Grief attack at the grocery story

Grief Diaries

Lately I was becoming a bit of a shut-in, and if I didn’t go food shopping I’d go hungry another day. Having exhausted the dry goods and freezer supply, my stomach grumbled in agreement.

I had to first take a shower so as not to offend anyone with my funk. Feeling a little revived and more alive, I hopped into my Jeep before I could change my mind.

Wet hair blowing in the wind, head boppin’ to the bumpin’ music. I had to stay motivated because I was on my way to what my depression had convinced me was a battlefield. Landmines everywhere in the form of memories threatening to strike.

Today I didn’t walk into the grocery store, I sauntered—an effect of having some pep in my step for the first time in a long time. Armored with my favorite protection amulet, most soothing gemstone ring, and my trusty pocket knife.

In the very first aisle I caught a glimpse which took my breath away and stopped me in my tracks.

A twenty-one-year-old man-child was buying beer. The puffed-up way he walked, strumming the whiskers on his chin as he carefully considered his choice, suggested it was his first time.

I had to steel myself at the sight. I wasn’t armed for this.

Brandon’s body had been found mutilated just a week shy of his twenty-first birthday. On his birthday, his father spent it in court for the arraignment of his suspected killer. His mother spent it at a funeral home planning his services.

In the grocery store, I took a deep breath, shook my head and put up my defenses. Trying to stay present by focusing on the task at hand of restocking provisions. I’ve always been a healthy eater, sticking mainly to the produce aisle and the perimeter of the store. I drink only the three necessities: black coffee, water and beer, though not necessarily in that order anymore.

I didn’t think about the case of coke, nor did I give a second thought to the Mac-n-Cheese or easy squirt jelly as I placed them in the carriage. In fact, it didn’t hit me until I was in the frozen section grabbing DiGiorno’s stuffed-crust pepperoni pizza, buy two get one free, that I froze.

Too late this time to steel myself from the oncoming grief attack.

My heart refused to accept reality and I found myself grabbing supplies for what had been our regular Friday pizza night. I was buying nephew-approved foods, as Brandon called them, eager to have them on hand for our next aunty date. Except there won’t be any more aunty dates with my nephew Brandon. Ever.

He’s not missing anymore like he was for six weeks. He’s dead. Murdered.

He’s not going to pop over. Not. Ever. Again.

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see. ~Muhammed Ali

The weight of this truth hit like Muhammed Ali and stung like a bee. Grief is the perfect TKO.

With weak knees, slumped shoulders, and eyes heavy with unshed tears, I knew I wouldn’t be able to duck and cover this time. The blows landed and I was about to go down. I made a beeline to the bathroom for cover.

As I shut the stall door, my shoulders began their familiar shudder. I leaned against the door and let the tears flow. I just had to ride it out.

As women came and went, I was helpless against the onslaught. Their concern and kind words exasperated my breathlessness. All I could mutter was, “It’s grief. It’ll pass.” With the breathy whisper of a shy little girl, I said, “Thank you.”

If I didn’t sit down, I would fall down. So I went to the sink and, leaning on it for support, splashed my red swollen face with cold water.

Just then an employee came in to check on me. I swayed on my feet fighting for control, and she offered me a chair and a bottle of water. She introduced herself as Nancy and asked genuinely for whom I was grieving. I told her about my beloved nephew Brandon. She was quiet, empathetic and—most important—not the least bit patronizing.

She surmised, “He felt like a son to you, didn’t he?”

I silently nodded my head. I wouldn’t dare to say it out loud, but a crucial piece of me is gone and I’m lost in a daily struggle of being here without him, the present reality too much to bare. With a hoarse voice I thanked her for her care and concern, to which Nancy replied, “We are all in this together, just helping each other along.”

I left the bathroom and shuffled to the register, leaning on the handlebar of the carriage. My unsteady gait, red face and runny nose revealed the heart on my sleeve. Grief has a way of breaking down walls and stealing what’s left of one’s dignity.

A young teen tentatively approached me and said, “I hope your day gets better.”

Bless him. He saw heartache on my face and tried to shine a little light in the dark. Wishing I could hug him but feeling too damaged to dare, I whispered over and over, “Thank you,” trying to convey my gratitude yet unable to feign a smile.

I returned from the battlefield battered and bruised. The grief offensive defeated my resilience defense and left me feeling listless.

I don’t remember the drive home but when I got there, I tossed the perishables into the fridge and retreated to sleep.

Grief had won today’s fight. But if I’m lucky, I’ll see Brandon in my dreams so I can wake to fight another day.

