Have a holly, guilty Christmas

Yesterday, after a full day of sitting at home with the kids, opening presents and playing with those presents, and then picking up after all those presents time and time again, we started to get all 5 children ready for bed. As I was helping my 6 year old, Faith, I asked her if she had a good Christmas. She nodded quickly with a smile and I added, “Best one yet?” She nodded again.

Suddenly, I regretted asking her that. And for a split second I was hurt by her response. Of course I did my best to give her the best Christmas I could, but Christmas will be forever missing her daddy. And that’s something I can’t give back. And, I’m thrilled that she enjoyed our first Christmas as a family of 7, with two new sisters and wonderful dad in her life that love her immensely.  But my regret came from feeling like I made her choose between her life before and her life now. Obviously, that’s absurd but that’s how I felt in the moment.

As a widow, I am always careful about using phrases like “best day ever” or “best time ever” because it always feels like that is somehow disrespecting the life I had with Jeremy.  Like if I say it, it means Jeremy suddenly means less to me. So I steer clear of theses phrases of absolutes. I surprised even myself when I asked Faith if she had the best Christmas ever. I got caught up in the joy of a child-like excitement and when I heard her answer, it suddenly brought me back to reality.

I don’t want that to bother me. I want all of our kids to be able to have the best Christmas ever. When I really sat on it, I realized that I, too, enjoyed Christmas this year. What a far cry that has been from my last two Christmas’ and I was so thankful to have a happy home this year and to make new memories and new traditions. Even though grief is always hovering, there was a lot of joy too. But enjoying it made me feel guilty.

I’d hate to think that my best moments are behind me.  I have wonderful memories, but I know I’m not done making them. And so, I smile knowing that I can make good memories still, even some of my best, without comparing the life I had with Jeremy.

I’m glad Faith had the best Christmas ever.  And I think Jeremy is glad, too. 

***Please don't forget that for the month of December, all proceeds from this blog will be donated to Amy Lewis, who lost her husband Jim tragically just a couple of weeks ago. Each page impression makes a small amount, but if we all keep clicking, it will hopefully add up to something big. You can also donate more safely and securely at the top left corner of the page! THANKS***



You have been everywhere lately. 

You know, I was dreaming about you almost every night for several weeks until Jim died. Now, I don't see you in my dreams anymore. I'm trying to make sense of what that's about. But now, you seem close in my every day things, more so than usual.

Maybe it's the sentimental time of year, maybe it's all coincidence, but I know better. I started playing "Song Pop" on my iPhone for Zada (she wanted to compete with me) - and it reminds me so much that you used to try to do that to me: play a few second clip of a song and I'd have to guess it. You were always so good at it, so I didn't want to play. And every time I answer one right that I knew you'd be proud of (you having been much more musically cultured than me), there's a split second I find myself wanting to show you and see that approval on your face. 

I finally cleaned out the utility room before our Christmas party last week. Going through your stuff is always challenging and emotional. I realize every time how much of my life is still very saturated with your influence and presence. 

I randomly found myself watching old videos of Faith and Caleb on the computer. Oh, how I ache to see you alive and moving - I always feel a deep yearn to reach out and touch you, just to make sure you were real. 

Yesterday, out of nowhere, I heard your voice singing South Park's Big Gay Al's "I'm super." I laughed remembering and realized it was one of those things I hadn't thought about maybe since you died. Steve had never heard it before, so of course, I had to look it up and play it for him. And I laughed more thinking about you singing it. And more importantly, the facial expressions that came along with it. 

Speaking of things I haven't done since you died, we drove down Mound yesterday past the park you used to play softball at. All of a sudden, I looked up and noticed where we were and felt a tiny panic set in because I hadn't grieved this spot yet. I instantly knew where we were and had to tell Steve why it was significant. I feel the need to share all our significant places to anyone that will listen. I need someone else to know how important these places are, and I never want to forget why. 

Carter and I spent the day shopping together earlier last week. I love spending one-on-one time with him, but the whole day I kept wondering what he would be like if you were still here. Would his personality be different because of your influence? Would he have picked up more of your mannerisms instead of mine? I know he's just the way he should be, but maybe that's what hurt about it. I wish just once, I could've seen you interact with him. 

I have shed countless tears for the senseless tragedy that occurred last week in Connecticut. Aside from the fact that it is inconceivable that someone could harm children like that, and aside from my momma heart feeling ten times more protective of our own precious children, I also shed tears of knowledge. The knowledge of intense grief. Of loss. Of those families losing hope, losing faith, losing memories and plans, futures and pasts. The ache to be with their loved ones and the hole that will never fill for those families. It's a pain I would never wish on anyone.

I can't believe this will be my 3rd Christmas without you. It doesn't seem possible. And yet our last Christmas together feels like an eternity ago. Faith and Caleb were so little. I'm so looking forward to Christmas this year, and celebrating it with people I love and new traditions and new family. But there's always a special place in my heart that holds on to the innocence of our Christmas' together. My sweet memories of life before grief. 

