Writing about Grief

The topic of grief and loss is not an easy one, and I’ve mulled for over a month now about how to write about all that’s going on in our world with my sister and her battle with stage four metastatic breast cancer.  I finally decided I just needed to start writing, because no matter how much I mulled, it’s not going to be neat and tidy and wrapped up in a bow.  Grief isn’t any of those things, so blog posts about grief and lost won’t be either.

Our family is no stranger to loss and to grief.  In fact, our family was created with grief as a foundation.  My father died when I was two, and my mother married a widower about 2 years later.  They were both very young – early 20’s, and already both in second marriages after the death of a spouse, and between them, they brought three kids to the family.  I was the oldest, my brother Robert (a year younger than me), and my new (step) sister Sarah.  (We never referred to each other as step-anything growing  up, but I do use it as clarification occasionally).  My parents had another son, Ken, a little over a year after they married.  We were a blended, “yours, mine, and ours” family back in a time when that wasn’t nearly as common, and there were very little resources available in terms of counseling, books, or experienced friends.

Our family at my dad's college graduation. We were approximately 10, 9, 8, and 5 here.

Our family at my dad’s college graduation. We were approximately 10, 9, 8, and 5 here.

Needless to say, grief has been a part of our family dynamic since the beginning.  My parents did the best they could, which most of the time meant survival mode.  We didn’t address grief and loss growing up.  Our deceased parents (my father and my sister’s mother who died when she was 8 months old) were never, or very rarely discussed.  In fact, I didn’t know where my dad was buried until I was almost 18.  It was never stated out loud as a rule that we shouldn’t talk about the past and those missing parents, but I think as little ones, we could sense the emotions surrounding the loss, and we just learned to not talk or ask questions.  (I know I did a LOT of talking about my dad as a young toddler after his death, because my mother has told me how I asked for him all day long for months, but at some point, I believe I just stopped talking because I knew it hurt too much.)

As the oldest, I have the longest perspective (by about 14 months), but each of us siblings had a different view of how things were. And unfortunately, we lost the perspective of my brother Robert, when he died at age 19 in a car accident, twenty years ago. Yes, more loss.  And grief. I think if Robert were still here, he and I would be able to share memories on the years and probably see eye-to-eye on most things. But I’ll never know for sure.

My sister and I have very different views of how life was growing up.  She is just 18 months younger than me, but her perspectives and mine have always been worlds apart.  I have always blamed that on genetics – we don’t share any – and it’s pretty obvious in how we approach.. well, most everything.  And my youngest brother was just a baby in the early, tumultuous years… and because he was the “ours” in the “yours, mine, and ours” scenario, he HAD both his parents growing up, and it was simply a dramatically different experience for him as a child.

All that to say.. I have a lot of thoughts on grief and loss.  More soon…

 

Four long years… it’s (past) time for an update!

Yes, it’s been FOUR years since I last updated this blog.  I think I had good intentions about 2 years ago, because I did some re-design work on it, but I never finished THAT… and thus, never wrote a post either.

Four years is a long time, and a lot has happened… Allan and I both turned 40 (and then some), and most noticeably there’s the fact that our children are no longer “littles”, and I have no babies or toddlers running around anymore. (You did not just hear me say HALLELUJAH under my breath, no.. you did not). Samuel is almost 12, “lil” Allan is almost 9, and Martha is almost 7.  I’m in denial about these ages, but their soon-to-be-here birthdays will come whether I want them to or not.  Samuel is already planning his birthday party favors (TARDIS and Dr. Who, all the way), and Martha has been planning her party for a couple of months. (She is our “cruise director”, and plans every day and every thing down to the last minute detail.  I have no idea where she gets it. cough).  Allan is not a planner, and he has a lot more time than the other two (and he takes after his Daddy in terms of all things time and clock-related), so he’ll start planning in late April.

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All three kids are in school these days – 1st grade, 3rd grade, and 6th grade.  This means I have 7.5 hours a day to work, relax, read, and nap.  It’s been an unexpected season for me, as Martha has a severe peanut allergy, and we weren’t sure if she would head off to school or not.  We home-schooled her first semester of Kindergarten last year, and she hated it.  She is a social bug (see previous comment about cruise directing), and wanted desperately to be with other kids at “regular” school.  The boys were (are) attending a fabulous charter school, and they have made us feel very safe in sending Martha there too.  I still pray for her safety every morning when I drop her off, but she has attended for a full year now, and so far – so good.

