Happy 28th, Kade!

This is the ninth birthday without him here. The first few were big, looming, and painful. Maybe it’s because there have been eight and a half years since his death…or because it’s COVID times where we’re in our tenth month of everything being a muted version of itself…or a combination…that this one does not seem so jagged. It seems more…hilly.

Being a grief therapist is great therapy for myself. I sometimes do the things that my clients and I discuss. Today I let my family know that I needed time to journal, and carved that time out tonight. I’m sitting on my bed with Kade’s softest flannel on and journals and pens strewn about. I might punctuate my evening with breaks to watch a show or have a snack with my family.

Today we played a little tennis. On our way home we went through the Starbucks drive-through to celebrate Asher making it through his second Suzuki violin book. He really is a hard worker at violin. This day before Kade’s birthday felt like a great time to buy the coffee of the car behind us in line. I’m glad we were all in the car because I’m usually by myself when I do that. Asher told us that he learned that doing something for someone else was brain healthy. Today we all got to share in the the serotonin boost of that little gesture.

Tomorrow we’ll go to Kade’s stone (I still don’t want to say, “the cemetery”) and then a hike. Unfortunately it won’t be one of the gorgeous 50- or 60-degree bluebird days we occasionally get in winter. It will be a high of 34 with chance of snow. Despite the forecast we’re still going because 1) winter was Kade’s season,

2) we had a great time being outdoors in the mountains last weekend, and 3) it’s been too long since I’ve gathered with his friends.

A fourth reason is that I had flannel masks made for his birthday that I’m excited to give!

Happy celestial 28th, wherever you are, Kade!

retreat for two

Saturday 3/24/18

Here I am. At my retreat for one that’s really a retreat for two. I’m sitting in an above-garage studio apartment in the foothills above Boulder. It’s gorgeous up here, of course. I’m surrounded by pine trees, steep and windy roads, dirt-and-rock terrain that tells me I made it out of the city, mountain homes that blend with the environment, and chilly piney mountain air.

I’m sitting on a comfy chair with my laptop on my, well, lap, because there’s no table or desk. I’m hoping I don’t get a stiff neck on my weekend away where I plan to do a lot of writing. I might steel away to a coffee shop for an ergonomic break. When I look slightly to my left I am looking to the east, and out a row of windows, I can see the city of Boulder and plains beyond. When I look slightly to my right I am looking out the French doors onto the sunshiny deck and mature ponderosa pines dotting the property.


The closest branch is a mere 20 feet from where I sit. And this is my view if I were to look up and behind me.


My bed is under the skylights so I literally fell asleep underneath a bright crescent moon and stars.

You know what I wish? I wish I was in the Boulder area this weekend because I was visiting Kade at CU (as much as it would pain me that he wasn’t at CSU).

It would go like this. We would have planned way ahead, because he would be a busy student (and, oh yeah, I would be, too). He could meet me here at the mountain casita, or I could meet him at the place he shares with six roommates…OK, we’d meet here. 😉 This time it would be just me visiting, because most of the time Brian and Asher would be with us when we get together. He’d know where to take me to hike off the beaten path. We’d probably have to drive a ways, but that would be OK ‘cause we’d have time together in the car.

But it’s not that. This is something…less normal. This is something I felt pulled to do…but think it’s shitty that I am doing it. I took care to plan it…but was pissed off driving up. I couldn’t wait!…but tears came to my eyes when I walked in the doors.

I’ve been dying (no bad pun intended) to get away for one night to have alone time to be with myself, my grief, and Kade. In a paper in my Grief Therapy class (a YEAR ago) I remember writing that I would soon plan time by myself for this purpose. Months ago, I told a select few friends that I was going to do this soon.

Now that I have started the clinical portion of my program, the time crunch has been on. Commuting, learning, clients, groups, supervision, receiving feedback, documentation…But this weekend, book-ended with practicum obligations near Boulder, contained this 3-day possibility.

And here I am at Starry Nights Mountain Casita.

Happy and sad. Writing and hiking. Missing and being with. Mothering and indulging. Answering and questioning.


I know how to party

Sunday 3/25/18

It’s 5:00 p.m. and I’m bushed. I went on two hikes yesterday and one today. The first was before lunch, down the road. The views in the neighborhood are stunning.

It was to be an easy little walk to just get outside before lunch, but I forgot: what goes down must come up. These hills are steep! After lunch I took the Airbnb hostess up on her hike recommendation: Mount Sanitas Trail in Boulder. Ahem, I wonder what kind of shape she thinks her guests are in? Evidently great, being this is Boulder, one of the fittest places in the country. Frick, it went straight up!


The trail required you to step up probably 12 to 18” each step. Not so bad going up slowly, but each step coming down was like doing a squat. I’ll just say I can feel my quads today. Not entirely a bad feeling, though, as it felt good to work out. Going straight up made for pretty views.

