Mother’s Legacy

November 26, 2012 at 12:56 am | Posted in family of origin, grief/loss | 3 Comments

~ Retracing footsteps ~

“You will in time understand the complexity of my time here on earth…” were my mother’s words.

Just this morning I had an epiphany in regards to my mother’s choices in life. I was contemplating her ways in which she said things that she wanted us to do differently, her stoic responses and her sometimes very stubborn decisions and opinions. We as a family struggled many times with this situation.

Now I see it all with a bit more perspective. My mother was probably brought up with little room to have her own wishes and desires fully met. She must have learnt that having her own and sometimes out-of-the-box ideas was termed as ‘being difficult’ and so swallowed them for a long time. I guess that in relationship with my father she was putting her own needs behind every thing else that the family needed. For a long time… until the phoenix rose out of the ashes.

I sometimes couldn’t understand why she would do things in a complicated way and didn’t want to change, when it all seemed to make so much more sense another way. She was artistic and different in every way, even when it comes to the way she had her kitchen organized.

In her later life I have experienced my mother’s resentment from all the years where she stood back, allowed others to come first, had her own needs met last.

Now I see what damage her soul took from conforming to society but not following her own path.

Today I choose that from what I see, everyone has the right to have their own wild ideas, needs, wants, dreams… which don’t need to be justified or explained. As I now live among the same walls my mother did, sleep in the very room my mother slept, eat on the table she dined, and am surrounded by the plants she chose to have in her garden, I am here to discover the complexity of her time on earth. Step by step.

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Avoiding the Present Experience

November 2, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Posted in grief/loss | 2 Comments
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Missing Mimi

It is fairly common to avoid that we experience, specifically if we don’t like what the experience brings with it. Often, dare I say ever, it is the emotional component that is disliked, unaccepted or denied.

I don’t like anger

I am aware of this right now. Today marks what would have been my mother’s 70 birthday, if not she chose to end her life prematurely in January this year. Today is a heavy day for me and I struggle with the mixture of anger at her decision to leave, her not being physically present and celebrating with her and her one year old grandchild, the feeling of missing her and on the other side the desire for me to be compassionate, accepting and seeing the positive in everything. Right now, the anger is much more prevalent and in my head I hear the screaming voice saying: ‘What the hell is there positive in this???’

I just want to feel better

I’m reminded of one of my client’s session this week where my clients said: ‘I want to feel better, I don’t like feeling the way I’m feeling and it doesn’t make sense anyway.’

As a starting point, the desire to change isn’t wrong. It might just be premature to want to change from anger to joy in one step. There is a good reason for the emotion in the moment, whether we like it or not. There must be, otherwise we were we as human emotional being constructed this way? Beside the obvious, the release of the various emotional responses help us deal with what is and release tension. Tears help you heal. So do the emotion that are present, with or without tears.

Charge versus memory Continue Reading Avoiding the Present Experience…

Death – Meeting Society’s Taboo

October 5, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Posted in grief/loss | 4 Comments

♥ ♥ ♥

I’m the mother of a dead child. I’m the daughter of a dead mother. All of which happened within the space of less than 5 months.

I shock people when I tell them what occurred in the last year. Some literally sit there, eyes and mouth wide open but no sound. Even some good friends have not contacted me since my child died.

Talking to a friend who experienced stillbirth recently she mentioned that her friends wanted to give her space. Really, we don’t need that much space. One of my friends expressed feeling conscious of not wanting to bore me with her daily life because it all seemed so trivial and non-important.

It is true: experiencing death has changed me as a person and my perspective. It has put problems into perspective, taken the seriousness out of seemingly important matters and given my life a whole different meaning. It has thought me appreciation where in the past was a sense of expectation. It has requested I look deeper into myself, open more of those hidden cupboards of my psyche and questioned the notion of taking things for granted.

I’m open to talk about death. I’m not hiding, nor trying to fix or mend the truth. Still, I find myself saying: ‘I’m sorry if I shocked you’ or ‘it might sound worse than it is’.

