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

A place to grieve.

When my daughter died, we struggled about what to do for her funeral or celebration of life ceremony. The one thing I knew is that I did not want to experience what I had gone through with my mom’s funeral and my grandmother’s funeral. Both had open casket funerals and it was so hard to erase that memory from my head. I didn’t want to remember them that way. I knew whatever we chose to do for Brittany – it had to be different.

It had to mimic her life as she lived it. We also knew that while our lives had been firmly planted in Michigan, we did not want to bury her there. We had been too mobile over the years and lived so many places. So we decided to cremate her, giving her father and I 1/2 of her to be with us for eternity. No casket, no grave,  no marker – just a picture on an easel and a memory board with notes from her friends and photos of great times.

I have made a space in my home to memorialize her and while it gives me a space to go and visit – I don’t think it’s the same as having a grave to go to; to place flowers on – to cry over. While I’m not a big fan of cemetery visiting – I do often feel a bit regretful about that decision. I struggled with visiting my mom’s grave. Only have done it on maybe four occasions since her passing in 1988. It’s so hard. So many feelings arise in me when I walk up to her grave. It’s not ever been a good experience for me.

I remember one time taking Brittany to my mom’s grave at her request and she asked why I was staying in the car, I told her that I did not want to remember my mom dead in a grave. I chose to remember her living and loving her family. So I reluctantly got out of the car and went with Brittany to visit her grave. We placed flowers on her headstone and then I just cried.

Sometimes I see those of you who read my blog or follow me on Facebook and Twitter and I see your photos of the headstones and gravesites of your children and I pause and wonder if I made the right choice for my Brittany. But then I go  upstairs to her memorial bookshelf and I know she is with me anywhere and anytime. I have to feel okay with that.

I think we all make decisions that we wonder are the right ones for us. As life goes on those choices begin to take on new meaning or become less appealing. We begin to second guess our decisions. But at the end of the day having a place to quietly pay my respects and to talk with Brittany is what is most meaningful to me. It’s there whenever I want to go there.

Whatever choice you made is the one you were suppose to make and it’s time to stop second guessing, and living in regret. Be a peace with those choices and know that our loved ones are always around us helping us to move forward in the lives we need to live out until it is our time to meet them again.

Until next time,

m

The Rhythm of Life

I have been wondering lately how I have come to this point in my life where I feel like my rhythm has been disrupted yet again. Loss tends to disrupt your life. Whether it be immediate loss or loss over time, the life you knew tossed aside like an old shoe. The absence of my daughter in my life today is still profound. I’m haunted by her memories and still find it hard to look at videos and pictures of her. There isn’t one part of my life that hasn’t been altered because of her death.

I feel the same way about my mom. Losing my mother while 7 months pregnant devastated me. I was left with this huge hole in my life. My mom and I talked every day. I spent nearly 5 years mourning the loss of my mom before I could move forward. My mom’s death did in some way prepare me for Brittany’s passing. When you have endured multiple losses, well it changes who you are. I will say that I have become more sensitive to the pain of loss. In fact, I have become somewhat removed from the aspect of love – I mean deep love. Once loss has entered your life, especially on more than one occasion , love begins to equal loss. When I say love, I mean deep love. The type of love that moves you. I am not sure I am capable of that now. I’d like to think so, but I see how it’s changed me. I’m more reserved, less willing to give in to love. Why? If you haven’t experienced loss, well then you will probably not understand it.

I’m not saying I can’t or won’t, but it there is a hardness that was formed over my heart the moment my daughter passed. With the words “time of death 6:55” – a part of me died along with her. That part was the capacity to love. Sorrow had taken up residence in my heart and soul. While I know and understand we don’t have the choice in how we were born into circumstance. Loss is part of life. I also understand that how we live out our life is a choice. We can choose to run and hide or we can make an attempt to come out into the life we have and experience it in the way God intended. Harder than you think…..

You see I understand much. When I say understand, I mean knowledge. But it is what lies within the heart and spirit that creates the rhythm of life that we lead. When pain has been a large part of your life, it’s hard to see that light. The light that shines within each of us to find our way out of the dark places and into newness. I’m still stuck somewhere between the two. I wrote this quote a few years ago and still believe it today. “The place where I reside and where I want to be is paper thin.” What is interesting is that space changes frequently. Yet it feels like I’m always trying to get to the next level. Perhaps that is the professional in me. I have a drive to succeed. But this grief – it keeps getting in my way.

