Thursday, May 31, 2012

Guest Post: Right Where I Am- Three Years, Six Months, Twenty-Seven Days and Two Years, Four Months, Four Days

It is my honor to welcome a guest post for Right Where I Am from Danielle. [Remember if you do not have a blog and want to contribute, you are welcome to post right here. Send me an email at uberangie(at)gmail(dot)com.] My dear friend Danielle's first son Kai died a month and a half before Lucia. Danielle lost her second son a year and two months later. This year, Leap Day to be exact, Danielle gave birth to her third son, an incredible little Monkey full of contented joy and love. This week, Danielle emailed me with her contribution to the Right Where I Am project. Her insights into grief and her journey last year are right here.  --Angie

My son is three months old.  He wriggles. He coos.  He smiles at us all the time.  He smiles so much that when he eats, milk dribbles from his laughing mouth and wets us both.  He loves it when I sing- ridiculous, composed-in-the-moment songs about Mickey Mouse socks and poo.  At least once a day I sing through a throat choked with tears, because he is here.

When my grandmother, made Great-Grandma at long last, came to meet him in the hospital, she brought me a baby book to record my first memories of our time together.  It sat on a shelf for the first few weeks, all but forgotten in the sleep-deprived haze of new parenthood.  When I finally opened it,  his brothers were there on every page.  What we thought when we found out we were having a baby: Please don’t die. Who we told first, and what they thought: I didn’t use the word pregnant until the third trimester.  Everyone was terrified, but too polite to say so. What we thought when we were waiting for you to be born: Please don’t die.  Siblings waiting to welcome you home:… Suddenly, I could not write.

Our grief is very quiet these days – overshadowed by the newness and the unbelievable, heart-expanding joy of having this amazing little boy to love. Right now, in this moment, I am happier than I can remember being in years, or maybe ever.  I am falling in love with my husband all over again, as he asks me daily if I think this boy will ever be too old to let Daddy hug and kiss him.  My heart is light as I dance around in circles with my son in my arms.  My son.  Right now I have everything I have ever wanted.

Except them.

The other day I asked my husband if he felt healed, now that Monkey is here.  He didn’t hesitate.

“No.  No.  I just don’t have time to think about it as much.”

And yet we do think about it. It’s in the way we introduce ourselves to the other new parents in the neighborhood, where one or the other of us mentions every time that we had a long, long road to get here.  It’s in our daily conversations about whether we have it in us to risk trying for another living child- ridiculous conversations to be having 13 weeks in, but conversations that feel so urgent, so necessary.  It’s in our amazement that friends, expecting a son in July, are willing to decorate their nursery and take our hand-me-down onesies, believing without question that their child will come home.

He is here.  His brothers are not.  He is here.  We went to hell and back to get him here safely.  To get him here at all.  He is here.  There will likely be no others.  He is here.

For the first time in a long time, so am I.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

right where i am 2012: three years, five months, one day.

Last year, I launched a project called Right Where I Am where I asked other babylost parents to write about right where they were in their grief. And it also was about how wherever you are, it is right. I asked people to only talk about the present moment in their grief, not where they were yesterday, or tomorrow, but how they were feeling today. I asked each person to title their piece with Right Where I Am: followed by the time since their child or children died. Here is last year's post. One hundred and seventy-nine people wrote about right where they were. It was more than profoundly interesting. It was beautiful, heartbreaking, lovely, powerful. A few people asked me if I was going to do it again this year. I hadn't thought about it being an annual thing, (and maybe it won't be,) but I thought that it would be interesting to do it again this year. It feels good to do an inventory, I think. I found it fascinating to read last year's and compare where I was last year to this year. But also just to think about what grief is like for me now, and what I am wrestling with these days. Also know that if you are new to this community, we want to hear your story too.  I hope you decide to join in. I know I found many amazing blogs last year, and read the majority of the posts. I tried to comment on them all. I know a few people did too (Catherine W. and Sally, I'm looking at you two.) If you do write, post your link in the Mr. Linky below. Feel free to ask questions in the comments, I'll answer them as soon as I get them. 

