Tuesday, November 16, 2010

November 16: Keep moving.


First off, tonight's pictures were taken at the memorial by our friend Richard Kelly.

Well, thanks for all the kind words of encouragement. Today was a much better day for me. Not so much for Ang. This time, she got hit with the grief shovel. After I took Ali to daycare, I went to the Dr., then to umteen stores an errands. I got home around 2, and I walked in and Ang was making a sandwich in the kitchen. She just looked at me with a flat stare, and when I kissed her, there was no beams of light coming off her (I genuinely feel beams of light exude from her when she kisses me! I know, I know, it rocks). I asked her how she was doing, and I got an "Eh."

I knew about "Eh."

She mentioned it (the grief) hit her hard today since she was home alone. That's when it comes on full force for her. The house just SCREAMS quiet these days. It stinks. I totally understand why people move. The living room will never be the same. That's where Bella could be found sprawled out playing with any number of items. Now, it's a ghost town. The dining room won't be the same either. I tried to remember where we all used to sit for dinner and I went to sit in my old spot, and I looked across at the empty seat where Bella used to sit and play staring matches with me at dinner every night. Won't sit there again. Ali's room won't be the same. There's no music box playing in the evening to calm the savage baby to sleep. There's no more baby clothes. There's no more baby. You get the picture.

Even today, as I went to our old Target, I turned to walk in the men's room, and realized I didn't have the dually stroller with two girls inside. Shopping was so... lonesome.

Still, today for me was better than yesterday. I got A LOT done today, so that felt good. I also got a relatively benign report card from my orthopedist. I hurt my shoulder and knee in MN, but it turns out my knee has recovered and a shot of cortisone later in my shoulder and I was on my way! I am looking forward to getting back in shape again, and I wanted to make sure I didn't hurt anything by going back into the gym.


So... I needed to go to Target to get a new booster seat for Ali for our sedan. No problem. Our Target in happy little suburbia? No dice. The Target on the edge of the bad part of town? Nope. The Target in the middle of the bad part of town? The only location that has the same model we bought for the minivan in MN. Okay, so I head over there, get out, go inside, wait for the seat to be brought up (I put it on hold so I wouldn't have to drive into scaryville and NOT leave with what I came for), pay for it, and head back out to the minivan. As I am walking up to the minivan, I realize... I don't have my keys. [shoulders shrug]. I put the box down and walk up to the driver door, hoping it's not locked. Nope. Not locked. I get in and see the keys in the ignition where I suspected they might be. Why was the door not locked?

The car was still running!

No kidding. I walked into Target in the bad part of town having left my minivan running in the parking lot! Holy cow. Thank GOD it was still there when I returned! They say you run on 1/2 to 1/4 mental and physical capacity during grief.... whoever they are... are RIGHT!

Time and Healing...

I want to address a common misconception about healing and grief. I'm sure you've heard the phrase "time heals all wounds," right?


Time does not heal all wounds. People get stuck in their grief when they stop being willing to experience (and thereby move out of) their pain. Instead, they repress their pain with the hope that over time, they can subconsciously bury it deep enough that it is essentially "gone."

The problem with this thinking is that if another trigger comes along and "uncovers" that old pain, all the pain (new and old) are now present. In fact, often times, people aren't grieving the person who just died. The person who just died triggered unfinished grief from a prior loved one. I have noticed certain family and friends who have been grieving in different ways, and it makes me wonder what loved one have they not finished grieving for yet?

Remember, the difference between pain and suffering. Pain is a signal from your body, while suffering is the story you tell yourself about the pain. You can be in pain without suffering, and you can be suffering without being in pain. They are not necessarily related at all. When people repress their pain, it is because they are suffering over it and don't want to experience the suffering anymore.

See, if I look at a picture of Bella now, because my grief is so raw, I don't experience the love and good times and happiness, I am experiencing pain of her loss. However, as I work through those feelings of pain and grief and, to the degree that I am willing to, allow those feelings of pain and grief to wash over me, I am healing that pain. By doing so, one day, when I am complete with my grief, the pain will be low enough that the happiness and beauty will dominate the moment and the memory.

