Ten years ago today, my daughter died

Grief Diaries

Ten years ago today, my life changed in unimaginable ways. My daughter Aly died and life as I knew it ended.

Confused, shocked, and helpless, I was engulfed by a firestorm of indescribable pain.

Every breath was pure agony. It underscored the saying, “hell on earth.”

I was 43 years old, sitting in the belly of hell from which there was no escape.

I didn’t think I could survive.

What I didn’t know then that I know now is that the belly of hell is actually life’s greatest classroom. While in there, I discovered valuable lessons I wouldn’t have learned any other way.

While in the belly of hell, I discovered others who were there for the same reason. I wasn’t alone, and there’s comfort in numbers.

While in the belly of hell, I learned that many lacked the support I was blessed with.

I learned that this lack of support can make the difference between surviving and thriving.

There in the belly of hell, I learned that I could be part of the difference.

When I learned how, I discovered that it helped my own heart to heal.

While in the belly of hell, English became my second language, and Grief became my first.

I learned that speaking Grief made me unique on the outside. It set me apart in ways I didn’t like. Yet, when I learned to use it to help others, it became something I loved.

The belly of hell afforded many more lessons that not only taught me about myself, they actually molded me into an improved version of who I once was.

I’m no longer afraid of trying. I’m no longer afraid dying.

I’m also no longer afraid of living and giving.

I am no longer afraid to laugh, to love, and to embrace hurting strangers.

Perhaps the most important lesson my daughter’s death taught me is that the language of grief is also the language of love. And when we teach the language of grief, we’re also teaching the language of love.

Ten years ago today my daughter died and I found myself in the belly of hell.

What I didn’t know then is that it was actually a classroom through which I would learn life’s most valuable lessons, making grief the greatest teacher of all.

Lynda Cheldelin Fell

Grief Diaries

International Bereaved Mother’s Day

Grief Diaries

Today is International Bereaved Mother’s Day.

It’s not a day we celebrate. Rather, it’s a nod of recognition for fellow sisters of the Wailing Tent.

Recognition of the moment when we became a square peg in a round world, turning us each into an Other.

Recognition for . . .

. . . . our strength to get out of bed each day

. . . . our courage to face the future without our child

. . . . our love for mothers who speak our loss language

. . . . our admiration for those who are stronger than we

. . . . our dedication to helping those behind us

. . . . our determination to find the good in life

International Bereaved Mother’s Day is recognition of an invisible pain we carry for life, and yet we carry on.

Big hugs to my fellow sisters in the Wailing Tent.

Lynda Cheldelin Fell

Grief Diaries

Answering God’s nudge

Grief Diaries

The nudge came 3 hours in to the 5-hour flight. Sigh.

I was tired. And sore.

Just a few hours earlier on the way to the airport, we were involved in a 3-car accident. Hit from behind by a car at 45 mph, thankfully my friend’s truck was larger than the car. Three vehicles, two tow trucks, no obvious injuries. And, thanks to Uber, I still made my plane on time.

Thank you, God.

With security behind me, Starbucks in hand and two cookies in my purse, I boarded the plane bound for home.

My seat was nestled between a young man traveling to Alaska and a small elderly woman reading a book. I swallowed the last of the Starbucks, rested my head against the seat and closed my eyes. The cookies could wait.

Some time had passed when turbulence woke me. Not wanting to ruin a good night’s sleep in my own bed, I pulled out my iPad and began watching a movie.

Thirty minutes into my movie, I felt the nudge.

THE nudge. A nudge from God.

Sigh.

I paused the movie, laid down my iPad, and pulled out my earbuds. God pointed to the elderly lady to my right.

She had been reading earlier but the book was now in her lap. I opened the conversation by asking whether she was from Atlanta or Seattle.

Seattle, she said.

Her kind face was framed by short silver hair, wire-framed glasses and soft pink lipstick that accentuated bright blue eyes. She was wearing a beautiful blue sweater.

The nudge was still there. I obeyed and continued.

“What were you doing in Atlanta?” I asked.

She started to speak and then burst into shoulder-heaving sobs.

I wrapped my arms around her as best I could and just held her, resting my cheek on the crown of her small head.

I recognized those sobs. They were the sobs of a newly bereaved mother.

The sobs of a mother who lost a 47-year-old son to suicide just 4 months before. The sobs of a mother who had just traveled to his house to tend to details no parent should have to tend to.

The rest of the flight was spent in conversation with my new 86-year-old friend, a conversation punctuated by occasional sobs, lots of tissue, and a few smiles. I reassured her that one day it wouldn’t feel so raw.

We parted at the luggage carousel. No goodbye was needed, just a long hug before heading in opposite directions, she to a taxi and me to a northbound shuttle.

