Day 20 – Laughter Medicine 

“Laughter is the best medicine”

Research has found that Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.  That sounds great right? How can you laugh when you are traumatized? You can’t at first. The first time I laughed after Zachary died, I felt so guilty. How could I laugh? Then I thought about what Zachary would want. He would want me to enjoy life and laugh. He was a funny kid who loved to make us laugh after all. 

One habit I have adopted over these last few years is stilling with my husband and telling funny Zachary stories. I don’t care if we repeat them, which we of course do. It feels good to remember the funny things he did. Here’s a few examples that I love – 

When he thought the angel on top of the tree was the tooth fairy. 

When he had to make tin foil hats to keep the government from reading his brain.

When he told me he didn’t need any supervision because the doctor already told him he had Super Vision.

Just to name a few. 

Grace has her own silliness that I enjoy laughing with. The laughter is freeing to my soul knowing he would be laughing to. I mean, the unicorn outfit alone, that is funny. 

Grief and laughter are not common partners but finding a balance with both will allow life to grow. 

Day 19 – Earth Love 

Today we are challenged to do something good for the earth. Here in the Pacific Northwest it has been pouring.

I appreciate the rain. If we didn’t have rain, we wouldn’t appreciate rainbows half as much. We need to experience some disappointment, loss, hardships to truly appreciate the good things. I’m not saying you have to lose a child to understand appreciate life but we experience ups and downs in life that help us appreciate what we have. We can experience this loss vicariously through a news storyor family member. We see the pain and hurt and appreciate that it’s not us. When you are the one who is in the center of a loss it is impossible to appreciate it. You go through scary, pouring rain never knowing if the sun will ever return. Scared of what’s next. Feeling this unending road. Through the storm, you find that you grow in your appreciation of the littlest things like a message, a hug, a smile, someone saying their name, and so much more. 

I appreciate the rain and hope to see the sun soon and maybe, just maybe, a rainbow. 

Day 18 – The Grief Shift 

“Grief is just love with no where to go”

This is one of my go-to quotes about grief and loss. The more we love, the more we grieve it’s loss when it’s gone. This quote holds true to any kind of loss. 

Examine my grief and feelings about my loss is exhausting. Today is my birthday. I worked a long day. I celebrated with my friends and family. Finally, I’m home. Now there’s time to think about this subject. A grief shift. 

I was unknowingly clocked into my grief shift on March 31,2014. My shift has been long and tiring. My feet are killing me (especially my right one). My back aches. My heart is heavy. It’s unending and unforgiving. This trial of the uphill climb that never ends is hard. 

In the early days, the unforgiving waves that grief brings kept knocking me down. The sky was dark and beating me with pelting rain. Pushing me down. Overwhelming me. 

Somewhere in the dark, a small light appeared from those who chose to come with me on this journey. Holding me up when I was so beaten emotionally I didn’t know what to do. The people  who didn’t have to be there but were. It is a gift of love. 

This was where I saw my grief shift from horrible thing that was thrush upon me to gratefulness of the gifts we find along the way. The shift from darkness to light. The shift from horrible to beautiful. 

In my loss, I have seen the beauty of humanity. The fact that you never know what battles people are fighting privately. Everyone has grief. Everyone needs love. I set out to help others in pain through my experience. Make friends with my grief and allow it to bring me forward in this life. It doesn’t make my loss easier. It doesn’t take the pain away. However, the use of this grief to connect to others who are hurting. To be able to show that we can talk about pain and agonizing loss and support one another.

The grief shifts. It’s ever present pain with small gifts of enlightenment. That’s my grief. 

Day 17 – Make Believe 

“In the land of make believe

You are mine tonight

Although you are far away

In the land of make believe

I’m holding you tight” 

Dusty Springfield –In The Land Of Make Believe 

In the land of make believe, you are here with me. If Zachary were here today, My heart would be whole again. 

He would be a happy 10 year old boy living his life. He would continue to make me smile and frustrated all at the same time as only boys can do.  He would play with his sister and let her pick her favorite game. He would walk with her to the bus stop and make sure she knew the ropes of elementary school. He would be here. I’m not sure what he would be but he would be here. I could hug him, kiss him, see his beautiful blue eyes, listen to his stories, his hopes and dreams and so much more. 

