Stop living in death...start living in this life

I'm not quite sure how to start this one tonight. From my last post you can all see that my grief is still runs very deep and I don't expect that to change much anytime soon...especially with what the next 3 months represent for us. However...I had a session with my counselor today that was long, hard, exhausting, but everything I needed to hear. I am so happy to have found Jeanine, she's a Christian counselor who was a NICU nurse. She worked with the terminal babies and later felt a calling to grief counseling and went to seminary for her education and training. She is incredible. Her faith is ever present and yet not overbearing in a way that intimidates me or makes me feel like I'm not a "good enough Christian"...her understanding of my grief is unlike anyone else I've spoken to on a professional level thus far...and she has this way of speaking to me with such compassion, even if it's something I don't necessarily want to hear.

I've been in and out of counseling for a long time...as a teen, a young adult, early in our marriage, and now; so I've learned that I tend to get a little upset if my counselor challenges me too much, or I may get offended or defensive if they aren't just letting me spill my guts and be the "victim" but are also holding me accountable for the decisions and choices I make. It was brought to my attention by someone very close to me that my posts may sometimes make light of the actual depths of my depression. I may write...life with micro-preemies is exhausting and chaotic...but what I fail to truly tell you is that last year I was hanging on by a thread, I was extraordinarily sleep deprived, still dealing with enormous guilt about my apparent shortcomings in relation to my early delivery, and was completely overwhelmed despite all the help I had. Richard and I had a very rough go of it for a long time...life was definitely not rosy all the time.

You see, I've been depressed for a long time...a very long time. Depression is an illness, it is not something you just muscle through or you brush off. My personality tends on the extreme...odd because a lot of people tell me I have such a calm nature...and I think for the most part I do...but when I'm down I get really, really, really down. So low that it scares some that are quite close to me. I don't think I was ever treated from a medical standpoint properly for my depression and I am certain that in some ways I hid, or tried to hide the extent of my depression from the very people that could help me. When Zoe first died I was in shock for a couple of weeks...and then the reality of her death began to set in and my already existing depression was compounded by the grief and I went low. I went very low, I went to very dark places, places that scared my husband. I couldn't hide my depression, I didn't want to, I didn't care. I'd do the absolute minimum possible that I could get away with in terms of caring for Avery, Lily, Richard, our home, and myself. I demanded a great deal from Richard, I expected him to continue to shoulder the majority of basically everything and to continue to carry us without much if any support from me; knowing full well that Zoe was his daughter too and he was hurting as much as I was. At the time the girls were still very much infants...not walking yet, still taking bottles, not nearly the independent little girls you see walking around our house today! Anyway, I guess my point in sharing this with you is that I don't want anyone to have an idealized picture of me, that I can take on anything and persevere. I am human and I was not well and I still have a lot of work to do to heal.

Well, thank you Zoe...because of all we've gone through lately I have sought out, with the support of my incredible husband, the best care. I now feel that I am under proper medical observation and have found Jeanine to help me with the grief counseling and my spiritual path. Which brings me to today....my session today was very powerful, so exhausting I wanted to just go to bed afterwards, but like I said earlier it was exactly what I needed.

I started by sharing with Jeanine that I've been having a really hard time lately, understandable she said with the holidays, girls' birthday, the year anniversary all in the next three months. She asked me how I was dealing with it and I wasn't sure how to answer because I can't really say that I'm actively dealing with, it's more that I'm just trying to survive from one day to the next. I also explained to her that this was the time that Zoe was home with us. She asked me to share any memories I had of that time and it was a good exercise for me to share these tiny moments and to remember them myself...like how Avery and Lily would crawl over and sit right on top of Zoe while she was playing with something and in quiet retaliation Zoe would steal their paci. Zoe loved being with her sisters and would watch them intently, she looked so cute at night, all bathed and smelling good, tucked into her co-sleeper, breathing treatments done, feeding pump going, and she'd hold her paci with both hands and kind of rock side to side, as if she was rocking herself to sleep. I'd lay on my bed and get my face close to hers so our cheeks would touch and I'd sing to her, it was our private alone moment, just me and Zoe, and it happened like that almost every night. I was able to recount these few precious moments with Jeanine and feel good about it. I then shared with her that a couple of people recently had asked me if I felt that my grief over Zoe was interfering with my ability to mother Avery and Lily and to be a wife to Richard. I told her I was offended when people said this and felt that I was still doing a good job of mothering Avery and Lily...but that it was hard.

Like I've shared in the past, each good moment with Avery and Lily has a sad moment on it's heels wishing Zoe was there too, or replaying the experience in my mind as if Zoe were there, oxygen and all. Jeanine said "Keira, you're torturing yourself by doing that. You are keeping yourself firmly planted in pain." She then went on to say "I'm not saying that you can't miss Zoe, or be sad, or keep grieving her loss...but we need to find a way to allow you to grieve in a healthier way. We have to stop the 'rotisserie thinking'. Negative thoughts beget negative thoughts and build and build."

