Friday, August 26, 2016

When life hurts!

This past week, as so many of you know, 5 year old Alayna was kidnapped, raped and killed. Today is her funeral.  At 10:30 this morning, her family will lay her earthly body to rest, say their "final" good-byes and leave their baby to be placed within the soils of their community.  People will cry, they will weep and they will leave questioning the world we live in.... but they get to leave and return to 'normal'.  Many people will reflect on Alayna's funeral as "the end"... the end of this ordeal and time for her parents (Kayla and Matt) to begin the healing process. However, for Kayla and Matt this doesn't mark the end, it marks the beginning.  The beginning of 'before and after' and beginning of 1, 2, 3, 4 week anniversaries, 1 month anniversaries, the beginning of 'should have beens' and 'if onlys'.  The silence that will fill their house after the company leaves, after people get busy with their own kiddos or work, after people decide they just can't live in that kind of sadness anymore will be deafening... Matt and Kayla will still be broken... they will still be in the depths of hell.  There is no end for them.  But today will mark a very significant milestone to this journey... it is the last tribute a parent can give to his/her child.  Every parent wants it to be perfect... to be a true reflection of the wondrous person their child is.  They want it to be a celebration of the life their child lived while they were here.

I remember very clearly the day of Declan's funeral, feeling like it wasn't real.  Looking back I sometimes think that is was almost like an out-of-body experience.  As Nate and I stood in line, hugging all of our family and friends, we were actually doing more comforting than being comforted.  It makes me smile to think about it really - we were a bit like zombies... had been crying straight since his passing 4 days earlier and had very few tears to shed at his wake.   It was very surreal.  I was angry, sad, overwhelmed and irritated by a lack of sleep and food.  Walking down the aisle of the church, behind Declan's little casket, was one of the worst feelings of my life.  It became so real... almost a feeling of "there's no going back now" even though there was nothing to go back to... I couldn't look at anybody, I kept my eyes to the ground and just followed my brother Lance and my brother-in-law Matt (pallbearers) up to the front.  One other memory that sticks out in my mind was leaving the cemetery - leaving Declan with strangers to be buried - and turning around and watching out the back window of the car until I could no longer see his casket.  The very final moment... the very final glance... a little white casket sitting there in the lonely, cold, windy winter day in our country cemetery... and that was what my grief felt like for a very long time - lonely and empty.

As I reflect on Alayna's life and death, I am overwhelmed with emotions. I've been crying all the way to  work and home this entire week - so sad for Alayan, her parents and frankly it stirs up so much from Declan's death that I am crying for myself too!  But on my way home last night, I was listening to Christian radio and first they played "I can only Imagine" - which you can imagine for me was a sob-fest... and then talked about feeling overwhelmed by the current situation with Alayna (they were talking directly to me, I am sure of it) and they played "Overwhelmed" and talked about how when we get overwhelmed, we need to focus on God and all he has done... and that even in the horrendous way little Alayna passed away, she is and has always been loved by her family and by Jesus... she left this world in a horrible way and Jesus was there to catch her and tell "You are safe now, I love you"... I am still deeply saddened and hurting, but through faith and God's amazing love healing will happen.... joy shall return, may look and feel different, but it will come back...

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

What grief looks like now...

