capture your grief – day 10: seasons

SEASONS | Is there a particular season of the year that reminds you of your child? Maybe it is the scent in the air or the colour of the trees? What do the seasons bring with them?

It is very very fitting that this prompt of “seasons” is TODAY of all days.

Here in Denver, Colorado, it was hot, in the low 80’s, yesterday. Last evening it went from 79 to 61 in the half hour that my son was at violin practice. Today? Snowing and in the 20’s. Asher’s outdoor field trip for tomorrow has been canceled.

Seasons.

I’ve always liked summertime and called it my favorite season. I like how I can throw on a summer dress and not have to worry about bringing a sweater or coat. It’s easier, with more options and possibilities. Lingering summer evenings…grass volleyball…beach time…

I am ready for seasons to change every 3 months, though. I’m glad I grew up and now live in places that experience distinct seasons.

I think of Kade and my grief with each passage.

In spring there is notable change of darkness to light, brownness to color, death to life. I usually embrace it, along with wistfulness of the incongruity.

In summer, Kade died. Is it still my favorite season? My most dreaded? Well, yes.

Spring and summer sure look different for me now. I contemplate the months and weeks and days before Kade’s death June 29th 2012. In April he became a whitewater rafting guide. In May a friend of his died. Their poor family! How can they bear it!? How is Kade bearing it? Be careful, Kade, people your age can die! And in June he did.

I hate that he drowned after having too much to drink at a party on a summer night. I love whitewater rafting on the anniversary of his death and feeling close to him with all those sounds, scents, and sensations.

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Rafting to Remember Kade 2019, Arkansas River (Kade’s river)

Fall. It’s my husband’s favorite season. October is when we got married. In Colorado, it’s (mostly) pleasant with deep blue skies and warm daytime air. It also is a harbinger of shorter days and painful poignancy of the upcoming overblown holiday season.

My chubby, adorable, healthy baby boy, Kade, was born in winter. My firstborn. Such a spiritual and loving time.

This year, this season change, today, I look forward to winter. I am ready. Our late and wintry spring brought a late and hot summer. The 90s and then the 80’s seemed to go on forever. I’m ready for boots, scarves, sweaters, hoodies, and crispness in the air. To hunker down with my little family on dark evenings.

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Our Kade tree this morning

With my life’s work centering on healthy coping, self-compassion, and self-care, I feel fortified and ready for the hibernation, as well as the work that can take place in the quieter times.

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capture your grief – day 9: day dreams

DAY DREAMS | Do you ever day dream (or in your sleep) about your child? Do you wonder if they still exist in our universe? Do you wonder about what they look like now?

Siiigh. I like this topic. And it’s a tough one. I love dreaming of Kade. And it’s hard, too.

One time I was picking up food to go at Tokyo Joe’s. Gazing through to the window to the kitchen, I saw a worker who looked SO MUCH like Kade.

I went with it.

I pretended it was him. That I was just visiting him at work…something so normal.

It did my mind good to take this mini-vacation, and my eyes good to feel like they were really resting on him.

I relish sleeping dreams I have of him. I have a dream journal next to my bed so I don’t forget a moment “with him.” One dream felt so real it felt more like a visit than a dream.

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Maybe it was.

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capture your grief – day 8: empathy

EMPATHY | One thing grief taught me was the power of empathy. I learned about empathy when I was given the opposite and that really opened my eyes to the people who really did share their empathy with me. To be able to sit with someone who is really hurting and acknowledging their pain without trying to fix it is a true gift. Share your thoughts on empathy today, you just never know who may need to hear what you have to say.

The concept of empathy was huge, HUGE, in my training to be a counselor. Also huge in my own grief process, and in my grief training, especially empathy and compassion.

In the book, I Thought it was Just me (but it Isn’t) by Brene Brown, the difference between empathy and sympathy is explored.

Receiving sympathy can feel yucky. Someone feels bad for you, but does not go that step to momentarily try on what it may be like for you. They do not meet you where you are at. There is a separation, an almost looking down upon.