Living in make believe is not reality. It’s nice to visit but so painful at the same time. The “what ifs” and “if onlys” torture me in this life without him. 

When I close my eyes, I still see his smile. When I wake up in the morning, I still wait to hear his footsteps and his voice. I can still feel his arms around me or his body snoring next to me when he would climb in bed. 

I can make believe. I can still believe that he is here, if only in spirit. He is a huge part of my heart. The heart that is forever broken. I wish I could see him and hold him one more time but it would never be enough. There is never enough time with the ones we love. There is never the one more moment that will help you survive in the time after they are gone. Your heart forever longs for one more … so we make believe.

 If only for a moment, he is here. Life is good. I am whole. 

In the land of make believe, you are alive. In the land of make believe, you will never die. 

Day 16 – Conscious Gratitude 

The act of being grateful for what we have is conscious gratitude. This seems impossible after you have experienced a devastating loss. How can you be grateful for what you have when you have lost everything?

It’s a hard question to answer. I have lost my beautiful boy. My hopes and dreams for his life ended in kindergarten. So early. So devastating. I am still angry and broken by this loss. How can I be grateful?

It’s been an active choice to practice conscious gratitude. My training in therapy taught me to take it one goal at a time. Short term goals. Long term goals. Progress is measured and made piece by piece. 

Some time in the darkness of the night laying in that hospital bed, I decided to make small short term goals and be grateful when I met them. 

Sitting up for 30 minutes in a chair. Pain. Tears. Sweat. Finally check.

Transfers to the chair. To the car. To my wheelchair. Pain. Tears. Sweat. Finally check.

Bending my knee more than 60 degree. Pain. Tears. Screaming. Sweat.  Finally check! 

Stand for one minute. Now two. Take a step. So on… until I could stand, transfer, walk with assistance, walk without assistance and check! 

The act of seeing the small successes helped me build more successs. I was grateful for the small stuff. Now, I have been walking without help for a while. I still look for times to be grateful for the small steps forward. 

Driving without having a panic attack. 

Falling asleep without the feeling of being thrown through the air. 

Singing with my daughter. 

It’s small but I’m grateful that I’m here and still healing. 

Today, as I was writing this, I got a package. A small package that read “fragile”. I opened it and found a candle that a friend of mine made for me. She took the time to write a note and make this special candle for Zachary. I was moved to tears. It is perfect. I am so thankful for her sweet gift to me. 

You see, when you see the small things, you can find beauty in the world after loss. I have experienced so much pain emotionally and physically over the past almost 4 years since the accident. I have been overcome by my loss and overcome by my supportive friends and family who have chosen to come along with me on this journey. The prayers, candles, frozen yogurt, weeping cherry tree, bracelet, flowers, cards, time off donated, dinners, smiles, hugs, messages and so much more lift me up as I face each day. I am beyond overwhelmed by sadness and joy at the same time. Grief and gratitude can exists together and it shows our consciousness to chose to see the light in the darkness. The light of Zachary is my gratitude in this grief journey. 

My hope. 

My joy. 

My life in the after is filled with both grief and gratitude. 

Day 14 – Secret Act of Kindness

One small, thoughtful gesture can make someone else’s day. The secret /random acts of kindness have the same effect on the one who is receiving and giving it makes their day. 

Some random/secret acts of kindness in found in the December 2000 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine were:

  • Pay the toll or coffee order for the driver behind you
  •  Write a letter to a child who could use some extra attention. Kids love getting mail.
  • Offer to pick up groceries for an elderly neighbor, especially in extreme weather
  • Put a coin in an expired meter.
  •  When you’re on a crowded train or bus, offer your seat to an elderly, disabled or pregnant person.
  • Let a fellow driver merge into your lane.

I set out to commit secret acts of kindness today. I succeed in their completion and they will remain secret. It’s not about what I did that matters. What matters is that I (hope) it made someone’s day. 

