Something Good- Day 146-147

We arrived home late last night from our trip. Before we left though, we were able to visit our nephew’s grave and leave some flowers. I love being able to remember him and keep him in our hearts.

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My sister had class tonight, so I decided to go outside to pull weeds. She joined me after class and we ended up trimming our trees and cleaning up dead foliage. It felt good to get so much work done and it looked great afterwards!

Something Good- Day 143-145

We have been visiting family for the last few days. We plan to return home tomorrow. This has been such a wonderful time though. My nephew hugged me and did not want to let go. I have been able to hold my baby niece. I know that the world is still not back to normal and that we really do need to be careful, but it is nice to live in a place where things are calmer. It is nice to know that our small towns can slowly return to normal. I feel for the people that live in highly populated areas where the threat of illness is much more prevalent. I know that this trip will necessitate being more careful in the next few weeks, but I am so glad I have finally been able to see family again.

Finding Hope

Grief is one of the hardest things I have ever had to experience. There are so many dimensions to grief. Sometimes it will come out of nowhere and swallow you whole. Other times it is just on the surface and the smallest reminder will make it come out in suffocating waves.

I have contemplated suicide for as long as I can remember. I am not sure why I am this way, but I have found a medication that helps me. For some reason, my brain just doesn’t work the way it should on its own.

Anyway, I have been reading a book about finding hope after suicide. My sister bought it for a friend, and I decided to read it first to see if it would be appropriate to give someone else. It brings up so many emotions in me, both because of the grief I am still trying to navigate and because of my own thoughts and experiences with suicide.

Right now the book is talking about healing. The author said that when she was a child, she felt like she had to bury her feelings to be strong. Her therapist challenged her to start sharing her feelings in order to heal from the traumatic experiences of her childhood.

A few years ago, I talked about abuse I faced as a child that I had never told anyone. I wrote about it on this blog and told the person I trusted most at the time, someone who was quickly becoming my best friend. It was hard to share something so personal. My parents were shocked by my experiences. And it caused some ripples in the next few family gatherings with accusations about why it was allowed to happen. I did not blame my parents for what happened, especially because I was too ashamed to tell them. But it was healing to finally tell a secret that I had been hiding for years.

As this book talks about sharing the story of her mother’s death, I feel emotions that I have not felt in a long time. I wonder if I still have hidden demons that need to be uncovered to fully heal. I wonder if I need to talk more about my nephew’s death to cope with the grief that surrounds me. I wonder if I need to reveal more of my deepest secrets to fully recover from all the wounds I hold within me.

I have discovered over the last few years that healing is not easy, but allowing ourselves to be vulnerable can make us into much better humans than we thought possible. Healing allows hope, and hope can lead to love, and love can mean finding happiness even if the midst of painful experiences.

A few years ago, I felt like I was finally the person I always wanted to be. I was able to help people without feeling guilty or unworthy. I was patient and forgiving when others made mistakes. I could stand strong in difficult circumstances because I knew where I stood. That all disappeared when my nephew died and I moved to run away from the memories. I shut myself off from the world again because some things were just too painful to talk about.

I think that now is the time to heal again. Now is the time to talk about hard things and learn to hope again. I can find hope in my difficult experiences by sharing the things that have hurt me and allowing myself to trust in ways I have forgotten. 

Something Good- Day 131

We did church with more of our family today. It was fun to have us all together and be able to share Mother’s day. Afterwards we watched a devotional about mothers. It was inspiring, and I liked how it talked about finding happiness and sitting with others through their pain. That is what being a mother is all about- learning to balance your own needs while making sacrifices for the ones you love.

A New Year

I did not have a good year in 2019. I was angry and upset and disappointed and frustrated with life and people and God. I still don’t understand, and I still have a lot of grief and anger and conflict to resolve. But I decided to stay up last night to welcome in the new year because I want it to be better. I want to make some changes, and I want to be happier.

