The first time I saw a counselor after the accident she asked me what my goal was, what I wanted to achieve in counseling. The only answer I could give her was “I don’t want to be like a grieving mom I know. Her son died 5 years ago and she still acts like it was yesterday”.
5 years seemed so far away.
But here I am 5 years later and it went by in a flash.
And I understand now, I will always grieve the loss of my boys. Some days it will feel like it just happened yesterday. Other days it will feel like it was a lifetime ago. Some days the pain will be more than I can bear. Other days it will be a small flicker in the background of my life. But it will never go away.
It will always be with me, but it doesn’t have to define me.
That was my goal in the beginning of all this, to grieve the loss of my boys but not let the accident and the loss become my identity.
A new kids movie came out a few weeks ago. As a rule I avoid kid movies, especially if I think it’s something my boys would have liked. But the new Disney/Pixar movie “Inside Out” peaked my interest, especially as a newly minted counselor. A kid movie that explores the emotions of our lives, I had to go see it.
It was a fantastic movie. My little counselor heart was excited about all the good lessons on emotion in this movie. There is so much I can pull out of the movie to help clients work through different things. But for this blog post I will try to stick to what the movie can teach us about grief.
WARNING: If you haven’t see the move and are planning to . . . . the rest of the blog post has spoilers.
The basic premise of the movie follows the story of Riley and her parent’s decision to move the family from Minnesota to San Francisco. The story is told through the characters that represent Riley’s different emotions: Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness. The emotion characters guide Riley through life from their Headquarters in her brain.
Up to the point where the movie starts Joy has been the dominant emotion in Riley’s life. But after the move to San Francisco Sadness, though she tries not to, begins taking over. Joy, instead of allowing Riley to feel sad over the move, tries to stop Sadness any way she can. At one point Joy relegates Sadness to a small section of Headquarters and tells her to “stay put”. Sadness was trying to express the grief Riley felt over leaving her life behind. But Joy wouldn’t allow it. Things eventually escalate and both Joy and Sadness get sucked out of Headquarters. Leaving Anger in charge.
Joy was so busy trying to stop Sadness they both ended up being “suppressed”. Generally when you suppress one emotion you suppress them all, even the good ones. When emotions are suppressed often all that’s left on the surface is anger.
As Joy and Sadness try to make their way back to Headquarters they run into Riley’s imaginary friend from childhood, Bing Bong. During one of their adventures Bing Bong loses his rocket wagon – the last tie he had to his life with Riley. Bing Bong sits down and starts to grieve the loss of the wagon. But Joy, who can’t allow any sadness, tries to “happy” him out of his grief.
This is so much like society. Everything has to be happy and good. After a certain amount of time others no longer tolerate grief. “Get on with your life”, “It’s time to move on”, “So and so would want you to be happy” become common phrases grieving people hear. But you cannot “happy” your way out of grief.
In the movie Sadness simply sat down next to Bing Bong and listened. As she sat with him, she validated his feelings and his right to feel sad. She talked about what he lost, why it was important and allowed him to cry. Only then did Bing Bong begin to feel better.
Sadness and grief must be felt and expressed. That’s how healing happens. This process cannot be rushed.
Through other events on their journey back to Headquarters Joy begins to understand the role Sadness plays in Riley’s life. Joy learns that Sadness is needed. For true joy to exist we need to feel the sadness in our lives. Because, only when we acknowledge our sadness and work through it can we experience joy.
By the end of the movie they make it back to Headquarters. Joy leads Sadness to the control board and allows her be in charge. For the first time since the move Riley fully feels the sadness she’s been fighting against. She finally talks to her parents and expresses how much she misses Minnesota. After also expressing their sadness over what they left behind, Riley’s parents pull her into a hug. Back in Headquarters Sadness reaches over and pulls Joy’s hand down to the controls where they both move the lever. It is at this moment in the movie Riley feels both Joy and Sadness at the same time. I cried.
One of the most surprising things I learned in my grief is that you can feel 2 opposite emotions at the same time. I still vividly remember the first time it happened to me. I was at the beach with my sister, her family and several friends. We were having a great time. But while I was happy and having fun, I was also at the same time sad and grieving. It was so weird to feel happy and sad at the same time.
