Hello Grief

Hello Grief. I see you. I may pretend I don’t but I see you. I see you every damn day. I like to pretend I’m in control but if I’m honest I know you’ve been in control all year. And on most days, I pretty much hate you for it.

I see you ahead of me, leading me. Making sure my day starts with anxious thoughts. Making sure that I don’t sleep because you want me to worry about the future. When you’re ahead of me I see you so clearly. I see what it will be like to grieve someone else. I see your sharp edges. I see future events without my sister by my side. I see you pointing out things ahead just to remind me that I’m without.

I see you next to me. That’s where you are most often. When you’re next to me I feel your firm grip on my arm guiding me. These are the times where I have to ask you for everything and you aren’t very generous with what I want from you.

“What was I walking out of my office to do?” I carefully ask you. “Ehhhhh…” you say, “That task got lost in my dark eyes.”

“But I’m supposed to go to dinner with a friend tonight.” I plead with you. “Nope! You should really think about what your sister’s hand felt like in yours until you’re so sad you can’t socialize.”

“This is it! Today I’m in charge. I’m focusing on myself and taking care of me.” I say with confidence. “Are you sure? You can’t seem to do anything right this year. You let a lot of people down so taking charge doesn’t seem promising.”

This is you beside me. With your tight grip bringing forgetfulness, isolation and self doubt to my life.

The worst though? The worst is when I can’t see you but I know you are lingering behind me. Your breath on my neck gives me the chills as you whisper into my ear…

“You didn’t do enough? You didn’t save her? You didn’t protect her? If you were a better sister she would be alive. If you weren’t so self absorbed she would be alive. If you hadn’t moved out everything would have stayed the same. Did you not tell her how much she was loved? How did you not recognize the depression? Why didn’t you insist on a Sister day? Why did you let her isolate herself? Why did you keep your thoughts to yourself when you knew she was spiraling? What if you start to forget her? How are you going to keep her memory alive? What if you never feel her presence again? Will you always reach for your phone on your way home from work to call her? Will her death always overshadow her life in your mind?”

Hello Grief. You are my constant companion and you are an asshole.

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The Before and The After

Who was the person you used to be?

Life is now divided into the before and the after. When I think about the before I think about my eyes. Sometimes in pictures now, in the after, or when I glance at myself in the mirror I think, “who is that girl with the sad eyes?”. That’s the biggest outward difference. Don’t get me wrong, the sad eyes aren’t always there the way that my days aren’t all bad in the after. But they are there. Mostly when I catch myself in the mirror when no one is around.

I’m not one of those people that lived in the before and thought that death could never touch me or my family or my tribe. I knew what loss looked like and felt like. And I knew what it felt like up close. But death to me was because of old age or illness you could outwardly see. Death was because of car accidents. Death was because of cancer. Death was not because of suicide.

Suicide is such a big ugly word. A word that’s definitely hard to wrap your brain around. A word that has made me question almost every conversation I had with Sara for the year leading up to it happening. It’s made me an anxious and nervous person. It’s made me dwell on decisions I’ve made. It’s made me lose sleep. It’s made me forgetful. It’s made me preoccupied. It’s made every bad day seem 100x worse. It’s made good days feel a little bit sad.

But who was I before? I don’t know. I’m different in the after but still the same. Obviously in the before everything I did wasn’t tinged with loss. So maybe in the before I was happier? But I don’t like using the word happy necessarily because it’s too broad. Maybe in the before I felt more constant joy than I do know.  I think in the after things are magnified more than before. Like my everyday struggles are way more intense. But also my moments of joy are way more beautiful because I can realize that sometimes in life these moments are so rare. In the before I definitely thought my sister and I would grow old together. I thought she would be at my wedding. I thought she would be there when I had a baby. I thought we would write a book together someday. I thought we would change the world.

