A Day in the Life of a Grieving Mother

I woke up this morning and sat up on my bed, legs dangling towards the floor.  The heaviness of my eyes was overwhelming. I was exhausted, yet weirdly refreshed and thankful to find that the stinging of my bloodshot eyes had subsided after a few hours sleep.

My mind didn’t waste any time reminding me of how I felt when I laid down those short few hours ago.

Sad. Heartbroken.

As I got up, the corner of my eye caught a glimpse of my heart that laid conspicuously on the pink flannel pillowcase. Black mascara decorated the top, providing me proof of the love that was shed. The fragile threads that mended my broken heart had torn apart, the years of love and sorrow finally freed. Again.

It had been a while, months since I had succumb to those persistent and pesky dog pile of emotions.

Yet they come, sure as the morning sun.  Learning to accept and live with them is difficult, yet over the years, I have learned to embrace these precious moments.

The ten years have passed by so fast. How can that be? Ten long years without my little girl.  Without hearing her giggle, tucking her in, and watching her grow.

What would she be doing today? Lounging around like most 16 year olds, getting her driver’s license, sleeping in on a warm summer morning? Arguing with her brother, or would she be tending to her lamb or eager to get to volleyball practice?

The pain is indescribable. But when I try, I can tell you that it feels so heavy and it’s difficult to breathe. When you want to talk with her, hold her, tell her you love her and all you can do is mutter the words and fall into your pillow sobbing in disbelief.

What triggered it this time? Was it that her birthday is tomorrow? Was it while we were out on a Saturday night and I overheard a mom say, “would you like this sis? Come sit down sissy.”

Ahhhh.

My sweet sissy.  I haven’t said that word in ten years.  The name that is etched in her headstone, Lydia’s nickname, “Sissy.”

Instantly, she flashed before me and I could see her strawberry blonde hair blowing in the wind as she twirled joyfully in her purple sundress giggling, looking like the picturesque poster of childhood.  So innocent and happy.

Holding my breath as my eyes welled up, I shook my head, turned and walked away.

How did this happen? Why did this happen to me?

I cry and cry. Why do we feel so much pain after all these years?

I just want to wrap my arms around her tightly, see her smile and tell her I love her.

One more time.

Five years, seven months, and 19 days just wasn’t long enough.

My mind finds it hard to fathom life without her now, attempting to piece together the two worlds in which I remain a permanent resident.

When I’m alone for the night while on a work trip or at home, what do I do?  I try to make sense of my life before and after and it’s almost predictable that tears will fall.

Silence and solidarity brings me to a place of reality.

My emotions overwhelm me. Being alone forces me to engage those pent up feelings, letting them run rampant without interruption, allowing me to be present in the moment.  So I weep and sob some more.

I talk to her and tell her I love her and how much I miss her.  How I miss her messy bedroom, boogers she left above her headboard, and her beautiful artwork that decorated the house.

I am immensely grateful current life yet still quietly yearn for my old life. I miss her being here, when life was simple, happy and free of heartbreak.  When I didn’t have to worry about grief, or her grave, or about all the years of events and triggers that seek to ravage my soul reminding me of what used to be.

Am I weak? No.

Shouldn’t I be over this by now, after all it’s been ten years?  Absolutely some would think so, but the real answer is no.  I will never get over it.

Am I strange? No.

Weird?  No.

When my faucet runs dry, I lay my head on the pillow, taking a deep breath and exhaling while clutching my bible.

Strangely I feel a bit better.  Over the years, I’ve learned that nothing or no one can comfort me like Jesus.

I am silently reminded that we are meant for so much more in this world that to hold onto heartbreak and pain.  Could I sit and wallow in my pain and loss for the distant future? Without a doubt. However, I know my sweet girl would not want this, nor does our amazing God.  Our time here is limited and our capacity to experience the complex feelings that come with deep love is a remarkable gift.

The hope we have been given shines light into those dark places of my soul.  I can rest in hope knowing that beauty will come from the tragedy of my daughter’s death and one day we will be reunited.  Until then, I wait faithfully with perseverance.

Romans 8:24-25: “In hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”

 

 

 

Photo credit: Unsplash @davidwhitephotography

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Back to School-Examining the Past, Embracing the Future

As we wind down from Labor Day weekend full of activities at our local round-up and fair, I’m encompassed by a little quiet reflection this eve of the first day surrounds me.   I am exhausted from the hustle and bustle of early mornings and late nights. My days consisted of carnivals, nursing a twisted ankle, applying band aids to cuts, welcoming a spontaneous guest for the weekend, enduring the jaw dropping booby traps from my adorable five-year old, and did I mention the impromptu piglet that suddenly joined the family on Saturday.    Pig pen construction still in progress.  All I can do is laugh. Nothing really surprises me anymore.

Among the laundry, cooking and house cleaning to come, getting back on a schedule is something to look forward to.   Yet as I scroll through social media and texts, my mind is overwhelmed by first day of school pictures of all these children.

