Greif

I got you girl

I got you girl. This is one of the most encouraging phrases that I hear.  My coworker and friend, Jessica Swiger, says it to me.  She says this when she has my back.  And it’s not that she says she has it. She legitimately has it 100%.  Whether it’s a project, task, conversation, or a needed break.  When I articulate some form of need or stress, she says, “I got you girl,” and then takes it on.  It’s so freeing because I trust when she uses that phrase that she really will come through.

As this grief week has kicked into high gear, I’ve been struggling. And when I mentioned I was not doing great, Jessica would say, “I got you girl,” and then proceeded to give me the rest of the night off so that I could engage the grief that seemed to be taking over.

Yesterday this happen again when another coworker and friend, Ben White, took on a fairly extensive assignment I had signed us up for.  I felt like it would be a great event, but the idea of standing at a table talking about FG seemed overwhelming when the grief that day was so strong.  So he sent me a text that essentially said the same thing, “I got you girl.” And he proceeded to go in early that morning to the local event, set up a table to promote First Glance, and stayed there for the next four hours so that I could have the morning to do other FG work and to care for myself.  

Later that morning I got this picture from the two of them as they represented First Glance well and gave me space to do what I needed.  “I got you girl,” and they really did.  

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Enoch’s birthday is tomorrow, I wrestle with grief and having moments of frustration that it’s taking over.  But I am so grateful for those who step in and say, “I got you girl.”  I’m grateful for Ben & Jess and also for the culture of our FG staff that continues to support each other in this way.  Additionally, we have had several others who love and care for us and step in, in amazing ways.  One woman reached out while writing this and out of blue asked if she could make or send us dinner next week.  There is nothing more encouraging than the “I got you girl” and they really do!    

Mother’s Day… I don’t deserve

This week I wrestled with grief.  Especially Tuesday, May 8th, a day that marked exactly 172 weeks (or 29 months) since Enoch was born.  The 8th coming on a Tuesday and in the same week of Mother’s Day was especially hard.  I canceled all my meetings, laid in bed and did very little besides eating my feelings.  

I’m hiding away on this Mother’s day, my third since he was born and 4th since finding out I was pregnant.  I needed a vacation. Plus it’s Tim and I’s 18th anniversary.  So we are away, and I’m reflecting on this day that celebrates being a mom.  

Believe me when I say there is still plenty of eating my feelings and a heavy heart as being a mom looks different than I anticipated.  Especially today as I am remembering how it was exactly three years ago when Tim and I just found out we were pregnant and were picking names for this little baby to come.  We decided on the name Trinity if it were a girl, and the boys name was still up for debate, despite Tim’s vote being “Tim Beck Two.”  

Today I’ve gone through a lot of emotions and a lot of heaviness, but I have also tried to realize the gifts in it all too.   I have learned that at times I want to sit and say things like “I deserve.”  “I deserve to be a mom.” “I deserve to have a 2 year old.”  “I deserve to have a good Mother’s Day.”  Amongst others.  

Sometimes I forget to say “I don’t deserve…”

I got a text from my friend Jenna who reminded me of the impact Enoch had on so many people’s lives.   I have gotten countless texts and messages over the years from people who’s lives were impacted by my son, who never even breathed a breath on Earth.  I prayed so much, every night in fact, while pregnant that God would use his life for God’s glory, and he did!  I remember after he was born thinking he’s had a larger impact in Akron for Jesus that I had in 15 years.  I didn’t deserve a son with such impact. God didn’t owe me that.

And I for sure didn’t deserve to meet our son and hold him for 11 hours.  And I didn’t deserve a husband who let me hold him the majority of those hours.  

In addition I have had the privilege and opportunity to mom so many who I didn’t give birth to.

Joe who was the first to live with us, over 10 years ago. I’m still so grateful to have relationship with his wife and three kids.

Brea who lived with us almost a year and I still get to mom!

Davi who lives with us during the week now, and I get the joy of small things like driving her to school.

Also I mom many students at First Glance, whether they want me to or not 😉. And other students do call me mom like Dee & TiTi.