I have felt this strange mix of emotions in my life many times since the accident. One of the things I learned early in my grief is that I can feel the depth of my grief and at the same time be happy. Or I can be having an amazing time with friends and its tinged with the sadness of grief. It’s a strange and wonderful feeling to be able to feel both grief and joy at the same time. It would not have been possible if I had ignored my grief. For it is only in allowing sadness to wash over us that we can eventually feel true Joy.
And for completely unrelated giggles I’d like to leave you with my favorite part of the movie. As Joy and Sadness are getting on the Train of Thought, Joy knocks over 2 boxes filled with stuff. One of the boxes is labeled “Facts” the other box is labeled “Opinion”. As the stuff inside each box spills all over the floor of the train car, Joy exclaims “Oh no, facts and opinions got all mixed up”. Bing Bong, as he is randomly throwing stuff back in the boxes says “Oh don’t worry that happens all the time”. I laughed so hard.
Well it’s over. Done. Finished. Last week I turned in my final assignment for graduate school. As soon as the grades post I will officially have my Masters in Counseling. It’s still a bit surreal at this point.
At the beginning of May my internships ended and I walked in the graduation ceremony. Suddenly I found myself with extra time on my hands. Internship was over and school was winding down.
Once everything started slowing down and I had extra time on my hands, I thought I would be able to get so much personal stuff done. Graduate school is very time consuming and many of my personal interests took a back seat during the past 2 years. Now I have so many ideas I want to work on. So I was excited to have this extra time. I was going to be SO productive.
Suddenly my life resembled life before the accident. I could be home all day working on photography or other things. I could go shopping in the middle of the day if I wanted. With no internship, little homework and the only thing on my calendar was class on Thursday nights, my schedule was my own again. The only difference was there were no children to pick up from school in the afternoon. No family dinner to prepare for. There was nothing to say this is your time, so you’d better get your stuff done because kids will be coming home soon.
What I discovered was that the “I’m almost done with school” lack of motivation toward my schoolwork filtered into every other area of my life. (Hence the reason there have been so few blog posts lately 😉 ). I suddenly didn’t want to do anything. Because I had so much time it was easier to procrastinate. The more I wasn’t productive, the more guilty I felt. And the guiltier I felt, the worse I felt about myself.
I was discussing this all with my counselor and it dawned on me . . . I just spent 2 ½ years going through the most intense schooling I have ever experienced. I’ve done nothing but homework, stressing about homework, and thinking about homework for the past 2 ½ years. I am allowed a break.
I don’t have to be productive right now. I CAN take a break. I’m in a period of limbo. School is done, but I haven’t started my career yet. I realized I would never have a time of no commitments in my life again. How many people get a gift like that?
I could spend the month of June doing basically nothing if I wanted to. But I still had trouble allowing myself this time of rest. We are programed that we have to be productive to matter. So we are always busy. We fill our lives with tasks, to do lists, and productivity. But we don’t rest. True relaxation is hard to find in our society of constant achieving. So how do you find this rest? How do you set productivity aside long enough to truly relax?
I had to give myself permission. I had to physically say out loud say, “It’s ok to not be productive right now”. I had to talk to others about it and seek some validation. We are so ingrained to be busy and productive every minute of the day, that we don’t really know how to stop.
Knowing that soon a new chapter in my life would be starting, I chose to allow myself this time of rest. For once I was not going to push myself and I allowed myself to just relax. I have been sleeping in, reading fiction, shopping with my mom, talking with my sister, editing pictures, watching movies, and jotting down ideas for things I want to do. Overall I am enjoying just being able to relax.
On Thursday I will leave for my celebratory “I’m done with graduate school” vacation. I will be spending 2 weeks with friends doing nothing but hanging out and taking pictures. When I come back I plan to start implementing some of the ideas bouncing around in my head and dive into a new career helping others.
Is there something you need to give yourself permission to do?
On Mother’s Day I can think of no mother more deserving than a mother that had to give one back.” ~ Erma Bombeck
This weekend is going to be an emotional rollercoaster ride for me. On Friday I will be graduating from graduate school. It will be a celebration of 2 ½ years of stress and hard work. I will have accomplished something I didn’t think I could. The only damper to my day will be the fact that my boys are not there to share it with me.
Then Sunday is Mother’s Day.
I dread the approach of Mother’s Day. For some reason this holiday is different than the others. I have figured out how to survive holidays and the boy’s birthdays. (You can read about it here). But Mother’s Day is different.
