The county in which I live has suffered a devastating catastrophe, a wildfire that intruded our cities.
Early Monday morning, I was awakened to the doorbell and pounding at the front door. Because I was alone with my children, I didn't answer it immediately, instead letting my dog to scope it out. When his barking stopped, I realized it was someone we knew at the front door so I ran to open it.
Outside was as active as the middle of the day, only it was pitch black instead of light. We didn't know what was happening, but could smell the smoke and feel the fear. Neighbors were loading their cars, their trailers and RV's with their most prized possessions. I frantically moved throughout the house trying to decide what was worthy of fitting into my medium sized car should we never return to this house we call home.
Those moments were one of the scariest of my life, while the next week continued to be exhausting, worrisome and stressful. The days were long as we were glued to the news, the radio and social media for updates. We watched in horror as loved ones homes were burned to the ground. The fires continued to spread for days as the wind moved it in different directions. Our lives were on hold as we waited for the weather to shift in our favor.
Our entire community is grieving the loss of lives, homes and businesses as a result of these fires. While our hearts are healing and bodies needing the strength and stamina to move forward, I found myself remembering the survival skills from the early days of grief after my daughter died.
Here are my recommendations for simple steps when grieving:
Take Care of Your Needs
Make sure to be well fed, even if you don't feel well rested. Drink ample fluids and make sure you are always nourished. Tea became my lifeline. I wasn't hungry but tea soothed my parched soul. Teamotions tea offers adaptogen herbs for emotional well being. Taking a moment to breathe and taste a cup of warm tea can offer a much needed rest. To find out more about Teamotions tea, click HERE.
Tend to Your Heart
Take a break from the trauma. As much as you're able and as often as you can, be sure to tend to your heart. For me, that means writing. I journaled about my feelings and wrote about my experience at Still Standing (HERE). as a way to process my emotions on paper. Writing may not be your thing, or maybe you don't have a "thing" yet. To give you some ideas and support, I have compiled 100+ ways to tend to your heart HERE.
Days before the fire, my friend and fellow loss mom Kristi from Lilla Rose, sent me a Flexi Clip for my hair. It was such a nice treat to get this in the mail and was especially useful last week when we were left without power and gas. Because I was unable to shower, I would dry shampoo my hair and clip it up with the Flexi Clip. Wearing that clip in my hair made me feel that although I was in a state of chaos, at least I didn't look like it...entirely! I used it near every day and brought it everywhere I went. Give yourself permission to be treated in any way that makes you feel good, especially when you're grieving. As a gift, Kristi has offered to giveaway one Flexi Clip! To enter, click HERE.
11 days later, the fires are nearly contained and most evacuation orders have been lifted. Many families are returning home or learning that their home is no longer standing. It's just going to be a long haul to rebuild both emotionally and physically. But, my community is #sonomastrong and we will get there, It's just going to take time. In the meantime, make sure to take care of your needs, tend to your heart and treat yourself.
For five weeks out of the year, I am no good. In my mind, I fail at being a wife, a mom, a friend, or employee because, for those five weeks, I live a parallel life. I stand here straddling with one foot here and the other in 2011 wishing I was still there.
I would relive even the most heartbreaking, soul crushing moments if it meant I could run my fingers through her hair again, kiss her puckered lips, smell her baby skin and feel her 6 lb body against my chest. What I would give for those 33 days again.
After being discharged from the hospital less than 12 hours after delivering our baby, I replayed her labor over and over again. Her heart never decelerated. She showed no signs of injury. We had every reason to believe she would recover from whatever plagued her. We drove 2 hours convincing ourselves of this fact.
I didn't know babies died.
And then, I did.
Five weeks later, she died.
A lot has happened in the middle of those 5 weeks. A lot of hope, praying and pleading. A lot of love, snuggles and kisses. A lot of crying, crying and more crying.
And then I woke, on the day that I knew would be her last. The day that happened to be my first day of life. My 31st birthday.
When I woke she was breathing.
I held my daughter alive on my birthday, no gift will ever compare.
And then, she left.
I haven't celebrated a birthday since.
I just can't.
