A Glimpse Into Sibling Grief- 9 Years Later

This boy.

Up to my elbows in warm bubbly water, I let out a sigh as I loaded the dishwasher. Seems like the vicious cycle never ends.

I looked out the window hoping these dishes would miraculous disappear, when he walked in behind me, grabbed a piece of pizza and leaned against the counter as he took a bite.

“I wish Lydia was here.”    The first words out of his mouth.

Ahhh. Gulp. I felt a sudden tugging in my heart.  This came as a surprise as he hasn’t said much about her in a few months.  Remaining quiet, I continued with the dishes and waited to see where this would go.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could tell his mind was deep in thought, chewing and thinking, remembering and wondering, as demonstrated by his calm yet serious demeanor.

Hunter Pizza

“She should be here instead of me.” He continued on.  Grabbing a piece of pizza, I leaned beside him, reaching my around his shoulders, seizing the moment.

“Oh honey no, you don’t mean that.”    I took a deep breath and tried to fight back the tears, bit into the Hawaiian dish and wondered where this spontaneous empathetic comment elicited from.

We leaned on each other against counter, slowly munching on our pizza and continued our moving conversation.

“You know, God knew what was going to happen that day. He had a plan. He knew we were going to have an accident and knew the outcome. You are here because you were meant to be here. He knew you would be a fantastic big brother and these little brothers and sister you have now need you, and you need them. If it weren’t for Lydia, they wouldn’t be here. “

After I said it, it didn’t sound so attractive.  But it was the truth.  A bittersweet ending. She departed to heaven which opened the door for the three other siblings that came after her-none of which was in our plans.

“I wouldn’t trade any of you,” I said as I wiped my eyes, “and wish all of you could be here now together, but that just wasn’t how it was going to be.  What a blessing that God gave you more siblings.”

“But I wish she was here. I really miss her, “he stated softly.

“I know, I do too,” I said as we shared a loving big bear hug amongst our sniffles.

God knew. He knows.

And there I was, having this adult filled conversation with my twelve-year-old in the kitchen. My son, who now stands as tall as me, will surpass me any minute. He was so big on the outside, yet so vulnerable on the inside.

As I looked at his innocent face, instantly I was reminded of that frightened little boy I cradled in the rocks and weeds on the shoulder of the highway nearly nine years ago while life as I knew it came to a painful end.

How did this happen?  My thoughts raced trying to untangle the intricate web of what ifs.

My mind had no problem reminding me of how excruciating and horrific those early years were.  Amazing how those memories lay just beneath the surface, waiting to be revealed again at a moment’s notice.

My son can be challenging at times like when complaining about his lack of technology or when he tests the boundaries of his emerging independence and entrance into his teens. However, I always remember that underneath his sometimes rough and abrasive exterior, is a little boy.  A little boy who was robbed of a normal childhood and the stable and attentive parents he deserved.

A little boy whose heart remains as big as the ocean.  A little boy who loves his family with all his soul, a little boy who has had to grow up long before his time.

They said he wouldn’t remember, however, to the surprise of many, there is nothing he can’t recall.  From how his sister bossed him around, made him play dress up and wear make up, to every tiny detail about the accident.  He remembers.

She was his, and he was hers.

Each day he grows more- intellectually, spiritually, and physically, touching my heart deeply. Yet emerging now, I see a strong young man who possesses amazing strength and perseverance, a young man who is courageous and beholds a heart of compassion and I couldn’t be more proud.

Through it all, I remain tremendously thankful because losing his sister has brought him closer to Jesus.

And with that, he knows that despite our sorrow, God will make beauty out of our pain and give us the hope and faith to be reunited with his sister and other loved ones someday.  Yet for now, we treasure our memories and rest assured that Lydia will remain forever in all of our hearts.

 

www.grievinggumdrops.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faith, Grief, and Pass the Chocolate Pudding-Interview with Author Heather Wallace Rey

I am beyond thrilled to share with you all my interview with author Heather Wallace Rey.  In her most recent book, Faith, Grief & Pass the Chocolate Pudding, Heather shares intimately her journey through grief and reflections on her life since the passing of her father, offering insight and tips affecting a grieving heart.

“Grief is intensely personal, and every person is entitled to grieve their own way, in their own time.  I hope beyond hope that you never experience the level of stress while grieving that prompts your mind to wander separate of your body causing you to wear lingerie in public.  Unless public  humiliation is something that helps you cope.  In that case, have at it!!  I’ll let you borrow my robe.  Because of my own moments of public humiliation, I now think very carefully before even considering judging anyone else’s life or grief story. The past four years have made me much more capable of listening to the stories of others, without any judgement. Today, at the end of this book, I wish I could be writing a conclusion to grief.”

