18 October 2010

Integrating Loss

Sometimes, the passage of time makes the loss feel more difficult to bear. Instead of giving me time to become accustomed to the fact that Ewan is not with us, I feel more new reasons to mourn the fact that he's gone. As we pass would-have-been milestones and significant markers in time, I think of how old he would have been, what he would have looked like. What we would be doing right now if he were at home with us.

He would be a month old now. Maybe we would be looking for the right pattern of sleep and waking and feeding. Maybe he would nap in my arms. Maybe he would make faces at me while he slept. Maybe he'd be wearing this or that little outfit. Maybe I'd be lamenting sore nipples or the lack of sleep. Maybe he'd smile at me.

3 days old

A friend and I were talking about loss and grief this weekend. She told me about a book she read that treats grief and loss not as something we mourn and eventually "get over," but as something we mourn that becomes a part of who we are. Instead of shaking it off, we assimilate it -- it becomes something that we learn to integrate into our identities and daily lives.

As difficult as it is to think of carrying grief around with me, the alternative is unrealistic and ultimately unthinkable. When we lose anyone we love deeply, it sounds simply ridiculous to me, this thought of "getting over it." Instead of attempting to shake off the burden that loss creates, we must learn to carry it, and in the learning, become strong enough to keep it with us always.

There are many things in the past month for which I was convinced I was not strong enough: an unmedicated birth, waiting a long night while Ewan had open-heart surgery and the outlook was grim, letting him go that last night in the hospital, and eventually burying him. I cannot tell you how many times I cried over and over from the very bottom of my soul: I can't do it!

And then I did. When someone tells me they could not have done what I did, I am compelled to tell them two things: first, it's amazing what you can do when you are called upon to do it. And secondly, I did not do it alone. It was only by the grace of God and an amazing network of support upholding me from every side that I was able to do any of what I did. It even sounds silly and a little untruthful to me to say "I did it," because I know just how weak I can be and how much help I needed.

As impossible as it sounds now, as much as I cry over and over how I cannot learn to carry this grief, I know that I will -- that just as Ewan was a part of me for ten months, the loss of Ewan will become a part of me. Just as I carried that swollen belly and learned to navigate through life with it, I will (with much help) learn to carry this, too.


Sarah said...

I love that picture of grief, love the thought of bringing it in to us and carrying it rather than letting it go. I'm sure there's still releasing involved, but of a less final kind.

But Kirsten, it so breaks my heart that you have to learn to carry this grief, this particular weight. I hurt for you, that you don't have Ewan, sore nipples, sleepless nights and all.

Know that I carry you close to my heart every day, that I give your name to Jesus over and over, because I don't know what you need but I know he does.

Anonymous said...

I have heard it said that "you don't know how strong you really are, until being strong is your only option"

My heart aches that you have to be strong. I still struggle with asking God why. Why Ewan? Why any child.

I lit a candle for Ewan last night. As I sat there in silence, saying a prayer for his soul, I watched the flame grow bright and high.

Shannon Egan

Unknown said...

Yes. That's right! Why are we expected to "get over" what we grieve? Our grief shapes our lives as surely as our celebrations. Our tears have as much, if not more impact than our laughter.

Your insight is certainly spirit led. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts and inspirations.

Love to you.

Sharron Hagen

terri said...

Beautiful Ewan...who would ever want to "get over" that luminous little boy?

Anonymous said...

That is what they mean when they say "He will always be apart of you, with you...".

It is the memory of the life that Ewan had that will integrate into your being, and all that happened on that last night is essentially part of the life that while so unimaginably short, held so much more meaning than the 45 some years I have spent here on this earth. It is the amazing being that your little warrior was, without words, without overt action,just by being and accepting the mission he was on here, that has literally changed the world around each and everyone of us...A ripple that will continually go out with each tide, return to the shore or our hearts and turn back again to expand his reach.

This is what you will integrate into that wise and humble heart of yours dear Kirsten. Ewan is already was an integral part of your being and now that part simply deepens.

Thinking of you and praying continually.

Momma, PhD said...

I'm still thinking of you and Ewan often. I read your words and look at images of Ewan, thinking, "He was alive! He was here! Now her baby is gone!" I cannot fathom it.

I have trouble checking your blog- sometimes I avoid it, because the magnitude of your loss is unfathomable to me. Given how hard it it for me to look at images of Ewan and contemplate his passing, I cannot imagine what you are going through.

