Dad

My dad passed a few days ago. My dad and I had a relationship that most would call estranged; but I would call it normal. He really wasn’t part of my every day life; however we did talk occasionally. My dad left my mom when I was 6 years old. Never really knew his side of the family nor was he around much afterwards. He moved on. Created a new family. That is an entirely different post (book).

Regardless I loved my dad and appreciated that he was responsible for why I’m here on this earth. I began grieving my relationship with my dad many, many years ago. It was far from the relationship many of us long for. In fact, it was fairly non-existent. As I grew into adulthood, I took the initiative to go visit; but each time regretting it. We’d usually fight or he would have something negative to say that would piss me off. I’d become accustomed to that. It was the relationship, the only relationship we’d ever have.

Grieving takes on many different facets. Loss doesn’t always mean death. It means loss of a relationship, a job or a life you once knew. Each time grief presents itself from a new episode; the downfall is the same. The emotion is raw. Old grief resurfaces and it all has to be hashed out again. Over and over until it is banished again back in a small place where it resides waiting to be released again.

When someone dies; I feel the loss of my mom, grandmother and daughter all over again. I am reminded of the chronic absence they left behind. I wrestle a little with my faith and in the end I always come back to things happen for a reason and I don’t always know, understand or comprehend why. I find my faith helps me reconcile it. But let me be very clear; it does not go away. Grief will always reside in my heart and my life. It is part of the fabric of who I was and who I have become.

My dad loved me in his own way. It was not enough for me; but in the end I did not have a choice but to accept it was his way and not mine.

RIP Dad

Until next time,

M

The Empty Holiday

Mother’s Day is a haunting holiday for many grieving mothers. Personally, I’d like to just blink and the day would be in the past. It is a day to celebrate mothers everywhere including those that are in our lives; however it stings too much. It exposes our broken hearts and forces vulnerability.

I was a mother once. I was a daughter once. I was a granddaughter once. While some may argue I still am and should still be able to identify with those roles, but when those who you identified with in those roles die; your vision for those roles diminishes. Today in my world, I am not a mother. It is not part of the life I live now.

Walking past the Mother’s Day card section has to be one of the most painful things I’ve had to endure for nearly 15 years. It was bad enough when my mom died almost 33 years ago; but after my daughter died, my only child; Mother’s Day just doesn’t seem fair.

Now many of you who follow this blog and know that over the years I’ve truly grown in my grief. I try and find the diamond in the rough every day on this journey. But Mother’s Day has become one of the hardest days of the year.

If you know of a grieving mother, one who has lost a child or only child – the pain is unspeakable. Please know the gravity and heaviness that weighs us down is deep and touches a painful sore we try and cover up most days to keep moving one foot in front of the other.

A card or a celebration is a reminder that we were a mom and that makes us smile. But it also reminds us of what we are not any longer. It’s a double-edged sword. That’s grief.

Happy Mother’s Day to all my fellow mourning mothers. My heart is with you all this Sunday.

Until Next Time,

M

Owning Our Story

Many of you who have been following me for a while now may remember that I’m a big Brené Brown fan. Her writing and podcasts are so thought provoking that I often find I have to read her book or listen to her podcast multiple times. Each time I reread or listen, I hear something said a little differently or just wanted to highlight something profound so that I could come back to it later. Regardless, her writing has helped me open the box to owning the next chapter.

A quote from her resonated with me about owning our story. She said “Owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.” I thought to myself after reading that several times, this concept is the very thing we grievers do unconsciously – we run, we hide and we withdraw from the story of loss and grief. Perhaps in hopes of outrunning it.

Thing is we will never be able to out run, out wit or out do our grief. Our story is our story and we must own it. We must learn from it. We must take the hurt, pain and anguish and mold it into the next phase of our journey. Our life wasn’t meant to live in anguish or grief for the remainder of our lives. But only for a season. Every now and again, grief revisits but we should not let it stay long enough to unpack and move in. Otherwise we will spend our lives running from it. Avoiding it.

I’m just as guilty as many of you may be at avoiding our grief when it comes a knocking at the door of your heart. I had this preconceived notion that if I could just ignore the feeling it would go away, unwanted. But that is not how this work. It will keep knocking at the door, the noise in the background will get louder and louder until you have no other choice but to face it.

Facing it can be scary and it takes extraordinary vulnerability to stand up and answer the door when grief knocks. The work can be very different for all of us. For me it was a mix of self-care; *therapy; grief groups; and most of all journaling. My faith has always been the foundation of the self-care and therapy on this journey of post acute loss. Don’t get me wrong, my faith was tested over and over again during these episodes of loss. But each time I arose stronger knowing there was a purpose in it. Owning our purpose, our story is where true healing begins.

