the isolation of grief

deep grief is so very very isolating.  when you are in the throes of it, you cannot imagine that anyone else knows of your pain and to a certain extent that is true.  brain chemistry, timing, age, the nuances of the relationship- all of those factors make your pain experience unique.  at any given moment, you are the only one who knows how you are feeling.  others can empathize and know a taste of what you are going through, but you are the only one who feels it.  this can result in an isolation, a feeling of being cut off from society.  there are certain triggers for me, families of three, newborn babies, any married couple, these symbols are like javelins through my heart... cutting open my wounds.  a voice whispering in my ear "that was supposed to be your story, they have stolen it"  these are lies of course, as no ones joy or pain has any direct impact on my own joy or pain.  as far as i know there is no capped level of happiness that everyone is drawing from and so when the happiness runs out the rest of us are left with pain.  although it feels that way sometimes.

at the same time though, there is nothing unique about grief.  every single human relationship ends with pain (a grief observed, c.s. lewis).  this is a powerful thought.  was there any benefit to jim staying here longer or elly staying longer?  we all die, whether we first experience the pain of death or the pain of separation, no one is exempt.

my grandma passed away at 94 the week before elly was born.  it was, in it's own way, a blessing.  she was on hospice care and had taken a turn for the worst in the last couple months.  most of us, although mourning her loss in our lives, were in a way happy, relieved that she was put out of her suffering.  would i not want the same for my husband and daughter?  yet, i cannot bring myself to be happy or relieved.  there is a pride barrier for me, the understanding that i know what constitutes a good life here on earth and it means a long one surrounded by close family and friends.  as if to say, no one deserves heaven until you have suffered enough on earth.  our human logic is so simplistic, unable to explain the simplest of things, much less the complexity of human life.

the question seems to be, if what we are going to is greater, why stay?  of course there are the simplistic platitudes of beauty and life on this earth and there is the message of duty and service to the creator.  but it seems to me that our lives are one turmoil after another.  a washing cycle that never ends, that never results in refinement.

what is the purpose of pain?


it took losing my own lover to realize just how profound a loss this is.

for six years, i was viewed through his eyes.  he saw me as beautiful, i was beautiful.  he saw me as a deep thinker, a great mom, and his support and therefore i was all those things.  for six years i practiced my identity through him and because of him.  because of his love, i loved, because of his joy, i was joyful, because of his grief, i grieved.

now i am suddenly lost, confused, at odds with my own being.  a girl, interrupted.  am i this? am i that?  who am i really, now that i am so so lost.

so we do these minute, selfish things to bring ourselves back to par with who they knew us to be.

i bought new clothes to be beautiful, i cut my hair to be adventurous.  it's trivial really.  these small details.  a small stone cast into the ocean as if that will stop the onslaught of the tide.  moving, moving, always moving.  whispering to me "you don't know who you are without him"

i am left here to rebuild.  i have to rebuild, my entire fortress crumbled around me the minute he died.  my identity is gone, stripped away with the loss of my love, the one who knew me to my core and loved me anyway.

of course, i am left reminding myself that the core of who i am is still here.  who he knew remains, the strength, the stamina.  it's here.  born out of fire, born out of ashes.  beyond the trivial, beyond the minute details- the core of who i am remains.  it is he who is gone.  left to the rebuilding of my memory and those who knew him.  the sharp reality of his self forever gone, instead only memories, hazy with the interpretation of my mind remain.  a minute with him would bring it back as sharp as a knife, as consuming as a fire, but the haziness remains.  himself forever left in a fog, a mystery.

it feels as an all consuming fire, eating alive everything in its path.  burn, burn, burn.

knowledge vs. feeling

most people know this by now but jim and i met and married within five months.  when i share that story with people they never say "when you feel it, you feel it." they say "when you know, you know"


the human experience is fraught with emotion.  they are difficult, unwieldy, and maddening.  there have been numerous times throughout this experience where my feelings have been the darkest.  abandonment, deep grief, despair.  my feelings have made me wish for death.  there have been times where i have truly FELT that it would be better to be dead.

in those times it's when i operate on knowledge.  the knowledge it won't always be like this.  the knowledge that it gets better, that there is still joy, hope and beauty ahead.  knowledge.

my husband gave in to his emotions.  everyone says "what was he thinking?" he wasn't.  there is no logical reason that one could have for going about this.  he had a beautiful life filled with much hope and beauty ahead- the greatest of course was found in his children.

after counseling on Friday I went for a run and was breathing in deep, the green, the air, the wildelife.  resting in my breathe.  i was struck by the verse "be still and KNOW that I am God.

know it.