The truth is I have been processing this for days on end. It’s there every waking and sleeping hour. I cannot escape looking at it and into it. I have no choice but to deal with it.

Maybe I’m considered a weirdo because I’m not accepting or honoring society’s taboo. As a society we are not used to openly meeting, talking or sharing stories around death and we don’t know how to handle our own feelings in regards to other people’s trauma. I can remember just a few years ago when a distant friend of mine had a stillbirth I didn’t know what to say. I can relate.

Another truth is that each and everyone’s experience of meeting death is somewhat different. What I can tell you is only my experience. Given the feedback I have received I have to assume that those who speak are actually relieved that there is finally someone who doesn’t shy away and openly shares.

Clearing Things

September 19, 2012 at 3:34 am | Posted in grief/loss | 2 Comments
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Timetable of Grief

Today I stood in the garage with my Dad going through the remnants of my parents life. They have been married and together for 54 years from when they were 17 years old. My Dad tears up as he watches my Mum’s picture in what we call ‘Mum’s room’. In every little thing stored in their garage there is history, stories about all those moments they shared.

I’m dealing with clearing the things he no longer needs or wants. He says: ‘It might be easier for you to throw these things away than for me. Or maybe not?’ He is relieved that he doesn’t have to deal with all the details.

He tells me some of the anectodes that I might have heard before but I let him tell me again. It’s his processing time. Today on the phone he mentioned that he is good at avoiding, so I figure that I give him as much of this way of processing that he choses to take on his own choice.

I recall another instant… 6 weeks ago we came to Switzerland and he was with us the last 3,5 weeks at our old home. On one of the last days we went to visit Hope’s place, the beach where we scattered our little girl’s ashes. I was surprised at the emotional reaction he had as we stood there quietly at the ocean, after our ritual rose petal scattering. Again, processing time.

I’m aware again and again that grief has its own timetable as I’m standing here in ‘Mum’s room’ with my Dad. For him, the most manageable way to deal with my Mum’s suicide was and still is avoiding it. He’s been in a state of shock for the first few months, fully functioning on the outside, seemingly looking and feeling ‘well’ but inside he was probably not fully connected with what had happened. It might have been the best this way. He’s not in denial, just doing what he can.

A Lonely Path To Walk

November 22, 2011 at 10:32 am | Posted in grief/loss | Leave a comment

Precious Time

Being with people who are grieving is not an easy place to be in. Many of us want to fix things and offer well-meant solutions, space-fillers or clichés. This cannot be resolved or fixed. The process of grief has no set timeline or deadline, it is always ever a starting point with a line that might fade with time but there is most likely no end point.

My personal experience as a counsellor working with many clients over the past years has given me lots of exposure. Yet nothing, not the training nor the experience has really prepared me for what life had in store for me on my journey with the grief of losing my child.

Grief is a lonely path to walk and many of the ‘not-so-nice’ moments and feelings are left unshared because people don’t know how to handle me and react with silence or have distanced themselves. I don’t know how to be with myself when uncontrollable frustration and anger sets in or unbearable sadness renders me incapable. I watch silently as I crumble in self-destructive thoughts.

When I’m angry or frustrated I can easily find things to project my anger towards. There are plenty of things that annoy me and sometimes unfortunately even the people closest to me are in the line of fire of my projection. It is not about them or the things they do or say that annoys me; it is just difficult right now in this very moment. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what to say, it is being there that counts. Your support and understanding is needed. I know I ask a lot as I even if I don’t understand myself at times.

I feel emotionally cut in half, carrying a double edge sword: One side being happy for the twin that I have with me in physical form, the other side being ripped apart by grief and loss for the twin that I lost, the one that will never grow up with us. She was so small and her image will remain edged in my memory as I held her helpless little body in my arms for the first and only time.

The tears are shed in private. I usually keep to myself when I’m sad. That is most likely the reason why people think ‘I’m fine’. It is as if I can see them sigh in relief as they don’t have to deal with the uncontrollable reality of their own relationship with grief.