-Sarah Mercier

In loving memory of Brandon

Grief Diaries

Near-death experience: Patty’s story

Near-death experiences. Do you believe they happen? If so, what is it really like on the other side where our deceased loved ones are?

Meet Patty Furino, a reverend who ministers to bereaved families. Although she had been communicating with spirit guides since childhood, she had a pivotal near-death experience at age 16 that forever changed her perspective on life—and death. Watch her story below.

Watch more interviews on Grief Diaries or our YouTube channel.

The power of joy to heal a broken heart.

Grief Diaries

I love babies. My babies. Your babies. Everybody’s babies.

There’s just something so wondrous about these tiny beings. They’re innocence and pure love rolled like a little magical burrito.

Once a week I sneak away from the office to volunteer in the neonatal ICU. I cuddle, feed, change diapers, and soothe.

As they look into my eyes, I know I’m holding future teachers, humanitarians, astronauts, Nobel prize winners, and world leaders.

I’m also holding future gang members, addicts, and lost souls.

Grief Diaries

It doesn’t matter who I’m holding because in that moment, I give as much love as I can and hope that my little imprint will carry them through life.

When I’m done, I leave with a heart full of gratitude because those tiny babies gave me so much more than I gave them.

They gave me joy.

Doing something that makes your heart sing is a powerful healing modality.

When heartbreak and sadness rule your world, do whatever it is that brings a smile to your face and lifts the heaviness of your heart.

If you don’t know what that is, then go find it. And don’t stop looking until you do.

Then do it as if your life depends on it.

Because it does.

-Lynda Cheldelin Fell XOXO

The Wailing Tent

The Wailing Tent

Dear newly bereaved mother,

Welcome to the sisterhood of the wailing tent. With profound condolences, I know this greeting will soon be forgotten, for your heart and soul have sustained a terrible blow. The shock known as The Fog will accompany you for some time, greatly impacting your memory.  So I offer you this written welcome to refer to when your recollection falters.

The wailing tent is an honored place where only mothers with a broken spirit can enter. Admittance is gained not with an ID card bearing your name, but with the profound sorrow freshly etched on your heart.  Membership is free, for you have already paid the unfathomable price.  The directions to the wailing tent are secret, available only to mothers who speak our loss language of everlasting grief.  No rules are posted, no hours are noted.  There is no hierarchy, no governing body.  Your membership has no expiration date—it is lifelong.  The refuge offered within its walls does not judge members based on age, religious belief, or social status.  You can hang your camouflage and mask outside, and if you can’t make it past the door we will surround you with love right where you lay.

The wailing tent is a shelter where mothers shed anguished tears among her newfound sisters, a haven where all forms of wailing are honored, understood, and accepted.  In the beginning, you will be very afraid and will hate the wailing tent and everything it stands for. You will flail, thrash about, and spew vile words in protest. You will fight to be free of the walls, wishing desperately to offer a plea bargain for a different tent, learn a different language. Those emotions will last for some time.

Your family and friends cannot accompany you here. The needs of the wailing tent are invisible to them and though they will try, they simply cannot comprehend the language nor fathom the disembodied, guttural howls heard within.

In the beginning, your stays here will seem endless. Over time, the need for your visits will change and eventually you will observe some mothers talking, even smiling, rather than wailing.  Those are the mothers who have learned to balance profound anguish with moments of peace, though they still need to seek refuge among us from time to time.  Do not judge those mothers as callused or strong, for they have endured profound heartache to attain the peace they have found. Their visits here are greatly valued, for their hard earned wisdom offers hope that we, too, will learn to balance the sadness in our hearts.

Lastly, you need not flash your ID card or introduce yourself each time you visit, for we know who you are.  You are one of us, an honorary lifelong sister of the wailing tent.  Welcome, my wailing sister.

Fondly,

The Sisterhood of the Wailing TentThe Wailing Tent

Written by Lynda Cheldelin Fell  01/26/14

 

Why suffering yields the deepest lessons

Grief Diaries
I was asked this morning by a dear friend what the purpose of life is. Why is it some people face more heartache than seems fair?
 
Life unfolds differently for each of us. I believe we are here to learn lessons for our own growth. We don’t learn from the easy stuff, and great challenges often yield the deepest lessons.
 
Why, then, do some people go through life unscathed while others suffer greatly?
 
Sometimes we’re the pupil meant to learn something from our own suffering. Sometimes we’re the teacher imparting wisdom to those who witness our suffering.
 
When faced with great challenges, we have two options. One is to resist the change and stay outside immersed in the storm. Two is to surrender to something we can’t change, and tend to our wound inside. Once the storm has passed and the wound less raw, you can re-enter life using the wisdom you learned.
 
