Monday it will be officially 14 years since my mother left this earth. The outward wound may have closed but the evidence of the traumatic injury to my heart is still ever present. Since its been so long since Oct 7, 2005 this day is no longer filled with only sad memories or thoughts of “what if”. Now I can see positive things in the mess of sadness, it’s like being able to see clearly after taking claritin. Now I can look back fondly on characteristics I inherited from her, for instance, my ability to strike up a conversation with most anyone. I distinctly remember being at the dmv with my mother when she started talking to a stranger. I was so embarrassed. I couldn’t fathom talking to stranger as if I knew them…then. Now…I’m the one striking up the conversation most days. Thank you mom for this gift.
Now I can look back and focus on my mothers affinity for laughter which I inherited. Her laugh was one of her best qualities. Her laugh was infectious, you had no choice but to join her when she started to laugh. I’ve had a few people at various times in my life comment that my laugh reminds them of my mother’s, honestly, what a huge compliment. Thank you mom for this gift.
Now I can feel at ease that my father is no longer suffering, missing the love of his life on this day. I can rejoice that he is with her and I can only imagine how joyful the reunion must have been when he joined her in heaven. Thank you mom and dad, for everything. Till we meet again ❤️
Sitting outside this afternoon with the sun shining on my skin, Amber lying in the grass while Kylie played in her water table tears started to fill my eyes. Tears of joy and extreme happiness, it was one of those moments you want to freeze in time and never forget. In that moment I started to think of all the wishes I have for my kids lives and decided to write it out in a letter.
To my dearest children,
I want the world for you. Further more I want you to love the life you live (majority of the time) but know that hard times are part of life so not always loving life is ok. Of course I want to protect you and not let bad things happen but I know that’s not possible. Instead My hope is that I give you guys the tools, the opportunities and the resources to be able to handle the worst the world can throw at you. I want you to have an incredible support system that will carry you through when walking alone is impossible. I want you to be able to find and embrace the joy in life. I want you to know, understand and not be ashamed of your emotions. You will never know how much I love you or just how much I would do for you. The life I have lived has definitely shaped me and has influenced the way I parent. I never expected or wanted to be a stay at home mama but after losing my dad I couldn’t have picked a better path for myself (or you). I take way too many pictures on the off chance that i won’t be around when you need me most, like my mother was unable to do. I try to include audio clips so you never have to go too long without my voice if its no longer readily available. I write to you, in each of your own journals, so you can have a front row seat to your life from my perspective if you have questions and I’m not around to answer them. I try to tell you as often as possible how loved you are and how grateful I am to have you in my life so you never have to question your place in my heart. Like all children you may eventually think I’m crazy, overbearing, or overwhelming but I’m fine with that as long as you always know that you are unconditionally loved.
I don’t know why but being pregnant helps me to remember that I need love, grace and to be cared for…but any other time it’s a struggle. Before I got pregnant this time around I was working out 5 times a week and pushing myself sometimes a little too far. But that’s always been my life, my dad always said “you like to burn the candle at both ends. You need to slow down ” and my instinct was to add more things to my to do list. When I was pregnant with Kylie and dad decided it was a good time to move on, Kylie saved my life. I knew that I couldn’t turn to alcohol to numb the horrific pain, I knew that I needed to address my grief in order to give Kylie (and myself and my husband) the best chance at a healthy life, and of course I knew I needed to eat to sustain Kylie even though it was the last thing on my mind in my grief. Plus, the thought of bringing new life, one that my hubby and I created, was so beautiful it kept me going. This time around im exhausted…with life, with a tiny toddler, and with pregnancy…I’m still trying to work out 5 days a week but I’m allowing myself the space to not close my move or exercise ring everyday (apple watch tyrannical goals). This time around I know I need to conserve my energy for my toddler, for my hubby, and most importantly myself…that doesn’t even include friends, fun, and my job. Maybe I’m the only one who does this…but I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not alone. Why. Why does it take being pregnant for me to realize that it’s super important to take care of myself?! Some days that means walking 1.5 miles, somedays (most days) it looks like taking a nap, somedays it looks like toddler cuddles, somedays it looks like completing my to do list, somedays it looks like getting coffee with a friend and most days it looks like getting a donut. The point is that it’s not always the same but that I need to listen to my body and hopefully I will continue to prioritize me after this baby appears.