Thank you for staying close to me. I miss you more than I know how to describe. I felt the need to write it out and remember, and to tell you that I love you. Always and forever, I love you.

***Please don't forget that for the month of December, all proceeds from this blog will be donated to Amy Lewis, who lost her husband Jim suddenly just a couple of weeks ago, and has no life insurance. Each page impression makes a small amount, but if we all keep clicking, it will hopefully add up to something big. You can also donate more safely and securely at the top left corner of the page! THANKS***


Experiencing the face of God

Last weekend, I was leading worship in Iowa. I always look forward to being able to travel and sing, especially knowing I get to use that talent for God. I get to spend time with my favorite people, meet new people, and worship. What's not to love?

Like most trips, we stood on stage to model worship for people old and young alike. Sometimes, we challenge everyone in the room to get 'uncomfortable' with God and take a position of worship on our knees. It's always powerful to see how just stepping outside our comfort zone just a bit can change our hearts and the meaning of what we sing.

This trip, we did something we've never done before. Chris asked everyone to close their eyes and picture the face of God. The first thing that came to my mind was the stereotype of Jesus we see every day, in paintings and children's bible stories, deep eyes and brunette hair and beard. Quickly erasing that image from my mind, I realized that I had never actually attempted to think about the face of God. I don't know why.

I closed my eyes once more. The next thing I know, I felt the warmth of the sun on my face, smelled green grass beneath me, heard the beautiful sounds of my children laughing and playing, had this overwhelming sense of peace, and out of nowhere tears began to fall...

....and I felt Jeremy.

I quickly turned around, unnerved by my emotions getting the best of me on stage, and grabbed a drink of water. As I composed myself and got down on my knees in worship, I tried to push the image out of my head until we finished. Once I was off stage and sitting, the tears came again as I went back to that image of the face of God. I didn't "see" God per say, but I felt Him. My image of God was the closest thing to Heaven I've ever experienced on earth. As soon as I felt Jeremy, emotions took me over.

I realize that I might hold onto a very skewed vision of what Heaven will be. I'm okay with that. I figure if I'm wrong, I won't be disappointed. To me, Heaven is a place where all is made right. A place where children are fed and warm, there are no tears, and there is no death. Jeremy will be there waiting for me, and Jim will be there waiting for Amy. I can't picture it any other way at this point, and I don't want to. Suddenly I knew that I could no longer separate what God is to me from who I am because of Jeremy. In so many ways, Jeremy molded my image of God and my relationship with Him.

Jeremy is the strongest indicator of this love because I've lost him and that love is held and carried on in memory and in my heart at an elevated place. But the truth is, if I closed my eyes hard enough, the face of God would reveal all of those I love, because of course, God IS love. And being in the presence of completely unselfish, unconditional love is my Heaven.

I may not be able to do it without tears yet, but I'm glad I was able to experience that moment, however brief it was.


How you can help

I've posted this once before, but with everyone visiting to help Amy, I thought this was a great thing to share again, as it was so helpful for me (and still is!):

"How You Can Help Me"
Please talk about my loved one, even though he is gone. It is more comforting to cry than to pretend that he never existed. I need to talk about him, and I need to do it over and over.

Be patient with my agitation. Nothing feels secure in my world. Get comfortable with my crying. Sadness hits me in waves, and I never know when my tears may flow. Just sit with me in silence and hold my hand.

Don't abandon me with the excuse that you don't want to upset me. You can't catch my grief. My world is painful, and when you are too afraid to call me or visit or say anything, you isolate me at a time when I most need to be cared about. If you don't know what to say, just come over, give me a hug or touch my arm, and gently say, "I'm sorry." You can even say, "I just don't know what to say, but I care, and want you to know that."

Just because I look good does not mean that I feel good. Ask me how I feel only if you really have time to find out.

I am not strong. I'm just numb. When you tell me I am strong, I feel that you don't see me. I will not recover. This is not a cold or the flu. I'm not sick. I'm grieving and that's different. My grieving may only begin 6 months after my loved one's death. Don't think that I will be over it in a year. For I am not only grieving his death, but also the person I was when I was with him, the life that we shared, the plans we had for our children, the places we will never get to go together, and the hopes and dreams that will never come true. My whole world has crumbled and I will never be the same.

I will not always be grieving as intensely, but I will never forget my loved one and rather than recover, I want to incorporate his life and love into the rest of my life. He is a part of me and always will be, and sometimes I will remember him with joy and other times with a tear. Both are okay.

I don't have to accept the death. Yes, I have to understand that it has happened and it is real, but there are some things in life that are just not acceptable. When you tell me what I should be doing, then I feel even more lost and alone. I feel badly enough that my loved one is dead, so please don't make it worse by telling me I'm not doing this right. And remember, I was a capable adult before his death and I still am.

Please don't tell me I can find someone else or that I need to start dating again. I may not be ready. And maybe I don't want to be. And besides, what makes you think people are replaceable? They aren't. Whoever comes after will always be someone different.

