A New Year

As I mentioned in my last post, now that Christmas is over, I feel like a weight has been lifted off me.  Not only because the holidays are over, but because of our beautiful Christmas rainbow and the peaceful Christmas day that we were miraculously able to have in the midst of an achingly painful holiday season.

Usually we keep our Christmas decorations up for at least the first week of January (or beyond, since usually I want Christmas to last forever!), but I was really ready to take them down as soon as possible this year.  I wanted to put everything away, clean the house, and start fresh. Momo, who loves climbing our Christmas tree, was not of the same mindset!

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Momo protesting putting the Christmas tree away

Now that it’s 2016, I have mixed emotions.  My family has been through many difficult times this year and has experienced many losses.  Some might say that they could not be happier that 2015 has come to an end.  But, while 2015 was the saddest year of my life, it will also always be one of my happiest, because it was the year I got to meet my son – the only time I could ever be with him on this earth.  I wish I could have frozen those days for eternity to have more time with him, but time goes on.  I never want to forget 2015 – ever.  It is incredibly sad to move into a brand new year without Luca.  However, I remind myself that his spirit is always with me and every day I am one day closer to meeting him in Heaven.

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A beautiful visitor on my walk the other day 🙂

Despite the pain we have been through, most of the time I am able to be optimistic for the future.  I pray for peace, joy, health, and hope for our family.  I pray that I can continue to work on my relationship with God and having faith that He will provide.  That I can continue to find purpose in my life and with that heal my heart.  That hopefully we can move closer to our families at the end of this year who we miss so much.  That I can be gentle on myself when those waves of grief wash over me, and have faith that tomorrow will be a better day.

Wishing you all much joy and many blessings in 2016! ❤

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Ringing in the New Year with my hubby

Surviving Christmas

So it’s been awhile since I last blogged – over two weeks.  I took a break for a couple of reasons.  Once the holiday season was in full swing, I just could not handle writing about it.  What was there to write about?  How much pain I was in?  How I could not take seeing all of the babies’ first Christmases or picture with Santa on my Facebook feed every day?  How we had plans to go home to the U.S. and introduce our son to our family, but not anymore?  Even if I had wanted to talk about that in a blog post, I just couldn’t find ways to put my thoughts together, so I decided it was best to just let myself get through Christmas and reassess afterwards.  I didn’t want to feel angry when I was writing, so I knew it would be better to wait.  And now that Christmas is finally over with and the new year is upon us, I feel like a weight has been lifted off of me to some extent.

Additionally, I got a message from someone a couple weeks ago, which did not help me to channel more positive thoughts.  This person told me I needed to “grieve privately,” that I should “loosen my grip” on everything, that I should just have another baby, and that – drumroll – I need to put my son in “another part of [my] brain.”  I really just want to write a bunch of expletives now, but I already got that out of the way, so let’s just get to the point.  No one should EVER tell another person how to grieve.  Put my son in another part of my brain?!?  I did respond to this person and simply said that it’s not anyone’s business how I grieve.  And that I think I am doing pretty well considering the hell that my husband and I have been through this year.  While the holiday season was particularly hard, most days are happy for me.  I went to holiday parties and was able to enjoy myself.  I work, run my daily errands, take care of my husband, go out with my friends.  Some days I do cancel my plans and stay home because I am sad, because sometimes that is what I know I need.  But, overall, I am satisfied with my progress.  I do realize that I chose to write this blog and am putting all of this out there publicly for all to see, which is a risk I take; however, if it is offending someone, they can choose not to read it – just like anything else on the internet.  I said in my short response to this person, “I do enjoy my life and part of my life is Luca and that is how it will always be.”

Even though I know I should not let this affect me, how could it not?  Those words stung and I wondered for awhile how many other people were thinking what this person said about me?  But, on the other hand, this was the only really negative response I had received from anyone, and in addition to that I have received so many positive messages and emails from so many kind people encouraging me to write and telling me they enjoy reading about Luca.  I have received several messages from people even saying that reading about my grief journey has helped them to get through their own hard times.  And, just the other day, I got a message from someone who asked me to please tell them how they can best support a grieving person – how amazing is that?  Those kind of messages are the best responses I could ever receive.  For those reasons, and because it helps me so much to tell Luca’s story, I will continue to blog, but I am glad I took some time to rest and reflect.