Last night marked my first mops group meeting at the new location I’m trying out. The theme for this year is to fear less and live fully. When I first heard those words I couldn’t tell you any part of that that related to my life. As the night went on and we started our discussions we had to get real. At the end we were discussing how can we fear less, how can we enjoy the present, what could life be like if you stop doing what you think you should do, or how can We live fully… my answer felt like It didn’t fit into the framework of these questions until now. After sitting down and journaling a little bit I feel like maybe I have more clarity. Forgive my jumpy thought process but I thought it might be a good opportunity to share.
My answer (of course) involved sharing my story of becoming a recent orphan and dealing with all the facets that grief has taken over in my life as well as the balance (or lack there of) of having fun. I really struggled with my answer because I wouldn’t say I don’t have fun, I wouldn’t say that I’m necessarily fearful… Compared to what I was before my dad died there aren’t many fears living at the surface right now. Immediately after sharing I held back the dam of tears that wanted to erupt and disrupt everything. The feelings that my answer brought up seemed confusing and overwhelming which is why I decided to journal to determine what was really going on.
Sometimes I cannot believe my story is my story. Doesn’t matter how many times I repeat the details of the major traumas, I am floored that someone who has gone through all of this is still standing. Is still breathing. Is still progressing. Is still thriving. It’s almost like an out of body experience and boy is it easy to have compassion and understanding. The moment it hits me like a ton of bricks that not only is this all real but it’s happening to me, I can’t help but judge. All that compassion and understanding are pushed to the rear and sometimes forgotten about. I judge hard because I see everywhere that I fail and for most of my life I lived a life that was easily manipulated by others. So whenever someone brought up the possibility of changing me I jumped at it which threw me down a dangerous and destructive internal path. As I’ve gotten older ive realized that not only is it not OK for people to try to change me but it’s not OK for me to allow myself to give them the time of day. It’s OK to want to change and in fact life forces us to change but I believe change is no one else’s job but my own. Another big thing is that I forget I too deserve grace. That I’m doing the best I can with what I have.
One of those areas I feel I fail in is positivity. I’ve had people tell me that I’m too negative and I need to focus on gratitude and positivity. Ive had numerous gratitude journals, I’ve tried daily affirmations, etc. it all sounds great but maybe those options are too simple? To me these options make me feel like I need to forget the traumas or ignore them. Unfortunately though, I’ve already tried that…believe me I have tried to ignore all the crap that has happened but that’s also what landed me where I am. Dealing with physical symptoms because of the emotional trauma I have not dealt with. Requiring multiple doctors visits (without answers) thankfully finding a wonderful therapist, living my life trying to control my anxiety on a daily basis, etc. Because of this I usually “poo poo” and snark at the ideas of gratitude and positivity. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I live a very blessed life and the experiences I’ve had in my 30 years on this planet are one of a kind. I am so incredibly grateful for the family that raised me, I am incredibly lucky for the friends who continually surround me when I need them the most, and so incredibly blessed with such a wonderful group of in-laws. Not to mention my hot hubby and phenomenal daughter. Even with all these blessings the loss and grief I’ve experienced is completely overwhelming and also one of a kind. I don’t even know what “normal” life looks like and that’s OK. So maybe my positivity and gratitude look different than the Pinterest or the cliché Christian idea… ie gratitude journal etc. Maybe that’s where I’m missing the mark, I put so much pressure on myself and so many “should“ statements about positivity and gratitude. When I inevitably fail I punish myself because my gratitude doesn’t look the same, so I don’t recognize those gracious feelings. So my goal for this year with this mops group is to recognize the gratitude and positivity that is in my life and to quit being so hard on myself. I also want to quit trying to change myself just because the world thinks I’m a negative person, and instead take inventory of my thoughts and if they are more negative than positive then I’ll work on it. But no longer will I be a slave to outside opinions thinking that I am anything less than the amazing person I am.
