YANA book coverDear Beautiful Mother,

I am so sorry for the loss of your sweet baby. I know that the pain and grief and numbness and confusion you are feeling now seem unbearable and massive. Babies aren’t supposed to die. Yet here you are. Here we both are, for I like you, had to say goodbye far far far too soon.

I know there are no words I can say to fix this or take away your pain. I can’t wake you up from this terrible nightmare. I can’t fill your empty and aching arms. I can’t bring back your precious baby.

But I can say this: You did nothing wrong. You loved your baby and cared for them as fiercely and fully as any mother – and you are a mother, now and always. If anything in this world could overcome death, it would be the deep and powerful love of a parent for their child. You are the fiercest of warrior mamas, carrying love and grief in your very bones through life without your precious child.

You are not alone. There are many of us who are walking this journey of loss. When you are ready, we are here waiting to wrap you in love. We can’t bring them back to you any more than we could have brought our own babies back. We can, however, speak their name with you, remember their lives, honor your deep mother love, and stand with you as we hold each other up.

Big Hugs + So Much Love,

Emily
Mama to Grace and Lily

It’s here! You Are Not Alone: Love Letters from Loss Mom to Loss Mom is now available in print and ebook format!! A special book for grieving mamas from other grieving mamas who get it. You are not alone – we are with you. 

Bridge to TransformationLast weekend I was driving down a stretch of I-81 in Virginia, it was pretty and quiet and I was several hours into a 15-hour drive.

It was a nice and quiet respite of solitude after several very social weeks. Until, suddenly, a tangle of grief and anger rose up in my gut. Tears started leaking from my eyes and a whole lotta curse words started spewing from my mouth.

My first thought was: Still?? Still this grief after 13.5 years? Jesus Effing Christ. (Apologies to those with a Christian bent. No disrespect intended to the Jesus man.).

My next thought was: Why do people leave me when I need them most?

Well, hello, little painful, unhelpful belief. Where have you been hiding?

It’s an old painful belief that has lain quietly in my brain and heart for many years now. It’s not hard to find the origin of it. The day I found out I was pregnant, my fiancé was in a car accident and taken off life support two days later. He never knew about our daughter and, obviously, he couldn’t be there with me when she also died months later.

Although rationally I know that he didn’t have much of a say in the matter, when I needed him most, he left. So did my daughter.

Emotion isn’t rational. Emotion and these kinds of sneaky hidden beliefs aren’t logical or made of common sense. They are born out of hurt and pain when, for a variety of reasons, we don’t have the skills or capacity to process that particular hurt and pain.

A similar hurt and pain had come up again recently in a situation with a friend, and unbeknownst to me at the time, so had this painful belief that people leave me when I need them most. It was a belief I’d spent the last month or so desperately avoiding with unconscious busyness, social time, and a whole lot of mental distraction.

Looking back it explains a lot. No wonder my sleep has been crap. 😉

Then came a quiet, solo, no-distractions road trip. And I couldn’t avoid it anymore. This old belief arose, triggering old and new pain, and came unavoidably spewing out my eyes and mouth.

And honestly, while it hurt, pulling that thorn of a belief out of my heart after so many years has been a relief these past few days.

Because as soon as I was aware of it, as soon as I stopped running from it, it no longer had power over me. I could see it. I could see how it poked it’s thorny head into my relationships to wreak havoc.

And, now, because I could see it, I could let it go. I could take back my power over it and prevent the damage to my relationships.

Now, I could finally also see all the times and ways I am always supported. I could see the ways that family and friends, and even strangers, have been there for me when I needed them most. Sometimes that isn’t always in the way I want or expect, but most of the time, when I need someone, someone is there.

When I let them.

When I can let them because I don’t have this painful hidden belief stirring up some rather impressive self-sabotage.

And, finally, I can be there for me when I need me most. Because that’s what I need the most – me to be on my side. Me to be there for me.

So, my question for you is this: What are you avoiding? What painful beliefs might be lurking around your brain?

And perhaps more importantly, are you fully on your own side? Are you being there for you?

