Happy Birthday Hope Lives Here!

I quickly changed my clothes and attempted to pull my hair back into a nest on the top of my head. I had no idea why I was so nervous, I’d been going to my same child loss grief group for years now. I felt comfortable talking about the loss of my son and sharing his life with others. I felt like I was in a good place. 

A friend had sent over a video of Patty Inwood talking about a new grief group in Rutland named ‘Hope Lives Here.’  My family was building a home in Rutland and had just moved into town to rent while we waited for construction to be finished. We had left the security of our community in Worcester where everyone knew the story of my son’s death and had embraced our family with love.This meeting seemed to come at the perfect time for me. Or, as I would soon learn in HLH speak, #nocoincidences.   

I made my way across Main Street to the Rutland Library. As I entered the space where we would be meeting, I was surprised to see how many people there were! I was greeted with a huge smile and ushered into the space to meet Patty. She asked me how I found out about HLH and I told her that I had seen her video and that I had also lost my son. I found myself caught up in a hug instantly. I didn’t expect it and I didn’t realize how badly I needed it either.   

We sat down to begin sharing and I quickly realized that myself and one other gentleman were the attendees, everyone else in that room was a volunteer. I should have felt uneasy and in the spotlight, but that never happened. There was something about this incredible group of women that made me instantly comfortable and at ease. I was able to share not only the loss of my son, but also my Mom. Even though I had lost her as a teenager, it helped to talk about that all these years later. It ended up being an incredible evening and I was so glad that I had gone.   

That was 3 years ago in April. Every month I kept showing up at HLH meetings. I found my new community in Rutland. Suddenly moving our family there didn’t seem so scary. I have made so many incredible new connections with people that I would never have met if I hadn’t walked in that door.     

I have been so fortunate to be able to facilitate the HLH Child Loss Meeting for the past 2 years with 2 of the most incredible Angels. This group of Mom’s and Dad’s have done more to heal my broken heart than time could ever do. Their spirit, love and incredible courage is an inspiration to me. In December I joined the HLH Board of Directors where I am surrounded by so much heart. 

Patty is a visionary and a dreamer and she dreams big! I truly believe that ‘we attract love by being love’. And Patty and the HLH founders put something out into the universe that has been answered by some of the kindest souls. Happy 3rd Birthday Hope Lives Here! Keep healing hearts, as you’ve helped to mend mine.

Stretching and Crying

I have had back pain for as long as I can remember. My posture is terrible from years of dealing with a large bust on a small frame and trying to make myself look smaller. For years I worked in a male dominated field, so slouching my shoulders and scooping my spine came naturally.

There is so much wrong with this that I am aware of now, but being a woman in her twenties and thirties, I just wasn’t able to be comfortable in my own skin. Someone very wise recently talked to me about ‘making herself small to make others comfortable.’ And sadly, that’s what I was doing not only physically, but emotionally.

The car accident that took our Benny also had very physical consequences for me. I’ve written about spraining my ankle and the damage to my shoulder and the road rash. The bruising that occured on my back and side was like nothing I have ever seen. Until this accident, I never knew what a bone bruise was, but it took 6+ months to heal on my left leg and I still have damage. I have scarring on my right shoulder and elbow and my shoulder has never been the same since.

They did X rays at the hospital and I had a follow up with my doctor a few weeks later. But here’s the thing, when your child dies, your physical pain and suffering mean nothing. I knew that the ankle would heal and the bruising would fade.

The first thing that we sought was emotional support from a psychologist. Our family needed all of the help that we could get in processing what had just happened. It was during those months of therapy that it was asked why I wasn’t seeking further care for my injuries. And there’s no simple answer for that.

Maybe holding onto the physical pain was a way to punish myself for what happened. Or maybe it provided me a way to feel anything during those early and dark days. Perhaps it provided a reminder that the accident was actually real. Maybe it was just easier to continue feeling ‘small’ as a means to an end. It was probably all of the above if I’m being honest.

Whatever the case, it took me years to seek help. I finally saw a chiropractor and massage therapist and the doctor again. I’m not sure what the impetus was, or if there was one, but I finally decided it was time. Perhaps I was feeling forgiving towards myself or I was finally tired of feeling ‘small’. But that’s a whole other conversation.

I’ve been doing yoga and dance and stretching at home to try to keep everything feeling good during quarantine. A week ago I started a fascia stretch to work on opening up shoulders and chest and hopefully work on correcting my posture.

Today’s stretch was the hips and the instructor said that we carry emotion there and we shouldn’t be surprised if we cry. I was dubious. I had never heard of that. Guess I was wrong, because let me tell you, it was like someone turned on the water works. During a damn hip stretch!!

This is not like I was in a quiet space and able to get myself into the stretch emotionally. My littles were 3 feet away working on a puzzle and my cats were running around. It was the typical chaos and here I was thinking I would get in a quick stretch.

Because Google is my friend, I read article after article of the hips being a place where we store trauma. In further research in Psychology today I found that the hips and jaw are aligned and store so much of the flight or fight response based on one study.