Receiving empathy feels affirming and joining. It’s a look in the eye, it’s letting oneself imagine for a moment what it must feel like. It’s authentic.

I have felt the yuckiness of sympathy (or if it’s not called sympathy, this whatever-it-is-that’s-not-empathy), but didn’t quite put a name to it. Seeing it differentiated in black and white helped me recall where I have experienced it in my life. And from whom.

I saw this license plate on the road recently. I wonder what their story is?

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capture your grief – day 7: inhale + exhale

INHALE + EXHALE | Today is like a Capture Your Grief Free Day. This awareness month can become overwhelming quickly so instead of pouring your heart out, take today to look after yourself and your mental health. Be mindful of your breathing. Take some time out in nature today and just breathe. Recharge.

I took a few moments before my evening client to turn on my diffuser and recharge in my office.

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capture your grief – day 6: gratitude

GRATITUDE | I realize this topic can be a real tough one for people, but I am not asking you to be grateful for your grief, but rather open a window or door to the practice of gratitude if you are not quite there yet. When you practice gratitude, it helps to remind you of all the good in your life that is still there. A grateful heart is a lighter heart. Share something you are grateful for today.

The concept of gratitude is not my favorite thing after Kade’s death. Which is not a popular opinion in this happiness-, forgiveness-, and gratitude-obsessed culture.

After reading It’s OK that You’re not OK by Megan Devine and after my Compassionate Bereavement Care grief and trauma training, I know that this is alright. Research shows that having gratitude can be beneficial, but that forced gratitude can be problematic.

I appreciate CarlyMarie’s gentle nudge toward gratitude.

Tonight I am grateful for my health and the beautiful area in which I live to experience a color hike like I did today.

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I am grateful for my brother, Andy, with whom to have adventures.

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And I am grateful that we were on the right trail when we thought we may have gotten on a wrong one, after underestimating the time it would take to complete the loop, and ending up finishing the hike in the dark.

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capture your grief – day 5: friendship

FRIENDSHIP | Share about a friend who has been there for you during this grief experience. How grateful are you for them? What did they do to help you. Maybe send them a message and thank them for their support.

It’s hard to choose one friend to reflect on here. My mind goes to one friend, then a few close ones, then different friend circles, and then to my grief buddies.

But…I keep coming back to one friend. My best friend, Leah.

With not just this, the worst thing, she’s been there for so much since we met when we were 17 and seniors in high school. Seventeen, that oh-so-easy age and stage.

We’ve been best friends for 30 years.

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1989 or ’90 – How do I not have a better picture of us from then?

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Leah’s birthday 2012 (just before Kade died)

I won’t say too much to embarrass her (more) here. But I know this hasn’t been easy for her. Who wants to talk about a friend’s child loss…when you have a child? We’ve both grown in un-asked-for ways since Kade died. She’s stuck it through every hour of our texting and talking. And we seem to squeeze much laughter in there, too.

I had Brian call nearly all my friends when Kade died. But Leah, I had to call myself.

I can always call Leah.

While writing this, I’ve remembered so many other friends who have been there for me when, and since, Kade died.

So many, that if I try to reflect here, now, will make this a too-long post. Please know you are appreciated.

 

capture your grief – day 4: heart connection

HEART CONNECTION | Do you feel connected to your child even though they are no longer here? If so, how do you feel connected? Share how your imagination works to keep you together. If you do not feel connected to your child, maybe have a read of what others are sharing. Maybe one of their ideas or practices will resonate.

I do feel connected to Kade. At some times more than others.

I felt connected to him on the anniversary of his death in June when we gathered for whitewhitewater rafting.

I felt connected tonight when I watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with my family. He read the books and we watched the movies over the course of his childhood.

There were tears when Harry was in front of the Mirror of Erised (a mirror that shows your deepest desires), gazing at his parents who died.

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I know what would appear in the mirror for me.

