Thursday, March 8, 2012

Life and Grief can be like a kaleidoscope......

This past week I’ve been spring cleaning.

Getting rid of ‘stuff,’ especially in Dempsey’s closet which is packed to the rafters with all sorts of things, baby blocks, stuffed animals and dress ups that’s she’s grown out of.

I always stumble upon some of Savannah’s toys…and they always pull at my heartstrings, thinking of her playing peacefully with them. Sometimes the memories hurt, and other times I smile…..

However, one of them reminded me of life, and turning points that can come in time as you travel down the long twisted path of grief.

I found her kaleidoscope. I remembered her holding it up to the light, twisting and turning the end of it…fascinated with the shapes and patterns that the glass fragments magically made.

It also reminded me of the journey of grief…how after the fragments of our lives have been shattered and our world becomes black, that over time, we start to evolve and change, and after a while, maybe a long while for some….our complex grief and hurt morphs into an appreciation of life’s gifts.  For me, how lucky I was to have had my loved one’s in my life.  That inside the heartache and turmoil lays beauty…if you look for it.

Savannah's kaleidoscope I found...

And for a long time after my loved ones died, my world became black. 

There was no color.

I couldn’t sit alone with my thoughts, I needed constant distractions. I was afraid of my grief.....

The flashbacks were vivid and painful.  However now, most days, I can let my mind wander back down memory lane.

I’ll always have my memories….but as days turn into months and years, new memories replace the difficult old ones, and one day you do have a turning point…like a kaleidoscope, your grief slowly transforms into an appreciation for what you do have.

This week, these are some moments that made me thankful...….

While cleaning out my kitchen cupboard, I found this treasure tucked away.  Dempsey had decorated it when she was only five.

It took me back instantly, to when she was little, her shaky writing and the smiley sun made me smile.

I also revisited my guilt that I wasn’t as present for Dempsey as I should’ve been during those days, but it couldn’t be helped…some memories are hazy…a byproduct of grieving I think?

However, focusing on the here and now and building new memories help fan the embers of healing. Like last Thursday…we had Mum’s and Muffins at Dempsey’s school.

After a long line up with other mum’s, waiting patiently for a stale muffin, I got to sit with my baby on the grass, in a sunny serene spot at the school and share some time with her….precious time.  She loved it!

And then of course there’s happy hour at our house! :)

Last Friday, one of our friends made the best margaritas I’ve ever indulged in…ensuring there were plenty of laughs around our back ‘T’….and a slightly fragmented head on Saturday! :)

On Monday, we purchased some Girl Scout Cookies from my gorgeous friend Sandra.

Every year the Girl Scouts bring out a ‘special edition cookie’ this year, to my delight, and Dempsey’s, are “Savannah Smiles” and they did just that for Dempsey and me….like a message imprinted on the box from Savannah, not to forget to smile!

I also appreciated that my lovely friend acknowledged how ‘special’ they are because of our Angel.

 Dempsey has been playing around with my iPhone camera and took this photo of me.

I think some photos taken after loss are like a window to the soul....

My sister Tarnia used to say with a smile, “Photos don’t lie Diana!” (always when they captured a crappy image of me…I think because she was so photogenic! :))

And when I looked at this photo, I remembered her words.

I can see a difference in my eyes, how they’ve changed.

Sometimes I see my happy innocent sparkle from ‘before’ has altered, replaced with a vulnerability and sadness that others don’t see….but Dempsey has captured here.

However, it’s like a badge of honor I wear physically.  One that show’s my soul’s ability to change and to have survived. But only I see it.  And I’m ok with that now….

Inside Savannah's kaleidoscope....

These days, I have color back in my life.

I’m mindful of the beauty all around me.....

And last night, with all that in mind, as I held Savannah’s kaleidoscope up to our kitchen light….slowly turning it, watching the pretty glass prisms take on different shapes, Dempsey appeared next to me.

“Mummy, if you shake it up, the pattern always changes. Did you know it’s never the same?”

And I had to smile at her words…a reminder to me to notice the many colors and transformations grief and life often bring.

That there are turning points, where the days become colorful again amongst the black and white…that challenges and grief evolve, like the complex patterns trapped inside Savannah’s toy, with twists and turns we are altered and transformed, now aware of the preciousness and beauty and fragility of life through our journey’s…just like the optical illusion a kaleidoscope creates......


  1. Gorgeous image of the kaleidoscope as it relates to grief. I will have to think about that. I LOVE the Savannah Smiles!

    And yes, wear that badge of honour to survival and adaptation xo

  2. I don't think you can beat yourself up about your decluttering skills. I think it's very, very different to sort out things that belonged to your dead child. Madeleine is playing with Catherine's baby toys - she had obviously outgrown them, but I had a box for visitors (I never anticipated having another child myself). A couple of them have broke, and I have binned them - but I'm really not sure how good I would be at disposing of favourite toys. I share your approach though. If something is hard, I just don't do it. C's wellies are still in the hall stand, even though her room is all packed, clothes in the attic etc.

    I love the Mum and Muffin idea - never heard of it before, maybe it is a USA tradition? I want to ask whether you're up front with other parents that you have a dead child, and if so, how do they react. I feel a bit like the (infamous) bereaved mother...

    Love Dempsey's plate - great cow picture x

  3. Hi Louise,

    Thanks for stopping by. I think the kaleidoscope relates to how our grief changes shape and takes on different forms as time goes by. No two days are ever the same...even though now I see beauty in the world because of my journey. I dont think before I would've even picked up the kaleidoscope and taken the time to see its beauty. I'm sure you can relate in your struggles with Ben sometimes.

