"I feel funny..." Helping Kids Process Grief.

“I feel funny.” This has been the catchall phrase that my oldest daughter uses to describe the way she feels, when she can’t pinpoint exactly how it is that she feels. She only knows that emotionally, she’s doesn’t really feel well. She feels “funny.” At one point, she drew out what feeling funny meant. She drew a picture of three faces, one sad, one mad, and one scared. I asked her what each of the three faces needed. She said one needed a glass of water, one needed a hug, and the other needed a kiss (translation-love). She has fears about me dying, about her dying, and sadness over her dad’s death… She just turned 5 years old, and although it’s been nearly 3 years since her father’s death, at each stage in her life, I have watched her process and integrate what the loss means to her.

 

I’ve learned that the most important and effective thing I can do is be a loving presence, there to listen without imposing my worry or guilt about her feelings (and therein lies the work for me)… I can reassure her that what she is experiencing is natural given the nature of what she has experienced. I let her know that she is not all alone in her fears and sadness, that these are universal experiences, and a part of grieving. And that all kids who have lost a parent in their life, will no doubt have lots of questions and fears about death, and sadness over the loss.  I’ve also found that creating time and space just to explore and understand her feelings has been really helpful. I answer questions about death as honestly and simply as I can (at an age appropriate level). I have a wonderful grief workbook called, Grief Encounter, by Shelley Gilbert, for children to do with their parents that has been an incredible resource. And for the past several weeks, we have been working on it on her days off from preschool, when her little sister is napping. Also, I encourage her to creatively express herself (what does "feeling funny" look like?), through the medium that she prefers most, ie drawing, painting, dancing, writing, so that she has a healthy outlet for her feelings and experiences.  I also encourage her to call on her daddy in heaven for guidance and support during the times when she misses him and feels sad. I also encourage her to pray for extra spiritual support, and as a part of her bedtime routine, I've gotten in to the practice of saying my own heartfelt prayers aloud to model what cultivating that spiritual relationship could look like. And I find it really helpful to process whatever grief arises within me in response to her feelings, this keeps me in a centered and healthy inner-space so I can best help her. And when I told her that there are groups of kids who meet to play and share their experiences (bereavement support groups), that have all lost a parent, she was so excited. She wanted to go right then and there! So, I'll be checking into that for her next. And my youngest daughter who is nearly 2 ½ is just now beginning to ask questions about her daddy, so I'll just take it as it comes with each little one.

 

And whenever I feel stuck in how to respond to my daughter when she shares her grief, I ask myself how I would like someone to respond to me if I were experiencing fears, sadness, or anger over a death. I would appreciate emotional validation, hugs, love, reassurance, and a chance to talk about and understand my feelings so that I don’t feel lonely or stuck in them. And I trust that this is my path, this is her path, and that we will both grow through it together.

I wrote this blog almost one year ago, and am happy to share that Ava has successfully integrated the grief that she experienced so heavily last year. The methods that I describe in this blog really worked for our family!

Scattered Ashes

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We scattered the rest of my husband, Mitch’s, ashes... Well, all but what remained in a small hand-carved wooden urn, those I’ll save for Ava and Amelie for when they’re older (at Ava’s request). I hadn’t been able to keep the large brass urn in my room anymore, the sight of it made me feel sad, and gave me a heavy feeling in my body. So, they were in my mom’s closest, hidden away, and out of my sight. But I knew they were there, waiting to be released.

 

I thought that perhaps I’d scatter them in the ocean from Mitch’s friend’s boat, and then all of a sudden Mitch’s Birthday came. My ritual of celebration for Mitch’s Birthday over the last years was to gather flowers, go down to the beach, write letters to him in the sand, let the kids play, pray, and offer the flowers to the sea in memory of Mitch. And then this year, dear Ava suggested we include scattering the rest of her dad's ashes in the ocean, as a part of the Birthday celebration.

I had to think about it for a little while before I was able to respond.  I knew that I had been wanting to, but I felt a little apprehensive. I hadn’t opened that urn since the night before Mitch’s memorial service, and my goodness, that process had been so painful that I had to call on my uncle and brother to help me. But, my intuition told me that it was a yes. The time was now.

