On The Surface

Anyone who has read my writing knows that I find meaning and messages and inspiration and hope and healing and connection to my daughter, Dannica, in numbers and blue sky rainbows and signals and signs and in the synchronicities of every day life. My daughter’s death is the most painful of the many earthly losses I’ve experienced.

It is a very long story, full of numbers, blue sky rainbows, signals, signs and synchronicities that recently led me to become a participant in a Grief Recovery Method support group and to then become a certified Grief Recovery Specialist in order to continue my own healing work as well as to gently guide others in this direction.

Dannica loved worms.  She loved all living things.  She even treated inanimate objects that resembled living things with the same respect and compassion she’d have shown the living version! (Other stories for other times.)  As a child, whenever it rained and the worms would come out on the driveway and in the gutter, she’d pick up as many as she could and put them back in their happy, dirty places.  She gave them names and talked to them before finding some dirt for them to squiggle into and she loved them with all her little heart.  She didn’t know it, but I watched her, and loved her and was her enthusiastic student the entire time.  Now, I think of her every time I save a worm from becoming road jerky, and I *have* to do it!  I can’t stop myself.

I saved a worm on the path between the hotel and a coffee shop just before my first day of Grief Recovery this past June.  I found a beautiful feather where I bent to return the worm it to it’s dirty home; then a butterfly… it almost let me brush its wing with my finger and it followed me and it stayed close.  All of these, were whispers (to me, anyway) from the spirit of respect and compassion, from the spirit of Dannica, the spirit of my daughter, winking at me, giving me a hug, seeing the genuine joy through the tears as I took a deep breath and thanked her for lighting my way.  She got me there, to that place, to that class, to the next step in my own recovery and to the next step in fulfilling her purpose of making this a better world to live in for all living beings.

I’m not going to talk here about my experience in the group other than to say it was an emotionally intense and extremely challenging experience and I’m deeply grateful to have had it.  I believe from the moment of her passing, my Dannica has been telling me there are greater, higher purposes for her passing just as she did, just when she did.  We had an agreement (well, that’s what I believe); a sacred contract, that she would contribute in this way to making the world a better place and that I have a part to play in it too, and she’ll help me with that because this is not something either of us can accomplish on our own.

I’ve felt in a bit of a whirlwind since I got home from my class; web site stuff, facebook stuff, making flyers and plans, completely restructuring my business and private practice with this new focus.  Now some of that’s done, I’m getting out of my business mind and back into my heart.  It’s a better place for me from which to live and from which to be in my daily life.

Sometimes, a lot of times, as others in their lives go on with their lives, grieving people tend to feel isolated.  Their hearts are broken.  My heart is still broken.  I, as many do, heard a lot of the hundred plus comments, one generally hears following a loss; all of them made sense to my brain, none of them made sense to my heart.  I believed them and have even passed some of them on to others, each statement perpetuating another myth of grief and loss and grieving.  “Don’t feel bad, at least _______.”  “She’s in a better place.”  “Time heals all wounds.”  “This, too, shall pass.”  “Everything happens for a reason.”  “Only the good die young.”  As logically acurate and emotionally unhelpful as all of these were, the one that truly sent me reeling over the edge was, “It could be worse, honey.  I know of a woman who lost not only her daughter but also her husband in the same accident.  It was easier for her than it is for you though, because she had her church and her faith, and you don’t.  Do you have a relationship with Jesus?”

Yeah, if I had those things I wouldn’t be feeling any of this, would I?  But, I’ve lost those, too.  I couldn’t push her out my door fast enough.  I couldn’t slam my door hard enough when she was gone.  I coulnd’t have cried harder than I did in the hole I felt my own life to be in that moment.

Many of the things I heard from others didn’t make sense to my brain either, but I believed people meant well and probably had no idea what to say instead.  I don’t believe they consiously intended to shut me down or minimize my feelings to remain comfortable in my presence, nonetheless, that is how I felt, and many relationships have faded or vanished completely from my life.  More loss.  More grief.  More time alone. More believing there is something wrong with me.  It must be me.  I’m the one who changed, right?  Mine is the only life now different than it was before November 14, 2012.

