Grief is….

Grief is…anxiety. Fear. Guilt. Anger. Pain. Regret. Messy. Confusing. And so much more.

Death is not peaceful. It’s not something you can prepare for – no matter how much you tell yourself you can. Your journey through healing from a loss is not something anyone else can understand – even if they have experienced significant loss themselves. Grief is a deeply personal internal journey that one must navigate oneself. At the very best the love and support of friends and family will allow you to do so and at the very worst words like “just move on” or “aren’t you over it already” will be said. People say dumb hurtful things without even realizing it – death and grief make people uncomfortable so awkward encounters are to be expected.

I think when we think of someone grieving we think of someone in a state of constant crying. Maybe unable to eat, sleep, smile, or laugh. And yeah, for the first little bit those things are definitely the case. But grieving goes far beyond what the outside world sees in those early days after a loss.

Grief manifests itself in hundreds of ways. For me, grief creates great anxiety over loss. Without realizing it I push away those close to me because if they aren’t close then maybe it won’t hurt so bad when they have to leave me too. Or the alternative. I hold on so tight neither of us can breathe. Neither option is super great for important relationships in my life. Grief in another anxiety form is the inability to make the simplest decisions for fear they will be wrong. For fear they will set off some kind of chain reaction that will make this black place I am existing in worse.

Grief in the guilt form is endless questions like “did they know how much I loved them”. “Did I spend enough time with them?” “What was the last thing I said to them?” “Did I do enough?” “Was I enough?” The answer to all of those questions is YES but the sleepless endless loop of those questions can make you wonder.

Grief makes everyday life impossible for a while. Things you used to be able to handle – loud noises, high stress, weird situations – unbearable. Situations that are usually no big deal can make you burst into tears or irrationally angry. Grief in the anger form is extrapolated over many aspects of your life. Anger at traffic. Anger at the guy who cut you off in line at the grocery store. Anger at little things not realizing you are really angry because someone you loved deeply was taken from you.

Grief just plain hurts. Physically and mentally. I get stomachaches that keep me from eating. My limbs get heavy and functioning hurts. My brain starts to ache after a while from trying to settle my thoughts. It becomes easier to just go through the motions of my life than to try and sort out the volume of feelings and thoughts that I have. That is where depression takes over and the life I love starts to ebb away. THAT is a dangerous place I have to watch out for.

Most importantly – grief has no dang timeline. I don’t care what any book, expert, or TV tells you. Everyone heals on their on pace. And just when you think you have something rips it open again. It may not bleed as bad the second, third, tenth time – but it’s a wound that just keeps opening. To this day I have days where I miss my grandpa’s hugs so bad I just want to lay down in the floor and cry. Or where I would give my left arm to hear Fred make my daughter laugh, really deep down laugh, the way only he could. And most recently I’d give anything to be able to just “rest my eyes” next to Mom the way she’d make me when I was a kid to trick me into taking a nap. No one can tell you how or when to heal. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Just FEEL and breathe. Best thing I can say.

And if you don’t relate to this blog post at all – you are one of the luckiest people I know.

Blessings y’all. – Amy

Drowning in Memories

I have come to the conclusion that the dark side of this second season is that as we age the losses come with more frequency. When we find our footing after torrential grief the button gets pushed again. And again.

My grandmother is making her way home to heaven. Towards the man she was married to and loved for over half a century. To a place she believes in with every fiber of her being. She’s given us several close calls this last year but the hospice staff tells us we won’t be granted a reprieve this time. Though I think Em and I will hold out hope until that final call comes.

My brain has become a time machine of memories. My grandma, I call her Mom, was a huge part of my childhood. My 17 year old mother had no idea what to do with a newborn born with a birth defect in need of constant medical attention. I was raised in my grandparents home during my formative years thus learning to call my grandma “Mom” from hearing my mother do so.

I have years of memories of being sent to stay with my grandmother when I was sick. When I was recovering from any one of the 50 surgeries I had before my 18th birthday. When I needed to be taken to endless doctor appointments. It was always Mom that I remember taking me. I am sure my mother was there somewhere but it’s Taco Bueno and Bennigan’s lunch dates with Mom that I remember across the street from Memorial City hospital. It’s ENDLESS pots of our families “slumghetti” recipe she would make when I was sick. (She swore after the third pot when Em was born she would never make it again. She did – she just didn’t eat it after that!) Recipes that can’t be recreated because they are missing the touch of love I’m sure she put in them.

