Don’t keep your pain a secret. From what I have learned by listening to others, it is better to get your pain out into the open. Since Saturday I have received many private messages and emails from women telling me about their miscarriages. Most of them have never told anyone, beyond their closest friends and family members, about their experience. They keep their pain a secret and suffer silently. Many of these women said they wished they had told people about what had happened to them. They said it was difficult to hide their sadness.
I created this painting using acrylic paint, sharpie markers, found papers, and a slice from a book. I didn’t have a plan when I started. I just added some paint and sprayed it with water so it streaked and ran. Once that dried I decided to paint a face. Then I went looking for papers.
I found this book “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff For Teens” in a thrift store. It was damaged and in the “free” bin so I picked it up. It has much better advice than the regular “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff” series. It’s got practical suggestions for real situations and offers some helpful coping tools too. If the book hadn’t been so damaged I probably would have slid it onto the bookshelf in the hopes that Tiny-Small discovered it one day.
Instead, it’s been feeding my mixed media ideas and often when I flip through the pages I find the perfect words to accompany one of my pieces. That’s what happened last night: Don’t keep your pain a secret. I couldn’t have bumped into a better sentence if I tried.
Of course, some things are not really “small stuff” and even the small stuff can feel really big at times. I do know talking about it with caring people is really helpful. If you are in pain for any reason right now, don’t keep it a secret. Find someone to share it with and let go of pretending everything is fine. Pretending not to be sad is too big a burden to bear.
Grief and loss are nothing to be ashamed over. It’s part of life. Pretending otherwise just causes more pain and secrets often do too. If you can’t talk to someone, write. If you can’t write, paint.
Tell your story in whatever language you can. It helps. I promise.
Explaining death to children can be incredibly difficult. Especially when that child is only three. Tiny-Small talks about death in abstract ways. She knows bugs die and plants die. She knows people in old photographs have died, but I doubt she truly grasps the concept of death. To be honest, I don’t know if I truly do either. I mean, I don’t know what happens when we die. I have my theories, my fantasies and my hopes, but there really isn’t any certainty there. There isn’t one answer to these big questions. There isn’t any absolute proof I can point to and say without a doubt, “This is what happens when we die.”
On Tuesday, my mom’s dog Cleo died. Cleo was twelve years old. She contracted some mysterious illness and the veterinarian did everything he could to make her better, but in the end he couldn’t save her. Jim and I discussed at length what and how to tell Tiny-Small. Jim wanted to pretend nothing had happened and to wait and see if Tiny-Small even noticed Cleo’s absence. That didn’t feel quite right to me. I felt like I should tell Tiny-Small what had happened. I asked for help on Facebook. I wondered how other people explained death to their children. I got some good advice. One reader even directed me to a book about dogs going to heaven. I bought it for Tiny-Small. I liked it right away because the author described heaven as a place that made sense to me. A place I would like to go. I’ve never really liked the traditional ideas about heaven. Sitting on a cloud, strumming a harp and floating around, just sounds so boring to me. I don’t see God wearing long, white robes sitting in some gold throne and all of that stuff. I liked this book because in heaven dogs run and play and God feeds them biscuits shaped liked hotdogs and ice cream cones. Angels take dogs back to earth to visit their family members and to chase the neighbors cat. Also, God just looks like a farmer-cowboy guy taking care of business. Which I found somewhat reassuring because wouldn’t God want to look familiar to us? If we are made in his image wouldn’t he look sort of like a regular guy? My favorite part in the book is the end when dogs wait for their owners to come home (to heaven) and you see an old guy walking with a cane as his dog runs to greet him. When I die, I hope my dog is there to welcome me “home” because that just sounds like heaven to me. Plus, I think a dogs love for us is pretty much as close as we can get to God’s love here on earth. I mean, dogs love unconditionally like no other man or beast I have ever encountered.
Anyway, I told Tiny-Small that Cleo didn’t get better at the doctors and that she had died. Our conversation went like this:
Me: Cleo isn’t coming home from the doctors. She died.
