Thursday, October 27, 2016

Why "Let me know if you need anything" Isn't Helpful

This is something that has been on my heart for awhile now, but I must write a few disclaimers as I want to be sensitive to those who said this to me with the best intentions.   First of all, if you said this to me after Callie died, please know this is not written about you, so do not feel bad!  90% of people said this to me, so it really is not about anyone specific.  Also, I KNOW I've said this to people ALL.THE.TIME. before Callie died, and I really had no idea how unhelpful it was until now.

With that being said, the most common phrase that practically everyone said to me after Callie died was "Let me know if you need anything."  I got this from people who live far away, people who live close, people I haven't spoken to in years, and people who I see everyday.  From distant friends to close friends, everyone said this to me.  And you know how many people I actually let them know I needed something?  Zero.  But I totally get it.  People have absolutely no idea what to say to me and how to help, so they text me or end a conversation with "Let me know if you need anything." And I politely say Thank You, knowing I probably won't ever hear from that person again. 

 I know people want to do something but don't know what to do.  And quite honestly, I have no idea what I need either.  That first week of complete and utter shock and despair, I couldn't think straight.  I had every person tell me to let them know if I need anything, and I just wanted to scream out, "I don't know what I need, please just think of something yourself."  And I have learned over the past 3 months, that the most helpful people were the ones who thought of something to do for me, then ask me if they can do it, and I can either say yes or no.   And even if I said no, I was so thankful that person thought of something to ask me.  

For example, planning Callie's funeral was something I desperately needed help with.  People took care of it for me.  I had a friend call me and say, "we would love to put together a slideshow for Callie's funeral, is that something you would want?"  YES, YES I do want that!  I never would have thought of it myself, because my mind was mush but I'm so thankful they thought of it themselves and did it for us.  Someone else asked me if we would want a lunch for close family after the funeral and I said yes and they did that for us.  Those are just a few examples from the first week, but after the funeral, and the weeks and months following, is when we need people even more.  

Here are some specifics things I have learned from people over the past 3 months:

