Hugs. Memories. Regrets.

I follow a few blogs of parents who have lost a child and I’m always in awe of the raw emotion that is shared by these parents and how their stories help all of us to understand what lies deep within the broken hearts of grieving parents. I see a wide variety of scenarios that occurred in these parents lives and sometimes I am struck by how my own story could have been a little different had I known my daughter was not going to live to see her 18thbirthday. What would I have done differently had I known.

One blog that breaks my heart each time I read a post is written by a grieving father who writes so eloquently and with saw raw emotion about his son Mitchell and their family’s journey of grief and knowing their son would eventually die from his disease. They had many opportunities to chronicle the every day life of caring for their son and provided many experiences that eased his pain and I’m certain theirs. My story, my daughter Brittany’s story is different, but did it have to be. I don’t know. I perhaps was in denial that she could die from epilepsy. I knew life would not be “normal” like others but certainly I never thought she would die after having a seizure. I was wrong.

What would I have done differently? I would have taken more pictures of her. I would have hugged her more often. I would have captured our time together in a way that would have provided a story of her life in a way that I could have shared with you all. I would have tried harder – maybe if had I only known….

That leads me to the next thought… We should live our lives as if we believed it would end any moment. I think if we did, we’d capture those every day moments and make sure we chronicled the story to share with others.  There is a message in these deep and painful questions. What I’m saying here is – hug your kids often, spend more time with them, take pictures and videos of the good times and maybe the not so good times. Journal together about their childhood and teenage years. Teach them that they are the most important thing in your life.

What would I have done differently? I would have danced in the rain with her. I would have gone to Costa Rica with her on her mission trip. I would have allowed her to swing higher and laugh so hard our stomachs would hurt – well we really did that. We certainly would have done more selfies! I am so glad I do have wonderful video and beautiful pictures of her that remind me that she did exist. That she walked this earth as my daughter; I was her mother.  But I crave more. I want more. I long for more.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to make amends with your kids, your loved ones. Make more time to smell, touch, feel life. Write about it. Tuck it away so one day, you can tell them the stories of their childhood from the books and videos you took. Most of all spend time just being with them. Even when they are driving you crazy. I miss those times the most.

I did a lot of wonderful things over the years with my daughter, but it will never be enough to last my lifetime of missing her.

Until next time,

M

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Life’s Best Lessons

Lately I’ve had the feeling that life just isn’t fair. No matter how you spin it, how you define it, it’s just not fair. Good people die. Good people get diagnosed with bad diseases. Or so it seems. All I have to go on is my own life. I can only speak to what I know. And what I know is that life is not fair. Never has been nor will it ever be. Because it’s life.

So how do you deal with that? You just pick yourself up and keep moving. I can’t explain it. I try and write about it. But at the end of the day it’s something deep within me that keeps me moving forward one step at a time each day. I also know when I stop and spend too long reflecting on the negative, I feel worse. So life has taught me some valuable things. One of the most important is how to get up and dust off the pain and hold my head up high and get on with life.

It does wear you down, and some days it seems exhausting to work so hard at just breathing. In the end, when I have remained determined to keep moving and to keep breathing, it gets a little easier. Living is hard work. It takes a lot of hutzpah to get back up off the ground and get up swinging. I took the high road. That is the gift life taught me. Take the high road – every time. My mom set the bar very high for this philosophy. I learned from the best.

Life is not fair. Life is hard. But some days, life is beautiful. Life is love. Life is free. So spend it freely. Love freely. Stare the unfair life in the fact and tell it to get lost. Do something that heals people. Feed the hungry. Mentor a young person. Build a community. Love yourself.

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

God Carries Us Through

As promised I am beginning a series where I will blog through a book by Max Lucado. It’s called “God Will Carry You Through”. I have been on a mission to find books that I can bump up against my journey after losing my daughter so that hopefully the story, my story layered with thoughts from authored by others, will help someone. It’s been my desire since I started writing that somewhere, somehow, someone finds hope through this blog. And so it begins…..

Chapter One – God Carries Us Through

“You’ll get through this. It won’t be painless. It won’t be quick. But God will use this mess for good. Don’t be foolish or naive. But don’t despair either. With God’s help, you will get through this.”

Wow – when I read this, I initially thought those are hard words to understand when you are in the throes of grief and loss. In fact, some might just be downright offended, mad or pissed. But wait, listen – I know that while these words are hard to swallow, they are absolutely true. Not in a way you may imagine, but so true. You will get through this.

It won’t be painless. God never said we’d go through life without struggles. While I tried not to cringe while reading that and hearing me say it because you know, and I know, some people seem to slide through life without so much as a scrape and some, well they just seem to get hit over and over with life battles. So it won’t be quick. Whether you are a seasoned griever or just beginning this journey, know that somehow, some way, someone will be helped by your journey. I know this to be true.

God will use your mess for good. How do I know and how can I take comfort in that? It’s not always easy nor can I say that every day is good. I have my good days and I also have bad days, very bad days still eight years later. But I also know that through my small network of grief friends, we help each other. Our words often console one another. There are days I just want to scream at people – “you just don’t get it”. But I know my network, you my readers, some of my close friends, they get it. They understand that our connection is more valuable than anything else, except the one we lost. Through their words, their quiet silence, their steadfast dedication, and priceless extension of love, we are able to step forward.

