This last week marked the 7th anniversary of Ethan's death, or as my dad says, Ethan's second birthday. The day he was birthed into Heaven. I've been quietly anticipating this date for some time. This anniversary is the one that marks Ethan being gone from earth longer than he was here. I've been trying to wrap my mind around how this is possible. How can someone who has so significantly changed my life be gone longer than he was here?
I'm not the woman I was seven years ago when I walked out of the hospital thinking, "how the hell will I live?" I'm a wiser, more expansive version of myself. I'm proud of the woman I've become.
Today I want to share seven ideas that have been critical to my evolution and have helped me experience healing. I remain a work in progress, always learning, growing and healing.
If you missed last week, I want to make sure you know about the women's workshop I will be hosting this coming November 9th. Made For This is a one day workshop for women who want to embrace their life, rekindle their spark, and make an impact in their world. Next week I'll share more about this.
I cannot dive as deep as I'd like on each of these topics on this blog today, so I've decided to post about each item on my Instagram and Facebook pages starting on Monday. I'll also tag some resources I've found helpful. Follow along there if you'd like more. Before I begin, I want to say two things. 1) These ideas have not only helped me as I've faced Ethan's death, but they have also helped me as I've worked to accept my son Bodey's muscular dystrophy and other losses that I've encountered. 2) Tom Zuba and his book Permission to Mourn: A New Way To Do Grief have influenced me on my journey. I highly recommend you give it a read.
Decide to live.
I decided early on that I wanted to live. The pain is so excruciating that it's reasonable to wonder if you do want to live. The punch to the gut takes our breath away, and we cannot imagine slogging through each day. I remember struggling to parent my living children. But I chose to live, yes to remain on earth, but also to live, not in despair, but with purpose. In the last seven years, I've seen plenty of people who choose to live in misery. They are the victim to their tragedy, and they don't want to try to rise above it. They have a fear of moving through it, of doing the work. Yes, of course, there are days of deep despair and knee buckling sadness. But I kept my commitment to live, to embrace my life, to transform my story and to make room for joy. There is no quick fix. Many days early on, it will seem impossible. Keep your eyes on the light. Your life has purpose.
Question it all.
After Ethan died, I had lots of questions about everything. About the way his medical story played out, about the decisions we made and recommendations we were given, about the way his disease was approached. I questioned every choice we made for him. I poured over his medical records. I had to write my own story about his life, and I challenged myself to see if my ideas were factual. I spent a lot of time and talking to a lot of people to come to a place of understanding and peace. This work was heavy. I learned difficult things that made healing complicated. I pushed through. I faced my guilt. I faced my anger. I forgave others and I forgave myself.
I was raised in a Christian home. My faith has always been important to me. After Ethan died, I had so many questions. The list was very long. Did God love me? Does prayer change God's mind? Where do we go when we die? Is there a heaven? If so, who goes there? Did I believe in all the things I had been raised to believe? What was my purpose? What was Ethan's? There were so many questions. We have to dig into the big questions. No question is "dumb" or "bad". If it's burning in your heart or head – ask it. I do not think you or I can be settled souls without asking the big questions. Keep asking. Search out someone who will wrestle through the questions with you.
Decide what you believe and go all in.
For me, healing has been a spiritual experience. For a long time, I didn't want it to be. I was so disappointed with God. It was not only Ethan's death that was so difficult but also the way his story and illness wreaked havoc on my family. Suffice it to say, the course of events made me feel completely abandoned. I read books, listened to podcasts, had conversations with people I trusted. I listened, meditated, ran, did yoga and prayed. I worked through my anger. I accepted mystery. I surrendered to something so much bigger than I can see or understand. I surrendered to God's love for me and the plan for my life that I can feel in my bones, but cannot entirely see. My relationship with God today looks much different than it did before. It's broader and vaster, more inclusive, more accepting of the unknown and more confident that I am here as God's manifestation of love in this body with a purpose, even if it includes pain and discomfort. Cultivating a renewed deeper faith has been one of the most important pieces of my healing and also the one that has most nurtured and mended my heart. God points me towards more love in all areas of my life.
