Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas and Anger Don't Mix

'Tis not the season for irritation. I know this. People are happy all around me. Excited about Christmas. But I don't generally feel like joining in the fun. I have my moments where I think, "Oh yeah, I could definitely get swept up in the spirit of Christmas." But it quickly fades. I am trying to force myself to listen to Christmas music mostly for Brizzy's sake, but most of it just feels too upbeat. Yes, I generally love Christmas. But I can't be chipper and forget what I don't get to enjoy because my Holland isn't here. I understand that I sound bitter and it's probably because I am. I know this. And I also know that it can make people feel uncomfortable, but I can't help but feel that way when a big part of me still feels like it is dead. I did, however, find a Christmas song that I can get on board with. I don't ever seem to get sick of things that remind me of Holland. So here is my current Christmas compromise: I can listen to this song and still allow myself to be sad.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


These last few days have been some hard ones but instead of continuing my streak of depressing posts I will write about things I am thankful for:

- my running shoes and just the ability to run at all, albeit very slowly
- the brizness who has upped her frequency of hugs and kisses
- chapstick and lotion because Utah is so freaking dry!
- Vince vaughn.
- the following music: cat stevens, bob marley, and Tracy chapman. They seem to always fit my mood, which admittedly goes up and down quite a bit.
- the Utah mountains with snow on them. Forgot how gorgeous they are. I will admit Utah CAN be pretty.
- candy, particularly hot tamales, which have given me consistent miniature doses of energy. And really what more nutritional value do I need in a day than some sporadic hot tamales?
- nice strangers. And i don't mean cheesy and peppy, just genuinely nice friendly people.
- questions about holland. Anytime I can talk about her I am glad.
- texting. Can't always handle phone conversations. Grateful for technology to let people know I care and am grateful, but still still allow me to be lazy and do things on my own timetable. I guess I should lump email in there too.
- and of course, the ever cliche but always true family and friends.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Some Hard Things

Warning: I am about to write some things that are sort of sad (shocker I know!). So if you are not in the mood to heard sad things, then do not continue reading.

These are some hard moments I have had in the last four weeks:

- First few mornings waking up to hearing her cry
- Flying on an airplane from Salt Lake City to Portland, leaving the last place Holland was alive.
- Holding my nephew Dane, hoping that it would help me fill the emptiness in my arms, but realizing that only Holland could do that.
- Going to my first day back at church and realizing that I have to fast (wasn't planning on having to do that for quite some time!). This by the way was more irritation.
- Going to my first day back at church, the day that was Holland was supposed to be blessed and finding out there would be another blessing that day.
- Going to costco: seeing people shop for Christmas presents happily, watching the carts with happy kids, siblings. I ended up wandering around, not knowing where I was walking, and just crying (and most likely getting weird looks from people, but was too caught up in my thoughts to even notice).
- Packing away bottles
- Crying with my doctor and having him tell me I may need medication to help me function.

I have had obviously much harder moments than these, but they are too personal and traumatic to share. But suffice it to say, I think I may have gotten a cold from crying too much. Is that possible?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Not Strong

In the last almost four weeks I have had a lot of people say many different things to me. All of which have been kind, loving, and from a place of sympathy (and at times empathy). But one thing that people have said to me quite a bit has gotten stuck in my head. A lot of people have told me I'm strong. I am generally uncomfortable with compliments, but this is one that particularly does not sit well with me. Because I do not feel strong. I have better days than others, but regardless of good or bad, I consider it an accomplishment to get out of bed and get my child dressed and fed. Sometimes I am ambitious and take a shower, maybe even run an errand. But no, I have never felt more incapable or weak in my entire life. So when people tell me I'm strong, I in fact, feel like perhaps I'm a hypocrite or that there is this idea that I am someone I really am not.

I have had others tell me that I am strong simply because I am functioning. And I can understand that to a degree. Before Holland died, there were times where I thought about what would happen if I lost one of my children and my first thought is that I would simply die. If I had been able to picture the scenario of finding my daughter dead in her crib, I would think that I COULD not exist. But you just do. You survive. I don't know how or why, except to say that I think a great part of it is the Lord sustaining me. By no means am I functioning well, but I am still breathing, and have not yet had to enter a mental institution (note the word yet!). And I believe that the Lord has given me a gift of understanding life after death. This is not because of me at all; it is something he has simply handed me, probably because he knew I would need it to help me survive all of this. So no, it does not make me strong. In a small way, it makes me lucky. It makes me feel humble.

