Grief will always suck

No matter how good life can get, grief will always suck.

And that sneaky little bugger grief always pops up, whether you're ready or not (when are you ever really ready?)

And the other thing about grief - it's life long. Just like love. And you when you lose someone you love, the hurt never disappears, even when it doesn't hurt to breathe anymore. And that love never goes away either, even when you find more room in your heart to love again.

This week grief has been following me around. It popped up in different places: in the faces of my children, in hearing stories of others' tragic losses, in my early morning prayers while I'm out running, going through stuff in the basement...nearly everywhere. Like someone kicking the back of my knee each time until finally I fall down.

The other night, Steve took our three girls out on a date. Since the boys and I weren't feeling all that well, we were just going to stay in, but Caleb asked if we could go on a "sick date" - how could I say no? We grabbed some food and headed to Jer's memorial stone to eat with Daddy at the College. I love getting to chance to have one-on-one with our kids, and Caleb is so much fun to talk to - I never have a dull moment trying to figure out where the heck he comes up with half the stuff he says. But I also love hearing him talk about his daddy. How much he misses him, what he thinks daddy might be doing in Heaven, what he wants to tell him, and his favorite memories of him. He is just the spitting image of Jeremy, it hurts my heart sometimes.

I sat in front of Jer's stone and watched the boys play while tears filled up in my eyes. What an odd place to watch my sons play - at their dad's memorial stone. I love being able to go there and spend time in that place, but it will never feel right to be there.

Every once in awhile, the kids ask to watch the videos on my desk top that were taken days before Jeremy died of the kids with a whoopie cushion. The sound of Jer's his voice can confuse me like nothing else. This morning when Caleb asked to watch it, my brain couldn't make sense of hearing his voice right there but knowing he's not here anymore. He sounds so close, still so real like I could reach out and touch him. Only, I can't.

I tend to be too hard on myself sometimes, thinking I should be ok and grief shouldn't overwhelm like it still can sometimes. But then I remember that it hurts so great because I was loved so great.

I try to let myself have the bad days, because sometimes...it just sucks.


A Mom by any other name...

When Steve and I answered questions about our story, our family, and our relationship last month, we got a lot of questions about what the kids call us. We were both in agreement that we both eventually wanted to be Mom & Dad, but we would let the kids call us that on their own terms and in their own timing.

I remember when Steve and I were dating, our oldest asking him what she would call me if we got married. He, of course, told her that she could call me whatever she felt comfortable calling me. Then she asked if she could call me Mom. When Steve called me up to tell me that, it brought us both to tears.

Then when Steve proposed to me and orchestrated his amazing plan of having everyone important in my life be present, the girls really wanted to be a part of it and were unable. But, they asked if they could write me letters for the day since they couldn't be there. I collected letters from everyone that day, including theirs, but in the chaos of the day didn't get a chance to read them all until later that evening. We opened a letter written by our second oldest that very simply was addressed to "Mommy" - a beautiful, simple, 8-year-old expression of unconditional love. Steve and I sobbed together for a good 10 minutes over the implications of our sweet little girl and how she innocently and unknowingly filled our hearts and brought our family together in such a unique way.

Well, I really thought it would take the girls awhile to adjust to actually calling me Mom. And I was ok with that. But it didn't take long at all, maybe a few weeks, before they started sneaking it in here and there. Every time it made my heart leap.

We had only been home as a family for a few weeks to finally get adjusted to a schedule that they ended up spending some of their summer time visitation with their biological mom. I thought for sure that the time away might make them take a step back in their comfort level with calling me Mom. I was ok with that too.

But something shocking happened. No sooner had they hopped in the car after intense hugs and kisses from being gone for 2 weeks that they were calling me Mom. Only this time, it wasn't sporadic - not like before when they were testing it out to see how comfortable they felt with it or how I would respond to it (I always tried to be cool about and not make a big scene about it, even though my heart always did a little touchdown dance) - this time it stuck. And it was beautiful music to my ears.