Last night, I putzed around my house, cleaning things, nibbling on fruit left in a bowl by my children. I turned the television on, sat for a moment, then off it went again. Nothing to watch but a documentary about the ex-Amish that I've already watched. I drew a bath, and poured some patchouli bath salt under the faucet, the pungent smell overwhelming the bathroom. I opened a window so a small breeze blew over me. I moved my seven day votive candle to the rim on the bathtub. I started burning one three weeks ago after I found out our new baby might be dead. I prayed to Mother Mary and lit a candle to her. The baby was dead. I don't blame Mary.  I thought I should give prayer a shot even though everyone already knew the baby was gone. And besides Mary is there for grieving mothers, I hear. This is the third consecutive candle. I remember burning candles all night and all day too after Lucia died. The light felt like a physical presence in the room--warm and alive, changing with the conversation. I listened to the local npr station and stayed in the scalding hot water until it grew cold and I was shivering.

I have only cried a few times since I lost this latest pregnancy. A twelve week miscarriage, but she seems to have died weeks earlier, if she ever lived. Some days, I feel too busy to grieve and be sad. And besides, I think, "This baby isn't Lucia." even though I loathe comparison grieving. But this loss reminds me of Lucia's death, not because it was the same. It was completely different, but it reminds me of how much I wanted someone so little who was destined to die. It reminds me of feeling hope and innocence, but then meeting death. I expected death this time. I hate to say it made it easier, but it did. I survived my daughter's thirty-eight week stillbirth, gave birth, lost my friends, lost my way, refound it, made an incredibly large amount of new babylost friends, found something like a spirituality and compassion. I found myself in the wreckage of my daughter's death. Myself strong and capable, weak and full of fault, slain but resurrected. Myself human. All human. I forgive myself for my humanity now, rather than torturing myself over it.

I opened the cabinet to brush my teeth and my gigantic knock-off G-Force digital watch was in there. It was making colors--green to red to blue. It wasn't doing that before the bath. In fact, it has never done that. The darkness enhanced this beautiful show, like the aurora bourealis over the Crest toothpaste. "Hello, my little love," I said, unafraid, "My Lucia, my little Buddha. Mama misses you." I shut the cabinet door.

I allow her to be part of my life now.

That is something new about year three. I invite Lucia into my world. I let myself see signs of her, to remind myself that we are small in this universe. There is dew and moss and the Grand Canyon. And my baby died. It was a minute blip on the radar of the universe; an atomic bomb in our little family. And so, I can allow her to keep coming to us, in whatever way we want, simply because it is comforting. I tell myself it is okay to search out comfort in our world. To pray to something bigger than me. I disallowed prayer in my early grief, because I felt like a hypocrite asking for God's help when I was suffering. I pray for big things that seem small, like patience and gratitude and humility. Year three has given me permission to believe there is something beyond what I can see in my everyday. That maybe Lucia is around me, and I still don't call her an angel.

See, peace in me used to translate in my brain to peace in her death. I think I integrated her death in such a way now that I understand I can have healing, comfort, hope, love, happiness, serenity and peace and it doesn't mean that I am healed, or comforted from her death. It means that it can still piss me off that she died. I am still sad when I focus on it, but I choose to focus on the joy that she lived at all. It seems miraculous that anyone lives. We are so vulnerable and delicate. Creatures built for death. Lucia taught me that. She taught me about impermanence. I am grateful for the lesson.

I reread my post from last year, and I can see the growth of that peace. Things and people can still upset me. The crazy chatter in my brain still sounds like Ornette Coleman, but it is quieter. It is a constant upkeep to remain in a state of gratitude, but I want that serenity. This miscarriage, not yet even a month old notwithstanding. We grieve this new loss in a new way. The children particularly, but we also feel happy. We seize the happiness when it comes, because we lived with happiness guilt, and it is a pointless, ridiculous guilt. To be happy and grieve is a dichotomy we have become very comfortable with. I think most babylost families live in that place of continual happy-sad.