While this blog has been the healing salve for my broken heart; it is the next step I take that will define my journey. That loss is part of my story, but not the whole story. This blog will become the foundation for the publication of my book. It will also be the subject of my podcast that is now in the works.

The journey can be hard, but it can also bring joy if we can just stop running and own our story.

Until next time,

M

*Therapy is available for those who need it. It can be the very step you take to change the course of how you own your story and move from pain to purpose.

Resources

http://www.griefshare.org

http://www.compassionatefriends.org

Choose Gratitude

I don’t know about you but I’ve been hearing a lot of people talking about what they learned from 2020. And what they are walking into 2021 with. I know I don’t have to tell you 2020 has kicked us all to the curb. For so many reasons we have all cried, laughed, shook our heads and prayed.

That got me thinking about gratitude and how important it is to practice. Especially those of us who struggle with finding gratitude after we have suffered such great loss. I do know as the years go on, gratitude becomes more obvious to me than it did in the earlier days. In the early days, if you’d asked me to find gratitude, I might have seriously clocked someone. but now, 14 years later after the loss of my daughter and 30+ years after the loss of my mom – those are just the two I’ll mention here – I’m dedicated to growing my gratitude. Here’s why….

Gratitude opens the door for happiness, joy, growth, health… you get where I’m going right? When you sit down and write what you are grateful for, even the simplest of things like food, shelter, job, you begin to see out farther ahead as to what you could be grateful for. The possibilities are endless. You have to just sit down with pen and paper with a focus on the goodness that is in your life.

I recently read “live for today but hold your hands open to tomorrow.” by Barbara Johnson. That struck me as something that we don’t practice more of. We tend to think about the past, or the future, but not today. What we stand in today, is our truth. We stand in our gratitude. We stand in what was and what is. By doing so we can stand with open hands for tomorrow.

Real gratitude starts now with open hands and be ready to say “thank you”.

Until next time,

M

What Will Matter

What Will Matter – Michael Josephson

Ready or not, someday it will all come to an end. There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days. All things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else.

Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance. Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and jealousies will finally disappear.

So too your hopes, ambitions, plans, and to-do lists will expire.

The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away. It won’t matter where you came from, or on what side of the tracks you lived, at the end. It won’t matter whether you where beautiful or brilliant. Even your gender and skin colour will be irrelevant.

So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built; not what you got, but how you gave.

What will matter is not your success, but your significance. What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.

What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.

What will matter is not your competence, but your character. What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you are gone.

What will matter are not your memories, but the memories that live in those who loved you. What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.

Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident. It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice.

Choose to live a life that matters.

May you all have a blessed, safe and restful Thanksgiving holiday with your family and friends.

Until next time,

M

Sting of Grief

Tomorrow marks the 14th year that my daughter has been gone from this earth. It feels like yesterday and like forever ago. A different lifetime ago. Like it was a bad dream. I was in someone else’s life then I awake and realize it was my life. That is the sting of grief.

“There are days that will always hold the memory and title of the worst day of your life.” No matter how many years have passed, the memories will flood our mind and break our hearts. I stay busy and quietly suffer the worst feeling because, well it’s so painful you don’t want to share it. You don’t want to speak it because in doing so you hear those words come to life that have been trapped in your heart and mind for so long.

And then as October 13th closes in, I can’t hold it in any more. The tears fall and I fall to my knees so broken from the anguish. One of my favorite grief writers Susie Duke wrote from her book Grieving Forward, “And I’ll remember that tears are the evidence of love’s power that is always alive and present. Love that calls me into the infinity of hope and promise of reunion and joy unspeakable.”

“You have collected all my tears and preserved them in your bottle. You have recorded every one in your book.” Psalm 56:8

The tears stop, the crushing pain in my chest goes away and I pick myself up and get back to life. All knowing that one day, I shall be reunited with her again.


Brittany, Senior Year 2005/2006

Until Next Time,

M

Remembering Mom

As I sat this morning enjoying my coffee, I scrolled through some social media posts, mostly memories and multiple reminders of what would have been her birthday here on earth. It’s hard to fathom her being gone for over 30+ years. I was 31, 7-months pregnant with my first (only) child and she was looking so forward to spending time with us. But cancer had another plan. 

Cancer took her so quickly. The tragedy in it all is that we were blindsided to her diagnosis and quick downturn in her health. It’s like it came out of nowhere and boom, just like that she was gone. Just 4 days after her 48th birthday. 

I know for some of you reading this, you can identify with loss. That is why you come here to read looking for some type of rope to hold onto during your suffering. Many of you have written to tell me how my blog has helped you. I know for me, there were others before me that provided a lifeline of hope in the midst of unimaginable loss. I hope to keep this going for as long as we need it. 

I know my mom would be so proud of the woman I’ve become. She raised me to be a strong woman. And as life would have it, that came in handy over the years. Losing my daughter was the most horrific thing ever and had it not been for the strength, courage and faith that she handed down to me through many years of examples, too many to share, I’m not sure I’d be here today. She was my rock!

