The other day I was talking to some co-workers about why I speak about our story. The most interesting explanation came out of my mouth. I want to give people the punch in the gut that life gave me but not leave the bruises associated with it. What do I mean? Let me explain.
I often describe May 9th, 2012 as a punch in the gut life gave me. It took my breathe away. It knocked me down. It left bruises. Within hours of Jay’s death I learned more about myself, those around me and life than I ever thought possible. The only time I literally fell to the ground with no one to catch me was after the initial punch when I arrived at the hospital. I picked myself up from the ground and in that moment made a decision to survive. But life would later punch me and try to knock me down again and again, in those moments however there was always someone there to catch me and make sure I had support to get back up. I am forever grateful for those people. It wasn’t until that day that I understood you actually can cry too much where tears dry up and the sound of crying can be just your mouth open trying to make a noise. The bruises left behind have taken time to heal. But in time they have healed. My goal in speaking about our story is to give people that punch, help them understand the beauty of life and how to make sure their loved ones are taken care of in their untimely death. When I type or speak, I do so to leave you thinking. I don’t want pity. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. I want to light a fire within you. I want you to learn something and in some way make life more amazing.
I want to give you a punch in the gut without leaving the bruises.
As Christmas is only 4 days away it hit me that it will be our third Christmas without Jay. I think back to the first. I have learned so much since then about holidays, grief and most importantly myself.
As I was driving between stores shopping today it hit me, I have many people in my world who are new to grieving. It is their first Christmas without someone or something this year. My heart hurts for them. I decided to come up with a list of what I wish I would have had someone tell me about grief and more specifically grief and the holidays. So here it is.
1. It is OK to cry. You don’t have to fake being happy during the holidays. You are sad, and that is OK.
2. Honor your loss in whatever way you want. Don’t worry about setting a new tradition and it being the “perfect” tradition. In the 3 Christmases Jay has been gone we have celebrated differently each one. Each year is different and that is OK.
3. Still take and be part of pictures at holiday gatherings. You will be able to see your real smile come back as you look back at pictures in years to come.
4. It is OK to remember holidays of past and wish this year was like them or what you expected. It is normal. It is not taking away from the holiday. It is part of the grieving process. Do the work.
5. Be kind…to yourself.
Although 1 thru 4 are important, number 5 is the one I feel is most important. Whether someone has lost a person, home, job, sense of security or relationship it is important we all be kind to ourselves. The holidays put forth the thoughts of being kind to others, what many forget is to be kind to themselves. It has taken me some time to figure out how to do this.
To the grieving this holiday season, you are in my thoughts and prayers. May you find some sort of peace during this holiday season. Find some joy as you walk through this holiday season. To the grieving this holiday season, be kind to yourself.
So I promised a blog a week or so ago about conquering part of a fear I have. A little later than I had hoped here you go.
For those new to my life and/or my blog this is new. For those that have been around awhile…it’s probably what you think.
Fear is real. Taking a step in facing your fear can be exhilarating and terrifying. But it can also free your mind in such an amazing way.
I do not fear the same things I did 2 ½ years ago. And what I feared 2 ½ years ago was not even close to what I feared 3 years ago.
The one thing I do still fear is mice. Death and heights got nothing on my fear of mice.
Let’s start with, there is a field behind my backyard. This makes for a BEAUTIFUL sunset, AMAZING privacy and last but certainly not least MICE. I fear mice. I trace this paralyzing fear back to my college days. In one of my dorm rooms while getting ready for a night out a mouse ran across our floor. I think it is accurate to say my scream went to the highest pitch that only animals can hear. lol
So the other night the garage door was left open for longer than usual. That next morning I was getting Aaron in the vehicle ready to go to daycare and as I look at the entrance of the garage I see the mouse trap upside down. My heart starts to race. Adrenaline starts pumping. I don’t want to deal with this. I have people I can call. I have my pest guy on speed dial. My boyfriend can take care of it. Or I can panically call one of the neighbors and they will laugh but will come over and take care of it.
Bottom line is after I got Aaron to daycare I went back home and with more shovels, equipment, etc than realistically needed the mouse was put in the trash. I shut the garage door as fast as I could ran into the house from the garage slamming the door behind me. I had done it. My heart still pounding I sat down at my kitchen island and came to a realization. Jay protected me from things like this. He took care of things that scared me. With him not here I have taken on many things that have scared me and one by one I will tackle them all. I am stronger and braver than I once was. That said, the fear is still real.
Last week I was given the opportunity of a life time. I was asked to help in the creation of a video for work sharing our life insurance story. This story starts with a very painful experience and yet I still call it an opportunity of a lifetime. And one that not only was worth it but that I would do over again in a heart beat to help just one more person understand.
All of the memories came back in full force. There were tears. There were wonderful memories. And ultimately a feeling of accomplishment. I was given another opportunity to share our journey. The opportunity to make an impact on someone’s life or more importantly an impact on their family.
The shoot took two days. I sat in the studio in front of a camera answering questions they had for me. I went to the sound booth and did some voice overs. And then the second day they came to my house. They got footage of Aaron. The mini-Jay that he is, he did great. Photos, paperwork and memories. I have no doubt it is going to be a great video. Someone will benefit from us sharing our journey. And that make it all worth it.
Losing Jay was a metaphorical and literal punch in the gut from life. It hurt but we survived. It would be terrible to let what I have learned go to waste and so I share. I am shocked yet not surprised I was given this opportunity. Why? I asked for it. And I believe because I was truly ready, it was presented to me. An opportunity to help people understand a little bit more about life. We all plan what we want to do in the time we live. We need to also plan for those left behind when we die. It really is that simple. And in both life and in death, when given, you take the opportunity of a lifetime.
The other day I read a message from a friend that said she was happy for me because “you seem to have it all together.” I laugh. Not at her message because with all sincerity I am thankful for her message, but because there are many times I have and continue to feel just the opposite.
In the beginning of this journey my motto was to “fake it till you make it.” That alone helped me through some very difficult moments. But then a year later I crashed. It was at that point I realized I could no longer fake being OK.
I dug deep. I fought hard. And I found myself again. There was a lot of pain to sift through. A miscarriage, cancer in our families, infertility, Jay’s death and the most painful of all regret.
What surfaced from that hard work was ultimately a happy heart. Despite everything put in my path my heart was happy. This is important because it is the foundation of who, what and where I am today..
As for having it all together, I am glad it looks that way. I still cry at moments I wish Jay were here to see. I struggle to get Aaron dressed, fed and to sleep on time regularly. I stress over things at work hoping things work as they should. I get frustrated because things fall behind, something breaks or doesn’t go as I had planned. I am scared of the unknown.
Life is not easy. I say that for everyone. No one has it easy. To recognize that allowed me to handle my life better. Life is crazy sometimes and far from perfect. It is that along with a happy heart I feel helps me in keeping it together.