Monday, December 19, 2011

Moving On, Or Trying To Anyway

The holidays always bring a lot of stress and activity.  This year, it seems our household has really been hit with a lot of unscheduled events that have added to the holiday stress levels.

First, there was my husband's health scare.  Thankfully, my husband is progressing well from the procedure that saved his life.  He is still very tired.  He tries to walk each day, and he is doing well in changing his eating habits.  Nevertheless, we have been set back emotionally as we deal with this new health reality.

Then,  last week, my daughter closed on her house in Northern Colorado.   I was away from home for three days last week helping her move.  We got it done, but believe me, it was a huge task.  She had a girl friend and Jason help her one weekend, then it was up to just Amy, her two children, and me to get the rest done.  Since Amy had to work two of the three days, I did much of it alone with a little help from the guy we hired to haul off things we didn't have time to donate or take to the dump.

  I am so grateful that she is in a new town home not far from where she lived before.  Her new place is very homey.  She says it "just feels like home."  That it does.  She has a spectacular view of Long's Peak from her living room window.  The kids have a sledding hill right outside their back door.  They are within walking distance of the recreation center where they spend a lot of time.  Schools are also close by.   While it was sad to leave her home where she had lived for more than ten years, there were many unhappy memories there.  It is good to move on.  I think she will be very happy in her new place and the kids love their new home.  

The move was hard on me because I kept bumping into so many of Julie's things.  Julie and Amy shared clothes, and shoes so much that at times, I wasn't always sure who owned which article of clothing one or the other might be wearing.  That being said, Julie had many beautiful clothes, and her shoes were always just plain cool. 

During the move,  I did fine when I saw the dress Julie wore to her class reunion.  I didn't lose it when I saw the jacket that she had on one time when she came home from work and looked so stylish and hip.  I even handled running into the pair of heels that she wore to the night she, Amy, Hannah, Mason and I went to Denver to see the Nutcracker a few years ago.  I remembered watching her walk her confident, fast walk in those high, high heels that had straps that wrapped around her ankles.  The night was freezing cold.  But that didn't seem to faze Julie.  I remembered watching her feet as she drove us down and out of the parking the garage after the ballet was over.  I remember how I admired her style and confidence.  Yes, when I ran into those heels, I just put them in car and moved them over to Amy's.  I didn't breakdown.

Then, late one evening, I ran into a shirt she had worn to a get-together with her high school friends a few years ago.  She looked so cute in it.  It was neatly folded among some of Amy's shirts.  I pulled it out and held it to my nose hoping I could still smell Julie on it.  Hoping that smell that came from her hair product that everyone could always smell whenever they got close to her would still be clinging to the shirt.  I don't think Julie's distinct fragrance was clinging to that article of clothing, but I wanted to believe it was just faintly present.
Julie & Leana at high school girl friend gathering

Amy walked in about then and saw me crying.  "No tears tonight, Mama.  No tears.  We can't have any tears."  By then we were both crying.  We held each other for a while, and then we got back to work.  

In my heart, when the move was done, I told Julie that I had done what she asked me to do.  She asked me to make sure that Amy was safe and away from a situation that was harmful for her.  It has been a long, hard two years, but now Amy has a new beginning.  My heart is broken that Julie isn't there to share it with her.  

Tonight I cried for Julie again.  My husband just let me cry, and then he held me.  I thanked him for letting me cry and not thinking he had to fix it.  "No one can," he said.  He is right.  No one can. 

I am now moving more fully into the holiday spirit.  I recognize how difficult the holidays can be for those who grieve.  I give myself permission to hurt, to cry, to feel anger, to feel regret, to feel longing.  Grief is messy.  Grief brings up much anger at times.  It also brings up a hurt that seems will never heal.  

Julie didn't like Christmas.  She never did.  She hated the pressure.  She hated how lonely she felt during the holidays.  So, I guess it is somewhat ironic that I have put up a tree for her.  I purchased a small evergreen tree at the grocery store.  I wanted a live tree because it represents life everlasting.  The tree was called an 'elf' tree.  I thought that was somewhat appropriate since we used to call Julie our little pixie.  

None of us remember Julie ever putting up a tree, but she had a round Christmas hat box that I had given her for Christmas a few years back filled with a few ornaments she had collected over the years.  Some were from her childhood.  She really had very few ornaments, but she had carefully packed away the ones she had.  I hung what she had on the tree.  There is a mix of childhood angels and Santa ornaments combined with a few beautiful crystal ornaments that she had either purchased or received as gifts.  I lit the tree on December 11 at 7:00 p.m.  I also lit a candle for her at the same time.  Compassionate Friends, a grief support group for those who have lost children, always has a candle lighting ceremony worldwide on the second Sunday of December at 7:00 p.m. in memory of those children who have been lost to death.