I don't even understand what you mean when you say, "You've got to get on with your life." My life is going on, I've been forced to take on many new responsibilities and roles. It may not look the way you think it should. This will take time and I will never be my old self again. So please, just love me as I am today, and know that with your love and support, the joy will slowly return to my life. But I will never forget and there will always be times that I cry.

I need to know that you care about me. I need to feel your touch, your hugs. I need you just to be with me, and I need to be with you. I need to know you believe in me and in my ability to get through my grief in my own way, and in my own time.

Please don't say, "Call me if you need anything." I'll never call you because I have no idea what I need. Trying to figure out what you could do for me takes more energy than I have. So, in advance, let me give you some ideas:

(a) Bring food or a movie over to watch together.

(b) Send me a card on special holidays, our wedding anniversary, his birthday, and the anniversary of his death, and be sure to mention his name. You can't make me cry. The tears are here and I will love you for giving me the opportunity to shed them because someone cared enough about me to reach out on this difficult day.

(c) Ask me more than once to join you at a movie or lunch or dinner. I may say no at first or even for a while, but please don't give up on me because somewhere down the line, I may be ready, and if you've given up then I really will be alone.

(d) Understand how difficult it is for me to be surrounded by couples, to walk into events alone, to feel out of place in the same situations where I used to feel so comfortable.

Please don't judge me now - or think that I'm behaving strangely. Remember I'm grieving. I may even be in shock. I am afraid. I may feel deep rage. I may even feel guilty. But above all, I hurt. I'm experiencing a pain unlike any I've ever felt before and one that can't be imagined by anyone who has not walked in my shoes.

Don't worry if you think I'm getting better and then suddenly I seem to slip backward. Grief makes me behave this way at times. And please don't tell me you know how I feel, or that it's time for me to get on with my life. What I need now is time to grieve. Most of all thank you for being my friend. Thank you for your patience.

Thank you for caring. Thank you for helping, for understanding.

And remember in the days or years ahead, after your loss - when you need me as I have needed you - I will understand. And then I will come and be with you.

--Author Unknown


Reaching goals

Traffic is going down - let's pick it back up!

Because I have been out of town (leading worship in Iowa and recording a new EP for Sola), I haven't been able to post anything new or give you any updates. Our traffic has gone down this week, so please keep sharing, clicking and donating to raise money for Amy (read more about that HERE)

I made a promise that I would commit to posting more on this blog to help traffic continue to flow this month to raise money for Amy. I figured it was also an opportunity for the much needed face lift to happen to my blog. If you've noticed, the colors have changed, I have been working on a new display (hopefully it will up soon), and I've added and updated new tabs, so you can read more about me, my family, and our story.

At some point, someone had offered to help me design my blog. Obviously, it's nothing professional, but I would like it to be. I will blame widow brain, but I don't remember who it was or when it was because I can't find that comment anywhere. So I thought I'd shamelessly plug in a plea for anyone who designs blogs or knows of someone who does to help a sister out. I have big plans for this place.

Alright, now that that's over with, I would like to say that after just over a week, we have raised over $4,300.00 to help my sweet friend Amy! I've decided to just go ahead and state that I would like to set a goal of raising at least $10,000.00 for Amy. It's totally doable, we're almost half-way there, but I will need your help! Remember, clicking and visiting the blog helps, but if you are able, please consider donating (even if it's just $5.00) safely and securely at the top left hand of this page through Paypal.

Hopefully, while we're clicking away to help someone who needs it, I will reach another goal I set a long time ago: 1,000,000 page views to this blog. Right now, I'm just past 950,000.....can you believe that goal is actually in reach?! I can't. It's unbelievable what God has done. My other goal was to reach 1000 followers. I'm getting pretty close to that too!

Thank you all for your continued support. We are doing great things and making a difference. I can't wait to see what the final numbers are at the end of the month!


Community matters

I write for a blog called Widow's Voice. It's devised of several widowed people, writing each day about our grief journeys. If you know anyone or God forbid ever find yourself in grief, I encourage you to go there. What I love about it is that it's a group of people who understand that community matters. We're witness to the value of finding someone, anyone, to remind us that we are not alone. That's why most of us are there.

But this week, I've been struck by watching the rest of the world be reminded of how vital community is. Watching everyone anxiously reach out in their hurt and confusion over the sudden loss of life too young. And now everyone who loved Amy's husband, Jim, is searching for answers.
Searching for comfort.
Searching for peace.
Searching for community.

Two days ago, I announced that I was donating my blog earnings from the month of December to help ease the financial burden for Amy. Now, on a monthly basis, I make very little from this blog, maybe enough to go out to dinner - but when a community comes together, it's amazing what can be done. I won't know the final count from page impressions til the end of the month, but I can tell you that my blog went from an average of 700 page views to 11,000 page views overnight!!! And just in Paypal donations, we have raised over $3,500.00!!! And that's just in two days. Imagine the blessing we could be to Amy by the end of the month.

