Tag Archives: grief

Unravelled

​I found this poem in my facebook memories for today, and had to look it up to discover where it was from. I liked it so I thought I would share it. 

The book was probably the best one I had on pregnancy loss because it was offering art as therapy rather than just commiserating about the loss. As it turned out, the art form I chose was writing (and my first attempt at NaNoWriMo was an unexpectedly intensely personal piece of fiction that I haven’t been able to even go back and edit because it was so raw, but getting it out helped me I’m sure). 

I like this poem because, while it is heart-rending and painful, it is more beautiful than dark. I hope you enjoy it.

After three months
of silent stitching

what finger let slip

what growing row of cells

unravelled, loosing life and

leaving the lap empty?

– Olson Binder, 1993

Quoted in Grief Unseen, Healing Pregnancy Loss through the Arts by Laura Seftel

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Aversion Therapy

aversion

I wrote this post once already, but the evil internet ate it up and it disappeared without a trace, so instead of the beautifully crafted original post, you’ll have to make do with what I can cobble back together from my memory.

A few weeks ago, my mother and brother came to visit us from that London, and on the Saturday they wanted to go to the cinema and the only thing that seemed remotely worth watching was Bridget Jones’ Baby, so we went to see that.

WHAT WAS I THINKING?!

Well this isn’t a review. In a nutshell, it’s a perfectly good and funny film (although I have to say it scandalised my mother! I forgot how rude and sweary Bridget Jones was!) But it is a stupidly inappropriate film for anybody who has recently had any kind of baby loss! I should have realised that, but I guess I felt ok – until the part in the film where Bridget goes for her (first) ultrasound scan, from which point, I was a complete wreck. I managed to contain my emotion outwardly until I got home and promptly locked myself in the bathroom and bawled my eyes out.

I told my little tale of woe to my Recurrent Miscarriage group, and lots of people said they wouldn’t even consider going to see it, one lady wanted to see but couldn’t face it and another watched it like I did and had a good cry afterwards, but she said she was glad she watched it anyway. I wish I hadn’t seen it.

On another note (but somehow related – I couldn’t tell you how my train of thought connected the two), I decided to take a proper break from facebook (it’s all baby photos and happy boasting announcements that make me want to vomit – maybe that’s the connection) and I noticed that an old friend, somebody I had known for years and with whom I had shared life’s traumas and troubles over and over – not just mine, but hers (she was evicted at the same time we were, she has a child with a chronic health condition that took ages to diagnose, as I do etc) had unfriended and blocked me, and not only on facebook but on Twitter as well (all my accounts!)

I was really ticked off because it seemed so petty. But apparently we had had what amounted to a fundamental disagreement.

I don’t actually remember exactly what she had posted but it was something along the lines that Trans people being allowed to choose the appropriate toilet for themselves was an outrage to public decency and a danger to all God-fearing girls.  As I recall, I tried to explain to her that being Trans was a little bit more complex than she probably realised. But she was so determined that she was right that she started making very unkind and wrongheaded personal judgments about one of my children (who happens to identify as Trans) and obviously that was not acceptable. I presume that she deleted me as soon as she realised I wasn’t prepared to let her do that.

Whatever.

Well. I’m prepared to say “good riddance” – that sort of ignorant attitude is not really what I want to surround myself (or my children) with.

But it hurts, to be judged, and to be summarily cut off in that way. And of course it worries me that these kind of attitudes are so prevalent, and I hope that my children can be safe and un-persecuted, whatever their personal choices that don’t hurt anybody else.

So just for the record I thought I would clarify some points about being Trans. I hope I’m not misrepresenting anybody, this is just my take on it all, as a parent.

  1. Being Trans – having gender dysphoria – is not a sin.
  2. Being Trans – identifying with a gender other than your birth gender – is not the same thing as being attracted to or having sexual relations with another person of the same birth gender. That can be the case, but it’s a separate issue. Still not a sin, even if you’re conservative enough to believe that all same-gender relations are inevitably sinful, with no exceptions.
  3. Being Trans does not automatically mean having a sex-change. (And frankly, having a sex-change is not necessarily a sin either!) ed.: I’m wondering what circumstances would make it a sin, actually?!
  4. Being Trans inevitably includes a range of mental health issues including depression, anxiety, fear and confusion. Please don’t add to it. Just be kind! Always.
  5. Being Trans is often seen in teenagers associated with Asperger’s Syndrome (in my own child’s case, gender just does not quite ‘compute’, and the whole idea of any kind of sex is disgusting). Not a sin.
  6. Trans people are not known for violence. The argument that allowing M to F Trans people use female toilets would lead to more rape or attacks on female children would seem to be deeply flawed on so many levels, and wholly without basis. The kind of people who desire to make those sorts of attacks are going to do it anyway, regardless of the law.
  7. Gender identity and sexuality are actually a little bit complex. Not the simple black and white, fixed boxes you might assume. It’s not just a matter of physical gender – it’s genetics, it’s hormones, it’s mental, it’s culture. It’s complicated. Take a step back before you jump in and condemn.
  8. And finally, who the (((bleep))) are you to judge? Get that plank out of your eye, people!

