Posts tagged ‘grief’

May 15, 2013

RIP Suzie, 16 years on…

suzie's dayToday is the 16th anniversary of the death of my friend Suzie. She died in a head on multi car collision of which I was a part of. On May 15th every year I stop and remember her life with a group of close friends. We go the cemetery where she is buried and honour her memory with the reading of a letter depicting the current events of our lives. We have kept these letters and plan to make them into a book on the 20th anniversary. This is a bittersweet day for me as we are moving to the UK in July this year and this is possibly the last one I will physically attend for a while.

I wrote the following post on May 15th , 2012 telling Suzie’s story. I’ve decided to re blog it as it is still amongst our most read posts.

In 1996 after living in Canada for 9 years I came home to Australia to reconnect with my siblings, family and friends. I arrived home in the October of 1996. There was a brutal 40 degree heat wave that summer and I remember having to take salt tablets because I sweated so much and couldn’t retain any body fluids.

I stayed with my family for a short while and then moved in with my good friend Suzie and her boyfriend.  I had known Suzie since primary school and then we attended the same private girl’s high school. We hadn’t really been close in our primary school years but we knew of each other. We became good friends in high school.

Suzie didn’t live life, she attacked life. She was the most energetic person I have ever met. She squeezed every possible minute out of every day. She loved people and her zest for life was insatiable. She was extremely loyal to her friends and men swarmed around her wherever we went like bees to a honey pot. She was beautiful, petite, smart and had this unawareness of her own charisma and attractiveness. Suzie didn’t like boundaries and the worst thing you could do was hem in her or tell she couldn’t do something. She only saw possibilities not limitations.

In May of 1997 I was no longer living with Suzie and her boyfriend as I had found my own digs. I had been dating someone and the four of us decided to go away to Inverloch for a weekend. We left on the Thursday night – it’s funny how even 15 years later the details are so front and centre in my mind. We had all gotten the Friday off from work and couldn’t wait to start our weekend. We drove down in a 2 car convoy. About 20 minutes out of Wonthaggi we stopped for dinner. Fish and Chips. I tried to persuade Suzie to swap cars so she and I could gas bag but she wanted to stay with her boyfriend. As we pulled out they took the lead car position as to direct us to Suzie’s parent’s holiday house.

It was dark, probably 8 – 9 pm and I was watching the road ahead. I remarked to my boyfriend on something I could see. A car was travelling toward us and for some reason I could see that one of its headlights was on either side of Suzie’s car. I thought out loud that the only way physically that could be happening was if that car was on our side of road. Things happened very quickly after that. Suzie’s car swerved out to the other side of the road uncovering the problem, there was a car on our side of the road. The speed limit was 80 km and we were closely the gap very quickly. The other car then attempted to correct to their own side of the road and they squarely hit the passenger side of Suzie’s car, directly where Suzie was sitting. Everything seemed to move in slow motion. Suzie’s car which was white became a blur as it spun around and around and around past us on the other side of the road. The other car ricocheted off Suzie’s car and hit us, ending up in a ditch. Damage to our person and vehicle was minimal. I remember jumping out of the car when we came to a stop and running as fast as I could back to Suzie’s car.

Prior to this I had recently updated my first aid certificate because I was a nanny. During the class I had asked the teacher about the likelihood of ever using CPR. He said with such certainty that one out of ten in the class today will use it. In that moment I knew that it was going to be me. I went above and beyond to memorize the process of not just CPR but taking control of an accident scene.