    I have a lovely piece about us 'Dragon Moms" written by another blogger. Not sure if you've ever read it but I must send it to you. I know you'd appreciate it.

    Sending a hug to you and your boy!
    Love Diana x

  4. Dear Susan,

    I totally get why C's Wellie's are still in your hall. I still have Savvys pillow from the night she died...with the same pillowcase on it, tucked away in my wardrobe...I cant bring myself to do anything with it. And thats ok too. There's no rules in grieving I think.

    The mums and muffins idea is a USA thing..we don't do it in Aus, it's a nice excuse to share some time reading a book with your child. They had Dad's and donughts the day before which was lovely to see. :)

    Your question about what I say about Savannah when I meet someone can be an emotional minefield sometimes.

    When Savvy first died, I couldnt even say the words "my daughter died" without breaking down. Which of course, I bet you've found, creates an uncomfortable situation for the stranger, 'usually' they are dumbfounded and don't know what to say...or they say 'sorry' and then change the subject as quickly as they can.

    I like it if I do tell them, and they acknowledge my loss and ask me about Savvy. Not q’s that are out of nosiness, but out of compassion....if you get that. I love to talk about her, as I never get the chance anymore..people think it's 'upsetting' or that 'they'll remind us of our loss' but you never forget.

    I've had some amazing things said to me over the years, inexcusable and ignorant. I've had friends become strangers because of that aspect of my life, and strangers become friends cos of their compassion.

    If I'm feeling vulnerable, I don't share, or if the situation is inappropriate, like a wedding etc, I say I have "one child." I still get asked this a lot if I meet someone new.

    I'm not sure if you've had this happen, but sometimes when I don't tell people my daughter died, I feel like I am somehow letting Savannah down...dishonoring her...not sure if you get that.

    These days I do feel strong enough if they ask, if they say for example "Is Dempsey your only child?" I usually say, “I had another daughter who died at the age of 4 and a half." or "I have two children, but only one is here." It all depends on my mood, the person and situation.

    Sometimes, YOU end up comforting the stranger, and that gives me the shits. :)

    I have also told mum's that do go on sometimes about trivial stuff, and I know I probably shouldn't, but someitmes, I feel some people don't realize how lucky they are. So when I tell them what Savvy went through, they usually shut up...and I hope appreciate what they have more.

    One mum at a birthday party was going on and on about her sons health and just trivial issues. When I told her my story I could see in her eyes that she understood how some things in life really aren't important. The following week, Demps brought home the most beautiful letter from her. She said in it that she hadn't stopped thinking about Savvy and me all w’end. That she now takes more time with her kids that she hadn't before.

    When I see her now at the school, she stops me and gives me a hug. We don't talk about that conversation, but I know she understands and it's changed her way of thinking. And that gives me comfort, that Savannah has made a difference somewhere...doesnt matter how small.

    I know sometimes too, its hard not to scream at people that "your child is dead" and why dont understand how it is now, and thats the bitter part of grief that becomes less of a battle as time goes does still rear it ugly head somedays in my case. :)

    So I think do what feels right for you. But if you do feel strong enough somedays when asked then I think its good to share your story about does change people...and it's healing.

    Sending love to you Susan..I know days can be tough. On those days, wrap yourself up in cotton wool and do whatever feels right!

    love Diana x

  5. Thanks for the reply Diana - you must excuse my pushy questions - I think it is unusual to find someone blogging so long after their child has died, and I want to sit at your feet and ask questions! Sorry - tell me to bog off if I get intrusive!

    I don't feel disloyal to lie about Catherine's existence. I know lots of people do. I don't think I could dishonour her by keeping her existence private. I think I see it more as keeping things private rather than denying her, iyswim. I am more of the school of whatever works for us. I do relate to you sometimes telling people because they are hacking you off!

    I have to say, I don't reckon that stories like ours change people - if they did, there is no shortage of stories (books, films etc) out there. Someone told me they read my whole blog - and it is LONG - and then personaly messaged me to complain about how I had related one tiny incident that involved them. I sort of think, people just can't get it. You either do, or you don't. I think maybe what has happened might change our lives - for better as well as worse. I love your blog - your approach about building a hopeful life after Savannah's death is very uplifting. I find I am always bitching on my blog.

    Donuts and Dads - love it!

  6. Dear Susan,

    No need to apologize for any q's. Thats one of the reasons I write this blog...for people like you who have lost someone, especially a child. I know when Savannah was first diagnosed I wondered how I would go on, to get through life when she was gone. I write to give others hope that you can survive and that there is life, after someone dies, and it can be joyful again, even if it is 'different.' I also write about Savvy as a healing outlet as I dont get to talk about her anymore. So ask away.... :)

    I agree with what you wrote about our stories changing people, but the people they change are usually special compassionate people who are open to hearing and learning from it. I know what you mean about others, and sometimes those that don't, like the one that msg'd you never will. I lost quite a few gf's after Savvy died for that reason...replaced however with some beautiful new gf's that are now in my life.

    Thanks for yr comments about my inspires me to keep writing. And where you are at in your loss is relevant to bitching on your blog...whatever works and is real I say! :)

    Your warmth shines through in your msg Susan, even through your tragedy.

    Sending a hug,
    Diana x