For a mother whose child has died it hurts.  Honestly, it’s bittersweet and sucks really. Part of you longs with envy at those parents of children getting to revel in the excitement of classmates, lockers and team sports and those whose kids are healthy and happy.  Of course we’re delighted for them, however, we grieving parents never get over it. While I am grateful for my other four children entering school, no matter how many years have passed, this time of year we are involuntarily given that dreaded reminder that our child is gone.

Today Lydia should be starting her sophomore year. Wow. That is so hard to imagine. However, I do find myself wondering how she would dress and do her hair. Would she wear make-up? Still love dresses? Be playing volleyball because of course she would be so tall?  Would she be driving?

I can’t help but to think of my life ten years ago.  Lydia had just passed away six weeks earlier, 7/16/08.  It was time for Hunter to start preschool.  I wanted to keep him with me, but knew he needed social interaction with kids his age.  Staying in his depressing dungeon of a home alone was not the best place.

Months of driving him eight miles one way to preschool, I would cry every morning on the way there and on the way back home, sobbing at the wheel as I felt the eeriness of an empty car seat behind me, saying softly to myself “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”    Sadly, I would drop him off, then weep and wail uncontrollably all the way home, crawling back into bed alone where I would remain until it was time to pick him up.  For months this was my routine.

Completely heartbreaking.

Yet I vividly remember those days in the trenches, nearly six years ago, home as a single parent to a two month old, a two-year old, 3-year-old, and six-year-old, while my husband began a new job and relocated to a new town.  It was crazy.

There were times when I didn’t think I could do it.   Working part-time while up to my ears in diapers and potty training, spills and refereeing sibling rivalry, while laundry and housekeeping didn’t stand a chance.  Reruns of Dora the Explorer and Barney the Dinosaur played incessantly.  Fueled by coffee and chocolate, daily mocha’s became my saving grace.

To say I was exhausted was an understatement. The circles under my eyes were evidence that could not be dismissed.  To say I didn’t enjoy it would be wrong, because I did.  But in all seriousness, it was so hard.

I used to fantasize about the day that all kids would be in school and I could actually have a moment to myself to do my own thing, to even clean the house and go to the bathroom alone.  To just breathe.

Baby after baby came, life was busy.  I put my grief on hold, focusing on these new blessings in my life. They were indeed a much-needed buffer to the pain I was holding on the inside.  Yet as the years progressed, and gradually each child entered school age, I was left with my baby who is now five.  The last couple years, we have enjoyed our togetherness, special activities and 1/1 time.

The day I had been eager for the last four years has arrived. Now my youngest enters kindergarten.  This little spitfire who makes me laugh all day, telling jokes, yet generously gives hugs and kisses, always wanting to protect and love his mama will be on his own.

Another chilling reminder of the day my Lydia anxiously awaited for, the first day of kindergarten she never got to see, her youngest brother is now experiencing.  Bittersweet for sure.

The day has come I am once again alone, but this time it’s different.  Looking back, I cannot believe how fast time went by. The day I begged and pleaded for in my desperate moments has arrived and now I am not quite sure how I feel about it.  In a way, I’m sad for me but excited for him.  The new world that awaits, he is sure to find fascinating.

I have come to a different kind of sadness. It’s not one of sorrow, but one filled with hope and expectation. Remembering where I used to be and seeing how far I have come, I look forward to starting a new chapter laced with endless possibilities, embracing change and knowing this journey I’m on is not my own.

Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future-Corrie Ten Boom

In the meantime, I will enjoy what’s left of summer and eagerly anticipate the days of autumn to come. My favorite time of year.

No matter what season you are in, brighter days are ahead. Just hang on-one day at a time!

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit:

https://pixabay.com/en/users/Victoria_Borodinova-6314823/

Sacred Words-The Sweeter Side of Grief

“If you know someone who has lost a child, and you’re afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died–you’re not reminding them. They didn’t forget they died. What you’re reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and that is a great gift.” ~Elizabeth Edwards

The past two weeks I have received two heart stirring emails from people whose lives were touched by Lydia. Unexpected and completely random, I was caught off guard but in a good way. Today I wanted to share with you one that my aunt had sent a few days ago of her last day with Lydia, just a couple weeks before she died.

As I read her email, her vivid and picturesque descriptions made the pages come to life. I actually felt like I was reliving these last moments with her again.  Her quirky sense of humor, boisterous and sassy attitude, yet loving and gentle nature seeped through.  Smiles, coupled with a laugh and lots of hot tears appeared simultaneously.  Needless to say, this made my year.   What a gift.

Have you ever received letters or stories from others about your loved one?  Being on the receiving end, I know how valuable these sacred words are to a grieving parent.   We crave them. It’s like keeping that connection alive, to hear their name, and seeing how they touched another’s life.