How do you survive an entire day dedicated to celebrating motherhood, when you don’t feel like a mother anymore? Don’t get me wrong. I’m a mom and I always will be. But I don’t FEEL like a mom. There is a certain level of worry you live with when your children are around. All moms’ I know question themselves. Am I doing this right? Am I a good mother? How can I be better? With my children gone, I no longer have that level of worry about my children. I no longer spend my days questioning if I’m doing motherhood right. My days are no longer ordered around my kid’s schedule. I have only myself to think about and worry about. I no longer FEEL like a mom.
I loved being a mom. I had so much fun joking around with my boys and dreaming of their futures. I couldn’t wait to see who they grew up to be. I loved silliness and the craziness of having boys. Their creativity and how they saw the world always astounded me. I loved the organization of making sure they got to where they needed to be and keeping the house picked up after their whirlwind way of playing with toys. I even enjoyed the worry, the fighting, and the annoying little things they did. Because that’s what being a mom is all about. I MISS being a mom.
All holidays point to the fact my children are gone. But Mother’s Day screams it.
So how do I survive the day dedicated to being a mom, without my children around to make me feel like a mom? I hide. I refuse to attend church on Mother’s Day. I stay off Facebook. It hurts to much to see the pictures and read the stories of what has been done for the mom’s, knowing that I will never again have that in my life.
Last week I joined a Facebook group for grieving parents who have lost a child or children and are now childless. Everyday since joining someone has posted the question “How do I survive Mother’s Day?” The responses range from beautiful to desperate. Some spend the day with family; others decorate their children’s graves. Some, like me, hide away from the world for the day.
There really is no right or wrong way to get through the day. As a grieving mom you do what you have to do to survive the day. The best way through these days is to have a plan. Plan out what you would like to do that day. If the plan works you’ll get through the day and survive. If the plan doesn’t work out that’s ok too, you will still survive the day. The idea is to have a plan that you know will get you through the day.
This year my plan is to hide. I will buy myself my favorite chocolate and a new movie. I will curl up on my couch, lose myself in a good movie and pretend the world doesn’t exist. I will do this because on this one day it hurts to much to try and so I shut down. I miss being a mom.
Anxiety: Overestimating the negative future possibilities and under estimating your ability to deal with it. ~ Teresa’s Counselor
I woke up in the middle of the night. Something wasn’t right. Panic. I could feel it spreading through my body. I knew if I gave myself over to it, I would have a panic attack. I tried the deep breathing techniques I’d been practicing. But I couldn’t breathe in deep enough. So I waited. Eventually the feeling subsided.
When I thought back on that night I got mad at myself. A panic attack, really? I’ve never had a panic attack and here I almost had one over ORALS!
I first began hearing about orals my first year of graduate school. The professors started dropping hints about how difficult orals were in the first few classes. No one ever actually explained what orals were so it took me awhile to figure out what everyone was so worked up about. The oral exam is a pass/fail exam all the Masters in Counseling students have to take in order to graduate. You write a paper about a client, submit a video of you working with the client. Then defend your paper and video to a panel of teachers. It sounded hard but not undoable. So I didn’t worry about it.
But then we had our oral exam orientation in October. Yup! There was an orientation to explain what was required to pass our orals. It is that big of a deal. It was around this time my confidence evaporated and anxiety set in.
Somehow I’d talked myself into believing I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t write a giant paper. I didn’t understand theory well enough. I didn’t know how to use theory with my clients. I didn’t know where to put my client in Erickson’s Stages of Development. I didn’t have a good video. I could go on. My negative self-talk was so bad, the anxiety increased with every passing day. I allowed the anxiety to take control and for the first time in my life I got stuck. They gave us 4 months to work on our orals paper. I watched month after month slip past and I still had not written 1 word.
Shortly after my middle of the night almost panic attack, I started thinking about all the anxiety I was experiencing. I couldn’t remember ever going through something like this before. I started looking at the anxiety and wondering where it came from. Was I always this way? I didn’t think so.
I finally asked my mom if I was an anxious person before the accident. She confirmed that I wasn’t. She even pointed out that I was more of a deal with it and move on kind of person. So I assumed the accident had created anxiousness in me. But then my mom said something that surprised me. She said that even after the accident I wasn’t an anxious person. According to my mom the anxiety centered on school. She figured I had so much anxiety about school because I had so much riding on school.
