Sunday, November 1, 2015


Used with permission

October was the month I took on a new CarlyMarie project. “Project Heal—Capture Your Grief, a month of mindful healing, reflection and storytelling.” One subject a day does not seem too overwhelming and rather doable until I was actively involved and it proved to be too much. I have to admit, I was unable to complete every day’s reflection. Too much emotion surfaced for having lost you less than a year ago. Emotions I thought I had dealt with coming back at me from different angles. Layers upon layers this grief thing is comprised of, not just steps and stages. I did learn quite a bit taking this side path on my journey. Met a grieving Mom and we instantly heart-connected over the loss of our children. An emotional bond developed and I was comforted by her spirit, so strong and brave and generous. Brenda Lee lost her 12 year old boy 4 years ago. His name is Coleton Nelson. She has been involved in this project for quite a few years and still struggles. When I shared with Brenda that this project was more difficult than I had imagined, this is what she wrote to me: 

“For now I will do this journal for you and for me and for all the other mothers who are suffering. They may not be their words or we may have many differences in our journey but we do have one thing in common the pain of losing our child”. 

We truly do not have to walk alone. I felt I could stay connected to the project and the immersion no longer held importance. Thank you Brenda Lee. *

The daily subjects required reflection and a photo that related to the topic of the day. I discovered that I could have stayed on one subject for many days and written many pages in hopes of unloading my heart, untangling my emotions and bringing a little more clarity to my grief. Instead, I found myself paralyzed, immobilized by thought most days. I read the entries of others, participated when I could and remained silent with my own incomplete ruminations when I could not. It is a great project, organizes topics and gives the bereaved a starting point for sorting out what they are feeling and maybe did not even know that they were feeling. Needs to be paced slower for the newly bereaved. I can pick it up again when my heart has rested a bit. 

What I am left to grapple withwhat I still need to learn so much aboutafter this month of reflection is how intertwined, how woven together Accepting, Adjusting, Attachments and Letting Go are. It seems you cannot work on one aspect of this grief process without touching all others. A friend asked me if Acceptance was the major roadblock attendant with grief. My immediate answer was “No—seeing, touching and kissing your lifeless body on the hospital gurney the day of the accident was real.” There was no getting around the fact that you were dead. I had to accept reality. There was no more physical you. You were now Love and Memories and Spirit, and you can’t touch any of those in our physical world. Once I Accepted, I began Adjusting and that is a very difficult stage. How do I replace the physical? How do I connect with Spirit? How do I continue to Love and visit my Memories that are overshadowed by the pain and trauma of your death? The pain and trauma say “Forevermore” and I fought Forevermore with Hope that there had to be another way. And there was/is and the trauma has left but so much more remains. It’s a lot like schooling—your advanced degrees do not come to you when you are finishing up your first year of elementary school. Your brain absorbs history differently in grade 5 than it does in grade 12. The heart has only so much capacity and you learn about grief slowly, and you build upon what you learn. My realization is that healing can accompany grief—healing, not having been healed. Healing has many layers like Adjustment. How do I heal a hole in my heart? What do I fill it with? Will it ever beat full of life again? I don’t have the answer to these questions yet as I do not think the heart can be fully healed. Healed is something that can be attributed to a cut, a scrape or a broken bone. My heart is healing. As my heart heals, it grows. As it grows, I change. I carry Hope with me that I will continue to heal, grow and change until my last breath is taken. I’m trying to stitch the hole, fill the cavity. It is cavernous. There is a missing piece, a piece that will always be with you—and I would not want that piece any other place. Can one manufacture a piece of the heart?