One of my most unconventional opportunities is My dearest friend Alicia, although she’s only 6 years younger and typically we bike and have crazy adventures together.  Other times I function as her mom, I care for her when she’s sick, drive her to doctor appointments and buy her socks… because that’s what I think moms do, buy socks.  

I don’t deserve to get to mom all these individuals.  I really don’t, and yet on a day like today I’m more apt to say “I do deserve…”, instead of “I don’t deserve…”

God is good and gracious. And as much as I want to say I deserve so many things, honestly God owes me nothing.  I don’t deserve a son at all. Let alone one who impacts the kingdom still!  I don’t deserve the way God reminds me of Enoch’s impact through those around me, and I don’t deserve the many creative ways God lets me love and mom so many!!    

I don’t deserve, and tonight I’m very aware of that truth. 

Space but not power

Grief continues to be a journey, a journey I’m probably less patient with than most of those watching me go through it.

I have been thinking a lot about grief in the sense of giving it space, but not giving it power.

Recently several friends from church have had babies. Every Sunday morning there are so many of these itty bitty new born babies all around. I have to admit the maternal part of me wants to hold all of them. For the last two years, I haven’t held new born babies. It’s not been out of a lack of desire. In fact, it’s the opposite. Everything in my being wants to hold, cuddle, and care for a little baby. My body and mind got ready for 40 weeks to do just that, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. But that desire never changed. It’s why I would lay on the grave, or sleep with his blanket. I so desperately desire to love, care, and be close to my son who was so far away. And two years later the desire remains almost as strong.

What kept me from holding the babies the past two years is that I gave grief power. Mainly it came in the form of fear: fear that holding a baby would trigger my memories of Enoch, fear that it would be too sad, fear that the baby I was holding would die, and fear that I would make Tim and friends sad by seeing me hold a little baby. There are a lot these thoughts and honestly they continue to role around in my head.

But several weeks ago on a Sunday morning I decided I didn’t want grief to have power. I didn’t want it to keep me from holding babies or engaging my friends who were pregnant. So I didn’t let it. I turned around to the little baby sitting behind me in church and held him this whole time! He was cute and sweet, and it was healing. Healing for me, and also his mom, who happens to call me mom. She was so excited I held him, that she posted on FB how “Grandma” was holding the little guy.

I didn’t give grief power.

But there still has to be space for grief. I didn’t know the next week would be hard with different kinds of loss (not death), but it felt like grief and triggered memories of Enoch so intensely. The exact following Sunday, Easter, was too much for me to bear. Between my week of the grief trigger, all the cute plaid shirts on the kids running around church, and the countless Easter photos, I hit a grief wall I haven’t hit since his birthday in December.

It resulted in an unsuspecting friend getting a decent dose of crying as she was in my path coming back from the restroom during church. It caused us to leave Easter dinner a little earlier than we normally would have. And the rest of the day ended with me in my bed and the phone off. I gave grief space, and I had to. I had to give myself some time to process my grief and miss Enoch.

Grief needs space, but it doesn’t need power. And this is me trying to figure out the two.

Here is my Easter picture with the little baby, his mom, and his sisters that I held the week before.

Loving a grieving friend

It is not uncommon, unfortunately, that I get a message from someone reaching out because a loved one has just lost a baby.  I got one a couple weeks ago and they asked what they can do to love and support their friend.  I wrote a fairly lengthy message back with some insights that I gained from being on the receiving end after a tragedy.  I thought I would edit them a bit and post them here for others who may be wondering this same question.

Let me start by saying obviously everyone is different so these insights on how to navigate it may differ some from person to person.

