As I sit here with 2 weeks off work on a Thursday afternoon, I was about to pull out the latest puzzle I’m working on and I started thinking about puzzles and how they relate to living after loss.
I have long done puzzles because I enjoy the challenge of putting all the pieces back together exactly as they were when it was a whole picture. It’s satisfying to me.
Living after losing someone important to you is not that unlike doing a puzzle. I mean you start to look around and see the mess of pieces on the floor and say, how the hell am I gonna put all this back together? These pieces need to go back exactly as they were and I don’t know where to start. I have the picture in my mind of how life looked so I know how they SHOULD fit together.
So you start fitting them back together as best you can, but there’s pieces missing, and the picture looks different now. The pieces no longer fit together. No matter what you do, you cannot make the picture look the way it did before the loss. You just can’t. Just like with a puzzle, it gets really frustrating. Just like when you’re doing a puzzle, you need to step back from the way you remember that picture, and look from a new perspective.
Once you do that, you will see new pieces available to you to complete your new puzzle. The new pieces are new people that come into your life, new interests that you start to enjoy, maybe new beliefs enter into the view.
Accepting that your old puzzle will never fit back together again is not easy. There will be many times when you look back on that old puzzle willing those missing pieces to magically appear. There is sadness and guilt when picking up your new pieces. I wish I could say that those feelings disappear with time, but that has yet to be my experience. There are times when you will be thoroughly enjoying the new puzzle you are creating and then suddenly think of that old puzzle and the guilt and sadness are overwhelming. But, there will also be times when you can enjoy looking at both puzzles without guilt or sadness. That I can say is something that does become more frequent over time. So there is always hope.
So, as you start to piece your new puzzle together, try to enjoy that process. The pieces may change as you go along, so don’t get frustrated. Think of it as new challenge, and smile.
Not street signs. Signs from above, the universe, your relatives that have moved on from this life. I do. I am a believer, Too many things have happened in my lifetime to be a doubter. This post will not be for everyone, and that’s ok. If you are a believer, or are on the fence. READ ON
Throughout my life, I have received signs. For the majority of my lifetime, I dismissed them. I doubted. I wasn’t ready yet to accept that there is a power greater than me. The timing and sheer accuracy of some of these signs scared the living shit outta me to be honest. So I dismissed alot to coincedence, my imagination etc.
I am going to fast forward the signs I have received to the day that Kayla had Elena and what happened just prior to her having that seizure that ultimately claimed her life.
First of all, there’s the gut feeling. The feeling that something is not right at all, It is not thinking negatively. It’s your gut, the very very depth of your soul that you know..there’s something HORRIBLE coming. I felt that. In hindsight, I felt it as soon as Kayla told me she was pregnant. I pushed it aside. The day that Kayla went in the hospital in distress, it came back with full force.
I got to see Kayla after she had Elena. She was in rough shape, but concious and talking to me. That in itself is a gift I will always be thankful for. She sent me to see Elena in the nursery and I told her I loved her and I would see her soon. That was our last in person conversation.
After seeing Elena, I went to the washroom. As I was washing my hands, I looked on my shirt and there was a wet spot, in the shape of a heart. I looked at it and knew something was wrong. I headed back to her room and heard the code blue announcement. That was the start of the worst week of my life, but I feel like that heart was meant to comfort me when I look back on it.
Seems weird and far fetched right? I understand. I know it sounds like I’m crazy. Just bear with me because there is so much more.
About a week after Kayla passed, I had a dream. In it, Kayla came to me and she was about 6 years old. The place was dark, almost like a silhouette, a two dimensional area. Kayla had a little backpack on and she was skipping along a path, grabbing and holding my hand. She said, come on, I’m gonna be late! I asked where we were going, and she pointed down the path and said, sometimes, you just have to wend mom. And then I woke up. I was relieved at how happy she was, and immediatel y thought, WTF does wend mean? Turns out it is a very old word used to describe going to a destination, but not following a direct path. This is where the name for this site came from. To me, she was telling me she was ok, and she would be getting to where she needed to go eventually. Prior to this, I was plagued with horrible thoughts and nightmares (when I could sleep) worrying about where she was and if she was ok. This dream was a turning point for me. I slept after this.
