Dream a little dream…

grief group today

 

Ding (Text message)- Hi Emily!  My friend just lost a close friend to cancer.  It was a terribly sad incurable case.  Would you be able to reach out to her? I don’t know how to help.  Could you try?

Me (Through a million tears)- Yes a 100 times yes.  I am so sad for your friend, and would love to get in touch with her. xoxo

Also Me- Continue to feel emotional and all the feels the rest of the day, because a little dream I dared to dream is coming true.  (If you are new here, my little dream is to help others with loss)

When Heidi died, I was in shock.  I was strong and brave, and did the best I could, but I was in shock.  I didn’t break into a million pieces.  I kept going, and when I came to places where I realized I wasn’t doing my best, I paused.  I wanted to find a way to live more authentically and heal but that was HARD.  What if my healing made other people upset? What if I lost friends?  What if I said too much? What if it wasn’t my story to tell? What if I try and I am not good?  What if…What if…What if…

I felt like I needed permission.  Permission to write.  Permission to share my story.  Permission to heal.

I went inside myself a bit, but I continued to listen.  My family and friends told me to keep going, so I did. I sought counseling, yoga, and movement and started truly healing.  I followed and gained strength from other peoples stories.  People like Nora McInerny (Terrible Thanks for Asking Podcast) and Rachel Hollis (author of Girl Wash your Face) and others who had gone through difficult things and come out on the other side.

At some point I realized, these amazing humans were amazing because they spoke their truth.  They shared their lives, and didn’t fear the unknown.  When I started sharing my story, I told both of them(via direct message on Instagram OF COURSE lol)  and they said things like “Keep going.”  “See you wrote, now you are writer.”  I realized  I could do this.  I had stories to share.  I only needed to find the courage to share them, and to keep trying new things.

I am learning that I don’t need permission. No one has to listen.  It is my hope that people will, but if they don’t that is OK.  It is the act of being authentic, continuing to dream, and helping those that want to listen, that helps me heal.  When Heidi got sick and died, I didn’t know how to do any of this. Who does? NO ONE, until they go through it!

I am not an expert.  Everything I have done, you can do.  By no means, in any way am I saying I GET grief or loss.  I don’t.  I simply keep trying, learning, and sharing.  What comes up and out, is my truth.

I spoke to a group of 13 year olds a few weeks ago.  I talked about my career and my life. I realized in speaking to them that sometimes our stories set us free.  I am finding new ways to share and talk and learn from others.  I hope you continue to come along for the ride.

If my story speaks to you, then I am doing the right thing.  I don’t think everything happens for a reason.  I can’t think of a reason my amazing, beautiful, life of the party friend had to die.  But, if I stop and breathe, I am learning to finding meaning.  To focus on how she can live on, not how she died. To tell my story and DREAM(again) while carrying Heidi in my heart.

Until next time….

 

 

 

Advertisements

A never ending pile of books…

Over the last few weeks I have been so busy with Christmas, New Years, balancing family, and get togethers that my mind hasn’t had too much time to escape. I haven’t had time to reflect and remember, which is hard but nice too.   I have been able to be present in my today, which I feel thankful for.  I saw a quote which brought me out of this busy fog it said:

“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”

I am slowly learning this.  My life has been a balance of sad, and happy, and devastation, and excitement.  This journey comes with many ups and many downs.  My job is too simply hold on and LEARN TO LIVE!

For the first year after Heidi passed away there was a bit of denial, or I don’t know what to call it exactly.  More of an inability to focus and fully except the fact she was gone.  I would say it, I would think it, but for a time my mind couldn’t really take it in.

I had this thing, this really sad thing over in the corner of my life that I just thought if I keep going, if I keep moving, I will be OK.  Yes this thing in the corner is sad, but I am here I am moving, I am living, I am good.  Until more sad things happened, and more and more…and suddenly it was almost like what am I doing?  Where do I even focus?