If I rely on time, all I'm doing is freezing my pain and suffering in a capsule. I have worked with scores of participants in our grief retreat who are still in this early stage grief... 3, 4, 5 years later, because they have yet to walk through the pain. They are still suffering as if it were a month after the death of their loved one.

Time does not heal all wounds. We heal our own wounds over time.


Don't be afraid of pain. Yeah, I know it doesn't feel so hot, but it is a necessary piece of life, nature, reality. Remember, we live in a relative universe. Nature is built on the foundation of balance. We cannot experience pleasure if we don't have something to contrast it with i.e. pain. They are two sides of the same coin. Follow me here...

One reason I think we are a nation on antidepressants is precisely because we have brainwashed ourselves that pain is bad. By running from pain, we inevitably push the pleasure line further and further away from us. It becomes an unattainable reality, and as such, leaves us miserable in the process. Now, as we run from pain, we push away pleasure, and are left in this hollowed out limbo, and we get depressed. We do this to ourselves. We cannot escape the laws of nature. The degree to which you can experience pleasure is forever tied to the degree to which you can experience pain.

I really do love the phrase, "Pain is just weakness leaving the body." When we see people come through a tough, painful ordeal on the other side, we say, "They were stronger for it." Why? Why do we have cliches like, "No pain, no gain?" Do we respect people who have overcome pain and tremendous adversity? Do you think they respect themselves, too? YOU BETCHA! Think of pain as access to greater strength, respect, and ultimately pleasure, and I guarantee you will suffer no more. You can recreate your own association to pain into a positive one, or at least a neutral one. That's where I'm at right now. I am in pain, trust me, but I am not suffering. I am simply experiencing the pain, feeling the pain, tasting the pain, all without judgement. I have reprogrammed how I see pain. I am no longer afraid of it. I don't necessarily welcome it, don't get me wrong! It is just that I acknowledge its place in the universe and therefor in my life.

If you are willing to experience pain, you will eliminate, or at least greatly reduce your suffering.

Can you tell the difference between them?

God night.

The fam on "small World" at Disneyland last winter...


  1. Hey Ringgolds,

    Ang I pray that God holds you tight through this difficult time and that He fills your heart with peace I am thinking of you all, all the time.

    God bless

  2. Dear Tim,

    I've read yesterdays and todays posts several times. I find them so well written with so much thought and feeling behind them. I am so sorry to hear that the last few days have been hard on ypu and on Angelique. I wish I could take that pain away! BUT. What you write about grief I think is so true. It takes a lot of courage and strength but the only way is to just FEEL it. Just go with it instead of fighting it and if it feels like it is going to overwhelm you just SCREAM or what ever it takes to let some steam out but don't let that grief scare you into repress feeling it. I am not good the way you are with words, and English is not my first language but I hope my rambling still makes sense. I've seen a person dealing with her pain with pills and it only meant she never moved on but felt bitter for the rest of her life. I know that won't happen to you!

    I am a scientist myself and I know exactly what looking for grants is like, so time consuming. You don't want those BMT doctors to "waste" their time on things like that. They should be working hands on with what they are best at doing.

    All the best,
    Alexandra in Australia

  3. Hi Tim,

    Once again i wanna say to you that i come by everyday, and i love to read you honest words. I can´t even imagine the pain of the Lost....I believe that since i "met" you my life changed so much... Bella history touched my heart and everyday when i am not acting fair and right i remember her, you and all of your family and i try to do my best to be a better person, to love every more and more...
    As for the pain you will heal it over time...
    Today after i read you could´t avoid crying after i saw on the end Bella´s pictures...miss her...

    Al the Best...and Thank You!

    Sandra Coelho Lisbon - Portugal

  4. "We heal our own wounds over time" - that's good!

    I have mentioned that when I deeply grieve one day, it's like I am emptying a container of sorrow inside of me and the next day I feel better and do more things. In the meantime the container fills again and there is again a heavy day.

    I think about you but all the words that come to me never seem enough gentle and tactful. Be gentle to yourselves. Hugs!


  5. I love this quote:

    It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.
    Rose Kennedy

    I AGREE!

  6. Still praying for you through your recovery. All the best to all of you.

    Lauren, a momma in tx.

