Tag Archives: Loss

Remembering Lisa

Last week, my cousin, Lisa, passed away at 41 from cancer.  She was diagnosed just last year with stage 3 inflammatory breast cancer, and the treatment they did was pretty aggressive – chemo, a mastectomy, followed by radiation.  But after the mastectomy, they did tests and found that the cancer had spread.  She returned to chemo treatments, but the cancer still spread.  She was hospitalized a few weeks ago, but her body just couldn’t recover. 

Even though she is my cousin, we have always had more of a sisterly bond.  I wanted to be just like her when I was a kid.  I remember one night we were going somewhere with friends and they remarked how much I acted like her.  I responded with “Yeah, buddy” which was something she said all the time, and the whole car just burst into laughter.

She taught me about make-up, boys, sex, and peer pressure.  When I was 14, she had just graduated high school, and we were both staying at our grandparents’ house for the summer.  We went camping with some friends and they brought out some alcohol.  When they offered it to me, I said no.  They started to make fun of me, pressure me, but Lisa stopped them in their tracks.  “She said no, and you will respect that.”  Years later, I told her how much that had helped me, and she said that she didn’t really have someone like that in her life, and she wanted to make sure I did.

Her heart was overflowing in generosity.  She loved fiercely, passionately.  When I was pregnant with my son, wrought with anxiety because all I had known up to that point was pregnancy loss, she sent me a journaling Bible with a set of colored pencils.  It has brought me so much comfort, especially in these last few weeks.

The greatest comfort to me was her relationship with God.  She and I had so many conversations in the last few years about faith in God, and hers was incredibility strong.  She was so loved, and she loved so much.  I still look up to her and want to be just like her.  I will miss our conversations.  I will miss her hugs and laugh and even the eye-rolls.  I will miss her passion.  I will miss her.  I love you so much Lisa.

Thanksgiving 2019

Life can be so unpredictable. At the end of October, when I published what I thought would be my final blog post for at least six months to a year, I certainly didn’t think I would be writing another one before the end of 2019. But when life is unpredictable, the best place to go is to the community that has supported and loved you, so here I am.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving, my husband received a call from his mother. If you have been following this blog, you know that Michael’s dad has had Alzheimer’s for several years. His mom told us that his health had taken a turn for the worse, and we needed to come say goodbye.

So, Monday morning, we packed up our car and made the day’s trek to Arkansas to say goodbye. On Tuesday afternoon, Michael’s dad passed away.

Tuesday. On the fifth anniversary of my first daughter’s stillbirth.

A week after I got the diagnosis that our daughter had passed away, I wrote a blog post of thanksgiving. I felt that it was appropriate, here a week after my father-in-law has passed, that I would write another post of thanksgiving.

I am thankful that Tony is free from the grip of Alzheimer’s disease. His body and mind are once again whole. I am thankful for the advocates that fight and raise funds to find a cure to this disease. We will continue to walk for the cure in honor of Tony as well as other family members who have been affected by it.

I’m thankful for the community that surrounds my mother-in-law and has surrounded her for these past several years. We don’t live very close by, so knowing that her friends could be there for her in the moments we weren’t able to was such a comfort. Community is such an incredible gift from God.

I am thankful for the few cherished memories I have of Tony. I didn’t get to know him well before the disease started affecting him, but one of my best memories of Tony was the time we were in a parking lot, walking to somewhere, and he was walking behind everyone else. So, I went back to walk next to him and gave him a side squeeze before taking my arm in his. He smiled at me and said he loved a good hug when he could get one.

I am thankful for the pieces of Tony that I see in my son. My son has that same penchant for a good hug. Also, when my son is thinking hard about a problem, he makes the same face Tony did. I look forward to the glimpses of Tony we will see in the years to come.

I am thankful for the memories that Michael has of his dad and the impact his dad had on him. One of his best memories is of going down to the creek with his dad and his brother to explore. I see how that love for exploration has encouraged Michael to stay curious about his passions and the world around him and to never stop learning.

I am thankful for the many ways Tony has affected the world around him. When my mother-in-law posted his passing on her Facebook, there were so many comments of how special Tony was to other people, how he encouraged, loved, and impacted their lives. I’ve been able to get to know even more about this amazing man through the stories and perspectives of those he has loved.

Most of all, I am thankful for God in whom we can place our trust and hope. He makes his presence known in such powerful ways on the darkest days. I know that Tony is finally free from the struggles of this life and has received his promised reward. And for that, I am so thankful.

Giving Thanks

Today in America, we celebrate Thanksgiving.  For a lot of people, this holiday can be very controversial.  Historically, it is a reminder of land and lives that were taken.  It can also be a reminder here in the present of people who are missing from around the table, through loss or estrangement.  It can be a contentious holiday as people avoid certain topics, walking on eggshells to try to keep the peace.

But it’s also a day set aside to celebrate gratitude.  It’s a bittersweet concoction of seeking out the joy and gifts in your life that follow so closely the struggles and pain.  It’s searching for the presence of God in the stillness of sorrow.

Personally, Thanksgiving is a time of hard memories.  It is surrounded by lost dreams.  My first daughter was stillborn four years ago the day before Thanksgiving.  My second daughter was actually supposed to be born the day before Thanksgiving two years ago, but was stillborn a few months before her impending arrival.

And this Thanksgiving.  I’m holding a miracle of a son in my arms, overwhelmed with gratitude, but also with loss and wonder at what it might have been like if my daughters were alive.  How chaotic and loud would my home be?  Would my daughters play with my son as I cook dinner?  How different would our Christmas card look?

