capture your grief, day 21: relationships

21. RELATIONSHIPS | How have your relationships changed? Did you lose any? Have you made new friendships?

Because the death of my child colored everything, my relationships have changed.

Some are more real and authentic. A life-changing event nudges in that direction.

Some have been strained because of the fact that more truth does enter in.

Some have been shaken up a bit because I’m learning what I can and can’t expect from others for whom this is also new, and who are also figuring it out.

Over some rough spots, I thought that I was losing relationships. But then something I was told clicked: The words or actions that I perceived as hurtful were coming from a caring place. People Just. Don’t. Know.

Some relationships are more distant because I don’t have the bandwidth to reach out as much as I would like. Some of that is purely due to energy, and some, to emotional availability.

But most of my relationships can take the bumps and curves, and continue to grow and develop. Change is hard. Who wants a relationship to change? Screw that, let’s stick with what’s working. But the only constant is change, right?

I certainly have made new friends. The bonds within bereaved parent circles is unexplainable. We can let our hair down at a meeting. We can talk about our intimate stories over omelettes. We can share our narratives: the unabridged versions.

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Wash. Park, Denver, 10/19/16

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capture your grief, day 20: gratitude

I’ll just say it. It’s hard to have gratitude since Kade died.

I know I have a lot to be grateful for. I know this when I look at my 6-year-old, or husband, or home, or Colorado Rocky Mountains, or feel my heart beat. It was hard to have gratitude right after Kade died, and is still hard at four years out. I’m not saying that it’s right, or that it’s not something I need to spend time on. I’m just sayin’.

Today is Brian’s and my ninth anniversary. I am grateful for my devoted and supportive husband. Here is the card I opened from him tonight: perfect for today’s theme.

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capture your grief, day 19: grief rituals

We have a few rituals to honor Kade. I didn’t necessarily set out to create rituals, but some activities we’ve done have stuck.

Kade died on June 29th, 2012. When the 29th of the next month approached, I didn’t know how I would get through that day. I decided to invite his friends over. I did the same the next month, and months after that. It was comforting to be surrounded by his young friends, and help each other get through.

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11/29/12

When the first year anniversary of his death approached, I knew it was right for me at that time to be with family and friends. Our whitewater rafting day down Brown’s Canyon, with Kade’s rafting company, his fellow guides, and his friends from Denver, was exactly the right thing for me. And it has been, for three more years. I can’t imagine that it won’t ever be right, but am open to if and when I feel that I want to do something different.

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6/29/14

I like to give gifts for those who come rafting. The first year I had purple silicone wristbands made that said, “Kade * loved * missed.” The next year I had bandannas made with his signature and image. Then we had t-shirts made, and this past year, more wristband that read, “Journey never ends, river bends.”

For Kade’s birthday each year we’ve had a pizza party. After pizza we’ve released sky lanterns. We couldn’t the last two times, because two years ago it was too windy and last year we had it during the daytime.

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1/24/14, Kade’s 21st birthday

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1/24/14, Kade’s 21st birthday

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1/24/14, Kade’s 21st birthday

I’ve arranged volunteering around his birthdays. We’ve done the library and animal shelter. I feel a drive to put some of the good into the world that Kade would have.

When we go to MI to visit family, we write messages on and release sky lanterns for Kade and my Grandpa Albert.

When I go on a hike or to the beach I like to write Kade’s name in sticks and rocks, or in the sand.

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Rituals can be so healing. I love that I don’t have to decide what to do on big days like the anniversary or his birthday. For now, what we’re doing is working.

I hope that we find more healing rituals that speak to us in the years to come.

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.

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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.

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Kade’s whitewater PFD on which he left his mark

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

Explosion

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.

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

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The best heart rock I’ve found yet