I packed the urn in Mitch’s old backpack, and me and my girls walked down to the beach and gathered flowers along the way.

Opening the urn wasn’t as scary or painful as it had been nearly 3 ½ years ago when we first opened it. I poured the ashes into the forest green velvet satchel that the urn had come in, we prayed, and then me and the girls began grabbing fistfuls of ash, and tossing them in the ocean. It was a windy day, and so by the time we finished, we were all dusted with Mitch’s white ash. The girls were joyous as we let go of what we had been holding onto.  

His backpack that I carried home was a lot lighter, and so was the feeling in my heart.

 

Journal Prompting

How can you honor both a loved one who has passed and your own grief through a sacred ritual that you create?

What needs to be released in your life that creates a feeling of heaviness and sadness?

How can you include your children in the process of grieving and healing the loss of a significant loved one in your life?

 

Falling in Love Again.

It’s been 3 ½ years since my husband’s death. Over the years there have been men who have stirred little flutters in my heart here and there, and they helped remind me that love would grace my life again. But with all the grieving, the mothering, and the finding my own way again, it just wasn’t the right time, and there just wasn’t the right person yet. I stayed positive and hopeful that the great love I was seeking would arrive at a time when I was most ready, healed, and whole. After marking the three year anniversary of my husband’s death, I felt a shift. I had undergone a great deal of healing, my kids were getting more independent, I began gathering a foothold in my business, and I was ready to look and feel radiant again. I began the journey of falling in love with myself.

I made it a daily priority to offer myself an act or offering of self-love, and I journaled about the ways I could love myself through the everyday challenges of life. I quit smoking and I began writing letters to my future soul mate; I knew he was somewhere out there! Three months after I began the journey of falling in love with myself, I fell in love with the man who was everything I had been dreaming up! He was like an answered prayer, and the beautiful part was that he arrived in my life at a time when I felt whole, healed, and radiant all on my own!

The man! Kevin Johnson.

The man! Kevin Johnson.

We found each other at Whole Foods! I first noticed his handsome face, his cool tattoos, and then his legs- he had two prosthetic legs from the knee down. We noticed each other a few times in the store while we shopped. I ended up behind him in line. We made eye contact and shared a few polite words. I walked out of Whole Foods, and there he was again at his bike. I walked past him, we smiled at one another, and then something told me to go back and talk to him. I turned around and he was already looking in my direction. He would tell me later that he had been struggling to come up with the perfect words to start a conversation with me… I walked up to him, I looked at his prosthetic legs, and asked him what had happened. I was instantly drawn into his openness, to the depth I saw in his eyes, and to the inspiring story of how he had survived and found a way to thrive through an 80 foot ziplining fall he’d had six years ago, while giving a tour. I told him the story of my husband’s death, and of the kids I had to get home to- He was so tender-hearted, and I felt so comfortable with him. I gave him my business card, and I couldn’t wait to talk to him again.

That was nearly four months ago. And here I am on an airplane, on my way back home after a weekend getaway together in Seattle. My heart is so full. My kids love him, I love him, and he honors the love I shared with my husband, and welcomes my memories from the past. I cried when I left Seattle as he stayed behind to finish his business trip, as I was just so overwhelmed with the gratefulness that I felt for the love we were creating together!

My grief still comes in waves, as I’m sure it always will, but I know now that there’s enough space for all of it- for the new love that’s here now, and for the love and pain from my past. My new love embraces my kids with his heart wide open, and sends love out to my husband. I’m so inspired by this man who thrives as a double amputee, who is an incredible athlete, a meditator, a motivational speaker, and who radiates love and resilience. This is a man who inspires me to be the best version of myself!

Never lose faith in the possibility of great love, great love is always possible when you believe!

 

No Longer My Husband

I pulled one of the cards from my angel deck that read, “Release Your Ex,” and at first I thought, well, I think I already have… I spent the last 3 ½ years processing my grief, healing, and finding my way again, and at this point in my life, I feel pretty darn good.

But that card kept ringing in my head.

