Tag Archives: grief and loss

Not The Way I Wanted

Image Sometimes there are events that crash into your life that have no apparent reason and which inflict the always unwelcome pangs of pain and grief. Yesterday our sweet little 2 year old cat, named Max, died unexpectedly and with no visible explanation. Crash. I found him. I screamed, horrified at the sight of my sweet lifeless cat, but also with the realization that this would be the first significant grief experience for my children, and my heart felt like it would tear open to think of their reactions. No. No, not this way. I want them to learn all that there is to know about the preciousness of life, about compassion, about how deep joy often is only felt or understood after deep sorrow has left its marks. But not this way. Not through this loss with no reason, no why, no warning, no nothing. Just crash. There are deeper losses, tragedies that rip families apart, parents from children, children from parents, things unspeakable and wounds that run to the core and don’t ever heal completely. I know that. This is not so big it will encompass us. This will heal. We will heal. But right now it hurts. I miss Max, but more than that, I ache for my children as I watch them, individually and collectively, face the cruelness of grief. I want to spare them from this, shield them, take it away. Away. But I can’t. This is part of their story now. This is imprinted in their hearts. My hope is this: that the way we grieve together, the way I allow them to ride the waves and follow all the emotions where they take them, will be just as imprinted. Because loss is part of love. And if they can learn now to love deeply but freely, and to release what is gone while holding the connection that remains, I may one day be able to see this as a time we all grew through our pain. It is not the way I wanted. But isn’t that life? It is not going to fall into the neat pieces we planned. It is messy and cruel and beautiful. It is not ours to control, but it is ours to cherish. I want so much for my children, and I have often bristled at the cliché that we all just want our kids to be happy. Because really I think we all want something bigger than happiness. We want strength, hearts of kindness and mercy, love given and received freely, compassion, wisdom, joy…And the mystery is that all of these seem to emerge in their truest sense through heartache and loss. But we don’t want it that way. It’s too hard. I would take all the pain if I could. Because my children experiencing pain is not the way I want. Ever. But here we are. We are knee deep in this moment of loss. It seems senseless and random. But it need not be wasted. It can still have meaning and import and yes, even push us as a family and individually, to a different, deeper, better place. Not what I wanted, but where we are.



Filed under Grief and loss, parenting

Live Forward

Image These words are inspired by a conversation I recently had with a newly widowed woman who, despite her grief and disappointment, felt compelled to, in her words “live forward.” They are also based on a reflection I wrote for a time renewal and rejuvenation I took part in for my hospice colleagues, during which we took time to release the pain we come into contact with and experience, and move toward working, and living, at our best.  There are times for all of us when we are weary, worn and heavy.  We feel the weight of a million little burdens on us like a hard rain that pelts down without mercy.  We have taken on the pain of others and had our hearts broken. We crumble under the stronghold of words that were spoken out of haste or unkindly, sometimes by others, sometimes by ourselves.  We sense the constraint of time and the demands of each day.  It is daunting.  We are alone and suffocating. There are the times we feel stretched, so stretched, thin, weak, unusable, like a threadbare rag.  We have a deep seated fear that we are infertile and impotent, that we are incapable of producing anything meaningful or beautiful.  We are fruitless and discouraged. There are times we cry alone, within the safety of our walls, because it is too hard to show the vulnerability of our heartache, and we honestly don’t know if we could put words together to make sense of it all even if we were asked.  There are moments when the ground underneath us turns to mush, when we have no conscious awareness of an anchor.  We are unmoored, knocked about by waves, anticipating the inevitable crash. In these very moments when we fight our secret battles while holding it all together on the outside, we find ourselves perhaps more open to the possibility that we were not meant to manage all of this on our own.  Here the words of Madeleine L’Engle, which inspired the name of this blog, find themselves planted firmly in the soil of my mind:  “It’s a good thing to have all the props pulled out from under us occasionally. It gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet, and what is sand.”  It is good to be still, to take a deep breath, and to press down and feel the rock, the solid ground underneath.  Because there is solid ground, there is an anchor, there is a shore, and there is peace. We are not alone. There is a peace in the knowing that these moments do not define us, and they do not need to isolate and silence us.  They are real moments and it is good to acknowledge them.  But if we are wise, we will take the next step, the step of knowing “this too will pass.” And then the next step, the step of feeling the solid ground under our feet, the Rock, the One who never leaves us or forsakes us.  Then the next step, the step of seeing a hope and future that is held out before us. Step. Step. Step. Step, continuing on in faith, continuing on in a hope that is defiant in the face of all the hurt, sorrow, and disappointment we have encountered.  This faith, this hope, these are what define us and propel us to keep steadily moving on. And when we have taken these steps, when we feel the solidness of our faith, we are able to stand a little taller, feel a little bigger, more useful, and more alive.  And we are able to reach out to others, speak out kindness and encouragement, and receive it in turn, adding fruit to fruit, light to light.  We are able to live forward. Because each day that we choose to take one small step, trusting that each step leads us on, our faith in the solid footing grows.  And we can claim and act upon the courage and the strength to continue on, and not just to continue on, but to actively live our lives in forward progression, in hopeful expectation, no longer alone, no longer fruitless, no longer without an anchor, but flourishing with the strength, joy, encouragement, and peace that are rooted deeply within our hearts.        


