Monday, May 27, 2013

On Silence, Fear, and Saying My Daughter's Name

photo walk 8/15/2012

Yesterday, I went to a support group.  One that I helped create, for women affected by the death of a baby before, during, and after birth.

I have to confess -- I was so nervous.  Nervous that I would be a disappointment, a let down.  Nervous that I would not find the courage or space to speak.  Nervous that I would not be liked, that I would find myself an outsider in this tender place where belonging feels essential.

Of course, I needn't have worried.  As one of the other founders pointed out, there is something about babyloss that turns strangers into sisters.  Sitting yesterday with those kindred women, sharing and receiving our stories -- it felt like coming home. 

But something struck me, as I listened.  I had not yet spoken, and could feel a familiar tension building in me.  Would I speak?  Would I tell the painful and ongoing story of Eve's death and my missing of her without editing myself? 

I realized as I sat and my heart cupped its hands to catch the words and tears that fell from each woman's soul -- I don't speak of my daughter, my sweet Eve who lived but never breathed.

I don't speak of my one and only daughter who lived and died and broke my soul open and changed my life.  

I write of her, and of my grief, but to say her name with my real voice in the physical world?  I seem incapable of speaking her name with a voice that does not tremble.

And the truth of that breaks my own heart. 

Why is it that when I try to speak of her, the words feel thick, as if my tongue moves through mud?  Why can I not say her name clear and strong with the courage that her death forced me to learn?

I realize that I am silencing myself not only here on the blog, but in life.

And I realize further -- I have always, always done this.

Because in my family, individual opinion and truth were not tolerated.  To speak your mind was to be punished, your soul crushed.  Because in my growing-up schools (and I am not alone in this, I'm sure), to be different was to mark yourself a pariah. 

So I learned to silence myself.  Because to be silent and not-punished, not-pariahed, was easier than speaking my mind and bringing the rage of those who should have known better down on my body.

And I never unlearned this, not when I left the unsafety of my hometown for college, and then grad school, where opinion was encouraged.  I never learned how to know my own thoughts, and how to express them.

Until this blog.  Until I discovered art.  Until my daughter died.

I have come a long way.  I realized this in church yesterday, breastfeeding my son as I listened to the preaching and the singing.  I realized that ten years ago I did not know how to feel, how to think for myself.  And writing like this, so raw and real?  It would not have been possible then.

God has set me down into so much freedom.

Freedom that I still tremble to use.

Why do I not say Eve's name?  Why do I hold back when strangers ask if my son is our first child, or when friends ask if I can see her in him?

For that matter, why do I not knot my hair up into the dreadlocks that my soul is crying for, symbols of the freedom and feminism that God is teaching me?  Why do I not ink my daughter's memory into my skin in the form of a flock of tiny birds winging their way across my shoulder?  Why did it take me so long to start whispering my dream of a local babyloss support group into being?

Why indeed.

Let me tell you something that I know to be true, friends, even though I do not live it as bravely as I would like -- it is so, so important for you to tell your messy, true, sacred story.  For me to tell mine.  Because our culture, it does not value the mess.  It tries to shut the uncomfortable away.  To paint life all roses.

But you and I both know that there's no such thing as a rosebush without thorns.

And so the world needs our stories, because there are not many willing to tell the truth that sometimes life is horribly painful and ugly.  Who are willing to say that it's okay to limp and stumble and fall and get up and fall again.  Because there are hurting people who need to know that it's okay to have dirt on your knees more days than not.  Because there are people who feel all alone in their tears and need to know that they're not the only ones who have cried, who cry still. 

So tell your story.  Please, tell it.

And as for me . . . I will speak my story, too.  Not only here, but with breath and sound.  I will say my daughter's name where I have been lying, even if my voice trembles.  Because there are people who need to know that it's okay to speak of the dead, to speak of hurt and of impossible hope and healing.  And I am the first of those.

When I speak, I speak to my own parched soul, cracked and sunburned from an overabundance of silence. 

I will tell the truth, and all of it.

Will you?  Why, or why not?

"In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
~ George Orwell

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38 comments:

  1. I love this phrase from Story 101 - Shame is broken when the story is spoken - not that you're feeling shame. But there is such power in voicing the story. It empowers us, makes us braver in our vulnerability, shines light on the hidden dark places in our hearts - and makes us more whole. I love your heart. You are such a treasure. Thank you for sharing this! ;)

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    1. Thank you so much, Marvia. I love that saying about shame...I've definitely lived the truth of that more than once. It's powerful stuff. Love to you! xo

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  2. This is beautiful and brave. It's been 28 months since Sully died, and I still am horrible at answering the questions. It is so much easier in the babyloss community. I am more honest about my feelings with people I've never met in person than with most of my family and best friends

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    1. Hugs, Jamie. Always remembering sweet Sully. Can't believe it's been that long...

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  3. Thank you for this. I have always been one to speak my children's names, Oscar, Bella and Tittle, and proclaim to the world that I am a mother to 4 children, not just the 1 rainbow that's on earth. You need to speak their names and honor them how you feel comfortable. To me, it doesn't matter how often you speak of your children, or how long after their deaths that you speak of them. What matters to me is that feeling that each mother and father feels that allows them to speak their children's names through the uncomfortableness, through the fear and though the tears. Hugs to you as you've discovered this about yourself.

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  4. So beautifully put, like everything else you write. You have a rare way of capturing the human heart. Love it.