Her book is uniquely written and sprinkled with humor,  offering the reader an open and honest account of matters of the heart. Heather discusses many topics, shedding light on significant issues associated with grief, leaving your heart satisfied and encouraged.

Comical and uplifting, this book will be sure to comfort your soul and reassure you that you are not alone in your walk through grief.

Read on…..

What made you want to write this particular book?

I have always wanted to write a book, but – when it came to this particular book – I’m not sure I chose it.  It may seem strange but, in some way, this book chose me.  I actually tell a story in the book about a moment where I was grieving and went to a bookstore to find a book about grief that would make me laugh, and make me feel like I wasn’t the only person in the world that became crazy, due to grief.  I never found that book and, in talking with a friend, she suggested that maybe I couldn’t find the book I was looking for because that book was somewhere inside me.  In the scheme of things, I don’t think most authors – given the choice – would choose to write a book about grief.  I know I wouldn’t.  I just started writing everything down that happened with no real desire to get published – and took the book to Kinko’s and had it spiral bound, so I could give it to friends who were grieving.  The publishing part was just a happy accident that came after the fact.

What were the most challenging parts for you in writing this book?  

There were two really challenging parts of writing this book – the first was re-living some of the things that happened.  I wrote this book over a period of about 3 years, starting the week after my Dad passed away.  Some of the things that I wrote as I went along, came out very easily on paper right as they were originally happening.  Re-reading them, however, was a completely different experience.  There are things that are humorous, looking back, but there are also moments that are still so raw and hard to talk about that having to read and re-read them was a little gut-wrenching.  I actually put the book away for about 6 months, because it was just too hard to re-live it during certain times of my life.  The other really challenging part of writing this book was losing someone else I really loved during the process:  my business partner and co-author.  Grief brought us together and, ultimately, my grief and my pain and both of our stubbornness drove us apart.  Having a secondary loss of someone who has supported you and loved you through some of this process is something that I’ve read about, but it doesn’t seem quite as impossible as actually living through it in person.  Grief turned me upside down until my life was almost unrecognizable and just when I thought it was getting better, everything around me started crashing in.  In a time where I really needed to be my own hero, I just didn’t have the strength.  I relied on someone else to be my hero through grief – someone that was, himself, grieving, and that was really unfair to both of us.  What grief taught me was that a secondary loss brings back all of the pain of the first loss times ten and it was really hard to stick with the book throughout that secondary loss.

 

What do you want people to take with them from your book? How has your life changed since? 

The things I’d most like people to take away from my book are three-fold: First, I hope that my love for my Dad, my fond memories of him, and my co-author’s love for his brother, Jamie, and his fond memories of Jamie shine through.  Secondly, I really hope that through my book others are able to laugh a little – there are some parts of my grief that were really terrible but also kind of ridiculous and funny – and finally – I pray every day that every person who is experiencing grief always knows that even when they feel the most alone and the most crazy – they are neither alone nor crazy.

Since writing this book, I’ve spent a lot of time talking with others about grief, speaking to groups about grief, and telling my story.  Ultimately, I think I had to lose some part of myself in order to start to piece myself back together.  I relied on the strength of others to help me to learn to be brave and to be strong, and to tell my story without being ashamed of all that I went through.  Grief didn’t just re-define me – it helped me rebuild some parts of myself that had been broken even before I lost my dad.

 

How has your faith evolved throughout your life? How did impact your grief journey?

Up until the point where grief “broke me,” I have always considered myself a very faithful person.  There again, faith often came relatively easy to me – I was raised in a church, and I have worked on a church staff for most of my adult life.  I’m not sure that the concepts of God and faith were things that I ever questioned very much.  I believed because I was raised to believe.  Through grief, my faith has been tested in a number of situations and seemingly around every corner.  I think when you lose someone that is very close to you, it levels the playing field.  There are people who might say that because you earn your living at a church, they have expectations of you that have to do with faith.  There are people who expect that if you teach others about faith, that your faith is solid in some way they can’t understand.  Grief levels the playing field of faith – it can test your faith, no matter who you are or what you formerly believed.  What I learned is that working at a church didn’t better prepare me for a crisis of faith, any more than working at an airport, or a grocery store, or a real estate office.  I was subject to the same doubts about God and faith and loss that any other person would be.  I think that having a crisis of faith related to grief was even a little worse, because people so desperately needed me to continue to be faithful during my own grief, that I often felt like I was living a lie.  Grief made me more susceptible to being hurt by others who had expectations of what a “grieving Christian” should look like.  I think a grieving Christian who works at a church looks just like anyone else who’s ever been through grief.  Processing my grief through a lens of faith has just made it clearer that grief doesn’t care where you stand economically or socially or faithfully – it takes all those things about you that are the very worst and magnifies them by about a million.  My faith didn’t get me through grief – my faith pointed me in the direction of people that would help to make my grief more manageable.  I survived, and continue to survive, based on the really good and faithful servants that God has given me to walk this journey with.

