Did you Say Good-bye?

This past week I had the pleasure of attending a six day training ON Mission Bay in San Diego.  Our workshop room overlooked the bay, which made the hours of training more pleasant.  The training was on a mind/ body therapy called Somatic Experiencing.  At one point, I was the client working on a grief theme.  The person asked me if I’d said good-bye to my son.  I’m quite confident she meant in the hospital, at his birth (in the moment I made a choice not to answer because it didn’t settle in me as needing to answer it so I’m making an assumption).  What emerged from my non-answer, was I never will say good-bye completely.  For as long as I live, he’s with me.  There was a moment at his birth where I’d held his lifeless body, kissed him, drank every part of him that was available but I know now that there will never be a landmark good-bye.  And it’s interesting to me because as I said good-bye my deepest fear was that he would be forgotten somehow, or maybe even that he would be lessened.  I know now that neither fears are true for me.  I believe a parent who has lost a child, no matter what the age or stage of development never says good-bye.  My son’s essence still lives within my body and while I have only memories of him inside of me, those memories are no less real than that of a parent who loses a child at a later age.  We both get “triggered” for memories, some of them good and others terribly painful.  Both types usually lead to tears, at least for me.  So whether it be at places where parents were together with their children or in mothers whose babies weren’t born alive encountering pregnant women or meeting children who would be the present age of their lost child, or the millions of other moments that bring the lost one into the present,  they live on in the present, albeit differently.  I don’t mention this to say that one shouldn’t be deeply grieved when death comes too early.  That gut-punching grief is so appropriate and hits me sometimes, even as our seventh year anniversary approaches.

However, I’ve found something that is present along with that gut- punch and that is company and redemption.  There is something deeply comforting to me that I’ve said no permanent good-byes to my son.  In some way, it leaves open the possibility that the tragedy I’ve lived through has hope and ongoing life even if death occurred.  I suppose it even leaves me with a feeling that the connections I’ve made here on Earth, live on, even when I don’t.

Blessed Memorial Day.  May you deeply experience a connection with a loved one who’s died living on in you.

Grief Pauses

I’ve been in a place of ‘no words’ over this past month.  I’d love to report that these last few weeks have revealed miraculous results and cures with my friend, Amy.  There have been none of these.  Though I’m still hopeful that her chemotherapy and radiation is keeping the brain tumor from growing, I live in the place of uncertainty.  I’ll find out if this is a reality sometime after Memorial Day.

Over this past month, what has really struck me is how much grief can bring tremendous clarity.  I’ve found a new intentionality in my daily life, which has lead to more adventures with my kids because I’ve realized the frailty of this current moment.  So we’ve eaten on our balcony often and bird watched (it helps living in Southern Cal where the weather has been beautiful).  We’ve walked to Petsmart to pet the cat adoption kittens, just because — ending the trip with a frozen yogurt treat before walking back home.  We’ve gone to a Renaissance Fair, panned for fool’s gold, and visited the butterfly garden at the Natural History Museum, not all at once.  I’m so grateful not only for the fun during these experiences but also for hand holding, snuggles, and intentional time spent getting to know my children.

During this past month, I’ve come to realize more fully that I never know when any of our abilities may be compromised so we couldn’t have the adventures we have now. Many things in life can interfere, even a bad cold, that make it so I cannot physically do what I had been able to do the day or week before.  This reality became the most clear to me when my dear friend and mentor, Beth Brokaw, who’s lived with cancer to over twenty years (yes!, pray for her too, she’s almost at the end of her treatment options), couldn’t walk without fear that her bones would break.  She’s had metastasized breast cancer in her bones for the last fourteen years and has to be careful what type of physical activities she does.  Walking with her on her journey has dramatically changed my perspective during my workouts because I’m not focusing on what I can’t do no what I could do yesterday; instead, I’ve paused to actually feel my body working out in the moment.  It’s a glorious thing really, to be able to move my body and feel it working.  I think my intentionality and deep gratitude for my body I feel in these moments, leads me to return and do it all again.

As I’ve waded through the “what was” to the new normal with the Jensens and several others who have recently lost or will likely lose a parent to cancer, I’ve granted myself “knowing” times of checking out and numbing.  With the intensity of this month, at times, it has given me too much to feel all at once or for a sustained period of time.  So, I allowed myself to check out with things I don’t usually indulge in like spending time on Facebook, reading other blogs and more blogs and more blogs, watching movies during the week, rereading my favorite 1920’s romance author, Emilie Loring, whose stories always have a happy ending, and going to happy hour with friends where connection is prioritized, not processing.  Most importantly, I didn’t make daily ‘to do lists,” which for me can be an unintentional way of emotional numbing.  (Just to be clear, they have returned, hence getting this blog done :).)  I wish I could report I haven’t used food to comfort, but at times I have.  Luckily, I know thy self and ultimately hate the sugar rush – crash cycle so I had the wherewithal to eat protein with my food of choice, red vines AND I use myfitnesspal app so I can track my calories and at least not caloric-ally overeat.  Now, I’m not saying I’m perfect at any of this but I know myself enough that it does no one, including myself any good to go down a depression spiral so these are my “bumpers” to keep me from free-falling.

I’m deeply thankful to reconnect with my writing voice.  I took it for granted before I lost it this month.