You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2008.
I’m really not sure how we are going to get through this, sometimes. I go through periods where I can almost sorta handle it, and then there are lots more moments when I can see my life unwinding before me absolutely brimming with loss and sadness. It is terrifying and thoroughly daunting.
I’ve felt at loose ends today, out of sync with the world around me. It was an autopilot type of day and I’m glad the bed is in my near future. At least when I’m sleeping I can be elsewhere, not in this body, this mind, this life. Although I must say, I did really enjoy the hour I spent giving a presentation about coffee to some new customers. That was actually fun. The drive home was not.
Things are getting complicated. The ongoing-ness of missing Silas is confusing. Life pulls us out and forward and onward and yet we are constantly looking back and sideways, searching for hope and happiness and him. It is extremely disorienting. That is also true for the way we are handling grief. It isn’t just the 5 stages one after the next like it used to be. Things were simpler back in those days. Now it’s a complex matrix of conflicting and complementary emotion-states.
I can do anger->acceptance->denial->bargaining and then from the inside out two times in a row in under thirty seven seconds flat. Or I can dangle myself on the twin hooks of fear and helplessness for a full day. Lu is sampling from this hideous buffet at her own pace. What is the opposite of savoring? That’s what we’re doing as we roil with guilt or shout out impossibilities that we must have, that we need.
I have never before yearned for someone who was utterly unreachable. I have never smashed my soul against Death’s impenetrable wall until now. I knew death existed, obviously, but now I am banging my skull against it, always.
It is in me, now. It is a place I cannot enter, but it is in me somehow. It is the vacuum where everything I should be learning about my new son should be going but isn’t. Instead I am learning how to live in the Universe without him. I keep trying to fill that space with thoughts of him and these words and the love of friends and family but it just doesn’t seem to work sometimes. It’s still more nothing, more not Silas, more no son, no end in sight.
I caught a chill today and it kept me shivering, even in the sun. Winter got inside me. My soul feels cold and brittle but I know the things I need to help me warm and brighten. Friends. Family. Words. Tears. Lu’s arms around me. The cozy sheets. Dreams with Silas in them where I can tell him how much I love him, and how terribly I miss him every moment of every day.
dreary, windy day
with rain lashing windows cold
we rattle loose, lost
Every time I think I’m starting to get used to this I suddenly realize that my entire body is tense, my mind is whirling in a thousand different directions, adrenaline is pulsing in my blood which is pounding through my heart and arteries and veins and I cannot catch my breath.
But then I’m cool. Then I’m alright and impenetrable, totally correct by all outward appearances, actions and words, enough so that it doesn’t even feel like I’m faking it. The laughter we find throughout the day is true. The beauty around us is unmistakable. But there is a sharpness, now, to each moment of joy that I have never felt before.
In spite of sadness, we laugh. In spite of missing Silas so much it physically hurts my arms and chest and face, I manage to conjure a smile, and not a fake one. In spite of of an aching soul I stand up straight and look people in the eye.
And it is ‘in spite’. These are acts of defiance, of rebellion. I refuse to succumb to despair. I will miss Silas endlessly but I will not be incessantly sad. I will not deny beauty nor ignore happiness. Laughter still has a place in my heart and in our home.
For now, that laughter comes with a twist of the knife and a kick in the balls. It hurts to feel okay because when I suddenly remember how fucked up this situation is–that Silas is gone gone gone forever before we ever got to know him–the lurch into reality is so jarring it makes me physically ill for a moment.
That’s when the adrenaline rushes and my heart speeds and my mind crackles with all the potentials and possibilities that have fallen into this vortex that is our life, now. But then I’m through it again, out the other side and I laugh at the Universe itself because it has no idea what a fucking loser it is.
I guess my point is this:
The world is dangerous now. I can be destroyed in a word and I can destroy others with a simple, terrible sentence.
First I allow a pause after the question is asked where I look down and breathe. That tells the person that my response is not going to be the happy joyful news of a new baby in the world but rather something else altogether. It gives them a moment to realize that this isn’t going to be pleasant and to hold on to themselves while we finish this awfulness.
At that point they get that look on their face where it’s clear they wish they could take back the last 20 seconds of their lives. But they shouldn’t feel bad about asking. Inquiring about the birth of a new baby when you’ve seen the mother grow and bloom is natural and correct. 99.9% of the time it would be far ruder to *not* ask. So they ask and they fall into a boobytrap of sadness and embarrassment that they had no idea was sitting there waiting for them. There’s no way around it, though.
So I pause and breathe and then I look up to answer them directly.