If you read any recent archives, as you might, since I haven’t written very much in over FOUR years… you will see posts about my sister Sarah and her cancer battle in 2008.  She survived that battle, and was in a remission (of sorts) for over three years.  She had a sweet miracle baby during that time (who is now 2 1/2)… but unfortunately in August of this last year (2013), we found out the cancer was back, with a vengeance.  It has been a tremendously difficult few months, filled with a lot of pain and heartbreak as the most advanced chemo didn’t touch the aggressive cancer, and she is now on hospice.  I will likely write about this topic in the coming weeks and months, as it’s pretty all-consuming, and I have lots of words on the subject.  All the words, they are rattling around in my brain, and I hope that writing might relieve some of the pain caused by all the rattle.

So… yay me!  A blog post after many years of silence… a mini re-cap, with hopefully a lot more to come!

 

November Gratitude Challenge

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My friend Laura of HeavenlyHomemakers.com has issued up a November Gratitude Challenge, and I thought it might JUST be “the” thing that gets me back into blogging here regularly.  I have a lot to be thankful for, and I have been mulling over the idea of trying to post each day with at least one thing I’m thankful for… if not more!

But first…

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last several years being alternately grumpy – and then occasionally grateful –  and then grumpy again.

Grumpy isn’t all that attractive, and if you asked me, I’d say that I prefer NOT to be grumpy… and yet I’ve continued to find myself with a frown more often than not.

I’ve blamed it on my personality (I’m a “melancholy“)…

I’ve blamed it on my poor health (which is an issue, but still…)

I’ve blamed it on stress caused from Martha’s allergies, Samuel’s school challenges, or just the fact that there are THREE kiddos running around and ONE of me…

I’ve blamed it on Allan’s silliness (there’s nothing worse than someone who likes to laugh…when you want to be GRUMPY).

I’ve blamed it on satan.

I’ve blamed it on church issues.

I’ve blamed it on the fact that I live in Vegas.

And you know what, when it comes right down to it… all of those things are all perfectly “valid” reasons to be grumpy.  (Especially Allan’s silliness!)

And yet… I know deep down that “valid reasons” is just one more excuse for the CHOICE that I’m making.

The CHOICE to be grumpy and not thankful.

The CHOICE to frown instead of smile.

The CHOICE to stomp my feet and throw a fit… instead of saying a prayer of gratitude and praise.

This is not a new revelation for me.  In fact, I’m sure somewhere in the archives I have at least one or two other posts very similar to this one.  It’s obviously something I’ll be working on until Heaven.

So, for today… for tomorrow… and the rest of this month, I’m pledging to think THANKFUL thoughts… pray GRATEFUL prayers… and share a bit of that here.

And today, I’m thankful for Laura and for the Gratitude Challenge!

What about you?  If you have something to be thankful for, I urge you to head on over to HeavenlyHomemakers.com and check out the Gratitude Challenge.  I know you’ll be glad you did!

Gratituesday…five fabulous years

Ahhh… it feels good to be writing a Gratituesday post again, and today’s post will be centered all around my hubby. We celebrated our 5th anniversary in September, and I’m actually a few weeks behind on writing this post – for a few reasons:

1) I didn’t know where I wanted to actually post it (I have too many blogs).

2) Allan and I have been having a really rough time lately (not with each other (much), but with external pressures), and while I’ve been grateful a LOT, I’ve also been a bit whiny too.

3) It’s hard to put into words how really thankful I am for Allan, and for our five years together… so all these “words” have been milling around in my head in a jumbled sort of way.

I finally settled #1 by realizing that the best place to post a Gratituesday post about my husband and our marriage/anniversary was here at BellaJoy.com.  After all, that’s “who” I was when he and I met on churchofchristsingles.com.

It feels like FOREVER ago, even though it’s only been about six years since VegasVik and Bellajoy met each other in a chat room, and found common ground in web design and silly banter.

Neither of us took each other seriously at first because, well, he was in Vegas, and I was in Nebraska.  And neither of us had any intentions of moving.

God had other plans… and five years ago last August, I found myself moving to “sin city”.