I arrived at the Suzie’s car. Her boyfriend was out of the car already and I was totally relieved. I thought – they’re ok. But then it was like the volume went on and I could hear him screaming Suzie’s name. She was still in the car not moving. I climbed in the driver’s side and felt for her pulse, it was weak but she had one. I remember reeling off commands to those around. You in the blue shirt call for an ambulance now and report back to me. You in the hat go and assess the other driver for injuries. Suzie was unconscious and her legs were trapped under the dash which had been crushed upon impact. I knew that we needed to get her out of the car. Breathing was the most important issue. Her legs were clearly already broken and I commanded the two boyfriends to get her out of the car. We laid her carefully on the side of the highway. Someone tried to tell me what to do and I shut them down. I had listened; the CPR instructor had said that many people will offer advice and that you have to be sure of yourself and what you are doing. I had listened, I was sure. Suzie had no pulse so with my bare hands I ripped her bra off and we commenced CPR. I started on breathing and her boyfriend on compressions. I then noticed this massive laceration on her neck and all the air I was breathing in was just bubbling out in front of me. I also kept thinking where were all her teeth? With one hand on her neck and the other trying to seal her nose I was trying desperately to get some oxygen into her lungs.  We swapped places after 5-10 mins.  A crowd had started to gather unable to journey around the carnage on the road. We both knew that Suzie’s life had ebbed away at some point on the side of highway but we just kept going until help arrived. Finally an ambulance arrived and the paramedics took over. I remember them laying a hand on my shoulder and saying ‘she’s gone, she’s gone’. I just couldn’t believe it.

The police arrived and the other driver was taken into custody. I was taken with Suzie’s boyfriend to the Wonthaggi hospital where they tested both drivers for drugs and alcohol. We arrived at the hospital and unbeknownst to Suzie’s boyfriend the offender was in the very next room. At some point I slipped into his room and I had this immense clarity and calm. I asked if I could call anyone for him. Wife, family? He was clearly in shock and because he had been restrained by others at the accident scene he actually didn’t know that Suzie had died. He asked me if she was OK and I told him that she was dead. I said to him, “This will mean nothing to you now but in years to come it will.” I said to him “I forgive you, I forgive you” and I left his room. I didn’t attend the trial and I never judged him for what he did. He was one of the first people in Victoria charged for ‘drug driving’ and he spent two years in jail. I wouldn’t even be able to tell you his name. All I know is that Suzie numbered one of 377 that died on Victorian roads that year.

For fifteen years now 5 of us who attended high school with Suzie have attempted to meet every year at the cemetery where she is buried. We started a tradition of writing her a letter every year as if she was alive. We are brutally candid and honest in this letter and it is probably the truest declaration of our lives at the time it is written. I have a love-hate relationship with ’the letter’ because sometimes life is crap and I hate that it is forever immortalised in writing. Over the last fifteen years we have experienced a lot of pain and grief. We have lost babies, said our goodbyes to parents and grandparents. We have walked through the heart-break of divorce and joy of having healthy children. Two have moved interstate but often make the journey to Melbourne for what we all now call Suzie’s day. We laugh and cry but we celebrate the life and friendship we have together.

At the time of the accident I wasn’t close to God but the Sunday following Suzie’s death I returned to church. I was very messy but God took me as I was. I am grateful for the people who cared for me at this time. After re-committing my heart to God I have never left His side. I love Him more than my own life and I am forever grateful that I lived that night.  I have often wondered, if we had of swapped cars would it have been me?   I’ve decided this thinking is not helpful. God saw fit to keep my life  – and I’m determined to make it one worth living.

Over and Out,

Catherine xo

March 13, 2013

We Remember with Love the Babies who do not Live to Grow up Amongst us

In memory ofPart 4: Deja vu

We found out we were pregnant with our second child  5 months after losing our first one.  I was as scared as I was excited. Elijah’s autopsy results hadn’t given us any conclusive answers which meant there was no reason for us to be fearful but we were. We hoped that the whole vomiting thing was something that was exclusive to the first pregnancy but when I vomited in the middle of a major road near our house at exactly 6 weeks along I almost cried. I thought ‘here we go again’.

At the time I was working for a major insurance company in Australia. Money was a bit tight because John was studying to become a lawyer and was only working one day a week. I had used up all my sick leave on the previous pregnancy and as soon as I accrued a day I would take it immediately. I was just so tired, sick and weak. When we surpassed the gestation period of Elijah (15 weeks) I started to relax a little. I was used to feeling terrible but there was this one day when I felt so yucky that I used up one of my precious days of sick leave and stayed home. I felt this huge pressure down between my legs. We lived 2 blocks away from the Mercy Hospital in East Melbourne so I decided to walk myself to the Emergency Room. In hindsight it was a foolish decision. I didn’t drive because we didn’t have a car and no one lived close enough to us to drive me. I also didn’t want to be a drama queen and phone an ambulance.