When was the exact moment my world shifted to the after? I think about the morning that it happened. How sick I was but powering through because I was determined to have the New Years Eve party at our new house. I kept calling Sara and she didn’t answer or text back. Which I thought was weird but didn’t put the red flag up for me yet. I literally thought she was probably shopping and not calling cause she was trying on clothes. How silly that notion seems now because she had already died at that point. I remember when I finally was starting to get a little worried and texted her friend. Her friend immediately called me and said no one could find Sara. Griff and I got in the car to drive to her house. I called our dad. As we were driving I knew deep down that something wasn’t right. Sara and I are half sisters, but I could always feel her. You know that whole thing where you’re thinking of someone and then they call? Or you’re feeling out of sorts and find out someone is sick or having a bad day. That was us. And as Griff was driving I was silently crying because at that moment I knew deep down I would never feel her like that again. I can’t explain how I knew but somehow I knew. I couldn’t conjure up her presence in my head as weird or bizarre as that seems. I knew she had died. It would be a couple more hours before I would find out for sure and how, but but in the car, in that first moment that I couldn’t feel her, that’s when my world shifted to the after.

Thinking about the me that was before is hard because I’m at a point in my grief that I don’t want to dwell on who I was before. I want to remember everything from before with vivid clarity because I want to hold onto Sara’s memory as tight as I can for myself, for my family, for my niece and nephew. But I don’t necessarily want to dwell on who I was in the before because I can’t. That girl from the before, she’s not coming back. She knows too much. So I have to think about the now and the future. This girl may cry a lot and worry about things she can’t control and be super hard on herself but this girl also just got married and is building a beautiful life with her husband. So looking forward is the only choice she has.

Some Self Care

I’m off work today, in my favorite sweats and the fireplace is on. My favorite red snuggly blanket is surrounding me and the dog. I had my coffee this morning with Griff before he left for work. I’m planning a yummy pasta dinner. The Today Show is on. I slept like a rock last night. My favorite grounding and uplifting essential oils are in the air. Life feels good and easy and lovely today.

I could clean house and do laundry and rake leaves and workout. But nope, not today. Doing that stuff is important and it’s important for not getting stuck in depression and despair. But I’ve realized in this year of grief how important self love and self care is too. I knew it was important before but now it’s truly a matter of survival. All the counseling, analyzing and reading about the grief process will never take the place of good self care for me. Yes, I also feel much better when my house is spotless but I also feel good when I cook a delicious meal.

Self care doesn’t have to look for you like it does for me. And honestly it changes for me from season to season or even day to day. Sometimes self care means sleeping in but usually it means early morning coffee either in front of the fireplace or on our deck. Sometimes it means a Saturday afternoon spent out with friends or a night in watching movies with Griff. It always means relaxing on a beach but this December it will mean my first trip to Colorado and a cabin in the mountains. Self care always means making my bed before we leave in the mornings. Self care means letting my husband, my family and my friends remind me of my worth and not basing that worth on things that happen in the business world. Self care means working on making mine and Griff’s dreams come true. Self care means not settling for a mediocre life. Self care means creating a delicious meal and not obsessing over the size of my jeans. Self care means taking time for the things that are truly important and not wasting hours or brain power on things that aren’t.

If you read my blog you may or may not be grieving. And your grief may not be about my sister at all. Maybe you’ve lost someone or something else very important to you. Maybe you aren’t grieving anything. But one day you probably will. So I’m encouraging you today in the midst of your grief or in the midst of your joy to start practicing self care. It may seem weird or uncomfortable or selfish at first but I promise it’s not any of those things. And I promise it will start to make a huge difference in your life. It by no means makes my grief go away but it makes it seem lighter and easier to carry.

What does self care look like for you? Comment or post a pic!

Love well today friends!

A Burnt Bagel

I had a rough morning yesterday. I woke up feeling blah after not sleeping well. Our house was a gigantic mess because of our renovations, which will be awesome when they are done but everything is covered in drywall dust right now and there are tools everywhere. Then I burnt my bagel and suddenly my tears came out like a flood.

I’ve felt my sadness simmering below the surface for a couple weeks. But because of timing or embarrassment or just plain not wanting to put my sadness on someone else’s shoulders I haven’t let myself actually cry in forever. And I especially haven’t let anyone else see me cry in forever. I don’t exactly have a reason for that other than it makes me feel like “too much” and it’s awkward for me to let anyone else take that on for me. I let small tears come at times when I’m alone. Mostly on my commute to work. I keep a “crying napkin” in my car (yeah, ridiculous I know) that’s covered in mascara because I don’t want to come into work looking like a mess. Car rides are hard for me. Cause I’m alone and then start thinking about everything horrible and everything sad and the next thing I know I’m fighting tears. Mostly now to keep myself distracted I listen to audiobooks anytime I’m in the car alone. It helps if the book is suspenseful or captivating. It makes me actually enjoy my alone time somedays, especially on my way to work.

