12 Months of Lessons. Hello 2017

As we are turning over the calendar page to begin a new year I am feeling open and optimistic that 2017 will bring love, peace and joy.

Starting a new year for our family is a time we reflect upon the year we just lived, we review our goals we had set, we create a photo album containing moments captured during our family adventures and everyday life, and Ryan puts together a video containing clips with moments we have captured throughout the year. Every other year doing this ritual feels good, we feel proud of all we have accomplished, all the adventures we experienced and grateful for all the memories we have made with friends and family. This year is different. This past year was hard. Harder than any year we have lived to date. I hope it is the hardest year we will have to live. I see all the pictures of all the moments we experienced as a family and as beautiful as they are, and as much gratitude I have for those moments I see Teddy missing. I see my eyes in the pictures and in many I see how the light was dimmed. I see pain, I see through my eyes as if they are a window to my soul and see all I have felt this last year. It is hard for me to see. I also see the light being let back in as the pictures progress. The final family picture of 2016 was our Christmas picture we put on our cards we sent out and my eyes are finally full of light again. When that picture was taken I had a great sense of peace and my heart was filled with gratitude and joy.

The first year living with grief teaches you a lot. I am grateful for the lessons and as hard as this year has been I wouldn’t change it. I have learned we are stronger than we ever imagined. Being strong looks different every day and means something different to different people. Being strong for me has been the following.

  • Accepting when my heart was far too heavy to continue with my everyday life, and allowing myself to feel and honour all that my heart was feeling.
  • Waking up everyday and parenting two beautiful boys when my heart was so broken, and couldn’t help but see Teddy missing every time I looked at them.
  • Talking openly and honestly about our experience to help others who have experienced a similar journey feel less alone.
  • Keeping my heart open to allow joy, love and peace in when it would have been easier to shut my heart down and protect it from future heartache.
  • Choosing to seek help from many avenues and being committed to finding peace. I attended a grief retreat, went to counselling with Ryan, had Reiki, saw a Shaman, spoke to our minister, talked honestly to those I trust to hold my heart gently and without judgment, attended peer grief meetings, and wrote about it all, especially when it was hard and messy.
  • Allowing myself to feel joy and love for those in my life when they were blessed with beautiful life moments. It was hard at times for all involved to separate our heartache and the joy of their blessings.
  • Having the realization that our level of grief and sadness doesn’t equal our level of love for the one who died. You can love that person deeply and have a heart filled with joy for the life you are living even if it is without them physically present.
  • Openly admitting when my heart was heavy, life felt messy, and then also openly sharing when joy and peace have been welcomed and was allowed to stay.
  • Accepting help, asking for help, and learning to lean on others.
  • Giving grace to friends, family and even strangers who have been unknowingly hurtful, and to all who have judged not knowing what it feels like to be us. I have also had to give myself grace in times I have spoken words driven from hurt, or moments it would have been easier to be angry, place blame and/or have unloving feelings towards myself.
  • Finding peace, and welcoming it to stay took a lot of strength. I can say a lot of the time peace now stays for weeks. I have moments that feel heavy but they are mostly fleeting. This isn’t to say I don’t have times when sadness hangs around a bit longer or that in my life times won’t feel hard but by allowing peace to stay has given me more strength to allow emotions to be flowing in and out freely. I no longer hang on to them. I am more present and more open.

Being strong never looks exactly the same twice. It isn’t the same for different people and one’s strength can’t truly be judge by others, not even by those who have experienced a similar loss. We have all been blessed with unique circumstances in life, we have been gifted hearts that feel deeply and journey that is unique to its own. Knowing that it would seem like commons sense how we navigate a journey of deep loss would also be unique but so often people compare and judge. We judge ourselves amongst other’s journey with grief and the people on the sidelines tend to judge what they see looking in. Both equally unfair to everyone involved.

I have learned when we experience a loss the ripple effect is larger than we initially imagine. As time rolls on the realization that the loss continues in many forms. You are excluded from events or activities because either your heart can’t handle attending, or because you no longer belong. Relationship change some become stronger and new ones are formed, and other times the cracks in a relationship become very apparent and you are unable to unsee them. The death of someone you love is multi layered and is always unique to the individual.

Practicing mindful gratitude has taught me that in my darkest days there is always a glimmer of light to hold onto. Being grateful for blessings and teachings because of a loss doesn’t mean you are grateful the person died

Grief isn’t a party of one. It effects all those who love, share space and interact with the person experiencing the grief. It takes a village to get through it. We are all called to be apart of each other’s life experiences allowing us to grow, to become more compassionate and more aware of all that others experience in life. We can’t live it all ourselves but we can learn though those around us. It truly is a gift.