“We’ve had a terrible tragedy,” I say and they are stricken. Nothing more needs to be said. Sadness, fear, helplessness, unfairness, terror, anger, embarrassment, they all flash across their features and I am stricken, too, with the grief magnified from having to pass on this awful news. I see a fraction of what I feel reflected in their faces and it slays me over and over again. And all I can do is ride the torrent to the waterfall again, and plummet once more into the Abyss.
I know this route, though and most of the time I can grab on to a solid outcropping and swing myself out of the swirl of disaster. I have walls I’ve constructed to help me navigate this treacherous path. They are not closed off and solid but rather strategic barriers I can lean against and hide behind. It is not an impregnable fortress. It is a maze of my own construction that slows the torrent but does not stop the plunge.
I wake up with his name on my lips. I see his picture on the dresser and touch the smooth glass that does nothing to connect me with his true existence. The image of his tiny form helps, but the clear, artificial surface that my skin encounters in the frame is unpleasant and almost unreal. To truly find him, I look within.
Moments have passed, I’ve showered and dressed and am eating breakfast when I realize his name is the only thing that has gone through my mind for the last 20 minutes.
I go back to the bedroom to say good bye to Lu and I see her staring at the ceiling. She’s only crying a little but I can see the turmoil beginning to froth within her.
“Don’t stay in bed too long,” I tell her. She nods in response. I give her a kiss. Doing is better than laying around. Showering is better than not. I don’t say anything but just hold her close for all the moments of the day I won’t get to hug her and then I kiss her again and her soft skin feels like the only living substance in the entire world. I leave for work.
I hate the sight of my car. I bought the car expecting to fill it with many hours on the road with Silas at my side. We’d deliver coffee, drive to the shop, go camping, so many things I’ve been looking forward to for so long in that machine and all for naught.
I turn on the ignition and put on NPR. Meltdowns and war. Beautiful. It sounds like my soul. Can’t have it today, though. It’s too gorgeous out for words so I need music. I don’t put on the joyful, upbeat music I had been listening to repeatedly as his due date got closer, but instead turn to tunes that have a darker feel, sharper edges, and a more cynical, bruising force. Yep, it’s Radiohead’s whole discography instead of David Byrne’s latest offering, for now.
Traffic doesn’t faze me. This isn’t the road to my son anyway. The dumbass tailgater annoys me, but I just move to the side. I drive slower than I used to sometimes, and other times much faster. Mostly slower, though. In the car, I think and when I think too long, I start to cry.
It’s a different type of crying than any I’ve experienced before. The tears are hotter and more syrupy. As soon as one crests over my bottom lid the others just flow in a slow, steady, burning stream. They are the clear essence of my raging thoughts and they slowly empty my mind of sadness, of loss, of fear, of helplessness. My thoughts finally calm, the leak is plugged and I’m thirty minutes down the road.
The vivid leaves on skeletal trees against the bright blue fall sky wrack me with the paradox of how beauty and despair can live in the same moment, in the same soul, in the same instant of vision.
I would trade the entire world to give it straight to him. But that cannot be done so I must do… what?
This, I think. Do this. Drive to work. Shower. Breathe. Know the beauty around me. Know the loss of my son even though I never knew him. Live extra in his name. Love deeper. Pay closer attention. Do not forget for one second that the Universe is a wild and dangerous place. Drive. Work. Listen to music. Be alive even if it means living with an impenetrable sadness.
I have to convince myself of all of those things, things I have always known and believed. It is endless work to not succumb to listless despair and then raging fury. I am an hour down the road. I call a friend or brother or mother or father. We talk and the tears come back but it’s good. It’s good to talk about Silas and what I am feeling right now.
The words we speak to one another shape and define this ongoing experience. We are unraveling a terrible puzzle that is mesmerizing in its complexity and danger. Souls are destroyed on this twisting path, and so we must be careful to help one another around the sharpest corners.
I slow at the light at the end of the exit ramp. I drive through New London, slowly, slowly. I park my hated car at the coffeeshop and then I breathe. I say his name to myself, Silas Silas Silas. I go to work. I think of Lu. I hold them both close, in with me, in my mind.
At night I drive home again. It is still not the road back to Silas, but I drive anyway.
A month has gone by now. My body seems to be physically healed at this point, luckily that part went fast. I was up and moving around pretty much after the first week. Even the milk dried up quickly. My daily doses of cabbage – ice – cabbage – ice seemed to do the trick. A friend sent me some Stop Milk tea which I’m sure also helped to speed up the drying time. What has been the most challenging part for me these days though is having this baby weight as a reminder. It is pure torture to look at my belly and see the remnants of a baby that had been growing in there for almost 10 months, but not have the baby. How could that be? It makes the last 10 months of my life seem like it never happened. That is what is so fucked up about this. I think about my pregnancy and my 18 hour labor and want to just scream. Where is my prize for all of that? I can’t believe that my body went through almost a year of work, such hard work for this amazing little prize, but end up with nothing. This whole thing is so screwed up.
