Friday, July 14, 2023

When emotions don't hit the same

My oldest son graduated high school and we are busy preparing for college move-in day! Senior year and graduation were not nearly as emotional as I expected.  His whole senior year, I was waiting for the emotional toll of sadness and a sense of ending to wash over me and consume me. I envisioned tears upon tears and an unsettling sense of dread of losing him...BUT that didn't happen. I found some of the "last" hard - the last night before school starts jitters, the last football game, the last basketball game... those hit hard, but not because of my own sadness, but because of his.  Watching him realize these moments were fleeting and would be over before he knew it is what broke this mama's heart.  I felt nothing but pride in watching him... I felt so lucky that I was able to experience this with him; that he was here - alive and healthy.  As senior year was winding down, I sat on my porch one morning, trying to figure out why I was handling everything so differently than expected... why I was feeling more happiness than the sadness I anticipated feeling. Why were my emotions not hitting the same as the other moms? All I could come up with was that we "get to do this" with him. He is living. I know Declan's death has fundamentally changed me.  My perspective is so different now than what I imagine it would have been otherwise.  I look at this milestone and realize it's a step in his path toward becoming his own person and how lucky we are that we get to witness it. That this wasn't taken from us too. Even though I won't get to do this with Declan, I am blessed to be doing it with my oldest son. I have no idea how I will feel when my daughter (now going into 8th grade) graduates, but what I confidently say is that I enjoyed N's senior year and am excited to watch him navigate the next steps of his journey... to see the paths he explores, to watch his confidence grow, to see him become who he was meant to be.  I don't feel a sense of loss because I am not losing him... I will miss him and I will grieve the life I have known with him living with us, but he is not gone.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Seven Years without you

Apparently, this is my new norm... writing on my blog the night before the day.  These few last moments of the 13th always remind me of those few last hours of what was our 'normal' back in 2012.  Going to bed that evening was so different from tonight... we knew no loss, we were a complete family, and nothing bad had ever happened to us.  We felt like we were on the fast track to the life we had been dreaming about since we were dating.  I am imagining that we did our normal routine of saying our prayers together, getting the kids in bed, finished cleaning up the house and off to bed.  The last night of our "before"; the last few precious moments together without knowing what being broken feels like; the very last time I would go to bed as the girl I used to be.  If I could go back to that moment, I would not go to sleep... I would hold Declan the whole night, I would tell him how much I love him and how I would give my life for his if it was allowed... I would plead and beg God to change His mind and not take Dex away.  I actually feel slightly sick to my stomach to think back to who I was before he passed... to think what that 'normal' was like for me and my family.  Declan's life and death have been such a huge definer of us and who we are, it's truly hard to remember what we were like 'before'.

These last few weeks have been really hard.  If I can keep my mind busy I can push the sadness and heartbreak away, I can muster my way through it... but this week, it has felt like my grief is screaming in my face, "I am here!! You can't keep ignoring me.  I won't go away."  Tonight's post, a first for me, a video blog, is all about where I am at with this journey and how I am working to deal with my grief.  As always, my hope and intent with this message is to help others who are grieving know they are not alone and to allow those who are interested in our journey, into this space of healing, coping and ultimately accepting what is.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Good Grief, grief stinks.

Here we are... once again at that dreaded time of year.  As strange as this may sound, I am trying to come to grips with the reality of Declan's passing.  You heard me right! It's been 6 years... I know what you are thinking, I know you are questioning my sanity, but yes, I am still trying to wrap my head around it.  I am still processing what this means for me... I feel at a loss for how to determine what life will look like.  Today a friend asked me how I was and I started to text saying, 'I'm fine' and I paused and thought, No... I am not going to lie... not to her and not to myself.  I am not fine today. I am moody and quick to anger.  I am defensive and feel pretty emotional.  If I am not feeling sad, I am feeling manic... I feel out of control and overwhelmed with grief.  I can not grasp living the rest of my life without Declan.  I can't fathom living everyday with a longing and aching for what I don't have.  The task of living the rest of my life with this discontentment is weighing me down and I am struggling with it.  I find myself trying to figure out what to fill the emptiness with ... clothes, shoes, food, drinks, more critters, more kids... but I am at a loss as to what fills that type of hole.  My search feels never ending... I know there is nothing that will take away the emptiness.  Nothing will replace or fill the void.  It is the constant feeling of chasing something I will never have and being satisfied with that.

