Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lonely, But Not Alone

A year has passed since Bronwyn's death; a year, two months and almost 5 days, to be more exact.  I'd tell you how many minutes have also ticked by, but that would be putting too fine a point on it.  I've wanted to come here and write so many times, but honestly, it didn't seem appropriate.  What I've experienced emotionally during this time runs the gammut of all things dark, with light occasionally seeping through fine cracks.  The details of this darkness I didn't want to share publicly because I knew that people would worry for me.  Inside of myself, I understood that I was on a journey and that I would keep on walking, but you might not know that, and so I kept those posts to my old fashioned paper journal.  The one just for me and Bronwyn.

Originally, I started this blog with the hopes of sharing the details of my grief so that I might help others who are also on this journey.  But I've come to realize that grief is a deeply personal and lonely road.  For example, my husband and I are grieving the loss of our same daughter, but the way our loss is manefested is completely different between the two of us.  Of course it is.  Our relationship to her was unique and individual; why, then, shouldn't our grief be?  Whereas I have been quiet, morose, depressed, sullen, half-alive, he has been active, working, busy, depressed, and half-alive.

I remember when Bronwyn was a newborn baby.  At just two weeks old, she developed extreme colic.  She would start crying, on the dot, at five o'clock in the evening and wouldn't stop until ten.  She would scream as if she was being tortured and maimed.  As a new Mother, I was distraught, something had to be wrong, but what?  Nothing soothed her.  Not nursing, not a pacifier, not rocking, singing, bouncing, going outside, massage, special drops, nothing.  How many panicked calls did our Pediatrician recieve from us?  I didn't count, but I'm sure his nurse rolled her eyes more than once.  "It's colic," He would calmly explain.  "It will start to get better when she's 6 weeks old. Essentially, there's nothing you can do."  When her crying would start, I would take a deep breath and my nightly "soothing" ritual would begin.  I would hold her close, sing to her, rock her. 
She would wail. 
Inevetibly, by the end of the night, I was crying right along with her.  We'd look at each other, tears streaming down our faces, both of us hot and sweaty in this new battlefield.  My husband could hardly stand to see me so distressed.  "If nothing does any good, why not just lay her down?" he would ask me. 
But I couldn't. I just couldn't.  I needed to learn her language of anguish.  I needed to show her that I was never going to give up on her, especially not when things were hard.  I thought about my labor (still very fresh in my mind); how painful it was, and how nobody could take away the pain that was part of the process.  But I also remembered how helpful it was to have a soothing hand on my back during a hard contraction.  How much an encouraging word kept me going when I felt like giving up.  This is what I wanted to give to Bronwyn during her time of hardship, and this is what my friends and family give to me now.  Grief is lonely, but that doesn't mean that it's better to be alone.  Just having you here is helpful.  Thank-you for listening.  Thank-You for caring.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Wishful Thinking

One of the most intense feelings that I've experienced since Bronwyn died is the profound and intense wish that things could have been different.  I wish that Bronwyn had not struggled with seizures and physical encumbrances in her life.  I wish that she could have talked, sung songs, chased butterflies, and most of all, I wish that she hadn't died. 

I wish that life had turned out differently.
But it didn't. 

And herein lies the crux of my problem: Of course I would wish for those things!  What parent wants to see their child suffer?  And at the same time, I found that my wishing was getting in the way of being able to accept the reality of my situation.  I felt stuck and went to see a trusted counselor for some clarity.  This is what I understood her to say:

It is natural for us to protect ourselves from pain by moving away from it. We do this on both a physical level (the stove is hot, we don't touch the burner) and on an emotional level. When we wish for what we do not have, we engage ourselves in the act of imagining what it would be like if we actually posessed the wished for thing.  And in the moment of fantasizing, we actually feel better. Eventually, though, we come back down to earth and then we play a cruel trick on ourselves: we compare the fantasy not to our whole reality (which is composed of messy bits and tidy bits) but to the least desired parts of our reality.

So for me, the comparison looks like this: FANTASY: Bronwyn and I are laughing together while we bake Christmas cookies.  "REALITY:" Bronwyn lays dying in the hospital. 

Upon this comparison, I now feel horrible. The difference between what I have chosen to represent as reality compared to the fantasy is unbearably painful. By abandoning the whole of my experience with Bronwyn (the parts that include joy), I have actually manufactured extra pain for myself! I am bereft all over again, and am re-living the traumatic hospital experience.  And amazingly, I do this over and over again. 

With the help of my counselor, this is what I've discovered as a way to help myself out a little.  I ask myself some questions:

Does my reality include the traumatic experience of watching Bronwyn's decline in the hospital?  Yes. 

Is that the whole truth of my reality with Bronwyn? 
No.  My life with Bronwyn was rich and beautiful.  The quality of life that was given to Bronwyn was high, and she faced her obstacles with grace and courage, surrounded by the love and support of all who knew her.

Remembering the whole truth of my complex situation helped to diffuse the negative feelings that I had selectively clung to.  And I realized something else of importance: Even if I had gotten my ultimate wished for thing; even if Bronwyn were alive, well and free from seizures and physical encumbrances, I would still wish for more.  I'm not sure exactly what I would be wishing for, but I'm quite sure that a sense of dissatisfaction is an inherent part of being human. 

For me, the pathway to healing my chronic wishing lies first in the recognition that the fantasy is fiction, which is created by me.  I alone have the power to change the story.  I can ask myself, "Is this line of thinking helping me?  Is it serving a purpose to better my life or anyone else's?" "What might be more helpful to me right now?"

I have not completely stopped wishing that things had turned out differently for Bronwyn and for our family, but I have started to remember more of our complex and wonderful story.  I feel calmer and more balanced.  I'm ready for another day.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The More That Time Goes By, The Longer It Has Been

It has been three and a half months since Bronwyn has been gone, and I find myself in a complex sea of emotion. As time has passed, I have gradually become more accustomed to the pain that is Bronwyn's absence.  But at the same time, the longer I live without her, the more deeply I miss her.  So the acute pain has lessened, but the ache has spread. 

Additionally, as the relationship to my pain shifts, so does the way that I relate to Bronwyn now.  Instead of being haunted by her final days in the hospital, I remember more of the whole of her life, and the happy moments that we shared.  Of course this is natural, and a positive part of the grief process.  But I find that it also introduces a whole new element of grief; I grieve for the passing of the old way that I was relating! 

It's as if I'm afraid of losing Bronwyn all over again through the transitions of my emotions.  I have found it immensely helpful to remind myself that Bronwyn will always and forever be a part of my biology, my psychology, and my way of relating to the world.  She will never be lost to me. 

Friday, February 25, 2011


Welcome to Blackwater Shoal.  I hope this will be a place that I can express my grief process and thereby find healing comfort. 

And maybe you will find comfort, too. 

You can read a little bit of my story and the story of my precious daughter, Bronwyn, by following  the "Abbreviated Backstory" Link at the top of this blog.  Thank-You for joining me.