Grief and Loss, Hope, Love, mental illness, Uncategorized

Happy Birthday, Dad

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It has been so long since my dad died, that I do not remember ever celebrating his birthday. I do not remember sitting around the table eating a birthday meal, watching him open his gifts, or blowing out his candles. I do not remember much of anything about him.

I do not remember his smell, or his voice. I do not remember his touch –from love or abuse. I do not remember so many pieces of him.

I have one photo of him that was damaged in the house fire. I have nothing else left of him, or his. In his thirty-seven years, there is barely anything left behind to prove his existence.

Except for me, and now my children, who are his grandchildren.

The memories I do have of the short time I was able to spend with him are haunted by abuse, and regret. I witnessed him hurt my mom, and brother, and experienced his abuse first hand. I also have memories of his kindness and love toward others in need.

I remember how intelligent he was, and how he could always come out ahead. He had survival skills like no one I have ever seen before –I like to think that is where I learned to survive through the extremes of abuse I experienced. He was a pro at getting something for nothing.

He was someone you did not mess with, but also someone you went to for help. He had a kind heart, and a lot of love to give. What I remember most is how much he wanted to be loved, and accepted.

He had Paranoid Schizophrenia, and for the longest time I was confused as to who he was. I confused his illness with him, which led to fear. When I was able to separate the two, I was able to see him for who he was. I was able to see all the good he had to offer, and I was able to understand the why behind the bad.

I wish I had more time to get to know my dad. I wish that his life could have been easier for him, and I wish he could have found the true love he had been searching for. I know there was a reason he was my dad, and I am grateful for the lessons I was able to learn from him.

Loving him taught me that people are more than a diagnosis. There are reasons behind many of the things people do. He taught me tolerance, strength and perseverance.

In his memory, I ask that you find someone in need of some extra love, and love them. Talk to them. Learn from them. Give people the gift of your time.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

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Depression, Grief and Loss, Hope, Tom Petty, Uncategorized

Words

Ever since I can remember, I have loved words. Either in songs, poems, quotes, books…it didn’t matter to me. I just needed to be around words. One of my favorite books as a child was a book of quotations that I found on my gram’s bookshelf. I would spend hours reading through it, finding ones that meant something to me, and I would write them on little index cards and tape them up all over my room.

Words made sense in a world where nothing else did. 

This love of words is one of the main reasons that I love Tom Petty’s music so much. His words mean something. They reach the core of my soul, and wrap me in warmth. As the year anniversary of his death is fast approaching, I find myself drawn to looking for more words.

My words have been sparse. For reasons unknown to me. Depression maybe. Grief possibly. Whatever the reason, my words have been harder and harder to set free. This has made it next to impossible to write my weekly blog posts. I watch the days slip by, and the number of posts that I am behind continue to  grow.

I do things all or nothing. If I don’t think I can do a job up to my standards, I just don’t do it. Typically, I am able to force myself into it, and usually I produce results I am mildly  satisfied with. As this challenge taunted me, I found a way around it.

As I was drawn into searching for quotes, I decided to share them here. I will write what comes from the inspiration of the words, and hope to pass along some of the joy they bring.

To start, let’s begin with:

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”— Theodore Roosevelt

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Depression, Grief and Loss, healing, Hope, Love, mental illness, Uncategorized

The Gift of Belonging

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Continued from: Trauma Camp

Waking up the first day at Onsite brought excitement and anxiety. I was still unsure what to expect, and still uncomfortable about sharing in front of such a large group. I made my way out of the cabin and to the mansion for breakfast, where I tried to find some familiar faces to sit with. We made small talk and walked over to the Carriage House for the morning meditation.

Meditation is something I have always struggled with, and I felt myself squirm in my seat as others found their seat. As I thought to myself, I don’t know how to meditate… The voice from the group leader announced, “It’s okay if you don’t know how to meditate, or if you can’t stop your thoughts, just do your best, and notice where your thoughts take you, and then focus on your breath.”

