Grief and Holidays

I’m sure over the past 11 years I’ve written about the holidays and how my grief journey has played out especially during these very difficult days. The holidays have always been and I imagine always will, the most difficult for me. Unfortunately, my mother’s angel anniversary starts off the season in September followed by my daughter’s angel anniversary in October and capped off by her birthday in late November. By Christmas I am spent grieving OR avoiding grieving.

I have come to dread the holidays. Even though I have learned to live in the reality of loss and grief, I have tried to find some joy during the holiday season. Eleven years later, I can say that it just seems like a different life. My old life ended October 13, 2006 and after the fog lifted, my new life began somewhere down the road. As I look around the room this morning there are few signs of the life I had with my daughter.  I keep my daughter’s memory close by up on the shelf in my living room and in my heart.

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Brittany Anne Boothe 1988 – 2006

 

 

 

 

It’s easy to look away or stay busy to keep the swell of grief that sits in my throat on any given day. For the most part that has been my way of avoiding the gravity of her absence. No one realizes just how hard it is to walk through the holidays without her. Visiting family celebrations knowing she won’t be there or that she isn’t even a fleeting thought. But that was my old life and I am very aware that I can’t stay there nor can I afford to ignore what is in front of me. Love is all around me and I am forever thankful for that because it has given me a breath of life.

I have found balance in both worlds and it works – but it’s hard, don’t be mistaken, it’s extremely hard. I stay busy, I work hard and I play hard – why, because it is better than the misery I’m sure would exist if I did not. Ninety-nine percent of the time I am not miserable, I am happy – love and joy has brought me to this point. I am forever grateful for that. I am also grateful for the life before because my time with Brittany, yes, her name is music to my ears. She taught me so much about life and love. I am a better person because of her time here on this earth.

As you navigate this holiday season as a griever, it is my hope that you take pause to say their name, to smile at a memory, to write it down and then to take in a deep breath and let it out. Step into the present and love on all of those around you who need you to be present. It is the greatest gift we can give those who are walking along side us.

Until next time,

M

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It is what it is.

I woke up this morning knowing I had a blog post to write but sorting it all out just seemed so daunting. I find lately I just don’t want to deal with grief. I have virtually put grief in a closet and locked the door. Grief has changed for me. It has become this dark shadow that looms over me during certain periods of the year.

While I understand that shutting grief out is not the answer – I’m not sure what else I can say or do about my grief. It is what it is. I can’t change what happened. The outcome was not in my control. All I can do is live or die. I chose to live. The conflict is profound.

In Susan Duke’s book “Grieving Forward” which I highly recommend, she speaks about embracing life, while not easy because our hearts are full of grief and regret. Realizing that we cannot change and acceptance is key to move forward. Acceptance I think is one of the last phases that we go through on our grief journey.

While I miss my daughter far beyond any words can define, I cannot stay there. I wrestled with the concept that if I moved on, it meant I would forget about her. That is further from the truth. I remember her often, but the grief, the grief has become too much of a burden for me. I can’t do it anymore.

I prayed for so long to find purpose in all the grief and loss I’d had over my entire life. My daughter’s death is just one of many losses, the most profound, but not the only one. I’ve learned to live with grief for a very long time. It has become part of my story and a part of my soul. I have vacillated between the swell of pain in my heart and the sweet memories of my daughter, my mom and grandmothers. I wasn’t sure I’d make it out of the darkness of pain and grief.

Let me be very clear here. I’d never, ever, chose to have never experienced the greatest gift of motherhood which gives such unconditional love. I understood the unconditional love I had for my mom and that she had for me. It was a lesson I had to learn. The joys and sorrows of parenthood were the character building blocks of my adulthood. They have molded me into the person I am today. I am thankful for all of that love and the memories.

Life has moved forward for me because I chose to allow love back into my life. That was the healing I needed to see beyond  my own pain. Moving on does not equate to forgetting the past. It just puts it into a place where I manage my grief, good or bad, it’s manageable. Joy has returned. But the pain is still very present. I would not have traded that time in my life, being the mother of my sweet Brittany. It’s been the most honorable thing I’ve ever done.

The verse in Susan’s book (below) really completes this for me.

