Grief — What It Looks Like {Part Two}

This photo was taken three months ago today. Branch was still with us. We were taking him home. We didn’t know how much longer he would hang on. We were living in a bubble of comfort, provision, joy, and looming sorrow.

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What is my life like now, three months later? I am writing today to share with you all, because some of you have asked, and also for my future self :: to remember all that these days contained.

I am always sad. Always. It has been helpful to be reminded that three months is still FRESH. It’s ok that life is still a blur. It will likely get worse before it gets better. My soul is raw, and the only salve is tears, kindness, and gentleness.

Meeting new people is hard. I am authentic by nature, sometimes to a fault, which makes it very difficult to navigate conversations with strangers and acquaintances. What do I say? How do I say it? Do I tell them about Branch? Do I pretend I don’t have children? Trying to figure all of this out is quite difficult.

When I see pregnant women, I pray that their baby will be ok.

The act of mourning takes up most of my energy. According to our grief counselor, it is supposed to. There is a reason people of cultures past wore all black, or a band around their arm, or a torn cloak. Losing a child is, quite simply, awful. It is something that will never go away until we get to Heaven. I often find myself wishing we had a daily “symbol” of mourning to put on. Maybe I will bring the black armband back. As a badge of honor, a reminder to have grace with myself, and a warning to those I come in contact with :: in mourning. beware. be gentle.

I long for Heaven. For Christ’s return. For healing and restoration. For all to be made right.

It seems we can not find success. I am sure this is mostly due to our grief, but it seems like we are being thrashed in the waves. I am ready for a “win”. Financially, physically, relationally, emotionally. Anything — can it just be success for once?!

Truth be told, it’s kind of depressing to be me right now.

And yet…

In all of this sorrow, the buckets full of tears, the heart-wrenching agony and coming to grips with the finality of death — I see glimmers of hope every day. I long for the day when there is more hope than there are tears, but that day is not today. It will come, slowly, as I do my part and step out each day.  Actively mourning. Asking God to show up in each space. Remembering and rebuilding.

Our grief counselor introduced me to this quote by Dietrich Bonhoffer, and I absolutely love it. I feel he paints a perfect picture of hope without dismissing the pain, and of remembering the precious life that was lost while we wait to be re-united for Eternity.

“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship. Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.”

May we be grateful, even in the midsts of our pain, for He is so good.

~Kristin

Branch Lionheart Murdock Fund

Sacred Moments

It is interesting, the things I notice now.  The sun’s rays hit the waves and the whole ocean seems to light up. A smattering of rather plain birds hop around my yard, munching on bugs and grass, chirping sweet songs to one another. The man working the register at Walmart wears latex gloves and scans each item slowly and with care — taking his time to ensure he places similar items in the same bag. Joy comes in little moments now, more than in big waves like it used to.

A few days ago I was driving home, all dressed up from having just spent the afternoon with three of my dearest friends. “The Girls” is what we are called. There are five of us all together, but one lives far away. We are, and have been since we were little, on a continued journey of friendship. Laughter and silliness. Break-ups and marriages. Moving far away and coming home. Searing loss. We learn to love one another through thick and thin. To stand back, show grace, embrace freedom, comfort when one of us falls. I love these women.

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“The Girls” had taken me to high tea as a birthday gift. It was an afternoon of delightful sweets, warm cups filled to the brim, and sweet chit-chat. On the drive home, I felt happy. Beth Moore says “Happiness is inappropriate when it’s our goal, but it’s not inappropriate when it’s God’s momentary gift. Open it. Enjoy it. And remember it when times get tough.”

Happiness. It’s different than joy. It’s different than gratitude. It is, in its own way, sacred.

Monday — the tenth of February — marked two months since Branch passed away. If I am honest I must say the past month was much worse than the first month after he passed. Our grief counselor explains the “steps” of a person in grief as a three-fold process.

First comes shock. It doesn’t matter if you knew death was coming. It doesn’t matter if you thought you were prepared. When a loved one dies, shock sets in. You live in the world of numbness and shock for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Second is disorganization. A scattering of every part of your life. A mess. A place of confusion. A time to re-evaluate, to pull away, to spend more time alone. I call this “hibernating.” As the days, weeks, months go on, you begin to put some of the pieces back together. To re-structure, re-enter, re-invest. Piece by piece, moment by moment, your life takes shape again. It is a new life, a different life, often a better life.

This brings us to the third and final step : growth. We have all heard of post-traumatic stress disorder, which I must say sounds absolutely awful, but our counselor calls this phase of grief “post-traumatic growth.” I love this. Glenn loves it even more. {if you have ever had a conversation with us about family values, you know “growth” is #1.} The growth can not be rushed. It can not be forced. It stems from the depths of your heart.  It will, I hope, embody the love, the life, the value and importance each living being on this earth has — things I have learned through the great love God gave us in giving us Branch. Post-traumatic growth.

