Archives for posts with tag: death

Monday dawned sunny and bright. I was fortunate to awake to the sound of waves lapping at the lakeshore and the sun peeking over the hill top.

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(sunset shot the night before)

There was already a lot of ugly and sadness I could have focussed on if I had let myself. And I admit the temptation to let it swallow me whole was palpable, but I put my big girl panties on, pulled up my positive pants, threw on a great pair of shoes, straightened my tiara and topped it off with bright lipstick and mascara! Well in truth, I took a deep breath, threw back the covers and made a CHOICE to CHOOSE beautiful; to see it, believe it and channel it. And I made that choice over and over when the temptation to doubt tapped me on the shoulder.

Later in the day the headline on my news feed about Manchester appeared.  Manchester – a place from far away that I’ve always associated with sports and music for some reason until that head line. The choice to see beautiful became even more difficult. My shoulders slumped, I just felt heavy.  I felt raw and numb all at once. I think a lot of us did.

Tuesday morning Huffington Post reported “explosion killed 22 people and injured 59, many of them teenagers.”  at an Ariana Grande concert. I witnessed the feelings come out through social media and in the news.

A friend posted, “Tears for those who just went to a concert. Tears for the world.”

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A cousin asked,

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And then I read my friend Michelle’s eloquent and heart felt Facebook post and am honoured that she gave me permission to share her words with you. When things happen which are impossible to make sense of, in the end all we really want to do is keep our precious treasures, those we love, safe.

Bubble wrap.
I need so much Bubble Wrap.

You know… The stuff you use to keep the things that are most precious to you, safe from harm. We wrap them up so they don’t get broken.

Bubble Wrap… Safe, dependable Bubble Wrap.

It may give one peace of mind, but there isn’t enough bubble wrap in the world on a day like today. On any kind of day in a world like the one we live in this day.

“Prayers for…”
“Our hearts and thoughts…”
“We stand with…”

These phrases are like labels now. Words we use to tape together the Bubble Wrap that we place around our hearts and minds to help keep us sane enough from locking our children in their rooms and nailing shut our windows and doors to keep out all the Bogeymen outside that lurk within a world that keeps getting smaller, from stealing their innocence, our naivete, and our collective sense of normalcy.

There is nothing normal about any of this. Even though this insanity is quickly seeming to become the norm. Padded rooms were once for the insane and yet, here I am, wishing I could wrap every precious being in my world in Bubble Wrap. How insane is that? And yet, Bubble Wrap was my first wish… My first “logical to me” thought while my heart screamed “Why?” and it’s echoes throbbed through my head.

Just as “There are no words…” is heard echoing thoughout the world.

But there are words…
“Please.” and “Stop.”

And there are so many echoes.

Because there will never, ever be enough Bubble Wrap.

©Michelle Laing Hoffman 2017

 

But until that plea is answered, in amongst the tragic and terrible burns the eternal flame of human kindness and compassion.

Huffington Post reported, “Public transport shut down, and taxis offered to give stranded people free rides home, while residents opened their homes to provide lodging.”

As the BBC noted, Then there are people like this young man who says “We can react in a lot of ways. We can react in anger. Or we can react by doing. This city is a community.”   The news outlets are capturing more than the devastation and carnage, they are capturing the humanity, compassion and resilience as well.

I think Grande summed it up for many of us with her tweet, “broken. from the bottom of my heart, I am so sorry. I don’t have words.”

“When someone says, “There are no words,” it is there I will find them and we will meet in the silent language of grief.” Benjamin Allen

While I have no words left, I do have kindness and compassion, and with those I will continue to shine my light more brightly so the darkness has no place to grow.

Please.  Stop.

Shine Brightly.

 

©2017 JFries/Rise Like Air

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I was working on my How To Be Happy journal that my lovely daughter gave me for Christmas.  Like me, it is a work in progress. It has made me question “what is happiness?” and more importantly, “what is happiness to me?”  I realize it is not the same for everyone. It can actually be quite different. I also understand happiness, at least for me, isn’t really about things, not even people, places or events.  Happiness is about feelings.

