Grief’s Vibration

Today I found out I knew someone personally on MH17.

My heart goes out to all the family, friends and people affected.

 

Shock again.

Nathalie Himmelrich Q15I know the people who are in shock, reeling with the unbelievable reality of never being able to see her again.

I know the people affected by her death.

I know their journey will be through grief’s barren land.

I feel for them. I feel with them.

Grief vibrates through time and space.

Just yesterday we spoke about the world wide impact of yet another tragedy involving a Malaysian plane with hundreds of innocent people. I was contemplating what the people would have felt or seen prior to their death. My husband, well read and informed as usual, explained that they wouldn’t have seen it coming and died instantly.

The day before yesterday, upon finding out about the tragedy and reading some news on the internet (which I rarely do, due to the unsettling impact is has on me) I had to stop reading a graphic description of what was found on the ground. I was thinking about the people on the ground, finding human debris in their backyard. They are affected too. They deal with trauma.

Knowing someone personally has brought this a bit closer to my heart. I know the people around her from the days I worked with her and them. The people affected through her lacking presence at work… her family. I’m in shock.

Grief vibrates through time and space.

Grief and its relatives has caught up with me. Not all of them are present. I’m not sad. I’m paralysed by shock and disbelief.

Grief vibrates with any loss previously experienced, wether we lost someone or something.

About being strong

Recently, upon a post “Choosing to remember reflect and re-connect 30 months and a rose for my mum” one of my supportive readers commented: “Be strong my friend”. I have to say, I’m neither strong nor weak. I just am. In the moment. With what is. Strong or weak is a measurement upon personal characteristics of what ‘being strong’ or ‘weak’ means to the observers.

I do neither wish a bereaved person to be strong, nor weak.
I do wish them to be allowed (by themselves and others) to be. Just be.

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Losing Hope – 3 years ago…

The following I wrote 3 years ago:

pregnant belly in front of sunrise

The journey…

Yesterday I struggled not to lose hope.

As most of you know by now I’m pregnant with twin girls. Today it’s 26 weeks. I’m writing this note to you today as I cannot fathom talking about this more than is already happening in my head, and sooner or later one of you will ask me ‘How are the twins?’

In our 19 weeks scan we were told that one of our twins showed abnormalities in her kidneys. After our scan the girls got fed up of being called ‘twin 1’ and ‘twin 2’ and we chose Angel cards to give them ‘names in utero’. Since then we have been referring to them as Passion and Hope – very synchronistic as twin 2 chose Hope and she’s the one dealing with her malformed kidneys.

Basically the doctors and specialists couldn’t say for sure but mentioned that Hope showed cysts in both of her kidneys. They gave us worst case scenarios which I basically just didn’t take on, knowing that this is just one moment in time and things can change. Well, in the last 7 weeks they have not changed much and after our scan and specialist’s appointment yesterday they told us that it is very likely that Hope will be born with little or no kidney function. This might mean that she might live for hours/days/months and that the most likely neonatal management will be palliative care.

This time it hit me hard. This time I understood that there is no operation or care that could help a newborn with this condition. I also got to realise that as long as Hope is in utero the placenta is taking over the kidney function and she is still with me – for now.

I’m writing this note to you as I want you to know that my intent is to be with whatever this process has to offer me. I’m open to feel joy as both girls are moving inside me, and also the pain, hopelessness, sadness, grief, anger at the unfairness – basically whatever is coming, I’m open to it. Some days I might be sad, some days I might not, any day as it comes and goes.

I’m not looking for your advice or suggestions. Even though they are well meant, sentences like ‘At least you’ve got another healthy baby’ are also not mending the feelings I have for Hope. Don’t be afraid to talk to me about the situation, if you can handle and accept where I am at any point. Please accept my state, you don’t need to fix or solve anything for me. Some days I might want to talk about it, some days I might prefer not.

I have no expectation from you with this note besides that I want you to know where I am at. Pregnancy and birth is in many cases a joyous experience. At times it is for me and at times it is mixed with a lot of sadness and sorrow – at least for me…
I’m reminded of one of my dearest poems:

On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Kahlil Gibran

We might lose Hope and still be reminded to never be able to lose hope.
All Love,
Nathalie & Chris, Hope & Passion

Teach – Educate – Show – Guide

Recently, there were many comments in the bereavement community about how some (many?) grieving parents feel a lack of support and care from friends, family and the medical support team. This can create additional painful emotions that add to the grieving process.