That is all.

Abandoned Hope

Cast off the mooring,

The rope in the boat,

And watched it floating away.

Hope and Grief

I suppose I had better get this out of the way.

Without putting too fine a point on it, I am no longer pregnant.

It has been a week now and although grief has a nasty way of winding you when you least expect it, coming over you in unexpected waves as it does, I think I am starting to see light at the end of the long dark tunnel and I hope I can look forward to some better days soon.

We hadn’t planned this pregnancy at all – we had given up a long time ago (although I never stopped being broody and wishing for more babies) but I had more or less come to terms with the fact that, at 45, more babies weren’t very likely.

This was my 6th loss too, which seems far more than my ‘fair share’.

Anyway. I need to fold up all my hopes and dreams and plans of babies and young children and lay them back in the ‘hope chest’ and lock it away for now.

Plan B?

I’m not ready to think about that yet.

Shiva: Death, mourning and hope in Jewish Tradition

ברוך אתה ה’ א‑לוהינו מלך העולם, דיין האמת
Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam, dayan ha-emet.
“Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, the Just Judge.”
After 4 years of trying, hoping and praying since my last loss, and 13 years in total, and finally after giving up completely, I was unexpectedly blessed with pregnancy again.

Sadly this pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 10 weeks, my 6th loss in total.

There are no funerals for miscarriages, no burials. No family get-together, no ‘sitting Shiva’ together. It is a special kind of grief, more lonely and perhaps harder to navigate than any other type of grief, because in our culture pregnancy loss is still taboo, something we still can’t quite face or discuss openly, and thus the sufferer is largely without comfort or understanding.

The traditional period of mourning in Jewish Tradition is 7 days (thus ‘Shiva’, related to the word 7). But the reality is that grief doesn’t follow a neat progression and cannot possibly be restrained within a 7 day period.

The loss of a child isn’t ‘just’ the loss of a baby right at that moment, but the loss of all the hopes and dreams – the loss of that child’s whole life – years and decades and life events that we thought was ahead of them. And even if a mother is graced with another child, this kind of loss changes you, and you always carry that little bit of sadness with you. You never ‘get over’ loss of a child.

I thought I had completely given up and resigned myself to not having any more babies, to ending my family on a loss. Now though of course, I find old wounds re-opened and longings renewed.

But for now, I mourn. 

Mourner’s kaddish
Jewish perspective on miscarriage and stillbirth
Mourning a Jewish miscarriage 
Jewish Prayer after miscarriage or stillbirth

Red Herrings 

In May we started the process of buying a flat. It was beautiful and big, but it had no garden or parking, no garage or storage, and it would have necessitated moving towns amongst other things. It seemed like a good idea at the time – it was a nice town that we all liked and we already had friends there.

But then I discovered that I was very unexpectedly pregnant and the lack of garden and parking suddenly seemed more problematic. The final decision not to go ahead was influenced by the fact that middle son felt very strongly indeed about changing schools (as in”I’d rather die!”) and daughter didn’t even get the place we had been assured was hers for the taking at Sixth Form in the same school.

So we said goodbye to the lovely big flat, with no clear vision of where to go or any obvious options other than staying in the housing association house that’s so unsuitable.

But then… I’m not pregnant anymore.

 I rather wish we had a move to look forward to, as the future is looking pretty bleak right now.

This was my 6th loss through miscarriage and since I’m 45 now, there’s no guarantee at all that there will be any more pregnancies or even any more conception (this baby was 4 long years in the making).

And so I’m beyond sad. I’m absolutely broken and bereft. I can’t see any light, only tunnel.

And the worst thing about all this is that we weren’t really trying to conceive anymore. We had given up. And I was more or less, reluctantly resigned to the idea that there wouldn’t be any more babies. 

But now? I can suddenly vividly remember the feeling I had after I lost my twins all those years ago – the feeling that I could more than understand the desperation of bereaved mothers who go on to steal other mothers’ babies. It becomes an all-consuming obsession to somehow obtain that which you cannot have.

Despite my determination to think positively, look for the good and find treasure in the darkness this year, all I can see now is darkness.

Was there any point in all this? Life seems to have a cruel and sick sense of humour. It seems to have been nothing but a red herring. But I don’t know anymore what I’m meant to be focusing on instead.

How to pray when life hurts?

This year seems to have been one upset, catastrophe, tragedy after another. I won’t dwell on the particulars.

