25th July 2009

It’s often been said that a mother should never have to bury her children. It is wrong that the person who brought you into the world, should also have to see you out of it. However, it is equally sad when the oldest sibling outlives her younger brothers.
It isn’t just sad, it is tragic. And life seems so unfair.
Five years ago today we left the waiting room to say our goodbyes to one of the most gorgeous men I was privileged to share my life with. Continue reading

Butterflies and umbilical cords

Image from Morguefile

ImagePerceptions of Reality speaks about defining moments on her blog post A Defining Moment.  One line in her writing struck a chord within me. On speaking of her second miscarriage, she says “He obviously didn’t see our hearts connected through the umbilical cord”. She said this in response to an insensitive doctor’s remarks. It got me thinking about pregnancy loss (or miscarriage) and the effect it has on those mothers – both physically and mentally.

It is so easy for those who have not suffered loss (particularly doctors) to dismiss the feelings of a mother who has miscarried in the early stages of her pregnancy. Hearing words such as “you weren’t really that pregnant yet” or “it happens in two out of three pregnancies” is not a balm to a grieving heart. Because mothers grieve regardless of how far along they are in their pregnancy – be it one week or one month. As soon as they see that little line on the pregnancy test that tells them they are going to be a mother, they start loving the little being growing inside and making plans for their future. The being that is a part of them and the man that they love. The connection has been formed by their hearts through the umbilical cord.

Losing a baby, whether once, twice or even more can often be the catalyst for a trip down depression lane. Losing a baby makes a woman question herself and her abilities. She begins to question whether it is something she has done – or not done that caused her baby to leave her. She becomes wracked with guilt and anger. She sees mothers heavily pregnant or pushing prams and wonders why she can’t have a child. She feels guilty for not being happy for new mothers that she knows, and feels that there is something wrong with her for feeling that way. She is angry when she sees a parent scolding their child thinking that they don’t deserve the child they have. She cries at news stories of children who have been abused or murdered by their parents and wonders why God is punishing her and not them. She feels her life spiralling out of control. She blames herself for not being able to give the man she loves a son to carry on his family name. She becomes moody and disconnected.

Some women continue TTC (trying to conceive) and become obsessed with charting temperatures and lovemaking at the most opportune time. And each time a loss occurs, a part of them dies as well. Sometimes, a miscarriage means time in hospital or hours spent in an emergency room. It may even threaten the life of the mother but still she continues to hope and pray for another baby. Until the day her doctor tells her that her body can’t do this any more and she has to stop. And her world spirals downward….

And the Tween grows up with no younger siblings.

Tips on planning a funeral

Remember the other day when I mentioned that a colleague had asked me some questions in relation to planning a funeral. At the time I didn’t really know what to say however early the next morning I jotted a few things down, printed out some order of services and then put them all in an envelope for her. I hope they helped her. I know she got them because there was a note jotted on the faxed timesheet she sent in thanking me for doing it.
So what did I write? Here are my tips for anyone planning a funeral:

  • Don’t be afraid to lean on anyone to help you do this
  • If you have the opportunity to ask your loved one what they want at their funeral, do so.
  • Do your best to accommodate their wishes
  • Arrange for someone who knows your loved one well to do the eulogy. It is so much more personal than having the funeral director do it.
  • Be prepared for the person doing the eulogy (or any other speaker) to crumble and have someone prepared to stand by and help them out.
  • Make sure all speeches etc are written out so that someone else can step in and finish if they need to.
  • Think about having an ‘open mike’ for those attending so that they can share their memories also.
  • Play some of your loved one’s favourite music. At one of my brother’s funerals, his coffin was carried into the chapel on his surfboard whilst Surfin’ USA was played. At my baby brother’s funeral, there was an eclectic mix of music that reflected his life.
  • Try to incorporate the wishes of immediate family as much as possible
  • Keep in mind that grief can turn some people into real asses.
  • If the opportunity arises to have the service videoed then do it! It helps in the grieving process. And also the day passes in such a blur that things are often forgotten. The video helps.
  • Don’t be “steam-rollered” by funeral directors. Stand your ground on your wishes (as long as they aren’t unreasonable).
  • Consider whether you want an open casket prior to the service beginning.
  • Consider dressing your loved one in their favourite clothes. (We dressed my little brother in his Parramatta Eels jersey).
  • Think about the wake. Do you want to have a big wake for everyone afterwards or maybe just light refreshments in the chapel grounds or hall and a quiet family ‘wake’ afterwards.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for the flowers from the top of the casket after it is all over. These flowers can be given to someone or shared amongst the family members.
  • Consider placing a nice framed photo of your loved one either on the coffin or beside it during the service.
  • Don’t be pressured into spending more on a casket than you can afford.