And so before bed that night, I consciously asked to release any “married” energy that might stand between me, and falling in love again with someone new. And then it dawned on me, I was still referring to Mitch as my husband in my conversations with others, and in my own thoughts. I decided the only appropriate way to talk about him would be as my late husband, or as simply, my girls’ father. And in my mind, I reassured Mitch that I was ready for his Earthly roles to be fulfilled by someone new and by someone very special. And that felt ok, that felt right. I will always love Mitch, and I’m sure that he knows that.  

The next morning I spoke with my best friend, and she told me that that night she’d had a dream about me and Mitch, and that in the dream, we weren’t together anymore, and that we both seemed at peace with that.

Honor wherever you are in your own process, and no judgement, only love.

 

 

Journal Prompting:

What in your life is seeking release?

What doors need to close in order for new doors to open?

What would you love to say yes to right now?

What in your life is calling out for a deep surrender?

Done with Grief?

photo by coventryautomatik.com

photo by coventryautomatik.com

Just a few days ago, I was saying to a few friends, I am done with my grief, it’s been three years, I have made peace with our destiny…  I even thought, maybe I don’t even need to finish my book about my journey through grieving and healing, and instead I will just keep on moving forward…

And then yesterday I was doing a writing exercise that posed the question, how do you want to change the world? And in that question, so much, so much arose. So much of who I am in this moment, so much of the beauty of what I am in this moment, was born out of the heartbreak that came from the death of my husband. That death awakened me, it leveled me down to the very earth, it made me grateful for life, it clarified everything that was of importance, and it made me believe in the spiritual continuance of life after death. I learned how to communicate with my husband’s spirit.

And last night, as I was telling my oldest daughter stories about her dad, I realized just how much she is like him! Sharing the stories brought us both joy. But the bittersweet kind.

And then tonight in savasana pose, corpse pose, the final pose in my yoga class; tears. The kind of tears that could go on for a long time, but also the kind of tears that feel cleansing.

And so, done with grief? It is a part of me, it has delivered me to this very moment, it has brought so much beauty and gratitude into my life. It hurt like hell, and even now, when it comes in its small waves, for moments I am completely overcome and soaked, and for moments, it still hurts like hell. But then it passes, and most moments are joyous three years later. But, done with grief, I don’t think it will ever be gone forever, how could it be? Perhaps the pain is a testament to our love. When we love and we lose, it hurts! But we heal, because we are resilient and we’ve got a life to live while we are here on this earth. Let’s make the most of this life.

How do you want to change the world? It’s certainly is interesting to let yourself flow with this question, you may discover some new paths for yourself.

 

A letter to my husband

Dear Mitch,

Today is when I found out you died, today, three years ago. My whole world came crashing in on me. But, your death opened up a whole new world for me and many that knew and loved you. And while your death brought me to the saddest and darkest times I have known, it also led me to some of the very brightest and most joyous. I have learned the language of your spirit and that is a gift. Your death taught me how to love life so much, and it showed me that the only way to transform regret is to change the way I live in the present moment, because there’s no going back, and guilt doesn’t right any wrongs from the past. I will remember the inspirational lessons you taught me about life by the way that you lived… I will continue to work towards making my dreams happen, while remembering that timing is everything. And anytime I start to worry about our little girls, I will remember that you have sent a gang of angels to watch over them with love and light! I miss you all the time, but I have made peace with our destiny. I love you, dear one!

Kids grieve. How to help.

I wish I could take away their struggle, their pain, and I would if I could… I mean, what parent wants to see their kids hurt? It just so happens that my kids’ struggle has shown up so early on in their little lives, with the death of their father, and well, how could that not be hard? How could that be without struggle? So, my oldest daughter who is now five, was just a little over two years old when her father died, and at that age, the loss was felt, but the understanding of death, not so much… And so her grief has shown up in different ways over the years… Anger at her best friend for having a loving dad when she doesn’t, sad that other kids have dads and she doesn’t, fear of me dying, fear of me dying and fear that it would be her fault, fear of her dying, fear of other close loved ones dying, frustration at trying to understand what her father as a spirit even means, lots and lots of questions about how a person can actually die, and an overall feeling that she refers to as “feeling funny,” that has become the catchall phrase for feeling scared, sad, or mad, when she can’t pinpoint exactly what it is she’s feeling.

