The Soul in my Soles

Gosh, I’m so picky! No wonder I haven’t been writing. I’ve had to adjust the lighting, change the music, redirect the angle of the blinds, get more coffee, check on the kids, check my email, use the bathroom, get MORE coffee, adjust my chair, put my hair back up, and finally just sit the hell down and write only this much. Parenting, I can loosen the reigns on all I want- it’s the work that I am only accountable to myself for that is the hardest to relax with. I’m a jedi master when it comes to severing ties to things at this point, PTSD induced, or not… writing is only ties to myself and I know better than to sever those.

School is hard, dammit. Not just the material, but the doing, and the keeping doing. I barely graduated high school because I cut class so often. I had never even seen weed at that point, and most of the time, I left alone. It wasn’t anything beyond the fact that I had keys to my truck (Ohhh, Hank the Tank! I drove a 2 tone brown ’79 Dodge Power Wagon with a club can and a long bed. I can park anything now, but I digress.) and there were trees to climb.

I would grab a notebook and pen, find an oak tree with a solid branch and write until my wrist ached, when I switched sketching fairies and trees. I was absolutely certain, and I was right, that I was never going to use geometry theorums or need further instruction on Film Studies to get by in life. I felt I could learn more from just emerging myself in the world and letting myself be alone to write than I could anywhere else.

I was a hippie-hearted unschooler before I had ever heard the term- although I daresay the “hippie” part wasn’t news to anyone; I wore band t-shirts and tie-dye, no bra, corduroys and purple Doc Martens (that I had clear nail polished sparkles on part of) or Chuck Taylors every day. I was also in choir and went to church every Sunday, so there’s that. No wonder I’m also not into labels; I’ve never fit squarely into a single one. Does anyone, really? I don’t think so, but I digress…

Anyhow, even my teenage self knew that traditional learning wasn’t something that worked for me. I had a 3.57 at the JC, so I’m not a genius (or that dedicated) but I’m smart enough to jump through the hoops. The difference is that I didn’t give a crap about the material then, and now not only do I care, but I care deeply.  My entire MO as of late has been to let things just roll off of my back like water on a duck. I am not attached to this, the meaning of this, the outcome of this. Not only am I now trying to get back into the groove of participating in a learning environment, but it’s something I care about from more than every fiber of my physical self… I can’t dislodge it from myself because it’s a part of who I am, and who I am becoming.

I don’t want this to be the story of a girl who went through one tragedy at a time and slowly learned to get by and simply not die. I want to be The Woman Who Lived, dammit. Maybe if I ever write a book, that will be the title, random Harry Potter reference fully embraced… It was only the love of a parent for child that made Harry immune to the evils in the world, at the bottom line- but never immune to the struggles and choices involved in being a human. (Well, he gets to be a wizard, too… I can only stretch the metaphor so far, work with me here.)

Becoming a Bereavement Doula is a way I can make something grow out of my deepest pain… but planting seeds requires turning the soil, balancing the acidity and making sure there is enough light and air. Light and air! In my nebulous black hole of anger and ache! I have to get dirt under my nails and grab and hold and let go of so, so much… Who does that? Who does that on purpose– and then throws it up the in air for the world to watch how the dust settles? I thiiiiiink I might be crazy a little. Or entirely. But again, and truly: I am not attached to any outcome, in terms of my life. I am not attached to being perceived a certain way, to achieving a certain status or goal here… only to improve myself, walk farther along my intended life path and maybe help a few people along the way do the same.

It’s a funny thing to be reading course material or a book about many other women who feel much the way that I do, and have my grey matter filing away the data and look up to realize my heart is bleeding out all over floor. I’ve become nearly two separate people internally- the bereaved mother, and the caregiver. My children get the caregiver 80% of the time. Sometimes, they get a mother who is exhausted, angry and can’t find words or think clearly at all. Aiden has learned to not take it personally most of the time, and even brings me his new favorite “invention” of a tortilla with peanut butter (sometimes sprinkled with brewer’s yeast), rolled up around a banana, alongside some tea… (They have an array of herbal teas at their disposal) I guess I forget to eat some (okay, a lot of) times. It’s probably a subconscious control issue, I don’t know.

Part of the reason I choose marijuana to help me instead of pharmaceutical medication is because it helps me slow down, release the grip I have on details that don’t really matter, fish out the ones that do and remember that bodies need calories to continue functioning and that I should probably seek ingesting some in the near future.  Have you ever listened to an engine without the proper fluids? (My dad owned a car repair shop that I worked in for years, so I have) That’s what happens in my brain, and bless Aiden’s heart for recognizing that and helping out. My poor baby, he just wants everyone to be happy and to do anything, anything to have some control over that happiness. I get it, and I love his little spirit even more deeply for it.