I watched my Facebook feed blow up to share and donate to Amy. The response is outstanding and overwhelming. Good people are still out there, and when they hurt, we all hurt. It's a reminder that we're not supposed to walk through life alone, but in community. I'm amazed at the community that has come together to help my sweet friend. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I will try to keep you updated along the way a few more times this month. But please, KEEP CLICKING. KEEP SHARING. KEEP DONATING. You are making an incredible difference!

Thank you all for reminding me that community matters.


Choose life.

As per my second annual post to my brother, I wanted to wish him a Happy Birthday.
Today, my brother Brian would have been 28.

Would have been. That past tense is killer. Just three words to make you come to screeching halt and realize he no longer is. It's hard to believe he's been gone for almost 17 months. Today I woke up thinking about Amy and all my friends that are suffering the loss of her husband Jim on Friday. Then my heart started aching for my mom & dad, brother Matt, and all the people Brian loved dearly.

All of sudden I realized that just more than 2 years ago I was just like everyone else. In just a short amount of time, I became a reference. A person who people think "I hope that never happens to me." I don't say that to gain pity...I say that out of the sheer shock that life can change at any moment. How did that become me? My friends and family haven't suffered enough loss?

I know that death is a part of life. And ultimately, death means that we have life. As I sit with friends grieving at Panera, or shopping for a funeral dress, or texting my parents and brother to let them know they're on my heart, or hearing the sounds of the last of Jim's family members coming into town and embracing one another in pure heartache - I am reminded that death is never far away.

Choose life. While you're here, choose to live. More importantly, choose to love. Or as my best friend Sarah so perfectly worded it: Make sure your default is love. Hold the ones you love a little tighter. Get rid of the distractions and follow through on promises. Keep your word. Keep in touch. Help a friend who needs it. Love without regret or restraint.

Love you, bro. Wish I could hug you and tell you in person. Know that you will never be forgotten and I promise your name will never be unfamiliar in our house. We love you and miss you dearly. Happy Birthday.

*****Don't forget that through the month of December, revenue collected from my blog will be donated to my dear friend Amy Lewis, who lost her husband suddenly last Friday. Each page impression will donate a small amount of money, so if we all keep clicking together, it will add up to a lot! Just since yesterday, we've raised over $2000 just in Paypal donations! Let's keep going! Please consider donating at the top left hand of the page to help ease the financial burden that Amy is facing. Thank you!*****



This week, my heart has been so heavy. 

Saturday morning, I got a call that my sweet friend, Amy Lewis, suddenly and tragically lost her husband, Jim, on Friday evening. As my jaw dropped to the floor and I tried to process the implications of what that meant, I couldn't stop shaking. Amy lives right around the corner from me, so I headed over there as quickly as I could, on the verge of puking the whole time. 

It was too familiar. Only this time, I wasn't looking at the moment to moment but could envision every horrible moment I faced through this painstaking journey that I was certain Amy knew nothing about yet. You'd think having walked down this awful road, I would have some insight or some inkling of what to say or what to do. All I could come up with was I need to hug her. I need to be near here. I need her to know I am here.  Past that, I was helpless.

Amy was one of the faces that continued to show up after Jeremy died. She was my comic relief, my break from real life, and one of the women who continually served me and my family. I specifically remember seeing her one morning on my way out of the house while she was making her way in bright and early to clean for me. I remember feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for one less task I had to think about, one less worry to have. 

It was two months to the day of Jim's death that I last saw him. We met up with mutual friends to have lunch after church at Dickie's. I sat on the kid-end of the table, taking pictures of the kiddos and keeping them under control, so I didn't get to interact with Jim much. But I remember a lot of laughter.

Amy and I have known each other for quite a few years. She worked at the college when I attended, and worked there with Jeremy, and she and Jim were in a small group with us a few years ago. We've grown closer even since Jeremy's death, through her generosity and our occasional week day breakfasts. My heart has been with her almost every moment since I found out. She's only 34. Jim was 39. This isn't supposed to keep happening to people around me. My heart has also been with Mark Johnson, who is one of Jim's best friend - who also happened to be the friend that found my Jeremy dead beneath his tree stand and was with Amy the moment she found out. He has lost two of his closest friends in such a short amount of time and I know the weight he is carrying is so heavy. 

My heart aches with the need to DO SOMETHING. I know how hard it was for me to ask for help, so I'm not waiting around for her to ask. I'm doing something. Anything. One thing I know is that Amy discovered the terrible news that since the life insurance policy her and Jim took out 20 months ago did not meet the 24 month limit before cashing out, she will not be receiving life insurance money. Just one more heavy burden on an already devastated heart. 

So, with the little resources I have, I have decided that for the entire month of December, I will be raising money for Amy, in honor of Jim, to cover the cost of funeral expenses and generally ease the financial burden that Amy is facing. I don't make much from this blog on my own, but with the help of all of you, I am confident that we can make a dent. A significant dent. All you have to do is click on my blog as many times a day as you can for the month of December. Make sure the page loads - THAT'S IT. Each page impression creates revenue. 

