Co-founding Teamotions has given me a meaningful way to create a legacy for Aubrey and Ellie and I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished, but its success has not for one second been worth losing them. I’d trade it all in a heartbeat to have my babies back. It is impossible to replace them. I’ve learned that starting a company will never fill the void, nor will writing a book, having another baby, or any of the other things we do as we move forward with our lives. Keeping their memory alive isn’t the same as healing my heart. Nothing external will ever replace the internal work that healing requires and I honor them by healing my heart more than honoring their memory ever could.
Everything of the last weeks has been focused on today.
Joining a choir has been one of the most gentle, healing and important choices I have made for myself in the last six months. Every week’s practice has been the place to relax, cry, laugh and connect. I sometimes feel like I live my life as an observer, more looking at what is happening than actually living it, and observing this situation as I make new connections from week to week has been so fulfilling. Life as an expat, especially since Tapio died has been very different from the life I used to live, a life full of people and laughter and a permanent smile has been traded for isolation and distance. I think I needed to be ready, ready to actively dive into a crowd, in my case a big group of women and a man that share my love for music and singing. It was so scary at first and I won’t say that I don’t feel like the odd one out still sometimes as the language barrier is still very present and I mostly just do what everyone else does not really understanding why, but more and more people volunteer to explain what they feel is useful for me to know. I didn’t know how much I needed this group, how much my heart needed to sing or how my son’s presence would dance on the notes every time the music started.
Monday’s rehearsal has been far from perfection that we might want to aim for, but we all still left smiling, though tired, and looking forward to today – the concert. The way I see it, even though the concert is open to the public and mostly families come to see it, the whole show is for us, our reward, for attending the rehearsals, for learning new songs, for making space for diversity, for opening our hearts to different cultures and languages, music, each other, to heal all the little and big aches we might be facing and to just occupy a beautiful space together.
And as I add on one more discovery about myself after my son died – taking pictures, writing and now singing – I hope he is proud, and I hope he knows he is the one giving me all the courage to be vulnerable like that.
Tonight, when the hall in our town’s Culture center fills up, we will live up to our name as we Sing and Shine.
With Love, Tina
The memory of that day is still very present for me. The day that I held it together while I was falling apart. The day that has so much meaning, but I wish it did not exist. The day that was so full but left me going home empty handed.
That day that started it all, this process, this work, this world. The world with and without him in it, all at the same time. When loving him intensely means walking this thorny path of grief. Living in this place where there is only feelings, feelings that don’t need defining but just are, just exist as they are, all mixed together all at the same time.
I remember looking around as I opened the door of my room. I had a little backpack, it held an extra set of clothes I had packed the night before – just in case. All my papers were in it too, I didn’t know what they said and I still don’t, written in a language I do not understand. I set to go, out to the corridor where the noise of screaming babies filled my head. How can a place so perfect, so alive feel so wrong and full of death. The corridor seemed extremely long and when it turned the even longer stretch came into sight. I passed the nurses booth, their body language was different then the day before when they were still hopeful, telling me they had been waiting on my arrival. Now, all of them looking to the floor or occupied with their heads turned towards a computer. Leaving felt like a walk of shame. A walk of shame where my arms hurt from all the emptiness they carried, my head full of images of my perfect, silent boy, my mind spinning with the enactment of the labor and birth of my sweet son. I felt like I took a breath when I opened the room door and I only exhaled when I got shocked by the rain as I finally made it out of the building. I sat in the car and cried for what felt like hours. At some point I started it and drove home.
It is how I entered grief or how grief entered me. It has been a while since that day and some of the images have changed, some have started to vanish and I am sure I add on depending on how I feel in a certain moment. But the day I left him behind will remain one of the hardest days in my life. But it will also go as the day he was born, the only day I held him and the only time we were together and separate at the same time. In retrospect, the heaviest day in my life is like grief, full of mixed up emotions that just are as they are.
I am constantly asked if I could give a grieving mom one piece of advice, what would it be? The truth is, there is no one thing. I had to adopt an entirely different way of living. I had to make caring for my heart a lifestyle. Everything I did on my healing journey mattered; what I ate and drank, how much rest and exercise I got, whom I allowed close to me and set boundaries with, sorting out my faith and having honest conversations with God, serving others when I got strong enough – all of it helped me knit myself back together. Healing required I didn’t cut any corners.
Grief Didn’t Get Lighter, I Got Stronger
I miss my girls every day and I will until the day I die. This is just the reality of life without them. It is a myth that grief dissipates on its own. It doesn’t. Instead, I have learned how to become stronger so what used to be too heavy for me feels like a much lighter weight to carry. Healing took soul-conditioning. I had to train myself to get stronger in ways I didn’t even think I could. It was hard at first. Every day took all I had. I stuck with it though. I didn’t give up on myself or my future. Small gains led to bigger ones and the I’ll-never-be-okay-again Rachel rose up from the ashes to find that she is okay. I am okay because I have done the work.
and I am You.
The source of our pain might be different, but our hearts ache.
The missing is real, your feelings are real, your pain is real.
I hear you, I hear you when you speak and I hear you when you are quiet and within yourself.
I see you, I see you pull back when the conversation gets too intense, too personal and I see you when you are smiling and trying to follow.
I am standing behind you, always ready to catch you. I know how the floor can move sometimes and you lose your footing. That’s what I am here for and I know you are here for me too.