Something to ponder.

beauty in the ruins picEveryone is beautiful. Even in our weakest, darkest moments there is beauty in us. Even when all we can see is our warts and flaws and imperfections, we are beautiful.

I unfailingly believe that beauty can be found in everything. Yes, everything.

Sometimes we have to look really fucking hard to see it, but beauty is there to be found.

I say this even though there are many times I curse this and want to dismiss it or rail against the idea.

When my fiancé and children died, I didn’t want to see beauty. I struggled to see its existence. I was angry and full of grief, numb and destroyed. Yet still there was beauty.

Beauty in my love for them. Beauty in my doctor and nurses’ kind words and loving presence. Beauty in the yellow daisies given to me. Beauty in the raw, real emotion flooding through me. Beauty in the sun that rose again even when it felt as it the world should be dark.

Even when there is anger or grief or numbness or devastating sorrow, these things do not negate beauty. Nor does seeing the beauty negate the pain or difficulty of living. These things can and do exist side-by-side.

If we look into that which appears ugly long enough and deeply enough, we will find the beauty. Humanity. Grace. Vulnerability.

Beauty.

The same applies when it’s extra weight our bodies carry, extra sensitivity or emotionality that others criticize, personality traits seen as flaws or imperfections, and so much more. There is beauty in all of it, should we choose to look long and deep enough.

There are times when life crumbles to ruins around us and even in the midst of the devastation and destruction, beauty can be seen.

In the rubble and dust and mess of living, bits of beauty are always waiting to be discovered. Glimmering bits of color and light and glitters of sweetness can be found in the middle of the mess. Sometimes, the mess is the beauty itself.

You are beautiful. Even at your most messy and most imperfect. Life is full of beauty. Even at it’s most painful and broken. There is beauty among the brokenness that can be re-crafted into a mosaic of color and light.

Life is full of beauty. Even in the ruins.

***
Are you looking to find more of the beauty in the ruins in your life? If you’d like a little support on your journey, I’d love to be there. 

5 stages imageMost of us have heard them.

The 5 Stages of Grief created by Elizabeth Kubler Ross:

Denial
Bargaining
Anger
Depression
Acceptance

The 5 Stages are a lovely idea that package grief up in a nice and neat way. Do this, then this, followed by this, this, and this and you are done. You made it! You hit all the stages and now you don’t have to grieve anymore.

Ok, so I’m being a bit of a smart a**.

Unfortunately, that is all too often how the 5 Stages of Grief are interpreted.

People want to take the 5 stages and interpret them to mean that grief is linear, close ended, and simple.

That would be wonderful, but that’s not how grief works.

Grief is messy. It’s complex and multi-layered. It can be sneaky and subtle, loud and quiet, harsh and soft, bittersweet and just bitter.

Sure, grief can involve anger, depression, denial, bargaining and acceptance. Sometimes it involves all of these feelings all at once. Grief can also include relief, rage, peace, fury, bittersweetness, jealousy, envy, confusion, frustration, numbness, despair and a thousand other variations of emotion. We feel so much more than these 5 basic emotions.

Grief is not as simple and orderly as the 5 Stages are often interpreted. It’s not even as simple as saying we cycle through these stages in different ways and different times.

The 5 Stages of Grief leave out the complexity and individuality that is grief and love, for what is grief but an expression of love?

Every relationship between any two people is completely unique and individual. That also means that every experience of loss and grief is also completely unique and individual. Everyone grieves in their own unique way. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, no set timeline, and no clear-cut path to walk on one’s journey with grief.

There is grief and there is your way of learning to live while grieving.

When someone we deeply love dies, we miss and grieve for them for a lifetime. This grief will ebb and flow, circle around, ease until we think it’s gone and then flood back unexpectedly. Grief’s form will change, not unlike relationships shift and change over time, but as long as love is present for the one we lost, so will grief.

And love never dies.

It’s not that the 5 stages are wrong exactly. Technically, many of us experience denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance along our grief journey.

It’s just that the 5 stages leave out the richness, intricacy, paradox, and subtleties of love, relationship, and grief.