Relief washed over me as the expectations were lowered. I sat quietly for the fifteen minute meditation, bringing myself back to my breath after thoughts of my inadequacies and what was ahead of us circled in my head. When I opened my eyes, I noticed that I did feel more relaxed.

Three group leaders joined the front of the room. They were breaking us into smaller groups. More fear left with this discovery. Each group leader read off a list of eight names. The kind woman from the night before read my name off her list, with seven other women. We were the only group of all women. More apprehension left.

We made our ways to our group rooms. img_7483Where we found eight pillow chairs lining the room, as soft music played. One by one we found our way to a seat and grabbed a blanket to keep warm.

I looked around the room. Beautiful women filled the spaces. I felt out of place. What if I don’t fit in? What if I’m not like them? What if they don’t like me? What if my trauma isn’t that bad? I couldn’t stop the thoughts and tried to stay to myself, so no one would find out that I didn’t belong there.

When everyone was accounted for, we were asked to stand next to the emotion that best decried what we were feeling as we began the week. I found my way to scared, and backed myself as close to it as I could.

Scared. Anxious. Worried. Unsure. All these feelings swirled inside of me.

As I looked around the room, I noticed there was a mix of emotions from the others. We were all feeling something. We all seemed unsure of what to expect. As we took turns speaking about our feelings, I noticed that I wasn’t the only one struggling. My feelings of not belonging lessened as the day went on.

The more the other women talked, the more I felt connected. What happened in Group Room 3 is only for the members to know. Our words, our feelings, our tears, our growth are sacred. For our eyes, ears, and hearts only. What I will share is how the process helped me. To be honest, a month later, I am still processing what took place in Group Room 3, and at OnSite .

The first thing I noticed while at OnSite, was the feeling of belonging. This is a very rare, if not unknown feeling for me. I have walked through my whole life searching for belonging, to be understood, to be loved, to be heard. All of these things happened at OnSite. I was never turned away when I approached a table full of others. I was included, and not expected to talk or share if I did not wish to. No one made fun of me when I didn’t have anything to say. No one picked apart my lack of self confidence. But people loved. Strangers became family, old wounds were allowed to see the light of day, and healing from the soul up began to take place.

I did not notice it happening all at once. I even felt that nothing was happening. I felt like I was wasting my time as I retold my story of past trauma. I had told it, written about it, even went on Dr. Phil to talk about parts of it. What more could happen from sharing the same old stuff again? I volunteered to share my story first after I drew my timeline of traumatic events. A page for every decade.

Without making any eye contact I looked at my drawings on the wall and told my story, in a matter of fact kind of way. As I was telling my story in the thirty minutes provided, I started to think that my story isn’t that bad. I felt like I was wasting the rest of the groups’ time. I skipped over some major events, and added some things that I had not shared with anyone before. Things came to the surface, that I had buried so deep, even I had not remembered them before. Even still, some of these memories were not shared, for the shame they evoke inside of me.

My voice broke as I neared the end of my story. Silence filled the room before I could go on with the part where Gram, Uncle Doug, and John left me. All at once, stolen from this world, to leave me dangling in the darkness. The feelings from that time came back as I remembered how distant I had become through the grief. Guilt poured in as I finished, remembering all the ways I had let others down, how my life had been wasted, while others did not even have a life left to waste.

I sat back down on my pillow seat, covered back up with the blanket and looked down at my knees. A quick glance around the room let me see the tears from others while they listened to my story. I picked three women to write parts of my story as I told it, so they could read back to me the facts, the feelings, and the beliefs. As the women read back what I had said, I heard my story differently. I finally, for the first time, heard that my story was that bad. I had been through a lot, overcame a lot, and survived. I survived so many things that I shouldn’t have. The trauma did not swallow me whole. I was not only surviving, but I was thriving.

As I listened to the other stories in the room, I understood on a whole new level the saying “Everyone has a story.” I understood how much alike we all are, no matter how different we seem. I saw how much trauma can change people. I saw how strong we are, and how little we give ourselves credit for. I saw myself as whole. As complete. As messy, and beautiful. As strong, and vulnerable. As trusting, and open. All of my broken pieces were molded back together, shaping me into a perfectly, imperfect woman.