I spent most of yesterday trying to remember the last time she made me any “slumghetti”. I can’t. I didn’t know it would be the last time. When we broke down her house last year the memories were packed away in boxes. Boxes I find myself wanting to open and just rewind time.

Mom and I’s relationship changed after PawPaw died. She swore it was because we loved him best. She just didn’t know how hard it was to be around her without him and with the knowledge that she too would leave me. First PawPaw, then Fred three years later, now her five years after that. I look around at people that I love dearly who aren’t getting any younger and I know this is one part of life I’m going to have to get a little stronger at. Does one ever really get good at saying goodbye?

Em & Mom

This picture is one of my favorite of Mom. That joy? She always had it when Em was around. I have siblings that would tell you she had it with me too, and I’m sure she did, but our bond was forged deep on the years she was there for me when people who should have been weren’t. With Em? She got to just do the joy. She knew I had Em in all the ways my mother let me down so she just got to love her the way a grandmother should. Even if she was her great grandmother. So precious for those two to have 20 years…how many great grandmothers get that? I know Em is drowning in more memories than I am but I also know there is a part of her that will be glad when Mom gets the one thing she has wanted for eight long years. To be with PawPaw again.

You have heard this from me more than once. You’ll probably always hear it from me. Life is short. Precious. Getting more so by the day. Hold those you love close. Appreciate those who are there for you because they want to be not because they have to be. Love HARD. It’s the only way to survive this life.

Blessings y’all – Amy

The Power of Getting Healthy

As a nation we spend our time running from one activity to the next – keeping our calendars so full that we never catch our breath – and the consequence of that is shoving every emotion and every thing we need to deal with on a shelf until the shelf, well, breaks. Most often breaks at an inopportune time that blows your life apart. When things erupt that trigger some emotion we find someone or something to blame it on so that we can move on without digging into the feeling. In the narcissistic society we live in it’s always someone else’s fault – even in situations we ourselves created. We cut people from our lives who push our buttons or make us feel more than we want to.

I know because I’ve done it. I learned it from my family and I taught it to mine. We tell ourselves it’s because they will “never” change and we “just can’t” handle them anymore. In reality it’s because we have our own growth to do it and THAT work is simply too hard. That work is uncomfortable. That work may fracture relationships that we shouldn’t have been in to begin with. We tell ourselves it’s the best thing for our family….in actuality we’re perpetuating the cycle. We’re teaching our kids to do the same running from instead of dealing with as we learned.

The thing is? When you do the work…when you find a doctor, counselor, mentor who is actually really qualified to help you…ooohhh let me tell you. That place? That healthy place where you can tell someone right then when they hurt your feelings or have a conflict? THAT is gold. That is a healing place that if we all learned how to find there wouldn’t be these hairline fractures under all our feet that is dividing our country.

The great part is that work also heals relationships. It puts people back in your life that those old voices were keeping away. It allows you to see people for who they are not for who/what all the history told you they were. THAT work takes away all the broken and clogged mental filters and just brings back clarity and sunshine.

It’s not a magic pill. It’s not an overnight change. It’s always a work in progress. As much as I’ve learned about myself in the last two years I still have days I log onto the counseling session in tears because I can’t unravel the complicated threads of my mind. But, you see, those threads don’t get nearly as tangled as they used to. I have tools now that I can use to help me come out of the dark places. I have the power to choose what I allow to rattle me and when I say “so what?”.

That is the best part. The power of getting healthy is that no one else ever has the power over me again. No one else has the power over my feelings. The power to make me feel small or like a bad person. Getting healthy means I know who I am, what my strengths and weaknesses are, and who I will and won’t allow into my healthy space. It allows me to cut through the bullshit games and be great when I know I’m where I need to be.

That’s the place I want to be in this second chapter of my life.

Blessings y’all – Amy

Invisible Boundaries

It may be as simple as you buy the laundry detergent your mom always used. Using the same kind of pens your first boss did (twenty years ago). Or never doing XYZ because someone important to you told you not to. Can you think of something you “always/never” do that you never stopped to think about why or that you just accepted as a fact without asking yourself why?

