Tag Archives: grief

A New Year, A New Venture

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I want to wish each of you a Happy New Year! Usually that’s said at midnight during parties and other celebrations, but I want to quietly tell you, now that the hoopla has died down and, for some, resolutions begin, that I hope 2013 is filled with true happiness. I hope that you will look at each day as a new beginning and give it your all, whether in work or in play (please don’t forget to play). My desire is for each of you to find peace and spread kindness wherever you are. There will inevitably be pain, hurt, failure, brokenness, and sadness, but through those times that threaten to rob you of your joy, I hope you will persevere and put your foot down (happily) and say, “I choose to be Joyful on Purpose!”

For the last few months I have been preparing to launch into the new year and pursue a different way of life than what I’ve known and, more importantly, what I’ve been comfortable with. Most of the changes I’ve experienced this last year were not at all what I planned and were often met with fear and resistance. But along the way I learned to give in more easily to what unfolds and embrace what used to cause me  panic & perspiration:  change. In doing so, I decided to make the most of the time I have been given and I want to spend the majority of that time giving to others.

I try to give through what I write here, sharing pieces of my heart and soul through words. The response has been touching, delightful, heartwarming, and life-changing. You have inspired me to continue to share and I hope Joyful on Purpose, the blog, will be around for years and years to come. Many of you have also asked me and encouraged me to turn my story into a book and it is progressing… slowly, but surely! Thank you for the gentle nudges; they keep me going.

Now I want to share by helping others who are going through the grieving process, no matter what the circumstances are. My way of grieving has been to purposely find the good, the happy, and the joyful in the midst of pain. My way of grieving is not the only way or perfect way and, for some, maybe not even the right way. But for others it might be just the thing to help them move through (not around) the pain they are feeling and come out on the other side seeing that joy has been there all along. So, if you’ll click below, I will officially introduce to you my newest joy…

My hope is that by helping others find their joy in grief, joy will be passed along, growing and blossoming into something beautiful.

A Whole New Year, A Whole New Venture = Joy

My Parting Words to 2012

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We will open the book.  Its pages are blank.  We are going to put words on them ourselves.  The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.  ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day. ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

This is my last post for 2012, a year that has been such a mixture of grief and gladness. So much has happened since February 10, “The Day My Earth Stood Still” and my family’s life took an abrupt and alarming turn. If I could go back in time I’d change everything, rewrite so much and devise a different and happier outcome. Of course, that’s not how our time here works, so instead we choose from the options we do have. Mine has been to look for what is good, what is positive, what is happy, and what is joyful. It’s taken some effort at times and I’d be lying if I said it’s been easy as pie every day.

I’ve spent the last week battling a pretty nasty cold, one that has wanted to linger despite my protests and medication. I haven’t been sick like this in a very long time. Someone asked if I thought it could be related to losing Brian and I’m beginning to suspect that it is. I was dreading the arrival of the first Christmas without him and the emptiness that came with it. Perhaps it was just a virus picked up during holiday shopping, or maybe it was just my body giving in to some feelings of grief. Who knows for sure?

Early this morning, around 2:45 actually, I woke up and thought, “Wow! I feel a lot better. …and I still have almost six hours until the alarm goes off!” Today I feel more like myself and I believe I have caught up on some much needed sleep. While I was under the weather I ran across this quote:

“She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts.” ~George Eliot

I’ve wrestled with grief this year, resisted parts of it that were uncomfortable and tried to push away what I didn’t want to face sometimes, perhaps even to the point of physical illness. But there has definitely been a welcoming as well. I’m learning that it’s simply part of my life for now. It’s part of everyone’s, really, at one time or another. So why not make it a companion and share our thoughts with it? When grief enters our life, it’s here to stay for a while, so we might as well be welcoming.

As this year draws to a close, I want to thank each and every one of you who has walked alongside me in 2012 as I have travelled this rocky path. It’s been nothing less than a joy to feel the compassion and encouragement from each of you, to welcome new friends and draw closer to those I’ve known for a long time. It’s time to say goodbye to 2012. I recently read about a burning ritual done by a fellow “griever” and I love the idea of tangibly saying goodbye to a 365-day journey around the sun and all its ups and downs. I plan to do that on December 31, 2013. I may even set fire to a few mementos of 2012 tomorrow… we’ll see. I hope you’ll look back over 2012 and let go of what was sad or hurtful, what made you upset, and what you’d rather forget. I hope you’ll also leave behind some of what was grand and left you feeling elated! Let that be what you see when you look back at 2012. Prepare yourself for what is waiting ahead in a brand new year. Get ready to open a new book, one of blank pages to fill any way you like. I’ll see you there!