The day after telling my story my body began to detox. I had heard this was possible, but did not expect it. I still felt as though I was doing work that I had already completed. Learning new things along the way, but getting a refresher course. I woke up unable to catch my breath. I could not breathe deep enough to feel as though I was getting enough oxygen. Even in meditation I was unable to breathe. I felt nauseous and lightheaded. I went to the bathroom every chance I could and eliminated black stool (TMI, I’m sorry!). I even threw up. It was quite noticeable that I was struggling, and the group leader took a few moments with me to explain what was happening. “Your body is detoxing all that old trauma.”

I was trying to remember to trust the process, but I was still holding on to a bit of skepticism. I tried to breathe deeply with her, but still could not catch my breath. Even, as I tried to fall asleep that night I struggled with my breathing. I wanted to go home, and give up. This was scary, and I need my normal back. This was only day three.

When I woke up the next morning, I was able to breathe  normally again. I felt fine, and bathroom business returned to normal. There was no way that I could be a skeptic now. Things were happening inside of me. Deep down. Trauma that I had worked on in the past was now being released. I was finally giving permission to let it go. Not just with words, but with action. I knew now what trust the process meant.

As the days progressed, I saw myself differently. I saw that each person who was there knew what it felt like to be different, feel broken, unloveable, and unworthy. I belonged. And not just at OnSite, but in the world. If every person there knew what it felt like, it was not too far fetched to believe that everyone else did too. It is true, everyone has a story, and it is also true that everyone has experienced trauma. If you are living, you have suffered. The people who pretend that their life is perfect are actually hurting under their fake smile. The successful person you envy, struggles with self love too. We are all fighting a battle to some scale. There is no perfect.

This discovery energized me. It filled me with hope, and a new sense of wonder. A new mission to help others see what I have learned. A new goal of self love and acceptance. I gave myself permission to be human, to own my faults, and honor my strengths. I am able to see how far I have come, while keeping my eyes open for the road ahead. Everyday brings new struggles and new gifts. It is a constant choice whether or not I beat myself up over the mistakes, or cherish the lessons. I choose to tell the negative thoughts to STFU (another lesson I learned at Trauma Camp).

OnSite introduced me to my true self. The experience gave me hope, that anything is overcome-able. It showed me that I am strong. We all are. We are all worthy of love, especially our own. The mirror before me continues to be cleaned off, and I can see who I really am. The detox is still happening as the years of anxiety, pain, and trauma escape my cells, and I remain open to trust the process.

I am worthy. I am loved. I am enough.

#Onsiteworkshops

Depression, Grief and Loss, healing, Hope, mental illness, Uncategorized

Survivor’s Guilt

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Seven years and ten days after my gram died, her daughter followed.

She left behind the Earthly prison of her body and mind to travel to joy and belonging. Within minutes of exiting her body, she was basking in the beauty of the sunshine–this was something that she had not been able to do for many years.

For years before her death, her wish was to sit out in the sun and feel it beat down on her skin. She rarely left the house due to her mobility, and as each day passed her by, she wished for better days.

Depression and guilt haunted her, and stole many pieces of her. She was barely able to exist some days. She had many dreams, many wishes, and the heart of a child.

One of her wishes, the one that I remember the longest, was to be a published author. She passed her love of writing to me; it was the one thing that we shared. Maybe my dream of being an author came from her–it was also the one thing I always hoped for.

When my book became a reality, I had a hard time feeling the joy it should have brought. I was sad. Sad that I was able to fulfill a dream we both had shared. Sad that I was able to find strength within myself to fight the depression and the blocks. Guilty that I lived to tell the story.

When I think back to the life my mom lived, a sadness comes over me. Her life was much like mine. We shared many of the same kinds of abuse, but we were never close enough to talk about it. There was a distance between us. I was unable to reach her in the places that I longed for.

