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. 

Vulnerable 

I’ve been thinking a lot about being vulnerable lately. This blog is the ultimate picture of that. My pain, my grief, my innermost thoughts about both. It wasn’t Sara’s death that made me that way though. It’s kind of how I’ve always been. And I think it’s always kind of made those around me a little uncomfortable and honestly I used to care a lot about that.

You know those Facebook posts that are all about people over sharing on Facebook. Yeah, those are probably sometimes about me. And it used to make me feel really self conscious. Because it’s in my nature to share, to have an open table, and to make my circle bigger and not smaller. So those posts would make me feel like something was wrong with me. I couldn’t understand and still really can’t why people want to keep their circle small or don’t want to show their true life to everyone. Or more so, why they seem to be annoyed with my sharing.


I used to care a lot about people being annoyed with me. I used to worry a lot about people judging me. But Sara’s suicide has made me less afraid. Which seems a little backwards I guess but let me explain. Being an open book is something Sara and I both shared. It was something I loved about the both of us. But even though I loved that about both of us I sometimes still felt insecure about being vulnerable. I knew my sister wasn’t judging me and always had my back but what if random friends from high school were or what if someone from work saw something that made them think less of me or even worse what if someone in my tribe thought I was too much. And then Sara died. My life imploded and I had exactly two choices. I could either hold all that pain in or I could let it out.

I’ve watched people hold pain in. I’ve watched them let it eat them alive. I’ve watched them let the pain make them bitter and angry and scared to be alive. I’ve watched them create their own self fulfilling prophecy of loneliness and anger and loss and pain. I’ve watched them turn to alcohol or drugs. I’ve watched people turn their pain into eating disorders and isolation.

But I’ve also watched people face their pain head on and share it with others. I’ve watched them become better, kinder and more gentle versions of themselves. I’ve watched people look pain and in the face and realize that because of this pain, joy and love are that much more important. I’ve watched people make new connections and new friendships. I’ve watched people fall in love with their insecurities instead of letting those insecurities hold them back.

When I looked at those two options the choice was obvious. No matter what, I had to choose to let the pain out and not hold it in. So every day I choose to be vulnerable. Sometimes I don’t have to even think about that choice but sometimes I have to make a definite choice to be open because some days it’s hard and scary and exhausting. Some days I can’t find the right feelings or words. But I know how very important sharing and confiding and being vulnerable is so I push through the fear until I get there.

The way I choose to be vulnerable most of the time is through this blog. But sometimes it looks like curling up into Griff and talking about it through tears. Sometimes it’s calling one of the members of my tribe and telling them about a sad moment. Sometimes it’s acknowledging to my niece and nephew that I miss mommy so much too. Sometimes it’s going to counseling. Sometimes it’s looking at my employees or my boss and saying honestly that today is a sad and hard day. But the way I choose to let out my pain is what works best for me. And you have to find what works best for you. I’m not urging you to go write a blog unless that is what would be able to bring your pain into the light, but I am encouraging you to find a way not to hide it or push it down inside you.

I don’t pretend to know exactly what Sara was thinking when she chose to die by suicide. I can make an educated guess of some of the events that lead up to that day but unfortunately I can’t go back in time and ask her or beg her to be vulnerable with me one last time. I definitely will never believe that she was in her right mind or that she was thinking logically in that moment at all. But what truly haunts me is that at some point she stopped being vulnerable with me. She started to hide her pain. She was sharing some but only certain pieces of the whole puzzle and it definitely wasn’t enough in the moment for me to see or understand the whole picture. And the fact that I didn’t ask or push her more is something I will always regret.

I truly think that regret is what makes me choose to share even if it seems scary or hard at times. My fear lies now in the not sharing. People can judge all they want if they want. People can roll their eyes at my over sharing. But I share and I am vulnerable because my life depends on it. My hope in the future depends on it. My belief in healing and moving forward depends on it. My love for life depends on it. My sanity depends on it. My love for the people that loved Sara depends on it. My connection to my sister depends on it. My love for myself depends on it.

