Thursday, October 31, 2013

What if Grief was a 12 Step Program?

I don't remember what exactly put this thought in my head. I was driving today and all of the sudden I was asking myself what I could do to make sure I'm really working through everything that's going on in my mind, body, and soul. I remember at age 10 on Sarah's birthday I wrote her a letter of all the things I remembered from her short life and all the dreams I had held for her. I burnt the letter, releasing the ashes into the heavens and hopefully up to her. This was my way of finally communicating all the things left unsaid. So, what would the steps be if there were a program to recover from grief?

  • One must admit and accept that they were or could be powerless to grief—that our lives or our subconscious had become unmanageable.
  • Come to believe that there is a power greater than ourselves which could restore us to sanity if we knew how to seek our courage from it.
  • Make the decision to turn our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him. God is God... no matter what we call him/her.
  • Make a moral inventory of ourselves. It must be an inventory that is without fear, without limit and encompassing all of our idiosyncrasies.
  • Admit to God, to ourselves, and to a loved one just how much and in what ways grief has effected us.
  • Be completely ready to do what we must do to be relieved of that grief.
  • Humbly asked God to remove our sadness and help us to overcome and live life in a positive, open way.
  • Make a list of all the people or all the aspects of our lives that may have been neglected in the grieving process and become willing to repair these relationships.
  • Make direct amends to such people and make ways to furthermore express our care and affinity for the people closest to us.
  • Continue to monitor our grief, and when we are struggling, promptly admit it and, above all, don't be afraid to ask for support.
  • Seek through prayer or meditation to improve our relationship with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of, not behind, His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  • Having an awakening to the grief and sharing our experience with others so as they may be helped from our own experiences.
  • Wednesday, October 30, 2013

    When Hello Means Goodbye

    Standing in the kitchen as Moctar prepared for work and Henna ran around the living room and back into the kitchen, not wanting to be left alone downstairs, my eyes must have glazed over. Moctar asked me what I was thinking of. I didn't really respond because I knew that would make the tears spill. I simply said, "you know what I'm thinking about." "Tell me," he pleaded...

    "All I see is his face..." My love smiled at me and wrapped me in his arms. Sometimes it feels like I'm in a dream. Phantom movements in my belly and before I know it, my hand moves to my stomach, to be met with nothing other than silence.

    I both look forward to and dread Moctar leaving for work in just minutes. I feel bad crying in front of him because after having lived in Niger for two years, I know that tears are extremely rarely expressed. Luckily, my man understands me and all my cultural idiosyncrasies. He doesn't make me feel bad for crying in front of him, but it still makes me feel uncomfortable. When he's gone I have more time to think, to process, and to cry openly. It comes in waves... I hear a line in a song, see an image on the television, glance at a photo, or just simply watch Henna and I can go from a single tear, to weeping, to laughing and smiling. I bet some people feel as if they are going insane.

    I've been slowly paging through the book "When Hello Means Goodbye" that the hospital provided me. I can't handle large chunks of it because it's so personal. It's full of poems, stories, quotes and other anecdotes. The one I read today I will end this blog with:

    "May you find comfort in knowing that love was all your baby ever knew..."

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

    How to Introduce Henna to Alhassan

    For the past few nights, as I lay awake I wondered to myself how and when would be the time to introduce Henna to Alhassan and how to explain where he is and why. When my mom lost Sarah I was six years old and had a much fuller concept of the fact that I was supposed to have a sister come home with us and then dealt with grief of losing the sister I KNEW was a sister before my parents even did.

    Henna at two years old vaguely understood that something was going on as she kissed my belly goodnight every night before I tucked her in. I assumed that one day I would show her the lovely little handpainted box that was given to me by the chaplain at Riverside. It's a white oval shaped box with a teddy bear face delicately painted on it. Inside holds the blue crocheted blanket and tiny hat as well as the incredibly small blue gown that they dressed Alhassan in after they bathed him. It also holds a poem and a pearl in a sea shell. When his photos and his ashes come back from the Chaplain, they will be added to the box. This same sort of box was presented to my parents upon Sarah's funeral service and I took possession of it, constantly looking through it's contents and imagining what would never be. I think I was about 15 when I finally stopped looking in the box so often.

    As fate would have it, I happened to show her her brother much before I ever imagined. I downloaded my iPhone and was flipping through his pictures when she appeared beside me. She said, "baby doll". I told her, "that's your baby brother, Alhassan." She tried her best to repeat his name saying the word "Albassan" which means onion in Moctar's native language, Hausa. I couldn't help but to smile. I told her to say bye bye baby and she added a sweet, gentle "I love you" on her own. My heart melted and poured through my tear ducts. I suspect she may just know more about what's going on than I think she does.

    An angel, in the book of life,
    Wrote down Alhassan's birth
    Then whispered as she closed the book
    "Too beautiful for Earth.."


    Oh so much has changed these past few weeks. At work, we've went from being short staffed, to having a prolonged illness that's kept another staff member down, poor lady!, and then a whirlwind hiring process and now training. And of course my hospital stay and having to have our awesome staff cover for me as well. My husband took a second job las week and has been coping with his new schedule.

