I've posted about this before, and everyone knows that it is true; grief comes in waves. Lately, I have been in that stage of transitioning back to normal. Or rather, finding a new normal.
Even though my dad and I didn't see each other as often as I would have liked, there was still that peace of knowing he was there, and that there was still time for more. I find myself grieving more of what wasn't than what was. I miss him so much.
I have been getting by okay...as best as I can, and I feel confident of that.
I recently saw my therapist, and she gave me a piece of paper with strategies on how to deal with grief. I was pleased to find that I have been doing everything that was listed.
Then as I was going through my own Instagram account last night, I was looking at photos I have posted recently - everything symbolic of my healing process. From there, I started thinking about how I have been dealing with my grief, and thought I would pass along the information to all of you. :) God has been so good and strong in my life.
Spend quality time with people who love and inspire you.
It has been so healing to be around people who love and inspire me. People who I can be myself around and share my faith, grief, and heart with. People who accept me and also challenge me in a good way. It just makes me come alive and want to strive for more.
I have been enjoying spending time with my good friends Jon and Charlotte, and their daughter Liza. Every week I sit with them at church, and we worship the Lord together. They are preparing to embark on a trip to the Middle East come summer, and their faith and passion inspire me so much. Time with them always feels good for my soul.
My mentor, Leslie, has also been a huge blessing during this time. She has been a big part of my life for almost 6 years now. She has seen me through so much. Many dark times, but also many moments of joy and triumph. She has been constant in prayer for my life, guiding me when I need it most. She lives on a farm in Ortonville and is currently caring for her 2 foster daughters, who are 9 months old and 2 and a half. So much love from and for them.
Then there is my boyfriend, Jared. Every day I am so inspired by his work ethic and passion for life. He gets things done and always finds joy in the process. He makes me feel included and loved. The beautiful thing is that he seems to love me without making it feel or seem like "work" for him. He just does it. Always taking care of me in big ways and small...even when we were both sick this weekend (thanks for the Pedialyte, babe!).
I also find myself calling my mom way more often than before (which was still often). But it has been important for my healing to stay connected to her. She is always there to answer any call, even when I don't even have anything to say.
I could go on and on about all the love from family and friends, but I will stop there for now. :)
Take care of your body and get that workout in!
When you are grieving, it can seem almost impossible to want to make the effort to take care of yourself. For me though, it has been quite the opposite.
I started to find a passion for living a more active and healthy lifestyle around the summer of 2014 through boxing and yoga. Then last winter (almost a year ago to be exact) I found a workout program (BBG/Sweat with Kayla circuit training + cardio) that worked for my schedule and also challenged me mentally and physically (I will most likely write a post about this at a later date).
But oh man! Whether it is just 15 minutes or an hour, it has been so good to get that blood flowing and my muscles moving. It's amazing to me that I can simultaneously release stress and toxins while also getting physically stronger in the process. Whaaat?!
Seriously, even if you feel short on time, get that workout in! You will feel so much better when you do and won't regret it.
I also received my yoga instructor certification last year - my goal is to begin to hosting classes soon, so stay tuned!
Find healthy ways to process your grief.
For me, seeing my therapist when I need to and also starting this blog have been HUGE!
Whether it is blogging, journaling, or sharing your journey with someone you look up to, it is so important to share your pain...whatever that may look like. Otherwise it can just sit and fester. It will eventually come out one way or another.
You also don't want to be in denial of your grief and just not deal with it at all. Because guess what? IT IS STILL THERE. Let it in. Feel it. Let it out. Repeat.
I know it can sometimes be scary to reach out to somebody, let alone a therapist, but it will do wonders for your soul and healing process. If you need encouragement in that area, don't hesitate to reach out to me!
Get plugged in to your faith.
I have always, in some way, felt the Holy Spirit on my heart. The peace in the storm. The light in the darkness.
