimpse of her sweet face in a dream. However, I knew in my heart that I had to Let her body go – I had to let go of her an accept that she is safe in the arms of Jesus. THIS IS THE HARDEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE IN MY LIFE!

Second…….. Letting Go of the Guilt

While talking to many grieving parents I have come to realize that there is guilt in every situation and circumstance with child loss. The should haves, would haves, and if onlys are across the board in the bereaved community. I struggle with this one and just when I think I have put the guilt aside it comes back with a vengeance. I know I am a great mama and I would NEVER do anything to harm my children. I pleaded to God to take me instead that day and I would lay my life down for all of my children in a heart beat- that I know. Guilt is a way to torture yourself for your circumstance and believe me, I torture myself. It is much easier to feel guilt, anger rather than forgiving oneself or others. I have let go of some of the guilt but sometimes I think I want to feel the guilt to feel in control of the situation that is out of my control (it sounds twisted but it is true), to blame someone (me)…. it was my fault…. I should have…. if only I…… The reality of it is – we don’t have as much control as we think we do. Do we get to choose when life begins and life ends? Some would say yes, but in my opinion we play a part but I really don’t think we are the rulers of our destiny. I believe we get to choose the path as “LIFE” happens.  I believe control is false security, which leads me to my next Letting Go.

Third………Letting Go of Control

I am a recovering control freak. I lived the “it could never happen to me” mindset (this is actually not a bad thing-really, it is better than really “knowing” what can happen). I liked to control everything in my little world. What I have come to realize and believe so far on this grief journey is I am not in control of much (feels like a gut punch). I can control the kind of person I am -by what I say, how I react, what I eat etc. but I have little control on the outcome. I have met so many wonderful parents already that did everything “right”, loved and would do anything for their children and their child dies. (I have also seen with my own eyes small children roaming around busy streets etc. and nothing happens to them) So many stories that don’t make sense or are almost unbelievable but it happened- a child dies….MY CHILD DIED. My husband became a lifeguard a couple years ago out of the blue and our daughter drowns in our presence. I believe God has a purpose and a plan in each of our lives, even Ellery’s short life and we don’t have control over it. I am not sure of my purpose yet but I know the  part that I have control over is- what kind of person I become as “LIFE” happens– bitter, angry hateful or faithful, hopeful and full of love. I am just a piece of this mosaic called Life, I must Let Go Of Control and TRUST IN THE PROCESS OF LIFE and God’s plans for me.

Let it go…. The past is in the past

Which leads me to this. I can’t have my baby back physically, her presence and memories are with me always – I will NEVER let go of them. However, torturing myself with guilt is not making me a better person (although this one is hard to stop). I must forgive myself. There is a bigger plan that is in place and I am a tiny piece of it. I have the control or free will of how I respond to my circumstances or “LIFE”. There are many difficult situations in life but it is how we react to our situations that matter. Unfortunately, many of us -including my former self- try to live up to fictitious expectations and demands (out of guilt, control or our ego) that even superwoman/man would have a hard time living up to. Does life need to be full of all the additional stress that we create in it?  There is enough without creating more. As the song would say, why not Let It Go and not have it Hold You Back Anymore. The Past is in the Past! Let It Go and Let GOD! I KNOW it is easier said that done but “LIFE” IS -work and learning in progress. Each of us are on our own journey- EVEN OUR CHILDREN. The only way to move through something is to Forgive, LET GO of what tortures you, LOVE DEEP and trust in GOD and the process of life.