You are the author of your own life story. Every sentence, paragraph, and page from cover to cover. What do you want to write what has yet to be written? You alone get to decide.
 
My answer to the question about the purpose of life is that it’s a glorious and mysterious classroom. Sometimes we’re the pupil and sometimes the teacher.
 
It’s up to each of us what we teach and learn.
 
Lynda Cheldelin Fell XOXO
Grief Diaries

Why grief robs our memory

Memory

Memory is something I used to take for granted, at least up until Aly died. Nobody told me I would lose my memory after losing a child. It was so bad I often worried about early onset Alzheimer’s.

You too?

The good news is that we’re not alone. The better news is that there’s an explanation, and it’s not because we’re going crazy.

It turns out that when a part of the brain called the amygdala is flooded with adrenaline from fear or trauma, it anesthetizes other parts of the brain. Memory is impacted, time gets distorted, and events come back like a strobe light rather than a story.

So if nobody told you that memory loss, tunnel vision and time distortion are normal responses to emotional trauma, rest assured it’s common. I promise. Symptoms are especially pronounced after a traumatic loss.

Yes, I know—they’re still embarrassing. Especially to our kids.

Next time your kids give you the stink eye for asking the same question you did 10 minutes ago, bore them with the above explanation. With luck, they’ll never question your sanity again.

At least not out loud.

By Lynda Cheldelin Fell

 

Memory

Heavenly angel helps dress a grief-stricken mother

Grief Diaries

Teenaged girls giggled around my sister and me at the mall. They walked together in a tight group, swinging bags of merchandise. Any minute I expected to see my own daughter Liz come around a corner with a group of friends.

But Liz wasn’t here. She died in a duplex fire at college the day before.

“Let’s try this one,” my sister Sue said, guiding me into a shop that looked familiar. Of course. Liz had worked at this store during high school. A true clothes-a-holic, she’d loved the employee discount. Most of her earnings went right back to the store. Now here I was buying one final outfit for Liz—her burial outfit.

“Can I help you?” the salesgirl asked.

“Just looking,” I said.

I felt numb and far away. Sue had driven us to the mall because I couldn’t focus on the road. I couldn’t focus on anything. At the funeral home I had sat with my husband and father in silence while the director went over all the details.

“You’ll need to bring us some of Liz’s clothing,” he explained. “Any time in the next couple of days.”

I sat like a statue, not really understanding. It wasn’t until I got home that his words actually registered: Liz needed new clothes. Her entire wardrobe had been destroyed in the fire along with everything else.

I flipped through the racks around me. How many times had Liz needed new clothes? She seemed to come up with a reason every other week. My daughter was a champion shopper. If it ever became an Olympic sport, Liz surely would have won the gold medal.

“Liz didn’t get her love of shopping from me,” I said, holding up a dress for Sue’s opinion.

I put the dress back on the rack. Sue agreed: It just wasn’t Liz. How could I ever pick the right outfit without her? The clothes in the store swam together like a jumbled mass of fabric.

Liz, you’ve got to help me here, I thought to myself. I have absolutely no idea what to pick.

Sue and I moved through the store and my gaze wandered over the racks. Suddenly, a pair of khaki pants caught my eye. I grabbed a pair in Liz’s size. A few minutes later I reached for a pale blue sweater. “That’s pretty,” Sue said. “Let’s get that.”

“I have no idea if this is what Liz would want,” I admitted.

In my mind I saw Liz picking through racks of clothes. Maybe she can’t care about things like that anymore.

“I guess it doesn’t really matter if I don’t get it right,” I said.

I had once wished my daughter didn’t care so much about clothes. Now the thought of her not being able to care was unbearable, because it meant she no longer existed. Not on earth, anyway. I would never see her again.

The funeral went smoothly, not that I would have noticed any mistakes. Nothing mattered to Liz anymore. Why should it matter to me?

The day after the funeral my sister-in-law stopped by. Karen was the family photographer and had gone through her collection searching for shots of Liz.

“I found one from last Christmas when Liz was over at my house,” she said, digging into her purse. “I don’t think you’ve ever seen it.”

She handed me the photo showing Liz smiling and happily sitting on a couch with her cousins.

I drank in the sight of her face for a moment before scanning the rest of the photo. And when I did, I couldn’t believe it.

Liz was wearing a pair of khaki pants and a pale blue sweater.

You weren’t on your own, I realized. I had asked for Liz’s help. And she did.

A fashionista angel helped me choose the perfect outfit for my daughter, the champion shopper. No longer here with me on earth, but alive as ever in heaven, where one day I will see her again.

