Maribeth Doerr

a beacon of light

Asking for your help . . . Baby Loss Doula training

I have humbly created a gofundme project so I can complete my Baby Loss Doula certification.  I need your help!  Here are the deets:

My first baby was stillborn.  I was 19, in a new city, in a military hospital, with no one but my husband with me.  I didn’t get to see my son and wasn’t given any options for burial.

Three years later, my second baby was born and died 5 days later.  This time, the nursing staff encouraged us to spend as much time with our baby as possible and helped us make memories with him.  We were given support group information and these folks got us in touch with funeral and cemetery people who were wonderful with baby loss folks (many aren’t!).  The difference in my grieving process for my second son was so much easier because I was treated as a mother and my son was treated with so much dignity and respect.

Sadly, many families are still treated as though losing a baby is nothing to be upset over.  Can you imagine going through labor knowing your baby will be born dead?  I can and having to make decisions at this horrible time in your life is excruciating because there is so little time to do it, but years to live with the aftermath of those decisions.  I want to be there with women going through this agony to help them make the best decisions they can for themselves and for their baby at an unbelievably difficult time.  This is the only time they will get to parent these sweet little babies – help me help them . . .

To complete my Baby Loss Doula certification through Loss Doulas International, I need to complete a childbirth class.  Such a class is coming to my hometown (a rare event!) and is being put on by DONA.org.  The cost of this training is $145 and I do not have this in my budget to pay the tuition by September 19.  I need your help to do this . . .

This class is part of a 3 day training for Birth Doulas.  I need the first day for my Baby Loss Doula certification.  I would really like to take the entire 3 day training to become a Birth Doula.  My dream is to be a birth doula for women going through a pregnancy and birth experience after a loss.  Rainbow pregnancies are one gigantic roller coaster!  Having a birth doula who understands the fears and craziness of subsequent pregnancy would be a gift.  I wish I had had one for my two surviving rainbow babies!  

These extra two days are $425 making the 3 day training session $570.  I’m asking for your help in raising this money.  Should I be fortunate enough to raise more than this amount, the extra money will go into a fund to pay for Prenatal Yoga Teaching Training (I am a yoga teacher) that is not available in my town.  I want to teach prenatal yoga to mommies pregnant after loss. The total cost for the closest training is $2500.

Please help me help these women!  Pregnancy loss is so misunderstood; pregnancy after loss is even more so.  I can help these families, with your help.

Thank you so very very much!

In memory of Andrew John and Mark Adam Pruett and all the babies gone too soon . . .

Loving Mark Adam who taught me more about love, life, and myself than any other person in the world.

Loving Mark Adam who taught me more about love, life, and myself than any other person in the world.

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The Great Declutter Project of 2014

I have a walk out basement that is finished except for the laundry/storage room.  It’s always been a bit cluttered; you know that space that just seems to acquire anything without a permanent home.  It got really out of control when we moved my dad in along with 2/3 of my parents’ belongings.  In January, I was really appalled when I walked in and noticed that my guys had just tossed all the boxes of Christmas decorations (including the tree) on top of all the junk.   I was about to do some screaming when I realized they had done this because they couldn’t get to the closet that houses the Christmas stuff.  How they got it out in the first place is the real mystery here.  I was looking at 250 square feet of a mess that the T.V. show Hoarders would have loved–quite literally, stuff was piled on top of stuff from floor to ceiling–and that mess had begun to trickle through my entire house.

It’s taken six months but the room is FINALLY decluttered.  Can you hear the relief in my words?  There’s room to DANCE  now and my son and I have had a few dart games in there and holy shillelagh!!  With the energy change from this completed project, I couldn’t stop there . . . I’ve since gone through 97% of the house.  I feel as though I have my home back after three years of sharing it with my parents’ stuff and it feels so good!

Going through your loved ones things is a tough job.  I got stuck doing it by myself for both my mom and then my dad.  Lots of things were boxed up and stored in that laundry room because we were in a hurry after Mom died and I simply couldn’t decide what to do with most of it in that raw state of grief.  Three years later, I’m not so attached to bowls and artwork and . . . well, crap, my mother owned.  I’m still clinging to things she made like crocheted afghans and embroidered linens plus several photo albums I still need to go through but otherwise, I was able to let go of almost everything else  knowing I’m letting go of STUFF, not my mother.