I have realized once you experience a life altering moment the old you is gone, a distant memory, and a person you and others might miss. The new you may be a better version of the old you, but it takes time to find your way there. It is one of the ripple effects to grief, and an added layer of loss but also could be a blessing.

I have learned that we all have our own medicine. What I need to navigate this journey isn’t necessarily what will work for others. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Everyone has to be true to themselves and support each other in the manner that works for them. There is no room for judgement but plenty of room to hold space, and offer love.

I have learned the old me was an incredibly judgmental person. The new me works really hard not to be. I understand as much as anyone how hard it is to not judge, to trust that a person is doing what is best for them, to trust people are genuinely good and the words they use and the acts they commit are based on love.

In 2017 I wish for a community that holds space for those in pain, shows an abundance of love, even when it is hard to do, and that we all consciously choose to not judge others, rather trust them instead.

Life is full of mountains to climb and valleys to pass, struggles in life are real. We all face them, they never look the same from one person to the next but what we all have in common is that fact we struggle. If we all spent more time loving ourselves and each other, our time here on earth will be that much easier. The load for each of us would be lighter. Worry is the thief of joy. If for the next 365 days we can choose love and encourage those in our communities to do the same I can only imagine what 2018 will feel like.

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Happy Birthday Teddy

Happiest Birthday my sweet baby boy.

It is hard to believe one year has passed since you entered the world and left so quickly without even as much as a whisper. With no words spoken, no eye contact made, you received all that you needed and gave us some of the greatest gifts.

I could never in my wildest imagination have pictured my life being this way, walking this path and yet feeling such gratitude. Love and gratitude have carried us through. Lord knows we have been messy, we have felt the deepest level of despair one can feel, I have been on my knees calling out to you and praying to God to give me you back. Those moments were real and as I lived them I often wonder how I could possibly continue living feeling so utterly broken. Without love and without finding gratitude each and everyday I am positive that today would feel very different.

As this day approached, this significant day in our lives I have spent a lot of time reflecting on where we have come from and the path we have walked in the past year and where we are today. I remember so clearly those incredibly hard moments. I also remember the love, the love we felt, we shared and the love which was given to us from so many.

To say you are my greatest gift God could have given me is an understatement. Through you I have learned to love harder, louder, deeper, and with intention. I have learned to be a more connected Mother, and I have become a better wife. Our family has benefited from you joining us and then leaving us physically. I know with absolute certainty that your soul’s purpose was never to live here on earth with us, but to receive copious amount of unconditional love, to be held every second of your life, and to leave a legacy of loving fearlessly. I have reached a point in our journey where having this understanding gives me comfort and provides me with a sense of peace. As your Mother I have the honour of loving you and anything beyond that it isn’t up to me. We all have a soul’s journey to complete and there is no Mother powerful enough to be able to intervene with that. So I sit with you, I can feel you near always and I can love you but the rest is left up to God.

Finding peace within our journey hasn’t been easy. It was something I have been 110% committed to doing and I haven’t done it alone. This isn’t something that can be done alone. It takes a village and there is no timeline. I have been blessed with an amazing support network that combines, friends, family, acquaintances, strangers and professionals. Each one is as important as the next.

I think back to those moments of coming home after you were born, and how I was terrified to be away from your Dad. I have never in my life needed someone like I needed him. I am not sure exactly what I was afraid of but it was terrifying thinking he was going to have to go back to work, or even leave to go to the store or to run a simple errand. As the days, weeks and months move on my need for him changed, but there has been no doubt that I have needed him daily. I needed to feel him close, to feel like my heart was secure with him because it was so vulnerable and fragile and I needed him to love me loudly when things were messy and to love me softly when I was riding a wave of peace. He has been my constant, he has been my life line, and without him I am not sure this path could have been walked. Our love has been the foundation we walked on as we navigated our way through these past 12 months.

So here I am, listening to a song that often was played during our prenatal yoga classes and I feel as close to you today as I did then. 12 months later feeling you close gives me peace and comfort where it used to make me terrified the moment would end. I was terrified to allow space between us , I was terrified to stop grieving and to allow joy to stay longer, and I was scared that by finding peace, joy, and allowing space I would loose you and others would forget about you. I now know this to be not be true, I feel closer to you than ever and my moments of deep sadness are fleeting. Because my heart isn’t so heavy I can now hold you in there differently, gently, and so lovingly without desperation. You are now free from my tight grasp and you always choose to stay close and for that I am so grateful.

Today we are spreading your message on Love. We have created cards with this message on them and they will be passed out to thousands of strangers. I know with certainty your were born on this date for a reason. You could have picked any day, of any month but you chose just before Christmas at a time when we will always be surrounded by friends and family and when the world could use a reminder to Always Choose Love. My heart couldn’t be more filled with gratitude than it is, we have had so many people come forward and request these cards to help spread your message on love and to celebrate you. That is what we are doing, we are celebrating you, we are not mourning that you are gone but celebrating you because you live, because you matter, because you have changed lives, because your purpose was significant and because we love you.