Beyond this, there have been countless songs that come on the radio at just the right moment, the cardinals that randomly and abundantly show up for me when I am thinking of her, feathers that float up in a weird location just when I needed comfort. So many many many things.
Today…today was the best one yet. And it came in multiple parts.
First off, I read angel cards. It’s ok if you’re not into it, but if you’ve gotten this far then you’re at least curious or think I’ve totally lost it. I have a long history with Tarot cards and I can fill you in at some other point in time. Anyway…I did my morning meditations and normally I quiet my mind but today I felt so full of gratitude, and so positively charged that I sat for the entire time thanking the universe for basically everything in my life and repeating my positive affirmations over and over again.
After this, I read my cards. I asked how I needed to focus my energy moving into my vacation time. I got Ask and Receive and it basically was telling me to trust the angels and the universe and they will give me what I need. It also told me to practice gratitude which I did. I said a gratitude prayer and felt uplifted on a cold and snowy day.
After showering etc, I look at my phone to see a Facebook notification. Someone had liked a post from Jan 19, 2017. It was something Kayla had posted (she slipped into her coma Jan 23 2017). It was celebrating our “Friendaversary” and she captioned it with Love you mom. I admit, I cried, I got chills, all of it, but I felt GOOD, blessed and so thankful to hear that. I knew she wanted me to see that today.
That absolutely DID NOT prepare me for what happened after this…lol as is often the case with this stuff.
I called Kristina like I do every morning. My almost 3 year old grandson Landon who has never met Kayla, comes out with: “Nana has to get pumpkins for her house. Kayla is getting them. Kayla says Love you mom ok Nana?” I shit you not this happened. Kayla loved Halloween.
This brought me immense comfort. I felt compelled to share and to share it now. It is not my job to convince anyone that this stuff is real.
If you are interested in receiving signs, it’s pretty straightforward: You simply need to have an open mind and tell the universe you are ready.
Then, wait for the magic to appear. I promise you, when you are truly ready and accepting it will happen.
This week I want to talk aboout 2 things I practice and really believe in. One I have been practicing conciously for quite some time now and the other I am new to fully embracing and applying the concepts to.
Practicing gratitude is something that has helped me through alot of tough times. It’s not always easy to do and I’ve been through times where I really felt I had NOTHING to be grateful for. In reality though, if you’re breathing, then there is at least one thing to be grateful for. When Kayla passed, I still followed this practice and it was hard. I look back on the entries to my gratitude journal then and it was all based on the time I got to spend with Kayla, the fact we had Elena in our lives and the support of my family. It was all BIG stuff to be grateful for. I found this practice something that helped me to shed a bit of light on a really dark time. It showed me that I still had a reason to be around. I still had reasons to get up in the morning and breathe. If you’re having a hard time with thinking of things to be grateful for, you can start off with little things, it doesn’t have to be super deep. Things like, I am super grateful for this cup of coffee, because it gives me a kick start to my day and allows me to feel human. Finding a few things daily to be grateful for is especially important in tough times, like the one we are all currently living in.
There are all different methods of practicing gratitude and different times of the day that people do this. None of which are better than the other. There are journals to prompt you in the morning and evening, there are daily planners that incorporate writing things you’re grateful for when you plan your day, apps, websites, books, videos-you name it, there’s always a lot of differing opinions and methodologies out there. For me personally, I choose to do the following these days:
I wake up and try to think of 1 thing I am grateful for
I have my coffee and breakfast
I meditate for at least 10 minutes
I either use my calm app to write 3 things I am grateful for or use my gratitude journal(it depends on the month, I am currently going between the two to decide which I prefer)
That’s it! It’s not groundbreaking. I am not doing anything super crazy. The gratitude piece takes me anywhere between 30 seconds and 10 minutes, Some days it’s easy, and others it’s hard.