No doubt she has a new outfit ready and waiting for the reunion.

Kim Wencl
www.kimwencl.com

Grief Diaries

Surviving Loss by Cancer

cancer

Cancer. It’s an ugly word that strikes fear deep in the heart. From the very moment the diagnosis is delivered, our worlds pivot in unimaginable ways.

It’s with great honor that in conjunction with tonight’s telecast Stand Up to Cancer in Los Angeles, I share the newest release in the Grief Diaries series, Surviving Loss by Cancer.

The book is a collection of stories from people who have lost someone they love to cancer ranging in age from 24 to 77. Those who face the same loss can hold this book in their hands and draw strength from the written words. Filled with understanding and compassion, each poignant story weaves a journey beginning with their loved one’s first symptoms, to the moment of diagnosis, through to their loved one’s final breath, and beyond.

The purpose of such a book? To serve as a life raft in the storm by offering readers hope, strength, courage as they too transition into life without their loved one.

A heartfelt thank you to the courageous writers who penned their journeys in this book for the purpose of helping others. You are all heroes in my world, and I’m grateful from the bottom of my heart.

If you know someone who lost a loved one to cancer, please share this book with them. It’s available on Amazon and Kindle, and will soon be available in Barnes & Nobles along with 40,000 other retail outlets around the world. Thank you. XOXO

Lynda Cheldelin Fell
www.LyndaFell.com

#cancer #griefdiaries #SU2C

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

Finding life after suicide

Grief Diaries

Grief DiariesI met James Cameron Mjelve in 2005 while we were both living in Edmonton. At the time he worked for a laborer’s union. We married in 2007 and had three beautiful children together, one boy and two girls. In 2009, Cameron decided to go back to university and finish his Education degree.

In 2010, Cameron was in his second year when I began to notice that he was struggling more with the course load. During Christmas break Cameron seemed different, a little off from his usual self. Perhaps a little depressed, but nothing to be overly concerned about. In January 2011, our youngest daughter was born with a disability and the stresses of life became overwhelming for Cameron. He began to struggle even more with his university courses.

On July 21, 2011, my husband committed suicide. We were both forty-two at the time and our children were three, two, and five months old.

There is much that has changed in my life from losing a spouse. Perhaps the first is that I’ve had to learn how to use the word widow when speaking about myself. That alone has been a tough adjustment. I’ve become single again and I’ve had to learn how to be comfortable in a room full of couples. I’ve had to become comfortable in a room full of widows. I’ve had to become comfortable crying in front of both those groups of people.

It has been a difficult experience, losing a spouse. I’ve had to face major decisions for myself and the children alone. At times this has been very stressful, especially when I’ve had to make decisions which impact my children’s health or our financial stability. It has been so difficult not having anyone to bounce ideas off of. Friends will always tell you they are there to help you and listen, but it’s still not the same. I miss my friend who shared everything with me.

But I have learned from my experience, and developed a stronger decision-making process. As a result, I have been able to become more confident in the decisions I make. Another way my life is different is that I simply cannot do the things I want to do. I cannot run to the store at 10 p.m., there is no one to watch the children. I cannot sleep in on a Saturday if it’s been a tough week of being up in the night with sick children. Even something so simple as taking a vacation has become a major undertaking. Not only is there no one to help me with the children, but there’s no one for me to share the experience with. Even if we as a family are on vacation and the children are enjoying themselves, who did I get to tell about my experience?

Life is lonely. I don’t have anyone to share even the small moments with. There is no spouse who laughs with you or remembers with you. There is also no one who touches you. Yes, the kids hug and climb all over me, but it’s different than the simple loving touch of a husband.

Life has been different and even difficult, for sure. But I also see it as an opportunity to grow. Although my life will never be what I had dreamed it would be, I am discovering there is a new life that I can make. It unfortunately doesn’t include my husband, but it does include my children and we take Cameron’s memory with us wherever we go. And we are learning that we can still live a life that is full of meaning and adventure, even if it wasn’t the life we originally chose. And I do feel like I have a choice. We live in a society that is very focused on couples. This is not the life that I chose, to be single at forty-two years old, but I also feel like I’m presented with a choice on how to react. I can sit and wallow in self-pity and despair over broken dreams, or I can get up and start life over again.

I will always, always remember my husband. I will always grieve his loss. I will still cry over his loss. But I will choose to keep on living and to help my children find their life as well.

Written by Julie Mjelve. Julie’s 42-year-old husband Cameron died by suicide in 2011 Read her full story in Surviving Loss of a Spouse.

Grief Diaries