Thanksgiving: my thoughts on grieving and why I am thankful

This week has been interesting. The anticipation of the Thanksgiving holiday has been an up and down journey. By now I have become used to the interesting face of grief, even if I wish it were not there. Any writing that I do is normally a healing form of processing every feeling, and thought. These run rampant and can often change without a moment’s notice. From the grief books as well as talking with others who have had their own loss, this is all normal.

In light of Thanksgiving, I truly wish the best time for each of you. There is so much to be thankful for. If you find yourself struggling through the loss of someone dear to you, know that you are allowed time to grapple and struggle. If the holidays bring pain from a loss, know that there are many who pray for you. I know that I am. Even though there are some days that may seem so hard that I wish the day would just end, I am thankful for this journey. This journey helps me to understand those suffering losses so much better. It provides an instant connection with someone else that I may have only met that day. We can come together in the loss and pain, with the understanding that there are no words needed since we are going through the same journey, separate, yet together. How beautiful is that? When half the nation seems torn right now, rioting against brothers and sisters, we can still come together, even amidst our differences and just be present, praying for our hurting hearts.

Beauty often comes after a harsh, long, and tiring journey, where victory comes from endurance, faithfulness, and remaining true to Gods calling on your life. The journey of grieving has beauty written all over it, especially when one is willing to face it head on, walk through it, and acknowledge that it will be there for a lifetime. This does not mean that you lack faith. If anything it acknowledges the great faith you have to be able to endure such heartache and still trust in God. Keep your eyes to the heavens. God is there while you cry. He understands a life of sorrow. Jesus lived it. If you do not believe me, look up the prophecies about Jesus, as well as his time in ministry. He wept. He suffered the loss of his own earthly father. He let grief go, which meant that he felt it, worked through it, and continued to live life through the heartache. He just understood eternity and heaven much better since he was also God in human flesh.

This then makes me think how much grace and understanding God gives to us during our time of grief. I know that I am much harder on myself. This comes partially from the lack of understanding from others, so I feel like I should be doing much better than I am. I am thankful that God understands. I am thankful that God knows my heart. He knows your heart as well. This Thanksgiving, I am so thankful that God is trustworthy. He has carried us all through some of our hardest, and darkest moments. When we are at our worst, he still loves us so much. I am thankful that he holds me when I feel like giving up on everything just because the pain in my heart is overpowering reason. I am thankful he never gives up on me. He is always there. He has never left me when uncontrollable tears start to flow.

Yes, there is so much to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

May you know how loved and valued you are.

The End of the Journey at the Hospital in Fort Pierce

After our meeting with the Doctor we all had agreed upon allowing Mom to heal here on this earth without any further intervention. We knew that either decision she would not survive long unless God chose to miraculously restore her body. It was with this knowledge, that saying, “see you later” was the hardest to do. My last few hours with her were very precious. I had a hard time with the fact that this might be the very last time I was ever with my Mom.

During that time I was able to say those precious things that I needed her to know. I needed her to know that it was fine for her to run into Jesus’ arms. I needed her to know that God was answering her prayers. I needed her to know just how big of a spiritual mentor, leader, friend, and Mom she was to all of us, especially to me. I needed her to know so many things that were pouring from deep within me that no words seemed good enough. Yet, I still told her over and over. The hardest part was leaving her there, knowing that I would never hear her say my name again, or being able to embrace her and share a cup of coffee. I had to say “goodbye” to one of my best friends.

Leaving my Dad at the hospital was brutal. I had moments during my workdays where I literally could not think about anything other than my Dad who was once again alone in the hospital with my Mom. Several days went by and we were informed that my Mom was put on hospice care. She remained comfortable without any life support. We knew that her time was short. The term “short” had different meanings to each of us. I was unsure she would live much longer than a few days.

On the beautiful, warm, Florida morning of August 7th, just as the sun was rising, my Mom breathed her last breath as my Dad held her hand and watched. She had not even made it a full 24 hours without life support. She was now running into the arms of Jesus, her Savior whom she loved with her whole entire being. She was able to hold her precious baby that she so longed to bring forth into this life. She was reunited with family members and friends. She was healed. She was radiant.

I received the news while at a youth camp at 3 am. It was odd to receive news that I knew would eventually be coming my way. At the same time, the message that we had prepared for the youth, was only made much more impactful by her death. I was willing to lay my heart in front of those kids in order for them to understand the vast love God has for us. Mom showed us that with her life as well as in her death.