So my sweet sweet boy of mine, Happy first Birthday in Heaven!!! I know you will be partying with all your friends and our family members so give everyone the biggest hug and kiss for us. I can only imagine what a party in Heaven looks like!

Loving you loudly today!
With gratitude your Biggest Fan – Mommy

Capture Your Grief – Lemons and Lemonade 

I am not sure if it is always about making lemonade. . . Rather than being open to the blessings and the lessons that hard situations offer. I don’t make the blessings, I don’t create the lessons, they are right there for the taking. In order for me to see them, to be able to appreciate them and claim them for myself I have to keep my heart open, I have to sit in a vulnerable state. Creating a hard shell over my broken heart may potentially protect me from more pain but it creates an impenetrable force around me preventing me to make space to grow and accept the lessons and blessing.

I think to make lemonade is to make something sweet out of a sour event in life. I struggle with this since for me I don’t feel I have made anything. I am just riding the wave, and walking the path this journey has lead me on. I believe in all hard situations if we are open we will see the beauty and we will experience the blessings that come with it. I am just not the creator of that, they are always present regardless if I see them or not.

I also have a hard time thinking anything about Teddy is sour. People have referred to the day he passed away as the worst day of my life. That simply isn’t true. How could the day we met and only time I had with him be the worst? It was the best day. The hardest day but the best day. Teddy is light, Teddy is joy. His absence makes my heart hurt in unimaginable ways but that is only because he is loved so deeply because he matters and because he is so great that even after 100 years it wouldn’t have been enough time. He was born lemonade, he has cleared a path for all things sweet and all things love to be present, so there was no sour to turn sweet.

Capture Your Grief – Creative Heartwork 

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I am not sure if it is always about making lemonade. . . Rather than being open to the blessings and the lessons that hard situations offer. I don’t make the blessings, I don’t create the lessons, they are right there for the taking. In order for me to see them, to be able to appreciate them and claim them for myself I have to keep my heart open, I have to sit in a vulnerable state. Creating a hard shell over my broken heart may potentially protect me from more pain but it creates an impenetrable force around me preventing me to make space to grow and accept the lessons and blessing.

I think to make lemonade is to make something sweet out of a sour event in life. I struggle with this since for me I don’t feel I have made anything. I am just riding the wave, and walking the path this journey has lead me on. I believe in all hard situations if we are open we will see the beauty and we will experience the blessings that come with it. I am just not the creator of that, they are always present regardless if I see them or not.

I also have a hard time thinking anything about Teddy is sour. People have referred to the day he passed away as the worst day of my life. That simply isn’t true. How could the day we met and only time I had with him be the worst? It was the best day. The hardest day but the best day. Teddy is light, Teddy is joy. His absence makes my heart hurt in unimaginable ways but that is only because he is loved so deeply because he matters and because he is so great that even after 100 years it wouldn’t have been enough time. He was born lemonade, he has cleared a path for all things sweet and all things love to be present, so there was no sour to turn sweet.

Capture Your Grief- Support Circles 

In my experience support comes in many forms. I have family, I have friends, I have my Sisters-in-Loss, I have acquaintances, I have strangers, and I have professional help. Each having a place they own on this journey with me. The support from each is different but all equally valuable.

I have a circle who are very good at providing and helping with basic needs, such as food delivered to my door, flowers, thoughtful gifts, beautiful cards and letters or emails.

I have a circle who send messages to ensure I know how deeply I am loved and in particular a dear friend from out of town who religiously sent a text everyday letting me know how loved I was during the early months when days were so hard. I am not sure she will ever know how much of a gift that was. It was a lifeline in those early days.

I have a very small circle that are willing with coffee/tea and a treat in hand to walk through my door and listen to me when it is hard, when things get messy. They can hold space as I cry and feel my heart hurting without getting uncomfortable. They listen, sometimes offer advice but mostly give permission to feel what I am feeling and agree how badly this all sucks.

I have those in my life who aren’t comfortable with any of it and would prefer my old self to return. Or those who think enough is enough we are approaching 10 months in a few days and they are done with asking or talking about it.

I have a circle of online support. Those who I don’t see in person but are always willing to extend love, prayers and encouragement.

The circle of Sisters-in-loss I have are by far some of the most loving, and emotionally giving, kickass women I have ever had the privilege to share space with. My heart is forever grateful to have these woman in my life. To be able to have another Mom who feels what I feel and for them to have space in their heart that is also broken to love me through my journey is a gift from above. These women are heroes.