I have been through a lot of changes in the last 10 years. I have gone from getting off antidepressants because I felt like they did nothing to taking an antidepressant that made me more depressed than I had ever been before to finding one that actually helps and prevents me from having constant suicidal thoughts. I have been through all the range of emotions from the happiest I have ever been to the saddest I have ever been. I have felt more loved than ever before and have been overcome by my emotions several times. I forgave people I never thought I could. I got to the point where I didn’t get angry or yell when my brother accidentally scraped the side of my new car. I made significant changes to my life and became the person I wanted to be.

Then, I spiraled down into grief and depression and physical pain like I had never known before. And it was hard, and I was hurt and angry. And it eventually got to the point where my reservoirs of faith and hope and joy were depleted, and I was not sure where to turn or if I believed in anything anymore. And I am still at that point in a lot of ways.

But… It is a new year. I watched a video this morning where Kristina Kuzmic challenged people to write down a specific good thing that happens every day. She said it changed her life and helped her find the positives even in days that were terrible. I need that in my life. I need more positives. So, for the next year this blog will be turning into a space for me to put down something positive from every day because I need it, and maybe it will help someone else along the way, too.

No One Cares

I started another job this week and was asked to send a picture of myself for a badge. As I was looking through pictures, trying to find the perfect one, I had the realization that no one really cares what you look like. I mean, more people might pay attention to you if you look a certain way, but the people that matter, the ones that care about you, don’t care if your hair is frizzy or your smile isn’t perfect or you have gained some weight. I noticed that the pictures where I didn’t care what my hair looked like and wasn’t worried about the camera were the happiest ones. Those pictures where I am playing with my niece or hanging out with my best friends or spending time with my family come with the best memories.

We focus so much on being perfect- fixing our hair, losing weight, trying to fake the smile. In the end though, our friends don’t care. Our family still loves us and wants to spend time with us. And although it is good to look presentable and it can feel good to dress up at times, I think it is just as important to enjoy the moment without worrying about anything else. Don’t pass up the party because you can’t decide what to wear. Don’t stay home away from your friends because you feel like you have too many problems. Don’t let life pass you by because you feel overwhelmed by its demands for perfection. It’s not worth being perfect if it keeps you from being happy.

Grief is Love

Sometimes you have to tell a story to get it out of you. I’ve been watching a lot of movies lately. It seems like everything hits me harder now that he’s gone. I see these movies and just think of everything that has happened in the last few months.

I remember waking up that morning like any other morning. I had slept in a bit, which was not unusual for me at that time. I went downstairs and my little niece looked at me and said, “Mommy is sad. The baby won’t wake up.” I went to my brother’s room and my sister-in-law went past me, crying, “he won’t wake up… I don’t know what to do.” My brother was in the room trying to do CPR on his little body. I asked what they had tried to do, gave some suggestions, nothing of substance. I don’t think it was really real for me at that point.

The police arrived a few minutes later. I went to keep the children away from the situation while the parents talked to the police and paramedics and firemen and anyone else who came. After a while, I took the children into their room and asked them to pray for their brother. My brother and sister-in-law went to the hospital. He wasn’t responsive at that point, but he wasn’t gone yet. We still had a glimmer of hope that he would survive, that he would come back, that he would be okay.

I remember the call… “He’s gone…” My little nephew was in the middle of a bite of pizza when I explained that his baby brother would not be coming back and that we had to go to the hospital to see him one last time. This amazing little 5 year old just started crying and didn’t want to finish his food, but we did. We finished our little lunch and headed to the hospital to say our goodbyes. I tried to get everything ready. I threw a bunch of candy and snacks in my bag to help console the children while we waited to see the lifeless body of my less than 2 month old nephew.

