October Skies

Cloudy or Sunny

So often I dread October because it’s the month my daughter passed away. I dread what I once loved – the season change bringing in a beautiful landscape of color across the land. Picking out a Halloween costume to wear while handing out candy to trick or treaters. Transitioning into the holidays with Brittany’s birthday and newly fallen snow.

In the early years after my daughter’s death, I saw things very differently. I began to dread October. It became the start of the dark season in my life and I found myself longing for a type of “hibernation” much like a bear does to avoid the long cold winter. I know some of you might resonate with that last statement. I didn’t spend too long there and while October still brings sad memories for me, but I now live in a warm climate and many of the triggers are no longer present. What I see now are palm trees and beaches. Moving to Florida has been good for me. My writing has been more inspired by the beauty of the gulf. The serenity that the waves bring. I find a sense of peace at the beach more than any other place. That has been good for my healing.

Let me explain. I have found that removing myself from some of the memories has been the best decision thus far. Not to say that it would work for others, but for me, understanding how I grieve and how I survive – it works. I have created a special place to honor my girl. It’s all about her and it is fluid like the clear running water of a spring stream. It’s there when I need it to be and while I don’t look at it daily, I know it is there, ever present when I need it to be. It moves with me when I move and stays just outside of my vision. Only when I feel the need to look over, do I see it and feel she is there. This doesn’t work for everyone. Some need that final resting place to go to. Some I know visit the graves of their lost children daily. Her father and I chose to cremate our daughter understanding how much we move about that keeping her with us was the right choice – for us.

During the first couple of years I spend a great deal of time creating a memory scrapbook with pictures of her. I also have created a memory book of the most precious of pictures over her life. I also created a book of poems and art work she created. My family heirloom hope chest protects some of the most treasured items I have left of Britt’s. That is always available when I need to grieve.

When I feel it swell up in my throat to the point that I cannot swallow. I know it’s coming. The symptoms are subtle but they creep up and at some point, I have to acknowledge it. Grief has seasoned me that way. I have learned to respect it. Not saying there is anything about it that is ok. It’s not. But I have learned to move with it, lean into it and at times, all out immerse myself in it.

Grief is and always will be part of my life. It has been the great teacher and mentor of how I live my life now. I live life differently now and it’s because I understand how fragile it is. How often we take it for granted. I respect grief. I allow it to enter my soul and have its way. Then I say enough and I take back my heart and dust off my pain and go to the water where I know my soul speaks. I accept what has happened. Not without questions. I still ask them today. But I, like my daughter, live life to the fullest because that is life. Much like spring. I’ll write about that next time.

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

The Evolution of My Journey

In the hours, days, weeks after my daughter’s death I wasn’t sure how I would make it through each moment. Every moment that I thought about my daughter, I would feel such anguish that felt like a crushing blow against my chest. Some days I could not breathe and all that I could do was fall to my knees and pray. I prayed for relief of my pain and sorrow. Honestly I did not care how the relief came just that it would. 

The relief came but not how I might have envisoned it nor on a timeline that i found appealing. It’s taken many years to get to where I am today. And honestly where I am today will be very different from where I’ll be tomorrow. Each day that passes brings new expereinces that help me heal. I find the more I help others the more I heal. I will admit I did not ask for that role. It was given to me and after many attempts on my part to avoid what was clearly enevitable, I accepted the role of writing my blog and who my audience might be. Mourning parents.

Now this journey has not been easy. It’s been fought with struggles that would cause many to faint and walk away. But God has been very good to me. He has always provided the means by which I would succeed. I only had to believe and step in faith on what was presented to me. I’ve not always believed I could write or that anyone would read what I wrote. I orignally started out writing this blog as an on-line journal. In fact, I was shocked when people began to comment on my  blog. I then started slowly but surely to see how my journey, telling my story could help others.

I had no issue spelling out my pain for you. I was painfully honest just as I was with God. I belted out my anger, my conflict, my sorrow and my tears to God and to you. God listened and so did you. I have been blessed by your readership over these past eight years and yes you, have also contributed to the healing that has taken place in my life. I have been in awe of your stories, your tears, your comments and your dedication to my blog. 

It is my hope that this blog continues to bless others and if you know of someone who needs to read the words that we all know they feel, please pass it on. I know in my early days I did not have this kind of media nor did i even know where to find it. I barely found books that were written in a way that was helpful. As many of you may remember the early days are hard fought and are often blurry at best. Those who have found there lives disrupted, turned inside out and upside down and most of all their hearts ripped out because they lost a child, need us the most.

