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

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My Grief Closet

I was thinking the other day how unconditional a mother’s love is. I’ve had the great blessing of know 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

 

Avoidance

I can safely say that I work harder at avoiding my grief than I do working through it. Avoidance is a coping mechanism that many use, including myself, to push thoughts and feelings back to a place where it won’t “hurt” so much. After 10 years at this grief thing, I can tell you that the pain still hurts and I don’t like it much.

For example, I avoid dusting a particular area in my living room where family photos and where many of my photos of Brittany and her ashes are. The act of dusting causes me to slow down and look for more than a second at her pictures or her ashes box. Picking up items that have such meaning, that carry memories that remind me she is no longer alive. With each item I pick up and carefully dust and place back on the shelf, the pain swells up inside me. By the time I’m done with the entire shelf, I am consumed with grief. I don’t think that will ever go away.

What Makes Me Smile

I also have a chest full of her things including her American Girl Doll that was created to look similar to her. The glasses she was wearing when she died, I still cannot touch without weeping. There is even a hand mold that the Life Team talked me into doing after she had just passed away. I slowly place my hand on her hand and it’s so painful I just put it all away and close the chest. I am consumed with grief.

Avoidance works for me because it helps me live through DSC07611_thumb.jpgeach day so that I can live somewhat of a normal life. It is actually important to me and those around me to be as normal as I can for them. It helps me work and do the things I need to do to care for my family. But there is a cost to avoidance. It is exhausting. It is painful.

I have to figure out this small space in my grief where I can privately grieve for my loss and live in my current life that I am forever grateful for. It’s a narrow space where I don’t always navigate well. Even after 10 years I still get it wrong. It is an evolution that I feel I’ll always be working through.

Until next time,

M

@griefblessings Twitter

 

Good Friday

A few months after my daughter passed away I made the decision, at my family’s guidance, to return to my hometown of Indianapolis. My family saw that continuing to live in my house, our house the house my daughter and I shared for 2 years’ post-divorce was silently killing me. It was a difficult decision to leave a job I loved and people that helped me through one of the toughest experiences in my life. Home seemed like a logical place for me to be – with family.

Searching for a new church home became my priority. I understood the importance of having my faith but even more important was having a church family. It did not take me long to find Grace Church in Noblesville, just outside of Carmel. I got involved quickly with their Grieving Support team and became a Touchstone who was a parent who had lost a child and knew the importance of having someone to come alongside a newly bereaved parent to support them when they were ready.

Grace also provided me an opportunity to work with college students which enriched my life beyond measure. It provided me an outlet for my heart to love on these students while they were away from their families at college. It did more good for me than I think it did for them. I’m still in contact with a few of them and still cherish those memories.

Grace decided one year that they would stage a re-enactment of Jesus’ last days and death prior to Easter. I wasn’t sure what to expect but felt compelled to go and experience it. There were many areas that included the Last Supper and washing of feet. One area brought me to my knees. There laid just a cross across the stage and areas to pray throughout the room. I walked up to that cross and reached out to touch it and it seemed as if there was some type of energy around it that provided this message to me. I began to weep and grieve for not only the loss of Jesus but of God’s son as I understood the loss of a child too. From that day forward I looked at Good Friday from a much different perspective.

Through my years as a Christian I celebrated Christ’s birth like many, some who don’t even know the true meaning of Christmas. I grew in my faith as an adult and as a parent. Through the death of my mother and grandmother and the eventual death of my daughter – my faith was also challenged, often rocked to its core. Here is what I know – my faith, the resurrection of Jesus and eternal life promised is what I hang onto in the dark moments of my grief. My faith has been my rock and salvation after the loss of my only child Brittany. While it took a huge hit, my faith sustained me when nothing else could soothe my broken heart.

This Good Friday and Easter are a perfect reminder to me and I hope for someone who reads this, that the hope of seeing our loved ones again is grounded in this holiday weekend and will sustain us through our dark days.

Wishing you light and love.

Until next time,

M

Dreams that were not meant to be.

When a child dies so too does a parent’s dreams of what could have been. The dreams they had for their child. Dreams of success, dreams of weddings, dreams of grandchildren, dreams of a long-term relationship filled with great memories.