So I urge you to please tell your story. Your whole story. Not just the beautiful parts but the ugly ones too. And don’t be afraid. There is freedom in vulnerability. I’m confident in that. 

Hold My Hand 

My bridal shower is Sunday. It’s weird that it’s already here. I’m excited but also anxious. It’s the first big wedding event Sara won’t be at. I felt my anxiety building as soon as I woke up this morning, kind of like a dull roar in my ears. And then I was talking to a random person at work today that happened to mention their wedding is in two weeks and my heart started beating out of my chest. Luckily I could brush it off to them as wedding stress when they saw the look of panic cross my face. But it’s not wedding stress. There isn’t a bone in my body that is stressed about how anything will go with the wedding. But every bone in my body is worried that I won’t get through any of it without my grief taking over.

How do you get through one of the most happy events of your life when it doesn’t look like you always envisioned it looking? It’s like a weird reality. You know those dreams you have where you’re in your house and your life but something just feels off and then you wake up and all day you carry that feeling with you. That’s what my grief feels like most of the time. Life is the same and the people around me keep doing what they always do but something just feels off. Most days I can shove it down really deep and do what I have to do. And it stays there down deep until I’m by myself or alone with Griff. But today is a little different because my grief combined with my anxiety is no match for me and that means it comes out in anger. Bitter ugly anger. Anger that I don’t want to deal with let alone subject anyone around me to it.
I was told recently that I have to do the best I can to make all my wedding stuff about me and not about Sara. And especially not about her being gone. Because if she was here of course she would be a major part of my wedding but she wouldn’t be the main attraction. Griff and I are the main attraction and I need to remember that. And I’m trying. I’m focusing on him and I. I’m focusing on what the ocean breeze will feel like while I hold his hand and say “I Do”. And I know it will be beautiful and the best day of my life cause Griff will be there holding my hand. It’s the events and moments that Sara would have planned that seem to paralyze me. And in my paralyzing grief I’m mad as hell at her for not being here for some of the best parts of my life. I feel like 2017 should been a year full of love and joy and fun but it’s full of so much pain and loss too. If only those people contemplating suicide could see the ginormous ripple effect they leave behind. 


Even in my pain though I still believe completely that everything happens for a lesson or a reason. And that even after something as horrible as a suicide that things will shift and move forward as though propelling you to goodness. So as tough and full of loss as the wedding events sometimes seem, I still have to believe in the good and joy and love it will bring into my life. Because I can’t believe that Sara would want anything less than love for me through life but especially through all this. She loved me and she loved Griff and she loved us together. And I truly feel that even if she’s not physically here she’s watching me and loving every moment of the festivities. So how do I get there? I hold Griff’s hand and I look for the light in everything around me. And I trust that my 2017 still will be full of love and joy and fun. 

My Prayer

It’s weird that it’s almost been 5 months. It seems like yesterday but also like years ago all at the same time. Obviously I miss the big things but it’s the little things that seem to matter so much lately. Maybe it’s because the little things are what made me feel so connected to my sister.

The way when we sat next to each other we always sat real close. Her hand grabbing mine when something exciting or emotional was happening. Chatting with her as I drove home from work. Always having each others backs. Thinking of her and then immediately hearing from her. Getting ready together before going out. Having slumber parties with the kids. Our sister dates. Her laugh. Her hugs. Seeing how her house was decorated for every holiday and season. Her insight. Her wisdom. The way she always pushed me to be better.

Small and insignificant things that feel like the biggest moments of your existence once they are gone. Sara’s presence in my life was goodness and love and electricity. (Even when we would argue it was out of goodness and love.) And although I am lucky that I can get a lot of these things from the people that remain around me, sometimes I want the electricity and love and goodness that only my sister could provide.

Right after Sara died I felt her all the time. That may seem weird to some of you but to me the presence of her has always been real no matter if I could see her or not. And for weeks after she was gone it felt like the air around me was charged with her. Like if I just concentrated hard enough she would be here. Obviously you can’t wish someone back to life and I know that but there were moments that it felt like I could and that was comforting. And then as the weeks and months went by I quit feeling her as much. The air around me wasn’t as charged and then wasn’t charged at all. And I didn’t feel connected to my sister anymore. I didn’t feel her pull or electricity. And it was lonely. I felt her loss in everything I did.