Sometimes I Break Down…

November 18, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Posted in grief/loss | Leave a comment

Memories...

Sometimes I break down
Out of the blue
Like unexpected storm
Which hits the land
For no real apparent reason

Grief kicks in
And surprises me with its despair
And I stand there helplessly
As my skirt gets soaked by rain

Vulnerability shows its face
The layers of ‘I’m fine’ are wearing thin
Penetrated by loneliness
I become silent

My head aches
From all those unshed tears
Which finally are released
Through the veils of self-preservation

I’m angry I’m sad
I’m frustrated
I have no patience
I shout I scream
I grind my teeth

But nothing brings back my child
Only the memory remains
Of her tiny little body
Never meant to grow
Beyond the picture in my memory

Grief – A Very Personal Experience

November 5, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Posted in grief/loss | 2 Comments
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Today marks 2 months since Amya Mirica passed away.

Yesterday Chris and I went out for the first time in the evening and left Ananda Mae with my sister. We went to the classical concert of the Brandenburg Orchestra of which we have season’s tickets. The previous concert was exactly 2 months ago, the evening of Amya Mirica’s passing and the music gently reminded me of the presence of angels in the room as the beautiful angelic voice of the soloist soprano filled the concert hall serendipitously called ‘Angel’s place’. I was once again reminded that grief is a very personal experience and will be experienced in any unexpected moment and location.

This week we also went back to the hospital, where I gave birth, where we said good-bye to Amya Mirica and from where we took Ananda Mae home with us. The hospital will always hold an interesting energy and importance for me – both joy and bliss as overriding emotions associated with the birth and sadness and despair of losing my child. This time we went back to join a Bereavement Group.

It was a deep and intense morning as we shared with couples who also lost their babies. Each and every one of us is grieving. When I listened to their stories I felt connected in sharing a similar experience. In my career as a counsellor working with clients experiencing grief I was, according to their feedback, really able to support them in their process. Now however, I doubt that I was ever able to REALLY be there for them without fully understanding the depth of their experience. I think now that this is only really possible now that I gained access to this experience on a very personal level.

A few weeks ago I met my banker, who I have been talking to frequently before the birth of the twins. When I told her my story she said: I’m so sorry, I know what you’re going through. My first reaction inside was ‘I doubt you know what I’m going through’. She then however shared with me that she lost her second child through cot death at 3 months. This statement total y changed the meaning of her empathy. I have to say that I couldn’t imagine what she must have gone through in her personal experience and even though we share the part of losing one’s own child at a very young age, it’s still a very personal story and experience. She then said: ‘It will get easier’ and, in comparison to other people who could have said the same, coming from her it was founded in her personal experience and therefore I took it on board.

I also learnt this week that there are two fundamentally different ways people feel and deal with grief: the instrumental griever and the intuitive griever. The instrumental griever, historically the man, feels better by doing things as they feel unable to fix this. The intuitive griever, usually the woman, grieve through experiencing all the emotions and crying frequently. This can cause discordance in a relationship between an intuitive and an instrumental griever as they are rarely in the same place. Grieving has given our relationship a totally different level of understanding of each other, as well as ability to be with the other’s way of dealing with it.

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My Child Died – A Conversation Stopper

October 27, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Posted in grief/loss | 25 Comments
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Hope 🙂

Many people are lost for words when they hear me say that my child has passed away. Losing one’s own child is one of those experiences that we don’t know how to deal with – an untimely death.

I want to encourage people to dare to speak to me about my child, to mention her name and to ask me how I feel about it now. It does not have to be the only topic we talk about but it definitely shouldn’t be the one topic to avoid.

It might bring up emotions in me and it will definitely bring up emotions in you. What you are doing with them – allow and welcome or hide and suppress them – is the question.  You are meeting your own grief. You might be afraid of what you think it must feel like for me.  The chance is that I’ve already gone through and experienced the sadness, despair,  hopelessness, anger… This however is no absolution from feeling it again and again whether you mention it or not. Sooner or later I will go through the emotions and so are you. There is no way of hiding from this experience in life.