    I really miss being at work when I'm not there. I don't like not seeing to my post. I decided after losing Alhassan that it would be best to start back working half days and then using the remainder of the day to rest. I also decided that I was ready to get back on Jenny Craig. Between September 2012 and June 2013 I lost 85 pounds and started to get back my zest for exercise. While pregnant, you cannot continue with Jenny and I was frustrated so I just gave up. Not my brightest moment but alas, it's what I did. Just more proof that I have much longer to go to fix the emotional issues behind my weight issues.

    Sunday night, I called my center even though I knew they were closed and left a message to have my counselor (JCC) or the manager call me back to talk. Obviously, I had to explain to them why I was coming back sooner than anticipated. I was determined to get in Monday and buy my food and restart. I had my mom call the center again as I was very busy handling our normal Monday pace at work. She spoke with the manager and let her know what had happened. I think it was good for her to call, I know she cried it out a little herself. She set me up for my appointment later that afternoon.

    I went to lunch with our AMAZING new hire but was still having trouble with my appetite. I spent almost 2 days being unable to eat in the case that I had to have surgery and then with grief there is a lack of appetite as well for some. After lunch I headed directly to Jenny Craig and met with a new JCC as mine didn't work until later that afternoon. She was very nice but I made my appointment next week with my original JCC.

    Today was my first day back on my planned menu and it felt amazing. I made myself eat everything even though I wasn't feeling that hungry. I know not eating enough will not help me at all. It's very therapeutic to write out my plan and to check it off as I go. Getting back into this routine was help keep me busy and get me back into fighting shape. Can't wait to get fully back into my work routine as well.

    Monday, October 28, 2013

    Sweet Release

    I am eternally grateful to my parents for having raised me to openly express my emotions. My dad was never the type of man to stop us from crying. Instead, he held our hands and let us cry things out. My mom would cry right there with us. And now, at 27 years old, facing the most difficult loss I have suffered in my personal life, they are still playing these roles.

    I'm sure my mom cried just as much if not more than me while we were in the hospital. Not only was she seeing her own child hurt, I'm sure she was reliving her own personal losses. I remember vividly, even though I was just six years old at the time, losing my sister Sarah, born prematurely and underdeveloped at 7 months gestation. We held a service in the chapel of Riverside Hospital and played two songs that have always stuck with me.

    Last night, as I was home alone preparing dinner for my doting husband who is working two jobs right now to achieve his goals, I felt the urge to listen to those songs again. As I listened, the sobs started. What a sight. Rice simmering on the stove and me hovered over the island in my kitchen, hands over eyes, trying to be quiet so as not to wake sleeping Henna. But it felt so good. I may feel like the most cheerful person even during this period of grief, but even I allow myself to let the pain flow from me.

    Music will be both a blessing and a curse in this journey. A good song can evoke emotions so strong but sometimes you may not be ready to feel those feelings. The first two songs below are the songs we played for my sister and the third is what I listened to in the hospital as I was waiting for the doctors to come back to assess me after spending the first 24 hours on bed rest. I'd love some suggestions of songs that have gotten you all through hard times.

    Be Not Afraid

    On Eagle's Wings

    When You Believe

    Sunday, October 27, 2013

    Reflections on Grief

    I woke up at almost exactly 5:38... the same time I was giving birth 24 hours ago. Strangely enough, on the morning of the 26th, my daughter was waking her grandpa up at 5:30 AM just as I was laboring. I could hardly believe it when he told us that in our hospital room just as we were checking out. He didn't even know at that time when I had finally delivered...

    I was listening to some music and just felt compelled to write. Here is what I wrote:

    Grief is a crevasse of emotion, if not careful one might fall in and never see the light of day.
    This morning as I lay in bed I know I do not have an absence of grief.
    It is there,
    In the shadows of my room,
    In the aches of my body,
    In the corners of my eyes, threatening to well over,
    I will not ignore the grief; tears have and will spill,
    But, I have an abundance of faith as well. It overwhelms my grief and spares me,
    I will not tumble the depths of this tricky crevasse.
    God answered my prayers and helped my body make a choice my mind and heart could never make.
    In that moment I felt enveloped in a peace,
    In that moment, God opened his arms to me and I knew we were in his arms.
    Labor was long and I cherished my last hours with my child, interconnected as only mother and child can ever be. I felt his last movements and whispered my hopes and dreams to him only.
    And then his journey started,
    I held him in my arms and said my goodbyes for now,
    A perfect little being, made in love and sent on in love,

    Until we meet again, Alhassan.


    My name is Jessica. I also go by Faiza, depending on where/how you know me. That was my name when I served in the Peace Corps in Niger. That is where my story begins. I left for adventure and fell in love. Then we started a family. We have a beautiful two year old daughter named Henna.

    On October 26th at 5:38 AM I gave birth to our baby boy at 20 weeks of pregnancy. He passed and is now in the arms of God to be loved and cared for until I can see him again. We named him Alhassan.

    In the mere three days that this experience has spanned, friends and family and just people have been coming out of the wood work sharing with me their own experiences, tales of joy and sorrow in children they have not been able to raise in the physical world. I too want to share my story and hope it brings peace to someone else.

    It's hard when some one asks you how you're doing because I don't think they're really expecting a true response. But, I promise you, here you may read my innermost thoughts and feelings and know that deep down I am and I will be okay. I put full faith in God, however you may name him (in our house God and Allah are interchangeable yet we both believe in a creator, a higher power who guides us in our life) I know that everything in this life is a part of my destiny and I'm not going to question why this happened... I would drive myself crazy.

    So, this begins my blog...