I began thinking about why and how some people lose happiness completely. How do they lose sight of everything hopeful and only see hopelessness, only feel fear and pain? How can we share the same basic reality but view it so differently? A friend recently pondered this.

“Lots of times I wonder what makes people end up the way they do? Why do we have the feelings, desires and emotions we do? How do you become truly happy? Which leads me to wonder, what makes up happiness?”

Depression surrounds us, an invisible presence most of us are blissfully unaware of.  We walk by people, sit with them, talk to them and we don’t see a mental illness, their pain, their need. I know this to be true. But what makes up happiness?  How do we find happiness when we’ve lost it?

I started Rise Like Air because I wanted to be part of a change, part of making something better.  I wanted to help people, even if it was just one person, realize that there is hope and that they don’t have to give up.  I wanted to share success stories and struggles to inspire people to keep trying, to embrace their own beauty and abilities, to empower them to love and live fully, to extend a hand to let them know that when they are hurting they aren’t alone, even if we can’t understand it all, there’s a place they can go to be unconditionally accepted.

Like many ideas that simmer slowly, a catalyst occurred to move it forward.  Six years ago this weekend we received word that Todd, a family friend we knew who had been experiencing severe depression took his life. It was the classic stereotypical situation with all the whys and how could have he’s. He had so much to live for, family that loved him completely, children to watch grow up, a good job he liked.  Sure there were setbacks, but how did he lose such complete perspective, lose all hope, lose all desire to live? And how did it seem to happen so quickly?

I remember what I was doing when we got the call.  I remember how everything suddenly became surreal, time slowed down, my heart started to race and I started to feel detached. And I remember the distinct feeling of I should have been able to do something. No, really I couldn’t have, I knew it then, I know it now. But it was what eventually moved me to start Rise Like Air. His mother,  Joyce, has been one of our greatest supporters. When I was almost ready to quit because I questioned the value, it was her wisdom and kind words that made me realize no matter what, if I’m only inspiring one person, that is more than enough.

She has taught me so much on this journey, including how important it is to talk about your loss and pain as you heal. Speaking of the people we love, sharing memories is a way of not only grieving, but keeping that person with us. So when you are tempted to say something, but don’t know what or how, take the leap. Your support will mean the world.

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I was out with a severely depressed friend a while ago.  I watched the interactions they had with others while we were together. They smiled and laughed, they chattered, they went about their business.  There was no sign that said, I feel like I’ve died inside, my body just hasn’t caught up yet. There was no indication that they needed a friend, needed help, or that they were anything but a “normal everyday happy” person.  I knew the truth and was shocked at how invisible it was on the surface, except when I looked into their eyes.  Eyes that no longer held any joy, hope or life. They were already dull, empty, pained. You can train your body to lie, but the eyes are much more difficult to hide.

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Depression is an invisible demon that revels in slowly sucking the joy, hope and life out of people so quietly that often, no one else even knows the deadly stranglehold is in play.

WHO, the World Health Organization, says in October 2015 that

  • Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.

Even when we do realize that someone needs help, often what we try to do to help is completely counterproductive.  Depression is not simple sadness. Often the very things we say or do trying to help actually make it worse, make them feel like they’ve failed, are a burden, are hopeless and helpless. However! This is not a reason to stay quiet or give up.  It’s a reason to learn what to do, how to be a positive support. How to save lives!

If someone had a broken leg we wouldn’t say, “well it can’t be that bad, just get up and walk on it!” We’d do all the things that have to happen to fix the leg and support the person while they are healing.  Why? Because we can see the injury, we can see and hear the pain they are experiencing. Visible or not it does not change the severity of the dis-ease.

But there are things we can say and do that are helpful.  There are resources that can make us part of the solution instead of part of the problem. We can be supporters who help others heal.  We can help save lives.