Honestly, my biggest grief-related issue right now is this space. I fear that I do my readers a disservice. Women and men who find me after they have just lost a child. Who have grieved for a day, two weeks, three months, for six months, for a year, for ten. Perhaps my grief resonates, and it is true grief. But I edit my grief. I massage the words. I clean it up, make an analogy. After a long, winding life, I kill the analogy, then I resurrect it and make a holiday in its name.

I want to tell the people who read here that I write and edit and think and cajole and explicate and outline and rewrite and giggle. But I don't cry much. Does that matter?  Does it matter that I don't cry? Does it matter that I run into the office after dishes, the linen towel still tucked into my jeans, as I wipe my hands dry, and type something about being eviscerated because Lucia died, or write something about the moon, and then go do the dishes again without shedding a tear?

Mired-in-grief is not what three years, five months and one day from Lucia's death looks like for me. Three years isn't all grieving for me. In fact, it isn't grieving at all. Not in that active-not-being-able-to-breathe way. It is not grieving in that I-cannot-live-with-this-knowledge-and-I-cannot-die-because-of-it way. It is not the grieving in that not-being-able-to-function-or-answer-the-phone-or-go-for-a-walk way or the I-can't-get-out-of-bed way. It is the hear-a-pregnant-lady-say-'what's-the-worst-that-can-happen'-and-know grief. Grief became so apart of who I am that it changed almost nothing. Or rather it changed everything about me except me. Or rather, maybe I should say, everything stayed the same but me. I don't know. I feel like a new species--a griefasaurus. I have this life now. It is the only life I can imagine, and it involves Lucia dead. And it isn't a sad life. Bloody fucking hell, I miss her. I miss what our life almost was, and didn't get to be. But I have a beautiful life. A happy family. Joy and running and laughter and Lucia is dead.

Grief now is a moment of my week. In the first year, I'll be honest, a moment without grief felt like a victory. That was the moment I wrote about on my blog, now grief is the moment I write about. But then, because I write a blog about grief, and I write here every week, or twice a week, I write that moment down. I massage it, cajole, edit, kill the analogy, you know, like I said before. And since I write about grief here a few times a week, it seems like I am always grieving, crying, catching my breath, thinking of clever analogies for death and grief and authenticity. That is why I fear it is a disservice to keep writing.

But the truth is I need to write to her, about her. About nature and God and how it intersects with grief. I feel like I am learning so much now. And it is different than learning to live without her. I know how to do that. I wrote about that for two years. I wrote about it because I was learning how to live without my daughter, and how to live without the friends I thought I had, or the safety I thought was afforded me, or that kind, compassionate person I thought I was (apparently, I wasn't that kind or compassionate.) Now it is learning that because she died, the world became more beautiful, because I have hell to compare the world to. I am alive. I have two living children. I don't take any moment of my life for granted. I know the other way.

I wake up and meditate and pray and drink coffee and play and breakfast/lunch/dinner. And I don't grieve in there, not in the way grief was. It was a full-body, all-encompassing physical affliction. It was active. It was debilitating. Keening was a contact sport. Her death is part of the fabric of my life now. It happened. I wove it in, beaded it. It isn't still happening, though it was still happening for the first eighteen months. (Does it help to know there was an end to the active grief? Does it help to know it lasted for 18 months for me? And random days now?) Now, she is just in everything I do, a part of it all, and also, I don't mention her to the earth people. Well, not much. That is one thing that has changed too this year. I don't say that I have three children anymore.

I feel like I have to confess that. That seemed horrifying to me after she died. To deny her to strangers, or even family I haven't seen. But I realize now that it isn't denying her. I just say two, because Lucia isn't an anecdote. She isn't casual conversation. She is my love, not my statement, or my eff you to a society who can't deal with daughter-death. And I still miss her.


