Joy In Mourning

Grief is a strange and hard process for me. I’m guessing it’s not really easy for most people. Society sends us messages all the time to be strong, let it go, get over it and be tough, which make stopping to care for our hearts and minds feel like weakness. Grief is painful and for the most part, we understandably try to avoid pain. Many people never engage their stories and traumas from life because it hurts. We have a tendency to say, “hey look, I get up every morning and I function just fine, why go back and stir stuff up?” Again, totally understandable and yet, the going back and engaging the darker parts of our stories helps us create a healthier present self.

When my mom died, I moved into full on survival mode. It should have been a sign that something was wrong that I never went into a depression and I seemed to just keep moving right along. My mom lived with me and took care of the household so a little falling apart would have been OK. Addiction was a great facilitator for creating what seemed like a life put together. A few comments made to me by folks of, ” Well, it’s about time for you to be an adult and live without your mom”, just cemented for me that asking for help was not something I could do safely. So I didn’t enter my pain, I shut it down.

When we have trauma and we don’t address it, it doesn’t just go away. Our hearts and minds get bruised and bashed and their is a healing process that needs to be walked through, but we tend to stop when we get to the deep pain which is the mourning. Mourning is a necessary and critical step in healing because grief is what helps us figure out our new reality and process the new landscape in our lives. We never “get over” anything because trauma reshapes us each time it happens. We are forever changed by trauma, and we are forever changed by grieving the trauma.

A couple days ago I engaged the mourning that had been waiting for me around the death of my mom 9 years ago. I had been pushing grief out of the way and living in various degrees of anger and denial. You have to move through anger and denial as part of the grieving process, I had just lingered longer than I needed to. It was much easier and way less painful to be angry or irritated with my mom and the negative things about our lives together. I was giving power to unengaged trauma and it was keeping me from fully healing. Without walking through the sadness of loss, you aren’t fully healed. I had seen the pain and sadness and looked the other way several times. On this particular morning, I accepted the invitation to enter the pain.

I woke up crying. Two nights before I had a dream where my mom showed up, gave me flowers and we had a long hug. Up to that point, any dream with her in it had me yelling at her. This was peaceful and lovely. The feelings of love for my mom lingered and by Saturday, I couldn’t stop the floodgates. I suppose I could have stuffed the emotions down and not engaged but here’s the deal, I was tired of the trauma having control. I wanted to just face the pain and walk through to peace. God was with me and He knew I needed the healing so I put my faith into action.

I went to the park where I had released my mom’s ashes a few years earlier. It’s on a small beach and has a lovely view of the lake. I flattened out my blanket, turned on my praise music and I just sat. I cried, I laughed, I praised and most of all, I made peace with the pain. For the first time in the 9 years since her death, I let myself miss my mom. And then something strange happened…I played.

Now, I love to laugh and have fun but playing isn’t something I do a lot of. I’m not one to goof around. On this morning though, I was drawn to the water. It was a warm and sunny summer morning, so I rolled my jeans up a little and stepped in just ankle deep. I kicked the water around, watched the ripples and enjoyed the refreshing feeling. Then I did what I have never done before…I went deeper. Before I knew it, I was thigh deep in the lake, in my jeans, throwing water around and getting soaked! I was splashing and laughing and playing. Best of all, I was healing. God had truly turned my mourning into dancing, loosed the pain and gave me gladness. What a feeling!!

God wants to do the same for you. If you are carrying the weight of unengaged trauma, would you be willing to pray and ask God to show you how to move through the pain into peace? It’s scary because pain is an unknown. We all process differently and your pain in healing may last longer than mine. However, life on the other side of pain is joy, dancing and gladness, and God wants all of that for you. He will walk with you through your grief but He won’t push you to walk through. It’s your choice. 

Don’t let trauma have a hold on your life. Engage it. Meet it head on and bless it so that you can be free. Message me if you need a prayer partner.

Shalom,

KA

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Finally Grieving

My mom died almost 9 years ago and this morning, I am finally grieving the loss of my best friend ever. For 40 years we were always close, even if we lived in different states. I never had to worry about a thing because I knew my mom would be there. Now she’s gone and I’m feeling the pain.

Now, let’s not elevate this relationship as better than it was. My mom was tragically traumatized as a child and she was wounded. She knew she was wounded and, she would admit she didn’t want to process the trauma. Her “treatment” was Prozac and cheap wine and she was OK with that plan. I was never my mom’s daughter, always her best friend. I was her confidant, roommate and drinking buddy from age 13 and on. Before that, I was her constant companion and mini-me. In both roles, I was in over my head and it wasn’t healthy. She always called me her “perfect child” and told me that no one loved me like she did. No one wanted me and adored me like she did. I believed her always and felt the weight of her needing me, and I needing her.

My mom left my life suddenly. It was a Wednesday night and we were having dinner just like every other night, her, me and my daughter. My mom had retired early to be my daughter’s primary caregiver, I worked and we all lived happily. After dinner that night I went up stairs for about 10 minutes and when I came back down, an aneurysm in her brain left her alive but non-responsive. She went into a coma the next day and passed away 5 days later. 

At the time, the shock was so thick I could barely move. My only concern was for my daughter and making sure she navigated well. She was 7 years old and my mom was truly like another parent for her. I made sure all of her teachers knew what happened and made sure that she was seeing the school counselor. 

