Grief Meditation

Often times we are so alone in our grief, or at the very least we feel unprepared or maybe even unable to share our pain. We tend to isolate, to let the darkness of our loss close in around us. I know that there have been moments in my own grief journey that I have been met with a very trite response to the very raw, very real, and very intense emotions that are coursing through my body, and it shuts me down. It makes me feel like maybe no one really understands the depth of my loss.

One of my deepest desires as a death midwife, is to break that stigma. To not only bring death and grief front and center for people to change the dialogue around both, but I truly desire to change the way we process and support grief. I want those I work with to know that their feelings are valid, real and NORMAL. We need to change the way we process loss. We need to find a place where we are unafraid to express, feel and move through emotion.

Meditation has been huge for me as I’ve walked through loss over the last few years. It has quieted my racing mind. It has helped me to tune back in to my body. It has helped me to release emotional and physical tension in so many ways.

I’m so honored to offer a women’s meditation event on February 23rd in my home. I truly desire to come alongside those who are grieving too. To know that they are not alone. That they are seen. That they are heard. That they are loved. I want to create a space of community and love; one that embraces the raw, the real, and the intense pieces of ourselves.

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New Years Day will never be the same.

One year ago today, my dad died. I remember it as fresh as if it were yesterday, but I also know the immense pain, grief and loss I have walked through over this last year of so many firsts without my dad.

It feels a bit odd today, I feel like I’m caught between this space of lasts and firsts all melding together. Nothing about this year has been easy. Nothing could have prepared me for losing my dad. Nothing. And I also know that we all grieve in such different ways.

The last few weeks have been not only the emotional pain of coming up on the one year mark, but also this surprising physical pain. Sleepless nights....nights where I was really restless and only able to get about 3 hours of sleep if I was lucky....just like it was when you were sick and I was taking care of you.  This fog from the exhaustion and not quite knowing how I was making it through the days, let alone making it through the days productive....much like it was when I was care-giving for you and trying to juggle so many responsibilities at once. The pain in the left side of my throat, it’s a dull ache at times, or a shooting pain at others, but so restrictive...the pain of your tumor like I felt it with you when you were sick. I’ve recognized it, honored it and then reminded it that it could leave....that you were whole and healed now.  It’s funny to me all the little, subtle ways that the body remembers what our mind can’t bear to wrap itself around.

I’ve thought about that often throughout this last year....the weight of grief. How hard and heavy it feels. But I’ve also learned how to be so much more compassionate to those in their own grief journey.  There’s just this hole in my heart where my dad should be. And this hole in my heart where my dad will always be. I miss the sound of his voice, I miss his laugh, I miss his hugs, I miss holding his hand....I miss how tender he became towards the end. It was this place of knowing our time was short, and yet, not wanting to talk about the fact that he was dying.

It’s been sweet to have all the memories of when I was young come flooding back. All the times we were home together when I was little....the time I wanted to be just like my dad and have coffee...so I poured myself a cup, complete with cream and sugar (dad drank his black) and took one drink and thought it was disgusting, so I poured it back into the pot...he was not so pleased with me.

Or learning how to cook breakfast side by side with him at the age of 4, I’d have a stool at the stove, and then seeing how Grady always sat up on the counter next to him while he would cook him breakfast...Grady still tells me that no one can cook breakfast quite as good as Grandpa.

Or how my Dad would always tease me and say how much do you love me? And I’d stretch my arms as wide as I could muster and say this much! And he’d smile, giggle and hold his thumb and pointer finger about an inch apart and say I love you this much, just to get a rise out of me. Then he’d laugh, stretch his arms wide and say I love you this much my girl! Years later, he found me a little figurine with arms wide stretched that read “I love you this much”, and how I’d give anything to have her now, but I don’t know where she went. But as the last few days have been pain filled, I’ve thought of creating to release some of that pain, and I know that my next painting will be “I love you this much.”

Oh dad, I’m so grateful that your suffering is over. And not just the suffering that cancer brought, but the suffering that living brought. I know you had your demons....we all do...I know that I wish I could have helped you clear your trauma long before the months before your death, but I was just learning how to clear my own. I know how dearly you loved mom, your girls, and your life....even if we didn’t always see it. I know how much pride we brought you. I know that your love for me did not end at your death, but purified. You are whole and complete in every sense of the words. There’s no longer any physical, emotional or spiritual restriction for you whatsoever. And I’m so grateful for that for you. I love you this much dad....for all of eternity. We will let your memory live on through us. And we will remind our kids often of who you were, we will encourage them to remember. And when the tears come Dad, I will be reminded of how lucky I am to have had as much of you as I did, to make missing you so hard, and know that much grief is the price of much love.

Beautifully Broken

Today’s been a hard day. The days seem to get harder as we approach Christmas. Today, I just couldn’t shake my sadness…nothing I did seemed to move the weight from my chest. I cried. A lot. All the way home from work in fact. I knew that as I headed in to pick up my sweet boy from daycare, that my eyes were puffy, and everyone I came in contact with could tell that today was not a good day. And I didn’t care.