From that day on life was a whirl. We had tons of support from many people we did not even know. Somehow we were able to get all of the arrangements done in time for her funeral on August 19th. Work during that time was a struggle and my days were much longer just so that I could get everything done. My mind was having a hard time focusing so I would often work for 2-3 hours and then get up and move for 5-10 minutes. If I needed to, I would work at a coffee shop when I was not working from home or from the office. I was doing what I could to still minister well and work through my own grief.

Today, days are still hard. In some sense I would say that I know that I definitely need a break. I never took any bereavement time. I never took any extra days off. So here I am, holidays coming, draining myself of energy well spent. Yet my heart aches with the grief of losing my own Mom. I cry more often and allow myself to be fine with the reality that I will still cry more than I ever thought I could. I am allowing myself to grieve. It feels good to allow myself to grieve despite the agonizing heartache it takes to do so.

Please pray for our family. It has not yet been 4 months since Mom entered Heaven. The holidays are upon us and we do not know what these days look like. We appreciate your support and any grace given during this time. We need safe people who will let us be ourselves as we learn more of who we are in this process. And above all, together, let us thank God for blessing us with those near and dear to us.

Thank you to each of you who helped give money so that we could be together in Fort Pierce! We needed that time together.

Thank you God for Mom!

Thank you God for a Dad who loves you and is a great example to us!

Thank you God that you form and knit families together.

We love you, great and mighty King!

Candles. Grieving #2 and #3

I just lit candles all over my house. This is something that always reminds me of Mom.

We grew up with a Mom who had an addiction to candles. I remember going to stores with her and both of us saying that we would not even look down the candle aisle knowing that if we did, we would come away with more candles than we needed. In fact, Mom would have candles in a storage container in a closet that she always had ready. This candle addiction meant that most chilly nights the lights would be turned out and candles lit everywhere. Happy memories come from the soft glow and wonderful scents of candles. Sometimes, as I light them, I will cry. Other times I smile. Most of the time it is a mingling of both.

As we continue to live our lives without our beautiful Mom, I continue to learn from this journey. It is a painful yet beautiful journey.

It puts life into perspective. It has shown me a part of God that touches my heart so deeply that no words can describe it.

Here are #2 and #3 of my notes for grieving:

  • Take time to focus on yourself. Because of what happens in the grieving process, taking care of your body, and spiritual well-being is of vital importance. I am constantly learning what this looks like. I often have to say, “no, thank you” to invites especially when I have not had time to process and decompress from the week. Long showers, drinking more water, putting on special lotion, and heating up a neck wrap are all ways that make me feel like I am taking care of myself.

  • Cry and cry some more. Have Kleenex boxes all over the house. It is okay. Just let the tears flow and go eat a little bit of dark chocolate.

God is what makes life beautiful. He grieves with you. Let him hold you today. Go light some candles on these cold, wet, dreary days. Hope.

Daily Insight: Grieving #1

The holidays are steadily on their way. People are making plans with their loved ones. It is a time that is meant to be so full of joy and happiness. I say those two words because there is a difference between the two. It is a strange thing to feel joy even when ones heart is so broken and aching. I still have joy even though I may not have feelings of happiness.

The other day I woke up around 6 am and felt emotional pain that took my breath away. It was as if my mind had finally slowed down enough to feel every little thing that has happened these past three to four months. I have been so busy that it can get hard to focus on my own grieving. This is one of the major reasons why I am writing about my own journey. It is a way that can help me grieve as life does not give me much chance to slow down.

Grieving is hard work! Literally your body secretes more cortisol, which zaps the energy right out of you and dehydrates your body. Based on my own journey I would like to share my insights on grieving so far.

Grieving #1:

  • Give yourself permission to grieve:  Our culture does not acknowledge loss like it used to. We do our best to cover it up with other things. When I get too busy, I have to slow myself down and make time to process everything that is going on.

If you are going through your own grieving process make sure to go easy on yourself and allow yourself permission to grieve. There will be plenty of people to criticize you but you need to heal. It will be better for you if you work on this as it comes rather than stuffing it down.

You are not alone. You have a God who loves you. He holds you as you cry. Even in the grieving God is doing something incredibly beautiful!

Meeting with the Doctor.

In the past week and a half I have felt like all the words and emotions have been stuck inside of me. I have realized that I have had a difficult time putting all of the pieces together of the past several months. Because of this I must apologize as time literally has taken on a whole new meaning. I feel much older than I actually am after these past 4 months. Exhaustion has become a steady part of life. Swollen eyes from crying for hours and headaches to follow are all normal. I am uncertain of what my soul will look like after the brunt of this pain has dulled. I know that I am a daughter of the King and He is teaching me how to learn a new dance. He is using every ache in my heart to mold me and to teach me more about His great love. He is making me stronger.