I tried my best to save her, but I couldn’t. No one could. So I had to save myself. Through my healing, I think of my mom often. I struggle with knowing she was unable to find her own strength. Guilt overwhelms me when I think about all of her suffering. Shame shadows me as I think about the secrets I exposed.

I struggle with the reality of what was. I wish things could have been different. I long for her love, for her to see who I was. I dream of having a childhood, where I could have been a child. And then I feel guilty all over again. My insides cringe when I think back to how much my mom suffered.

But I suffered too.

Then, the cycle circles back to thoughts of why was I able to have a different outcome? Why was I able to travel on my healing journey when she wasn’t. These thoughts alone can take me to a place I don’t want to be. They interfere with my healing. I didn’t know what this was called, until I talked with my counselor. Survivor’s Guilt.

I felt guilty because I could crawl out of the trenches. I felt guilty because I could fight the demons. I felt guilty that I succeeded. I felt guilty that I am alive, living and thriving when she never did.

Giving these feelings a name helped ease some of the guilt. Understanding what I was feeling made me see that it was normal. It did not mean I was throwing away my healing, but that my heart held love for my mother.

I wish my mom’s life had of been different. I wish our life together could have been different. The past cannot be changed, but it can be learned from. I consider the lessons a gift.

Enjoy your freedom Mom. Until we meet again. Spring 2016 855

Grief and Loss, healing, Tom Petty, Uncategorized

2017: The Year My Dreams Came Alive

5954D43C-D01F-4EE8-95F3-A9634268D394A couple of weeks before 2017 came to an end, I started to reflect on the last few months. They happened so fast, and were filled with so much joy, and heartbreak. As I thought back to what had happened, I could feel the energy swirl through my body. For the first time that I can remember, I felt clear of negativity. It was such an unknown feeling, I almost did not recognize it. I just knew that I felt lighter—and free.

Freedom is something that I have been chasing my whole life. Freedom from the abusers I encountered throughout my life, freedom from my own negative self-talk. Freedom from the darkness. Sure, the light had always been there, but the weight of it always lurked near by. Depression is like that. Waiting to pounce when life seems to be going too well.

The months from 2017 replayed in my head as I allowed this new feeling to linger. January tested me in a job that went against everything I believed in, and it was Tom Petty that helped me see what I needed to do in February. “Can’t sell your soul for piece of mind.” Tom was right, he is always right. I walked into my job without a plan and quit. The money was good, but it demanded I went against my own ethical code and left me angry. I did not want to waste another day being unhappy.

Quitting a job with no backup plan was not something I had ever done before. There was no time to have a plan in place, I just had to jump and pray that I landed. A week of feeling sorry for myself and letting anger fester inside of me, I picked up my manuscript that I had received from my editor, Alice Peck, in September 2016. I dusted it off and began to go through it. There was a lot of work to do, and the thought of it was overwhelming, but I brushed away the fear and developed a plan.

February, March and April were spent reading, writing and rewriting some of the most painful parts of my story. Depression came crawling back as I sat alone in the living room remembering things I had spent a lifetime trying to forget. Each section of my story I became the age I was writing. I dropped myself back in time and relived each painful memory. Tears fell from my eyes as I typed. It was exhausting, but I was not going to let the pain keep me from my dreams of being a published author.

It had also been almost a year since I had the attunement for Reiki II, and I felt that I was ready for the Master training. I reached out to SaliCrow and asked if she was able to offer the training. She had a Reiki II class coming up at the end of the month, so it was perfect timing. I spent some time studying and making sure I was ready.

April came with the anniversaries of my gram’s and my mom’s death. Year eight for Gram and the first anniversary for Mom. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ 40th Anniversary tour began on April 20th—the year anniversary of my mom’s death. I sat in my car listening to Tom Petty Radio talk about the beginning of the tour, and read comments from friends on Tom Petty Nation talk about the meet ups and the shows they were going to. Most of the friends that I had made in Tom Petty Nation were going to the show in Nashville, TN. I remembered how badly I had wanted to go the year before for the Mudcrutch tour so I could meet them.

