Have you ever felt trapped?  I don’t know that others would describe grief that way, but for me, it’s like being in a ‘Funhouse from Hell’.  In fact, life, in its entirety feels like a series of mazes.  When I come to what feels like the end of one maze, another is placed before me.  I’m not closterphobic, but I do like to have a plan laid out before me.  I like to believe there is an exit, an honest to goodness exit, one in which I can freely walk out of, one that leads me back to “my normal life”.  

I seriously believed life would return to some version of “normal” when I no longer had to watch my son, and the rest of my family, suffer the effects of cancer.  I imagined I would go back to all the things I did before cancer. (Picture an evil laughing clown here, jumping out from around the corner…. “Gotcha… you were dead wrong!  HAHAHA!  You’ve just entered a new section of the maze… WELCOME TO GRIEF… oh, and by the way, just for your added entertainment we have upgraded this experience to include a freaking virus that will shut down the world and a few earthquakes… just to shake things up… HAHAHA!!” ) 

In the past few years I KNOW I have been blessed to learn some skills that explain and assist in dealing with trauma, grief, anxiety, loss, depression, etc.   I felt like for the first time in my life “I got it”.  I understood life and I had learned how to get through really hard things.  I even started a blog called, “Embracing Adversity”, in an attempt to share what I had learned.  

I’m not exactly sure what happened when Riley died, but the easiest way to sum it all up with just a few words is, “Shit hit the fan”.  

I was doing so well, I was inspired and able to share a message from God and Riley at his funeral, I started back to work, to teaching, and even began organizing and updating our home.  

I was doing my best to work through the different ways that each family member handles grief and trying my best to stand up, brush myself off, and carry on as Riley would want me to….. but then…. One too many pieces of straw got added to the load on my back, I was told to socially distance myself, I got sick, …again,  the economy crashed, the earth shook, my upper lip scabbed over with treatment for skin cancer, I got rear-ended (in a very minor fender bender, but it felt huge)….. and. I. lost. it….. I somehow forgot everything I had learned.  Where my motto used to be, “feel it and choose to stay”, I wanted to put Forrest Gump to shame and RUN JACKIE RUN.  I want to shoot my gun… I really want to line up a bunch of glasses, vases, cans, whatever and just shoot and shoot and shoot until I either have no ammo left, or no more tears.  I want to scream, I want to have someone to blame, I want to give all the hurt I feel to someone and push them off a cliff.  

A friend suggested I go back and re-read all 61 of my blog posts.  Three sentences into blog post number one I realized that whoever wrote that post was WAY TO HAPPY AND WAY TO POSITIVE.   The truth is… I was introduced to ME, the person I am when I don’t feel like I’m getting buried alive.  Don’t get me wrong… I wrote some awesome blog posts… but for the love… did I have to be so happy and hopeful all the time?  I remember feeling that way.  I remember when I had the energy to get back up, over and over and over…. very resiliently, with a spring in my step…. and isn’t that what people want to read about anyway?  Positivity?  Hope? Bravery? Courage?  Well…. Not today folks.  

If you know me, you know you’re always going to get the real deal, and today I’m exploring a different version of bravery and courage.  Today bravery means opening my eyes when I realize I’m awake and that what I’m experiencing isn’t actually a nightmare, it means getting up each day and going for a walk, maybe.  Courage means when my eyes see something that reminds me of Riley or what my family felt like before he went home, and my heart starts pounding as a lump swells in my throat, that I allow the tears to come rather than shoving that pain back down into the bottomless cavern of grief, I have to endure the suffering and FEEL IT… AND CHOOSE TO STAY. 

I’ve been wondering today,… is there a certain amount of pain assigned to each experience of adversity that gets permanently removed in the form of tears … and once I empty the barrel that’s it?  The hurting is over?  Or does the heart continue to produce more hurt.  

Who knows….

I think this is the part of the blog where I’m supposed to offer some answers, solutions, something positive…  Hmmmm…. Lets see. 

I know that everything passes, whether we want it to or not.  I know if I try to outrun the pain, it will catch up to me and stay with me longer, vs me facing into the pain, feeling it, and allowing it to pass through me…. I just need the bravery and the courage to “choose to stay”.  Choosing to run probably takes more energy anyway.  I ran away to Bear Lake two days ago and guess what…. There are just as many memories here that draw pain from my body…. and while those memories felt like joy going in, they feel like a knife cutting straight through my heart coming out.

I think the only lessons I can really apply right now are some things that were especially hard for me to learn in the first place.

  1. Be patient with yourself 
  2. Listen to what your body is telling you and respect it
  3. Be nice to Jackie
  4. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks
  5. Take note of every blessing and ponder in gratitude, offering thanks to God
  6. Remember it’s okay to have bad days but choose today, that tomorrow is going to be better and remember… it’s a choice
  7. Never doubt yourself

And last but not least….

Wear waterproof mascara!