And then I got sick. And you know how everything feels so much worse when you’re sick? Well it felt a ton worse. Especially cause the last time I was super sick we had out of town guests and that same weekend Sara died. It was literally deja vu and I felt it. My anxiety was through the roof and it definitely felt like I was re-living the events of New Year’s weekend all over again. But I made it through with no loss. I also stumbled on a book that has changed my grief path.

In the book “We Don’t Die” they talk about praying for the person that has died. I don’t know why I haven’t done that. But I’ve honestly never thought to do it. It seemed a little weird to me but I thought it couldn’t hurt to try. So I took my sister heart stone (that was sent to me by a dear friend and is now one of my most prized possessions), held it in my hands and prayed for Sara. And I cried bitter ugly tears that felt like they would never stop. I cried till I couldn’t breathe. I cried till snot ran out of my nose. I cried and I cried and I cried. I prayed that her heart was at peace now. I prayed that she was safe. I told her how mad I was and that my heart wasn’t ready to forgive her yet but that I’m working on it. I prayed that she would let me know she’s around. Then I took a deep breath and dried my tears and moved forward.

And that night Sara was in my dreams all night. We didn’t talk or interact but she was there. And since then I’ve felt her again. I’ve felt her love and her goodness and her electricity. And everyday I have taken a small moment, put my heart sister stone in my hand and prayed for her. You can call me crazy or say that my mind is playing tricks on me and even if that’s true I’m ok with it. Because feeling like Sara is near makes my days a little easier and my heart feel a bit lighter. So I’ll keep praying and sending the light and love inside me to her because I’ll do whatever I can as long as I can to feel close to my sister. 
Be goodness and love and electricity today friends, this is your one chance at life.

Matty 

Birthdays after a death are a tricky thing. Birthdays for the people who loved the person who is gone and then also that person’s birthday. It’s a tough balance in wanting to make the birthday a beautiful occasion of remembrance and also wanting to just hide in bed all day. As time goes on those days get a little easier because everything seems to get easier with time, but then a birthday comes years later and suddenly you’re swept up into a wave of grief.
Sara wasn’t the first big loss of my life. And she wasn’t the first traumatic loss of my life either.


7 1/2 years ago on December 20th one of my best friends and long term boyfriend was killed in a car accident. Matthew Paul Kleemann made my 20’s the great adventure that they were. We met at a party when I was 19. He was in a band, thought I was beautiful and was so funny. We started dating soon after that. And at 19 had many ups and downs. Ups and downs that continued over the years but through it all we maintained a friendship and love for each other that ran deeper than being boyfriend and girlfriend. And now when I think about him at 34, our romantic relationship isn’t what stands out to me. What stands out about him is the person that he was to me and to so many other people. Matty loved life. Honestly when I think back I’m pretty sure he loved life more than most people I know. He was Mr. Rockstar (he played in multiple bands at a time), always a social butterfly (everyone who knew he said he was one of their closest friends), and he gave the best hugs. He loved to keep everyone thinking the Rockstar Party Guy was his favorite person to be but the Matty I knew loved being with his family more than being in front of a screaming crowd of fans. I was lucky enough to be included in a lot of those family events and they are some of the best memories of my life. From bonfires, to bowling, to swimming and bbq’s there was never a lack of laughter. I had 8 years of memories with Matthew so today when I was thinking about his birthday and all the adventures we went on there isn’t one particular moment that sticks out. I loved our time with friends whether it be in our very early 20’s with “The Clique” or in Ritter’s basement with the whole gang or later with “The Franklins” or even at one of the great parties we would throw. But what does stand out to me the most is being in the car. That may seem dumb but some of our best conversations happened on road trips or even just driving to dinner. But also in the car we would sing. And even though I sucked and Matty was amazing we would sing together. We would roll the windows down, turn the music up and belt it out. And whatever was happening between us, no matter if we were “in love” at the time or our relationship was full of drama, Matty was always my very best friend when we were having our own private concert in the car.