But there is only so much you can repress and hold in until something has to give. And my something was ruining my cinnamon bagel at breakfast. And as my tears were falling yesterday my wonderful and wise husband took me into his arms and reminded me of a few things. And as strange as it may seem they were all things I think Sara would say to me if she could.

As I sobbed about missing out on so many things that Sara and I could be doing with the kids he reminded me I can do those things still with Rocky and Lyla. That I can do them with him and the kids. Or my parents and the kids. Or Chris and the kids. Or whoever and the kids. It won’t be the same and the sting will most likely always be there anytime we’re all having fun together. But I can still do amazing and exciting and memorable things with them. And they will love them and I will love them. And that we all can have fun even while being sad.

As I cried about the intense amount of guilt I feel about not seeing her pain and not being able to save her. He reminded me very logically that she wasn’t showing anyone her pain. That in no way could I predict that this would be the outcome and that if it was physically possible I obviously would have saved her but it wasn’t. He reminded me that I did push and pry when I thought things weren’t ok but that she shut me down and shut me out at times. He reminded me that even though it doesn’t feel like it right now I did the best I could for her in the best way I knew how at the time.

As I apologized for being a hot mess and putting all this on him and crying and not being able to just handle it. He reminded me that I’m not supposed to handle it on my own. That anything good or bad or sad or joyful is his to carry too. And not only just his to carry but my family’s to carry and my friend family’s to carry too. He reminded me that I needed to keep writing and letting other people in. He assured me I’m not “that girl” meaning the girl that’s always a debbie downer hot mess. And that even though I feel like I’m not the same most people around me probably feel like I am the same and that I’m handling my grief really well.

My husband also reminded me that my grief will last my lifetime. That there will be good days and bad ones. That I’ll still cry even years from now thinking about what could have been. But I’ll also be able to laugh and think of fond memories too. That I most likely won’t always dwell on her actual death like I do now. Although that may seem daunting to some, to me it gave me some peace. A lifetime is a long time which means I don’t have to rush through any of these feelings. I can take my time. I can go slow and there is no pressure to feel “ok” by such and such date. He gave me permission to be me and accept that this is my grief journey and no one else’s and reassured me the people that love me will stick by me and love me forever.

After I calmed down, took some deep breaths and felt so grateful to have Griff by my side I got on with my Sunday. I texted my parents to invite them over for chili. We cleaned up the construction zone as best we could. I cuddled with our dog. I lit some smelly good candles. And life went forward with a little less sadness in my heart. And as I went to bed last night I smiled thinking about how Sara would get a kick out of a burnt bagel being a lesson in grief.

Love well today, my friends.

When Your Grief Looks Like Fear

When you think of grieving you most likely picture crying, sadness, loneliness but not necessarily fear. And those feelings are a HUGE part of grief. They the feelings people around you expect. They are the feelings people around you (for the most part) know how to deal with. You’re crying? Here is a Kleenex and a kind and caring word. You’re sad. Let me tell you a happy memory or give you a warm hug. You’re lonely. Let me sit beside you and hold your hand. I expect these feelings in myself. I expect people to react this way to me. I have always expected to see these feelings in other people.

But you know what I never expected? That the majority of time my grief would look like fear. Fear that paralyzes me. Fear that keeps me awake at night. Fear that makes me insecure and anxious. And what am I afraid of? Everything and nothing. I’m afraid someone else close to me is going to suddenly die. I’m afraid my niece and nephew won’t be ok. I’m afraid I’ll always recognize the sad look in my family’s eyes. I’m afraid my grief will always control my days. I’m afraid I’ll forget what Sara’s hand in mine felt like. I’m afraid someone else close to me will die by suicide and I will have missed all the warning signs again. I’m afraid that without my sister by my side my future will always feel a little dim. I’m afraid I won’t do enough to make the world a better place the way Sara did. I’m afraid that I’ll let all these fears hold me back. I’m afraid I won’t be able to turn my grief into something good and kind and meaningful. I’m afraid I’ll always feel guilty. I’m afraid I’ll always feel regret. I’m afraid I won’t ever be a good supportive friend again. I’m afraid I’ll never feel peace again.

