Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Capture Your Grief 2016-Day 25: I Am

This post is part of Carly Marie's Capture Your Grief.

Finish these 5 sentences.

I wish
I remember
I could not believe
If only
I am

I wish I could have them all.

I remember being scared to see Oscar and Bella because of their young gestational age.

I could not believe after Oscar and Bella died that we would have more children die.

If only I could visit them.

I am their mother, too.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Capture Your Grief 2016-Day 19: Grief Rituals

This post is part of Carly Marie's Capture Your Grief.

Creating rituals in grief do wonders for healing your heart. Do you have any grief rituals? Maybe something you do on special dates like birthdays or anniversaries? How do these rituals help you?

There are several rituals we do to help with our grief. For Oscar's and Bella's birthday, we go grocery shopping as a family. We buy a breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner for each kid and donate it all to a food pantry. The caveat is that we choose foods that we think each kid would have liked. Now that Gus is older, he is 100% responsible for choosing the foods that he thinks Tittle would choose if he was alive. Jon and I split Oscar and Bella, and when Lucy is old enough she will help choose for Firefly. It is somewhat sad, to be in the grocery store wondering what Bella, at 7, would choose for her birthday meals if she were alive, but with our donation, their lives, all their lives, is having a positive impact on the world. We also release balloons and buy/watch movies that we think Oscar and Bella would pick if they were alive to pick a birthday movie. This year's movie choices were Box Trolls and The Princess Diaries 1&2.

For Tittle's death anniversary, we try do do something sneaky. When I was still working full-time I would take the day off work and see a movie, sneaking in candy to eat during it. In 2015, we did a sneaky science experiment (Diet Coke and Mentos) for Gus. In 2016, I made a "sneaky" cake-no one knew what color the inside was going to be except for me.

For Firefly's anniversary we light sparklers. The last few years Jon has been able to find fireworks, usually fountains, that we also light off at night.

On January 1, Oscar's and Bella's due date, we make snow angels in our yard and spray paint them. It's really cool to have them be covered by more snow, and have the snow angels reemerge weeks later when the snow melts.

In 2013, we began the ritual of donating school supplies in memory of our kids. This was the year that Oscar and Bella would have started 4K. We took the school supply list, bought one set for Oscar, one set for Bella and donated everything to the school they would have attended. In 2014, the year Tittle would have started 4K, we donated 2 sets of kindergarten supplies and one set of 4K supplies. In 2015, we did two sets of 1st grade supplies and 1 set of kindergarten supplies. This year, back in Wisconsin, we were able to continue this tradition; we donated 2 sets of 2nd grade supplies and one set of 1st grade supplies. Next year, 2017, will be the first year we donate for all kids-2 sets of 3rd grade supplies, one set of 2nd grade supplies and one set of 4K supplies.

Additionally, we include the things we do for our four kids in our annual Christmas letter just like we include things that we've done with Gus and Lucy in the letter.

The process of doing these different rituals is quite healing. Life is consumed with life, the people that are living, the events that are happening now. By doing the grocery shopping, the school shopping, the movies, sneaky experiments and sparklers, I am able to pause. I am able to spend time in spirit with my kids. I am able to still parent them. I am able to remember and honor them. I am able to continue making memories because of them since I can't make memories with them.

2016 Food Donation for Oscar's and Bella's birthday

Monday, October 17, 2016

Capture Your Grief 2016-Day 17: Sacred Space

This post is part of Carly Marie's Capture Your Grief.

Do you have a special place that you visit to be with your children? A place that you feel connected to? Maybe it is their grave, or a beautiful garden, beach or forest. Maybe it is a special spot dedicated to them in your home, like a shrine or altar. What does this place mean to you? Why that place?

I don't have a special place to go so I can feel connected to my kids. In our first house we had a fireplace with a very large mantle. We filled that mantle with many, many memorial items: figurines, stuffed animals, photo album, baby book. Then we moved. At our second house, we had a mantle, but it was a lot smaller than what we had, so not everything even got unpacked. Now, in our third house, we have no fireplace and no mantle, so we have even less out than we did before. Because Lucy is the age she is, we can't have anything within her reach, so even the stuffed animals are not out in the living room, but instead in our bedroom, which is where we moved them hastily to keep her from taking them and chomping on them.