While I was walking to the hospital I had this feeling that the baby was going to fall out of my body and when I told that to the triage nurse she looked at me like I was stupid. I must admit I downplayed it because I felt like I was being a bit overly cautious because of our first experience. Anyway I sat in the emergency room for three hours waiting to be seen by a doctor. I remember a lady coming in an hour later with a headache being ‘triaged’ before me. I think they were hoping I would give up and go home. The pressure seemed to get worse and worse. Finally I got taken in. I repeated to another nurse that I felt like the baby was falling out of my body and she told me that was impossible. No one had actually done a physical examination of my nether regions. I begged the nurse to ‘just take a look.’ I was told a doctor would be around to see me soon. By this time John had arrived. When the doctor came I felt so stupid repeating my whole ‘I feel like the baby is falling out of my body’. I could see the doubt on his face. When he finally took a look, I saw his ‘doctor composure’ swan dive. He told us that the baby was hanging out my body still in the amniotic sac and that would have to try to push the baby back in and then I would have to have emergency surgery to sew my cervix up. I felt relieved I was right but sad that they were wrong. The doctor said that there was a danger that the waters could break very easily at this point because of the over exposure the sac had experienced to the air, as this weakens the integrity of the sac. I wanted to punch the nurse in Emergency who made me wait 3 hours without doing an internal exam.

They managed to push the baby back into my uterus and I was rushed into surgery. The surgery went well but immediately following I had a bad reaction to the anaesthetic and I started to vomit violently. The pressure on the already weak amniotic sac was too much and my waters broke. I was taken to a small room and the cervical suture that had just been put in was removed so I could deliver the baby. While I am not a catholic we chose a catholic hospital as they are bound by their beliefs to support the sanctity of life and they will only end the life of a baby if the mother’s like is at risk. I carried this baby for two more weeks coming into the hospital everyday to get a blood test to see if my uterus had become infected. At the first sign of infection they would induce labour. As per the first pregnancy my body went back into labour. I knew I had to be admitted to hospital when I could grab a hold of his tiny little foot. I delivered my second son Max Douglas Warren with just John in the room. I lost so much blood that I almost had to have a transfusion.

We had a memorial service for him and so many people came that there was not enough seats in the chapel for them all. It was the saddest thing I have ever attended. This is an excerpt from the memorial service pamphlet:

 Words of Reflection

Our time together was short,

but our touch enduring.

The love you gave me

was sufficient for a lifetime,

such is our bond.

Your special gift to me,

Mum and Dad,

was my birth.

My special gift to you

is the strengthening of

your love for each other.

The tears you now cry

are meant to flow.

I am still yours.

When you feel alone

remember my look and be joyful.

When you feel despair

look for my star

and I will be there.

I am yours, your little one.

Max Douglas Warren

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxo

February 13, 2013

‘To Remember Is Painful To Forget Is Impossible’

pregnancy plannerPart 1 : In the Beginning

Women all around the world are trying to get pregnant, are pregnant, are giving birth and are losing babies. The current Australian statistics on pregnancy loss go something like this: one in four women (25%) will have a pregnancy that results in a miscarriage. If you reach a 3-6 month gestation in your pregnancy there is only a 10% chance of a miscarriage occurring and beyond 6 months it goes down to 5%. In my first pregnancy I lost my baby at 4 months. Once you have had one miscarriage your risk of another increases by 13%. And after my second miscarriage at almost 41/2 months gestation the chances of a third miscarriage increased to 40%. After I miscarried my third child I went into a fourth pregnancy with a 60% chance of miscarriage. No wonder we consider our daughter a miracle.

Between 2003 and 2006 I had one baby every year. I held all four of them, kissed them and loved them with all of my heart. The first three babies were boys, in order Elijah, Max and Drew and the fourth was a girl, she was born slightly premature and we named her Poppy and what a delight she has been to our heart and soul. We have not attempted anymore pregnancies since the birth of our daughter.