  7. Tim, my thoughts and prayers are with you guys! I think of you all often! Thanks again for sharing your perspective on life and pain. I look forward to reading your blogs everday, they really make me think and re-evaluate my own life. So thank you for being an open book!

    all my love,
    Sarah in Colorado

  8. Just sending you buckets and buckets of love as you work through the grief process.

  9. I continue to pray for you all. I just feel so sad when I think about Bella and how her life was cut so short. How can I be so sad for a little girl I never met in person? Such an impact Bella has had on so many lives!

    St. Peter, MN

  10. Tim and Ang,

    I'm sorry the pain is hitting you like this right now. I can't even imagine. I've been praying for you guys though...I guess that's all I can do to help. And I'm glad to do it! :0)

    Tim that is a scary story about Target! WOW, you are lucky. With my luck, and my Target, my car would've been gone the moment I stepped into the store!!

    I really like the way you wrote your blog last night. I love how you are always so candid with your feelings. I too agree with "pain is just weakness leaving the body" and "no pain, no gain". If you never know pain, how can you ever REALLY know love, peace, or joy!! You would have no idea you were happy at that moment had you not experienced some kind of pain before that. There's no point in playing it safe with your emotions. When I was pregnant with my daughter Malorie, I was so scared of how I would feel when I gave birth to her. Because I had placed my first son for adoption 8 years before, the only experience I had had with being pregnant and giving birth was, the feeling of loss. But when she was born, I was overwhelmed with this JOY that I can't describe. I was so thrilled to finally be able to really experience being a mommy. I don't know if the experience of her birth would have been the same had I not experience such pain before.

    God never gives us more in this life then we can handle. It is MY belief, that you both were chosen by God as two of his stronger spirits to be blessed with the opportunity to be Bella's parents. She was just too special to be given to anyone else and He knew it.

    Stay Strong. Cry, Scream, Laugh...do whatever YOU need to, to get thru another day. I'm still praying for you.

    Lots of Love,
    Amber, Craig, Malorie(2 1/2), and Liam(10 mos).
    The McLaughlin Family
    Moreno Valley, Ca

    P.S. I love the pictures of the butterfly close up on Liam, and the picture of Liam and I with the "Bella" butterfly. Precious!! It's like Bella wanted to say Hi!!

    Also, I love your family pics at Disneyland. Bella looks like she really loved that ride.

  11. I just had to skip everything else after "time heals all wounds." I few weeks ago during a flood of grief I posted, "Time heals all wounds is a crock of sh*t!" I've heard that phrase so much I used to put my hope on that, before I lost someone real close to me. I realize it isn't so true at all. I miss my Uncle more and more everyday as time goes on. Time is what really makes it sink in on me that he is gone, and he is not coming back:( :( Hurts. :,<
    I love and miss him so much! More so today than yesterday, or the day before, or the days before that.

    I miss Bella too...even though I haven't been around before she went home. I miss her for you, her mom, her sister, and her family.

    Before I go back and finish reading, which helps me btw, I want to share a quote from Moulin Rouge...."The greatest thing you will ever learn is to love and to be loved in return."

    Thanks for sharing your grief, your heart & mind, your family, and what it means to have lived life with Bella.

    Thinking of you all!

  12. I would say that Bella was watching over your minivan, but I think that would be silly because she's most likely very busy playing and doesnt have time for things like this !!! Love all your photos and I'm so sorry about Ang's grieve.... But please know that we're grieving with you and even though it's not the same, we're thinking about you and Bella a lot ...
    Molly, Moesha and B

  13. I think God was watching over your van. Seems that often in our stupidity/distractedness/innocence, He takes special care of us. It's a good thing too!!

    Thanks for the thoughts on grief. I wondered why when my mom passed that I grieved for my dad too (who passed 3 yrs before she did) all over again! Then when I had to clean out their house, I found the meds and medical stuff from when my sister passed 6 yrs before stored up in their attic. It hit me again. There for awhile, every three years I lost someone important to me.
    I've heard about all the stages of grief, but some of them I can't seem to move past. I may be at the angry stage and then move backwards again. I still have triggers that bring the grief up very fresh but I think I don't know how to "feel" the pain as you said, because it seems I keep feeling it over and over and over. One thing I know is, after about a year people don't want to hear how much you miss the one who died nor do they want to hear how you're feeling. Sigh. Maybe someday I'll get it all figured out.
    Anyway, thanks again for the insight. I'll have to think on it and read it some more.