The park by the zoo used to feel special to me, but only three of our kids names are on the memorial benches; Firefly is not. So, while I can go there and see three of the names, there is still someone missing. Also, it's a park, and sometimes the families that are there don't know the significance of the benches, so it's hard for me to ask them to get off the benches so I can visit my kids.

So, right now I don't have a sacred physical space just for them. I try to think of Oscar, Bella, Tittle and Firefly throughout the day. I know that as Lucy gets older we'll be able to buy a shelf or curio and bring out all of the things we used to have on our mantles, but just not yet. I know that I can visit them any time I want by just thinking of them, so perhaps I'm their sacred space.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Capture Your Grief 2016-Day 15: Wave of Light

This post is part of Carly Marie's Capture Your Grief.

October 15th Wave of Light is a very significant day of remembrance and awareness of our community calendar. At 7pm you are invited to light a candle to honour and remember all of the babies and children who have died. If everyone does this, there will be a continuous wave of light around the world for 24 hours. Share your candles and children with the world.

Oscar, Bella, Tittle, Firefly and all babies gone too soon

Friday, October 14, 2016

Capture Your Grief 2016-Day 14: Beliefs+Spriituality

This post is part of Carly Marie's Capture Your Grief.

Has the death of your child strengthened or changed your beliefs? Share as much or as little as you like. Please be respectful to the beliefs of others today. We are all in this together and our differences are what make this project so beautifully interesting. Choose kindness.

I don't think the deaths of my children changed my beliefs at all. My beliefs changes when Jon and I were undergoing infertility treatments. That was the first time ever in my life that I truly prayed. I so wanted to be pregnant. I remember standing in the shower and just praying that the current cycle we were on would result in a pregnancy. I don't remember WHAT cycle that was, but it was definitely before Oscar and Bella. Prior to infertility I was definitely an atheist after being very loosely "raised" Catholic. In 2nd grade, I decided that there was no god. None, whatsoever. But, then infertility hit and I found myself praying in the shower to conceive. And we did! But then Oscar and Bella died. And then Tittle died. And then Firefly died.

I have to believe that I will see them again. That I will get to know them, personally, one day. I say they are in Heaven, but what this is I don't know. I just know that when we see beautiful skies they are saying "Hi" and that I will meet them again some day.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Lucy is 2 and I am 36

Lucy and I have both had our birthdays. I simply cannot believe she is 2, and I can't believe I'm 36.

Capture Your Grief 2016-Day 13: Dear World

This post is part of Carly Marie's Capture Your Grief.

What is on your heart tha tyou want the world to know about your kind of grief? This is your day to choose your own topic. Some topic ideas are pregnancy or infertility after loss. Anxiety or PTSD. Forgiveness. Trust. What is it that you want to talk about?

I have 6 children. Oscar, Bella, Tittle and Firefly are the four kids I have, but don't have. I have them in my heart, but not in my arms. I have them in my house, but not around the dinner table. I have them with me always, but they never have parent-teacher conferences, they never have their car seats in the van, and we never eat their favorite meals for dinner. I am missing out on a lot with them, and they are missing out on a lot with me. There is so much we didn't get to do together, learn together or experience together. This is the sad part, to focus on this. This is what is brought up when I get triggered, everything I don't get because they are not here.

But, here's what I do have. I have 6 wonderful and beautiful children. 2 of them I get to parent in the traditional way. 4 of them I get to parent in an nontraditional way. I still get to plan their birthdays. I still get to include them in our annual Christmas letter. I still get to shop for school supplies each year. I still get to tell them I love them every day.

When my parents die, will I not still be their daughter? Will they not still be my parents? When my sisters die, will we not still be sisters? Just because my children are not physically here, does not mean they are not still my children and I am not still their mother. I have 6 children; 2 of them I hold in my arms and 4 of them I hold in my heart.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Capture Your Grief 2016-Day 11: Creative Heartwork

This post is part of Carly Marie's Capture Your Grief.