Every time I think that I can handle this, or I don’t think about what just happened to us, I look down at this reminder and want to cry. I haven’t been physically active in a long time. Those last few months of my pregnancy I couldn’t move that well so I just didn’t. I’m used to teaching a few hours worth of kids yoga classes every day and lots of walking and moving around. Once I get back on that path, I know my body will respond and I’ll start to look like my old self again. But what’s crazy is that inside I am changed, and there is no getting that back, no matter what. I can teach and hike and practice my yoga and all of that will transform me into looking like my old self. But I can never be my old self no matter what I do. I plan on taking acroyoga workshops and other yoga related grief & loss workshops in the coming months. I am aware of what I need to do for myself to get on this path of healing from the inside out. I plan on going there, as difficult as it may be, and I need to go deep.
I’ve been a yogi for about 15 years now. Yoga has transformed my life in so many ways. The breathing is what got me through 18 hours of labor. It’s like I had been practicing for this moment for the last 15 years. I’ve always been flexible and able to move my body freely but during my pregnancy it got to a point where I couldn’t move my body the way I was used to. It kind of freaked me out – I thought I’d stay pretty flexible up until the end. That last month I really couldn’t do a thing. It was torture to even try to get up. I dreamed of the moment where I could touch my toes again or sit comfortably or get up without grunting. I couldn’t wait to have my normal body back. Now that its back, I don’t want it. I would give anything to be pregnant again. It is really hard to make that transformation in my brain. I sometimes still think I’m eating for two, or that I can’t help Chris lift and carry his coffee stuff or that I should be getting the pregnant woman’s special treatment. Right now I’m not pregnant anymore, yet I am not a new mother with a brand new baby. I don’t have either and it’s a really horrible, lost feeling. My body and mind still scream out “I’m pregnant” yet I’m not.
I’m hoping that getting back on my yoga path will help me with this mind/body transformation that I need so badly. I know this is a long road, that healing takes time. It’s also important for me to start my own practice again before I bring it to the kids. Getting back to work for me is all part of this process. As hard as it will be for me to be with the kids again, I also know they will be instrumental in bringing some light back into my life. I will get through this though, one OM at a time.
“Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup.”
We have been talking to friends and family, trying to figure out what we do next. One next thing was to get back into work full-swing. The initial reconnect with each client has been difficult, but it simply has to happen so that our business can move forward and life can continue.
Roasting at the shop yesterday was both extremely enjoyable and absolutely brutal. At some point in the middle of the day the thought occured to me that I was never going to have a chance to teach Silas how to roast. That mangled me for hours.
The thought just kept repeating over and over again and there was nothing I could do to stop it so I stopped trying. The words drilled into me, searing my mind. It was similar to my experience in the waiting room of the eye doctor’s office two weeks ago. But I have found that now I can rethink those thoughts, experience those images and feelings again, and they are not as disabling as they were when I sat there waiting.
So yesterday when it started I just let it happen. I let the thought of what I would not have ignite my mind and thrash my soul, I let the sickening truth roil my belly and turn my skin slick and icky until tears trickled out. I have a rule about work, though. That rule is: No crying at work. But I didn’t feel like I was breaking that cardinal rule because it was about something other than work, and not work stress at all. However, later on in the day I did almost break that rule because I was overwhelmed on my first full day roasting.
I had been at it for hours, roasting batch after batch and I was finally bagging up all the orders when I realized I didn’t have quite enough coffee to do everything I needed. Now, in the grand scheme of things, that is not that big of a deal. We have hundreds of pounds of green coffee ready for roasting and dinner could wait, but I just couldn’t handle it.
These days, I have no buffer, no safe place in my mind where I can pull back and gain perspective. Usually I can take a step back when things get stressful and talk myself down from the craziness. It’s just coffee, it’s no big deal, it’s not brain surgery or the end of the world. Just coffee.
But I am different now. Now when I get pissed off and stressed out I can feel the adrenaline rise and the panicky rush suffuse my body like it did that day when Silas was born, to the point that I simply cannot think for a little while.