Anyone who goes to college, especially graduate school, has a lot riding on school. So why was I so different? Because, I have EVERYTHING riding on school. Financial stability, employability, a new life purpose, a new identity as a professional and the idea that some day, through helping others, I will be happy. The entire process of rebuilding my life was riding on being able to graduate.
And my oral exam was in the way of that new life.
I was explaining this all to my counselor when she made a statement that stopped me in my tracks.
“It sounds like you have some resentment that you have to be doing this.”
Talk about hitting the nail on the head!
Yes I have some resentment!! I am a stay-at-home-mom with no kids to take care of. All I have ever wanted to be was a mom. And I loved being a mom. But that dream was ripped from me and I watched my entire life crumble around me. Hell yes, I’m resentful. Everything. I lost everything. I am rebuilding my life from the ground up. And I don’t want to have to do this. This is not the life I chose.
I also realized I have some resentment toward God for allowing all this to happen. That is a hard one to admit and will take some time to work through.
Sadly all this realization didn’t make the anxiety go away. The day for my oral board finally came. A bundle of nerves, I sat down in front of a panel of 3 professors. I explained my client and answered their questions. Turns out I enjoyed the mental challenge of the process. And in the end it was like having a conversation about my client.
By the time I got home that day I was mentally and physically drained. (I was even having trouble putting together coherent sentences).
It took me a week and half to emotionally recover from orals. Once I did I realized something. I had let the anxiety completely take over my life. As a result I had wandered away from my relationship with God. Even the daily running conversation I had with God was gone.
In my fear I had tried so hard to control everything around me, I had lost sight of who really is in control. I had lost sight of where my strength comes from. I had lost sight of who I am.
Today for the first time in 5 months I feel like myself again. And now begins the hard work of rebuilding my relationship with God and removing the anxiety from my life.
Now when I feel the anxiety beginning, I stop it before it can build. I say to myself “No! You are not going to do that again.” I remind myself how awful and exhausting it is to live like that. As time goes on I’ll be able to confidently turn to God instead.
I want to leave you with one final thought. Earlier this month a friend posted this on Facebook
“Fear Paralyzes. Faith Mobilizes”
It was fear of failing that had me so stuck I almost didn’t pass orals. It was faith that led me to graduate school and the idea that I can help others. It is faith that keeps me moving forward and dreaming of a better life.
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3
This blog post is late. The process of going through my oral boards for school took a lot out of me. (There is a blog post on this coming soon). As a result when Devin’s 14th birthday came around, I was still recovering. It took me a week and a half to feel like myself again. Now that I’m recovered (I think) I’m ready to start posting again. 🙂
Devin would have turned 14 on February 26th. I missed his 10th birthday . . . turning double digits. I missed his 13th birthday . . . becoming a teenager. Every time one of these days passes I remember what I’m missing.
Instead of another list of all the things I’ve missed, I thought I would share some memories with you.
Devin and I had our own special way of measuring his growth. Sure we had the standard marks on the wall, where every first and last day of school new marks were added for both boys. But Devin and I did something that was just for the two of us. We’d put our palms together and spread out our fingers. I could see how much he’d grown by how long his fingers were against mine. Today, his fingers would probably be longer than mine.
One night Devin and I were being silly. He was telling me the names of his fingers. Yes, he’d named his fingers. I wish I could remember the names of his thumb and forefinger. But I do remember the names of the last 3 fingers. Billy, Bob and Billy Bob. Every time he named off his fingers, I’d go into a fit of giggles. He kept repeating them, because I kept laughing. It was a fun game.
Devin would often do or say the funniest things. I used to say all the time “you never know what’s going to fall out of that kids mouth”. The other day my sister found an old Facebook post of mine from September of 2010. It was a conversation I’d had with Devin that I’d forgotten about. It made me laugh to remember.
Devin: “Mom you know how Adam named all the animals. Well who made all the words?”
Mom: “God made the words”
Devin: “I think it was Eve”
Such a smart, funny kid.
Because of the way my classes are structured, I was not able to get out of class on Devin’s birthday. This was the first time I was not able to take the day off from my responsibilities and spend it with my family. I knew with all the stress over orals the birthday might end up being harder than normal. Stress tends to exacerbate grief. The fact that I couldn’t take the day off concerned me a lot. I wasn’t sure how the day was going to go, or if I’d be able to deal with it.
My sister came up with the idea of the family coming to class for a visit on my break. I thought that was a good idea, so I asked a few of my classmates if they’d be ok with that. Everyone agreed, so the plan was set. My mom bought a 5 pound Hershey bar, in honor of Devin’s birthday, to share with everyone.
