Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Manifest a-go-go

Happy New Year!

As I sit here on New Year's eve looking back on the past year, it is no surprise that I am feeling a bit under the weather.  I am tired!  Man, was I busy!

Last January I decided to actively manifest positive change in my life.  I wrote a post about some of my goals for 2013 in February Destination Manifestation.  Curious how I did?  I was, too, as I've not read it again until now.  My goals were:

  • Family Vacation :  Accomplished with 2 weeks in Florida! We had a blast and a much needed combination of relaxation and family bonding and fun.
  • Balance of physical and mental health: 
    • I started running more and went from running 3 miles to 13.6 and will run my first half-marathon at Disney on January 11th!  Holy crap, I did it! It inspired me to start a dedicated running blog, too!  I'm not sure what happened to me, but I am more fit than I've been in a long time and it feels good!
    • My husband and I danced.  A lot!  We had a blast doing it, too.  We've made some wonderful friends from the studio.  We 'graduated' Bronze 2 of the Arthur Murray Curriculum. We participated in a competition which was tons of fun and we performed a few 'showcase' dances during the year, including a very special one for Meggie at the Compassionate Friends Candle Ceremony of Remembrance just a few weeks ago.  We said we'd never perform or compete but apparently, we were mistaken! ;-) 
    • We spent quality time with friends although it's never enough. 
    • I connected more with my spirituality including practicing Reiki more, becoming a certified Angel Card Reader, and starting a spiritually minded blog/Web site Pathways to Love and Light and Facebook page .  I also attended the Natural Living Expo which was a wonderfully nurturing day for me.
  • Teaching and writing
    • Wow.  Yeah.  This.  I participated in NaNoWriMo and wrote over 57,000 words in that book I've wanted to write for 9 years.  It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.  It was making the time and committing to it that was hard.  That goal (and the writing of the book) will carry over into this year to hopefully realize it's full potential as a published work by the end of 2014. The book is a combination of support and inspiration for bereaved parents and those who care about them and my and Meggie's story. 
    • I am still teaching CPR, First Aid and Safety classes locally and love it
    • I got a job at a local community college teaching adult education classes on metaphysical topics like energetic anatomy, working with crystals, space clearing, introduction to Angel Card Reading and coping with loss.  I absolutely love it. 
    • I continue to share Meghan's Hope, blog, maintain informational Facebook pages and share my thoughts in the hope it helps someone, somehow to be a better and safer person or work toward the greater good. 
  • New Job (the dream job)
    • While the job I had was wonderful, it was not the right fit for this time in my life.  The hours and demands were simply incompatible with the kind of mothering I wanted and needed to give to my boys and my need for work and life balance.  I was able to manifest a wonderful job working fewer and more flexible hours that has afforded me the ability to be there for my boys and my husband and to better balance my crazy life.  While not perfect, it is much better in many ways.  
I guess I didn't do too badly!  It's amazing what some clear intentions and determination can do along with asking for a little (specific) help from the Universe. 

So in continuing with the manifestation theme, tomorrow is a new day, new month and new year.  2014!  I like even years!  It's also a new moon!  What a wonderful energy for manifesting.  Out with the old, in with the new!  As I think about my intentions for the coming year, they of course begin with the usual.  Intentions for health, compassion for others, choosing love instead of fear and especially important for me, nurturing me and not overextending myself.  I'm bad at saying no and need to say yes to me and my family more and no to things that take me away from the things I love more. 

Many of my specific goals are continuations of this year's.
  1. Quality family time.  This year it's a cruise vacation that's been in the works for over a year with my husband, my boys and some friends.  We're all very excited about it!  My youngest son and I will also get some quality time together as he was invited to play soccer in Barcelona, Spain this year.  He and I will be the only ones from our family going due to the expense of the trip and the fact it was unexpected and not in the budget!  
  2. Continuing to stay active and healthy.  Aside from keeping up with running (although 10K is probably more my maintenance distance) and dancing, I know I need to make positive changes to my eating habits.  Eliminating foods that I am sensitive to and doing more menu planning and cooking are things I am being strongly guided to do.  This is not a diet resolution.  I have no need to lose weight.  I do need to eat more healthfully and listen to my body in terms of what it needs and what it doesn't like. THAT will be the challenge of this year's health goals.  I'd also like to get back into yoga and spend more time out in nature with my family.
  3. Have more fun!  I shall begin in a week's time with my trip to Disney with just the girls and the support of my parents and aunt for the WDW Marathon weekend.  We will eat, drink , run and play with the Mouse and his friends.  I'll dance in the rain, make snow angels and be all kinds of silly throughout the year.
  4. Write, write, write.  The book is 3/4 done in very rough draft condition.  I will finish it by the end of February and plan to self-publish with Hay House.  My goal is to have a printed copy in my hands by the end of October, but most definitely by Thanksgiving.  I will continue to blog as spirit moves me to do so.  I would like to participate in NaNoWriMo again this year for a different book!
  5. Teach, teach, teach!  My dream job is to be able to manifest all the abundance I need through teaching, writing and leading seminars/coaching.  I love to teach.  I love to provide support and guidance. I love to help people.  I know this is my calling.  This is a transitional year for sure. I will practice Reiki more and pursue my master teacher certification, I will give more intuitive readings, I will continue to teach the classes I love and attract the people who are ready for them to me. 
  6. Connect with friends and family more deeply and purposefully.  Life is short.  I know this all too well. My husband and I recently realized how easy it is to fall into the trap of living parallel lives and falling victim to routine.  Not only between us, but among friends and with our kids.  Communication and purposeful planning are vital.  One can't become complacent or make assumptions.  Yes, life is busy. Yes, there is always something else to do. There are priorities and they may well change day to day. But as the saying goes, life is about the moments that make it yours and meaningful, not about the time you have here.  Live.  Love.  Laugh.  Together. 
So although I may ring in the new year sound asleep, I will wake tomorrow and greet the new year with anticipation and focused intention.  I will charge my crystals in the powerful energy of the new moon and the new year.  I will hold a family meeting to set our family intentions and expectations for the new year.  I will take my homeopathic remedies (refusing to get fully sick), make a healthy family dinner and self-Reiki.  I will write.  I will greet 2014 with gratitude and optimism.  It will be a great year to manifest!

What will you manifest?

May your new year be filled with blessings of abundance, joy and love.  Happy New Year!

Gah! Injury!

