Wednesday, October 1, 2014

In the fright of Twilight

"In the fright of twilight the sun always appears"  
I don't know who wrote this nor do I remember when I heard it  but I remembered it this morning.  

This morning I drove out to the cemetery.  It was still dark so I parked and waited for the sun to rise on this day, October 1st.  Today marks the beginning of a lot of things - Breast Cancer awareness month, Fall, Halloween season to name a few and today all of those seem irrelevant.  Its not that I don't care about those things its just that the season that begins for me tends to overshadow most things.  Today marks the month that my child was born.  The month that we found out he was ill and the month that I knew he was going to die. Today marks the beginning of a grieving season I can't run away from.

Its been 10 years and its much the same as years past.  The calendar stares at me like a blinking light, the smell of fall leaves breaks my heart and the happiness that everyone shows for the new season makes me mad.  I start to replay this entire month, 10 long years ago.   Monday marks the day he arrived in, what had to be, the most quiet and peaceful birth ever experienced.  It marks the day I nursed him, cuddled him, choose his name and fell madly in love. Its the day I knew something was wrong but told there wasn't.  It was the beginning of a life cut shorter than anyone hopes. It begins the month that I question natural order.  I cry, I scream, I love and cherish. 

This morning, as I sat in the cemetery waiting for light I watched the sky.  It was dark, dreary and scary pitch black.  Almost like a dream, the sun poked out of the sky behind the clouds. Slowly at first then fiercely but gently filling the sky with light.  It showed me my grief.  How time passes, the dark comes and goes and the sky fills with light again. 

At about the same time this evening twilight will come again, then sunset.  The sky will slowly and beautifully turn dark and the blackness will return.  This is for certain.  And, so will my grief.  And, tomorrow, the sun will break through twilight. 

In memory of all the babies who are loved and never forgotten...
Landon Leadstrom
The Jones Babies
Leah and Ava Austin
Lindsey Budden
Noah Aker
Ade Omni
Issac Wilson
Caleb, Lily and Titus Cowels
Abigail Hellmer
Laura Rosen
 Hunter Harles
Reece Engel
Easton Freidli
John Paul Recinos
Carston Frank
Baby Self
Baby Smith
Deacon Potts
Isabella Andrews
Emma Johnson

Carley Marie, a valuable part of the Bereavement Community, brought me to the sunrise today as a part of her project "Capture Your Grief".  Today is the only day I will participate publicly.  I must protect my heart.  However, I might share some, if my heart leads me to, on instagram.  If you feel moved to participate visit her project site @

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Day After Tomorrow

Its been 9 years since we welcomed our sweet little Landon to our family.  Sometimes it feels like yesterday.  Sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago.  This should be a time of celebration but we were not lucky enough to get that.

Every year is much the same.  The weather cools off and Fall comes.  The anticipation of "the day" starts about a week before then comes the "I should/shouldn't be" game. "I should be planning his party right now"- "I shouldn't be here, I should be shopping for party plates".  And that game leads up to the dreaded Day Before.  

The day before is often the hardest day of the year.  My grief hits me on this day like a giant brick to my chest.  The world stops yet keeps going at the same time.  I find myself hiding out and avoiding anything that might spark a tear in fear of once they start they may never stop.  I go to sleep that night exhausted from grief and wake to the day that would have been.  

If there is one day of the year that can stir up a lifetime of double dip feelings its this day.  This year I felt grateful, disappointed, loved, sad, bitter sweetly happy, angry, lucky and lonely.  It was long, but, I made it through even though I didn't think I would, like always.  And, like always, I wake up the next morning.  

Today is the day after.  I'm exhausted.  I'm angry.  I'm loved.  I spent the morning with my sisterfriend then took my Kayrs to have lunch with Nathan and the girls at school.  It does my heart good to spend time with the ones that love me.  My body is exhausted.  I'm crying for myself and for my little boy.  I feel sad and selfish and angry!