  • Let the hard be the hard.  I had super strong faith, I sincerely trusted God and still do. But hard days are still hard and the sorrow is deep. So don’t be afraid to just say “this is terrible.” My dearest friend would say this to me, although with stronger language, and it was oddly helpful.  There is a desire to make it better, to say things  that are encouraging and make it hurt less, but the realitity is it hurts a lot! It doesn’t  mean we don’t love and trust God, but we were also created to have our children with us. So it is hard and it’s ok to just say that and let it be, especially in the beginning.  There will be time and space to be positive and encouraging and send them verses and words of encouragement.  But in the initial shock, just let the hard be the hard.
  • Asking “what can I do” is hard for someone in shock and grief to answer.  The fact is that here really isn’t anything anyone can do.  Plus in that state it’s hard to think on your own what needs done or what you would like. The best was when someone would say “I’m bringing you coffee tomorrow afternoon, if you want to chat we can, if not, that’s ok too.”  If someone just took initiative and suggested something it was easier to know if it would be helpful or tweak the plan rather than to try and think about something on my own.  Be willing to make an offer and don’t be hurt if they don’t need or want it.  Sometimes our temptation is to do something, because WE need to do something, anything.  Make sure what you’re doing is genuinely what’s best for the person in grief.
  • Never ask “do you feel better now.”  Food, distraction, comfort will help get through the impossible minutes.  But, nothing will make the person feel better, so don’t go into the situation with that expectation.
  • Be ok to sit in silence. My most comforting friends are the ones who will just sit and say nothing and let me be sad or stare. There’s so much emotional and mental energy going toward grief.  So to remove the need for conversation the whole time sometimes is nice. I remember asking a friend once, will you just sit RIGHT beside me and watch a movie. I just wanted someone near, but I couldn’t process what was in my mind.  It’s ok to ask occasional questions, but let the person in grief determine the amount of conversation, because even talking can feel overwhelming at times.
  • It’s ok to bring up.  The person who is in grief is thinking about it all the time even weeks and months after the initial lost.  Sometimes we don’t want to “remind people,” but my mind would think “my baby died” every day, hundreds of times, literally.  It’s all my mind wanted to think about.  So bringing it up, asking how they are doing won’t be offensive.  There may be moments that they don’t want to talk about it, or the timing is bad, but be willing to engage the conversation.  I promise it won’t make him/her sadder, they will be grateful that you are saying the words that they are thinking about.  Plus they don’t want to be the downer in the room who talks about the person who died.  I remember thinking, “don’t be the lady who always talks about her dead baby.”
  • Remember the loved one lost.  For myself because Enoch was born with no heartbeat they didn’t even give him a birth certificate.  According to the world he didn’t exist.  But to me, he meant SO much!  The life of my son was significant and my fear is that people will forget.  So I’m always grateful when people tell me they remember him.  I am guessing that’s how most people feel about their lost loved ones too.

These are a few of my initial thoughts, I’m sure there are more.  Over all my encouragements is to walk toward them, love them well, and be willing to sit in the sad and hard.

**I wanted to add this tip from another friend, Courtney, who unfortunately also has walked this road.  “Yes. To all of this. I would add: keep showing up for the person, even when they don’t respond to you. KEEP PURSUING. They might not have the energy to respond the first 20 times, but they NEED you. Don’t take silence as a sign of rejection, but simply as “I just can’t muster the strength to respond right now”

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A gift for my two year old

A few months ago I went shopping for my friends birthday gift.  I was with another friend, and as we roamed the aisles of Target, I couldn’t find the right gift.  My friend held up countless items: a journal, pens, mugs, etc.  All were fine gifts, but they weren’t right.  Finally she said, you are particular with gifts aren’t you?  She wasn’t annoyed, but we aren’t close enough friends that she would know my particulars.  And when it comes to giving gifts, I want it to be exactly what that person likes.  If they love dark chocolate with almonds, then buying them dark chocolate with cashews isn’t right.  Some would say, “close enough,” but that’s now how my mind works.

Fast forward three months later to December 8th.  Enoch is turning two, but obviously isn’t with us to celebrate.  I told Tim I wanted to go and get him a birthday gift to take to the grave.  This seemed like a simple task, but apply what happened above inside Toys R Us.  I want the perfect gift, but I didn’t know what the perfect gift was.  Yes, I know it was going on his grave.  Yes, I know most two year olds aren’t that picky.  But I am his mom and I don’t know what he likes.  And that fact became so painfully obvious within minutes of walking into the store.   We roamed the aisles overwhelmed by the choices and tears kept welling up as I realized I didn’t know.   Would he have liked paw patrol or some particular characters?  Would he like trucks or balls?  Would he like tractors because Tim does, or Jeeps because I do?  I couldn’t do it.  It suddenly became so overwhelming and sad that I told Tim we need to just pick something and go.