I ran smack into a couple of those this weekend. Let me explain. I’ve been watching the value of my Suburban for some time now with this crazy car economy. Wanting to get out of it at the end of the warranty and while I could get dang near as much as I paid for it (!). Then gas prices skyrocketed and I watched 25% of the value evaporate seemingly overnight last week. 🙄

Cue the tedious task of car shopping. In my family “we hate Fords”. Couldn’t tell you when or why that started but it’s a knowledge I grew up with from my grandpa. Yet – I felt myself drawn to the new Bronco’s. Went to look at those Saturday and that was a disaster story for another day and suffice to say – I still hate Fords. But the sporty feeling of the Bronco was clearly a Jeep knock off. The words that came out of my mouth were “I can’t have a Jeep”. The response I got was “why”.

“Fred said I can’t” – my answer

Awkward silence. Ummm. Yah. Invisible boundary. Rule I live(d) by without question. Fred’s reason, I knew, is that I drive like a crazy person and Jeep’s roll. But alas, I am a grown person capable of a) slowing the hell down and b) deciding what kind of car I want. I also wanted a truck. Because I love my yard and if you had ever seen what I hauled in that Suburban you would understand why I needed a truck. But a truck didn’t get me away from the reason I was moving away from the suburban…a gas guzzling beast of a vehicle.

A trip to the Jeep dealership landed me in wild never before thought of territory. A Jeep Gladiator. The very car I made fun of as “a Jeep that swallowed a truck and didn’t fully digest it”. 😬 But oooohhh it rides high enough that this short girl can see. Aaaahhhh it’s sporty. Ummmmm it has a truck bed. Well hell. It also comes in my favorite color – OCEAN BLUE. Dang it.

Meet my new gal. Currently being referred to as “Dory”. As in Finding Nemo. Not sure that’s the final name but sure is sticking so far.

When I say I went from one end of the emotional spectrum and back like I have NEVER on buying a car – geez. I was almost daring that dang sales guy to not giving me what I wanted for the suburban. Buying Dory meant crossing the invisible boundary in my mind laid by Fred about owning a Jeep. It meant letting go of driving a Suburban. Fred and I’s long time goal car and what I have driven since he died. Saying goodbye to driving a “mom” car and all the years spent shuffling kids and friends and STUFF everywhere. Saying goodbye really to that chapter of my life and this being another step towards this next chapter I’ve been working on for two years. It was dang hard.

With Tim’s sweet patient style and a few tears I got it done. And my challenge for you today is to ask yourself what you do in your life that is just because you “always” have. Or because it’s an invisible boundary someone (or you) laid for you. And then cross it. Big or small.

We only keep growing when we keep pushing ourselves. It’s hard. It takes work. Frankly it can suck eggs. But’s it’s what makes life interesting.

Blessings y’all – Amy

Over A Cliff

It’s no secret I’ve been in deep period of pain and self discovery the last couple of years. Long overdue grieving for the loss of my grandpa and my husband. Staring down the question of “who am I” when not defined by titles like mother or wife. I am damn proud of how far I’ve come. I haven’t done it alone and I know that. This very outlet had been part of the journey.

Lately I’ve been restless. Feeling disconnected from my faith. Questioning the growth. Losing my identity as an independent a bit as I’ve become part of an “us” again (def no regrets there!). I’ve recently begun listening to an audio book that has provoked some deep thinking.

I had an opportunity this weekend to share some of the feelings bubbling up with someone I trust implicitly with my thoughts. Between those conversations, my book, and what I believe is answered prayer I finally think I’m understanding where the restless is coming from.

I’ve reached a point in self discovery I could choose to be satisfied. OR this cliff I am standing on….the one that I can’t see ground below because it’s dark…I could choose to go over it and dig deeper. To return to the faith the distractions of life are pulling me from and hear what God was guiding me towards. I’ve done a lot of work. But I’ve also just stuck some of the feelings that are too painful in a box and put them on a shelf – compartmentalizing as the counselor calls it – and hoping to forget about them.

I kid you not….as I am writing this my bible app sent me this verse. Does it get any clearer than that?

It’s time to go over the cliff. To truly forgive those who have caused me pain and to forgive myself when I haven’t been the person I wanted to be. Yesterday is past and can only continue to hurt you if you can’t let go of it. It’s time to open the box, sort the feelings, and finish the journey. It’s time to love myself enough to finish the healing.

For those who have held my hand this far – I love you. I wouldn’t be on this planet today without you.

Choose you. Choose to believe that if you go over the cliff God will catch you.

Blessings y’all – Amy

All or Nothing

My counselor says that I am bad at seeing life as all or nothing. At LIVING life as all or nothing. Examples. Life is all good or it’s in shambles. I have to be perfect at my diet, exercise, work, etc or I am a failure. I have to be the best at how I do everything or I am letting down those closest to me. I have to love the best and do everything for everyone no matter what the effect on me.

Two years of counseling later and I still struggle with it. But have learned the signs of the rabbit hole enough to *sometimes* prevent myself from falling down it. Or at least enough to prevent myself from exhausting myself trying to be everything to everyone and putting my own needs last.

Here’s is the thing about all or nothing. That’s the same as black or white. But! Life is shades of gray. It’s messy and smudgy and requires a tree to bend in the wind lest it break.

It’s being patient when you’ve dieted good all week but eat a plate of Mexican food on Friday night. Diet isn’t over – you just had a treat. It’s getting back on the exercise plan after a week of coming straight home from work and watching TV and having popcorn for dinner because work is insane. It’s forgiving those closest to you for being inconsiderate and hateful instead of compassionate and kind. It’s giving someone the benefit of the doubt who you have only seen at their worst.

Living at extremes isn’t a healthy place for me. Living day in and day out terrified of my world changing caused me to hold on too tight. Finding balance, finding the gray, is still a daily challenge. Keeping a brain that is used to handling the worst life has to offer from going first to the dark place and never thinking of a positive alternative is hard as hell.

But learning that you are never too old to change? Definitely worth it.

Great things happen to those who don’t stop believing, trying, learning, and being grateful.”

Never stop learning y’all. Never stop believing in yourself. In humanity. In the power to change yourself and that better things are on the horizon.

Blessings y’all – Amy

Grand Turk

I have three favorite ports of call. Three that are my favorite for a variety of reasons…in no particular order….Grand Cayman, Grand Turk, and Cozumel. Last week I was returned to the beauty and peacefulness that is Grand Turk. The minute the ship pulls into Grand Turk it is blue water as far as the eye can see. Blue water that is an indescribable color I have tried to replicate in my home, my office, and in just about every aspect of my life because it brings me such joy and peacefulness.

Staring Out Into the Ocean

Astrologically I am a Cancer (Tim is too but that’s another post!). As a water sign as soon as I get around water my souls stills and my body relaxes. Every knot in my body unfurls and I can breathe again. I truly think the reason cruising appeals to me so much is that I can breathe out on the open water. Nothing, absolutely nothing, phases me when I am near the ocean.

Standing Listening to the Surf

Grand Turk, the cruise port, is pretty commercial. It’s designed to part you with your money. If that’s your thing, they get you taken care of. Blessedly, unlike other ports, you can get your beach/water fix as well within a few minutes walk of the ship. Some ports require you to be taken by bus to the beach and that’s never really fun. I’ve done excursions in Grand Turk but sometime a couple of years ago I found that just getting off the ship, wandering around, and then sitting in Margaritaville watching all the people was much more relaxing. I make sure that I get back on the boat before the masses and it makes for a very relaxing day.

Carnival Cruises built the port center on Grand Turk in 2006 which is why it feels so commercial. Unlike other Caribbean cruise stops, Grand Turk is a very small island, and offers a different atmosphere than other destinations. It’s just a laid-back little town with amazing beaches and a little British Bermudian Colonial heritage.

When you stand in the water you can see straight down to the bottom (about the only kind of water I will stand in!) and it’s beautiful. The sand doesn’t hurt your feet like other beaches. The surf is beautiful and relaxing.

Tim & I at the beach

Anyway, if you get the chance get to Grand Turk. It’ll surely become one of your favs too. I’ll be back to it in July and I can’t wait!

Blessings y’all – Amy

Reflections on 2021

I’ve heard all my life people say “what a difference a year makes”. Thought it was horse poo quite honestly. But 2021 was that year for me!

I started 2021 broken. Angry. Scared. Grieving. Did I mention angry? Sheesh. My whole world was flipped upside down. I couldn’t see daylight. I certainly never dreamed I would be where I sit today. Is everything perfect today? Nope. Would be lying if I said otherwise. Is it light years beyond this time last year? In every way conceivable.