I forced myself to take a brisk, winter walk in one last feeble attempt to move this heartbroken energy. It worked…somewhat. It gave me time to reflect. A year ago, life was so full, with life…with kids…with caregiving…with stress…with grief…with the insight that death was looming near. This year…it feels so empty. It feels so hard for reasons that are completely opposite. But that extra space in my life…it’s so necessary. It gives me the freedom and the space to have bad days. To have days where all I can do is cry. Days where I can be angry and sad and happy and grateful all at once. I just want to tell you something here…it’s okay to feel. Feel all of your feelings. Let them course through your body in whatever way they need to; wracking sobs, silent tears slowly trickling down your cheeks, anger burning in your heart, or a brokenness so deep you’re not sure you’ll ever feel whole again. Because it’s in these moments…these raw, real, pain filled, moments that we learn how to live a little more. That we learn how to heal bit by bit. That we learn how to move through life, to keep on living, even despite the deep pain of our loss. It’s in these moments that we learn how powerful it is to honor our feelings, to let them take their course, so that we can move forward, so that we don’t remain stuck.

As I was on that walk, where it was too cold to risk tears freezing to my cheeks, I witnessed the wonder of my 7 year old boy. Running through icy, frozen snow…laughing, and hooting and hollering the whole while out of pure joy. I was reminded that this boy meant the world to my dad. These wonder-filled moments were what he lived for with this kid. They shared so much together…so much laughter…so much spoiling….so many snuggles…and if I’m honest…so much ICE CREAM! And so, despite the hardness of today, I find joy in the little moments of living. Joy, quietly laced between the loss and the grief. And I know that my dad would be proud of me for finding that little sliver of joy today. I know that he would be proud of the fact that even though I wanted to curl up in a ball in my bed as soon as I walked through the door, that I chose life instead. I chose to push through and take time to shed tears in front of my son, and to tell him that I simply miss my dad for a million different reasons, to show him what grief looks like, but also to show him that we keep moving….we take the time for ourselves…we move even when we don’t feel like it…and when we do….joy awakens within us…right alongside our tears, sadness and loss.

Grief, Loss & Love

The last few weeks I’ve had a lot on my mind. I moved through Thanksgiving with ease for the first half of the day, the latter part of the day….I was a hot mess of sorrow, loss, pain, and so many tears. I miss my dad. I honestly can’t remember the last Thanksgiving I spent with him, even last year, he didn’t want to be with people….he couldn’t eat…he couldn’t celebrate the day with us in the only way he knew how. Oh dad…I’m so glad that despite my deep loss of you, that you are healed and whole and free of the cancer that tore through your body, robbing you of so many things.

Holidays are hard. Anniversaries are hard. This year marks all the first….first father’s day without my dad, my first birthday without my dad, celebrating his birthday without him here, first holiday season without him here with us. And soon approaching, the one year mark. I find myself often thinking how in the world have I lived nearly an entire year without my dad here with me!? How is that possible?

With the holidays upon us, I’m reminded how hard this time of the year can be for those of us who’ve experienced loss. Moving through my own grief over the last year, I’ve learned how truly grief is an ebb and a flow. It’s unpredictable. It’s ferocious. It’s raw. It’s impatient. It’s uncontrollable. It’s inconsolable. It comes out of no where. It sometimes makes no sense. It’s wild. It’s crazy. It’s painful. It’s purifying. It’s healing. It’s HEALTHY.

We tend to move through everything at lightening speed in our culture, never stopping to fully feel anything. That makes grief really uncomfortable for most people to deal with. But the truth is there is no way through grief without feeling…deeply…intensely…overwhelmingly. There’s no way to get around the fact that your life is forever changed. I’m not the person I was before my dad died. I’m changed. I’m softer. I’m more compassionate. I’m more understanding. I’m more raw. I’m more passionate. I’ve learned how to sit with my feelings and be okay with not being okay.

Sometimes there are just no words…no words to bring comfort. No way to truly understand. No response that’s comfortable for us. It’s in those moments that maybe it’s okay to just be. To step into the mess with those we love. To hold the space of this isn’t okay…it might never be okay….but I promise I’ll still love you in the midst of it. Can we look at unspeakable, unbearable pain with compassion? Can we sit in that unspeakable, unbearable pain with another without feeling the innate desire to “fix”? Can we hold that pain with the tenderest of hearts, realizing that to sit with someone in their deep grief is sacred. It’s a sacred process that we get to share with one another in this life…to love each other….to hold each other…to cry with each other…to be human together. I challenge you this holiday season to reach out to someone who is struggling with loss…no matter how fresh…or how old. Simply be a presence for them to show love and compassion, to help them to feel seen and not quite so alone in the solitude of grief.