So before you head off shopping, to the gym, or any other place I strongly encourage you to write those notes to hurting hearts, letting them know what their loved one meant to you. Stop hesitating and just do it-myself included. Think of the enormous impact you will make in the life of someone whose heart is full of sorrow.

The best gift we can give a grieving parent or any grieving heart, is to share those soul touching memories about loved ones.  This my friends, is the sweeter side of grief.

Here are beautiful words, etched with love from my aunt whom Lydia adored.  I hope you get to see her personality shine as much as I did.

~On the journey with you~

LYDIA GREER 2008
Oh to be five again…
            When we called ahead on Sunday, July 13th to let Lydia and family know that we were only 15 minutes away from arriving for our visit, Lydia and I agreed we’d start with a manicure. I had learned to keep a bottle of pink nail polish in the car because a few months previous we had a rainy day rendezvous at the gun show.  Wishing for some little girly-activities, we strolled table to table asking the vendors if anyone had nail polish, but no one had a display of beauty products.
             So on this summery day in Redmond, we arranged ourselves in the shade and brightened our fingertips with pink. Pink was THE color of that day…from her toes to her nose, I admired her pink shoes, pink shorts, pink sun top, and especially the pink roses in her cheeks. …and now we pampered our hands…all the while recalling the fun we had in deer camp with her hourly offer to freshen up my nail color. “Of course it needs that little chip re-painted”. Her funny-bone was delighted by talking her Dad, brother, uncles and Grandpas into having a bit of color on THEIR fingertips too! She loved her people.
            In a while, she joined the dinner preparations: setting the table just so, asking for help to turn the doorknob, “cause my arm doesn’t like to turn that way”, then shucking corn, snacking on cheese for the burgers and exclaiming “SIT BY ME! And then filling up on chocolate milk so she couldn’t get in one bite of her dinner…unswayed by predictions of night time hunger…she announced, “I’m full”
             The summer evening was toasty-warm for a stroll hand-in-hand around Uncle Danny’s neighborhood. “Let’s see if there is a house for sale and get one of those papers all about it. Let’s stop and visit everyone who gave me candy last Halloween. Let’s knock on the doors and ask each house if they’ve seen the dog on the poster that disappeared on the 4th of July. Let’s blow these dandelion tops and make a wish. Let’s wiggle through this fence and see what they’re building over there. Let’s go home and I’ll sing.”
            Returning to the yard and finding the guys sitting in lawn chairs visiting, she had a perfect stage. She plucked leaves from the big willow bush as “Tickets” to enter her theater and launched into her repertoire: Hannah Montana, High school Musical and her standard:  “…..I’m cool, I’m cool…Some people say I’m hot, but I’m coooool!” Her encore was a charade of animal actions and sounds as a quiz for the audience.
            Must she make time for a bath? Reluctantly departing to wash off the prickly grass of the outdoor stage she soon dashed back to report she had a little more time to visit ’cause  “Mom’s just laughing and amazed!! Danny’s gotta learn to clean the tub.”
            The next morning, we enjoyed breakfast out and once again I was honored with her wish that we could sit side by side. Ordering confidently, she subbed link sausage for bacon and announced, “yes, I eat the crusts” of the French toast I helped her cut.
              Afterwards, sending Daphne on her errand with the request for blue nail polish, Lydia explored our motel across the street and sat right up to the telephone to begin dialing her family.  Every number memorized for Grammies, aunties and cousins, she stayed in touch … if a phone was at hand, I learned she was ready to place a call. Since this time was pretend with phone cradled in her shoulder she listened, replying  “uh huh…uh huh…uh huh…” all the while taking copious notes.
            Back at the dining room table, drawing and visiting and tending to a pedicure, she pointed out her ruffled sun top for the day was a loaner from her friend…how nice to be the same size and share. I learned she had mastered the swimming strokes and “I don’t even need the noodle to hold me up now!” 
            Packing up to return home, we hugged goodbye, planning for another grand time together. Now, as I imagine God’s heavenly Welcoming Committee enlivened with the enthusiasm of Lydia, I must say it helps to feel good about arriving in heaven for our next Grand Time Together.  In her short five years, she learned to embrace us at a full run …her arms outstretched for hugs of joy. I know I wasn’t the only one she loved. It was her practice, and she made us all feel like a million dollars!
            Remembering her rosy cheeks which completed that snappy outfit of pinks clothes, today it seemed like pink roses were a good symbol of the delicate color and softness of Lydia’s happy face. 
            I watch roses grow from bud to full expansive bloom, bursting with beauty and then gone, the petals scattered away on breezes. I am sorry to see the flower go, but I know the petals will nourish the garden and help new beauty come to life. Lydia was a beautiful gift of God. She knew she was God’s child and that Jesus loved her. She delighted in doing the most important job God can give us…loving others. God bless her generous and accepting heart.
Auntie M’ loved Lydia…
LydiaHunter1

 

 

 

Cover image photo credit-Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash