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

Remembering Always

There are dates that live in our heads that have the power to make us smile…or knock our world off kilter. Sometimes we have control over what that reaction is and sometimes not. TimeHop keeps some of those memories fresh that we might not want while reminding us of others we want to cherish forever…

Most of y’all know December is a month full of emotional land mines. The last week of January and the first week of February has a few of those too. It was late January five years ago when we wound up in the ER with an unexplained fever for Fred that led to the discovery of the hole in his ankle…thus beginning the change to our world that would indescribably change the kids and I. To this day I can’t stand hospitals. Granted I realize they are no ones favorite place to be but since we more or less lived in one from that day until late March I have a special loathing for them.

February 3rd is/was our wedding anniversary. It would have been 15 years this year. Feels like a lifetime ago a starry eyed 29 year old said “I do” without a care to what a 22 year age gap would mean in the grand scheme of her life. The adage “love is blind”? 100% true. Whether it’s failing to see what everyone else around you can see about who you have chosen or refusing to acknowledge you have chosen the absolutely hardest path you could for your life. Love is an intense wonderful blind free fall that guts you and yet sometimes, if you are lucky, gives you strength when you need it.

When it became clear that Fred’s health was failing he asked me over and over again to promise I would marry again. With the absolute naive certainty I had then I told him the heart can only love once. He would just smile and say “not yours – you have too much to give”. I could write a book on the things he was right about…

My heart is very conflicted this week. I struggle with still missing Fred. Grief knows no bounds even when life is moving forward. I feel guilt at having found love again. Despite knowing it is what Fred asked me to do when you have carved out a place in your heart for someone as special as Fred you always carry a piece of them. I am beyond blessed to have found someone who understands I was not single by choice and is deeply respectful of the myriad of emotions that can tumble over me at any given time. How on earth I managed to find not one but two amazing men in my life is a question I’ll never have an answer to….but I am grateful.

February 4th was my grandfather’s birthday. He’s been gone 8 years in May and I still wish he was here. I was a grown person who could still climb on her PawPaw’s lap in times of need and I miss that lap!

And as if those two days together weren’t enough Feb 4th was the day chosen for my kid to move across the country. Leaving behind everyone who loves him. A year without my charismatic, kind, compassionate, center-of-attention-in-any-room son has been hard. Beyond hard. Anyone close to me will argue and tell you it has been incredibly good for me but a mother’s heart will always prefer her kids be close enough for a hug. This year has pushed me deeper into my faith, deeper into my tribe, deeper into understanding myself, and to find love again. It has also pushed me deeper into understanding my role as a parent of now adults – the joys of letting go and just enjoying them as human beings instead of worrying about protecting them all the time. Life will teach them things I can’t and my only job now is to enjoy my next season. Those things I will celebrate instead of being sad. Those that hold me accountable won’t allow anything less.

I’ve learned a lot about myself this year. Mostly that the strength that got me through losing my father figure (my grandpa) and my husband is still there. It may hide from me some days – behind anxiety, tears, and a general heaviness I can’t shake. But for whatever reason God carved my life with as many great joys as he did deep sorrows. I have much to be grateful for and to focus on those joys every day is the best way to honor them. I will try not wallow this week….but I will remember those I have lost and miss…always.

Blessings y’all – Amy

13 Mothers

I have to be careful how much news I watch. How often I get sucked down the rabbit hole of his opinion vs her opinion and all that that entails. It is difficult to get any truly impartial news anymore anyway so often I just tune it out.

What I have not been able to tune out, nor would I want to, the last few days is the heartbreak that 13 mothers are facing. The overwhelming and unending grief that they are consumed by as their brains try and make sense of the news that their selfless children gave their lives for their country. I don’t think I could come close to understanding their pain; but I think that every mother has some idea on some level the agony they would feel if they couldn’t hold their babies one more time. It was instinctual for me to want to reach out to mine this morning. To assure myself they are safe and whole. It brings tears when I think about those 13 mothers that will never have that comfort again.

The solemn procession of a fallen solider to his final resting place

In April Amy and I were fortunate enough to take a trip to Washington D.C. and I will carry the sense of patriotism I felt there for the rest of my life. As we stood in Arlington National Cemetery and watched a fallen soldier be taken slowly and with all the honor he deserved to his final resting place my heart ached for him and all the lives that lay before me. As the 21 gun salute rang out in the distance I got chills. You see I have always considered myself an American. Fred and I always taught our children to thank soldiers when they saw them. Buy their meal or their coffee. Small tokens that don’t equate at all for the sacrifices they make for us. Standing in that sacred space finally gave me a deeper understanding of what it means to be an American.

13 soldiers gave their lives for us. 13 mothers will never be the same. Their hearts are forever shattered. The only way we can honor that is by remembering their sacrifice every day as we go about our lives. Lives that are preciously free because of their sacrifice. By honoring our flag and our forefathers. By uniting as a nation and staring down terrorism and those that wish us harm.

All gave some. Some gave all.

To the veterans, to those on active duty, and to the families that support them. To those that have gone on due to their service. To the 13 mothers with broken hearts that I feel so deeply today.

Thank you. And God Bless You.