Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Full of Thanks and Practicing What You Preach

So I wrote a book and have been out there speaking publicly for several months now about how life is full of paradoxes and conflicting feelings that occur at the same time. I believe that with all of my heart. And yet when it happens to me,I still get caught off guard.

For the last three years, I have visited the cemetery. I’m not big on the cemetery necessarily, but I try and go and keep up with different holiday decorations for Tim’s plot. For three years I have been “saying hello” to Tim and then I kiss my fingers and touch the headstone. I almost always say, “Bye Baby. It hasn’t happened yet.”  What I mean by that is, that I keep waiting for the time in my life when I can see how my life has actually gotten better because of everything we’ve been through. I wait for when I feel somehow like the past is behind me.

Lately, I have been changing the flavor of my blogs. Lately, I have been saying when I leave, “I think it’s finally happening..” And it has been. Spring has sprung, but it just has happened in the winter months instead.

I am here in Georgia with my daughter Emily and her family. I have been eating up my grandkids with every ounce of love I have. I was even able to buy my granddaughter Aubry her first little bike while I was here. We leave later today and I will try hard not to cry. I make my grandson Parker cry when I do, so I don’t want to do that to him today.

Life is full of new and wonderful things. My book cover won first place in a contest this month. Yea for our talented graphic artist! Great things are happening.

That is why I was surprised that I could feel all the excitement of all these things, and found myself trying to be alone in a room so no one would see me cry. It is impossible with kids around. Both Parker and Aubry found me quick as a rabbit and asked in their cute, sweet voices “Grammy, are you hurt?” Straightened me up lickety-split.

I’m not sure why I’ve been like this. I have some ideas, but overall I’m frustrated that I can’t control my heart more. Sometimes little things happen that don’t go as planned, especially during holidays. I have these little fantasies about how they are going to go because I’m so sentimental and when things don’t go that way, my spirit can get crushed so easily. Not a part of me I am very fond of.

It hit me that the best way to describe it, would be if I were in town and went to the cemetery today, I would kiss the stone and say “I’m not quite there. Just not quite there.”

But I am definitely on my way. Life is definitely good and full of promise. It’s just not perfect. But what do I preach all the time? That’s ok. The glass is half empty and half full. So if you are lonely or sad today, it’s ok. Have your feelings, but know there is still much to be grateful for. Love all you guys like crazy!

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NEW GUEST!

I haven’t had a guest on here for awhile. I want you to meet my new friend, Melissa.

My name is Melissa Eichele, and although I am known for many “hats” I wear, the one I wear the proudest is “mommy”.
 
I grew up an average kid on Long Island, raised by my grandmother, attending private school my entire life. I was a good student, captain of the swim team, and student council president. I went to College with a scholarship, and graduated with a degree in nursing. After college, I married Andrew, who I met in high school. We bought the house I grew up in, fixed it up, and started our life together. I went to graduate school, got my masters degree in nursing, and Andrew worked as an electrician. We tried for 4 years to conceive and were finally blessed with our baby boy Tanner in November of 2007. In July of 2009, we found out we would be expecting a second baby the following April. In our eyes, our family was complete. We truly thought “life couldn’t be more perfect”.
 
Our world came crashing down in September of 2009 when Tanner was diagnosed with cancer. Until then, we thought of pediatric cancer as something we saw on TV, something that happens to “other people”. We learned first hand how pediatric cancer can change your life from “perfect” to a complete nightmare in the blink of an eye. I took leave from my job as an ICU nurse for the next year and a half to sit by Tanner’s side through every treatment and surgery. Andrew took long leaves of absence. When it comes to your child, nothing is more important – especially when you’re fighting for his life. The world kept turning though, and the bills kept coming. We depended on family and friends, fundraisers, and charities for support. The Lexiebean Foundation was one of our biggest supporters, and at the time of Tanner’s relapse, we were surprised with a gift from them, while we were in the ICU, that helped pay our mortgage that month. You can’t imagine how scary it is to sit by your child’s side, praying that he will live, and at the same time worrying about how to keep a roof over your heads so you will have somewhere to go “home” to. With a gift like that, all of a sudden, you can focus fully on your child – the burden of bills was just lifted.
 
I have fought the hardest fight of my life, and lost. Trying to keep my son Tanner alive, I would have given anything, including my own last breath. He was the light of my life, and I know in my heart I will never be the same. But Tanner still lives in my heart, and I hope to make a difference in the lives of families affected by pediatric cancer, in his name. In this spirit I have joined the Lexiebean Foundation so that I can help other families, so that their financial burdens can be lifted, so that they have someone to talk to who “gets what their going through” just as the Falabella’s did for us, and so that everyone will always know my angel Tanner. 
 
