Angel Wings and Herb Tea

Life after loss; healing through creativity, writing and art


4 Comments

Life Loss and Gratitude

I don’t quite know why I’ve abandoned this space for so long. Its grey windswept corridors blown about with tumbleweed and debris . Life comes and life goes, blown by the wind, warmed by the sun watered by the (near continual )rain. People are born, people die, days are passed and tempers are lost. Love is found and divided out in slices, the Christmas tree is  down. Its the end its the beginning. I have no time.
I have little shards of time, tiny splinters which glitter like hard won jewels dug from a deep mine far away on a lost continent. I have to be as creative, flexible and bending with my time as a serpent. So flexible. So creative
.

A week ago an enormous church in our town was filled with people: remembering the life of a creative, generous, gentle man who spread singing across the world, a member of the community I live in. A ceremony of singing, sighing laughing, remembering. Sometimes, I barely managed to coordinate the keeping -everyone- occupied activities of finger knitting, French knitting and nursing nursing a teething, wildly possetting baby, child fights and demands, …all in a whisper; sometimes I was  engulfed in a wave of tears with the vast singing community of people who will miss him;

The songs we learned. Dance between the practicalities of caring for children in a reverent space, and moments of immersion when they disappeared to play upstairs.When someone dies it is as if everyone who has died is present too, a shimmering haze, amongst us and beyond us. Joyful and sorrowful, entwined, woven into the same cloth. There were certainly angels there.

And life on either side is full, a blurred juggle of endless food preparation..(We have gained another teenager for twelve weeks, taking the head count to seven, a German exchange student) converting our entrance hall into his bedroom; Christmas quilts hurriedly finished, New Year clear outs and purging. My bedroom especially, a growling lair of unsorted papers, half finished weaving, sewing and knitting projects, bags and bags of children’s clothes which need rationalizing reducing cleaning…throwing out.

Did I mention the rain?

You see I can be a moaner, a grumbling whinging oh its not fair kind of gal….ask my partner if you don’t believe me….he gets the worst of it….

So my intention is to be simply grateful.  Hmm its becoming a bit of a trend isn’t it? Gratitude Fridays, Thankful Thursdays…….. no blog complete without one.

Well maybe it works.

Finding just one teeny tiny thing each day to be grateful for, in between all the challenges, demands and whines of life can become a habit, and even grow. Stopping to notice the watery sun appearing outside as I complete the fifth round of washing up today, or the delicate tracery of Jack Frost’s fern magic on the windows as I shiver to the bathroom. Pausing to watch just how Finch can now pursue a favourite rattle with his eye, and make attempts to retrieve it, and how Tansy appeared unasked with a full basket of clean laundry hauled up from the cellar wash room ‘because I knew you needed it Mum, and were busy.’

Little things.
Important things.
Things that make me smile relax and BREATHE.
Slow down.
Feel a moment of love, a moment of Connection…With the sun. With Jack Frost. With Finch. With Tansy. It spreads…its contagious….before I know it I’ve noticed something else, someone else. A hug a look a smile, ahh it all seems better for a moment.

Gratitude. The only question remains…which day will I post? Today!!
So, every Wednesday, its gratitude day, and I will post my daily gratitudes from the week

What are you grateful for? Do feel  post a link to your blog if you feel moved to join in

Advertisements


18 Comments

It’s complicated

Welcome to the August 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Sibling Revelry
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about siblings – their own, their hopes for their kids, and more. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
***

.How many siblings have my kids got? Let’s start with my eldest.  He has four from me and four from his dad’s subsequent relationship.. If you count Lily. And why wouldn’t you count her? Well if you’re fourteen and someone asks how many brothers and sisters you have, you might not want to bring up your dead sister right away, or maybe not even the ones that you don’t live with….I don’t know. But I can guess he doesn’t say eight very often. Eight. Hmm. Split families, bereaved families, families with multiple children, how did it all happen?

I’m one of one so this is all new territory to me, brothers and sisters; like an exotic fruit; tantalising, juicy and apparently delicious but just out of reach.Unskilled in fighting, sharing and manilpulating parental favour;

I was dropped into the tumult of sibling jealousy and love that are so exquisitely intermingled they hardly seemed to know which they were or when. 
‘I won’t throw Lily into the nettles down by the river, she’s too beautiful, ‘ for example. From a  three year old contemplating his newborn sister….
 
The ferocity of feelings between the kids can unsettle me and send me hurtling to the apex of the whirlwind, shouting, ‘No! no!’ like a banshee,  or, ‘Its fine, it’s fine, let’s go do some baking’, in high pitched, strung out, 
Lets- Placate-Everyone-Right-Now tones.
My partner meanwhile, eldest of five, hasn’t even looked up. ‘Just leave them, they’ll sort it out’, he might murmur.
‘But they’re killing each other!’
‘It’ll pass!’
 
