Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
After being a part of our family for almost sixteen years, the time came when we had to put our little doggie, Bella down. As I sit here typing this the tears well up, my heartbeat quickens and I find it difficult to catch my breath.
Our home feels so lopsided without her in it. We were a family of four, two with two legs and two with four. We are down to three now. When The Bird calls on his way home from work and asks his routine question, "Hey, Babe, have you fed the dogs?" He catches himself mid-sentence and with no comment from either of us corrects himself and says, "Did Bianca eat?" I'm sure his heart sinks as low as mine does at his natural slip of the tongue. For so long in our house dogs was plural.
Death is such a mystery. I hate it. The sadness her loss provoked in me felt all too familiar. Emotionally, it took me to a place I forgot I could go. After the death of my Mom, I tried to close the door on that dark, dank hallway that leads only to pockets of pain. While I cradled Bella in my arms on her last day with us, a sense of powerlessness crippled me.
“How can it be that my hysterical ache for her to get up and walk again and be whole, is of no consequence?”
It was the very same feeling I had holding vigil at my Mom's beside seven years ago. Holding my rosary beads, I pleaded with God to bequeath a miracle on our family and restore my mother to perfect health. I begged-I pleaded, I threw myself on His mercy. With no attempt to disguise my attempts at manipulation, I shrieked every scriptural quote I memorized as a child at Him. In essence saying the equivalent of the soldiers who crucified Him, “If you are truly the Son of God, come down off that cross.”
My Mom passed away as we cried, caressed her forehead and kissed her and in the wake of her death wake was a palpable sense of surrender.
Surrender is a complex concept, one I haven’t befriended very graciously. But surrender is not phased by the presence or absence of grace or dignity. Unaffected by my emotional temper tantrums, surrender suggests itself a viable alternative to emotional meltdowns.
While I’m willing to give surrender a nod for the peace it brings when embraced, I’m hardly at a place where I’d consider it the first place I’d turn in the face of a crisis, although I do have it listed in my phone book under "friends."
What helped me get by
Over the last few weeks I stumbled upon a book that kept me up at night and I found a way to interject into just about every conversation I had. It is the best first person account of embracing surrender I’ve come across. It should be required reading periodically throughout our lives. If you haven’t read, “This Is Not The Story You Think It Is,” by Laura Munson yet, close your laptop (or turn off your computer), put down your smart phone, grab your keys, put on your hazard lights and race to your local bookstore. Pick up a copy for yourself and every friend and family member you care about, even the cashier at your grocery store or pharmacist or trash man/woman. It’s that life changing.
With reckless abandon, she exposes the private precincts of her gut-wrenching attempt to adopt an attitude of non-suffering (which doubles in my book as surrender) in the face of a very raw, personal crisis.
Making the horrific decision to put Bella down circled me back to a place where I initially made no room for surrender. Laura’s book, however, reminded me that surrender really is the only friend we can rely on in the face of crisis. Surrender has the potential to liberate us from angst-albeit fleeting at times (I’m speaking for myself).
Hope you guys are all well. Please, make space in your schedules to read Laura’s book. You’ll thank me for the nudge.
Sixteen years is a long time. What are some benchmark moments for you, from the last sixteen years? Me, I buried my Mom and my dog and my husband’s best friend but we’ve also had some write-in-your-journal highlights too. I guess that’s how life is-the bitter with the batter as my Mom used to say.
Reading suggestions on this topic:
The Five Ways We Grieve by Susan Berger
This Is Not The Story You Think It Is by Laura Munson
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Tips for the Loved Ones of People Who Suffer From Infertility
Last Christmas, after an afternoon sledding and munching on homemade Italian cookies, my niece Lauren, opened the refrigerator door and said, “Aunt Steph, it’s really a good thing you never had kids.” Poking around for the milk, she added, “No one would have liked them.”
Lounging on the loveseat with my knees bent up to my chest, I laughed.
“Really?” I said. “Is that right?” sipping a glass of red wine.
“Yup,” she poured a glass of milk and turned to place the carton back on the shelf.
I knew why she said this and hearing it put a smile on my face so broad my cheeks hurt.
It was Lauren’s way of saying she didn’t ever want to share me.
She wasn’t the first of my nieces to tell me this. As my husband and I made the painful decision to end fertility treatments, several of my other nieces expressed Lauren’s sentiment.
“Let me get this straight,” I’ve said to each of them. “If we had a baby and had a party for his or her baptism, no one would come?” I paused. “How about birthday parties? No one?” I chuckled.
“Yup. That’s right.” They all said. “If you had children, you would be distracted and never have time for us. So, in the end, it worked out.”
I couldn’t argue with that. If I had my own children my attentions undoubtedly would be divided.
As my husband and I labored to come to terms with failed fertility treatments, the children in our lives knew how to provide comfort. Conversely, well-intentioned adults often struggled to find the best way to offer support.
National Infertility Awareness Week
Infertility is a complex issue the dimensions of which even those undergoing treatment don’t fully comprehend. But what we do know is that certain things people do or say are helpful and others miss the mark. Sadly, like many who grieve, the job of educating our loved ones on how they can be supportive, falls squarely on our shoulders.
In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week I encourage those grappling with infertility to take this opportunity to share with their loved ones how they can be helpful. In my practice, I have witnessed the reparative value doing so has on the strained relationships infertility leaves in its wake.
For the loved ones of those battling infertility, here are some tips on what to avoid and a suggestion of how you can be sensitive.
- Avoid the temptation to say, “Just relax!”
o This implies blame. Trust me, we are good at blame all on our own.
- Avoid asking “Why don’t you just adopt?”
o Adoption is a gift beyond measure for those who feel called to it, but it is not a panacea for the desire to conceive, birth and raise a biological child.
- Understand when we pass on baby showers, birthday parties and christenings
o Sometimes we need time to lick our wounds.
So what is helpful? My favorite suggestion comes courtesy of Henri Nouwen, a renowned priest, author, and respected professor. He said:
When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is the friend who cares.
If you or someone you love has been touched by the despair of infertility, jump off the sidelines and join me in the game to raise awareness about an often-misunderstood condition. It's lonely being the only person on my "team" so suit up and come off the bench!
Please feel free to link to my post, tweet it, comment or email me. I need your help to educate and raise awareness. The journey of infertility is lonely. It's not so isolating though, when others meet us on the road and wave a warm hello!
I know people want to help they just aren’t always sure how to do so effectively.
So, did you "suit up?" Hope to see you on the field!