When I found out I was pregnant for the first time I experienced an emotion that I had never had before to that degree. It was a pure, beautiful and innocent joy. I ordered a dozen roses and had them delivered to my husband at work with a little card that read ‘we’re having a baby’. When a pregnancy is wanted and anticipated there is great celebration in the heart of the parents, the closeness they feel with each other at the news is beyond explanation.

The journey from that moment on is filled with awe and wonder at the engineering feats the body undertakes to physiologically see this thing come to pass. There are also many decisions that now need to be made involving living arrangements, baby names, financial planning, do you find out the sex of the baby and on and on. My mum is not a lovey dovey maternal mother but I so just wanted to move into her house and sleep right next to her. The desire to return to the ‘nest’ becomes overwhelming.

As the pregnancy gains strength one of the key indicators that things are going well is that the production of a hormone known as HCG increases. Unfortunately it is also the culprit behind ‘morning sickness’. During my four pregnancies John used to say that it was called ‘morning sickness’ because that’s when it starts – in the morning. From about 6 weeks onwards I was horribly, brutally sick all day, every day. I just vomited and vomited and vomited all the time. ALL the time. I would vomit for so long in one sitting that I would not be able to breathe. I would be vomiting into a bucket almost passing out because my body was starving for oxygen and in danger of suffocating. I would then start to panic. This would then cause my throat to close making the passage for vomit and also the possibility of getting any oxygen even harder. I remember having to calm myself down by ‘reeling in the panic’. I would picture myself standing a dock reeling in a huge fish, as if it was my panic. I would let the fish run out and then wind it back in until my throat started to relax and I could take these tiny gasps of air in and around the vomit coming up. Little by little I would calm myself down until I was breathing normally again. I would often have my life ‘flash’ before me at these moments but I was determined not to die vomiting. I had heard of this website that was all about the dumb ways people die. I was not going to be on that. NO WAY. Fancy that, ‘dumb ways to diiiieee, so many dumb ways to die….sitting on toilet seat choking on vomit up to my feet… dumb ways to diiieee.’. If you are not Australian you may not know that this is a very popular little you tube clip song. Here’s the link…beware you can never totally remove this song from your head.

To be continued…in Part 2: Elijah James Warren

Maybe you know someone who has experienced a painful miscarriage and you didn’t know what to say to them or sadly that person is you. This mini series on Pregnancy Loss is for you or that person you know. It is not just about a journey into the dark night of the soul but also about the hope and comfort that can be found through God no matter how bad it gets.

Here is the link to this blog post for you to copy and paste to that friend you’re thinking of:

https://sidebysideblog.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/to-remember-is-painful-to-forget-is-impossible/

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxoxo

September 20, 2012

‘Is She Your Only Child?’

Just today I got asked this question again.  For many years I didn’t know what to answer. At first I would answer with the truth. ‘No she’s not. I have three deceased sons also’. Reactions to this were discomfort and withdrawal. I realised quickly that people weren’t asking to talk about dead babies. So then I would answer the question with “Yes, she’s my only one” and I internally I would feel sick, because I felt like I was betraying the existence of my three precious sons. Finally I realised that there was an implied word in the sentence that people weren’t saying, the question is really ‘Is she your only live child? To which my answer is easily ‘Yes’.

In 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 I gave birth to a baby every year. The first three births were boys. There names in order were Elijah, Max and Drew. The fourth birth was a girl called Poppy. All the births were premature. The first three births were so premature they were not able to survive outside the womb. The boys are all listed on Poppy’s birth certificate. They do not have their own. A baby has to be 20 weeks gestation or weigh 400 grams to receive a birth certificate in Australia. My boys were 1-2 weeks short of the required gestation and they were very small as was Poppy who was 2.5 kilos at birth.