 

Do you have a favorite inspirational quote you would like to share?

One of my favorite quotes in life is “What lies behind you and what lies before you are tiny matters compared to what lies within you.”  This is a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that I have always loved, but has become especially poignant throughout the grieving process because I am a person who always believed that you could be defined by your past or present actions and grief has proven to me – over and over – that my past and present actions are just a miniscule part of the really important things that make up the “real me.”  Grief changed the way that I acted, some of the time, but it couldn’t take away all the things inside me that were really good – it just put some of them on hold for a little while.

What is your favorite memory of your father?

I have lots of favorite memories of my Dad, but some of my all-time favorite memories of him involve the “field trips” that we took together – some of them included my younger sisters as well, but some of them were special times that I shared just with him.  He took us to museums, to movies on Thanksgiving Day every year, to the Scottish games, to the Renaissance Festival (King Richard’s Faire), to parades, and encouraged our love of music, movies, and museum studies.

 

What, if anything, have you found to be helpful in your grieving over the years?

I have found a few things that have helped me through grief.  One is a group called “Faith and Grief” which is a faith-based support group with a scriptural model that is offered at a number of churches throughout the US.  (Their website is http://www.faithandgrief.org)  This group helped me find my voice, and helped me tell my story.  Another thing that has really helped is keeping a gratitude journal.  Making time to sit down every day for at least 5 minutes to write about all the things that I’m thankful for and taking that time to see all the blessings in my life makes such a big difference in how I view every day.   Another thing that has really helped me is being able to participate in a number of grief retreats: getting to meet new people and hear their stories and support them and have them support me has been so beneficial and such a great growing experience.  Mo-Ranch Conference Center in Hunt, Texas (near San Antonio) offers a number of these grief retreats.

 

 

For those new in their grief journey, what words of advice would you offer?

I’d like to give credit to my friend, Audrey Lanham, for a piece of advice that she shared, given to her by her stepmother while she was grieving.  Audrey told me that we should “treat ourselves like a baby bird” in the early stages of grief.  As I look back, I was terribly impatient with myself during the early stages of grief and I wanted every part of my heart and my soul to be fixed, right then.  I had impossible standards for where I wanted to be from day to day and I often didn’t give myself the grace or space to grieve when I needed to.  I think giving yourself grace is often the most difficult part.  For those new to grieving, I think the words “treat yourself like you would a baby bird” is one of the best pieces of advice anyone could offer.  Being gentle and kind and patient with yourself and giving yourself grace and space and allowing yourself to feel whatever you need to feel – giving yourself permission to fall apart when you need to isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s a way to rebuild your strength so you can “fly again” (or be yourself again) as soon as possible.

 

What will you be working on next?

I am currently working on writing a number of articles for magazines, and doing some speaking around the country, as well as doing some book signings around the Midwest for the remainder of 2017.  My next book, “Parent of the Year” is coming in December 2017.  You can find up to date information on where to hear me or where you can pick up copies of my books at www.passthechocolatepudding.com.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

Website: www.passthechocolatepudding.com

Blogwww.lovenolie.com

Facebook:  andpassthechocolatepudding

Twitter:  reyfamilyseven

Linkedin:  Heather Wallace-Rey

Pinterest:   heatherrey

Book Links: www.griefdiaries.com (Co-Author:  Loss of a Parent)  (Author: Faith, Grief and Pass the Chocolate Pudding)

Goodreads: Author Page – Heather Wallace-Rey

 

Heather Wallace Rey

 

Thank you Heather, for sharing your heart with us and your deep compassion for helping others.

 

Kind Words and the Impact of an Extraordinary Nurse

These stories never get old.  Sharing one dear to my heart in honor of National  Nurses Week.

