capture your grief, day 18: healing therapies

I guess it was a good thing that my mom called a local grief center for recommendations for a grief counselor for me. How in the heck would we have known to ask for someone who was trained in grief and trauma? Or who was a Fellow in Thanatology (the study of death, dying, and bereavement)? Or that there are bad ones out there? I am lucky that who I ended up going with happened to be a grief guru of sorts.

I’ve had a few opportunities to engage in art therapy. One activity at a grief retreat in Boulder was spent in “sacred silence” adorning a box with the choices of more craft supplies than you could imagine. I created this little soft, cushy, flannel box. It was surprisingly emotional. And I’m sure, utilized different parts of my brain as I picked out the perfect stones, colors, textures, and shapes. There is something about creating with your hands.

It gives your feelings something to do.

At a four-day retreat in Sedona we practiced guided meditation. There are so many benefits of mindful meditation that I want to incorporate it more into my life.

Yoga has been the perfect way to get back into exercising. Again, something I want to make more time for.

I think any expression is positive, like Capture Your Grief. Writing has been a major healing therapy for me.


A Kade vision board I did early on. Love vision boarding.

capture your grief, day 17: sacred space

Kade’s bedroom is a place I can go to feel close to him. Below are some pictures, and here is a link to another post about how this cozy space came to be.


Kade’s whitewater PFD on which he left his mark


I feel close to Kade by his river in Buena Vista: The Arkansas. On that river he kayaked rapids. On that river he became a certified whitewater rafting guide, only getting to practice his newfound passion weeks before his life ended. Between those banks he bonded with his fellow rookie guides, and trainers. Into that river some of his ashes were poured on the first anniversary of his death. Boy’s ashes, mama’s tears, moving water, never still. And echoes of the laughter of his friends who remember him there every year.


Rafting to remember Kade and Ryan, the first anniversary, 6/29/13


Rafting to remember Kade and Robbie, the second anniversary, 6/29/14

Rafting to remember Kade and Robbie, the third anniversary, 6/29/15

Rafting to remember Kade and Ryan, the fourth anniversary, 7/2/16 (photo courtesy of Jerry Straut)

capture your grief, day 16: full moon retreat

Highlands Ranch, CO, USA, about 8:00 p.m. MDT

Our instructions for today were to post the Hunter’s Moon as it rose, from wherever we are in the world. Then we were to “retreat” and take a break from our daily postings. So I retreat to my studies and leave you with this:

Though I did not set my alarm and get out for a photo precisely at moon-rise as I did for sunrise on day 1, here is my moon shot from my front yard, already making its way into the sky.


capture your grief, day 14: beliefs and spirituality

An excerpt from my Spirituality and Counseling class benchmark paper:

The most dramatic shift I have experienced in my spirituality was after the death of my first born, Kade, four years ago. He was 19 and I was nearly 40. Like Moore’s (2011) “Jonah and the whale” analogy, my spiritual dark night was colossal in size, much bigger than I was. It affected every fiber of my being, every experience I had, and every thought in my head.


My spiritual dark night was an explosion of planetary proportions. The fragments and pieces have yet to settle. Some have disintegrated completely. Some were charred to ugliness beyond recognition. Some have been blown to such heights that it is indeterminable if they will ever land. If I trust, as the ash rains down and coats me grey, that a transformation is taking place, I can bear the fallout easier.


Tenderfoot Trail, Dillon, CO, 10/14/16


The best heart rock I’ve found yet

capture your grief, day 13: dear world

We are spending a couple days in the mountains on a mini-vacation. Aaahhh, day 1 has been so nice and relaxing. But at dinner, in the restaurant that we had all to ourselves because it’s the off-season, I realized something. The happier I am and the more joy in my heart—like on a mini-vacation in the mountains—the more I miss Kade.

I asked my math-inclined hubby, “What kind of equation is that?” He said it was a proportional equation.

y = kx where k is the constant.

Yes, k is the constant.


An empty chair


An evening walk



Sunset walk


Peek-a-boo moon



capture your grief, day 12: lemons + lemonade

LEMONS + LEMONADE: Have you made anything positive come from this unimaginable loss? Did you find any blessings among all the sadness and sorrow?

Oooooooo, how this could be read made me cringe. Learning to find meaning in my life after the accidental death of my 19-year-old does not equal the cheery quip: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” This is not a criticism of CarlyMarie or her topic. I just wanted to share my first reaction.