When I was a child, everything was sedate, ordered, quiet…ok pretty dull if the truth be known!!! Predictable and unchanging; and I read alot of books.  Mainly about big, noisy rambunctious families charging around doing exotic, alien things like stealing each others toys and fighting over the last slice of cake. It sounded so exciting, so unreachable, so desirable.
 
 
So I decided to have my own big noisy rambunctious family. Four, always four. But complicated things like relationship break-ups happen, and before I knew it I had my four kids but by two dads, although the spacing between broods was close enough to make a cohesive family. 
Each permutation of child pairings had a different dynamics. And these dynamics flowed and changed with time. And just as I find the fighting almost unbearable to watch, so I find the moments of tenderness and true affection almost unbelievable too. ‘But they really love each other!!’
And then Lily died and everyone has an angel for a sister. No one quite knows how to do without her but they have no choice.
But it doesn’t mean their relationship with her has died. All her siblings still love her, even the ones who have never met her on earth. Since little Finch was born three weeks ago, we often say that Lily probably played a part in him deciding to join our family. And although it breaks my heart that  I will never see Finch and Lily together on earth, I know they had a great time together before he was born…..
 
A white feather always connects the kids to their big sister, floating to the ground in front of them, ‘Lily is preening her wings,’ they say. 
We talk about her, remember things she said, notice traits in the younger ones which remind us of Lily. And all the children have times when they just sigh and wish she was here again.
 
 
Truthfully, Tansy and Leo probably have no real memory of her, they were so young, but the presence of their lost sibling is so powerful and graceful that they can never forget her.
A sister is always a sister, wherever they are.
And five kids are five kids, wherever they are, I didn’t plan to have part of my family in heaven, but the relationship between them all will flow and change and grow as they change and grow.
This is their life, and death is part of it, as it is for everyone.
Freddie, Lily, Tansy, Leo and Finch.
Who love each other.


***
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • The Damage of Comparing Siblings — Comparing siblings can lead to hurt feelings and poor relationships. What Jana Falls has learned and why she hopes for more for her son.
  • Connecting Through Sibling Rivalry — With four children who are spaced so that each child grows up in a pair, Destany at They are All of Me shares her method for minimizing the competition so her children can focus on bonding, rather than besting each other.
  • Sibling Revelry — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud shares the two-week transition that happens every summer as her kids transform from bickering to learning how to play.
  • Baby Brother born from an OceanAbby Jaramillo describes how her toddler connects in a possibly mystical way with her new baby brother and his birth at home, and Abby draws parallels with her own sister’s new baby.
  • Hard, But Worth It — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl discusses how difficult having two children can be, but how it’s definitely worth it.
  • Raising Attached Siblings — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy and her husband are making conscious choices about how they raise their children to foster sibling connection and attachment.
  • It’s Complicated — Henrietta at Angel Wings and Herb Tea reflects on how life’s twists and turns have taken her from a childhood with no siblings to a constantly changing family life with five children, including one in spirit.
  • Supportsustainablemum reflects on how the differences between her relationship with her siblings and her husband’s have affected their family and at a time of need.
  • Peas in a Pod — Kellie at Our Mindful Life enjoys the special relationship her oldest two children share.
  • Lessening the competitive enviornment in the homeLisa at The Squishable Baby discusses how downplaying competition in the home has led to cooperation, not competition.
  • The complex and wonderful world of siblings — Lauren at Hobo Mamareflects on her choices to have not too many children, spaced far apart — and how that’s maybe limited how close their sibling relationship can be.
  • 5 Ways to Help Young Siblings Have a Loving Relationship — Charise I Thought I Knew Mama shares the strategies that help her three year old and 14 month old have a somewhat beautiful relationship and aid in keeping peace in their home.
  • 4 Steps to Encourage Sibling Revelry, even in Hot Moments of Rivalry — Sheila Pai of A Living Family share 4 Steps she uses to shift hot moments of sibling rivalry towards connected moments of sibling revelry and human compassion.
  • Twins Are Fun — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot witnesses the development of her twins’ sibling bond.
  • Growing Up Together- Sibling Revelry in Our House — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work realizes that there is great utility in raising siblings that are close in age, and is grateful to have been blessed with healthy siblings that both love and challenge one another every day.
  • Top 5 Ways to Reduce Sibling Rivalry — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares ideas that helped her two children be best friends along with Montessori resources for peace education and conflict resolution.
  • Sibling Uncertainty — Alisha at Cinnamon and Sassafras wonders how her children’s relationship will change now that the baby is mobile.
  • Living with the Longing — Rachael at The Variegated Life sees that she can live with her longing for another — without changing her plans.
  • For My One and Only DaughterPlaying for Peace mommy reflects on her choice to not have more children in order to focus on other dreams.
  • Siblings: A Crash Course in Relationship Training — How have your siblings prepared you for later relationships? One of Dionna at Code Name: Mama’s top priorities as mama of siblings is to help them learn how to navigate relationships.
  • The Joys of Siblings: An Inside Joke — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares the a glimpse into the joys of having siblings through sharing a perplexing yet hilarious inside joke betwixt her and her own.
  • Sibling Support, even in the potty! — Even though Laura at Pug in the Kitchen‘s children didn’t start out best friends, they are joined at the hip these days, including cheering each other on with potty successes!
  • Don’t Seek What Isn’t There – On Sibling Jealousy — Laura from Authentic Parenting analyzes the seeming desire people harbor for seeking out hints of sibling jealousy.
  • Sibling Love / Sibling Hate?Momma Jorje speculates whether her children will have a different sibling experience than her own. Did she make the right choices based on her own history?