Now, it's your turn. Where are you in your grief? Emotionally. Physically. Psychically. Spiritually. You can compare your journey from last year's post (don't forget to link last year's post to this years.) Title your post, "Right Where I Am 2012:(Time since your child's death)" then come back here and link your blog post on the Mr. Linky below. Click other participants and read about right where they are. Comment if you can. Just a thank you for telling me about right where you are. If you don't want to write a full post, why not just comment here and tell me the time since your loss(es) and anything else you want to share. If you do not have a blog and are a regular reader, you can post your essay on this very blog as a guest writer. Send me an email at uberangie(at)gmail(dot)com. Spread the word around the community by linking back to this post, so people can find out what grief is like on all stops on the road. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

new moon

There is no moon tonight, yet the sky is not quite black. It is the grey of ambient light, filtered through clouds and exhaust. It is muddy orange. There is a sense of quiet in the complete blackness where the moon is, something more than just dark, that makes me ache again for somewhere far away from city. The night sky swallows you whole. It reminds you of nothing, allows the stars to be center stage, rather than the back-up band. They say the new moon banishes things. Pray for weight loss! Rid yourself of the philanderer! Quit the job! Banish the blemishes! Exorcise negative thoughts! Quiet the mind! Turn of the refrain. Stop talking endlessly to yourself about nothing important.

My uterus grips the insides of me. The pain stretches into my back, and out through my front. It is ovary, I'm sure of it. Or perhaps something overly...uh, diseased. An appendix four inches too low. It radiates into my thighs, my calves, my muscles are strong, but I cannot push the ache out. This process is so physical. Blood dripping out of me for weeks creating an ombre of pinks, reds, maroons, browns if I allow it. I lose tissue and energy and strength. Sometimes I think about this hippie women's herbal book I have that says to bleed into your garden each month to nourish your plants. I imagine squatting in my blueberries, waving at the neighbor. "Just bleeding over here, thank you very much." I flush my blood, feed it to nothing. It spreads tiny atoms of DNA to every part of the ocean. She is in everything now.

I never saw the baby. Every drop out of me, part of her, I imagine. I am ready to be done with this physical part, like I cut something out, and have to paste myself back into what I think I should be. My friend keeps bringing me potato soup. "It is vegan," she tells me. Add salt. Potatoes are good for the blood." The soup is delicious. She is mothering me, and I like to be mothered.

I took iron for a few days. It moves in me like rocks, in that, there is no movement. No matter how hard I push, I suffer. I quit the iron. I'd rather be anemic. I am exhausted by normal life, tired mentally from pretending that this is nothing that big. "It's all small stuff," someone said to me recently. "Don't sweat the small stuff. But how are you with God? That is the bigger question. Are you turning your will over to Him?"

"We are cool," I say. And we are. I don't have any problem with God. I don't think God has anything to do with death, honestly. Death is a corporeal thing. Hearts stop, lungs block, organs shut down. There is a messiness to death that is very un-Godlike. It is all human. It is all small stuff, I guess, when you compare it to the one all-powerful, omniscient, omnibenevolent God of casual conversation. But I am all-weak, ignorant, and vulnerably human. I want to toil over small things right now. If an almost-daughter is a small thing, then I want to sweat her. I want to weep for her almost-being.

I don't cry. I feel stuck, like an engine turning over, like a cloud in front of the hole where the moon should be. When I am depressed, I like to think of God as a buxom woman with large hips singing work songs in the garden. A frosty Mason jar of herbs and fruit that makes your brain quiet and loving. She's an ancient goddess from a Mediterranean island with low lying teats and a penchant for donkey-hung totems. She wears long skirts and gives birth in a hole filled with straw. She births the Stars, the Trees, Love, the Harvest, the platypus with its egg-laying mammalian faults. Some of her children die. (Think dodo.) She always coos and sings nonsense songs in Spanish to me, her smile as warm and inviting as the first full moon of Spring, filling me up with flowers and dew.

In the night, I think of morning. The children never know what they want for breakfast. It has been driving me crazy. I feel like a claw game every morning. Bagel? English Muffin? Cereal? Cheese? Yogurt and granola? I find this so exhausting. I vowed never to do this before I had children, and here I am, in the middle of the night, thinking about breakfast. Since the miscarriage, I have no patience for it. Beside the pain, it is the only discernible difference in my personality. I start off the day tired already from that one chore. Everyone knows what they don't want, but no one articulates what they are passionate for, what hungers in them. It seems more like an existential problem rather than a food one.