Cross post from my running blog at http://runkimmyrun.wordpress.com/
It was almost too good to be true.  9 months of training with no significant injury other than a little ache and stiffness here and there.   Now, 2 weeks before the WDW half-marathon, I suffer an injury.  Gah!
The past several weeks have been challenging to say the least!  The lack of daylight and my work schedule being incompatible is frustrating.   I prefer to run early in the am but it's been too dark, too cold and I've simply not had enough time to do it and get to work on time.   The weather has been awful!  Bitter cold, ice, snow, and wind all making for variable and challenging road running conditions.   Especially for long runs.  Not to mention misery for this girl who HATES to be cold!  I do not have access to a treadmill or indoor running arena nor do I have time to even join a gym for the winter.  Life and work are simply too busy.  The holidays certainly didn't help! 
I've been tweaking my schedule to run when I can but it has not always been the 3x/week I want or need to train at.  The weather is not helping, especially this last week of training with bitter, bitter cold and a major snowstorm predicted!  Again!  At this critical time for training, it's been the most difficult to maintain even the simple 3 mi runs during the week.  It's frustrating.  Now, this. 
Last Saturday I did my last long run.  I was scheduled for 14 miles.  I've done 13.2 multiple times in training now.  The weather was actually decent, in the upper 30's when I started and low 40's when I finished.  (I can't believe I just said those temperatures were decent, but after the past few weeks, it was glorious!)  I was feeling good and had slept well.  I'd even eaten fairly well the day before and forced myself to have some carbs for breakfast.  I was doing fantastic for the first 5 miles or so, then, with one step, I felt my sacroiliac joint (in the middle of my low back, where the pelvis meets the spine) slip.  I winced and said a few expletives.  I think the uneven terrain and the camber of the road have taken it's toll on my body.  My left knee and right ankle were also feeling at odds.  It happened before, less severely, the last long run I did, too.  Short runs don't bother it.  Something about my biomechanics at about mile 5 seems to trigger it.  And only since the roads became snow and ice covered.
This has happened before, though not from running, and is actually an old injury (full term pregnancy with twins and then a fall down the stairs while holding both of them, landing on my butt were the initial injuries and it's never quite been the same since) but for whatever reason, that one step re-injured it.  I kept running, but at a slower pace, as I was doing intervals.  I tried to fix it (the PT in me has a few tricks, but they are difficult to do on yourself and while on the side of the road).  I paid crazy attention to the biomechanics of my running.  I found that it actually hurt more to start and stop than it did to run.  The last 4 miles were really tough.  I was sore and tired and cranky.  I dropped my intervals to 30:30 from 90:30, shortened my stride, and my pace slowed by 2 min/mile!  My goal was just to finish the mileage at that point.
In hindsight, I should have stopped when I felt the initial pain.  If it wasn't my last long run, I would have.  About an hour after I was finished, I was in a fair amount of discomfort.  My husband tried to help with some guidance from me on more 'tricks' and I stretched.  I eventually took some ibuprofen.  The next day it was a little better, but still unstable.  Yesterday, better still, but still unstable.  I tried to run.  Failed in less than 30 seconds.  Instead did a slow shuffle 'run' with about 1/4 of my usual stride length and I ran in the middle of the road (neighborhood).  I shortened my intervals and walked a lot more than usual. It felt good to move, and more comfortable on level terrain (although still hilly) but I was clearly still not able to run right.
Time to call in reinforcements!  My chiropractor was generous in squeezing me in early this am and she got me back into alignment.  I am resting today.  I want to walk/shuffle tomorrow but should probably take the day off and rest.  Especially since I am feeling a bit under the weather and seem to have a cold!   Snow Thurs/Fri so no running then.  I have 5 miles scheduled for Saturday.   And a massage!  :=)  I also scheduled another visit with the chiropractor Tuesday, after my last short run and before I leave for Florida.
So frustrated!  Which surprises me, since I really never thought I'd run more than a mile not that long ago or feel badly about missing a training run.  Now, here I am having to talk myself out of running or to back off my training to heal an injury!  Does this mean I like running?  Does this mean I miss not being able to run?  Who am I?!
The good news is that I am a PT, so I know what I did and how to fix it and I have an amazing chiropractor and massage therapist helping me recover and prepare.  I know I can do the distance and the fact it will not be snowing, icy or freezing (assuming accuweather is not totally off base) on Jan 11th in Florida and the course is flat (yes, I know about the 'hill' of an on ramp and it's nothing compared to what I run around here regularly so I'm not worried), I know those things will be in my favor. The most encouraging part?  I'M RUNNING AT DISNEY!  While I'd prefer to run it at race pace, even if I have to shuffle run, drop my intervals or slow my pace due to pain, I'll run, I'll finish and I'll have a blast doing it.
And you know what I'll do to celebrate?  I'm going to Disney World!!!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Dual purpose running: 26.2 with Donna to end breast cancer

Cross posted from my running blog:  Run Kimmy, Run!
As I have been preparing to run the WDW half-marathon in January, I've been listening to 2 podcasts.  I love both of them and they have provided a wealth of knowledge and insight both about training for a half-marathon and running at Disney.  They are the Extra Mile Podcast: Galloway Edition and the Mickey Miles Podcast.  They can both be found on iTunes and Facebook as well.  I highly recommend them both as I have enjoyed them immensely and in fact, look forward to their meet ups at Disney!
Last week, both podcasts mentioned a race called 26.2 with Donna to finish breast cancer, also known as the breast cancer marathon, for the Donna Foundation.   Donna Deegan is a 3x breast cancer survivor.  She is all about love and banishing fear, a topic and attitude near and dear to my own heart.  The Foundation raises money for breast cancer research and needy families impacted by breast cancer in their local community.  They spoke so highly of the race and the Foundation that I was compelled to investigate.  I was also intrigued by mention of a way to virtually run the race if you could not run in person.  I love charity runs.  This one captured my heart.  A charity where 100% of the proceeds from race registration and donations go to needy families or a specific breast cancer research program at the Mayo Clinic.  I refuse to donate to large charities where precious few of the hard earned and donated dollars go to actual patients or research.  Not so with the Donna Foundation!
Upon further investigation, this race is more than a fundraiser.  It supports both a wonderful community of runners and those who have or are battling with breast cancer or have loved ones who are, have, or have lost their battle to this disease.  I'm really sad I can't run this one in person.  They say the full marathon is a 26 mile party.  If I were ever to do a full, this might just be the one!  I did register to do the virtual half-marathon run. You can run any half or full marathon (or any number of miles/races that add up to those distances) in January or February of 2014 and virtually 'run' Donna.  I shall be running both the WDW half and the Donna half at the same time.  Upon meeting the race and fundraising requirements, you also receive a finisher medal in the mail.  It's pretty awesome, but not as awesome as kicking breast cancer's ass!
Donna breast cancer medal
I wish there were more runs like this one.  I love the idea of a virtual run and how it's tied to fundraising.  I love what this Foundation does on so many levels.  I love how it supports people in fitness, running and battling their demons with love and the support of their community.  I will proudly wear my Donna bib right along with my Disney one and when the legs get tired, I'll draw on the strength of the millions of women who have battled something far more challenging and daunting, and cross that finish line with and for them.
It's like having a runner's high just from thinking about it!
Anyone want to join me?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Countdown to the WDW Half-Marathon: Final Race Instructions!!

This is a cross post from my running blog Run Kimmy, Run!

Wow!  Time is flying faster than Tink!  I can't believe that in just shy of 2 weeks I'll be in Florida for the WDW Marathon weekend!  It seemed so far away last January when I decided I wanted to be there this year.  It's almost unbelievable that I AM going to be there this year!
Last week, it got more real. I received the eagerly anticipated final race instructions from Run Disney for the 2014 WDW Marathon Weekend.  Because it's a crazy busy time in my life for many reasons, I have not digested all the information completely but I can't wait to find the time to do so! Perhaps the most exciting information was receiving my bib number and corral placement and being able to print my race waiver!  I just cannot wait to hold that magical bib in my hands!  This is really happening!  Soon!  Like in 2 weeks!  Yay!
They have significantly increased the number of corrals this year but also significantly decreased the number of people in each corral.  I think this is a good thing.  It also looks as if they have decreased the starting intervals between corrals as well so each corral is sent off sooner than in previous years, likely due to the decrease in the number of runners in each corral, making for a hopefully less congested course, especially at the start.  It does appear we need to be at the start area early for this reason.  Instructions say all runners must board the buses by 4 am to make it to the starting corral on time for a 5:30 am race start.  No doubt we'll be on the first available bus.  :-)
The race program for the entire weekend is also available.  It is extensive and tremendously informative and not at all friendly for printing at home thanks to the color saturation and the 36 pages!  I am expecting to receive a hard copy of it when we pick up our race packets at the Expo.
The program contains a wealth of information about everything you need to know about the WDW Marathon Weekend and all the events encompassing transportation, corral and course maps, spectator information, special events like the pasta party, cool down party, ChEAR squad information and race retreat information, race etiquette for runners, safety and nutrition information.
There is also detailed information on the Expo including hours of operation and a map of the Wide World of Sports Complex for ease of knowing where you need to go to find your packets, Run Disney merchandise, vendors and speakers.   There is a booth specific map of the vendor area so if you know which vendors you wish to see, it saves you from wandering around looking for them.  I love this!  Advance planning is key for a stress free Expo (and shopping) experience!  This should help with time management and make for an efficient packet pick up and Expo experience.  We're planning to go to the Expo the first day it's open (Wednesday) after we arrive, so we're hoping it's not terribly crowded.
And of course, there is the bling!  Donald, you're all mine!
Now, I must go study that program!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A visitor from Heaven

December 22.  It's only 3 days before Christmas.  I'm listening to holiday music about to wrap gifts.  Quite a contrast from what I was doing at this time 9 years ago.  That day, I was in church.  It was a Wednesday.  It was the funeral mass for my daughter.