I have told you all the stories about how I found counseling, and yoga, and walking, and being with my family, and how it all allowed for me to refocus, to accept this terribly difficult thing, to lose control, and to move forward in life.  Not to move on from this loss, that is impossible, but to accept it.  When I accepted the loss, it allowed for me to live again.  It seems impossible even still that she is physically gone, but learning to carry her with me and continue to live has truly saved me.

In all this holiday buzz there have still been a few times my mind wandered to a far off memory.  One that popped in my head a few weeks back left me laughing out loud.  I felt a little crazy.  My husband asked me what I was laughing at, and by that time I was nearly crying.  For some reason I remembered in college when Heidi had an on campus job.  We both got work study jobs, and hers was terrible.  She called it a dungeon!  She worked in the campus library returning books, complete with a little cart.  There was a never ending pile of books to put back on the shelves, which fueled Heidi with lots of silly stories.  I could picture her in my head so vividly, when our roommates and I would walk to the library to pick her up for dinner, and she would be pushing that cart making a hilarious, miserable “kill me now” face that only she could make.

After I told the story to my husband it struck me that there may not be too many people carrying that memory around in their heads anymore.  It wasn’t something Heidi always shared, this little on campus job, but it is something she did and I was a part of it.  I now carry that story and that memory and that laugh in my heart.  It is small and some might think insignificant, but it allowed me to feel that SHE IS STILL HERE with me.   In a different form, in a different way, but she is here.

Heidi’s daughters came over during Christmas break and having them laugh and run through my house brought me such joy.  So much of her lives on in them.  I was reminded in a different way, on a much larger scale how she continues to exist and touch people through her girls.

Today I traveled back to our middle school and spoke to 8th graders about their “future choices.”  I couldn’t help but be reminded of my time at the school.  What it felt like to walk the halls with Heidi and many other lifelong friends.   I talked a bit about what I spend my time doing now, and I was able to tell them about the Heidi Lagasse Memorial Scholarship. The idea that these students could apply for something done in honor of her made my heart pitter patter.  There she is again my mind thought.  A part of me now.

2019 is here.  I am ready to be present in this time, to be thankful for it.  To be comforted and reminded of my friend and so many others who have gone before me.  To continue to carry her, feel her, and be thankful for the time she had here on earth.  Especially for that 1 year she pushed around a cart in the library and made funny faces to make me smile.  Feeling comfort from my friend across the universe.

Until next time…

Relief…..

relief

 

As I scroll back through my memories of Heidi’s illness I often feel sad.  I think about the bad news calls, hospice, and our final visits.  A cloud of darkness moves in and frankly  it is something I try not to think about very often.

Today, I was sweeping the floor and allowing my mind to wander.  Somehow it landed on the word RELIEF.  I stopped sweeping for a moment.  I stood and thought in my stillness.  Good (I struggle to call them good, but in reality they were) memories from Heidi’s illness rolled into my mind.

I remember when she was diagnosed and the results of her first PET scan showed that the Cancer had not spread. We were so happy with just a bit of good news.  The relief that washed over me after Heidi’s surgery was called a “success” is indescribable!  The idea that in that moment she was OK was such a RELIEF.  I can’t begin to describe the happiness we shared after months of chemo had produced clear scans.  It was right before Christmas and it gave us HOPE.  It fueled all of us (including Heidi) to BELIEVE she would continue to be a part of our time here on earth, for a bit longer. There are more too, if I slow down and allow my mind to open they are there.

In the end it sometimes feels like those little victories didn’t really matter…Heidi’s Cancer was aggressive and mean and took her life.   But when I paused and thought, I was reminded that those little victories DID matter.  I remember the joy in how she and all of us felt, if even for a short time.  The idea that there was HOPE was something almost magical.  I am forever grateful that we celebrated the little wins and enjoyed all of life even when it was hard.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving I am feeling grateful to have walked with my friend through so much of her life.  The good, the bad, the ugly, and the RELIEF.

I sure miss her.  It was nice to remember some of the little wins on this cold cloudy day.

