Thursday, December 16, 2010

Grieving During the Christmas Season

I honestly cannot describe the feelings I am having this Advent. I’ve had visions of just going away at Christmas and escaping all the hustle and bustle. I have never not looked forward to Christmas. I grew up in a happy Catholic family when Christmas was peaceful and always a blessing.

When John and I were married, I carried that same joy and openness of heart with John and our kids. John did not share these same happy experiences around the Christmas season so approaching Christmas with John has sometimes been marked with struggle because of John’s past. Now, I can certainly understand a lot better how Christmas can be a real burden for some people.

So, how do we open our hearts and prepare ourselves for Our Saviour in the manger? How do we open our hearts to feel joy and peace instead of numbness, sadness, and a feeling of wanting to escape the festivities?

Recently we watched a movie called Call me Mrs. Miracle. It was a really wholesome movie that centers around a father and son as well as a little boy from a different family whose mother had died. I won’t go too much into detail in case the opportunity arises to watch the movie but essentially the father (owner of a successful department store) ends up finally celebrating Christmas with his son after 20 years of escaping Christmas by flying to another location. The father was finally convinced his wife (who died 20 years previous) would want him to celebrate Christmas in her honour. 

It is a big hurdle to say, “Hey, I can celebrate Christmas and not feel guilty for being joyful when we’ve suffered such a loss of someone we love dearly.” Perhaps the answer is found in the gift of Jesus born on Christmas day. We still need to do our best to prepare our heart this Advent by going to confession, adoration, Mass, daily prayer of the rosary (even if just a decade) . . . And then, we need to wait.

We need to wait patiently and prepare for the PROMISED SAVIOUR as did the descendants of Abraham right through to St. John the Baptist. Jesus will speak to us and he will answer our prayers, embrace our sorrows, and take them to God our Father as an offering of love for the world.

We homeschool our children and one thing that Jesus is teaching me along side my daughter in grade 1 is explained in our religion curriculum (Faith and Life Series) which includes “the three things necessary to attain happiness in Heaven: to know God, love God and serve God” …

From the curriculum (Teacher’s Manual page 42):

a. Know God : To pay attention and study hard in religion class, to read the scriptures, to listen well to the readings and homilies at Mass

b. Love God: To receive the Sacraments of Penance (Confession) and Holy Communion when old enough, to pray reverently at home, in the classroom, and at Mass, or during a visit to the Blessed Sacrament

c. Serve God: To be obedient to parents and teachers, to be helpful both at home and at school, to share toys, to be kind to others.”

Now, during this Advent season which finds my heart filled with more pain than with joy, one of my prayers is: “Jesus, help me to know, love and serve you better”.

That’s it.

Simple eh?

Lucille Everett

Friday, December 10, 2010

Help for those who have had an abortion or thinking about an abortion


A few weeks ago, I fell upon this very interesting book at our local chapel. The book is called Return of the Children by: John Regan. This book is a very easy read. I honestly could not put it down. I read almost half of it in one time stretch. After three visits to the Blessed Sacrament, I had finished reading it. It truly did captivate me and it really brings to light the awesome gift of love and forgiveness of God.

Sunday is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, PRAY FOR US!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Reaching out: Do I sink or stay afloat?

About 1 week prior to the miscarriage, a lady from church gave a picture of Jesus in the Divine Mercy to hang on our wall. Apparently someone was trying to give it to someone else but she was not Catholic so it was given to us. I was perplexed to say the least. Why is this stranger giving me this picture while I am praying in the Blessed Sacrament chapel? Now I think, perhaps it is a sign for me to learn more about the Divine Mercy. Perhaps it is a call to Trust in His Divine Mercy at a greater level.

The first few weeks after the miscarriage definitely tested my ability to reach out. John mentioned how painful it can be to reach out (previous blog post). When we are going through any trial that causes suffering, reaching out can mean the difference between sinking or staying above water.

Yet, I somehow worked up the courage to reach out to other people who had gone through a late miscarriage or knew of someone who had. It was painful and unnatural for me to reach out, but I had to admit to myself that I could not keep floating above water on my own. I needed other peoples hands to help keep me above water. I needed to talk about my struggles to others who truly cared and understood my pain. I can be very independent so having to almost admit my defeat, my powerlessness over the miscarriage and its effects took one of the biggest leaps of faith I have ever had to take.

“Many parents have feelings of losing control when they express the normal feelings and emotions of grief: they may feel like they are “going crazy” because of the thoughts that plague them about their baby” (Maternal Child Nursing Care, 1998, p. 555).

