small pieces of joy

pieces of joy in each day

the third

Monday marked the third anniversary of Dad’s passing from this world to the next.

The third year without Dad. Wow.

It seems like such a long time, but remembering the events from three years ago feels like just yesterday.

The past two years we have remembered Dad’s memorial day with something special. A service at the gravesite the first year, KSU football game and dinner at Texas Roadhouse the next.

This year I wanted to do something specific in honor of Dad, but it was hard to figure out what that would be.

We had a steak dinner at Mom’s and simply enjoyed family time, even though my youngest brother couldn’t make it.

I went home, put the kids to bed, and still felt like I needed to do something more to make the day feel complete. I had wanted to go to the gravesite by myself before dinner, but my husband got home late from work so I couldn’t do that. Then I was going to go after the kids went to bed, but now it gets dark early.

On a whim I left the house and drove to our church’s adoration chapel, thinking I had the code to get in. Nope. Wrong code. So I sat outside of the chapel, wondering if this was a sign or if I should wait for someone to come and let me in. After about 10 minutes I just decided to drive for a while and ended up in the cemetery at twilight.

Only a little creepy.

I turned the car off, started talking to Dad, then had a major cry-my-heart-out-tears-on-the-steering-wheel sob fest. As I was letting it all out, I still felt lost, like I needed to do something else.

I called my mom, and was at her house a few minutes later.

She held me and we cried. Cried about missing Dad, cried about the good memories, cried about the things he was missing, cried about what we thought he might be like today, cried about the whole crappy situation.

It was one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time.

The thing is…grief is complicated. There is no amount of time to make losing my Dad OK. Just because it is three years out does not mean I’m not still hurting. Yes, I’m getting much better about living my life without him. I’ve come to terms he is not here and will not be here.

But I’m still hurting.

It hurts that I had to see him decline over 10 months, that I was a new mom, living in a different state, trying to juggle all my roles, while cancer was slowly sucking the life out of my big strong hero.

That will never be OK with me.

And all those things I mentioned are things I haven’t had time to really process. Because unfortunately, life continues to move after loss. So it takes a while to get to a place where the shock, agony, and pain can come through and be truly felt.

No, I am not stuck. No, I’m not dwelling on the loss. I’m actually moving forward in the best way I know how.

The best way for ME.

I’m learning about grief, I’m allowing myself to feel, and I’m sharing with others in hopes they can work through their pain too.

These past few years have been the most challenging years of my life, and looking back, also the years in which I have grown the most. For that I’m thankful.

The third year without Dad. Another step forward on a long path to healing.

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birth day

I opened my Facebook feed this morning as normal and was unprepared for the emotions that filled my heart.

Facebook told me it is Dad’s birthday.

Right. I knew that. But seeing it on Facebook was different.

I saw that a few friends had already posted birthday wishes, which warmed my heart and released the tears.

One friend planned a meeting at the cemetery to have celebratory beers and tell stories. Which is exactly what they would do if he were physically here.

Another said happy first birthday in Heaven. This remark made me smile. I often forget that he’s there! I’m so worried about how he isn’t here with me that I forget he’s celebrating in Heaven with Grandpa and all our other family members and friends and Saints and angels! What a party that must be.

But back on earth it is harder to have a big party. I am more sad today than I thought I would be. Physically I’ve been aching and more tired starting last night, and I have a feeling it was in anticipation of today. It is hard to celebrate a birthday of someone who isn’t here to celebrate with us. Who isn’t starting another year on earth. It doesn’t seem right.

But then it makes too much sense to celebrate the fact that he was born, that he was given to us for those 54 years, that we were able to know him. These thoughts have made me want to really celebrate this day with purpose.

We went to the grotto on campus this morning. Dad loved this place so much that we had to make sure we visited each time he was in town. He always wanted to light a candle to pray for those he held dear. For a man who didn’t talk about his faith often, these visits spoke more to me than any words could.

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So we lit a candle asking Dad to pray for us and to ask God to give us the strength and courage to continue living with joy, even when we miss him terribly.