I think the saying goes, time heals all wounds... meaning after a set amount of time we should no longer be broken,  Our pain, gone.  Our hurt, disappeared. The anger no longer controlling us and the sorrow that consumed you is all but a memory... time heals all wounds.  Right?  Or maybe not so much. What does it mean to be healed anyway?  To be free of the chains of pain and sorrow?  Can someone really ever heal after losing their child?  As strange as it might sound, I am not sure I want to be 'healed', if there is such a thing.  When I think of true healing, I think of forgetting, I think of moving on... I think of being ok with my story,  but how can I ever be ok with this?  How can I heal from something so immensely painful... I don't think one does actually heal from the death of your child. However, I think time creates an an ability for the griever to start to move through the pain.  I think time assists you in mending some of the brokenness within you... and I think time allows you to begin to accept what this journey looks like, sounds like and feels like.  I think time grants you the ability to begin to understand that your plans are not HIS plans... that what I want for my life isn't always what I get.  I am almost 4 years out from the death of my sweet Declan... 4 years?! I can hardly comprehend that, it has gone by way too fast... and where am I at now in my grief journey, in my 'healing'... There are days when I feel like I am in day 1. Days when I feel broken and unable to function. Days when I am consumed by anger and pain.  At this point in my grief, anger plays a stronger role than it did in the beginning.  I don't like feeling angry, but too often a feeling of injustice and a sense of being wronged creeps into my soul and I feel cheated and mad and slightly scared of those feelings... I fear that mindset could really cause some emotional/mental damage if left to it's own devices. On those difficult days, I often want to slam my fist into the steering wheel... I want to scream at the unfairness of having MY baby die when I see people abusing, killing, raping and hurting their own children... I am a good mom. I love my kids,  I take care of my kids... why my child?! Why not theirs?  Those are the thoughts that can really freak me out... I don't want to wish this on anyone.. and it's those moments when I should be praying, that I am instead turning my head and diving into my work or anything to keep my mind busy.   There are also days when the familiar feeling of sadness starts to creep into my heart and I quickly shove and dismiss those feelings away.  Days when the last thing I have time for is to be sad... or mad. There are also days when I need to look at pictures on my phone or on our wall to remember what my sweet boy looked like... my biggest fear, slowly starting to come true, a failing memory... on those days I sometimes can convince myself that this didn't happen... that this is always what my life has been like... like maybe he didn't actually exists... and without fail, shortly after those thoughts make their way through my head, my heart breaks down and I cry uncontrollably.  My heart and my mind... always disconnected in the battle they are fighting against each other.  Don't get me wrong, there are also moments of laughter, joy and feeling kind of like a normal person... or at least what I think normal is.

I continue to find myself on a roller-coaster of emotions... but I have a few less steep drops than I use to, I am more aware than I once was of my feelings and more importantly I am working to understand that I am enough as I am.. that I am more than Declan's death, that I am worthy of feeling better and normal and that I am enough for God to love and to protect... that all I really need is to rely on Him to provide me with His unfailing love and support.  I have been working on a prayer journal and I jotted down a  few verses that I am trying to lean into. One from Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." How amazing and how thankful I am for that... I don't have to do this on my own - which I forget often as I frequently believe I have to do it all on my own.  Another verse that I found and loved is Isaiah 41:10 "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand" The funny thing about this verse is that it has been on my fridge since Declan's funeral... almost 4 year! And it never really spoke to me... I have probably read this verse over a 100 times and until this past week, it meant nothing to me.  Pastor Dennis read this verse at Declan's funeral... maybe I was in too much shock to digest its true meaning and its impact on my life... no matter, the point is I don't have to do this on my own, God loves me and is walking this journey with me. Even when I felt like I had to do it by myself, He was there with me, simply waiting for me to recognize him.  I am not 'healed', I am not sure I will ever be or what I would even consider that to look like... but I am making my way through this and figuring it out as I go along... with the help of my fellow grieving mothers, my family and my Faith I know I will be ok... and sometimes ok is enough.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The ugly beautiful....

It's hard for me to write this post.  I am angry.  I am sad.  I am a little sick to my stomach that another year has passed.  I remember when it happened thinking I can't imagine what it will be like when we mark the 1 year, 2 year and 3 year anniversary.  I don't want to be here... yet, we are.  Three years. 

I would be lying if I said everything was fine, but I would also be lying if I said our world was still as crappy as it was three years ago.   If I saw you in the store today and you asked me how I was doing.  I would say 'oh you know, we are hanging in there.' which is true... and my way of saying we are not ok, we are not fine, but we are surviving, we are moving through this.  I could tell you all about what my grief looks like now... which is a mix of sadness, anger, frustration, discontentment, forgetfulness, and determination not to let the darkness consume me.  

