Category Archives: Grief

A 5 year tale of transformation

5 years ago this afternoon, a few new friends were over making iron on t-shirts with the aspiration of starting a mom’s group at church. I didn’t know how these women would become a life support for me while Owen was on life support (and continue to support me in the years to come). Little did I know that Tony Maroni’s pizza would be the last meal I had with all four of my children healthy. I didn’t know my little sister would be a rock at home so I could hop in the ambulance and focus on breathing.

These past five years started with a mother’s worse nightmare coming true … and have taught me what healing feels like. It’s taught me how surrendering brings strength. When you can’t breath … a mother’s hug, a friend’s card in the mail, a therapist’s ear, a Sunday morning church service, a family remembering your baby brings the air you need. My family and friends have literally breathed for me at times.

To my friends and family, thank you for walking these 5 years with me. Thank you for carrying me when I wasn’t able to stand and for bringing the sunshine through my rain storm.

I still cry during the month of May at random times of remembering what life was like. I am still moved by other women’s stories of loss and wish there was something I could say or do to lessen their pain, knowing all too well there isn’t anything I can say or do but listen, pray and just show up.

Thank you for being a part of a beautiful story of healing. You have helped me. You have helped my family. Without you, this might not have been a story of healing but rather just tragedy. Owen’s story is a beautiful tale of transformation. A beautiful monarch butterfly and you as the cocoon that have wrapped me with protection and shelter.

As Logan and Weston have told me, Owen lives in my heart now.

Love, Mel

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How did you do it?

Over the last few years, many who have lost their children have reached out wanting to know how “I did it.” Although I’m not quite sure what “it” was that I did …  I would suppose they are referring to getting up each morning and most of the time showering, how I continued to love my other children in the midst of my own unbearable pain, how I spoke of God’s love continuously even when I had countless moments of doubt I was too afraid to speak, or how I have continued on with life for four years.

Many have commented on how hopeful my posts were or how much strength I showed. I call this out because it is the absolute opposite of what I felt during those days after Owen’s death. I felt anything but strong, positive or hopeful. My life was upside down and I had no energy or idea on how to put it back together again. But I suppose that’s just where we all need to be in order to give up. That’s right, I threw my hands up and said, “I GIVE UP! I don’t know where to go from here so the rest of you just need to tell me.” And that somebody included God.

I completely surrendered myself to the care and love of my family and friends and most importantly my Creator. When friends called and asked if they could bring meals, I said sure. When church called to see if there was anything my family needed, I said, “well we are running low on diapers and that would save us a trip to the store.” A childhood friend wanted to give me a blanket she had made for Owen, I said thank you! and slept with it every night. My sister’s friend offered to just move in while Owen was in the hospital and take care of my kids and the house – I said thank you. I called uncle and gave up my control. The world had been trying to push me down my whole life, and it finally won.

It’s in that surrender that I found strength. Crazy and kind of poetic, right?  I found a path or a cue to what my next step should be. This strength did not come from my own will or decisions. It came from complete hopelessness, fatigue and grief. It came from the the conversation I had with God that went something like this:

God – what the heck? Are you kidding me? I have loved you. I went to bible study this week. When I was so mad at you after my car accident I continued to work on it with YOU! I could have ran, but I didn’t. Don’t get me wrong I’m glad I did – but wasn’t that enough? Didn’t I prove to you that I love you then? Why are you testing me again? This isn’t fair. My marriage is already falling apart, I have no idea how to mother these children and now this? Are you taking Owen away because I didn’t love my kids enough? I swear I’ll turn the tv off and just play puzzles on the floor with my kids like the commercials if you just make this all go away.

::silence::

FINE. I give up. You let this happen – you figure it out. I’d like to see how you’re going to make anything good come of this.

I think God was waiting and hoping I’d say that. Because then, and only then, did he have a complete empty canvas – clean from any of my scribbly attempts of fixing things. He had all the paintbrushes in His hand so he could create a masterpiece I could never have imagined. He delights in those moments when His children give him total control. Not because He is this sadistic puppeteer but because He knows He can create something far more beautiful for us when we just let Him do His job – love us. He is our protector and our creator. He knows us far better than we know ourselves – which is hard to believe after how many hours of therapy I’ve been through trying to understand why I do the things that I do.

