As I laid in bed last night I couldn’t help but remember where I was exactly at that moment 13 years ago. Sitting in the PICU at Brittany’s bedside praying for a miracle as she continued to get worse throughout the night. It’s hard to believe it’s been 13 years. In space in time, it seems like a lifetime ago; but yet my heart feels like it was yesterday.
What I am thankful for are the people who knew her well, continue to remember her for the wonderful quirky and loving soul she was to all of us. Her best friends still send me notes honoring her memory on this day each year. This year has been no different.
I’m sitting here now in the beautiful landscape of the North Carolina mountains with people who understand my pain, allow me to be and do whatever I need to do whether it be cry, laugh, grieve, or just remain quiet in the sweet memories of my sweet girl.
I’m so grateful.
Until next time,
This picture is one of my favorites of my mom and me. I’m not sure how old I was, thinking maybe eight or nine years of age. Which means my mom was in her mid-late 20’s. She was the best mom. She loved her children and worked to keep food on the table and clothes on our backs. She was a single mother. Working three jobs at times to make sure we stayed together as a family.
Today she would have celebrated her 79th birthday. That seems so far fetched given she died at the young age of 48 on September 16th, 1988. Just a few days after we celebrate her 48th birthday.
What is staggering is I’ve lived half my life without her. But those first 31 years she prepared me to be a mom; to be a strong and successful woman; and to live through the most unimaginable grief. She taught me the importance of having a strong work ethic. She taught me right from wrong. She taught me that I was so much more than I thought I could be. She believed in me. She was my best friend. And every day I think of her and know she walks along my life with me, guiding my way.
There are days when I just wish I could get a hug from her. She gave the best hugs ever. She wrote the most amazing letters to me and I have them today. I treasure them with all of my heart.
Here is what I know – You are never too old to want your mama, to need your mama. I also know she has my Brittany with her. I feel them all around me protecting me, keeping me moving forward, even on days when it just doesn’t feel right.
Until next time
I have not written a post in a while and I can’t really explain why other than when I sit down to write, nothing comes out. It used to pour out of me like water flowing from a jug. Writing was effortless. Pain does that. When in the fire, words come so easily. Without really any true effort, the posts just kept coming, week after week and month after month.
Now I am faced with this empty page that I have been staring at for weeks, maybe even months. I’m stuck. I’m stuck in the mud. I exist somewhere between the sorrow of a broken heart and a life I’m trying to fit into. Every word is hard. Every thought is like sludge. Nothing really comes out worth writing about.
This empty page is representative of where I am right now in this moment. Some of it is grief, some of it fighting off the demons of grief, some of it is tired of grief. Grief is exhausting and when it’s “that time of year” it’s grueling. I just don’t want to think about it. But my body has a mind of it own and says “this is you and this is what happened to you” – own it. But I don’t want to anymore.
Grief is all I’ve know for the past 30+ years. All types of grief. And at varying stages. It’s worn me down. I’m tired. This time every year I am at war with grief. I don’t want it anymore. I just don’t want to think about. But yet it returns and creates havoc over my life until it settles in for the long winter months of hibernation.
So while this seems a bit “dark” and I can imagine you might be concerned, don’t be. I go through this every year. Then it passes one day and the sun comes back out and I feel my heart begin to beat again.
It’s during these dark times, I keep busy, avoid it and try not to let it over take me. But as I am often reminded, grief never ceases. It has to be reconciled. God put me on this path for a reason. One that I plan on asking him about one day. For what purpose has all of this suffering been for. I can’t even bring myself to think about it all. One day I may know but for now I just write so people know they are not alone when these dark days loom over them. They will come and they will go.
The choice is always to take a deep breath and move through it, write about it and send it on it’s way.
Until next time,
As I sit here contemplating another Mother’s Day to endure, I cannot help but think about the many thousands of other grieving mothers who are experiencing this Mother’s Day from the perspective of loss.
I remember the first Mother’s Day after my mother’s death in late 1988. I had just given birth to my daughter and it was my first Mother’s Day – but the absence of my mother clouded that day for me. I struggled to celebrate for myself. This was a critical milestone in my life having just had my daughter just two months after my mom passed away at the age of 48. I felt the loss of my mom like no other. I needed her during this time in my life more than any other.
As the years waned on, I began to enjoy Mother’s Day because I had this beautiful girl who loved making me gifts each year to celebrate Mother’s Day. She was God’s gift to me. Once she became ill and diagnosed with a chronic illness, I struggled to understand why her. Why me. In a more global perspective – just why?
As many of you know, in October 2006, my daughter, and only child, passed away at the age of 17. She was one month shy of her 18thbirthday and a senior in high school. So again, I found myself struggling to breathe and especially on holidays. The first holidays were the worst.
Mother’s Day will forever be the worst day of them all. Some of you who read this will, unfortunately, understand this. Some of you never will. If you have not experienced this much loss, you cannot know nor could you understand. This is the time we need to have our greatest support from family and friends. The struggle is so profound. No matter how many years pass, the pain is still there. It always will be.
What I’ve learned over the years is that grief makes people uncomfortable. Especially those not directly impacted. It’s so important to stand with your friend or family member to support them. If you are the griever reading this – please reach out to someone who understands and can validate your sorrow. It’s real. If you are a friend or family member – go be with that person. Understand they are hurting no matter how many years have passed since their loss.
