Stuck With Grief

Let’s face it, we’re stuck with grief. Like Gorilla Glue stuck.We are stuck living with the kind of emotional residue that can never be completely washed away. We can participate in creative grief projects and actively heal, but we will go to our graves with the epoxy of grief.

We are glued together, and as members of this hate-to-love community we understand what it feels like to be stuck with a group of people who were not a part of your life before yet you can’t live without them in grief’s after. We can share and connect, but no amount of layers revealed will peel away this pain.

Like adhesive to the soul, we are bound to a forever love and we won’t let go, no matter how much we must continue to move forward. We can’t let go. Grief leaves us feeling like we are coming unglued but somehow we are still hanging on, stuck to grief with the glue of love.

I’m thankful to be stuck with you. With this grief. This love.

Leaping Into a New Year

Have you ever jumped from rock to rock along the riverbank; Trusting that your feet will cling to solid ground and hold you upright? Believing that you will hang on and stay on, rather than lose your grip on the slippery slime and plunge into the water? Praying to land with balance and grace?

Looking ahead, yet sometimes behind. Nervous, yet confident. Scared, yet hopeful. Excited, though focused. Heading forward, yet sometimes looking behind.

This is precisely how I intend to live in the new year. Living and looking for new hope, new light, new rocks to jump yet looking back, honoring, remembering, and cherishing yesterday’s memories, wishes, moments, and even the plunges.

New beginnings can be scary, exciting, and sometimes relenting. It is difficult to leave the comforts of ritual, habit, and times of grief behind in order to begin anew, to move on, and forge ahead. Sometimes the best we can do is to take that which holds us back and use it to propel us forward.

Jumping from rock to rock, like leaping from one year to another, takes courage, determination, belief in yourself, and heart.

…But how can you take heart when your heart has been taken?

…What can you do when each day brings a sense of newness that is both refreshing and smothering?

…How will you live through this new year without your child?

You will live and learn to blend “what should be” with “what is” in order to create a beautiful “now” and “will be”.

You will face the newness, yet you will look back. You deserve to look back, as you have come a long way.

You will connect with others and share your tale of love, loss, and gains. You will be heard, seen, and taken by the hand.

You will ache for your child longingly last year, this year, and every year. You deserve to long, as your heart is missing its biggest piece.

You will face this brand-new year and this same old grief head and heart on, and I will be right here encouraging you.

Much love, Cullin’s Mama

Photo credit Jordan Whitt, Upsplash

O’ Cullin Tree

O’ Cullin Tree, O’ Cullin Tree, your leaves are so…..sparse. Broken and bent. Unraveled and twisted.

This year the kids and I decided to retire our “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree and buy a new one to hold the special ornaments that we hang in honor of our Cullin. We found a four foot tall, white tree that stands about as high as he would in his Christmas jammies.

Our pitiful little tree has held up our most precious baubles, as well as our spirits, during some of the heaviest times for the past six Christmases. Adorned with his name, Cullin receives ornaments from his siblings, complete strangers, and me each year.

My mom has the same tree. Or had. Her “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree also broke this year. The kids and I were upset, but mama was just sick about it. “Good grief.

The weight of the ornaments, the wear and tear of storage, and time have wilted the already fragile trees. For all of these reasons and more, our Cullin trees mean the world to us, so I thought up a way to salvage the pieces.

When you ache, create.

  • I took the end pieces of the fir branches that fell off and stuffed them into an empty ornament bulb.
  • Then I cut a sliver of Linus’ blue blanket that normally wraps around the base of the “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree, tied a knot, and placed it in the ornament.
  • I added a fake red berry to represent the red ornament that Charlie Brown placed on his tree.
  • Finally I tied a string on top and hung it on our new Cullin tree.

“It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.”

Linus

I love learning from life, but grief has been my least favorite teacher. If my children and I have learned anything from grief, it’s that though we may feel broken and bent, unraveled and twisted, we can still choose to pick up the broken pieces and salvage them in creative ways.

Cullin’s Mama



Holiday Writhe

“For he knew every Who down in Whoville beneath was busy now hanging a hollywho wreath. ‘And they’re hanging their stockings,’ he snarled with a sneer. ‘Tomorrow is Christmas! It’s practically here!”