After going to a megachurch and a community church, I finally found rest in a little charismatic episcopal church called Holy Redeemer. I didn't know what an asset this church would be to my spiritual growth and healing process when I first began attending last year. I never could have foreseen that my dad's funeral service would be held there, leaving standing room only.
But to know I am not alone in my struggles and that there is a greater purpose to life, even and especially in human suffering, has brought me a peace that I can't even describe. To know that there is one Who is fighting for our souls and that my dad's soul is at rest brings me a peace I can't describe. The thought that I will be reunited with my dad in Heaven and that he will be healed also brings me a peace that I can't describe.
You are not alone in your suffering. And even if you were the last person on earth, you still would not be alone in your suffering.
"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7
Unwind/Spend quality alone time.
After a long day of work, I love nothing more than 1 of 2 options: drinking that hot cup of coffee and relaxing...or cleaning!
Unwinding looks different for everybody. Some days, it feels absolutely right to throw on that pair of sweat pants and fuzzy socks and curl up on the couch with a fluffy blanket, coffee, and Netflix. And that is okay!
Other days, it feels amazing to throw on yoga pants and a sports bra and clean the house. That is okay too! Whatever you need to do to unwind is okay! It is healthy as you grieve to do things that make you feel productive. It is also just as healthy (at times) to sit and do nothing. It is all about balance. :)
The important thing is to make sure that you are taking steps in your life to move forward. Grief is hard, but you don't want to sit in it forever. It is good to reflect on the past, but you don't want to stay there and miss out on the amazing things ahead of you. Life is calling you forward, and God wants you to heal.
Even if you aren't struggling with or through grief, these are all healthy and important things to do anyway.
If you need any encouragement or tips on dealing with grief, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. You are not alone. Xo.
"Maybe my story will also be one not only of redemption and healing, but that we don't always need to have the answers. Jesus is enough." - 5/21/15
During the spring of 2009, I spent 5 days down in Detroit doing mission work. I spent those 5 days sleeping in the basement of a church and working closely with a group of college students. We went through different neighborhoods, went to a therapy session to spend time with recovering addicts, and spent an entire day or 2 clearing out the inside of a house in Hamtramck that had been burned down.
That house had been purchased with the hope of being remodeled and restored to house women who taught ESL (English as a Second Language) to the women of the Muslim community in Hamtramck.
The last few hours we spent working on the house, the owners stopped by and asked if anyone was interested in teaching ESL that summer. Completely covered in ash and soot, I said, "yes."
Deep down, I didn't want to. But I knew I had to and that it would be good for me to be immersed in a culture totally different from my own.
So a few months later, there I stood, in the upper flat of a Hamtramck home, surrounded by women completely covered in black from head to toe, only speaking Arabic.
I had also dressed extremely modestly to be respectful of their culture and show them that I too was submitted to God.
I was so nervous my first day, but then it eventually came naturally to me. Teaching. I had finally found my passion through the unlikeliest of experiences.
During the fall of 2009, I taught math and science to the women who more advanced in their English and looking to obtain their GED. It was then that I got a vision that I wanted to fix up the school.
So I acted on that vision. Pulled the funds and people together. And spent 2 days working to fix up this school that I felt so passionately about. We worked on that place from top to bottom, putting in new light fixtures, a ceiling fan, painting the walls, replacing tiles. Cleaning...you name it, we did it. I was so proud. I was only 19 at that time.
Because of all my work in Hamtramck with the Muslim community that year, I was invited to be 1 of 5 leaders on an upcoming trip to the Mideast in June of 2010.
Jersualem, Israel. The place I arrived broken and left whole. The place that began to give my life more meaning...opening my eyes to the bigger picture. The Bible coming to life.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I was in so much pain at this point in my life. I struggled to see any hope for my current situation. I was grieving the loss of my childhood family. I was struggling to accept another divorce in my life. It was so hard not having control over so much in my life. It was hard giving up the control that I thought I had.
