Saturday, March 22, 2014

Choose Healing

I posted this today on a grief page where I am a member.  May it be a light on your healing journey.

In the past week or so I have read many posts here by bereaved parents who are 8, 12, 15 even 20+ years into their grief journey.
These quotes catch their general feelings:
 "They said it will get better but it gets worse every year."
"I have nothing to "go on" for in my life."
"I still have a boulder on top of my heart and feel kind of numb or frozen."
"I can barely find a reason to still hang on."
This just squeezes my heart and makes me so sad. Our son died 23 years ago as a 8 year old.  Leroy would now be 31.

The first years of my grief were a deep, painful journey, dark and lonely.  It was a terrifying place of sheer survival. As the years have passed I have found deep, deep healing. I no longer walk in the dark. I am not afraid. I have joy and laughter.  Yes, I miss him and yes I cry.

I faced the death of my son the same way I do any new experience: I read every book I can find on the topic.  I found a couple a rummage sale in my home town.  One of them, Don't Take My Grief Away by Doug Manning, became my grief manual.

This book is divided into 3 parts.  Part one is funeral planning which we had long passed when I got  the book but I was gratified to learn that some of the decisions we made instinctively were very healthy.

The second part encourages one to grieve as needed, in their own way and at their own pace, hence the title. Don't let anyone take your grief away. He says you need to give your self permission to grieve and not let anyone else dictate what that should look like.

The third part emphasizes giving yourself permission to heal. Just as we need to give ourselves permission to grieve, we need to give ourselves permission to heal.  Unspoken and deep within us we have the belief that if we stop grieving we stop loving and we have forgotten. We consider it a betrayal of our child. That is so far from the truth. If we do not choose to live and choose to heal we are in essence saying that the death of our child is more important than our child's life.  When we allow ourselves to heal there is nothing holding us back from treasuring every photograph and  reliving every memory with joy. There is nothing that stops us from enjoying every place we ever went with our son. We celebrate a little brown eyed boy by eating his favorite foods with pleasure. We celebrate his birthday every year with cupcakes frosted blue and decorated with sprinkles and gummy fish. Some years family members have made them in four different states.  We are sharing his life with the next generation who will grow up knowing Uncle Leroy from the stories we tell, his trunk full of belongings and pictures of him everywhere.

I want to leave you with two quotes I collected today:

"The last 20 years have been what "I" have called not kind. I have learned to go into my trials and pull out my joys and blessings."
Sandy Holombo-Olson 2014

"We can still choose to either die alongside them,
spiritually and emotionally, or to take this day and
soak up as many good things from it as we can muster."
Erica Farrimond 2014 TCF

Choose healing and wear red shoes for courage - Pat

Monday, March 3, 2014

A link: 15 Things I Wish I'd Known About Grief

First time for everything.  I am posting a link to another blog for the first time on and red shoes... because it is good.  I have read it all and even written some when it comes to grief and bereavement; this is among the best I have ever found.  May it be good for you also.  
 15 Things I Wish...Identity Renewed

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Don't grieve for me...

Line from a poem  called Letter from Heaven:
"Grieve for me, but for a short time please
I am here beside you on my knees
You must remember when you feel sad I do too..."

My response:
I do not grieve for my son. I grieve for me.  No one alive or dead including the one I am grieving can dictate or limit or command my grief.  It is mine to do with it as I need and as I will.  I sorrow because I love.  My grief is an expansion of the relationship and love we had here into the relationship and love we continue to have.  I do not believe my grief for my son withholds peace from him.  What I see from my side is so finite. He has gone to infinity with God beyond space and time, his understanding now includes eternity, no beginning and no end. My understanding is locked in time, in space, in the beginning and the end.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Walking Shoes

I found this on the Compassionate Friends Facebook page. After 22 years my shoes fit pretty well. Some days they still hurt and some days I hate them but mostly now they walk in sweet memory of my little brown-eyed boy.  We will celebrate the Runner's birthday next week on Family Night eating Rice-A-Roni with hamburg, bean beans and Fish Cupcakes. It will be good. I will miss mine who are away more than the one who is gone away.

