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,
“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,
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,
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
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,
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.
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,