I decide that tomorrow, I will scuttle over to the fridge, legs bent in a kind of goddess birthing pose. I will draw a spiral on my belly and let my breasts hang over my deflated stomach. I'll reach up to the sky and double check my pose with the statue on our altar. I will grunt: "Mother. Goddess. Want. Berries." Because goddesses speak English-Neanderthal. Once I have fed the goddess, I will drink two cups of coffee in the garden, bleeding into the plants and ask myself questions about all the things I take for granted. Is this healing now? Is that healing in my life right now? Is this good for my soul? Is that good for my family? Is this good for mankind? Is that bringing me light or darkness?

The children will eat when they are ready. They will ask me for toast with butter and cheese. Peppermint tea with milk.  And I will mess their hair and sing nonsense songs in Spanish.

The night feels dark without a moon. Solemn and ancient, even though it is only four hours old. I feel lost. How long has she been gone? Either of them? Both of them? I drift in and out of sleep, in and out of pain. I search for quiet in my mind. It comes in wanting berries and knowing it. It comes in a dancing candle, and a moment in the dark muddy orange of a New Jersey new moon. It comes from knowing what you want for breakfast. It comes from hours in front of a project without checking my phone. It comes. Slowly. Steadily. But it comes.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

light rain

I stood in the rain last night listening to my friend talk about suicide. We lost another person in our community last week, which makes three people in a month. It felt good to be covered in a cool, light rain when our conversation was so heavy. I wore a light summer tunic and yoga pants, so I was soaked in fifteen minutes. The night was beautiful. I thought about my new flowers, my vegetables, my newly planted fig tree. I thought about the men that died, and my baby in the ground under her sister's tree. The conversation flowed easily, and we pooled around the subject of faith and the book of James. If he had realized, my friend would have stopped talking about Psalms, or he would have invited me into his car, but I wanted to stand in the rain, let it wash over me.

There is no figuring any of it out, but we retell the stories to each other. We witnessed those people. They lived. They died. My friend says that they chose a peace, the peace with a decision made. I never mentioned my miscarriage, or my hemoglobin levels, or my dead daughter, but they were all there running down my back, puddles of them around me. My feet wriggle into the wet ground, sprout hard knotty roots out of my toenails. They lift the cement, and I reach high into the air, branches and leaves, taking in the rain. My trunk covered in lichen and small burrowing insects. I bleed into the soil. I sweat all night into the air, covering the grass around me in dew. My sapling is gone. I need the rain to let her go.

My strength is slowly poured into my body through dandelion leaf juice with lemon and apple. It is a bitter tonic. My friend brought me vegan potato soup. It restored something earthy in me. I roast veggies all day. My husband reminds me that a steak would be best for my blood, but I shoo him away with his insights. I am no longer willing to compromise that part of my belief system. I did that for many years, told people I was once a vegan line cook, a vegetarian for a decade, but I eat some meat now and again. They'd cringe. No one trusts an ex-vegetarian.

I will tell that story one day, the one about me compromising my beliefs about eating flesh, but not today.

The rain suits me. Lately, I have been fantasizing about moving to Oregon or Washington state, where the weather seems perfectly suited to my personality. And the lifestyle, let's be honest, seems perfectly suited to me too. We talk late at night about creating a gypsy caravan or camper. We pin ideas for each other on Pinterest, and think about making something eco-friendly where we are completely off the grid. It has a woodstove and solar panels, a composting toilet and a veggie oil diesel engine. We sell our house. We take our family on the road for a few years, homeschooling and traveling across the country, then we end up in a rain forest, creating an ice machine. The children are young, they will manage quite nicely. And we can grasp onto all the second chances we were afforded in the last few decades.

I am a tree walker, a large creature with moss and bark and hollow crevices for small creatures to create a home. I stomp through the forest, and I don't make a noise. I want to live on nothing with nothing but my children, my husband, the dog, then the bare necessities. To create art with my children, and sleep in one large bed with blankets made out of old sari silks and turmeric dye. To learn about the world by seeing, touching, doing. We cling to each other now, Sam and the children and my need to protect us overwhelms me. We sleep together, and think about how we can create a larger bed. We want us all close, skin touching other skin. Someone's knee juts into the crook of someone else's knees. I search for protective herbs and plant pansies and snapdragons by our front door. I burn black candles charged with a white light to surround my family. I wonder what psychic harm I have endured by being so public about my grief and pregnancies. About my drinking past and sober present. I grieve and parent in this space. That feels so vulnerable lately, so much like a felled tree, rings counted at the whim of any passerby, made into a stump bench, gawked at and marveled at and confused by.