I then told her that I often feel like I'm too separate people...the one that's here with these never ending thoughts and yearnings and sadness and then the other that knows that Zoe is in a better place, that she is with the Lord, that she is free of all attachments, that she is experiencing a love that I can not begin to comprehend, that she's just fine, better than fine and that I will see her again. Jeanine then commented that she felt that I had the notion in my head that if I don't feel intense pain, if I don't grieve her death every single day in a very deep way that I am somehow allowing this to measure the depth of my love for her. That I don't love her enough if I don't cry every day. She said "Keira, you love Zoe deeply and completely and you have to let that be enough. Let that be enough. You don't have to do anything else." So simple, so true, and also so difficult.

We then moved on to the guilt that I continue to carry with me. I told her that I pray about it, I ask the Lord to help me accept that the girls were born early, they all had rough starts to life, they had their obstacles, I couldn't be at home with Avery and Lily and in the hospital with Zoe all at the same time, etc., etc. I told her that I often think that I should have pumped my breastmilk for more than 8 months especially for Zoe that if I had done that she would have gotten more of my immunities and maybe she wouldn't have gotten the flu after all. I told her I know this isn't a rational thought, but it is a continuing thought in my mind because as a mother I feel that very basic instinct to protect and I do feel that I failed. Jeanine responded "Keira are you telling me that you are bigger than God? I believe that God knew from the instant Zoe was conceived how many days, hours, and minutes she would be on Earth and there is nothing you can ever do to change that. You have to stop digging in your heals and resisting the natural grief process. You have to grieve in a healthy way. I'm going to tell you something else that's even harder to hear...Zoe doesn't need you anymore, she is whole, she is with our God." With that I had a complete breakdown, and complete outpouring of sorrow. And when I could finally wipe my eyes and look at Jeanine I said "But I still need her."

Jeanine went on and said "Keira, you have to stop living in death. You have to live in the reality that is the life you have now. God took Zoe, not you and you have to live in this life for you, for your husband, and for Avery and Lily. You have to say that this life is enough, what you have is enough. Avery and Lily and your husband are enough."

She told me to pray to God that I would be willing to give Zoe up to Him that I would trust in His love and in His plan and know that it is good. I told her that I was afraid of forgetting Zoe, terrified of forgetting her in fact. She said "Keira, you'll never forget her. Might there be a day in the future that you don't think of her? Possibly, but she is never forgotten. What you can't do is to create memories for others to keep her alive. People may have special memories or experiences of her of their own that they will carry with them and others may be touched by her story but unaffected by it. You have to allow God to do that, allow God to plant and sustain her legacy. Believe that He will make sure that the people who need to remember her and need to be touched by her will be. You can't control that, you just have to be the vehicle by which He does this work. It is already so evident in the few things you've shared with me that this is already very much at work, and you have to trust in that."

Jeanine then reassured me again that she was not telling me not to miss Zoe or to grieve her loss, but to do it in a healthy way, in a way that brings God's light and love into our family and brings me back to this life here with Richard and our precious angels on Earth. She said she didn't expect me to be in this place in the next week, month or several months...but to work towards it, bit by tiny bit.

Whew....are you as exhausted reading this as I am in simply writing about it? I know God was pretty much "giving me a talking to" through Jeanine today and I say to Him now "I do hear You, I do." I came away feeling tired, but also feeling just a tiny bit lighter, a tiny bit less burdened.


Anonymous said...

What a powerful counseling session. I hope you can begin to heal some from this experience.


Elizabeth said...

Keira, What a powerful session and a powerful post. My husband often reminds me that our Evan (and Zoe) is the lucky one because he isn't having to endure the pain and trials on this earth. I always feel better when I think of Evan in that way and in the presence of God.

rachael said...

wow, that must have been one incredibly powerful session. i hope that you are able to find some peace and healing! in my thoughts and prayers...

Anonymous said...


Thanks for posting this. I'm in a different life place, but your honesty and courage are very helpful to me today.

- Karen from DC

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post. I think of you and your girls often. Even though I only know you through the "blogosphere", you -- and Zoe -- have certainly left footprints on my heart.

Jen Clark said...

wow, keira - it sounds like jeanine truly let God use her to speak to your heart. everything she told you is SO right on, so true. and everything you shared is so honest. grieving is WORK. kudos to you for doing the work. because believe me - those who don't do the work really suffer for so much longer. i know it's hard. but it is so worth it. thanks for this post, sweet friend!

Jodi said...

Thank you for sharing more of your story.

The Stephens said...

Thinking of you, your family and most of all your courage. YOU are a strong, great momma, always.
Kim in KC

Stacey said...

Keira, I think the little bit lighter shows through in your post. I also hope that when you are having an especially ruff day you return to this post for Jeanine and the power of the Lord to give you that talking to one more time. I think of you and the girls near daily and pray that your grief will continue to turn to healing.

Prayers Stacey

All time favorite video of Zoe!

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Bible verses that comfort me

"Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord."
~ 2 Corinthians 5:8

"Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children....Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them"
~ Mark10:14 & 10:16

"...those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint"~ Isaiah40:31