I hate my shoes. 
Each day I wear them, and each day I wish I had another pair. 
Some days my shoes hurt so bad that I do not think I can take another step. 
Yet, I continue to wear them. 
I get funny looks wearing these shoes. 
They are looks of sympathy. 
I can tell in others eyes that they are glad they are my shoes and not theirs. 
They never talk about my shoes. 
To learn how awful my shoes are might make them uncomfortable. 
To truly understand these shoes you must walk in them. 
But, once you put them on, you can never take them off. 
I now realize that I am not the only one who wears these shoes. 
There are many pairs in this world. 
Some woman are like me and ache daily as they try and walk in them. 
Some have learned how to walk in them so they don't hurt quite as much.
Some have worn the shoes so long that days will go by before they think about how much they hurt. 
No woman deserves to wear these shoes. 
Yet, because of these shoes I am a stronger woman. 
These shoes have given me the strength to face anything. 
They have made me who I am. 
I will forever walk in the shoes of a woman who has lost a child...
Author Unknown   

Following the Shepherd - Pat

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Grief and Holy Days

Many who are grieving find the holidays to be treacherous and unholy ground.  Facing those traditional days without their loved one is just too much to bear. I was the exception rather than the norm when it came to this.  In my now dark and scary world where everything was changed I found the the holidays to be a relief because they were traditional. They did not change.  I was drawn out of my tiny, grief focused life and found refuge in family.

A few weeks before Leroy died in July we had spent a weekend at my cousin Carla's a couple hours upriver. It was a time of fun, freedom and family. We made memories. Following his death our extended family Thanksgiving was hosted by Carla as well.  We gathered there with family.  I brought the scrapbook we were creating about him.  On the coffee table was a candle lit in his memory, tucked in the flowers around the base was a small wishbone.  He always asked for the wishbone.  After other family members left we stayed for the rest of weekend.  It was a time of missing, healing and tears. We made memories. The Biker read a book about the death of a beloved son and cried. If you know him, he is not a reader and at that time tears did not come easily either.  In a drawer there was a small pad of paper. Imprinted into it was the letter Leroy had written to his Auntie Nunie.  If you knew him you would know that reading and writing did not come easily to him either.  Artist that he was, all around the edges he had drawn flowers and curly ques.  He was so proud of that letter. His eyes sparkled with excitement as he told me she would have to write back to him because he asked how the baby was doing!

Once again it is Thanksgiving. We are here in Virginia Beach to celebrate with our sailor. In his living room is a candle. Beside it is a small framed photograph of a small, brown eyed boy holding his baby brother.  Six years between them but they were good buds.  Twenty-two years later, we still miss him.

Holidays. Holy days.  How do we do this?

Find a way to honor your loved one as part of your celebration.  It does not have to be extravagant just meaningful to you.

Change a few things but do not change everything. Remember you are not the only one grieving though our grief fogged mind has made our focus that small.  Think about those nearest and dearest to you and what their needs may be.  Not celebrating at all may seem best to us, however, especially for children, losing the holiday along with their favorite traditions may be too big a loss to bear with the loss they are already enduring.  We can easily make those whom we are still blessed to have in our lives feel as if their life is no longer important to us because of death. Love them.

If others beyond your nearest and dearest do not like the changes you are making in your holiday traditions and celebrations, offer them grace. They do not understand.

Have a plan.  You may tweak it when the time comes, change it up or abandon it completely but have a plan. Death leaves us feeling helpless and out of control.  A plan that did not work is better than no plan at all which leaves you feeling more helpless and out of control.  Be patient with yourself.  You are finding your way through rough and rocky ground you have not traveled before.

Often the anticipation of the holiday is worse than the day itself. Anticipation of the pain is often worse than the pain itself. It is okay to be sad. It is okay to cry and miss and wish. It is okay to be happy and enjoy yourself in spite of it all.

May your season be holy and wear red shoes for courage - Pat

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Time - The Poem

Poetry has been and is a part of my healing process.
I did not write this poem.  It came to me.  I wrote it down.


God is all eternity.
He doesn’t measure time.
Here on earth  it pushes us
With steady, metered rhyme.

Time was running way to fast,
The years were flying by.
A week seemed but a day
An hour, the a wink of an eye.

One night in it’s headlong rush
Time crashed, it stopped, stood still.
A mighty hand had reached inside,
And stopped the spinning wheels.

Your little heart stopped beating,
My leaping, lively one.
Your little feet stopped climbing,
You had reached the highest rung.  

Time just stopped and stood there,
A heavy, crushing weight,
Holding fear, and pain, and anger
Inside it’s iron gate.

Slowly the wheels started turning
As if in agony.
The hours that flew so quickly by
Seemed to fill eternity.

Time hurry, go on, faster
Rush on past this pain.
Make the years go flying
Heal my heart again.

I am sorry, Time has answered
This has come to stay.
I can only ease your sorrow,
I cannot make it go away.

My little one, you’re off and running,
You’re  running on ahead.
No measured steps of pain for you,
Timeless freedom is yours instead.

Your little feet are off and running,
Climbing, leaping as before.
I am waiting . . . waiting to join you.
Where time shall be no more.

pja   1991 November 20