So today, on what would have been Matthew Paul Kleemann’s 35th birthday, I’m going to honor him by singing at the top of my lungs on my way home from work. I may even crack open a beer on a Monday night and cheers it to heaven from my deck. 

Love well today friends knowing there is a rocking birthday party happening in Heaven. ❤️

What Brings You Joy

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the sound of Sara’s laugh. If you knew her you know exactly what I’m talking about. It was infectious. I can imagine that no matter if you were  family, a friend or even a client you, just like me, couldn’t stay upset if Sara was around and Sara was laughing. I always felt like even the smallest moments were full of joy when my big sister was around. I literally can close my eyes and feel her hand in mine and hear her laughter overcome the both of us until we were in a fit of giggles and tears.


I keep trying to pin point the moment when she lost her joy. And don’t misunderstand me, I think she still had joy at times even when things turned dark for her. My niece and nephew always brought her joy. Being with family brought her joy. Her girl’s brought her joy. Her clients brought her joy. But I think being alone and by herself brought her no joy. I think those closest to her knew she struggled and she struggled especially when she was by herself with none of her tribe around to distract her from the dark places in her mind. But here’s the thing about being alone, only you know exactly where your mind can go in those times. Only you know the extent of how lonely you can feel. And only you know the darkness that can take over in those times. And if you don’t share that with anyone no one can truly know what a dark place you are in. I truly believe that if we were all being honest we would admit that at times in our lives when we were utterly and completely alone that we felt the darkness. A lot of us can chase it away in a moment. A lot of us rely on counseling. A lot of us take the medication we need. But some of us just can’t escape the darkness. It breaks my heart. It makes me angry. It also makes me want to push through my moments of darkness with intense determination.

Since Sara decided to take her own life I can see for the first time in my life how if you let it and if you give into it, life and grief and sadness and being alone can take you straight to the darkness. And once you are there (in my non-professional opinion) I can see how it’s hard to crawl out on your own. I’ve seen other people walk through the grief process or just a tough life and I’ve watched them let the anger and bitterness overtake them. So I’m a firm believer in counseling and medicine and being vulnerable with those people who love you. (If you need help, get it. If you need help figuring out how to get help, I will help you.)

But lately, along with counseling and medication if you need it, I’ve also become a huge believer in finding your joy. And your joy can’t just be in people or things because unfortunately people leave or die or move on and things break or go out of style or become obsolete. So the joy I’m talking about has to come from moments when you’re alone or adventures you can go on or hobbies and/or causes that matter to you. Obviously a lot of your joy does come from your tribe but just make sure you can find joy inside yourself too.

I’ve started making the above “Joy List” in my year of more. And I’m going to encourage you to do the same. So much of what I’ve found myself doing in 2017 is complaining or seeing the negative so in hopes of turning that around I’m going to post and talk about more of my joy. I’ve realized in looking for the light that I can see and feel my joy more.

My joy lately comes from having the windows open and feeling the Spring breeze. My joy comes from planting all my herbs and watching them grow knowing I’ll be using them to make yummy meals all summer. My joy comes from sitting on our deck reading while Griff grills. My joy comes from writing this blog. My joy comes from early morning coffee. My joy comes from dreaming of all the places Griff and I want to travel one day. My joy comes from being with my niece and nephew. My joy comes from family dinners. My joy comes from laughing with my co-workers. My joy comes from doing life with my best friends. My joy comes from being in our first home and feeling safe and loved here.


So my question to you is, what brings you joy?

Look for the Light 

A couple friends have reached out to me in the last 24 hours to ask me how I am and check in. It was good to be able to say “I’m ok” and mean it. Not that my grief is over, it’s still very much a part of me. But I just mean that lately there have been more good days than bad. I am able see the light in people, in myself and in my life again. There are still some very dark moments but they are brief and I don’t seem to carry those moments with me throughout the whole day. Call it adapting, moving on or healing but whatever you want to call it I’m grateful for it.