Once my parents’ things were gone, it was time to go through our own junk.  I have to say, this resulted in some unexpected and surprising finds – some not so nice and others were totally delightful.  Here’s a few:

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Baby Mari

This is yours truly.  On the back of this picture, my mom had written, “Mari, dad carried this in his wallet for years, that’s why it looks so worn out. That smile is just like Eric’s.”  :)  Eric is my oldest surviving son.  I’m guessing Mom sent this to me after he was born, that baby that took years to get and the whole family was a little gaga over him.  I love that shiny bright look in my eyes.

Eric and Chad

Eric and Chad

Another classic photo find.  These are my babies at grandma’s.  On the back, Mom had written, “Look at that monkey go!”  I have no idea what Eric may have done to Chad to get him to climb up the chair like that but it looks hilarious.  These boys are now 27 and 25 1/2!  I found so many fab photos that were just tossed into this room.  My winter project will be to sort them all out and do something with them.  No more crazy photos littering up the joint!

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Gone With the Wind

I found a very old copy of Gone With the Wind.  I remember my husband buying this for me in a used bookstore many years ago.  He wrote this note on the flyleaf, “Mari, with lots of love for being a great sport.” I have no idea what I was a great sport about! Note the date – just over 20 years ago. Curious!  When I asked him about it he said, “Do not remember ol sport.”  I think he was channeling his inner Sean Connery.

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Best Find of the Great Declutter Project 2014

This was probably the best find of all, at least in my husband’s opinion.  It looks like a corvette but it’s really a decanter!  It was holding about a pint of SEALED whiskey.  This was a gift to my husband from his mom in 1987!!  27 year old Jim Beam.  We spent about an hour on google trying to see if whiskey like this could spoil but everything we found said if the seal wasn’t broken, it was probably fine.  Greg opened it, smelled it, poured a little into a glass and examined it for yuck . . . seemed okay so he swallowed it and waited 24 hours to see if he’d be sick.  All was well so he nursed this juice for a week.  He’s still alive so this gets the best find of the Great Declutter Project of 2014!

It was a toss up for worst find between old horrible cat food in the cabinet next to the washer (the cat died in 2008!) and this gem:

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Greetings from the Hole in the Wall gang

We have four large bookcases in our living room with a zillion baskets on the tops.  The baskets were filthy so I took them all down to wash and possibly chuck some when I found this lovely hole in the wall/ceiling.  There was something wonky with the gutter right there and well, at some point the water leaked through and caused this damage.  We have no idea when it happened as this was totally dried out.  Oy vey!  Mr. Fix-it got right to it and now we need to repaint the living room (needed it anyway) but the crazy hole is gone.  He fixed this right after he fixed the dining room light I broke with overzealous cleaning:

OVERZEALOUS CLEANING GETS SLOVENLY HOUSEWIFE IN TROUBLE. Dateline Nevada, July 30, 2014 . . . . As amateur housekeeper, despite being married 28+ years, Maribeth Doerr removed the 4 light bulbs and 4 globes of her dining room chandelier (Note: chandelier is stretching the description. It’s really a hanging light with nothing chandy about it.) The fixture including chainlink hanger were dutifully cleaned to a sparkling state (Note: sparkling only in low light on a cloudy day). When she attempted to replace the globes, it became obvious that one socket had been stripped during the removal process and now hung rather low compared to the other globes/bulbs. Gregory Doerr, said husband of the amateur unhousekeeping wife, will now have to remove the entire fixture after shutting off the electricity to that room and attempt a repair. Considering it’s Hot August Nights week in Reno where Mr. Doerr is himself a fixture with his 1965 Pontiac GTO, the repair will have to wait. Mr. Doerr was overheard muttering to his German Shepherd that this is what happens when ze wife attempts to clean where no one has cleaned before.

Between the books, VHS tapes, DVDs, CDs and cassettes we’ve donated to the libary plus bags of coats, jackets, and games given to Goodwill, we have empty shelves for the first time! And I LOVE that. The flow of energy around the house is so free now. The next step is the BIG CLEAN which will keep me busy for another six months but as much as I resist housework, the effort and result just feels so good – finally. My house is my own again.

