Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How Can I Help

I have recently been blessed to come across a network of mother's who also have angel babies. It has been truly touching to learn more about each one. I am amazed at the beautiful impact that each little angel has had on so many lives. Like my sweet Branson, each one has left their mark on this life, and their print on so many souls. Thank you to each one of their mother's for sharing their stories, feelings, pictures, and perspectives with me. I am blessed to rub shoulders with such an inspiring crowd!

On the side bar of one blog I read this week, I found this list...a list of things that people can do to show support, love, and concern for people who are bereaved. I've asked Michelle if I could use some of the ideas on her list, combine them with some of my own thoughts, and share them with others.

As I have reflected often on life before Branson, I am humbled by the things I didn't understand about loss. I had no idea how incredibly life changing it is for a family when they loose someone they love. A loss is a loss regardless of the persons age, well being, or status in this life. I was often the person that said or did nothing because I wasn't sure what to do or say. I had never experienced grief in a personal way, so to speak to someone traveling through the journey of grief was like speaking a foreign language. I have offered many prayers since then that I might be forgiven for the pain I know I must have caused others in their moments of grief because I failed to act in love on their behalf.

I guess that is one of the things I've gained through this journey...perspective...perspective on grief, loss, and love. I, like Michelle, pray that this list of suggestions might help others who have loved ones traveling this difficult road.

Unfortunately, grief doesn't come with a user's guide, or an instruction manual. So this is just a few things from the view I see when I look at my path through this journey and the perspective it provides. I am sure there are many more things that could be added to the list, and some that others may feel shouldn't be on there...take away what you think can help you and the person you love that is bereaved.

When Someone you Love is Bereaved

(Sorry, some of the fonts have gone a little crazy)

1. First and foremost TALK about the loved one who's passed. Even if it's uncomfortable at first, it will become easier. My favorite thing to do is to tell others about Branson, and I love it when people ask...what he looked like, what my favorite moment we shared with him was, or my favorite feature about him. Not so much the heartache that surrounds his death, but the joy that abounds in his life!

2. Most bereaved people will not offer information on how they are doing unless they truly feel like you want to know. This one is especially true for me. Some people ask not wanting to know the truth and when you give it to them, they don't know what to do with it.

3. Don't ever put a time line on someones grief. It is different for everyone, and loosing someone isn't something you "get over".

4. Love notes. Emails. Thinking of You cards. Thinking of the bereaved person cards. We appreciated every single card that we received after loosing Branson. I have kept each one. I pull them out often and read the messages of love sent to us in our time of sorrow. I especially appreciate the ones sent months later from people who wanted to let us know that they were still thinking of us and our little guy.

5. If you don't know what to say, just say, "I'm So sorry you have to go through this." One of the hardest things for me continues to be those who act as if nothing ever happened. Not that I want people to wallow around in my grief, but people who have never said one word about Branson, not even "sorry", make me feel like they believe that Branson wasn't real, that he isn't part of our family, and that our loss was simple, insignificant, and something that we just need to "get over". I know that they are probably the ones who just don't know what to say, but it's hard to accept.

6. If the person needs to analyze the circumstances surrounding the death, let them just talk and rehash anything as many times as they need to. I have found that verbalizing my thoughts, even if there is no response from the person listening, helps me process through it better and come to a conclusion or answer on my own. I appreciate those who just listen without judgement.

7. Don't assume they are ever "better." They never become completely whole and the loss will be a part of them for the rest of their lives. I have decided that the piece of my heart that left that day with Branson will always be gone...I just have to figure out how to live a new "normal" without it.

8. Don't underestimate how frazzled, absent minded, and spacey grief can make someone.

9. Accept the fact that you can not "fix" this for them. What you can do is love them.

10. Saying things like, "They are in a better place" can be confusing. While it may be true that Heaven is a beautiful place, it makes the bereaved feel like the place they had with them wasn't good enough.

11. Do not, I stress Do not get offended if your loved one doesn't answer his/her phone or return your calls. Don't assume that they don't appreciate your effort. It's just that someone bereaved doesn't want to put on a "happy voice" when they are having a hard day, but they don't want to burden everyone with their grief either.