 
That is the link to her latest blog where she shows pictures of Tanner’s three birthays. It is worth your time and effort. Happy Reading!
 


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Good Will

One of the great things about writing Bitter and Sweet has been the people I have met and the stories I have heard. There are many, many people in the world that are trying to do good things with thier lives and resources. Today Brigitte and I had the opportunity to meet some neat people… again.

There is a group called Rural Outreach Center. Their tag line reads: “Assist- Elevate- Empower.” They have some property but no building yet. There has already been five years invested in doing hard-core research and for the last four months they have been helping people on borrowed space.

The thought process is to give people in country settings a one-stop place to help them in a holistic manner. The man said “How would it be if the first thing you heard when you walked in a door someplace was that someone cared about you?” They have spent months interviewing people and just listening to their stories. They have come up with a comprehensive list of services they are hoping to develop. Finding jobs, raising the level of income, financial budgeting and saving, marriage and individual counseling and support, medical help, literacy programs, etc..

They talked about how many people they have met that just don’t meet the stereotypes that I hear people describe all the time. People DO want to work. They DO want to do the right thing. They are NOT sucking off the system. I hear so much prejudice and assumptions sometimes, that it makes my heart sad.

It’s easy to say “Get a job.” It’s not so easy to tell them how to actually get downtown without taking several buses. And what do they do with their children while they are gone? The scenarios go on and on. Answers are not so simple.

I’m not sure how we are going to be able to help, but both Brigitte and I want to help in whatever we can. It doesn’t fit in exactly with our “mission” with grief group and patient advocacy education. But it does fit in with where our hearts are at- treating people with dignity and respect. Helping people outside of yourself when you are able to.

So thanks to those people who are working tirelessly to make this happen. Thanks for the inspiration. The needs are many and the possibilities are endless for ways people can help. If you are interested, please let me know and I will get you in touch with them. To quote from Bitter and Sweet, “THERE IS MUCH GOOD IN THE WORLD, MUCH, MUCH, MUCH.”


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Things Are Changing

There’s been a new feeling in the air. In spite of the rain and wind, there is warmth in the air. In spite of how dark it is when you first wake up, there is light peeking through. I think it’s change. And for a change, the change is positive. The change is happier than usual.

I have a teenage client I’ve been working with. She has formed her identity around being angst-filled and not liking people. Sometimes she has glimpses of a different life. I keep challenging her to stop defining herself as unhappy and depressed. What would happen if she allowed herself to feel connected? What if she wallowed in that and opened up her heart? As crazy as it might sound, I think it’s frightening to her. Even though she would rather be happy (of course), it would be unfamiliar to her. She knows sadness and loneliness. She understands it.

I think I can relate to her. I am the lonely widow. I am accident-prone. I am the one who has unlucky, bizarre things happen to her. I am the one that love seems to pass over. If there is a difficult way to achieve something in life, I will find that way.

But what if I re-defined myself? What if all that is changing? What if those people close to my heart were able to smile and say things like “I’m so happy for you” or “I’m so glad things are working out”? I am actually having fun catching up with people and watching their surprised (but happy) expressions when I tell them things are going well.

I’ve been doing the usual speaking engagements, but it seems like I am lecturing more than ever for some reason. I’ve been changing up my speeches a little, winging it a little more which leads to shooting from the hip. But it also leads to my talking more just from my heart. I am walking out more energized and inspired. I talked to a philosophy class this week at a college and it was one of the best ever. They were actually required to read my book so I can’t tell you the rush I felt when I walked in the room and saw my book on some of their desks. And these men and women challenged me. They asked me questions no one has ever asked me. Some of their questions stopped me in my tracks. But I loved it!

I got an email this week from another college looking for me to lecture. The big thing about that, was they sought me out. It wasn’t Brigitte or I following up week after week trying to get our foot in the door. They sought us. That is a rush too.

I got another email this week from a college asking if I would be interested in teaching at their school. I know that is not entirely uncommon, and I hear that it is often a way for them to get cheap labor. But I don’t care. Teaching has never entered my mind and I was completely surprised and flattered to be asked. How cool is that?

Let a little love in your heart. I know it’s scary. I know it’s vulnerable. I know there are no guarantees that you won’t get hurt in the end. But try anyway. It’s an amazing feeling to be alive again.