I know that this type of post is a little odd but death is an unfortunate fact of life and at some stage or other, we will all face dealing with loss and planning the goodbyes for a loved one. It helps to have a list compiled by those who have done this before to get you through.
So have I missed anything? Or is there anything else that I can add to my list?

Difficult discussions

ImageThis afternoon a colleague at work who is having a difficult time right now came in. Her father is dying. I went to give her a hug and reminded her just how strong she is but that it’s alright to be upset. Normally when she is in the building, it rings with the sounds of her laughter. Not so today. She went about her work and so did I. As I was leaving this afternoon she called me over and asked me one of the most difficult things I think I have ever had to answer. “How do you go about planning a funeral”? She continued that she knew I had been heavily involved in the planning of the funeral for my baby brother and wondered how I did it. I gave her a few general answers and told her that I would help her in any way that I could.

Now that I am home, I have thought about a few things that I could have said but I will jot them down and share them with her later. Provided she is there tomorrow. That’s entirely dependent on how much longer her father is with us.

When I came home I went looking for the Order of Services from the funerals of my grandmother and baby brother so I can show them to her tomorrow. She wants to make things as personal as she can for her father’s farewell and is interested to see what I put together for the funerals of my loved ones. I couldn’t find my hard copies (they must be in a box somewhere safely stored away) so I searched my external hard drive for the digital files to email to myself at work. Whilst I was searching I found copies of eulogies I have delivered and also the closing remarks I gave at Peter’s funeral. I’ll share those thoughts with you toward the end.

My whole point of this post is to wonder how we deal with difficult discussions in our life (such as the one I had this afternoon). Do we tend to gloss over things for fear of hurting the other person or do we stick strictly to the facts? Do we tell them what we think they might want to hear or do bludgeon them with the truth. Of course I had to be truthful with some aspects e.g. the high costs involved but I side-stepped other issues because I was uncomfortable and I knew that I shouldn’t be. I am honoured that she asked me but scared of saying the wrong thing. Tell me, how do you handle difficult discussions? I truly would like to know.

In closing I would like to share some of my closing remarks from my brother’s funeral. When I consider that I spoke them three ago, I am floored because my thoughts are no different today than they were then.

“As I was lying in bed this morning with a thousand thoughts running through my head, I thought of this quote that I have read hundreds of times:

‘Life is too short for drama and petty things, so kiss slowly, laugh insanely, love truly, and forgive quickly.’

This week has taught me that it is the little things in life that count.  I remember a conversation that Peter had with (the Tween) one afternoon when she came home and said that she hated someone at school.   He spoke to her about what a horrible word ‘hate’ was. He explained that nothing or nobody in life is that bad that we should hate them. We can dislike them certainly but hate is a strong word. Hate has caused wars and countless, senseless acts. The last conversation I had with Peter was whilst he was in hospital, and we both told each other how much we loved each other. That is one of my treasured memories. So, I have made a conscious decision to not waste my time on the petty things in life. Life is too short. I think we’ve seen just how short it can be. And how quickly things can change our world. Life is for telling the people we love just how much they mean to us. It is for enjoying the sunshine and the breeze on our face. It is for seeing the beauty in the ordinary. It is for making each day count. It is for laughing and taking joy in the everyday moments. So if there is one thing we can take from our experiences with Peter, it is that he was not afraid of living and he enjoyed every moment of it. I have one final quote that I found yesterday. It is called ‘When I am Gone’.

