Amazing Conversations...
from Heidi Ciepielinski

Editor's Note: This was an email reply that Heidi shared with me. She had written originally to a whole group of bereaved parents she knew asking for their advice about anniversary days and all that comes with those days. She was amazed at the responses she got, so she compiled them in this note and shared it with all of us. Truly extraordinary. Hope you'll be inspired, too!

Hi everyone,

I started to reply to everyone individually, but there just aren't enough hours in the day. Yet, I really want you all to know what amazing people you are, so wise, so compassionate, so insightful. Your words and support were so helpful to me. Reading your replies truly brought me "aha! moments", I am still shaking my head and saying "yes!", "they get it!".

The majority of you are also at the point where the years of early intense grief have passed and many of you offered that you were struggling with similar doubts. Doubts about your current ways of mothering your heavenly children, guilt over feeling happiness, the lack of tears & heavy heartache, trouble getting beyond the self imposed rituals of the past, and many other things.

I thought it might be helpful to you if I shared some of great comments I received. Maybe they will help you accept where you're at too, or maybe they will help you help others. Here are just a few quotes (without identifying the sources):

"All that "woulda, coulda, shoulda" stuff is just illusion. So easy to make myself crazy with guilt over what I shoulda done, etc. But it sucks all my energy. So I've just found it easier to let myself deal in whatever way seems reasonable at the time.

Yeah, there's probably hard work in there somewhere. And when it's ready -- whey you're ready -- it'll still be there and it will surface right on cue for you to deal with it. And then maybe you are already working thru small chunks of it at a time and you won't have a huge tidal wave arise. Grief is like weather -- you can't predict it."

"If you are feeling good and feel some peace then know that's okay too and Natalie will not think you love her any less! I'm sure she's up there saying,"Go Mom!!!" Anyways, don't deny your feelings. Know that whatever you are feeling is okay."

"I know that you love and miss Natalie with everything you have and no matter how you are handling it these days, your love for her will not and has not changed. As long as you are coping and your boys are thriving, then I believe you are on track. Remember that there are no rules for grief, especially the grief for a child."

"I do think we all take breaks from our mourning."

"Maybe that means that his presence is interwoven into our lives in such a way that we can release some of our hold on him, maybe in the same way that we would with a living (child). The pain is still there, the pain that his and all of our childrens' absence creates, but there is an evolution too."

"I have found myself very much at the same place you are at. So, I think it's very normal. Push, push and push that pain away. I have so many other thoughts on the subject, but right now I can't go there. . .too painful."

" (my child's) birthday just passed, and I realized and even wrote to her, "Please don't think that just because I don't cry every time I think of you, I love you any less. . ."

"I don't know that I ever thought the grief would end, I know I didn't ever think this in the early days, but what I hadn't known is that it would change and grow as much as it has. I've learned that for me, it isn't something that one day just gets packaged up and left behind somewhere. I am who I am because my children died. Whatever I experience since then they are there too, even if I'm distancing myself from the deep feelings and taking some time for me. Maybe again, it is like it would be if they were alive, we moms need time to ourselves that is just our own. Maybe that is also true when parenting a child who has died. I think the hard part is balancing these two different kinds of parenting - that of living children with that of children that have died. There are many many differences of course, but maybe there are more similarities than we previously knew could exist."

And one last message:

A quote from Harold Kushner, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People"
"But of course, we cannot choose. We can only try to cope. That is what one does with sorrow, with tragedy, with any misfortune. We do not try to explain it. We do not justify it by telling ourselves that we somehow deserve it. We do not even accept it. We survive it. We recognize its unfairness and defiantly choose to go on living. I now tell bereaved parents: You have inherited from your child all the years he never got to live. Just as you inherited his books and toys and stereo, you inherited his unlived years. They are a precious legacy from him to you; use them well. Don't be afraid to enjoy life because your loved one isn't there to enjoy it with you. Live his years along with your own, and feel his presence as you do so."

Pretty amazing stuff, huh? Obviously, you know what I am describing and really understand. There is a wisdom that is so far beyond that of "normal" people...

Your comments really helped me feel ok about where I'm at right now. I had envisioned what those specials days would always be like, and the never-ending role I would play in them. When that didn't happen as I had planned, I was completely caught up in the "woulda, coulda, shouldas". (and tremendous guilt). And yes, I was completed exhausted by it too. But what I hadn't realized was that I had changed, my grief had changed, and what was once "right" for me and Natalie, wasn't "right" anymore. I don't love her any less, I'm just mothering her in a different way, a more matured, less emotional, more insightful way. Almost as if the strong heartache has been replaced by a sense of peace, a calmness that now comes with my thoughts of her.

I was thinking that I had to be the one in control, all the time. (I am a bit of a control addict anyway!) Carefully choosing when the tears will come, when I will remember... But in reality, it just doesn't always work that way. As Natalie's Cardiologist wrote, "It's in cases like this we are reminded, we are not always in control after all". I think I'll try just to let go of some of the expectations ~ some of the guilt ~ and just accept the way I feel and the way it is. THIS is "normal" for me.

So, instead of forcing myself to open the door to her memories and the pain that will forever live inside me, I think I will wait until it opens on it's own. When the time is right, it will happen.

Thank you, thank you for your honesty, reassurance, and support. You are truly amazing women....

Hugs to every one of you,
Heidi Ciepielinski

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