Hearing of parents mourning the loss of their children due to sudden and traumatic ways, brings back vivid memories to me, knowing the helpless feeling all too well.    The devastating losses of others, is was a strong reminder about how fragile life is. My heart just breaks knowing that dark and hopeless pain that newly grieving families experience.   Grief is a such lonely feeling.

There are no words for the unimaginable. Never in a million years would I have dreamed this would have happened to my daughter or my family, forever changing our lives. No one would ever be the same.

It made me think back to those early days after losing Lydia and what helped me through. Who did God place in my life at the right time?  Eight years ago, it never even occurred to me that I could lose a child. I mean, I always knew about life and death, but such accidents and tragedies didn’t happen to people like me, or people I know.  It just didn’t happen.

Well, news flash. It DOES happen and we never know when, where, or sometimes why.  There is no way to prepare for the heartbreak and devastation that accompanies loss.  In hindsight, I clearly see God’s workers; angels that were placed in my life at the right moments.

One being a special nurse who was by my side at the hospital that life changing day- July 16, 2008.  The day my life was forever divided into before and after.

A few months after the accident, I returned to work.  Waiting for me in my mailbox, was a pretty baby blue envelope addressed with my name on it.  My heart was apprehensive and cautious as I opened it and read the first few words…

”I am so sorry for your loss.  My heart broke for you that day and I will never forget you and the pain you and your family are going thru. That day changed my life, my nursing approach and my realization that life is not fair.“  

It was from one of the ER nurses that was with me. Although I do not remember who she was, she was there. She remembered me. She treated my injuries, listened to my horrible screams when I received the news, and cared enough to send that card.

Immediately, the tears of sorrow began.  For the next few months, I would open it up first thing when I arrived at work daily reading those words which would resonate within me the entire day.

This letter I kept in my purse for five years. Yes- five years, reading it at just the right moments when I needed to feel that someone cared and that it mattered.

It was those times where I wanted to give up but needed some encouragement and hear that someone else’s life was impacted by my loss-my daughter’s death.  Now, having been working on writing my memoir, it came to me a few months ago.

I need to write to this woman to thank her for her compassion and simple words that meant so much and kept me going when I struggled to continue.

Not speaking to her or seeing her since that horrific day, I knew I must contact her to let her know how much that card had meant and still means to me to this day.

So I wrote a letter to her, thanking her for her compassion and told her of the immense impact her thoughtfulness and kind words had on me.

I didn’t know if she still lived at return address that was on the envelope, after all five years is a long time. Well, after about six weeks, I received an email from her. She had gotten my letter, however, it was not an easy journey.  She had moved a couple of years earlier and due to the kindness of the others, the letter was forwarded to her at her new residence.

She was so happy to hear from me and stated that she often wondered how I was doing. Her life was different now, but she was doing well.  She was pleased to hear of the amazing blessings that have come into my life since then, which showed her the power a little hope can bring.

Maybe we will meet again one day, but for now, we will exchange kind words, holiday cards and life stories.  I am so thankful that she will be contributing to my memoir by sharing her experience with me that devastating day.  After reading her recent email which illustrated my daughter’s death from her point of view, a nurse tending to a mother’s tragedy-it pierced my heart and was difficult to read, yet filled my soul with God’s love.   Here’s a brief excerpt of her words

“I will NEVER forget the horrifying sound of Daphne crying over the loss of her daughter Lydia. Still to this day, I cry when I think of it. It broke my heart! I still remember her wheeling out to go home from the ED and her head was down and I felt such pain and sorrow for her.  I mailed Daphne a card shortly after. I had never done that before to a patient. Maybe it is because I had never been so moved emotionally before like I was with Daphne. I was a newer mom with a 1 year old. I had fertility issues and wanted my child so badly and went thru a lot to have her. I kept thinking that I could never live with the pain I somehow felt she was living with, by the loss of her daughter. “

While we may never realize, it’s pretty incredible how our experiences can impact others. Hearing her side put everything into perspective.  It wasn’t only about me.

I cannot emphasize enough, the  importance of people like this extraordinary nurse.  Please pray for those who are the first responders, the officers at the scene, paramedics, firemen, emergency room workers, chaplains and more. For these are truly God’s workers who serve others with all their heart. The situations they face day after day, is no small feat. Heroes they are so deserving of our gratitude.

Consider the power and impact that a few words can make in someone’s life. Go the extra mile. Take the time to send that card, email, or quick note.  It could be the difference they have been waiting for and forever change the course of their life.