When you go through a traumatic situation you have two choices afterwards: you can see the dark or you can look for the light. And I’m not going to lie to any of you, there have been days I don’t feel like looking for the light. Days that the darkness and being alone seem better but logically I know that staying in the darkness for any amount of time will only bring me more darkness. So I choose to look for the light.

I saw the light when Griff and I were on vacation and I was finally able to catch up sleep. We laughed a lot, we talked a lot, and we sat on our little patio and looked at the ocean a lot. That little patio with the ocean view brought me back to life. Something shifted as I sat there with no responsibilities and no worries. I felt myself relax. I felt myself breathe easy for the first time since Sara died. I drank an entire bottle of champagne one morning in my jammies on that little patio in Mexico. It was ridiculous and fun and I found myself loving life again over that long weekend because all the things I love most were on that patio.

I saw the light all of last Thursday being with my brother and the kiddos. Joey and I planned a whole day for them in St Louis. We gave them clues and had them guess where we were going next. It was an adventure and fun. We laughed a lot and talked a lot. And over root beer floats at Fitz’s the conversation turned to Sara. And we talked about her favorite shoes, who was taller between her and I, our trip to Disney and the way her laugh sounded. If any one moment can be beautiful and sad all at the same time that was it. Being with my niece and nephew brings out the light in me because I want them to see the light in me. It also brings out this protective side of me I never knew I had. They aren’t my kids but that day seeing their love, their grief, their laughter and their pain made me realize that I would do absolutely anything to make sure they know they are loved and safe as long as I am able to.

I saw the light being with my friends last weekend. Even if it was just for an afternoon being with them makes my soul feel lighter. Most of us have been friends since childhood and there is something about the people that have watched you grow and loved you through all the good, bad and ugly that makes your heart and mind feel at ease. I can be anything with them. They take my sadness and my grief and they soak it up and make it theirs which makes it easier for me to carry. Sitting around a table with them over a good meal will always be some of the best memories of my life. Our friendship is more than friendship, it’s a sisterhood. It’s part of what has made me the person I am and has sustained me. Because of their friendship I’m better and I know one day we’ll be old ladies still sharing a good meal and laughing, crying and doing life together.

I’ve been writing this blog on and off for the past week. Not because I didn’t have words but because I only had brief moments to write. And today as I was finishing up on my lunch I received an email from someone who knew Sara. In this person’s email they said to me “Sharing your story, you may be saving me, or others from the same mistake in a moment of darkness.” I wept. I wept for my sister and others who I have met through my grief journey that battle the darkness everyday. It was a mix of sad tears but also grateful tears. Grateful that someone can see the light in me. Grateful that my words not only help heal my heart but can help heal someone else’s heart also.

I don’t usually challenge people on this blog to do anything but tonight I am. I’m asking you to look for the light. No matter what place in your life or your grief that you are I need you to focus the next couple days on looking for the light. Train your mind and your heart to focus on that. And then make it a habit. 

Grief Moment #2

I didn’t realize it until yesterday but the absolute best thing someone can say to me right now is “I think about Sara every day. I loved her. I miss her. I promise she will never be forgotten.” 

It’s simple but heartfelt. And it calmed my restless soul to know that. 

Let The Sea Set You Free

Something about the salty air, the sunshine and the sound of the waves always brings me back to me. Which is why I’m so thankful to be spending the next couple days by the sea. It’s cloudy but still beautiful and relaxing. 


The sun breaks through the clouds from time to time and it feels like such a perfect metaphor for my grief. The clouds come in and it’s a little tiny bit chilly but you can still feel the warmth. Then suddenly just when you think you won’t see the sun today it pops out from behind a cloud and it’s bright and powerful and glorious. It’s nature. It’s life. It’s raw. It’s beautiful. 


I imagine though that there are people at this resort who are crabby about the clouds. They don’t want to be on a vacation where it’s cloudy. They just want all sun. But you can’t control weather or your vacation anymore that you can control life or grief or love. And I’ve learned lately that the more you try and control grief and life and love the more it controls you. So what’s the point of a cloudy vacation at the beach? It makes you appreciate the sun and the good. But it also makes you see that the clouds are only temporary and the sun always returns. 

Love well today friends. ❤️