A thought popped into my head, as though it was a message from my mom. You have to go. There was no way that could happen. The show in Nashville was five days away. I’d need a plane ticket, a hotel, transportation once I arrived, a ticket to the show, a place for the kids…these thoughts tried to talk me out of going. There was no way it would work, but the voice telling me I had to go was louder than the others.

When I got home I told George about it. A familiar phrase came from his lips, “You have to go.”

But how? How could I pull it off? It was now just four days before the show. I went onto an airline site—tickets were available. I stated looking for a place to stay…but I didn’t even have a ticket to the show. I searched for a ticket…the only ones available required me to buy two. Maybe this wasn’t going to work out after all. Discouraged, I went back on Tom Petty Nation and asked if anyone had one ticket they were looking to sell, and let the others know I was thinking about going. More people told me what George had said, “You have to go!”

Messages began coming in. An offer of a place to stay and a single floor ticket gave me hope. Maybe this could happen. I went back to the airline site…tickets still available. I let George know it really could happen. When I couldn’t get him to talk me out of it, I purchased the plane ticket and made plans to buy the concert ticket at the meet up and confirmed that I would have a place to stay.

With three days to spare, there really was no time to be nervous. When I drove myself to the airport I was only hours away from meeting a bunch of people I had been friends with for years online who love Tom as much as I have. Only my second time flying I was a little afraid of what might happen, but I had to do this. It might have been the reminder that life is short, or something else leading me there, but everything lined up just right to make it happen.

When I arrived at the arena I learned the floor ticket I had bought from another TPN member was seventh row…center. The show was magical, and like always, it felt like Tom was the only one in the room. With less than twenty-four hours in Nashville, there was not too much time to explore, but I was able to meet a bunch of amazing people who understood my love for Tom and my connection to the music.

After the show I went back to work on my manuscript and prepare for my Reiki Master training. On April 30th, I became a Reiki Master. Still unsure of myself, I felt something pushing me along. I was moving forward, and maybe not on my own. I felt that I was on the right path.

After completing the Reiki Master training I had more time to think between writing. While I was thinking, something told me to look for front row seats for one of the upcoming Philadelphia shows George and I were going to. I found a pair right away, but the price almost stopped me. I logged out of the site and went back to writing. It was a crazy idea. The mouse clicked on the ticket site again and I added them to my cart. I watched the time tick away before they were thrown back to be sold. I closed the screen again and went back to writing.

What if this is my only chance to ever meet Tom? What if I never get the chance to see him front row again? I’d spend the rest of my life regretting not doing it. I went back to the ticket site and added the tickets to my cart again and made the purchase. They were going to be a surprise birthday gift for George, but when he got home I could not keep the smile off my face. I needed to tell him the exciting news, but I wanted to surprise him. When I couldn’t stop smiling, I spilled the beans. “Guess what I did today.”

“What did you do?”

“It’s an early birthday gift to you and me…we are going to see Tom front row!”

He was as excited as I was, but the only problem was it was a two month wait. How could I wait that long? The excitement filled my every thought, but left just enough room to continue on with my rewrite. Tom’s music filled the quietness of the room as I wrote. His voice kept me grounded as I relived abuse and betrayal.

By June my rewrite was complete and it was sent off to a new editor. Now that the manuscript was out of my hands I had plenty of time to think about the upcoming shows. As I waited for the tickets to arrive I became increasingly anxious…what if they were not real? What if someone just took my money and I won’t even get the front row tickets? I held back the excitement enough to not be severely disappointed if it did not turn out as I hoped. No tickets in hand until two hours before the show. The excitement did not return until we were sitting in our seat. This was real. Tom Petty was going to be feet from me. An impossibility was becoming reality.

As Tom and the band walked on stage I felt warmth radiate throughout my body. A smile so big that my cheeks hurt. I couldn’t jump and shout…I was too much in awe of who was in front of me, and who was beside me. Tom made eye contact with me a few times, maybe my smile got his attention. I knew he could feel my gratitude. I sang along with him and continued to smile. At song number seven he walked over to where we were standing and finished playing “Free Fallin’” right in front of us. At the end of the song, he looked right at me and tossed his pick to me. George was taking pictures and did not see this happen. I started to cry. Tom saw me, and he knew. He knew that he mattered to me, and that was as good as meeting him.

