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

Setting the Table for Grief & Gratitude

I’m setting the table for grief & gratitude, rage & remembrance. I’m planning for pain & peace and thinking of so many whose bellies are stuffed with grief this season.

There are thousands of parents who will wake up on Thanksgiving without their little turkey for the first time this year. They may want to stay in bed. They may want nothing to do with anything. They will just want their baby back. They may be too stuffed with grief for gravy or small talk.

I remember the first couple of Thanksgivings without my son Cullin. It was like a scene from the movie Return to Zero https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFim4AcaAaU

I was too enraged to count blessings, too empty to eat.

All I could see was that space where the high chair should have been, and subsequent years,the empty chair.

It’s hard to be grateful when your child has died. Dare you disagree? Dare you judge the mom or dad who decline your invitation this year? Don’t. Rather, make them a plate of leftovers, set it on their doorstep with a note mentioning their child’s name, and walk away.

Small gestures from friends and family will help you gain ground in your healing journey and over the years you will become a master at making memories within the moments without your child. You will find ways to incorporate them into hard times of gathering, and it will be easier for you to sit with rage and remembrance at the same table.

How can you set the table for grief and gratitude during those hard-to-choose-gratitude moments?

  • Choose to find one thing that you are grateful for in three areas of your life.

For example, if you choose to focus on your Family, Friends, Home, think about one aspect of family that you are truly blessed for. Then focus on your friends and one thing that you are grateful for about your tribe. Think about your home and why you are thankful for your space. Write your reflections and read them during times when you are feeling less than grateful. It can be hard to see the blessings when your heart is so broken, so pull out that piece of paper and remind yourself.

  • Remember your child in your own special ways. Create traditions which incorporate their love into your day. Literally set a space for them at your table.
  • Read about gratitude in other cultures or study the the Spiritual Law of Gratitude.
  • Show up when you can. Stay home when you “just can’t.”

May your Thanksgiving be full of gratitude even in grief, beautiful memories within missed moments, and peace through the pain.

Grief Is No Treat, Here are 3 Tricks

Have you seen the movie Return to Zero?

The Halloween scene?

Here.

I can relate to Aaron’s attitude and level of excitement, especially the 1st Halloween without Cullin.

Lost in a world of grief, he grabs a handful of aquarium rocks, shoves them at the trick-or-treaters , and closes the door yelling, “Because they can’t all be treats, kids.”

Grief is no treat, but here are three tricks to help you make it through Halloween.

  1. Picture what your child “would be”. Each year since 2012, I imagine what my son Cullin would be for Halloween. I take a screenshot of the costume and look at it when I want to picture my child as a trick-or-treater. On Halloween night, I take special note of the children who are dressed in that same character, smile to their faces, and burst into tears as they parade by. This year, I believe Cullin would be a vampire pirate like his little brother Raylun. I can see him now; a six and a half year old boy, running around, swashbuckling his sister, plank-walking his brother, biting me. Since I can’t see my son, I chose to envision him, to see him with my mind’s eye and my heart. How old is your child? Which character would be appropriate for your child’s age? Can you see? What do you see?
  2. Do something creative in honor of your child. Write down what you just envisioned for your child, and share your vision. What costume would your child choose? What is your child wearing? Can you see any other details? Creating a narrative and visual of the “would be’s” is a way make a new memory with your child despite death, time or space. Carve a special character on a pumpkin, or engrave your child’s name or initials. Make goodie bags “from” your child and hand them out on Halloween night. Create and mail goodie bags to your bereaved besties in honor of your children. Watch a scary movie while holding your child’s keepsake blanket and pillow.
  3. Do nothing. Stay inside. Turn off the front porch light, and do nothing. Watch a mind numbing show. Rent a movie. Or don’t. You don’t have to picture your child if that’s too painful. You don’t have to honor your child’s memory publicly. You don’t have to do something creative. You can choose to do nothing at all for Halloween or any other time of celebration if you physically or emotionally can not find the energy or care to join in the festivities. It is your choice because you know what you need. Do what you need, or do nothing at all, the choice is yours.

The first Halloween without Cullin would have been his 1st Halloween ever, but he died on the first day of October. I wanted to “Do Nothing.” but thirty days into my grief, my other children were ready to celebrate Halloween. I was ready for the day of the dead. I felt, plus looked like, the “Night of the Living Dead.” Somehow, for Cullin’s siblings, and in his honor, I took them trick-or-treating that night. When I saw “Woody” from Toy Story I almost buckled at the knees but somehow I kept walking, and smiled through the tears though, because I pictured my son Cullin dressed up as “Woody” that year. #planforpain

treatskids

Cullin’s sister Kindil colored these wooden figures Halloween ’12. She was 4 and witnessed the events the day her brother passed just weeks prior. Kids are so damn resilient.

 

Ornamental Release- A How To

Ornamental Release, a creative grief anger release holiday activity

orn1

Read the history of this creative grief activity as shared on Babble here.

Each holiday season we invite you to join this Scared Sidless creative grief exercise to release some holiday grief while honoring your child and journey. The Ornamental Release is an activity where participants smash ornaments and create a new ornament from the broken pieces.

The purpose of the event is to actively take ownership of your grief; the anger, the rage, the agony, embrace the beauty within the broken, and create anew.

Participants can email photos and testimonials to scaredsidless@yahoo.com or share about your experience on social media using the hashtags

#ornamentalrelease #ornamentsmash #smashinggrief #creativegrief

Wondering how to get started???

1. Gather your materials. You will need the following items for this creative grief project:

  • At least 1 clear bulb
  • At least 3 medium/large sized, colored glass bulbs
  • A 12″ strand of ribbon
  • A hammer or solid boots
  • A safe and secure location with a smooth floor
  • A disposable towel
  • A funnel

2. Smash the colored bulbs. I have done this a few ways over the years, but much like your grief journey, you will find your own way. You can cover the bulb with a disposable towel and smash it with a hammer or smash the ornaments by stepping on them. Do what feels comfortable to you, but break the colored bulbs.

3. Make sure that the shattered pieces have been smashed into small enough pieces, sweep them into a pile, and funnel them inside the clear bulb. You can use a plastic funnel or a piece of paper to get the broken pieces inside the new shell.

4. Smash more colored bulbs if needed and fill the bulb to your desired level.

5. Time for the bow! Tie a bow onto the top of your ornament bulb and hang or display

IMG_8007

Smash the grief. Celebrate the love.

#CullinsMama