I don’t always know how to combat the fear. Mostly I just look straight at it and hope that my logical mind can overpower it. I take deep breaths. I remind myself I’m not alone. I snuggle deeper into Griff. And I try to be patient with myself. I try to do things that bring me joy. I try not to fuel my fear with a downward spiral of anxiety and depression. I try to get good sleep (and depend on hypnosis when I have to). I try to be honest with myself and those closest to me when I’m having a particularly bad day. I owe it to Sara to be honest and brave and patient with myself.

If you are grieving and your grief looks like fear I hope you know you aren’t alone. I hope you realize that you are ok. I hope you understand that grief doesn’t just fit into a box labeled sad, crying, and lonely. Grief sometimes looks a lot like fear. And that is ok. My grief looks a lot like fear too. ❤️

Grief Box

I haven’t written much lately. Or written at all actually. Before I was in the depths of my wedding festivities someone told me to do my best to put Sara and my Grief on a shelf so they could observe the events but not be able to take them over. Because if Sara were alive my wedding festivities wouldn’t be about her, they would be about me. So in her death she absolutely wouldn’t want my wedding festivities to be about her and my grief. That turned out to be the best advice ever and it’s exactly what I did. There were times during the wedding fun that I would glance at the shelf and clearly see Sara enjoying and smiling about what was happening. And I’m not saying there weren’t many times I reached up to that shelf to pull my Grief down but every time with much self control and patience I would remind myself to be fully present in the moments directly in front of me.

And it worked. My wedding day was the best day of my life. It was beautiful and filled with so much love. I’ve never in any moment been happier. It was solely about Griff and I and it was good. It was beautiful. I don’t know if I’ll ever think about looking into his eyes and saying our vows and not get choked up.

But… Have you noticed there is always a “but”. Life is life. It ebbs and flows. It’s beautiful and then it’s heartbreaking. The “but” in this story is that you can’t leave your grief and loss and your sister who has only been gone 258 days on a shelf for too long before that shelf becomes the only thing you can focus on. It was only a couple days after all the wedding festivities were over that the shelf started to shrink leaving no room for Sara and my Grief to sit on there anymore. My neatly wrapped Sara Box and Grief Box were precariously close to falling off and breaking open all over my life. So I attempted to push them up a little farther because even though it’s hard to admit, life was a bit easier and more peaceful if Sara and my Grief were up on that shelf. But that last final shove made them both explode. And that shit went everywhere.

It exploded into my relationships, my work, my free time, my self esteem and it freaked me out. Freaked me out that everything around me was once again suddenly covered in my Grief. It was like I was back to right when it happened again. (Side note: This may be weird but the biggest sign I have when my mind is deep grieving is that I can’t remember anything. Like nothing. It’s bizarre. Like my brain can only take so much so if I’m deep grieving nothing else matters to it.) But with this explosion came anger, annoyance, and overall impatience for anyone who expected anything from me. And if you know me at all in real life you know those things aren’t me. So not only am I literally just standing there walking in slow circles around the Sara Box and Grief Box that exploded all over my life I’m also feeling intensely guilty that I’m not being the best wife, friend, daughter, sister and boss I should be. (At this point I could go on and on about the intense guilt women feel all the freaking time when they aren’t “on their game” but that’s another blog for another day.)

Guess what happened next? If you’ve ever done exactly what I was doing you know what’s going to happen next. Last Sunday I woke up with the worst headache ever. I had huge plans to clean up my closet room because it looked like a tornado hit it and it was making me crazy. I went into the living room, curled up into Griff and started bawling. I cried and cried and cried. He already had plans to go golfing and I made him still go. So after the tears finally stopped I slept. I slept all day long. And when I woke up I was still exhausted so I slept some more. Then I slept a full night that night. I woke up Monday morning feeling 100x better. My Grief didn’t feel as intense. I could more so remember what Sara’s life looked like instead of just focusing on her death. I’m still not really sleeping good at night but I’m sleeping enough to feel like myself. Life doesn’t feel so cloudy. I’m remembering the things I need to.