In my mom's group the other night we were discussing the book 1000 Gifts and the author talks about the 'ugly beautiful' and a 'holy mess'... that stuck with me.  I think I am at a point in this journey where I can start to see the beauty that has come out of the most ugly moment ever.... good things have happened since... even in that moment God's beauty was there.  Declan was surrounded by EVERY ONE of his family members.  All of his aunts and uncles.  Both sets of grandparents, his sister and brother... that is beautiful.  The nurses and doctors we encountered... they were beautiful angels placed in our lives at the exact moment we needed them most.  The outpouring of love, support, prayers, kindness... that was beautiful!  This mess we found ourselves in, although not part of God's plan, was a "holy mess".  God did not abandon us in our darkest hour... He blessed us as much as the situation allowed.   His loving hands were wrapped tightly around us and held us through our worst nightmare.   As we have traveled this journey, often dragging our feet and wanting to cross our arms in refusal, I have seen beauty rise out of our ashes.  Good things have happened... I believe Declan's memory has touched many people, has helped many people and my endless hope is that he will continue to change people's lives.   When you are living in the ugly moments, look for the beauty.  It's there... sometimes hard to see, but always there. 


Many people continue to say "you are so strong"... I would argue that we are all strong, you just don't know it until you have no other options.  As a grieving mother, my only goal is make sure that Declan isn't forgotten, that his life have meaning, that his memory is honored and that in some small way, we are touching the hearts of others.  If/when that stops... I will not be strong.  I will be a weeping mess.  That would be the ultimate hurt.  A moment when living no longer seems acceptable.  To say I am strong is wrong... I just can't let his short life not have significant meaning.  He has changed my life... I am so thankful to be his mama. 

Declan lies within me and within so many people.  His spirit is anything but small.  With God's (and Dex's) support, we will continue to walk this journey.  We will continue to hurt and cry and get mad, but it always comes back to recognizing the beautiful in the ugly.  It's about choosing JOY instead of allowing darkness to win.  

This journey... wow.  It has been hard, there have been moments when it would have been easier to give up, to lay down and pray for God to take my life.  Even now, three years later, I struggle.  This particular song is one that I often listen to and pray that God helps me find my way... that God guides me on my journey in such a way that I am living His will.   We have come so far, and we have a life time of this journey left.  

Loving you and missing you with all of my heart and soul Declan!  You are NEVER, EVER forgotten. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The most wonderful time of the year?

I was driving home this evening after picking up some things from the store... I was taking the back roads looking at Christmas lights and picking my favorite house.  It was mindless, no real thinking, no emotion involved... just driving and looking.  A song came on the radio, one that I have sung my whole life... It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.  I listened, probably for the first time to some of the words and found myself getting negative and cynical... One verse says "and the tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago..." and all I could think of was how my stories of Christmases long ago are all of someone I use to be... someone whose heart had never been stung by deaths sting. Someone who had no idea that people actually hurt because of the holidays. The only stories I have been telling myself lately are the stories of Christmases I should be having... Of what I believe my life should look like on Christmas.  It should be of three children squealing with delight at the presents under the tree... there should be three little bottoms up in the air as the kids try to identify which gifts belong to them.  It would probably be the first Christmas Declan would be excited for his gifts and the first holiday he might remember... It should be something different and looking back at past 'Christmas glories' only serve as a reminder to how much I have changed.  Then I heard "and hearts will be glowing when loved ones are near..." and all I could think of was 'what about when loved ones aren't near?' What do our hearts do then?  How do we, as grieving, hurting, broken people fit into this season of celebration?  How do we shake the pain and put on a smile?  How do we re-find our Christmas joy?  I think back over the past few Christmases since losing our sweet Declan and I am struck how hard I work to 'survive' this time of the year.  I have always loved the holidays... it's always been special and it still is... but lately the tears come easy and often, the ache for my baby heightens and I am stuck with the simple truth that this is what it is... this is the life I have.  As I find my way to a place of contentment and acceptance during the holiday season, I try to focus on the reason for the season.  Jesus... His birth and what it means for me.  Had God not sent His Son, I would not have the HOPE, nor the peace of mind, that I will be reunited with Declan someday.  That this is not where I belong and the hurt is temporary.  Is Christmas the most wonderful time of the year... in many ways it is... yet for some of us, it's an internal battle. It's mentally and physically exhausting fighting against my grief, but that's what I am doing... choosing to experience JOY ... because my living children deserve to look back on 'glories of Christmases long ago' and remember their mom, not as a passive feature in the back ground, but as someone who actively experiences her sadness, while loving harder, giving more and remembering the reason for this wonderful (and often difficult) time of year.  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