I don't have to feel God.  his existence, sovereignty, and goodness is not based on my emotions.  It's almost a relief, because I've got to be honest, I'm not feeling God much at the moment.  When the cop told me he was dead, after I finished screaming, I cried out "my God, my God why have you forsaken me" it's not a detail I have shared with many.  that moment was almost inhuman in it's intensity of pain.  I felt in my most true being, abandoned by the One who made me.

I do not have to deny my emotions in this experience, I can embrace them, approach them, with the knowledge of God.  There is nothing to be said for hiding from our emotions.  They creep up in the shadows, they lie in wait, waiting for weakness, waiting to strike.

I have the knowledge, I have the knowledge of the One who made the stars made me and I am not forgotten.  I am not abandoned and when I don't feel it, He is with me.


i've started feverishly writing these memories of jim and i.  things we did, how it felt when we were together, the timeline of our romance.  there is an urgency in the knowledge that these are all i have left.  and time will continue to take from me.

how it felt when he held me and i could feel his heart through his chest.  i never felt more comfort than when i was being held, listening to the rhythm.  we were homebodies, and a lot of our afternoon when the kids napped would just be together.  he might be playing a video game or we could be in our bed with the windows open, breeze blowing in when it was nice weather.  just laying there, together, boom, boom, boom- the rhythm pounding out my life with him.  safe, boom, boom, boom. secure, boom, boom, boom.  protected, boom, boom, boom.

viewings are weird.  for me, it was important to see him one last time, for the believability aspect of everything.  the last time i had seen him before his death he was alive and fine.  i had to see him to believe it sort of thing.  but it's so hard, because everything is cold and harsh.  in the viewing everything felt different, his lips were waxy, his hands cold as ice, but when i lay my head on his chest, it felt the same.  it brought me back to everything, the safety, the comfort, the absolute serenity i felt when i would hear his heart through his shirt.  and i had to say goodbye to it.  i remember just standing there with my head on his chest, bawling, swearing that i would always love him.

the permanence of everything is setting in, deeply.  never again will his arms encircle me, protecting me from the dangers of this world.  never again will his lips brush my forehead, carrying with them all my worries and fears.  never again will my phone beep with a text telling me he misses me and the kids.  never again will i run my fingers across his stubble and relax into his embrace.  never again, never again.

why couldn't you hold on my love?  why couldn't you hold on?



our brains are so complex, in everyday situations, much less in deep grief.  the immediate aftermath of jim's death was horrible and then suddenly i found myself not so horrible.  i seemed ok, it felt like "ok if i get enough sleep and don't drink too much then yeah, i can do this!  i feel ok, this will be ok"

then the denial wears off...  and you are just left with the sadness.  there are so many layers to grief.  and then there are layers within layers- anger, denial, sadness.  the sadness is just so heavy, so very very heavy.  you feel like you will never be whole, you feel like this is going to last forever.  the only thing i can equate it to is drowning.  you literally feel as if you are drowning.  and then as suddenly as it came over you, it stops.  the tightening lessons and the numbness comes over you.  the waves are coming more frequent now, which is kind of ironic because this seems to also be the time where i feel everyone goes "ok ship shape now, let's get back to normal life"

it's crazy to me that even in the deepest of tragedy i can't let go of this perfectionist side of myself.  am i grieving like i should? what would all these people who are supporting me think of me if they found out x, y, z? does the church truly love me?  i can't even allow myself the grace to go through this without second guessing my actions.

this is the absolute worst broken heart i could ever imagine.  i feel as if i will never be whole again.  my mind swirling back to that week, what if? why?