I am, and probably will be for a while, living in the disorganization phase. Things are very confusing. I am easily overwhelmed. I need a lot of time alone. Slowly, I am putting some of the pieces together.

I started to tell you about the tenth of February — the two month anniversary of Branch’s death. Glenn was out of town, and I had been exceedingly productive around the house, which made me feel really good about myself. I was missing Branch a great deal, and found that he would pop into my thoughts even more than he normally does. I decided it might be nice to stop by his grave and spend a few moments there, praying and crying and whatever else I felt like doing. After visiting the grave, my plan was to go on a quick hike and then meet up with two of my beloved friends, whose husbands were out of town with mine. As I told them, via text, of my plan, they entered in. They said they wanted to come. They rushed out of the house, threw their kids in the car, drove in awful traffic, followed the Spirit’s prompting.

Driving to the cemetery, I felt happy.

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Sacred moments. They do not come often, but that makes them even more precious. My prayer for this week is that I give my heart to God every day. That I allow Him to continue to mend my wounds. That I do not miss the places, be they filled with sorrow or joy, where He is showing up.

from Isaiah 61
“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted….to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called Oaks of Righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor.”

May we sit in the kindness of the King today.

~Kristin

The Lionheart Half Marathon … and Weight Watchers

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Glenn has been kind enough to join me on some of my runs. Believe it or not, it has been COLD here in San Diego!

It has been over two months since I had a baby. Wow.

In early January I decided I had given myself enough time to grief-eat and sit around in my sweats all day. Spending my days watching trash television like Hart of Dixie and The Biggest Loser was pretty fun, if I do say so myself, but it was time for a change.  I still do a little grief-lounging, or “hibernating” as I now call it, but I have also started actively pursuing my physical goals. Weight Watchers has really worked for me in the past, so I joined up again. I was super hungry for a solid two weeks, and am now getting back into the swing of things.

Along with the good ‘ole WW, I am dipping my big toe into the ocean of running once more. When I got pregnant I was actually in pretty decent running shape, and was convinced I would be one of “those” pregnant ladies who just ran their way in and out of the delivery room.

Ummm, yea, that didn’t happen. If anyone is wondering, the early months of pregnancy are brutal, and the ONLY thing I could manage was lying on the couch, whining, and eating McDonald’s. Once I started to feel better I did maintain my walking and hiking, but running has not been part of my life since April 2013. That was quite a long time ago in running years.

Here is what running looks like for me today:  My legs hurt. My chest throbs. I can barely breathe. A mix of sweat and salt pour down my face. I feel like I am going to fall over dead any minute. I look down at my Garmin and notice that I have just hit the half-mile marker. Ouch.

Needless to say, this is already a challenging growth experience.

Growth. Ugh. Sometimes I wish I were done growing. I mean, ultimately I am so grateful to be able to be better than before, to move forward, to, yes, GROW… it’s just hard work.  It always has been, and it always will be. I am so grateful that God is gentle as I walk the path of growth in so many areas. It hurts, even when I know the end result is worth the pain.

Back to the running. It is hard — yes. But I am doing it. And, even more excitingly, YOU can do it with me! Glenn and I have unofficially dubbed this year’s La Jolla Half Marathon the LIONHEART HALF & 5K. We are running it in honor of Branch, and yes we will be making team shirts. We figured this was a good way to do something productive, get back into running shape, and honor our little boy’s life. He was so strong during his time on earth, we can be strong and run this race for him.

If you are interested in running either the Half Marathon or the 5k, and being part of Team Lionheart, here is what you need to know:

Date: Sunday, April 27th
Location: La Jolla, CA —   Torrey Pines is part of the course! Beautiful and challenging!
Distance: 13.1 OR 3.1 miles
Registration website: http://www.lajollahalfmarathon.com

If you live in San Diego, please sign up and run with us! Don’t delay! This race sells out every single year, so if you think you want to do it, sign up now!! Team Lionheart currently has about 6 people running the half marathon and 4 doing the 5k. If you are interested, we will be putting together group runs every weekend to get us prepped!

If you do NOT live in San Diego but still want to be part of Team Lionheart, we are going to be making shirts sometime in the next month or so and I will post about how to purchase one here on the blog.

And finally, I will end this post with my one month weight loss photo and stats. I have decided it will be an added level of accountability to post about my weight loss here on the blog. Sorry if that’s not your cup ‘o tea. It should only be once a month, so I’m sure you will be able to handle it.

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In four weeks I have lost 6.8 pounds. I am starting to see a small difference, and if you look closely you can see some change in the photo. Hoping to lose even more this month!

~Kristin

Happy One-Month, Branch!

Today, and actually this EXACT moment (1:23pm PST) marks one month since we met sweet Branch. In honor of this, I will share a letter I wrote him and read at his Celebration of Life service. It should be noted that I am sharing this on the blog primarily because our pastor, Matt, suggested it. I figured I should listen to him, he’s usually pretty wise. 