12. If you didn't know the person who has passed at all or very well, ask to hear about them and learn of them through the stories of those who loved them. Most people never got to hold or see my little guy...only 10 in fact...yet he was here, he was so real, and he marks our life forever. There may be people who pass on in the lives of our loved ones and friends that we never knew...that doesn't make them less important or unreal.

13. Validate.Validate.Validate. Please whatever you do, don't compare your loved ones loss to someone else's "harder loss". Every loss is hard. Comparing makes the person feel like they shouldn't struggle because it could be worse.

14. The comment "but aren't you grateful you know you'll see them again" isn't a fix it all. It is true, but it doesn't take the pain out of not having them now. Just because the bereaved may continue to cry and have hard days doesn't mean they don't have a testimony of the plan of salvation, or that they have given up means that they are normal and they miss their loved one more than words can express.

15. Most of all, make sure they know you love them. Be a shoulder to cry on.

Remember that this may be the first time the bereaved has gone through something like this. Be patient, loving, and nonjudgmental of their emotions, thoughts and feelings.

I pray that I too can be a little more sensitive, a little more aware of those around who are bereaved. Thank you to all our family, friends, and loved ones who have been so supportive, patient, loving, and sensitive to our loss.

A link to Michelle's Blog

Thursday, January 22, 2009


"And He shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions of every kind...and he will take upon him their sicknesses...their infirmities...that he may know according the the flesh how to succor his people..." Alma 7:11-12 (page 225 of the Book of Mormon)

I have always been taught by my parents, leaders, and scriptures such as this that Christ's atonement is powerful enough to not only pay the price for sin, but mighty enough to heal every pain and sickness we experience...emotional, physical, mental, or spiritual. Yet, in the days, weeks, and months after Branson's death I found myself asking, "If I have to feel this heartache and pain so intensely, why too did Christ have to feel it?" I just couldn't bare the thought of both of us going through such darkness, loneliness, and pain.

I wanted the atonement to "fix" things immediately, to take it all away...and it wasn't. So, as I've done with so many other principles lately, I began to read, to search, and to find out for myself the answer to my questions. In so doing, my relationship and perception of the Savior has changed…and my life has changed because of it. Until six months ago I felt that I knew the Savior and appreciated his sacrifice on my behalf…little did I know that my knowledge of him, and my love for him was incomplete and lacking in so many ways.

I certainly haven’t been perfect in life, and I've tried my best to use the atonement to make up where I've fallen short. However as I felt the most intense heartache and pain of my life, I wondered if it was really true that Jesus took some of this pain for me as he suffered in Gethsemane and eventually died for me on the cross. If he had suffered this already “for” me, then why did I too have to feel the heart-wrenching grief that seemed to be consuming my life?

One night this question was weighing particularly heavy upon my mind. As Rob and I laid in bed, I posed this exact question to him…his reply is what has changed me the most. He said, “Nat, think about it. It’s all about perspective. There are so many people in our ward, our neighborhoods, our families that don’t have a proper perspective on our trial. They’ve never experienced anything like this before. Therefore, try hard as they may to “fix” this for us, they just don’t know what to do or say that will completely heal us. Even people who have gone through a similar trial can’t perfectly help us carry this pain, or heal our hearts. Although they understand in a very real way some of what lies ahead in our journey, even their grief and healing process is different from ours. Grieving is so personal and unique. However, there is one person that has a PERFECT perspective on this trial because he has walked every mile of OUR situation, and that is the Savior.”

I began to mull that over in my head that night, the next day, and every day since and these are the things I’ve come to appreciate about the atonement.

Christ knows perfectly how to heal us because he felt every piece of this cross that we would be asked to carry. He knows what I will personally need that even Rob might not because the atonement is that personal…that real.

He knows how to answer my prayers in my moments of grief because he has a perfect perspective on what I need and how that need can be met. There have been very specific ways in which I have seen this happen in the past few months. He has sent the right people when I’ve needed them, I have opened the right book to answer a question I’m pondering, I have been touched by the spirit to act on promptings he’s sent. Because of these and many more, through the atonement, he has begun to heal me.

The atonement provided him a perfect perspective on every emotion, thought, and feeling that I have because he’s felt them too. He doesn’t judge me because I have moments full of anger, he doesn’t think less of me because I question things I shouldn’t question, and he doesn’t make me feel guilty for being me. He’s continually patient and lovingly waits for me to “see” what he’s put before me to partake of.

