My Grief Closet

I was thinking the other day how unconditional a mother’s love is. I’ve had the great blessing of knowing it from both sides. I had the most amazing mother who worked more jobs than I could ever imagine to make sure we had a roof over our heads, food on the table and clothes on our backs. We were poor but we had love. As my mother passed away from breast cancer, my daughter was growing inside of me. I began to love in a way I had not done before. To myself I thought this must be how it felt for my mom to love me.

When Brittany was born, I was in the midst of grieving the recent loss of my mom and all that meant to a new mother. I grieved that she did not live long enough to see Brittany in person. The most she ever saw was the ultrasound photos and rubbing my belly when I was able to get home from Dallas to see her. I grieved for all the times I would need her to ask questions about things I wasn’t sure of. I grieved over and over every time I needed a hug from my mom. Even today I miss that unconditional love expressed in so many ways.

As Brittany became sick, I truly needed my mom because I did not know what to do. Everything I did or every decision I made about her healthcare was made from a nurse perspective and as time grew it evolved to a mother’s perspective. I grieved over who I knew my daughter could not become – a mother. I truly never believed that one day she would die from her illness because not many do; however I knew she would be unable to have children given the medications she had to take every day to keep her illness under control. I wanted so much for my daughter to understand what it meant to be a mother and to experience that unconditional love from a daughter’s perspective and a mother’s perspective.

Closet Door A grief closet….

My daughter died just shy of her 18th birthday from a fatal grand mal seizure. In 12 hours her life was over and so was mine. At least the life I knew for the past 18 years was over. While I have come to understand that the unconditional love my mom had for me and that I had for Brittany is not gone from my heart – it is gone from my life. The hugs only a mom or child can give are what makes me cry quietly in my grief closet while I’m alone. In this place of my life I am so alone. And where I quietly fight my battle of grief. I believe this will always be my quiet battle to fight for my remaining days.

Since her death I have worked hard to rebuild my life, while different, it is a rebuilding process. I have found love again. I am loved by so many friends and family. I am blessed to have some close friends who have helped heal that place in my heart that for so long bled sorrow. And yes, sometimes it still does bleed; but I am comforted by the strength of my faith and the love of my family and friends. My new “framily” has given me the strength to keep pursing love and joy. Each day, with just the smallest of things like text messages or hand written cards – a breath of life is given to me.

But make no mistake I am still quietly over here in the corner of my grief closet missing my girl and my mom more than I could ever put words to. I say to my mom and Brittany – “with each passing year, I feel the distance between you and me grow more and more”. And that creates a whole different type of grief I have to learn about and manage. With all the love that surrounds me, I am confident I can continue to mold that into something that can help others.

Until next time,

M

 

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Every Loss Matters

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to hear the words that a child had died and not be propelled back to that fall day in October 2006. Every time a child dies and a parent finds themselves burying their child, I slide back just a little. It never feels right nor should it.

Recently I learned of the passing of childhood friend’s daughter and my heart immediately broke for her. I now know instinctively what that pain feels like. The numbness that follows where you can actually make it through the day. Then shit hits the fan about a week later and you find yourself on your knees more than you are upright.

My heart breaks easier these days. Perhaps that is because it never truly healed from such a devastating loss like a child. And your only child. Profoundly difficult. Not sure how any of us make it through. But we do. We pick ourselves up and dust off the pain and look around to see if we are still in the present. Then the real pain begins.

Each day after the passing of Brittany I felt miserable, lost and could barely eat. I lost so much weight, which I didn’t have any weight to lose. Grief hung around in my throat like a lump that would never go away. Persistently reminding me of my grief which just stayed below the surface. Always waiting to be released in a torment of tears and screams.

Damn that was a tough time. And every time I see or hear a parent beginning this journey, I feel sick. Sick like an awful feeling in my gut that knows what they are about to embark on and I feel so heartsick. It brings not only my own pain, but that of many others. No one really knows any better the ache of child loss than a mother who has born a child and lost them so very early. No one.

Now as I sit here in reflection and understand just how I have made it all these years. It’s been almost nine years. It’s because my faith is in a force much bigger than me. When I focus on me, I lose, but when I focus on God, I feel a strength that is more powerful than any drug or alcohol. It is called Grace. Grace is a precious gift God gives when we are open to receive it. God’s Grace poured over me in those early days, even when I cried, shook my fist and yelled at God because I was so mad. I did not understand what I could have ever done to deserve such a loss. But God in his graceful way, taught me very quickly that I was here on this earth for a higher purpose. Then the lessons began. I had to be a good student. And I ate it all up. I was starving for relief.

 

 

 

Triggers and Regrets

I was watching a commercial about Wicked the play and it just about brought tears to my eyes. My daughter Brittany loved the soundtrack to Wicked. She and her best friend Caro could be seen on many occasions with microphone in hand singing at the top of their lungs. I have some rough cut video of them singing over the soundtrack with what I believe would have been about six months before she died.