Until next time…

Yesterday…

Hi Guys! I wanted to share with you a little bit about my day yesterday. I attended a grief and heartache yoga workshop. My friends Leba Lualdi and Jenny Kane taught the class, and I knew I was in a safe space to feel all the feels. That was the intention I set for myself during the class, I told myself “Feel all the feels.” Over the last 2 years of loss I haven’t always allowed myself this grace, and I should have.
I am proud of where I am at today. I am trying to claw myself back to the smiling bride I spoke about in an earlier blog post. At the same time I know I will be a different version of that bride, and I am happy with that. My scars, and the changes are what make me, me, and my journey mine. When I lost my best friend Heidi I didn’t know how to feel or what to do, who does? I had a husband and 4 children and I had to keep going, there was no curl up in a ball and give up allowed, so I did what I had to. I am proud of that. I did the best I could with the knowledge I had.
Through Heidi’s sickness she wanted us to keep going forward, to not give Cancer any power, and keep life as normal as possible. It is a time I am thankful for. In the class yesterday I thought about all the memories we made, in hospital rooms or on Heidi’s couch. Trying our best to LIVE. I thought about that, my sweet friend wasn’t just dying those last months she was LIVING and I am so thankful to have had that time. After she died though I just kept powering through. Write the eulogy, make a meal train, organize fundraisers, start a scholarship, anything and everything to keep busy and moving. People told me to slow down, I didn’t listen. It worked though I survived those first months and year, and that is something!
In the workshop yesterday Leba Lualdi mentioned that we might arrive at a place in our grief journey where we don’t even recognize ourselves, the grief gets bottled up inside of us and then it comes out in ways: illness, anger, loss of employment the list could go on. It doesn’t just disappear it sneaks out and creeps in, in ways we aren’t always ready for. If I am honest, that is what I allowed to happen. I focused on everything but the sadness, and just KEPT GOING. If I had stopped just for a moment and truly felt that who knows what would have happened, maybe I wasn’t ready, maybe…maybe…maybe…who knows?! What I do know is I arrived at a place I wasn’t happy with.
My relationship with my lovely husband was suffering and frankly in general I just wasn’t happy with where I was. I was numbing away the feeling with anything and everything I could. After Heidi died, my paternal grandmother, then my uncle, then my maternal grandmother it was just grief on top of grief on top of grief. All the while I kept pushing through. Writing, walking, and yoga allowed for me to heal in ways I didn’t know possible. I started feeling the feels but I was still pushing feelings down. Eventually, Jonathan and I had what I like to refer to as a “blow up” fight. We don’t have them often, but when we do watch out! I remember waking up the morning after our disagreement and thinking: “No. nope, not doing this.” I made coffee, and then sat at the computer and found a counselor. I was tired of trying to push through alone, I didn’t feel supported and I wanted to feel like “myself” again whoever that was.
I started a Whole 30 and Jonathan and I signed up for restorative yoga classes and counseling sessions. We knew what we needed to do. We just needed the shove to do it. When we arrived at counsling it turned out we were trying to support each other, but we were falling short. Counseling, talking, yoga-ing, and being more aware of each others needs allowed so many breakthroughs and brought us to a place I am very proud of. Jonathan’s Dad passed away 6 weeks ago and I know that we are dealing with and supporting each other through this loss in a positive way because of the work we did. We didn’t know this was coming, he passed away suddenly, and the grief just came and swallowed us up. But we have new tools, and dealing with grief this time around feels different. Is it hard? Absolutely. Is it sad? For sure. This time though, we are supporting each other, not pushing each other away.
As I sat in the workshop yesterday and meditated and repeated my mantra: “Feel the feels,” and breathed in and out I suddenly found myself then saying “Let go, Let go, Let go…” I thought to myself as I was meditating (which I really shouldn’t have been doing but shhhhhhhhh lol)”Let go of what?” And I swear to you Heidi’s sweet voice came across the universe and said “the bullshit!” I immediately had tears streaming down my face and a smile on my lips. The voice continued “You are amazing! You spend all this time on me, remember you are my shooting star, and I think you are amazing! Let go of the bullshit, and keep doing what you are doing.” I laid there and let it set in and LET GO.
In the end my family, my husband, my friends, my church, my home, my lovely neighborhood community, that is beauty. The support I feel from them holds me up and allows me to continue moving forward and letting go of the bullshit. Feeling the love, and the sadness, and the FEELS , while I breathe and move, and stay grounded in the RIGHT NOW is LIFE! We are all dying a little bit each day, but we are LIVING too. If I had any advice to give to someone who is new to grief, I would simply say, don’t push through, don’t numb, don’t force yourself to do it all, FEEL the feels, find a counselor or doctor or church person or whoever you trust to help you with the feelings. Find ways to enjoy the beauty that is still here. Grief is hard, but now almost 2 years later grief is LOVE. I can sit with it and it’s OK. This is all temporary. I am right here, right now, and I am thankful.
Thanks to my lovely friends for offering this workshop. I hope this writing reaches someone who needs it today, and that my crazy babble gives you something that you need.
Until next time…xxoo