Until next time,

M

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever. – Psalm 30:11-12

New Design

I hope you all have noticed by now I have been working on a new design for my blog. It started out a bit dark and gloomy and while grief can be that on any given day; I wanted to bring a little more light to the site.

Changing the outside seems so much easier than the inside when it comes to growth and maturity in the grieving process. That is no different than this website. Just like my grief journey – this website has matured and while still a little weathered, is still my story. It’s my experience to unimaginable loss and navigating my way through it.

The content is still relevant. It’s a true depiction of what I’ve experienced over the past 11 years since my daughter’s passing. It clearly shows the evolution of my grief. What I’m not saying is that it’s somehow better. That my life without Brittany is better. It is not. But what I am saying is that life can have joy again but it’s different. It’s not the same life. You cannot compare the two.

The old life is what it is …. the old life. A life that has passed. Still lived but passed. And that my dear friends is why we will battle with grief all of our days. Once we understand that we can rebuild a life anew along with fond memories of the past. I will always have my bad days – days when I just don’t want to get up. I have less of those now and more days where I want to not only get up but get out and see the world and experience life. That is the lesson I learned from my daughter – live life to the fullest!

Until next time,

M

 

Self Discovery

In looking back over the past 11 years since my daughter’s death I’ve spent time reflecting and writing about who I am. Who I was. Who I will become. For some odd reason I thought that changing my hair color would allow me to disconnect from the mourning mother I’d become. That moving away from the heartbreak of a home I lived in would make me feel better. Uprooting my life and starting over would help me heal.

What I have found out is that grief goes where you are and stays with you despite my efforts to chase it away. It chases you down relentlessly and demands to be reckoned with. Writing was and continues to be the vessel for me to do that. I used to wrestle grief to the ground using my faith and my internal desire to prove I could flip it on its side and put it in a submissive state.

Oh the lessons grief has taught me over these many years. Yet I still keep making the same ole mistakes. Keep changing the image, rewriting my life, making something out of nothing. All important achievements when you are normally pursuing a career or life goal. But running from grief – it just does not work.

The scenario below is just one example of how I thought changing something about me would take me to a place I thought I wanted to go.

When Brit died I was a red-head, athletic and into fitness. Then her death took the wind out of my sails and I just did not care. After a few months of serious mourning I attempted to resume some semblance of a normal life. I decided living in my house was more of a detriment than a healthy thing. I packed up my home, put it up for sale and moved back to my hometown of Indy. After a year or so I got the bright idea to dye my hair platinum. I think it was one of my first real efforts at squashing who I was before. Running away from who I was in my past life.

Over the next eight or so years I stayed a platinum blonde and liked it. It was long, it was short and spiky, it was fun and sporty. For the most part. But last year there was something brewing in my spirit that I wanted to be a red-head again. Remembering that I truly liked being a red-head. I would sit and look at old pictures and think “I need to be a red-head again” So the transition began and there I was a red-head again.

I looked somewhat like I did in 2006 just a few more wrinkles and a few more pounds. In the whole transition after Brit’s death, I lost my mojo for athleticism. When I looked in the mirror – I thought I’d see the old me – but what I realized is I was seeing the old me through the lens of a hurting heart. I thought I wanted my old self back but what I really was seeking was my old life. A huge epiphany for me.

I realized that as much as I tried, I will never be the old me. Because the old me died the moment my daughter took her last breath on October 13th, 2006 at 6:55 am. That was a shot to the heart and as I stood in front of the mirror, I understood it one morning that I had to stop trying to go back. I needed to go forward and be who I am today. The growth from that moment took 11 years to achieve. God has been so patient with me. My family, my friends all have been patient with me. Standing by me supporting me and allowing me the space and support I needed to become who I am today.

I’m now back to a platinum blonde with short spiky hair that has a hint of lavender. It’s a reflection of my spirit. I’m different and unique. I am a right-brained, creative woman in a left-brained corporate world. And I love it. It challenges me on every level. I feel like I’m making a difference, well most days I do.