Ave Maria is softly playing now, as it was then.  It nearly instantly just moved me to tears.

The day your child, or any loved one, dies is likely the worst day of your entire life.  I do believe, the day you bury them (or have a memorial service) is the second worst day of your life.  It was for me.

What I enjoy most about this day now is honoring Meg's memory, as we did then.  Through pictures, stories and memories.  For funerals are less about death and more about a celebration of life.  They are for us, the living, the loved ones still here on earth.  She is fine. She is free.  She is pure light and love.  Those of us who loved and miss her are the ones who feel the pain of her loss, not her.

I often find that pictures or music speak louder than words.  A friend made this video for us.  It captures the love so beautifully.  Thus, I ask of you to take 3 minutes and honor my little visitor from Heaven.  The music is by Twila Paris. The song is called "Visitor From Heaven".  It's beautiful.  It sort of says it all.  Let me know what you think.

As the years go by, the pain is less sharp.  The days between December 18th (the day she died) and Christmas are still the worst ones of the entire year, but I am able to mostly function on most of them.  They are all hard, with the ones of significance of course being harder.  Every year on this day I am keenly aware of the significance of the day for myself and my family.  I remember, though in far less detail than you would think, what I did that day and how I felt.  It was so very sad.  So very wrong.  So very wrong to be attending a funeral mass for your own child.  So very wrong to gather with family and friends in the Christmas season to bury a sweet child.  I wrote in greater detail last year about this day.  If you wish to read it you can find it here:  Fly High, Fly Free

Today, it's foggy outside.  Sort of matches my mood...

Yet, I also hold in my heart her essence, her love, her light.  She is part of me and I, part of her. And that transcends death.  She will always live through me, her brothers, her legacy.  Missing her is human.  Loving her is pure spirit.  She is near.  She always will be.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mixed emotions

Another angelversary is drawing to a close.  As I sit here gazing at the candle softly glowing next to me, I am filled with mixed emotions.  And fatigue.  So.  Very.  Tired.  Grief is exhausting.

There is relief that this day is almost done. Another horrible anniversary day has come and I have survived.

For the record.  I am exhausted.  Not from lack of sleep but from abundance of emotion.

There is abundant gratitude.  For those who lent their support both then and today.  For those who listened to Meggie and have shared her story and made their homes safer both today and before today.  For those who did share my post today and encourage their friends to do the same today.  Gratitude to all those who reached out to us, helped us, listened to me, held me, cried with me, brought me food and chocolate and endured the storm with me over the years and who I still call friends.

I am also filled with gratitude for the complete strangers, who through their comments and messages to me offer love and support, who say Meggie's name and comment on her pretty face or her amazing gift of saving their child's life because she compelled them to secure their furniture and TV's.  Who thank me for sharing so their kids can sleep safer tonight.  YOU are why I do what I do. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

There is also sadness.  It goes beyond the obvious. I'm sad another year has passed without my beautiful girl. I'm sad I still have to endure the memories of the day we waked her and buried her.  I'm even a bit angry over the fact we still have to celebrate another Christmas without her.  I am sad she's now been dead 3 times as long as she lived.

There is sadness when I think of the other losses that have happened over the years since her death. Sadness for the changes and struggles and collateral losses that her brothers, and indeed all of our family, have had to endure. Sadness because so many of my relationships changed.  With family. With friends.  With colleagues. For me.  For my boys. Sadness because my life, as I knew it, ceased to exist  9 years ago today and I had to struggle to find some sort of new 'normal' on my own.  I had no map or guide. I had no mentor.  I had no leader.  I had no experience with the loss of a child.  I had a broken heart and a broken spirit.  I had to stumble through, finding my own way.  It forced me to find my inner compass.  To listen to and trust my intuition. It was, in fact, a gift in disguise.

There is also disappointment tonight.  Disappointment that some of my former friends can't understand how broken and depressed I was that first year and completely misinterpreted or misunderstood my words or actions.  How poor some of my choices were in life because I was depressed, broken and lost.  How so many of us were just unable to bridge the gap of or understand our differences in our experiences, beliefs, our pain, and our coping strategies such that simply growing apart or severing relationships was easier than sitting with each other and working it out to find our the real reason for the breakdowns of our relationship and trying to fix them.  Some could not have been saved, but some could have been.  Even now.  Reading about the turmoil, strife and relationship breakdowns reminded me of just how broken, confused, and lost I was.  I lost some really good friends because of it. I wish some were willing to come back to the table now to discuss it, but it would seem they are not.  Maybe someday...

I feel tremendous disappointment that so few of my 200+ 'friends' actually did share her story on their Facebook or G+ pages (but those of you who did, rock, and I love you for it), and that even fewer of the Meghan's Hope Facebook fans shared it.  I wish I knew how many of those who did share it, actually read it (the "Be with me..." post).  Not that it matters as much, I just want the information to reach as many people as it can because that's what saves lives and keeps kids safer. However that happens works for me.  Still, I can see how many shares there were directly from her, my, or your page (if you are my friend), and sure, there are other ways to share I may not see, and not everyone is on Facebook or G+ or Twitter regularly, but it's a good gauge.  Especially when there are 13,000 people following her Facebook page!  156 shares makes me both happy (it's 156 more than yesterday) and sad, when it could have been thousands.

There is also an edge of anger.  People share stupid shit all the time.  There are more shares of a postcard about wine O'clock or shares and comments on a poll about which way toilet paper should hang than there are serious posts and shares about protecting kids and saving lives.  What the hell kind of world do we live in?  Right, one where that bad stuff won't happen to us if we don't acknowledge it.  Social media can be amazingly powerful and useful or just entertaining.  There is a place and time for both.

Forgive me.  I'm a grieving mother.  Grief makes you irritable.  It gives you a perspective you don't want, trust me. I speak my truth.  Sometimes, that involves a little ranting.  :-)

One thing I've learned is it's OK to feel what you feel.  It's even healthy to share with YOU how I feel, because, well, then you know.  I used to stew about insensitive comments and blatant ignorance of my requests and pleas to share Meghan's story.  Now, it might anger or disappoint me, but all I can do is ask, acknowledge how I feel (and even say it 'out loud'), and ask the Universe to get the message to the right people.  It's out of my hands once I've asked, once I've written, and once I've shared.  The ball, as they say, is now in your court or that of the person on the receiving end of the information.  I just pray you or they are not one of the ones who messages me at some later point and says, like so many have, "I wish I knew this (or listened to you)  before it happened to MY child."

Aside from my usual rituals of this day of remembrance, I took some time today to delve a little deeper.  I looked not only at those first few painful weeks, but the process of getting through that first year. As I re-read the letter I began to Meghan almost 9 years ago, I read beyond that first year to the second year. I was reminded by my own words of what a roller coaster that first year and into the second year after her death was.  It's amazing what you don't remember or have difficulty placing on a time line.  I'm so grateful I wrote it down.

It was apparent how my anger and depression really ebbed and flowed.  For the entire first year.  The second year was more about changes but I was still pretty emotionally a wreck. It was interesting how repetitive I was in what I wrote and how I processed my feelings, especially the first few months.  How almost cyclical my moods were.  How the anniversary days each month were so difficult.  How alone I was and felt. One day it was all about my love for her and a spiritual understanding and quest and then, missing her deeply and profoundly.  Then I was angry and asking why again. Then thinking I was coming out of the sadness only to feel profoundly depressed again.  It was fascinating to see how motivated I was to further the mission of Meghan's Hope and yet how exhausted I was doing virtually nothing else and through it all, how frustrated I was with how hard it was to raise awareness.