  • Be specific in how you can help your friend in need.  This doesn't just apply to a friend going through grief, it could apply to  someone who just had a baby, someone who is stressed, someone who is moving, or someone with sick kids at home and overwhelmed.  Instead of saying, "let me know if you need anything",  say, "can I bring you a meal today?", "Can I watch your kids for you so you can rest?", "can I come over and visit with you today or tomorrow?", "Can I help plan something special to remember Callie?"  Just thinking of something specific and asking them is SO much more helpful than being general.
  • When being specific, state it in a way as something you would love to do for them.  Even though I was experiencing grief, I didn't like to burden people.  It was so nice when people asked to help in a way that wouldn't be a burden to them.  "I'm going to the store, can I pick up something for you?"   "My son would love to play with Cooper and we have nothing going on the next 3 days, can we watch Cooper for you? Or have a playdate?"  "I would love to bring you a meal this week, which day works for you?"  When the person stated it in a way that  seemed like they really wanted to do it for me, it really blessed me.  
  • Bring them food!  I can't stress that enough.  The first week after Callie died, we stayed at my parents house, and my parents Bible Study class brought over food all week.  One person dropped off a huge box of Chelsea's chicken salad, pasta, fruit, bread etc, and we were able to eat on that for lunch all week (and if you live in Kingwood, you know and love Chelsea's).  My church brought us meals for 3 weeks and our neighbors for 2 months!  It was such a blessing not to think about cooking food.  No matter what type of stress a friend is going through, most people won't turn down an offer to bring a meal.  
  • Try to remove "Let me know..." from your vocabulary completely.  Not just, "Let me know if you need anything" , but even saying "Let me know if you want me to bring you a meal."  Yes that is specific, but it's still putting the ball in their court and then they have to call you up and say, "Remember when you said let you know if we need a meal, well, we could really use a meal this week."  It's just more awkward to ask for it and it makes me feel like you didn't really mean it (though you may have).   I heard a lot, "let me know if you want to get together."  And I just stare blankly as I'm not sure if they really want to get together or just saying that.  I understand they don't want to burden me but I can always say no if I don't want to get together.  It's just more helpful to say, "do you want to get together on Monday?" and I can either say yes, or no if I'm no feeling up to it.  
  • Learn what the person in grief wants.  Everybody is completely different.  For me as a stay at home mom, my life went from taking care of 2 kids, to taking care of 1 and it has been so painful, especially since Cooper doesn't need as much direction and attention as Callie did.   Being alone with just Cooper makes it harder as the days are super long.  I have memories all around us and our day to day has changed completely.  Having play dates and get togethers is something I really needed and still need.  Being alone is hard for me especially since I'm alone all the time, and being with people is a nice distraction.  But for some people in my situation, they would want to be alone.  I had a few people tell me they wanted to give me my space, but I didn't need or want space.  I wanted to be around people and specifically for Cooper to have friends to play with.  He and Callie played together and his instant playmate was gone.  It was shocking for both of us.  I didn't realize how much they played together until she was gone.  When I shared this with people, some people would say, "well, let me know if you want to have a playdate."  And I just think, "didn't I just tell you that's what I wanted?"  It's been so nice when friends and neighbors have initiated get togethers with us and having fun outings with Cooper has been a blessing and makes the days go by faster for us.
It's hard asking people for help. For some people, it's easier than others.  There are probably just 3-4 people in my life that I feel comfortable enough to ask for their help, and even then it's hard.  So when people say, "let me know if you need anything", it's too hard and overwhelming to actually call them up or text them and ask them to do something for me.  Most people won't do that especially with people we aren't very close to.  I'm so thankful for people who thought of things I haven't even thought of to offer help.   These are all things I have learned during my grief from other people.  I feel badly now when I think about all the people I have said, "let me know if you need anything" to before this.  I just didn't know.  I think it's a very natural and common phrase we say to people in need almost like saying "how are you" to people when we pass them. 

The biggest advice I've learned is that if you know someone experiencing grief, think of a specific way you would like to help (bringing them a meal, having them over for dinner, plan a playdate, hire someone to clean their house, offer to help them pack, plan something for the loved ones birthday they lost, sit and listen to them talk about their grief), and ask if that is something you can do.  Even if you think "I don't know if they would want this," Just ask and the person can always say no.  You never know, the thing you think of could be exactly what they needed, they just didn't realize it.  

Thursday, October 13, 2016

3 Months without Callie

It's been over 3 months now without our Callie.  Here are some random thoughts going through my head after 3 months of the most intense grief most people will ever experience.