What I am learning though as I wend my way to an enlightened mind and spirit, is that practicing gratitude is the foundation for the my next practice, which I have only recently gotten serious about which is Affirmations.
I mentioned last week that I was rereading You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. This book is amazing if you are looking to take your spiritual self and healing your mind to the next level. It really is a book that talks about how you speak to yourself and what that creates in your life. Alot of the times, you don’t even realize the things that you say and how it is impacting the path your life takes.
Let’s look at this a bit deeper. Think about how you perceive yourself. You think, I am overweight. I don’t like my freckles, I don’t have time to meditate. I am broke. My car sucks. I hate my job. You wake up in the morning and think well, here goes another shitty day.
How do you think your days will go if you think this way? You create your own reality. A favorite quote from Louise Hay goes like this “A thought is just a thought, and a thought can be changed” Think about that for a second. YOU control your thoughts. Nobody else does, just you. Nobody else even hears your thoughts so you can THINK WHATEVER YOU WANT. What???? Holy game changer guys. Think about that. You can tell yourself anything. That means that,..if you create your own reality by telling yourself your own thoughts that nobody else can hear….then you can create the life that you want by changing how you think.
So how can we change our thoughts? First of all, as with anything, it’s going to take time. It’s creating a habit, and you’ll need to work at it just like you would with changing any habit.
So let’s think of that self perception. I am overweight. How can you change that thought to better serve you? Would you tell a friend hey you’re fat? NO! So why would you talk to yourself that way???? Instead, we can think, I love this body. This body is working so hard to carry me around every day. This beautiful body is what is helping me to exercise so that I can live a long and healthy life. How much better does this sound?
What about the thought when you wake up? Here goes another shitty day…if you think that, how do you think your day will go? You guessed it, it’s going to be shitty because you thought that, and therefore that is what you created. So instead, let’s think this, Here I am, ready to start another day. It’s a clean slate and everything is going to go so well for me today. I am open to all the lessons and experiences this day will bring to me. I can’t wait to see what is in store. This is going to create a different reality for you, and it’s going to change your mindset for the day.
I am not delusional. These things do work if you practice them. We are all here on earth for a limited time. Why would we choose to live it in a way that lends to a miserable existence? What is the point of that? We are all works in progress. Let’s make a pact to at least try. I challenge you to read the book I mentioned and to start or continue your gratitude practice.
It will change your life. It has definately changed mine.
Lack of focus Fogginess Forgetting things Mood swings Sadness Depression Anxiety
These are all things that impact us when we are grieving. And grief is not something that just impacts us when a person dies. There are all different types of grief that we will experience throughout our lives. Think of it like this…grief happens when we lose something or someone. So if we take that statement and thoroughly examine it we can understand the following things: We grieve when a relationship ends We grieve when we lose a job We grieve the loss of a friendship We grieve the loss of a pet We grieve the loss of a lifestyle We grieve the loss of freedom
*obviously not an exhaustive list..just some examples
These statements used to make me really really angry. I was so caught up in my own grief that I was offended that people would think this way. How dare they compare a loss of a pet or a divorce to what I was experiencing??
But nobody was doing that. Making these statements doesn’t take away from my experience with grief. Everyone’s experience in this lifetime with anything is different because there are so many different factors at play.
First of all, with a loss, people start at all different places in their lives when it happens. Some are more emotionally equipped to deal with it. There are many other factors too, like the relationship you had with the person, your belief system…it goes on and on. It’s a PERSONAL experience related only to you and you alone. I can’t for example begin to understand another parents loss or their journey. How could I? I don’t know how they feel. I can relate to the person and their situation but I don’t know how they feel.
When I say we are all grieving…let’s take 2020 as an example.
We lost our sense of normalcy. Our lives will never be the same. Not ever. This is 100% a situation that will trigger a grief response.