Happy Heavenly Birthday Mom! You are so missed.

Until next time, 
M

Presence is everything

I was listening to someone speak recently and it made me realize that I had some work to do with respect to being present. I don’t know about you but being present can mean many things to a person. The type of presence I’m writing about today is your whole self presence. Meaning your physical and mindful presence.

So often we are faced with the business of the day. We are pulled in so many directions, and something or someone inevitably suffers. Sometimes, that person or something is you. Grief is hard work. It takes a lot of energy, mentally and physically to move through this journey daily. Depending on where you are at on this journey it could be minute by minute.

For me I understand I have been “busy” these past 13 1/2 years. I am a self-confessed workaholic. I have a strong work ethic and I take it farther because it’s all I’ve ever known from my mother and her mother, my grandmother. What is really important here in this message is to have balance. Be present. You can be present in your work and also in your life.

I have done an incredible amount of work to get where I am with my grief. It’s not perfect. It’s not over. Never will be. But for growth to happen, and growth must happen; you must do the work. Being present is the first step. Recognizing when you need to just stop, put down what you are doing and spend time in that moment to understand where you are, how you feel and write about it. Don’t hide from grief. Manage it. Learn from it and better yet grow from it.

Here are a few steps for you to take in your own journey:

Be Present
Own It
Lean In
Be Clear
Be Engaged

In time, you will be able to lead someone else through the fire. The unfortunate truth is there is great need in the world for the “cloud of witnesses” who’ve walked this walk; who’ve owned it; who’ve been present and who’ve engaged in their own healing.

Until next time,

M

Hope

Easter is here and so many memories flood back to me of events from the many years.  From my own youth to the many years with Brittany, who was afraid of the Easter bunny but loved her Easter baskets and getting all dressed up for church. She was also afraid of clowns and I never really knew why. I have so many great memories of Brittany and I’m grateful beyond measure for that. But it is her death that leads to me write today and why Easter has so much more meaning to me than it might to others.

With Jesus’ death and resurrection, I have hope that I will be reunited with Brittany again. That hope my friends kept me alive for the weeks and months after Brittany’s death. It meant that death is not the end but rather the beginning of our new body with no more pain or anguish. No more sickness. That brought me so much comfort especially in those early days and months after her death. And even still today.

One spring a year or two after her passing, I attended a Good Friday service in my hometown where we got to visit re-enactments of the events that led to Jesus’ death. It was profoundly impactful to me because I felt the loss as my loss was still fresh in my soul. The last room before the foot washing was the cross lain across a stage and as I approached the cross, it was as the air left my lungs and I couldn’t catch a breath. I dropped to my knees changed by this depiction of Jesus’ death. As I attended that Easter service that Sunday after Good Friday, spent from experiencing that re-enactment and the message of Jesus’ resurrection filled me with such hope that I walked out a changed person. I’ll never forget that.

While a nurse in a Labor & Delivery unit one Easter Sunday, I had the privilege of caring for a patient that I had been “primary” for, meaning she was my patient for her entire admission when I was scheduled to work. We got to know each other so well over the weeks while she was admitted. That Easter Sunday, she went into labor and delivered her premature son who passed within a few hours. I have never forgotten her or that day on Easter. We sat and talked a lot during the day as she was my only patient. We talked about how we felt God had brought us together for a reason, neither of us knew until later that day why and to this day we remain friends. I still have the letter she wrote to me afterwards. I’ll treasure it for the rest of my life.

Death comes to us for what reason we do not know. The hope we have in Jesus is all we have; us grieving parents, to take a step, a breath, and keep moving forward in faith. Yesterday I attended a Celebration of Life for a family who lost their 15 year old son Josh. With the current pandemic, the service was online. As I sat on my couch watching what a beautiful soul Josh was, the pressure in my chest began to swell and tears rolled down my face. The moment came in the service when his parents and sister came on to speak to those of us watching and with tears falling from his dad’s face I couldn’t hold back my own. My heart broken for them. The loss is so unimaginable. I know the journey they are about to embark on and it’s one that you must claw and fight your way through each and every minute of the days as they pass. I know they have a strong faith and surrounded by many that will love on them.

I had many bible verses that I carried with me in the days and months after Brittany’s death. One specific verse I carried in my scrub pocket everyday for months. The verse was inscribed on a small, smooth rock and when the moments came, and they came often, in the beginning, I’d grasp it tightly in my pocket and recite the verse to myself until the moment passed. Sometimes those moments came while I was caring for a patient or in a store shopping. That is the thing about grief, it comes in unpredictable waves and times. I was armed with many verses, but this one I want to dedicate to Josh’s parents and his sister:

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18.

Jesus Lives!

Until next time,

M