By saying I'm strong, in some way, indicates that perhaps there is a way that a person could be weak when they've lost a child; that there is a right or wrong way to grieve and/or cope. And I have found that there isn't. Everyone moves at their own pace and grives in their own way. I do not believe there is any strong or weak that exists. I think anyone can just do the best they can. Sometimes the best I can is to just wake up and think about my baby girl and cry.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Holland's Funeral

I was not sure I would ever be ready to write about Holland's funeral. Not because it makes me sad, but because I have not been sure I could capture what a glorious day it was. I don't use the word sad, depressing, joyful, happy, or anything of the like to describe it because none of those words work. My friend, Carly, used the word peaceful and I like that. But I can truly say that never have I felt closer to heaven than on this day. I think in general, when we have extremely spiritual experiences, we are also emotional, and so yes, I cried a lot. A lot. Our mortal bodies seem to not be able to handle the power that comes with feeling so close to God. And I know, that it wiped me out :) But yet, I wish it could be my every day. Because I have never felt more power in my entire life. Above all, I know Holland was there and I also know that she approved of the day :)

So while I won't be able to truly describe it, I would like to share just pieces of it.

We started out in the morning with a viewing. Our family and close friends were able to come and see little Holland, some for the first time. She looked like a chubby little China doll in her beautiful white blessing dress (it was the dress Briz wore at her blessing). Grandma Julie added a beautiful little embroidered pillow cover with the Portland Temple on it, as well as the words, "Families are Forever." And Nick bought matching necklaces for Briz and Holland. He put the necklace with the B on it around Holly's neck (Briz gets to wear her H necklace on special occassions). And although she didn't look exactly like my baby, she did look beautiful, and I felt like a proud mom. At the end of the viewing, we had just Nick and I's immediate families stay. I held her one last time, and then Briawna, McKenna, and Jacci all took turns holding her, since they were never able to while she was alive. Those were some of the sweetest moments of my life. I had a mix of emotions: sadness for them not being able to meet my little girl, but also joy in knowing that they might be able to hold her and see her one day.

The funeral was wonderful. Nick and I felt so loved and supported. And it somehow felt comforting picking out faces of people in the congregation. Seeing their faces made me know that I was not alone. I have felt alone at times in this process, but I felt anything but that on that Friday. The program went as follows:

Opening Hymn: Be Still my Soul
Invocation: Stacy Ainge (Nona)

Special Musical Number: Pachabel's Cannon by Anne Christianson (and accompanied by a pianist as well)

Talk: David Ainge (Papa)

Video of Holland Talk: Tom Cottle (Grandpa Great)

Special Musical Number: "My Shepherd Will Supply my Need" by Andrea Croskey, Leslie Jensen, and Bart Carter (good friends from Salem)

Talk: Nick Cottle
Closing Song: I Feel my Savior's Love
Closing Prayer: Julie Cottle (Grandma Julie)

While I wish I could share every word said, you would probably stop reading, cause that would just be way too long. Maybe in the future, I will share more details. I'm sure I will need to for myself, if for no other reason. My Dad spoke mostly for me. I wrote some things about Holland, about her personality, my experiences with her, and the wonderful spirit that she is. He then shared a very sweet poem he had written and some thoughts. Grandpa Cottle spoke of the plan of salvation, and as always, was sweet and powerful in talking about our Savior's atonement and living with our Heavenly Father again as families. And Nick told his little Holly Hoo her very last time bedtime story. The music was beautiful. There were many tears shed, but overall there was a wonderful spirit there. Nick and I felt like not only were we able to share our Holland with others, but also a big part of us: our family, our beliefs, and our feelings. There is something refreshing about a funeral because of the vulnerability and love that exists there. At the end I was able to see and hug many of the people that came. I wish I had the energy to truly thank every person that came.