Parting with the Past = Joy 

A Difficult Path

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Burning Candle by SOMMAI

This is not what I planned to write today, and there are those who will be far more eloquent and speak more comforting words about what has happened than I can ever hope to say. I can’t even pretend that I can fully understand what families are facing right now.

I was lucky, I guess you can say. Having time to prepare yourself for death and loss can be a blessing. No, my days were not pretty and knowing the end was coming was heartbreaking. But I had time to prepare my mind and my heart for things to come. I knew when some of my last conversations would take place as I let go day by day, piece by piece. Those who lost their children and loved ones and friends yesterday did not. What started out as an ordinary day ended in a tragic nightmare. That is unimaginable to me.

To those who feel the anguish of loss now, I can offer my words and my heartfelt feelings of sorrow… and hope.

If I could speak to the families who are grieving right now, I’d tell them to feel whatever they feel without apology. I would tell them that I do understand that life will never feel the same again. I would let them know that sleepless nights and what feels like days of endless tears are ahead. They are now on a long road that will feel lonely and overwhelming sometimes.

I would also tell them that the fog will feel dense and heavy, so thick they can hardly breathe. But slowly… oh, so slowly… it will lift. It will start to clear, just a little at a time, and they will see that life will move forward. I know that forward is not what they want. Not at all. I understand that all they want to do is rewind, to go back and make all of this stop. Life is very unfair and there is no explanation that will feel right, no reason that will make any sense. As the fog lifts, though, I do know what is possible. They can take the littlest moments, the tiniest memories, and create monuments of happiness and joy to honor the ones who have been taken. They will turn the dark corners and see lights of hope, peace, and love begin to shimmer. They can carry on, never forgetting what has happened, but turning their deep sense of loss into new feelings of compassion.

My heart aches for anyone who has to go through the journey of grieving. I know there is no way around it or over it. There is only one difficult path straight through the middle of it. Along the way I hope they can find, as I have, treasures of peace and joy.

The Difficult Path Ahead = Joy

Unplugged

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Unplugged

My kids used to get annoyed with how glued I was to my phone. Yeah, that’s kinda weird, huh? Teenagers thinking their mom is a smartphone junkie, addicted to texting and Google… sad, but true. It’s something I denied, but they were right. Frequently they’d be talking to me and realize I was in “the zone” on my phone, and occasionally they’d say sarcastic things to see if I was listening. I wasn’t. I was too engrossed in the virtual world, getting connected, and not paying attention to the actual world around me.

Not too long ago, I found myself in that zone and it was as though I couldn’t even get my own attention. Wrap your head around that one for a minute. So I decided that unplugging the phone from my hands and plugging it into the wall, walking away, and shutting the door would be a good solution. But I had some reservations. What if I got an important call? What if I missed a critical text? What if I didn’t catch that email as it came through? What if someone asked a question and only Google would know the answer?

Oh dear, I was going to have to tackle those questions! Well, one reality is that I rarely talk on the phone. Once every six weeks I make an appointment at the hair salon. Occasionally I have to break down and call a customer service line. Yes, I talk to friends and family; I’m not totally antisocial! But I prefer Skype or FaceTime. No, that’s not technically unplugging, but I only Skype on my computer or laptop and only FaceTime on my iPad. I don’t carry any of those things in my purse or pocket. Wow, one problem solved! (And let’s be real – no foreign diplomats are calling me asking for the answer to world peace. A lot of things can wait.) Confession about emails: truthfully, I don’t even like looking at them on a phone, so was I really going to miss the frustration of typing out a response on a teeny keyboard? Nah. Two problems solved. This might be easier than I thought. Admittedly, I’m a big texter, so not having my phone next to me would mean missing those messages. What if someone felt ignored? That was going to be tough; I hate disappointing people. Last admission… I do love my Google so that was going to take some getting used to. Sometimes I Google a question that pops into my head just to see how many words I have to type in before that question shows up in the dropdown menu. It’s kind of a test to see where I am on the scale of weirdness.

In order to feel less tethered, I stopped carrying my phone downstairs during dinner every day. I stopped texting Jordan to come to dinner. I walked up the 15 stairs, knocked on his door, and walked back down the 15 stairs. That wasn’t so bad! I started leaving my phone in my purse while I was with other people. One night the battery even died while it was in my purse and the world didn’t come to a halt. I know firsthand that the people you are sitting with at dinner or sharing laughs with in the living room won’t always be there. Looking at their faces is better than a 4-inch, cold, glass screen. I set aside time on my calendar for unplugging from my phone and the Internet six hours on the weekend to focus on writing. For the most part I’ve stuck to it. As far as I can tell, no one is angry if I don’t respond to a text or email immediately or if I let my phone go to voicemail. After the initial symptoms of withdrawal subside, it’s kind of nice to unplug. I still have work to do. I hope to keep improving, maybe even to the point of one full 24-hour period of gadget-detox each week.

