March 22, 2011

It Never Even Happened

By Kaci Goodrich Uipi

I recently watched a movie called You Again. The movie starts out with a girl traveling home for her brother's wedding. On the flight, she finds out that her brother is marrying her high school bully. She is racked with torment and can't believe this is happening to her. Nonetheless, because this is now about 8 years later, she figures her new confidence and self esteem will get her through this awkward time, and be enough to get that long awaited apology she has always deserved.

However, when she arrives home, the ex-bully/soon-to-be-sister-in-law, acts like the two of them have never even met. This drives her absolutely crazy. This would drive me crazy. This would drive anyone crazy... Well then, please don't do this in real life!!

I guess what I'm trying to say, is that so many people have done this to me and Salesi. They see us at church, and they act like nothing ever happened. They never mention Joshua, his death, the funeral, or anything. I know most people don't even know how Joshua died. I know a lot of people assume that he was born premature, or was in the NICU this entire time. Nope, not true. Ask me how it happened, and I will be more than happy to tell you my story.

I do admit that I have done this once or twice, but I don't want to be that kind of person ever again. I've recently been around people whom I have not seen for quite some time. I know they've heard about Joshua, but are just too scared to bring it up with me. This is awkward for both of us. I know it can be uncomfortable to say something, even scary, but you just gotta be a man (or a woman), and say something. Just a, "I'm so sorry for your loss" is enough, trust me. A hug and, "I'm thinking about you" is also good. Never say, "I understand what you're feeling." If anything you could say, "I really don't know what youre going through, but I'm praying for you."

Misconception of the ungrieving world: "If I say something about her child that died, she will probably start crying and be upset that I brought it up." Some people like to talk, talk, talk, and others don't. I have days where I do feel like talking, and others where I don't want to be around anyone. On the days I wish to be left alone--you will know, don't worry. (I probably won't return your phone call right away.) Whatever you do, just be as sensitive as possible. Once you get past the, "I'm so sorry for your loss", you could say, "I would love to hear about your son and how it happened if you want to tell me."

March 20, 2011

The One Brave Soul

By Kaci Goodrich Uipi

The week of Joshua's death was busy. Most of the days were filled with boring activities that had to be done such as picking out Joshua's plot and casket. However, there was one thing I looked forward to during these days: checking the mailbox. I remember checking the mail with excitement like I never had before (or at least not in the last 20 years), but like I was 10 again with no internet or cell phone, waiting for birthday cards to arrive from grandparents.

Sympathy cards came in by the handful. I anticipated them. I opened each one carefully, read what was written, and then displayed them on my counter as if they were trophies. This went on non-stop every day for about a week following Joshua's death. I loved every single sympathy card I received, with or without money. Each one meant a great deal to me.

Also during this time, we had visitors constantly at our doorstep; some with flowers, some with food, and some that just wanted to sit on our couch to fulfill their duty of stopping by to check on us. As if this wasn't enough, our phone was ringing off the hook as well, mostly with people trying to arrange things for the service.

A few days following the funeral, I asked Salesi if he thought we were done getting cards in the mail, and if there was any chance we would maybe get just one more. He said, "Yeah, I think just one more." Sure enough, there was one more card in the mailbox the next day. And then...that was it. The last of them.

Not only did sympathy cards stop coming in, but home visits stopped as well. Phone calls? Hardly any. Not sure if there's any coincidence in the timing of all of this, but this is also when Salesi went back to work, and then, the entire world seemed to suddenly crash down. There it came--that sneaky little thing called Grief.

This period of time was probably the most crucial. Who was going to call me? Who would continue checking up on me? Would anyone bring me a meal, now that I really didn't feel like cooking? Was there anybody out there who was willing to stick it out with me through the long haul?

Looking back, I now realize that not many raised their hands to volunteer for such a job. Why? Grief can be yucky. Grief can be ugly. Feelings can get hurt all over the place, and not many are willing to put up with all that. There was 1 brave soul out there, though.

I remember shortly after the funeral, she called to ask me how I was doing. I told her that I was doing okay, but knew that things would more than likely be getting worse. She then called back a week or so later to ask me again how I was doing. I really appreciated this phone call, because by this time, things were just then starting to hit me.