The world stands still on this day for so many mothers. The memories of their babies, children, adult children – all flashing back to the day when they were still alive. At the end of each Mother’s Day they are reminded of their absence in their life and we must be there to support, hug, love on them. Even those of us who are walking the same journey.
To all you mothers out there – Happy Mother’s Day. We celebrate you and your gifts to the world. I know this is hard for you, but take in the great joy of giving life to this world and spend time remembering the good memories with your child. Say their name, write in your journal, tell their story here in the comments below. Celebrate them.
Until next time,
I remember when I heard the news of the father from Sand Hook, who had lost his young daughter to gun violence in the devastating shooting at Sand Hook Elementary, took his own life I knew this was going to be a topic I needed to blog about. Then around the same time the news of a young lady who had survived the Parkland School shooting had taken her life too. The thought weighed heavily on my mind – how do we address survivor’s guilt. It is part of the lifespan of grief. For those left behind and I felt compelled to write about it from my perspective.
Below I have provided some details around survivor’s guilt and some symptoms to watch for. The references are also listed for your use should you feel the need to review.
The lifespan of grief crosses over into many facets and timelines. Grief looks different at one day and one year; or 365 to 366 days; or birthdates, angel dates, or special occasions. If you peeked into the world of a griever you’d find a story that looks a little different at each point. If you peel back any part of the journey there may be a little bit of survivor’s guilt that looks a little different than the one referenced above and outlined below.
Personally, I asked God on numerous occasions why Brittany. Why couldn’t it have been me. She was a young and smart girl growing up into a beautiful human being, one that this world needs more of desperately. I was plagued by my own version of survivor’s guilt. It took me quite a while to get passed that. Many therapy sessions and talks with God to get my head straight. It was her time. It was not mine. A hard pill to swallow. God whispered I still need you here to do work. Still today I hear this faint whisper.
Wrestling with survivor’s guilt and grief is a daily, weekly, monthly and lifelong journey. It’s vital to get the support you need to find the space where you can breathe again. Where you can find purpose again. And you will. You can. The work is hard. Joy can return. And it will. I can promise you that.
Below are some excerpts from Psychology Today’s article on Survivor’s Guilt.
In a recent article from Psychology Today, Survivor’s Guilt was defined as: something that people experience when they’ve survived a life-threatening situation and others might not have. It is commonly seen among Holocaust survivors, war veterans, lung-transplant recipients, airplane-crash survivors, and those who have lived through natural disasters such as earthquakes, fires, tornadoes, and floods.
Symptoms of Survivor’s Guilt can manifest themselves in several ways. A few examples are listed below:
- Having flashbacks
- Feeling irritable
- Having difficulty sleeping
- Feeling immobilized, numb, and/or disconnected
- Being unmotivated
- Feeling helpless
- Having an intense sense of fear
- Experiencing physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, and palpitations
- Having suicidal feelings
In truth, it’s not logical for someone to feel responsible for another person’s fate, but guilt is not something we necessarily have any control over. However, survivor’s guilt is a normal response to loss. Not everyone experiences this type of guilt, but it’s often a feeling that is difficult to shake. It’s been said that some people are more prone to it, such as those with a history of depression and low self-esteem.
Here are some coping tips if you (or someone you know) is experiencing survivor’s guilt:
- Give yourself time to grieve.
- Consider thinking about who was responsible, if anyone.
- Remember to take care of yourself physically and psychologically.
- Think about what those who are close to you are feeling about the situation.
- Remind yourself that you were given the gift of survival and feel good about it.
- Try to be of service to someone or something.
- Remind yourself that you’re not alone.
- Be patient.
- Share your feelings with those you trust.
- Try to stick to a daily routine.
- Consider journaling your feelings.
- Get professional help, as needed.
If you find yourself needing to talk to a professional, there are many sites with recommendations for therapists near you. Check your insurance website for a list as well. It’s important to talk about your feelings and help sort things out. You are NOT alone!
Until next time,
One of my most meaningful Good Friday memories happened at Grace Church in Carmel, Indiana. We chose to reenact the events that led to Christ’s death and resurrection. There were multiple rooms or stations where you could experience one part of the story. There were several that stick out in my mind today:
The Last Supper: the food did not taste too good, in fact I recall it was very bitter. But in prayer and meditation I could imagine sitting at the table with Jesus and enjoying the company and conversation.
The Cross: I was brought to my knees and cried at the cross as it laid across the platform of steps in one room. Simply displaying what we all know it meant. I recalled in that moment Brittany’s death and hung onto the fact of what I knew Easter means – Christ’s resurrection and the understanding that I will see my Brittany again. I imagined her sitting with Jesus at that moment and my life changed in a moment. I was able to breath again.
The Foot Washing Station: This was a humbling experience. While I opted not to participate I watched as many of the volunteers washed the feet of many. Including a Colts football player. I was struck by the sheer joy of those who washed feet and the humbling looks on those who were receiving such a peaceful moment by a giving spirit.
I tried to imagine myself in each scenario and meditated and prayed.
I was a changed person after this experience and grateful to Grace Church for being bold and showing us how to “feel” and “touch” Good Friday.
Many Blessings and a happy Easter.