Time…

 

 

11 years ago today I sat in a hospital in labor with our lovely first born daughter, Josephine Grace. To think that was 11 years ago feels both normal and impossible. How do days drag on, but years fly by? Josephine came unexpectedly about 3 weeks early. I was NOT prepared. I was scared, but she came anyway. What an amazing blessing and wonderful soul she is. I take some credit for her, but not much. She came from the heavens with a special heart, and I feel blessed that she shares it with me.

I was diagnosed with preeclampsia at 37 weeks and had to be induced for mine and Josephine’s safety. Back then Jonathan and I only had 1 car, and I was driving it. I called him and told him I wasn’t going in to the office that day, instead he needed to come to the hospital, because Josephine was coming! He didn’t believe me at first, and in his defense I am good at being a bit sarcastic at times lol. When he finally realized I was serious he said “OK I will be there,” and hung up. He quickly left and yelled to everyone in his office “I have to go, my wife is having a baby today!” As he rushed out he realized he didn’t have the car, and I didn’t have ANYTHING I needed at the hospital. There was only 1 person he could call to help with this situation…my best friend Heidi.

At that time Heidi was teaching at a preschool program and lucky for us, she had a flexible schedule. Jonathan called and of course Heidi dropped everything and rushed to his rescue. She was the best at saving my ass lol! She drove over helped him find my things, unpacked the car seat, put it together, and got to the hospital in no time flat. I remember her rushing in with all the stuff and him, and just the smile she had on her face. I was scared but seeing them made everything feel normal. Quickly the 3 of us were just chit chatting and excitedly planning for this sweet baby to arrive. The doctors said it would be a long process so she told us she was going to run home and get a few things situated at her house. Little did I know she would actually go home make dinner for MY freezer and clean MY house! She then rushed back to the hospital and waited ALL night with our families for Josephine to arrive. And I mean all night. She was the hostess with the mostess getting everyone coffee and bringing magazines.

After what seemed like an eternity but was really about 30 hours Josephine finally came earth side. She was the most beautiful little being Jonathan and I had ever seen. He burst into tears at the sight of her and gushed at how proud he was of me. I fell in love with him all over again that day. After she was born the families and Heidi came in and held Josephine and all agreed she was perfect.

The world lost my dear friend Heidi to Synovial Sarcoma on March 10, 2017. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of her. With Josephine’s birthday and All Saints Day quickly approaching I couldn’t help but pause for a just a bit longer and remember the special part she played in the birth of my sweet Josephine. If she were here, I like to think she would bring over 1 of her amazing enchilada casseroles, red wine, her little family and we would celebrate that “sweet bird” Josephine. I sure miss you my soul sista today and every day, but I am ever thankful for the wonderful memories we made.

Until next time…

That Elsa is 1 smart princess…

Soooooooooooooooooooooo...

Heidi used to start all bad news text messages with Soooooooooooooooooooo.  My friends and I asked her to mix it up for us.  Every so often could she start good news messages with Sooooooooooooooo?  Heidi always laughed and said Sooooooooooooo was a way for her to ease into the bad news.  In any event it became a “thing.” I can’t use it now and not think of that crazy fun soul.

