Vision

Some people are probably going to find this post a bit … out there. If you don’t believe in visions, heaven, the afterlife, etc., you might want to skip it.

I have heard of or read about many grieving people saying their loved ones visit them in dreams and it brings them great comfort. I haven’t experienced that—in fact for weeks, I don’t think I had any dreams at all—and so I’ve been kind of pissed off and bitter about it.

Separately, I’ve been going to acupuncture for a few months. It’s something I always wanted to try, and my grief counselor suggested it. At first I went twice a week and now I go every other week. I talk to the acupuncturist about what’s going on and what emotional state I would like to move toward, she selects points to put the needles in, and then I lie on the table for a really long time.

The first session walloped me. The needles allow energy to flow and, just like the acupuncturist warned might happen at first, that initial treatment seemed to dislodge a hell of a lot of negative emotions. I felt overwhelmingly sad and hopeless for several days. But the energy kept flowing, and eventually it lifted.

The best way I can describe the sessions is that they “dislodge” emotions that are stuck, and when I’m lying on the table I can often physically feel them move up and out. I usually feel lighter when I walk out the door or later the same day. It’s a bit insane and I don’t pretend to understand it, but it seems to be helping, so I keep doing it.

This session was a bit different from normal. Beforehand, we talked about some uncertainty I’ve been dealing with in my professional life, how some of the depression seems to have returned even though there’s been no clear trigger, and how I try to ignore those feelings and find things to distract me so they don’t overtake my life. She said that wasn’t healthy and suggested that instead of ignoring the feelings, I find some way to acknowledge them, through a saying or some other sort of ritual, and then move on. We talked for a bit and then she put the needles in and left.

Almost as soon as she closed the door, sadness overwhelmed me and I started crying. And then I started having a vision.

I could see a little boy of about 5 years old standing in a field surrounded by fog. He seemed far away at first. But eventually, in my vision, I was able to go up to this little boy. I couldn’t really see his face, but I hugged and kissed him. Then he said, “I love you, Mommy.” My heart burst, the tears flowed, and I whispered, “I love you, too.”

This part of the vision kind of faded in and out for a bit; it always returned to the little boy standing by himself, enshrouded in fog. But then, after a while, I was beside a stream in a gorge. He was at my side, but I couldn’t see him. Then I started seeing other streams, and some lakes. Some I recognized and some I didn’t. I can’t explain it, but I felt like he was showing these places to me.

Then we were hovering above the earth. I could clearly see the world turning below me, the cloud cover and the blue oceans. I had an impending sense of doom and devastation—and the strong feeling that he was telling me my future, my purpose, lies in helping to prevent the human race from destroying itself and all other species on the planet. He was urgent, and sad, and he wanted me to help.

We talked about God and heaven. I got a vague sense of who else is with him. He said, “You don’t have to be sad, Mom. I’m OK.”

Then he said, “God speaks to those he believes can make a difference. It’s up to them whether they choose to listen.” I thought about Syria, the refugee crisis, the Paris attacks, and the turmoil in the Middle East. He said, “That’s a battle for others to fight; that’s not your cause.”

Eventually, the vision faded. It’s hard to explain, but I don’t think I was controlling it; I felt like I was just receiving the thoughts and images. At one point early on in the vision, I did try to control it; I tried to visualize walking through a field of tall autumn grass with Luke, Zack, and Zoe. But those images kept being replaced by the little boy standing in the fog.

I’m overwhelmed by this and don’t yet know what to make of it; my first priority was to get it down on paper so that I would remember. I do know that the vision brings me a great deal of peace and a new way to connect with Luke, whether real or imagined. I’m not sure it makes a difference which.

Random thoughts

In no particular order, here are some of the thoughts I’ve been having and things that have been happening the past few weeks.

I basically haven’t been on Facebook for more than two weeks. And I can’t really say that I miss it.

My messages, emails, and texts are a sad reminder of this huge pivot point in my life. Everything before Aug. 21 is filled with mundane exchanges about details that, in the grand scheme of things, are perfectly trivial. I was blissfully unaware of the tragedy that was about to befall me. I both curse the innocence of these exchanges and long for them. Then there were a few messages where things took a horrible turn, and everything after Aug. 21 is filled with phrases like, “I’m so sorry” and “Is there anything I can do?” and sad emoji—weeping faces, blue and broken hearts. When I returned to work and opened my email for the first time, confronting this dichotomy was really painful.