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

Language of Grief

Language of Grief

Fellowship of suffering has been described as a combination of those who have suffered and those that are suffering. Recently Andy Stanley spoke about this during a message called Comfort Zone. In fact, I wrote about this in a previous post called “Cloud of Witnesses”. I have found this to be true from the moment I met my first mom who had lost their child. There is an undeniable bond that happens and I think it is because we understand the language of grief. We understand the pain, not their pain, but the pain loss brings when you hold your child while they cross over. Collapsing over their bodies and praying to God, screaming out to God because the pain and anguish of that moment is so horrific. It still brings tears to my eyes each time I revisit that moment October 13, 2006 at 6:55 am.

Comfort from those who’ve been comforted is life-giving to those who need comfort. – Andy Stanley

So that quote really spoke to me because it took me back to those early days and weeks after Brit died and had it not been for those who came and sat with me, sometimes not saying a word, but spent life-saving time with me – saved my life. Sharing the same space in time, no demands, and no expectations – just sitting side-by-side meant more to me than I could ever put into words. I was blessed beyond measure for those who did not give up on me. Their comforting made me feel like someone cared.

That being said now that I consider myself a seasoned griever, I have experienced life-giving purpose in writing this blog, in hearing from my followers, meeting moms in person and lastly praying for those who I do not know, but understand the journey they are forced to live out.

I don’t believe I have the answers, nor do I claim to be an expert in offering advice, but what I do know is that grief and I know each other well. It has visited me on many occasions and for a variety of reasons. God has worked in me to allow my pain to be a voice for others and I take that role very seriously.

I don’t want to sugar coat anything here on this blog. It is not my intention to give the impression that the death of my daughter was any easier because of my faith. It was not. It takes a mountain of faith to get through loss. My faith has been questioned, shaken and put to the test, but I have not lost my faith, in fact my faith has grown exponentially in spite of my losses.

Finding purpose to honor my daughter’s memory and to help me heal by helping others has been crucial to my healing. It will always be a work in progress. Eight years since the death of my daughter is different than it was at one year or two years and so on. Each year it changes it evolves into a mature grief. I still cry, sob and yearn for my daughter. I still question why. I still find tears well up in my eyes when I spend a moment thinking of my Brit. The pain is still relevant in my life. My faith has been tested, but not broken. I rely on my faith in God to help me find the purpose in all of this mess.

He comforts us in all of our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled,
we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. – 2 Corinthians 1:4

So on the days when I feel I can’t make it another minute, I remember the advice I got from someone many years ago in the early years of my grief. “Close your eyes and imagine you can crawl up into the lap of Jesus and allow Him to comfort you”. While that seems a little odd, it works. Spending time with God in prayer or in the fellowship of church – has been the very nourishment and comfort that has helped me get to this moment.

Our capacity to comfort is determined by the degree of which we have suffered. – Andy Stanley

I encourage you to watch the video link below from Andy Stanley. I get something new from it each time I watch. He also mentions my story and says my daughter’s name which I found touching. The whole series is also listed below.

 

http://northpoint.org/messages/in-the-meantime/comfort-zone/

MeantimeSeries.org

Until next time,

M

The Journey To Here

I know when a post is brewing because I don’t sleep well in the days or weeks prior to writing. It’s as if I’m fighting it in some way. Avoiding the thoughts that take me to a place that forces to me to face the reality. The loss and the depth of sorrow that is still very painful. The place in my heart that still carries a wound that is fresh. It hurts.

I have found over these six years that I have to allow the wound to heal. Just like a real wound that needs to be cleaned out- so does the heart. Debridement of the heart means revisiting the memories and letting the pain and sorrow out which will lead to healing. That is the only way I can explain what it is like to go to that place now. The place in my heart and soul that only God knows. The place where my daughter resides.

I avoid this process often. At some point however, I find you just have to give in. Sit down with videos and memory books and just give in to it. Let the tears flow. The time will be well spent. The wound will be cleansed and you’ll be able to take in a deep breath and dust yourself off and proceed with life. I always feel better I after I have allowed this process to happen. So why do I fight it so?

The journey to here is a battle. It’s exhausting. Sometimes I’m left with the desire to just want to be alone. I don’t want to have to explain why I’m not in a good mood. It’s pretty obvious or at least I thought so. Maybe I expect too much. I thought if people understood I lost my daughter they would know how I feel. But they don’t. If they haven’t lost a child – they just don’t. So then I find I begin to withdrawal and retreat to a place I feel safe in my grief – alone. It’s easier.

The journey to here has not  been easy. It is still a work in progress. I don’t think  many get where I am. Only a handful may have an idea, those are the moms who have joined me on this journey, not out of desire, but out of necessity. Thankfully some of women I have come to know give me more strength than they know. Those who are ahead of me on this journey who are thriving today, give me a sense of hope that I can do this. This is what I want to do for others – pay it forward. Purpose is the key when you are on this journey. Finding purpose is a struggle. But I believe that it is possible to find purpose which will lead to a more fulfilling life.

There are moments when I experience joy and happiness. Didn’t think that was possible a few years ago. I would say that it’s a battle to see it. The joy and happiness doesn’t come easy. I have to work hard to not look back and go “what if”, how can I be happy when my daughter is no longer here? Oh the thoughts that can ruin a good day. There are days when I have to fight those moments, in order to extend the joy and happiness. Again I will say it’s exhausting.

I have come a long way and I plan on finding more ways to enjoy the life I have now. While the windows of the past are open some days, the door is open to experience so much more. The journey to here will always be leading to another place; moving forward into happiness and contentment. So while I can have these blah days, those blah days do not outnumber the days where I know God has provided me a great opportunity to move forward and step into a life that is full of great opportunity to serve.

Please be encouraged. Go for a walk and take in the beauty of our surroundings. Write down what you experience and begin to enjoy the journey to wherever you are going.

until next time,

m