When we arrived at the hospital, we waited outside with the children’s other aunt, and my aunt also came after a few minutes. As we sat and ate candy while waiting for everything to be ready for the children to come in, I knew the younger two might never understand. This didn’t seem to mean much to them, other than that the adults and their older brother were sad. They were still fighting over toys and wanting their treats. Even after we went in, my three year old niece was playing with the doctor’s face as he explained what would happen next. It was somewhat frustrating, but also comforting, to know that she wasn’t experiencing the grief the rest of us felt.

When it was my turn to hold my sweet nephew for the last time, the reality struck me that he was really gone. I had known he wasn’t going to come back or get better, but feeling his cold skin made my heart stop for a second. I would never hold him again in this life. I would never stroke his head as he slept in my lap or hold him as he looked with wide eyes around the room. This was goodbye.

The strange thing about faith is that it never really leaves, but sometimes you are not exactly sure what it means. Would I get to see him again? Would everything be okay? What would this mean for my family? I felt broken, but my faith told me that this was not the end. I believe that he is in heaven. I believe I will see him again. I believe that everything will be okay. I just do not know when that will happen. I do not know when I will be okay again.

Everything moved on. I still had classes that week. I still went to work. I still turned in homework assignments and helped around the house and did what was required, but something was missing. I lost a part of me that day that I do not think I will ever get back in this life. I broke that Friday. He passed away on Sunday and by Friday, I had tried so hard to be strong that I knew I needed help. I texted a few people I thought might be free, but by the time they responded, I was sliding quickly into severe depression. When none of them were available, I gave up and went to my room to cry. I have never cried so hard in my life. One person, who I hardly knew, insisted on coming over and sat in my room with me until I finished crying. That was the most desperate I have ever felt, and nothing has ever made me feel so hollow as crying for the loss of that little boy.

Since then, things have been hard. Most days are normal and everything goes on like before this happened, but other days, I feel the loss like it was just this morning. You can’t run from pain. You can’t escape death. No matter how far away you go or what you do, there are some things that just won’t leave your head. That’s what this has been. It’s a never ending stream of grief that is always there, though I notice it less sometimes than others.

But… there is also great hope. In the midst of the despair, there is faith and hope and love- pure, undaunted love that will not go away. I keep seeing this quote, “Grief is just love with no place to go.” That is what grief feels like to me. The love that was there for little Gabriel cannot go into him so it goes everywhere else instead. It goes into me and comes out in tears and hugs and long, drawn out conversations. The love fills the room where I sit down to write a letter or tell someone my thoughts. It spills out in lessons I teach in church where a few dozen women gather to talk about faith in God. And it is still there when I’m running transactions at the bank where I work or going grocery shopping or eating in a restaurant. Grief feels like love constantly spilling out of you in endless streams of emotion that make everything beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.

Love.

I thought I understood what that meant over the last few years. When I gained a best friend, when I forgave someone who abused me as a child, when my heart felt healed, when I felt joy after helping someone, I thought I understood love. All these things over the past few years have been love, but losing someone has given love a whole new meaning. Love is everywhere, in everything, in everyone, and when you lose someone, that love either leaves you or becomes you.  You either push the love outside of you or you let it flow into you. For me, love is like the emotion that won’t let go. It is ever present. It is me, and I am love, because losing someone took everything away and gave it all back wrapped in beautiful, tear-jerking, never-ending love.

The Day I Stopped Hating Myself

I started realizing a little over two years ago just how much I hated myself. Prior to that I thought that I liked myself for the most part but just had some self esteem issues. After suggestions from some friends to make my new year’s goal to love and take care of myself, I realized just how hard this was for me. It was not long before I realized that I had a deep and persistent hatred of myself. I considered myself to be the worst, most worthless person on the earth.

I wasn’t sure what to do with this new knowledge. How do you learn how to love yourself? Where do you start? I decided to start with the people who loved me. If they saw something of worth in me, there had to be something I could love about myself. I wrote on my mirror every single kind thing I could find that someone had said about me. I started out with about 30 adjectives, but got to about 50 after showing friends what I was doing. It was hard to believe all these things about myself, but there was the proof in front of me, written proof that I knew someone thought about me at one point. That was the beginning of a turning point in my life, but there was still a lot of work to do.