Now on to the topic of positive things that have happened after Kade’s death (not that have come FROM his death, because nothing positive has come from his no longer being in the world):

  • I’ve gotten to know his friends. I appreciate how they let me into their lives, come to our memorial events, keep Kade’s memory alive, and remain loyal friends to him. They seemed to intrinsically “get” the idea of Continuing Bonds, a healthy way to grieve.
  • I acknowledge the fleetingness of life. And the beauty of life. It can be gone in an instant and I don’t take that for granted.
  • There’s nothing like a little trauma to help you reevaluate your life, your future, your priorities, and your vocation. I decided to embark on a path to becoming a grief counselor.
  • Though I am by no means anywhere where I hope to be, and have much work to do, I am a little more self-reflective. A little more willing to speak my truth. A little more likely to speak out on behalf of others.

Kade’s friends at his 23rd birthday party: Jason, Beau, Chadd, Chrissie, Dylan, Craig, Tyler, Shay, Johnny, Ari, (Autumn’s friend), and Autumn

Capture your grief, day 11: creative heartwork

I have a pendant that I had made to remember Kade. It’s something I didn’t even know existed before he died: cremation jewelry. A teeny portion of his ashes are within the colorful center “stone.” They are mixed with photo-luminescent powder and faintly glow in the dark. Like a star. The artist, Lynn, helped me come up with a design. She, too, lost a son. She was so kind during the process. She was one of the first other mothers who lost a child that I ever talked to after Kade died.

I love that it is unique, so personal, and that it is somewhat heavy. I wanted big. Substantial. If I could have had a brick hung around my neck in those early days I would have done that.

I wear my Kade pendant nearly every day. Maybe I’ll have Lynn design me a ring…


Our pendants designed by Lynn at StarSeed Gems. Mine is a shooting star and Mom’s is fireflies. 12/2012.

capture your grief, day 10: symbols and signs

I’m glad to have a concrete topic for today. I’m just going to talk about symbols and not signs tonight. I’ve written a lot about signs in the past; perhaps I’ll post those writings to my blog one day.

Kade liked birds of prey. There is a local organization called Hawk Quest that put on live bird programs for Cub and Boy Scouts over the years, so I have fond memories of seeing those with Kade. We have red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, and peregrine falcons around here, among other raptors. He knew which one was sailing high overhead. He would say, “Mom, you can tell that’s a red-tailed/Harris’s Hawk by the tail/wings.” I wish I remembered exactly what he was teaching me.

He told me that in Buena Vista, on one street near his dad’s house, vultures would descend at a certain time of year. He said that the number of vultures that roosted was unbelievable, that it was a little creepy, and quite a sight to behold. I think I remember he said that the pavement was white underneath.

After Kade died, I thought of his spirit soaring. I so hoped that his spirit was soaring, unencumbered, and blissful.

The first horrible Christmas without him we drove to Santa Fe. I picked Santa Fe because it had no memories associated with him, and it was within driving distance. Our crazily grieving family that didn’t know what to do with ourselves, rented a mini-van and headed the hell out of town. I kept seeing crows flying alongside the van along the desolate landscape. At the hotel, on our last day I believe, we saw gigantic crows (or were they ravens? Kade would know) alight on top of a large streetlight outside our room. We took pictures (I think my brother took them). Looking at the pictures later, there was the streetlight but no crows. Did they fly away before the picture snapped? We thought we would have noticed that at the time…


“Huge crows”

Birds, raptors, and especially hawks are a symbol of Kade for me.

Another symbol of Kade for me are shooting stars and stars. At the memorial service that his dad had for him in Buena Vista, his dad said: “The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.” That immediately made me think of a shooting star, and the image stuck. I have a pendant that I had designed especially for Kade in the shape of a shooting star. I have shirts, earrings, candles, and pieces of art that I ordered with a shooting star or star shape. (Grieving can be expensive). My mom has given me star bracelets. I had an artist come over and guide girlfriends and me in a canvas oil painting. The picture she designed had mountains and stars. Star pictures and stickers have popped up at meaningful times. I’ve spotted shooting stars (decorations and the real deal) at poignant times when they seem like they’ve been thrown from Kade, like the crow example above.


Our masterpieces


My sweet friends, game for my crazy schemes


We had “Kade stars” made to leave in places we remembered him. This was left on our day of sledding outside of Santa Fe.

My tattoo incorporates a hawk and a shooting star. I think the symbols of hawks and stars will be in my life for years to come. Oh, and flannels, and the color purple, and rivers, and exotic animals, and skateboards, and bass guitars, and skis, and fishing poles, and dinosaurs, and…


capture your grief, day 9: surrender & embrace

Early on I learned the phrase, Lean in to your grief. I have a grief counselor who has imparted that the crazy feelings I come in with are OK and normal. I’ve gone to an incredible bereaved parent retreat with a focus on mindfulness and being with your grief.