I started my days with yoga. Yesterday I found a video for energizing morning yoga, and this morning I found one for yoga for grief. I hope that after I get home that I maintain starting out my days by rolling out my mat, at least some mornings.

I’m excited to tell you about today’s hike. I feel like a real adventurer, finding my own (rated easy) hike, not relying on navigation apps because there was no address to plug in, driving there, and hiking by myself (well, I hope not really by myself). I did NOT think I would be driving far enough to be able to see Rocky Mountain National Park but I was treated to this when I was almost to the trailhead.

When I arrived, I was afraid at first. Iamafraidofbearsandmountainlions. There. I said it. I’m a Colorado girl, and admit that whenever I hike, I think of bears and mountain lions. (Are there support groups for that?) I told myself I would go out at least 15 minutes before turning back. But seeing other people on the trail, my bearmountainlion worries dissipated, and I was able to instead focus on soaking in all the mountain goodness.

When I wasn’t thinking of Brian and Asher and getting excit about hiking with them this summer, I was hiking alone with my thoughts. Not something I often do, and it was so cool.

I thought of Kade. I imagined us hiking together. He would be ahead, quicker and stronger. Akin to how Kade’s friends, Dylan and Jason, were on the fourteener they took me up last summer. No worries, though, as Kade would be patient like they were. I would tell him how his dad and I used to go “up the Poudre” to hike with our toddler, who was always up for running to the next bend and summiting the next boulder.

I thought of metaphors for my grief and my Ceran St. Vrain Trail hike. I was nervous about driving up the winding road, ever higher, ever farther than I thought it would be.

I kept going though.


Me? Lost? No! I just pulled off on this incorrect road for the views…

I felt vulnerable, being by myself (well, you know, sort of by myself). That’s how most of grief is, I think. Sometimes it’s shared: in support groups, retreats, with grief friends, close family, my grief therapist, and other friends. But mostly, it’s experienced in my head, my heart, my body. Even shared moments of grief are just that: shared moments. But I was able to feel vulnerable, and alone, and still keep going.

There was a stretch where the trail narrowed, was covered with hard packed snow, and a steep drop off to one side. I was not a fan.


The trail even seems to pitch somewhat toward the drop-off, amIright?

I felt some doubt with my old-ish hiking shoes, tired-ish legs, and out-of-shape-ish self. I don’t know if it was the smartest choice, but I checked my tread (looked good) and went for it. I was afraid of a rogue slip that I wouldn’t be able to stop.

Damn, like looking at this section of trail, there have been times in my grief that left my blood feeling cold. And, damn, there will be more. And I’ve survived all of them. Every godforsaken anniversary (how will it be six this June?) and birthday where my young man should be in his twenties, not dead. How have I, and others who love him, survived these perilous spots?

(And did a deer just bound through my field of vision out the window just now to let me know that Kade is OK? That it will be OK?)


Back to the perilous spots. I guess we get by by checking our tread, steadying ourselves, and just moving forward.

There were trees cut down near the trail where I could see their fresh looking exposed rings. I counted the tiny rings of one up to about 40, and there were probably 20 more. Why did that tree get to live to 60 years and Kade only got to live to 19? Why is Kade one of the cut down trees, and not one of the towering ones all around me?

Monday 3/26/18

I have joined the real world again, and said goodbye to my cozy mountain casita. I’m glad I got to wake to sunshine my first two mornings, but this morning it was a different kind of beautiful to wake to fog and flurries.


I did another yoga for grief before packing up, and I’m loving this stretching first-thing ritual.

I’ve joined the real world, in my work clothes, in a café, getting ready for practicum group tonight before I can finally trek home. I’m making last edits on my blog. I’m saying ‘bye for now to my quiet mountain retreat, which was at times a visit to my son, at times a visit to myself, and at times a checking out from evvverything and eating really. good. chocolate.

capture your grief, day 3: meaningful mantra

I felt “mantra challenged” starting today’s exercise. I didn’t have it in me to create a mantra fitting my mood, and deferred to Google to find a short but expressive one. But I had to start somewhere, even enlisting Google’s help.

I feel the heavy pall around the Las Vegas shooting only two days ago. I have spent entirely too much time around news coverage and responsible gun law advocacy. This healing mantra exercise has come at the very right time.

I knew I wanted my mantra to have some sort of a message of peace for the world. After searching for a while, and passing on mantras that were about inner peace, or that were too long, I hit upon this site:

Chanting for World Peace

What?! Did I just stumble on a project that communally focuses on peace, within a project that communally focuses on grief? Sure ‘nuff I did.

Found my mantra.

Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavanthu

“May all beings everywhere be happy and peaceful.”