  • I still go through shock somedays.  Because Callie died so unexpectedly, the shock can hit me at random moments.  I still can't believe this happened.  I still can't believe she is actually gone.  
  • We now define our lives as before Callie died, and then after she died.  Our lives are completely different now.  Everything changed. Our family changed, our personalities changed, our emotions, the way we think, the way we act, our friendships changed, etc, etc. 
  • I have become more of an introvert now.  Not so much that I have to be alone all the time, but I really really don't like being around large groups of people.  I actually have social anxiety now, which I have never had before.  I pretty much HATE small talk and try to avoid it as much as possible.  I don't really like meeting new people now because I know I will at some point have to explain what happened to our family.  At this point in our lives, I don't feel like starting all over with people.  I do love being around a small group of people who know me well and I can be comfortable around.  But being around a large group of people, especially people I don't know well,  can be hard for us.  I am constantly afraid that someone will ask me how many kids I have or more questions about my family that I will have to explain in a very awkward setting.  
  • Some of our friendships have changed.  Many people who have walked the road of grief will tell  you that their friendships have changed through it.  Some of my friends I have gotten so much closer to through this.  Our friendships went deeper and they have chosen to really walk through this dark road with me.  We've had people dive more into our lives than beforehand, which says a lot to us.  They are choosing to be friends with us during our darkest times, knowing they won't get anything in return right now, since we can't be the greatest friends right now.  Then there are friends that have distance themselves from us because they don't know what to say or what to do and that makes me sad.  I know that is just a part of grief.
  • It is hard for me to be around little girls who are the same age as Callie.  For some reason, it's not as hard for me to be around boys her age, maybe because I already have a boy, or maybe because the boy doesn't remind me as much as Callie.  But seeing a little girl around the same age as Callie can really pierce my heart. 
  • Going to church is hard.  I've talked to other moms who have lost children and they have all said going to church for them was hard too for about a year.  Singing in church is very, very hard.  Every song we sing reminds us of our loss.  I can't sing a song without thinking about Callie.  Our church in particular has gone through a ton of change at the same time Callie died which makes it even harder.  Our church is much bigger, with many new people and I don't have the emotional energy to invest in right now.  I'm sure I can come across as rude, but this is a part of grief that most can't understand.    I know it won't always be like this, but for now it's hard. 
  • I'm afraid that people will forget about Callie.  Since she was old enough for us to have a ton of memories with her, but young enough to not have her own friends yet or her own teachers, I'm afraid that people didn't know her well and will forget her.  It's one reason I post her videos and pictures all the time.  I just don't want her to be forgotten and I wish I could do more to keep her memory alive and to honor her.
  • July 4th plays in my head on a loop over and over again.  I really wish I could get it out of my head, I really wish the images would get out of my mind, but they won't for now.  And I can't imagine how much worse that is for Justin. 
  • I really hate that Callie died on July 4th.  Why oh why did it have to be on a holiday?  Why did it have to be on a day where people are off work, celebrating, parading, and shooting off fireworks?  It's just salt in a wound.  I so wish it was just a regular ordinary day, but it wasn't and it's something we have to deal with for the rest of our lives, every 4th of July. 
  • Justin and I grieve very differently.  It can be hard since no one knows what we are going through except for each other, but yet we are grieving in completely different ways.  I like being around close friends or small groups.  Justin doesn't really want to be around anyone since he is an introvert in that way.  If he is having a hard day, he wants to be alone.  I love looking at her pictures and videos, and for Justin it is very very hard to look at her pictures and videos.  I'm public about my feelings and he is private.  Everyone grieves so differently, and even though we have gone through the same type of grieve, we are grieving in different ways. 
  • Speaking of grieving differently, it's so true that there is no grief like the one you go through.  You can't compare grief.  When people try to compare their situation to mine, it can make me cringe.  Some people try to relate, but it's usually not helpful.  
  • We are planning to move into a new house.  We don't know when exactly, but we assume it will be sometime over the next 6 months or so.  We have talked about moving before Callie died since Justin got a new job and has a much longer commute, so it's not like we are making a rash and sudden decision.  Justin wanted to move the day after it happened.  It's very hard for him to be in this house.  I am okay being in the house and think it will be very hard to leave all her memories behind, but I do think it will be healthy for our family to start fresh in a new home especially having a new baby.  Of course this does not mean we are moving on and it will not heal our hurting hearts, but it will help especially not having to put the new baby in her room.  
  • Every Single Day is hard.  It may not look like it in your eyes, but deep down our hearts are shattered and hurting deeply on the inside.  Some days are completely unbearable, and other days are just regular hard.   We think about her all the time. The  'Why Me' questions can still pop in my head.  I don't see much fruit from her death yet and that is hard.  When people complain about small things, that can be hard.  Even just seeing happy, intact, healthy families everywhere I go is hard.  
  • God's Grace is sufficient.  Though we have hard days, there is absolutely no way I could get through this deep pain without relying on the Lord.  The is no way I can even function without knowing and believing in God's sovereignty.  I know He is carrying our deep burdens and I know He is doing a big work in our lives and the lives around us even when we don't see it.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Joy is Coming... March 2017

Yes, you have read this correctly and no this is not click bait!  We are very excited to announce that Baby #3 is coming in March 2017! And yes it's a BOY!