Here we go again. Grief is doing as grief does, superseding the spirit, joy, and jolly of the holiday season and diminishing the quality time that should be spent celebrating life and traditions with friends and loved ones. It’s like a never ending cycle of the Grief Grinch trying to steal our joy, and we are the Cindy Lou Who’s left wondering “Why?”.

And “What now?”

I can’t answer the Why’s but I can help with the What Now’s.

When writhed in holiday grief, get creative. Last week I shared my version of The Legacy of Leo‘s #AdventToRemember , my #AdventToRememberCullin self care advent called The Sadvent. And this week I want to share a creative grief activity that I call The Holiday Writhe, a feathery wreath of remembrance.

A wreath represents eternity and the circle of life. Physically and symbolically a wreath has no beginning and no end, like the grief and love that we have for our children and other loved ones that we miss in our lives. The grief is great, but the love is greater.

As I said, the grief is great, so let’s create. Grab the following supplies:

  • Evergreen twigs with needles or a manufactured wreath
  • Feathers (You know what they say about feathers appearing)
  • Angel wings (or some other special ornament)

Stick the feathers all around the wreath. Place each feather with intention, keeping your child in mind. Hang the angel wings from the top of the wreath so it dangles in the middle of the wreath. Display your wreath and tell of its significance when people ask about your holiday writhe.

Share your photos and creative grief experience using the hashtags #TheHolidayWrithe #holidaywrithe #hohohope

The Sadvent

This past weekend I made an advent for my kids. It didn’t occur to me, because it’s a knowing deep in my bones, but my thoughts fixated on the fact that my son Cullin should be here with us to open his advent trinkets, too. These grief induced thoughts led to the creation of The Sadvent.

The Sadvent is a uplifting countdown to a new year, a special date, or any of life’s hard to handle months. It features 31 days of action, reflection, creation, and affirmation. You can cry anytime and you can choose to do nothing any day, but on the days that you need to uplift yourself, try this.

Materials: *Gift tags (that open like a card) or paper *a pen *a small gift box (I found one that matches my gift tags) *string *clothespins or paperclips *

Process: First, think of your actions, reflections, creations, and affirmation. You will need 8 ideas for three of the categories, and 7 in the fourth category. This can be the hardest part, so I’ve included some ideas for you to choose from, copy, or edit.

Actions: 1. Go to a bookstore. 2. Drink with friends. 3. Play outside. 4. Call a friend. 5. Bake a goodie. 6. Take a walk. 7. Write & mail a letter. 8. Listen to music.

Reflections: 1. What do you love about life? 2. Who can you help today? 3. What do you need? 4. List 3 passions. Which have you done lately? 5. What is one goal that you want to attain? How can you reach it? 6. List 3 terrific times you’ve had. 7. What have you done for yourself lately? Nothing? Do something.

Creations: 1. Pick a Pin or social media craft to complete. 2. Pick and create a seasonal bouquet. 3. Update or create a new space. 4. Color or draw a picture. 5. Create a collage. 6. Create a card. 7. Paint 8. Take photos of things that make you happy and post.

Affirmations: 1. You can do hard things. 2. You are enough. 3. You can push through. 4. You are beautiful 5. Life will be beautiful again. 6. You rock! 7. This world needs you. 8. A crying heart is a strong heart.

Next, Write your actions, reflections, creations, and affirmations on your gift tags. If you do not choose to use gift tags, create your own mini cards with paper. 

Then, use the clothespins or paperclips to attach the Sadvent tags to your string. Hang your string on a wall.

Finally, choose a card a day and complete the task. You may not “need” a card for three days, or you may need to choose three cards in one day. It’s up to you and your needs. As you complete a task, put the card into your gift box. If you complete all of the tasks simply pick one from your box that you’ve already done, or create another. Save the gift tags, string with clips, and gift box for next year, or the next hard month.