For Devin’s 6th birthday my sister bought him a 5 pound Hershey bar. The candy bar was almost as big as he was. I left it sitting out on the counter and all 4 of us would break off pieces to munch on. One day after school Devin’s kindergarten teacher mentioned to me that he’d been a bit more hyper in class than normal. I knew immediately the cause was the giant Hershey bar. I guess he’d eaten more of it than I realized. Sneaky imp. 🙂
We thought sharing a 5 pound Hershey bar with the class would be a great way to remember Devin on his birthday and celebrate the end of orals. My family arrived and introductions were made. The candy bar was broken up and shared. It was a nice way to spend Devin’s birthday.
As I was driving home from class that night I started to feel weird about having my family come to class. I felt like I had unnecessarily dragged my class into my grief, and dragged my family to my school when they didn’t need to be there. In short, I felt foolish. Like I had made a big production of something that could have and should have remained small and private. It took me a few days to realize why I was feeling this way. I’ve progressed through my grief enough that I can handle these days without the need for a big production. For every birthday and accident day that has passed my family has gotten together to remember the boys with a special activity and dinner at one of the boy’s favorite restaurants. We’ve done balloon releases, lantern releases, launched rockets, worn silly bands, played with Dawson’s go cart, done light painting and we’ve even gone to a MythBusters display at OMSI in Portland. I knew that someday these activities would stop. And though I’m not sure we’ve reached that point, it’s nice to know I don’t NEED them anymore.
2014 is almost over. There are only a few days left, and I have to say, I am so happy this year is over. It’s been a very hard year for me. It’s been a year full of grief and stress, and I’ve never been so happy to see a year come to an end.
You can read about why this year has been so difficult here.
But as this difficult year draws to a close, I am reminded of the attitude I had at the end of the hardest year of my life.
At the end of 2011, I sent out my annual Christmas cards and letter. I wanted to say thank you to all the friends and family who had been so supportive throughout the year. But I also wanted to end the year with hope.
The following is an excerpt from that letter:
“Without a doubt this has been the hardest year of my life. I’ve lost everything that gave me purpose and made me who I was. Everything I knew and understood about my life is gone. I’m left with only these 3 things: my photography, family/friends and my faith in God. I have faith that God has been with me through everything and faith that he has brighter plans for me in the future.
A few years ago I asked the boys a question each night as I tucked them into bed. I asked them “What was your favorite part of today?” My goal was to get them thinking of the positive things even if they’d had a bad day. Of course this practice only lasted a week or so. But I’ve been thinking of that question a lot these past few weeks. Only the question has changed to “What was your favorite part of this year?” Believe it or not I can answer that question. With everything I’ve lost and gone through this year I can still find positive things. I think the boys would be proud of that.”
I reread my Christmas letter and was amazed at the faith and positive attitude I had that year. Though my faith in God has never wavered, my trust in God has. I know that seems like a contradiction. Having faith in God with my grief is easy, it’s the only way I can survive this. But it’s the trust in the little things of life that is harder. God has been teaching me to trust him in the little things this year. It’s a hard lesson I am still learning.
It is so strange that in the year 2011 I could easily find things that were good. I had experienced the worst thing a parent can imagine, I was still reeling from the tragedy. Yet I was still able to find something good from that year.
But this year it’s harder for me to find something good. When I look back on the year all I can see is anxiety, stress and grief. Yet because it’s been such a hard year, I’m feeling the need to ask myself this question again, to find something good out of this year.
Three things come to mind when I try and find something good from this year: my photography club, my first speaking engagement and school.
Though school has been where all of my stress has originated this year, it is also the only thing keeping me moving forward. Going to school has given me a sense of purpose and when I am done, hopefully I will be qualified to help others like me who’ve lost everything.
Beyond a sense of purpose, school has also given me new friends. The program I’m in is a cohort style program. This means that I go so class every Thursday night with the same people. My cohort has been together for 2 years now. We’ve been through a lot together as a class and have had a lot of fun. I hope once school is over and that weekly connection is gone, we will find a way to stay connected and remain friends.
The last day of November I had the opportunity to tell my story in church. This is something I have been wanting to do for a couple of years. But I was never sure I really had anything worthwhile to say. To be given the opportunity to share my story was not only an amazing opportunity, it was a healing experience as well.