Prayer Journal #3

Many things make up the changes. My counselor would tell you it was my own hard work. My brain would tell you it was my counselor and my tribe never leaving my side until I was steady…and unrelenting prayer. In 2021 I finished two prayer journals and reading back through them you can literally see the progression of my year. From prayers to survive the day, to prayers for my children’s health and safety, to the now thankful prayers for my blessings that start every day. 2021 took me to my knees and God was there.

I learned a lot about myself this year. I was reminded (again) that God made me a survivor and no one, not even my own family, can break me. I learned I have a voice and I am free to use it – and what it has to say will not always be liked and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I have to silently hurt.

I learned there are very bad people in this world who prey on people who are hurting (the dating world is an ugly place y’all) but with prayer God will put the right one right in front of you. I learned that despite years of telling myself people are lucky if they get one love that is not, in fact, the case if you open your heart and mind to God’s plan for your life.

Most importantly I learned happiness comes from the inside. It is not a result of anyone or anything. No one can bring you happiness or make you happy if you don’t do the work on yourself. They may make you feel that way for a short time but true overwhelming can’t stop smiling joy comes from a place inside where you have done the work on yourself and understand yourself. THAT is the biggest lesson 2021 leaves me with. I’ll never depend on another to bring me happiness. I will enjoy having a partner to share happiness, joy, and adventure with but will never lose sight of what I need to do for myself to take care of me. That doesn’t make me selfish or self centered or any of the other “self” derogatory labels – it makes me healthy and whole.

Blessings in 2022 y’all. It’s gonna be filled with love, laughter, and adventure in my world.

Amy

Dawn of a New Day

My insomnia lately has been epic. Just epic. I can’t decide if it’s because I have too much energy to burn or if it’s too many new and exciting things going on in my life that my mind just won’t rest. Whatever the reason I found myself awake to catch a completely gorgeous sunrise out at sea this morning and I was mesmerized with God’s stunning artwork…

Carnival Dream Thanksgiving Cruise 2021

The magnitude of the new days that are breaking in my life always circles back to the blessing that God has gotten me through the dark and the sun seems to be rising on the next chapter. Light is shining into all the dark places where pain has hidden and with it comes joy. Light that on the hardest darkest days I didn’t know would come again.

Psalm 143:8 says: Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.

Even when I wasn’t very religious, watching the sun come up and bathe the world in light had the power to stir me. Reading that scripture now, and understanding it to the very depth of who I am, it is a promise that each day God will sustain me and always bring back the light no matter what harshness this ugly world brings. It gives me hope that He will fulfill the same promise to each person in my life that I love and pray for.

May He bring blessing to you today as you spend long weekends with friends and family. Safe travels home to all. – Amy

The Road I’m Taking Now

I have long believed that there are places that live in our heart that, when given the chance to return there, fill your happy tank in a way that is indescribable. Hot Springs as a whole is one of those places but within that magic town is a winding road up to the mountain tower. It’s tradition for our family to drive it before we head out of town. It’s also become tradition to take more than a few minutes to appreciate the beauty of the area.

Hot Springs, AR

For me, today, this road had a different message. Today I could see the connection between this winding road and the path I’ve been on the last few years. I could appreciate the beauty of the landscape that masks the possibility of falling right over the steep edge. How many times have I fallen off the edge as I’ve worked on healing? How many times have I failed to appreciate the beauty that lies even in the fear and the pain? Too many to count.

Today I saw a road to follow that you can’t see the destination. I just have to start down it and have faith that around each corner or dip in the road that same road is still under me and in front of me carrying me to the next destination. I know that some of the positive message I took from this place is a reflection of the peaceful happy place I have reached in my heart but somehow it feels bigger than that.

How many time do we deviate from the path because we focus on one of the tiny details on the side of the road instead of having faith in the road we’re on? Faith is a hard thing sometimes. As humans we think we can fix, control, or change things that are out of our control. The reality is that we can’t change a thing. We have to put our faith in God and the road ahead no matter how hard.

The road I am on now has me focused on the future. On chasing dreams and having a life filled with joy and laughter. Letting go of the illusion that I could change anything about the road God set me on has cracked open my heart so wide it’s breathtaking.

Don’t be afraid of the road. Have faith and just start the journey. It’ll make you happier than you could ever dream of if you focus on the beauty instead of the pain.

Blessings y’all – Amy