blogging a to z april challenge – g

g – grief therapy class

My Grief Therapy class at Regis was an impacting experience. I had heard that the only instructor who taught it, Dr. Annamarie Fidel-Rice, was soulful, depth-oriented, and remarkable. I jumped on taking it as soon as I could because I knew it wasn’t offered every semester.

Wow.

Dr. Fidel-Rice and the class did not disappoint. It was by far the most expressive, feeling, experiential, and immersive class I took in the program—I guess like grief is. You can read more about the class in this previous post: heworeflannel.com/2017/05/03/one-year-down/.

In learning about providing grief therapy, we were allowed to process our own losses. We created loss timelines, engaged in writing prompts and coloring prompts, chose and reflected on images that spoke to us and our grief, allowing the unconscious to become conscious, and learned and participated in healing ritual.

burning bowl

Though not a picture from ours, we partook in a burning bowl ceremony choosing something no longer serving us. There was power in taking part in rituals in community.

blogging a to z april challenge – f

f – family

Over my two-and-a half years of graduate school, my family took a backseat. This included Kade. We were usually assigned more than we could possibly read, so I had a feeling of being behind even if projects and papers were completed.

To illustrate this, after I graduated on a Saturday night Brian said, “Let’s go out to dinner.” I started to head upstairs…to study. For two-and-a-half years, often I didn’t go out to eat when my family did, or to the park or the museum, because I needed to catch up on school. I had to retrain my brain that there was nothing with a deadline I needed to stay back and do.

We went as a family to Kade’s stone this past weekend. It had been a long time since I’d been there. He even has two new…neighbors…that I had not yet seen. One, a new stone right next to his, and two, a sweet little cherub angel that someone nestled up to him—I don’t know who.

By the way, remembering the statuettes placed at other people’s stones, on the way up Asher said, “I want to see the cherubs up there.” A random declaration, and then you can imagine our surprise.

Kade stone cherub

blogging a to z april challenge – e

e – evidence-based

ev·i·dence-based / adjective: denoting an approach to medicine, education, and other disciplines that emphasizes the practical application of the findings of the best available current research.

I appreciated the evidenced-based grief researchers, authors, and professionals whose work I referenced in school. While completing assignments, I was learning about my grief, myself, my boy, and our relationship.

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JennyKade

blogging a to z april challenge – d

d – dreams

Several of the professors at Regis happened to come from a depth psychology/Jungian background. This is a focus on the “unconscious” and includes dreamwork.

At the conclusion of my Grief Counseling class, the benchmark paper was to “include sleep dreams you may have had that companioned you during a grieving time in your life.” I was glad I had recorded my Kade dreams in a dream journal I keep by my bed.

For this project I got to revisit a dream, research the writings of Jung and other depth psychologists, and get my professor’s feedback. That exercise was the essence of the joining of my grief and my counseling education.

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blogging a to z april challenge – c

theme: how my recent grad school experience impacted my grief and my continuing bond with Kade

cohort

As soon as I thought of this topic, I was wistful for my classmates. Though our classes were at night and we had our own lives and families, we came together for something special a few nights a week (and some long Saturdays).

We crisscrossed paths over the program’s progression from wide-eyed newbies taking core classes, to getting into intense material, to our grueling clinical year, to the weary elation of graduation.

As I said in a previous post, a master’s counseling program is extremely self-reflective. Something we often heard was that we can’t take a client further than we’ve gone ourselves. We got to know each other and our stories.

I’ve written this before: School did not make especially difficult times in my grief, such as Kade’s birthday or the anniversary of his death, harder, but provided a (surprise) bonus source of support.

I’ve had classmates ask if they could give me a hug after class after topics especially close to home. I got a text from a thoughtful classmate asking, “Isn’t this the weekend you’re going rafting for the anniversary?” And there have been countless other examples of my classmates showing up in my grief.

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Made it through Counseling Techniques I

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Graduation – December 2018

blogging a – z april challenge – b

theme: how my recent grad school experience impacted my grief and my continuing bond with Kade

b – beliefs

Although it was a Jesuit Catholic university, in my opinion our counseling and family therapy program supported all spectrum of faiths and beliefs. The program was about deep self-reflection as much as about theory, research, and techniques. We learned the importance of addressing a client’s spirituality in therapy as well as cultivating our own spiritual practice.

After Kade’s death, my belief system was challenged. Number one, I was questioning my faith and beliefs before Kade died. Number two, he died, which set in motion examining the meaning of EVERYTHING, including my belief system. And number three, school provided outlet for this reflection, with about 814 self-reflection papers, against a backdrop of classes such as Spirituality and Counseling. Pretty handy.

Like so many things, I continue to examine my beliefs and nurture my spirituality. As I grow into myself I feel less tied to dogma and more drawn to humanism and connectedness. I like opportunities to be exposed to different people, faiths, beliefs, and expressions.

For goodness sake, my clinical year was in Boulder. With Naropa University students and graduates. How could my spiritual plane not be expanded by that?

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I often pulled over and snapped pictures on my drive to my internship in Boulder. 

blogging from a to z april challenge – a

I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. The goal is to publish one blog post a day for the month of April, except for Sunday, that corresponds with the day’s letter. I participated in 2016. That year I didn’t have a “theme” other than the general theme of my blog, honoring my son and my grief and healing journey. I enjoyed going back and re-reading my posts from the challenge, stoking my Kade memories.