I’ve learned to mourn and live simultaneously. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it. Some that know me would never know that there is this part of me that exists. Even those that do know me, really don’t know. I only let them see what I choose to. I have grown in my grief so that I am capable of keeping it in check. Allowing it to come through when I can’t fight it another day. It is a fight. I do remember in the early days and months after Brittany passed, I had little control over when the watershed of sorrow and grief would hit me. But I am a mature griever now. I got this.

But what I still have to work on is my capacity to love and live the remaining days of my life. To find that rhythm of life again. To stop fighting it. This I feel is one of my toughest battles. I feel I am blessed beyond measure. I have an awesome job. I love what I do. I am grateful everyday for the friends and family that I have in my life. I am also blessed to have a special person who loves me despite my grief. Despite my resistance. I’m a work in progress. I pray daily for God to help me find my way back to love.

Until next time,

M

Birthdays Are The Toughest

It has been just six short years since my daughter passed away and today would have been her 24th birthday. It is the seventh birthday I have had to endure this lump in my throat that comes on the eve of November 30th and stays until I choose to release it.

Her angel date is always difficult, but it’s her birthday that I find extraordinarily difficult to think about. Birthdays represent life, birth a promise of a future to come. One filled of years and years of joy and yes, even some sorrows.

I fought so many years to have her. Suffered from many painful and expensive infertility tests and finally she was born. Even that wasn’t without difficulty. Last minute c-section and a dislocated hip but it was the most joyous moment of my life.

Throughout her life I had to hold on tightly to her as she had suffered from different illnesses from having a bout of encephalitis at 11 months. But mostly we just survived life the best we could. But there was always this nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right.

In looking back the many years of fighting for her rights, her healthcare and her life – it seems as though life was always a battle. But there were also so many moments filled with joy and happiness. Laughter came easily to her despite her many setbacks over the years. She faced life like no one I’ve ever seen.

Perhaps that is why her birthday is the hardest day for me to live through. Each and every one represents a loss so profound in my life because I fought so very hard to have her, keep her and care for her. Every fiber of my being went to be her mother. Her caretaker and she – she was my everything.

As the tears stream down my face, I can’t help but also laugh because she made me laugh. She made me proud to be her mother. She made me a better person. And although today will be hard. I know she lives on in our hearts and minds. And I will see her again soon.

In the meantime I will continue to honor her life by doing the things I know she loved – loving people.

until next time

m

What’s Next

One of the many trials on the road of grief is finding our way to what lies ahead for us. Making our way through the pain and sorrow that has permeated our hearts for so long – it’s as if we don’t know how to take that leap of faith into “what’s next”. So often we are told that things will get back to normal, but seriously that is far from the truth. What we knew of normal has all but left us and we are left with a heap of a life that seems foreign and no playbook to follow.

God leads people in different ways to embrace life anew, but those ways invariably will involve the demonstration of genuine faith, love and hope. – Dr. John Terveen “Hope For The Brokenhearted”

 

At some point it becomes time to address the “what’s next” and take that leap of faith and pursue life with hope and love. One of the ways that worked for me was to “arm” myself by soaking up as much of God’s word as I could. I also had to get it from a variety of ways: bible reading, Joyce Meyer and TD Jakes and of course, my church family. So for a couple of years after Brittany’s death I pursued God passionately with reckless abandon. I soaked up as much as I could learn, feel, touch and breathe.

What I came to understand is that God had this. His plan wasn’t something I understood or comprehend. But in faith, I accepted whatever was to come and to do my very best to follow that plan. The one message I got over and over was this message from Paul – “encourage one another”. This blog was born of that message and continues today to be what I believe is the plan to honor my daughter’s life, the journey I have been on during and after her death to where I am today.

I have a desire to take this blog to another level and that is what is next for me. It will take some planning on my part, prayer on my part and a lot of faith on my part. But it’s God’s plan. Where I need to be and where I exist is paper thin. I wrote that line a few years ago and honestly believe this is where a lot of us find ourselves. It takes energy to move out beyond our comfort zone. It takes faith.

I find that in getting to “what’s next” I do need to step back into the plan by first feeding the soul. Bathe myself in God’s teachings and those who He has bestowed the skill of teaching to keep my faith strong, my love bold and  my life renewed. I pray that for you all so that you too can step into “what’s next” and find the purpose to move forward into your new normal.

Until next time,

M