I am not here to tell you what to believe. That is your work to do. But I do hope you will ground yourself in belief, wrestle through your unknowns and feel your heart pulled towards love. I hope you will consider the idea that God loves you and that your life has a great purpose, even when it is hard, and you cannot see the light.
Invest in your healing.
You will not heal if you don't actively seek it. This means facing your sadness head on. This means not staying busy and pretending your heart is not broken. I've met countless people who think time will heal them. As my friend Tom Zuba iterates, it's not the time that passes; it's what you do with it. Investing in your healing means seeking counseling, reading books, going to support groups or retreats, investing in relationships, and so much more. You will have to spend time and money to heal. It will not be easy. No one can do it for you. I've come into contact with plenty of people who want to heal, but don't want to make the investment. Your healing is your responsibility.
What have I invested in? Counseling and life coaching, retreats, conferences, various types of exercise, online and in-person classes, early morning exercise, relationships with people that feed my soul, travel to meet with people that can help me, massage, spiritual and faith filled teachers, books, and the all-important sleep. You will have to decide what feeds you. Please make the investment.
You may need a new community.
The fact is you will not be the same person you were before your person died or before great sadness entered your life. I've heard this over and over and over again. As time goes on, people around you may want to "move on," and they will likely want you to as well. In reality, we do not move on; we move with our beloveds as we navigate life. You will need to seek out people who understand, who have walked in your shoes and who have done the work. I have met some of the most incredible women because Ethan died, and because Bodey has a rare disease. I learn from them all the time. They are my friends and confidants. Early on having people who have walked in your same shoes matters a whole lot. As the years progress and you do your work, you will be able to expand that group of people. Remember the mindset of those around you will influence you. Choose accordingly.
You will have friends who stick with you and who want to help you. Let them in and teach them how to love you. Remember just as much as you are a student learning to heal; you are also a teacher.
For all the foibles of social media, connecting with others in your same boat is one of the positives. Seek them out. One more thing, as you grow, you may outgrow certain groups or people you follow. That is okay. Keep doing the work.
Strong body. Strong mind. Strong spirit.
You are body, mind, and spirit. Grieving is active work. Moving and strengthening your body will help your mind and spirit strengthen. Exercise will help to release sadness and all the gunk that stores up in our bodies when we are sad. Also, consider meditation and prayer. They will help to calm your mind and spirit. Do not underestimate the power that exercise will have on your healing. Cultivate these practices in your daily life.
Transform your story.
Here we are at number seven. Truth be told, I could write chapters about each of the topics. Since this is already a long enough, I want to end here. I've gotten plenty of pushback on this final belief. But this is my blog, and this is what I believe. So here it goes. Your life is one big invitation, and it's made up of tiny invitations you receive every day. You decide what to show up for. Grief and loss invite us to grow, to deepen, to question, and to transform. They invite us to be the women and men we were created to be. None of this is comfortable or easy. That's why so many people say no this invitation. I believe we are called not only to do the work I've outlined here for ourselves, but we are also then called to transform our stories to make our world a better, more loving and kind place. There is great healing in actively transforming your story; to outwardly give of yourself, your time, energy, and talent to love and serve others.
I'm not sure what transformation will look like for you. For me, it has looked like the non-profit work I've done, the teaching, leading, and writing I'm doing. It looks like creating Made For This. It's looked like Restoring a Mother's Heart. It looks like the way I use my time and resources. It looks like the friendships I invest in and the ideas that guide my work. I will continue to evolve and grow in my life. I fully expect continued evolution. I'm not sure what this might look like for you. But I ask you to consider what you are invited to? What is knocking on your heart? In healing, we cannot skip through to the end. We have to do the work. In my experience, each space I've found myself in has shown me what to do next. So keep seeking, keep asking, keep listening, stay active, and consider the idea that you are made for this life, to transform and transcend this experience, and to bring more love to the world around you. You are not in a rush to get to this place. Take all the time you need. One day at a time. Rest when you need to. Love breeds more love. We grieve because we love. We grieve because we dream and hope. Grieving is part of life and it's the greatest invitation I've ever received. My prayer is that you will accept yours too.
Sunday Love to you! See you next week.