To my dear grieving parent friends, let go. Let it all go – drop it on the floor and rest at Jesus’ feet. Do not try to make sense of what has happened, but rather let those around you take care of you. Rest. Focus on your own feelings, allow yourself to feel the pain. Even if it’s for only a second today, try for two seconds tomorrow. Thru that pain you will pick up all of these treasures.

Love, Mel

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To each and everyone one of you (yes, I’m talking to YOU!) …

Four years ago – I wrote this blog: https://bissingfamily.com/2011/05/26/nothing/

Today, there is so much more. There is Josie who takes good care of Owen’s heart. There is an unnamed girl in IL who was given more time with Owen’s liver. There are family and friends whom I met in the midst of my grief and now I have NO CLUE how I could ever live without! I bubble over with care and love from the angels God has sent my way.

To each and everyone one of you (yes, I’m talking to YOU!), thanks for loving me and my children. Thank you for walking this path with me … I didn’t have a choice but you did. You chose to weep and cry with me 4 years ago and you continue to walk with me today. I am totally convinced that life is about who is on the journey with you, rather than any destination. It’s about the love we share, the support we offer and the truth we speak. I know with God all things are possible and I believe that he makes it just a little bit easier by giving us each other.

My gratitude for for family, friends and internet besties is endless. If there is ever a time when you need a sister to walk with you, I’m here. I’d be honored to pray for you or to be a listening ear. It’s the least I could do after all the healing you have offered me. Ya’ll are like my life band-aids 🙂

God is good all the time. All the time God is good.

Love, Mel

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November

November creeps in … the hole of Owen’s death starts to bleed again. I find myself having the ugly cries in church – every Sunday. I feel broken and weak. Funny how it almost hurts more two years later than it did days after Owen was gone. Perhaps the numbness of it all is still wearing off.

November is the start of all my Owen memories. It starts with the triplet’s birth. That Monday night when my sister and I gave each other mud masks in my hospital room. The goofy belly dance I atempted during Dancing with the Stars. The fetal monitoring that showed the baby’s heart beats didn’t have the accelerations they should. Then the news that they were just fine and everything was status quo. The Tuesday morning I woke up to more fetal monitoring and the news that the heart beats were a little faster than they’d like. Waiting for my “regular” nurse to come in at 7am and then the news that I had gone from 5 cm dilated to 7 cm dilated over night. WE WERE HAVING BABIES! The phone calls to our friends and family. My in-laws jumping into the car to drive down from Green Bay. My brother leaving school and my sister driving back from Watertown. All the happy, excited memories. The risk of so many things going wrong and everything being just fine. The peace I felt that evening when all three of my newborn babies had entered the world safely.

The months to come are filled with memories of lack of sleep, struggle, questioning if I’ll ever survive this. Soon the memories of hysterical “field trips” and first smiles. Falling in love with making my own baby food.

Then the night my entire life changed … all of our lives changed forever. The night that I gave my own child CPR. The taste of blood and the shaking from adrenaline. The desperate prayers that my child would be spared, but the deep knowing that he was already gone.

In the moments, hours and days of Owen being on life support I had all the time and space to sit and digest what was happening around me. Now in the the midst of “normal” life, I feel like I’m drowning. So many leaking holes in my water vase. So many that I can’t plug them all. My water is running out so much faster than it’s being put in. It’s depleting to matter how hard I struggle to keep it all in. So rather than mend and patch the brokenness, it’s all gushing out – I’m broken and drowning.

Tell me I’m normal. Tell me I’m not the only one falling apart at the seams. Stuggling to keep it together. This has got to be normal. Even in the midst of my own mess, I know there are others far worse off than I am. I know there are mothers who are just starting their journey of grief. There are mothers who will never hold their babies. There are single moms who are stuggling to pay the bills. There are mothers who can’t feed their children. I’m making it. I’m still above water, barely.