I think sometimes that we forget how closely our bodies are connected to our emotions. Here I am 7 plus years out crying over a 5 minute hip stretch. I’m only halfway through this program, but I’m curious to see what else my body has to tell me about my current mental state.

I’m the one

I’m the one that drives 12 in a 40 during a snowstorm because I’m scared of crashing.

I’m the one that panics when the 3 year old sleeps through the night, because she usually doesn’t.

I’m the one that cries at doggie daycare drop off because I’m afraid of my puppy with the other dogs.

I’m the one who tries really hard not to go into stores and religiously wears her mask.

I’m the one that decided to keep her daughter remote during a pandemic because she’s scared of it.

I’m the one who lost her mom to cancer at 16 and her Dad to bad lifestyle choices at 39.

I am the one who was hit by her car in her driveway and watched her son die.

I am the one with PTSD, anxiety and probably a myriad of other issues.

I am the one that doesn’t necessarily live in fear, but has lived too much in reality.

I am the one that has seen too much, lived too much loss, yet still really hopes it will all just be ok.

This is what is left and I’m tired of apologizing for whom I’ve become.

Marbles

So here’s the thing about loss. When something really awful happens, you begin to realize how little control you have over things. And that maybe something bad can happen again. And it’s terrible.

I’m paranoid and anxious. A lot. I try really hard to reason with myself and be realistic, but man there are just some times when it is really difficult to let my guard down. In my 41 years of life there has been so much damn loss. And grief. And trauma. So much of who I am and how I react now is a trauma response.

Let me preface this story by stating that everything turned out fine. Earlier this week I was in the living room on the floor working out. My littles were on the other side of the couch playing with marbles and magnets. I was less than five feet away. I could hear them giggling and goofing around. Then I could hear something in their mouths and my ‘Momdar’ went into hyper drive.

As soon as I popped up to ask them what they were doing, I could hear a slight choke/cough and my 3 year old Perry began crying, saying she swallowed something. To say I panicked is an understatement. I completely freaked out.

She swallowed a 1/4″ steel ball. At first I thought it was a magnet and then I really started to panic. I called her doctor and was told that the NP would call me back soon. It was a long 20 minutes.

I called my husband who convinced me the marble wasn’t magnetic. That made me feel a little better. I was convinced we would have to go to the hospital and they would have to open her up. During Covid. I was freaking out she could have aspirated it. Every awful scenario played out in my head. I was texting and googling like a madwoman hoping to find someone who had gone through this before and could guide me.

The worst part was that I was right there when it happened. I was maybe 3-4 feet away from the kids and she still swallowed the damn marble. I was a second too late in realizing that my kids were making very poor choices. And I was really angry at myself. And my kids of course, because they both know better than to put stuff in their mouths. But they are just kids. And I’m the adult.

But I couldn’t prevent it. I couldn’t predict it would happen. And I felt completely out of control. And anxious. And really angry that I was fearing for my child’s safety again. I’m pretty sure I aged another 10 years in those 20 minutes.

The NP called and wasn’t concerned. It was a good thing it was small, it was a good thing it was round, because it wouldn’t get stuck. Even if it had been a magnet that’s fine as long as it’s just one. I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Here’s the thing about trauma, the small things become big things. They send you completely down the rabbit hole. Just when you think you have something figured out, life throws you a curve ball. This was my reminder that I cannot control every situation. It was a reminder to give myself a little grace.

Oh, and that marble, came right back out.

Positivity and Music

Attempting to start this whole ‘falling in love with myself’ is freaking hard! I joked about following some steps that I found on Google. But I really need to sit down and research exactly what steps I need to take and what I know will best work for me. It’s time to do some serious research and soul searching.

In the meantime, I am attempting to alter my mindset (if possible). I tend to be a sarcastic realist and that comes out as negative a lot of the time. And let’s face it, it’s been really hard to stay positive this last year.

Reading about all of the death happening around the world is horrifying. Especially because I can understand how these families feel. But I didn’t lose anyone in a time of Covid and I can’t begin to imagine the lack of control/closure these people must feel. The world’s suffering weighs heavily.

Back in January I began a playlist of positive and upbeat songs. I keep adding to it and I’ve been playing the bag out of it. Music is so good for the soul and can set or reset your mood. I’m loving how it can help me turn down the volume in my head to all the negativity I constantly feed myself.

It’s very helpful when I’m driving and some ass is tailgating or has their high beams on. I’ve noticed it helps to keep me calmer and kinder. I’m trying to remind myself that I have zero idea of what is happening in that person’s life and to have some grace (there is that word again).

When we have family dance parties a lot of these songs are ones that I chose to play. Because they are fun and crazy and loud, and sometimes your soul just needs that. We love to dance and I find I sleep better and smile more on the nights when we shut off the lights, turn on the $15 disco light and blast ‘Firework’ or ‘Lovely Day’. It creates this instant connection amongst my varied age brood and everyone joins in.

There have been homeschool days where the littles and I are just dragging. The whining begins and my patience wears thin. I know the curriculum calls for Chopin, but sometimes you just need some ‘Good Life’ to get you through.

We all know the lyrics to just about every song on the list. And I’m hoping it’s having the impact on my children’s mindset that it’s having on mine. Because I need the positivity in my life right now.