Sooooooooooooooooo… it’s been a crap few weeks.  On September 15th at just 68 years young my Father-In-Law Milt passed away unexpectedly.  Just when Jonathan (my husband) and I thought it might be safe to take a deep breath and move forward; BOOM, sadness and grief were back in our lives with a vengeance.  This time it was a bit different.  With Milt’s death, I was the supportive person then the griever in our family.  I was sad yes, but it was my husband who felt the deep grief and I who wanted to support and love on him, and then feel my own feelings.  In all our other losses over the last 19 months (4 to date)  it was my husband who was the supporter and I who was the deep grief person.  So we had the grief and shock to deal with and these new roles, and at first it WAS NOT easy.

After the initial shock wore off a bit and the planning and arranging had to start, Jonathan and I could not find a common ground to stand on.  It was high stress anyway, but we couldn’t agree on anything.  I would upset him, then he would upset me, and we couldn’t make heads or tails of what we needed to do.  He would leave to run errands or go to work, and I would plan (try to control lol) how we could communicate better.  He would come home and 2 minutes into our conversation 1 of us was shutting down.  I felt lost in how to handle it all.

I reached out to 1 of Jonathan and I’s best friends and hoped he could give me advice.  What he said changed my whole life.  We talked for a bit and he listened to everything I was saying.  Eventually he said, “Emily, at this moment, just do whatever Jonathan wants. Prepare yourself for anything.  Let him act and react in any way that he needs to, and simply support him through it.  Throw your rational what is best for everyone thoughts out the window, and just support him.”  Him saying that made a light bulb go off in my head, and something clicked and the universe whispered: “LET GO.”  I sat there on the phone and realized it wasn’t my job to fix, to change, to control.  My only job was to LET GO and be supportive.  I did just that.  I called Jonathan right away and said (while holding back tears) “I am sorry. Everything makes sense now.  I was trying to help, and control this, and fix this for you.  I was doing it because I love you, but it isn’t what you need.  I want to give you what you need.  From now on, it is my job to love and support you. That is it.  Tell me how I can.”  And he did.  It was amazing!

Anyone who knows me knows I am a strong willed, stubborn, do everything myself, nonstop kind of a person.  So this concept did NOT come easy at first.  But, letting go and truly allowing for my husband to feel supported changed EVERYTHING.  It was so simple.  I could not believe I hadn’t done it earlier.  Jonathan and I were immediately on the same page, because frankly as long as he was suggesting things that were safe for our family there was only 1 page to be on…his.  It wasn’t hard for me to let go, it wasn’t hard to love him, and it wasn’t hard to be the supporter not the controller.

Letting go of the control in this situation, allowed for the stress and the “walking on eggshells” feeling to simply go away.  It triggered my brain and helped me to realize letting go could change my whole life.  When I visited a counselor a few months back he said I needed to let go and quit looking in my review mirror.  I was always upset by that comment, and felt defensive and wanted to show him all I had done to move forward.  I should have known those feelings of defensiveness usually mean there is something deeper.  I was holding on to my pain and trying to control every single thing in my life.  I let the sadness set up shop inside of me.

In the days after Milt passed I searched through old photos to find glimpses of his life that we could share on memory boards.  In doing so I scoured through my wedding photos.  I found a number of great photos of Milt to share, which was wonderful.  I also found a part of myself I had forgotten.  In the photos, I noticed that the bride (me) was smiling the biggest smile I had ever seen, in EVERY SINGLE PHOTO!  I am not kidding I almost didn’t recognize myself.  My smile screamed I am the happiest person in the world.  My problems are small, and my smile is HUGE!  Weeks later, after the funeral was over I would revisit all of these feelings.  I didn’t have time in that moment to fully digest it, but now, a few weeks later I have had the time.

Looking at those pictures, I realized I lost myself.  I lost that smiling bride in the darkness of the last 2 years.  Yes I was doing fine, but I was white knuckling it a bit and still trying to CONTROL the uncontrollable.  I let sadness and anxiety and CONTROL dim my smile.  This 1 act of letting go and fully supporting Jonathan allowed for me to see how truly amazing this idea is.  If I could let go with him and feel this way, what could happen if I could LET GO with the universe?  I am not sure yet.  But I am trying.  I am realizing that the act of consciously releasing all that stress and worry and anxiety and allowing everything to just BE… is freeing, in the best way possible.

