Parenting with PTSD: Surviving the Intense Waves of Grief ~ A PMB Post

Today over at Portland Moms Blog I shared a few minutes of one of my days ~ just one of many I have to live without my girls. This post was very difficult to write but I felt it was important.  With each new day and life experience comes a new wave of grief and at the same time a tremendous amount of gratitude for the ability God has given me to survive the heartache. I miss my girls more and more as each new day passes.

You can find my post here.

My girl in her favorite pink boots!

Anna and her boots


I remember the first time I realized the flutter in my belly was actually Anna moving around. It was the first time I felt a life growing inside of me. I smile at the memory of lying in my bed, hands on my belly, realizing that I was going to be a mom ~ Anna’s mom.

Years later, while cuddling her in bed, we would talk about how she was the only one that had ever heard my heartbeat from the inside. She loved that fact and so did I.

Last night I felt the flutter, it was subtle but I know it’s our little one stretching, moving, and if it’s anything like Tom, dancing. This little one can also hear my heartbeat from the inside. I’m sure that Anna feels honored to share this with her little brother or sister.

There are times in our lives when our journey or life circumstances create a realization in our hearts and minds that may not have been realized if things were different. I have to be honest and say I would trade my life circumstances any day and stay in the dark about many things that have been brought to light since the girls went to Heaven ~ unfortunately I don’t get to choose.

I have witnessed the life cycle of my child. I was there when she took her first breath and I arrived, to a scene no one should ever experience, shortly after she took her last.

I remember holding her little hand for the first time, amazed at the fact that my body helped create this little being ~ I knew right then she was going to teach me so much about life.

I, unfortunately, also have the memory of holding Anna’s hand in the funeral home ~ her body no longer breathing life and I knew right then that my girl was also going to teach me so much about what happens when a life, as we know it, ends.

It was there I was enlightened.

It was there that my deep deep suffering was accompanied by a tremendous peace ~ a peace that should not come to a mother experiencing the loss of her children. A peace, that to this day, I sometimes struggle to fully understand.

It was there when I realized that Anna and Abigail were not gone but rather holding us in a blanket of hope. Their physical bodies, the ones we created, were gone but their souls were very much alive.

It was there that I opened my eyes to the gift that God was giving me, the realization that Anna and Abigail were not ours for the keeping but rather His and in opening my heart fully to this He gave me the gift of their eternal presence which I feel daily through my peace.

Last night, as I felt the flutter, I was enlightened once again by the gift of a little soul wrestling around inside of me. Tom and I created the body but God, He placed the soul for us to nurture, care for and love until it’s time for it to go Home.

Small As a Ball

I looked everywhere for this photo yesterday. I knew I had it somewhere ~ old computer, new computer, phone…I didn’t find it until last night when I opened the last file on my old computer and there it was.

Small as a ball!

Anna would be done with her bath and would yell at the top of her lungs, “Tom, can you carry me upstairs small as a ball?” He would come running with a towel, scoop her up and carry her with one hand up the steps wrapped, “small as a ball,” in a towel. She would giggle the entire way up the stairs and we would too.

Anna loved her Tom with all her heart. She also loved her dad with all her heart. The two brought so much to her life and I am very blessed to say she had the perfect combination of an amazing father and amazing Tom.

Yesterday I thought a lot about her dad and how he was always there for her. I thought about how his heart was probably aching just like ours does.

My little girl is blessed to have lots and lots of people who love her and who will always carry her with them ~ small as a ball.

small as a ball


So much going on these past two weeks and I’m finding it hard to come and share it all in this space. I want to, more than anything, but time gets away from me and I find another day has gone by. In the past month I have found that I long for this space and the connection it gives me with my girls. I think it is the quiet time in reflection that I long for the most. Setting everything aside and allowing myself to just feel.

I’ve said before that writing was never something I loved to do but over the past 18 months it has become “something” for me. I’ve been trying to find the words for what that “something” is and haven’t found them yet ~ I know it will come. Sometimes I wish all the busyness would go away and I could just sit and write, reflect and share stories about Anna and Abigail all day every day. I feel God nudging me in that direction and I can see how He carves time out in my day for this to happen, now it’s just up to me to fight the urges to do everything but what He wants. We are working it out <3.

For Tom’s birthday all he wanted was to go see one of his favorite bands, The Drive-By Truckers. They were coming to town and he mentioned 2 times before his birthday that he would really love to go see them. Tom never asks for much, actually he really never asks for anything so the fact that he was making this request made me happy. I promptly purchased two tickets and was excited to grant him his birthday wish.

Last night was the concert and to be honest after a very filled weekend of speaking at a DonateLife Northwest event and being away from home at the Forward Edge Gathering we were really tired. Both thinking that spending a late night downtown was not in our best interest but we decided that we were going to get coffee and muscle through it. The concert was great and we both stayed awake for the whole thing. I smile as I write this because the last concert we went to downtown we both fell asleep while listening…we are not late night people.