I know what you might be thinking right now, "wow, that was fast!"  And yes, it was VERY fast, almost too fast but God's timing is incredibly mysterious and perfect.  The truth is, I was pregnant with this sweet baby the day Callie passed away.  I just didn't know it yet.  In fact, as if the timing couldn't get anymore mysterious....we found out we were pregnant the day AFTER Callie's funeral.  

I have learned and believed more in God's sovereignty more than ever since Callie died. And this baby being conceived before she died is a part of God's sovereign, mysterious, but beautiful plan for our family.  The mix of emotions we had were very hard to process.  We didn't tell a lot of people right away because it was very overwhelming.  How could we be happy at a time like this?  It was hard to even explain.  A part of me was happy but at the same time a part of me was confused.  I didn't want to get pregnant again this fast.  It felt too soon.  It felt like we were "moving on" from Callie and I didn't want to move on!  But of course we are NOT moving on.  It is impossible to move on from losing a child.  We can move forward, but we will never just move on.  

The day after Callie's funeral, when I saw the positive pregnancy test, I just sobbed.  The tears would not stop.  I remember saying out loud, "God, you can't take Callie away from me and give me a new baby to make it all better.  This isn't going to make it better. I don't want a new baby, I want Callie!"  Of course God knows my heart, he knows what we need, he knows what is best for our family.  And this baby is not a consolation prize.  I don't understand the timing at all, but I know it's for our good and has a great purpose.   It's not something he is giving our family to "make it all better".  Just like every baby that is conceived, this baby has a huge purpose, a specific personality, and is a blessing from the Lord. 

I do believe that a small part of this baby's purpose is to bring JOY to our family.  Ever since I saw that positive pregnancy test, I felt like the Lord was telling me, "Joy is coming".  And what's even crazier is I can't even count how many times people have told me this when I told them we were pregnant.  So many people responded with the phrase, "Joy is coming".  I can't get it out of my head. We actually have something to look forward to again, and that is something I didn't think possible.  When you are in the worst grief of your life, there is literally nothing to look forward to.  Someone just asked me innocently yesterday, "are you looking forward to the holidays?"  And I just said, "No".  Because I'm not.  I'm dreading the holidays, I'm dreading December and spending Callie's birthday without her.  I dread most days where Cooper and I spend our days by ourselves without Callie.  I will dread the 4th of July for a very very long time.  I dread the mornings when I have to remind myself that Callie is not here and some mornings I go through grief all over again.  I dread waking up from a wonderful dream about Callie.  Just a lot of dread.  But God is telling us, "JOY is coming, Tracy...there IS something to look forward to."  We know this baby will never replace our Callie, but this baby is a gift from the Lord and will bring Joy to us again.  

This boy will also always be our 3rd child, not our 2nd.  I know it will look like to the world that we have 2 boys and this is our 2nd child.  But it's not.  Callie will never be forgotten and we will always have 3 kids.  Callie would have been such a great big sister. I can just picture her being so curious about the new baby and being so loving towards him.  This boy will always have a big sister and I'm so sad for him that he will never know her, at least in this lifetime.  

"The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the LORD".  This is a verse that I think about often.  The Lord took away our daughter at almost the exact same moment he was giving us a son and creating him inside me.  It  really is possible to grieve but also have joy.  Because the Lord is giving us another baby, it doesn't mean we will not grieve as much over Callie.  It just doesn't work that way.  We are still so incredibly sad and will be grieving her for our lifetime.  But God is blessing us with another baby boy and we are incredibly thankful.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

But if not, He is still good

This verse in Daniel has been on my mind for awhile now.  Our community group is going through the book of Daniel.  I have always loved the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  There is so much good stuff in chapter 3 that gets better and better the more you read it.  A month or so after Callie passed away, our community group was going over chapter 3 in Daniel.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego's faith was so incredibly strong. I would hope that I would have that same response when they were about to be thrown into a fiery furnace and die a horrible and miserable death.