Click here to listen to how the chant sounds.

I like how you can participate in the project using your own chant or prayer if you choose.

I’m not thrilled about the word “happy” in the chant because I think that our society is obsessed with “choosing happiness!” and “how to find happiness!” to the discounting or pathologizing of other feelings on the spectrum of the normal human condition. But the rest of the mantra, and the communal project of chanting for world peace, made up for its overused h-word.

As a matter of a fact, I might imagine my own word in place of “happy”…like “joyful,” “content,” or “true to themselves.” For a counseling bend I could use the word “congruent.”

How might you change it?


Playing with the filters on my camera, I settled on the “negative”. I like how the purple amethyst in my mala bracelet (healing for grief) looks like jade.


Instructions for CarlyMarie’s Capture Your Grief, Day 3: Meaningful Mantra:

Create a mantra for yourself for this month. Something that you can say to yourself over and over. Something that lifts your spirits. An example – “Today, I live for you. Today I love for you.” Your mantra can be anything that you want. If you say it over an over enough, you will find yourself beginning to live that mantra. Write your mantra down. Write it down multiple times. Put it in different places where you will see it during your day. On your fridge, in your bathroom mirror, one the steering wheel of your car, etc. You may change your mantra up as we move through this month if you want to. Share your mantra with your tribe.

CarlyMarie’s capture your grief, day 2: rise + shine mourning ritual

Day 2 instructions:

“Create a new mourning ritual. When you rise in the morning spend a few moments in silence and create space for yourself. Wherever you choose to do this, whether it is at the end of your bed as you wake up or out side with a cup of tea, take a few minutes to ground yourself. You can do this by either sitting on the ground or placing both feet flat on the floor. Take a good posture and close your eyes. Take some slow relaxing breaths in and out. Envision your child’s light burning bright like the sun from your heart. Once you feel calm, awake and present, dedicate your day to living for your child and set an intention for how you want your day be. Write it down and share it with us.”

I usually wake at the latest possible moment, squeezing all the milliseconds I can out of hitting snooze. This morning, though, I got up with my alarm and turned on my bedside lamp. I scooted upright, and opened my journal to the blank page (the one after my entry from the bank of the Arkansas after rafting), and closed my eyes.


I thought of Kade. Then I looked at the picture of him holding Asher on my wall. I sat with him for a quiet moment. If you’re not a bereaved parent this might sound crazy to you (or maybe it doesn’t):

It was nice having a little time with him. I’d been missing him. I need to hang out with him again soon.

My intention for the day came to me in the form of a bracelet I ordered from a site I follow, Hands Free Mama. My bracelet reads,

“Only love today.”

There was my intention.

I found my bracelet, jotted my intention, added a little love note, “captured my grief” (snapped my picture), and felt calm and ready for the day.

Starting my morning slowly, mindfully, and by setting an intention was a brilliant change of pace. I will try to do that for at least the rest of October’s Capture Your Grief, and maybe it will become a habit beyond.


coffee shop


Well…whoever said that grief demands to be felt was right. There’s no bottling it in, EVEN when you have a benchmark paper to write before heading out of town, and EVEN when you’re sitting in a moderately busy coffee shop. EVEN when you’re jamming on your paper, finally getting in a groove, and EVEN when you will the lump in your throat and welling tears to GO.

Stevie Nicks. The pretty melody of “Landslide” and the lyrics,

But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older, too

Not all children get older all of the time. That song piping overhead, combined with a mom and teenager walking into the coffee shop; I really didn’t stand a chance.

I took Kade to coffee shops. I want to take him to a coffee shop again. I want to have taken him to more. I want to sit him down here (with his red and black flannel shirt, as the teenager here has on–brutal) across from me and ask him what these past five years have been like for him. I want to know if he knows how they have been for me. There is a lot I want to know. Actually, scratch all that shit. I want to ask him how his classes are, how his girlfriend is, and when he’s coming over for dinner.

Gosh, it’s good to imagine him sitting across from me. If that could happen you would see one crazy lady dancing in the streets. I see him strong, and healthy, and muscular, and happy, and smiling, and hungry, and in black baggy shorts, black skateboard shoes, the black and red flannel with a white tee-shirt underneath, and longer hair underneath a baseball hat on backward. My beautiful Kade.

John Green Fault in our Stars Quote Image

capture your grief – day 6: empathy

Even though I lost a child, I find myself still wondering what to do, and what to say to others going through hard times. I know I’ve been guilty of the “at leasts.” I know I’ve tried to fill space by trying to intellectualize, or make it better for someone. I need very frequent reminders like CarlyMarie’s below. What she has to say on empathy and holding space for a person is worth repeating.