Before the show we struck up a conversation with two woman sitting in front of us.

“Where are you all from?” the woman on the right asked.

“Forest Grove, we usually aren’t out this late and that is why we are drinking coffee.” Tom replied.

Everyone in the place had a cup of beer in hand…we had coffee.

“Do you all have any children?” she asked I’m sure trying to make sense of why we were drinking coffee instead of beer.

“Yes, 4.” I said.

“4!!! No wonder you all are so tired.”

Tom held my hand tighter and I think we both knew what was about to happen.

We then explained that we are blended and that the younger two lived with us and the older two lived with their mom.  We talked a little about each one starting with our oldest and her college plans and then ended with our 8 yr old and what she has been up to these days. I’m sure we gave them a little more info than they wanted but they seemed interested and enjoyed hearing our stories. I know that Tom and I enjoyed sharing them.

They never asked if our daughters were in Heaven so we pretended they weren’t. As I shared about Abigail being 13 the woman on the left said something to the effect that teenagers are hard. I looked at Tom and he winked at me and then I said, “our Abigail is actually delightful at the age of 13.”

Shortly after our conversation about our family the lights dimmed and the music started. I sat there for a bit, listening to the music, feeling Tom’s joy for being at the concert and wondering if we did the right thing by pretending – wondering if it would hurt our hearts later that night when we went home and the girls weren’t there.

I will be honest and say that part of our pretending was not wanting to ruin their evening by the hard facts of our life. I’ve seen the look of anguish all to often when someone, who does not know our life circumstances, asks about my children. Pretending felt like the right thing to do at the time and I can say that it was nice to talk about them in the present tense and to do so holding on tight to my husband’s hand.

We pretended last night that our daughters were tucked into their beds being watched by a sitter that they loved while their parents were out for the evening.

We pretended that our lives were how we wished they would be ~ minus the concert and the sitter.

drive by truckers


Perfect Shade of Pink

I’m not sure how I ended up in the comforter aisle ~ the thought of a new comforter on our bed was not even on my mind and hasn’t been. I like the comforter we have and our bed is the only one that is regularly used.

I was confused until I saw it.

At first it was the polka dots that caught my eye and then it was the rainbow colors ~ dark pink, orange, yellow, green, teal blue, purple and pink ~ the exact same pink that are the color of her walls. She would love it and it would match with her room perfectly.

There was only one left and it fit the size of her bed. It was on sale. It was perfect.

I stood numb for a moment, sad, longing and wondering if it was the right thing to do. Was I even ready to take off her old one? Am I crazy for buying something for Anna even though she is in Heaven?

I decided that I’m not crazy for buying things for my girls ~ not crazy at all.

What I am is a mom who finds joy in thinking about what her daughters would like now at age 8 and 13. I’m a mom who, over time, will always stay connected to her daughters in Heaven by embracing the things they enjoyed, the friends they cherished and by celebrating the love and joy that they spread.

I’m a mom ~ plain and simple and today I put a new bed spread on Anna’s bed that I know she would adore. I also danced around her room listening to Taylor Swift really loud just like we used to.  I know, without a doubt, that she is smiling at her new bed spread and the fact that her mom will never stop mothering her ~ never.

new comforter

Keeping My Promise

We needed to make a plan. I had been wanting to take them for a while but with the family budget, activities and life it seemed we could never get it planned.

When Anna was born I remember daydreaming about this adventure (along with so many others we would take together) ~ knowing her eyes would be wide with excitement and we would experience the magic together.

When we blended families we would talk about going ~ I honestly don’t think Abigail ever thought it was a possibility.

Early October of last year I presented them with plan. We would work on saving our money for an entire year ~ pinching pennies, saving allowance and making sacrifices ~ all in the name of this Halloween adventure that the 3 of us would have together.

I don’t think they believed me at first but when the “How to Plan your Disney Vacation” CD came in the mail they both were so excited.

“You’re serious,” Abigail said to me with a look on her face I will never forget.

“Just the 3 of us, Disneyland, just like when we were stuck in Chicago,” Anna added with a giant smile on her face.

The 3 of us had so much fun together while traveling and they were so excited that I was indeed serious.

Today I’m getting on a plane and I’m going to Disneyland. I told them we were going and I am not breaking my promise.  We planned this trip together and I intend to honor those plans.

I will only need to buy one ticket at the park but I know the girls will definitely be there with me. As I’ve been packing this morning I can hear them, their excitement and laughter for the adventure ahead.

My plan once I get there ~ I’m not really sure, but I do know that I will be sharing as much love and joy as I can.

Abigail would be proud that I’m going solo and Anna would think I’m crazy. I smile thinking about the conversation they are having in Heaven and know that my heart will be protected by their love.

Disney World 1979 ~ 6 years plan was to take this same picture of Anna.

Disney World 1979 ~ 6 years old.