Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Rock Garden...

Memorial Day weekend was spent working in my yard. All weekend. And I’m not complaining one bit, because I was in my “happy place”, my “woodshed”. Spreading bark, moving perennials, planting flowers and pulling weeds isn’t really work for me. Not in the physical sense anyway. The work I do in my yard , is the emotional work needed to tend to my heart. When the kids were little, it was a great way for me to find some time alone. Funny how everyone scurries when there is yard work involved.

I spent a lot of time talking with God, with Jillian, and my Dad this weekend. We were talking about past Memorial Day weekends.  I can remember all four kids jammed into my Ford Explorer, along with the dog and cat and whatever stray animal we may have had that summer. Could have been the bunny, or the Robin. Each entity was fighting for space between pots after pots of Hosta plants, as we drove the hour and a half up North to our cottage. It wouldn’t be unusual for me to be driving down M-37 and have the cat land on my lap. The kids wanted to hold her during the drive, but all bets were off when Cleo started heaving.  I’d hear her retching, and brace myself for the landing as she sailed over the seat to my lap. I’d pull over, clean myself off, and we’d continue on our way. I got smart after the first incident, and drove with a towel on my lap. 

It was like this every weekend. Pack up, run to the greenhouse, drive, heaving cat, drive. The kids couldn’t wait to play in the lake, I couldn’t wait to play in my yard.

I look back on those magical Memorial Day weekends at the cottage, and it almost feels like those memories happened to someone else. And they did, because I am not the same person. My children are not the same people. Our family is not the same family, where we were once innocent and unaware.

As I’m chatting away with my Trio this weekend, random thoughts zip through my brain and it happens so fast, I can’t keep them all straight. It usually takes a day or two before the seeds of thought begin to grow where I can recognize what I’m supposed to take away from these exchanges.

The weeds in my back yard were plentiful. As I’m  pulling them out , I’m noticing how much harder they are to pull out of the stone, rather than the bark. Okay, I get that one. My faith is the rock and that rock will help me weather the tough times. The Rock keeps me grounded as I blindly weave through this new path I’ve found myself on.  

After I wrote the last few paragraphs last night, the words just stopped. I’ve had this before when the words wouldn’t flow, when I’m stuck. I shut off my computer and went to bed, praying that whatever it was God wanted to teach me would come to me in the morning.

I’ve been reading about grief and stress.

I’ve found that the following life events are the top stressors.

  • Death of a family member
  • Terminal illness (one's own or a family member)
Physical incapacitation, chronic pain, or chronic illness
Drug or alcohol abuse (self)
Drug or alcohol abuse (family member, partner)
  • Divorce
Loss of job or job change
  • Moving house
Change of school (primarily for children or teens, but this can effect adults, too)

Grief: The loss of a child is generally considered the worst possible grief, making it one of the leading causes of prolonged grief. In the natural order of life, children are supposed to outlive their parents.
"The death of a child is like no other, "says clinical social worker and grief counselor at the Children's Hospital and Clinics, Minneapolis, Minn., Theresa Huntley, in her book "When Your Child Dies".
Your life has been irrevocably changed. Life is different. You are different". 

Parents universally say that when their child dies, a part of them dies. A child is a symbol of the future and losing that child represents a loss of hopes and dreams. While the experience of pain and loss is universal, transcending culture and class, the grieving process is still a very individual and personal experience. There is no right or wrong way, nor is there a timeframe. It is a lifelong process that involves absorbing the death and memories of the deceased into a new life.

 For the many who are dealing with stressors and grief, have patience with where you are in your grieving process and don’t expect anything from yourself. Forget preconceived notions about what grief should look like or how long it should last.

So how does all this fit into where I am today? I’m dealing with several of the top stressors, and I’ve lost my child. For the most part, I’m doing okay. There are days when Jillian sneaks up on me and punches me in the heart. It can come out of nowhere. I’ll be looking at a photo of her on my desk and I’m sucked into the darkness with the knowledge that this beautiful, vibrant, courageous, young person is no longer here on this Earth. Just gone. It’s hard for me to wrap my arms around that fact. I know she is in Heaven, I know she is with my Dad. But do I feel that? Sometimes I do, some days it just feels empty.

I am tying that empty feeling to the weeds in my garden. Even though I’m rooted in the Rock, the weeds can still be pulled out sometimes. I’m a crabby mama bear slipping into the habit of doing things on my own. I should know better.
I’m thankful for the conversations I had this past weekend with my Trio, and the opportunity to tend to my garden. Next time I’ll be armed with Round Up and landscape fabric.

~ Peace


  1. Sue, may I call you Teacher? As I read this beautiful post,my mind kept thinking..She is our Teacher,like Jesus was The Teacher.
    I hate the pain you are forced to bear. I hate cancer. I hate a death that comes too soon and steals loved ones, and changes lives without asking. How dare cancer hurt people like this.
    So many people are looking to you for guidance and strength. And that means that you teach us to go on, but that going on includes sadness,fear, anger too, acknowledging all the emotions and facing them head on. That is strength and courage. That is grieving.

    1. Thank you, my friend for the words of encouragement. Going on is exactly what Jillian would want us to do. I'm not about to let her down now. Love you!