In addition, I have added a Paypal donation button at the top left of my page for people to go above and beyond the call to help. What Amy needs is community, and in the season of giving, I pray that you would consider helping this incredible woman, and my sweet friend, breathe a little easier while she struggles to take the next step without her husband of almost 11 years.

Amy & Jim Lewis - married almost 11 years.

Jim and Amy, along with some of my nearest and dearest friends, supporting my children at the Jeremy King memorial dinner last November. 

Jim & Amy's engagement photos

Jim & Amy, along with their closest friends, Tamara & Mark, at our wedding in May.

A few of the women who were staples through my grief journey, who are now walking this horrible path along side another hurting friend.

I will continue to remind you as much as I can this month to keep visiting, as well as commit to actually posting more here (I have really been slacking in that area).

Thank you in advance for the love and support I already know is over flowing for Amy. Thank you for your generous hearts and for the prayers that will be so vital to her. Y'all are such a blessing to me, and I know you will be for Amy as well.


Dream on

The dream world has always been a funny topic for me.

I dream A LOT. Almost every morning I remember my dreams, usually more than one. They're sometimes crazy weird, sometimes scary, usually in some way incorporates things I've been thinking about throughout the day or weeks. 

Only recently have I discovered that I sometimes mumbled in my sleep (nonsense), giggle when I'm dreaming about something funny, or shake and breath differently when I'm afraid. Jeremy was such a deep sleeper that I don't think he ever noticed if I did these things (although I caught him talking in his sleep a few times, which was always hilarious). Steve, however, is one of the lightest sleepers I know and wakes up every time I move a muscle. He's had to wake me from a few bad dreams - I seem to be having quite a few lately.

Oddly enough, I've been dreaming about Jeremy a lot over the last few weeks. After he died, I dreamt about him often, constantly begging God to let me see him in my dreams. But it was never in the way I wanted. He was distant, never came close enough for me to touch him, but would give me these deep looks of pain and apology that would leave me aching in the morning. Then, gradually over time, my dreams would just come every once in awhile. I don't know why he's been coming back in my dreams so much recently. Perhaps getting past the 2 year mark was a big milestone and I was thinking about him constantly. Perhaps like the rest of my dreams, it's manifesting an understanding I can't work out when I'm awake or in real life. I don't know. 

What I do know is that Jeremy is changing in my dreams.

Has any other widow(er) had this happen? I feel like I always have this sense that no matter what the dream is about or where we are, I can feel him in real time - like he's opening my eyes to something. I've never been hokey about dreams before, but after Jeremy died, I knew there was purpose in me seeing him there. 

At first, he wouldn't come close. He would stay far away and apologize or I would beg and plead for him not to go from a distance.
Then, he finally got in close enough that he put his arm around me once. But the closer he got, the weaker he seemed and I always dreamt of the injuries he endured from the fall after his heart attack, or I would worry about his heart. Or I knew that he wouldn't be staying alive long and I needed to do or say as much as I could before he left.
Then he got closer and intimate enough to hug me and tell me he was so happy for me when I found Steve. And there was no pain, just that beautiful smile of his. What a gut-wretching blessing of a dream that was.
Throughout the changes in my dreams, though, I felt him grow. I felt any anger he ever had gone from him and he always seemed at peace, even if he was sad he couldn't stay with me. He matured somehow in my dreams, like the essence of Jeremy but in the form that God created him to be. It's hard to explain.

Lately, he appears in my dreams like a lot of normal characters in my dreams. He'll be along side me for an adventure, or trying to protect me from something, or won't do anything specific, but I know he's there.

Maybe someone else out there knows more about this area than I do, but I would be interested to know how the widowed community or anyone else for that matter views dreams of their loved ones, or what they think about the evolution of Jeremy in my dreams. Either way, and in no matter what form, he is always a welcome presence that I ache to see in my dreams. I love getting to see his face, and feel him living, even for just a moment and even if it's not real. It feels real. Those are the dreams that if I wake up prematurely, I try desperately to close my eyes and finish, just so I don't have to say goodbye. Just so I can squeeze one more second of time in with him.


Be thankful. Or don't. It's ok.

I remember Thanksgiving two years ago, just a couple weeks after Jeremy's death. Well, when I say I remember it, I actually don't remember much about it other than I was deep in the pits of despair and grief. But what I surprisingly remember was the the sense of responsibility I felt to voice being thankful in some way. I remember putting up a status on Facebook about trying not to dwell on what I lost and trying to focus on what I could be thankful for.

But the truth, I was not thankful for anything.

I'm not so blinded as to not understand that I had things to be thankful for. But I didn't feel thankful. I couldn't image my life being any worse. I was even pissed that I was still around to suffer through the days without the love of my life. Why did I have to express thankfulness?

Because that's what we're supposed to do...

This holiday tends to start a chain reaction of responsibility and expectations for grievers through the end of the year. It sucks. Sometimes empty. It's hard to feel thankful when the person you were most thankful for is no longer there.