She continued to call me every week just to listen, but not to judge. She understood that I would grieve on my own time, and in my own way. To this day, she continues checking up on me, when most everyone else has gotten back to their busy lives, and can I blame them? No. That's life--it gets busy for all of us.

Much later, I found out that shortly after Joshua died, this friend really wasn't sure what to do, and what to say. So, she decided to pray and follow the spirit. Well, I guess you can't go wrong with that decision. She was in tune with the spirit from the get-go and understood that my grief wasn't something that could be fixed over night, or in a couple of weeks time. Even when I didn't feel like talking, she was there, willing and waiting to listen.

Misconception of the ungrieving world: "She doesn't seem to like to talk about her loss, so I won't ask her about it." I've appreciated those who have continued to check up on me, even if I didn't feel like talking at one time or another. It seems like many people have assumed that I've been okay because they think I've made it past the hardest part yet, and that it should only get easier and easier. The "hardest part" is different for each individual, and for me, it just happened to be after everyone stopped visiting and calling, and then I really felt alone. If you're willing to stick it out, don't give up on your grieving friend--you will be the one they will come to when they feel like they can't go to anyone else, and that's what makes all the difference.

March 16, 2011

Joshua Are You Out There

By Kaci Goodrich Uipi

You know that kid at camp who was always afraid to go to the bathroom by them self? And that other kid who had to stack pillows up all around their bed to form a protective barrier while they slept? Well, that was me. Okay, it still is me.

Since I have already committed to being honest in this blog, I will admit to something a little embarrassing: I'm afraid of ghosts. Big ones, little ones, mean ones, and even nice ones.

Why do I tell you this? Because in the early stages of my grief, I would find myself sitting on my couch calling out to Joshua. Why in the world would I do this when I just told you I'm afraid of spirits, both good and bad? Well I guess you could say I was so deep in my despair, that I thought if I was able to communicate with Joshua, it would make me feel so much better.

When you lose something so dear to you, as your own son is, you seem to try anything to make the pain go away. If I knew that he was okay in his new world, I would be able to feel a sense of peace. So I would call out, "Joshua, are you there?" I would wait a few seconds for a response, then call out again, "Are you out there Joshua?"

Now I said that I wanted to be honest in this blog, but I didn't say I was going to share everything with you. I will tell you, though, that there was one time imparticular when I called out and asked if he was there, and the response was actually somewhat comical. Let's just say it gave me a small glimpse into the world where he now is and let me know just how he is doing over there.

I've also been driving down the street and have had thoughts come to me whether or not Joshua approves of what I'm doing here on Earth. I sometimes expect to look in my rear view mirror and see him in the back seat shouting, "Hey Mom! Surprise! Isn't it cool how I can fly into people's cars!"

March 12, 2011

Are You Jealous

By Kaci Goodrich Uipi

Are you jealous? No, not am I jealous, but are you jealous? Seriously, why would you be jealous of me? This is going to be a stupid topic, but I have to throw it out there: Does it make you jealous to not be a part of this Crappy Club that I'm in? The only reason I bring it up is because the other night I finally got Salesi to take a look at my blog, and one of the first things he read were the words, "The Club" on the right side. He was upset, and wanted to know what it was and why I would put it. I explained to him that it's just a silly way of saying that all those other moms have also lost children, therefore, we all have that in common-- as if we are in a club together.

He still didn't like me using those words, and reminded me of a group of girls who hang out every week but yet never invite me to join in. Unknown to them, it has been hurting my feelings this entire time of more than 2 years. Do I need to forgive them and move on? Yes. Hey, if anything I'm very grateful to them for not inviting me, because it has really opened my eyes and helped me to remember to include everyone. So thanks, girls!

Anyhow, I ended up taking Salesi's advice to change the title from "The Club" to "Other Mommies with Angels". I wouldn't want any of you to be jealous of me and my new club, just like I've been jealous of those other girls and their club. However, now you're probably going to be jealous that I have an angel in heaven. But let's face it, any which way you look at it, it still really is the Crappy Club.

Misconception of the ungrieving world: "Kaci has a son with a free ticket to the Celestial Kingdom." That might be true, but the cost of my ticket sure isn't cheap. Shortly after the funeral, someone actually said they were jealous of us because Joshua is automatically saved in the Celestial Kingdom, and even wished this for their daughter. WHAT? Are you saying you wish your daughter was dead!? The real question is: Are you saying you want to go through all of the pain and suffering we now face on a daily basis? Yeah... didn't think so.