Its been 9 years and the pain from grief is there.  I wonder if there will be a day when it is not?  I know this day will come again next year, always for my lifetime.  And I know that this day will feel much the same next year.  I do hope that one day my grief will not hurt as much.  I wonder and hope that one day the gratitude I feel for getting him for 4 weeks, the memories I was able to make and all the things loosing him taught me will outweigh the pain of not having him?  Time will tell.  I have a lifetime of days to find out.  

Happy belated Birthday my sweet baby boy!  I hold you today, in my heart, knowing that you are close as my breath, as clear as the sky and as loved as always! 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Exhausted mom meets grieving mom...

Have you ever read something and thought "I couldn't have said that better myself"?  Me too, just now actually.  And since I can't say it better myself I'll just leave you with this...

 Being a mom is exhausting some days, being a grieving mom is exhausting every day.

When the hustle and bustle of the ballgames are over, when the laundry is folded and put away, when the kids are fed and clean, the dishes washed, preparation for the next day is done, homework is complete, prayers spoken and everyone kissed goodnight, exhausted mom can go to bed to rest. But there she meets grieving mom that has accompanied her all day, every second.  There she cannot escape the presence of grief or the absence of her child any longer. There in the still of the night she sits.  Exhausted mom's duties are over and grieving mom is taking over.

Exhausted mom wasn't able to yield to grieving mom throughout the day, however, exhausted mom was very aware of her presence every moment, every moment. While exhausted mom functions to keep the house together, making sure tasks are handled with care and keeping her composure, grieving mom sits right beside her trying to balance the surge of emotions as she wishes she had just one more pair of socks to more fork to more baby to kiss goodnight.  For grieving mom never forgets there should be one more...
Exhausted mom is very protective of grieving mom and the cord that binds them together.  Grieving mom tries to be strong so exhausted mom can carry on throughout the day, but sometimes grieving mom needs a minute or two...Exhausted mom gives her all of the time she needs.

Exhausted mom will get an occasional day of "rest."  Perhaps Mother's Day or her birthday, but for grieving mom, these days only amplify the rawness and reality of her duties.

There is never an end of the day for grieving mom, rather a cycle that just repeats.  She wakes up (if she sleeps) to missing her child, she shops missing her child, she talks missing her child, she works missing her child, she does EVERYTHING IN LIFE, MISSING HER CHILD.  There is never a schedule for her grief, or specific time allowance for such. There is no calendar end to missing her child here on earth.  There is no relief squad to come in and lighten the load, this, only a grieving mom can carry.

When the season has ended, the kids have grown, and there are gray hairs and fine lines, ("Beauty Marks") that are evident to all, exhausted mom retires, but in those tender years, those golden years, grieving mom keeps going...until her last exhausted breath she grieves...

The original post can be found at Facets of Life

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Stolen Easter Eggs

One good thing that has come to me because I lost Landon was some very good friends.  "Baby Loss Friends" you could call them. One, in particular, has become one of my closest friends and our babies are resting in the same cemetery.  It has become a tradition that on holidays we make special gifts and leave them for our babies.  This year my friend made Easter Baskets for her girls and one for Landon and those special baskets WERE STOLEN off their stones. 

This isn't the first time this has happened, but this year it has bothered me more than before.  I can't imagine what is going through someones mind when they take something off a gravestone.  The only thing I can come up with is that they just don't know what a special place that is.  If I were to run into this person I would want to scream at them and say...

Do you have any idea what I went through when I lost my baby?  Do you have any idea what memories that stone holds?  Did you know that I had to sit in the office of the cemetery just one week after loosing my baby with a beaten body and mind to order that for him.  Did you know how hard it is to walk into a store and buy things for my baby's stone only to hear the questions "are these for your sons birthday, how old is he?"  "Yes, 8", I have to answer not being able to say what I'd like to say, which is "his name was Landon and he was wonderful and he would have been 8 this year"?  Do you know how special it is to have someone remember your baby and love them so much that they go through the same thing at the store for him (and you)?  Do you have a heart at all?