Caring, empathetic people showed up for me right away…and continue to in surprising ways. After Kade died, my mom flew out the next day and stayed with me for a month. Aunts, uncles, and cousins flew to CO right away and helped while they were here. Friends flew out. My best friends came over and made untold behind the scenes arrangements. Tons of coworkers and friends came to the funeral. Lots of people reached out by e-mail or Facebook.

Some people are really good at empathy, and I look up to their example:

  • The old high school friend, who I hadn’t seen in 10 or 20 years, who came over to help with thank you cards.
  • My best friend who commiserates with me on how bad this sucks, unpolished and un-shined-up, not trying to shed a positive light. Oh yeah, she drove through a scary mountain blizzard with me for something Kade-related.
  • My friend who stole away from her large family to vacation with me over a holiday weekend. Shortly after Kade’s death we reminisced, questioned, conversed, picked out boys that looked like him in the crowd, chose girlfriends for him from the crowd, and bought keepsakes we wished we could have given to him.
  • My mom who keeps Kade’s memory alive with me.
  • The preschool mom friend who wanted to hear more about Asher’s great big brother when we went running together.
  • The kindergarten moms who saw my face at a classmate of Asher’s birthday party and knew something was wrong. It was the day before Kade’s birthday, and I had just come from volunteering for Kade. They wanted to see pictures from volunteering, and pictures of Kade.
  • Kade’s and my friends showing up to my sometimes frequent, sometimes harebrained gatherings for Kade.
  • The classmate in my graduate program who greeted me in class with a silent hug. She had read a Facebook post I made shortly before on how I couldn’t stop the tears in a restaurant as I read for class.

And then there are thoughtful acts that might not exactly fit into CarlyMarie’s description of empathy:

  • The mother and son ornament and book left on my front porch on a significant date.
  • A peacock keychain received in the mail (read this blog post to learn the peacock reference).
  • Pictures of baby, toddler, and preschooler Kade texted from an old friend when she randomly comes across them. She also texts me grief books she’s read, for me to read or to stay away from.
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Of course my list is not comprehensive and there are too many examples of thoughtfulness and empathy for me to mention. I hope to learn from and emulate the empathy I’ve witnessed, and I hope to remember this, in my life:

From CarlyMarie:

Capture Your Grief Day 6: EMPATHY

Empathy is about holding space for a person who is hurting. It is about allowing them to fall apart in your presence without judging them. It is about just simply showing up and being there without trying to fix them or show them a silver lining. When a baby or child has died, there is no “At least”. There is no “God needed another angel”. There is no “You should be thankful.” But! There is “I am here for you”. There is “Cry as much as you need to”. There is “Take as long as you like”.

Loved ones often say the wrong things because they are desperately attempting to make you feel better. They hate seeing you so hurt. Their intentions are usually always from the heart. They feel they have to try and fix things. Only there is no fixing any of this. It is what it is and nothing can make any of this right. Other times people say the wrong things because they just have no idea what to say.

Some people find showing empathy difficult because they hate awkward silences. But here is the thing… You can get over your fear of awkwardness by wrapping your arms around your friend! Sit and be with them in silence, even if it is difficult. If you can sit with your friend while they cry their heart out you are a true gift to them. Allowing your friend to release their emotions in your presence is an honour. Embrace that moment. Be proud of yourself for stepping out of your comfort zone. And if you don’t know what to say – tell your friend that. Remind them that you are there to listen.
Being empathetic in my opinion is much easier than trying to fix the impossible. It all comes down to acceptance. Accepting that sometimes in life, really horrible things happen and often to really good people and no silver lining will help right now.
Sending out all my love to anyone who has been on the receiving end of a hurtful comment while grieving, to anyone who struggles with showing empathy (breathe, you can do this!) and to everyone who is really good at it 🙂

blogging a – z challenge – “x”

With the letter X, I can see why this exercise is called a “Challenge.”

I scrolled through a list of X-words online. There are a lot I don’t know the meaning of. And a lot that look Chinese! I’ll be using a word with X in it today.


The word extreme could suitably describe aspects of Kade. His cuteness. His brightness. His inquisitiveness. His silliness. His inappropriateness. His volume. His thrill-seeking. His risk-taking.

He grew up on skis, and skateboarded. He surpassed my skiing abilities by the time he was a little kid. He was a certified whitewater rafting guide, and I heard he was a good kayaker, though I never got to see him at it (what I wouldn’t give!).

When he got more referral slips sent home than any other kid at his elementary school, I wished he was a more moderate type of a kid. When he fractured his foot skateboarding, I wished he was a more moderate type of a kid. When he admitted to experimenting with drugs at a tender age, I wished he was a more moderate type of a kid.

Kade was extreme. His fun, his trouble, his intellect, his experiences, his life, his legacy of being a good friend. My grief, and my love for him, are extreme, too.