My mom told me to embrace the pain. Absorb it and process it. Don’t try to stuff it back in because it’s messy and you might not give the impression that you were hoping to make. But rather, be real. Be what you feel and act what you believe. I believe it’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to cry. So why do I try to stuff it all inside when that’s exactly how I feel? If you process the yucky stuff it turns into strength. It becomes “where you came from” rather than “what you are.”

In November, I miss Owen more than other times of the year. Please don’t take that as I don’t miss him other times of the year. It’s just a closer kind of pain. All the memories come slapping me in the face.

Sometimes when I write these horribly broken and sad blogs I fear that I sound weak or broken. I fear that people will take pity on me. I don’t write these words for sympathy or pity. I write them because they are real and honest. They are me. I write them because I find healing in sharing the hard truth. I pray that others will find comfort that they are not alone in their own sadness.

I continue to pray that God will use this horrific loss to make something good. I pray that he will use me and give me strength to be a blessing in the world. I pray that my ears and heart will be open to receive his message. I pray that those I love will feel just how much I care about them. I pray that my life might have a slight impact on just one person. Don’t let my loss go to waste – let good continue to come from it.

Love, Mel

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2 Years Ago Today …

Today marks two years since I last saw Owen alive, since he drank his last bottle, smiled his last smile and took his last breath on his own.  Today is almost more significant to me than his official death date (May 26).  Perhaps it’s because today is when everything changed.  Today was the day everything was flipped upside down and inside out.  My “perfect” family of 6 was changed in a very big and un-fixable way.

This is also a time when I think about the EMTs and firemen that invaded my home.  Their faces are on my heart and their jobs are in my prayers.  Last year I brought the fire station a meal as a way to honor them and to say thank you for all that they did.  This year I decided to do the same.  So yesterday we brought the fire house that responded to my 911 call a meal.  We spent over an hour with the station – the boys got to sit in all of the fire trucks and ambulances.  And when I say all – I mean every last vehicle in that garage!

Last year I was a little disappointed to find that the man who gave Owen CPR wasn’t able to attend the meal.  They explained to me that he had a class to be in.  I couldn’t picture his face.  I could see him on his knees in the nursery, I could see his hands on Owen’s chest, but I couldn’t remember his face. When I looked around the room this year, I recognized him immediately.

I spoke with him for a bit towards the end of the visit.  He apologized for not being able to save Owen and said that he still feels like there was more he could have done.  I was surprised to hear that he felt that way.  I have always been so eternally thankful to him – I have never blamed him, wondered if he could have done more or even wished he would have done something different.  I knew he had done his best.  He was my hero in all of this – he revived Owen’s heart so that he could be an organ donor.  Without him my journey would have ended on May 21, 2011.  Owen would have passed away silently as so many other infants to.  But Owen was given a chance to tell his story.  My family was given five beautiful days in the hospital – sitting around Owen’s bed, all piled on top of each other, laughing and crying and saying good-bye to our beautiful baby boy.  This EMT gave this gift to me.  It’s been the only part of this journey that gives me peace and healing – two little girls lived through the death of my baby boy.  I lost so that others could win.  If Owen’s heart had not been revived, he would have only been able to donate his heart valves – that’s it.  This blog wouldn’t exist.  I wouldn’t have found my love for writing.  Being about to speak about my faith so openly wouldn’t happen.  This entire journey would have ended in one night.

I wanted to find the words that would let him see into my soul and see what I saw in that night.  I wanted him to know, with certainly, how thankful I am.  It was by far the most painful experience of my life – but I’ve also be so richly blessed through it.  Isn’t there a bible verse about “blessed are those who grieve for they are comforted”?

I am surprised by the emotions that still sneak up on me.  My mom came over today on a whim, just to keep me company.  I didn’t know I needed company, but her being there made me feel better.  I continue to be thankful for all the prayers my family and I received during Owen’s hospital stay and continue to receive.  You are what made my story start to feel like it was serving a bigger purpose.  Thank you.

Owen – mom still loves you.  I always will.  We speak your name in our home.  We pray for you at night.  Your brothers will grow up knowing about you.  Chunky Monkey.  Buddha.  Oh-Dee-Doe-Dee.  Owen.