I felt connected when I bought a purple crocheted star coaster at a craft sale today. Purple was one of his favorite colors, and his too short life reminds me of a shooting star.

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Because I needed a purple crocheted star coaster. 😉

I guess I feel connected to him a lot. Because I think of him a lot.

capture your grief – day 3: twilight of memory

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I remember when Kade was little, he loved dinosaurs. I mean, he LOVED dinosaurs. We frequented the natural history museum (that is now such a wistful place to be with my youngest), had many dinosaur books, and schooled the adults in his life on how to pronounce them.

I also remember when he read one of his childhood books, Dinosaur Roar, to his baby brother. Be still my beating heart!

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capture your grief 2019 – oct. 1: sunrise ritual

I got up with the sun (and the son).

20191001_065720Unfortunately our eastern sky in Lone Tree CO was SOCKED IN at sunrise.

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I like how today’s prompt is called Sunrise Ritual.

Ritual. It can be so comforting.

This morning’s ritual, the first day of Capture Your Grief, is a comfort to me.

I’m remembering several years, now, getting up on October 1st. Some mornings crisp, wearing Kade’s flannel. With intention, getting up in the dark, quietly getting my things, and driving to an expansive place where I could watch the sun crest.

I’ve actually been counting the days to Capture Your Grief this year. I think I crave structured outlet for my grief. It’s so easy to go along with my days and weeks and weekends; months and seasons; work, family, play; and not intentionally attend to my grief. To Kade. Opportunities like this help me drop in to my feelings. My soul. My spirit. My grief. My continuing relationship with my son.

I’ll sip my cafe latte and toast to the damp sunrise. Here’s to an October of capturing my grief.

And my love.

20191001_06552520191001_065511Capture Your grief is an expressive activity created by CarlyMarie, an artist and bereaved mom in Australia. She has a prompt for each day to take a photograph to capture your grief. When she posts her daily photo on Facebook, participants can comment with theirs.

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Capture Your Grief website:
https://theseashoreofremembrance.blogspot.com/2019/09/capture-your-grief-2019.html?m=1

CarlyMarie’s Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/CarlyMarieProjectHeal/

capture your grief, day 18: the grief shift

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A picture I took on a recent afternoon “with Kade.” 

I recently had an opportunity to meet one of my favorite grief mentors for the second time at a book signing (the first was when I attended her retreat for traumatic bereavement). Joanne Cacciatore is the founder of the MISS Foundation and Center for Loss and Trauma, an academic researcher, professor, clinician, and bereaved mom. She’s an articulate and fierce advocate for the traumatically bereaved…and of peace.

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Louise, Patty, Dr. Jo, me, and Terri

Today’s quote CarlyMarie shared by Rumi, “Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom” immediately reminded me of my biggest takeaway from Dr. Jo’s book-signing:

The people who have felt pain are the peacemakers.

She explained: Here we are. So what do we do with that pain?

She illustrated the martial art of Aikido. It’s where you accept the energy of the punch, and redirect it.

My experience of grief has been one of mostly learning. Through the learning, I am feeling pulled to inhabit it more. Make no mistake, there have been times of full immersion, especially in the beginning (I felt a pang of anxiety just thinking of “the beginning”). Now…now that it has been five years, and I have been physically and emotionally able to attend to graduate school (and its demand of self-reflection), my focus has been being a highly engaged student. A very busy student. Though I will finish the last year of my program no doubt still busy, I am sensing a shift from these outward demands to inward ones. From school, clinical placements, and the field of counseling…to Kade. To my undying relationship with my first born. To my relationship with myself. To my relationship with this thing called grief. And to my relationship with my broader purpose.

CarlyMarie’s instructions for Capture Your Grief, Day 18, The Grief Shift: I have always loved this quote by Rumi – “Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.”. What has your experience with grief been like? Do you think of your pain as an enemy or have you made friends with it? Do you believe you can transform the way you feel about it? Where are you currently in your grief journey? Have you had any enlightening moments that you would like to share with others?