"If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." Daniel 3:17-18

I love this for several reasons.  First they acknowledge that God IS ABLE to deliver them from the fiery furnace.  Of course he is able, He is God and He is sovereign.  He was completely able to save Callie that day.  No question about it, He could have saved Callie in an instant.  Then the second part of the verse states, "BUT IF NOT.."  Did they KNOW that God was going to save them from the furnace?  Did they KNOW that the hairs on their heads would not be singed, their cloaks would not be harmed, and they wouldn't even smell like smoke??  NO, they definitely did not know that.  Did they know God was able to do this?  YES!  Did they know God was going to do it?  No.

Sometimes I think we as Christians believe we have some power over God by the words we speak.  A lot of the prosperity gospel today teaches that what you speak will come true. That if we speak that our child will be saved, it will happen.  That if we speak and believe that God will perform a miracle, it will happen.  That they KNOW God will save their loved one.  And it definitely CAN happen, as God is able to, but it doesn't mean it will happen.  I've been reading the book "Holding on to Hope" by Nancy Guthrie.  I cannot recommend this book enough for those who have lost a child.  The book goes through Job and one section she writes...

"Often I see the body of Christ put so much into pursuing God for healing.  With great boldness and passion and persistence, we cry out to God, begging for physical healing.  And in these prayers, there is often a tiny P.S. added at the end where we say, "If it be your will."  But shouldn't we switch that around?  Shouldn't we cry out to God with boldness and passion and persistence in a prayer that says, "God, would you please accomplish your will?  Would you give me a willing heart to embrace your plan and your purpose?  Would you mold me into a vessel that you can use to accomplish what you have in mind?  And then, perhaps, we could add a tiny P.S. that says, "If that includes healing, we will be grateful."  Isn't real faith revealed more through pursuing God and what he wants than through pursing what we want?

I honestly haven't thought much about this until Callie died.  Since Callie's death was so sudden, we didn't really get much of a chance to really pray for her except for the few minutes in the hospital before we knew what was going on.  And we most definitely did pray for a miracle!  We cried out to the Lord to save her, to not take our baby away from us. But the Lord's will was much different than what we were praying.  And we have had to learn to submit to His sovereignty.  This was one reason why we wanted 'Thy Will' to be played at her funeral.  Thy Will be done Lord.  We so wanted our baby girl to be saved, but IF NOT, we will still praise you Lord.

Nancy Guthrie goes on to say:
"At the end of Job's story, we begin to catch a glimpse of how God used the pain in Job's life.  I think this is the same thing God wants to do with the pain you and I experience in life.  After all the crying, after all the questioning, God revealed himself as sovereign over all Creation, and Job recognized God's authority over the universe and God's authority in his life. He came to a place of submission to God's sovereignty."

"Submission to God's sovereignty means bowing the knee whether or not we understand, whether or not we have it figured it out, whether of not we agree.  In that submission, we find the strength and grace to keep going.  We even find joy in the journey."

I could probably quote the entire chapter, or really the entire book, but I'll stop there.  I have had to truly submit to God's sovereignty.  Not just say I believe in God's sovereignty, but REALLY believe it.  It hasn't been easy.  I don't understand why this happened to us.  A pain so deep that doesn't happen to most families.  It really really stinks and it's not a good thing.  What happened to Callie wasn't good....God can and will USE it for good, but it in itself isn't good.  But I have truly learned to submit to the sovereignty of God, to trust Him, and believe Him in a way I never have before.  And if NOT...HE IS STILL GOOD.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Callie's Little Lamb

I wanted to write to remember the very special meaning of Callie's favorite stuffed animal, her white Lamb.  Her Mimi (Justin's mom) gave it to her when she was born.  I can't remember at what age she started to become attached to it, but it was pretty early on.  I thought it was so cute to watch her become attached to a certain stuffed animal especially since Cooper has never been attached to one.  He has gone through different phases of wanting a certain stuffed animal, but never had one that he was attached to for a long period of time.  We never had a name for the lamb, but for some reason we started calling it Lambie and it kinda stuck.