Knowing things could be worse doesn't take away the pain of losing someone. Knowing we have much to be thankful for doesn't lessen the injustice of what we've been through. Sometimes the insinuation is enough to make things worse.

Here's what I know: don't worry about the expectations of others or even the expectations we tend to put on ourselves. It's OK to not get into the hype and hoopla of the holidays. Don't feel pressured to please others or keep up with traditions alone if it hurts too much. It's OK to take a break for awhile and keep things simple. It's OK to feel angry, sad, or irritated with others for getting to celebrate what you have now lost. It's OK to do things YOUR way.

Here's what else I know: If you do feel thankful, that's OK. If you feel blessed that you've got a second chance at life even in the midst of losing something so special, that's OK. If you're in a place where you can look at your blessings and appreciate them in a way that only grief will let you, that's OK.

Don't let others dictate where your heart is at. This holiday season, be true to you.


Clean cut grief

November 9th came and went.
2 years lived without Jeremy passed, just like that.

Like every other milestone date, the week leading up to it was much harder than the actual day. We honored Jeremy by getting together with friends at his memorial stone at the college for dinner and then went to see Skyfall, which coincidentally (or notsomuch) opened on the 9th. Jeremy loved the James Bond series, as do I, and we had talked about anticipating this movie when the last one came out. I knew that if he were still here, we would have gone together opening night. It felt fitting to go, and was a great way to honor him.

Except, I woke up the next day and felt bad again. Aggravated is more accurate. Irritated at myself cause I expected to feel better, not worse. Then, annoyed with the world (and myself again) for assuming I should feel better now that I've gotten through an anniversary of my husband's death. One day is fine for grieving and remembering, but the next day life must go on.

I couldn't let go. Grief isn't clean cut, it doesn't follow my schedule. Jeremy had felt so close to me the past couple of weeks because my heart had been in sync with the last moments I shared with him - I couldn't just wake up the next day and forget.

I happened to get to spend the day with Jeremy's mom and sisters, which was just what my heart needed. But, I simultaneously felt myself hurting again for all the things Jeremy was missing out on with his family - things we had prayed for, and so many changes happening. He wouldn't have missed it for the world. And yet, just another reminder that he's not here and life continues to move forward. As it should, even when you don't really want it to.

I settled in to the fact that I'm ok with not being ok sometimes. I'm thankful for an incredible husband who gives me space for grief when I need it and wraps me with understanding and presence when I need it, and never makes me feel bad for grieving. I've wanted to blog so many different times this week, and I honestly just haven't had the time...but grief has been close to me. And that's ok.

So, I start a third year beginning without Jeremy here to see it. I still can't bring myself to honestly believe he's gone sometimes, but the trail he left behind is too big to ignore. So I follow, and pray that this year will continue to bring hope and healing.


A song in my heart

2 years.

Ugh. You'd think I would be getting used to this by now, but there is something so utterly wrong about those two words when they're in the context of death. The death of the man I loved more than anything. The death of my dreams. The death of a girl who would never be again.

This week I have felt the distance. I have felt the length of time. I have also felt the still very raw heartache that comes no matter how much time will pass. At least a hundred times a day, I'm trying to remember what I was doing exactly 2 years ago, trying to hold on to all the pieces leading up to Jeremy's death.

Don't get me wrong, I've picked up a lot of pieces. My grief is no longer inward and isolated (most of the time), and I am able to smile when I see his face. I am thankful for the opportunity to still make Jeremy proud in this life and carry on his legacy through his stories and the lives of the three beautiful children he brought into the world. But there are some parts that just still hurt.

One part I've noticed this in is singing. Singing was what brought Jeremy and I together (we met at an audition for an Acapella group in college) and it was something we were both passionate about. The night before he died, we had been at rehearsal for an instrumental worship service he and I were going to lead two days later. We never got to sing that night together and I can't remember the last time we were on stage singing together before that (in was likely the week or two before that, I just can't remember specifically). This kills me for some reason.

This weekend, I was able to travel with friends to lead worship at a youth rally in Kentucky. It's been such a long time since I've been able to do that, I forgot how much I missed it. How much it ignites in me. How much I feel Jer's presence (and God's presence) when I go. But for some reason, I can't bring myself to get back up at our church to sing. It's too hard. Because Jeremy should be up there leading worship, and I should be standing next to him. It feels too different without him there.

That same night after rehearsal, we drove home for what would be the last time together. Tired and stressed from a 14 hour day for us both, way past the kids' bedtime, and ready to crawl into bed and call it a day, Jeremy reached over and grabbed my hand...

"I love to hear you sing. And I love getting to sing with you."

I will never forget that moment. It's a moment that I now look back at with foresight - a gift that Jeremy gave me to continue to pursue that passion even when it was hard, even when it hurt. I sang for him until I could sing for me again. 

Now I sing for us both, and I carry Jeremy in my heart whenever I do. Because he's a part of me, and now he's a song in my heart. There will be no singing this week, for my heart is heavy with the memory of my last moments with him 2 short years ago.

But the song is there, and it will return.