Steve and I exchanged knowing glances. And giant smiles.

There's something about hearing your child say "mama" for the very first time that could just make your heart burst. I used to always tell Faith and Caleb not to call me Mom, that it was strictly "Mama" or "Mommy" while they were little - they weren't old enough to call me Mom yet! I wanted to hold on to those days knowing I wouldn't get to carry that title for long.

I had no idea how meaningful or sweet it would be to hear the word "Mom" apply to me. Maybe not from the children I carried in my womb, but these beautiful girls that I carry in my heart, that God has entrusted me to love and care for. These two children who were so desperately searching for that connection and bond that they were missing, and feel their walls come down, feel their trust in me, and know that something very special was happening. Hearing them call me Mom means so much more. There's so much healing and hope in that word. It's the beauty that only a blended family could produce.

Come to think of it, I absolutely adore the title.


Great is worth it

A very special moment during the Saturday night message release

I'm still recuperating from the travel and lack of sleep from Camp Widow.
It was totally worth it. :)

I anticipated going to Camp Widow to reach out to other widows/widowers who have been through this horrible journey called grief. But instead, I was blessed.

I watched hundreds of widows take this huge, scary leap into an unknown world to reach out in their grief. These courageous men and women who all came together just to know that they're not alone. But they didn't just reach out. They shared, they laughed, they cried, they helped each other, they danced..

they lived. 

What a blessing it was to sit around with a group of people who shared their hearts, their fears, their worries, they're anger, and even their joy. They have no idea how much they touched my heart and blessed me.

As Michele gave her keynote address, she said something that became my mantra for the weekend. So often, we settle for good enough, because after we lose something so incredibly important to us, great is so scary and comes with the probability that we could lose again. But as most widows/widowers would agree, I would NEVER trade my time with Jeremy even if I knew I would lose him so soon. Because love is worth it.

Great is worth it.

Whether it means taking that huge leap into giving your heart to someone else, or whether it means baby steps into finding joy in your every day life, don't settle for good. Because underneath the pain and loss and hurt and grief is life. And life keeps moving forward even when we don't want it to. But, it can be good. Better than good. And the risk is worth it.

Thank you all for the reminder to keep striving for great. For me, for Jeremy, and for every person out there struggling through this roller coaster journey called grief.


Grief for the people pleaser

I am by nature, a people pleaser.
That's not a bad thing in and of itself. I don't like hurting anyone or being the cause of inconvenience for people. I like to make other people happy because that's what inevitably makes me happy. But when you throw grief into the mix, then it can become a problem.

I've noticed over the course of my grief journey, and especially over the last year, that you can never grieve right. You'll never grieve long enough or short enough or hard enough. You won't say the right things and people will give you too much space and then not enough. You can sacrifice your own happiness, but you will always let someone down.

On top of grief itself, this can be a dangerous mix for the people pleaser. Losing sleep because you're miserable about losing the most important thing in your life and yet worried about what everyone must think about it. You don't want to hurt anyone so you conform to what you think they want, and end up only hurting yourself.

Then, if you dare to find someone new, you have to be prepared to face a lot of judgment and opinions from other people. I discovered that remarriage is the people pleaser's nightmare.

The good news is, grief has also taught me to let go a little bit and not always worry about what everyone else thinks. Age has taught me that as well. I haven't perfected it, but I know that when I follow my heart and not what I think are the desires of others, I tend to feel better about my decisions.

Grief has this funny way (and by funny, I mean torturing and un-called for irony) of re-shaping you into someone new. Not something you could have ever imagined, but something stronger, more durable. Someone a little more content with what you still have left, and little more appreciative of good things that come your way. Someone who knows the value of life.

And when you understand the value of life, you understand that it doesn't matter if what you do makes everyone else happy. It matters that you soak up every moment with the people who support you, value you, challenge you to be better, and love you no matter what you do.


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