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Beautifully decorated for Christmas – thanks to Nonnina and Mimi!

As Christmas neared, the days became harder to bear… excruciating is more like it.  On Christmas Eve, we attended church.  Admittedly, it hasn’t been easy for me to go to church since Luca, especially here where I haven’t found one that I really feel at home in, and Christmas Eve was no exception.  I usually love Christmastime, but as everyone surrounded me with their families and children and babies, I cried through most of the songs while everyone else smiled and celebrated.  The minister spoke of God’s mercy and how God had spared his son from an explosion in Afghanistan by mere seconds.  While I am happy that his son is okay, this message just did not resonate with me.  I listened and wondered why that man’s son was spared and mine was not. It just didn’t make sense.  I didn’t get it.  Afterwards, I left as quickly as possible, so I wouldn’t have to stop to talk to anyone, and we headed out to have dinner with friends.  The best friends are the ones who take you as you are – happy or sad – and I am so thankful for the many people I have in my life like that.  We enjoyed a delicious, fancy Christmas meal, laughed a lot, and had a great time.

I woke up on Christmas morning and realized I had had a dream that I saw a rainbow.  There was more to the dream, but that is all I can remember.  I dream a lot these days, so it wasn’t anything surprising.  I got up and went across the hall into Luca’s room to have a quiet peaceful moment to think about him on Christmas morning.  First, I opened up the blinds and as I looked out the window, I saw a gorgeous rainbow!  I woke my husband up and made him look to make sure I wasn’t imagining it.  I wasn’t!  I cried happy tears because I just knew that this was God’s way of saying everything was going to be okay and my angel was safe with Him and was saying hello to his mom and dad.  I FaceTimed my mom and showed her too, then went outside to take a walk and snap some pictures.

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View from our doorstep

A picture taken by my friend of the same rainbow with a much better view from the seawall down the street:

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Sunabe Seawall, Okinawa, Japan – Photo Credit: Kelsey 🙂

The rainbow lasted for at least 20 minutes and was so beautiful.  They are less common this time of year, and after it disappeared the rest of the day was gray and rainy.  I feel so incredibly blessed to have received such a special Christmas gift.  It truly lifted my spirits on a day that I assumed would be terribly painful. Christmas was still not an easy day, but I felt more hopeful and peaceful that day than I had in weeks.  My husband and I exchanged a few gifts, watched movies, and mostly relaxed.  We didn’t talk to as many family members and friends, because we just weren’t in the mood to exchange pleasantries and act like we were having a merry Christmas.  Maybe next year I will be able to write about how to survive Christmas when you’ve lost someone, but for this year I was just trying to survive.  ❤

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Good Days & Bad Days

I started writing this post as a continuation of Luca’s story, but this week has not been easy and I cannot seem to focus on remembering those details at the moment.  The holiday season is hard.  It is a time to celebrate with family and be with loved ones. For someone going through grief, the holidays magnify what you have lost.  All I can say is that grief is very unpredictable.  I never really know what the day will be like until it is here.

Last weekend was six months since Luca’s birthday.  I thought that day would be extremely difficult, since six months is a big milestone for a baby, but surprisingly it was a really good day.  I purposely did not plan much for the day, since I knew that I would need some quiet time to myself.  I thought a lot about what Luca would be like at six months.  What would he look like by now?  I asked my mom to send me a picture of me around that age and searched for baby photos of my husband too. It makes me smile to think about what his cute little face would look like and who he would take after.  Here are our baby pictures: 🙂

As usual, my friends were wonderful and this day did not go unnoticed.  One friend delivered beautiful cookies to celebrate Luca – so sweet to remember and they were delicious!  My husband’s squadron Christmas party was that night and another friend decorated a candle for Luca and put it at our table, so we could think of him throughout the night.  There was a beautiful sunset that evening and we had a great time at the party surrounded by wonderful friends.