You never know what word, smile, conversation, text or email will be the thing that makes a small or big difference in someone’s life, that might save their life. When you listen to people who have been saved in their moment of despair, it often was something very small that saved them that day, gave them the strength to carry on.   It can be as simple as asking “Are you ok?” as in the case of Jamie Harrington, from Ballymena, Dublin,  who explained about meeting a man in his 30s sitting on the edge of a bridge and about to jump off it.

If we can help a person see through the clarity of our eyes instead of the clouded vision of their own, we can be the beacon of light they need until their own eyes clear.

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Project Hope Exchange is an organization committed to bringing hope to people everywhere.

Give hope. Get hope. All in 30 seconds! What if we could do just that and start spreading hope around the world? We at The Adversity 2 Advocacy Allianceand Life Vest Inside believe we CAN, and we’re thrilled to be partnering to offer you this unique and powerful opportunity. Through Project Hope Exchange, we are collecting, aggregating and sharing 30-second audio messages fromindividuals who have survived some kind of adversity to others who are currently facing that same adversity. And at the heart of our exchange are real human voices. We hope you’ll add yours!

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I have learned kindness, patience and unconditional love can make all the difference in helping people.  Life Vest Inside is an organization that  helps me and many others find their way through tough times by simply providing a safe, positive place to just be. Their video The Kindness Boomerang went viral a number of years ago and has been a catalyst for many to change their lives in positive ways.  So that is what I leave you with today, something positive, uplifting and hopeful.  We all have the ability to make a difference in people’s lives every moment of every day.  Do not waste your opportunity to help make a life better.  It just might be yours.

If you are experiencing depression or any mental health issue, please do not give up. No matter how long it’s been, how desperate or numb you feel, there are people who care and want to help. Please reach out.  There is a life vest.  All you have to do is hold on tight.  This is a dis-ease I truly believe we can beat together.

In memory of

Todd Pidhorodetsky April 21st, 1970 – March 6, 2010

You are loved, you are missed, you are treasured

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** This post was edited February 7th 2016

I just received word that a friend from years ago just took his own life, just after his birthday, just before he was ready to start a new chapter in his life, retirement.

I am gutted. I haven’t spoken with him in years and in truth, didn’t know him well in the first place, but I knew him.  I talked with him, laughed with him, enjoyed his creative talent.  Now to know yet another life is gone because the mental pain became greater than the alternative, at least in his opinion is almost unbearable .

“No one knew”

Maybe one word, one action, one smile would have made a difference. Maybe not. We’ll never know.

But today I will ensure I consciously do all I can to make every contact I make count.

In the UK last year over 4000 men took their own lives. Something has to change now.

I ask for your thoughts prayers and positive energy to be sent out wide today, to everyone who is struggling.

We all need each other. Even when we think we don’t.

In the piece “Why Men Kill Themselves” Paul McGregor is candid in what he has to say.  He knows what he’s talking about from very personal experience.  He suffers from depression and his father took his own life because of his own depression. Like so many others, once the slide began for his father there seemed no way to stop it. This is what we must change.

Because that uncomfortable feeling around talking about or even thinking about suicide is just one reason suicide has become the leading killer of men under the age of 50.

Why do men kill themselves?

In fact, why does a man take his own life every 2 hours in the UK alone?

Why is the suicide rate increasing year after year and why out of all of the suicides last year, a massive 76% were men?

While I’ve experience episodes of depression I admit I’ve never reached that level of despair.  I’ve always wondered how that happens, where does the mind finally say enough is enough and actually believe it.  Paul McGregor is the person who has finally made it understandable for me. And it shreds my heart to know that any one of us could reach that place.

After listening to numerous people who survived their attempts on suicide and reflecting on my Dad’s suicide, a lot of them talk about the pain in which they wanted to end.

Not wanting it to hurt anymore, wanting the pain they’re going through to go away.