Does it suck to surrender to the sadness? Is it hard to embrace the emotions? Of course. Is it easier to avoid, and not go there? Yes, and I often do. Well, when I get through the things I need to get through in a day, like being around other people, going to my part-time job, or going to class, I am likely actively avoiding going there. Sometimes I’ve put off journaling for months. It’s been so hard to physically open it up, get my Kleenex, and know the pain that will ensue. But it’s cleansing. It’s…surrendering.

This may sound strange, but at four years out, I schedule time for going there. When I go to Buena Vista for the anniversary, I carve out alone time to journal by his river. When we go on vacation (it’s especially hard because I wish he was with us), I set aside time to journal. When it’s been too long, I crave things like being with my grief friends, going to Kade’s stone, going to a grief retreat, and journaling.

I suppose I crave those things, as a mom craves being near her child.

This topic, Surrender & Embrace, reminds me of other powerful sentiments: You can’t get around it, you have to go through it and If you don’t deal with it, it deals with you.


October 9, 2016, the Front Range at sunset

capture your grief, day 8: beautiful mysteries

In my counseling program we are taught to be OK with ambiguity, that it will be a part of our jobs. We won’t always know the whole backstory. We won’t always know the whys. We won’t always know how it turned out. In class often the answer to a question is, “It depends.” Often there are no black and white answers, even in our ethics class, where I thought for sure there would be black and white answers.

What would Kade be like today? He would be 23, to turn 24 in January (I froze a bit, thinking of what will transpire in the next 3 months: four major holidays and his birthday. Again, even though I don’t want them to be, those times of the year are so impacting. I want to throw up when I see decorations in a store. It’s crazy, but it’s true; for now, anyway.)

At 23-going-on-24, Kade’s prefrontal cortex will not have even completed its growth yet. That is the center for executive function: judgment, inhibitory control, and planning, among others. It will have matured at around age 26. But today, he will have been closer, closer to the days where impulsivity, thrill-seeking, and questionable judgment do not physiologically reign.

He was getting there. Moving away from the city to the mountains to be a whitewater rafting guide, he was getting there. Getting a second job at the behest of his parents, a night job that made him so tired, he was getting there. I learned he talked about going to CSU in the fall with one of his rafting guide friends who went there, to pursue zoology. He was getting there. If only he got there.

Today, in an alternate universe on Saturday, October 8th, 2016, Kade would be a little broader, a little heavier, and in this world of beard popularity, a little hairier. He would whitewater-raft guide in Buena Vista by summer, and perhaps student at community college, Colorado Mountain College, or Colorado State University by fall, winter, and spring.

I wish he would, but I don’t think he would come back home to live in the non-rafting months. He would live with roommates. I would visit him and bring him a coffee, and care packages. He would visit us, and be amused with Asher’s growing so fast. He would try to teach Asher bad words and I would try to keep him from doing it. Asher would adore his great big brother. Instead of Asher bringing Kade’s skateboard up to his room to keep, Kade would teach him to balance on it outside. Instead of Asher asking to strum unguided on guitars on their stands, Kade would teach him a few proper riffs on his bed. Our family pictures would have Kade’s whole, grown, handsome, real self in them instead of a blown-up picture of part of him that we hold.

Family portraits…how adorable would they be with Little Asher and Big Kade? Is it too much to ask that both of my children be in a fucking family portrait? Can you see why anger is a part of grief? Is that too much for a mother to ask? Who thought this was alright, anyway? Who’s in charge here and thought that anything close to this would be alright?

OK, you were just witness to what a griefburst looks like, digitally.

Bitter tears wiped. Worked on a different project for a while. Back to Beautiful Mysteries.

Our relationship wasn’t perfect but it was improving. Kade was growing, as was I. We had lots of family counseling, lots of techniques learned, and I am sure we would continue to learn and grow separately, as well as together. Maybe we would have coffee dates. Maybe he would share more than he did before. Maybe, at 23-going-on-24, things would be distant, shaky, rough, and precarious. Maybe after 26 would our adult relationship start to flourish. Oh God, if we had gotten to 26.

Looking at his friends and their capacity to be loving, deeply pondering, and supporting human beings, I have high hopes for Alternate Universe October 8th, 2016. At 12:54 p.m., instead of writing on a grief blog, I would be heading to the grocery store to get some things to barbeque, and extras to throw in a box for him to take with. Because my son is coming over for dinner.