No one could ever sum up the complexities of a relationship in a linear, simplified 5 stages. Relationships are full of many facets and layers, nuances and intricacies. This is true for the relationship we have with our loved one and for our grief process after that loved one dies.

Love and grief are so much more than 5 simple stages.

2010-04-11 16.27.46I have been more open and honest about how much I grieve during the holidays this year than I ever have been in the 13 years since my fiancé and daughter died.

For many long years, I hid my grief and remained silent about how deeply I missed them or how much their absence affects my life.

But silent grief festers. It wreaks havoc on one’s mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health. It makes us miserable, depressed, sick, lonely and exhausted.

Over the years, I’ve slowly begun to stop hiding it quite so much. Instead, I’ve started sharing it. I have cried with friends. I have shared my grief and longing for my family. I have talked about how difficult the holidays can be when some of those we love are absent.

This year in particular I’ve had no patience for trying to put on a happy face and pretending all the images and chatter about happy families and cheerful celebrations don’t hurt.

I am the only remaining member of that little family of mine and that fact hurts.

It’s not always easy to be honest about one’s grief. It makes most people very uncomfortable. And because it makes people uncomfortable, there is often much judgment, shaming, and “shushing” aimed toward those who grieve openly.

Over the years since I started being more open about my grief I’ve been told countless painful things such as:

“You’re just wallowing in this for attention.”
“You need to just get over it and stop being so emotional.”
“You should be done with this by now.”
“You STILL get sad this time of year. Hasn’t it been long enough?”
“You aren’t being very spiritual, don’t you know life is eternal?”
“Aren’t you over this yet?”
“If you truly believed in God and heaven, you wouldn’t be hurting.”
“You aren’t looking hard enough for the blessing in this.”
“You just need to remember it all happens for a reason.”

Or my personal favorite, “You shouldn’t be a practitioner of this philosophy, because clearly you don’t get it if you’re still grieving. If you just choose to feel love or joy instead, you wouldn’t grieve.”

In the early years, a statement such as those would send me back into silence with a gaping, bleeding wound on my heart. Nowadays, I’m better at shrugging those kind of thoughtless statements and judgments off and standing in my own truth.

However, even now that I’ve learned to shrug these statements off and be open and honest about my grief, every time I open up and share I can feel my self-protective defenses rise up around my heart.

Even now, I catch myself mentally preparing to defend why I feel as I feel. I find myself struggling with anger and defensiveness, highly alert for anyone who might jab through my defenses and into my already aching heart.

It’s exhausting. And quite frankly, it makes the grief already present even hard to bear.

Just this weekend, I shared another post on Facebook about how very much I miss my family and wish they were here with me. In the hours since, I’ve noticed myself feeling tempted to withdraw from people, preparing mental arguments in my head to defend how I feel, and struggling not to put up walls around my heart to close people out.

I don’t want to feel as if I have to defend myself or my feelings. I want to simply be me – real and messy and joyful and sad and complex in all the best ways.

And so as I’m noticing the desire to defend and protect, I’m doing my best to breathe and allow. To remain open and vulnerable. To lay down my defenses and keep my heart open. It’s uncomfortable and scary and uncertain.

Just like grief. Grief is uncomfortable – for those grieving and those around the grieving.

It’s easier, at least in the short term, to shut out the discomfort for both parties.

It’s easier to judge and dismiss and criticize – which are just another kind of defense – someone who is grieving than it is to sit with them in the discomfort and love them exactly as they are.

It’s easier to put up defenses and protection or to stay silent rather than stay in the discomfort of opening one’s heart and allowing vulnerability.

But when we shut out the discomfort, we also shut out the love.

The only thing that helps ease the discomfort or reduce the aching of a grieving heart is love.letting_go_gate

Real, open, honest, raw, vulnerable, unconditional love.

No judgment.
No criticism.
No hiding.
No silencing.
No defending.

Just love.

Because silent grief festers.

But grief met with love soothes and heals.


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Beauty+Life+You

Twice monthly inspiration to find the beauty in life, in yourself, and in every situation.

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