The Cost of Grieving

I haven’t written in a while as I’ve been dealing with the need to have three surgeries in five months; and life has kept me from finding time to write. I hope you are all doing well and the new year brought you through the holidays with cherished memories of your loved ones.

I had to clean my office today and I know what comes with that responsibility which is why I avoid it often. I think my wife thinks I’m just messy or my office is disorganized; but in all reality organizing and going through the office to clean creates anxiety in me that I don’t really want to talk about. When I admit it; the memories flood bad and the pain in my chest increases and I exhaust myself in grief.

My late daughter Brittany’s photos, mementos and ashes sit on a bookcase in my home office. I have probably 10+ Willow statues that were hers or those I received after her passing in 2006 as well.

Dusting each of them is a process and it almost always leads to crying. I’m not sure now after all these years that act of cleaning would bring such a wave of grief over me. I spoke to Brittany as I dusted each one of the Willow statues and asked her why she hadn’t visited me in a while. That is a whole other post to write.

As I picked each one up, I looked at them as I cleaned was reminded of that time. The time that broke my heart into millions of pieces. Never whole again. For those (like myself) that need a visual, healed but not whole as if I have a bandaid cross over my heart.

The cost of grieving is that there will always be moments when you have to do the hard thing and it will break you. I cried uncontrollably for what seemed like five straight minutes. I felt heartbroken as if I was placed back in on that early morning, October 13th 2006.

There are other things that bring me to my knees and those too I try avoid when I can. The pain is just too profound. And for those who don’t understand – well I imagine you couldn’t if you had not lost a child. Don’t get me wrong many of the 365 days of year I am laughing and living life. But there will always be a hole left by her death that will never be filled; despite my trying.

I miss her beyond words and some days I can’t speak her name or I’ll breakdown (like during this very moment as I write this post). There are times when it’s just not appropriate to do that given I work from home. I’ve considered moving all of the reminders out of my office; but that feels wrong so I won’t. I’ll keep doing what I do to find moments to remember and just sit in the quiet space that only I can enter which is where my brokenness and grief resides.

Grab your loved ones and love on them because tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us.

Until next time,

M

Dedication

This week I learned of the passing of someone who had a strong influence on me. Ken, a music director (at the time I knew him) created music that spoke to my faith. I have always leaned towards more gospel type of christian music as it spoke to me in a different way. I gained so much encouragement and reinforcement on my faith journey.

When my daughter Brittany died in 2006, I found myself swirling, my head filled with so many thoughts as to why. I knew the only way I could reconcile anything was to be at church. A week later, I was at church. Not at my usual front row seat. I just couldn’t return to that because I wasn’t who I was before. I sat in the back row and cried most of the service. I could barely sing. Songs that spoke to my heart in the past only made me cry. But being there was the only place I wanted to be. Where I felt closest to God.

Ken had a gift for music and music that would encourage, make you think, and often times challenge you to be better. If only I could sing, I would have been in his choir. I had a friend in the choir and I know she will forever be grateful for the time she spent working along side him at church.

One particular Sunday after service we were invited to stay while the choir recorded a live album. It was exciting to be a part of the process. I know I got a lot of out of it because the music included in the CD were some of my all-time favorites.

Ken, while he may have been unaware of it, helped me heal after the loss of my daughter. His music soothed my broken heart and reminded me that our God is an awesome God indeed.

Ken – I know God greeted you with open arms and said welcome home son. Well done.

Until next time,

M

https://embed.music.apple.com/us/album/great-things/642875548

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