Thursday, December 29, 2016

Big Days

Originally written back in early August 2016:

Everything has not been awesome. I'm not sure where to start since there are probably at least two entries I should have written before this one. But I'm still trying to have grace for myself with all my shortcomings, which seem to be increasing exponentially these days. Instead of beating myself up for all that I haven't done, maybe I'll try patting myself on the back for seizing this moment of willingness to write instead.

Let's see if I can sum things up really quickly here. I had been dreading the anniversary of Libby's death for the past five months. In what seems to be a recurring pattern, the days before and after the big day/holiday were awful, but the day itself was quite decent and nice in many ways. Kaia's birthday was the day before Libby's anniversary, mine was the day after. I think I can safely say that Kaia had a great birthday celebration this year which was really important after all the trauma associated with her birthday from last year. So that was huge. Thank you, God! My birthday was quiet which was good after getting through the anniversary the day before. We got yummy sushi with some friends that night and that was good. So we had survived the three days for the first time. No small feat, that's for sure.

But there's also no rest for the weary. One week after my birthday it was our 15th wedding anniversary. This was the first year where I really understood how you could forget such an important date. I would have been very happy to just forego the whole thing. That's no reflection on my marriage. I'm so relieved I'm in this with Kurt. That as hard as it all is, I can count on him and on us. But I did not want to have to acknowledge another big day. I didn't want to celebrate, I just wanted to find an oblivion. However, Kurt wanted acknowledgement of our 15 years and Grandma freely offered up babysitting services for the night, so we were going out.

No, things did not really turn around. We didn't end up having a super, fun, romantic evening.

But it was somehow right and real anyway.

I started crying during dinner when a dad carried in his little girl. Kurt was about to do the same. We walked around a farmer's market afterwards, holding hands, but having a hard time being interested in anything. All day long I'd been trying to think of something doting to write him on Facebook or in a card, but no words really came until that evening together. I never got the Facebook post written or a sweet card done, but this is something like what I told Kurt that night:

Sometimes it's just going to be about survival. And that is nothing to be ashamed of. We have been through the wringer this year. But somehow I think we're actually closer than we were before this nightmare began. We've heard scary statistics about how as many as 90% of marriages will end in divorce after the loss of a child. But we have continued to fight for us. We have continued to say that divorce is not an option, so then it doesn't even become part of the discussion. And bonus: we both still want to be married to each other! Some years that could have been up for debate. But we have not given up. We have survived this year. We are battered, bruised, and battle-weary, but we're still here, leaning on one another to stay standing. There will be years that are more joyous and celebratory and I certainly look forward to those. But tonight, it is good for us to take the time to quietly and simply acknowledge all that we've been through and realize we're ready to do whatever comes next together. Sometimes just surviving is a really big, brave deal.

After our anniversary we were busy with trips and travelling which was all lovely and fun and relaxing. But then we came home about two weeks ago and everything was awful. We learned very early on last summer that a change of scenery is a very healthy thing when grieving. It was always so good to get away. You didn't forget, but the triggers were not so constantly in your face. The only problem was (and it's a big one): we always had to come back. So we also learned that the transition to coming home was rarely an easy one. This summer it seemed worse than ever though. Not only was Libby's absense at home so deeply felt, but the kids and I had come back on our own while Kurt went back east for work, so we were missing him and feeling the added emptiness so acutely.

On top of that, I had the new school year looming. The year that Libby would have been going to preschool, getting to be big just like her brother and sister. What would her language be like now? What new things would she be able to do? What myriad of information would have been revealed about her if she had lived this past year? Now I also need to wrap my brain around Max and Kaia going back to school. I would get overwhelmed just thinking about the homework, all the details to keep track of, all the activities we have to sign up for and then drive to, just a stunning amount of responsibility that is involved with going back to school, for parents and kids alike. It all just continues to be overwhelming.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Libbypops 2.0

It is not easy to make plans for the anniversary of your daughter's death. In our family we each want and need very different things as we look forward, with dread, to that coming day.

Kurt would like it to be a day for family, a small intimate gathering.

Max wants a bunch of kids there who we don't know: his friends from grief camp, because those are the kids who will truly get how he's feeling that day.

I think Kaia basically wants to have fun and for everybody to be happy. But if they're not, she'll be ready with hugs for them- and will likely end up needing some for herself.

Me? Well, I want everybody and their mother there. You said a prayer for us? You wrote a nice comment on Facebook? You don't know us, but Libby's story touched you? I may not know you, but you are important to me and I want you there.

And the thing is, all of us are right. These desires make sense. Unfortunately, they are not at all compatible, as luck would have it, which is why we were less than a week away from the anniversary and we still had no plans on how to honor and remember that day of days. The other issue, of course, is that it's just so dang hard to even talk about. We're not planning a party here. It's very painful to put ourselves back a year ago. It helps to attempt these conversations during therapy. It's good to have a mediator who is not so raw from running on emotional fumes most days.