So what’s the moral of this Grief Story? When you absolutely have to, put your Grief, Pain, Loss, etc on a shelf. But remember to take it back down after awhile. Sort through whichever box it is. Feel what you need to feel. Don’t ignore it. Ignoring it makes it grow. And in my experience it grows into something that’s even harder to handle. Your Grief, your Pain, your Loss. They are all a part of you. They aren’t the only part because you are still Love, Life and Joy but they are a part. So accept them, talk about them, and be patient with them. And most importantly, please take care of yourself.

Love well today Friends.

PS My closet room still hasn’t gotten completely cleaned and guess what? The earth is still spinning.

Today

Today. Today I marry my best friend. I marry the man who has brought love, laughter and peace to my life. As I lay here listening to him snore in Paradise I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. I'm the luckiest because this man chose me. This man with the kindest heart. This man who protects me. This man who makes me belly laugh. This man who knows what I need even before I do. This man who loves to travel. This man who loves to cook. This man who can't wait to start a family. This man who is loyalty, truth and integrity. This man. He chose me. And I will choose him. Every day and in every way. Forever.

Life is hard then it's beautiful.
Life is crazy hectic then it's beautiful.
Life is grief and then it's beautiful.
Life is mundane and then it's beautiful.
So the moral of the story is that life is beautiful.

Love well today friends, I know I'm going to. ❤️

Catching Up

Hello my beloved friends and readers! I haven't written in awhile. It's been a crazy season on busy-ness for the last month of my life. Life is weird and good and protective like that. I've been almost too busy to think of my grief. Too busy to miss Sara constantly. And too tired when my head finally hits the pillow to dwell on her absence. Although it may seem harsh, I consider this a blessing.

My wedding is 10 days away. 10 Days??!!?!! And if I stop and let myself think about her not being by my side that day I can hardly breathe. So instead of thinking about it I've been busy. And that my friends, is a blessing.

I woke up this morning after having a weird dream about Sara. I don't dream about her very often at all so this was weird. In my dream I was pregnant and arriving at the hospital to have my baby. Griff dropped me off at the door so in my dream I'm talking into the waiting room alone. Against a wall there was a bench and Sara was sitting on that bench. I walked over to her half surprised but also not surprised at all to see her. There was a little boy sitting on the bench next to her. As I walked over to them she reached out and touched my belly and said "It's time?" and I said back "It's definitely time.". She stood up and hugged me then I leaned down and hugged the little boy who said "I love you." Then Sara told me "You're going to do great!" At this point in the dream Griff grabbed my elbow to lead me to the check in desk. He said to Sara and the little boy "We'll let you know once she gets here." Sara nodded and put her arm around the little boy. We started to walk away but I went to turn around and that's when I woke up. Weird huh??? I'm sure it means a million different things and then also nothing at all. I'm trying not to think about what it means and just be grateful I got to talk to Sara and see her even if it was only in a weird dream. Analyzing a dream will get me nowhere but upset.

If my grief journey has taught me anything lately it's that I have to live in the present moment. Playing the "what if" game whether it pertains to the past or the future just sends my anxiety into complete overdrive. And that anxiety benefits no one, especially me. So I'm taking the steps forward to work on living here in the moment. I cannot control what happened in the past and I need to let go of those feelings of wishing that I could. It is done. It's hard and sad and gut wrenching but it's done. Being sad about the past is fine being regretful is not fine. So I'm trying my best to live fully within the moments and people that are present at any given moment.

This all goes back to the beginning of my grief journey right after Sara died when I started journaling "What I know for sure…" everyday. It brought me back to the present and helped me focus on the things I did know instead of falling down the "what if" rabbit hole. And it worked but then of course I got away from it. I don't really know why but probably as I moved further away from the epicenter of trauma I felt like I could give up some of the things that brought me to the present. But the more I think about it, I should never give up the things that bring me back to or keep me in the present moment. I'm promising myself today I will start that practice up again tonight. It's important. It helps. It keeps my anxiety in check.

