October 29-October 31, 2013
Day 29, Healing-This boy.
It is not Reid's job to heal me, he doesn't replace his sister & his life doesn't make her loss any less painful. In fact, sometimes it's quite the opposite. Seeing him grow, develop and to learn more of his crazy personality makes our loss more real, as if it weren't real enough. With Reid here we now know what we are missing. It isn't only the baby girl that I grieve; it's her first steps, kindergarten, high school, first boyfriend, teenage drama, her dad walking her down the aisle. We miss her entire future.
But this boy...there are no words for him. He's crazy, he's full of personality, he is my saving grace. I stayed healthy in the year following Ruthie Lou leaving us, ONLY because of him. For 37 weeks I ate, slept, exercised, journaled, so that my mind, body and soul could be healthy. For him. I would often tell him while in my belly and even now, it is not his job to take care of mama's heart. But oh boy, he sure fills it full. I believe he chose us as Ruthie Lou did, he knew the special family he was joining and I'm certain he knew her, too.
I wake up each morning so grateful, I snuggle this boy so tight I never want to let him go. He is as challenging as any other toddler but through the sleepless nights and piles of laundry, this boy has healed parts of me that I never thought could be repaired. There will always be a part of my heart missing, but this sweet boy, he brings a smile to my face and so much joy to my heart. He is my whole world.
October 22-October 28, 2013
Day 22, Words-There are no words. There are too many words. Everything reminds me of her. Nothing reminds me of her.
Day 23, Tattoos/Jewelry-Chris and I both have (several) tattoos in honor of Ruthie Lou, we always want her close to us in the way that being forever inked allows. I also wear at least one piece of jewelry each day that is special just for her. These bracelets however, are so special to my heart. Just simple pieces of rubber, these bracelets were distributed during the time of Ruthie Lou's life and passing when her name was spoke of often, when people's lives were touched and directly impacted because she was born and the fragility of life was so close to home for other families, too. These bracelets were worn by friends, family and even strangers all over the county. They were the doing of the most wonderful woman, who will always hold a special place in our heart. (Thank you endlessly, Michelle) These bracelets still float around and some people still where theirs (or keep it near) and to see my daughter's name on a friend's arm or attached to their key chain means more than I can even express. I love seeing Ruthie Lou's name ANYWHERE. These bracelets are so special.
Day 24, Artwork-While at George Mark, they fostered a tremendous amount of memory making and most of that was through art. It is so wonderful to recall those moments with Ruthie Lou and her dad, the laughter and tears that were present in those memories. Today, we are continually invited to events that allow for creative outlets and ways in which to honor our sweet girl and our family. Shortly after she passed away, we were invited to take part in a tile making day where an artist came and facilitated the creating of a tile that now hangs on the wall at George Mark. It was really healing to sit with Chris to design what we wanted it to look like, symbols we wanted to represent and then draw and paint a piece in honor of Ruthie Lou. Now, that tile hangs with other special children who have shared in the magic at GMCH, it feels so good to have that spot that is just hers, it one of our favorite places to visit.
Ruthie Lou has ignited a passion for creating and art in all forms. It has allowed me to process so much of my grief in ways that words cannot convey. I don't pretend to be amazing but the release that art provides is motivation enough to continue with each new project. Just another gift from Ruthie Lou...
Day 26, #SayItOutLoud-If I could say one thing about my journey with grief is that given the choice, I would do it again. Despite my broken heart, I would do every part of Ruthie Lou again. I would want HER again. If given the choice of Ruthie Lou or a baby I could have kept, I would choose Ruthie Lou because I love her. She is my daughter and I am so proud of her. Of course I would want her to be here more than anything but since that would never be possible, I would still choose her, I always want HER..
Undeniably my story is sad but I am more than just a sad story, I am a survivor and my daughter is my greatest strength. In my heart she is my biggest cheerleader and when confronted with a challenge in life I always tell myself, "if Ruthie Lou could defy all odds to stay as long as she did, I can ____". She gives me the courage to be me, she is the reason to live my best life, she has shown me the definition of pure love and because of her, I can give to her brother what I didn't know before she was born. She has made me a better mama, I can now give Reid the best of me.
So if I could say one thing about this journey besides it being long, tiring, overwhelming and so devastating, is it is still so full of love. I love my daughter more than this world and if given the choice yet knowing the outcome, I would choose her again and again.
You are worth every single tear my sweet girl. I love you Ruthie Lou, with all of my being.