When Brittany died, I mourned so much more than her death. I mourned all the dreams that were not meant to be. That part of my mourning journey has taken the longest to work through and I find the most heartbreaking. I don’t think I’ll ever get through this part of the journey. Each time I see something on social media or in person about a mom and daughter’s relationship. Some event that occurred or a shared success, I fold into a mess.

The feeling that comes over me feels like a heart breaking all over again. I know some of you who follow my blog understand this all too well. We all had these dreams for our child(ren) and we live in a world where we constantly are exposed to friends, family or stranger scenarios where we dreamt one day we’d be. I continue to revisit this topic because it is the one area that I don’t believe will ever be resolved.

I’ll be honest here – this desire for my child died twice for me. When my daughter become deathly ill at 11 months of age, and the diagnosis and long journey back to health was the first of many dreams shattered and that life would not be normal for her again. A new normal began that day and those dreams had to be adjusted. As the years went on, it seemed that the dreams went through continual adjustment based on what was her long-term prognosis.

Always believing that she could still live somewhat of a normal life, however what surrounded us was what we understood could not be. Death brought it all to an end. With the stopping of her heartbeat so did the dreams. A part of my life’s dreams died too. A part of my heart ripped to shreds.

Ten years has passed and those dreams still alive in my heart because the pain I feel today truly hurts. Painful reminders around me of what I lost and what she could have been. The pain is finding its way out through stinging tears down my cheeks.

Until next time,

M

What does God look like?

What does God look like?

I posted this in 2010 and felt compelled to repost.
Today at church the message was about the story of David, in particular what he wrote as his “song” or “poem” to God. I know that for me this message was so important for this moment because I have wanted to for some time now write about how I have seen God and what I believe He how I believe He manifested Himself to me during the last 3 years since my daughter died.

I have written from time to time on this blog about some incredible people who have come into and out of my life. The various ways they came into my life and how at first I wasn’t sure who they were and how they would impact my life. Some of those people were people I hadn’t seen or heard from in years and some were mere acquaintances that have become life-long friends.

So in our pastor’s message today we were asked to write our Psalm or our Song to God. And I have to be honest it wasn’t hard for me. I began to wonder if that would have been the case 3 years ago. In the moments after Brittany died. In the moments where I thought I couldn’t see or feel anything. And, I have to say “yes” – yes I would have been able to write my song.

In the days and weeks after my daughter died, I went to church seeking, longing desperately to see God. To hear from God. To know that He was hearing my cries of pain and anguish. You see my daughter died on a Friday and her Celebration of Life was that Sunday. One week later I was at church.

Now understand, I was at church, but I wasn’t my usual spiritual self. I sat in the back instead of near the front. I tried to sing, yet the words were silent that came forth from my mouth. The tears flowed like blood from my heart as I heard the songs from Ken Reynolds and the choir that sounded like angels singing. I was asked how could I be at church so soon, and my response was “I don’t know where else to go”. This is where I felt closest to God and to Brittany.

So my friends I know this one thing for sure – God heard me. He heard me loud and clear. He sent Himself in the most extraordinarily simple ways – through His church. What do I mean by His church? The people like you and me who faithfully believe that God is everywhere and God is all-knowing. He feels our pain and He is angered when we are hurt by others.

Not long ago I had a chance to say something to someone who was hurting. Someone who wasn’t able to see God; to feel God. They had felt He was out on the periphery and just out of their reach. My response was this “God is not some glowing cloud of mass that will fly down and be present in our face in times of trouble” “God makes Himself present and available through the people who are here – right now – in your life” “We are the extension of God’s hand – take it because that is what He wants”. Trust that God is all around in us and through us; which makes us the very extension of God.

Brittany said to one of her friends during a candid conversation about God “God is everywhere, He is in every snowflake that falls”. How profound to see that at such a young age. To be able to understand that in the most simplistic terms God is always right beside us even though we cannot perceive it.

In writing my Psalm to God or my Song of Praise I am reminded that God sent Himself to me in my time of grief and loneliness through some very special people. So this I dedicated to them and to my God.

“Lord you have reached down and pulled me up from the depths of despair. You have breathed the breath of life into my broken-heart. I sing praises to your Holy name. You are my rock, my refuge, my ever-present strength for always and forever. Amen” – Malissa Moss

until next time

m