When you think of it, dieing is physically painful…

But the pain they’re in at the time of making that decision is far greater than the physical pain they’ll endure.

Something I’ve never really shared before stands out to me here…

When my Dad decided to walk infront of a lorry reports from witnesses say after the collision… he smiled.

 

After I read that I felt physically ill.  Somehow I could finally understand at a level I was never able to before. ** I finally understand that the pain is as harsh, as strong and maybe even more unbearable as any physical pain can be.  The pain is real, it is not imagined or exaggerated. It is not temporary and it cannot just be pushed aside. If medication and treatment isn’t working there is no fix to give temporary or permanent relief. And in that moment of absolute endless pain, there is no sight of light or hope or anything other than the unquenchable desire for it to be over.

I was suddenly taken back to when I gave birth to my first born. I was as prepared as any mother to be could be, but there still came a point where I thought, what have I gotten myself into, I can’t do this, make it stop now.  I don’t for an instant pretend that this is the same, but my own experiences with depression and giving birth, the dots were finally connected. I finally got it, or at least I’m starting too. I’ve lost my arrogance about how to “fix it”, maybe that’s the biggest part of understanding. I hope the connection I’ve made will make me a better friend, a better supporter, a better person all around. **

Paul not only knows the pain, he’s reached a point where he is unafraid to ask the questions that need to be asked. He’s starting the dialogue, offering solutions, offering hope.

Paul offers 4 things to start the process of changing the stigma of mental illness into a move toward mental health

  • Think about it, talk about it, do something
  • Shift societies attitudes through dialogue and the media
  • Change our language of suicide
  • Treat it

 

Let’s do all those things and more.  And let’s start today, right now, this second.  One small word, one small smile at the right moment does save lives.  Take every opportunity to make a difference.  I believe that’s what we’re all here to do.

Namaste

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©2016 J.Fries/Rise Like Air

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Words of wisdom for all of us from a friend and guest blogger Khurram Shahzad.

 

Hello Everyone!
First of all I’m not a first language English speaker so please forgive any grammatical or spelling mistake.
I would just like to take a minute and talk on the topic of “opportunities”.
Opportunities are our chances at life. In our life we set a goal and we pursue those goals and these opportunities are our chances to finally get our reward.
And believe me, as i speak from personal experience, opportunities are very rare so never ever let them slip by. Whenever they knock, get up and take them because you never know if you will get another. Life is full of twists and turns and you never know which breath might be your last. 

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So go out there, live your life like it was your last day. Make the most of it. Don’t ever turn away thinking that what will others think because believe me this is your life and you should only care what you think. 


Psychology says that the biggest regret of people on their death beds is not what they did, it’s what they didn’t do. 

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So my point being that please live life to the fullest. If you like someone, go tell them. If you have a dream job, go get it. Don’t EVER give up on your dream. When I was 9 i think I once interviewed a doctor for a project and she told me that perseverance commands success so I should never give up on what I believe in. 

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Thank you for taking the time to read this, i just felt like sharing this thought with someone. Have a blessed day!

 

©2015 JFries/Rise Like Air

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We’ve all had bad things happen to us. We’ve faced challenges, been dealt hands we’d rather not play. But it’s play what you’ve got or play nothing at all. There’s really no sitting out.  It’s game on. What’s your next move? That depends on the player.

Some people choose to sit back and complain, maybe loudly, maybe quietly but the first card of the game is played, the Victim card.  “Woe is me. What did I do to deserve this?  I’m a good person!”

This determines the second card often chosen, the Blame card. “It’s not my fault!  If that hadn’t happened…  If she would have… But no one told me…”

The final card is thrown down with vigour. The Despair card. “There’s nothing I can do!  I’m too insignificant, I’m the victim after all!  Won’t someone else fix this?”

It’s understandable. Tough challenges, disappointments, well, they just aren’t fair, or fun.

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So while the reaction is understandable it doesn’t affect much benefit. Instead there’s more wallowing in self pity and sorrow. Still not experiencing much fun. Nothing gets better.