Some may say that by now, I should be much more down the road of grief than I am.  Some may think that I need to just get on with life and stop all this business with grief.  Once a friend compassionately said she could not imagine what I was going through.   Rather coldly, I replied, "I hope you never have to find out."  The look of horror that she gave me said it all.  I should never have been so honest with my reply.  

I was recently greatly comforted with this quote from GriefShare: 

Society often concerns itself with keeping up appearances, maintaining the status quo, and covering up problems, as if pretense will somehow make things right! 

"We want everything to be glossed over," Rev. John Coulombe observes. "We want everything to be gilded with gold. We think it should be tidy and nice."

But life is not "tidy and nice" and pretending it is will hinder your healing process and make it even longer. 

Right now, everything is not real "tidy and nice" in my life, but I know that I am continuing to heal and to grow.  I am also grateful that we are able to move beyond the tragedies of life.  My journey in life, and in grief has not been rocky, and at times very rough.  I am able to move on because of my faith, my family, and my friends.

I recently reflected on Psalm 34:18, "The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart."

As we enter into these final days before Christmas, as my husband continues to heal from his heart procedure, as I continue to deal with my own heart issues of arrhythmia and tachycardia, and as a family, as we deal with the loss of our beloved Julie, a loss that broke our hearts, I am comforted to know that on Christmas we will celebrate the birth of the One who came to bind up our broken hearts, the One who came to bring us peace, and the One who brings both comfort and joy.   

May all of you have a very Merry Christmas.  


  1. Grief is not one emotion and doesn't have a timetable. No two people are alike, so everyone experiences it differently.
    Bless you and your family--and may you truly find comfort and joy. :)

  2. Oh Sally, I hesitate to leave a comment, as I'm not in such a good grief space myself at the moment. Yet, I am thankful that I found your post tonight.

    I got up to write because I couldn't sleep. Earlier tonight I discovered a letter my daughter had written to her brother four years ago on his birthday. She so eloquently spoke of how much she missed her brother, and I just fell apart all over again.

    Since the first Sunday of Advent, I've attempted to make "Hope" my anchor. But I guess sometimes I yank that anchor up and wallow around in my grief, as I have tonight.

    Thanks to your post, to the knowledge that I'm not alone, I'm ready to toss the anchor back out there and pick up my faith and hope for peace.

    Your and your family are in my heart and prayers.

  3. Your heart is full with so many emotions this Christmas season. I know you will feel them all as the holiday unfolds. I wish for you that there will be some merry moments and a lot of comfort and joy to carry you through it all.

  4. The process of grieving is so individual. Some people move through the crying stage sooner than others. I think that, given all you have been going through, your tears are very appropriate and cannot help but be healing. I have a candle I bought just for the season, and I am lighting it every night with the hope that my intention can be joined with others who wish inner peace for all. Blessings to you and yours, Sally.

  5. My eyes are wet as I finish reading this, Sally.
    You have a wise and loving husband. As he let you cry and as he held you, he did what one who loves others does...he was there for you.
    May the love of our Lord whose birth we celebrate hold you, surround you and sustain you.
    Love to you, my friend,

  6. I will never say you "should be farther down the road." It doesn't work that way -- and I'm glad you know it.

    Sounds like a tough week for you. I'm grateful, though, that Nails is improving and Amy is safe and "home." Two big things for which to be grateful in 2011. And I'm glad you did the tree. That's so subjective, but I know when I look at my "dad" and "mom" trees and things on the big tree from friends no longer with me, it brings them close. We do it for us -- and that's OK.

    Many hugs to you, my friend. Many.

  7. "The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart." How comforting.
    May that Psalm help you to remember with a smile as well as tears.

  8. My heart goes out to you! I echo Rita in that no two people grieve alike. And, there is no timetable on grief. It was 5 years ago on Dec 1st that I lost my husband and I am still grieving.


  9. It is so heartening that you can take comfort in the love of family and friends even as you grieve. Be gentle with yourself. There is no rule book for our emotions. Not really.

  10. You do not need to explain to anyone where you are or are not on the 'recovery scale' after losing a loved one. God bless you and your family during this season which is more difficult if you are missing someone. My brother is the CEO and founder of the "Hurray for Jan 2nd" Club!!!
    And there you have it!