I remember him. I think of him. I pray for you.

May the Holy Spirit be with you and grant you a measure of peace as you assimilate your grief.

Kristin said...

I prayed for you on the way to work this morning...your son is beautiful and it is an honor to pray for you.

The Hands said...

You have such a beautiful way of expressing what you are going through. I am a fellow CHD mom.

I have a favor to ask. I have been asked to speak about grief and suffering to a college counseling class. What you are going through is what so many CHD parents dread. Could I use portions of your blog as I speak to this class? Please email me at tahand(at)hotmail(dot)com. Thank you and my prayers continue to be offered up for you and your family.
Angie Hand

Rebecca said...

That is a beautiful picture of grief, Kirsten. Thank you for sharing it and for teaching me more about how to live and love.

It would seem wrong, somehow, to 'get over' Ewan's death, for you or for each of us who loved him. I don't think Ewan can be 'gotten over'.

I hate that instead of carrying your sweet boy, you are carrying this grief. I hate that all the wonderful milestones and celebrations of your firstborn are causing you pain instead of joy. I hate that you have to wonder what would have drawn out his first smile and inspired his first laugh. How i wish you could know, instead. There will never, ever be an explanation that takes away the pain, even though I do trust that God is good.

Kirsten, the beauty of your soul, the glory of Christ shining through you, is astounding. And, as this grief become part of who you are, not just a burden you carry, I know your beauty will only deepen.

Tiffany said...

Thank you to your friend. Everyone needs a friend like that and I agree.

I don't think that grief is something you can get used to, instead you get used to and it becomes familiar. With time, you laugh again, smile again and breath breathes that are not jagged with pain because the grief is part of who you are. It represents the intensity of your love for your love one, your pride of who they are and the life they had.

If you don't mind and would identify the book, it may be helpful to others too.

Prayers and compassion,

Nadine said...

You're such a beautiful person, inside and out! Love you lots, and praying for you often!!! Many hugs for you both!! <3

HennHouse said...

I like that idea, too.

Love you.

And as always, we're praying.

Ingrid's Organic Body Care said...

we are thinking of you amdist the milestones as well, when we see a new baby we pray for you, when we see a little one in a baby bjorn, we pray for you, when we think of the joys of life we also remember that at the very moment someone is in sorrow and we think of you and james and pray for you.

Melissa said...

Have you ever read the book Hinds' Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard? If you haven't, I'd recommend it. It's not really related to this post, and the book doesn't directly relate to what you're going through, but I'm re-reading it for the fifth time or so, and you've been so much on my heart and mind as I've been doing so, I just felt God asking me to pass that on to you. Praying for you...
"Let Sorrow do its work, send grief or pain; Sweet are Thy messengers, sweet their refrain. If they but work in me, more love, O Christ to Thee, More love to Thee, More love to Thee."

Unknown said...

Kristen, I have been reading your posts daily as if it were scripture! You have moved me and your son has awoken a prayer that I didn't know I had in me! I am thankful for your family! In my life I have suffered many loses: of friends, uncles, Grandparents, my dear Father, and the lose of a pregnancy that never came even close to term!

I agree that we grieve and continue to carry it with us, my grief has taken many shapes and purposes in my life. Grief is so different for each of us. I just pray you know this feeling of looking at what he would be doing or where you would be at with him here is hard to move through, and that you know you are not alone! I pray though that your pain of what could have been or should have been finds peace. I played that role for many years after each loss I suffered and it is still one of my hardest to not think the fantasy is reality. I wish you would not have had to experience this kind of a loss! I wish no mother had to know this kind of pain! It makes me so angry and feel so helpless that all the prayers and all these lives you all have touched was not enough to keep your Angel physically here! But I am eternally thankful that you shared and continue to share with us! You are an amazing soul and child of God! He smiled upon your husband an you in giving you such a remarkable Child!

Your son has effected more people in his small window of life than most of us pray our own do in 50 years! This is not the end for his soul but yet the transition into what he may do on the spiritual level! A sister in the Lord,
I pray for you all daily! May your days get lighter and your nights be filled with visions of your son and the miracles he is working! May you feel all the love that your readers are sending you!
Nicole- a friend of the Oshiers!

Unknown said...