Day 26, Community-I feel most normal in the online "baby loss" community. Before Still Standing magazine was established in May 2012, I would be attached to Google searching for blogs that understood me. Instead of finding comfort and hope, many times I would be angered, feel more isolated or suffer PTSD having to relive the moments surrounding Ruthie Lou's transition from this world. Still Standing offers acceptance, understanding, empathy and most importantly hope and I am honored to have had an article published with them.
No more searching for blogs, my community now gathers in one place.
Day 27, Signs-I look for my sweet girl everywhere. Everything reminds me of her, nothing reminds me of her.
While in my belly, the ladybug told me Ruthie Lou was ok, that she was healthy and safe. I never knew how much that sign would eventually mean to me. It started with my 5th graders on an overnight field trip where a tremendous amount of ladybugs were discovered in their cabin. I told them how they were a symbol of good luck to the farmers that they helped rid pests from their garden and how lucky the were to be receiving this sign. When I returned to my cabin that eve and listened to Ruthie Lou's heartbeat on the Doppler, I saw them inexplicably in my room, too. It was magical, another sign, she was safe in my belly. She was always safe in my belly. I wish I could have kept her safe forever.
The first night home from George Mark a green ladybug greeted me inside my house and for many months, I only saw green ones. I know the green ones are not the same as the "lady beetle" but as the world was receiving visitors from red ladybugs I like to believe that the green ones are special signs just for mama.
Now, I look for the signs that my girl is safe and that there is life after this world. I feel beauty in these signs it helps me believe in the magic of our universe. It may sound crazy to you but if it helps heal my heart and find acceptance in this terrible mystery, than I will keeping searching them out for the rest of my life. I hope to see my sweet girl again. Until then, we only have this..
Day 28, Special Place-The moment that dusk takes over and the sun sets low, as the pink sky welcomes the night, she waits for me there. I can relive every sunset we shared, 11 total. Rocking in that oak chair, the songs I sung her, the stories I shared with her, the lessons we learned from each other, all blessed with sacred tears. Sunset is still our time. She's always waiting there for me, no matter where in the world I may be.
October 15-October 21, 2013
Day 15, Wave of light-National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day
I am grateful for this day, I also hate this day. I hate that we have to have this day. I want to say I have come to a place of understanding, peace, acceptance & healing but the truth is, I will never (in this lifetime) understand a reason to justify why my daughter died. I can learn lessons from it, I can make meaning out of it, I can live my life differently having known my sweet girl but I am not okay with it and I don't know any parent who would ever be. So while I am better having loved, carried and held Ruthie Lou in my arms, I would give anything to have her back. ANYTHING.
Thank you friends and family for lighting up FB tonight in memory of my beautiful daughter. Thank you for allowing me to continue to speak her name over and over and over again with love and without judgement. I don't imagine that I will ever hear her name enough but with your candle lit tonight, it's as beautiful as hearing you say her name today.
Day 16, Seasons-The transition of Summer to Fall holds a sacred energy now, the memories marked forever in my brain; the thick hot days of Summer leading to Ruthie Lou's delivery, the vibrant sunsets where we sat and snuggled and sang in her rocking chair, the crisp early dark nights after she left us, staring at the stars for answers. I welcome the change, the transition, the turning inward that Fall brings, the cold air outside but the warmth that it brings inside our home and our hearts, our time to reflect; time for harvest, time to slow down, time to read more, write more, be present and build new memories to add to the changing seasons.
feel like the body experiences seasons much like the earth. For example, imagine how you felt the day you fell in love, or the day your learned of devastating news, as the years roll around your body remembers that feeling when marked by an anniversary or a sparked memory, those emotions can come springing back in an instant.
Day 19, Support-I'm going to confess something that I don't really like to speak of but something that is a true side of loss. I say this without blame, I say this without judgement, I say this with only love and the truth of my experience.
The second most devastating loss after losing Ruthie Lou was the loss of friends/family who we thought/hoped would be there, who we longed for to be there, to hold us and carry us through the unspeakable, who were silent. And it hurt. It still hurts so much that we can hardly speak of it, even in the quiet of our own home. We watched it happen and knew it was happening, we also knew that we could reach out but as I could barely pull myself out of bed most days, the telephone may as well have weighed 500 pounds and what would I possibly have said? That I often thought how I would rather be with Ruthie Lou, wherever that was, than here? That I felt like I had died but was still here instead? That life was a nightmare without her? I felt like I was in a tornado and everything in my brain was spinning, I couldn't possibly be responsible for a relationship at that point. In the craziness of my grief, it was impossible to see outside my own pain enough to be able to think straight, let alone search out the relationships that I once held so dear. I felt so alone. I felt so abandoned. Its such an awful place to be, to want others to understand how hard loss is but not truly wanting them to know because then that would mean they would have to lose someone, too and I would NEVER wish that on anyone.
