Wednesday, June 11, 2014

My One Year Assessment...

I thought that it would be interesting to take a personal assessment of where I (and we) are at one year after saying goodbye to Tatum.  I hope it will be enlightening for others, especially those experiencing their own grief, to see where others are after a year.  I know from experience working in this field that there is a lot of loneliness that accompanies grief.  That loneliness often feeds the feelings of  inadequacy, that you are not where you should be in this imaginary "time line" of grief.  I hope to dispel the myths of "normal" grieving.  If I have learned anything over the past 20 years of my own grief, and working with others for the past 14 years, it is that there is really no "norm".  And that is OK.  There are obvious patterns, but everyone, and I mean everyone, does this differently.  So with that, I thought I would share a few things that might surprise people reading this.

As we were approaching the one year mark, I wanted so badly to be angry and I didn't want the day to come.  The feelings that were causing these anxieties within me were because I knew that once we hit the one year mark, it would be time to carry on.  People don't mean to forget or place expectations, but we all have to move on to our own new life experiences, us included.  For the first year after a death, you are so focused on breathing and trying to do the bare minimum to survive the trauma of loss and missing.  You are consumed with all of the firsts without your loved one that you are almost not expected to truly participate in the life around you.  And I was really good with this.  I didn't want to have to say that Tates had died a year ago.  That sounds too long, and it still feels so fresh to me.  When you say it's been a year people expect that you are "over" it.  Well, I am not over her.  Never will be.  This did not affect me as deeply when Trevin died.  Probably because by the time we hit our year mark we were expecting little Halea.  That was going to be another life changing event and I was becoming very focused on her and the new anxiety I was having thinking about another baby, and would she be healthy or not.  I am sure this is what made a huge difference.  With Tatum, there was just the deeply painful loss.  We were not going to be able to have any more babies to come and brighten our home again.  There has just been a big hole, never to be filled.  We have had a lot of big events in our lives this year, but I still feel really numb to all of them.
 In fact I am super resistant to change.  I cut my hair, and now I hate that I look totally different than I did when Tatum was here.  We are getting ready to sell our van.  This is going to be really hard.  We bought the van because we had Tates.  We took our trips with her in that van.  I rushed her to the hospital in that van.  She took her last ride home in that van.  I know that sounds ridiculous, but I am so emotionally attached to this stupid van!  I am going to paint the kitchen, but I am having a hard time changing things in the house, even though I want to.   All of these silly, simple things trigger feelings of anxiety and sadness.

I know that a lot of people, in fact I would say most, experience a fair amount of anger when there is the death of a child.  I am one of the lucky ones that has not experienced a  lot of anger.  In fact, when our one year anniversary day arrived, I had thought a lot about what I would write on this blog.  I had a lot of angry thoughts that I thought I would write about, but as I went through the day and thought about all of the tender mercies, how could I be angry?  I just can't be there, not when I think of Tatum.  She is too sweet and tender to bring any feeling outside of joy and hope.  I would give anything to have her back, but I have a spiritual understanding of her purpose, and to stay was not her plan.  How can I be angry with the Lords purpose for her life.  Unthinkable.  I don't know why I have been given this gift of understanding, but I am forever grateful for it.  An angry heart is very hard to overcome, I am glad that has not been my challenge.  I say this with all sincerity.
So, a window in to my home.  Trevin has always been present in our home.  We have always had pictures of him hanging on our walls.  Each of the kids has always had a picture of him in their rooms.  Tatum is no different.  We have pictures of her around the house and there are a few things that are in the same place as when she was alive.  I just can't seem to put away certain things.  I am allowing things to just happen with time.  A few weeks after Trevin died one of my friends came over and helped me pack away his room and get rid of all of his medications.  I just felt like it was time.   I still have Tatum's medications in the cupboard.  Her crib is still in our room, full of pin wheels, things that people have given us and a lot of her hospital things.  We also have her little portable bed sitting in our room.  I just don't know how I will ever put them away.  Quite frankly, I am in no rush.  The other day one of the nurses at the hospital was asking me if having the big picture of Tatum up in the unit is hard because I see it every time I go in.  I honestly love it.  It reminds me, every time I see it, why I am there.  It is the same in our home.  We can never see their sweet faces too much.  It is a constant reminder of all that we know is true, especially of the Atonement and repentance and of eternal families and to be kind and loving to each other, always serving one another.  How could I ever be angry about those sweet reminders?
One year later my mind still flashes thoughts that I wish I could stop.  Last week Halea and I went up to Logan for her College orientation day.  We drove up on Sunday night and stayed over night because we had to be there early in the morning.  I just kept thinking how I would never have been able to do any of these things with Halea had the timing of Tatum's illness and death been any different.  A tender mercy for certain, but also hard to think about.  I would much rather be holding Tatum on the couch and missing some of these things, exciting as they are.  Utah State puts on a great orientation, so I am really grateful that I was able to be there.  As we were driving up I was thinking about some of the changes that are coming with mine and Halea's relationship.  In just a few months I will not always know where she is.  There are lots of outdoor activities to do and it took my breath away to think that she would be going hiking and boating and swimming without me knowing exactly where and with who.  It is her time to fly, a very scary time for us as parents.  She assured me that she would tell me or someone where she was going.  I think that she really will because I think that she understands.