2 Comments

Lily and the mobile phone guy

What do you do on the anniversary of your daughter’s death? It’s not the sort of question I imagined I’d have to deal with when I held my 4 newborns in my arms. But it is something I have to think about every year now.

June approaches with stealthy feet, all blossomy with foaming elder trees and blowsy roses, tangled hedgerows of campion and stitchwort and budding honeysuckle, and I get the same feeling of strange dread and an opening heart.

The weeks before have been tumultuous emotionally, flare ups and misunderstandings, journalling and outpourings, private tears and heart connections, jagged, raw poems that can never be seen…realisations and illuminations.

But today, the anniversary of the day 4 years ago that they did the brain stem test in Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, to see if they should turn the life support machine off, well it seemed strangely normal and so so hard to feel any connection with deeper emotions.

Its hard to feel and connect when I’m busy. Doing not being.

We were up early to rush back from a mini break in time for Hugh to go to work, so sweeping caravans and packing at seven instead of a quiet reflective time.
Shopping with the kids for groceries….trying to have a moment of thought over pancakes in a cafe …..jarring with children who were slightly hysterical and tired….
And then for God’s sake, meeting the mobile phone repair guy in the supermarket carpark at 4.30. My date with normality. Drawing me into its web with its dulled ravening claws….rushing away from a painting hour where we created angels and doves for Lily’s grave…to meet the mobile phone guy, and buy loo roll.

But maybe that’s ok. Maybe I don’t have to create a perfect hallowed day on June 11th and feel like I’ve let Lily down if I don’t. I did need my phone, we did need loo roll. We did connect over the painting and we did visit Lily’s grave…..and we do have spontaneous moments where we feel.

Curled up in a little grassy place we go to sometimes where the younger kids feel safe and relaxed, and say how they miss her.
A moment alone to pick flowers for her table where each blossom seem to glow with the essence of her love for it. Where the world swelled and condensed to a tiny distilled fragment holding Lily and me in its tender embrace.

A chance conversation sitting in the car in the rain with all of my children, remembering, crying, little forgotten details recalled, healing tears…..soothing our struggles alone.
Messages from friends, a kind word which helps grief to flow.

And that is the challenge. To create the space to let the grief move how it will, without dams or blockages or  avoidance tactics, or just the practical demands of daily life. To let Lily into everything. To allow the joy and grief to weave and flow around our lives, the tears sparkling among the breakfast dishes as the laughter ripples into a walk to the garden. No separation. No compartmentalisation.

It is a challenge.

When I meditate, or spend a moment seeking a connection with nature or myself, the tears and emotions are very close to the surface, waiting for a chance to escape the rigid confines of my busy hours where I rush without feeling. I know that the more I do this, the more emotion can flow naturally in my life and become more balanced and help me and my family to heal. I’ve made a commitment to do this more.

Spending time in nature, in this beauiful place that is our home now,  sitting with a flower, a tree, being quiet and receptive to the spirit that is in everything and in us, makes my heart much bigger and makes me feel that anything is possible. Spending time connecting with friends old and new, in deeper ways, more nurturing ways, makes me not feel alone. Makes me feel the beauty of life, the endless possibilities that are always there.

I guess Lily would just laugh about meeting the mobile phone guy, she just needs us to love her, remember her, connect wih her, just like always. It’s another day, like yesterday, like tomorrow.

A day for us all to connect with something more than our mind driven rushing, to open our hearts to a deeper level. Its a huge tapestry of glowing, luminous threads we’re part of, all interwoven with the practical homespun browns and greys, the vibrant reds and pinks of daily activity, the soft iridescent violets of our connection to the spirit which is in everything, the subtle greens of nature unfolding….we never stop weaving…

Do you manage to hold all the threads of the loom together…..is it easy for you?


4 Comments

Spring

The trees are still bare, their thin black branches whipped in the wind rolling along the valley today, but appearences are deceiving.