My photography club has been such a huge part of my support system in many ways. So it’s no surprise to me that they made my list of good things from this year again. This summer my photography club came to Oregon and I was able to show off some of my favorite places. We had so much fun photographing Oregon’s countryside and laughing with each other. I can’t wait for our trip next year.
Besides having a ton of fun with good friends, I learned a lot about myself from that trip. I learned that I am capable of so much more than I thought. I learned that I have some leadership skills and with practice, I could handle doing similar things on a grander scale. As a result, after the group left, I began thinking of another life goal that I hope to implement someday.
All this to say, that even during the worst day, month or year, if you look hard enough you can find something good that happened.
When you are grieving the loss of someone their birthday is no longer about celebrating another year. It’s about remembering them. And that’s not what a birthday is supposed to be about.
Yesterday was, my oldest son’s 16th birthday. Dawson would have been 16 years old. Sixteen!!! No matter how many times I say that, I just cannot get over the fact my baby boy would have been turning 16 years old. No longer a baby, and no longer a boy. He would have hit that magical age of 16 years old, a teenager on the verge of becoming a man.
My memories of Dawson stop when he was 12 years old, a pre-teen on the verge of puberty. He was still into Transformers and Bionicle action figures. He loved airplanes, astronomy and knowing how things work. If anything needed to be put together he was the one I called. He loved building things. He built his own transformer costume out of cardboard boxes. He and his Grandpa built a go cart. He was so proud of the fact that his 1st Lego robotics team dubbed him the “master programmer”.
Yesterday he would have turned 16 years old. A landmark year, a birthday party year. When the boys were young I decided they would have big birthday parties on the landmark years. 5, 10, 13, 16, 18 and 21 are the years that deserved special recognition. I missed out on throwing Dawson his 13th birthday party and now I’m missing out on his 16th birthday.
I’m missing so much.
I wonder all the time how tall he would be? What would his voice sound like? What would he be like as a teenager? What kinds of interests would he have developed as childhood slipped away? Would he be interested in girls yet?
I won’t get to teach him how to drive. I missed his graduation from 8th grade and his entrance into high school.
As time goes on, I will miss out on even more. I will miss out on watching him participate in high school activities. I will miss his first date. I will miss watching my son graduate from high school, going off to college, getting married, and providing me with grandchildren.
I feel like I’ve been cheated. I was so looking forward to having teenage boys in my house. I was looking forward to seeing what kind of young man my son would become. I will never have the answers to my questions. And I’ll never be able to see my son grow into a man. To quote Dawson “It’s not fair”.
I miss my boy so much. I miss watching his mind work as he built something. I miss his intensity. I miss his laugh and his smile. I miss fighting with him over food. I miss the teenage attitude he’d started to develop. I miss teasing him and being teased in return. I miss our movie nights. I miss his adventurous spirit and our bike rides.
I miss so much.
For Dawson’s 12th birthday he received a rocket from his Aunt and Uncle. At the time of the accident the rocket sat unopened in his room. Because his birthday is in the winter and so close to Christmas, we never had a chance to play with it.
Every year since the accident we have launched Dawson’s rocket on his birthday. Last year the rocket broke. The parachute did not open and when it fell back to earth, it hit the ground hard.
This year Dawson’s Uncle bought 2 new rockets so we can keep the tradition going. Dawson’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all gathered to launch the new rockets. We’d planned to start launching the rockets at 2pm. But in true family fashion, it was 4pm before we had all the problems worked out. We launched the first rocket and watched it disappear into the clouds. When it came back down, it landed in the trees far beyond our reach. The first rocket was lost. So we moved locations to launch the second rocket, farther away from the trees. Woosh! The second rocket launched. This rocket had a second booster, which shot it well beyond our vision. The second rocket was lost as well.
Even though the afternoon was filled with launching issues, it was a great way to spend Dawson’s 16th birthday. I just wish he could have been with us.
I thought it would be fun to share part of Dawson’s birthday with you so I made a short video of the rocket launches.
Last week I had an opportunity to share my story in church. It was an amazing experience. I was able to talk about topics I have become very passionate about in front of a large number of people. After telling my story I was able to share how God has comforted and supported me through the people around me. I had the opportunity to describe a little of what grief feels like. And I was also able to talk about how to respond to others who are grieving.