And so at first when she started having lots of grief come up about 6 months ago, as she began to have more awareness and ability to understand death, I worried a lot. I wanted to help her make peace with it all, quickly… It was really hard to see her worrying, sad, and angry. I just wanted to help make it all better. But over time, I’ve come to understand that my role is not to take away her pain, take away her struggle, or to fix “it,” nor could it be. This is a part of her journey, this is her God-given path. I am here to facilitate her process, help her understand her feelings, be here as a loving and stable support through her tears, frustrations, and fears… And so I make sure I have lots of support for myself so that I can best support her.

 

Here are some ways that I support her and me throughout this process: I have a great grief workbook for parents to do with their kids called, Grief Encounter, I consult with colleagues in the psychology field who specialize in kids and bereavement and actually just scheduled a session for us to meet with an art therapist, I actively work on my own feelings of grief that arise, I encourage creative expression to “move the mood” and understand her feelings (through dancing, drawing, or other art), I pray and talk to her dad’s spirit and teach her to do the same, and am currently in search of a kids bereavement group, cause when I mentioned to her that there are groups of kids who get together who have all lost a parent, she wanted to go that very instant. I offer plenty of validation that what she is going through it not easy, that kids that have experienced a loss such as hers, will undoubtedly feel angry, sad, and scared. And I give lots of hugs, and lots of reassurance that it will all be ok, and I believe it when I say it.  

 

It’s been a process of surrendering to our life and circumstances “as is,” it’s been a process of seeking out the best support for her and I both, and it’s been a process of finding courage and trust amidst the fears and doubts.  I think it’s also about trusting in the resilience of the human spirit. But it’s hard. Sometimes I don’t think parenting gets any harder than this. But then I think each parent will have their struggles with their children at various stages and ages… My youngest daughter who is just a little over two has just begun to express the sadness and ache of not having her daddy hold her, and so I reassure her of how loved she is by both her daddy and her family, and I hold her tight.

 

So, whatever struggle you’re going through as a parent or as a human, please let me reassure you that it will all be ok, and that you are so loved and supported on this journey by help that is seen and unseen, and that this experience will grow you, it will stretch you, and it will strengthen you. It is your soul work. You can do it, and so can I.

 

A Birdie Funeral

Never in my life have so many dead animals showed up inside my house before… I’ve lived with cats my entire life, and until this year have never had them bring in so many (if any) deceased little critters, including mice, birds, and lizards… And so me and my daughters had another little funeral today for a baby bird that we found on our living room floor. I let the girls hold the bird, they wanted to, and so I let them. Perhaps in holding death, it takes away some of the fear of death, some of the scariness… Which as of lately for my 5 year old, has been the feeling around death, fear. And so we said prayers for the little bird, we asked our daddy in heaven to take good care of the little birdie, we prayed the bird mommy would be comforted. And then we buried the bird, and put flowers on top of its grave. And so perhaps in finding all of these kitty “presents”, it allows death into our lives in a very tangible, non-threatening, sort of way. It allows us to handle death, comfort the dead with our prayers and holding, and offer prayers to their little families. It allows us to participate in peaceful death rituals, so that perhaps when they think about the death of their own father, they’ll know death isn’t so much scary as it is sad, and that we can offer our prayers, our love, and our holding, and find some sort of peace in knowing that this is simply a part of what it means to live.

My Story

Mitch and I on our adventures together in Costa Rica.

Mitch and I on our adventures together in Costa Rica.

My life was changed in an instant when my husband, Mitch, the love of my life, suddenly and unexpectedly died in December of 2012. We had a two year old daughter named Ava, and I was six weeks pregnant with our second daughter. I dove into the spiritual world, I needed to find him. And thankfully I had spent the last four years in graduate school studying Counseling and Transpersonal Psychology, so I had the tools I needed to help me cope. I also attended long meditation services, listened to countless webinars from mediums on how to connect with spirits, I cried, I danced, I sang, I wrote, and suddenly I found him- in toucans, falcons, butterflies, moths, cats, and in the whispers of the ocean that held so much of my sadness. I had found him in nature, and I heard his voice as he spoke to me in meditation and through friends, I had visions of him in dreams, I channeled conversations with him regularly as I walked the beaches, I felt him as warm tingles on my left side body, and I felt him through music.