P.S. I would like to ask you all to pray for Jessica Woods, who became a widow today after her husband, Ryan, lost his battle with terminal brain cancer. They are a young family with young children, and they have lived an incredible story that will touch your heart. Please visit http://www.grassrootsconspiracy.com/blog/ and read about them and send some encouragement to Jessica and her family.


death colored glasses


I found an old post I wrote on my personal blog that has given me a lot of new meaning...

Everything is different now.

Everything I do now has a different meaning, a different pain attached to it. Every movie I see and song I hear has a different meaning now - and they all seem aimed at making me miserable and reminding me of what I've lost. Every smile and laugh is masking hurt and despair. Every thought I have has attached to it a dreadful afterthought. Everywhere I go I am marked with a Scarlet letter, only it's a giant W on my forehead for everyone to pity.

Looking at the world through death-colored glasses makes everything dark and gray. It takes so much more effort to see anything, to want to see anything. It makes it hard to find joy in the little things. Instead it makes me want to wallow in my own self-pity. The only problem is, the world won't stop for me to wallow. No matter how much I've begged it to.

I hate this. I deserve a moment to stop and process. A moment to figure things out. Shouldn't everyone know what an incredible man the world has lost? Shouldn't everyone stop what they're doing? Nope. The world keeps moving without me.

I've survived my first Christmas without Jeremy, somehow, without my consent. Even saying that makes his death seem so distant when it was still just weeks ago. I'm not ready to jump all these hurdles so soon. Or at all, really.  I didn't really face it until today how much I am dreading New Years. I knew it would be tough, but I was trying to face Christmas first. Now, I am getting sick to my stomach thinking about it. Facing a year Jeremy will never see, never be a part of, absolutely kills me. The first year memories will be made without him, the year his son will be born without ever meeting him...

The year I am forced to wear these damned glasses everywhere I go.

I'm dreading every second.

As I am quickly approaching the two year mark next week, I found myself reading this a few times, feeling the pain of these words. Obviously, my glasses have turned a rosier shade since then. It's not nearly as raw, however, it's interesting to me how true this post still is. Death has saturated every piece of my life. It's evident in the decisions I make, the traditions I keep, the way I carry myself. 

Only, I don't dread these glasses anymore. In fact, I wear them proudly. These death colored glasses give me a unique perspective that most people will never get to have. They show the true colors of life, they help me see my priorities, and they constantly remind me not to let what I've lost be in vain. Some things are darker, yes...but others things I see more vibrantly and clear. The misery I found in songs and pictures are now tearful smiles, thankful to have the memories at all. I still mask a lot behind a smile, but the smile becomes more genuine every day.

Once you see the world through death colored glasses, you can't go back. And that's ok because there's strength and peace and yes, even joy beyond the horizon. And you get to keep the glasses as a reminder that you loved and were loved and that life can be rosy again.


Running through grief

I have recently taken up running. It started out as a means to weight loss but it has become a means for me to escape, take time for myself, and feel proud of myself for accomplishing something.

But the funny thing is, I hate running.

I am always thankful when I finish, but I never want to get started. It's hard. It hurts. But about halfway through I find my stride, take a deep breath, and smile when I reach the end of my run.

Almost every time I run, I find myself face to face with....myself. No distractions. No excuses. Just me and my thoughts (which can be quite dangerous, let's just be honest). It can be hard to face the day and realize I brought all my distractions, baggage, and mistakes from the day before. I've got to work them out even though I don't always want to. It's quite humbling. And what I find is that 9 times out of 10, it boils down to grief and how has changed me, my relationships, and my life altogether. I don't say that as a cop-out or to blame grief on all my problems, it's just a testament to how life changing grief can be and how it trickles down into every aspect of your life.

Grief is my marathon. I hate lacing up knowing I have to face the road. I procrastinate. It's a long and difficult race, one that threatens to defeat me. But then I remember that there is a finish line, and that I am capable of pressing on. Even when my body starts to give in, even when I want to give up - if I take it slow, just one step at a time, I can get through it. Grief will not defeat me.

And the most beautiful thing of all is knowing that Jeremy will be waiting for me at the finish line.


Slipping pieces

This past weekend, we finally made a trip up to Canada to see Jeremy's completed grave stone (I may blog more about this later). It's been done for a month and a half now and we haven't been able to get up there before now and it's been tearing at me. I'm so glad we finally got to go see it. It doesn't feel right for something to be done for/about/in honor of him and not be a part of it, because he's a part of me.

I'm always so glad to get up there. Not just to Jeremy's grave (although I strangely look forward to going, perhaps because I know I can't just go anytime and I feel Jer there) but I really ache when I'm away too long. I miss Jeremy's family. My family. I miss his presence that's always in the midst of whatever we're doing there. I miss the familiar smells, faces, and places that are just him. They are not associated with anyone else.

I noticed something happening this trip though. It's happened once or twice before, randomly, but it always catches me off guard and leaves me frustrated and on the verge of tears.

I started to forget.