When I am gone

When I am gone, release me – let me go. I have so many things to see and do. You must not tie yourself to me with tears. Be happy that we had so many years. I gave you love. You can only guess how much you gave me in happiness. I thank you for the love each have shown but now it is time that I travelled alone. So grieve awhile for me if grieve you must, then let your grief be comforted by trust. It is only for a while that we must part, so bless those memories within your heart. I will not be far away, for life goes on. So if you need me, call and I will come. Though you cannot see or touch me, I will be near. And if you listen with your heart, you will hear. All of my love around you,  soft and clear. Then when you must come this way alone, I will greet you with a smile and ‘Welcome Home’.

Have a blessed day 🙂

Remembering our Losses

ImageWhen we lose those we love, many of us wish to honour their memory in some way. It’s not enough to grieve and remember, sometimes we need to have a tangible reminder that those we have lost were once a part of our lives. As I write this, I look to the top of my computer desk and see photos of my brothers who are no longer with us. David (my younger brother)  left us over 20 years ago but I still remember saying goodbye to him as if it were yesterday. Damien (my stepbrother) who was taken by Leukaemia. In the photo I have of him, he is in his hospital bed beside a smiling Alfie Langer (an Australian football legend). Then there is my little bro in the frame I made of buttons smiling at me wearing his glasses and false teeth (both of which he hated wearing). Behind these photos are dried flowers from the corsage that adorned his coffin. Sadly we lost Peter after he contracted Swine Flu. His defenses were already weakened from his battle with Leukaemia and GVH (graft versus host) and he stood no chance.

I have lost more than siblings. I have lost my beloved grandmother and other loved ones including babies. The graphic above is a digital scrapbook layout created on the second anniversary of our first loss.

“Today marks the second anniversary of the day you left my body. I know your spirit had gone in the days before but today is the anniversary of the day we had to say goodbye to the baby we had begun to love. The jasmine bush that the Scrap Heap Inspiration Team gave me is in bloom once again and I smell its sweet fragrance and remember the feeling of you growing inside me. Today, I not only remember you my angel but the four other angels that we never met as well. I always wanted a large family but I guess not all of you were meant to be here with me. We don’t love any of you any less than if we were able to meet you and hold you in our arms. Take care my butterflies”

When we moved home, we had to leave the jasmine bush behind. It is still growing beside the front door of the house we left behind and it no doubt still flowers and sends its beautiful fragrance wafting through the door each October.

I keep other physical reminders of those I love as well. Each year when we put up our Christmas Tree, I place ornaments representing those I have lost on the top of the tree right near the angel. In my mind, it is important to remember those we have lost. It is just as important to move through our grief and live our lives once more. All the what ifs and longing in the world won’t bring back those who have left us. Each day, we put one foot in front of the other and move forward.

We need to stop with the blame game as well. If only I’d done this…. or that…. I wish I’d called more often… I never told him/her that I loved them…. None of this is doing anyone any good. Channel some love back toward yourself. Forgive yourself. Be kind to yourself. Wake up each day and breathe. That is all that anyone can ask of you.

Grief is a process. It takes time to heal from it. Sometimes years. I still cry for my lost babies and it has been almost 10 years. For those of you grieving (and I know there are many of you amongst my readers), I am sending you a virtual hug. Take care of yourselves and above all be kind to yourself.

Have a blessed day :P)

Why don’t we talk about it?

In this current age of enlightenment, instant gratification and social media, it appears that nothing is a taboo subject. It used to be that you never discussed religion or politics however if we wish to rant about politicians, political footballs or the private lives of world leaders nothing stands in our way today. Religion is preached not only in churches or other holy halls, but from many other media platforms as well.

So if we are so open about previously taboo subjects, why are there still elephants in the room? Continue reading

The Waiting Room

It looks just like you would expect a waiting room to look. Comfortable looking chairs in groups along the right wall encircling low tables. Perfect for family groups to spend time chatting with each other. Potted plants scattered throughout and tea and coffee making facilities off to the left hand side for those wishing to make their own rather than take the trip downstairs to the food court area. Continue reading