Monday, October 31, 2016

Capture Your Grief 2016-Day 31: Sunset Reflection

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

On this last day, take some time out to watch the sunset from wherever you are in the world and reflect on this last month. How do you feel? What have you learned? What did you dislike? What did you like?

As the sun set tonight, I didn't watch the sunset. Instead I was walking with a little moose who just wanted to keep up with her big brother Spiderman. In past years, I would have gotten down on myself for missing the sunset, missing the focus on the kids who aren't here and are missing Halloween. instead, I was with Lucy and Gus. My life and joys go on and come from them and Jon. I am learning to be more forgiving of myself and tr not to berate myself if I don't stop and focus on what I'm missing. Some days I'm better at this than others, but that is life with grief. Taking each day as it comes.

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.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Capture Your Grief 2016-Day 8: Beautiful Mysteries

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

To me, my son is a beautiful mystery. I gave birth to him and yet I never knew him. I sometimes allow myself to imagine that he is alive in another time and space and that we are all together. If it is not too painful, allow yourself to imagine who your child would be now. What would they be like? What would they be passionate about. Tell a wild, beautiful story about them.

It is painful to think about what Oscar, Bella, Tittle and Firefly would be like because so much time has passed that it makes it harder and harder to know who they would be if they were here. I always think of Oscar as the prim and proper, rule-follower, no-nonsense all-business type kid, but would he have a silly side to him? Would Bella be the drama queen we thought she'd be? Would Tittle truly love camo and sneaky things? And Firefly, would she be as flashy?

As I sit here typing this, and imagine my kids if they were alive today, this is what I see.

Oscar would like school, he would like science and techy things. He would be quite and reserved. But when his real smile came out it would be broad and full of life; his eyes would sparkle. And I could totally see him wanting to wear bow ties.

Bella would be good in school, but her favorite part would be the socialization. She would be into fashion and would plan her outfits out so they were just right. She would be outspoken and not quiet. She would be opinionated and stubborn, but she would love with her whole heart.

Tittle would be our trickster. The one who would hide in clothing racks at a store so he could jump out and surprise you. He would be the one I'd worry about running into the street without looking because he would be too busy living life to check for traffic. He would do okay in school, but would much rather be EXPERIENCING things, rather than sitting inside a school learning about stuff.

Firefly would be our quiet one, but when she spoke it would be profound and from deep in her heart. She would be able to sense emotions, and if someone needed someone, she would slip in, grab a hand and just sit until she could tell the person was doing a little bit better, with nothing exchanged other than the sharing of emotions. Her hands would be soft, her hugs warm and her kisses at bedtime sweet. I don't know why, but I just keep thinking she would be like glitter in the rain.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Capture Your Grief 2016-Day 6: Empathy

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

So often when someone experiences the death of a baby or child, family and loved ones fail miserably at empathy because they try to fix what has happened....So today you are invited to educate people on the art of empathy. We don't need to turn this into a vent about what not to say, but rather what to say and what they can do that will actually comfort the grieving. What does empathy look like for you?

Allowance. To me, empathy looks like allowance. The allowing of one person, the bereaved, to BE without trying to fix or judge or advance healing. Empathy is allowing the grieving parent to be with their feelings at that moment and just let that experience happen. Hand me a tissue when I'm crying. Give me a hug on an especially hard day. Grab my hand to let me know that you're there for me. Let me talk when I want to talk and let me fade into the background when that's what I need to do. Allow me to BE, with you by my side.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Capture Your Grief 2016-Day 5: The Unspoken

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

Normalizing grief is so important and that is why today I am calling upon those who feel brave enough to speak about the nitty gritty side of grief. Share something about your grief journey that you might feel is strange or not common. It might be something you do to remember your children by or maybe it is something you fear about the future.

I try not to think about it, but I know I've had the thoughts already and I know they are in my brain, but I try to shove them to the back. I fear the future. I fear that when Jon and I die, that Oscar, Bella, Tittle and Firefly will die a second death, that they truly will be forgotten. Their memory, their legacy, will either be carried on by or ended by Gus and Lucy. It's the truth of the situation, if my kids don't carry on their siblings, then no one will. And it's not fair. It's not fair to Gus and Lucy that I have this deep hope that they will include their siblings when asked, "Do you have any brothers or sisters?" or include representations of their dead siblings when asked to do family pictures for school. Gus was supposed to do a paper quilt square about himself for school. One of the parts of the square was for him to draw a picture of his family. He did such a good job on it, coming out of his room to check the colors of what we were all wearing so he could get his picture right. And all I could do when he showed it to me was cry because there were only 4 people in the picture and not 8. I told him that I understood if he didn't include Oscar, Bella, Tittle and Firefly, but it made me sad they weren't in the picture, but that it was completely his choice to include them or not. Gus and, when the time comes, Lucy should not be subjected to having to carry their siblings, but how can I be okay with their choice if they don't? I don't want Gus and Lucy to feel as if they HAVE to include them. So, along with the fear of Oscar, Bella, Tittle and Firefly dying a second death, I have fears about how to balance their inclusion so that Gus and Lucy want to include their siblings, but don't feel forced to do so.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Capture Your Grief 2016-Day 4: Support Circles

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

Have you felt supported in this journey of grief and healing? Maybe it is a friend, family member or organization that has been there for you. Share how they have helped you and let them know how grateful you are.