The days in the hospital at Fort Pierce seemed much longer than they actually were. My accounts are pieced together and are somewhat difficult to filter through. The meeting with the Doctor finally happened after waiting for several days. Some of Mom’s nurses and care team were a part of this family meeting. I have to point this out because these people were rock stars. The love and care that they gave to my Mom was phenomenal. I wanted to hug them so tight in gratefulness each time that I saw them. We could not say thank you enough. They were caring for the most amazing woman we had known as Mom, confidant, friend, counselor, doctor, and comforter. They were caring for her in ways that we were unable to.

The air was thick with tension. There was a lump in my throat the size of a golf ball (at least it felt that way) and I had to tell myself to breathe. I did my best to put on a brave face, although, I have often been told that my face looks angry even when I think that I have a smirk on. My face is a horrible liar of what I attempt so hard for it to portray. I really do not know why this is and it can be very frustrating at times.

The Doctor had finalized looking over all of the recent test results, and brain scans. He came into the room and summarized what had happened to Mom’s brain and what was currently going on. To sum it up, Mom’s brain had such a big clot in it that her brain matter had literally been moved over. The stroke was likely due to her Lupus attacking her brain. Any small bump to her head that would move this brain clot further would kill her. She would never regain the use of her left side, as the damage was already too severe. This news was not of any alarm to me. I had enough education about the body to see and understand what was going on. I saw the swelling in her hands and the drooping of her left side, as well as the awkward position she was in, and knew that if there was ever a chance she came back awake, she would never, ever be the same. The Doctor confirmed this when he gave us our choices for what was to come next.

Because he saw how much my Dad loved and cared for my Mom, he knew that she was deeply loved. He said that sometimes scenarios would come up where he has to look at other reasons for procedures other than just for the patient. He saw how much we loved our Mom and that he was willing to do a procedure to remove the blood clot in hopes that the bleeding would stop, and the swelling in her brain would go down enough that her brain matter could heal. The chances of her surviving this procedure were very slim as her other brain cells were very weak and could cause another cataclysmic stroke in a different area of her brain. If she did survive this procedure, the best scenario was that she would be paralyzed. She would most likely not even be able to speak. She would need constant care for the rest of her life. Rehab would be very difficult.

Anyone that knows my Mom knows how much she never let her illness define her. She had been diagnosed with Systemic Lupus for over 20 years and had lived in immeasurable pain everyday. Each year I would say that the pain and issues worsened. Many times she would have to go on special medications just to be able to have the energy and endurance to enjoy family events and important outreaches. So many people never fully realized the sacrifices that she would make to her health and her body just to be given the honor to serve them. She never wanted a handout. She always wanted to do for others.

For those of you who took her for granted and talked bad about her; to those who judged her on the sidelines because you justified your apathy; to all those who abandoned her when she needed a cheerleader, know that she loved you despite it all. Might I also add that I need to say this: I forgive you. It is one of the most painful things to see such a hardworking, loving, tough woman who made the sacrifices that she did, get beat up by backstabbers, gossipers, and slanderers who masked themselves as friends and leaders. I pray that someday you will be known by another name. I pray that you will understand that my Mom only wanted you to know how much Jesus loves you. I desire this for you as well. I need to tell you again: I forgive you. Please do not be held back by any shame or guilt. None of us want that for you. Embrace forgiveness from Jesus and change. Be like Jesus. Be love to the world.

To all of those who prayed for her, bought her coffee, gave her an extra sweater, or turned up the heat in your house because she was cold; to those who baked a meal, gave her candles, and told her “thank you”, know that she never took your simple gestures and kind words for granted. She loved so many of you. It was this love that somehow was still shining even  on the hospital bed. It was this love that motivated her to give her life for Jesus as she did.

For that love, we knew that she would suffer even greater knowing that she could not do anything on her own if she survived the procedure her Doctor offered for her. We were devastated. As I was holding back tears, I realized that I was also holding my breath. My younger brother started to cry, the pain evident on his face. Then my older sister started to hand out Kleenexes. By that time I could no longer keep the tears inside and I had to remind myself to breathe. As reality hit each of us differently, my older brother started to ask questions that I could not even think of at that time. These questions helped lead us to talking out the next steps for our beautiful Mom.

The conversation that followed made the Doctor and nurses cry. They knew what this meant for us. They saw our struggle. They wanted our Mom to get better. Every little thing that they did was in an effort to restore our Mom back to us. So, in those minutes, each one of us was unified. Love was in that room. Love for a woman that each of us had known in our own personal way, whether she was wife, friend, sister, Mom, Mother-in-law, or patient.

Yes, Love met us in the room that night. In the mess of us, love was what made this night beautiful. Love was still alive. It was what helped us make the decisions before us.