Dr. Claire from Return to Zero

Dr. Claire from Return to Zero

Today there was post on Return to Zero (the movie)’s Facebook page about Dr. Claire, the very caring doctor in the film in response to Tina’s comment:

This post today is for Tina. We need care givers to be more like Dr. Claire and less like her nurse. Maybe if the care givers see RTZ and spend some time with our community their hearts will open.

“The nurse asked me how many children I have and I said 5. I told her I have 3 living and twins that were born prematurely and passed away very soon after birth. Her response was “Oh they don’t count hon.”

“My heart shattered into a million pieces all over again. I wanted to scream at her and tell her yes they do count. Just because they are my Angel babies they still lived and grew inside of me. That they have a family that loves and misses them every single day. They have names and a birth date that we have a birthday celebration for every year.

“I didn’t scream though, I just waited until we were done and went and cried my eyes out in my car. I’m not strong enough yet to yell at someone being so heartless. But I know someday I will be.”

– Tina

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It is Time.

It saddens my heart that grieving parents need to experience added pain to their loss. I am sorry for your loss, Tina and your secondary losses.

This is what I wrote as a comment to the post shared below:

I had amazing support on my journey and part of it was due to me clearly stating what it was we needed – as much as I knew at that time.
I believe the way to decrease the helplessness, lack of understanding and acceptance is by teaching medical support and society in general about HOW to be empathetic with the grieving.
Most of the time it isn’t lack of good intent but helplessness, overwhelm with the situation, lack of understanding and/or acceptance. Nurses, doctors, social workers might not have experienced what we have so they need us to tell and show them what it is we needed most.
All in all, I bow in respect to those who have chosen to be there in support
I know they do the best with the resources they have at the time. Let’s give them more resources to do better in future! 

Sadly, and often spoken from a place of emotionality, grieving parents not only use words that widen the gap between what they have experienced and what they would like to experience but also alienate those who we need to support us: our family, friends and the medical team. As much as I understand where they are coming from – and let me tell you I have been there too – I have come to understand a different power: the power of turning whatever I have experienced into something meaningful, to use the gift of any painful experience and transform it.
So, even if my care was an exception, which I don’t believe, how can we make it the rule?
By teaching, educating, showing and guiding those, who haven’t been in our shoes to help them understand and accept what it means to walk our path.
Are you joining me?

I am here now

griefquoteI have been sharing a lot here on this blog about my journey with grief. I also want to share with you the journey towards the beautiful gift that came with it: the publishing of my first book Grieving Parents: Surviving Loss as a Couple

The intent of the book is to allow couples to work towards a healthy grieving process, even while they are in it. I envisage parents receiving so much understanding, acceptance and support by reading the book, that they feel encouraged to share it with others. I envisage these parents to donate books to hospitals, bereavement centres, social work departments, OB offices etc of their choice, in honour of their baby/child.

The planned publication date is Sept, 1st 2014 – in honour of the birth of my daughters Ananda Mae, turning three this year and Amya Mirica, always in our hearts.

¸.•´*¨`*•✿ Nathalie Himmelrich
❥ My website: www.nathaliehimmelrich.com
❥ About the book: www.grievingparents.net

~ share to care ♥ care to share ~

I am here now
Grief has made me more real
more myself than I have ever been
I can be true to myself
and disappoint another
because I stood eye to eye with death
I handed over my daughter
to be the soaring spirit
she was meant to be
and even though I was disappointed
(and that’s mildly put)
I knew she was and always has been
True to her own soul
~ Nathalie Himmelrich

The quote is part of the interview series on ‘Grieving Parents dealing with the Loss of their Child’ which will become part of the forthcoming book ‘Grieving Parents: Surviving Loss as a Couple’. Find out more about the book on the links above and the following FB pages:
http://www.facebook.com/grievingparents.net
http://www.facebook.com/nathaliehimmelrich

Photo by Luch Bernhard Photography, Byron Bay

Making and Changing Meaning

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Make meaning.

In the support group I went to for parental bereavement one man shared about the meaning of the pain he felt for losing his daughter. When people, in a well-meant attempt to console say, “time heals all wounds” he realised that he did not want this wound to heal as it was his way to be connected to his daughter.

During the first week after giving birth, while still in hospital and having my younger twin still laying in the baby’s morgue upstairs, I had someone saying those exact words to me. I know he meant well and in his world these words must have had meaning, but they just clashed harshly with the raw and open wound in my heart.