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Dear Branch,

I don’t really want to write this letter because it’s acknowledging out loud, to all these people, that you are gone. I miss you more than I ever thought imaginable. A longing only a mother could have for her sweet child. You gave me that, you know — motherhood. Before you I only imagined or heard stories of what a mother’s love was like. Now I can grasp it. My love for you is deep, it is whole, it is unique and for you alone. You opened a place in my heart that no one else could. I love having you there.

Branch, I am so proud of you. I want ONLY good things for you. I want you to know just how special you are. I want you to know there is nothing you could do to make me love you less.

Every time I would look at you, and even now when I see your picture — my heart is filled with such joy and gratitude. God chose ME to be your Mom. He created you to be held in my belly, in my arms, in my heart. He is so good.

Branch, I wish you were still here. That my heart and soul didn’t have to ache. That we could watch you smile and laugh and play. I don’t know exactly how Heaven works, but I do know that you are in the best hands you could possibly be in. I know God’s love for you is greater even than mine. I know He is holding you in my place, and He is holding me and your dad while we move through our lives here on earth. I hope you know me when I get to the other side. I hope it all becomes clear. I hope we smile and laugh and play – all together, all at Jesus’ feet.

Until then, I hope God gives you a big kiss on your cheek every day. That He tells you how loved you were here on earth. That you had a mommy and daddy who wanted the very best for you, and that your life helped make the world better.

I love you Branch.

Love,
Your Mom

 

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Baby Murdock Fund

My Mom’s Blog

Saying Goodbye to 2013

As I sit down to write this post, I find myself somewhat emotional. I don’t even have a subject or title for the post yet, but somehow, thinking about sharing a little bit of whatever it is that is going on inside of me, makes me teary.

Today is Tuesday. Branch was born on a Tuesday. Branch died on a Tuesday. I am not necessarily anti-Tuesday’s. I haven’t felt any sort of attachment or detachment to them, but sometimes when I realize it’s Tuesday, it’s just a reminder of all that has happened in the past few weeks.

Few weeks. Isn’t that weird? It has only been a few weeks. I had surgery. I met the sweetest little baby boy I could ever imagine. I held that little boy as he died. We cried in ways we have never cried before, from a place that was deeper than we had formerly known, for we had lost more than we ever thought possible. We picked out a plot of land to bury our little baby. We planned a Celebration of Life service. We decorated our Christmas tree. We celebrated the holidays with our families, wondering why we didn’t feel as happy as everyone around us, then remembering it had only been a few weeks.

As 2013 comes to an end I both joyfully welcome in a new year and tearfully say goodbye to this one. 2013 was filled with great loss, but it was also filled with great joy. With life. With promises. With celebration. With kindness.

I wrote a post earlier this year about my calendar and monthly verses, and promised to share December’s.

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This is my prayer as we enter the new year. That we would not be afraid. That the glory of the LORD would shine around us. That we would live in a way that is pleasing to God, in a way that represents the good news and the GREAT joy that God Himself sent down in His own little baby. A little baby  who was blameless and pure, sent to earth to die, so that all people have the opportunity to live.  May I never forget all He has done for me.

Happy New Year to all of you lovely, lovely readers.

~Kristin

Baby Murdock Fund

My Mom’s Blog

Two Weeks Ago

Two weeks ago, plus one day to be exact, we met Branch Lionheart in person.  As many of you know from facebook, instagram, friends-of-friends, or meeting him yourself — he was born alive. We rejoiced!

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Branch lived for seven days. We were hoping for hours, God surprised us with a week. Every minute was truly a treasure.

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We stayed at the hospital for four nights, and then got to take him home. I think he liked both places, but he probably liked home a little better.

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Our family and close friends got to know Branch, as did we. We saw his personality. We recognized his breathing patterns and squeaks. He responded to Glenn and I in a unique way, affirming he knew us as his parents. His cheeks were kissed hundreds, if not thousands, of times by all who love him. He smiled. His soul found it’s worth as God’s love was shown to us all.

One weeks ago, plus one day to be exact, Branch Lionheart left us to be with Jesus. We thought we were prepared for this loss. We knew it was coming. We comforted him in his last hours. We never could have imagined the ache we feel now that he is gone.

Our family and close friends watched and participated as we buried our sweet boy.  He lay in a casket handmade with love by his grandpa.  It was beautiful. It was tragic. There were bagpipes. There were doves. I wish we didn’t have to say goodbye.

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I do not know what the future holds. I know that God is with me, that He walks before me, that He loves me deeply — even more deeply than I love my precious Branch. Sometimes my heart and soul hurt too bad to feel these truths. I pray God continues to comfort and hold me, as I know He will.

I am grateful for God’s provision. I am grateful for Branch. I am grateful for friends and family who love us so, so much. I am grateful that we will be with our sweet baby in Heaven one day.  I am grateful for the sunsets God has given us this week.  He is so good.

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Love,

Kristin

Baby Murdock Fund

My Mom’s Blog