Over time, I came to feel as if the world was just tired of hearing from me.  There are people in my life who continue saying things like, “We make our own happiness.”  What I hear, what my heart understands is, “GET OVER IT ALREADY!  Move on.  Let it go, I have. Be happy… just be happy so I can feel better about being near you.  You’re such a downer. Life’s too short!  I don’t have time for this…  I don’t have time—for you, Melissa, for you—not as you are – not like this.”

So, while my heart is broken and while I’m bleeding to death on the inside every day, I put on my happy face and I pretend to be happy.  That way I can tell myself I don’t need people anyway.  I’m all I need, right?  That might be true, but not when it comes to grieving.  Not then.  I know this now.  I didn’t know it before.

Day after day, I drift up from sleep into a panic in the pit of my stomach and part of me always wants to scramble back down again but it’s time to face the world with my happy face. The door to the world I’ve awakened from has slammed shut.  Day after day, I am the academy award winning griever playing the part of the amazing, strong, brave woman who’s daughter died and yet still buys groceries, still does laundry, still manages to work at a job (more or less), see a movie, have lunch or coffee with another human being and talk about the weather and the world as if she cares about those things at all.

There are days when I feel superhumanly powerful for walking from one room of my house to the next as opposed to crawling or just giving up on the trip altogether and taking a nap on the floor between rooms.  No one else knows that.  No one else sees that now because it’s been four years, 11 months,  9 days and that’s way beyond plenty of time for someone to be over this and move on with their life just like everyone else.  “That’s life,” and that phrase makes me want to take my own life every time I hear it.

The mantlepiece in my broken heart is lined with little golden Oscars.  One for each and every time I answered, “How are you?” with the word “fine” and someone believed it. One little golden Oscar for every holiday I’ve “celebrated” pretending to actually care about the centerpiece, the menu, or whether the toilet was clean, even when I wanted to sit in the closet until it was over but felt obligated to “make an appearance.”  One for every time I fooled even myself into believing, “now I’ve felt it all… nothing could feel worse,” and then it feels worse.

The Grief Recovery group and the specialist certification don’t mean I’m “there” yet even though I so wanted them to mean that.  I have a new direction in life and I have some new ideas and a new understanding of myself as a mother and as a human being and as a facilitator of healing in others.

Recovery from the pain of grief is a journey more than a destination; made a step at a time but in a direction I hadn’t intended when I first set out.  It feels like a detour because it is a detour…  a different path, well defined by others who see the bigger picture with better understanding than I do in order to get me safely from here to there with the least resistance and the most efficiency possible.

I still feel sad that my Dannica isn’t here with me physically, but I no longer push sad away from who I am in a given moment.  Permission to feel sad feels so different than feeling shame for feeling sad.  It’s my new way.

A Different Sea-When the World Has Moved On – A Poem by Melissa Murphy

Grief softens

it shifts

it changes

it erupts

it cripples, it heals but is never healed.

It is a constant companion in all the shapes and forms and intensities it takes.

The loss takes everything

…all at once.

And anything you have left is taken up simply by continuing to breathe.

Continue to breathe.

A single breath followed by another single breath.

And continue from your side of this life, in the silence of your own breath, to embrace the one you love who died.

Continue to include that love in all that you do and you’ll begin to hear their whispers in the wind, you’ll feel their presence brush your cheek, they’ll paint magnificent gifts in the clouds just for you and for all the world to see.

For those who notice.

Many won’t.

Not until they do.

Not until their own hearts are ripped by loss, when the grief introduces them to gravity.

It will happen.  It does happen.  To everyone.

It’s just your turn to walk before them.

They haven’t abandoned you.  They haven’t turned their backs.  They have continued living their own lives as they did before yours crumbled around you and pulled them in for a time.

We don’t come together for life.

We come together and drift apart so there are spaces for new connection.

Healing begins to happen in those spaces.

The tide comes in and leaves some things struggling in the sand

What’s left when the tide returns is rejoined with the sea but it’s a new sea, not the sea that left you struggling in the sand.

—written by Melissa Murphy

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Birthday Buttons – The rest of the story

There is more to the story of Dannica’s Birthday Buttons.  I wanted to include everything in my previous post but I felt strongly about sharing what I could on her special day and  wanted to wait for the appropriate permissions to come before sharing the full story… the miracles involved.

