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

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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

Ebb and Flow

Sometimes grief ebbs and flows through my life like a river runs through the woods. Any given moment, the wind changes and the current becomes violent. The grief thrashes around like spilling over my heart like the rough water flows over the banks.

Trying to describe grief to someone who has not experienced it is hard to do. Explaining it to a fellow griever is easier but it still can be very different for each person. I find analogies are the easiest for people to comprehend but still they often have no idea what I’m talking about. 

Grief has been described by many in different ways. Some we can all identify with and others we can’t even imagine.  For me grief chases me relentlessly with reckless abandon and does not care when or what I’m doing. It comes and goes as it chooses and I am often left breathless. I find it necessary to run and hide because I cannot or do not have the words to explain it to my loved ones. It’s overwhelming and takes my breath away – each and every time. 

Grief washes over me during times of remembrance of my daughter OR during times when I think back at my life and the pain and sorrow that prevailed during many parts of my life. Some people do not know the whole story. Nor will they ever.  Grief has also taught me much. It has taught me that nothing is guaranteed. That life can be gone in a minute. Life can be changed forever by just a wrong decision or a medical condition that takes a turn for the worse. 

Grief has also taught me to love hard. To breathe in and out the pain of unimaginable loss. To believe in my God and His plans for me that I still don’t always understand. God consistently has rescued me from the depths of sorrow with His grace and love. His word is constant and His promise is love. He moves me to take that next step. He loves me unconditionally.

While grief throws me around often, God is always there to provide a safe place to fall.

Until next time,

M

Saying Goodbye

Again, this weekend we said goodbye to a second family member in three months. While this is my spouse’s side of the family, Grandpa John was special. He had the best hugs and wore the cutest suspenders and a fedora hat everywhere he went. He died after a long illness and left behind his wife, our Mimi, children and many grandchildren.

His service was one of celebration and not mourning. I find that when there is a celebration, people can see many sides of that person one might have not known or seen before. Several displays of pictures and memorabilia was shared that reminded all who walked in and paid their respects of what a special person Grandpa John was.

As someone who has been too far too many of these, I can tell you that it will always be hard to walk into a funeral home and say goodbye to someone in your life. No matter how long you knew them or how much they were a part of your life. I find walking into a funeral still brings back too many sad memories of my mom’s, my grandmother’s and my daughter’s funerals. It’s like a flash back of some sort that knocks the wind out of you and sends you back to a dark place you try not to visit too often. I remember the first funeral after my daughters was my aunt Barb’s. She and I had just begun to get to know each other again after many years apart. I struggled to open the door of the funeral home and had to call someone to come out and help me. My cousin, my aunt’s daughter and my brother came out to walk me in and I sat down feeling as if I was going to suffocate with grief.

I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable in a funeral home again. Too much pain and grief has entered my life over the many years. I know as I get older there will be more and I just don’t know how I will handle it. Saying goodbye is the hardest – especially when you didn’t get a chance to hear their voice or say goodbye – a meaningful goodbye. Saying I love you or I will miss you in my life. Those goodbye’s might be tough but not getting a chance to say what you need to say – it stings. When I went to my mother’s bedside, I did not understand the gravity of the situation. I did not know I’d only have days left with her before she’d slip into a coma and die a few days later. There was so much left to say and do and it was stolen from me.

When my nanny passed, she couldn’t talk or see me, but I knew she heard me in the room. I missed hearing her voice and just devastated that again, I found myself saying goodbye to someone too soon and without having time to say and do things together. Brittany passing – was unexpected and quick. 12 hours from speaking and seeing her looking fine to seeing her die right before my eyes after 12 long hours in the PICU watching her slowly slip away with each code to resuscitate her. Again, left with many things unsaid and not completed. There was so much life yet to live. I loved her with all my heart and soul. She was ripped from my life in just hours.

What I’ve learned about saying goodbye is – it sucks. It isn’t fair.

What I’ve also learned is that in living with the fallout of losing so many people in my life – that God has a plan that I am not privy to. That one day I will know why they all had to go too soon. Why was their time cut short? My faith assures me that one day I will be reunited with my loved ones and that keeps me going every day.

Until next time

m

Love and Compassion

As a nurse, a mother caring for a chronically ill child or a family/friend observing the end of life, I can tell you there are so many things that people can do to offer support, be a voice and care for those going through a life-altering event.

Recently I experienced watching a family member go through the last months of her life and saw how vitally important it was for her to check off the things on her bucket list. Her family and friends surrounded her with love and support to make sure as many of those opportunities happened. Some of those things were easy and some not so easy. But for me what was most important was that there was effort. The effort to help her experience some of the things she’d wanted to do in her last days. I know this made her crossing over far less scary for her and the days she had left lived to the fullest that they could have been.

Like with any other situation in life where it be joyful or sad – where love ends or life begins; when life get exhausting; graduations or weddings; the support and validation of one’s life or situation can be all the difference to the person experiencing it. The simple task of just “being present” is all that many of us need to feel that someone took the time to stop their own busy life to spend it with doing something that is meaningful for someone else.

Taking this time to help someone going through a tough time opens the opportunity to also speak up when something doesn’t look right. You know the old adage “if it doesn’t feel right – it’s probably not”. I know many of you can think of a time when you experienced something or observed something and thought – “that just doesn’t seem right to me” – trust your gut on this one! Sometimes its the environment; or the caregiver situation or sometimes it’s just simple needs of food and home care. There are many who suffer daily caring for their chronically ill or dying friend/family members. As human beings we are put on this earth to serve we should be compelled to help. To extend a hand. To be that bridge between exhaustion and rest.

I remember the many meals, gifts, visitations and love extended to me after my daughter’s passing and how I felt so overwhelmed by the generosity of those, especially those I did not know well. People rescued me and I’m fairly certain they did not even know it. I felt loved and it lifted me up and I’m fairly certain they did not even know it. There is no greater gift than to simply pull up a chair and sit next to someone suffering and just be present. You won’t have the answers. You can’t fix what is broken. God gave us this inherent ability to love. Our hearts were built to expand with love and compassion. That is truly what anyone who is hurting needs – to feel that love and compassion.

Until next time,

M