My daughter Ava, and pregnant with Amelie, in Costa Rica.

My daughter Ava, and pregnant with Amelie, in Costa Rica.

Days after he died, I received the inner-guidance to return to Costa Rica, the place where my husband and I had spent several years together and had cultivated a great community of friends. It was like a light that was guiding me toward my own healing. And 10 weeks later, we made our move. I wasn’t sure how long I wanted to stay, so I practiced trust. I trusted my inner-knowing would guide me as to where and when I would need to go next, just as clearly as it had guided my move to Costa Rica. And so everyday I processed my grief. Everyday I wrote, I cried, I called on the support of my community, and of friends and family. I walked the beaches, some days I felt like a ghost…I meditated, I prayed, I let nature heal me, day by day. I talked or wrote to Mitch everyday for many days. He had become the bridge to a deepened connection to my very own soul.

Baby Amelie.

Baby Amelie.

And I prepared to birth our second daughter, the way I had dreamed of ever since I had read a book of home birth stories by Ina May years before. I rented a house on a little birthing farm in the rainforest, run by an OBGYN from the U.S., that was close to a hospital (just in case). And I spent the weeks leading up to my due date at that little house, just me and Ava, enjoying that special time, just the two of us, before the arrival of baby sister. And it was perfect, as perfect as it could have been without Mitch there, but he was with me in spirit that day, July 22, 2013, the birth day of our second daughter, Amelie. It was a peaceful birth at home, delivered with the help of a midwife and doula while Ava slept peacefully in the next room.

 

A sacred altar at one of my meditation workshops.

A sacred altar at one of my meditation workshops.

Then, busy, busy, busy. I dove headfirst into the physical world, rearing one toddler and a newborn. And I began sharing what I knew about meditation, emotional process work, embodied healing, and spiritual exploration and growth with my community of women through workshops, classes, and private sessions. I began to come into who I was as a practitioner, as a transpersonal guide. In addition to writing (I wrote daily and regularly in my blog), I felt I had found another piece to the puzzle of what it meant to live out my purpose.

 

 

Me and my girls in Hermosa Beach, Costa Rica.

Me and my girls in Hermosa Beach, Costa Rica.

We healed in Costa Rica for one and a half years. My daughter attended my friend’s Montessori preschool, we went to the beach, swam in waterfall pools, practiced lots of yoga, drank lots of smoothies, ate gelato, let our friends and community hold us in love- and we healed, we had come through the saddest time I had ever known- but even though it was the saddest time in my life, it was also the most grateful, the most enlightened spiritually that I had ever felt. The blessing disguised in Mitch’s death was that I learned to love life, so, so, so much, while also learning how to let go…

Ava and Amelie in Southern California.

Ava and Amelie in Southern California.

And then there were lots of signs (that I ignored at first), that it was time to return to California, to the embrace of our family. But, I had learned to listen to my inner-voice and it was time, and so with gratitude, we said our good-bye’s to our Costa Rican community and our Costa Rican life. We returned to California just in time to celebrate Amelie’s first Birthday with our family. They had been incredibly supportive of my decision to move to Costa Rica, but were overjoyed at our return.  It felt like a victorious homecoming. I had just been through the most difficult time of my life, had birthed our second daughter, and now I was feeling stronger and clearer than ever before, and it felt like a welcomed relief to receive the helping hands of family with the girls. I allowed myself time to settle, recalibrate, reflect, and envision. And then it was time to create the platform for my work, in which I envisioned workshops, online courses, published books, and a steady stream of private client sessions…

So now, my girls and I reside in Southern California, where I practice mindful parenting by day, and write, create, and guide by night, and whole-heartedly embrace the support of friends and family, while I create the vision for the next part of our lives…


The Pre-Dating World

Styling and Photography:  Peter Lin Carrillo.

Styling and Photography: Peter Lin Carrillo.