That said, we were not truly alone, I know that now, nor were we abandoned, quite contrary in fact. In the midst of Ruthie Lou's life and passing, our support group extended farther than we could see and probably more than we will ever even be aware of. Those who showed up and supported us were our lifeline and many times it came from the most unexpected places. It STILL comes from unexpected places.
Grief puts blinders on you, it's like living in a nightmare and when you wake up (which takes longer than anyone can imagine) it's like coming out of a fog and walking back into a life you never imagined to be yours. Having a supportive group of people is honestly what helped me to survive. The offers of "let me know what I can do" came from such kind places but I never knew what I needed, I could hardly get out of bed every day let alone take care of myself. Instead of having to figure it out myself, people just showed up. Our friends and family did everything for us and we needed everything done. You cleaned our house, did our grocery shopping, made our dinners, fielded questions, called everyday, texted everyday, sent FB messages, sent emails, sent cards, flowers, gifts, pictures and poems. You invited us to do things even when you knew we'd say no. You made sure to include us and sometimes even trick us to get us out of the house; to go for a hike, to be part of the party, to visit a restaurant, to break the fear of going into public. You stuck up for us and stood up for us. The house was rarely quiet on the weekends and on the weekdays when everyone was back as work and I surrendered to my bed, those who knew me intimately were always checking in. Even when I didn't respond for days, you never gave up on me.
This support continues today and looks very different now, as time has passed, the grief has changed and we now need different things. Thankfully we can take care of ourselves again, but we will always need support in this loss. Today support looks like; saying Ruthie Lou's name, including her in our family, donating in honor of her life, asking about her, lighting a candle for her and allowing us to constantly speak of our sweet girl and you allow us to do those things. Our life is once again filled with love and we now have relationships with people who know a different side of us, the vulnerable side. While we greatly miss the life we once had, the life we now have is filled with SO MUCH. We are so grateful for all we have and if you're reading this, then you were/are part of our support group and we are forever indebted and so grateful for YOU.
Day 20, Hope-Where do I start? I hope to reunite with Ruthie Lou someday, decades away. I hope Reid is a healthy & happy toddler, boy, teenager, young adult, man. I hope to give him a sibling someday, SOMEDAY. I hope to live a fulfilled life and to fulfill the potential inside of me. I hope to create a legacy that my children will be proud of. I hope to have a long, successful marriage to their dad. I hope that Ruthie Lou is never forgotten. But mostly, I have hope that I always remember the gifts that Ruthie Lou bestowed upon me, the lessons she taught because if I do, I will live a blessed life.
Day 21, Honor-I live in honor of Ruthie Lou, I love because of Ruthie Lou, I have gratitude because of Ruthie Lou. I am changed because of her, not only because of the grief but because of the joy that a parent experiences by loving their child. She brought so much love that when I think of how amazing my daughter is, my heart is so full.
I also know that I am in search of something more in this life, I know I have more to do and more specifically, work in her honor. I am unclear on what that might be still so I am allowing life to unfold and following my heart where it will lead me. I know I feel most clearly when I write, it feels like I am inviting her close when the words flow through me. I am drawn to photography again and love feeling an emotion from behind the lens of the camera. And my crafts?! Please. I turn on the music, put on that ladybug apron and I know she's there, craftin' it up with me.
I know Ruthie Lou came her to bless us, she came here to enrich our lives and that she has done. I miss her every second of every day but I live everyday in her honor because she cannot. I will do my best by her, it's gonna take my whole life but she has made me what I am today and I am proud of who I am, imperfectly perfect.
October 8-October 14, 2013
Day 8, Color- That big YELLOW flower will always be imprinted in my heart and will forever be Ruthie Lou's color. It makes sense that "the colour yellow represents happiness and fun. The traditional yellow colour meaning is that of inspiration. The meaning of yellow is also associated with vitality, energy and illumination."
Day 9, Music-Music is life, listening, dancing, singing, I live to a soundtrack of music. I could've chosen 40 songs or 100 different lines for today. I sung so many to Ruthie Lou, so many are HER songs, songs from the radio, many created from my heart. Music brings such comfort. I like to remind myself that although she was OUR baby child, we are not alone in this, even when it feels so much that we are...