I decided I will choose a theme for the challenge this time, beyond that of my blog. Recently I was given the assignment from my therapist to write about how my recent master’s degree experience has impacted my grief and my continuing bond with Kade. There you have it—my theme.

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A joyful milestone beginning my final, clinical, year of the program

Kade sunglasses cropped

Kade, Washington Park, Denver, 2010. Kade’s little brother, Asher’s, first outing after being born.

How my Recent Master’s Degree Experience has Impacted my Grief and my Continuing Bond with Kade

A

The word I’ll choose is ambivalent. I don’t believe I ever used this word, or knew its definition, before grad school. It means having two seemingly contrary beliefs, or feelings, at the same time. It’s BIG in counseling, mindfulness, and working toward being able to sit with difficult emotions.

I felt connected to Kade in my program with all I was learning and the program’s heavy self-reflection focus, and also disconnected from him (and my life) because I was so damned busy. I felt as if I remembered him more because I was experiencing class content that pertained to him, and also less because I made less devoted time for things like journaling and going to his memorial stone.

Ambivalent. I’m feeling ambivalent about the A to Z challenge right now. I’m anxious about my decision to participate, and I’m questioning this topic I chose, which is personal and a little abstract. And I’m happy I decided to participate to get me writing again, and to have completed my first entry.

blogging a – z challenge – “z”

Z

Z’s kind of a hard one.

Because his love of animals and trips to the zoo were such big parts of Kade’s childhood, my Z word is zoo. Not terribly creative, but it fits.

I have memories of taking my toddler to the zoo when we lived in Fort Collins, about an hour north of the Denver Zoo. Sometimes we would go with our friends, Mark and Tracy, and Kade’s pal Chloe. Sometimes with another family, Jay and Lucy, and Kade’s buddy Amber. And sometimes with my mom visiting from MI.

The Denver Zoo has special spots in addition to the animals: large metallic animal statues to climb on, an old frontier wagon to get up on and for photo ops, and a place to measure how far you can jump in relation to different animals, like a frog, a hare, and a kangaroo. It was bittersweet to revisit those spots with Asher.

This story is part of Kade Folklore, helped kept alive by my mom: Kade was a good mimic, and would call to the free-roaming peacocks. One time he made his peacock call as we made our way all the way through the parking lot to our car…with a peacock calling back at him, “answering” each call.

blogging a – z challenge – “y”

Y

Young. Nineteen is so damn young.

I was shopping at a children’s resale clothing store this week. I saw a young big guy who caught my eye. After seeing him a couple times I wondered if I knew him. When I was waiting in line and he was standing nearby, I asked him his name. Tyler. That was how I knew him–he was a friend of Kade’s since elementary school, who I hadn’t seen in a long time.

I braced myself for him to ask how Kade was and what he was up to. I honestly couldn’t remember if he was at Kade’s funeral. But he didn’t ask. He knew. We chatted about where I used to live when he used to come over, that I moved, where he was living, and where he worked. He told me he was “trying to marry” his girlfriend who was with him. We also chatted about Tyler’s adorable little blond toddler there, too.

I was mostly OK in the store. But the closer I got to my car, and the more intensely I wanted to tell Kade who I ran in to, the more not OK I became.

Around the time I pulled out of the parking lot is around the time the tears came. Tyler looked so young. That meant Kade was even younger when his life ended. No cute toddlers for Kade, or “trying to marry” a pretty girl. No cute grandbabies from Kade for me. And no Kade to for me to call and say, “Hey, I ran into Tyler at the store. He looked the same but taller. His little guy, Carson, was really cute. Did you know he had a baby? Do you talk to him? I remember dropping you off at his house, and him coming to ours. What grades would that have been?”

Before walking into the next store, I texted a fellow bereaved mom, and called my mom, instead of calling the person I really wanted to.

“The pleasure of remembering had been taken from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we’d done were less real and important than they had been hours before.”

~ John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

blogging a – z challenge – “w”

W

What to write about?

OK, I’ll write about writing.

Writing is an almost magical way to process Kade’s death. Magical because what I start writing often isn’t what I end up with. Themes emerge only after it is quiet, my brain gets focused, my fingers start clicking or my pen starts scratching, and words populate the page. It amazes me almost every single time.

I write in a journal. It was strongly recommended as a release and way to preserve memories in the early devastation after his death. Journaling really does help. Especially early on, I could feel when I needed it; when I was overdue.

I got the crazy idea to write a book. It was after all the grief reading I did, and memoirs I read. When I attended the Compassionate Friends National Conference in July of 2014, and met memoir authors and partook in writing workshops, it sealed the deal. That’s when I got inspired to find a writer’s group and start a blog: first steps in writing and publishing a book.

My first writer’s group was great. Super kind and encouraging women who met at their college and were working on different projects. But unfortunately, we met less and less frequently and then it fizzled.

A friend of mine I used to work with began a writer’s group to finish her horror novel. Yes, a totally different genre…but is it?

She invited me to join her group. And what a group. They’re all fiction writers but welcome this nonfiction memoirist. We meet every week and are currently reviewing the third completed manuscript in the group. It’s stimulating and motivating. Through them I’ve learned of and participated in writing exercises like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month with the challenge of writing 1,067 words per day in the month of November), the Blogging A – Z Challenge, and workshops, conferences, and contests.

My blog is another writing outlet. It’s a place I can share images, and where I can decide exactly how much I want to share. I can keep these pictures and notes together and maybe somebody could even get something out of them one day. And of course, where the world can see Kade’s smiling face.

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