Since my baby passed, miracles have become commonplace in my life.  I will never take them for granted, they will always take my breath away and bring my hands to my heart and my soul to its knees and I will forever bask in their warmth, their coolness, their peace; postcards from home while I’m here on Earth, at “Summer Camp.”

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I saw a photo, similar to the one above, on a home page; something anyone would see when logging on to Etsy Thursday morning.  Generally, I move quickly past this page because I’m there to sell, not to buy and I usually click through to my own stats’n’stuff, only taking time to browse other shops after that.

I really could not take my eyes away from that beautiful tin and those beautiful buttons and they took me back to Dannica’s childhood button adventures instantly and fondly.  I felt her with me, beside me, in my left ear, up the left side of my face and into the crown of my head… tingling sensations of her presence, and her happiness, excitement, and her love.  Priceless!

Dannica’s Birthday, June 16, the details of this transaction between myself and Chickie became beautifully and brilliantly clear.  I had been tag-teamed by Angels.  This spontaneous purchase of antique buttons was a quantum setup between myself, my Dannica and Chickie, a lovely woman who’s also passed away and who’s Dear Ones have continued to honor her life through their own Etsy shop.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/ChickieVintageLove

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This is a photo of a beautiful young Chickie ❤

I sent a note to the shop owners to thank them and to let them know what a special gift this was and how pleased I am with it.  As I continued to look at the buttons and the little card that had been included; the birthday cupcake Thank You note from heaven.  I could almost hear the two of them giggling about it.  In the conversation that followed my purchase, I learned that Chickie’s birthday was June 13, three days before Dannica’s.

Love, Love, LOVE! to the Angelic Gemini twins.  How exciting and comforting it is to know that Dannica is continuing to enjoy the things she loved on earth from the other side.  She’s making good friends.  She’s happy.

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Birthday Buttons

 

Today, our Dannica turns 21 years old.  I remember the day she was born so clearly… the sweet smell of her little head, that first fragile cry echoes in my mind so clearly.  I’m not sure why some of those first memories are more vivid than some of the last memories.

I think of Danni every day, nearly constantly, but this week I found myself wanting to take her shopping, wanting to get her a birthday surprise and make a special treat for her special day.  The energy around me has felt spontaneous for days; like Dannica.  She was so quick witted, so creative, so curious… so FUN!

She was also very tactile and as a small child had dexterous little fingers that enjoyed disassembling anything that was held together by nuts and bolts.  These things were usually left for me to find as surprises such as the handle falling off the wood rack followed by the fireplace screen separating into three separate panels followed by the handles to the fireplace tools going missing.  The most memorable to me was one of the legs to the kitchen table just falling over onto the floor leaving a three legged table balancing over her and the little pile of green nuts and bolts.  She looked so proud!

One day while I was folding laundry, I noticed her in the closet admiring the shiny buttons on the sleeve of a coat.  She traced them and slid her little fingers over the raised patterns on them.  I’m pretty sure she was trying to figure out how to unscrew them, too.  She never lost that love of shiny buttons and even as a precocious 8, 9, 10 year old still spent time in the closet lost in fascinated examination.

I have spent the past ten months or so surrounded by my new hobby of jewelry making.  Each night, I sit on the living room floor and sort through beads, twist wire, experiment, create.  It relaxes me.  It keeps my hands busy and makes couch potato television watching (or floor potato as the case may be) feel like more of a productive activity.  It’s been positively therapeutic as well as introvert appropriate.

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This path led to Etsy.  Each day, I log into my shop to see what’s new and what others are doing.  This past Thursday when I entered the site, the first thing I saw was a photo of a beautiful vintage tin full of buttons!  I couldn’t take my eyes off it and my first thought was, “Danni would *love* that!”  I nearly clicked away from it but I just couldn’t so I bought it for her.  I could just imagine the excitement in her eyes when she opened the tin and I could see her sitting on her bed laying them out, touching them, finding her favorites and putting them all back again.  They would have become her friends, the way my beads are my friends; the way these buttons are becoming my friends, too.