Almost 2 weeks after the miscarriage, I was in the midst of a very long anxiety attack. I felt like I was below water sinking like I have never sunk before. All John could do was hold me, listen to me, and tell me to look at the picture we have by our bed of Peter reaching out to Jesus walking on the water after he realized that he himself was walking on the water (Matthew 14, 22-33). The more I thought about the picture, the more I realized that just thinking about the picture was not helping. Little did I realize that somehow I needed to make an act of the will. But how?

As I kept breathing in and out, my anxiety did not improve. In my helplessness, I finally told John that I needed extra help and asked John to call our local Health Care Access number. The nurse on the line talked to me and finally directed me to someone who was trained to talk me out of my anxiety attack. Later, the anxiety subsided . . . but slowly. I needed to trust. I needed to trust in myself and in Jesus. I needed to keep affirming myself with these different statements: “I’ll be ok, I am going to make it through, this is normal”.

Reaching out to others is one thing but reaching out to my husband and my children was the most important thing for me to do. Our children can only do so much since they are so young but simply telling them that I was sad and asking them to pray for me was a form of reaching out.

Reaching out to my husband was not as difficult as it normally might have been perhaps if the miscarriage would have happened earlier in our marriage. Through our eight years of marriage, we have grown to predict quite well our different patterns of behaviour, turning inward for example, if there was a problem. Because of the growth in our marriage, I was able to make a conscious decision that I was going to show my vulnerability and keep my heart open to John. I would do my best to be as open as possible in the sorrow, struggles, and pain resulting from the miscarriage.

John’s strong presence and strength were a big reason why I stayed afloat for the last month or so. He was particularly present during the first few weeks after we lost Dominic. I tried my best to work up the courage to talk very openly about my thoughts, and to allow myself to cry whenever I needed to cry. For me, these acts were all important in the the beginning of the healing process since my greatest temptation was to crawl into a cocoon and feel sorry for myself.

Lucille Everett

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Breaking Out Of Grief’s Grips

Really, there is nothing more that can be done other than reaching out . . . as painful as that can be.

Yes, even during those times when the depression is so intense, there is nothing more in my vision than dark clouds, emptiness of heart, and absolutely no energy. When this happens, even smiling, playing around with the kids, or trying to spend time opening up to Lucille are key to breaking the hold the depression has.

There are only two ways that things can go when we experience something so traumatic as the loss of a child.

Growing Together

The first, and hopefully the path chosen, is to work as hard as possible to be supportive of each other. We, Lucille and I, did that by making sure that despite our own pain and suffering that we remained present to one another.

In the first weeks after the loss of Dominic my responsibility was to support Lucille as best as I could. That meant that to some extent my own grieving was put on hold. But, it was absolutely imperative for my grieving to be held back as Lucille really needed me.

During the initial weeks there were opportunities for us to cry together though I still held onto much of my grief to make sure that I was attentive to Lucille’s needs.

As things progressed we found that our relationship was growing stronger in a way that we had never expected. We kept working at supporting each other, being present to each other, and watching out for each other and still do to this day.

Despite the circumstances, our relationship has indeed grown closer together.

Breaking Apart

The other way things can go is for our relationship to fracture. There were times when I totally withdrew from Lucille, held back, did not allow her in, and walled up my heart from everything and everyone.

If I continued down that road there could have been a very distinct possibility that our relationship would have broken up and I would have been the primary reason for it.

In fact there were times when I was so buried in my grief that my fight or flight reflex was on the verge of flight mode. I _wanted_ to run away.

Prayer provided no consolation with my heart feeling like a hardened rock in my chest. Being around anyone was painful.

The Test

Once we buried Dominic I found that I could let go but it still took a while for me to open up to Lucille. Listening to music (previous blog post) really helped with the opening up process as has spending time adoring Jesus exposed at a local Archdiocesan adoration chapel . . . though my heart still feels like a lump of concrete.

Together we faced an amazing test of our relationship, our love for each other, our communication skills, and most especially our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lucille and I made a tangible decision to be present to each other and to support each other. We also had the force of our wills following through on that decision plus we had the momentum of the Sacramental Grace of Marriage behind us too.

On top of that, Dominic has been very present to us in so many different ways since the beginning of the pregnancy. His prayer is indeed powerful and the graces his prayer brings about are only now starting to be revealed.

So, once we are further down the road of healing we will be able to look back prayerfully and see the many graces and blessings that we have shared in.

Hopefully we have indeed passed “The Test” and this portion of our lives written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 20:12) will stand up to scrutiny.

Our Lady of Sorrows pray for us.

Saint Dominic pray for us.