But then there is another kind of player. These players get knocked down, but they get up again.  Even if that means getting back up many times.

I Get Knocked Down Again by Chumbawumba

Their approach to the game is different. The first card they prefer to play is the Patience card. They get their bearings, see what they’re really up against, size up the situation.

The second card they select is Determination.  Strategies are considered and they proceed to carry out the plan adjusting as required along the way.

Weeble’s commercial circa 1970s

Their third and final card, played without fanfare, is Resilience. They turn into Weebles® if you remember the toy from the 1970’s. Their slogan was  “Weebles wobble but they don’t  fall down.”  Resilience means they keep at it and are set up to handle whatever their opponent has planned. They do what they need to to meet the challenge, to succeed.  They may wobble a bit but they won’t fall down, not now. They play the hand they’re dealt and more often than not they come out ahead. If they don’t, they adjust again.

I recently came across a young father who is busy playing the hand he and his family have been dealt with a smile. It’s a hand many of us may think about folding on but not Darren. Our first encounter was nothing really special. We are both members of Life Vest Inside and I saw a request come through from Darren that said his son was turning 10. If anyone was interested he’d appreciate some happy birthday wishes.  It seemed an easy way to spread a little kindness and cheer so I popped off a message.  His subsequent post of appreciation put his original request into context.

As it turns out Jayden has been faced with challenges since he was born with the heart condition Truncus Arteriosus, the same condition that killed his Aunt Karena, Darren’s younger sister, when she was only 17 weeks. Almost 20 years later medical advances in surgery allowed her nephew to survive, but it’s not an easy journey.

Jayden remained in hospital ICU for three and a half years, his mother seldom leaving his side for more than a few moments in all that time. He lives with global development delay and a high level of autism. Jayden has already endured 2 heart surgeries and will soon be undergoing his third. He has a tracheostomy to aid in breathing properly and since Jayden doesn’t have a very strong immune system once a month he spends a day in hospital for an immune booster.

Jayden’s conditions create a risk of choking meaning he must have an attendant 24/7.  Darren and Rhonda share the exhausting job of watching him around the clock. But all you have to do is listen to Darren talk about their son to know what a positive influence he has on his parents and others. Darren calls him a hero, super man, a survivor. With love and compassion and lots of time and dedication he proved sceptics wrong by learning to walk, he goes to school and he’s gaining skills. He is overcoming anxiety about eating from a spoon and he’s mastering his colours.  He has lots of challenges but he has a loving family to help him meet them.  That doesn’t make him less, maybe it actually makes him even more.

Jayden and Darren used with permission

Jayden and Darren
used with permission

“When my son wakes up in the morning and he smiles at me, that’s my payment.” Darren Kontista

Jayden eating

Darren knows first hand the struggles that Jayden faces. He himself was born with a heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot and nearly died as a child.  Like his sister and his son, Darren required the assistance of a heart and lung bypass machine and has also endured two heart surgeries. He is expecting to undergo a third operation within six short years.

As I read Darren’s post about his sister and his son Jayden’s story I was left speechless. When I wrote my birthday greeting never in my wildest imaginings did I think that this family was going through so much every single day.

Darren and Rhonda could certainly choose to focus only on themselves, their challenges and no one would blame them. They could play the blame card, the victim card and the despair card without question. But that’s not what they’ve chosen to do. Instead Darren has undertaken a serious fund raising  campaign to procure a heart and lung machine for The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. The cost of the machine is $500,000. Darren and Jayden have set their sights on contributing $5,000. towards that. Checkout their fundraising page through Hearts for Life HERE.

They didn’t stop at a simple page though. Darren has a love of music and a talent to create it. He came upon the idea to have a fundraising event! November 1st a musical charity fundraiser Jayden’s Hearts for Life will take place. This family knows first hand just how important this life saving machine is.