I wouldn’t go as far as calling what I’ve been doing dating, but more like talking, entertaining possibilities… I was married, happily married, (don’t get me wrong, we had our share of downs too), but the point is that I liked being married, and I never chose to get unmarried, but life had different plans… So, it’s easy for me to be married, feel married, act married, even though I am so not married, and at this point just getting my feet wet, merely entertaining the ideas of what it might mean to start a new relationship.  So, needless to say, it hasn’t been the cleanest, easiest transition. In fact, I feel like I’m quite bad at the whole thing! Oh, and so easy to fall into playing the roles you used to play, and project onto others the roles played by past lovers… So, how to be present, and actually tune into whoever it is that is standing right in front of you? Be present, be compassionate with yourself and give yourself lots and lots of grace through it all. And the only reason I can say that with any sort of confidence is because that is precisely what I was not doing… So, I think so far, this particular season for me is all about loving myself even when I have imperfect deliverance with my communication, even when I am triggered by my past and freak out, even when I feel totally unlovable, even when I’m convinced I’m in love at “hello,” even when I stumble and fall along the way and make an ass out of myself… cause if I can stick around and love me long enough to help me up, dust off the dirt, give me a hug, a pep talk,  a dose of humility, and lots and lots of patience, well then, that is just a beautiful start to this whole new world of pre-dating for me. And so yesterday, my friend, photographer, and stylist, Peter Lin Carrillo took my photo. Lots of them actually, to help me with the re-branding of my business, provide photo content for my new online courses and workshop series, and little did I know, help me step into feeling beautiful again after the busyness of grieving and mothering. And so, perhaps this pre-dating world will also get easier as I step into owning who it is that I am and loving that woman, and feeling beautiful and on top of my game, as it relates to all aspects of life. Ready to own it! Wish me luck :)

"When you think of love, do you think of pain?"

“When you think of love, do you think of pain?” How many of us are carrying around all the pains of what we experienced as the result of an open heart? These song lyrics struck a chord in my heart. I loved with all of my heart, and then the person who I loved died. My heart was broken. 2 ½ years has shown me that we have the tremendous ability to heal and mend our wounds, and that the desire to give and receive love is as natural as anything… And so then, in moving on from a broken heart (all in our own natural timing, of course), what do we want to carry forward into the future, into our next experience of love? Cause those lyrics, “when you think of love do you think of pain,” resonated me with very deeply because when I think of Mitch, yes, I think of the love we shared, but I also think of the sheer earth shattering pain of what it was to lose him… and do I want to carry that pain and that fear of loss into the next relationship? Cause I know now, death is a real possibility, break-ups, betrayals, they are all real possibilities, but do I want to carry around a shield to protect myself from those potential heart-breakers, or do I want to be mindful that those potentials exist and risk loving anyway? Cause the thing is, it feels so good to love, and it feels so good to receive love, it feels so natural… So, to hold it all, cause the potential in living with an open-heart is to experience the greatest love and the greatest pain. And in playing it safely, am I really willing to forgo loving again with all that I am? No, and that is a choice we make, and it’s a choice that takes courage, especially if we’re wise to how painful it can feel, and also to how damn good it can feel. And so I can choose to look back with the fondest of memories, knowing that a heart open to love is a beautiful thing indeed.

Finding My Way Again.

Sifting through a life of dreams, he was the captain of our ship, and when he died, all of our dreams seemed to die too, or were just lost in the confusion of it all… which were mine, which were his, and which were ours?

In an instant, 2 ½ years after his death, it all comes flooding back to me as I walk though the campgrounds across the street from my house. And there it was, a symbol of all we’d dreamed, in a 6x12 homemade camper. My heart swells. Wait, that was my dream too. He opened my eyes to a whole new way to exist in this life, and it always seemed like his. Until I saw that little camper, and I remembered my own heart. Dreams of  homestead living in the redwood forests of Northern California, mine, consciously living in harmony with the Earth, mine. Oh my gosh, my heart sinks into the pit of my stomach, a deep ache for all that I’d forgotten that I loved in this life. He showed me the way, yes, and then he died, but these dreams were still very much alive in my heart. He awakened in my heart these dreams, and they were mine now too. He opened the door for me to finally walk through, and with tears, I find the love again, and I release a little bit more of the ache. Oh love, disentangling myself from the pain that came from the loss. I feel my heart open a bit more. Scared as hell, I decide to let my heart lead anyway, with a new commitment to myself to remember my heart, and to follow the path of love.