That is what I am trying to come to grips with...That is what I am processing through on this 6th angelversary of Declan's passing.  I have always heard that grief changes and evolves over time and I believe that's true.  I just thought at 6 years I would feel more sure of myself and would feel more settled into who I am.  How does someone overcome that?  I was feeling pretty low and frankly alone when I decided to reach out to my fellow moms group and pretty much laid out all my hurts... I didn't mince words or try to sugar coat my brokenness and I was instantly aware of the support I have... these women who have cried with me, laughed with me, attended church with me and loved me as I am and held my hand as I found (am still finding) my path in this road responded with support and honesty.  I was reminded that Joy is a choice.  I can focus on my hurt and my feelings of life being unfair OR I can focus on finding Joy.  I stumbled across a few Bible verses tonight that felt meant for me... Isaiah 41:13 and Isaiah 43:2.  Both remind me that I am not alone. I only feel that way when I rely on my own self to get me through my grief.  When I open up and seek out support, I find it in abundance.  I am reminded that giving it back to Jesus is all I can do - "Crawl into HIS lap and cry or beat upon HIS chest. He knows, he knows and he loves you.  He weeps with you."  I am not alone and I have never been alone.

Sometimes it takes feeling at rock bottom to remind you to look up... to admit that I am not strong enough to do this on my own.  As I left work today, feeling defeated and wore out I had a God Nod that was very encouraging.  The first song that came on was Worn by Tenth Avenue North.  I actually looked to the sky and said, 'You're not kidding!"  The next song that came one was Strong Enough by Matthew West and it was literally perfect timing... it is the story of being at rock bottom and needing God to be the strong one... when you are so worn out that your soul feels crushed by the weight of this world, you need only reach out and say, "Hands of mercy won't you cover me.  Lord right now I am asking you to be strong enough for the both of us." 

I am still struggling with grief and I am still struggling to know how to handle my feelings but here are a few things I know to be true...  1) It's ok to not be ok.  2) I am not alone.   3) Joy is a choice... one that we work at everyday.

I love and miss you every day Declan!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Still wishing, still grieving...

Out on the boat, celebrating my 40th.
Laughing and having the best time ever! 
How does one even start a blog post after such a long time being away?  I suppose I could speak to all the reasons I haven't written or how I am too busy to dedicate time to writing... but I suppose the truth goes something more like this... Grief changes and evolves, the comfort I once got from sharing my feelings isn't as strong.   The sting of Declan's death isn't as potent as it once was.... but please don't hear that it is gone.  We haven't moved on or forgotten.  We have however made the decision to work at finding our JOY.  We work at surrounding ourselves with things that make us happy and more often than not, those things are not things, but people and time with those we love.  We have branched and started to do things we would have never done in the past. We have grown in our commitment to finding our happiness and helping as many people as we can on the way.   Declan's death or maybe better described as Declan's life continues to shape us and push us to be better.  I continue to be surprised at the randomness of grief and how it can hit you like truck or wear on your for days before you even realize what is happening.  Grief still makes any sadness harder, it makes any moment of anger even worse as I can feel the anger of his passing bubbling up... It also brings extreme reflection to my life... and make any ordinary moment something beautiful.  I still find myself playing the "why me" game, I still get jealous of families having babies... I still ask myself why God allows certain people to continue to have children, even when they appear to be lacking in the parenting area... I still find myself fighting with my grief monster of "discontentment".   STILL... and I imagine that is the role grief will play in my life for years to come.
The kids and I at the Henderson Classic Car show.
It was a spur of the moment decision to go and we love it.

I was recently asked to share our story for a fundraiser event and what originally seemed like an easy task, actually was very difficult.  I sat down on the computer and started and re-started our story... struggling to find the right way to begin. Nothing seemed right or appropriate... and once I finally figured out how to start, the words and the feelings poured out... tears and sobs found their way out from the depths of within and I was brought back to that day and realized I have worked very hard at tucking it away... not forgetting or lacking in memory, but putting it away to not be thought of.  The pain I felt, the heat in my belly, the burning ears all were reminders of how traumatic and painful his loss was, is and will be for me.  As strange as this may sound, I was actually surprised at my reaction, but in reality, the tears felt good and having the moment wash over me like it did was a healthy reminder of how far we have come.  I STILL wish he was here.  I STILL wish I never had to know this pain, I STILL grieve for the loss of our dreams... STILL and probably for always.

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.