The last few weeks, I have been thinking about this space, my writing about grief and death and my daughter and my pregnancy. Sometimes I think the hardest part about this space is that I don't have any idea who reads here. My site tracker is vague. I check it infrequently at any rate. And I grow deeply self-aware that people in my daily life can come here and read my ugly thoughts, or my fears, and I know nothing about them. But that is not the hard part. It is not any of my business to know who reads here and it is certainly not my business to know what they think of me and my writing. What is hard is that I am changing. I want to have a conversation. I want a community. I offer up my writing, my vulnerability, in some strange forest ceremony, a large bonfire in a circle of trees, beckoning others to me, then I grow self-conscious when others watch, when I think they watch and offer no dance themselves.

The rain has continued all night into this morning. We lie in bed and read books, dreaming of the road and Sequoia. The babies ask me if our new baby is okay under Lucia's tree in the rain. And I tell them she is growing and changing into something more marvelous than we can imagine. We have to trust the earth to change her into something rich and loamy, and us too. And change us too.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

thank you

I cannot tell you what the notes, condolences, comments, and the emails we have received have meant to us. We feel held. We feel loved. We know we are not going through this alone. Thank you. Oh, loves, thank you.

I lost enough blood during the miscarriage to be still quite weak. As I physically heal, I am just very present with this grief and this broken old body. It helps. It is helping to deal with the immediacy of my physical suffering. I know that it will transition to something else when I am alone with my head and the hormonal changes, but for now, it is a small gift to be there.

With my lack of energy, I am channeling all this grief energy into a project for another grieving mama. God, that gift helps so immensely. I meditated tonglen yesterday. Sometimes, it is easier to do tonglen when you are suffering, in my experience, because I can start from that place of saying, "Because I feel this way, I know others feel this way. May I feel it so others do not have to feel it." Sometimes the suffering is so self-absorbing, that you cannot get out of your own suffering. Then the meditation should be for yourself. I am not there, thankfully. Gratefully.

As always, the most difficult aspect is watching Beezus grieve. We are holding each other, sleeping together, crying, and talking about Lucia more. But she misses this little baby that never was. To Beezus, she was a sister already. As I can find comfort and solace in science, statistics about miscarriage and early loss, and all those swirling adult things, Beezus lost her little sister. Again. She is so much bigger this time, and I can see all her grief in those tears. I hold her, my eyes welling up despite myself.

I know, mijita, I know. It is unfair.

We buried the baby last night under Lucia's tree. We lit a fire in our small fire pit and dusted it with sage and cedar, sea salt. I prayed for comfort and release from grief for my children. We read a prayer that I love. Hopi Prayer for the Soul's Graduation. Chris and Lani shared it for Silas' memorial, and it felt right last night. I cried, for the first time overtaken by tears completely, letting her be the wind. The dew. The swift uplifting rush of quiet birds. Little Lucia too. It seemed for her too.

Thank you for your thoughts at this time. Thank you for keeping us in your prayers and surrounded by a white light in your mind.

I also would like to select a winner from the last giveaway post for Still Standing. The winner is RENEL! Renel email me, so I can paint your meditating mama or an enso or whatever you would like. It will help me. I promise.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Yesterday, after a week of tests and ultrasounds, hospitals and bleeding, our doctor confirmed that our little baby died in my womb. I was twelve weeks, but she never grew. I just announced my pregnancy on this blog last week. I'm so sorry to deliver the news in this way.

Today, I am over at Glow in the Woods, talking about our miscarriage and Lucia's death, in a piece called the raven.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

little birds

What is that, Mama?

I look down at a featherless little bird. Without formed eyes. A swollen bird fetus on our front step.