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I can feel her joy as I slide my fingers into the box, buttons closing in to cover them completely…maybe if I reach in far enough, I’ll feel her hand doing the same from heaven.  Again, my child’s birthday brings me a priceless gift.  It even arrived with this little card containing the image of a birthday cupcake.

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Thank *YOU* Danni Jade ❤

Acceptance

Upon rising each morning, I wander, I stop.  I sit.  I listen to the silence of the house.  I get up and I walk quietly from room to room and I look out each window.  I sit again, not moving, in the silence.  Am I hungry?  I’m not sure.  Thirsty?  Maybe.  Tired?  Usually. Tired enough to sleep? Well, I just got up.  “Just try,” I tell myself, “to sit a while longer, breathe deeply, clear your mind, listen to what your body is saying to you…you are actually okay in this moment.”

I hurt.  My body hurts; my stomach.  My heart aches.  My mind is restless.  I am sad. When I lay down at night to sleep, I hear sirens, far off in the distance.  I roll to my side and pull a pillow over my head.  I still hear them.  I travel in time and through space to that night, to that place where Dannica passed from her body.  Tears come.  I can’t breathe comfortably.  It hurts. Who met her?  Her grandmother?  My grandmother?  That was my job….to meet her from the other side when she passed from this one.  That was my job.

They wouldn’t let me near her.  I couldn’t tell her, “I’m here, baby, I’m here with you…. little mom is here, please, don’t leave me!”  Loving strangers got to do that.  Compassionate, caring strangers held her hand, let her know she wasn’t alone.  I was moments behind them…but they pulled me away.  They wouldn’t let me near.  It was my job to hold her hand when she passed…to comfort her from this world if I couldn’t be on the other side to comfort her home.  Going in the ambulance with a loved one;  apparently, it’s a figment of TV and movies.  I feel robbed.  She died with strangers.

I put the foot of the recliner up.  I turn my palms to the sky.  I breathe deeply.  I envision a brilliant crystal in my mind’s eye and I say to myself, “Clear…clear…clear…”  I remember when Dannica was upset or when she didn’t want to sleep or didn’t want me to leave her at bedtime we would agree to meet somewhere in our dreams.  Quite often this place was a big, beautiful field of purple flowers.  Lavender, or a meadow full of wild flowers that were all a deep and brilliant purple.  I told her that when she saw the field and the flowers in her dream to look for me and that I would do the same; look for her.  Then we could run and dance and play and fill each other’s hair with flowers and make crowns and necklaces, bracelets, rings, anklets and toe rings of flowers and be flower fairies.  We’d both fall asleep thinking of this beautiful place and the fun we’d have there, between the worlds.

At some point, sitting there, “clearing” and breathing, a calm comes over me.  I cannot feel my body at all unless I move it, so I don’t.  A warmth tingles through my brain and I am only aware of my mind.  In this calm and within this stillness I have come to understand what it is, this thing called acceptance.  Dannica’s death.  She will never again walk through that door.  She will never again sleep in her bed.  She will never again do her laundry.  She will never again laugh or make fun of me for being a dorky little mom.  She will never bake her famous chocolate chip cookies again or make her amazing peppermint fudge at Christmas.  She will never send me another text message full of silly emoticons or answer when I dial her number or hear the messages I leave telling her I hope she’s fine and that I love her and hope we can have a girl’s day soon.  I don’t accept any of those things.  I won’t ever accept any of those things.

Acceptance is the simple understanding that my heart will ache in a very specific way as long as it beats.  That is the only acceptance there is.  It will hurt forever.  It will.  You may be saying to yourself or wishing you could tell me right now, “It never goes away, but it does get easier.”  No.  It doesn’t.  And *that* is what I am learning to accept.

The present moment is made easier by “clearing” by breathing by working and being of service to others.  This loss, is not made easier by anything.  I accept that.  That is what I can accept.

A Birthday Gift

On April 11, my son turned 23 years old.  In celebration of his birthday, he wanted to spend the day at Powell’s Books in Portland and then go to dinner at one of his favorites, Sweet Tomatoes.  It had been eight days since my hysterectomal hollowing  (yes, I conjured that word using my own wand focused intent.)  I was tired and in pain, even with prescription pain pills, but I wanted to spend the time with my son on his special day and his dad was driving so I was happy to be able to join.