  14. Carla Spradlin Portsmouth, OHioNovember 17, 2010 at 2:47 PM

    I love the saying, "Pain is weakness leaving the body". My son had a shirt with that on it when he was in the Marines. I agree with you about the pain thing. You have to feel pain to move on. It's not that time heals all wounds, I think as time goes on the pain does become less or maybe it moves on to become a different kind of pain. My Mom has been gone for almost 20 years, but sometimes it still hits me just as hard as it did the first time. Now, the pain is more my pain, pain from being without her. Then, it was more from hurting for her, knowing how she was hurting physically. It's still pain and it still hurts but in a different way. That probably doesn't make any sense to you, I'm not sure it does to me. I guess everyone feels pain differently. I remember when I was in labor with my first child, they told us to find something in the room to focus on. I couldn't. The only way I could get thru the pain was to focus on the contraction and the pain. That got me thru. I let myself feel the pain and ride the wave, knowing that it would eventually ease up, but I knew that another wave was coming.
    Pain heals the body. That is what I believe. I check this site every day. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Carla

  15. Todays blog got me. In all of the things I think about as being hard when someone loses a child...I never thought about the empty spot at the table or what it would be like to go shopping and how that would become a new experience. I am sorry that the grief shovel hit Angelique too. I hope that the support that you are getting from others is helping...wishing I were closer so I could do more than support you online...it just doesnt feel like enough.

    I have to tell you every time I saw the scrapbook in a picture from one of Bellas memorials...it really meant so much to see it there. That book and the pictures in it came to mean so much to me. I hope it is something you will always cherish.

    Gotta run. Trying to find a job. Not an easy task. I cant work first shift (we cant put Clara in daycare) so what I am trained to do (administrative assistant) is out the window. I would love to find something to do from home but I havent had much luck.

    Sending my love to all and sweet kisses to Ali.

    Denise WI

  16. Tim,

    Every time you post, you think hard and you send those hard-won thoughts out to us, and you create food for thought. This doesn't make your and Ang's tough days any easier, I know.

    But you must know that, in the midst of your new days, home without your divine Miss Bella, when you are truly vulnerable, you still somehow find ways to make your thoughts so much more than the circumstances from which they arise. You each and all have the wisdom of somebody far older than yourselves channelling themselves through you.

    It is really extraordinary. Seriously. I read your words in astonishment - because you say so many clear things despite the chaos of the last few weeks and months. It seems you have already travelled so far down so very many roads. Along those roads, people join you because they find a common thread.

    Bella's EB story has fanned from the determination you (we) have to find a cure to an entire world view - a philosophy of life through times tough and smooth.

    You are scaling new heights. And the thin air and the grief are bound to take their toll. Look after yourselves, all of you, T, A and A. I have no doubt that these are important steps, not only in the process of grieving as you so astutely and uniquely describe it, but also in the movement towards the next chapter in your lives.

    I've said it before - I have no conventional faith. But I listen to you. Oh, I listen.

    Fondly, always, to all of you.


    PS Ang, I hope so much that the day improved. You are a tough and wonderful person carrying such a burden with such grace and skill.

  17. Bless you all in your time of grief. I agree, time does NOT heal all wounds. I hate that cliche so much!

    Here is a link to a celebration of life I think you would appreciate. It's quite moving. This little boy was only 2 yrs old.


  18. I'm supposed to be doing something else, but thought that "oh, I'll just check in real quick" and now I've been stuck here for the last 20 minutes. Reading your words are way better than doing what I'm supposed to be doing.

    Came home to find an envelope with a letter and a magazine from the Children's Cancer Research Fund... I was not expecting that. But yes, they were nice enough to spend a little extra on postage to get it here to Sweden. It made me smile. And cry a bit.

    Ok, now I really need to rip myself away from the screen.

    Prayers and love to you and your family.