My "not enough"

So where to start.... I haven't been here for awhile.  I have several 'excuses' to pardon my absence, but the truth is I have been busy being busy to avoid feeling and grieving.  It's feels like there are times when it is easier to be 'busy' with work, with motherhood and with wifehood than to remember my pain and hurt. I have gotten really good at being busy.  I use that excuse all the time... and in truth, I am busy.  I have a busy, demanding job that I am trying to learn.  I have two active kiddos that need to be escorted to all of their various activities.  I have a home I wish I could make presentable. That's the price of being a working mother I suppose, but I know I am not the only woman who feels like there are not enough hours in the day.  I am not the only woman who doesn't have the time to slow down and take a breath.   I certainly am not looking for sympathy... I am more or less admitting that I am using that excuse to AVOID my grief.  I am pretending that I 'don't have enough time' to go there... I am banking on busyness to save me from heart ache that burns in the depth of my stomach and sets my feet on fire.

Well... this weekend I had an opportunity to go to Women of Faith. I went last year and it was amazing.  I had a sneaking suspicion that I would have a hard time at this event. I was pretty sure it would be a multiple tissue weekend.  The theme for the weekend was "Survival to Revival" and so many of the speakers talked about overcoming life's hurdles.   I heard more great advice and scripture than I actually remember.  I really should have taken notes... the entire conference seem directed at me... faithlessness in difficult times.  Understanding what to do when life doesn't go the way you planned... becoming hopeful again after loss... and as I expected, I cried a lot and even though I LOVED the whole weekend, it brought me to the place that I had been hiding from by being busy.  I finally was unable to avoid my grief... I reluctantly was giving myself permission to 'go there.'  I had no where to go, no one to dote on, nothing to clean... expect for my heart, my soul and my grief.

Many of the women speaking talked about feeling like a part of their story... something from their past, precluded them from God's grace.  I think, if I am honest with myself, I can say that when Dex passed away, I felt that way...  It made me question everything... from wondering why God would allow Declan to die when I know He could have prevented it, changed it, or reversed it... to looking at my own story, my own life and starting to question if I was enough for Him and how my past mistakes potentially played into this horrific experience that I have to live.  We all have a story and the speakers at Women of Faith talked relentlessly about coming to terms with that story and that includes the secrets that we often don't want other people to know.  My story makes me feel like I am not enough... I am ashamed for many decision I have made in the past.  In attempts to comfort myself, I would like to think I am not alone in that and that we all hang our head in shame at a few of those indiscretions.   One quote that stuck with me this weekend was this, "Bring your not enough to His MORE than enough."  His MORE than enough...