I was reminded by my own words how my boys processed and coped and how I tried to help them.  How many messages and signs from Meggie we received, particularly through her twin.  How so many relationships in my life changed in that first year after she died.  How I struggled to make sense of the entire experience and indeed, of life itself.  It provided insight into my spiritual evolution.  It was like literally watching myself inch my way along, aimless and lost, then cocooning myself in contemplation and introspection and nurturing my spiritual growth and then,slowly and tentatively, emerging with wings full of purpose, confidence in what I wanted, needed and deserved in life and slowly brightening with color and moving toward change for the greater good.  The path was not an easy one nor was it sunny and warm.  I sure got lost and battered by rain often.

Change never comes easy.   That is an entirely different story.  Suffice it to say, the changes in my life the past 9 years have been many.  They have not come easy or without tremendous pain, heartache, and difficult emotional work. I've had to dance with my demons, find, speak and live my truth.  Stand up for me, my boys and the greater good.  All of these changes, all of these difficult and downright painful experiences have led me down an amazing path and to an amazing life.  One I'd not have likely had if it had not been for the amazing gift of one Miss Meggie.

The next week is the most difficult one of the entire year.  My re-living of the rituals associated with death like her calling hours and funeral and of course, Christmas, are painful and difficult.  Not as significantly as today, but I am acutely aware of them and what I was doing 9 years ago on each of the next 7 days.

I guess my point is that grieving is an evolutionary process.  It doesn't end, it changes.  It, like emotion, ebbs and flows.  Everyone does it differently, I just happen to be a bit more vocal than most about my own experiences.  It is as helpful for me as I hope it is for someone else who happens upon it. So today, I am filled with love, gratitude, sadness, anger, disappointment but mostly, hope.  Hope that something I say, do, or write will save a life or help someone cope with the loss of one.

Hug your kids a little tighter tonight, tell them you love them and for the love of all that is holy, secure your furniture and TV's.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Birth stories and re-birth stories

As I sit here on the eve of my daughter's Angelversary, I vividly remember what this day was like 9 years ago.  Yes, there is the anticipatory grief for I know what tomorrow will bring for me. To say things have changed since then would be a colossal understatement.

Nine years gives you lots of things.  One of the things it gives is perspective.  Another is a greater depth of understanding of grief and how it works.

Tonight, as I always do on December 17th, I am acutely aware not of Meghan's death, but of her last day of LIFE.

If you've had a baby, you probably remember in great detail what you were doing in the 24 hours before your baby was born.  You remember where you were, what you did, who was there, how you felt, what the weather was, what you ate and probably lots of other little seemingly unimportant things that on that very important day, made an impression on you, but likely only after you realized it was going to be a birth day.

It turns out, the same is true for the death of your child.  Although I had no idea this day 9 years ago would be my last one on earth with Meghan, I do remember much about the day and night.  Even the details of the few days leading up to it.

Earlier in the day, she was super-adorable and very daddy focused, which was a new thing.  She clamored for more lap time than usual with me.  She played with my hair.  Yet she was also behaving so mature and grown up all of a sudden.  So much so that I remarked about it.  We had a 'dance party' with her brothers and I to Disney Tunes in the playroom.  We danced around silly to "Under the Sea" and the Lion King tunes and I held her and her twin in my arms and spun around with them to "Circle of Life".  She even walked up to us as we were getting ready to go out for the evening and spontaneously said, "I love you Mommy.  I love you, Daddy" and then ran off. She watched Frosty the Snowman over and over and over. She'd get teary eyed when he melted and then watched intently until the magic hat restored him.  She loved how he came back to life...

We had a neighborhood holiday party that evening across the street.  I remember it was a Friday night.  As we left, she gave me the customary kiss, hug and snuggle.  She told us she loved us and to have a good time! Then it was right back to Frosty! We took our older son, then 6, with us and my aunt came to watch the twins so we could enjoy some grown up time and not have to chase kids all night.  I was melancholy for no particular reason.  I came home around 9 to put our eldest to bed and remember kissing Meg goodnight. She looked so peaceful and beautiful.  Wearing fall jammies instead of winter ones. Snuggled in her pink flower blanket and all her kitties around her.  I knelt on the floor and stroked her hair.  My intent was to go back to the party, but instead I stayed home and went to bed myself not long after that.

I remember she woke up about 4 am crying and telling me she was a 'stinky girl' and needed her pull up changed.  I changed her and put her back to bed.  She woke again a bit later, it wasn't unusual for her to wake a bunch of times. I went to her and told her it wasn't time to get up as it was still very early.  She went back to her bed and I went back to mine.  I had no idea it would be our last interaction.

If only I could go back in time and change that moment.  If only I had stayed up with her.  If only...

Yeah, the 'if only's' help no one.  Least of all, me.  What I have now is today.  And my memories.

I just want everyone to know and remember her.  To know and remember me.  That I still think of her every day.  I'm sad that she died but I'm so grateful I had her for as long as I did.  She didn't just die 9 years ago, she lived for 3 years and 54 days!  This day is sad because it was the last day she lived.  The last day I, and indeed, the world, was blessed with her bright, silly, playful and mischievous light.

We've long known that women tell their birth stories as a way of processing, normalizing and integrating their experiences.  It's a way of passing on our knowledge to others.  Birth is a tremendous transition in your life. Becoming a parent, whether it be for the first time or the fourteenth, is a transition and it changes you.

So too, is the telling of the death story.  Whether it be the day before story like this one, or the actual day of the death in acute detail, there is tremendous value in telling the death story of your child.  Not everyone can or wants to, but for those who find it helpful to process, normalize and integrate their experience, having others who are willing and able to listen and be with them in their grief are truly Heaven sent.  Thank you to those who have been there for me over the years.  You are deeply appreciated.

Like the birth story, the death story often needs to be told more than once.  Sometimes it's annually. Sometimes only when asked.  Sometimes it's when you don't want to hear it. Sometimes it's over and over and over until it makes some sort of sense. When you lose a child, there is the risk it will never make sense. We tell the story as much for us as for you.  All any of us want is for our child to be remembered.  For the emptiness in our hearts to be acknowledged.  It doesn't go away after the first year.  It doesn't ever go away. We might get better at hiding the pain or distracting ourselves from it, but it's always there.

You all learn from it, too.  You learn what it's like for us.  You learn what it's like for others.  You learn how to support and help others in their grief.  You become more comfortable with death and the rituals around it, perhaps even with your own mortality.  You learn empathy and compassion.  You learn what it means to be a really good friend.  It starts a discussion that you might not have otherwise had.  It helps us evolve as parents and families and friends and people.

What I've come to realize is the old adage that when one door closes, another one opens, holds some truth. Meghan's death was indeed a death of many things in my life.  But it also catalyzed a re-birth.  The birth of Meghan's Hope.  The birth of a fearless and confident momma bear.  The birth of a new path of hope, light and love.  I am most certainly not the same person I was before she died.  I am not doing anything I ever thought I would be before she died.  Her life and her death made me a better mother.  A better person.  A better everything.

But tonight, I'd give anything for another kiss, hug and snuggle from her.  To touch her tiny hands.  To hear her whine and cry even!  If I close my eyes and allow myself to go back to this night 9 years ago, I can still feel her little hug, her silky hair against my cheek, her little voice proclaiming her love.

Instead, I will sleep with her kitty.  It's not the same.  Not at all.

God, I miss her...

