Updated: Jul 12, 2019
A few weeks after losing Madi, a friend brought me a book, Bearing the Unbearable by Dr. Joanne Cacciatore. She told me I could throw it in the trash if I wanted to but she had heard that it was good. Disclaimer, I did throw a couple of books in the trash, but I am so glad I did not throw this one away. The book was different than anything I had read or heard about grief. It did not try to fix me, because I am not broken. It did not try to get me to see my loss in a different light with the promise of finding the path to happiness. It taught me that grief is not my enemy, death is. I do not need to fear or suppress my grief but I could make room for it in my life.
After all, are we not guaranteed the right to pursue happiness? But at what cost? The price of suppressed grief and trauma is to high. Personally, I felt shame when I had really hard days and felt like grief was taking over. I felt loss in every cell of my body, the panic attacks and loneliness were exhausting. There were days I just sat there not speaking, just feeling lost and guilty that I was not strong and I had failed Madi. I am going to be honest here, I still have those days! Madi had showed tremendous strength and faith and she had not only mental and emotional pain but physical pain. The book Bearing the Unbearable shares heart wrenching stories of love and loss. A part of the book that really struck me was that of a mother lying on Dr. Joanne's floor screaming and crying and Dr. Joanne was simply there. She sat with her, she supported her.
I was intrigued by this counseling method and I contacted the author of the book by facebook messenger and was surprised to receive a response almost immediately. They extended heartfelt condolences and support and so I reserved my family 4 days at the Carefarm. I didn't know what to expect but I felt like this was the place we needed to be to heal as a family.
So my husband, son, and I left a chilly, rainy Ohio and landed in sunny, 115 degree Phoenix. We traveled to Flagstaff where we were staying that week and it was 20 degrees cooler and absolutely beautiful. The next four days we traveled to the farm in the morning until 1pm and then would hike and spend time together as a family. Upon arrival Genmitsu, our counselor during our stay, met us at the gate and led us to a spot under a tree. We sat on benches and she sat on the ground. She asked us to tell her the story of Madi. Matt started the story and Seth and I filled in our parts, and we wept. There was something so therapeutic about releasing her story, talking about our pain, our anguish, disappointment with doctors and care, and our loss. Genmitsu listened and took it all in, we talked about our expectations of just that first day and then we went to meet the animals. I could tell you so much about the animals, they are a great comfort as well as comic relief. The animals have their own story of loss and pain. The stories are best told by Dr. Joanne on her site https://selahcarefarm.com/
The remaining days we had one on one time with Genmitsu. I cannot fully describe the support she gave us. During our one on one time we sat by the creek and she asked me to close my eyes and to go to the place that causes me anxiety and fear. The place that I try to distract myself as soon as that door opens. She promised to be with me and support me and I could talk when I felt ready. I immediately knew what was behind that door that I kept locked and marked with caution tape because it was full of pain and guilt over Madi's physical suffering. Madi had to go through so many procedures awake and alert because of her low pulmonary function. She was painfully poked and prodded, as a mom I am supposed to protect her and most of the time I could only give her a kiss and let them wheel her away to a cold, sterile room with people in mask that she had to trust with her life. But the hardest thing behind that door was the guilt of the times I could have been there and I had to leave because I could not handle watching the pain anymore. Again there was an unexplained comfort to release the pain behind that door and imagine what Madi would say to me. I know she was speaking to me and telling me as she always did that I am the best mom, her best friend, and that I did what I had to do and she was so sorry I even had to go through all of this. That I am strong and she is proud of me.
I reflect often on her words, I felt like we were always keeping her strong but I know she kept us just as strong. I miss the way she made me feel every single day.