Because of the knowledge that God has, and the love that he feels for me, he won't take this trial away from me...even though he could. Instead, he sent his son thousands of years before me to experience my personal pain so that I might have a friend, a Savior who could truly understand it, help me through it, and then through mercy make up where I fall short.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks helped me understand more when he said:
"Healing blessings come in many ways, each is suited to our individual needs. Sometimes a "healing" cures our illness or lifts our burden. But sometimes we are "healed" by being given strength, understanding, or patience to bear the burdens placed upon us."

And it hit me... Christ didn’t suffer in Gethsemane to take away my pain…he suffered so he’d understand my pain and understand how to heal me in a very real, personal way.

I'm sure in future years I'll look back and be able to see just how much Christ has truly carried me and so much my burdens as I've walked this journey. I hope too that someday I may be able to fully comprehend and appreciate all that the atonement has done for me. I am grateful that Christ doesn't walk in front of me impatiently waiting for me to "catch up", that he doesn't walk behind me watching me step into the darkness ahead alone, but that he walks beside me...teaching me, leading me by the hand, and lighting my way.

I have never been more grateful for Christ’s sacrifice of life on the cross so that he could be resurrected. I now see that it is through this that I will be able to be reunited with Branson and spend eternity with him as a family. I am thankful for the blessings and power of the temple covenants that make this possible for me, and I am eternally grateful that Christ has made it certain, through his atonement, that Branson will be there waiting if I can but make it back.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Most Cherised Moment

I have spent a lot of time lately thinking back to the day we spent with Branson. Although that time was short, it was filled with some of the moments I cherish most in life so far. In those few short hours that slipped away too fast, I was able to see and feel so many amazing things. I lack the words to adequately describe to others the emotions of that day, and atmosphere of our hospital room.

Although there were moments of great sorrow and heartache, served with an endless supply of tears, there was also a constant feeling of peace. A peace like nothing I've ever felt before or since...a gift that saw us through the hardest day of our lives. It was very apparent to Rob and I that Branson's spirit was there with us, enveloping us with his pure love. It almost felt as though we were treading upon sacred ground. We both said we'd never seen nor felt anything so sweet and completely pure.

I've often wanted to go back to that day and package that peace in a beautiful box...a box that could be opened on days I need to be reminded that with the peace we felt that day came an assurance that this was Branson's plan, that he was happy, safe, and excited to serve his mission on the other side. A peace that let me know I was blessed to be a part of his beautiful plan, and privileged to be mother to such a valiant son!

I didn't get to capture that peace, but I do carry with me traces of that peace and the memories of all the special moments of that day. Tonight I'd like to write about one of these moments so that I might come back and read it during moments of this journey when these memories aren't so fresh, or I feel the peace slipping farther away.

One of my most cherished moments of that day is one that occurred shortly after Branson was born. The doctors couldn't put me completely under during my C-Section, but they did give me something to help me sleep during the surgery. The doctor assured me that it would not affect my alertness afterwards, as I wanted to be fully alert to enjoy the few hours I would spend with my son.

As I lay there on the surgical table, being stitched up, I drifted to consciousness for the first time and saw one of the most beautiful, sacred things I think my eyes will ever behold. As my eyelids opened, I began to search for something familiar, and I soon met Rob's gaze. There, sitting next to me was my husband...eye's lit up, a broad smile, and a proud demeanor. In his arms was cradled our son. Rob was naturally rocking side to side, holding Branson with arms full of love...arms that had waited for this moment for a very long time. As I looked upon my little boy for the first time, I couldn't help but be amazed at how perfect and beautiful his little face was. It almost appeared as though Rob held a little piece of Heaven in his arms. It just looked right. Yet, it wasn't just my son that was so perfect, it was the fact that my husband was now a daddy...a daddy that was full of pride and love for his new little boy...and that was perfect. No words were exchanged...just smiles and tears. Rob's eyes spoke to me saying " Isn't he amazing?" No words could have said it better.

I quietly slipped back to unconsciousness while they finished stitching me up, with tears of joy on my face and peace in my heart.

That moment will forever be imprinted on my memory and it's affect will forever mark my heart. This is just one of the moments that made it bearable to say "hello" at the same time that we said "goodbye".
I love you Branson!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Building My Ship

I feel as though I'm having a "build your ship" moment in life.