But this verse came up in my daily readings and I felt an immediate identification with it:

“If the LORD be with us, why hath all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” – 1 Kings 1:13

If you know the passage, this is right at the beginning of the period of the Judges and the cycle of rebellion, punishment and repentance – old Israel was so hard of learning!

So does the cycle of suffering work the same way in the lives of believers under the new covenant? Perhaps, but not always. Illness, injury and disaster sometimes come upon people and there is no rhyme or reason or discernible explanation. (Did you ever read the book of Job?) And sometimes, as in the story of Jesus with the blind man, it isn’t the result of the sin of the man or his parents but so the glory of the Lord may be made manifest.

It is difficult to keep on trusting and obeying and praying when life is at its hardest. It is not easy to hold on to the truth that “All things work together for good to those which love God, to them which are called according to his purpose.” But it is still true even when it feels impossible.

In my daily reading from Charles Spurgeon’s ‘Chequebook of the Bank of Faith’ today, I read these words – painful but with a hint of hope:

Pruning for Fruit-Bearing

Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. (John 15:2)

“This is a precious promise to one who lives for fruitfulness. At first it seems to wear a sharp aspect. Must the fruitful bough be pruned? Must the knife cut even the best and most useful? No doubt it is so, for very much of our Lord’s purging work is done by means of afflictions of one kind or another. It is not the evil but the good who have the promise of tribulation in this life. But, then, the end makes more than full amends for the painful nature of the means. If we may bring forth more fruit for our Lord, we will not mind the pruning and the loss of leafage.

Still, purging is sometimes wrought by the Word apart from trial, and this takes away whatever appeared rough in the flavor of the promise. We shall by the Word be made more gracious and more useful. The Lord who has made us, in a measure, fruit-bearing, will operate upon us till we reach a far higher degree of fertility. Is not this a great joy? Truly there is more comfort in a promise of fruitfulness than if we had been warranted riches, or health, or honor.

Lord Jesus, speedily fulfill Thy gracious word to me and cause me to abound in fruit to Thy praise!”

When I do not have the strength to pray my own words, I pray Scripture (and if you dig into the psalms, it isn’t all sweetness and light – some of them are gritty and mournful) and remind myself that, no matter how bleak things look, Good is good, and it will all come right in the end.

Progress

kira-progress

I am sorry to have been absent for so long. Life on the Station has been complicated, and hard and painful just recently, and it has been a challenge to keep my head above water. I am trying to surface again now, but we’ll just see how it goes. I’m making no promises.

Summary
Kira has to go to one of Bajor’s moons to evacuate the last remaining settlers so that the moon can be used to create energy for Bajor. The settlers are stubborn and determined to stay, and although Kira begins to connect with the man, in the end she is forced to destroy his home in order to get him safely off the moon.
The sub-plot has to do with Jake and Nog who do a little bit of sneaky trading of Cardassian Yarmok sauce/ self-sealing stem bolts/ land on Bajor behind Quark’s back and find in the end that the apparently worthless piece of land is in fact a crucial piece of real estate that has marriage value to the surrounding land.

Comments
I was surprised this episode came up so early in the series. This is a difficult episode for Kira, because she empathises with the settler and feels that opposing him and forcing him out of his home is a little bit like doing the work of the Cardassians for them, but in the end she must make this painful decision in order to save his life as the energy project will start whether he stays or goes.

I never quite understood why she went about it the way she did. One minute she’s helping him build, risking her career and Sisko’s wrath by delaying, nursing the man while he’s sick when she could have taken him away then easily, the next minute she’s setting his house on fire to force him to go. It seemed harsh. I suppose it was necessary in the end, but I don’t know that I would have done it that way. Land, in the end (it seems to me) is only land. But the house and everything in it could have been saved, moved, transported. Why did it have to be destroyed? It seemed unnecessarily cruel.

In my life
I think about the house I left, and nostalgia comes over me in waves just like grief does. I was never that attached to the place as such, but that house – where my children were born, where we spent all the years watching them growing up, all those memories. My heart aches with longing for it. I know that those times are gone, and even though it is hard, we adjust to children growing up and becoming their own people with their own ideas and interests and plans.

But having the house where it all happened ripped away from me, well that hurts. Maybe Sisko thought that moving away would save my life, or my health, or my sanity. I don’t know. But I think he might have been wrong. The price was too high, and I left my heart in the old country. But I also know that, since we moved away, the house we left isn’t there any more – it was ruined beyond all recognition by the bad tenants to whom we had the misfortune of renting our home. So I have no choice but to move on. ((((But you exist there)))) Yes I do. Perhaps I just need to accept that fact, that my grief and loss is part of who I am now. There is no moving on, just accepting.

The Last Straw

Another lick of paint, to cheer things up. What do you think?