Fuck it, I tell myself. Who the hell cares about any of this when my son is dead? I shout back internally at the thoughts raging through my tired brain. All day I try to tread that razor edge between being okay and thinking about Silas incessantly, and frankly it is exhausting. Every action, every moment, every thought is fraught with weight and danger. But coworkers stepped up and helped me out. I took a few minutes outside to calm and cool and I just kept repeating to myself, over and over again, It’s just coffee, it’s fine, you can do this, just relax. Eventually the stress lessened, the orders got bagged and I drove away truly pleased that I had tackled a full day of work and only barely broke down twice.
There are going to be many moments when the stress of life overloads my battered defenses. Even worse, there are going to be many, many times like the one yesterday afternoon when I realize another terrible aspect of this tragedy. Times when I am sideswiped by a stray image or idea and it plows my train of thought into the mountainside.
Every time it happens I am going to do the same thing. I’m going to let the crash happen, let the thoughts wash over me, let them drill themselves into my brain, let the horror and sadness consume me for a time, and then I will step forward into the light again, out of the firey rage of pain and loss. It is the only way to do this. It is the only way I will heal.
This was an intense weekend. It was our first time away from home since Silas was born and passed away, and it wasn’t easy. The only way it was at all enjoyable was that we were with our siblings in my brother’s wonderfully comfortable house up in the mountains of New Hampshire. The weather was beautiful, the trees brilliant, the stars endless and the chilly evenings were warmed by firelight. There was a coldness within, though, that was almost untouchable.
This weekend I put a shovel into the ground and I opened up the Earth. I dug a hole. Every stroke and crunch and and scrape chilled me. There was no mistaking exactly what else I was doing besides planting a tree in my brother’s back yard. For a day the hole sat there unfilled, the tiny sapling peach tree firmly encased in a plastic pot off to the side.
In the early afternoon on Sunday we gathered in the back yard, I read the Hopi Prayer of the Soul’s Graduation, scattered my son’s ashes into the open Earth and then Lu and I placed the tree. Together we filled the space left with loam that Mark trundled in with wheelbarrow and then we all found rocks in the yard to represent each of us and all the others who loved Silas so much. There weren’t enough rocks for everyone, so we let the few we gathered represent many.
On some level I wanted to feel better coming home from this. I don’t. I’m pleased that we have this wonderful memorial to Silas, and that we had a chance to perform this deeply human ritual, but it’s not enough. If anything I feel worse that I don’t have my little nephew Oren around to shower with love.
As brutal as it was to have to perform that action, to create a memorial to my dead son, it felt right. I’m so glad that my brother and his wife picked out a tree for us. For some reason, making decisions right now can be challenging and I don’t think either of us would have thought of a peach tree, but it was the perfect call. All summer Lu has been demanding peaches from the various farmers’ markets I worked and all summer the “Peaches” song by The Presidents of the United States has been going through our brains.
Now Silas’ tree will generate millions of peaches, peaches for us. Nothing can soothe the empty ache that lives in our hearts, but sharing the pain with our family in a gorgeous setting does help. We will savor the fruit from his tree for many years, and I hope to someday see Oren climbing in those branches. I wish that vision had both Silas and Oren in a tree together, playing like brothers do, like me and my brothers still do, but that’s just not how this Universe rolls. Ours is a far more steep and treacherous path than we ever imagined and we have no map or compass.
The stars are covered by clouds. The reserve jugs of sustenance are sorely depleted and all we have is the little spark of our love for each other to keep us warm. We can hear the voices of friends and family in the distance and dawn is somewhere in the future, but right now we are huddled next to a tiny peach tree on a cold and terrible night high in the mountains and we are both too exhausted push on.
The thing is, it’s not so much that we are lost as it is that we are hiding from the Universe itself. We’ll trudge out of this shitstorm eventually, somehow. It’s going to be an ugly path.
After all, just look at that vision of hope I have. I want to see Oren climbing the tree we planted as a memorial to a cousin he won’t ever know, at all. That is so fucked up and sad it’s impossible to comprehend. But that is my life now, our life.
No matter where we go right now, it is always a cold and terrible night, high in the mountains of despair and we are digging a bitter hole to plant a tree we hate on a beautiful day we despise with our family who we love and a missing impossibility named Silas Orion who is our son.
The peaches that we eat from his tree will make me sick to my soul forever, but I will enjoy every single bite of that sweet flesh. It will be like having a taste of the memory of my soul’s joy as a snack. I look forward to the harvest. It will mean Time has passed.
This was my first full week out in the world, and it was only terrible sometimes. The brain never stops churning, but for the most part I was able to handle it.
The toughest moments were whenever I realized I was in the middle of a ‘first’ I wasn’t having. Silas was not in the shop with me as I bagged coffee. I didn’t get to take him for a walk around the block before I fired up the roaster. There was no working lunch with Dad, no coffee delivery run with Silas strapped in behind me.