  11. I dropped in to hold hands. Thanks for being there with me.

  12. Oh Sweet Sally---Cry and grieve and talk about Julie ALL you want to... Keeping her alive in your memories is so important...

    SO true that life is not tidy and nice... Life is HARD--and all of us humans are unique and different. Some can move on quicker than others --and some need more time... There's no right or wrong...

    I think the holidays are the hardest times for all of us. We all have some sad memories and we do grieve in our own ways.. I miss my Mom, Dad and two brothers this time of year myself --and find myself crying at times. It's normal--and I think tears are good for us.

    God Bless You, Sally... Just be YOU and don't beat yourself up over your emotions...


  13. It's funny how we all identify and miss the unique scent of Julie's hair product. It was so her.

    A couple of months ago I was cleaning out my downstairs basement cabinet. I'd decided to finally move a plastic set of drawers that had been Julie's into my upstairs bathroom. I opened it not realizing it had a drawerful of her headbands and kerchiefs zipped up tightly in a travel case. I honestly don't think it had been opened since the day I took the container from her house in May 2009. They still smelled of her. Of course, I broke down and sobbed right there on the bathroom floor in front of the open cabinet, missing her, longing for her.

    Wanting to never lose that scent, I quickly found a plastic Ziploc and put them inside, sealing it tight. Then I put the bag away.

    I'll probably never open it again, but just knowing it's there and hopefully preserved brings me a strange sense of comfort.

  14. Time will give you all the time you need. Take it all.

    Thinking of you.

  15. I have no words of wisdom about the death of a child because I haven't been there. I do, however, have a husband who survived a heart attack. He went to the doctor today and all tests were excellent. He made substantial changes to his lifestyle and it has paif off for him. It took him quite some time to get his stamina back...but it came back. I guess time is the great healer for all kinds of broken hearts!

  16. You all are just wonderful. I do understand.

  17. Grief lasts as long as it lasts. There is no timeline to worry about. Only if it stops you from moving on with your life should anyone be worried. Continue to grieve as you need to.

    I penned this and my hospice liked it so well they put it on the grief page of the website:

    Grieving is never easy.
    Grieving is never the same for two people.
    Grieving is never the same for two deaths.
    Grieving is a lot of things, but it is never what we expect it to be when it happens to us.
    Grieving is something no one has to do alone.

    You're just fine.

  18. wish we lived close to each other so I could give you a big hug. We could cry and hug and no words would be necessary.

  19. Oh, Sally! Oh, Keicha! You've been through so much the last two years. Each person grieves in his or her own way and timetable. You never "get over" such losses, but the grief softens over time. I hope this holiday season will bring you peace and healing.

  20. One of your readers told me about your blog.

    I very much understand...I lost my daughter 2 years and 6 months ago. She was only 34. I am not finding the "road to recovery" easy and probably never will. I know it is an endless road.

    If I had my way I'd skip over Christmas but I do have a son so I fake it for his sake. Not easy.

    I am very sorry for your loss. Very sorry...I feel small saying those words, they don't help much. I too put one sweater away hoping I could preserve her scent. Someone washed all her clothes before I could say NO, don't do that! One missed the washer thank goodness.... odd what we focus on but those things are important later.

    Take care.

  21. Hope you find a way to get your heart rhythm in order. Do you take magnesium?
    When hubby had his surgery we were surprised that they were giving vitamin and minerals along with his meds
    I hope you will have a memorable Christmas this year. I understand your grieving is taking time. Each person must find his or her own way to cope.
    You are doing your best!
    Thanks for being a blogging friend and sharing with me. God Bless. Candles give a soft light don't they?

  22. Like all your friends honey mentioned there is no time table on one's grief period. We each grieve in our on way and it has helped me to write it on my site just to get it on paper seems to help.
    So very sorry your going through this loss and I will continue to pray for you

  23. I'm catching up on some of my blog visits. I've been so busy and crazy these past weeks and it's not over yet. January is promising to be even crazier.

    However, I had to stop by tonight. Sally... I'm crying with you. My heart aches with you.

    I had one year where I had in my classroom three boys who suffered losses. One little boy lost his mother and the other boy lost his father that summer before. Another boy lost his sister two years before. I can still see their faces.

    I remember speaking to the parents who lost their daughter. They told me it was a struggle because people kept thinking they should "get over it" and you don't. I used to go to birthday parties where we still celebrated Jean's birthday many years later.

    Julie will always be with you... in your hearts and thoughts. I'm hoping eventually, that the memory of her smiles will outweigh the agony of her not being with you.

    I'm so sorry, Sally.


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