I have always enjoyed reading the story about Nephi and his family as they sojourn in the wilderness, following the guidance the Lord provides them as they seek to reach the promised land he has prepared for them. However, until my recent study of one specific part of their story I had failed to make a real correlation to it's importance in my life.

In 1 Nephi Chapter 17 (page 36 in the Book of Mormon), Nephi and his family arrive at the land "Bountiful" and they rejoiced because after much suffering, affliction and trial of their faith they had finally arrived at this fruitful, abundant place. I can imagine that as they pitched their tents in this place that they may have been saying to themselves hey, this feels good to have some comfort and beauty, and to be free of heartache and affliction for a time. I'm guessing that they desired to remain in this land for a time and enjoy the beauty and abundance it provided.

Looking back over the past year, that is essentially how I felt. I looked at the infertility problems of the past as being over, and that my pregnancy with Branson was my "land Bountiful". I thought that surely I had passed through enough affliction because of our trial of infertility that the Lord would let me rest for a while and enjoy this land bountiful of bearing children and being a mother. A land that was free of the heartache that being "baron" had brought me for so many years. However, as with the Nephi's family, this would not be the case.

After being in this land of Bountiful for only the space of many DAYS, Nephi was called upon by the Lord to construct a ship that would carry his people across the ferocious waters of the ocean that separated them from the promised land...I sit here now in awe that Nephi didn't just crumble in disappointment, or shrink in fear. Not only did they not get to rest for a season, but he was to build a ship...and not just any ship...a ship big enough and strong enough to carry his family. He'd never built a ship before...he didn't know where to begin...what tools to use, where to find the materials, or how to construct the frame. Now instead of resting in a "trial less land" he was faced with a daunting task.

On June 30th the Lord asked me to "build a ship". Although not literal as in Nephi's case, my ship is just as vital to my survival. It needs to be big, and strong enough to see my through stormy seas. Like Nephi, I didn't know where to start, or where to find the materials to build this ship...the ship of faith, patience, endurance, and trust. I hadn't built a ship like this before, and I didn't know the first thing about putting it together well enough to get me through. My days in the land bountiful had come to a quick end, and the Lord was asking me to prepare to cross these waters.

What happens next in the story would be, what I see as a defining moment for Nephi. He returned to tell his family of the task ahead and was greeted not with support, but with murmuring and complaints. His family wasn't ready to give up this land so quickly, and they had no desire to labor in this arduous task. So it was left to Nephi...would he follow the command of the Lord to build this ship and leave this fruitful land, or succumb to the natural man as his brothers had and be angry with God for putting yet another boulder in their path to this promised land?

I too have felt as though I've been at crossroads such as this. I can see very clearly at times that I have two options in front of me, and the choice is, to build a ship that will require a lot of hard work, tears, faith, trust, and patience...or to stay where I am and let myself complain, murmur, and feel sorry for myself that the Lord has even asked me to do something so hard.

I know there have been many times when I have been like Nephi's brothers, full of complaint, anger, and a lack of understanding...and perhaps at times that seems like an easier road, but tonight I pray that I can be as Nephi was...strong and firm with unwavering faith. So I take Nephi's council personally as he told his brothers:
"...murmur no more...for God has commanded me that I should build a ship. If God commanded me to do all things I could do them."

Nephi never doubted in his ability to perform this task he said,"...if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?"

With the help of the Lord Nephi did build his ship not after the manner of men, but after the manner which the Lord had shown unto him. This ship saw him and his family through to the promised land...a ship that was thought of as impossible and foolish by some...a ship that brought them to the promised land the Lord had prepared for them.

I am beginning to see that all of us, at one time or another, will have these "build your ship" moments in life...without them we wouldn't have the means of travel to make it back someday. I know that I too, with the help of the Lord, can build this ship. It's definitely a work in progress, but the Lord does show me "from time to time" the manner in which it can be done. I'll follow the example of Nephi and "pray oft to the Lord" and he will show unto me the great things that can be reached on this ship I'm building. A ship built after the Lord's blueprints, and not the blueprints the mortal inside me would have designed. I'm thankful for the tools the Lord provides at the moments I need them, not at the moments I want them...and I'm thankful he's able to know the difference.

Someday I'll set sail on my finished ship to the promises that await...a promise of a forever family that includes my sweet Branson. Until then I'll just keep building.