Powell’s Books, for those unfamiliar, is a massive place.  They describe themselves on their website as occupying an entire city block and stocking more than a million new and used books in 3,500 sections, making them the largest book store in the world.  There are 3 city block levels full of books.  Awesome is the only word that fits, and it is, without a doubt, that!

We arrived and parked, wandered in and went our separate ways.  Since Dannica’s passing, reading hasn’t been for me what it once was.  It’s been terribly difficult for me to get into anything that isn’t somehow comforting, whereas, before Dannica’s passing my reading list was full of Diana Gabaldon, Terry Goodkind, E L James, George R.R. Martin, Deborah Harkness, and Stephen King, among many others.

I have books on my Kindle, unfinished and awaiting my return but since Dannica’s passing most of what was my passion has passed as well, so I really felt a bit lost in this City of Books where I once would have gone crazy just to keep from spending every penny of disposable income at once!

The first stop I made was the coffee shop to get a green tea.  They let you wander the store with your beverages!  I began to wander.  I wasn’t there for anything in particular other than time with my son and, as I said, I was tired and in pain, so I hoped to find a comfy spot to sit, sip and read whatever was closest, I didn’t care what.  On my way to wherever, I found myself walking through isles of books and, for once in my life, not caring what they were, just touching them with the fingers of my right hand, holding my hot tea in my left; like a child with a stick in those old movies, where they walk mindlessly, just making clatter along a white picket fence.

Suddenly, I lost my balance, but what actually happened was I was pushed, from my right shoulder, where my hand was touching the spines of books and where I was passively looking.  This shift in motion forced me to find my balance by grabbing the shelf to my left, where I had not been looking and suddenly now was.  The next book I saw was entitled, “I’m not dead, I’m different… Kids in spirit teach us about living a better life on earth.”  I shit you not.

I stood there staring at the book.  I grabbed the book.  I held it to my heart and I cried.  To my knowledge, I was alone in that isle of books in that city of books but I couldn’t have been to be pushed that way.  I felt Dannica with me there just the way I feel here, in this isle of homes in this city of homes in the town where I live…and she pushed me!  It’s something she would have done and did do when we’d walk together…bump my shoulder with hers, playfully, until I’d lose my balance.  I came home that day with ONE book out of over a million possibilities when I wasn’t looking for a single thing other than a comfy chair and maybe an interesting magazine.

I read the book that weekend.  I read it again.  I ordered a bunch of copies and read it once more.  There are many stories I could tell of the people I was guided to give the copies to but here I will share only mine; this book brought me so much comfort, changed my thought patterns and my grief patterns and validated my beliefs that my daughter, my Dannica, is not gone.  She’s not dead, like that emergency room doctor callously heartlessly told me she was.  I knew he was wrong.

We left the City of Books and sat together at dinner.  My son’s dad asked him, as he always asks the birthday person, “What wisdom have you to offer for having lived 23 years on earth?”  My son said he’d need to think about that for a minute.

After a long minute, maybe several, he replied, “I have learned that it is possible to be very sad and very happy at the same time.”

What hell he’s been through for such wisdom.  What hell we’ve all been through.  I struggle every day to remember that happy and sad are possible within the same heart.  If that is possible, so much more becomes possible.  I’m so grateful for the gifts I received on my son’s birthday and for the gift that he is every day of my life.

A Fluttering of Ashes

It’s taken me 18 months…

…to learn to again look at people’s faces, even into their eyes, when I’m at the grocery store and to smile at the same time and mean it.

…to be able to have a conversation with a stranger, or a new client, without mentioning Dannica’s passing of my own choice. For so long, that has been who I am, how I define myself, and it was important to me that everyone within screaming distance knew it.  The distance has softened.

…to learn to gently place the trauma of Dannica’s passing in a box, of sorts, and set it aside long enough to have a good day.

…to hold myself compassionately when I can’t seem to put that same box down in order to have even one good hour.

…to feel I have anything in me worth offering others.

…to again find joy in being of service.

…to accumulate the energy to be of service in the first place.

…to consider myself ready to begin going through Dannica’s belongings and to begin recreating her room as a Precious Hollow within our home.  A beautiful, quiet place of reflection and comfort.

…to officially and fully reopen my holistic healing practice.