It's small things. This weekend, while sitting around during our ritual late night conversation filled with inappropriate jokes and bodily sounds (very Jeremy-esque), I suddenly heard in my head the sound of Jeremy burping. Ya know, that manly burp that's loud and obnoxious - he was always so proud of it. Well, he used to try to burp the alphabet and see how far he could get, or more often, he would burp "Ralph Forfar" - don't ask me why. But for a split second, I couldn't remember that name. His sisters had to help me remember, while I choked back tears for forgetting.

It seems trivial and silly, but anyone who has lost someone close understands how scary it can be when pieces of the ones you love start slipping. You suddenly forget the feeling of them next to you, just for a moment, and it scares you half to death. Or you can't remember the name of that one place you went to together, or exactly what started that inside joke. Or for me, not remembering the exact phrase that Jeremy used to repeat all the time from a french cartoon he watched as a kid. It was the only french he could remember and he recalled it anytime someone asked him if knew French (cause apparently all Canadians are supposed to). I can hear the inflection in my head. I can see his facial expressions. But the piece left me for awhile and made me angry with tears every time I tried to remember it.

It taps into my biggest fear: people forgetting Jeremy. If I can't remember a detail about Jeremy and I was closest person to him, who's to say others won't forget things too? Obvious, that's an irrational thought, but grief is not rational. It plays with your every emotion, every insecurity, every fear. It sneaks up and rearranges every puzzle piece you've tried to put back together in your life only to change the picture that was on the puzzle to begin with. The pieces never fit back together like they used to and when the pieces you've held onto the tightest start slipping, it threatens the very breath and life of you.

My only comfort in these moments are focusing on the things I do remember. The things I will NEVER forget. And the things that are only mine. Ours. I'll carry those with me in my heart wherever I go til the day I die.


Grief is always in season

I feel that time coming on.

The weeks leading up to Jeremy's death.
The march.

It feels corny to call it that, and I have to admit I've been resisting it. Because truthfully, I have no reason to complain. Life is good. I have an incredible family, a wonderful loving husband, a beautiful home, and great friends.

But, I feel the hole that can never be filled.

I didn't really realize what it was at first because I was trying to focus on being thankful. But I felt sluggish, tired, emotional about everything, unmotivated....not really wanting to participate in life right now. But the more Steve and I talked through it, the easier I recognized it as grief rearing its ugly head. It makes sense because I held on to all those days before Jeremy died - trying to remember every detail and holding on to every piece. I remember my last October with him. And now, I feel him closer than usual from remembering all those little details I've locked into my heart to never forget.

The distinctly annoying characteristic about grief is that it's always in season. No matter how much I want it to go away, it never goes out of style. There may be days, weeks, or even months when it's more obvious than others but it never really disappears. It follows me around to creep up on me at any given moment.

In the bedtime stories that I remember him reading to the kids.
In a silly chord progression in a hymn at church that he loved to sing.
In the smell of fall.
In the talk of applesauce that Caleb wants to bring as a snack to school.
In a situation where I need his particular advice.
In a photo of Tom Hardy that a friend posted on his FB page that looks eerily like him.

I can't escape it. I stopped trying to. I've learned to embrace, yes embrace, this time and soak up the moments when Jeremy feels close to me. Even if it's painful.


social media, grief, and letting go...

It's taken me 4 months, 1 week, and 5 days to do it....

I finally changed my Facebook status to 'married to Steve Cunningham' instead of 'married to Jeremy King'. 

I realize that this was well overdue. I also realize in most circumstances, this probably would seem very strange, but for some reason, this was a very difficult change for me to make. Steve and I had talked about it many times - he didn't want to push me to do anything I wasn't ready to do, and I didn't feel right changing it OR leaving it the same. I even needed to make sure I ran it by Jer's mom first, to make sure she knew it was coming and to just hear that it was ok to feel so much stress about this silly little change.

The truth is, this was a new facet of grief I hadn't faced yet. And though it seems simple enough, it was hard for me to publicly admit that I am no longer Jeremy's wife (yes, I know I will always be his wife, but I can't be on FB anymore). I am so proud to be Steve's wife, but announcing that in a silly social network forum meant letting go in some weird way of Jeremy. It also meant that people looking for our story wouldn't easily find Jeremy on Facebook through me and visa versa. But knowing Steve had spent his previous marriage in a relationship with someone who didn't even want to acknowledge him, I knew it was important for Steve to understand how much I adore him and how honored I am to be his wife. And Facebook won't let me be married to them both (I know, the nerve!)

Sometimes I really hate letting go. But as Taryn so beautifully stated in her earlier post this week, "it isn't this horrible phrase consisting of forgetting those you love more than yourself...it allows you to love them even more and grasp the immense amount of love still out there " 

I am here today because of the love Jeremy taught me, and I get the privilege of paying that fierce love forward in my relationship with Steve. So, I continue to love Jeremy more while grasping the immense love I have now. That is a decision I feel good about.

And I can't help but wonder if grief before social networks was a little less complicated...


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