I made sure for myself that I drank enough alcohol to keep the feelings at bay. I had been drinking since I was 13, I was 40 at the time so I was a pro. In one moment I went from having a live-in nanny and house manager to no one. My mom managed everything so I was lost without her. Alcohol became so much more important, and it was what kept me from processing. 

Fast forward several years and I found myself 3 years sober, in a much healthier state and in a class to get my trauma counseling certification. It was there that the facade started cracking and I had to face the anger over my life with my mom. I didn’t get to have a normal or even pleasant childhood. I got to be part of an alcoholic and violent step family, moving every couple of years and too much emotional weight for a kid. In my classes and therapy groups, I had to start facing that everything wasn’t alright and that I did have trauma to process. So I started a slow journey, weeding through the muck and mire of being my mother’s daughter.

Fast forward almost 3 years from that and we come to this morning. I’m 48 now and finally crying over the death of my best friend, my mom. In the almost 9 years since she’s been gone, I have never shed a tear of sadness. I’ve rarely ever thought that I even missed her. In the past couple weeks God has led me to processing the anger out so that what’s left is the pain and heartache. It’s good to be here, but it hurts.

My mom was beautiful and funny. She had a smile that could light a city and a laugh that could incite a riot. She was the life of every party I ever saw her at. Her name was Barbara and she was truly the Queen B. She loved me more than any other person she ever loved and I never doubted that for one split second of my life. She was always available, day or night, even when we didn’t live together. She was what my life was built on and while that is too much for any one human, that was how she wanted it. 

I miss my mom. Truly, for the first time ever, I miss my mom. I’m so thankful she’s in heaven and not in anymore pain. I’m so thankful that God is bringing healing to my life and helping me process it all. He is an amazingly good God and I love Him more than I loved my mom.

Processing grief is hard and, God is faithful to heal our broken hearts. 

Shalom,

KA

Plans and Dreams

I’ve been in love with New York City for as long as I can remember. No joke, easily over 40 years and I’ve never even been there. My favorite movies take place there and my heart pretends I’m the lead character. My favorite songwriters are from there and I imagine sitting on a stoop with them singing. I dream of a day when I will walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, sit silently in Strawberry Fields or take in the energy of Times Square. All of it makes me a kind of homesick just because I truly love it. 

I believe part of God’s plan for my life is to live there. I think God gives us dreams that help us catch a glimpse of His plan. I just don’t understand the timing. I’m almost 50 years old and I’m sure I could have pulled off a visit there by now, but the timing has never worked out. It hasn’t been part of God’s plan yet.

My daughter gets to go there this summer. I am so thrilled for her and yet, there is a part of me that feels pain at watching God’s plan unfold for her that is so intimately connected to my own dream. Why don’t I get to go? When is it my turn? Ah yes, enter the voice of the monster envy. 

Here’s what I’m learning about God’s plan…God’s timing is part of His plan. I don’t have any comprehension of His timing and honestly, I don’t think I ever will. Not knowing when helps to keep me dependent on Him and trusting in His perfect will for me, which is nothing but love. It’s hard to wait, to watch someone else get to do what you want, to feel sidelined and, to believe that you are equally loved by a Father who has a perfect plan and perfect timing.

I know my dream of living in New York is coming. I also know that someday I’ll understand the timing of it all. Right now, I need to keep dreaming, keep pursuing what God has planted and be faithful. I get the honor of watching my daughter’s dream come true this summer and that’s crazy beautiful! And I love how God is weaving our stories together and also apart. What I mean by that is, I see the designs are in the same peice of art and, they are different designs, different colors…different plans.

What are you dreaming about? Are you trusting in God’s perfect plan and perfect timing! My invitation to you is to not give up your dream because it feels too hard or feels too big. I believe fully that dreams are the seeds that when planted in our hearts by God, bloom into the beautiful plan of God for our lives.

Shalom,

KA

Time for Something New

It’s time to hit reset. Time to allow God to stir and make pathways and rivers so that dreams may flourish. Today I’m declaring reset and speaking “new” over my life and my dreams.

Here’s the deal, I work hard when I know for certain what the outcome will be, when I’m in my comfort zone. When things get uncomfortable or uncertain, my response is to freeze up and sit down. I think of all of the amazing possibilities if I did what I need to do and then, I keep sitting because possibilities of success also have possibilities of failure. If I get lazy, if I don’t move into the direction of my dreams, I can’t really try and fail. I fail in secret because I never try. This is a rut devised by darkness and today is the day of Light!

I’ve been reading through old journals this weekend. I’ve been dreaming and praying about being a full time author and speaker for 5 years. FIVE YEARS!! I am nowhere near where I need to be and now I find myself in the wilderness and desert needing God to provide and path and a river. These dreams are from God, I’m as sure of it as I am sure of my name. God isn’t going to just hand these dreams to me without my engagement. I’ve been living in this space of comfort and “someday” and I am not being a good steward of the gifts God has given me. 

How about you? Are you trusting God and working to make your dreams reality? Or, are you sitting on the side and waiting. Waiting for a someday that will never come and yet, is always here because today is the someday. God plants dreams and abilities in our hearts and minds and they are gifts, gifts we need to use and enjoy! When we don’t, it’s like receiving a beautifully wrapped package and never opening it. What a waste.

Will you join me? Will you allow God to do something new, clear a way, bring a river and move through you? It’s scary, I’m terrified! I might fail and, I might not. And honestly, with God on my side my failure is not moving forward. With that in mind, I can only succeed now!!

What’s the dream you’ve been too scared to step into? Let’s partner and pray and move together.

Shalom,

KA