At the end of the video I suggest asking 2 questions before saying something to a newly bereaved person. These questions “Am I saying this so I don’t feel uncomfortable?” and “Am I saying this to make them feel better, or remove their pain?” are to help someone examine why they want to say something. Often times the words we say, though meant to help, can actually cause more pain.
I’ve been thinking about these questions I mentioned in the video, and I realized I left off with an attitude of what not to say. So I’d like to pose another question for you to ask yourself. “How can I show this person I care, or that I love them?”
This is what it comes down to. As grieving parents we need to know that you care. Support doesn’t come in the form of magic words that make it all better. Support comes in the form of people expressing their concern and love. Some of my favorite expressions of support, love and caring were the little things people did.
I loved it when people would come over and clean my house. I was totally incapable of doing small things. Getting out of bed was a major accomplishment. Having people take care of the normal life tasks that were to hard for me made me feel cared for.
My sister used her knowledge of the car insurance industry and took care of all the insurance stuff that needed to be handled. By offering to help in this way, she took a huge burden off my shoulders.
For 3 months cards and gifts poured in. But it wasn’t the gifts that mattered, it was the recognition that we were hurting and needed support.
For a year my cousin sent me handmade cards. She recognized that support was needed long after most of the crowd had gone back to their normal lives. I looked forward to the cards every month and they decorated my table for a long time.
My photography club showed their support in many unique ways. One of my favorites was on the first year anniversary of the accident. They posted pictures on the club page for me and talked about what I meant to them. That expression of caring made me feel so special.
So many members of my extended family flew out right after the accident. It was amazing. They carried me through that first week more than they know. But it didn’t stop there. Other family members came to visit throughout the year. It was so nice to have people coming at various intervals during that first year. It gave me something to look forward to.
My best friend flew me out to visit her in South Dakota. I spent a week with her family being spoiled. She took such good care of me; I didn’t want to go home.
I have an uncle whose story is somewhat similar to mine. He has shared a bit of his story with me and allowed me to ask questions. He has been a wonderful source of wisdom.
One of the most amazing expressions of support came from a wonderful young woman. She organized a gift-giving brigade for my second holiday season without the boys. I didn’t realize what was going on at first. I happened to catch her leaving a gift on my doorstep. She’s such a sweet person; I didn’t think anything of it. The next day I came home from work to find another gift on my doorstep. But it wasn’t until the 3rd day I realized what was going on. From December 1st thru January 22nd, a group of women left gifts on my doorstep. It was so amazing! During the hardest time of my year I had something to look forward to when I went home. I didn’t have to go home to an empty house, which once was alive with my kid’s energy. I was able to go home and feel cared for by the random gifts left on my doorstep. I still distinctly remember the night my favorite gift arrived. I was chatting with my sister on my Bluetooth as I pulled into my driveway. That’s when I saw several paper snowflakes hanging in front of my door. I’m pretty sure I squealed. It was so beautiful and thoughtful. I haven’t decorated my home for Christmas since the accident. But that year I had snowflakes decorating the outside of my house. I left them up for as long as I possibly could, and when I took them down, I saved as many of them as I could.
Each person who has offered me support has done so in unique ways. Many people offered support through prayer. Others supported me by their presence or act of service. Some used their talents or abilities to help me with life tasks or to brighten my day in some way.
Everyone is different. Everyone who grieves does so in their own way. Everyone who offers support does so in their own way. No offer of love or support goes unnoticed or unappreciated. Even if those of us who are grieving don’t express our gratitude, I can promise you we are extremely grateful to those people who show us love, support and caring.
So let me ask you, what can you do to SHOW someone who is hurting that you care?
Last week I received a message from my pastor asking if he could use my story as part of his sermon. I asked if he just wanted to mention my story or if he’d like me to come share it personally. He became very excited at the opportunity to have me speak in-person, so I agreed.
I spent all of last week cycling between being excited and nervous. I even had a moment of sheer panic on Saturday night. .
Yesterday I shared my story and my journey of clinging to hope in church.
I have wanted to share my story for a long time. I am very passionate about grief, how to grieve and how to treat those who are grieving. It was a wonderful opportunity to share my story and my passion in a public forum.
After much prayer, I feel led to help others beyond just one-on-one counseling. I believe my story and my journey can benefit others. With a leap of faith and the support of my friends and family, I have decided to open myself up to speak to groups, churches, and support organizations.
The posted video is my first step down this path. Your prayers and your support is appreciated.