Day 10, Beliefs- Recycled from Winter 2011, when I was pregnant with Ruthie Lou, I have reflected on this writing numerous times. Sometimes I wonder why I felt compelled to write it back then...a message? Perhaps. Reading it always reminds me of the good in the world & the fragility of life️
"I believe in a God that is loving.
I believe that our human experience is only one small part in the life of our soul and it does not begin nor end on the day of our birth or death.
I believe that our human life is short. Often times shorter than we could ever imagine. It is my own personal responsibility to live and love in a way that everyday I am spiritually fulfilled and proud of who I am and who I am eternally becoming.
I believe that people make daily choices in their life. From the moment I wake until I lay my head back on my pillow at night, my choices should be well thought out and only made with good intentions.
I believe that we are responsible only for oursleves. I can only control my own actions and reactions to experiences and events in my life.
I believe that all people are beautiful, pure and have good intentions. I make mistakes but am clear to always learn the lesson and try better next time.
I believe that very unfortunate things happen to very good people everyday without reasons known to us. Everyday I have the gift of choice of what I will learn from my experiences and how I will respond to lifes greatest as wells as most unfortunate events.
My God is pure, loving, accepting and warm. There is only love."
Two years later I am more certain than ever, there is only love.
Day 11, Triggers-To be completed...
Day 12, Article-To be completed...
Day 13, Book(s)-To be completed...
Day 14, Family-To be completed...
October 1-October 7, 2013
Day 1, Sunrise-Just outside my classroom door, the sun greets the day. Even in the most unlikely of places, beauty appears & a wish that never changes-please be with me today.
Day 2, Identity-Ruthie Lou Lands, you sit amongst this shelf and many others in our home, rightfully next to your brother. You will always be our daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece and cousin, we are so proud of you. You are a teacher, a messenger, a water bug, a prankster, the light of our life but most of all you are absolutely perfect and you are so, so desperately missed.
Day 3, Myth- The grief will end.
If grief is the response to loss and the loss never goes away then in return, the grief is never ending. It does not go away. It does not end. EVER.
But it does change. And continue to change. Thank goodness for the change.
I don't think I could have been convinced of that early on, it was so hard to believe and quite frankly, I didn't want the grief to change. In some odd way, that sadness and raw emotion helped me to feel closer to Ruthie Lou and I was worried that if the intense emotions subsided, she would really be gone. But, she was already gone, I knew that.
I have learned that the grief never ends and can sneak up at any moment in the most unexpected times and that is ok. It's ok that I am present in my life again. It's ok that I will never be the same again. It's ok not to question why or when I am feeling lost, but just to feel it, it's healthy and it will pass. Sometimes I check out for a while from friends or family, but those who love me will understand, sometimes I just need some RL time.
Grief never ends because my love for my daughter will never end. I will always grieve the loss of my perfect sweet girl, Ruthie Lou, the child I don't get to raise.
Day 4, Legacy-"REMEMBER RUTHIE"
Remember that life is about perspective.
Remember that it's the little things in life that matter, and don't sweat the small stuff.
Remember that life is bigger than what we see.
Remember that we're all part of this life experience and we all have our own journey.
Remember Ruthie means keeping her alive. Keeping her memory alive, keeps her alive.
Remember joy, remember laughter, remember to love the people you're with, remember to love ME.
Remember to be present every day and to learn from every lesson presented in life.
Remember to be the best person I can be.
And lastly, remember that its when things are not perfect, that that's when I really learn
She left me with this, "The Hummingbird Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration. Hummingbirds open our eyes to the wonder of the world and inspire us to open our hearts to loved ones and friends. Like a hummingbird, we aspire to hover and to savor each moment as it passes, embrace all that life has to offer and to celebrate the joy of everyday. The hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation." She left me with a new understanding, love and appreciation of life.
Day 5, Memory- Every memory I have with you here, is my favorite memory. But, the best moment everyday was waking up next to you in bed, hearing the purr of your breath and watching you fight waking up. You were definitely a night owl and NOT a morning person, just like your mama! I love the cranky look on your face and am so glad I captured this moment to watch over and over again...
Day 6, Ritual-When we wake in the morning, Reid and I walk to his window to look out his room. It's the best view of the backyard and perfect to watch the sun rise. In the window sits Ruthie Lou's rock from George Mark, another one specially painted from a student before she was born (of course it was a ladybug before we even knew her), her special flower and beads given to me honoring both Ruthie Lou and Reid while he was in my belly.