One little note about unplugging and grief: I am finding that unplugging from devices and plugging into my thoughts really opens up my heart. I feel emotions more clearly when I sit down and write about them (by hand), thinking things through and pausing for reflection. Sometimes I just sit with my grief and do nothing. Stillness and quiet is good. Being present is important. Enjoying the world with all your senses is vital.

Unplugging = Joy

I’m writing this on December 3. On the 5th I leave for a trip to Raleigh and New York City. My hope is that I’ll enjoy travel with minimal attachment to technology. Out of necessity I’ll be online sometimes, and I’ll no doubt post a picture or update my status here and there, but I hope to pay attention to the experience by fully engaging with all that surrounds me and leave my phone tucked away. I don’t want to miss out on what’s really important and exciting because the little screen in my hands wants my attention. This will post on December 9, the day I return. I’ll let you know how it went…

One more note – you’ll get no judgment from me if you’re reading this on some type of mobile device. There’s a place for the wonders of technology. I’m just becoming more aware that, for me, there is also a place for the wonders of everything else in this gorgeous slice of life we are given.

Making Room for Joy

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December is a great time of year to purge. Out with the old, as they say! I’m a huge fan of simplifying, decluttering, and downsizing. As we prepped to move from Florida to Colorado, I was able to donate a lot of what had become “junk” to me. That’s not to say it was really junk, just that it had been relegated to the junk drawer, the storage closet, or under the bed. That move was unique in that I threw out, donated, or gave away about 80% of our stuff. A few items here and there have been replaced, but for the most part I still have far less than I used to. That feels really good!

For the past nine months I’ve been living in my parents’ house, so there’s a section of the basement housing boxes I’ve not needed to unpack (kitchen stuff, some books, crafty items, etc.). What I’m finding is that I’m not missing a lot of what is still packed away. In fact, I’m looking forward to throwing out, donating, and giving away quite a bit more of it.

I’ve said before, though perhaps not here, that I’m not very sentimental. Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not cold-hearted and lacking the tenderness that comes with reliving fond memories. What I mean is that I rarely… very rarely… purchase a souvenir when I take a trip. I didn’t save all the drawings, papers, and projects my kids made over the years. I don’t save the cards and letters I receive, with very few exceptions. I don’t have any of the boys’ baby clothes or my wedding dress. What I do have is plenty of photographs of some of those things, digitally stored on my hard drive or archived (on acid-free paper, of course) in a few scrapbooks, and even more memories tucked away in nifty little boxes in my mind. Looking at a photo of a drawing Brian Jr. did when he was 3 floods my mind with thoughts of him from the day I gave birth until now. Seeing a picture of Jordan playing with one of his favorite toys as a kid has the same effect. And looking through the photographs of Brian and I throughout our marriage brings back those days like they were yesterday. So, I suppose you can say I’m actually quite sentimental, just not a clutter-bug! I have some trinkets and mementos of times gone by, things I like to keep around to recall the past, but if I had to give them away or they were suddenly gone, that would be okay.

Christmas is a time for traditions, and I guess the Lawsons had a tradition of simplifying the holiday. I probably make more trips to Goodwill during December than any other month. Since the kids were tiny little things, we gave them no more than three gifts to unwrap on Christmas morning. Their stockings had silly little gifts tucked inside, but were by no means extravagant. Now, because they are guys and guys’ toys get pricier as they age, it’s usually one gift. Thankfully, they are both very appreciative for their one gift and don’t look dejected if there isn’t a mountain of gifts under the tree. This year the boys and I are actually celebrating Christmas a month late, so there won’t even be a tree! But there will be togetherness and that’s even better.

This December I’m sure I’ll purge some of my material belongings, but I am also planning to declutter my mind and free up some space for more joy. I want to throw away regret and the last little bits of bitterness that are hanging around gathering dust. I’m also going to toss anger. Sometimes I put that in the recycling bin and nobody needs that in a new form! I think I’ll also trash jealousy, spite, and critical thoughts. I’ll happily donate compassion and kindness, patience, and understanding to those who need some. I have more than enough to spare. Giving away smiles and good wishes seems like a good idea too. That should give me a lot more places in my life to store up happiness, good memories, positive thoughts, and joy.

Making Extra Room = Joy