I had also just so happened to get a message that very day that Luca’s Christmas stocking was ready!  I had it made locally and wanted it to have something to represent that he was born here in Japan.  I LOVE how it came out!

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In Japan, cranes are a symbol of peace, happiness, good luck, hope, and resilience – all things that remind me of my Luca.  If you would like to read about how the crane became a symbol of peace and healing in Japan, this is an interesting article!

While Luca’s six month birthday was a happier day for me, the days after were not.  Sometimes you wake up and realize that it’s just not going to be a good day.  For me, my grief is magnified when I am overtired, so I try my best to get adequate sleep, but I’m not always the best at that.  On these bad days, my heart physically hurts thinking about my son.  I ache to be able to hold him, smell his sweet baby smell, and touch his soft baby skin. I sit in disbelief that this has really happened to us.  I tell my husband that a lot. “I just can’t believe that this happened.”  And, I cry a lot.  Most of the time it’s not one thing that suddenly makes me sad.  It’s perhaps just being alone with my thoughts.  While I truly feel that those sad days are necessary to keep making progress, they are hard to get through.  They are absolutely exhausting.  They are lonely.

On those days, to cope, I sit in his room and have quiet time, I cancel many of my plans, and I try to muster the courage to tell my husband and friends that I’m hurting.  I think for many grieving people, we worry that our sadness will be a burden for our family and friends.  Or, you think, why bother telling someone you are sad if they can’t fix the problem?  I want to write more specifically about how to help a grieving person in future posts, but I am learning that it is best to tell someone you are hurting and being very honest about what it feels like.  It’s also best to tell people how they can help you.  For me, that is talking about Luca.  On one of my bad days, my friend came over and I showed her Luca’s room for the first time.  We sat in there for awhile and talked.  I felt so much better after being able to share what brings the most joy to my heart – my son.

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Flowers from the farmers market to brighten a sad day

A college friend of mine who is a counselor did a great piece on dealing with loss over the holidays.  I think it’s so true when she says “there can be pain and sadness alongside joy and happiness.”


 

A few months ago, when I was beginning to get over the initial shock of our loss, I told my nurse friend who helped to deliver Luca that I wanted to help in some way.  I wanted to visit families at the hospital who had experienced a loss similar to ours.  I certainly hoped that there wouldn’t be many such losses, but I felt that I could help give other families hope, and that perhaps helping others would help me heal too.  I knew that I had to be careful to protect myself in my grief process – that maybe not every situation would be something I could handle – so, we handle it on a case by case basis.  Recently, I was notified that a family had lost their son and I went to the hospital and sat with them for awhile.  I won’t discuss the details of the visit, but will say that it was so nice to be with them and do my best to offer comfort to them after they had said goodbye to their child.  One of the hardest things is to be alone in that hospital room after you say your final goodbye.  Or to wake up the next morning and realize there is no baby in your arms.  When I was in the hospital, I would have loved to talk to someone who truly understood that kind of emptiness.  I would have liked to see someone who had been through the same pain, yet could find happiness again.  I asked them to show me pictures of their baby and explained how perfect and beautiful he was.  I tried to think of all of the things I would have wanted someone to ask me or talk about after Luca was born.  There were times that not much was said, but just sitting in each other’s presence was peaceful.  I feel honored that they allowed me to be there with them during that special, but heart wrenching time.

On my way out of the hospital, I had a question for the nurse.  In my last post, I wrote about tracking down the clothing that Luca had worn to make Luca Bear.  The only thing that was missing from Luca’s memory box was his tiny blue knitted premie hat.  I asked the nurse if they would, by any chance, have an extra one of those hats that I could have.  She went to look and after awhile she reappeared with the hat!

She said it was the only hat left like it and it was meant for us!  That made my day!  Moments of happiness like this one help me get through the worst days.  I am thankful for everyone who has been so patient and kind and willing to walk this difficult path with me. ❤