most people don't know the details, but i did see my husband alive the morning of.  i can't explain the disconnect between thinking that my jim was grabbing the trash cans in from outside and being told he was dead.  it's asking for coke and getting pepsi on the deepest level imaginable.

the most difficult moments are processing the grief on behalf of my children and watching my children processing the grief and knowing the moments that await them going forward.  i've lived without a parent.  i know what it feels like.  i know the pain and grief and sadness that awaits them.  i know the job that awaits me of securing in their minds that a dad they either don't or barely remember loves them.  i know the job that awaits them of living their life and processing each stage without their dad.

as addy put it the other night "i wish daddy was still with us down here."
me too baby, me too.


the best thing about the bad days is knowing that they end eventually.

i haven't slept much this week.  i've struggled with shutting my mind down at night, relaxing.  in turn it leads to bad days, me snapping at the kids.  everyone is struggling through this.  nugget has been so fussy all week and i took him to his ENT apt today- turns out he has another ear infection and will need (very minor) surgery.

and i just got so angry.  so angry that my husband isn't here for his son's surgery.  that he couldn't stick it out to make sure his family was ok.  the feeling of complete abandonment is very real.  this broken heart that i am left with after i entrusted it to someone else.

and yet- i am not abandoned.  not even in the slightest, the absolute beauty of the human spirit is so clearly shown in crisis.  i have been surrounded by love since this happened.

there are these constant reminders that show up.  messages, cards, support.

after i had addy, i listened to florence and the machine's album ceremonials on repeat.  while i wouldn't go so far as to say i was PPD, the feeling of losing my identity in quitting my job and becoming a mom was very real.  there are albums that immediately take you to a process.  it goes beyond a certain song reminding you of something to bringing you to a process, an understanding of what those days, months, years led you to.

i am pretty sure that sia's this is acting and healing is difficult are going to be those albums for me.  she lost her boyfriend in a car accident which is where healing is difficult came from.  i haven't been able to stop listening to either.  these struggles we face, this healing, this pain, this life, it's intense.  intensely felt, intensely hurt.

jim would always tell me, you can't have the highs without the lows.  if so i'm set for some pretty intense highs coming my way.
marriage is such an interesting facet of our lives.  the intertwining, the compromise, the sometimes very real struggle, and the love.  i was sitting in the social security office today staring at a document that said "the marriage ended with death on April 28, 2016." and i realized... i'm not married anymore.

i had thought about it, obviously at different points throughout these couple weeks.  the brain can be extremely pragmatic even under the most trying of circumstances.  the day Jim died, i remember bringing up life insurance, canceling his cell phone, etc.  it's a survival tool... your brain will lose itself in grief if there is no logic to the unraveling.  

but to see it, legally defined, was so very very striking.  it will be one of those moments that will always be with me in the after haze of these weeks.

the hospital i delivered elly at required a blood work up and "light" physical pre-testing before my c-section.  my delivery was scheduled for monday so that friday i went in at 7 am for testing.  i remember being so scared to drive myself to the hospital.  isn't that silly? the traffic there is busy and i always get nervous driving new places.  i wanted jim to wake the kids up and drive up there with me and wait in the car.... with the two kids.  i was so worked up about this that when i made it there on time and safely, i was so oddly proud of myself.

in a lot of ways, my marriage allowed me to hide.  when there is someone to pick up the slack, there can be a lot we say "no" to because we let the other person do it.  i was especially good at this given just the number of fears i faced in my life.  essentially at the core, not being enough.  now i am suddenly thrust in as the ringleader.  there isn't much i can say "no" to if i want to provide the best for my children and myself.

i have survived some of the cruelest of circumstances and have seen more loss at 28 than some see at 80.  i deserve to dig in deep to the goodness of life, the joys to be had, if for no other reason than i have seen the other side.  there is nothing good to be had by diminishing our own joy, peace, or personal presence.  there is nothing good for my children if i hide and waste away my own being.  

and so one moment at a time, i am rocking it out as a single mom.  

this experience has led me to no longer being able to hide behind fear.  when you've lived your worst nightmare most of your other fears in life seem to pale in comparison.  if i can survive this i can do anything and so the phrase, what would you do if you knew you could not fail comes to mind.