Staying at home with my 17 month old daughter during the day I feel like I am in a bubble. When i want to go out and talk with friends about grief (which honestly ends up happening in most conversations because it’s so prevalent in my life) I am reminded of a bigger bubble that we are all living in. Grief is an ugly topic, i know that, you probably know that, im pretty sure my dog even knows it. As a society I’m not sure why we don’t talk about grief. Is it just because its ugly and we would rather talk about pretty topics? Is it because its so hard to know what to say if you’ve never experienced it so we avoid it? Is it because we dont have time to get into it? Is it because it makes us feel uncomfortable? Whatever the answer, I’ve noticed lately when talking about grief (because it is so much of my life that I am working on writing a book about my grief, I write these blogs about my grief, I’m even doing a podcast about my grief) I feel almost ashamed to bring up the topic of grief. It’s not like the person I’m talking to directly says “you should be ashamed that you still feel this way” I just feel so uncomfortable and it feels so foreign. Newsflash, it is really uncomfortable, thats just the nature of the grief beast. With all of the current conversation surrounding mental health, why the fuck are we not talking about Grief more openly? A common misconception about grief is that you “get over it “ or that it only really appears at random times of the year or holidays but that the other times it goes away.… Or at least its out of your mind. For me, grief is always just below the surface, it may move to the forefront of my emotions when I hear a song, when I get a whiff of a flower, or when I experience something that would remind me of who I have lost. Grief is as common an emotion in my daily life as breathing is common to my daily function. Sometimes grief feels stronger than my brains automatic function to breathe. So while its uncomfortable for you for a few minutes just remember, that’s my life. Of course I’m generalizing a lot, i don’t know how comfortable people are talking about grief. Im just going based off a few conversations. And this, this whole little rant, is the reason I want grief to become more of an acceptable conversation. I don’t ever expect it to feel comfortable but i do expect it to become acceptable. Grief is not a burden that is meant to be carried alone. In saying all this My goal is not to condemn anyone, I just want to educate everyone on a topic that is so close to my heart.
My parents met ballroom dancing. Dance has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I may not have always been a dancer but there’s definitely some dance involved in gymnastics. My dad installed a dance floor into our basement family room, so I grew up dancing with my dad. At first I would stand on his feet, he would move and the world would just float away. Then as I grew older I would wear some of my moms dancing heels and of course a flowy dress, we would move all the furniture out of the way and dance 💃. When i went to college dad and I actually did a ballroom dancing recreational class together. It was probably a pretty funny sight, as he was the oldest member of the group and I was the youngest member of the group and we happen to be father and daughter. I am not trying to brag here but it was definitely below my dad’s level of dance education and of course as a “follow” I felt pretty confident in my dad leading so I’d like to think that it was below my education as well. In fact we were the example couple a few times, but it was so much fun. I have a very big place for Dance in my life and in my heart. I love to dance it out when I’m really stressed, (my grad school roomie and I used to have dance parties often). I love to dance it out at weddings, I have been known to get into a dance off a time or two. Of course, I love to watch dance movies! As an anniversary gift my wonderful hubby got us dance lessons with the same company my parents met through, Fred Astaire dance. Hubby didn’t know it was the same company, it just happened to be close to us. Obviously my parents danced in Minnesota and we are in Colorado but still it felt like a whole new connection that I had been missing. Hubby and I have been dancing for almost a year now and while we may not be pros we just became bronze level dancers. At this level you have the opportunity to do competitions and buy a cool jacket. So, I bought one. if you know me, you know I love sweatshirts and track jackets but also because it’s such a huge accomplishment and one that I feel like I’m following my dad and mom‘s footsteps… Literally haha. So now I have Dad‘s jacket from Fred Astaire and I have my jacket from there. Hey dad, #twinsies 😘.
Yesterday was a good day…until I had this suffocating moment when I “realized” that I would not see my dad again on this side of death. We were driving home from the grocery store…. I went through the rest of my evening like a wounded animal, still pushing through but the wound was oozing. Then, as phones do, mine reminded me of the toddler girl…18 month old which is very close to Kylies age… Who fell to her death on a cruise ship. Knife in wound and twisted.
I was so incredibly triggered I couldn’t fall asleep without my friend Dr X (Xanax). Even today I still feel the wound is oozing so I did a little Journaling….
My therapist gave me a sheet with a picture of an iceberg. Called the anger iceberg. And just like an iceberg there’s only a little bit on the top and there’s a whole lot of shit underneath the water. What’s underneath the water is all the emotions that contribute or lead to anger. I made a list of all of the emotions I’m feeling.
Scared, grief, overwhelmed, frustrated, exhaustion, trapped, unsure, lonely, annoyed, envious, insecure… Are just a few of the things that are on the anger iceberg….
- Scared to lose another person, scared to fully feel emotions related to grief.
- Overwhelmed with this house, cleaning schedule, materialism, finances.
- Frustrated with my body and the constant exhaustion I feel.
- Trapped sometimes that Kylie isn’t easier to go places with (whether that’s me or her).
- unsure of the future.
- Lonely, I don’t have friends I can/want to share the shitty emotions with because I know how heavy it is for me. Also because I am missing my “people” aka my parents.
- Annoyed that I stress myself out so much about everything.
- Envious that so many people have no idea what its like to lose all the people I’ve lost.
- Insecure in my body.