"I think God thinks that's funny..."

I overheard Ava telling a little girl at the library that her daddy died. I couldn’t hear the response from the little girl, but can only imagine through Ava’s response that it must have been sadness or shock, because here’s what Ava said in a soothing, and loving tone, “It’s ok, everybody dies, it was just his time.”

So, a few days later, I asked her if hearing people’s responses to her daddy’s death was hard… She said it was. I told her that so many people are afraid to die, and that they’re afraid to die because they have forgotten that they have a spirit. Well, she thought that was quite amusing, and said, “ I think God thinks that’s funny. And I think Daddy thinks that’s funny too.” And so it is.

Love looks a little different now...

Oh the topic of love… I have spent many months praying for the moment when I feel ready for love again… setting my intentions around letting go of my marriage, letting go of my sadness, to open to the prospect of falling in love, the head-over-heels dizzying kind. And then I reconnected with an old friend from childhood, and my gosh, it felt so good to share in the friendship, it was so comfortable, felt so safe, so much laughter and easiness, so much flow in our conversation. And then all of a sudden, my ideas about love shifted... Yes, I still wanted the head-over-heels dizzying romance part, but I also wanted the friendship, the trust, the laughter, the easiness, the fun, the playfulness, the emotional sharing and deep conversations long into the night… My husband, Mitch, and I had the head-over-heels dizzying part of love, but the friendship took much longer to cultivate, in fact we were still cultivating that part up until he died… Reconnecting with my friend from childhood helped transform the concept of love for me. Unfortunately, this friend of mine lives a five hour plane ride away, and even if it blossoms into nothing more than a rekindled friendship, I will be forever grateful for the shift in my definition of love that our relationship provided.

A Widow's Journey Through Parenting, Two Years Later...

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There’s been some sadness under the surface… just out of my awareness… too busy, too healed to get sad… But then today, out for a walk with Ava and Amelie and we met some of our neighbors, a young couple, around my age, so happy, and somehow I mentioned Mitch, and that he died. And then I thought, why did I just bring that up with complete strangers? Cause as I walked away I nearly started crying, and I haven’t cried over Mitch in a while… I knew I needed to come back to my sadness after the girls went to sleep for the night, and so that brings me to the present moment. Here I am writing about it, processing it, cause I know by now that feelings don’t just go away because we are asleep to them… Sadness. I watched a few videos of Mitch tonight, just to hear his voice, see him again in action. And it hit me, as time moves along, Ava’s memories are getting farther and farther away from her consciousness. I asked her the other day if she remembered her daddy or if she just remembered him through pictures, and she shook her head no that she didn’t remember him, but that yes she remembered him through the pictures… Oh, this is where the sadness has been. Even as I type the words, as they spill out onto the screen, tears, and there haven’t been tears in a while. She doesn’t remember him anymore, and Amelie never even met him. And he was such an awesome guy. They’ll never really know how much I loved him apart from the way I talk about him, the stories that they hear, or the pictures that they see. And that’s what’s been hurting my heart. Ahhh, the tension in the back of my heart has softened, I understand why I just “brought it up” with that younger couple this evening… these feelings needed witness, they needed moving. They needed release. I told Ava a few times over these past two years that when the time was right, a loving man would come into our lives that would do all the things that a daddy would do. Her eyes lit up, she wanted to meet him immediately… I do want that for my little girls. I want them to have a dad. I’m focused now on building my business and my financial platform, fully healing from my broken heart, and being mom and dad to the girls, but when the time is right, me, Ava, and Amelie will fall in love with a very special man, someone that would be Mitch-approved. A lovely vision indeed. And so for now and for always, I’ll tell Ava stories about Mitch, the adventures, the love. She and Amelie will always know how loved they were by their daddy.

Sometimes, strength is just about showing up.