A couple weeks ago I had my breakthrough in a counseling session with Kurt. We were talking about what we needed for that day. I delved deeper, because, let's face it, as a lifetime member of the Introverts Club (where we meet individually and don't talk about things), when do I ever want everybody and their mother around? It was a bit out of character. And with a crushing wave of emotion, I finally realized what it was I really needed.

I need to know that Libby made a difference. I need to know that her life mattered, that all this excruciating heartache we've been through has not been for naught. 

I want the world to be a better place because she was in it. 

And yes, she is all those things to our family, without a doubt. But I'm greedy and I want more. That little circle of us is just too small. I want her to be bigger. I can't have that physically, so I'd like to have it figuratively.

I came to the realization that I would be totally fine all by myself on her heaven day if I could have evidence of the difference she made. And that's when the wheels started turning.

I do know that Libby's story has touched so many of you.Your messages, comments, encouragement, all of it just means the world to me. So I thought, let's put some Libby-inspired goodness out into the world.

When Libby died the outpouring of love was beautiful, cathartic, and buoyed us through the hardest of times. One of the early tributes for her was an anonymous donation of five scholarships to the Village of Hope School in Haiti. That changes the world! Do you get what a huge difference that makes for those five kids? I love it! Another family saved their coins all year and then donated a goat, in Libby's memory, to a family in need through Compassion International. More lives changed! People I didn't even know used their artistic gifts to create precious Libby keepsakes. There were days where I knew I was being prayed for and I could tell that it was making a difference. What can you do to make someone smile like Libby on a swing? Big or small didn't matter, people were using the gifts God had endowed them with and as a result, the world was made better for the recipients of their actions.

So, if you would like to join me, let's put some good, some beauty, some kindness and joy out into the world in memory of Libby. Use your talents, whatever they may be, to do something you wouldn't be doing otherwise, something extra. Push yourself a little to see where you're being led. Maybe we'll even get pushed out of our comfort zones a bit. Anything could happen! It's gonna be wild! :)

I was trying to come up with a name for this effort, another hashtag perhaps. If you'll remember, we did #libbypops at Halloween and I was blown away by how many of your participated in that honoring of our girl. She did love her pops! Then I thought, why not just stick with #libbypops? Every act we do in honor of Libby is a little bubble-pop of kindness going into the world. I picture the Earth with little pink "pops" all over it and it warms my heart. We can share ideas and then also share about the "pops" we've done to keep inspiring one another. Just be sure to use the libbypop hashtag! Maybe I'll really get on the ball and make a Libbypop Facebook group.

And as this idea spreads to our friends and neighbors, let this mission be not just to honor Libby but for all those who have lost someone special too soon. You may be reading this and have no idea who Libby is. That's okay! Is there someone you want to honor? Someone who made your world better, and you would like to spread that joy to others? Then "pop" some love out there for them and then tell us about it!

If you're feeling motivated to do some "pops" of the monetary version and would like to support a Libby cause, I'd recommend the following:

Libby loved all things water, so we love the idea of providing clean drinking water where it is needed. You can make a donation here.

Last April Max and Kaia got to go to grief camp through Comfort Zone Camps. It was just what they needed in their grief journey and its value can not be overstated. Our family will be running/walking in the Grief Relief 5K in October to help raise money so that camp, which is completely free for its participants, can be available to those that need it. We would love to have you join our team, the Libby Loggers, or make a contribution to this worthy cause.

Libby Loggers

Facebook post from June 22, 2016

You guys, I am excited! Remember when Max and Kaia went to the great grief camp back in April? Well, that organization is hosting a Grief Relief 5K on October 15 and we are going to do it! When the kids went to camp we did not have to pay a penny. No one does. They didn't even ask for a donation. This is a camp for absolutely anyone that needs it and I want to make sure that kids who need it are able to go.

If you know me well, you know that I hate running. With a bit of a passion. I was probably in middle school the last time I dragged myself through a 5K. My sweet husband says I can use a scooter if my current plans of learning how to run fall through over the next few months. It would be so fun if some of our friends would come and do this with us! You can still register at the discounted rate of $25/adult and $10/kid, but that price will be going up, so hop on board (my scooter) soon!

But wait! There's more! Besides raising money for an amazing organization there's a really big reason I wanted to do this: the team name. We are going to be the Libby Loggers! Cuz we'll be logging the miles/kilometers! And also because the high school mascot in the town Libby was named after is called the Libby Loggers, so how fun is that? And we may just provide some Libby Lagers after the race too, because how extra fun is that play on words? (100% credit goes to my brilliant hubby for that one!)

So please join our team or, if you are busy living on the other side of the country, we would love any donation you could make to our efforts. Thank you so much!