After the funeral, close family and friends proceeded to the Riverview Cemetery. I need to go take pictures in the next few days because it is so beautiful. It is a very old cemetery with huge beautiful trees that are bright fall colors right now When I go there, it feels sacred. As ironic as it sounds, as my friend put it, there really is so much life at a cemetery. Nick said a few words and dedicated the grave. I thought that part would be harder for me than it actually is. I thought it would feel more final. But in fact, it didn't. In my mind, I just kept thinking to myself, "I said good-bye to my baby a long time ago." (well, it really wasn't a long time, just a few days before, but it felt like a long time at that point). Anytime I say good-bye to anything that reminds me of Holland or is a part of her, it is sad. So saying good-bye to her beautiful baby form was sad, very sad. I sobbed as they let down her casket. Because every time I repeat good-bye to her, it reminds me of my loss and it hurts. But, as I sobbed, I also felt hope, because I knew in my heart, that she is not this little baby anymore. She is in heaven and is a spirit and is happy. After the funeral, we had a beautiful luncheon. I did not have much energy to socialize, so I spent most of the time trying to eat some food, and watching a compilation of home videos of Holland that our friend Michael put together. When it was all over, I felt a little tiny weight lifted off of me. First of all, because a funeral is a lot of freakin' work! It's like planning a small wedding in a few days amidst a terrible amount of grief and pain. But also, because I felt like it was a bit of closure. Every time I say good-bye to Holland in different ways, I gain a little bit more closure, and that was a big step. And the rest of the night, I was able to spend time with family and friends that had come to support me. I was able to smile and laugh, and some of it may have been delusional because I was so tired, but either way, it felt good. This little girl has changed my life already in ways that I cannot describe. What a powerful woman she is. I feel so undeserving to have her as my daughter for eternity. I hope that on this very special day to me, she was able to touch others too.

I wanted to share this picture of my "ugly cry" because this is what I looked like a lot of the day. I have talked a lot about what a powerful day it was, but I also experienced a great deal of pain and sadness and hence, looked like this :) This is me looking down on my baby.

Nick and I helping get the casket ready after the viewing.

A beautiful collage of pictures that my friend Megan put together (see last post about how great my friends are).

The pallbearers: Papa, Grandpa, Uncle Seth, and Uncle Landon

Our family at the graveside service.

Nona and Sisi at the viewing.

All of the Ainge siblings.

Briz and I putting white roses on top of Holland's casket.

One of the jokes this weekend: how much Sisi looks like Grandpa. It's a little freaky.

People I love very much. My Mom has been my best friend through all of this. I like to give my Mom a hard time a lot. But I can't rely on anyone quite like I can with her.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


One thing that I have been blessed to realize, even more so than I had three weeks ago, was how I truly have great friends. These aren't just people I see or talk to once in a while; people I spend time with, but rather people that understand me completely and are loyal. They are people with whom I am vulnerable and open. They are smart, funny, creative people that I love. My friends have been so kind and generous during this hard time that it is hard to express how truly grateful I am. But one thing I do know is that it is beyond humbling. And its difficult because I wish I had the capacity at this time to return the kindness.

My friend Anne flew in last weekend from DC to stay with me for a little bit. I couldn't even remember the last time I saw Anne. It has been years, but it didn't matter. It was so good to have her here, to just talk for hour and hours and to share a little bit of Holland with her. Not to mention to talk about regular life kind of things, and just laugh. We didn't do too much. But on Saturday, we ventured out into Portland. We went to a little art festival up in Washington Park, to the Rose Garden, and Multnomah falls.

Saturdays are hard for me, as they are weekly markers for how long Holland has been gone. But this was a wonderful Saturday. It was cold and wet, but it still felt so good to get outside, breathe the clean air, and just remember how beautiful Portland is. And oh yeah, Briz tagged along because she thought Anne was here to visit her :)

Also, on Thursday, my friend Maggie came and spent the day with me. I got to show her (as well as Anne), Holland's gravesite. I know it's not Holland herself, but it makes me feel like they are able to still meet her in a weird distant way. Thank you Maggie for talking openly about life and everything and for just coming to see me. Next up is Mander!

I have had a lot of moments where I get down and depressed (a lot). But when I think about my friends, I am able to take a step out of my grief and sadness and feel very blessed.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Songs of Comfort

My friend Meredith knows me too well and sent me some mixed CD's after she found out about Holland's death (I am working on using the words death and dying openly, its not always easy). Meredith knows that I love music, and her CD's were the perfect "mourning present." One of the CD's is more of a "put me in a good mood" kind of CD with funny songs that are full of memories (maybe I will post about that one later). But the other one has songs of comfort that have brought me peace and strength. I wanted to share a few that have affected me recently.

(this one I couldn't embed for some reason, but it's one of my favorites).

Monday, November 7, 2011


Halloween was three days after the funeral, and I was exhausted that night. Luckily, I am beyond blessed to have so many great friends and family that have helped take care of Briz and did so again that night. I went with one of her ready-made costumes from her "princess box." So she was a fairy princess. Not sure what that really is, but it sounds nice and girly and Briz was pretty excited about it.

