Grief

When The Student Is Ready

student is readyWhen was the last time you bounced back from something that could have (and maybe should have) brought you down? Last year? Last week? Are you attempting to do it today? Raise your hand if you feel like recovering from a tough time is not just hard, it's excruciating. Exhausting.

Keep your hand if while you're in the middle of it, you think, "Is this even worth the effort anymore?"

It's so hard to stick with the work of getting better, feeling better, living better. Often, it feels unattainable, doesn't it? The mere prospect of working through all the junk that keeps piling on is overwhelming and sometimes feels a lot like suffocating.

If you're at this juncture, I want you to think about other people in your life that have been through a tough time, possibly even to hell and back and yet they're... ok. They're happy. Maybe they're even THRIVING. How do they do it?

What secret do they know that you don't?

Why are they one of the lucky ones and you're still sitting here, struggling, frustrated, and lost?

What gives universe???

Was it luck? Was it skill? Was it perseverance? Is it even genuine? Or are they just smiling to save face?

To be honest, it depends. It depends on the person, their situation, their background, their goals... all that jazz.

But here's the thing... you can get there. You can get to a point where your current situation, whatever it is, doesn't have to determine your life's path and hold you down. You can overcome it.

Seriously. No matter what you're going through, you can overcome it.

Cancer.

Death.

Divorce.

Bankruptcy.

Addiction.

Disordered eating.

Scandal.

Depression.

Loss.

Pain.

Heartbreak.

"But Angela, you don't understand." Actually I do. I understand better than you might think. I've had bad moments. Bad days. Bad years.

But I'm still here.

That seems to be my battle cry, but I'm sticking with it.

I'm still here.

And so are you.

Resiliency is a skill. And the thing about skills is that they can be learned. That's right. You can learn how to bounce back. You can learn how to design your own comeback. You can learn how to develop your own rebuilding program. You can learn how to be healthy, whole and happy. Even if you've never been there before, you can do it.

It won't happen overnight. And it won't be easy. Let's face it: if either of those options were true, wouldn't the transformation have happened to you by now?

You may have figured out at this point that if you can learn resiliency, then you need to be taught. Which means you need a teacher. There is a saying that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

The opportunity is there. It's ready. Are you?

Back from the Dark

Grief is a beast. And it is something that, if you're not careful, can takeover everything without you even realizing it. I know because that is how I have been living for the past few months. Grief can turn its ugly head at any time and take your breath away. It can also hide, lurking beneath the surface so that you think you're ok, that you're all better. And then, suddenly, everything has been turned upside down again.

The past few months have been torturous. And I couldn't put my finger on what was happening until everything spiraled out of control. I've had health issues and emotional issues. But I finally feel as though I'm back from the dark.

I'm reading again. This is huge. Reading an entire book seemed to be such an arduous task in the not so distant past. But recently, I've read three books. God, did that feel good.

I'm laughing again. And smiling. In fact, I can't seem to stop smiling these days.

I'm enjoying life again. The big things, the little things... it's all wonderful.

I'm writing again. I've actually been able to put pen to paper and journal. And each time I do it, the pain subsides a little more.

I'm dancing again. The other day in the car, a song came on and I couldn't help it. I danced.

I'm living again. And it feels miraculous. It feels wonderful. I don't want to let it go.

There will still be hard times. Times that allow me to continue my journey through healing. But the time for grieving in passing.

It's time to move forward.

It's time to be me again.

It's time to come back from the dark.

Holding on to the Good

I'll be really honest with you. I have been dreading today for weeks. Every time I thought of February 15th, I would shove the idea away to avoid the pain. I have contemplated on whether to even acknowledge the day at all. But, now that I sit here at my laptop, I realize that not acknowledging it would be more painful. Today would have been my ninth wedding anniversary to Eric.

I knew for months that today would be one of the harder ones to go through in this dreaded "first year" of being without him. You see, we have never been apart before on February 15th. Even when he was deployed to Iraq, he scheduled his two week leave to coincide with our anniversary. I cannot tell you how hollow I feel today, how much I ache, how much I want him here with me.