I finally brought myself to see the play in a few years ago. I had always wanted to take her to see the play, but never got that chance. One of the things I regret most that we did not get a chance to do. You see back then I wasn’t a fan of that play. I thought it was not good for her to be so caught up in it. I was so wrong. I feel today I robbed her from that and for that I am profoundly sorry.

Once I saw the play I knew right away the gravity of my mistake. She would have loved it. She knew every word to every song. What the hell was I thinking. Not sure, but lesson learned, stop holding back. Live fully. Choose life – every damn time. Life is too short to do otherwise.

I think of how I’ve wasted so much time questioning decisions whether to go or not go. To do or not to do. To experience or not to experience. All I know is I’m at a point in my life that I need to take it all in – all of it. Stop worrying whether I should or shouldn’t. Death of a child changes you. For a while I did not care about anything. I just wanted to get through each day and sleep. Hoping to wake up and it would all be over.

Today, I am mindful that with each passing year life is returning. Not always how I’d envisioned, but I can say I’m happy. I miss my kid so much I can’t breathe some days. But I have love in my life and that is something special and I treasure it.

Don’t let loss define who you are. Our kids would have never wanted that for us. I know my Brittany would be kicking my butt constantly and honestly I know that she is every day. Especially on the days when I just want to throw in the towel and say to hell with it all. I thank God everyday that she was a part of my life and made me into the woman I am today.

Go live life! Make our kids proud.

Until next time,

M

Mother’s Day

A New Normal

So often I have read about this idea of a “new normal” that one begins to experience after a loss such as mine. I do wonder who may have come up with that label. I don’t believe the word normal belongs in a sentence that would describe one’s life after loss. Normal doesn’t reflect what is really going on with one’s life at this stage. I do think that you can move through into a new stage of your life. One that can be happy. One that can be fulfilling and rewarding. But normal – I don’t think so. 

Who defines what is normal? 

I know I don’t, probably never have. I can say that with all that has happened to me over these past couple of years, I know that normal is far from what I have experienced. I also know that what I have experienced and what I am continuing to experience is God’s love and grace sufficient to exist in a life that has continued to remain somewhat meaningless to me. Please know that this is not a bad thing, I just see this life as a pathway to the next. I am working hard to do what I need to do to fufill my purpose for where I am right now. But where I am right now maybe not where I will be tomorrow. Remembering that I only have control over right now. Right now, I choose to write about how I feel in hopes that someone else can identify with those feelings and know that they are not alone.

Life does get better.

It does get less painful. And, at times, can be rewarding. I find that in my job, I find purpose. It is when I am alone in my home or alone in my own thoughts that I begin to think about the future and where I see myself  in it. Please know that normal will never be a part of anyone’s life when they have lost a child. Don’t assume that becoming normal again will ever be an option. So much of what I have read from many different parents echoes the same – “life will never be normal” – it just becomes different. I have found that there are so many days that life can be rewarding and fulfilling. I love what I do for a living. It gives me such gratification to know I am helping to shape nurses to be health advocates for those who need one. But I also have an emptiness that resides in my heart and it is unbearable some days. But I don’t let you see it. It’s too painful and I know if you really saw it – you might cry. It’s a place I try not to visit very often. 

As Mother’s Day approaches I feel that uneasiness start to well up inside me. It’s like hearing the rushing water of a white water falls way off in the distance. You find yourself having to stop and listen very carefully to hear it. As it is with grief. It’s calling my name again as it does every October. It’s quite unimaginable that I have had to endure this – seems like a lifetime ago. Yet sometimes it feels like yesterday. As I wonder about my life aimlessly looking for what I am missing – I understand it is her smile, her crazy quirky self and the biggest heart I’ve ever known! 

God has brought me this far.

I know He will continue to keep me in the palm of His hand until it is my turn to return to Him. I have a great deal of faith and a small amount of will. So life is out of balance for me and living a “normal” life just doesn’t seem appropriate. But a new life, one filled with hope for an opportunity to help others is what I know I am meant to do – for now. 

 until next time,

M

Holidays are over – so why am I still so mad?

Each holiday season I pine for January. Since my daughter passed away, I find the holidays to be less than cheerful. So when January arrives, there seems to be a collective sigh of relief that comes. But not so much this year. Now I’m just mad.

I’ve been mad for weeks now. A few weeks ago I found myself out walking and at some point during the walk I’m talking to myself and asking “what is wrong”? Then it hit me and I began to cry. Sobbing for the remainder of my walk and I’m sure had anyone crossed my path they’d have thought I was having a breakdown. Actually what I was having was a breakthrough. I wasn’t sad. I’ve been sad for too long. I was just plain mad.