So the question really becomes: Can you bear standing in the face of any emotions, mine or your own? Are you ready to be authentic and share your tears with me? Or are you more comfortable hiding them?

There is no right or wrong way and no judgement of mine. It’s whatever you are comfortable with in yourself.

 

And remember – there is no set time frame for grief.

It will NEVER be over, so don’t expect me to ‘be over it’.

I don’t want time to heal this wound.

Yes, it will (and already has) get easier.

Remembering 1 September 2011 – Hope&Passions coming into this world as Amya Mirica Hope & Ananda Mae Passion

September 30, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Posted in grief/loss | 2 Comments

This is the whole day of the birth of my girls – 4 weeks ago.

This was written  one week after looking back…

May one day like this be an inspiration to mothers.

 

Remembering 1 September 2011 – Hope&Passions coming into this world as Amya Mirica Hope & Ananda Mae Passion

A week ago…

4.30 am – I woke up and am called to paint the girls in my picture for Hope&Passion.

Now I cannot sleep and go down to Newborn Care (NICU) to care for my baby.

 

A week ago…

5.30 am – I am still pregnant and we are getting ready to drive to the hospital. I feel my two babies stirring inside of me.

Now I feel Ananda Mae wriggling in her cot as I visit her in the NICU.

 

A week ago…

6.15 am – We are driving to the hospital singing ‘Happy Birthday to you’ for Hope&Passion.

Now I’m lying in my hospital bed as the new day dawns. I’m preparing myself to go home without my babies…

 

6.30 – in the room next door on the antenatal floor someone is listening to their baby in uterus’ heartbeat.

A sting in my heart – a tear on my cheek.

 

A week ago…

6.45 am – We arrive at the hospital. I am so excited. ‘I’m here to deliver my twins.’

Now I’m no longer able to sleep. It has been a restless night with strange dreams. What will await me at home?

Now I just had my obstetrician visiting me – she’s another angel in human form – checking in on me. I feel touched yet again for she is driving across town in early morning rush hour traffic to a hospital where she does not usually work just to see me.

 

A week ago…

7 am – we are admitted. We are listening to the babies’ heartbeat. They are fine. No signs of distress. I have a shower.

Now I’m having my last shower at the hospital. I feel strangely attached to this place. I feel sad to leave my babies behind.

 

A week ago…

7.50 am – We are ready to go down to where the operation theatre is. I still walk with my ripe belly, proudly carrying twins. I’m looking forward to giving birth – I’m smiling, excited, and can’t wait – in bliss before an operation 🙂 I am hungry physically and to become a mother.

Now luckily I don’t have to fast and I’m having my last breakfast delivered to the bed. I’m thinking about my two babies – one here, one in the spirit world.

 

A week ago…

8 am – we are starting the process with epidural / spinal block. The anesthetist is great. I’m relaxed, breathing deeply supported by Chris all dressed in blue gowns.

Now I feel my aching belly as I walk without the support belt.

 

A week ago…

8.15 am – Sue, my obstetrician arrives. She sets up our music while we wait for the epi to kick in. Everything is ready.

Now I’m looking out the window and wonder where Hope is as I asked her to be close today.

 

A week ago…

8.30 am – My belly is getting rubbed down with orange antiseptic and I imagine an aboriginal ritual painting is done on my bulging babies’ belly. I’m smiling from behind the sterile curtain.

Now I’m walking down the corridor past the aboriginal painting. I’m smiling at Hope’s plan.

 

A week ago…

8.35am – ‘Nathalie we’re starting the op’, says Sue. Chris is right beside me whispering ‘I love you so much’ into my ear. I feel tugging and moving. I speak softly to my babies.

Now I’m visiting Ananda Mae…

 

A week ago…

8.41 and 8.42am – The beautiful girls are being lifted into the light. At the same time the sterile curtain is being lowered and I’m able to see them for the first time.

Now I’m holding Ananda Mae in my arms celebrating her one week birthday. Tears of joy and sadness as I’m holding just one of them. I miss Amya Mirica’s little body.