To say it’s been an easy five years would be one big fat lie.  It’s actually been an incredibly HARD five years.  As soon as the wedding was over, we were dealing with a pregnancy and a whole host of health issues and emotions and everything else associated with that.  The first year and a half of our marriage is pretty much a blur.  The only thing I DO remember with perfect clarity is how hard Allan worked to keep us all going.  He cooked, he cleaned, he shopped, he did laundry, he cared for Samuel when I couldn’t. We had regular help from his parents, and my mom when she could be here… but all the struggles on a day to day basis…there were almost entirely on Allan’s shoulders.

Lil Allan was born a preemie, but God is so good, and he was healthy and OK from almost day one.  After we got through the newborn months, we had a pretty good year between the time lil Allan was six months old and 18 months old… and then I was pregnant again.  (Yes, we wanted to do it again, even though everyone thought we were crazy… we wanted a GIRL)!

This time around, there were TWO kids to take care of, and while the pregnancy wasn’t quite as scary (we’d done it once before, which helped), I still had plenty of health issues, and Allan again picked up the slack.

Martha’s pregnancy went full term, and she arrived healthy. We thought everything was ok, but I was actually not doing well at all.  My blood pressure was bad for six months before we realized the problem, and I’m still dealing with the effects of all that today.  (She was/is totally worth it…)

Just like any couple with children, we’ve had a lot of pressures on us these last five years… all the normal baby/toddler/potty training/parenting/discipline/there’s three of them, and one of me/mom might go crazy if she doesn’t get an hour to herself times…

Throughout all this… the pregnancies, the illness, the stress, the church issues, the relationship challenges, family drama, the happy and the sad, Allan has been a rock.  He’s dealt with emotions and hormones and craziness… and he’s kept on loving and cherishing me.

Allan has taught me to be stronger, tougher, more confident, and more faithful.  He’s helped me persevere… lean on God more… and pray more.  He encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone, and to serve God and my fellow Christians in ways I would probably have never done without him. He’s been patient with me when I wanted to rebel (oh wow, am I rebellious sometimes), and he’s held me while I cried over injustice, false accusation, and just overall heartache.  He has been unwilling to let me “throw in the towel” during some really tough spiritual times, and I know he has prayed for me every day (probably ten times a day lately).  He’s been such a good example and leader, a good father and step-father.

Oh, lest you think Allan is perfect – he’s not.  He drives me insane some days with his joking and weisenheimer-ness (it’s a word, yes it is).  He doesn’t have enough respect for the clock, and is way too laid back sometimes (Ok, so maybe *I’m* just too uptight).  He is SO stubborn (mostly a good thing, but sometimes not), and I never win an argument because he’s just too dang smart.  There are plenty of times I want to throw things at him… but…

I love him.

I respect him.

I adore him.

He is truly my Prince, and I’m so… so… SO thankful for him!

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Are you thankful for something today?  Join in sharing over at HeavenlyHomemakers.com

It’s not easy being green…

I have been thinking about writing here again at BellaJoy.com… been thinking and thinking about it.  Usually when I’m washing dishes.  I think up fabulous post ideas and have all kinds of wise, witty, fun things to share.

Then I sit down at the computer screen once my hands are dry… and nothing happens.

So, last night I thought about it again (while washing dishes) and decided to spend a little time today updating the look.

And then I wasted three hours (ok, it was only 45 minutes, but it felt like three hours) trying to find a simple, clean, pretty theme.

I wanted blue… but I’m settling for green.

For now.

I’m going to waste spend more time tomorrow trying to change the color scheme, because I’m more of a blue (or pink) kinda girl.

And while I won’t make any promises about when I’ll be back to blog again (especially since all 5 of you who still visit each day aren’t holding your breath)… I DO plan to be back.

There are a lot of words in my head… and they need a place to go.  And I think Allan is tired of them being aimed at HIS head.

So.. more soon!

A long, long time…

It’s been almost a year since I blogged here.  Life just took over last summer, and some things had to drop off the radar, and this blog was one of them.  I’m hoping to get back to it somewhat more regularly.

Of course it’s going to take me about three weeks to delete the 4000 spam comments that have accumulated in that time.  Wow… maybe I’ll be able to blog by June.

More soon!

Gratituesday… long trips in the car…

Allan and the kids and I arrived home late last night, after an all day trip from my folks’ house in California.  When Allan drove it alone last week, he made it home in just over 9 hours.  With the kids?  It took almost 12 hours. 