John Everett

Saint John the Wonder Worker

Catholic Saints of the Day

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Our Little Miniature White Rose, Rose up to Heaven

It has been a very long time since I have posted. I had been working on an article for the website on suffering. Ironically, the article included a story about a mom we met who lost her teenage child over a year ago. Now, I am writing this post to relate a similar story but this time, I am the mother who has lost a child, our beautiful 17 1/2 week old who died within the womb. This is our story:

Not long before, October 26, 2010 our miniature white rose plant in the kitchen bloomed one single beautiful miniature white rose, the tallest stem on the plant. On October 26, 2010 our lives changed.

Early in the wee hours of the morning, we suddenly miscarried our little 17 week old baby. Before the paramedics came, I kept thinking, “No!… No!…. Lord, You can’t take my baby! I can’t believe this is happening. My water is not suppose to break now!”

The positive result on an old amniotic fluid stick from our second pregnancy confirmed that I was truly in labour. I did not want to let go of the baby but my worst fears were about to come true as I stood up to lie on the stretcher.

I did not want to get off the bed. I wanted to stay there. Once I stood up, our little baby came out. I yelled to John who was in the next room, “The baby came out!”. I will never forget the numbness at looking at our child still attached to me lying on the stretcher with all the fingers and toes the size of a Barbie’s fingers and toes.

Earlier that morning, I remember tapping on John’s head, saying, “Something is wrong, something is coming out. John immediately knew he needed to get some Holy water to baptize our baby just in case. And this is what he did as soon as he got back in the room.

From then on, it felt as if everything was in slow motion. We arranged for someone to come look after the kids. The ambulance brought John and I to the hospital, and the emergency room was actually unusually quiet. They hooked me up on IV’s. The emergency doctor finally came to examine me.

Eventually, he asked John if he wanted to cut the umbilical cord, so he did. I had a closer look at our baby but I was still so in shock, it was difficult to savour the moment as I looked at him in the kidney basin the doctor had put him in.

I now regret not picking up that kidney basin and just holding him. Since the placenta had not come out yet, I was still haemorrhaging … a lot. My obstetrician was actually on call that morning performing a C-section up in the OR. That was a miracle in itself since my doctor is on hospital rounds only once a week.

One nurse was kind enough to ask if we would like a chaplain to come in. We agreed and they were a great support with their prayers, presence, and resource information. The chaplain also got our parish priest to come and give communion. We were very thankful for that.

Finally, my obstetrician arrived about 5 or 6 hours after our arrival at the hospital. Prior to that, the nurse prepared me for a possible blood transfusion since my blood pressure became quite low. I was so relieved to see my doctor. She knew exactly what to do to help me expel the placenta.

Later in the day, the ultrasound showed no tissue in the uterus so we were able to go home without having to go to OR for a D&C and no need for a blood transfusion. Praise be to God. Our prayers were answered in that regard. My only real regret though was that I wished I would have asked to hold our baby before we left the hospital. With everything that happened, and being so tired I didn’t even think of it.

When we turned the corner to leave the hospital, my heavy empty heart sank. The reality that we were leaving our baby behind in the hospital really set in. I couldn’t stop sobbing. The reality of our baby being out of my body so early set in even more.

Once we finally got home, the reality of having to tell the kids what happened pierced my heart. As my husband and I drove in the driveway, I got out of the truck, numb, shocked, and pale. I just stood there looking at my kids looking at me through the front door window and our middle child playing in the snow outside.

I slowly walked up to the garage door weeping before entering. As I got the courage to open the door, there sat John’s Dad on the couch looking at me intently with loving eyes. After spending a little time with the kids, I needed to find a name for the baby. I started to look up the names of the Saints that day on the computer. John and I later decided on Dominic or Dominique since we were not totally sure of the gender of the baby at that point.

After over 2 weeks of waiting (Dominic(que) needed to be sent to pathology for examination), once all the arrangements were finalized, we finally had a little private Mass offered in the basement of our house, then off we went to the cemetery where the Knights of Columbus had a special location to bury miscarried babies. We were so thankful for that. We feel at peace to know that we have a special place for our baby and a place to go if we ever feel the need to be with Dominic(que) at the cemetery.

When all is said and done, after looking at our baby while at the hospital John and I could tell that we had a boy even though pathology said the gender was undetermined. The Knights of Columbus will engrave the name of our baby, “Dominic Jacob Everett”.

Dominic, I know you rest in peace in perfect happiness forever in heaven till we meet again, my precious child.

My husband encouraged me to write and now I want to write more reflections on the spiritual, psychological, and physical aspects of miscarriage.

A few days ago, I cut down our miniature white rose from the plant as it was starting to dry up after over a month of being in bloom. I truly believe this was a gift for us from heaven as we grieved the loss of our beloved baby Dominic.

Lucille Everett