So all of this self discovery I went on just put me off track. I put my faith in God who set me upright after Brit’s death and helped me dust myself off and put one foot in front of the other. He put me back on track and now my job is to complete His plan.  My role is to be the hands and feet of Jesus and to help newly bereaved parents in any way I can by sharing my story. I also need to complete something that has been weighing on me for so long and that is to complete my book on grief.

Lastly I want to start a foundation to send kids diagnosed with Crohn’s disease to Camp Oasis every year. It is very expensive camp and many parents cannot afford to pay the tuition. But the joy and acceptance that occurs at this camp for these kids can be life changing for them. It was for my girl.

The lesson is all of this is: you can’t go back because that is not the plan; the plan is to move forward, share, love, support, walk along side of and make a difference on this earth.

Until next time,

M

Homesickness

Reposting this article from 2010 as it hit me hard this morning. I was in a place that can only be described as heartsick. Today 7 years later, I can say love has helped heal that and I’m so grateful for that. But make no mistake my heart is still broken and miss my daughter – everything about her – each and every day of my life. That will never change.

In this article my pain was poured out for all to see. It was clear to me this morning that her death impacted me on so many levels. But it was my faith that restored my hope in the future. God has never turned his back on me or his plan for me. It was me that kept getting in the way of His plan. Now I try to be more open to his guidance and when I tend to stray off course, He gently reminds me I need to get back to what I know and He knows is best for me.

https://mysoulspeaks.blog/2010/08/19/the-burden-of-homesickness/

Until next time,

m

Be Present

Enjoying the quiet and reading through one of my favorite magazines today. Came across this article and thought to myself “what a profound statement” – sharing with you all….

Magazine: Oprah, August 2017

Article: Paying Attention by Glennon Doyle

She has just lost her grandmother who had a profound impact on her life. She also just welcomed in her niece into the world – both of whom have the same name Alice.

“The secret to life is not about knowing what to say or do. It’s not about doing love or loss right. Life cannot be handled. The secret is simply to show up. It’s about witnessing it all, even the pain, and letting it touch you and make you not harder, but more tender.” – Glennon Doyle

As grievers we often want someone to come along and fix what is broken. The fact is they cannot. It’s not fair to expect that of them. Grief is a journey that has many lonely roads to navigate. The key to moving through grief is to give it time. Meaning do the work to grieve. Ignoring it won’t make it better; in fact, it often gets worse and you are liable to take people down with you. While my journey is far from perfect. I’ve learned a lot and I’m still learning how to live my new normal.

My new normal looks nothing like my old life. Not one piece of it. The only memory of it is within my own heart and pictures. Sometimes it’s easy to go about life and ignore it. The busyness of life keeps grief just on the edge – just far enough away that you can actually get through the day and think – “wow I can do this”.  Sometimes I feel like a football player running down the field with the football neatly tucked away to my chest clutching it with one hand and stiff arming the opponent with my other all the way. The football is my loss and the opponent is my grief. That is the best analogy I can come up with to explain my grief.

I can’t express enough the importance of having someone by your side who does not judge or try and “fix” your pain. It’s not possible to fix it. It is what it is. What is possible, and most important, is being present in a grievers life. Never giving up on them because grief is hard. It’s life-altering. It can literally take everything you have to get through a day. But supportive family and friends can make all the difference. Being present to love on, talk to and care for is vital.

The lesson for us all, both the grievers and the supporters – is that being present is hard work. But the reward can be life-giving. Just as Glennon said in her quote: “The secret is simply to show up. It’s about witnessing it all, even the pain, and letting it touch you and make you not harder, but more tender.”

Be Present. Love Well.

Until next time,

M

 

Grief Remains

“Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains.” – Proverbs 14:13

There are many scriptures in the Bible on grief and sorrow. The one above is most revealing about how grief stays regardless of how it may look to an observer.

What is key here is how do we create balance so that we continue to heal and live a life with meaning that honors our loved ones. How do we ask for support from our family and friends? I still struggle with that.

I can stand in my faith for the hope and even the pain. It’s the day-to-day living without my daughter and the profound change that loss has had on my life that is a continual evolution.

Proverbs and Psalms have always been a place of refuge for me and my grief. I will strive to do better in reading and taking comfort in those.

Until next time,

M