We stand at that window, Reid in my arms and say aloud, "good morning world, good morning sister". It's important for me to say hello each morning, to start the day positively, to have a moment set aside for Ruthie Lou. This simple act connects me to both my children at the start of the morning, reminds me to slow down and welcome a fresh new day.
It devastates me that he has a sister that he'll never know in this life. Sometimes I don't know who I'm more sad for; him or me. I want him to know her, love her and to never question how much we love both of them. equally but of course in their own uniqueness.
Day 7, "You Today"- My entire perspective on life has changed in the last two years., my belief system altered. I am a different person than I was before Ruthie Lou, that goes without saying. I will never be the person I was before I gave birth to her and don't want to be that person again. My life is so incredibly richer now because of the things she has shown me, my joy greater, my sorrow deeper.
Two years out, I feel like I should be doing more to honor Ruthie Lou. BIGGER things. It's a struggle I battle with often. I realize I talk about her all over FB and in my everyday life but I still feel like there is something larger for her but what that is...I'm still not certain. At first, I felt a big pressure to do something NOW because I wanted the world to know her but today I am following my heart to see where it leads me. I have a lifetime to honor her and I want it to be "right".
I will always be the mama to a child that I didn't get to raise, that will never change but TODAY, today I am also the mama to a beautifully curious toddler and that is such a tremendous gift. I mother differently because of Ruthie Lou, she taught me to stay present, to live in the moment and I am so grateful for the perspective she gave me. I slow down for Reid, I look to see life through his eyes. I will always live in honor of Ruthie Lou but TODAY I now also live this life for Reid.
GRIEF. Noun. A person, place or thing. "Grief is a multi-faceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something to which a bond was formed"
GRIEVING. Verb. An action word. Something that you do. "1 : to cause to suffer : distress <it grieves me to see him this way> 2 : to feel or show grief over <grieving the death of her son> "
If grief is the response to loss and that loss never goes away then in return, the grief is never ending. It does not go away. It does not end. EVER.
But it does change. And continue to change. Thank goodness for the change.
It would be naive of me to think that how I feel today is how I will continue to feel in years come, that how I felt in year one of missing Ruthie Lou even mirrors how I feel this year. Thankfully, grief changes. Now that doesn't mean that I miss her any less or that I am comfortable in any way with living without my daughter but the loss becomes more tolerable, more normal to this life. And it certainly doesn't mean that in a moments notice (or no notice at all) that I can find myself in the fresh, raw emotions of devastation that haunted me for months after saying goodbye to our sweet girl. Those moments still follow me......
I am thankful for this change. I am sad for this change. In moving farther away in time and in emotion, I feel like I have forgotten some of the memories I never wanted to forget. Thank goodness I wrote so much down, I read those words, close my eyes and I can instantly smell Ruthie Lou's sweet baby smell, I can feel her thick coarse hair in my fingers, I can hear the purr of her breath. But I am thankful that my mind has protected my heart enough to live in this world again, to find joy in the sorrow, to see beauty in the pain.
With all that said, the grief is ever present. It never fully goes away. Like the healing of a wound, the scab has come off but we are still left with this scar, the ever present reminder of the life that will never return.
I am participating in the "Capture Your Grief" event once again this year, it is a photographing event, which seems fitting to my loss for words lately. Last year, I was unable to finish the month, it was too raw, too hard to hold others grief along with my own. This year, I have a fresh perspective, a pull at my heart to discover the purpose in this mystery of life, to contribute to the legacy left by my daughter. I am not exactly sure what that is yet but I am following my heart to see where it leads. Ruthie Lou gave me so many gifts, left so many lessons in the shadow of her path and I don't feel like she's done yet. Perhaps she is guiding me through my journey.
Whatever the outcome, whether I finish the month or not, I know that my job in this life is to bring awareness to the world. Awareness of loss, awareness of love, awareness of grief, that it is all perfection. These babies who we love so much, are so important, they are our family, parts of our hearts that can never be replaced or forgotten, they are our greatest loves. No matter if our children are in our arms or in our hearts, they are a part of us. Forever.
I never want them to be forgotten. I never want a mama or a family to feel alone. You are not alone in this grief.
I am a mama of three beautiful babes; two boys I have the honor of raising and my daughter who lived for 33 sacred days.