But in spite of the grief, there is an element of goodness in it all. There is always good, isn't there? Nine years ago we started a journey that resulted in three beautiful children that are worth celebrating the moment. There were so many good memories made over the years and I find myself clinging to them in order to get through the tough days like this.

I've blogged before about our wedding and I think it's appropriate to re-post a lot of it here today. It's a long one, but it's our story.

[Written in 2010] Seven years ago, my husband and I started our journey of being husband and wife. But it definitely wasn’t your typical “wedding.” So, maybe you should hear the whole story.

My husband and I met through mutual friends in August of 2002 and began a whirlwind courtship in October. By New Year’s Eve, we were engaged and we were planning on a fall wedding in 2003. But my husband was in the United States Army Reserves at the time and with everything brewing in Iraq, we both knew that a deployment could happen at anytime.

So, on February 9th of 2003, I was visiting Eric at his dad’s house (we lived 2 1/2 hours apart at the time) when a phone call came in for my husband: Get ready to go to Minnesota. You’re getting activated for deployment.

Thus began a rather hectic week for us. I drove my husband to the airport the next morning (Monday) and tearfully kissed him goodbye. On the way to the airport, we made a huge decision: Let’s get married this week. (My note: My husband says we decided all of this while he was in Minnesota, but I remember it differently.)

I drove back home where my amazing parents helped me plan a wedding. We decided to keep it small and invite our closest friends and a few members of our family. We planned to get married in my parents’ living room and have a small reception dinner at Burgundy’s, a restaurant I used to work at in college in my hometown. The date (through some discussions with family) was set for February 15.

My husband was in Minnesota from Monday until Wednesday and he told me later that they kept changing the dates of his deployment (at one point, he was supposed to leave February 13) but he never told me of all the changes so I wouldn’t panic (good move).

On Tuesday, I bought my wedding dress: a white prom dress and sheer white jacket that cost a total of $35. We invited our friends and family to attend if they could. Also on Tuesday, I made the second phone call to my best friend from high school and left her another message asking her to call me back and let me know if she could be my maid of honor.

On Wednesday, I picked up my husband from the airport in Cleveland and on Thursday, we headed back to Lima to get our marriage license (which had to be expedited due to the unusual circumstances). We had a talk with a Justice of the Peace (who was actually one of my neighbors growing up) and he agreed to come to my parents’ house on Saturday. Thursday night, my husband headed back to the Cleveland area and my mom and I finished arranging things for the wedding (we got a tiered cake, bought a guest book and I picked up my husband’s wedding ring). After making a third call to my best friend from high school, I called my best friend from college and asked her if she would be willing to be my maid of honor. She said yes.

“What should I wear” she asked.

“Whatever you want,” I replied.

“So a blue flower print dress and combat boots is fine?”

“Sure, why not,” I said.

“And it doesn’t matter that I have pink hair?”

“Nope, no problem.”

So, that was taken care of, or so I thought.

Friday came and everything was still getting finalized. My husband had a bachelor party of sorts at Dave & Buster’s (if you’ve never heard of it, it’s kind of like a high-class Chuck E Cheese for adults) and I spent time with family at home. Yet another thing had taken my attention: a blizzard of sorts was brewing over the Buckeye state. And about half of our guests were from the Cleveland area. So now I had to have a backup for a maid of honor. I chose a mutual friend to both me and my husband, AJ, just in case Lindsay couldn’t make it.

Saturday morning and it’s time to get ready. My wonderful friend Adrian did my hair and my veil was the veil I wore in second grade for my First Communion, handmade by my dear Aunt Bea. The storm was still brewing and Lindsay had called to say she was on the road, but that things were going slow. Did we have our back up ready?

Yes, we have a backup.

Except, about 25 minutes later, I got a call saying AJ wouldn’t be able to attend. Her daughter was ill and they were hesitant to get on the road.

So, now I needed a backup to my backup. I chose my soon-to-be-sister-in-law Amy to stand in if necessary.