i cannot fail, i have already survived.

you will know the absence by the void.

my brother in law was the first to describe the void to me, the night my husband passed we were outside late, sitting on my front steps in the cold air.  he remarked to me that we will always feel the void.

it's true.  my waves have subsided for the most part.  the numb replaced with a genuine contentment, if not at times, joy in my life.  embracing my life, while sitting in the sadness.  but his void remains and will always be there.

when elly died, in a very real and physical sense, a part of me died.  that absence will be felt forever, a brutal scar across my heart.  when jim died it was just this incredible loss. in a way, my entire life as i knew it died.  and i mourn the death of that in a very real way, the death of my future as i had planned, of a job that i enjoyed, of being a "normal" family.

elly will forever remain a part of me, a part of me that no longer exists here in the physical world
jim will forever be a void, a void in my life that no matter how or if i move on will still be felt

at elly's funeral, some of his last words in his tribute were "your death leaves behind ripples of anguish, but your life left behind mountains of joy" i am clinging to those mountains now for both of my losses.  one moment will not define my family's story  the joy will always be there, waiting to be searched out, uncovered, and clung to.  

the path.

have you read the children's book "we're going on a bear hunt" it's an old one, this family encounters all these obstacles on a bear hunt and each time they say "we can't go over it, we can't go under it, oh no we've got to go through it"

that's where i'm at.  there is a path laid out in front of me, a path to healing, to being made whole, but it's going to hurt like hell to get there.  i can literally see the pain waiting for me and i'm scared.

scared of what it's going to be like when i clean out his drawers
scared of what it's going to be like when i give his stuff away
scared of what it's going to be like when i find a job
put my kids in daycare
go to bed alone every night and wake up alone every day
being a single mom

the beginning of grief is akin to what i imagine drowning to feel like.  in between numb these waves of intensity hit you with the force of a storm.  it's physically painful, when elly died i could literally feel my heart hurting.  your entire physical system goes into shock.  when jim died, i thought - i can't believe i have to live through this again.

not quite two weeks out and my mind is already insulating itself, the memory of that Thursday has already faded because your body had to forget the pain.  but i can look out over the next year and know more waves will come, more body racking sobs into my pillow will come, the feeling of being swallowed whole will be there and i'll have to battle it.

it honestly makes me a little fearful.  sometimes the worst part of pain is knowing it's coming for you.
i don't know why my life is the way it is.  i'm not sure why i got this hand... why i've known so much loss and pain and tragedy.  but i rest in the fact that this is my phoenix moment.  something beautiful will rise from these ashes.

in the meantime though... i ache for my husband and my daughter.  jim and my ellybean.


most of my life feels like a nightmare right now.  i wake up and live a day filled with loss and then sleep a night filled with nightmares.

elly would have been two months old yesterday.  i thought about the monthly pictures i was going to do with her- taken with her bunny lovey and wept.  i thought about how she won't get a first birthday party, or ever get to run or walk, won't say momma, won't wave out the window while her sister and brother go to school...  and then i thought about how i could have born all of the weight of losing my child if only my husband would have stayed.

that morning when he walked out, we didn't touch each other.  i was preoccupied with getting the kids breakfast and assumed he was pulling in the trash cans.  i don't know why things didn't go differently- why i didn't say something or pull him in for a hug or why i didn't hear the car door slam.  the why's in this situation could swallow me, very easily actually.

i keep telling myself dawn will come, that my family will rise from this- but honestly at this point i have a hard time believing that i still have a family.  my counterpart, my constant is gone, ripped from my life in the cruelest way imaginable.  the thing i keep thinking is why us, i mean we were so in love.  so many people these days are in loveless or unhappy marriages.  that wasn't us.  we were in bliss, so content to just be- just be together.  i would have never ever left his side, not even for a second.  we never strayed from each other in the five years we were married.

there isn't a second that goes by that i don't feel his void in my life and catching the smiles of my kids as they run around and play rips the wound further... the only thought in my head "he should be here for this, he should be here for this"

it's hard to be this broken.