March 10, 2011

I'm Tired

By Kaci Goodrich Uipi

I've decided that if I'm really going to have this blog, I need to be completely honest. No more holding back my true feelings. I can't care what anyone else thinks of me. It hasn't happened to them, so how do they know what I'm supposed to be feeling? Besides, no one really reads my blog anyway...

so here goes...

I'm tired of people not being sensitive to my feelings. I'm tired of obnoxious pregnant women sitting next to me rubbing their big belly while chatting about when their water is going to break and what they are going to name their baby. I'm tired of people constantly teaming me up with either pregnant women or new moms for church callings and visiting teaching. I'm tired of people inviting me over to their house where they have also invited other women who just happened to give birth the same month as me... and their babies are there with them, as if they needed proof.

I'm especially tired of the people who continually ask me how I'm doing, and really don't care for the honest answer. I'm also tired of the people that pee their pants if I tell them I'm actually not doing so great because my son died a few months ago... as if they forgot this small detail. And then there's the people who think they've helped me so much during this difficult time because they've told me things like, "Your son was just too pure for this Earth". Sorry folks, but cliches don't help.

Oh yeah, and then the much older and wiser (and even the younger and hipper) people who have given me advice on the way I should have done the funeral to how I should now be grieving. HA! Why should I listen to you? You people have never even lost a child!

I think, though, what I'm really tired of, is feeling like this. Feeling like the huge ordeal we experienced in the hospital for 3 weeks was all in vain. The countless hours of stress, anxiety, headaches, confusion, and being mislead that entire time... why? Why did I have to watch him suffer? Why did I have to watch him be poked countless times, even to the point of needing blood transfusions? Why did I have to escort him to so many surgeries and x-rays, without his life support machine plugged in, watching with anxiety the RT's every move, wondering if he was going to die right then and there because the RT forgot to pump air for 1 second? Why did I have to watch him become more swollen every day, having to have catheters put in, because he couldn't even pee by himself? Why did I have to watch nurse after nurse stick tubes down his nose and throat, only for him to gag with complete agony while thrusting his entire body trying to spit the tubes out? Why did I have to watch my perfect little baby turn into someone that didn't even look like him?

As you can see, I'm tired of a lot of things. This must be why it's hard to think straight most of the time. I'm dealing with my loss as best as I know how. Writing seems to be good therapy for me. If any of you have a problem with things I've said, I would almost bet that you've never lost a child. I might be wrong, but then again, this is my grief, and nobody else's.

March 9, 2011

I think I Can See A Light

By Kaci Goodrich Uipi

Our stake president asked me how I was doing last week. I told him I think I might be "leveling out". It definitely was getting worse for a time, and I'm mad at myself for being fooled for even a second, that, "I can do this, it's a piece of cake!" Grief is oh so sneaky... you must watch out.

Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel doesn't come effortless. I believe the light is placed at the end of the tunnel for just that reason-- you won't find it until you reach the end. The end of the tunnel for me is not found in this life. Sorry, but I'm a realist, remember? I think that some challenges can be resolved and are meant to be resolved here in mortality. However, being "okay" with your child dying, I believe, will have to wait until the next life.

There are some days, though, when it seems as if I can see a light. Does this mean that I'm almost done with my earthly journey? Probably not. I think what it really means is that God is showing me one of his tender mercies by letting me know that things really will be alright.

Misconception of the ungrieving world: "Kaci has a strong testimony of the Plan of Happiness so she will be able to have an eternal perspective of this loss." Having a testimony of God's plan doesn't make losing my son any less sucky for me. Some days can be especially hard where you can't even think straight, because grief has engulfed your entire physical and mental state.

March 8, 2011

Comparisons

By Kaci Goodrich Uipi

We are told that we should not compare ourselves to others, right? This is so hard to do (or not do), because it's only natural that we would look at someone else and wonder if they are doing something better than us. We all know deep down inside that it's wrong and it only digs a hole for us that we then have to try to climb our way out of. I've realized this more and more as I go through this bereavement period of my life. I've said it before, and will continue to say it: "Everyone grieves differently."