Tiny-Small: Cleo died? Did Memé (my mom) cry?
Me: Yes, Memé cried. She was sad.
Tiny-Small: Did Bitsy (my mom’s cat) die too?
Me: No, Bitsy is still alive.
Tiny-Small: Cleo died? She died.
Me: Yes, she died.
Tiny-Small: She died like Izzy and like you dad, Mom?
Me: Yes, Cleo died. Her body got tired and didn’t want to work anymore.
Tiny-Small: Oh. She died, Mom.
Then Tiny-Small ran off to play. She mentioned that Cleo died a few times as the day went on. We read the book about the dogs going to heaven after dinner. I couldn’t tell if she really related the book to Cleo though because she seemed mostly interested in kid angels and ice cream cone dog treats. Then, this morning she asked me about my mom’s cat, “Is Bitsy dead, Mom?” I told her no and that Bitsy was still alive and busy doing cat things at Memé’s house. Then Tiny-Small told me, “Cleo died, Mom. Memé cried.” I can tell she is processing what it means and trying to understand. She knows death makes people sad. I can tell she wants to comfort my mom. I think she understands the most important parts about death. She knows when something dies it is over and that the people still living are sad and need comforting. I think that is probably about all she really needs to know at the age of three. The rest is just a mystery that she will have to figure out the best she can the same way we all do: Faith, discussion, hope.
*The book was Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant if you need a book to help explain the death of a pet and you believe in God, heaven and angels.
Share The Love Sunday sort of disappeared on the blog for a while. I am not sure why. I think I ran out of time for a week or two and that was all it took to get me out of the habit. That, and I have been attempting to write a weekly newsletter (but seem to be failing in every way possible). I am probably the worst newsletter writer in the history of blogging. Anyway, today, Share The Love Sunday, has been resuscitated. I read too many incredible posts this past week. I have to share them with you. I have to!
Marianne from We Band Of Mothers Wrote Where We Run for Chicago Parent and it will make you cry. Get the tissues ready. She writes about how the Boston Marathon bombing affected her and how she felt compelled to initiate stage one of her family’s disaster plan.
Alex from Late Enough wrote Being Different Is Not Cute And Fun But Be Yourself Anyway and it might make you cry…if you can relate to feeling different. Not in the cute, isn’t it fun to be different way, but in the real, I don’t fit in here (or maybe anywhere) kind of way. I feel like that often, so this post really touched me. I think too, that, for whatever reason, Late Enough is a place where I do fit in. It’s nice to know I am not alone…even in my feeling different.
Lucy from My Life As Lucille wrote about depression in such an honest and open way that it moved me. Anyone who has battled feeling bad will relate to this post. If you are feeling like this right now, maybe it will make you feel less alone too: What Are You Struggling With Today? I’ll Go First.
In Fragile Silvana Mondo shares a video of an art installation made to bring attention to the issue of climate change. The ice sculptures made in human form melt, fall, and somehow represent the fragile nature of life. I would like to see more video footage!
Occasionally, I will discover an artist on the Internet purely by accident that completely blows me away. I found Karen Walker a few days ago and her ink paintings actually made me cry. They are so incredibly beautiful. They glow like stained glass. She has a blog, Karen Walker Inks, that I encourage you to visit. I find her work to be so inspiring. I hope you do too.
After all of that crying and stuff, I am going to end with something goofy and funny. This unicorn loving duo Pat and Christian are really funny. If you don’t read their blog Point Counter-Point Point Point, you are really missing out. I had a good chuckle at this one: Blogging Is SO 2011. If you like Trivia, humor, and a bit of ridiculous-ness (who doesn’t?!) make sure you check out their Win A Free Compliment game on Facebook too.
P.S. Do you hear that? I think Share The Love Sunday has a pulse. Just remember, it isn’t over until the fat lady sings. I have no idea what that means, but I just keep saying it anyway. I mean, who doesn’t like singing ladies, right? Did I ever mention I wanted to be an Opera singer when I was a kid? Too bad I can’t really sing…sigh.