A year later, I had grown so much. I was kinder to myself. I was more forgiving of myself. I was not so afraid of myself. But I still hated myself. I messaged a friend one night to ask her what she thought about me selling everything I owned and starting over. This friend is spontaneous and honest and I knew that she would be willing to entertain the thought of me getting rid of everything, but would also tell me if I was being ridiculous or overreacting. We got talking about why I wanted to do this and realized that at the heart of my struggles was an ingrained belief that I was a bad person. But the most interesting thing was that I believed I was a bad person because I could not stop myself from being a good person. I felt unworthy to do good things, but I could not destroy my innate desire to help others.

After realizing all that I believed about myself and working to discover what made me believe these thoughts, I made a breakthrough. I still remember the first time I did something kind for another person and didn’t hate myself for it. I came home happy. I didn’t want to die. I didn’t cry myself to sleep that night. I dropped off the little box full of stuff for a friend and felt proud of myself. It was the most amazing feeling ever to not feel like a failure for doing something good. That was the first night I didn’t feel like I still hated myself.

I still have days where I question my worth. I have days where I wonder why my friends stay friends with me. I still have times where I don’t like myself for something I have done. But I no longer have those nights where I just curl up on the floor and want to die because I tried to be myself. And every day of waking up not hating myself is a beautiful day.

Life Goes On

I lost my little nephew on Sunday morning. He was a perfectly healthy baby boy and it all happened so fast and was completely unexpected. The last few days have been a series of ups and downs. Some days are easier than others.

The world doesn’t really stop for grief though. I took Monday off of work (which wasn’t a big deal since I was just on call anyway), but I had classes to attend on Tuesday, the funeral services were on Wednesday, I was back at classes on Thursday, and then I went to work today.  It has felt strange to be caught in the middle of the world standing still and everything moving way too fast.

Today was a hard day. Work was okay, but as the day wore on, I knew I needed something to be okay. I needed to get out and do something or see someone or anything to get out of my head. There is a balance between moving on with life and giving yourself time to grieve. I have been stuck the last few days in the reality of our situation. I live with my brother and his family so I felt like I had to be strong for them and help as much as I could because of how hard this has been for them, but in the process, I completely neglected myself and my own needs.

I need people. I need to see people all the time. I need to talk to people and spend time with them and even just be around people having fun. I usually go to activities on Wednesday nights, and I felt like I needed to go this Wednesday, but things were complicated and I didn’t feel like I could abandon my family to go have fun. Then on Thursday, I felt again like I needed human interaction, but I decided to forgo attending a scripture study night to do other things instead. Anyway, I have just been putting off doing things I enjoy because I felt like there were more important things.

Tonight though, I broke. I shattered. I was crying so much that I didn’t trust myself to get out of bed because I was afraid of what I might do if I did get up.

I feel like there is a strange dichotomy to grieving. You have to reconcile the feelings of wanting to be sad because something tragic occurred, and needing to be happy because life is still going on around you. It feels almost like a betrayal to be happy when you lose someone. Does that mean you don’t miss them as much as you should? Is it even okay to have fun this soon? I think that little Gabriel would want me to have fun. That’s what I have always thought when someone passes away- they would want you to be happy and to live and love and do all the things they would have wanted to do. When it happens to you though, it is more difficult to sort out the thoughts and come to this conclusion. I was made for joy, and no amount of tragedy or difficult circumstances should take that away from me.

So, yes, in the end, life does go on. But that is probably what makes it most beautiful. It is beautiful that we can move on with our lives, that we can laugh again, that we can have fun, that we can be ourselves. I am learning through this that it is okay to be both happy and sad. It is okay to find happiness in a sad situation and it is okay to be sad in a happy situation. It is okay to feel. And even though it is hard, life is meant to go on.