Thank you again for allowing me in and showing me what love truly is.

Until next time,

M

Mother’s Day

A New Normal

So often I have read about this idea of a “new normal” that one begins to experience after a loss such as mine. I do wonder who may have come up with that label. I don’t believe the word normal belongs in a sentence that would describe one’s life after loss. Normal doesn’t reflect what is really going on with one’s life at this stage. I do think that you can move through into a new stage of your life. One that can be happy. One that can be fulfilling and rewarding. But normal – I don’t think so. 

Who defines what is normal? 

I know I don’t, probably never have. I can say that with all that has happened to me over these past couple of years, I know that normal is far from what I have experienced. I also know that what I have experienced and what I am continuing to experience is God’s love and grace sufficient to exist in a life that has continued to remain somewhat meaningless to me. Please know that this is not a bad thing, I just see this life as a pathway to the next. I am working hard to do what I need to do to fufill my purpose for where I am right now. But where I am right now maybe not where I will be tomorrow. Remembering that I only have control over right now. Right now, I choose to write about how I feel in hopes that someone else can identify with those feelings and know that they are not alone.

Life does get better.

It does get less painful. And, at times, can be rewarding. I find that in my job, I find purpose. It is when I am alone in my home or alone in my own thoughts that I begin to think about the future and where I see myself  in it. Please know that normal will never be a part of anyone’s life when they have lost a child. Don’t assume that becoming normal again will ever be an option. So much of what I have read from many different parents echoes the same – “life will never be normal” – it just becomes different. I have found that there are so many days that life can be rewarding and fulfilling. I love what I do for a living. It gives me such gratification to know I am helping to shape nurses to be health advocates for those who need one. But I also have an emptiness that resides in my heart and it is unbearable some days. But I don’t let you see it. It’s too painful and I know if you really saw it – you might cry. It’s a place I try not to visit very often. 

As Mother’s Day approaches I feel that uneasiness start to well up inside me. It’s like hearing the rushing water of a white water falls way off in the distance. You find yourself having to stop and listen very carefully to hear it. As it is with grief. It’s calling my name again as it does every October. It’s quite unimaginable that I have had to endure this – seems like a lifetime ago. Yet sometimes it feels like yesterday. As I wonder about my life aimlessly looking for what I am missing – I understand it is her smile, her crazy quirky self and the biggest heart I’ve ever known! 

God has brought me this far.

I know He will continue to keep me in the palm of His hand until it is my turn to return to Him. I have a great deal of faith and a small amount of will. So life is out of balance for me and living a “normal” life just doesn’t seem appropriate. But a new life, one filled with hope for an opportunity to help others is what I know I am meant to do – for now. 

 until next time,

M

The best hug.

I’ve been talking to Brittany a lot these past few weeks. Asking her to help me figure out my purpose. What it is I’m to do. There is so much going on now and feel it’s time to figure out next steps. I’ve wanted to write a book based on this blog and my journey for a while now, but have not been motivated to get it started. Actually I started it years ago and then put it onto the shelf. I keep feeling like I need to pull it down and work on it. So many distractions and it’s hard to find the time. What is the fear? Why am I so hesitant?

So this morning in the early hours, right before my alarm I had the most real like dream about Brittany. I haven’t had one like that in years and it was absolutely wonderful yet the most painful experience. I woke up with the alarm ringing and just wanting to throw it because it interrupted the most beautiful and loving hug from my sweet Brittany.

The dream happened, as it usually does, quick and colorful and very real like. I was walking by a house and a neighbor peeked out her door and waved at me. As I waved back, Brittany peek out of the door and waved at me. I ran so fast to the door opened it up and grabbed her. Gave her the biggest hug and said “Brittany I’ve missed you so much”. She hugged back and said I’m ok mom and I miss you too. Then that damn alarm went off and I burst into tears and cried for a few minutes. I just wanted to go back and close my eyes and continuing hugging her.

I needed that hug and that dream more than ever. I’ve been so lonely without her, more than I could ever say. I know that when I take the time to talk with her and ask for her help, she never disappoints. She came to me in that dream this morning – while it takes my breath away and makes me cry – I am so thankful though for each time she comes to me. It’s not often, but when it does it’s as if it fills me up with love and helps me understand that she is listening to me.

Until next time,

M

 

#grief #dreams #loss

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