Have you done anything special to memorialize your child? Maybe you got a tattoo or commissioned a piece of art to be created. Maybe you have a special piece of jewelry to remember them by or created a garden.

I have so many pieces of jewelry to remember my kids, and we had a custom piece of art made to include our entire family.

I have a pair of rubies for Oscar and Bella. A pair of green garnet/peridot earrings for Tittle and Gus. I will eventually get a pair of earrings for Firefly and Lucy. I'm not sure if we'll do pearl/opal or alexandrite/tourmaline yet. I also have a necklace that began with a pearl that was Jon's wedding gift to me. For our first anniversary he had the pearl set in a circle of diamonds, called Circle of Love. Over time, he has had 8 of the diamonds replaced. It is the one piece of jewelry I have that includes ALL the Powvens family. I have a bracelet that one of my sisters gave me at Oscar's and Bella's memorial service-a heart with Oscar's name engraved on one side and Bella's on the other. And lastly, I'm working on a Pandora bracelet to include all the Powvens but me. I'm still needing Lucy's color bead and Firefly's animal bead.

Jon and I also had a piece of art commissioned by Farhad Foroutanian, who created a piece called Lost Child in 2007 for UNICEF. Using that piece as inspiration, he created a custom piece to include all 8 of us.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Capture Your Grief 2016-Day 10: Symbols + Signs

This post is part of Carly Marie's Capture Your Grief.

Do you have a symbol that represents your child? Maybe it is a butterfly, tree or bird etc. Share how you came to find that symbol and what it means to you. Do you believe your children send you signs at all? Have you had any? How did they help you?

We do have symbols that represent our kids:

Oscar: Blue and giraffes
Bella: Pink and giraffes
Tittle: Green, camo and hummingbirds
Firefly: White, silver and fireflies

How their animals and colors came to be was over time, what felt right and wasn't forced. It was about 8 months after Oscar and Bella were born, I was at the mall and it just struck me that Oscar and Bella were giraffes. It just felt right. Memorial Day 2010, about 4 months after Tittle died, Jon turned and told me that Tittle was a hummingbird. Hummingbirds have the fastest heartbeats of all bird, and Tittle's heart beat fast for as long as it was beating. Firefly's is pretty obvious as to why her animal is a firefly, but her name was, again, something that just felt right. Quoting Jon, "This pregnancy was like a firefly. You only see them at night and you only see them for a few short seconds. When you see them it is a brief flash. This was our firefly pregnancy."

Do I believe my kids send me signs? I do. I really think they do. I think that the spirits of my kids are still out there somewhere, and when they take a break from whatever it is they are doing and they want to say hi, I think they do, in a beautiful sky, an unexpected animal of theirs showing up somewhere or a friends letting us know they saw something that reminded them of our kids. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Capture Your Grief 2016-Day 9: Surrender + Embrace

This post is part of Carly Marie's Capture Your Grief.

Completely surrendering myself to grif on multiple occasions has allowed me to release my emotions. The hurt, the anger, the unfairness. I was always afraid to giving in to how I was feeling. Like I had to hold it together for my family or if I did break down, I would  not be able to bring myself back together. But I always did and afterwards I felt lighter. I was able to flow with grief rather than fight with it. I have screamed into pillows, cried myself to sleep and I am amazed at how much tension I was able to release. Surrendering to whatever it is you are feeling is one of the most powerful experiences of being present and in the moment. To sit and allow yourself to feel sadness is very profound. How do you feel about surrendering to grief? Have you done it before or are you more the type that just keeps carrying it all inside. Does the idea of falling apart frighten you? Share your thoughts.

I think that the surrender to grief, the giving in to emotion, the giving in to the gut-wrenching sobs and all the tears are what allows me to "move forward" with my grief. The surrendering allows emotions that I have (usually subconscious) been keeping down to rise to the surface and reveal components of my grief that maybe I wasn't ready to deal with be dealt with. It's physically exhausting, the crying and tears, but it's what has, in the past, given me breakthroughs in terms of letting go of the pain and taking in the love of and for my children.