When I detach from my anger and hurt I can see that the only reasonable answer to those questions is NO.  They can't possibly know.  And for that I am truly glad.  With all my heart, I hope they will one day be able to answer those questions with a YES, not because they have a stone to visit, but because they can hear my heart saying this...

The cemetery holds much more than the bodies of the babies we lost.  It holds the heart of every mother who placed them there.  A stone may seem like a small physical symbol of a life lost but for most its the ONLY physical symbol left of their baby. The little gifts that sit on those stones are not for decoration, but for love. We can't hold our babies, rock them or feed them but we can leave them gifts on their stone as a way of saying "we remember you" and "we love you".   We visit there, cry there, smile there and sit in silence there.  It is sacred. 

There is a red fox that lives at the cemetery where Landon and my friends girls lay.  He comes out from time to time.  He doesn't seem scared or timid but he doesn't come up to anyone.  I often see this fox in the early morning running through the sea of graves.  He is red, he is beautiful and he is a wonderful Bodhisattva.  He understands the sacredness of this place.  Kwan Seum Bosal.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Fourth of July? Its for the birds...

The Fourth of July is a "great" day, right?  NOT!  I do not like this holiday, AT ALL!!!  Now, Ive had some really good Fourth of July holidays.   Like the one at my Father in Laws farm.  (Keri - Remember that one?)  And I like it when my kids get excited about things like this but there are good (I think) reasons why I hate it!  Here ya go...

First, it's HOT!  I am a well known heat wimp!  If its over 90 degrees then Im inside.  If it's over 100 degrees, Im inside complaining!  I don't like to sweat, I don't like to smell and I don't like to see other people do either.   Then, it's LOUD!  Crack, Boom...I hate it.  Im usually the one everyone makes fun of for jumping every time one of the loud crackers go off.  Im even known to scream a time or two.  Third, its dangerous.  Watching my little ones holding a sparkler gives me anxiety.  The thought of those little hands getting burnt...well, lets not go there!

But, the main reason that this holiday is miserable for me...Landon.  Every year for 8 years I've thought of him on this holiday.  For a long time I couldn't figure out why.  For many years I spent time trying to wrap my mind around why such an insignificant holiday could work me up so much.  Then, last year, I finally figured it out.  You see, I knew something was wrong with Landon from the time he was conceived.  I couldn't say what it was, it was just a gut feeling I had the whole 9 months I was pregnant.  So, while I was pregnant I never had daydreams about what it would be like to have the baby here.  I just knew. Last year I had a memory, one I had blocked out for 7 years.  I was sitting on my back porch watching Tyler light black snakes on the sidewalk.  Nathan was helping him light them.  I looked over on the ground beside me and, for the first and only time, I imagined a little boy sitting on the porch with me.  He was smiling and laughing and loving every minute of it.  I smiled.  Then it faded.  It was the ONLY time during my pregnancy that I imagined something happy with this baby.  It was the ONLY time! 

Now, 8 years have past since that moment in on the porch.  Holidays have come and gone and the pain is still there.  But on this hot and loud holiday I can't help but imaging a little almost 8 year old boy blowing things up and loving every minute of it.  I imagine myself on the porch having a small but wonderful daydream of a healthy baby boy growing up with me. And all of that makes me very sad. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Growing Pains by Ryan Hellmer

This is a guest post from a friend Ryan Hellmer.  He posted this on his blog and it was just too good to not share.  Ryan and his wife Jessica lost a baby girl, Abagail, to Trisomy 18 just a few months ago.  Abagail Mae was a beautiful little girl who was, and continues to be, the love of their life.  She had a beautiful little Irish twin Josie who will one day understand all that has happened over the last 8 months.  This is for Abagail...Traci 

So it’s been quite a while since my last post. I really don’t know if that’s good or bad. I have felt the need to post a couple times, but apparently not strong enough to get motivated to actually do it. We got a (relatively) pleasant surprise the week of my birthday, Abigail’s marker has been installed. They must have gotten several in the same week because a couple of her neighbors also got theirs. It’s sad, Abigail was the second kiddo in the new section at Mt. Calvary and already there are several more neighbors. I still find it to be a very relaxing atmosphere and spend lunch with Abigail a few times a week.