Countdown to Running at Disney: Cold weather training sucks and other thoughts

From my running blog on Wordpress Run Kimmy, Run.  http://runkimmyrun.wordpress.com/ Posted on Sunday, 12/15. 
 26 days.  Just 26 more days until I run my first official half-marathon!  Holy crap, it seemed so far away 10 months ago.
To say I am excited is a bit of an understatement.  I'm not sure if I'm more excited about the prospect of accomplishing this goal I set for myself less than a year ago, the mini race-cation without my kids but instead, with the girls, or the promise of Florida being warm and sunny.  And by warm, right now I'd take 50 degrees as balmy!
I've printed my race waiver.  I have my bib number and corral placement.  We have our magic bands and ADR's!  We have our fast passes!  It's coming!! Yay!
believe 13.1
Since it's crunch time for training, there is little wiggle room for missing or rescheduling runs, especially the long runs.  The past few weeks of training have been a challenge thanks to Mother Nature, work and the kids' schedules.  Living in New England, there is always the fact it gets cold in December.   I hate the cold.  I'd never choose to run in less than 35-40 degree weather unless I had to and preferably 45-65 as my ideal range. This year it has been downright frigid and unusually wet in December and mostly on the weekends when the long runs must happen!  Add to it the limited daylight and now, the snow and ice, and running outdoors becomes a colossal challenge and not at all fun!
My last two long runs (every other week) have been 11 and 13.1 miles.  The 11 miler was on a Sunday when it was in the upper 20's to low 30's but raining.  I was dressed appropriately and had to run on a major local road.  It was icy in the morning so I delayed my run as long as I could and still be able to finish before dark.  There were a few slick spots when I did venture out early afternoon, but the worst of it was the rain that returned in earnest about half way through my run (and was not supposed to happen!)  Once I got wet, I got really cold, even while running.  My muscles got tighter and my pace slowed.  I was miserable.  I also had a ridiculous number of technological issues that run that added to my frustration.  Runkeeper kept stopping.  My interval timer was not working.  My music kept stopping.  My son called me THREE times about nothing important.  I so wanted to just quit.  But I didn't.  I came home and rewarded myself with a long, hot bath!   Thanks to other weather and life complications, I only ran twice that week.
My 13.1 run was scheduled for today.  However we had a snowstorm last night so I moved it to Friday since I was off.  This meant I missed my short run on Thursday since I can't run on consecutive days.   It was 19 degrees with a wind chill in the lower teens and the sun was in and out when I went out about noon.  I was dressed appropriately for the cold complete with hat with ear flaps, neck gaiter, and fleece gloves.  I wore a fleece jacket over my fleece lined half-zip and running tank (wicking) and got too hot after about 1.5 miles so I tied that around my waist.  In retrospect, one more light layer under the half-zip would have been ideal because the return trip into the wind was a bit chillier but not cold enough for the fleece jacket.  I ran a hillier route and I really felt it by the end.  I normally run in hilly terrain, but again, I've barely gotten in 2 runs a week as of late.  The first 5.5 miles were with a tailwind.  Which meant the rest of them were with a very cold and increasing headwind.  That sucked.  The sun disappeared and flurries began.  By mile 10 my face and hands were cold and stiff even with the gear I had on.  I could feel my pace slowing and my muscles not wanting to work right.  I struggled to get my sport beans out of the bag and into my mouth!  My water was really, really cold!  My clif shots were difficult to manage they were so thick and cold.  As soon as I stopped running at the end it was really, really cold and I put my fleece on.  It barely helped!  The half mile cool down walk back to my car was really cold!  I was hobbling a bit, realizing my SI joint and hip on the right were out of alignment.  The shoulder was icy in spots and I had to alter my stride and cadence a lot throughout the run.  It really impacted my muscles.  Given how I felt, I realized I was not only cold,  tight and injured, but I was also not properly fueled for this run.  Something I've struggled with all along.  A hot shower, some self-massage and stretching and SI mobilization (being a PT has it's benefits) as well as a professional sports massage the next day and an Advil or two, I feel much better now.
Of course now there are 9 inches of snow on the ground and no shoulder to run on safely on my chosen long run roads.  And no, I can't run on a treadmill or around a track like a mouse in a wheel.  I'd lose my mind.
With one more long training run to go, currently scheduled for 12/29 for 14 miles, while I hope for warmer and drier weather, a clear and ice free shoulder to run on and finally getting pre-run fueling right, I know the following:
  1. No matter how cold it is the day of the Disney Half Marathon, no matter how wet it may be, it will be warmer than this last 13.1 I did and since I did that, I can deal with whatever weather Florida has for me on 1/11/14!  (Note to Mother Nature:  I'd sure prefer clear and 50 ish at race start though!)
  2. I've now run 13+ miles 3 times in my life.  None of them were easy, but 5K wasn't easy 2 years ago, either.  One more time is on the docket before I do it for realz.  I know I can do it!
  3. I've given birth to 3 babies, including a set of twins (one breech), all un-medicated.  I buried my 3 year-old daughter 3 days before Christmas (another thing that makes running at this time of year a colossal challenge just from a motivation standpoint alone).  If I can do those things, I can surely run 13.1 in any circumstances.
  4. I am running as Tink.  For my daughter Meggie.  She loved Tink!  She is my inspiration. She is my source of strength.  She'll be with me then and now.  I can do it.
  5. It's Disney!  I'm going to run the WDW Half-Marathon!  It won't be for a P.R.  It will be for me.  For fun.  For Meg.
As for right now.  I'm hoping for a little snow melt on my neighborhood roads so I can go run 5K today. Wish me luck!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Remembering and honoring our deceased loved ones at the holidays

The holiday season can be an incredibly difficult time for those who have lost someone close to them.  The more recent the loss, often the more difficult the season can be.  Although as I approach my 9th Christmas without my Meggie-moo (and just 3 days until her angelversary day) I can tell you the situational grief doesn't always feel like it's any different even with the passage of time.

Many people struggle with how to balance the celebrating of the season and managing the pain they feel because they miss their loved one, especially during those first few holiday seasons.  There are many, many ways you can incorporate your loved one's memory and spirit into your gatherings, celebrations and traditions.  There is no right or wrong way, only what feels right for you.  It may change from celebration to celebration and year to year.  That's OK.  It's also perfectly fine if you don't want to do anything to celebrate the season.  It's OK to say no.

Honoring Meg is something I have tremendous experience with.  Maybe because she was only 3 when she died.  Maybe because she died so close to Christmas.  Maybe because I wanted her young brothers to remember her as much as I did, we have found ways to incorporate her into our celebrations and traditions.

Don't get me wrong, it's not easy by any means.  Every year I dread the holiday traditions.  Christmas music makes me bristle.  I avoid the stores like the plague.  I just cannot deal with the festive decorations, holiday music and people happily shopping for their alive children.  And those pretty little girl dresses put me right over the edge.  Still.  Nine years later.  Instead of choosing a tree with care and the family, I stop, choose one, pay for it and come home.  I really don't care what it looks like.  I force myself to decorate it.  I hate that she is missing from this tradition.  I hate that my dream of these festive family traditions no longer have her energy and physical presence.  It makes me cranky and drains my energy faster than you can say Bah Humbug.

Still, every year I am tempted to stay in bed and pull the covers over my head beginning somewhere around today.  I admit, my favorite day of the holiday season is December 26th, when it all goes back to the attic for next year.  The pain of her loss is just as raw as it's ever been the week between her angel day and Christmas.  In my case, it's definitely compounded by the fact she died exactly one week before Christmas.

On the other hand, her energy and spirit is all around us.  In as much as I miss her physical presence, and feel that annual depression and sadness over her loss, she still surrounds us and is very much involved in our celebrations.  I can't imagine not involving her memory as much as we do.  She was such a bright light. It helps to balance the sadness I feel when she is remembered and honored by everyone in our family.