But, Lindsay showed up at my house about an hour later. And she wasn’t joking when she said she had pink hair. She still looked beautiful and I was grateful that she had made the trip. I finished getting ready and soon after, my husband arrived with his best man. (Yes, I peeked out the window. I don’t believe in superstitions.)

The ceremony was beautiful. My mom did an amazing job turning a living room into a wedding chapel of sorts. The ceremony was short and soon it was official: I was a wife.

Fast forward a couple of days and my husband dropped me off at my parents’ house and headed home (we didn’t live together nor did we have enough to get a place together). We lived apart from each other for nearly six months until Eric went active in the army and we moved to Upstate New York (but that’s for a whole other post).

For a while afterward, I kept thinking that we would have another wedding. A big, traditional wedding with lots of friends and family and dancing and all the fanfare that comes with it. But later I thought “Why?”

Our wedding was simple and yes, a little rushed.

Our wedding was non-traditional and intimate.

Our wedding wasn’t full of pomp and circumstance or fanfare.

But our wedding was perfect for us. And a wedding should be about the bride and groom. So it suited us perfectly.

So I cling to memories like this to get me through the next 24 hours and the other tough 24 hours that will no doubt come down the road. I think of going to Ireland with him, of seeing the Packers play the Bears at Lambeau Field, of the births of our two older children and the look on his face when he met them. I think of watching him walking through a field of daylilies and the look on his face when he was listening to music that he loved. I think of these things and I feel him near me. And I need to feel that. I miss so much about him that I can barely express it all. But today is not the day to try. Today is a day to remember that I got to share so much with him and that I'm grateful for it all, the good and the bad, the ordinary and the life changing. It made us who we were.

So Happy Anniversary baby. I'll hug the kids for you today.

When You Lose the Bounce-Back Factor

Loss is not easy. I realize I'm most likely talking to a group of people who have encountered their own share of loss in life (who hasn't?) but I just had to say it.

It's been a tough couple of months for me and I've experienced more loss than I really thought I could ever deal with in a short of period of time. Without getting into a lot of details, I've definitely had more than I'd like in terms of life's downs. I could definitely use some ups. Now would be good.

In my lifetime, I've dealt with loss frequently. There's no doubt about that. I've been through the stages of grieving and I've stood by others who had to do the same thing. It doesn't matter if it's a loved one that has passed away, the loss of a job, the loss of a dream, the loss of pet and it also doesn't matter how the loss happened. Loss is loss. And I thought I had a pretty good grip on how to deal with it all.

But I've realized that maybe I don't.

You see, I had a miscarriage recently. It's the third baby that my husband and I have lost and the first two were awful. Truly awful. It has always been my worst fear in life to lose a child. And I've done the whole "why" conversation with myself, but the fact is this: it is what it is. That fact of course doesn't make it easier.

This time it's been harder than ever to bounce back. The past couple of weeks have been almost zombie-like for me. I've welcomed distractions like work, getting the kids ready for their upcoming school year, crafting, a little travel and a plethora of other things that I'm trying to use to get back into the swing of things. And it's helping somewhat. But I feel like I'm constantly pushing through a dark cloud to try and "be happy." I'm aware of the stages of grief and I know I've been through all of them in varying degrees. But the fact of the matter is, I'm sad. I'm just plain sad.

But I've decided to keep moving forward.

Every day has been pretty difficult and it's been a challenge to try and be positive in the everyday world. It's part of the reason I haven't blogged here much lately because I'd feel like a fraud. But it's time. It's time to move forward and do something. And I'm making progress. I'm writing again and I'm working on various projects that really get my creative brain flowing. I'm hanging out with friends, I'm spending more time with family. I'm reading really wonderful books that are beautifully written. I'm trying new things and testing my creativity.

But it still feels like something is missing. Like there's a piece of this puzzle that if I just figure it out, I'll be able to have a really amazing picture. So I keep trying things to figure out what that piece is.

The reason I'm posting this (and believe me I debated for a long time whether or not I was going to post on this) is I'm looking for some guidance and suggestions from you. What do you do when you seem to have lost the bounce back factor? What works for you and what doesn't? I'd love to hear about it. And I thank you for listening.

Photo Credit: LifeWatch-EAP.com