She wanted her lamb close by her all the time.  When she woke up in the mornings, she would usually ask for her lamb after getting her out of her crib.  If she got distracted and didn't ask for it right away, she would definitely be asking for it within the hour.  I would usually find her in her room by her crib trying to pull the lamb through the crib slates.  She would get frustrated that she couldn't get it out, so she would either start fussing or calling for me to help her get it.  If I didn't know where she was and I could hear her fussing, I knew she was in her room trying to get her lamb.  And when I got it for her, she would immediately give it this huge hug and giggle and smile.  It was adorable.

She pretty much got to the point where she couldn't sleep without it.  She slept with a lot of stuffed animals, but she would not go to sleep without her lamb.  Since she got it out of her crib everyday, we never knew where she ended up putting her lamb that day.  We always found it in the strangest places.  When I remembered to search for the lamb before putting her to bed, I would say "Callie, go get Lambie" and there she was off looking everywhere for it.  Of course she couldn't really remember where she last put it, but I always loved watching her look for it.  If I forgot to search for Lambie before putting her to bed, I would put her in her crib and she would sit up and just look at me like "um, aren't you forgetting something?"  I sometimes asked Cooper to get her Lambie for her or go get it myself.  When Justin would put her to bed at night, I always remember him calling out "can you get her Lamb??" And once we brought her Lambie to her, she would hug it and then lay down to go to sleep.  So sweet!

A lot of times she wanted Lambie to sit with her to eat. I never really liked that because I didn't want the Lamb to get food all over it.  But when I would take it away from her, she would get so upset!  It's funny because she wasn't the type of kid that got so mad when you took things from her.  She was laid back in that way.  But when it came to her Lamb, don't even think about taking that away from her.  She also wanted to take her lamb with her the first time she went to the beach.  I again didn't really want her to take it to the beach since I knew it would get sandy and dirty, but in the end it was so darn cute seeing her with her lamb at the beach. She wanted Lambie to enjoy her first beach experience too.

The Lamb is very special to us now.  The funeral director asked if she has a special stuffed animal that we wanted her to be buried with.  At first we told him about the lamb, but then we said we didn't want it to be buried with her as we wanted to keep it.  And we know that it's just her body there that is buried, we know she is with Jesus with all the lambs she wants, so we didn't see a point in burying it with her.  We did bring the lamb to her visitation and to her funeral.  I ended up putting it right in the middle of the flowers on her casket and it looked really sweet.  I wish I had gotten a picture of it.

** Update-thanks to my friend Staci for getting a picture for me....

We decided to have the lamb custom drawn on her stone because it has been so special to her and to us.  From the draft, it turned out really well and looks just like her lamb.  It takes a couple of months for the stone to come in, so it will be awhile before we see it.  It is a nice personal touch to her stone that we will see every time we visit her grave.

The first few weeks after Callie died, Justin had the Lamb sitting on his nightstand so he could see it all the time.  Then one day, Cooper picked up the lamb and said "this is Callie's" and put it back into her crib where he felt the lamb belonged.  So that is where it is now.  I'm not really sure what we will do with the lamb or where we will keep it long term, but I know it is a very special memory that the 3 of us have of her.  

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Beauty of Saying Something

If you have ever gone through a tragedy or hurtful situation, you see people respond in many different ways.  There have been people who have been so loving and thoughtful, that I wouldn't know how to make it through without these people.  Others have been silent.  Some people say the exact thing I needed to hear, and others say things that are hurtful.  And though there have been people who have said some dumb or hurtful things to me, I will not be writing a post about "what not to say to people who have lost a child".  You know those posts that are out there.  There is one about what not to say to to new moms, what not to say to adoptive moms, what not to say to working moms, stay at home moms, etc, and the list can go on.  As I'm sure these posts are helpful, I do feel like the majority of people say these things with good intentions and a sincere heart.  And when people do say something hurtful, we have to learn to give them GRACE.  What's worse, I fear that these types of posts make people shut down because they are so afraid to say the wrong things to each other.