We also had family and friends around so Briz went trick or treating with other kids, which made it that much more fun for her. And man did Briz have trick or treating down. Talk about efficient. She ran up to each house, usually pulling Will (and hurting him actually once). She knocked on the door, yelled "Trick or Treat" and grabbed as much candy as she could. If it was possible, she would grab handfuls, and then sweetly say, "Thank you." She would run back down to us, and then say, "Next house, " as she ran off. We went to maybe 15 houses and her little plastic pumpkin was full! She could have gone for hours if she could carry some more weight.

Her and Will are ADORABLE together. Two of the funniest kids I have ever seen.

Ella as minnie mouse.

I gave in to Briz and let her wear some make up.

Dress up + candy + makeup = a dream come true.

Briz being way too aggressive for Teya. Luckily Teya is used to it, because Portia (Teya's older sister) and Briz have a lot in common.

These two sort of have a love/hate relationship at times. They are kissing and hugging a lot. But then at one point, they got into a pretty intense argument over how many ladybugs were in a book (which resulted in Briz shoving Will and then throwing the book at him).

---------------------------------- Pre- Halloween ----------------------------------------

A few days before we left for Utah, we carved pumpkins. And as all of our family activities, it was pretty eventful :)

Holland was just tuning out the mania of Briz and trying to get a good rest. But I wanted her to be a part of our family carving. She was such a good sport.

Briz focused on scooping all the seeds out of the pumpkin. And as usual, missing an article of clothing.

Imitating his pumpkin face.

Briz imitating her pumpkin face, minus the two black teeth. We had all kinds of emotions with our pumpkins: happy, angry, and sad (can you tell I am a counselor?).

Halloween was a bittersweet night as I watched all of the kids running around, excited. While Holland would have simply been sleeping in my front pack that night while Briz trick-or-treated, I couldn't help but think of the future and what things would be like in a few years. I just pictured Briz and Holland trick or treating together and me constantly having to tell Briz to stop stealing candy from her little sister. But also thinking about Halloween fills me with a great sense of gratitude for my Brizzy Boo. She keeps me going and laughing and I don't know what I would do without her.

It also makes me so grateful for good friends and family to share Holidays with. While it is difficult to go through what is supposed to be a happy time with such a sad heart, it takes the edge off and reminds me of how much love there is on this earth.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

An Attempt

I am going to attempt to start writing about the loss of my beautiful little girl. I don't promise any eloquence or even any insight with posts about Holland, but as I told Nick the other night, I like to "keep it real," and so that's what I will try to do. I also am not planning on turning this blog into a public journal. However, I have used this blog for the last few years as a place to share my family; to update others on what has been going on in our lives. And right now (and I suspect for a long time to come), Holland's passing is an obvious blog-worthy event in our lives.

The best that I can do today is share random thoughts running around in my head. I have way too many that its impossible to write them all down. But hopefully thanks to my clonazepam (anti-anxiety medication is a big life saver right now), I will not get too carried away and make sense of a few.

- My house feels very quiet and a little lonely, even with maniac Briz running around.

- I am grateful I have Briz to wake me up in the morning; not sure I would ever choose to do so on my own.

- I get very sad thinking about shallow things at times: what clothes Holland will never be able to wear, or how I will not be able to share how beautiful she is with others. Pictures just don't really do her justice.

- I was particularly bias towards Holland's beauty. While she was a chunker, I commented to Nick probably at least once a day how beautiful I thought she was. And this is coming from a person who really does not brag about her kids; I tend to just make fun of them.

- I want to edit, perfect, print, and frame every picture I have of her. I want to make books of rememberance, adorable little keepsakes . . . all right now. I am worried that if I don't, I somehow will forget or won't be motivated to do it in the future. I am worried others will forget her. At times it has put me in a panic.

- My favorite thing about going into her room is being able to smell her still. I miss her smell. Even the gross spit up smell.

- I wish I could have a funeral for her every week, well okay, at least every month (its a lot of work). I want people to remember her and feel her spirit often. And I want to be able to share that with people.

- I tried to jog a little yesterday and I felt like I weighed 1,000 pounds (and with the amount of sugar I have eaten in the last few days, I am slowly working my way there).

- I think the most beautiful place on this earth is the cemetery where she is buried. Riverview Cemetery. It is and I think may always be my favorite place on this earth.

- As somewhat of a skeptic, I never knew I could have a knowledge of an afterlife, but I do. Not one tiny doubt. That's the gift I am holding on to the closest right now.