It is a dead baby bird, my love.
How did it die?
I don't know, my love.
Maybe it was an eagle.
I don't think it was an eagle. 
Or a hawk.
Perhaps. It probably just fell out of a nest, shell broken, and was dragged here by some animal, like the neighbor cat Tae-bo.
Or an eagle.
Or an eagle.
Why do birds die, Mama?
Because everything dies, baby.
But it's little.
Yes. Sometimes little things die.
Is the baby going to die?
I hope not, baby. 
Yes, baby?
I think I saw an eagle.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

still standing

After Lucia died, I had no idea what to do with all this grief energy. I wanted to run out of my skin. I wanted to shave my head. I wanted a uniform. I wanted...something.

I wrote. The first thing I wrote was her birth story. I tweeked it and edited it. For weeks. That seemed like the whole story of my daughter. She died. She was born. The inverse of normal events. I was writing to try to find Lucia in the story of the only time I held her. I focused on the details of her. She was six pounds, nineteen inches. That was her. She was black-haired. That was her. She was dead. That was her.

None of those things were her.

After a few weeks, I began painting and then my feelings came back slowly. I could feel everything. It  was as though I decorated the numb over me with still lifes. Art dissolved the shell of me. Painting made me want more art. I wanted to feel. Because the feeling of grief became her. It was love. Overwhelming love caused overwhelming grief. In the quiet of art, I found Lucia. She was like a prayer and a hope and a whisper and a beautiful thing you cannot hold.

Art became a huge part of my grief journey. It lay a path in front of me that I never imagined possible. I began painting mizuko jizo in the ritual I so desperately craved. In that ritual, she was there. I began painting for other grieving people. I created still life 365. In 2010, I dedicated all my time and energy to still life 365. I published a piece of art, craft, music, painting, poetry, film, collage, sewing...anything created by hands that held their child and wept. I published every day of the year. Sometimes twice a day. That is how much love this community has.

Through the last two years, I have focused more of my attention on my writing. As grief's desperate claws loosened its grip on the back of my neck, I have written less about grief. But it is still there like a low hum on my life. And I don't mind it. She existed and I am better for having known her, for grieving her. I have closed down my Etsy shop to focus on writing. I have stopped publishing at still life 365. And I miss art and creativity and being enmeshed in the community of artists I still consider my closest friends.

Franchesca from Small Bird Studios emailed me a few weeks ago. She asked me to be a quarterly contributor at her new magazine Still Standing.  I had seen so many amazing women in our community posting about their writing and contributions that I immediately said OF COURSE!! Still Standing is an online magazine for parents who have lost a child, or suffer from infertility. It is a magazine about hope and healing.

What will I be writing about?

Art. Community. I will be presenting art workshops by video. Or prompting the community to write on their own blogs, like the Spoken Word Prompt. I will be interviewing other artists, like the Artist to Artist conversations on still life 365, publishing podcasts. When Franchesca asked me to participate here, she could have no idea how soul-satisfying that would be to me, or how very much I had missed the community of grieving artists and parents who create, how much I need to be doing this kind of writing and work too.

Art is magic. Art is healing. Art is peace. Art is the glowing stone that everyone gathers around to watch. Art is language. Art is love. Art is joy. Art is my philosophy. Art is community. Art is something special. Art is earth, wind, fire, and water. And my only goal at Still Standing is to share that magic with everyone.

Still Standing launches on May 5th. Until then, you can sign up for the magazine here.
Join Still Standing on Facebook here


In honor of Still Standing, International Bereaved Mother's Day, and writing about art and community, I am offering a handpainted custom mizuko jizo painting to one commenter today. You can ask for a handpainted 5"x7" watercolor greeting card. This is a great way to let someone in this community know you are thinking about them, or honor them on International Bereaved Mother's Day. Or you can ask for a 4"x6" painting for your own altar, or area in your house you have designated for your child or children. Or you can gift that to someone too. You can read more about my artwork and process here. I have a description of mizuko jizo here

If you are sick of mizuko jizo, I am working on  linoleum block prints. Or needlefelted objects. Or an enso meditation. If you are familiar with my work, you might have something screaming out to you that you want one of. Just ask here in the comments. My daily artwork is at still life everyday.