Share! If you create a Sadvent, please share on social media and use the hashtags #sadvent #thesadvent #sadventcalendar #thesadventcalendar and tag me @ginnylimer

laurelbox- An Interview With Heart

smallbox

Please tell us about the creation of laurelbox, how did this heartfelt journey begin? In 2014, both of us watched as our closest friends said goodbye to newborn babies. When we went to send them gifts, it was really hard to find something to care for their hurting hearts. We processed through those losses together, and started tossing around the idea of opening a store with gifts for hurting people. That idea became a reality when laurelbox officially launched in May 2015. Our vision is that a laurelbox nourishes hurting hearts, and that each box becomes the breath of community as it is opened.

Many bereaved hearts are soothed by your products, what are your biggest sellers? Right now, with Christmas just around the corner, our Heaven-Side Holiday Ornament is our top seller. Our other top sellers are the Forget-Me-Not Necklace, the Collecting Your Tears Handkerchief, and the items from our Tea Collection. And of course, our Prepared laurelboxes are popular, because they’re an easy way to know what to send someone.

Mothers of loss have a need to feel connected to one another, would you share some testimonials with us?

One week after losing my 6-day old baby, I received one of the most beautifully packaged boxes in the mail. I was so impressed by the immaculate attention to detail of the box itself, and, as I opened it, I was even more taken aback by its perfectly packaged contents. From the paper lantern to the necklace, each item was personalized and made me feel truly special. If there was ever a time one needs something to feel special, it was during that time. I thank you for giving my heart something to smile about when I didn’t even know it could smile.  

-Chelsea

I received my first laurelbox this year on what would have been my youngest daughter’s third birthday. A Chinese lantern, a sweetly scented, hand-poured birthday candle, and a sachet of sparkly glitter for the grave site were the contents of this beautiful box. This was the first birthday we were having to endure without Nora and our hearts were pained. The exquisite love and compassion that went in to putting this box together was so obvious down to the smallest detail! They even included a gold marker to write special messages to Nora on the Chinese lantern. Each item played a deeply meaningful part in our remembrance celebration that day, and helped lighten our heavy hearts in such a special way.

-Aleisa

The holidays can be a time which the effects of grief are triggered, which of your products do you find to be the most uplifting this holiday season?

The Heaven-Side Holiday Ornament has a really tender message, because it recognizes a hurting heart and also offers a beautiful message of hope. We also really like the We Love You Holiday Luminary because it is a sweet way to represent the life of someone you are missing this Christmas. We are close to debuting a holiday themed laurelbox, and it will include a soothing handmade soap and a hand-stamped necklace with the word “love” or “hope.”

Denise and Johanna

Soothing hearts and supporting others is your mission, but what effects have laurelbox had on your souls?

From Johanna: It was really crazy timing to launch laurelbox. When we started planning laurelbox, my life basically was good. But since then, some really difficult personal things happened, and suddenly, the work we were doing was very close to my own heart. I joke that this was the worst possible timing to start a new business, but the truth is, in a huge way, laurelbox saved me. Connecting with other hurting women, even though our stories are all different, and finding community and beauty amongst darkness, was a huge blessing.

From Denise:  When we started laurelbox, I thought that I would be the one blessing others. But in actuality, laurelbox changed my soul and morphed me into a person who savors each moment. I have slowed down, and I don’t take the time we have now lightly.  I think since I physically package each box, I am very aware of how quickly life can change. I have grown in patience…with my children, with my parents, with my husband…knowing that they are precious gifts.

Family and friends are sometimes left without words during and after times of child loss, which products do you suggest loved ones purchase to show support?

It’s so true that it’s hard to put together words after someone losses a child!  We curated our Bereaved Mothers Prepared laurelbox collection to guide someone who might be struggling to know what to send.  The items recognize the pain after losing a child, help commemorate the child, and include things to care for the hurting parents.

Mothers and fathers love to see their child’s name written, does laurelbox offer items that can be personalized?

Yes! We love personalizing items, and most of our laurelboxes include some level of customization. We can personalize our hand stamped Words of Memory Vintage Spoons and our Wear My Initial Necklaces. You can also add initial charms to any of our existing necklaces, which makes a beautiful piece of customized jewelry. You can also have our You Light Up My Life Lanterns personalized. We include a complimentary card with each laurelbox, and we handwrite your gift message. It is really precious, because the name of the heaven-side child is almost always included in that card. There are also some little touches that we include to make each laurelbox feel even more special. Maybe only we notice, but for example, if you include seed paper in your box…we make sure to put pink in the pack for families missing girls, and blue in the pack for families missing boys. Our goal is truly to make each recipient feel loved and remembered, and we are thrilled when we can think of even small ways to convey that sentiment.