Heidi left for camp the morning after we got home.  She went to the same camp that we went to when Tates was just a few months old.  I smuggled her in and she stayed up there with us all day, then she and I would drive home each night and then come back early in the morning.  I can't believe that we got away with it, but I knew I needed to be at camp and I couldn't possibly leave sweet Tater bug.  It all just worked out.  Another tender mercy.  It was weird to send Heidi off by herself.   No Halea, and no me.  
The flashing, random thoughts that grief intensifies are usually irrational, but again, unstoppable.  The other day I was in my house and I realized that Hilary had gone outside with her new bike.  I went out to check on her.   As I walked out my front door I saw my neighbors big truck parked in a weird position facing my house.  His truck was still running and I saw him climbing out of the truck.  It was partly obscured by a bush in my front yard so I couldn't see why he was getting out of the truck.   My heart started racing.   What if he had run over Hilary?!  (this is all happening in a matter of seconds)  My first thought was, "I cannot do this again"  I felt the breath leave me for just a second, then I saw him bend over and pick up his little dog!  His dog had run after him so he was stopping to pick him up so he didn't run him over.  I felt a little sick.  Yet, another tender mercy.
Just a few days later Hilary asked if she could go ride her bike in the front yard.  I said yes and that I would be out in just a minute.  I had to finish something for our dinner real quick.   After just a few minutes I went outside to check on Hilary.  She wasn't out front so I called her name to see if she was to the side of the house.   No response.  I walked around to the garage and she wasn't there and neither was her bike.  I went to the next door neighbors house to see if she had ridden her bike there.  Nope.  Now I started getting really nervous.  I shouldn't have read Elizabeth Smart's book!  I walked down a few houses calling her name.   After not finding her, for what seemed like an eternity, I decided to get in my car and search the neighborhood.  As I started walking home I thought I heard her, then I saw her about 4 houses down the street riding her bike.  As I looked closer I saw that Lance was there with her, on his bike.  He had come home and saw her out there and decided to take her around the block on her bike, without telling me.  Heart attack!!  My immediate  reaction is just always the worst case scenario.  I hope that this will decrease in intensity.  I don't like being such an alarmist!

It is an interesting transition time right now.  How do we learn to live with all of this, again?  I felt like I had conquered so many of these hard feelings with Trevin, now I am starting this journey all over again.  How can I make it another 20 years carrying this?  Here is what I know, that I can and I will.  Never on my own.  I know that through my faith in my Savior, and because of Him I can do anything that I am asked to do.  I know that.  The other day I was reading in 1 Nephi 17 where Nephi is asked to build a ship to bring his family across the sea to a promised land.  Several times throughout this chapter he says, I don't know how I will accomplish these things, but through my Savior I know that I can do anything.  Such faith.  It made me think of the two sweet friends that I have that are leaving with their husbands that have been called to be mission Presidents in pretty scary foreign lands.  They have demonstrated these Nephi like qualities.  I hope that in all of my trials I can be an example of this kind of faith.  

For Tatum's birthday we put out some calla lilis at the cemetery.  I went and picked them up after a few days to see if I might be able to transplant them in our yard.  Pie in the sky for me and my black thumb, but I thought I would give it a college try!  There are two bunches of them and one of them is doing OK, but this bunch is so delicate and beautiful and sweet and it makes me smile and think of Tater bug every time I see them.  You have to look close to notice them because they are so small, just like she was.  When you get close enough to see them, they are breath taking, just like she was.  Such a sweet tender mercy.  I am trying so hard to notice these beautiful gifts that come in to my life, literally daily.  We are going to make it, and live joyfully not in spite of this trial, but because of it.  We love you Trevin and sweet Tatum!


  1. You are truly an inspiration and sharing your experience with others can provide so much comfort to those who are in that raw, painful place. By the way, I still struggle with the "worst case scenario" thinking even though my journey with grief started in November of 1987- 26 years ago. But I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Especially when I draw close to Him for my comfort, strength and peace. Sounds like you've got the same strategy going on, only more powerfully in these days of grief and pain. All my love, Laura

  2. You don't know me but I love you! Somehow I stumbled across your lovely blog and I
    Have been so touched as I have read through it. Thank you so very much for sharing so much. You have been a blessing in my life when I really needed it! Our 7th and youngest little boy was born and died in March of 2013. I have struggled through the last year and I have been so uplifted from reading your thoughts and experiences. I just wanted you to know that you have made a difference in my life. Thank you do very much!