So when I get mad, I cry – that is how I roll. Then when I cry, I get madder. I’ve spent too much time crying these past 8 years, in fact, I’ve spent many years crying over tragedy after tragedy. After the realization that I was just plain mad, I realized that I am so tired of grieving. It’s worn me down to a place where there is nothing left to grieve. Not sure why now. Why now am I just so mad?

I think it may be in large part because I have battled the good fight of grief and now I’m just pissed. I want to know why me. Why my daughter? And I know I won’t know the answer to this until I’m face-to-face with God – and that does not make me feel any less mad. I’m still mad. I feel beaten down, dragged through the mud and kicked until I can’t breathe. Yeah that is grief. It’s hard, it’s tough and it’s exhausting.

So I pray and I talk to God and I talk to Brittany daily. I ask for help to understand. Because my human brain can no longer make any sense of it. I do know too that I’m too distracted and haven’t done my homework. Reading, writing and prayer – those things have kept me from losing my mind some days. When I stay focused on my faith, my writing and connecting to those who understand what I’ve experienced – well it helps. But even that is exhausting some days. I know it has helped me get to here, but now I feel like I’m at a cross road and need to know what I need to do next. Praying for that guidance is all I can do now.

Until next time,

M

Chronic Sorrow Revisited

Chronic Sorrow Revisited

 

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Chronic sorrow is the periodic recurrence of permanent, pervasive sadness or other grief related feelings associated with a significant loss. (Eakes GG, 1998).

 

I have often wondered about how long sorrow would hold up residence in my heart. Since the death of my daughter eight years ago I can say with the utmost certainty that it will always be a part of who I am. Sorrow has taken up permanent residence in my heart. Specifically over the space where my lovely daughter holds a forever spot. Scared by loss, and maybe a little broken, but my heart still beats on. It still feels love. It still leaps for joy when something or someone brings happiness into my life.

I have come to understand that sorrow and happiness can live harmoniously in one space if, and only if, they are both respected. Given their time to be heard. Chronic sorrow seems like a disease, but really it’s just a label for a mother’s broken heart. I wouldn’t say that I have a pervasive sadness about me. It’s more like moments in time that I reflect on a life once known, and a time that some days I’d love to hear her voice or her funny laugh, but pervasive sadness – I don’t think so.

Do I think pervasive sadness happens to some? Absolutely and that breaks my heart for them. I understand how it can happen. I do believe if I had not fought hard to come out of the fog of sorrow and into a life that I can bring light to my daughter’s memory – I too would have fallen into this pervasive sadness. So if you find yourself there – seek help. Talk to a professional, write it out – do something. The best years after loss can come but its hard work. At times can be exhausting. But with a lot of support, faith and love you can make it to a space where the sadness and sorrow take their rightful place but does not permeate your soul.

I’m a living testimony that while I have lost much, I want to live on doing the work I was made to do. I want to fulfill my destiny. Just like my sweet Brittany. She is the light that shines brightly and keeps reminding me that I have to stay focused on the good in the world. That is my prayer for you.

Until next time,

M

Grief Exposed

Last night I as I attempted to sleep thoughts of my journey played out in my head keeping me from a restful sleep. I said to myself – “you should get up and write” but I finally succumbed to the exhaustion and fell asleep. I don’t recall what it was specifically that I was dreaming about and that annoys me. I feel like at times I dream of things that have a message. But last night it was more like a restlessness that I cannot pinpoint. I cannot identify readily as this or that. It is just simply the restlessness that comes with grief.

I am coming into the dark days but it is a bit early just yet. I usually experience the dark days  beginning in September and it usually  lasts until the new year. With each year that has passed since my Brittany’s untimely death, I have called the days leading up to her death as the dark days. I have included the holidays for they have lost their luster for me. Can’t get that back. In fact, the meaning for many celebratory things have left me with a void that I cannot fill. I can only live in the moment and I cannot find the hutzpah to look into the future. Life for me is simply this….fill my day with busyness. Distractions work well.

Pondering on a past life that I longed for so long was ripped from me and in the wake of that,  I was not left with much to rebuild on. Not sure what the message is for me. I have resolved that I cannot figure it out and that I have to be ok with that. But haven’t quite got a grip on that yet. I still question “why me” a lot. I can look back over my life and say “why me” so many times that one might imagine any normal person would have gone berserk by now. I keep the faith that one day it will all become clear to me. Why so much has been taken from me. Why didn’t I get what they have. When I say “they”, I say all those who continue to enjoy their children, see them grow, graduate, marry and have children. My arms ache for the loss of so much. I cannot put it into words how profoundly empty that feels.

I hope that some day it will perhaps make more sense, but for now I am at a loss, my broken heart profoundly exposed and my sorrow spills over into a river of tears. I wrote today this which pretty much sums up my sorrow….

“Sometimes I just want to go back because going forwards means the distance between me and you fades and all I’m left with is the faint hint of who you were in my life.”

Until next time,

m