Do you have activities, rituals, or life practices that put you back in the present moment and/or help keep anxiety at bay? What does that look like in your life?

Birthdays 

Birthdays are a big deal in our family and they always have been. Sara’s birthday is this Saturday and I’m feeling so much dread and anxious anticipation for it. It was pretty much her favorite day of the whole year and it’s beyond hard to think about not celebrating her. Like I can’t comprehend her not being here for her party. My heart can’t comprehend not going out to family dinner and spending time picking out the perfect birthday present for her.
Grief is such a weird thing. Most of my grief I feel physically before I even know mentally that I’m struggling. For the past couple weeks I’ve felt panic a lot of the time but didn’t really understand why or what was making me feel so intense. And the other morning as I was driving to work, it clicked. The birthday is in 5 days. The birthday I want to kind of just pretend is any old Saturday. The birthday that seems more sad than the memorial service or any of my wedding stuff or my birthday combined.
I can’t really explain why it seems more sad but it does. Maybe because for my own birthday or any of my wedding stuff I can push Sara to the back of my mind and let myself focus on me. But Sara’s birthday is a day only about Sara. And how do I do her birthday party justice when she’s not here?
I’m a worrier and her birthday is bringing me so much worry. Worry about how everyone in our family but especially my niece and nephew will be feeling Saturday. Worry that the party won’t play out the way Sara would want it. Worry that we’ve left someone out. Worry that I’ll be a mess of tears all weekend while working. Worry that I’ll say or do the wrong thing. Worry that I’m not strong enough to get through this.
Everyone in my family will be out of town this weekend on their own separate adventures and I’m desperately wishing that out of town could have been an option for me. I could use the distraction but that’s not in the cards this weekend. So I have to face Sara’s birthday head on. I have to find some way to honor her that feels right and good and safe for me.
I was listening to a book on my way to work this morning. The author lost her husband, her dad and had a miscarriage all within like 6 weeks of each other. So her book is about a lot of love but also a lot of loss. I only made it through the first couple chapters but she made me feel a little less crazy. Although she’s grieving different people and relationships than I am her grief feels so much like my own. She’s so honest and blunt about it too. She basically is saying all the things aloud that I say in my head. The last part I heard while I was pulling into work was about another funeral she attended just a couple months after losing her husband, father and unborn baby. At that funeral for an old classmate, this man’s cousin asked to hear stories. Stories that the cousin didn’t know. Stories that would remind him more of his family member’s life than death. Stories so he could have parts of this person he didn’t even know existed. It was a beautiful moment for the author and turned into a beautiful moment for me.
It reminded me that the best way to honor Sara for myself, for my family and for her friends is to tell stories. To try for a couple days to stop overanalyzing the way she died and to remember and talk about and share the way that she lived.
A year ago today Sara and I went on one of our Sister Dates. I love all time spent with our whole big family but I really loved our Sister Dates the best. We got each other’s undivided attention for a couple hours and that was special and important (although I didn’t think as much about how important until now). We met at a one of my favorite Happy Hour places, Modesto (that’s not longer in business). We of course showed up in matching sunglasses and immediately laughed about how in sync we always are. We shared a pitcher of Sangria and some appetizers. I don’t remember exactly what we talked about but I don’t think that really matters. What matters is that it felt like one of the best nights with my sister ever. We laughed a lot and probably shed a few tears. We shared life together like we always did. It’s what we were always good at, being there for each other. I love the picture we took that night. I have it hanging up in my house. I love it cause our matching sunglasses but I also love it cause we look happy and I can still close my eyes and feel my sister’s hand in mine as we laughed trying to take the perfect selfie. I can feel her tight hug and kiss on my cheek as we left the restaurant. Sara loved me and loved our sister dates. When things seem hard and confusing I can always fall back on that fact, my sister loved me and she knew I loved her.


Do me a favor in the next couple days my friends, honor those you have loved that are no longer with us by telling someone a story about them. Reach out to a family member or friend and tell them a story they may not know. Give them a little piece of love and life of their loved one to them. It may seem like nothing but I promise you for those of us who receive those stories it’s everything.