It’s okay to feel both gratitude and heartache this holiday.  If you need permission to feel so, then I’m giving it to you right now.  It doesn’t have to be either/or.  It can be both/and.  And if you are only feeling one or the other, that’s okay too.  Gratitude (much like love on Valentine’s day) doesn’t have to be forced into one day a year.

With all of that said, I hope you find some rest, eat good food, and have memorable and positive conversation around the table this holiday.  I am so grateful for all of you in this wonderful community!

3 Ways To Survive the Holidays

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We lost our first daughter the day before Thanksgiving two years ago.  After our loss, we went straight into the holidays.  I remember how difficult that first holiday was, trying to navigate through grief and the holiday season.  Just like every other holiday season, I wanted to create memories and honor traditions, but it didn’t feel the same with the loss. All of the traditions and rituals were a reminder of what was missing.

I know a lot of people who are navigating their first holiday season without someone they love, and I wanted to share with you three things that I have learned that have helped me.

We all need space.  It is important especially during this busy season to remember to create space in your week for some self-care.  It may take a bit of planning and a bit of trying different things, but taking the time to care for yourself before immersing yourself in the chaos of the holidays can really help.  Just like in the airplane talk before takeoff, you must put the oxygen mask on your first before helping others.  Maybe it’s keeping a journal and carving out some time in your day to write.  Maybe it’s taking a hot bath one night a week.  Or maybe it’s a designated time for coffee with a trusted friend.  Whatever it is that will help you take moments of oxygen, create some space for it.

We need to take it at our own pace.  I remember that first year wishing that I could just take the grief, put it on a shelf, and resume the happy holidays.  But grief always seemed to find it’s way back into my arms when I least expected it, and at the most inopportune times.  I would compare myself to others who were grieving, some who seemed to be grieving more and some who seemed to have moved on with ease.  Of course, I didn’t know their whole story, and comparing myself to anyone for anything never helps.  I needed to be okay with where I was in my own grief, and be okay with voicing my needs when I was ready to do so.  Embracing it makes it a little easier to walk through grief.

We need to give ourselves grace.  Even though I’ve learned a lot about myself over the last two years, and a lot about grieving, I don’t have it all figured out.  I still have my breakdown moments, hours or days.  I still don’t know what to ask for at times. Sometimes I know what I need but I’m still afraid to ask.  The best I can do is realize that I’m still learning every day.  Learning about grief.  Learning about myself.  And giving myself the grace to be okay to make mistakes.  Learn from them.  And keep growing.

Navigating the holidays can be difficult for a lot of reasons.  I’m thankful that my community has given me the grace and space to grow through this process and allow me to move at my own pace.  And I’m thankful that God continues to walk with me on this journey through grief even during the holidays.

Grief, Loss, and Thanksgiving (Part 4)

I’ve been sitting, looking at the blinking cursor in front of me for a little while.  I have so many words to say, and yet, none at all.  A year ago, I found out I was no longer pregnantI went into the hospital and gave birth to my stillborn baby girl.

I do want to take a moment to acknowledge some of the blessings I’ve experienced this month leading up to this week.  I’m thankful for a husband who does his amazing best to be there for me in the sad moments.  I’m thankful for random, loving texts from friends and family.  I’m thankful for a church community and a workplace that surround me with love.  I’m thankful for the SPCA who allow me to use their dogs for my own brand of therapy.  I’m thankful for my own dogs who shower me with kisses and snuggles just when I need it.

I have no idea how the rest of this week will go, but right now that doesn’t matter.  What matters is taking the next step, breathing the next breath, and living the next moment.  I don’t think I’m going to write again this week.  I want to give myself some time to just focus on the present. So, Happy Thanksgiving.  I am so thankful for all of you.

Grief, Loss and Thanksgiving: Part One

Part 1: Grief – Monday, November 24, 2014

It started a week or so ago.  I hadn’t felt the baby move, but I explained it away, chalked it up to the fear and anxiety I carried over from my miscarriage last year.  I had an appointment today, so I made note to talk to the doctors about the anxiety.

However, the appointment was not as run of the mill as I hoped.  First, there was no heartbeat detected.  Then, I had a sonogram done, and there was no growth after 22 weeks, no heartbeat, nothing.  I had lost another baby.  I was wrapped in the compassionate arms of two of the doctors and a nurse almost immediately.  I called my husband who wasn’t there because this was really suppose to be a check up, but he left work immediately to meet me at the clinic.

I was moved to a room with table and chairs, somewhere less clinical, to wait for Michael.  I started making calls to family and work to let them know what was going on.  I wavered between sobbing breakdowns and staring at nothing in shock.  When my husband arrived, the doctor rejoined us to talk about what happens next.  I would have to go to a hospital to deliver, something I didn’t think I would be doing until spring.

We went home and I just sat outside for a while.  Michael made lunch, and we talked about our plans for the week, making one decision and then wait a couple hours to make the next decision, because it was all so much to take in.  We decided we would go to the hospital on Wednesday (our doctor would be on call that day).  We wouldn’t be traveling for Thanksgiving, so we would have to figure out something for food that day. I continued making a few more calls and then let the grapevine take over, receiving texts the rest of the day as people found out.  My friend Lori came by that evening for some talk about everything and anything, but what was about to happen.  It was a nice visit.  Finally, my mom and I made plans for her to fly in Tuesday night to help us during the procedure and recovery.  It will be good to have her here.