If you have boxes of stuff from your loved ones and you don’t know what to do with it, my best advice is give yourself some time.  I really needed to wait before I got rid of everything; it was too heart-wrenching to do it all at once.  For me, I finally reached a point where the clutter bothered me so much, it was painful to not go through the stuff.  Once I got started and could FEEL the results (besides see the results), I was very motivated to keep going.  Doing it in spurts seemed to work for awhile so do what feels right for you.  And if you have to go it alone like I did, be really kind to yourself while you’re doing this work.  Play your favorite music and give yourself permission to cry or feel however you feel.  This isn’t easy work!

And now . . . I’m going to go dance through my empty laundry room, throw a few darts, and then tackle the disgusting spots in my dining room carpet.

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The Unmentionables . . .

Sean, Chad, & Eric

My 3 Amigos

Today is Harry Potter’s birthday!  Did you know that?  As a Potterhead, I always thought it was cool that Harry’s birthday is the same as my nephew’s.  Like Harry, Sean was full of magic and fantasy.  His heart was bigger than his head and like Harry, he had a lot of inner demons.  Today would have been Sean’s 37th birthday but unlike Harry Potter, he wasn’t the boy who lived.  He died exactly four months ago.

Sean’s cause of death is officially recorded as peritonitis from a perforated ulcer.  You’d be right to wonder how something like that could happen in 2014 in someone only 36 years old.  Sean had been an alcoholic since his teens.  He’d been hospitalized for bleeding ulcers four years before he died.  He was told then to stop drinking before it killed him.  He couldn’t – or didn’t want to, even though he knew what would happen.

I share this with you today for two reasons.  A death like this is often referred to as a high stigma loss.  There’s a lot of judgment surrounding deaths related to addiction as if the person deserved it or was somehow less than. Why didn’t he just stop? (As if it were that easy and even recovering alcoholics have said that to me.)  Why didn’t the family do something?  He must have been weak-willed.  Oh what a waste.

“Alcoholism is a disease, but it’s the only one you can get yelled at for having. Goddamn it Otto, you are an alcoholic. Goddamn it Otto, you have Lupus… one of those two doesn’t sound right.” ~ comedian Mitch Hedberg

You don’t blame someone who has Lupus but as a society, we certainly blame someone with alcoholism.  And when someone dies from alcoholism, fingers point everywhere.  (Those of you who will quickly say he could have killed someone driving need to know that Sean never drove and never had a driver’s license.)  The end result, we don’t talk about it . . . which leads me to the second reason for sharing this today . . .

People truly don’t know what to say to a bereaved person but after a high stigma loss, it’s even worse!  We all have a “big book of grief rules” where we rank losses based on some kind of inner metric that tells us how much compassion we give to someone based on where the loss ranks (and everyone’s book of rules is different and arbitrary).  For example, a 6-week miscarriage falls at the lowest rung for most folks and the murder of a 6 year old child is probably at the top.  But, you don’t know what that woman who had the 6-week miscarriage went through to achieve that pregnancy or that she may have lost 10 babies before that one and will never have another pregnancy.  We can’t know all the ripples of loss in any bereaved person’s life to fully grasp how much someone will grieve any type of loss.

So, for me to lose a nephew (as opposed to someone I birthed) to an alcohol-related death (as opposed to cancer) is probably on the low end of anybody’s compassion meter.  But this nephew wasn’t some guy I saw now and then.  This was a child who spent a lot of his growing up years with my family, who was a brother to my sons, who lived with me as an adult and cried as hard as I did when my mother died.  This was a funny, talented, magical person who understood me in a way no one else did and I’m sure he’d say the same about me.  This wasn’t just a distant relative. He was like my little brother, especially when my brothers died and then my parents.  And it matters not to me how he died because I choose to remember all those funny goofy memories we shared (and thankfully there are MANY!).  I will always be pained that I couldn’t save him (as if I had that kind of power) and having people suggest that I’m making too much of his death adds to that pain because he IS worth remembering.

Please, rethink your big book of grief rules.  Please, don’t disappear from someone who has experienced a high stigma loss (it’s really not contagious).  Ditch the platitudes . . . I heard things like, “Well this isn’t a surprise.”  Why do people say that? Is that supposed to lessen my sorrow?  Please . . . Hug a lot, listen a lot, and talk about the dead.  Remember the funny and special memories with me!