Filed under Grief and loss



Originally published October 16, 2012


 HealthEast Hospice, where I work, holds an annual memorial service called Celebration of Life.  This is a beautiful, tender time for families of hospice patients who have died over the last year to come together and honor the memories of those they loved and lost.  I was privileged to write the following and read it as part of the service this past October.

Memories are part of who we are. They are deeply imbedded in us, in a place that almost has a touch of the holy. When it seems we have been robbed of all that is important to us, they remain a sanctuary, mostly untarnished. Even for those who have difficulty remembering information that seems essential to daily living, memories have a way of nestling into the fabric of their lives. For all of us, memories are a road map to reclaiming some of our past selves.
Memories are often incomplete, coming to us in fragments and sometimes, seemingly, in no particular order. They are like snapshots, dusty photos discovered in a box. Some are a little out of focus, a little fuzzy. They cause us to wonder: When did that happen? Where was that? Who was there? We worry we cannot trust what comes to mind, wonder if we have it all straight. But other memories are almost tangible in their representation of a moment. They have the power to bring us sharply, almost uncomfortably, right back into a specific time and place. Sometimes, though, it is not at all uncomfortable. Sometimes, we have the desire to linger, to hold on tightly, to stay as long as we are allowed.
Memories are powerfully connected to our world of senses….the sight of a treasured object, a park bench where you used to sit, a holiday decoration that was a perennial favorite…the feel of the crisp breeze or warm sunshine…the smell of a familiar perfume, or a beloved family recipe coming out of the oven…the sound of a song that holds special significance…Often, these experiences catch us off guard, so ordinary, yet so filled with meaning and intense unfulfilled longing that we did not know was possible. Sometimes the door of comfort is cracked open as we allow ourselves the sweetness of a presence we miss so dearly. Other times, we wince as the floodgates of pain and loss feel as though they have opened and will never close.
Memories can be painfully elusive as we can almost feel ourselves grasp into the air, trying to will the moment back into reality. How much more true this is when the memory is of a loved one who has left this earth. If I close my eyes…hear his voice…feel her hug…I can, just, almost… And then it’s gone.
Remembering can be hard. But it is so very important. The stories we tell, or the ones we keep quiet and held close, these are what begin to make up part of who we are. And it is in this process, the looking, lingering, holding on, speaking the names, giving voice to the moments of the past, that memories become a gift to be treasured. They become a way to hold on to that which has been lost. For in some small way, that which has been lost, is found. And once found, it is guarded in our very souls.

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April 12, 2013 · 11:06 PM