At least once a year I try to get out and run. It usually coincides with Lent. I view Lent as my kind of “new years resolution.” I think it’s a little easier to make a resolution that you only “have” to keep for 40 days. Plus its springtime and I think even humans need to get out and shake off the hibernation that we indulge in through the winter months. I ordinarily wouldn’t admit to liking running, but I do find it quite therapeutic. I think I have my most profound times of thinking while running or mowing the lawn. There’s something about the relative silence of those activities that really lets me think.

One thing I don’t like about running is pain. There’s always pain involved; sore muscles or joints or that cramp in your side that always hits you on the last lap or just the pain of discipline, forcing yourself to do something every day. I think in the physical sense, pain can be put in two loosely organized piles. There’s the pain that accompanies growth and the pain that accompanies damage. I think the key is identifying which is which and how to properly address it.

That first week of running, the muscles in my legs and even my shoulders can just ache. This pain accompanies growth. It is the breaking down and repairing of the fibers because I simply haven’t used them in far too long. I know that this is the pain that I can remedy with stretching and a decent warm-up and that I can push through it to help my body get back in shape.

I’ve been very fortunate to have never suffered a serious sports injury. I know plenty of people in my life who have had a couple knee surgeries well before age 30, others with more catastrophic injuries like broken bones or hips. Sometimes it’s as simple as a strain or sprain. The pain that comes with these types of injuries tells a different story. That pain is like the check engine light in a car saying “something is damaged and continued operation may result in failure.”

Response to pain is something that only the individual can control. It is really disappointing to see an athlete, particularly a young one, suffer an injury on the field. The pain makes them unable to perform. Is that pain growth or damage? How should they respond to the coach’s recommendation that they “suck it up” and get back out there to help the team? What if the athlete were offered steroids or a cortisol injection? Something, anything, to mute the voice of the joint/bone/muscle crying out for rest and healing.

I think this illustration has helped my understanding of emotional pain. There is pain that accompanies growth and pain that accompanies damage. I’m sure everyone has heard the old saying, something like “life is a marathon…” In the course of events, we don’t get to choose when a loved one will die or when we might get laid off or suffer a natural disaster. There are very few things that we can do to prepare our minds and spirits for the unthinkable. The question isn’t whether a painful event is coming, it’s when, and perhaps, how often?

Losing Abigail hurts. Every day. There are a hundred different ways that I’m reminded that my life is not the same as it was before. Sometimes it’s a dull ache that seems to stem from something “I did yesterday.” Sometimes it’s a tear or sprain that comes on suddently. Most of the time I’m feeling pretty good until I “twist just the right way,” then I’m completely immobile (I’m pretty sure anyone over 50 can attest to that feeling).

Every time I feel these pains I have to do an assessment. Is this an opportunity for growth or do I need to slow down before doing some real damage? I’m certainly no expert on grieving or psychology and I would not consider myself “life coach” material (although I think, like politics, anyone truly qualified avoids the scene altogether), but I think, unlike physical pain, we have a great deal of influence over whether the pain leads to growth or damage.

Much of the growth I’ve experienced as a parent has been entirely painless. It’s easy to forget, especially if all you know is this blog, that I have a wonderful, healthy, beautiful daughter that continues to inspire me to grow. The other half of my parenting experience has been altogether different. Abigail brings a great deal of joy to my life. I am proud of her and proud to have been her father in this life. I keep my favorite picture of her in my office. Looking at that picture never brings sorrow, it reminds me of how beautiful life is.

That previous paragraph seems like a bit of a disclaimer since a significant portion of my recent experience has involved pain. Emotional pain doesn’t mesh well with the current American way of life. It’s not quantifiable, not related to a discrete activity or anatomical locale. It’s not something that is easily “fixed.” We like problems to go away. Fix them, hide them, get away from them.