Life is hard.  Life is sad. Life is BEAUTIFUL.  Today, I am working on surrendering to the universe, or God, or whatever it is that you prefer to call it.   I am learning to release the control, and to allow things to BE.  I am focusing on supporting my husband and girls through love.  I am clawing my way back to that smiling bride.  I know Heidi is cheering me on, all along the way.  (After all the girl loved a good wedding.)

As Elsa says…Let it go…..see what happens…

Until next time….

My Bright Beautiful Friend…

IMG_9658

 

Here I am some 18 almost 19 months since my soul sister Heidi passed away.  I sit with and feel grief differently today.  As time ebbs and flows and life continues on somehow almost without knowing I have arrived at a different place in my grief.  I survived many of the things I thought I couldn’t and I am still here, STILL KICKIN, and still trying to make sense of this crazy thing called life.  I am not sure how I arrived here, and I can’t really put into words what this new “place” feels like. But I will try…

My life has grown in different ways over the last year and a few months.  A lot has happened since Heidi died.  Babies were born, kids grew, holidays passed, others died, and the earth continued to spin.   Things happened and I wasn’t able to connect with and tell her about them.  I see how as life grows around grief, grief changes.  Heidi’s physical presence can’t be felt during my trials or excitements today.  Her memory and her soul is felt everywhere, but it’s different.

I find myself mad in a different way these days.  For the first year I felt the loss of her so deeply her absence was a gaping hole in my life.  Today I sometimes feel a need to speak her name or tell a story as the gaping hole feels a bit smaller.  I am worried we aren’t remembering her enough or I am not looking for her “signs” as much. Has my “new” life moved forward too fast?

For the first year I felt the gaping hole but I also felt peace.  Heidi was so sick and had suffered so much from the cancer, that the release of her physical pain allowed me so much relief.  As time has passed and old memories have moved to the front of my mind, I morn my wild and free friend for the person she was before cancer.  For the sarcastic, ball busting, life of the party, do anything in the world for anyone soul that she was.  I morn who I could call when life just didn’t feel fair.  I morn the bond of knowing someone more then I knew myself.

Recently, feelings of anger and resentment have come up when others connect with their best friends. It is not fair of me, it is not right, and usually it just isn’t how I feel about life.

In the beginning of my grief, I realized Heidi and I’s closeness and bond was something not everyone was blessed to have in their lives.  I felt thankful upon thankful to have shared the friendship we did.  Don’t mishear me I still feel that, but I feel mad now too.  I feel jealous.  My husband’s best friend recently came to visit and we love having him.   I love enjoying his family, I love all parts of him and his support of my husband.  But, when I laid down at night while he was here I cried.  I miss MY friend, MY person, the 1 crazy lady who knew everything about me.  Then I felt guilty.  It certainly isn’t anyone’s fault that others get to live and share life together.  I am happy for them, but I am sad for me.  Maybe I hadn’t felt that yet.  Maybe in the beginning I was so wrapped up in feeling so many kinds of sadness and loss for others that, I forgot to feel sad about losing MY best friend.  Well I am feeling it now…

I know time will pass and the earth will spin and almost without knowing I will end up somewhere else and this stage and feelings will have morphed into something else.  I am dedicated to sucking out every bit of this life I can get my hands on, as I know Heidi would want me to.  Today during this cloudy rainy mess of a day though I would like to pause and just sit with my sadness.  To take a moment to feel mad at the universe for taking such a bright light so early.  I will move on then and feel thankful for what was, not what wasn’t soon, but for right now sitting with the sadness feels good.

Do me a favor though, call your best friend, your special person, and tell them a story about your day, or ask them to do a favor, or listen to their sadness, whatever it is be a part of their day.  For you can’t realize the depth of the loss you would feel if you couldn’t, until you can’t.

Until next time…