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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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.

 

 

 

 

How A Zebra Changed My Life-(Can Animals Really Help Your Grief?)

Reposting one of my favorites….

So, why you ask, does that odd and quirky lady always have that pesky yet adorable little dog in tow? While it can be a bit annoying and distracting, many fail to imagine a purpose for such a thing.

kids 033

Am I cute or what?!

Well, let me introduce you to Marty….Marty my little Yorkie dog has a long history.

Excitedly she bounces in my car and resumes her place on top of the seat, allowing her to see everything coming her way, eager to go on a ride. Accompanying the family on long road trips, sporting events, hunting camp, even outings to church and the grocery store, she goes with us everywhere.

So where did she come from and why do some people take their dogs everywhere?

Well, as I see it, God recognized I would need a companion, something to love me unconditionally during the tragedy he knew I was about to embark on.

Oddly enough, a complete God send at exactly the time Lydia passed away, Marty was born. My cousin had a litter of puppies and immediately I knew I was meant to have one.

And then, Marty came along, only a few weeks old …

marty baby
For that first long, lonely year, she was there. There in those long and frightening moments of uncertainty, the terrifying days and never-ending nights, the entire year of firsts without Lydia, Marty was there.   She would watch and comfort me as I sobbed for hours in bed and when I felt there was no hope, curled up in a ball in the bottom of my dark closet all alone, she was there.

Why Marty?

This is Marty.   The infamous zebra from the hit movie, Madagascar.    marty madagascar

This movie was one near and dear to Lydia’s heart.  She loved it so much, that a zebra took on a whole new meaning and transformation in our family.

Marty was Lydia’s favorite character in the movie. We were so fortunate to be able to live near a carousel where she found “Marty.” A carousel horse, painted like a zebra.  She and her little brother would enjoy endless rides on the carousel, which caused many conflicts between them about who go to ride “Marty” first.

This infamous zebra who she called Marty, has provided years of smiles for all five of our children. We would visit the carousel frequently as every time we passed near it, we were unable to resist the urge to stop.

martystuffy

“Marty”

One day Lydia, my dad, and I went to the carousel. Her grandpa wanted to buy her a souvenir from our trip there, so into the gift shop she ran.  Over to the shelves she went and immediately came jumping back, grinning ear to ear, with the zebra, Marty snuggled tightly in her arm.

For years, these two were inseparable.  Marty went wherever she went. To preschool, the store, car rides, the park, you name it, Marty was there. Over time, the white stripes had turned to dingy brown, reflecting a dusting of all the love that was given to him.  I never could have guessed the impact and meaning that this character would have on our lives.

When Lydia died, I knew Marty had to go with her, despite my desperately wanting to keep him to myself, never wanting to part with the memories.  The most terrifying day of my life, while at the funeral home, Marty was placed next to her in her casket, snuggled with her for eternity.  With drops of love falling down my face, I walked out in pure emptiness.

The following year, I found myself at that same carousel, this time without Lydia. Her brother had loved going there and it had now become a place that I avoided. Barely able to drive by it without breaking down, it became a habit to turn my head and look the other way as we passed.  However, after realizing I wasn’t being fair to my son, I knew I must face it.  Sadly, he and I finally went to the carousel so he could see Marty again. It didn’t take long before I went searching for a new Marty the stuffy in the gift shop.  I scoured the gift shop shelves, searching through every animal until I found the one.

The same exact Marty, the only one left, was hidden behind several other animals. Immediately, I scooped it up and purchased this little animal with such an enormous smile, realizing the blessing I was just given. Shortly thereafter, I contacted the maker of the stuffed animal wanting to purchase more, however, it was then I learned they were no longer making this style of zebra anymore.  What a precious gift I had just received. The last one, and I had found it.

Marty started to be a namesake in our everyday lives and that of our extended family as well. It wasn’t long before my dad had given the kids their very own Marty to ride in the house! Antique quarter horses!  What an incredible gift that would last for eternity. For years now, the children have enjoyed their own Marty and his friend without having to go outside. (Thanks to Auntie M for a fabulous paint job)!

Marty collage

Marty at home and carousel!

Marty the stuffy, serves as a reminder of all the heartbreak, love and deep memories….

So back to Marty the dog.  Time has passed and she has slept on my bed for six years, representing the six years I’ve been without Lydia.  Marty has aided in softening my trauma and showing me that unconditional love, I so greatly yearned for. She showed me that I was still capable of love even though my heart had been ripped into pieces.

Marty the dog, to me is priceless.  I often refer to her jokingly as my therapy dog, but that is exactly what she has been for me. When I was at rock bottom, she was there to hold, cuddle, and love.

As I started that terrifying new journey in life, while one chapter ended and a new one began, I realized Marty would faintly connect them forever.  She serves as a reminder of a life that once was, yet a fresh beginning and sense of security for the new life to come.  She is purely a representative of two worlds joined together by love and heartbreak.

Marty has been the best gift He could ever give me.  So yes, Marty goes with me everywhere, even to work at times in the past.  A dog like this, many cannot comprehend her purpose, the crazy places I take her, nor could they ever fathom the emotional safety net she has given me.

Animals CAN help soften our grief. By providing someone to take care of, a responsibility other than taking care of ourselves, these little critters can be some of our best friends.   Their soft and gentle touch can sooth our souls while their unconditional love and companionship can lift us out of the darkness without us even noticing it.

So next time you wonder, begin to judge and get annoyed at someone and their annoying little animal, just remember, everyone has a story.

What’s your story?