Sharing my grief


I decided to move most of my writing about Rio over to a public blog. Some photos are also included. I hope reading about Rio heals souls as much as writing about him has helped me. This journey is so hard, so emotional, and very relatable. Our tears may not fall in the same place or time but they flow through the same rivers.

If you wish to read from the earliest writing it’s here: Dearest Rio. There’s a black bar at the bottom that will allow you to continue clicking to the next post on the blog.


We Continue to Let Go

Rio’s ashes were a bright white and light gray. Spilling softly from our hands we could see ashes float through the air and rest on water briefly before sinking through a clear pool. Beyond the waves of a waterfall, the ashes settled visibly on rounded stones several feet beneath the surface. Water reflected us and the green trees above as we continued to let go. I tossed some ashes further and they became a shifting cloud as they spread across the water and mixed with it, floating along the current. 

Rio is in the water, and he’s in the air we breathe; Rio is in our laughter, and he’s in our tears. He’s present in the warm sunshine where his soul departed and in the cold wind where his ashes were strewn. I will feel his presence everywhere, forever. 

I washed my hands in the cold water before we journeyed back home. I wish I could say the same for my heart. It continues to ache after my baby. I continue to think about what we might be doing if he were here. How different life would be. How much life Rio has given us through his death. 

I have traveled and am planning to travel more extensively. I breathe and love deeper than ever. My most profound moments have happened in the midst of this grief that continues to permeate my existence. This life without a baby, so full yet incredibly void. My life, a paradox.

Be Happy and Free

Yesterday and this morning it poured. Rio’s ashes were picked up by the river and swept into the ocean as it rained. The mantra “May all beings be happy and free.” is cycling through my mind. Playing in the rain and puddles today was incredibly uplifting. I hope Rio’s spirit is free from pain and suffering, that if he can be happy he is happy and at peace. 

My back actually has been in pain the past few days and I have thought about Rio’s body and whether it hurt him or not. He wouldn’t have known anything different! I wish nobody had to endure such pain and suffering. 

Spread Ashes

Yesterday we began to spread Rio’s ashes. We wandered to a small wooden footbridge in a green gully along a canyon trail. Releasing a few handfuls of ashes into the standing water was powerful. Our daughter had fun, and it was bittersweet to see her holding her brother again in this form. 

I thought about how far we’ve come in nearly 7 months since Rio died. I felt the dry ashes and saw them floating in the air like dust. I gazed into the muddy creek bed and wondered at the life bubbling in it like primordial soup. Despite the drought, life in this spot thrives. From here, Rio’s ashes will be washed into the ocean with the first big rain. My husband also released some ashes under a big tree in the park. Rio will be in the ocean, rivers, trees, canyons, mountains and wind forever. 

Tonight I began browsing through photos for the family calendars that we make every year. I’ve only gotten through the first half of the year. It was harder than I thought, more emotional. Looking at our daughter interacting with and holding Rio brought back those feelings of what could have been. 

Our tears were raw tonight. My heart is so broken. So is my keyboard because some of my tears went under an arrow key and now the bottom two rows don’t function. Once again death and grieving leaves destruction and distraction. The keyboard breaking symbolizes my inability to fully express the meaning of Rio’s death. It’s frustrating because I know people who have gone through their own losses and we all have very alike experiences in such different circumstances. The human experience is isolating yet continues to feature similar themes for many of us.

Election Day

Election day. I held my ballot receipt and just saw the date: November 8, 2016. Seven months since my husband helped me breathe and I thought I would die. Seven months since the red blood pulsed through the umbilical cord and Rio started turning blue under the white vernix. Seven months since my daughter visited me in the hospital and asked why there was no baby in the room. Love and loss hurts. Hurts so much. 

I cannot hold Rio or even touch him. I am lucky to have pictures and videos. But I can no longer look forward to spending our lives with all of our children. Rio is gone but probably even more present in my mind than if he were alive today. Yes it is easier to live without him now than the thought of him dying seven months ago when he was taken to the NICU and I was full of optimism and hope. Yes I can bear the pain more now than six months ago when he had just died and left us so empty yet full of love. 

But the pain is the same. It’s unstoppable no matter how many deep breaths I take or positive thoughts I have. It’s full of love and shattered dreams, salty tears and a deep stillness that is impossible to fathom. I share this as some of you experience other tragedies… your feelings are legitimate. Even if they involve the election. Our hopes and dreams can’t always happen like we plan, no matter how much of ourselves we dedicate to make them a reality.  

Day of the Dead

Yesterday was tough. It was the day of the dead. I had always remembered my brother Tommy on this day. I talked with my cousin Adam about him, and about Adam’s friend that had died earlier that year, and how he mourned him by celebrating life. And then Adam died before we got to hang out again. So day of the dead was about Tommy and Adam for eight years until this year. 

This year Rio was on my mind too. Of course. But not just because it was the day of the dead. Also because it was my first time flying since being pregnant with Rio. Sitting on the bus, feeling stillness in my belly. Walking through security, still. Standing in the airport, nobody offering a seat. Getting in the plane and wondering how our daughter would have bonded so much more with my husband if Rio were here. I missed being pregnant, for the first time since Rio passed away. I have dreaded it but it will be joyful. A celebration of life. Like this trip, celebrating my sister’s accomplishments as a family. We miss Tommy but everyone keeps going, growing. We miss Rio and continue our journey.

In my heart

Dear Rio,

I had a good day. I painted a dozen purple roses to remember you by. I sang and danced to the songs you knew. I walked in the sunshine that touched your face as you died.

I missed you. I long for your presence but no longer feel it. Like you found peace? I sensed you much more, even last week and since we got back from vacation, but not in the past week. It’s good I feel, though I hope you visit sometimes. I love you.

Your smile was just like your sister’s. Your seven sneezes were also like her and your dad’s. You didn’t get hiccups as much. You liked me to hold you but not to stroke/pet/scratch. Your feet were sensitive to touch. Your eyes were dark blue and alert – like a river flowing – and you gurgled a bit too. Your forehead was pretty big which gave you a bit of an old man look, especially because the hair on top was thin. You loved staring up in my eyes and you loved it when I sang to you – especially in Polish.

I should really make an effort to speak in Polish with your sister. Maybe we’ll go to church in the morning. She’d like that. Or maybe we’ll go with my family in Maryland – they’ll all like that. It’s time also to spread your ashes since you have gone. I’ll keep you in my heart forever, even if you cannot stay in my arms.