Below is my list, what else can I add?

My GAF is Broken

Before I start down this self love path of hearts and unicorns (this is sarcasm, because it’s my go to when I’m completely uncomfortable, which I currently am at the prospect of this whole entire idea. Which is why it’s probably a good one), I need to get something off my chest. Because what’s the point of doing this whole thing if I don’t let some of this crap out in the process?

I am someone that has been grieving for more than half of my life and you know what? My ‘give a fuck’ is broken. I can no longer find my ‘give a damn’ and I haven’t used my ‘give a crap’ in awhile either.

I have found myself in situations where my filter is also missing and I feel that it is ok to be brutally honest with people. Like when they suck, I have found it much easier to tell them so because the further that I get into this whole grief thing, the more I realize that I don’t care what people think of me anymore. The worst thing that can happen already has. Someone’s opinion at this point can’t touch me.

My grief goggles are on and all I see is what’s important. Drama and bullshit are out, I don’t have the space for either. If I think you are making bad choices, you will know. Not to be cruel, but because I care and life is too short to make stupid mistakes. It will hand you plenty of stuff for you to deal with on your own.

I don’t have time for things where I don’t feel connected. This whole grief thing is hard enough, if I’m going to give my time and passion to anything, it better be for something positive. I need that good energy to keep myself going. I need to feel like I am all in.

All that being said, I will hold your hand if you’re hurting. I will cry with you. I will sit with you in your grief. My GAF is broken because so much of my focus now goes to the people that count. My energy is now dedicated to the things that count and have meaning.

It’s crazy how grief shapes you. I’ve tried to fight it for a really long time, but it’s time to start dealing with it. So what if my BS tolerance is a little shorter and I’ve learned to say no to things that I don’t love? It’s who I am now.

2021 Goals

My goal for 2021 is to fall back in love with myself. Now, I’m not entirely sure that I should really have any goals this year, given what were all going through. If 2020 taught me anything though, it’s that I need this. I need something for me. I need to refocus on what’s important.

The parts that are weighing me down are the anger, the guilt and the fear. There are some days I am so angry that this is my life. It is really, really hard to accept that my son isn’t with me. It is really, really unfair that I don’t have either of my parents. Man that anger comes out at the worst times and unfairly to people that don’t always deserve it. I need to find a better way.

I’ve had a lot of time to think this past year and a lot of time to realize that I am carrying a lot of extra ‘stuff’. The grief I will carry forever, there is no choice there. I’m not sure I’ve made my peace with that or if I ever will, but the grief is all of my love for all of those that are gone. I need my grief. As bizarre as that sounds.

I could write a novel on the guilt. The complete inability to protect my own son and keep him safe plagues me. I think that losing a child might be the guiltiest feeling in the damn world, no matter how irrational and undeserving it is. It’s unnatural and out of order and brings so many deep rooted feelings of inadequacy. Even when there is no fault. It is hard to explain unless you’ve lived it. I don’t have any idea how to conquer this one besides talking about it, so buckle up.

The fear just exhausts me. I’m always so concerned someone is going to get hurt or die. It’s hard not to get yourself worked up after you’ve seen the worst. It’s not all the time and it’s not everyday, I just know that feeling wasn’t there before. I didn’t love in fear that it would all be taken away.

Damn, just writing this is a lot. And maybe it’s more than I can take on by myself and I’ll have to seek outside help. But that’s ok. I’ve been there before enough times and I’m willing to go back if need be. But writing this down and holding myself accountable helps. Because I know I’m probably not alone in this.

It’s so hard because who you are as a person changes so much once you’ve lost a child. It’s coming up on 8 years for me and I’m still reeling. So much of who I am now feels shaped by my loss. I’m starting to come out of the fog and realize that being in a heightened trauma response mode is not where I want to be forever.

So I did what anyone else does when they are trying to figure something out, I Googled it. Because why not? I wasn’t expecting some life altering answer, because I know the shortcomings of the internet. But I hoped for something somewhat thought provoking.

I was brought to daringtolivefully.com. This website seemed like a good place to start, complete with a self love quote from Oscar Wilde. It has over 911 shares, so it must be good stuff.

I joke because it’s a defense mechanism. I do not even begin to know how to go about this mindfully or purposefully. I just know I must do it. Or try it at the very least. I’m too old to be living with this version of me that I don’t always like.

So here is the list of characteristics that people have who love themselves are supposed to be able to do:

  • Give yourself what you need, instead of waiting for others to do so.
  • Embrace both your strengths and your weaknesses.
  • Be gentle with yourself when you make a mistake or fail.
  • Be comfortable with doing things alone.
  • Know you’re in your corner, even if nobody else is.
  • Know that you’re enough.
  • Have the confidence to go after what you really want.

That’s quite the list. And it all sounds rather nice. And I know there are some things on this list that I already accel at and others that I’m horrible at. At least it gives me a starting point.

I’m going to try this 10 Step Program and see where it goes. And you get to come along for the ride if you want to. I have zero idea of what to expect or even if what I’m looking to accomplish is attainable. But it will be my little 2021 Eat/Pray/Love Project. I think just getting it out of my head is the first step.