Spring is surging and swelling and even with my eyes closed it’s a tangible force to be felt, smelt and heard.

A pair of pigeons hop coquettishly in the sycamore outside the window, fluttering  their spring dance in the tree tops. Down by the stream, tadpoles are hatching in thick black wriggles, burying into the soft mud at the bottom of the pond. Yesterday, Leo and I found a decapitated mother frog surrounded by her own eggs, abandoned on the path near the pond. The tragedy of death surrounded by the promise of new life.
When I lived in a house I never felt the arrival of spring. One day I would just notice that it had arrived, it always seemed to surprise me. Here in the woods I see every leaf unfurl, notice every minute of extra daylight in these candle free mornings.

And when I sit alone in the woods feeling crumpled and resentful about some injustice or sadness in my life, I sink down into the mossy ground and it seems as if the earth is alive, warm and full of movement. The energy is palpable, an upward thrusting of spring virility. The woodland floor is sprouting bluebell leaves as fast as it can and baby rabbits are already hopping among the brambles.

When dark winter recedes I wake up too, the spring energy is in me and everything seems more possible and more likely. It rouses memories and connections which have slumbered peacefully through the cold months muffled by winter. Lily always seems more present in Spring, this will be the third one since she left us. Spring rips the bandages off the wounds she left behind and leaves them raw and vulnerable again. It’s not a bad thing, to feel them. Winter numbs and subdues, sends it all underground, but with each new flower that blooms Lily comes closer and there is all that pain again, but also the chance to heal a little bit more, to share a little bit more, to search a little bit more  and to grow. There is always that.


5 Comments

Running away from grief

I suppose it’s a bit of a tendency of mine to run away from difficult situations; walking out when an argument gets too heated; leaving a gathering when the atmosphere becomes uncomfortable for me, stopping my train of thought when things go a bit too far. Walls of protection, quickly put up, by me,.. saving me from what the hurt could bring. Or barring me from the healing that suffering can bestow…

Two nights ago I ran away. From a beautiful group of people who meet together to share and move their grief together. We met last year at a grief tending ritual on Dartmoor, a ritual practiced by the Dagara people of West Africa. The ritual has been adapted for western practice by Wisdom Bridge and was held for us by Maeve Gavin at  Way of the Village . For the Dagara people, the ritual is a weekly event, for everyone has grief to move and to speak. Grief is not a wrapped up solitary affair confined to laced edged handkerchiefs and funerals and the confines of our bedrooms. It is a flowing universal force which howls and beckons and surges in the beauty of its power. It needs to move and be shared and witnessed and this is what the ritual taught me.
The ritual was a turning point for me. For two years I had been ‘the grieving mother’ supported and loved, yes, but feeling as if I was on an island of grief that only I could experience. But we don’t have to lose a child to grieve. We can mourn a damaged childhood, we can mourn the loss of a way of life that our ancestors expected as their birthright, close to nature and each other, we can mourn the devastation of our planet, the suffering of so many children, animals, plants…..grief is something that every single one of us will experience and how we deal with it will have a huge impact on our lives. We can stuff it inside with numbing techniques such as drugs, overeating, drink or retail therapy, or we can let it out… and that’s scarey..
During the ritual I was able to be witnessed and supported in my grieving, my tears emerged from my bedroom where they had been welling for so long, and it was terrifying for me. I almost ran away, but something, some tiny kernel of courage and wisdom deep inside, wouldn’t let me. I’m so glad I stayed. I felt the love and support of a group of people who I had only met two days before, and, crucially for me, felt strong and able to support them too…. through their grief.  I felt openess and love filling us all and above all, connection …to myself, to the people around me, to life itself. The tears were cleansing and releasing, a universal experience. It was a beautiful and life changing weekend.

So why did I run away two nights ago?
Well, life’s been pretty disconnected recently. I have forgotten to spend time connecting with what’s going on inside. It’s tricky when you’ve got to finish building your home very quickly and still keep a cohesive family and get through a busy Christmas. I jumped into our grief meeting from a very busy day, in a very busy week with my mind and body reeling from the onslaught of a thousand tiny needs and demands…
And as everyone at the meeting shifted down into writing or drawing as a means of expressing  the grief present for them, I froze. Images of Lily alone in her shining land seared into my mind…I could draw that…images of me alone and unable to reach her…I could draw that..but you know, I couldn’t. I knew that the meeting ended in the not too distant future, and I just couldn’t dive into that huge well of pain and emotion and then drag myself out again and drive home. Maybe I should’ve, but I didn’t . I ran out in a rather sudden and dramatic way.
But I’ll go back again. We’ll all meet again, and next time I’ll stay. And in the meantime I’ll make time in my day to connect and be quiet, to be with myself, to be with Lily, and maybe to cry..and not always by myself……