There are too many grieving kids in the world, which products would inspire these bereaved children?

We know how hard loss can be on little ones too, so we created the Small But Mighty Superhero Capes. We think sometimes pain can make little ones feel small and scared, so we hope that these capes help remind them of their mighty hearts in a time when they feel sad. We also have child size Wear My Initial Necklaces. We also have some customers who use our essential oils to calm their hurting children. The diffusing oils can help balance their emotions and hearts.

The men in our lives act tough, but we know they could use some pampering too, does laurelbox have special items for the forever-healing dad?

Dads love our handmade Collect the Memories Box because it’s rustic and handsome.  They also like the sanctuary essential oil (with its woodsy scent), the Heaven-Side Holiday Ornament, and the You Light Up My Life lantern. Although we are currently a small shop that focuses mainly on women, our dream is to someday expand our product line to include gifts designed just for men.

What is your proudest accomplishment thus far, and what are some dreams for the future of laurelbox?

We have poured all of our creative energies, our personal finances, and our dreams into laurelbox, and honestly… and we are so thrilled that our dreams of caring for hurting women became a reality! We spend a huge amount of energy to make sure that laurelbox is special, and when we hear heartfelt testimonies of how a laurelbox makes a hurting person feel. Well, for us…that is our proudest accomplishment. Hearing how the unwrapping experience touches deep emotions, how each product speaks to someone’s grief, how special it feels that their friend remembered their hurt…that makes us unbelievably proud. After hearing so much affirmation about our company, we are starting to dream about changing the way people connect after loss, and revolutionizing the sympathy gift market.

Your “thoughtfully curated gift boxes are designed for a woman in a season of difficulty”, what is your wish/prayer/hope for the bereaved community this upcoming holiday season?

Our wish is that your community of friends and family hold you up when pain makes it hard to hold yourself up. Our prayer is that a laurelbox gift can help you feel remembered in a time when people can get busy with their own lives and loved ones.  Our hope is that if you are far from your family and friends this holiday season, the tangible gifts we provide will help you know that they stand with you from across the miles.

wordsofmemoryspoons

This Is Somewhat Us

thisisus

This Is Somewhat Us

as seen in Still Standing Magazine Sept.2017

This Is Us is beyond brilliant, but when will the show address the death of that third triplet? The writers seemed to have skipped over writing about the actual pain or effects of losing a child, and replaced the couple’s misery with an orphaned newborn whom they effortlessly adopt. The couple expected three babies to come home, and three did, but it seems like the Pearsons left their deceased baby, and the looming shadow of grief, at the hospital. If you are like 1 in 4 of “us” in the “child loss community” then you know that grief will forever be present in your child’s absence. When are they going to address this forever grief? Will they? Will the writers avoid the topic and continue to force Rebecca and Jack to “move on” or will they be able to break their silence and grieve in waves on future episodes? Edited to say that Season 2 addressed Kyle, not by name, but at least by mention. The writers explained why Rebecca overcompensates with love for Randall, but I’m hoping for more depth and maybe even a mention of the stillborn Kyle.

readwriteendure - Copy

During the pilot episode, Rebecca and Jack Pearson have planned and prepared for the arrival of their triplets but despite the fact that it was Jack’s 36th birthday and he willed “only good things will happen in this room”, their plans and lives change against their will as Rebecca’s regular doctor was unable to attend the delivery and Dr. Nathan Katowski was forced to stepped in.  He delivered two healthy babies, and a stillborn.  Bereaved parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, watched in both horror and delight as the taboo topic of child loss was addressed on a platform with 4.5 million viewers, and Dr. K’s message was heard and felt around the world as he turned his personal story heartbreak into heartfelt advise for grieving father Jack and grievers around the world.

He said, “I’d like to think that one day you’ll be an old man like me talkin’ a young man’s ear off explainin’ to him how you took the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade. If you can do that, then maybe you will still be taking three babies home from this hospital, just maybe not the way you planned.”