Sean was a talented writer and was beginning to get his work out into the world of fanfic.  We encouraged each other in our writing because no one else in the family did.  And now, I’ll use his legacy as my “big why” for writing.  I know he’s cheering me on because he was an awesome cheerleader.

Happy birthday Seanie!

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THEN, THEN, THEN . . .

IMG_0141In September 2013, I began yoga teacher training.  I was 54 years old and still finding my way back to health after my lengthy illness and losing 55 pounds, much of it muscle.  I didn’t have much strength left and my stamina wasn’t good but I just knew the time was right.  I spoke with the trainer and she had every confidence I could do it.  Actually, Kim had more confidence in me than I did!

In May 2014, we had our last training and I taught my group class – 10 days before my 55th birthday.  As I look back on those months of study, practice, hair-pulling moments, fears, doubts, giggles, and OMG-what-the-hell-have-Igotten-into moments, I’m kind of in awe that I finished.  LOL.  Okay, I admit it; I’m surprised that I finished.  I had lots of moments of wanting to quit.  And honestly, I’m still not totally finished.  I need to video myself teaching a class and then critique it.  I keep finding reasons not to do this last step.  Why?

I was ambivalent with the training for the first 3 months before I totally embraced it and fell in love with the process.  It was a HUGE commitment of time and energy.  At that point, I was probably walking around with my chest puffed out that I was 54 and in yoga teacher training.  Then . . . yeah, then (get ready for a lot of thens), I got sick right after Christmas along with almost everyone I know and it seemed to take forever to get my energy back.  THEN I got food poisoning and missed an entire training weekend.  THEN my back went out a month later and I couldn’t practice much.  THEN my group was assigned Bhekasana, frog pose, to create a class around.  Bhekasana is a heavy-duty backbend that I couldn’t do with messed up back!  THEN I went to Tucson for a Baby Loss Doula training and got sick (food poisoning again?).   THEN my nephew died two days after I got home from Tucson and I was grieving all over again!

Sick of the THENs yet?  Well I got sick of them.  Oh yes indeed!  Time to remember I’m a pick-myself-up-by the bootstraps kind of girl.  Through all of the THENs, I discovered that if I simply sit on my yoga mat, I was meeting myself where I was at that moment.  Sitting there for a few minutes would show me subtle nuances of change.  Maybe my back felt slightly better than the day before.  Maybe my gut was rumbling a little less than the day before.  Maybe my mind was a little less scattered than the day before . . . if I hadn’t spent those moments on my mat everyday, I would have never noticed those subtle nuances.  Sometimes I wasn’t a little better than the day before and that gave me a moment to be kind to myself.  I learned the gift of gentle yoga practice, of truly listening to my body.  I also learned how to listen to my heart . . .

The day after my nephew died,  I hit my mat for practice and found I couldn’t stand to hear a teacher’s voice.  It was too much stimulation.  I also didn’t have the bandwidth to intuitively move through sun salutations (I had zero focus except for thinking of my nephew) and that made me feel stupid and frustrated.  So I rested on my mat in vajrasana, hugged myself tightly and then practiced opening up my arms to open my heart.  It felt vulnerable and I closed my eyes which felt like a little kid who thinks when you close your eyes nobody can see you.  I asked myself, “What do I most need right here in this moment?”  It was self-love.  I was feeling guilty for ways I thought I’d failed my nephew.  So, I wrapped my arms around myself again and reminded myself that I was wrapping myself in love, not closing myself up.  I sat with that and thought about Sean.  I couldn’t unwrap again and hold my arms out again but I did feel better.

The next day, I still couldn’t intuitively move through sun saluations but I found a picture with each pose in black on a white page.  No sound, very plain visual.  That was enough stimulation.  I moved through them VERY slowly and totally focused on my breath, eyes closed.  After the first round, I felt like I was floating, a dance with grief.  When my heart rate started to climb, I stopped.  I just couldn’t stand that stimulation, so I sat back down on my mat and tried the heart open visualization again.  Same result.  Even crunching food was too much stimulation.

I continued to meet myself on my mat in this way, changing things up and trying restorative poses instead of sun salutations.  This worked so well because as my joints and muscles let go in the poses, so did my jumbled grieving thoughts.  As my muscles relaxed, so did my heart.