 

A week ago…

8.50 am – The girls are rushed to the NICU after a brief cuddle and kiss with me. Chris is with them, followed by Aunty Michele.

Now I’m just breathing through the pain. Still holding Ananda Mae.

 

A week ago…

9.30 am – I’m in recovery wondering what’s happening in NICU. I’m still in so much bliss from the whole birth. I’m smiling.

Now my dear friend Tanya just arrived and I’m not alone.

 

A week ago…

10.15 am – Unfortunately they cannot take me to the NICU on the bed as renovations are in progress so I’m being brought straight to the ward.

Now I’m so lucky as I’m not being rushed out of this room here. The hospital ward is so supportive and they let me stay today as long as I want.

 

A week ago…

10.45 am – Chris comes up to the ward surprised why I didn’t come to the NICU. He’s updating me: Hope&Passion both on high level life support. I’m worried and can’t wait to be able to go down to see them. I need to wait until the epi wears off. I’m moving my toes inside but nothing can be seen from outside

Now I’m breastfeeding my little girl. Bliss – pure bliss. I’m in love with her

 

A week ago…

11.30 am – I’m on strong drugs. I don’t remember much. Still blissfully remembering and talking about the birth experience.

Now I am holding Ananda Mae in my arms. I could remain like this forever.

 

A week ago…

12.45 pm – Lunch, I’m starving as I haven’t eaten since a long time, it seems. I’m extremely thirsty. Scavenging hospital food – my sister is in disbelief.

Now I’m eating beautiful lunch provided by Iku and organized by one of our beautifully supportive friends. I bow in gratitude.

 

A week ago…

1.30 pm – Chris and Michele are hungry and get some lunch. NICU has rest time and no visitors allowed. I’m resting my body

Now I’m learning more about fully mothering my child and the art of breastfeeding a premature baby.

 

A week ago…

2.30 pm – I’m resting and waiting for my legs to get some sensation back so I can go down and see the girls. Still no outside sign of me moving my toes.

Now I’m able to walk around pretty well given the operation just happened a week ago and they cut my tummy open. I’m packing up my belongings. I’m readying myself to go home.

 

A week ago…

4 pm – Suddenly I can move my legs from side to side. My legs have enough control to get into a wheelchair to go down and visit my girls. First time touching them with my hands. Both in humidy cribs on breathing support.

Now we are preparing to part from Amya Mirica’s little body in a beautiful ceremony just us and Mel the social worker. Tears… And joy for the little time we spent and the gifts and precious tenderness of heart Amya Mirica has given us.

 

A week ago…

4.15 pm – I’m in awe of the miracle of those two tinny little bodies that I’ve given birth to. Amya Mirica is all taped up to a high frequency breathing machine. I just lay my hands onto her body and sing to her. Ananda is also in a humidicrib.

Now we are wrapping Amya Mirica’s little earthly body in an angel’s dress, putting her on a bed of roses, wrapped in a pink beautiful cloth. We say our good-byes from her body. How ready can you ever be in letting a child go?

 

A week ago…

4.45pm – Tired easily I sit back down into the wheelchair, ready to go and lay down.

Now I’m standing next to Ananda Mae’s cot changing her nappy with my beautiful partner and father. Amazed at being parents.

 

A week ago…

5 pm – I’m resting, more pain medication, blood pressure cuffs, temperature measurements and crying babies next door. I’m dozing off.

Now I’m holding my girl skin to skin. I’m in mother’s trance.

 

A week ago…

5.30 pm – It’s all a blur and still bliss chemicals rushing through my blood stream. I’m processing the birth experience.

Now it’s Daddy’s skin to skin time. I’m smiling seeing him enjoy, sing and talk to our daughter. We have a child. We have two children – one in the spirit world.

 

A week ago…

6.30 pm – Dinner time – hungry and thirsty. During the end of pregnancy I was eating little as there wasn’t much space for a stomach. That has changed quickly.