It was like a dream. I couldn’t even talk about it right away. It was unreal. Stuff like this didn’t happen to me. As we looked through the pictures when we arrived home we saw it. George had captured the pick being tossed to me. A spilt second caught on camera to cherish the moment forever. There was no denying what had happened now. My heart was full.

The month of July was filled with three more concerts. The first night in Boston a TPN member told me Ron Blair was in the hall talking with people. I quickly walked out…and there he was. I went up to him and shook his hand and walked away. What just happened? I found George and told him…he followed me back out to where Ron had been and another TPN member, Brien was there standing next to Ron. George convinced me to ask Ron to take a picture with me and he and Brien took some pictures for me.

The next night we had not planned on going, but after the night before I looked for tickets and found front row tickets marked way down. We were both exhausted, but George told me we had to go. Less than twenty-four hours later and we were back in Boston. Dana Petty came out to dance while Peter Wolf played, but it didn’t look like she was able to see. When she came closer I offered for her to stand in front of me so she could enjoy the show. She smiled and thanked me but continued dancing where she was. Then one of her favorite songs came on and she came over next to me and danced. It was so great to see her enjoying the show, and be able to be a real fan without a bunch of people bothering her. At the end of the night she came up to me, thanked me, gave me two picks and hugged me. What was happening?

The next show was back in Philadelphia, this time third row. I was a little sad this was going to be our last show of the tour, but so grateful for what had already happened. I was also a little nervous that this might be my last time seeing Tom live in concert. After all, they had said this was their last big tour. I left that night with a little sadness in my heart. Something deep inside me told me we were driving away from the last show. I tried to brush it off. What a great time we had, and I wanted to keep that euphoria alive.

In August I was offered a job after spending a few weeks looking for a good fit. At the interview everything just felt right. The people were nice, it was a job I had done before and I knew how to do, and best of all, the stress level was nonexistent. Things continued to fall into place.

September came and I had my manuscript back from my editor and it was ready for me to go through one last time. My cover had been designed and everything was almost ready for my book to be published in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. On September 8th, The Monster That Ate My Mommy went live. I panicked as I realized what happened, and had no time to prepare for my story to be live in the world, but felt there was a reason.

Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe’s book, The First Signs of April  had been published on September 5th, and because of the closeness of their publication we were able to have a couple of co-author events. M-E helped push me on the path to healing, and beginning this journey with her was serendipitous. The first event was planned for October 20th, to honor Tom Petty’s Birthday, as well as the anniversary of my protection order.

I spent the next few weeks preparing for the event. I picked three pieces to read, one about child abuse, one about domestic violence, and the last, a happy one, about my first time seeing Tom Petty in concert. The chapter about Tom was the saving grace; the only piece that held any happiness. Until October 2nd. That awful day that the world learned of his death. The pain of this loss was devastating. How could losing someone I didn’t even know hurt so bad? That’s where I was wrong. I knew him, I had known him for years. He was a dependable friend. My only source of constant joy for the past twenty-two years. His words had gotten me through so many tough situations. Healed so many broken hearts. Gave me joy, and hope, and happiness.

I tried to practice the chapter, and as soon as I saw his name on the page I could not see past the tears. I was ready to give up, to quit this dream, but I knew I couldn’t. His songs gave me the strength I needed and pushed me forward, just as they always had. Tom was gone, but he left such a beautiful legacy behind, and I wanted to do the same.

Just a week after my book went live, I started the End of Life Doula program at UVM. I completed the online course in November and received my certification. All the pieces I had been missing were coming together. The picture to the puzzle was beginning to become clear. I need to use my skills to help others, to heal others.

The rest of the year found my book seventy-one reviews on Amazon, most all 5-star, and the others 4-star. Readers were saying incredible things about my book; about me. I was getting messages from people who read my story and thanked me for sharing so honestly, and helping them see things differently. That life of darkness I thought I had lived was now a bright light, helping others see the way.