At the next teacher training weekend, I shared all of this with my classmates.  With their love and energy, I was able to do the practices that weekend and not feel overstimulated.  I gently resumed my home practice and then amped it up a lot to work on my group’s class we needed to teach in May.  My body embraced the practice and what do you know . . . I could do Bhekasana!

I graduated and now . . . it’s time to complete my student teaching, video it, and send it all in.  What a ride to get to this point!  All the reading, studying, practicing, classes and THENs of the last 9 months!  I miss the training weekends and the focus I had.  I need a big nudge to get my student teaching done (please give me one dear readers!).

I never planned to teach basic yoga classes when I finished because I want to create and teach yoga for grief but now . . . well, now that I have taught regular yoga, I find that I love it so why not?  I’m not designed to teach advanced yoga to 20-somethings with tiny bendy bodies.  But I have a passion to share yoga with older folks who want some gentle movement in their lives.  I’m not a stereotypical yoga teacher and I’ve found lots of folks who find me comfortable like an old stretched out pair of jeans.  :D  Yeah, that’s me.  A bit faded around the edges but still your go-to jeans.

And THEN there is that amazing realization that you’re never really too old to do something you truly want to do.  You’ll find a way – YOUR way.  Then doesn’t have to be an excuse.  It can be an embrace.

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My Biggest Fear

I’ve been scarce here. Honestly I’ve felt like there’s an elephant in the room I needed to address, and I really didn’t want to do it. Now it’s time to acknowledge it here because I really am okay; shaken, but okay.

If you’ve read my blog before, you know I’ve experienced a great deal of loss. My biggest fear isn’t my death; it’s more loss. It’s being left here alone without any of my loved ones. It’s a fear that takes my breath away at times when one of my guys is late coming home or doesn’t answer a text.

On March 31, “it” happened again. My 36 year old nephew didn’t answer my texts. He was found dead in his bathroom by his roommate. According to most of the world’s Big Book of Grief Rules, losing a nephew doesn’t mean much.  But this wasn’t any ordinary nephew I saw once in a while or sent a birthday card with $20 and forgot about him the rest of the year.  No, this child was like one of my own, like my little brother, and I miss him terribly.

Sean’s parents divorced when he was 3, and my brother got custody. He spent many summers with us when he was growing up and lived with us for a few years as an adult. I was just 18 when he was born and since he had a mom, a stepmom, and a very involved grandma who was more like his mother than anyone, I was the big sister who listened and understood his angst. His was not an easy life, but there was always laughter when he was with us (and quite a few tears, mostly from laughing!). We were more like siblings especially after my brothers died. He was an only child, I had become an only child, and we were united in dealing with my parents. We could be as honest and weird with each other as we needed – no judgments – we “got” each other in a way that nobody else ever did.  We were in frequent contact; Sean’s death is significant in my life. My own sons thought of him as their older brother and to know we’ll never have those wildly silly experiences with him again is incredibly heartbreaking for all of us.

In the two months ince Sean died, I’ve realized something (again) that I’ve always known.  I would – and I do – survive losing my loved ones.  I would survive more loss.  I AM surviving more loss.  It’s unthinkable that I would survive losing my husband and two surviving sons but I would.  I certainly don’t want to!!  But if I had to, I could.

How?  I’d do it the way I always do – be with others who understand, be with myself in whatever state I’m in, and find a way to reinvest in life. Currently I’m a pastoral care assistant at a church which provides me with a much needed perspective shift when I feel a pity party coming on. For me, helping others helps me find a reason to get up in the morning.  Being with people who don’t do the platitude dance certainly helps too.

I pray I don’t have to go through this again.  But truthfully, I’m going through it every day because grief doesn’t really end.  I choose to remember the good memories though.  I choose to find joy and beauty everyday.  On those days that are incredibly hard, I acknowledge that and look that elephant in the room straight in the eye.  I give myself permission to grieve.  Then I pull myself up by the bootstraps and remember how blessed I am to love and be loved.

Sean, you were so loved, and always will be.  Thank you for being you.

Sean Michael Wilder
July 31, 1979 – March 31, 2014
We will forever feel your presence and love you always.

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