Let me just take a sidenote and assure those of you with escalated eyebrows at my having spoken about marijuana and my son in the same paragraph that I DO NOT GIVE MY CHILDREN TO MARIJUANA, NOR ARE THEY EXPOSED TO SMOKE, and only one who seriously lacked critical thinking skills would infer one from the other. Unless by “expose” you mean ‘to speak openly about information regarding’, alongside the uses and applications of every other healing herb we can find… They have many medicinal (loose and pre-bagged) herbs at their disposal too, remember. As do you, if you drink chamomile, peppermint, St. John’s Wort or lavender teas, you rebel, you. Okay, forced digression because laws are stupid: over.

The keeping doing is difficult because, hey- did you know that if you dive headlong into providing advocacy and support for others during the worst imaginable time in their lives while you, yourself are trudging through an unimaginable time, that it can be like a lightning rod hardwired to your spirit? I feel very, very much a passenger in my skin most days… being the caregiver means I spend a lot of time being concerned with the needs of others, with the needs my bereaved self, (while not actually being my bereaved self? I don’t know) being concerned about others’ bereaved selves… It gives me a sense of purpose, as well as a set of tools to use to help me reach and best utilize myself for that purpose. But the first purpose has to be me dealing with me.

My purpose, if I am calling it that, is in (helping people who are) dealing with death- and specifically of babies and children. I don’t want to deal with myself and move back into that place of despair and emotional convalescence, to be on the receiving end of that lifelong ache. It’s unimaginable, unbearable earth, mind and heart shattering darkness. It is unavoidable and it will never go away, a permanent perforation. But knowing that, truly knowing it, and having my knees wet from crawling around in it is what makes my position unique and important. This is the worst “taking one for the team” ever. EVER. But that also means that there’s a team. I could just take it and run and hide alone, but there are more people like me with no resources, no clue what to say or do, no hope or desire to even live through the afternoon- and I can’t stand that, or keep what I know to myself.

I am as much a grieving mother as much or more than any other label, no matter how much time I spend in or out of those shoes, overall. It’s a part of my sole as much as my soul. I have no choice, given my newfound path but to land solidly on them and break them in. I have no choice in the wee hours of the morning, or when one of the five gazillion triggers I now have crosses my path. In trying to focus on my school work this morning, my caregiver self is guiding my grieving self here and telling me I need a good sit and to drink my coffee while it’s hot and to let some of those details go, so that I can go, too, and travel a few steps farther through the wilderness on my insides.

To love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

― Ellen Bass

I can never, ever let Patrick go. It’s not possible, it’s not part of the deal, it’s not on the table, and it never will be. Trying to explain how and where he is to me is like talking to a child about the balloon floating at the end of the ribbon secured to their wrist. You may only feel the pulling of it’s weight the most when the wind blows, or when you move a certain way or try and do a certain thing or move a certain part of yourself, but every time you look up, it’s there, right above you. I wish there was a way to grab that metaphorical thread and bring Patrick to me the way one could with a balloon… I guess that’s what I do here, in a way.

It reminds me of a book the kids have that someone sent us in our PO Box called The Invisible String… when I get crafty enough, I’ll make a widget that has my book recommendations to help children understand and process loss, too- it’s a daily walk for all of us, and that invisible string gains tensile strength every time we use it somewhere.



  1. Julie-
    What a heart wrenching post! I think what you are doing is amazing. I cannot imagine the constant diving in and being present that you do. I hear the difficulty in your words.
    When you wrote about the kind of student that you were, I was struck with a thought. Are you familiar with Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences? Here’s a link

    You seem to cross several of the categories, which is typical of most people. However, unlike many, you seem to function highly across more than a few. Having this capacity will allow you to do the work you need to do as you work through your course. The knowledge you gain, coupled with what you already know and have experienced, will make for quite a Bereavement Doula. Families will be heard, acknowledged, and supported in their process by you. Hang in there! Keep at it! You are doing good work, in and out of home.

    ❤ to your little ones and to your weary soul and soles


  2. Julie,
    I recently became a certified Bereavement Doula through Stillbirthday. The work you are doing is so difficult, but also equally healing and rewarding. I wish you absolute blessings and peace.


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