I am currently writing a book on my experience so I won’t go into much detail in this post but I do want to talk about the profound disappointment I faced in my relationship with God when I lost the babies. My faith was rocked to its foundation and I distinctly remember thinking to myself ‘if my faith doesn’t meet me in this place what purpose does it serve in my life?’ When we are in deep emotional pain we become profoundly vulnerable in our relationship with God. Our disappointment can make us susceptible to a lie that ‘God is not good all time’. If we don’t resolve that we can internally battle. We can harbour deep thoughts and feelings of anger and resentment toward God for ‘letting us down’. At the time I was very messy spiritually but I came out of that dark place with a faith in God that was stronger, deeper and more real than I had ever had before.

As I cried out to God ‘why did you let this happen?’ God answered me. As my humanity grasped for some explanation or context to ‘understand’ my loss, God met me. The bible says that we can have in all our circumstances ‘the Peace of God that surpasses understanding’.  To this day I still don’t ‘understand’ why God allowed it to happen and I might never understand it this side of Heaven but while I wait for that understanding to come I can have God’s immeasurable and Perfect Peace abide in me.  His Peace can give rest to the weary soul. His Peace can lift the weight of grief that can crush a life. His Peace can hold human frailty gently in the palm of His Hands imparting unconditional love and goodness. While God’s Perfect Peace laid the ‘why’ question down my pain was still so severe and unmet. God’s comfort was the answer for the pain. His comfort curled up with me through the long, painful, nights of sadness and overwhelming grief. His comfort sewed my broken heart back together. His comfort breathed life back into me. His comfort went deeper and further than any other human was willing to go with me. His comfort was enough for me but also enough for the many people I have met who have suffered such loss. The nature of God’s comfort is so full and overflowing that there is enough to give away.

His Peace and His Comfort. They are yours too. Take them. Apply them to your questions and your pain like a healing ointment. Take it from me – they work.

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxo

May 16, 2012

In memory of Suzie

I would like to share with you a moment in my life that changed its course forever and on May 15th every year for the last 15 years I have spent the day reflecting and remembering it.

In 1996 after living in Canada for 9 years I came home to Australia to reconnect with my siblings, family and friends. I arrived home in the October of 1996. There was a brutal 40 degree heat wave that summer and I remember having to take salt tablets because I sweated so much and couldn’t retain any body fluids.

I stayed with my family for a short while and then moved in with my good friend Suzie and her boyfriend.  I had known Suzie since primary school and then we attended the same private girl’s high school. We hadn’t really been close in our primary school years but we knew of each other. We became good friends in high school.

Suzie didn’t live life, she attacked life. She was the most energetic person I have ever met. She squeezed every possible minute out of every day. She loved people and her zest for life was insatiable. She was extremely loyal to her friends and men swarmed around her wherever we went like bees to a honey pot. She was beautiful, petite, smart and had this unawareness of her own charisma and attractiveness. Suzie didn’t like boundaries and the worst thing you could do was hem in her or tell she couldn’t do something. She only saw possibilities not limitations.

In May of 1997 I was no longer living with Suzie and her boyfriend as I had found my own digs. I had been dating someone and the four of us decided to go away to Inverloch for a weekend. We left on the Thursday night – it’s funny how even 15 years later the details are so front and centre in my mind. We had all gotten the Friday off from work and couldn’t wait to start our weekend. We drove down in a 2 car convoy. About 20 minutes out of Wonthaggi we stopped for dinner. Fish and Chips. I tried to persuade Suzie to swap cars so she and I could gas bag but she wanted to stay with her boyfriend. As we pulled out they took the lead car position as to direct us to Suzie’s parent’s holiday house.

It was dark, probably 8 – 9 pm and I was watching the road ahead. I remarked to my boyfriend on something I could see. A car was travelling toward us and for some reason I could see that one of its headlights was on either side of Suzie’s car. I thought out loud that the only way physically that could be happening was if that car was on our side of road. Things happened very quickly after that. Suzie’s car swerved out to the other side of the road uncovering the problem, there was a car on our side of the road. The speed limit was 80 km and we were closely the gap very quickly. The other car then attempted to correct to their own side of the road and they squarely hit the passenger side of Suzie’s car, directly where Suzie was sitting. Everything seemed to move in slow motion. Suzie’s car which was white became a blur as it spun around and around and around past us on the other side of the road. The other car ricocheted off Suzie’s car and hit us, ending up in a ditch. Damage to our person and vehicle was minimal. I remember jumping out of the car when we came to a stop and running as fast as I could back to Suzie’s car.