So here are some things I would suggest to help you through:
Get outside, even if it’s freezing cold and only for 15 minutes. You need to change it up.
Find one thing that brings you joy. It can be as simple as hiding in the bathroom with candles and a bubble bath.
Practice gratitude. Find 3 things a day you are grateful for. Some days for me, I struggle with it, but you can find them. It can be as silly as, I am grateful for running water in my home.
Move around. I know…this is hard but moving your body releases endorphins that make you feel GOOD.
Incorporate healthier meal options. Trust me, the donuts may give you comfort temporarily, but the sugar will make you feel like shit after.
I would suggest the book The Grief Recovery Handbook by John W James and Russell Friedman. It has fantastic exercises in it to help work your way through.
Get Social – Phone a friend. Do a video call. Have a social distance visit outside. You need other people, it’s a basic human need.
These things will all help you. And it’s just a start! Keep following me here so we can continue wending our way together.
As the final official entry about my toolbox I was going to just talk about books I leaned on, however it turned into more than that. These things all helped me and my hope is this helps you find your own tools for your toolbox.
I was my own research assistant and others reached out and shared their tools. Some of the support I’ve gotten over the years came from the most unexpected places. Like the acquaintance I have that gave me the name of an amazing peer counsellor.
Like I said, the universe provided me with my peer counsellor C. She was recommended by someone who had her own grief and incredibly difficult loss. Through C, I ended up working with BFO(Bereaved Families of Ontario) and going to weekly peer counselling group sessions. We named ourselves the Mighty Mom’s. We cried, we shared, we laughed when other people would think it was inappropriate to be laughing. It was a safe space to get the shit out. That group helped me more than anyone will ever appreciate. I cannot say enough about this service and this organization. If you’re ever in need of grief counselling and I pray you don’t… definitely look them up here.
I said before I called my EAP(employee assistance program) at work and did email counselling. While it was a start to keep me from entirely losing my shit, it absolutely was not enough for me. BUT…they sent me a package about grief. Most of it was admittedly total bullshit written by some psychologist somewhere that’s never had a loss in their life…however, there was a book in there called The Grief Recovery Handbook. I scoffed at the title because like come on..this book though, it covers all types of grief (something I will be blogging about soon) and has activities to help you deal with your shit. I have read it through it twice and completed the activities, recommended it and leant it out to others when they needed it. This little purple book was a godsend to me and was an absolute turning point in helping with my experience with grief, not just from the loss of Kayla, but past losses too.
Books have been huge for me, not just post loss but in general over the course of my adult life..I am currently working through You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay because well, there’s still stuff I need to work through. This is another amazing tool and again, I highly recommend it. I’ll do a full post on this book when I’m done.
I did also join a few Facebook groups for grieving parents. I am going to say it and I hope I don’t offend anyone reading but they didn’t help me. I felt these parents’ pain too greatly and if I’m being honest, it was a negative experience. There was a lot of people flopping around refusing to get out of bed because their pain was too great for them to bear and I GOT IT, I really did, but I was so engrossed in my own shit it made me angry. Like so angry that people weren’t willing to get up. Right or wrong, that was how I felt…and it was alot of the “misery loves company” type of experience and I am just not about that. Once I figured out that this was making me feel worse rather than better, I jumped out of all of the groups and did more of my own thing.
So all these things have helped me get where I am today: the workouts, the healthy eating, the meditation, counselling, books etc…but I am and always will be continuing to add to my toolbox as my grief evolves. It’s never going to go away. I will never be fully “healed”. It doesn’t work that way. What will continue as life goes on for me is that as I add these tools and wend my way through my grief, is that I will keep evolving spiritually. Because that is what grief really is…it’s a spiritual evolution thing. That’s my take on it so far anyway. We will save that for another post though.
Hopefully, this is helpful to someone out there.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone, whatever that looks like for you in these crazy times.
That saying keeps popping in my head whenever I hear someone talk shit about 2020.