I know what toys my friends kids like.  I could pick out so many for each of them, but I can’t for my own son.  And it never dawned on me until I went shopping for his birthday.  These are the things that come up so unexpectedly that makes greif such a hard journey.

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Trauma Brain & My Hero

Weeks ago I had some hospital Truama come back to my mind and body.  Trauma is an interesting thing as our minds know something happened in a way that it shouldn’t have, and so our mind and body want to keep replaying it.  I remember this so clearly right after coming out of the hospital when Enoch had died.  Although I was sitting in my room looking around and seeing I was in my bedroom, all of my body and mind felt like I was back in the hospital giving birth to him.  I remember saying to Tim “I don’t want to leave him,” and in my mind I felt like I was leaving my son at the hospital.  This happened over and over for weeks and months, sometimes more aggressive than others.  Praise God for a good trauma counselor who helped my mind file that terrible story properly so I didn’t keep replaying it.

I hadn’t experience this hospital scene for a while.  About a month ago it started again, and I’m still not sure why it came back in my mind.  For about a week every time I closed my eyes I was in the hospital, and I was desperate to get out.  I asked my counselor for an emergency appointment to help me.  She was amazingly fantastic and gave up some lunch hours to get me in.  After some really intense appointments, my mind was back to normal.  I had successfully gotten out of the hospital.

Then yesterday I needed to take a trip to City Hospital.  I haven’t been back there since Enoch was born.  That’s been intentional.  I didn’t want to trigger any of those awful memories.  But yesterday was the day Brea had surgery, and I was not going to let City Hospital stop me from seeing and caring for her.  She of course would have understood, but I needed to go!  I did well.  I went in a different door on a different side of the building.  I was very aware of my surroundings, reminding myself that this was different.  I was in and out no problem.  Until I wasn’t.

As I left I was feeling like I had won.  I had time to stop for coffee, was going to make my next meeting, and my mind was only minimally spacey from going back there.  As I was leaving, I paid for my parking ticket at the pay station by the elevator and proceeded to my car, only to realize I didn’t have the right ticket to get out.  I had the reciept, but not the correct ticket.  No problem I’ll hit the call button and tell them to let me out, but then the call button didn’t work.  I backed up and went to the next exit and that call button didn’t work either  There is no one there to help me.  So I head back into the hospital to see if I could get out of the hospital.  This is where I start doing less well.  I’ll spare you the details, but I had to keep walking in, four times to be exact, and nobody was letting me out.  I couldn’t get another ticket, I couldn’t pay for a lost ticket, I was trying every trick in the book to get out of the hospital, and I literally couldn’t.

As you can imagine, at this point I’m freaking out.  My body and mind feel trapped like I did almost two years ago in this same place.  And although that time I had to give brith to a dead baby and this time I do not, my body doesn’t know that.  This is what you call a trigger, and I was TRIGGERED!   After almost an hour of back and forth I was simply sitting off to the side waiting for a security guard to come let me out, and then one of my all-time favorite people happen to be driving out of the parking deck, Hannah Nitz!  I love seeing Hannah on a good day, but there are no words for how I felt seeing her in that moment.  She realized I wasn’t doing well and then hopped out of her car and hugged me until I was able to compose myself well enough to tell her how I was trapped in the hospital and couldn’t get out.  She got it.  She knew my trauma and my story and so graciously gave me her ticket and offered to wait for the security guard.   FINALLY, I was free!  (Don’t worry we figured out a way to trick the system to break her out too).

Not only did she help me escape, but she then bought me a cup of coffee brought it to the car so I could pull myself together a bit.  AND we both had a meeting at the same place in the afternoon, so she used Uber Eats to order me lunch, delivering it in the middle of my meeting.

Hannah was my hero that day! I’m confident God sent her to me… that day and all my life days!

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After she was my hero so many times that day, I made her just hold me like any “real hero” would!