I must remember that I can not compare myself to any other griever... not even my husband. Not comparing myself to my husband has been difficult. During the tough times when I feel the most sad, I turn to him and ask, "Why aren't you sad!? Why aren't you crying!? Don't you care that your son died!?" I must admit that I was very relieved the other night when he started crying after seeing me smell Joshua's little bear before coming into bed. I wanted to cry with him, but at the same time I wanted to shout for joy and say, "Ha! You are finally crying!" I've learned, however, that it is not my responsibility to make sure he cries or doesn't cry. Besides that, we all know how different males and females are, so why wouldn't they be different at grieving?

As I met other "club moms" for lunch last week, I listened to some of their stories. Some of them told me that after their son died, they didn't go to church for over a month, and even after that, they didn't attend Relief Society meetings for many more months. I started thinking, "Should I not be going to church? Should I not be going to Relief Society? Should I ask to be released from my callings?

You're probably wondering why I would be asking such silly questions. Well, it's because part of grieving consists of trying to figure out if I am doing it the right way or not. The truth (for the most part), will always stay the same: There is no right way!

Misconception of the ungrieving world: "My friend acted a certain way when her loved one died, so I'm sure that all people act the same way when they have a loss." Being able to cope with a tough situation varies depending on the following: age; maturity; type of loss; anticipatory time; relationship to the loss; personality; gender; coping abilities; past losses and experiences; physical, spiritual and mental health; lifestyle and expectations; intelligence and education; beliefs and values; family makeup, rules and expectations. (See also "Jesus Wept")

March 6, 2011

A Bag Of Doritos And A Large Coke

By Kaci Goodrich Uipi

Sometimes the empty feeling just never goes away it seems. It doesn't matter what I do. I've tried many things, but the most popular thing right now seems to be food. I've never considered my self a junk-food-lover. I grew up in a house with a mom who was a pioneer in the health food movement. She would never be caught dead buying white bread, potato chips, cool-aid, oreos, or sugar cereal. I remember grocery shopping and begging her to just buy one package of cool-aid! "It's only 10 cents!" I would say. I think she responded with, "I don't care if it is free! It's pure sugar!"

Lately, though, it seems as if there's nothing that a coke can't fix. It just tastes so good sometimes. I can't even believe I'm saying that, but since I don't drink alcohol, (oh, and let's be very grateful I don't) I guess it's what "takes the edge off" for me. I used to never drink soda. I almost thought it was evil in a way... just because it was so unhealthy to me. Even my mom used to scare us by saying, "If you leave a tooth in a cup of coca-cola, it will dissolve overnight!"

Now I'm having a hard time losing that extra baby weight I put on when I was pregnant, and eating poorly sure isn't helping. Well, at least eating poorly for me only consists of a soda and ice cream sundays.

Misconception of the ungrieving world: "She looks fine so she must be fine!" Everyone deals with their grief differently. Just because someone looks okay on the outside does not mean they are okay on the inside. Some have a complete loss of appetite and others want to eat constantly trying to fill the empty feeling inside. Someone on the phone recently said to me, "How have you been doing because you sound like you're doing good." Being able to have somewhat of a normal phone conversation isn't a good qualification of how someone is really dealing with their grief. Grief affects you not just emotionally, but also physically, socially, spiritually, and intellectually.

March 4, 2011

What I Believe

By Kaci Goodrich Uipi
Many of you know that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We are also known as the Mormons. We have no problem being called "Mormons", as long as you understand that it is only a nickname due to the fact that we believe in the Book of Mormon, as well as the Bible.

I've been a member of the LDS Church my entire life, and the topic of "life after death" is the theme of many lessons and conversations in our religion. Our doctrine states "Life on earth is of limited duration. There comes a time for all of us when the spirit and the body are separated in death. But because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we will all be resurrected, regardless of whether we have accomplished good or evil in this life. Immortality is the gift to every mortal child of our Father in Heaven. Death must be viewed as a portal to a new and better life. Through the glorious resurrection, body and spirit will be reunited. We will have a perfect, immortal body of flesh and bones that will never be subjected to pain or death. But the glory we attain to in the next life will depend on our performance in this life. Only through the gift of the Atonement and our obedience to the gospel can we return and live with God once again." (L. Tom Perry)

I believe this doctrine with all of my heart. I have prayed to know if the church and what it teaches is of God, and I received a witness that it is. Knowing that we will all be resurrected one day, and that I will see my son again is a wonderful thought. Knowing that I have an opportunity to live with God again is a marvelous thing. It truly is. However, this does not take away the pain and suffering that I am experiencing right now dealing with my loss.