Love, Mel

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A Day Dream …

Last week, I’d been floating on OWENGE clouds.  ImageLittle Warriors literally makes my heart beat differently.  It gives me an electric kind of energy.  Seeing all the children together because of Owen’s story.  Ugh just typing it makes me smile.

Along with all of the Little Warrior preparations, I’ve had a lot of heavy “stuff” on my heart.  Decisions I made years ago were causing me trouble now.  I was doubting everything that I had been confident in.  I was feeling like I went down the wrong path.  I was frustrated with the pain because I had thought I was right – how did it turn out so wrong?

In the midst of all my errand running, in preparation for Saturday, I had a day-dream.  Driving down Hwy 74, in my minivan with Despicable Me in the background, I had a vivid image appear.

I was standing before God, my heavenly Father … he looked a lot like my dad actually.  He placed his hand on the top of my head.  I was looking up at him going on and on …

“God – I thought I was doing what you wanted me to.  I had my doubts.  I didn’t want to do it.  But I prayed – just like you told me I should.  I prayed sooooo hard.  I thought your answer was to follow through.  I thought you wanted me to do this.  But it’s so awful.  And now I’m faced with the decision of un-doing it.  Did I get it wrong back then?  Were you trying to tell me something that I missed? Blessed are those who follow the Lord.  I don’t feel blessed in this decision – what did I miss?  I don’t want to miss your guidance again. Show me what I need to learn so that I will always be on your path …”

He stopped me mid sentence.  Moved his hand from the top of my head to my cheek.  “Child of mine, I have heard your prayers.  You did exactly what you were supposed to do at that time.  I know just how much you love me.  You are a faithful servant and I love you so much.  You did exactly what you were supposed to do.  It will all work out – it’s part of my plan.  Now go and know that you are loved.”

The weight was lifted … ok honestly?  Not totally, but it did lift just enough to breathe.  The first sense of relief in a long time … I felt relief that God didn’t blame me.  I felt confident in my prayers and how I came to my decision years ago.  God wasn’t disappointed in me.  It wasn’t that I missed something … it’s that this hardship is apart of my path.  I have to go through it.  It wasn’t something that I could have avoided.  This is not a consequence for my disobedience.

It doesn’t make the hardships any less – but I can carry them with a lighter heart.  I am confident that God has not left me and that He will be with me as a travel the next couple of months.

Now I’m wondering what my dad is going to think when he finds out God looked like him in my daydream … haha

Love, Mel

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March 27, 2013 · 8:45 am

Jaden’s Family Portrait

I knew it would happen some day … I just didn’t think it would happen so soon. Jaden made a wonderful drawing of our family … Without Owen in it.

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Let me first point out that 1+4=5 🙂 haha I wasn’t mad that Owen wasn’t on the drawing but it made me sad. I know Jaden, nor anyone else, has forgotten Owen. It’s normal, natural and healthy to move on. The painful truth is that we only have 5 people living in our house.

It was the first family portrait of only 5 … And I know it won’t be the last. And that’s ok. They just won’t ever look “right” to me. They will always look like they are hiding something. Even though the picture might now show it … We are always a family of 6 and I have 4 children.

Love, Mel

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WEAR BLUE TODAY!

Today is National Children’s Grief Awareness Day.  Two years ago I wouldn’t have had a clue what it was about, nor would I have really paid attention.  But it hits home now … there are children in your community who are grieving the loss of a loved one.  Some from death, others from divorce or incarceration.  While each child’s situation might be very different, but the emotions of grief are similar.

Wear blue today to help spread awareness that children grieve too – they need your support!

If you are on facebook – you can post a picture of you or your family wearing blue on the Children’t Grief Awareness Day facebook page – you can also post a picture to the Healing Hearts of Waukesha County facebook page.

Love, Mel

More information about children’t grief support in Waukesha County (Wisconsin) visit:  www.healingheartsofwaukeshaco.org

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A Mix of Emotions

Yesterday was filled with mixed emotions.  When asked if she wanted to go to Disney World or the Justin Bieber concert, a local four-year old girl chose her idol, Justin.  The south-eastern Wisconsin community rallied together to make this little girl’s dreams come true.  They posted to Facebook (Healing Hailey), they wrote about Hailey on their blogs and they tweeted about her … in hopes of getting Justin’s attention so that he would meet her in person.  They weren’t sure if she would get released to go, but everyone fought hard and prayed harder for her.