The acts themselves brought me so much joy seeing the person/people’s reaction to a small kindness. It filled my heart with gratitude for the ability to show love and support to others. You see, you never know what a small act can do for someone else. The potential of being able to show humanity to someone whose trouble have become insurmountable is huge. We all are walking our own journey with our individual battles to face. Whether that be losing a child, parent, spouse, job, health, financial security, self esteem or any other battle. We long for kindness and grace. That one person to smile and say, “you can have my seat”. 

I am walking around with a huge backpack full of pain. There are days it just about kills me to lug it around but it is invisible to the general public. Small acts of kindness (giving or receiving) can lighten my emotional load. The hole in my heart will always be there but I can show love, compassion and kindness to others to make their backpacks a little lighter. My grandfather always said that many hands make work light. It is true that the more people working together emotionally, the lighter the load for the individual. 

Be kind. 

Day 13 – Student of Life 

I count myself as someone who loves to learn. The drive to learn hasn’t stopped because of Zachary’s death. It has gotten harder to be excited about something new when you are just trying to survive the day. By the end, you just want to go to bed so you can survive again tomorrow. That’s not life, it’s survival. Life after child death is survival for many years. The work of learning something new seems like an insurmountable task but little by little the joy is returning. 

 I have tried to learn all I can about the grief process. I have read blogs and books by other grieving parents about their experience. I have written about and examined my own grief to see what I can learn about myself. Being a support for others beginning this process has been a calling of mine since my loss. I have wanted to learn more about how to be the support person. I will continue this journey of learning to help others. A student of grief and life. I want to work towards living and not simply surviving. 

Day 12 – A Day To Shine 

Grief is just love with no where to go. The love you want to give to your child. The boo boos you want to kiss. The goodnights. The I love you’s and the laughter. Grief is love with no where to go. 

I talked to a colleague today about my accident. She had heard I was in a car accident but didn’t know the story. The look when o told her about the 40 ft droop. The tears when I told her my son died that day. It broke my heart to see her reaction. It was like reliving it through her eyes. I comforted her and said I’m ok. I have her a hug and smiled. It’s strange to be the one who is grieving but the comforter as well. Role reversal of sorts. It felt good to show compassion and be with someone who was reacting to this grief. I felt that I knew this feeling and could help her. Strange that I felt the need to comfort when I was the one who experienced this. 

Today was a day to shine. I went to work and helped my patients. I smiled through the meetings and endless paperwork because I can. I chose to be me today. The loving mother and colleague. The therapist who cares to listen to someone else’s story. The love with no where to go shined bright today. It felt good to give love when I’m overflowing with the love I can’t give to him. 

I have been asked, “how are you ok?”. The answer, I’m not but no one else is either. We all have a story to tell and need comfort sometimes. Every person that I come in contact with is an opportunity to show love and grace for their story and shine his light. It was a day to shine and I hope I can keep the light alive for him. 

Day 11 – Life is short 

Today, I ponder the phrase “life is short”. This is a hard one because I know a little too well how true this statement is. When your child dies at the age of six, you know how precious life is. 

This phrase makes me angry. Why you ask? Because I know that life is short. In my career, I have been with people at the end of their life clinging to those last moments. I have helped bring dignity and communication to those who are actively dying. I know and have known how fragile time is. It was not a lesson I needed to learn. 

So why? Why did he have to die? 

It wasn’t a choice or a lesson. It was life. Birth and death are inevitable in this life. We will all experience it in our lives. No one leaves this world without having the death experience. So, for those who haven’t experienced it personally yet this is wisdom I can impart from Zachary. 

1) Love them unconditionally especially at bedtime when they ask you ten thousand questions or ask for one more hug, drink, potty break, or kiss. 

2) Take lots of pictures especially silly ones. In the end, that’s all you have to support your fading memory of the little cute things that made them special. 

3) Have fun and dance in the rain. This is still one of the best memories of Zachary was when we danced in the rain at the Farmers market. 

4) Enjoy the moment – Zachary used to always worry about what was coming next in our day. One day, I told him to enjoy the moment. He took this phrase to heart and would use it daily to remind me to enjoy the moment. Whether it was a reason to have popcorn for dinner while watching Toy story or another story at bedtime. We enjoy the moment. 

Zachary was mine for six short years. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. Life is too short. Hug the ones you love and tell them how much you love them tonight. As Zachary would say, Enjoy the moment and dance in the rain.