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.

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.”


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


Thank *YOU* Danni Jade ❤

Your Own Park Bench (Poem)

Your Own Park Bench

Come, Sit with Me For a Time…

Let’s take a walk, like we used to, arm in arm, happily; silly laughter at silly things that give way to less silly, harder, heavier ones and tears, usually mine, but sometimes yours too.

Let’s go watch the ducks float on the pond and listen to the people in the park.

Ask me anything.

Tell me everything.

We’ll sit silently if you wish.



Countless times in the past two months I have settled in to write again only to become afflicted with a condition known in my home as “yo-yo-butt.” I’ll write a few words then jump up to make coffee or tea or grab a bite of something. Sometimes, I’ll check the mail or take the dog out. Once in a while I’m sucked into the often substantial, gravitational pull of the couch after deciding my mind will feel much better about this when I wake up. It’s taken me this time to realize it isn’t my mind making the decisions, it is this heart, and this heart still just wants to curl up in a ball some days; most days, in fact. Today is no different but I am resisting the urge with full reverse thrusters.

The events I wrote about in my last post were a big deal to me. My trip and the journeying that happened within it was a big deal. Physically, I picked up and flew out of my reality and landed in a different one but it didn’t take very long for the one I live in to catch up. At that point, my heart broke open releasing waves of grief, hollowing me out completely once again. Once that pressure is relieved, there is space; to sit quietly, to reflect, to seek comfort, to find peace, and to question everything. (I am now resisting the urge to make coffee. Reading the word coffee made me want some but I am staying put…increasing thrusters)

The questions generally consist of, “Who am I *really*?” and “Why the hell am I *really* here?”  Once in a while I will have what I feel to be a genuinely, divinely guided day where everything is a message that I actually understand and so much makes sense, even senseless things. But then the next day I’m asking those same questions again. I have this short-term memory when it comes to miracles, I guess. Whatever angelic company I keep must just shake their haloed heads and roll their holy eyes at this one because it’s never enough. I always want one more, you know, just to be sure.

I find that most things I do, now require recovery time and the past two months have consisted of a lot of recovery time.  I’ve had the beautiful opportunity to spend a lot of time with my step-son, Peter.  I got to hug the stuffin’ out of him as well as my other step son, Jordan.  We had the opportunity to talk and to cry and to laugh.  It was a bittersweet “so long for now” sending the two of them off again.  They’re amazing young men, striking out into the world, making their way as they should be.  I feel richly blessed and so happy to be a part of their lives but it has been an adjustment, again settling into the emptier nest.

Also since last posting, I have experienced loss and fresh grief again, twice.  Tiny beings, dear pets, my son Braeden & Dannica’s pets.  Each of these little passings was the loss of another living connection to our Dannica.  I’ve also done a lot of things in these two months. I’ve met new people, made new friends, become acquainted with new clients, begun leading a meditation group once a week, said yes more often than not to all manner of invitation and event and I’ve wanted to say yes to more than I have. I believe this is the equivalent for me of yo-yo-butt on a lifestyle level.

Doing, doing, doing, wondering when I decided it was actually good advice to “keep busy.” I’m not saying doing the things I’ve been doing is bad, I’ve just come to realize how important it is not to “keep busy” to the exclusion of allowing my heart to break fully open again on a regular basis. There’s always a message there, like cracking open a cosmic fortune cookie. Why wouldn’t I want to receive that message?

This is how far I got before the word coffee just yanked me into the kitchen. (25 minutes have now passed) You may not be surprised to learn that before I got to the kitchen, I saw my shoes in the hallway so, naturally, I put them on and took the dog out to get the mail then sat back down here having completely forgotten about the coffee, yet not even realizing it had been forgotten until I re-read what I’d written about being yanked into the kitchen. Crike. Welcome to the chronic yo-yo-butt of bereavement. Why do I do this? Why do we all do this?

I have a confession to make. I was guilty of this behavior even before my daughter’s passing. In fact, I’m not sure I remember a time in my life when I wasn’t guilty of this. It has been since my daughter’s passing, however, that I’ve become more fully aware of it because it has been since my daughter’s passing that I have had to begin learning how to be genuinely alone with myself, in a comfortable way.  Even now, sitting here looking this fear in the face, I am resisting the urge to put the laptop down, get up and leave this room.  There is an empty space within me that seems to believe that something out there is needed to fill it and its gravitational pull is more substantial than the one around my couch.

Of course nothing on earth creates a larger empty space than the loss of a dearly loved one; for me one of my children, my sweet girl, my daughter, Dannica.  Yet, despite realizing the necessity of taking this time for myself, I found the further in time I got from the previous post, the more I feared facing the next one.  I began to question myself for writing at all, for sharing any of this with anyone.  In fact, I received some pretty harsh criticism regarding Beyond A Shadow of Doubt, and nearly decided to hang it up completely.  I was called “despicable” for that one.  It takes one more despicable than I, however, to kick someone when they’re bleeding and bearing their soul in hopes of healing.  I realize there will always be critics.  I also realize that despite the fact that I am generally a very private person, I have decided to move through the process of debilitating grief in a very public way so perhaps that is to be expected.

So here I sit.  Hollowed out.  Again.  And it feels good to have wept again.  To have faced the eternity of Dannica’s physical absence on earth again.  To have allowed the gravity of mother earth to hold me tightly to her in affirmation of my own choice to live the best I can… here.  Also important to me is letting those I love and those who love me know how I really am.

I Saw You Today


Sweet Dannica… I saw you today as I was driving by where you used to work.  You were about five years old and you were riding your Little Mermaid bicycle with the knobby white tires, sparkling tassels dangling from the handlebars.  Your helmet seemed so big on your sweet little head.  Fragile little calves clad in flowered leggings and chunky white running shoes with purple stripes.  Beautiful curls cascading out from under your helmet like Ariel’s own melodies kissed by the sun, set free on the breeze like a zillion glittering butterflies fading into the sky as I approach the next traffic light.

My little one, there you are again with two of your best girlfriends.  The weather is warm today, the sun brilliant.  You are older now, maybe fourteen.  Your innocent laughter swirls with the ecstasy of being young, happy, beautiful, and on the way to the mall.  Your friend repeatedly pounds the button on the poll to signal your turn to cross.  You’ll chat with other friends, you’ll be silly and probably annoy some of the other shoppers with your easy and endless amusement as they roll their eyes and whisper “Mall Maggots,” under their breath.  But you’ll have the time of your lives just being who you are and that makes me so happy.

I’m nearly home now and there you are again, love.  You’re walking through the park hand in hand with a handsome young man.  You are smiling, the sun lighting your hair and you are young love personified.  You see forever in each other’s gaze and feel it there between your clasped palms; a microcosm of the rest of your long lives together.  And then you’re gone.  I blink hard… and remember the butterflies and smile sadly.

I walk toward the front door of our home remembering, trying to remember, trying not to lose anything and as I see the purple ribbon and the butterfly that tell the world of your continuing presence here, I am so grateful that I got to know you and to love you every moment of your entire life…from your first breath until your last and now beyond.  In this moment I feel a sense of gratitude.  In this moment I have been given the gift of glimpsing a silver lining to the horrific dark cloud of your passing.  You are with me, the whole of your life is with me, within me, and always shall be.