The next day, there were more “Lemons to Lemonade” memes on social media sites than could be counted, and conversations about infant death, stillborn babies, and other types child loss that were not happening the day before because such an amazing show addressed such a sensitive issue, our issue; enduring the death of a child.

sweetsour - Copy

This is Us has millions chanting, “This is Us, This is Us!” Yet others, like myself, are left saying “This is somewhat us,” and wondering, “Will the writers take a sip of and savor the lemonade they have created or spit it out because it seems too sour?”

You will need a lifetime of sugar to sweeten the sour taste of child loss, and even still life can seem so bitter.  If you are a fellow loss mama or daddy then you know exactly what I am talking about and have probably tasted the bitterness of grief even on your sweetest of days.  Your child’s absence is always present, always felt, but not always seen or understood by others, especially if they have not survived the death of their child.  They can imagine.  They can surmise.  They can put themselves in your shoes, but they cannot comprehend the magnitude of love, the depth of grief, or the resounding void that fills a life lived without the child you intended to raise.

Should they sit with you, listen to you, and ask you questions about your child then they will somewhat understand.  Should they accompany you to your child’s grave, hold your hand during your darkest moments, and listen to your heart when you have no words, then they will have a glimpse into your grief.  Should they look away, forget to call, and ignore the pain then they probably cannot handle the weight of your grief.  Avoidance does not elude the void.  Ignoring the tragedy of child loss is yet another one of its many subsequent tragedies. Grief refuses to be ignored, and must be faced head and heart-on.  In life and on television.

Epidsode 12 addresses the love and bond shared between mom Rebecca, and son Randall but the story is not complete.  What the viewer will see is a bereaved mama trying with everything she has to avoid displacing the love for her baby that has died onto her new baby whom she has adopted.  You will hear her need to give Randall his own name, rather than the one intended for the third triplet, Kyle. You will feel elated that this mom’s empty arms have been filled with a beautiful child to love.  Your heart will soar when you see three babies lying beside one another.  But will you remember that there should be four Pearson children?  Will you remember that Kyle should be there too?  Will the writers think more of Kyle, the character that did not get to play a physical part in the Pearson family story, yet should play such an emotional role?  Will Randall continue to be portrayed as a replacement to fill the hurt, a body to fill that void?  The writers addressed the topic of child loss but will they delve deeper?  Will we see a glimpse of Rebecca in the delivery room as they whisk her boy’s lifeless body away?  Did she get to hold him?  Did she ever get to see him?  Did Jack get to see him?  Did they have to plan burial or cremation services?  Will Rebecca wear Kyle’s ashes on a necklace, carry a tuft of hair in her pocket or hold a stuffed animal in his absence?  Will we see her open a box and break down as she holds special treasures from her still born, still loved son; a hospital i.d., Kyle’s blanket, a special coming-home outfit?  Will Jack see a kid who “looks like Kyle might have looked” as he takes the other kids to school?

Will Rebecca have a grief attack at Kate, Kevin, and Randall’s high school graduation? Will they portray the magnitude of such grief during the upcoming seasons, or continue to write off the tragedy?  Will Kate and Kevin ask or be told about their brother who passed away at birth?  Will Randall know about Kyle? Will the Pearson family gather together at the cemetery or will viewers catch Rebecca in a moment of solitude, standing over her son’s grave?  Will they tell a lie at the park, saying “Three kids.”, or confess with a sigh, “Four.  One died.”  Will Jack take his angst and grief with him to the grave, or did he release his sorrows within the comforts of a secret grief diary? Will the couple’s known divorce be a result of some twist in the plot (Rebecca falling in love with Jack’s best friend Miguel) or some twist of fate (the effects of grief on a relationship)?  Will Kyle’s death forever lie in the undercurrent of their lives? Will the characters wake and walk, sleep and breathe, live and die in honor of their fourth child?  Will we hear Rebecca and Jack reflect upon what “Kyle would be, could be and should be doing” during certain seasons of their lives?

Will these issues be addressed, Dan Fogelman?  If so, then bereaved parents around the world will tune in and say, “This is pretty damn close to us!”

Season 3 begins Tuesday, September 26th. How will they handle Kate’s miscarriage? Will she and mom Rebecca bond over their deep pain as bereaved mamas? This is us, watching!