…to embrace the challenge of redefining, even releasing completely some of the many relationships in my life now that everything has changed.

…to smile and feel overwhelming love while standing in certain places and at certain times that even a month ago would have crumbled me again.

…to again hold myself compassionately when I smile, feel that love and then crumble anyway.

…to truly understand that while loss, death, grief & mourning are in the cards for each and every human being on the planet (past, present & future), each and every human experience of these things is unique and individual.  We sympathize, we empathize, but we never truly grasp the experience of another.  On Mother’s Day, 2014, a neighbor stopped by.  She also lost a child, which I didn’t know until I saw her face the morning following my Dannica’s passing…the story was in the paper.  The tears in her eyes, the look on her face… she was the first I encountered who *knew*.  She’s in her 70s now and I don’t know her story other than it’s been quite some time.  This Mother’s Day, though she wasn’t here to check on me (I don’t think), I couldn’t help asking, “Does it ever get easier?”  She smiled sadly and her eyes filled with tears before she answered, “Not much.”  I told her, “I don’t know your story, but I do think of you.”  She replied, “Well…we all have our stories.”  She left it at that.  Perhaps it’s a generational thing.  Perhaps she’s simply shared her story enough times for her own good.  Regardless, I admired the wisdom that emanated from her as she took me into her arms and allowed me to sob without needing to know my story, either.

It’s taken me 18 months…

…to realize that in the face of another’s loss and grief, I feel as helpless and awkward and terrified of saying the wrong thing or offending someone as anyone else, despite what I have experienced.  How do you hug someone who’s been burned from head to toe?  You can’t!  No matter where you touch, it’s devastatingly painful.  A grieving person is a burn victim with wounds you can’t see.  Every interaction is a mine field and simply sharing your own story isn’t necessarily the balm that soothes.  This is *never* easy for anyone on any side of it…well except for the ones it’s easy for and they’re the ones you just have to ignore to the best of your ability and then do something extra nice for yourself simply for having survived their presence.

It’s taken me 18 months…

…to spread a safety net over the mine field that is my own experience of loss and grief.  To give people a break and the benefit of the doubt the best I can, to realize that even as I explode inside and rain down fiery cinders that could easily ignite the earth with ferocity, they really *do* mean well and genuinely feel what they’re trying to convey.  There truly are no words adequate enough to express my grief or another’s sorrow at the fact that I am experiencing it.

It’s taken me 18 months…

…to do a normal thing and have it feel in any way normal.  By this I mean pulling weeds, having a client session, a phone conversation, paying a bill, buying eggs.

…to do more normal things because it’s finally beginning to feel better doing them than it is to avoid doing them.

…to realize the extent to which I had been carrying the grief and/or guilt of others with regard to my daughter’s death and to set those down so I could begin to feel the actual weight of my own grief & guilt.

…to come up with appropriate answers to the question, “How are you?”  The easy answer is, “Fine,” but the real answer is a million shades of shattered!  It’s not a pleasant experience when you’re fighting for air or trying to persuade your heart to beat just once more, and again, and maybe once more.

…to again realize how amazing is the man I married; the same poor guy I recently roasted on a spit in teaching him simply not to ask me the above question while I figured out how to answer it for anyone else who asked it.  He’s saved lives in letting me be as angry as I need to be.  He’s hurting, too.  I love him dearly.

It’s taken me 18 months…

…to realize that there is no tricky answer that will ever avoid fully answering the questions, “Do you have children?” “How many children do you have?”   The only answer that feels authentic is the real one.  I have a son, he’s 23, he’s doing this and that and I am happy for him and so proud.  I have two amazing step sons, they’re doing this and that and living in Austin, Texas and I love them so much.  And I have a daughter (the tears well up) she was killed in a car accident 18 months ago.  This June she’d have been 20.  I cry a little.  It is the real me.  I don’t have to pretend I’m okay with it.  If I can’t be the real me with another person, I can’t heal.  I don’t want to intentionally make another feel uncomfortable but if they were intentionally filling space with small talk, well, maybe they’ve learned a little something too, and maybe they’ll show me a little of their own authentic they.