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Recently Darren and his family moved to a new home. They were so happy to be settling in but for reasons out of their control they may be forced to pull up stakes once more before they’ve even had time to settle in and catch their breath. Something most of us would be angered by and this family is no different, especially given the extra challenges they face. Jayden doesn’t find change all that easy, being 24/7 caregivers takes planning, preparation and is exhausting without throwing in a full blown relocation again. But Darren puts it in perspective. At least some things are already packed! Or well, still packed.  And though they are tired Darren joked it was good his last surgery went so well and he feels strong like an ox. Looking on the bright side, even if the light is rather dim. That’s how these players play the game.

When I heard the news I felt tired and frustrated for them but my advice reflected Darren’s already positive attitude. Sometimes when you think you’ve arrived you discover it’s only a pit stop on the way to your true and even better destination. Deep breath, do a little dance, sing a little song and get ready to move on – to something fantastic, even if the road is a bit bumpy. Glad you’re looking on the bright side. “

When I thought about it I realized that it’s all the trials and tribulations, the challenges and pain that they’ve already experienced that are probably making them strong enough to face yet again, another unexpected and daunting challenge.

And that’s what this family is doing. Instead of wallowing in frustration and disappointment they’re playing their best cards. They are patient, determined and resilient.

And they’re already showing how that pays off.  Ticket sales for the upcoming fundraiser are selling well even before the the official advertising campaign kicked off.  If you want to show your support in some way click HERE! There are a lot of people who would really appreciate it.

Even though life can deal you a tough hand, Darren knows how to be grateful and see beautiful no matter how elusive it might seem.  He recently showed how well Jayden is doing at school and as a parent I know exactly how that thrill of success and pride feels.

Jayden learning at school

Kindness and gratitude help make the world a better place in my opinion, and Darren agrees.  Although generous himself in many ways he has been “blown away” by the support he’s received from their friends, whether it be financially, a helping hand or a listening ear.

Darren, Rhonda and Jayden exemplify  how to play the game of life everyday, with patience, determination, and resilience. Be kind, be grateful and you really can’t lose. With their dedication and determination we are certain they will have great success in helping so many people whose health and life will be greatly improved with the new heart and lung bypass machine.  Please show your support if you can.   A kind message, sharing their story, or if you are so inclined a financial contribution. All forms of support are appreciated.

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In memory of Karena

To hear more about Darren’s life and background in 8 minutes watch this video:

To see Life Vest Inside’s inspirational kindness video that started it all watch The Kindness Boomerang:

©2015 JFries/Rise Like Air

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How to grieve. There’s been numerous books written on the subject. There’s been thousands, no millions of people who have experienced it and even helped others through it. But as grieving mother Jennifer Ruef poignantly puts it,

In the years since Edison died, I have asked myself “What if?” and “Why?” If only we hadn’t gone out that day. If I had not tried to progress him from his feeding tube to regular foods. I have sought book after book trying to find an instruction manual on how to grieve. It doesn’t feel like I am doing it right. It doesn’t get better. It gets worse.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross famously wrote about the stages of dying and grieving. I studied them often as a social work student. I worked with grieving families. I thought I understood grief.

Now I realize that was like thinking you understand water because you’ve been to a lake. And then you go to the ocean. I have Denied, been Angry, Bargained and have been Depressed. There is also an A, Acceptance. At least, she said there is.

From the article on CNN.com A Mother’s Grief

The family unexpectedly lost their 6 year old son Edison in 2011 not long before he would have started school. Now their younger son Donovan has reached that same milestone and she is finding it even harder than she could ever have imagined. Baby brother is now forever surpassing older brother. It’s the little things that you don’t think about that suddenly make you catch your breath. It doesn’t matter how much training, how much reading, how much experiencing through others pain you go through. It doesn’t seem to change how impossibly hard, how tortuously painful the experience is.

While I might not be able to imagine accurately what a person going through this truly feels, and let’s face it, I really don’t want to, it doesn’t stop us from being kind. It doesn’t stop us from choosing to be patient and understanding, even if we don’t quite understand.