I now find myself at the crossroads of Attachments and Letting Go hoping they will help me with Adjusting. Once again, the people that have come into my life for a reason will be accompanying me on the next leg of my Grief Journey. Jennifer is one of “the People”. The Mourning Dove has once again made his appearance. The dove has a story to tell. I feel we are just a few chapters in. I feel so very connected to you when I am gifted with the presence of the bird. Auntie and I visited Jennifer Albin’s NY studio and I found a piece that immediately spoke to my heart. It was one of her first pieces and Jennifer was going to paint over it. It was a perfect piece, waiting silently in the salvage pile to be discovered and given its’ rightful place. It is homage to your life. It’s a Prince of a Bird and now sits in a Sacred Space in our home. The art conveys a message, I believe your message and says—“Be Brave . . . because you’ll carry your grief for a lifetime. It does not mean you are stuck, that you cry all day, that you can only feel like you are alive when your daily existence is reliving the past in memories.  NO, to the contrary. You're learning how to live with a hole in your heart. You're finding joy and trying to fill the hole. You’re recreating yourself. You’re discovering new interests. You're making new memories with my children. You're keeping me alive in the hearts and minds of family and friends. You 'got' my legacy of Love and you're speaking my language of Hugs. You allow the resonance of my heartbeat and its message to be heard. You’re spreading my Love. You're enduring. Be Brave Mom.”

The message speaks loudly, clearly, My next step is to identify my attachments to you, Matthew: the early morning phone calls after your men were dispatched, the funny text messages, the man giggles with Jason & how you'd feed off of each other when telling stories, the way the Brothers could read each others’ minds leaving the rest of us trying to figure out the missing piece of the conversation, the random egg sandwich breakfasts you'd stop by for, your checking in on Dad & I after a snow storm to make sure we were plowed out. . .you knew Dad had his own guy and yet every storm you'd make the trip.  . . I miss the caring, the hugs—those great big full of love hugs, I miss recipe sharing, cooking together & enjoying your culinary delights, I miss watching you parent & love your nuggets & being an uncle to Jason's. I miss the fact that you loved the last house you ever looked at & it was in our neighborhood, the neighborhood you grew up in. The neighborhood that will never get to help raise your family. I miss the irreverent pats on the butt. I miss the future of being so close to the greatest show on earth. I miss you and everything about you.  So there you have it—Acceptance but what do I do with  these Attachments?

Jennifer tells a story about “rubbing it in”. As a counselor, Jennifer would ask her clients to rub their hearts when they heard something positive about themselves or experienced someone being kind. “The symbolic act of rubbing the love into their hearts helped them internalize what they were hearing, seeing and feeling.” And another “Aha” moment was born. What if I borrowed this beautiful symbolic act of Jennifer’s and added a bit of a spin. I need. . .the family needs some physical action that will help us in our healing process. What if I take these attachments I have to you that are so strong; what if Nikki tells Addy tales of every memory of you, every good quality, every character trait, every enchanting aspect of your personality, your entertaining sense of humor that make up their Daddy’s spirit and Addy teaches Bear as he grows; what if Nikki, Jason, Beth & Dad . . . all of your friends and family identified their attachments and we “rub them in"—into our hearts. We “rub in” the love, “rub it in” so deeply that it pushes out the sadness. “Rub it in” so that it polishes our hearts, makes them glow, keeps them warm and vibrant. “Rub it in” until the warmth spreads out to others. Keep “rubbing it in” until the love and the warmth melts the bitterness, dissolves the anger, deconstructs the grief and the rhythms of our heartbeats synchronize and kindness and respect and gratefulness and love, the legacy you left us, begins to speak the universal language of the heart—compassion and empathy.  Oh, the “rubbing it in” will deeply ingrain your memory, your hugs, the gift of you into our hearts and the hearts of every life you've touched. Your heartbeat contribution, heard loudly by your family and friends—now shared with everyone. “Rubbing it in” until our hearts respond. “Rubbing it in” for healing. “Rubbing it in” to symbolize that the best of you, Matthewyour spirit is everlasting.

The journey continues. New lessons learned. New lessons to be learned. New lessons shared. Never alone. Always discovering. Moving forward. Loving you—you are entwined in the fabric of my being.

My prayer, already (partially answered and thank you) at your 10 month anniversary:

My heart stands still
Enveloped by grief, sadness & confusion
If Love is my compass,
If Love is our connection
Guide me towards healing and understanding that
Letting go is directed solely at pain and sorrow
And not the memory of
Nor my relationship with you

Love you forever and always,


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