Here are some ways you can honor your loved ones this holiday season:

  1. Set a place for them at the table.  Perhaps with a photo of them.  Invite them to join you in spirit. I bet they will!
  2. Light a candle for them.  Or create a candle centerpiece with that loved one in mind.  A 5-candle centerpiece goes beautifully with a framed copy of "We Light These Five Candles" poem and makes a beautiful and heartfelt gift for someone who has lost a loved one.
  3. Donate to their favorite charity in their honor or volunteer in your community in their honor.
  4. Purchase a gift they would have loved and donate it.  If it's a toy, donate to a local giving tree or family in need or Toys for Tots.  If it's an adult gift, donate to a local family in need or shelter.  
  5. Do something kind for someone else in their honor.  Visiting a local nursing home or shelter and dropping off cookies or greeting cards is a wonderful gift to those who are often alone and in need.
  6. Have a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in their honor (contact your local congress persons office for details).  Present that flag and the accompanying certificate to their loved one in a shadow box.  
  7. For a child or artist, have one of their drawings made into a pin or stuffed animal.  There are many organizations that do this.  I covet the 'potato Duncan' pin a friend had made of one of Meggie's drawings of our cat Duncan.  This is where it was made.
  8. If you are ready to part with your loved one's clothing, consider donating it to a local family in need instead of a generic donation to the Red Cross or Good Will.  This time of year, many local businesses collect warm coats, hats and mittens to give to families in need. 
  9. Buy or even make an ornament to honor your loved one.  Every year since Meg died, there has been one special ornament in her stocking on Christmas morning.  Usually a Tinker Bell.  The boys love seeing what this year's special Meggie ornament will be!  There are also "Merry Christmas From Heaven" ornaments, angels and photo memorial ornaments that are easy to find or make.
  10. Create a memory book and bring it to any gathering you attend.  Encourage those present to write a favorite memory or message to your loved one or add a photo and caption or story.  It can make a beautiful keepsake and one that can grow from year to year and event to event. 
  11. Don't be afraid to talk about your loved one.  It's OK to laugh or cry.  Go through their photographs or belongings.  Watch those videos.  Wear their favorite ugly sweater!  Carry on any traditions they might have loved or even started in their honor.  It may be difficult, but it is a wonderful way to honor them and involve them in your lives even now. 
  12. Allow yourself to scale back on your celebrations if you feel like it's too much.  If you don't want to go to or host that party, don't.  If you don't want to decorate, you don't have to. If you don't want to go to church, it's OK.  If you go somewhere and then feel overwhelmed, it's OK to leave.  
  13. If you have snow, go make a snow angel!  If you live near the beach, make a sand angel or write a message in the sand.  If you live elsewhere, gaze skyward and send your love.  Close your eyes and feel it come right back at you from them. 
  14. Create or have someone else help you create a memorial quilt made of your loved one's clothing, sheets, or favorite blankets.  You can also make eye pillows or neck warmers (hot/cold packs) from their clothing or blankets as well.
  15. Have a star named after them!  This is a beautiful gift for someone and a great group gift.  The International Star Registry will provide you with a gorgeous certificate and map to locate that person's very own star.  Someday, I need to get Meggie a star!  
  16. Be gentle with yourself.  Pace yourself.  Know that there will be a mixture of emotions and they will come and go.  Most of all, remember it's all about love.  Your love for them and theirs for you.  In remembering them, you keep that love alive in your heart.  No one can take that from you.  Ever. 
The holidays can be a very difficult time for those who have lost a close loved one.  The greatest gift you can give to them is to remember that person.  Say their name.  Perhaps present a gift in their honor or simply light a candle to remember them and share that with your friend or family member so they know you remember, too. 

I wish you peace today and always.  May the light and love of the season shine down upon you like the stars from the Heavens and my you hold your loved ones forever in your heart. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Evolution of Public Grieving - Remembering Sandy Hook and Raising our Emotional I.Q.

This post has been stirring around in my heart and head for several weeks now.  This morning, on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook School tragedy, it seems to be an appropriate time to share my thoughts.

While no one can possibly know what it's like to lose a child, especially a young child, unless you've experienced it yourself, the horrible school shooting tragedy one year ago today has brought a glimpse at what the grief of a bereaved parent is like.  The parents of those Sandy Hook children have shown remarkable presence of heart and mind in their desire to honor their children.  Many have spoken out against gun violence.  They've created playgrounds in honor of their children both to heal, focus on the positive and good and to raise awareness. They've given interviews and written books.  They've shed tears and bared their souls so that others might know their pain.  They have planned memorials on this anniversary of the death of their children that are meaningful and beautiful to them privately and perhaps also publicly or as a community, and they've asked the media to stay away. Astonishingly and thankfully, many major media outlets are honoring their request.  I can't tell you how important that is to them and what an important message it sends.  Grief is not a show.  It is reality and it is not for T.V.  Every media outlet that chooses not to honor their request loses any respect I might have had for them.

Grief is a journey.  It's different for everyone.  There is no right or wrong way.  For most of us who have lost a child, even to a tragedy that is covered by the media, any spotlight is brief.  We are left to grieve on our own, in peace, in our own way.  We needn't share it publicly.  While there is much to learn about grief and how people feel and what helps and does not help them, it doesn't need to be broadcast on the news. We don't have satellite trucks on our street and cameras in our faces as we go through the rituals of remembrance.  We can honor our children when and how we want and no one is the wiser.  The families of great tragedies deserve the same privacy and respect.

For the families of Sandy Hook, they had the media in their faces for weeks.  It touched us as a nation. Because they were children.  Because it was so close to the holidays.  Because there were so many so violently killed.  Please don't forget those teachers were someone's child, too.  Their parents are hurting just as much as the parents of the young children. A parents pain is not lessened by the age of the child or the circumstances of their death.  The anniversary is difficult enough for them without the added trigger of the media returning.

What they are doing is grieving both privately and together.  The community is healing in the only way they know how.  Alone and together.  One day at a time.  Anniversary days, especially the first, are the worst and the most difficult to endure.  There are ceremonies and vigils in their community.  There are ones of support across the nation as well.  There will be an Angel of Hope statue dedicated tonight in honor of the children.  I have tears in my eyes just thinking of how emotional and yet healing it will be for these families to have that Angel in their community.  Because I know what they are going through.

We, as a nation, have grieved along with them.  Using the impact of the tragedies that have occurred across our nation to drive us to be better people.  To empathize.  To be compassionate.  To help others in need. To be kind to one another.  To think about the unthinkable and God willing, do something about preventing it from happening to someone you love.  Whether it's gun violence, abduction, bombings, accidents or falling furniture or TV, awareness and action lead to prevention and prevention is the only thing that will save lives.

Tragedies like this one and others in recent history, along with the advent of social media, has changed the way we as a nation learn about grief.  What used to be a vast unknown and something that was private and not talked about is becoming more mainstream.  This is a good thing. We need to become more comfortable with death and the rituals around it. We need to learn how to support someone who is grieving, not shy away from them.  The media coverage of tragedies of any kind, but especially those involving children is bringing an awareness to the public about how families cope when a loved one is lost, especially a child.  It's making us realize we are not immune and perhaps catalyzing our own confrontation with mortality.

We saw (if you chose to watch the media coverage one year ago, which I mostly did not) the panic and pain on those parents faces when they flocked to the school to find out if their child was one of the victims.  We heard stories of amazing heroism.  We heard awful, awful stories of what that day was like.  We saw the coverage of the funerals and the raw pain of the parents who granted media interviews in those first few weeks after the tragedy.  We saw parents cry and be angry and broken because they would never, ever see or hold their child again.  Unless you are close to someone, these are things most people never see and never know. It raised our collective grief I.Q.  It pulled at our heartstrings.  It made us realize it could have just as easily been our child's school and our child.  It compelled many to action to prevent it from happening at their schools and to their children.

Over the past year we've seen stories of hope and honor as the parents and the community have found ways to honor their children, raise awareness and begin to heal.  We've learned how some are moved to advocacy and some just can't publicly grieve.  Everyone moves at their own pace.  There is no right way.  Only your way.  They are all doing it the only way they know how.  Knowing they have the love and support of an entire nation on their side is surely helping them through this most difficult of days.

There are many opportunities for public or shared grieving.  Especially this time of year.  Especially for bereaved parents.  December 6th every year there are ceremonies at all of the Angel of Hope statues around the world to honor children who have died.  You can visit the angels anytime.  They are beautiful, inspiring and healing.  There are local vigils and remembrance ceremonies or special religious ceremonies, especially in towns where tragedies like the Sandy Hook tragedy occurred.

The Compassionate Friends is probably the biggest and farthest reaching resource and source of support for bereaved parents. Each year they have a worldwide remembrance ceremony/ritual for bereaved parents.  It's always the second Sunday of December and it's called the Worldwide Candle Lighting.  Many local chapters of the Compassionate Friends have ceremonies.  I have attended a local one 7 of the past 8 years. Meghan's 9th Angelversary is in just 5 days.  This year I had an experience with the candle lighting that surprised me on a few levels.  At times, I wondered where the compassion was among the 'friends'.  This is a glimpse into one parent's integration of grief and love and what might be going through the mind of a bereaved parent at one of these events.