I arrived in Israel at the Tel Aviv airport on June 19th, 2010. I was no more than 100 pounds. I was anxious and depressed. I was angry and confused. I was wanting desperately to create space in my heart to do some soul searching, but my heart was cluttered by all the pain I was experiencing. I didn't even know where to start. But I knew I wanted to be healed.
I journaled a lot on this trip from the rooftop of the hostel I stayed at in Jerusalem, just outside the walls of Old Jerusalem.
I came looking for answers. Would I get them? How would God work in my life?
At every prayer site we went to, which were many, I would pray for healing for my family. Would it come?
The turning point on that trip for me came when I worked up the courage to share my story with the other leaders on that trip. Up until that point, I had kept my pain to myself. It was such a personal thing that I was struggling with, that it made me nervous to even think to invite anyone else into my pain.
We took a bus that night to the top of the Mount of Olives. We sat on stone benches that overlooked Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock, the city walls...it was so surreal.
We all shared stories about where we were at in our faith. I waited to go last.
When it was my turn to share, I told them that I was honestly struggling and struggling to see any hope. I shared what had been going on at home with my mom and stepdad. I shared my grief, and I asked for prayers. I told them that I felt it on my heart that God wanted me to draw close to Him and to get to know Him through this season. I don't know why, but that is what I felt in that moment. And it felt right.
In sharing my pain, it helped alleviate some of the weight I had been experiencing. I wasn't alone. And the people who had made the long journey overseas with me were reflections of God's desire for me to draw in community with people during this time.
After I shared, the group prayed over me. I cried. Then one of the leaders started to play his guitar. We sang songs of worship to God while overlooking the Holy City. The city lighting up the nighttime sky.
It was possible to praise God while grieving? That was an idea that was totally foreign to me up until this point. But what would ultimately bring me peace in the storm.
I made a deal with myself that night at the Mount of Olives that I would stop regularly taking things at night to help me sleep. And that instead I would read my Bible more. If all else, I knew I wanted that much...to draw close to God. That was what He was asking of me. And I was ready to listen.
I came to Jerusalem hoping for a solution for my pain. Hoping for answers. Hoping for a miracle.
Did that miracle come? Did I get the answers I was looking for?
The answer is yes. What I found on that trip was God putting on my heart the truth that He is enough. Not only was He enough for me then, but that He would be enough for my future too. A lesson I wouldn't fully grasp until my dad got sick, 6 years later.
Yes, my biological parents had divorced, and I have no memories of them together. Yes, I had a dad who was wounded my whole life and needed help. And yes, my healthy parents that gave me a stable family did end up divorcing too.
But from June 2010 on, I learned to cling to the hope that through the brokenness in my life, that I served a God who was a provider of all things Good. A God who restores and makes all things new.
I learned that even though I could not control my circumstances and the hurt that surrounded me, I could control my heart and the direction that I wanted my life to go in.
I wanted to live a life of praise for the One thing who was unchanging before time and Who would continue to be for the rest of my life and for eternity. The One who would be unchanging through tough breakups, challenging therapy sessions, job rejections...and the One who stood unchanging when I got the phone call from my dad the he had terminal cancer.
Through the heartache and grief, there is and will always be more. I even want to believe that there is a purpose for my pain. Although God didn't create all the trials in my life, I do believe that He is using them to give me the courage to write and give people hope that there is One who heals.
He continues to pour is His Grace abundantly over my life. And I can promise that He is doing the same for you.
The first song we sang at the Mount of Olives - How He Loves by Crowder
From the beginning of time to the end of the time, the Creator of the Universe moves. He was when there was nothing, and He will be when there is nothing. The Alpha and the Omega. A God of Love. A God of Grace. A God who loves creation and everyone and everything in it. All things a reflection of His infinite and incomprehensible Glory. Each living thing representing a piece of Him.