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I went to a religious gift store to find something I could wear that would remind me of him, and I wanted to buy it today, on his birthday. So I looked around at all the angel pins, crosses, and rosaries. But the one thing that stuck out to me was a St. George medal necklace. It has so many meanings: my son’s name is George, St. George is the patron of Boy Scouts, and St. George was a strong fighter, just like Dad. Perfect.

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So I celebrate Dad’s birthday in the best way I can today. And Dad is too. He was praying with us this morning at the grotto. He is with those at the cemetery drinking beer and laughing. He is with those who are thinking of dad and feeling sad. He is with us today and always.

Happy 55th birthday, Daddy.

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compassion

A small thing from this weekend: self-compassion

I am way too hard on myself sometimes. I think we all expect a lot from ourselves and often get frustrated because we don’t always live up to that expectation.

While I’m in the emotional state I’m in, there is no way I can do everything I was doing the way I was doing it. My life will never be the same.

I will never be the same.

In wading through the waters of grief I’ve been discovering a few things. One of them is self-compassion.

I was describing all that I was worried about and my mountain of a to-do list and a friend just said, “Be nice to you!”

That resonated with me. It is unrealistic for me to think I can do it all while I’m deeply upset. But the hard part is actually letting go of things in order to be nice to myself! It seems it would be easy…

One of the first things I gave myself permission to do is to put a hold on cloth diapers for a while. I looove using cloth diapers, but keeping up with the laundry was too much for me. So even though I hate spending more money on diapers right now, it is freeing to not be doing extra loads of laundry.

I also left Jonathan alone Friday night so I could have some social time. I felt bad not spending time with Jonathan, but after he basically kicked me out I decided it was a good thing!

I’m also starting to follow what my body is telling me I need. If I need a nap, I nap when George naps. If all I want to do is vedge on the couch, I do it. Instead of having an incessant mantra of ‘You should be doing something productive’, I replace it with, ‘you should do what you need to do.”

I’m not perfect at it, but it definitely has eased some stress. And that’s really all I can ask for at this point.

How can you be nice to yourself today?

When there is compassion in your heart, you need only to breathe in and out and look deeply, and understanding will come. You will understand yourself and become compassionate toward yourself; you will know how to handle your suffering and take care of yourself.” –Thich Nhat Hanh from Be Free Where You Are

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perfect words

Today’s small thing: the perfect book

I know there isn’t a ‘perfect’ book, but there is definitely a perfect book for where you are at a specific moment. And I have found it.

As many of you know, my dad passed away a month ago from today. I may try to hide it, but my heart hurts. My chest is always tight and I am close to tears every moment. I don’t know what could trigger a gush of tears so I anxiously wait for it.

Of course I’m not ready to talk about all that occupies my mind and all my family has gone through. Not yet. So what do I do?

I found a book.

The book is called On Grief and Grieving by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler.

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I cannot express how perfect this book is for me right now. These authors have done extensive research on grief and each part describes what I’m feeling so intimately it is like they have read my soul. (Ok, maybe not that extreme, but sometimes that is how it feels!)

Anyway, I felt compelled to blog this for a few reasons.

1–I know that many who read this are grieving too. I thought giving a resource could be helpful to even just one reader.

2–I don’t want to completely ignore the fact that I’m hurting on the blog. I know this is supposed to be a happy and uplifting blog, but I feel it would be unfair to me and to you if I masked my grief.

3–I’m getting closer to being ready to share many things about Dad on the blog and I think this is the first step to getting there.

So, my beloved readers, I’m sad. And I’m not going to ignore that anymore. I am, however, going to still look for beauty in each day amidst my sadness. So there will still be some good posts here, hopefully!

Please pray for my family and all those who are grieving the loss of my wonderful father (or for anyone who is grieving the loss of a loved one). We need it now more than ever since the more time that passes the bigger the void seems to get.

Thank you! And please know that anything you say or do for us is incredibly appreciated.

“Let nothing disturb thee; Let nothing dismay thee; All thing pass; God never changes. Patience attains all that it strives for. He who has God finds he lacks nothing: God alone suffices.” – St. Teresa of Avila

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