As I went through the year’s accomplishments with George, I told him how grateful I was for all that had happened. I told him how, for the first time ever, I felt at peace, as though I am right where I should be. Calm. Peaceful. Right. All unknown feelings, but the freeness of them felt so in sync. He told me, “The year is not over yet.”

Hours into December 24th George asked me to marry him. Knowing I get to spend the rest of my life with someone who treats me with love and respect, and who builds me up and encourages me to follow my dreams is what I have been searching for my whole life. Until I met him I did not believe such people existed. I thought all the movies lied to us and set us up for disappointment. George showed me love is real, and love is true, and best of all, love is returned. For the first time ever, life is as it should be. The freedom from negativity is overwhelmingly present.

As I think about all that happened in 2017, all that I accomplished, all that I lost, all that I gained there is no room for sadness. No room for sorrow. The sun is shining, even on the darkest of days. There is hope in each day. Maybe there always has been, but my blinders are lifted and I can see. I can feel. Only goodness to come.

Tom was right (he always is), “Something Good Coming.”

Spring 2016 855In Memory Tom Petty and my second father that were lost in 2017. May you Rest In Peace, play a little music, cause a little trouble and feel all the love we send your way. Thank you both for your part in rescuing me.

Grief and Loss

Grief is Cruel

Spring 2016 820.JPGJune 14th was the 24th anniversary of my father’s death. I have not had a father for twice as long as I had one. Every year the anniversary gets easier, but this year it caught me off guard. Grief swallowed me as I remembered that my mom was gone now too. That I am an orphan. A thirty-four year old orphan, but the realization is still hard to grasp. Both of the people responsible for bringing me into this world are gone. My world became so small when I realized this. I am not alone; my brother became an orphan the day my mom died too. As are many others, much younger than we were, but still there is something sobering about being alone in the world.

Yes, I have others in my life. I am not alone in the sense of the meaning of the word, but my creators are gone. I missed my mom more than I had before on June 14th. I felt like a small child lost in a shopping mall, searching for safety. My heart hurt as I thought about all that was stolen from me. For the majority of my life I have been without a father, and now, for the rest of my life I am without both parents.

Realizing how young my dad was; 37 and how young my mom was; 62, I worry about my longevity. Will I die young too? Are my days numbered? So much loss and uncertainties consume my mind now. Grief is unescapable. I tried hard to not think about my loss. I tried to be happy that she has her freedom now. I tried to put my mind other places when the thoughts sneak in, but there is no hiding. Either I deal with it now or I let it consume me for the rest of my life. When I lost my gram my grief consumed me; it killed who I used to be for many years. Seven years to be exact. Ten days after the seventh anniversary I lost my mom. Grief is cruel.

Grief does not care that you already gave it all that you had. Grief does not care that you have a life to live. Grief does not care that you have kids to take care of. Grief does not care that you have a job to do. Grief just does not care. It is as ugly as you allow it to be. Grief does not have a time line. It does not have an expiration date, and it comes knocking even when you don’t feel like visiting.

I have spent most of my life grieving. Twenty-four out of thirty-four years I have had the shadow of grief follow my every move. Happy memories that I could not share with the people I love. Special events that I had an empty space in my heart and empty chairs in the audience. Silent tears escape from my soul as I watch others have the people they love while I am alone. In those moments I forget that others hurt too; that others have lost too. In those moments I think of my pain, of the agony that has taken toll on my life. And in those moments I think about how unfair life is. I get angry and sad and depression sets in. In those moments I give grief full control over my life. In those moments I forget that I have power too.

It is those moments that I have let win over the last few days. I’m getting to be an expert at this grieving thing, and yet it can still swallow me. I am not letting it win this time. I am fighting back like walking against the current. It is hard, but I am aware. I know what it is like this time. I know that I must give in to these moments to grieve fully and completely. I know that grieving is healthy. I also know that grieving is hard. I know I will get through this.

Time.

It just takes time.