I spent this afternoon working on something... I wrote on a piece of paper these words "My ugliness.  My unworthiness.  My brokenness.  My STORY." and I wrote down things that I feel I fall short at. I wrote down those secrets I was talking about.  I confessed things I felt were ugly... than I looked up Bible verses about God's grace. I found one that I liked... that spoke to me.  It's from Ephesians 2:4-9.  "4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God9 not by works, so that no one can boast."  Then I remembered that my confirmation verse was somewhere in the book of Ephesians as well.  So I got out my Bible and found that book... what happened next gives me goosebumps... I started to thumb through the chapter and I found my's  Ephesians 2:8-9.  THE SAME verse that I had just looked at! I remember reading that verse back in 8th grade and wondering what Pastor Kevin was thinking.  I remember being confused by it.  I remember being disappointed that it was my verse and I always wanted to know WHY that verse... what about me, made him think of Ephesians 2:8-9.  I almost wonder if Pastor Kevin had no idea why that verse came to him for me...however, now I understand and know that God's hands were ALL over that decision. 

I know I'll never know why this happened... I actually am ok with that.  Knowing would only make me mad because NOTHING would be a good enough reason for me.   What I do know is that my "not enough" is NOT why this happened.  I know that because of Ephesians 2:8-9 and at church today, as I was sitting there with tears streaming down my face I heard 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 say to me, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the OLD IS GONE, the NEW has come!"  Praise God.  The ugliness of my story does not define who I am... it does not hunt me down and ruin me... although there is NO promises that the remainder of my life will be smooth sailing... there is NOTHING that guarantees I will not suffer another loss, but I can confidently say should something like that happen... it is not because God had precluded me from His grace.  Far from it.

This weekend, I've realized I have been busy hiding from grief because I didn't want to acknowledge my disappointment in my own story, my own self... because my grief IS my story, mixed with poor decisions and imperfect love for everyone, I was afraid to look to deep into my hurt... at this point there is no separation.  Right or wrong everything about me, about who I am... IS MY GRIEF JOURNEY.  Looking grief in the eye is looking at all my hurts, all my pain and all my disappointments head on.... and that is huge for me.   Thank goodness our God has big shoulders.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sneaky grief...

Celebrating another birthday today and as this day approached, I found myself getting anxious, angry... and sad.  I first figured it was because a few of the things I wanted to do fell through and weren't going to work out.  I felt like I was pouting and multiple times I said to myself, 'get over it!  It's not that big of a deal.', but I still couldn't shake my case of the blues.  Than it hit me... this is my grief.  This feeling of yuck and gloom is my burden of death and the burden of a love so deep you can never fully recover after 'losing' it.   It's the unfairness of getting one more year here when he didn't... it's the continuing question of "WHY?!".  Why him? Why us?  Why ME?! It's facing another year without's realizing that grief doesn't end and that grief will be embedded into my life forever... that I will always carry this burden of loss, pain, anger, frustration, and sadness with me. Simply waiting for my sneaky grief to step up to the plate and remind me that this is what my life is now.  I never know when something will bring me to tears for no reason.  I never know what song on the radio will make me bawl my eyes out.  I haven't figured out which events will make my heart ache so bad that I wonder if I am having a heart attack.  In those moments... my smiles are fake, my laughs are forced and I would rather be alone, throwing a pity party, than trying to pretend that what I am currently doing matters.  What I am learning, however, is that life doesn't stop for grief... my kids still need me, there are still dishes and laundry to be done, work still continues... which means I have had to figure out how to move forward when I all I want to do is check out.  