So, two boys age 6 have taught their mommy many lessons. Most of all they have taught me that your heart can smile and break all at one time and will do so daily.

My heart is just beginning to heal. But while still broken, I will smile for Donovan. I will smile for Edison. I will smile that my grief journey has been mine, and not like those written in books. I may not be doing it correctly, I may be doing it for too long, but like my children, I am doing it with everything I have.

And somewhere in the middle of it all, the healing begins. Tiny and almost insignificant, but it starts. And with a little nurturing it grows. Although your life can never be the same again, you slowly begin to live again.

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©2015 JFries/Rise Like Air

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Being a mom is an interesting path to walk at the best of times. We joke that kids don’t come with a manual and it’s true. No matter how well read you are, how trained you are, even with all the skills and patience you bring to the task, there’s still a lot of trial and error and just plain luck involved. We all have our plans about how we’ll be super moms, but in reality our relationships with our children will have ups and downs and will grow and morph in many ways over hopefully many wonderful years.

Unknown-1I believe most mother’s really do want the best for their children. Sometimes, I admit, we make mistakes and miss the mark. It can range from simple to complex. We’re  a little over protective, maybe we make too many choices for them. For the most part we all work it out and over time our relationship, we hope, grows stronger.

I know when I became a mother, my world changed in many ways. Nine months of gestation produced more than a baby.

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new. ~Rajneesh

As I saw mother’s day played out on social media I realized that there is truly a huge range of emotions and experiences that transpire around this celebration. Within my own group of friends and news feeds, the expected joy and beauty was truly apparent. Right along side of it, with the same intensity was grief and anguish.

There were mothers who lamented children no longer alive to celebrate this special day with them. A hole left in their lives that will never be filled.

Loving daughters and sons who didn’t look forward to the day because mom was no longer with them to celebrate. It didn’t matter if the loss was recent or decades ago. An old wound was reopened.

Moms who feel aching loneliness, lamenting their children’s indifference over outdated misunderstandings. Grandchildren who  only know stories but not grandma’s warm embrace. The absence of celebration or the pain of loss while celebrating the joys that remain.

Children and husbands holding tightly to mothers who they know will be leaving them far too soon.

A mother who celebrated her very first mother’s day unaware it was the last day she would there to celebrate at all.

The new mother welcoming her first born just before mother’s day only to lose her a few days later.

Mothers separated by vast distances from their children, connecting through technology that didn’t exist when the mothers were their children’s age. Not the same as sharing the same space but so much better than the alternative.

Grown children who were certainly babes in arms a short time ago, towering over mothers in loving embraces. The smiles and joy spilling from the page and into my heart.

The little child’s fist full of dandelions thrust up towards his mother, her most treasured gift.

What became clear was that Mother’s Day was different for each mother, as different as each of our children are. What remains constant is that each mother and each child no matter how old, how far away or estranged, is in someway moved. The bond, no matter how strained or strong is marked somehow, whether it is visible or invisible, acknowledged or not.

My mother is aging faster than I’d like to admit. I know that my time with her is limited. Time goes by too quickly, we never know just how much we have.  One of the biggest things people say they wish they would have done differently was to have forgiven someone, or to have said “I love you.” more. I was reminded of this even more this year. In which case, there is really only one thing to do.

phonto

It really doesn’t matter who it is, if there’s a relationship to repair, appreciation to show, love to give, choose to do it now. Life life, make memories, no regrets.

I wasn’t there that morning
When my Father passed away
I didn’t get to tell him
All the things I had to say

I think I caught his spirit
Later that same year
I’m sure I heard his echo
In my baby’s new born tears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years~ Mike & The Mechanics “In The Living Years”

I love you mom.  Thanks for all you’ve done and all you do, especially for making memories that will keep you with me forever.