Strength. I'm taking an online class to learn how to intuitively connect to the major arcana cards of the tarot, the symbols and archetypes that play out in our lives. When we arrived at card #8, Strength, after spending a few days being with and getting to know this card, I learned an invaluable lesson about strength. Sometimes, strength is simply about showing up. Showing up to yoga class, showing up on the page to write, showing up in relationship even when it feels hard. Even when we feel tired. Even when we feel weak, uninspired... Just showing up. Being present. And remembering that in time, everything does in fact pass. We are sad, we are happy, we are angry, we are stuck, and then the feelings pass... so, not to get too attached to any one particular feeling, either loving or hating it, but just allowing, noticing, staying calm, and showing up. Being present. And today, I noticed with great joy in my heart that now, nearly two years since my husband died, there are more days of happy than there are sad. There was a time when there were more sad days than happy ones, and I would worry and lament over these feelings, wishing they would just go away, being hard on myself for what felt like steps backward when I would feel sad after a few days of happy... But, the grief had to move in its own time, and what I have learned from the sad, I would not trade for the world. Learn to have gratitude for it all. Rich lessons for us to learn in all of our experiences.

"Where do we go when we die?" Answering the questions kids ask.

.“I don't want to die,” “I don't want you to die,” “I'm scared to die,” “Can I take my stuffed puppy with me when I die? I think Amelie will take her favorite blankie,” “I miss daddy.” The latest questions and conversations from my nearly four year old daughter. Death has become something very real in our family. It has been nearly two years since my husband died and my daughter's understanding of what it means to die changes as she gets older. In the beginning, I explained death through the spiritual lens only. Daddy is free as a bird now, he's like an angel watching over you, available to you at all times in spirit. While also being real about how sad those of us feel who are left behind, who also feel his physical absence. No daddy to hug, go on dates with, cuddle with... And then explaining that death is beautiful, we are completely free, returning to the place we left before we were born, pure love, pure light, peace, and joy. Pure God. “I can't wait to die,” she says after I explain the beauty in the transition to death. Hold on, I tell her, there is much beauty and purpose we have here on Earth before we die. And I tell her I feel like I'm not going to die until I'm old, which is truly how I feel, but then I also tell her that none of us die until it's our time, until our spirit is ready. She seems satisfied with these answers. But death is on her mind. I leave the door open for conversation. At such a tender age, feeling her way through understanding the very real questions that all of us have about what it means to live and what it means to die. To live with this truth of both our immortal and mortal reality, well, I think it helps us live more fully, with greater meaning. These are the questions people have been asking since the beginning of time... As we move through our own fears about death, we will be more prepared to answer these kinds of questions posed by our children from an honest, heartfelt space.

 

Another anniversary... how long do we go on counting after someone dies?

Driving to Tustin to visit with my mother-in-law, flooded with memories. All those times before when I would drive to Tustin, to see Mitch, it's different now. I drive now to see his family, the living connection to my husband, to our daughters. The girls sleep on the hour drive and I listen to music, I sing along, I cry a little, but it is good. It is a cry of knowing, of allowing, of surrendering to what is. And I enjoy the drive, the coming home, a house that is another home to me and my daughters, a place where I feel at home. And I remember that this week marks another anniversary, of the time we met. So full with possibility, mystery, excitement. This week, it would have been 11 years of togetherness. And then I wonder, how long do I go on counting the would have's, should have's, could have's...? I guess as long as I count them, as long as I remember them... The push to move on, to move forward, to be through with the pain and sadness... But I realize there is happiness in the remembering of this particular anniversary. The anniversary of when we met, when we first started dating, because it wasn't all wrapped up in a dream, in expectations of forever, of growing old together, like our wedding day. It was just a beautiful moment in time full of possibility, of mystery, of excitement... So, there is faith there, that when the time is right, I will experience true love again in a new form, something very different from what once was, but something just as beautiful. Although hard to imagine anything comparing to the love I had with Mitch, I remember that there are no comparisons, when we compare someone always loses... each person, each relationship, unique, beautiful in its own varying way. And so this week I decide to celebrate a life full of possibility, mystery, and excitement. I toast to what was, what is, and what will be.