I had been picturing that for months. Him in the car with me as I made my rounds and music on and the beautiful fall leaves a cacophony of color as we cruised through Connecticut. After a few weeks we all would get in the car and head up here, up to New Hampshire to my brother’s place and we’d play in the woods.
Instead of play we have a brutal and necessary task tomorrow. We are going to plant a tree, and we are going to cast some of Silas’ remains into the earth where we plant that tree. So many other things should be happening instead. But this must be done, and so we will do it. The raw, cold earth will be a reflection of our ravaged souls.
This will not be the last time we do this, though. We intend to plant trees in New Haven, at Bean & Leaf and another in San Francisco, all in his name.
Several people have had trees planted in Huron-Manistee National Forest through the Arbor Day Foundation in memory of Silas. His names means “of the trees” so it is a perfect way to honor his memory and let his brief, beautiful life contribute a lasting good for this planet.
We went to a concert tonight. It wouldn’t have been Silas’ first because he would still be much too young for that level of mayhem and noise. We never intended to attend because we expected our lives to be very different right now. But things are different than what they should be, so he came with me tonight. I held him close in my heart as I held Lu in my arms and every time I heard a note or beat or chord and moved my body, I said his name in my mind. Silas, Silas, Silas. Every single moment.
It was our first live music since Silas came into our lives. It was hard to enjoy the notes and miss him so much at the same time. I hate that he will never get to hear the music we love and dance with us. Instead he will dance with the breeze in his trees and whirl through the sky in his stars.
It isn’t enough, but it will have to do.
Its been 3 weeks today, yet it seems like it happened months ago. Time is just dragging along, I almost dread waking up each day. Mornings are still tough, I have pretty much memorized the ceiling in our bedroom. Though getting myself up out of bed has been good for me. It gives me something to do, distractions right now are so important. I’ve found myself cleaning constantly, its something productive and takes my mind off of things. We’ve had a constant flow of people with us – even some from SF to bring us hugs from our amazing group of friends out there.
But today I am here at my apt alone. Chris is working and our friends and family are taking care of themselves today. I chose to be here today alone. I could have gone to my in-laws but I decided that today, on the grayest of days, 3 weeks since Silas was born, I need to mourn by myself. I also decided that I need to laugh as well. I searched you tube for some videos of Sarah Silverman. I know it sounds strange, but I needed to watch something so silly but would also make me laugh out loud and pretend for a few minutes that I was really ok.
I also needed to read some blog posts from other mom’s who’ve lost their babies and give myself a good cry as well. We have seen an outpouring of support on this blog from other people who have suffered the same loss as us. I can’t help but to read their stories and cry with them, for them and for us. The crying for me is just as needed as the laughing.
Reality has set in, and with it comes the anger. I am so angry at life for doing this to me. I can’t help but still ask why, even when I know there is no why. I used to think things happened for a reason, but now, there can’t possibly be any reason why I have to experience such pain and hurt and anger. I used to be one of the happiest people I knew. Optimistic too. So much so, that I always saw the good in every situation, no matter what. It was where Chris and I would clash. He tended to be cautious and always saw situations with the possibility that something could go wrong. I was super carefree and saw situations with it always working out.
I never in a million years even considered the possibility of losing my baby right after he was born. Even when they said he wasn’t breathing, I didn’t panic. I thought to myself “this happens all the time and then the baby starts to breathe.” Even when they rushed him to the hospital, I still kept believing everything would be alright.
Because of this, this whole situation has been like a punch to the stomach. How could this happen to me? Why? Why? Why? There is no why, I know that now. Bad things happen. They just do. All the time, every day to millions of people all over the world. I had been blessed, my life was great, I had everything I could possibly want. Now I’m one of those millions of people who are suffering. Oh, we will move forward, we will have beautiful children one day, but we are new to this kind of pain. This helpless feeling where nothing anyone says or does could make it all better. There are no do-overs or take backs as much as I replay it in my head a zillion times in a zillion different happy endings.
We are so appreciative of the cards, gifts, money, flowers, fruit, food, phone calls, blog comments, emails, visits, everything. We are overwhelmed by it. I knew we had wonderful people in our life already, even people we didn’t know who are reaching out. It’s pretty amazing actually. But I didn’t need a tragedy to be reminded of it. I always saw the good in humanity and loved that I was like that. I’m a changed person, I know that now. I hate the fact that I will carry sadness and bitterness with me forever. I hate the fact that I have to look at life through a new lens. Its so not me though, it feels uncomfortable. I need to unearth some of that optimism that I know is still buried there deep within me and say that one day, maybe, my old self will resurface more often than not and that I will find that happiness again.