Yesterday was the big concert day … Yet tragedy struck a local mall … Just miles from the Bradley Center and Children’s Hospital.  There was a mass shooting so close to home in a local spa (Azana).  When I heard the name of the spa on the new I flashed back to last summer – I wanted an orange feather in my hair …. No one had orange feathers in stock.  I heard that Azana had them, so I got my mom to watch the kids and I drove.  I remember getting lost and calling for directions.  I remember walking in … I remember what it looked like.  I remember the heaviness in my chest as I was totally aware of why I was there … To have something that reminded me of my dead son.  They didn’t have orange in stock.  My heart sunk.  Ugh I came so close to having a part of him with me again.  The receptionist was nice, pretty & fashionable.  She had no idea why I was on the hunt for on orange feather.  I thanked the young girl for trying to help me and then I was on my way.

This morning that same salon was filled with people running for their lives and a man who had totally lost control of himself.  Was the same receptionist the one that greeted the shooter with a smile?  I don’t really remember her face well enough to know if she was one of the victims.  The news said it was over domestic dispute.  A restraining order was just put in place.

How many of the women there were enjoying a Sunday morning away from their families – getting a little pampering?  Is no place safe anymore?  After the shooting, they couldn’t find the shooter – so Freodert Hospital, Children’s Hospital & the surrounding stores were all on lockdown.  That meant Hailey might not make it to the Justin Bieber concert – are you kidding me?!?  Some lunatic was going to cost this precious little girl her last wish?

God came through and the lock down was released in time for Hailey to make it to the concert AND meet Justin Bieber in person!  In the midst of the terrible, horrible, disgusting event – a little girl’s dream came true.  Hard to comprehend how the same God would allow something so beautiful for Hailey and something so horrific for those who were in the same city at a nearby salon.

This contradiction of nightmares and miracles ring true for my story I guess – an innocent 6 month old baby boy – perfect in every way – dies with no explanation.  But just one state over, a little girl’s life was just beginning – her parents prayers and pleas were answered.  True joy and true sorrow all mixed up in the same story.  A heart transplant.  A liver transplant.  Joy vs. Loss.  So beautiful yet impossible to understand.

God bless Hailey.  Thank you, Justin Bieber, for being part of a miracle on Sunday.  May the victims of the Azana shooting be comforted by the peace of God.  For all the mothers who have lost a child – may you find beauty the face of tragedy.

Love, Mel

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Owen’s Medal of Honor

When we pulled up to the Governor’s mansion my mom instinct to get all the kids out and across the street kicked in.  I found myself dazed on the driveway – putting on my name badge, posing for a group photo in front of a beautiful fountain.  Then I knew I needed to find a restroom before the ceremony started – the Diet Mountain Dew I had on the car ride was kicking in.  The line was so long that by the time it was my turn it was time to find our seats.  I grabbed a cookie on my way to the back of the tent, where my family was already seated and waiting for me.

It wasn’t until the ceremony started that they announced that Gov. Walker wouldn’t be attending.  I’m not going to lie, I was peeved.  Our time to honor Owen had already been postponed a year and now we weren’t even going to have the medal presented by who was promised?  I’m not sure if those of you who do not live in WI have heard on the news, but there was a mass shooting in a Sikh temple in a Milwaukee suburb (Oak Creek).  We were told that Gov. Walker was “spending time with the families effected by the shooting.”  Now, I’m just going to be brutally honest – I was hurt by that.  The shooting was DEVASTATING, HORRIFIC and TERRIBLE … but the Donor Network ceremony was honoring 209 families who have lost their loved ones.  There were 6 deaths in the Sikh temple shooting.  Didn’t really seem like he chose how he could reach the most people – he rather went to where the news cameras would be.  The terrible and bitter thought of  “just because my son’s death didn’t make national news, means that he’s not worth Gov Walker’s time.”  It was a horrible thought and it felt even more horrible.  I was a little ticked that he was not going to be there.  Let me also end by saying, I am actually a Scott Walker fan and am not looking to start any kind of political debate.  I simply felt like it was just a political move … and I can’t stand politics.