©2015 JFries/Rise Like Air

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Over the last few months I’ve come to know some of the homeless people of Canada through they eyes and writing of Dennis Carduff. His chronicling of everyday life has allowed many of us an insight into life on the streets that we otherwise would likely never have experienced. We’ve come to feel for them, hope for them and care about their stories. The loss of Joy has touched people many walks of life, people she never even knew existed. It feels like we’ve lost a friend.

Dennis continues to tell their stories with dignity, caring and humanity. Joy, you will be missed, you have not gone unnoticed. Respectfully, thank you Joy, and thank you Dennis for helping me to see life through different eyes.

Peace.

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I emerged from the hospital weakened, with thin limbs and thinned hair. Now unable to work, I was left at home to convalesce. Getting up from a chair or lifting a glass of water took concentration and effort. If time dilates when one moves at high speeds, does it contract when one moves barely at all? It must: The day shortened considerably. A full day’s activity might be a medical appointment, or a visit from a friend. The rest of the time was rest.

via Before I Go, by By Paul Kalanithi – Photography by Gregg Segal.

We all know our time on this earth is limited.  Most of us are able to ignore it at least for a time and we live like we have forever.  But we don’t.

When you realize that your time is close to being over, time takes on a new meaning.   The above essay is one of the most articulate, profound and poignant pieces I’ve ever read.

Dr. Paul Kalanithi was a neurosurgeon who recently passed away from metastic lung cancer.  In this, one of his last pieces of writing shortly before his death, he shared how the concept of time changed for him during his illness, recovery and then recurrence of cancer.

We each deal with tragedy, pain and challenges differently.  But during those trials and tribulations, the pain and the fear, it is the smallest and simplest things that bring us joy.

Never discount the small joys we are each capable of sharing with others, no matter the day or the need.

© 2015 JFries / Rise Like Air

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images-1

Loss is a tragic thing, hard to understand, even more difficult to cope with.  The loss of a child is unimaginable.  My palms grow sweaty and my heart pounds at even the thought.  Maybe that’s what makes it hard to know what to say or what to do when someone loses someone they love.

I love words, writing them, reading them, thinking them. When it comes to grief and grieving my words almost always fail me.  “I’m sorry” is honest, but seems so empty and hollow.  I want my words to fix things or to make a positive difference, but instead they are left hanging.

I know people who have lost children and today, one of them passed this article along. She said that she could relate to every point in it. With that recommendation I thought it was a good place to start. I hoped that it would help me in future situations and I believe it will.

What I Wish More People Understood About Losing A Child is a short but excellent guide to supporting people who are going through one of, if not the worst experience in their life.  It’s not only the loss of a loved one, but the loss of their child. As parents, none of us start out by thinking one day our children will leave this earth before us.

Paula Stevens lists 5 things that we can do to help those who are suffering with inconsolable grief.

  1. Let them know that you remember their children, and celebrate them.
  2. Know you can’t fix the grief, but you can be a patient friend.
  3. Birthdays and the anniversary of the death will always be tough days that they will always mark and struggle with, even if they don’t talk about it.
  4. Happiness is a struggle every single day, even when wearing a smile.
  5. Accept that their grief probably makes you uncomfortable, and that’s ok. It’s not supposed to be comfortable.

We will never forget our child. And in fact, our loss is always right under the surface of other emotions, even happiness. We would rather lose it because you spoke his/her name and remembered our child, than try and shield ourselves from the pain and live in denial. Paula Stevens

Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness.  It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love.  The only cure for grief is to grieve. Earl Grollman

Maybe putting words together doesn’t have to be as hard as one might think.

“Your child was a sweetheart.  Everyone who met him just could not stop talking about him.  He is going to be relentlessly missed by everyone.”

And when words fail us, hugs and quiet company seldom do.

Edit 25Mar2015

The Kindness Blog shared a story today called When a parent loses their child, there’s really not much, if anything, that can bring them comfort.  It’s about what one family did as part of their grieving in order to honour their little boy who passed away.

© 2015 JFries / Rise Like Air

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