Besides the fact that this cliché is, in my opinion, totally uncalled for to say to recently bereaved parents it is an interesting neurological connection that happens when all we remember about our babies who died too soon is the pain we felt in those moments. The pain of not being able to see the child grow up, celebrate birthdays, see their first steps, hear their first words…

It is normal to loop around those saddening thoughts of missing and missing out. If this however is your only experience you might want to ask yourself about the meanings you have created so far and whether they still serve you.

I could write a book about the thoughts that were running through my brain at that time. This is part of why experiencing grief is so tiring, emotionally, mentally and physically. The amount of energy we spend on playing through those movies is huge. It takes a toll on our life. It definitely didn’t help the tiredness of sleepless nights that I experienced while breast-feeding my dead baby’s twin sister.

Some bereaved parents have started charities, fundraiser or made other contributions in the name of their babies who died. Some have come created a meaning of leaving a legacy in their child’s name or living a life to make their child proud. This might take a while, or it might not.

Creating meaning is an advantage we, as conscious human beings, have. The meaning of being pregnant will be different if you are 17 and didn’t plan it to when you’re 40 and just had your 13th attempt at IVF (in vitro fertilization). The meaning of having a child will be different if you know you are a single mum to when you know you have the full support of a loving husband and grandparents.

We create meaning. Even in the examples above the meaning from one person will be different the meaning of another experiencing the same.

Stay tuned to the forthcoming book Grieving Parents: Surviving Loss as a Couple with its full chapter on Making and Changing Meanings –> check www.GrievingParents.net for updates

Some of the amazing fundraiser and charity and other contributions are:

Please mention your fundraiser, charity or other contribution in the comments!
Photo: Michael Goh, Perth

 

How Long Are You Meant to Grieve?

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Photo Credit: Michael Goh, Perth

I’ve been pondering the question: How long are we meant to grieve? Not due to society or other things outside of ourselves.
How long are you meant to grieve for yourself?
How long are you meant to do or not do anything?

I read the following words this week. They might help you ponder your timeline of grief:

What is your experience? As much as others experience too…
In some way you
Might never ‘get over’ important loss
It will inevitably change you
You do however have the choice
Whether this change is for the better

Sometimes the weight of your grief
Overcomes you
One day will be better
One day worse
Allow it
And feel the pain

You will notice
That you doubt your resilience
Be patient
And become clear that grief
Even though it needs time
Brings healing in the end

Allow yourself to feel better again
To laugh with friends and have fun
Your life is full and fulfilled
To live is not an unfaithful betrayal of a memory
But a fulfilment of a promise to someone
Who only wishes the best for you

There might be a small place within you
Which will remain void
Appreciate its value
A stillness
An emptiness remaining may be the way
To keep in connection with them

If you feel
That your pain has robbed your life
Of any direction, purpose or joy
Reveal your emptiness
Take note
Write, talk, live

Life counts,
No matter how long or short it is
And it remains
Trust yourself and your heart
And that your life
Counts too, today, everyday

It may seem
That you never again will be happy
Be sure, that you will be
And that your joy will have a richness and depth
That knows is stems from your deep pain and your deepest healing.

Remember the reasons to live
There will be reasons now
You have got a future ahead of you
That is worth to persevere
And you deserve to find renewed purpose and joy in your life.

Remember your self, grieve… but also live.

 

 

The Gift to Myself

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It is Time.

As part of the writing for my forthcoming book “Grieving Parents – Surviving Loss As A Couple” I have been conducting many interviews with other bereaved parents. I have spoken to fathers and mothers in various relationship structures at the time and following their loss.

I have been giving a Gift to Myself. Let me tell you how:

Communicating with these beautiful parents I noticed the way in which my whole body relaxed. Reflecting on their experience, opening into their emotions and truly being present to them allowed me to realise those aspect of my journey that somehow resonated. Even though the stories might not have been similar, there was a recognition on another level. My neurology settled and calmed down. Thoughts like “Ok, so that’s normal” or “Me too” or simply nodding my head in agreement where signs of recognition.

Recently I have been re-listening to those interviews and even though I knew their story, I noticed this calming effect again.

That wasn’t exactly my story but there is so much I can relate to.

– Sean Hanish

Speaking to Sean Hanish, director and producer of the first feature film on Stillbirth “Return To Zero” he expressed the exact same experience while talking to people he recently met on the premiere of his film. Carrie and Jonathan Fisher-Pascual confirmed this from their work with bereaved parents for their Project STILL.

Isn’t it time to stop thinking of bereaved parents as a bunch of sad people and learn how to be emphatic with them, with us? Start with yourself, if you are a bereaved parent and connect, communicate with others who understand and together let’s tell the world.

www.grievingparents.net