That being said – the ceremony was really something special.  The instrumental music that played while each loved one’s name was announced was perfect.  The weather was beautiful and the view of the water was calming.

We were third in line to receive Owen’s medal.  I carried Weston, Doug had Logan and Jaden walked proudly between us.

As we paused to wait for our time to walk, I looked up and felt the wind get knocked out of my chest.  I flashed back to the funeral – where the musical was playing, and I was standing at the back of the church looking at a sea people.  I looked down the aisle and just focused on Rebecca Kleefisch (Lt Governor of WI) just as I had focused on the large picture of Owen at the altar.  The only thing I could do was breath and put one foot in front of the other.

 

(love this picture because it shows the craziness of what our family is really like)

 

We received Owen’s medal with honor.  We received a heart felt thanks for Owen’s gift.  Logan and Weston were especially loved.  Then we made our way back to our seats.  I realized just how my grief had been replaced with joy in so many ways.  I had not felt the heart stabbing pain in so long.  Perhaps it’s because I turned it all over to the Lord from the very beginning.  Perhaps it’s because I have two boys who have replaced my pain with smiles.  I am so busy loving Logan, Weston and Jaden.  It does NOT mean that I don’t love Owen.  It just means that I gave myself permission to be happy.  I have allowed myself to love what I still have.

As Logan and Weston grow, I have come to know each of them individually.  They have started to show their personalities and preferences.  This is a part of Owen I never knew – he was too young.  I know he was much calmer than his brothers, but even that is different between Logan and Weston now.  I remember the nights that Logan just WOULD NOT SHUT UP!  And now he is the calmest and cuddliest of the two.  Who knows what Owen would have been like.  I can spend hours hypothesizing and guessing how he would have played into the mix.  But it would have been just that – a guess.  I feel like I’m grieving someone I hardly knew.  A personality I never met or saw.  It’s hard to imagine what my life would be like if he were still here.  There really isn’t a huge gaping hole anymore.  The boys have outgrown all of the clothes I had in sets of three – their drawers are filled with blue and green.

The pain and awkwardness is still there every time I call them triplets to a stranger and they look at me puzzled and ask where the third one is.  Then I think “crap, I’ve got to go there again.”  But the thing is they ARE TRIPLETS!  I don’t know that I’d ever be able to call them anything else.  I just hate having to explain my story over and over when it’s become an intrinsic part of me.  I just want to be able to introduce my children without a sad story that goes along with it.

As I sat in my chair, I noticed the photos some families were carrying up with them.  A few rows up a father carried a photo of (who I assume to be) his daughter – maybe 9 or 10 with beautiful long red hair.  It felt like she was looking right at me.  I could imagine what a joy she must have been to have around.  Her family must still feel her loss in the family.  Her smile and personality had already made an impression on me, surely in ten years she was a huge part of her own family.  I found myself wondering how she died.  Was it illness? Or a sudden accident?  It felt rude to walk up to these strangers and ask them such personal questions.  So instead I said a prayer for her family.  I prayed that they would feel the comfort of my thoughts.  I prayed for their beautiful daughter who was the hero to someone else.  I confessed that I was thankful my child was taken from me so early – only having 6 months to grieve seemed like the long stick when compared to ten years.  I know it’s like comparing apples to oranges, but I find myself thinking this more and more.  I thanked the Lord for giving me Weston and Logan – so that I had something to love in his place.  When I miss Owen, I hug one of the other triplets a little tighter.  I sing Owen’s bed time lullaby to the other boys.  Perhaps that’s why the hole doesn’t seem so empty.  Maybe I just filled it with loving the other boys more – simply because they are here with me.  Not because I love Owen any less.  I think it feels like I don’t miss Owen as much because it’s become natural to use my love for Owen on the other boys.

When we get home from vacation, I’ll find the perfect place to display Owen’s medal.  It was a beautiful ceremony and will be remembered always by myself and my family.

Love, Mel

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