Yep, a 6 year old, a 3 year old, and a 15 month old… all sitting in the back seat of our Jetta.  And we made them sit there for TWELVE hours.

No DVD players, no CD players, no movies.  Just them, a few Happy Meal toys, their blankets, and one semi-video game for Samuel.  (Oh, and one happy meal each from McDonalds for lunch, a kids meal each from burger king for dinner, and some snacks and drinks along the way).

And they did awesome.  They totally ROCK as passengers on long car trips.  I think Martha fussed a total of 20 minutes the entire day, and it was mostly because it took that long for me to figure out that she was HUNGRY and wanted a snack already. 

We are so very blessed!  I love turning around and and seeing their happy faces in the back seat of the car.  I love how easy going and laid back they are, even 6 and 8 and 10 hours into a long trip.  I love that they are able to self-entertain for hours on end, and that they enjoy each others company.  I love how Martha, at only 15 months old, can sit in a car seat and cross her sweet little ankles, and do nothing but look pensive for over an hour, watching the road and the cars go by.  I even love the non-stop questions from Samuel, and the silly “announcements” from lil Allan.  (The boy likes to ANNOUNCE things repeatedly, to each and every person in the car – oh, and loudly!)  MOM, WE ARE GOING TO LAS VEGAS!  DAD, WE ARE GOING TO LAS VEGAS!  MARTHA, WE ARE GOING TO LAS VEGAS!  SAMUEL, WE ARE GOING TO LAS VEGAS….

Oh, and what do I love the most?  My handsome, happy husband who does ALL the driving and never (ok, rarely) gets ruffled by the kids and their noise (ANNOUNCEMENTS and questions, oh my!). 

So, today.. I’m thankful for long car trips with my family, and I am most thankful that yesterday’s trip is OVER and we arrived home safely!

What are YOU thankful for?  Write a post and the post the link on Laura’s blog at Heavenly Homemakers.

 

Gratituesday… the breast cancer edition…

My sister Sarah was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and my kids and I are staying with my folks in California – going back and forth to Sarah’s house, hanging out, helping some, and being a part of the battle.

This week, I’m tired, but feeling thankful today for a variety of things that have come up since the breast cancer diagnosis.  Here’s a list of some of those things…

  • I’m thankful that yesterday’s first chemo session is OVER. 
  • I’m thankful the chemo session went well overall.
  • I’m thankful that Sarah is not sick from the chemo yet.
  • I’m thankful for my new haircut and Sarah’s new haircut.  The cuts are cute and kicky and great for the summer heat. :-)
  • I’m thankful for the gifts of food that arrive every day from members of Sarah’s congregation.
  • I’m thankful for the gifts of money that arrive almost daily, along with cards and notes of encouragement, from family and friends all over the country.
  • I’m thankful for the email and blog comments and notes of encouragement that friends and family are leaving on Sarah’s Health blog.
  • I’m thankful for the Care Calendar that Lara and Staci set up – for their planning and hard work – so Sarah and Ron don’t have to think about meals or their basic daily needs right now.
  • I’m thankful for the old friends and other folks I’ve been able to catch up with by phone, by email and in person, after word spread of the diagnosis.
  • I’m thankful for our mother who is diligently caring for FIVE grandkids so I can spend time and take care of Sarah.
  • I’m thankful for my husband who drove all the way back to Las Vegas yesterday to put in a few days worth of work, and who will be driving BACK to California to get us this next weekend (which means he’ll be driving BACK to Las Vegas with all of us AGAIN next week).
  • I’m thankful for time spent with my sister… my dad… my mom… my brother… my sister-in-law… my brother-in-law… my nephews. 
  • I’m thankful for the kind nurses and technicians AND the extremely cute surgeon – they have all been so gentle and caring to Sarah.
  • I’m thankful for the generosity of the extremely cute surgeon and the generosity of the anesthesia doctor, who gave of their time and efforts to Sarah for FREE, when putting in her chemo port.
  • (Did I mention the extremely cute surgeon? We are totally thankful for him!) <grin>
  • I’m thankful for all the prayers for strength, because they are TOTALLY working!
  • I’m thankful for Sarah’s increased strength and her 100% positive mental attitude.

Oh, there is SO much more… God is indeed working through this, and I’m thankful for his blessings.

What are YOU thankful for today?  Join in with Laura at Heavenly Homemakers for Gratituesday, and tell us all about it!