You're a new person. Your life will forever be a before and after. I came to the conclusion that I was different, but it didn't all have to be in a bad way. You're different, but you're still amazing. <3

christianne said...

It is a continual marvel to me how beautiful you are. The way God has graced you to navigate this grief in a way that allows you to share it with us in nothing short of that: grace.

I ache with you these losses. I wish more than anything he was here for you to hold him in your arms and get to know him.

I have no words to offer you. Only this love.


natalie said...

I've read, but tried not to comment because every time I'm here, I sob the cries of a mother who has lost. We have a healthy five year old daughter, but have struggled to get pregnant since her birth. We lost several babies...babies we loved from the moment we knew God had given them to us until...well, now. One thing I discovered as I dealt with grief is that it wasn't something I passed through. Friends shared the "phases" of grief, but I found that mine was in waves. I might be alright one day (one moment) and then on my knees begging for mercy as I sobbed at the foot of the cross. I can not, could not, will never be able to carry the burden of my grief on my own. I didn't carry either of those babies to term...I never felt them in my arms, never saw their puckered faces, but I loved them. Oh, how I loved them and how I still cry for their loss. The Lord has finally given us another baby--due in 4 weeks...a miracle, honestly. Something we thought would never happen. It is only by Him and through Him that our family has survived the past few years. I am praying for you, Sister. I am praying for your broken heart, for your aching arms, for your tearfilled eyes.


Anonymous said...

I am so very sorry for your loss. I don't know you or your family; but your posts have brought me to tears several times. I cannot begin to tell you howo much my heart aches for your loss. A mother should have her baby and should have to deal with post baby blues along side the loss of your baby. Please know that he will forever smile down upon and you and no action you do will not be without his loving guidance. Stay strong in your resolve. So sorry...

JD said...

I really liked this post. A great way to look at this journey ... you'll never "be over" Ewan being out of your arms. It will become a part of you that changes you for the rest of your life. So many of your words rang true to what I've gone through in the last six months too - dealing with postpartum issues and all the strength I received from those around me.

Once again, your words bring me comfort in a time when they are written for you to describe your journey.

Shay said...

simply beautiful! I love reading every word you write...it helps me know how to pray. as you have been given the strength to handle so many things, I know God will continue to give you the strength and everything else you need as you navigate through life and deal with all the comes your way. your grace and strength are God-given and an inspiration to me. thinking of you and praying for you daily...lots of love and hugs...xoxoxoxo

Kristy Z. said...

I completely understand this picture of grief. I lost my brother to cancer when I was 19 and he was 16. I am 33 now, and I know it changed the person that I am today. For years I wanted to introduce myself something like this, "Hi, I'm Kristy and my brother died of cancer." It sounds ridiculous, except that it really did change who I am. I am a person who appreciates people in my life MUCH more than if I had never experienced the loss. I completely agree that my losing a brother became a part of me, as you so eloquently explained it. I know that it is not as hard as losing a child would be. I think about you often and pray for you and your husband. Bless you. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Family of Ewan,

Yesterday, my husband and I attended a memorial for all ICN (NICU) babies that died in our hospital. It was a wonderful and sad service. There was such a sense of loss and yet community with these other families. The closing words of the service were from a Winne the Pooh book (author
A. A. Milnes).

"If ever there is tomorrow when were are not together, there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is even if we're apart, I'll always be with you."

With love, prayers and hope

An Okie's Mama said...

As I have prayed for you and your family, a line of a song has continually popped into my head. Today I actually looked up the song to see who sings it. It's called "Held" by Natalie Grant. In reading your blog tonight, in which you wrote of how you integrate something you mourn into your daily life and then when you wrote of the grace of God and a network of support upholding you, I was reminded of the song again and felt compelled to share it with you. The song is about the loss of a child and being held through it (I wanted to warn you of that, in case you aren't up to hearing something like it at this moment). I continue to pray for you.
In Christ,

Stefenie said...

You always have a beautiful way of putting your thoughts into words.

Praying for you as you embark on this new journey without Ewan. I think you are so very fortunate to have an amazing support group to uplift you and allow you to share your grief with them. It breaks my heart that there are so many mommas out there with empty arms but I am thankful that you have found each other. I know that no one can truly understand the depths of pain you feel like they can.

Anonymous said...

Im sorry about the loss of your precious little baby. I like what the booking is saying by what you wrote. Could you tell me the name of that book please?