I will not try to fix you, your brokenness cannot be fixed, you know it and I do too. We are who we are, because of what we have experienced, and that is ok.
We know about the ebbs and the flows, about the waves hitting the rocks, about how hard it is to breathe sometimes, but we do it. We still do it, we wake up and we breathe, I see you do it and it gives me courage to do the same… I follow your lead and then you follow mine. You are me and I am you.
I see you get angry, frustrated and raging and I know it’s a part of the process too. I wish you patience with yourself, understanding and kindness.
It is hard work to do this every day, wake up, breathe and begin a day without a person you love. It takes love and more love every day, to love someone past here and now, past this time, past the physical presence, past physical love. You do it beautifully. Your pain is proof of love, love that still burns for a person that you cannot see or touch.
I love you for who you are.
My father called today. He said it has been a month since we have spoken. He asked about my health, and I get surprised when he does that because there is nothing wrong with my physical health. He uses the specific vocabulary as if referring to my physical well being, but actually asking about my mental state. Half of the time, I don’t know how to answer, I get confused and then I get angry. He is a fixer and he would like to fix this, “the thing about my pregnancy” as he called it today. He does this every time in a way and that’s when our conversation becomes really painful. I feel like a little girl failing to reach a milestone. I know the same question will always pop up, no matter what I say, and I also know that my patience will start running thin immediately after. This concludes my cooperation and willingness to answer any further questions. I am not sure what to do. I usually feel guilty after, but I also feel judged.
I have long learned that my grieving, the pace and progress is being measured and timed by my family without extra insight in what is actually going on or the wish to know about how I am living my life without one of my children in it. That every time I am not my optimal 100% smiling self, these questions will come. They will come but won’t really allow me to feel the way I am actually feeling. I don’t mind anymore but avoid these conversations and that is one of the reasons why they are so rare.
I am sure mine is not the only family that has issues witnessing the pain, being present in whatever form is needed and just listening. I have grieved that too, the support I thought I would have, the relationship with my family, the bond they do not feel for their grandson, the faith in their words that they are there for me and many other things. I know they love me, but not the way I need to be loved. Unconditionally conditioned is what they can do. And it is ok too. It needs to be ok. And the next time he calls I will say I am fine and continue the conversation until that one question that usually throws me off balance. In the meantime I will focus on navigating all the highs and lows the time in between presents me with and do as much smiling as possible, unapologetically.
With Love, Tina
I am a letter writer. From the first letter I wrote to my first pen friend many years ago, I was a letter writer. I wrote countless letters throughout teenage years and continued to do so far in my 20s, exchanging letters with friends, family, teachers, lovers. I feel like everything I wrote since he has been gone has been one big endless love letter.
My Darling Boy,
Where do I even start, how do I even say?
I miss you. I miss you in the morning when the laughter comes riding on the morning sun, I miss you in the daytime when the chatter takes over the space, I miss you in the evening when we share hugs and kisses, I miss you in the night when the warmth of your siblings finds shelter in my embrace.
I want to share it all with you, I want to share this world with you. I want to hear you call my name when you wake up, the little stomps of your growing little feet, the giggle when you find me and the sounds of satisfaction when you find safety in my arms.
I want to see your eyes sparkle, your face shine when you discover something new, your mouth form that perfect Tapio smile.
I want to smell your morning self, the flower that you bring me, the outside air you bring when you run to greet me, your freshly washed hair.
I want to touch your face, hold your stretched out hand and hold you in a my arms.
Instead, let me show you what I see. Let me share the beauty that is around, the beauty you are sharing with me.
I will always long for you to run with me through the autumn forest, to watch you make a friend, to dream with you about the future… I will always long to hear your heart beat, to know your smell, to recognize your voice and to know the beauty you are.
I love you. Every day is full of you. Every day is full without you. Every day is completely incomplete, every perfect picture imperfect and my heart forever broken. Even as I write this I cannot comprehend how you once were and now you are not. I need you so much.
I will always be the keeper of your memory.
I love you, to your shooting star and further,
I guess I chose his name at the time he died. Not at the very moment, even though the moment he died plays in my head over and over… my body let me know, I just was not ready to listen, so my body decided to ignore it too… for a while I lived a happy life with a dead baby inside, with all the planning, with all the dreaming, with all the hope – with a dead baby inside. And a name, a name I wanted to be significant, a name that would spark a conversation, a name that has been called by the wind making its way through the forest for ages gone by. His name.
His name was only mine for a long time, I knew it was his name. I had shared it with my husband a few times, but he took it casually and went on with his thoughts. So I kept it, for myself, for our times where I would just lie in bed and repeat his name to a growing baby, to a dead baby. When his death made itself aware to me, when I got sucked in to a hole of sorrow so deep there was no light that ever made it there, his name still stuck with me. It was the only place where his name was written, my heart, my mind, all over me. I am traumatized by no recognition, not birth or death record – was he ever real? Or is it just a name full of hope paving its way through all my senses?
It took us 3 months to order his memory plate, 3 months till his name would be written and displayed, I cannot describe the importance that holds for me. Just before we entered the cemetery office my husband said; “But we don’t have a name.” Of course we always had a name, when he was alive, when he died, when he was born, when I left him behind, when he became one with the ground and when we visited him without his memory plate existing. He always had a name. That was just the day I started using it every chance I got, I started spreading it around, because that memory plate, no matter the size or quality or price, that was the first form of his name being shown and displayed for others to see. I miss you, God Of Forest.
With Love, Tina