Tragedies like the mass murders in Paris are no longer horrible and sad simply on their own merits. Now they are mixed up in and colored by my feelings about Luke’s death. I keep thinking of the shock and grief that all the victims’ loved ones are experiencing, and that just reminds me of my own shock and grief. Then I feel shitty for making the tragedy in any way about me.

At some point I realized I no longer wear makeup. I know this is connected to Luke’s death in some way, but I’m not sure how.

Newborn boys are everywhere.

When I’m with Zoe, I wonder if other parents look at me, do the math in their head, and ask themselves when I’m going to have another child or why I’m not pregnant yet.

Sometimes I want to shout at every parent I see, “My son was stillborn in August! BE NICE TO YOUR KID AND PUT DOWN THE GODDAMN PHONE!”

I’ve thought about creating a T-shirt on CafePress that says, “I was pregnant for nine months and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.” I’m sure some people will find this shocking, but I know other baby loss moms will appreciate the dark humor.

Triggers

When someone becomes a bereaved person, at some point in the grieving process they start to encounter what are known as triggers: statements, moments, or events that recall the traumatic event, remind the person of what they lost, and unleash the pain all over again.

Think of the widow who has lost her lifelong husband to cancer or heart disease. Upon hearing of relatives’ or friends’ 50th wedding anniversary, happiness for the couple in question might be overshadowed by her own sense of loss—the knowledge that, if her husband had lived, she too would have reached such a milestone.

A friend who lost her dad in her early 20s speaks of triggers at other people’s weddings: the bride being walked down the aisle, the daddy-daughter dance. She has to leave the room to compose herself.

For baby loss moms, it’s almost impossible to avoid triggers. Social media, the local park, TV, and the supermarket are full of them. Baby showers and birth announcements can trigger a tidal wave of emotions, and the bereaved parent may wish to withdraw herself from the celebration. Many baby loss moms struggle with witnessing milestones and life events of other children born around the same time their child died: speaking their first word, taking their first step, attending their first day of kindergarten. The moms see a ghost in all those posts and photos.

These situations can be uncomfortable, but they shouldn’t make bereaved parents into pariahs. Instead, I offer these suggestions.

  1. Ask the bereaved parents what ground rules for communication they would prefer. If you are expecting a baby or have a newborn, understand that the bereaved parent may wish to avoid discussing the situation with you. Pregnant moms in particular should be careful to avoid complaining about pregnancy or treating it casually. These feelings may dissipate over time or they may last a lifetime.
  2. If you are a parent, be extremely sensitive when discussing living children. Even casual remarks about something as innocent as baby clothing could trigger a sudden wave of wistfulness or remorse in the grieving mother or father.
  3. Reach out to bereaved parents when other family members or mutual friends are celebrating a life event. The parents know and understand that life goes on despite their loss, and usually they want to be happy for the person in question, but it can be difficult to feel anything but sad and alone, particularly when they see the person being inundated with congratulations when all they received were condolences. A simple note to say, “I heard about xx and just wanted to let you know that I am thinking of you today” can go a long way. I wish my husband’s co-workers had done this in the early days whenever one of his colleagues discussed his newborn, born alive at around the same time Luke was born still. If you are the person experiencing the life event, I can assure you that the thoughtful note will mean that much more to the bereaved person and may actually help in the healing process.

As an example of the latter, a coworker of mine sent an incredibly thoughtful note on Halloween saying she was thinking of me in knowing how kid-centered the holiday is. It lifted my spirits and help ease a sense of loneliness that has been settling in.

These suggestions require empathy: being able to project yourself into the thoughts and emotions of the bereaved person. I understand that this will bring some people uncomfortably close to thoughts of death and mortality that they would prefer to avoid. However, for those who have asked what they can do to help and who truly mean it, know that for the bereaved it’s not the casseroles and the flowers and the gift cards that carry lasting meaning, but rather the simple acts of kindness and reaching out that take only a few moments to execute but reverberate forever.