It goes without saying that the Bereaved Parents of Madison support group was exactly what I needed when Jon and I started going. But, I want to point out one person in particular who really touched me, especially early on, in her support of my grief. She would let me talk. She would ask me questions, not to judge how I was grieving, but to understand why I was doing what I was doing. She remembers my kids, has made donations in their memory, has attended the remembrance ceremony the year we invited her, babysat Gus for us so Jon and I could attend one year. She is okay with me when I'm sad or crying and doesn't try to get me to stop .She just lets me do what I do with my grief and accepts that it is part of me. So, thank you, my sister Heather.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Capture Your Grief 2016-Day 3: What it felt like

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

In honour of this month of awareness today we give the outside world some insight into what it is like to be a bereaved parent by sharing what a certain experience that you had during your grief journey. This can be a positive or negative (or both) experience .Some experiences that you could share about are what it felt like to hear the words "There is no heartbeat" or maybe you had an experience where someone did something very special in memory of your children. Pick a moment and share how it made you feel.

Oscar and Bella: Finding out gender
We had told the nurse that we wanted them to clean up both babies and bring them back into the room after they were both born and cleaned up. We had asked to find out gender, but were told it might not be definitive at their gestational age. I remember the nurse walking in with a tiny basket and announcing we had a boy and a girl, and that it was very evident. I remember feeling so grateful. So grateful that we knew, that we were able to use the names we had chosen for our kids. Jon and I had worked so hard on coming up with four names (two boy and two girl) and it was quite a chore. Once we had the names chosen our nickname for the babies became BORC, signifying the primary and secondary girl and boy names (Bella, Oscar, Rose and Clark). To be able to give our kids their names, knowing that we would not be able to give them anything else in their lives, I am truly grateful for.

Tittle: The ultrasound
I had some spotting over the weekend, and it had changed from the spotting that has happened a few days prior. I wanted to go in for an ultrasound. Since I was released from our fertility clinic, and had already had my nurse appointment with the high-risk clinic, I called them right away on Monday morning. I left a message for the nurse and anxiously awaited a call back. When the nurse, the nurse in charge of the bereavement program at the hospital, called back and told me that a doctor (the fellow that provided my care for Oscar and Bella and that I did not like) didn't think I needed to come in because "an ultrasound wouldn't give any useful information" I was completely and utterly shocked. I began crying and responded with something about finding out if I was miscarrying or not. I was so angry, hurt and upset. This hospital, these staff members, knew my history. It was the same clinic that cared for me during Oscar's and Bella's pregnancy and delivery. They knew how scared we were of another loss, and to say we couldn't come in for an ultrasound to check on the babies and explore the bleeding was just a slap in the face. I lost trust in the entire hospital. That trust was eventually earned back, after a very frank meeting, but there there are still two specific people, one nurse and one doctor, that I don't trust as far as I could throw them.

Firefly: Telling Gus we weren't pregnant anymore
We told Gus right away that we were pregnant. He had been with us at some of the fertility appointments, so was somewhat aware of what was going on. I don't remember how long after we knew Firefly was gone that we told Gus, within a couple weeks? I don't know. It was awful, not for Gus, but for me to tell Gus we weren't pregnant anymore. I couldn't do it with the lights on, I didn't want him to see how crushed I was. I was putting him to bed, and as per usual routine, we said our goodnights, I turned the lamp off and was going to rub his back, when I asked him if he remembered that we told him there was a baby growing inside Mama. He said yes. I told him that the baby died, that the baby went to be with Oscar, Bella and Tittle. I wanted Gus to know why I was sad, why Daddy was sad and why I was sometimes crying. I just felt so much weight on me, that Gus already had 3 dead siblings, and now there was another one. Gus asked some questions, I answered them the best I could and tried to do my best. I then asked him, "Do you think the baby was a boy or a girl?" He said a girl. To this day, I love that he was involved in choosing if Firefly was a boy or girl, a brother or sister. There was never, and will never, be a way to find out for certain, but it made me feel like I wasn't just making things up, trying to fill in the holes that Firefly left behind.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Capture Your Grief 2016-Day 2: Who They Are

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

Share about your beautiful children today. Who are they? When were they born? How long did you have them for? What is their name? Share as much or as little as you feel comfortable with.

I have four children I'm missing. Oscar, Bella, Tittle and Firefly. Oscar and Bella were born and died on July 30, 2009, at 17w6d gestation. Each lived for 10 minutes before their hearts stopped. Tittle's death was confirmed January 25, 2010, at 9w2d gestation. Firefly's death was confirmed on June 10, 2013, at 4w4d gestation. Oscar and Bella would be 7 and in 2nd grade. Tittle would be 6 and in 1st grade. Firefly would be 3 and starting 4K next fall.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Capture Your Grief 2016-Day 1: Sunrise Dedication

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

Let us celebrate the beginning of this healing month by waking up early to watch the sunrise wherever we are in the world. Step outside into the fresh air and take some time to breathe the sunrise in. Watch all the colours of your world transform before your eyes. Spend some time reflecting  upon what you want your intention for this month to be. Maybe even come up with a word for your intention so that you can write it down and revisit it each day. If there is no visible sunrise in your part of the world because of the weather, that is okay, this is life and mother nature. All that matters is that you take the time out of your day to be with us all i spirit and make space for a new beginning.

I don't know what my intention for this month is. To reconnect with my kids who aren't here, I suppose. With Gus and Lucy here, and being a SAHM, my life is filled with what IS here, and it sometimes feels like the four that aren't are being left out.

No beautiful sky today. Cloudy and drizzly.