It’s taken me 18 months…

…to understand that I never know how I’m going to feel day to day, let alone month to month or year to year. Last holiday season was a deep dark pit covered over with reeds and branches waiting for me to fall into it.  This holiday season I’ll watch my step and do my best to remember what I’ve learned along the way.  I am planning ahead…this may not be the year to light everything up and go all out.  But it has the potential to feel more peaceful than the last two.  Eventually, there might be another one that feels “normal” and includes other normal things like phone conversations, paying bills, buying eggs… sending cards or maybe gifts.  Maybe.

It’s taken me 18 months…

…to again feel that I have more I want to get done in this life than I probably have time to accomplish.

…to understand the depth and breadth of the depression that has spanned a great deal more than the 18 months since I last held my daughter, Dannica, close and smelled her hair and heard her say, “I love you, too.”

…to begin reconstruction of my faith.  Early on, someone asked me what this loss had done to my faith and I told them it only made my faith stronger.  If he’d asked me what I had faith in, I’m not sure I’d have had an answer.  The tears in his eyes told me he had none left for himself.  A bit later, I did lose my faith; lost it completely and have only just begun to find it again.  When God takes your child, it can become incredibly difficult to trust in anyone or anything but suffering, sorrow, and pain.

It’s taken me 18 months…

…to trim the fat from my life while adding it to my body.  No news is good news and good news is even better!  I’ve worked not only the past 18 months but especially the past 18 months to eliminate negativity from my life in any way I can.  I’ll call that trimming the energetic fat.  As for the other sort, well… there’s a reason “comfort food” is, well, comforting!  While it is absolutely not allowed as a condolence to me with regard to Dannica’s passing, I hereby allow the condolence, “It was just her time,” should that time come for *me* soon as the result of all the bacon and goldfish crackers I’ve eaten in the past 18 months. (This one even made my doctor laugh.)  You now know the menu for my own ‘celebration of life’ ceremony, as well.  My blood pressure, I am thrilled to announce is perfectly normal!  I credit Celestial Seasonings Zinger teas as it sure as hell ain’t my diet.

If you’ve followed my blog, you know I recently gave up entirely on the idea of myself having a thing in common with a Phoenix other than being burned to the ground.  I have started, however, to become aware of the ways in which I burn myself to the ground and the ways in which I keep myself un-huggable.  I’m working on those things just like all the other things I’ve mentioned.  Isn’t every process of life just that?  A process?  How to know when it’s done… I suspect it can’t be known because it can’t be done.

In my grand Phoenix analogy, I somehow managed to forget that the poor creature burns to the ground again and again and again in a never ending cycle!  Here I was thinking of being burned to the ground as a one time thing…the worst thing imaginable.  Naturally, in that mindset, rising would be a one time thing, too.  A triumph over the process.  But it’s not; not a one time thing and not the worst thing imaginable and not a triumph.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s no big deal.  It happens all the time, over and over and over, like being Hollowed Out… it is simply a process known as the Experience of Life on Earth.

Don’t get me wrong.  Nothing makes my Daughter’s passing okay with me.  I will *never* be over it.  At some point though, in every grief process, even the worst imaginable, the soil warms a little.  Eternal winter hints at something else.  Within the ash, there is a flutter.

I have been Hollowed Out many times in 18 months; so Hollowed that I was blind to the Phoenix that did rise, more than once, only to be burned again to the ground.  Perhaps 18 months is the time I needed to see the pattern emerge.  I was standing too close.  I was standing in the fire…again.  I couldn’t see…again.  The smoke is just clearing…again.

I would like to end this post with a message I received from a dear teacher of mine this past week.  She admonished me and others to acknowledge the sorrow we have experienced but also to look for the door of freedom that sorrow opens.  As we give intent for this door to open within our own lives, despite the sorrow, we begin to experience the sacred opportunities that are born from our challenges.  Our experiences transform themselves, when we allow it, into a gleaming column of wisdom that makes future challenges, future sorrows, lighter burdens to bear.  This, in turn, creates more opportunities for us to be of service to others.  And that is what I believe is really the reason any of us are here.

A final thought:  This is my path which is why I say it’s taken 18 months for ME to experience what I have.  Please, be gentle with yourself and know that whatever the time frame, you’ll get there, too.  We’re on the same path.