So for five weeks, I check out. I'm here, but I'm only half paying attention. I have obligations that I must tend to during these days, important ones even- teaching a new school year and my son's birthday, being top of the list.
So, I plan birthday parties and English lessons.
And my days are full.
But my arms feel empty still. Even holding my 2 sons, I will always be missing one of my 3 babies.
So, if you catch me during Ruthie Lou's month and I'm “off”, I promise it'll pass. Just don't count on it being this month.
Come find me after September.
Don't miss Amie Lands' next book!
OUR ONLY TIME: STORIES OF PREGNANCY/INFANT LOSS
WITH STRATEGIES FOR HEALTH PROFESSIONALS
COMING THIS FALL!
Sign up for Our Only Time book updates!
Thank you! You have successfully subscribed for book updates! Check your email/spam so you don't miss out!
I walked in the front door to my empty house. The “Welcome home, Ruthie Lou!” sign had been taken down, the pack and play was put away, and the bassinet was no longer next to my bed. The items that were set up in anticipation for our daughter’s arrival had been removed because she lived only 33 days. She never came home from the hospital.
Our family and friends tried to soothe our broken hearts, but my heart was destroyed. It had shattered into 5 million pieces and I didn’t know how to mend it. I missed my baby more than words could express. Forever felt an overwhelming amount of time to live without my daughter. I constantly experienced anxiety and struggled with fear, wondering an endless amount of questions:
How will I survive this loss?
Will I always live in this much pain?
Will I smile, laugh or feel joy again?
Is life worth living without my daughter?
I missed the way life used to feel. I missed the old me, the one who didn’t know the trauma of her baby dying. I missed my husband and the excitement that we had for our future. I worried about how future children might be affected never knowing the baby who came before them. I felt overwhelmed at how to include my extended family into our life. I felt like a shell of the person I was before.
First and foremost, I needed to take care of my heart. I quickly learned that I could not tend to anyone else’s needs if I was not taken care of. I had so much internal angst that lived inside my head for a long time. Slowly, I started seeing glimpses of life again. I started to see me as a priority and found ways to put one foot in front of the other.
My husband and I, although we were in this together, felt like we lived in two separate universes. We handled our grief so differently and I often wondered what he was thinking and feeling.
And, my extended family felt the wrath of this loss. Not only did they feel my pain, but they lost their cousin, their niece, their grand-daughter. A little person was missing at every family gathering and we felt her loss over and over again during holidays and celebrations. My family would have done anything to comfort us, but they were experiencing their own grief. I could not let them in.
Now having living children, although they were born after our loss, they still have lots of questions about their sister. They wonder who she was and why she’s not here anymore. They love her and want to celebrate her with us. Over the years I have had to be creative and conscious of their experience as they try to navigate this subject that is hard for even adults to comprehend. Sometimes their questions leave me in tears too, but I am still expected to parent them through this.
I know you don’t want to be here and I wish you weren’t, but please let me help guide you through. I want to offer hope to you, that it won’t always feel like this. Unfortunately, time is not the healer of all wounds. Time alone will not heal this. You must choose to take the first step.
I know the severe pain, loneliness and isolation from missing your baby. I understand the worry, fear and anxiety that follows you. In the 6 years since our daughter died, I have immersed myself in grief recovery and healing my broken heart. My passion is helping families like mine to find peace in their hearts. Let me show you what I have learned.
I want to share 100+ simple ways to connect with your heart, how to connect with your husband, your living children and your extended family. If somebody would have offered me a way through this, even just to hold my hand I would have been so grateful! I want to do that for you. I am here, holding your hand and offering you more than 100 ways to live in this present moment and to put one foot in front of the other.
In this ebook I share:
I am personally vetting every item listed, either by my own experience or that of other loss moms. Now I can’t guarantee EVERY item will be your thing, but I can guarantee that you will find SOMETHING comforting here. You won’t know until you try.
I know life feels overwhelming. Don’t walk this path alone. Let me hold your hand. Nurture your relationships, especially the one with yourself. Tend to your heart. Take care of you. Choose healing. Find peace. Experience love and joy again.
It will not always feel like this. I promise.
I am mama of three beautiful babes; two sons whom I have the privilege of raising and my daughter who lived for 33 sacred days.