I’m still tired. Still sore. And still on the shuttle. But when my head finally meets my pillow tonight, I will fall asleep with a heart full of gratitude, gratitude for God’s nudges.

Thank you, God. XOXO

Lynda Cheldelin Fell

Grief Diaries

Tomorrow is your birthday

Grief Diaries
Dear Lovey,
 
Tomorrow is your birthday. Just yesterday I could hear your voice, smell your hair, touch your skin. It’s been nine years but the pain still runs deep. So very, very deep.
 
They say the pain changes with time. It hasn’t. But I have. My coping skills are stronger. I am stronger. I’m a better person with more compassion. And a heightened awareness of a world in need of kindness.
 
But tonight the pain runs deep. So very, very deep.
 
When the tears fall, I need to retreat from time to time to the Wailing Tent where I’m among sisters who speak my loss language. I suppose I’ll always need them when the pain runs this deep.
 
Most days the sun shines gloriously bright and I am grateful. Today is not one of those days, though. I want to tell you happy birthday but the words just won’t come. I know I’m a few hours early anyway, so maybe the words will come tomorrow.
 
It feels like yesterday when I could hear your voice, smell your hair, and touch your skin.
 
I wish it were yesterday.
 
Happy birthday, Lovey. I love you. XOXO
 
Love,

The Life of a Grieving Mother

Grief Diaries

The warm summer day started out just like any other. I was busy organizing the kids, planning dinner, making a mental note to fill the car with gas and pick up a gallon of milk on my way home from their soccer game. Suddenly without warning, I was engulfed by a raging fire. I suffered third degree burns over my entire body. Not an inch of me was spared.

People rushed to my side to help but there was nothing they could do. Medical care was limited and the best medications did little to ease the agony. I wasn’t sure I could survive such intense suffering. Worse, nobody could tell me how long such agony would last.

Doctors gently gave me the news that although my physical self would heal, the disfigurement would remain for life. My family, friends, and coworkers no longer recognized me. I no longer recognized myself.

At first, doing little things like sitting up in bed or standing were so excruciating they took my breath away. The mere thought of eating, bathing, and dressing left me feeling helpless and hopeless.

Pity and sadness were apparent in the eyes of everyone who came to my side. I understood the sadness but hated the pity. Why on God’s green earth was I spared the peace of death?

Learning to live with complete disfigurement and extreme pain is overwhelming. Excruciatingly slow and exhausting, it takes years of great effort to master what were once basic activities. Some days I hurt too bad to even try.

When out in public I pretend to be normal to ease the discomfort of others who are brave enough to approach me. Those who avoid me merely add further angst to my broken spirit. Pretending to be normal is exhausting and quickly depletes all my reserves. By the time I finish errands and return home, I’m utterly spent.

Worst of all, there is absolutely nothing that I nor anyone else can do about it.

For you see, that complete disfigurement and intolerable pain described above is on the inside of my body. The pain is unchanged, the disfigurement is still complete, and the scars are permanent. The new life thrust upon me that day when my child died caused a firestorm that engulfed every part of my life. The only differences between me and the patient who suffered third degree burns over her entire body is that I lived. And my pain is invisible to the world.

Welcome to the life of a grieving mother.

Written by Lynda Cheldelin Fell 08/01/13
Creator, Grief Diaries

What would you look like?

Grief…….you never know when the emotions and deep aching wounds will surface. They are always there, sometimes lingering just below, just far enough down that you are able to keep the tears from falling and your breath from catching in your throat. But it is there.

Tonight while coming home from work, I drove by the ponds where Brandon used to hang out, and I thought to myself, he is 22 now, he wouldn’t be hanging out there anymore. None of his friends hang out there anymore. They are all grown up, in love, making a different life for themselves with their mates, they all have full time jobs. And I  thought my Brandon didn’t get to get any older, he will forever be 17. He wasn’t able to build a different life. He won’t ever find his woman for life, or have kids….he never got to mature. I don’t even know what he would look like today at more than 22 years old.

Driving by the ponds caused these thoughts and emotions, and I am still crying more than 5 hours later. Brandon, how I wish you were 22 years old. How I wish you were with your lady for life, having that career you dreamed of, doing the things you planned. How I wish I knew what you would look like today. Would your voice be deeper, your laughter richer, your hugs tighter? Would you be a father? You always loved kids. And I think, can I do this without you Brandon? How can I live without you? How can I live, when you aren’t?

God, I miss you, Brandon.

Written by Kim Thomas. Her 17-year-old son Brandon was killed by a drunk driver outside Calgary, Canada, in December 2012. She shared her story in Grief Diaries: Victim Impact Statement.

Grief Diaries