I understand completely that people don't know what to say to me and they are scared they are going to say something wrong. But can I tell you what is more hurtful than someone saying something hurtful?  It's when people say NOTHING.  It's not what people have said that has been the most hurtful, it's what people haven't said that has been the most difficult thing to deal with.  After reading a few books about those who have lost a child, I realized I was not the only one who felt this way.  A continued pattern I saw was when people said nothing and would even just pretend like nothing happened, it added to their grief.  For someone you don't know very well a simple "I'm sorry for your loss" goes a long way.  Acknowledging that you are sorry and that this person experienced a great loss means a lot.  I would have people I didn't even know say this to me.  It's a short and simple phrase, but it's meaningful.  

I get that the reason why people don't say anything is that they don't want to bring it up to hurt me.  Maybe they think that I'm doing fine that day, and if this person brings it up to me that it will remind me of the loss and make me sad.  Can I tell you that there is no way I'm not thinking about Callie?  If someone does bring it up to me, I don't think "Oh I had just forgotten about it and now you reminded me of it and I'm sad"  It's always on my mind, so a person bringing it up to me will not cause more pain.  I may not feel like talking about it at the time, but just saying I'm sorry, I'm praying for you is very thoughtful. 

Even now almost 2 months after Callie's death, the texts messages I get, the cards in the mail, the hugs in person are incredibly meaningful.  Maybe even more meaningful than before.  It says something simple to says you're not alone, we care about you and we continue to pray for you.  People also asking how I'm doing is helpful.  If I don't feel like talking about it, I can say a simple statement and end with thanks for asking.  If I do want to talk about it, I can say more.  Even when I don't feel like talking about it, I never ever walk away from that conversation and think "I wish they never would have asked me how I'm doing."  I so appreciate the question even if I'm not up for talking about it.   I have one friend who almost every single time I see her, she asks me how I'm doing.  Whether in a group setting or alone, I know she is aware of my hurt and wants to know how I'm doing.

I do not write this to make anyone feel bad or to push people to say things to me.  Please don't hear that.  This has been heavy on my heart and something I have learned through my experience that I thought would be helpful for others to know when a tragedy occurs with another friend down the road.  I really only write this to make people aware that saying SOMETHING is always, always, better than saying nothing.  I also try not to judge too harshly when I come across people who don't say anything to me, as I know I have done that before.  I'm sure I have avoided people who are hurting because I was afraid to say the wrong thing.  I may have even been afraid to walk down that dark road with them.  I may have been trying to avoid awkwardness.  But now I know better.  I hope to never do that again with those that are hurting.  I have now learned that every person's effort to acknowledge my loss, no matter how small, and no matter how much time has passed, is significant and remembered.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Brother's Love

I started this post a few weeks ago but never got around to finishing it until now.  I haven't really felt like blogging lately mostly because I'm just SO tired.  I'm physically and emotionally exhausted.  When I had some time to write,  I just wanted to lay on the couch and take a nap.  All the shock has worn off and we are just exhausted from the whirlwind of the past month and half and what we have gone through.  I know that there are a many layers of grief and this is just one of them that is hitting us the past few weeks, just exhaustion.

After Callie died, I was very worried about Cooper.  It was hard to not only grieve for myself, but also grieve for him along with trying to be a good parent.  I knew he would be devastated about Callie since they spent every minute together and he adored her.  For their young age, they were exceptionally close.  Cooper has always had a very kind and compassionate heart, which has played a big part in his role of big brother.  It was so easy for him to care deeply for her and love being with her.  He is also very sensitive and has a hard time adjusting to change.  I thought this tragedy would be so hard for him to understand and it would destroy his little heart.  Thankfully, I was wrong...