I don’t disagree that this year has been tough for many people. It’s seen us isolate away from family, friends and coworkers, even therapists and doctors. People that needed surgery are on a waiting list and if you need a driver’s test… you’re going to have to wait a long ass time in line. We have had to adapt to working from home, wear masks everywhere (we even need them to put out garbage and check the mail in our building). We’ve learned to stand in line to shop for necessities. Some have been out of work since March and are struggling. And this isn’t just in Canada, it’s around the world.
In Canada, it could be worse. Yep, I said it. It could be. We are asked to stay home when possible, we have food and our government is doing it’s best to support those that are struggling. They’re trying to support businesses and we have our awesome healthcare system.
I’m recapping the obvious because I want to ensure we get the point. Life can always get worse. 2016 was a shitty year for me so I wished it away. 2017 was gonna be better. It was going to be “my year”. I was so excited to move on and alot of people echoed that sentiment at the time.
Turns out..2017 got worse for me. Like life altering, bone shakingly, never back to that person kind of worse. That’s the year we lost Kayla. Most of that year is a black thick dense muddy fog for me and the rest of my family.
So therein lies the point of what I am trying to get across. Let’s stop wishing away 2020 because holy crap people we have no idea what the future holds. Hell, Trump could get RE ELECTED. The virus could get even worse…a different pandemic could happen. We. Just. Don’t. Know.
So…now that I’ve said all this…let’s sit back and see what we can take from 2020 so far.
we have learned to appreciate our family so much more
we have come to understand what a privilege it is to have access to a wide variety of food
we appreciate our freedom to just run out for a coffee or drinks with friends
we appreciate our healthcare system
I could go on and on. For me personally, I appreciate my resilience and my ability to adapt to change. I’m thankful that I have my workouts still because without them my mental state would have been terrible. I am thankful that I have my family and an awesome quarantine buddy in Mike. I am so glad I started meditating pre pandemic because that’s helped me a ton. But above all else… isolation gave me a gift.
It gave me an opportunity to take a step back and let my grief happen. I got to slow down and spend some time with myself and my brain. Believe it or not…the lockdown was a blessing for me. It hit my reset button and I am super thankful for that.
So when you start to wish away the hours, days, months and years my hope for you all is that you take a step back and think of what you’re learning from your present situation. I hope this post finds you well.
I wrote the below note in November of 2017. It captures how I felt then and still how I feel today.
It begins the same as every day, a gentle ocean wave- ever present, lapping at your feet. It’s there, gently ebbing and flowing, noticeable, but not unbearable. Then, out of nowhere, the wind picks up, the sky begins to darken. You get a shiver of coolness as the temperature drops. Waves get bigger, sometimes rapidly, until the biggest tidal wave appears and crashes over you, engulfing you, drowning you until you can’t breathe and beg for mercy. As quickly as it appeared, it vanishes. Your breath slowly returns to normal as the waves begin to diminish until they return back to the daily, gentle, bearable lapping. The sun begins to shine again. You acknowledge the waves and await the next tidal wave’s appearance.
I am sharing this today because 3 and a half years later…I am still here.
I want everyone to know that grief doesn’t go away, it doesn’t lessen and it doesn’t hurt any less. It just becomes a part of you. What changes is how you handle it. How you CHOOSE to handle it. Sometimes, I allow it to envelope me and I retreat into myself and let it impact my moods, my motivation and my health. Sometimes, I fight it and make sure I am taking care of my emotional well being by exercising, meditation and talking to my family and friends. All of this is normal and allowed.
Again, you don’t get to choose when this shows up. You DO get to choose the direction you’re going to take with it.
Here are some things that work for me. Take what resonates with YOU.
•Move your body: Get sweaty.
•Go for a walk in nature
•Yell in a pillow
•Make sure you’re focusing on fueling your body appropriately with healthy food
•Get enough sleep: Even if you need a natural sleep aid to help
•Talk to someone
•Write in a journal
•Sign up for counselling-there are all kinds of free groups out there, google is your friend