The sun is shining, but I cannot tell you how deeply low and bad and desperate I feel. I didn’t go under when I lost my babies, when my Dad died, when uncle then aunt died in quick succession, when we endured floods, when we lost our house, when husband lost his job, when we had to move 6 times in under 5 years*. I just worked through every new grief like a Trojan. See these big muscles? I’m invincible.

But right now, I am seriously considering admitting defeat. I feel as though cruelty upon cruelty has been heaped upon us, and I have had enough. I won’t bore you with all the horrible things I’m having to deal with right now, but Whistler’s passing might just possibly have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

And the next person to suggest that I’m ‘attracting’ all this bad luck can expect to be beaten to a pulp before I get dragged off to the funny farm.

* The abridged version.

 

RIP Whistler

I wasn’t sure how to approach this, as it is all so raw and painful just now so I will just tell you the facts I think.

Whistler

Whistler was a border collie, born and bred on Strawberry Farm near Retford in north Nottinghamshire in the summer of 2003. He came to live in Watford with my sister-in-law and her husband when they moved down there, and were a constant part of my children’s lives from that point onwards.

In December last year, sister-in-law and her husband asked us to take care of their dogs as they were moving abroad and felt that, at almost 13, it would be too much for them. We accepted as the children were already very fond of the dogs and had wanted to have dogs of their own.

It was soon clear though that Whistler was not happy – to begin with I thought he was just pining for his owners; it was such a massive change of circumstances so late in life. But gradually he stopped eating and started to become weaker and we started suspecting that he was actually getting sick.

Two weeks ago, he started having trouble walking and although when we changed to real meat from the dried food he was used to he started eating again, he seemed to be going downhill and so last week we took him to a local vet.

This vet was pretty unpleasant and rude from the outset, almost insisting that we put Whistler down there and then, implying that he would report us to the RSPCA if we refused, but nevertheless shaving him carelessly, cutting his neck in several places, and took a blood sample for testing, gave us a bottle of antibiotic pills, and insisted we call the next morning with a decision. His ‘diagnosis’ was poor teeth.

I called the next morning and told the receptionist that we would see how he did over the weekend and come in again on Monday evening to discuss options.

He improved massively over the weekend, although it was up and down, and we had decided at that point to give saving him a try.

So when we arrived at the vet on Monday evening we discussed with a junior vet about trying to put Whistler through the operation to fix his teeth, knowing that he was very weak and may not make it through the anaesthetic, but wanting to try and save him anyway.

When the junior vet went to check with the head of the practice though he came out and was extremely rude again, and aggressive, absolutely insisting that we put Whistler down, and informing us that he hadn’t bothered to send off the blood sample for testing! He was also constantly referring to Whistler as ‘she’, which made me see red!

At this point I felt very uncomfortable about staying with this vet and so we left to get a second opinion from another vet, and went immediately to another practice in town.

The difference between the two practices could not have been starker. Where the first vet had been rude, aggressive and unprofessional, the second was kind, gentle, respectful and understanding. The premises were also extremely contrasted. Where the new vet’s was clean, bright and professional-looking, the first one had felt like a dirty, smelly, outback, makeshift shack of a place. Thinking back, I am amazed I even considered trusting the first vet.

The new vet agreed that Whistler was very sick and weak, but said that there were various options and that he didn’t want to condemn him without proper testing. He gave him injections of a steroid, B vitamins and an appetite stimulant and asked us to come back in the morning for blood tests.

In the morning we left Whistler there for blood tests and waited for results. When the vet called, around 2pm it was bad news, but the original diagnosis of ‘teeth’ had been wrong. According to the results it looked as though Whistler had some kind of cancer, either a lymphoma or leukemia. Even then the new vet didn’t condemn him, and said that we could come in to discuss his options.

We all went in together, and after discussing it and deciding that we didn’t want to put him through chemotherapy, we very reluctantly decided that since any other intervention would probably only give him a matter of six more weeks or so anyway, that we would call it a day and let him go.

The children said goodbye and everyone except myself, husband and the eldest waited in the car while the deed was done.

Needless to say it was pretty horrible – not at all brutal (it was quite gentle and quick), but it felt kind of evil, everybody felt awful and there were a lot of tears (and some of us actually howled with grief, I am not kidding.) We decided to leave his body with the vet for cremation as we’re not in our own house and wouldn’t have been able to bury him. That felt pretty dreadful too but couldn’t be helped. We took his collar and eldest held it in his hand on the way home.

So ultimately the result was what the first vet had wanted but I was so pleased and convinced I had made the right decision in getting the second opinion, and had it done in a so much nicer place, where we felt that all the staff were caring and considerate and actually understood how devastating it was for us all.

We’re all a bit shellshocked today.

Whistler is survived by his sister from the same litter, Sapphire.