Many people ask me how Cooper is doing. Surprisingly, he's doing really really well.  He has adjusted to the dramatic and sudden loss better than I could have ever hoped for.  The first 2 weeks were very hard and there were some rough moments, but after that he has been great.  The hardest moment we had was just a couple days after she died.  He woke up one morning asking about Callie. We explained to him again about how Callie died but that she is in heaven with Jesus.  He then laid on the floor and starting sobbing.   A very genuine cry of grief and a cry that I had never really heard him cry before.  As he was crying he said that he wanted to die so that he could be with Callie in heaven.  It was absolutely heartbreaking.  We tried to comfort him the best we could and Justin talked to him mostly as I just cried with him.  About 5 minutes later he bounced back and was over it just like a normal kid.  That moment was so hard to watch, but also I felt somewhat relieved to see him go through a moment of grief as it helped us know he is really understanding.  That was the only moment we have seen him truly grief over the loss of his sister.

I know there were/are many people praying for Cooper.  I was told many times that they were praying specifically for him and the Lord has done a work in his heart.  As I mentioned in a previous post about the viewing, I was so surprised to see how mature Cooper responded and how he seemed to truly understand what was happening when he saw her.   There is something so true and real about childlike faith.  The Lord gives children this understanding faith well beyond their years.  Cooper knows she is with Jesus in heaven and I believe it has brought him comfort.

Cooper does talk about Callie a lot and mentions her almost everyday which brings me joy.  There was a time when I felt so sad that Cooper seemed to have moved on so quickly and was doing so well.  I almost felt like he forgot about her, though I know that is not true.  I am SO glad that he is doing well and has adjusted to this tragedy better than expected,  but I also didn't want him to just move on and forget her.  I want him to always remember her and have special memories of her.  The other day, he was pretending to play with Callie.  It was so heartbreaking and so sweet all at the same time.  He mentions her name in passing a lot.  He will see something that was hers and say "that's Callie's"  or "Callie loves this".  He used to say things like "I want to play with Callie again"  or even ask if Callie is coming if we go somewhere, but as more time has passed,  he understands more and doesn't ask those type of questions.    Just this morning he was singing a song that he made up (something he does regularly with his guitar) and he was singing something about Callie and Jesus dying on the cross.  I couldn't understand all the words, but it was the sweetest song.

The first few weeks after Callie died, we naturally cried a lot and all the time.  Poor Cooper has such a sweet and sensitive heart that he always stops what he is doing when anyone cries and comes over to the person and usually just looks at them with compassion and sometimes ask if they are okay.  We would respond with we are just really sad because we miss Callie.  Sometimes he would say that he misses Callie too.  Other times he would say, "it's okay Mommy, Callie is with Jesus".  So sweet. We still cry a lot, but we are able to control it a lot more now.  Cooper will now come up to me randomly if I'm quiet and ask "Mommy, are you happy?"  It is such a heartbreaking question.  Of course I'm not happy, but I don't want him to think that I'm always sad.  I simply respond by telling him I'm so happy to be his Mommy.

I'm not naive to think that Cooper seems to be doing great and that he will be fine.  I know he will be fine as the Lord is so near to him and taking care of him.  But we also know he could be really affected by this loss.  He is already going through some extreme separation anxiety right now.  It's gotten much worse over the past month.  We pray daily for wisdom to love and parent Cooper well through this.  I think because Cooper acts so happy and normal right now, people assume he is back to normal.  And it's true, for the most part, you wouldn't be able to tell that he went through one of the hardest things a 3 year old can go through.  The Lord has given him such faith and I know he will be changed by this.  We know Callie's death has purpose.  We know it was not meaningless.  I believe the Lord will use this specifically in Cooper's life.  I don't know exactly how, but down the road, the Lord will use Cooper in other's lives.  I love how God created him with such a big heart with compassion and sensitivity towards others.  Please continue to pray for him and that the Lord would be near, that He would continue to give him faith in knowing that Callie is with Jesus, that he would preserve his memories of Callie, and that the Lord would use this in Cooper's life to draw him closer to the Lord and be used in other's lives through this.  God has great plans for Cooper and I can't wait to see it.