I have created a circle of professional help that without it my journey would be a mess I am sure. The circle includes my dearest friend and Reiki Master, a Shaman, a Grief Counsellor, our Minister, and newly added personal trainer. Becoming more physically active has really helped recently.

The one man circle I would be lost without is my husband Ryan. He is the foundation of this journey. He is my rock. I have never received love in my life as fiercely as I have since this journey began. He has been so determined that nothing will break our marriage. His commitment to me and our family is something that I believe is so rare in this day and age. My heart is safe in his hands, and he is my protector against all. Our love runs deep. It is something that isn’t easy to articulate but what I know without a shadow of a doubt is it is a gift from God. We both know we were meant for each other and we were destined for this journey. Together nothing feels impossible.

What I have come to learned is that each person no matter what circle they are in deserves a spot in this journey. It is no coincidence that you (yes you reading this), whoever you may be, you were intended to also have a role. No matter how far removed or up close and uncomfortable (or not) it may be, you too were intended to be a part of Teddy’s legacy and journey of love. This isn’t all about me. He called everyone in to learn about a deeper love. To challenge you to choose love especially when it is hard to make that choice.

I have come to love many people for the role they play and I will be forever grateful. This journey can’t be a one man show. It is one of community, one that relies on help, love and support from all, in all different forms.

So thank you for being in one or many of my circles. Thank you for being open to come along for this wild ride and opening your hearts to choosing love even if it was only once.

Heartache & Joy Can Coexist. 

I am not expert on grief. Grief and I have only been acquainted for 9 months. But I have become an expert on my grief, not my husband’s, and certainly not yours, but my own ever changing journey of grief.

This is the thing about grief; no two people have the same journey; not even if two people lost the same baby, or father, or sibling, or pet. The journey will always be experienced differently. It only makes sense to me that this would be true since we have all experienced a very different life leading up to that loss. We all have very different relationships with our support networks and different relationships with those in our lives who aren’t supportive. But mostly it comes down to the fact that we simply have a very different lens through which we view the experience.

Meeting those who have experienced a loss very similar to my loss of Theodore has shown me that as much as we have similar threads woven in our hearts, we are all very much on our own journey. The authentic sharing of our hearts and feelings allows space for these differences. A deeper connection is made when a thread that feels so close to a thread you carry is exposed or when you hold space for a thread that isn’t something that you have experienced or feel but can love that person whole heartedly while meeting them where they are at.

The last few weeks have really made me take a hard look at my journey and all the experiences I have gone through. I have encountered some of the most beautiful people who can surprisingly do all the right things, which often include doing nothing but sending love openly and acknowledging where I am at without judgment. Then there are those who are able to offer love as long as it doesn’t distract from their personal happiness. Experiencing this a few times I have realized our society is very uncomfortable with allowing heartache and joy to coexist. Life isn’t linear. It has many twists and turns, hills, valleys and mountains. It has moments that leave you bursting with love and joy as well as moments that are heart wrenching. It is unreasonable to think that we would all be at the same place at the same time. The only way to fully support each other through real life is by allowing both heartache and joy to coexist in a beautifully open way. One simply can’t distract from the other; allowing both to be present makes it authentically beautiful.

After digging a bit deeper within myself and wondering why people struggle with the notion that heartache and joy can coexist, I found myself returning to the judgment piece. Often people who have experienced a loss of any kind feel judged. Those surrounding a person experiencing loss are often peeking in a window to that person’s world looking for signs of them “getting better”. People love to say statements such as “you are doing amazing” or “you aren’t getting better” or even “you seem to be getting worse”. The truth is all of that is garbage. It is just a judgmental perspective even when said out of love. The truth is “better” or “getting worse” are just your judgmental observations of my grief and have nothing to do with me. I have just been me experiencing my emotions. They may last a minute, a day, a week, a year, or a lifetime and anything in between. I don’t feel better or worse, I just feel. Sometimes it is heavy and may look like it is getting messy and sometimes it is light and beautiful but one isn’t better than the other. It truly is nothing more than IT JUST IS.

Maybe if people can view the hard stuff in life without judgment and accept it for what it is, then it will become easier to allow space for it right beside another person’s beautiful happy moments in life.

Because no two people’s experience with loss is identical it makes it impossible to compare journeys and leaves no room for judgment. The hard truth is you simply can’t fairly judge what you don’t know. It has been said a million times but, there is no timeline for grief. I personally don’t agree with labeling stages of grief. It just is. Meeting a person where they are at, with no judgment, while loving them through it all is the only way to support one another in life.

My only advice to loving a person experiencing grief is to acknowledge their feelings, give them endless amounts of love and recognize that your impressions and judgments about their grief is truly about you and not them. They are just feeling what their heart feels just like you do every day about a million other things.