Now we are going down to the seminar room in the hospital to talk to the teacher of the twin antenatal class we never got to finish. Some other parents come and are deeply touched by our story. Too much speaking still tires me. I want to tell them that whatever might come, they can handle it. I feel strongly that I will support parents going through the grief of losing a child one day.

 

A week ago…

7 pm – Chris is preparing to stay at the hospital the first night. I’m so grateful as I’m not able to move much let alone think much.

Now we are ready to go home and I walk out of the hospital the first time in the fresh air after a week. Gentle rain is touching my cheeks.

 

A week ago…

8 pm – Is it time to sleep yet? Chris is going to say good-night to our girls.

Now we arrive home. I kneel in front of the altar of gifts, cards, toys, shoes… that we have laid out for both girls and weep gently for one will never get to enjoy all those earthly pleasures.

 

A week ago…

8.30 pm – Chris is back reporting how they are going. They need a lot of attention from the staff, machines and they are hanging in there. Chris is exhausted from all the beeping noise in the NICU and the experience of the whole day.

Now I have a bath, relaxing my body at home, ready to start a new phase of taking care not only of this body but also my little girl’s body.

 

A week ago…

9 pm – Ready to sleep we lay in the hospital bed together going through this most amazing experience of day.

Now I’m keen to send out the announcements for the birth of our girls and I forget that my body needs rest.

 

A week ago…

10 pm – I’m finally resting and trying to find a comfortable position in a strange new bed. My body is aching.

Now I’m expressing food for Ananda Mae’s feed tomorrow. A women’s body is amazing.

 

A week ago…

11 pm – Sleep

Now I’m finally ready to go to bed and sleep until sooner than later I will get up again for my girl. All mother’s love.

It’s 4 weeks today

September 29, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Posted in communication, grief/loss | 2 Comments

Love - Hope - Passion

4 weeks ago I gave birth. I wonder where I was in all this time in between. It seems that my body was moving through the e-motions and yet my memory is lacking. What just happened to me and my life? Nothing seems to be simple anymore. In some moments nothing makes sense.

I find it hard to find words when talking. Writing seems to be just slow enough so that the words can come into my consciousness but speaking seems far too fast for where I am. I also find it challenging to do the most simple tasks, like adding some data in a spreadsheet on the computer, and have to ask people for help where it was me that supported people before.

I sometimes look at myself like an actor in a serie that I identify strongly with, waiting for the series to stop – it just never does. It’s as if it’s my life that I’m acting in. It’s one of those ‘Private Practice’ or ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ shows which I enjoyed so much before. Only now it has taken an odd twist of reality…

To the outside world I might look and act ‘normal’ but there is absolutely nothing normal inside. One moment I cry, one moment I laugh and I don’t even always know why.

I realize how I shock or trigger certain people as I share what’s been happening, how I feel, what I think etc. I had people in my contact list, which I informed about the birth and the celebration who simply sent an email back saying ‘Not interested. Take me off your distribution list.’ I guess I will never know what reverberated in those people when reading my news and many people simply don’t know how to react appropriately – probably even I didn’t know really how to truly be with someone experiencing this before my own experience took me on this journey.

I have now gone back to shops and restaurants where they knew about me expecting twins. As I turn up with a single baby the say ‘where is the other one?’ and once I told them the conversation seems to freeze and die off after ‘oh I’m sorry’. It just takes people’s breath away. A lady in the post office, once I started crying, said ‘you need help’ which was spot on.

So here I am, a counsellor by trade, needing help. Let me tell you we do need help once in a while and not just with something drastic like this. The social worker at the hospital, the midwives, nurses and doctors all were partly my counselling support network and I did not stop talking about what had happened to me and how I feel. These people were trained listeners and many counsellors and coaches could learn a lot from them. I spoke to the other women in the intensive care, I spoke to anyone who listened. Next week I’m starting a bereavement group at the hospital.

And I will continue being authentic with my process. There is nothing you need to do when you are with me and I’m crying – simple be there. No words are needed – just presence. Can you bear the silence as you are sitting with me in tears?

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