Prior to this I had recently updated my first aid certificate because I was a nanny. During the class I had asked the teacher about the likelihood of ever using CPR. He said with such certainty that one out of ten in the class today will use it. In that moment I knew that it was going to be me. I went above and beyond to memorise the process of not just CPR but taking control of an accident scene.

I arrived at the Suzie’s car. Her boyfriend was out of the car already and I was totally relieved. I thought – they’re ok. But then it was like the volume went on and I could hear him screaming Suzie’s name. She was still in the car not moving. I climbed in the driver’s side and felt for her pulse, it was weak but she had one. I remember reeling off commands to those around. You in the blue shirt call for an ambulance now and report back to me. You in the hat go and assess the other driver for injuries. Suzie was unconscious and her legs were trapped under the dash which had been crushed upon impact. I knew that we needed to get her out of the car. Breathing was the most important issue. Her legs were clearly already broken and I commanded the two boyfriends to get her out of the car. We laid her carefully on the side of the highway. Someone tried to tell me what to do and I shut them down. I had listened; the CPR instructor had said that many people will offer advice and that you have to be sure of yourself and what you are doing. I had listened, I was sure. Suzie had no pulse so with my bare hands I ripped her bra off and we commenced CPR. I started on breathing and her boyfriend on compressions. I then noticed this massive laceration on her neck and all the air I was breathing in was just bubbling out in front of me. I also kept thinking where were all her teeth? With one hand on her neck and the other trying to seal her nose I was trying desperately to get some oxygen into her lungs.  We swapped places after 5-10 mins.  A crowd had started to gather unable to journey around the carnage on the road. We both knew that Suzie’s life had ebbed away at some point on the side of highway but we just kept going until help arrived. Finally an ambulance arrived and the paramedics took over. I remember them laying a hand on my shoulder and saying ‘she’s gone, she’s gone’. I just couldn’t believe it.

The police arrived and the other driver was taken into custody. I was taken with Suzie’s boyfriend to the Wonthaggi hospital where they tested both drivers for drugs and alcohol. We arrived at the hospital and unbeknownst to Suzie’s boyfriend the offender was in the very next room. At some point I slipped into his room and I had this immense clarity and calm. I asked if I could call anyone for him. Wife, family? He was clearly in shock and because he had been restrained by others at the accident scene he actually didn’t know that Suzie had died. He asked me if she was OK and I told him that she was dead. I said to him, “This will mean nothing to you now but in years to come it will.” I said to him “I forgive you, I forgive you” and I left his room. I didn’t attend the trial and I never judged him for what he did. He was one of the first people in Victoria charged for ‘drug driving’ and he spent two years in jail. I wouldn’t even be able to tell you his name. All I know is that Suzie numbered one of 377 that died on Victorian roads that year.

For fifteen years now 5 of us who attended high school with Suzie have attempted to meet every year at the cemetery where she is buried. We started a tradition of writing her a letter every year as if she was alive. We are brutally candid and honest in this letter and it is probably the truest declaration of our lives at the time it is written. I have a love-hate relationship with ‘the letter’ because sometimes life is crap and I hate that it is forever immortalised in writing. Over the last fifteen years we have experienced a lot of pain and grief. We have lost babies, said our goodbyes to parents and grandparents. We have walked through the heart break of divorce and joy of having healthy children. Two have moved interstate but often make the journey to Melbourne for what we all now call Suzie’s day. We laugh and cry but we celebrate the life and friendship we have together.

At the time of the accident I wasn’t close to God but the Sunday following Suzie’s death I returned to church. I was very messy but God took me as I was. I am grateful for the people who cared for me at this time. After re-committing my heart to God I have never left His side. I love Him more than my own life and I am forever grateful that I lived that night.  I have often wondered, if we had of swapped cars would it have been me?   I’ve decided this thinking is not helpful. God saw fit to keep my life  – and I’m determined to make it one worth living.

Over and Out,

Catherine xo

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