As I have suffered many nights, weeping, sometimes uncontrollably, I have felt alone. Very alone. It didn't seem like there was one soul to comfort me, or anyone who could stop my anguish. I have now wondered why I would feel so alone in my most sorrowful moments, why not even God would send His spirit to comfort me. I now know the answer: I have to experience this for myself.

As harsh as this reality is, if I believe that I can live with God and Christ again, I must be worthy to be in their presence. I must pass through each test I'm given on this Earth, even if that test is to have my baby taken from me. God can't take away all the pain and despair...if He did, it wouldn't be a test.

Even in the darkest moments when I feel truly alone, like God has abandoned me, He really hasn't. He is there waiting for me to call upon Him. Calling upon God during these times are the absolute hardest. You would think getting on your knees isn't that difficult to do, but to the griever, oh it is! I've always believed that being worthy to live in His presence requires qualification to receive such glory. Who are we to say we've suffered enough, when even Christ, Jesus, suffered all. Even Christ called out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" I believe then, it's necessary for us to experience just a drop of what He had to go through in order for us to be fit for His kingdom.

Misconception of the ungrieving world: "Mormons don't need to feel sad because they have the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Plan of Happiness". Even though we believe in the All-mighty God, and that we will be able to live with our families in the eternities... IT STILL HURTS! Having this knowledge doesn't take away the pain, or at least not for a long while! So many people think we shouldn't be sad that we've lost our child due to our religious beliefs, but this isn't true. Losing a child is one of the hardest things for anyone to deal with, no matter what religion you participate it!

March 1, 2011

The Healing Process

By Kaci Goodrich Uipi

As I learn more and more on the complex subject of grief, I start to think about my own healing, and if it's taking place, or when it will take place. Many things have happened since Joshua's death to keep my broken heart from mending. I blame no one for this. We must always remember that grief is a learning process.

For example, I just learned today that "jealousy" isn't really the right word to describe my feelings. I'm in a grieving period, therefore, it's not "jealousy" that I feel, but a "longing, and yearning" to have what so many other people experience on a daily basis: raising healthy babies. I wanted to make that clear, because as I tell a select few about my true feelings, I know it sounds awful that I would have such ugly thoughts, described usually as "jealousy". I'm learning now to identify when that emotion comes so that I can accept those feelings and try to move on with some type of normality. Example: If I see a little baby in the grocery store, I am not going to run out the door, but I will look at him and think, "That baby might be the same age as Joshua", then take a deep breath and get on with my shopping. This sounds oh so stupid and foolish to the "ungrieving", but to the grievers, you all know too well what I'm talking about.

I still have to be very cautious as to which activities and events I participate in. The other day, I was invited to a friend's house, and suspected that babies might be there. Sure enough, there were 2 little babies, probably the same exact age as Joshua. I didn't like the feelings I felt, and honestly, I wanted to leave. The pain was a little overwhelming, and was even affecting my social skills. However, I just knew it would be way too hard for me to succesfully sneak out. Therefore, I was forced to stay the entire time, fighting myself to look and sound normal, as if nothing was bothersome to me.

When I got home, I told Salesi about my situation and said, "I don't want to be in that type of setting again for a long time, or my very broken heart won't ever heal." As for now, I will pick and choose which events I wish to attend. It will be a very personal and private decision, with guidance from prayer and the Holy Ghost. So if you don't happen to see me somewhere, it might or might not be because of my grief!

I know I must come to a point of healing where I can function totally normal in most settings. I will never completely get over my loss. It just won't happen in this life, but to finally feel the healing happening will be a great day. Until then, I will rely on the Savior and know that He knows and understands what I'm going through.

Misconception of the ungrieving world: "If she's okay with it one day, she must be okay with it from now on". Just because somebody who has experienced a major loss seems okay with something one day, doesn't mean they will be okay with it from then on. A family of 5, including their little baby, brought us food right after Joshua died. This didn't bother me so much, even though deep down inside I thought it should. Then again, grief is very complex and comes and goes like waves of the sea.