I suppose I should have expected my birthday to be tough, but I really hadn't thought about it. Once I figured out why I was struggling it was easier to just accept allow those who are close to me to take care of me and support me.  We decided to go to church last night so we could sleep in today (One of my request. Slept until 9 am!!).  As always, I found the message to be so pertinent to me and my situation! It's amazing how God works like that... but anyway, the message was about carrying our burdens and how, through God's grace, they become blessings.... how something might seem so very overwhelming and scary for a moment, but after time you can look back and realize what a blessing it turned out to be.   It was very fitting for me in one aspect of my life, as I recently took a new job and have been feeling very overwhelmed and scared by the decision to leave a place I loved so dearly.... the message gave me so much hope that it was a good decision and I will look back on it in a few years and praise God for taking me on this journey.... but as I sat there listening, bouncing around how relevant the message was, I found myself feeling like I was digging in my heels to the message as well.  I wanted to say "YEAH BUT..." what about the burden of losing a child?!  How will that turn into a blessing?!  It reminded of the song by Laura Story called 'Blessings'... same concept... the refrain says this "What if  your blessings come through rain drops, what if your healing comes through tears. What if a 1000 sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near.  What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?"  I like the song and when I hear it on the radio I turn it up and cry... but I cry because I don't believe it.  I tear up because I feel like there is NO WAY God would hurt me and my family like this to bless us.  I weep because I DO believe it about EVERY OTHER situation, but it can't be about losing a child.  It just can't.  I can admit and I DO say, we have had blessings bestowed on us since losing Declan.  We have met amazing people and have developed great relationships that we would not have had if we hadn't lost a child.  I freely say that I am a better person since losing him... good things have happened since his death, but I can not... I WILL NOT say it was a blessing.  To me, his mother, nothing can ever happen that will make me utter those words... nothing.   Other's may say it.  Other's may believe it.   I just cant'.

So... yeah, I am digging my heels in on that.   I loved the message... it inspires me in many many ways, but I still carry my burden of grief and I am ok with that.  It's the price of love.   I think my favorite part of the song 'Blessings' is close to the end of the song with she says, "when darkness seems to win, we know that pain reminds this heart that this is not, this is not our HOME..." and I know that is what pulls me through these moments of sadness and gives me the hope I need to continue this journey!  I will see Declan again!!  I might have 63 more birthdays and each one is going to bring up painful feelings, but knowing that each one brings me one more year, one more day closer to going HOME and seeing Dex, than at least I know I am moving in the right direction!

Blessings by Laura Story

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

Yesterday my family and I headed to our local legion, listened as the names of all the fallen soldiers were read…one by one, men and women who served our country and either lost their lives during their services or sometime afterwards…I sat there, willing myself not to cry.  I was so moved by it all. I couldn't help but think of the mothers of those fallen soldiers.  The pain they felt when they were notified… the not knowing what their child's last few moments of life were like… the longing for just one more moment, one more touch, one more smile… to lose your child, no matter how honorable the circumstance, is horrific.  Than I wondered why I was trying  so hard not to cry… death is sad, there is no way around that!

 I was happy we went.  It felt good to honor those people.  I can tell you, however, prior to losing our own son I probably wouldn't have cared.  I wouldn't have thought twice about going to the cemeteries to see the flags… it would not have occurred to me.  However, since Declan has passed away, we have made sure his stone is 'ready' for Memorial day each year… we meticulously pick out decorations that we think will hold up to the mid-western wind, the blazing hot sun and yet still be considered appropriate for a child.  We head out there with a bucket of warm water, paper towels and a broom to clean it and make sure the winter hasn't done any damage.   Suddenly, it matters.

Since losing Declan, Nate and I enjoy walking through rows of cemeteries, looking at each one and pondering the stories behind them.   Sometimes we laugh that we don't know anyone else our age who has so much fun walking around cemeteries.   On Friday night, when we brought the last of our new decorations out to Declan's stone, we ended up playing with the kids and Murray for 15 minutes.   We chased Murray around and we were all laughing… as hot tears stung my eyes, I took a quick moment to ponder what we were doing.  We were playing in a cemetery.  We were laughing and having fun… and every single one of us felt content with it.  I noticed a car driving by and I wondered what we must look like… I am sure they thought it was an odd place to hangout.

The service that moved me to tears….

The flags that were breathtaking! Amazingly beautiful! 

The firing of the guns… gives me goosebumps every time! 

My husbands grandpa, Lloyd and his uncle Joe's stones.  

My husbands other grandparents, Wally and Leona's stone.

My grandparents, Sylvester and Phyllis. 

Declan's stone…. 

My niece, Medbh and my brother looking at Dex's stone.  It was really cute because we have pinwheels in the front of his stone and she walked right up and started playing with them… exactly the way it should be I think… nothing scary, simply inviting.