You know that “pain scale” at the doctor’s office? I’ve looked like all those pictures at some point in the last 4 months. As I trend towards the scary end of the scale, I try to be cognizant of what it is I feel, why I feel that way and whether or not I’m establishing an environment of growth or setting myself up for damage.

Neglect invariably makes pain worse. Neglect can turn pain that might otherwise result in growth into injury. Neglect of injury can turn a simple sprain into irreparable damage. Rest and recuperation are the key; trouble is, neglect ranges from doing nothing to doing everything. In fact, neglect most surreptitiously exists in the form of action.  Think of the injured athlete who gets a shot of cortisol or has a sprain taped up and then rushes back into the
game. But think also of the patient who forgoes physical therapy to get right back to work/play. Sometimes, activity can be a sinister diversion from the reflection and rest that is often required for proper healing of an injured soul; sometimes it’s the therapeutic activity that is the only path to recovery.

One of my primary goals after the loss of Abigail was to find the new normal. I hate it that people think you can get “back” to normal. Time runs only one way. I knew from the moment Jessica told me we were pregnant again that life would never be the same. That’s just as true with Josephine as it was with Abigail. Just as true with a “perfectly” healthy baby as one with a fatal genetic abnormality.

Finding the new normal was not intended to be quick or to get me “back” to the things I had done pre-Abigail. There are innumerable changes in my life even though there may not appear to be any changes to my routine. From the outside looking in, I’m sure it looks a lot like pre-Abigail. I still go to work. I try to get things done around the house. I have goals, dreams, some of which are unchanged. Some of my previous goals have been completely abandoned. Some have been replaced with things I’d never imagined.

I’d like to say I have been overwhelmingly successful in the quest to make the best of a painful situation. Truth be told, it probably vacillates from self-righteous hypocrite to that scary guy that talks about his dead kid at “inappropriate” times. Sometimes I feel like I need to sit a few plays out, other times I know that powering through is the best thing I can do, for me, for my wife, my family and friends. The one thing I’ve learned for sure is that you can’t just take that shot and make things go away.
                                                                                                -Ryan Hellmer

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Tiger, a Vine, a Mouse and a Strawberry

Here is one of my favorite zen stories...

One day while walking through the wilderness a man stumbled upon a vicious tiger. He ran but soon came to the edge of a high cliff. Desperate to save himself, he climbed down a vine and dangled over the fatal precipice. As he hung there, two mice appeared from a hole in the cliff and began gnawing on the vine.  Suddenly, he noticed on the vine a plump wild strawberry. He plucked it and popped it in his mouth. It was incredibly delicious!

I think I like this story because it reminds me of my depression journey.   Lately, I feel like I am walking though a wilderness and running into some very vicious tigers.   It seems as soon as I run I fall into a pit and as soon as I find a rope some mice come along and chew it up.  But I never find a strawberry.?!

Today was a very hard day for me.  I woke up tired, depressed and lonely so asked a friend to the park, then I took her little guy home for a little bit but then loneliness hit me like a rock.  I didn't have anything to do, no where to really go and all I really wanted to do was cry.  Then the phone rang.  My mom, of course, called me after a depressing email I sent her while I was sulking.  We talked for an hour and a half.  By the end of the phone call I felt alive again, not as depressed and the loneliness was gone.  But, honestly, my first thought when I got off the phone was "now who will I talk to". 

I've been told by my mom and my therapist that I need to start giving myself credit for the little things Ive been doing.  I need to give myself credit for the baby steps I've been taking but I can't seem to do that.  I am always searching for the strawberry.  I realized today, after the phone call, that I won't ever find the strawberry if  that's all I am looking for.  After all, he didn't find it until he climbed the rope he found, right?

So, my goal for the next week is to give up on my strawberry search and start keeping track of what I do on the way up the pit.  I am going to appreciate my good things without instantly getting sad they are over.  I'm going to TRY! 

To be continued...