I was asked some challenging questions the other night...about God. About creation. There being an ultimate purpose to life. How I know that there is. And it got me thinking...how do I know? How can I verbally express something that I not only feel, but have always felt? That feeling of knowing even in moments when I felt most alone, that I really wasn't alone. That even if I was all by myself with an aching heart, that there was something and someone so much greater than me always present. Always close. Always listening.
Sadly though, I didn't always trust that "voice" when I heard it. That peace that not only would things be okay, but that I was okay and served a God who was working things out and had a plan for my life. It was how He picked me up when I was down that I felt that redemption and grace over my life. As time went on, He continued to give me more and more reasons to trust Him.
I made the decision at 18, in the summer of 2008, that I wanted to get re-baptized as an adult through my church at the time, Kensington. It was a beautiful evening of brightly painted skies at Stony Creek Park. I had found a deeper faith, and I was ready to take that plunge to continue serving a life of faithfulness to our Lord.
And less than a month later, at the start of my freshman year of college, I dove head first into the beginning of the darkest season of my life. I had known many heartbreaks from my earliest memories, growing up with divorced parents and a dad who needed help. But the thing that tore me apart the most (at that point in my life) was the divorce between my mom and stepdad that began when I was 18.
I had a happy childhood with my mom and Todd (my stepdad). We took family vacations every year. I had a brother and a sister. A dad who worked full time, who came home to delicious home cooked meals every evening prepared by mom. We always hung out as a family after dinner. We played games. We watched movies. Every Friday or Saturday we did our chores. Life with my mom and stepdad was normal. And growing up, it had become my saving grace, unbeknownst to me.
And then after 14 years of marriage, they decided it was time to part ways.
My brain could not mentally process or accept this. My stable family and safe place was no longer stable and safe? What?
Growing up going back and forth between my mom's and dad's homes was my normal. It was all I had ever known. I accepted that my parents weren't and would never be together. As I got older, new challenges arose with my dad, and I began to find more and more peace in the stability that living with my mom and Todd had brought. Even though my biological parents were divorced, I imagined myself years down the road, bringing my kids over to my mom and Todd's house. I wanted my future children to be able to experience a taste of the happy parts of my childhood. I was looking forward to normal things, like family holidays together. I had even imagined what it would be like to combine family functions and have my dad Kevin and his family take part in things with my mom and Todd.
But then to lose another family unit was more than my 18/19 year old brain could comprehend.
I grieved a lot. I grieved not only the loss of the marriage between my mom and Todd, but the loss of my childhood family that I loved so much, and the loss of dreams and what I had hoped would come down the road. I just couldn't accept it. My life took a downward spiral as I struggled to cope with the loss.
To gain some control in my life, I began to work out excessively and cut my calorie intake to less than 1,000 calories/day. I couldn't control the loss of my childhood family, but I could control how I took (or didn't take) care of my body. I lost 20 pounds in just a few months. Which was a lot for me, especially considering my normal weight was around 115-120 lbs. It got to the point where the only clothes that fit me were dresses.
Also during this time, I experienced extreme anxiety and found myself struggling to fall asleep almost every night. My thoughts would race and race all night. Most nights I would end up crying myself to sleep. I was absolutely devastated and heartbroken. I felt so alone.
I knew that God was there. But I was angry. I was so confused. How would this happen?? How could this happen? I felt the spark going out inside me.
I began taking pills every night to help me fall asleep. I basically took whatever I could find and in varying quantities. Benadryl. Motrin. Migraine medication. Anxiety medication. I even began misusing Vicodin when I had been given a prescription when I had my wisdom teeth extracted. I just wanted something to take the pain away.
I basically turned to everything but God during this time. God obviously had no control over my life. But I did. Or so I thought.
I guess His timing was interesting, because although I was at the absolute lowest point in my life to date, I was also getting ready to make a trip overseas to Israel. The Holy Land. The trip that changed my life and brought me out of the sea I was drowning in.
(To he continued...)