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  5. you are so beautiful, dear Beth. this is not something i have experienced, but I have walked this journey with you from a distance since the beginning. and my heart hugs yours gently right now.

    beautiful. <3

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  6. Thank you for this post and for telling your story. We all have things we are afraid to speak. I struggle with this still. My son has spina bifida and can not walk. He is still a baby and strangers frequently tell me he'll be "walking in no time." I never know what to say or if I should say anything about our situation. Sometimes I can talk about it but sometimes I bubble over and can't contain my tears. I think it's important to speak our stories-- maybe this is even more true of our painful stories since they build such strong connections.

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  7. I am visiting from SDG tonight. Had a good cry after reading your post as you took me back to a very dark night where I lost a precious gift I never got to hold.

    I think it's amazing that "Eve" means life, and in telling her story, you are breathing life into your spirit.

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    1. I'm so sorry that you know this kind of pain, too. Thank you so much. It is amazing, that Eve means life. I love it!

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  8. THIS. So, so so much, this. I feel lucky in that I seem to have found my voice to speak about Luke quite often--vocally and in writing. But you're so right. Life is not all roses, no matter what people may try to believe or paint out to be the whole picture. I truly do not feel bad for making people maybe feel uncomfortable when hearing my story--because sharing it makes the load easier for ME to bear, and honestly, I (and you, and all of us trudging through this) need as much support as we can get.

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    1. I'm so glad that your voice is strong, Jen. What a gift! Thank you for the encouragement. You're so right -- we need to share also because it makes the load lighter for each one of us. Hugs.

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  9. It has taken me a long time to even give myself time to process those things that have been held down. But I am learning "so what if the world doesn't like mess" because I need people to help me sort through it. And to do that, they have to know.

    Thank God for the daily gift of freedom. So glad you linked your heart today with SDG.

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    1. Yes!! It's okay to need help, and to say so. I know that's a hard one for me. Big hugs.

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  10. I am sorry for the loss of your Eve. Thanks for this beautifully written post from the heart. Praying for much freedom as you learn to say her name aloud. Sweet Eve.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

    ps. Welcome to SDG.

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  11. You are teaching me by your vulnerability and honesty to continue speaking my daughter's name, to daily keep living into the courage I had to find after she died. THANK YOU. Next month will be one year since my daughter died. And I feel like I've lost my voice these past months, to speak her name, to speak my story. Your words give me the challenge I need to keep speaking. May you keep giving voice to your soul story and to your daughter's story. She and you inspire me.

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    1. Thank you so, so, SO much. That means the world to me. Praying that the one year mark of your daughter's death next month will be gentle. <3

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  12. Beth, this was so beautifully written. So honest and true. Thank you. I will visit your blog again soon. Happy I found it!

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  13. Sorry for you loss, God is walking with you beautifully.... what a testimony.

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  14. Dear Beth
    This is so true; no rosebush is without thorns! I am so sorry to hear that you have lost your darling Eve! I cannot even begin to understand the incredible pain. What I do relate to is not being allowed to voice your heart in your family setting! It took me a long time to overcome that handicap. I carried this over to my relationship with our Pappa as well, but when I realized that He loves listening to everything that is important to me, I entered so much freedom!
    Much love from Emily's linky.
    Mia

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    1. I love that you call Him Pappa, Mia!

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  15. oh friend. my breath caught as i read this. to speak her name, would be to make it all so real... everything. i get it. you are so brave, to admit this, and to challenge us... i love you sweet beth. thank you, for being you.

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    1. thank you, Emily...you are so, so kind. <3

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  16. There is so much here.....so much. Beauty and pain and more beauty. Thank you for cracking open your heart and pouring it out on us. This line has stayed with me, "God has set me down into so much freedom.

    Freedom that I still tremble to use."

    I'll be pondering that for a while.

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  17. You go girl! The wind of the Spirit is behind you. You know I love this. So thankful for your group---you created a place of belonging and no one will be a pariah. So very grateful for the strength and bravery it took for you to step out to do that! God is good.

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  18. wow. this is really something. you have turned us all from strangers into sisters - sharing this becoming, as you emerge.
    i have never been here before, but will gladly be back.

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  19. I wrote something very similar recently! I want to do my part in breaking the silence and speak Evie's name, even if it means awkwardness. It's ok - it's my story (her story!) and it deserves to be told <3

    http://www.lifeandgrace.com/2013/05/set-my-face-like-flint.html

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  20. Such a wonderful, brave post. I can relate to it in so many levels... there is something beautiful about using our own voice, about let ourselves to be visible...
    It has taken me time to understand it, but now this is part of my daily practice

    Your blog is great, I am your new follower

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  21. I made my way to your blog via Paulette's FB post on "Made" (which I am super excited about) ... but I believe God led me here. So much that you shared gives me hope in my faith-based recovery program.

    And I feel compelled to share a small piece of my own story: God called a sweet baby home before she was able to take a breath. Her parents clung to God and loved through that situation in a remarkable way. That Christ-like love cut through 40 years of emotional rejection and abandonment for me. God used that tiny, precious soul to move me to accept Jesus as my savior. If He can use her to impact a life, then maybe He can also use me. :)

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  22. I am so touched by your realism, by your mess. We all need to get real with our mess in order to heal. I'm still working on it. You inspire me to be honest.

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  23. I have just recently been able to say my son's name, Moses, my son who died after 15 hours of life. I like the part of your essay about breaking through the silence, now and always, in all parts of our lives. That resonates with me.

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"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King