The ceremony I attend includes several ritualistic segments.  Many find comfort in ritual, especially in grief. The evening begins with saying your child's name and lighting a tea light, then hanging an ornament on the remembrance tree.  It is an emotional and pivotal moment for many parents and often moves them and those listening to tears. We collectively feel their pain and honor their child and their life and death.  Dinner is then served and those in attendance share stories of their spirit children with their table mates.  They share memories and often, tears.  After dinner, parents are invited to share a poem, story or memory of their child. They are often heartfelt and tearful and while they may not resonate with everyone, it's clear it resonates with the person who is speaking, and that is all that matters.  You feel for them, because you know how much they are hurting.  I've never spoken in years past, although I've been asked to many times.

I wrote a blog post in early December last year about the two events I attend every year on that day.  You can read it here: A Mother's Love.  There is both a ballroom dance gala and the candle lighting ceremony and they always fall on the same day and overlap.  Both are important to us and so we find a way to attend both. I wrote then, that perhaps this year, instead of sharing a story or memory or poem verbally, I could express my love through a dance.  The organizer of the candle lighting event at that time strongly encouraged me to do so and again this fall, as they began to plan the event.  I enlisted the help of our dance instructor and we began to choreograph a tribute.  She is amazing and together, with my husband, who never parented Meggie while she was alive, we created a beautiful expression of emotion.

There were new leaders of the local chapter of the Compassionate Friends.  They voted and agreed to let me do the dance.  While I understand my request was out of the ordinary, I was surprised it required a vote. No one votes on who gets to share a poem or memory.  No one knows what they are going to say or how long they are going to speak when they decide to walk up to that podium, sometimes on the spur of the moment.  Why did they need to vote on a 3 minute dance?  In theory, I could have just walked up to that dance floor and started dancing, unannounced.  Still, I understood the need for process and that there were new leaders who might have wanted to run the evening differently.  We still worked on the dance assuming it would happen because it takes a long time to choreograph a dance like that.

Several weeks went by.  Several emails to the new co-leaders from me asking if the dance would be a 'go' or not.  Finally a response that they voted yes.  I thanked them.  I told them the song we chose and why and about how long the dance would be.  Then another email.  Could I change the song?  They thought it was 'inappropriate' and some of the parents or siblings might find it offensive.  My initial thought to myself was, "Seriously?  Are you judging my grief, my loss and my expression of love?  Are you making decisions for people you don't even know or are you projecting your own feelings about the song into our interpretation of the dance?"  Of course I did not say that to them. :-)

The song was "My Heart Will go On" by Celine Dion.  They felt it was a love song between a man and a woman and about the Titanic, not about the loss of a child.  I thought to myself, how narrow minded for a fellow bereaved parent!  Instead, I responded, explaining while that may be true in the context of the movie, I never thought of the song as anything but a love song.  It's about love and loss and how that love goes on and on and on.  How we hold our loved ones in our heart.  For me, it's about the love between a mother and her daughter.  It speaks to the connection that persists through space and time, in body and in spirit.  It's about MY love for MY daughter and in fact the love between any parent and the child they have lost.  Sure, it could apply to a man and a woman, but that's not how I was interpreting it.  In a room full of bereaved parents, surely they'd know I was dancing for my child not for some man!  I explained it was too late to change songs as the dance took many weeks to choreograph, and the song was chosen because it was meaningful to me and I could not change it.  If they didn't accept the song, I understood, but we would not be able to dance.

Several more weeks went by and I had to inquire again, to find out if it was approved.  It was.  Everyone thought someone else told me and no one actually did.  Frustrating, but I understood.  They are new leaders and new to organizing this event.  They were probably a bit overwhelmed.  They are bereaved parents, too and they have no idea who I am or who Meghan was.  Nor did they ask!  For a group so focused on the importance of saying their names, this was a bit off-putting.  I get it.  Change is hard.  There is a business aspect to this event.  However it's about our children.

They knew we'd be arriving at the tail end of dinner.  I had mentioned in my email I was looking forward to meeting them both.  When we walked in (and it should have been somewhat obvious it was us since I was wearing a long pink gown) we stood and looked around.  It seemed like an eternity.  No one greeted us. People were eating.  I scanned the room but didn't see anyone I recognized.  Finally, the former President of the local chapter of the CF, who knew us from previous years, came to us an hugged me.  She welcomed us.  She asked me to place Meg's picture on the table and light her candle and then place her angel ornament on the remembrance tree, but unlike in years past, I was not invited to say her name into the microphone first.  Many were oblivious to the fact I was even there.  It felt different without the ritual of saying her name out loud.  As if she was somehow less important than the others.  While I know that is not true, it felt that way. That surprised me.

While I understand I missed that part of the evening, this was the first year anyone (I was not the only one) who came late was not invited to do so.  I was OK with it, but I thought it a bit... disrespectful.  As if Meggie (or we) were just not as important or worthy just because we were late.  My child's name deserved to be heard just like any others. Her life and loss deserved to be acknowledged even for just a minute. She existed.  I think of her every day and feel the pain of her absence in my life every day.  In fact, there were children honored in the program whose parents were not even there.  Luckily, I *get* it.  In fact at the end of the evening many of the parents who knew me (or who remembered her picture) from previous years made a point of coming to me and telling me they remember her story, her beautiful face and think of her every year.  THAT means the world to me. After we sat, a few other friends from previous years noticed us and came to say hello, including the past organizer, the one who encouraged us to do our dance.

After those who wished to speak or read a poem were finished, we were invited to dance.  The room was silent.  As we began, I got lost in the emotion.  I was dancing for and with Meghan, but also for the other children and for their parents.  It was about our collective love for our children and how our connection to them goes on.  The song was edited (it's a long song!) and the dance was completely choreographed. Thankfully, my husband is a strong leader because I was oblivious to everything and at one point, completely lost my place in the dance and had no idea what my feet were supposed to do.  He got me back on track. Mistakes were made but no one but us knew. We finished.  Several people applauded and stood.  Some were crying.  Most had rather blank expressions but were gracious and moved.  I was fighting tears myself.

It was no where near technically our best.  We had performed it much better in practice. The dance is a Bolero and we literally learned many of the steps as we learned the choreography.  It was about 6 weeks from start to finish.  My posture was awful because I was grieving and lost in emotion and not at all thinking dance frame.  The quality of the video is fair at best but partially because of the lighting and partially because the person recording needed to be in a place where she was unobtrusive and respectful and given the set up of the room, that was difficult.  Unfortunately, I am unable to upload it here for some reason at this time. Every time we practiced it at the dance studio, those who watched, cried.  Even if they didn't understand why we were dancing or for whom. They felt the emotion, the pain and the love.

The reality is I needed to do that dance.  Whether I ever did it at this event or for any 'audience' didn't matter.  I did it for me.  I did it for Meggie.  I did it for love.  It had to come out of me and I'm so glad it did...It was so healing. It was an honor to do it and to dance for all the children and their parents.  It was so much about all of us at that moment.

It was interesting that in a room of fellow bereaved parents, who you would think could identify with the emotion because of their own loss, so many were emotionless.  Not just during our dance, but throughout the evening.  I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact Meggie was so young when she died or the fact I am so vocal and public about my experience with her loss and have integrated it into my life so completely.  I'd think not, but I don't know any different and I guess, neither do they. 

Most of the other parents had lost teenagers or adult children.  Meg was only 3. Some were lost to accidents and some to illness. The gentleman we sat with had lost his 51 year old daughter just a year earlier. He was clearly still devastated and was tearful much of the evening.  The energy in that room was one of intense pain and sadness.  There was a tension in the air that was like walking on a tightrope.  Everyone was at a different stage of grieving.  Some with very new losses, others that were literally 10 or 20 years ago.  Time matters not at all when it comes to the death of your child.  

There was also love, but it was not the prevailing energy for most people, at least that I could sense.  It was more of an undercurrent with the pain of the loss winning out over the pure love for their child.  This sort of event brings that to the surface.  I certainly felt it, too.  Of course as I said to them all when I did speak, it wouldn't hurt so much if we didn't love them so much.  Perhaps the low and flat energy was a self-protective reaction or their own way of processing both their own grief and that of others around them or inability to do so. They were walled off and protecting themselves from feeling and expressing emotion, perhaps because of fear or maybe their pain was just too raw. Perhaps it was because they hated the dance or the song and were offended by it.  I don't know.  I'll never know.  I don't judge them.  I hope they didn't judge us.

Then, I spoke.  I thanked the CF for allowing us to dance.  I explained the inspiration for the dance, the meaning behind the song and the words to me, how I danced it not only for Meggie and I, but for all of their children and all of them.  I explained that it's important to acknowledge that all of us express our grief and our love differently and that there is no right or wrong way.  I explained how the lift was a nod to Meggie and her constant desire to 'fly in the sky'.  How, for that moment, I was flying with her.  That's where I lost it emotionally, by the way.

Shortly afterwards, it was time to light our candles for the 7 pm wave of light.  A song was played, but it was not the same song played the past 8 years.  This may have simply been an error in choosing the track on the CD or it may have been intentional. It was lovely, but not nearly as deeply moving, at least to me. Usually you hear lots of sniffles and sobs around the room.  Not so this year.  We put out our candles and then everyone said their goodbye's.  Several people came up to me and thanked us for dancing.  Several said they felt we expressed beautifully how they felt, that we were dancing for their child, too.  Both the former organizer of the event and the former President of the CF (who really seemed to run the entire evening rather than the new co-Presidents) came to us and thanked us for sharing our love through dance.  They thanked us for what I said afterwards.  They hugged us and we chatted about our children a bit before we wished each other a peaceful holiday and went our separate ways.

I think the most astonishing thing about the entire evening to me was the fact that neither of the new co-Presidents introduced themselves to me.  Especially after all the correspondence we shared. They didn't thank us.  They didn't comment about Meghan (as so many other do, her face is quite memorable), our dance or the words I said.  They didn't say anything directly to us! I did not know who they were (and still don't although I'm pretty sure I interacted with at least one of them without knowing who she was) so it was really their place to come to me, at least so I thought.  This was very off-putting to me. There was no follow up e-mail either.  Not that there had to be, but some sort of acknowledgement would have been nice and respectful.  I am curious what they thought of it. They call themselves the leaders of the Compassionate Friends.  I felt no compassion from them.  I hold no judgement, but it hurt.  I know change is hard.  It is what it is. They, of all people, should *get* it!  Don't you think?

Like the parents in Sandy Hook, all we want is for our children to be remembered.  For our pain to be honored, respected and acknowledged.   We all will grieve differently.  There is no right or wrong.  While we may disagree with someone else's way of expressing their pain or love, we have no right to judge.  We should simply hold they and their children in love and light.  Say their names.  Thank them for sharing a bit of their child, their memories, their love and even their pain with us. It helps us grow.  It makes us better people. It raises our emotional and grief I.Q.  It brings them a small sliver of peace.

The families of the children lost one year ago today have asked that in honor of the children you commit a random act of kindness today.  Why stop there?  Someone loses a child every day.  Let's all be kind to one another.  Love.  Respect.  Honor.  Most importantly, don't judge.  Just have compassion and love.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

NaNoWriMo: I did it!

I won!  I won!  It's amazing what one can do when they put their mind to it!  I did it.  I 'won' NaNoWriMo. I didn't really win anything, beyond the satisfaction of completing the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I successfully wrote more than 50,000 words in November.  54,280 to be exact.  Go me! That equates to about 9 chapters.  They are not pretty.  I'm sure there is repetition.  There are spelling and grammatical errors.  The thoughts are not always complete or developed.  It probably seems quite discombobulated. Organization and order was not the goal. In fact, I've not even read what I've written yet!

The goal was to write.  To write as much as I could in 30 days.  My goal was not to have a polished first draft. My goal was to get the words out of my head and my heart and on to paper. This has been 9 years in coming.  I have not written because time has been elusive.  NaNo afforded me a short term goal and a structure in which to focus my intention.  It offered the support of the writing community.  I only had to accept the challenge for 30 days.  Looking at it that way was far less daunting than looking at 'writing a book'.  I wanted to write every day but that did not happen.  I probably wrote 2/3 of the days at best. When I did write, I wrote for hours.  When I got in the groove, my fingers couldn't type fast enough!  Having the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days was motivating.

The material came relatively easy as it's not a fictitious novel but more of memoir and self-help guide.  It was quite an experience on many levels.  I toyed around with the structure of the writing process.  I began just writing.  Then, I realized I needed some sort of organization so I created separate documents for each chapter.  I have two copies in two different places.  This made it easier to organize my content but also easier to go back to find topics I wanted to add or expand on in a particular chapter as I thought of other information I wanted to include.  This did slow down the process, but my Virgo Type-A personality was struggling with writing without editing as it was!  Which brings me to another challenge.  Leaving the editing to another time! That was a lot harder than I anticipated.  Editing takes a tremendous amount of time.  I need to leave it and go back to it with fresh eyes.  Still, seeing the red lines indicating spelling errors and knowing there are incomplete thoughts are hard to ignore.  I found a way to add **** to indicate where I need to go back and add information or complete a thought or topic.  That eased my mind.

From a cathartic and deeply personal and purposeful perspective, this was the beginning of the realization of a dream.  The realization of one of the very reasons I walk this earth.  This book needs to be written.  I've known it for years.  Not just for me, but for others like me. This is the book I searched for high and low after Meggie died.  It's the book I wish my family and friends had read.  It's the book those who work with bereaved families need to read to better understand their world and their experience.  To my knowledge, there is no other book like it out there.

So yes, it was emotional at times to write, but that was a good thing.  It's not like I haven't written or spoken about many of the stories I share in this book before.  The challenge is in finding the balance between glimpses into my experience and that of other bereaved parents and what we know about grieving from a psychological and physiological perspective.  This book challenges some conventionally held beliefs.  There is some research that needs to be done and references and resources to be developed.  It's really a part 1 of a 2 part journey.  There may actually be 2 books instead of one.

The book is not done.  There is still much work to be done.  Yet I am a hell of a lot closer than I was 30 days ago.  It may be a bit slower now, but I still intend to write at least weekly for several hours.  In order to be able to write those 50,000 words, I needed to let other things in my life slide.  I had to make writing a priority.  While it was a wonderful experience to be able to do so, and November happens to be an 'off' month for soccer for my boys, however the reality of life, work, being a soccer mom, the mundane and everyday tasks that need to be done, plus the holiday season, will make it challenging at best to carve out a few hours to write every week this month, let alone every day.    There are also blog posts like this one I would like to catch up on.  Then, there is that half-marathon in 38 days I am training for!  It is also December. The most difficult month of the year for me.  Meggie's angel day is in 18 days.  Every day closer to the 18th, I feel a bit more of the pain of her loss.  I function a little bit less every day.  It happens every year.

What I do know is this:  I can write this book.  I will finish it.  My goal is to have a self-edited first draft by the end of February.  I will likely self-publish, as I don't want to lose time trying to get an agent to find a publishing house that will take on such a niche market book.  I want this book available by the end next October.  In time for Meggie's 10th 'angelversary'.  She has so much to teach and I can think of no better way to honor her than to share her story and mine in the hopes that it helps even just one person heal and find their way out of the darkness.  I'm not worried about marketing it.  I can do that.  I trust it will find it's way into the hands of those who need it.

Lucky for me, I have one feisty and beautiful spirit child for inspiration.  I can almost hear that small, but loud voice saying, "Do it mommy, do it.  Again, again!"  Yes Meggie-moo.  Mommy will write again.  And again, and again and again.  Until it's 'just right'.  I promise.  For you.  For all your friends in the next place and for their parents and family and friends still here on earth missing them.  I will write it for all of you.  I have to. Therefore, I shall.

And so it will be.