Walking the Never-ending Grief Journey with the Healer of My Heart

No matter how many days, months, or years go by, there will always be a piece of my heart that will remain on this never-ending grief journey. Yet, I’m so grateful there is also the Healer of my heart in the midst of the grief. We walk this journey side-by-side.

When Melanie first ran ahead to Heaven, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to survive. Child loss is a loss like no other. It’s hard to believe that next month 3 years will have gone by. I still miss my girl just as much today as I ever have. This is part of the never-ending grief journey.

But God … in all His magnificence, has covered, comforted, and carried me when I didn’t think I would make it another day. He is the Healer of my heart. Though I will never understand why she had to go to Heaven so young, I do know because of her loss, God has used it to touch and impact others. Only God can make beauty from ashes. 

Recently someone asked me if I believed our hearts could be healed after suffering loss. I absolutely do. Since the day Mel died, I’ve been standing on God’s promise, He will heal the broken-hearted and save those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18). Granted, it takes time, along with a lot of grief work which might entail professional help, medication, prayer, and many other things. 

While I’m no expert, just another person walking the grief journey, I don’t believe time heals all wounds. However, time does lessen the overwhelming, sharp, tsunami-like feelings early grief brings.

If you’re hurting today and missing your loved one, I encourage you to hold on. Don’t give up, and keep running to the Father. God isn’t a man that he would lie (Numbers 23:19). On this never-ending grief journey, He can also be the Healer of your heart.  

Famous Last Words: It Will Never Happen to Me

We will all suffer loss at some point in our lives. While each situation may differ, the loss has one thing in common – heartache. Loss is loss, and grief is grief, no matter the circumstance surrounding the loss. Before you began walking your grief journey, let me ask you, did you ever think it will never happen to me

If you suffered child loss like me, I’m sure when your child was born, you never thought it would happen to you. When Melanie was a little girl, I never thought she would have Substance Use Disorder. During all the special moments and milestones in life, I had many dreams of what her life might be like – not one of them included disease or dying before me. No, I never thought it would happen to me. 

Maybe your loved one passed away unexpectedly in a car accident like my father did when I was still a young girl. This was something that happened to other families. I never thought it would happen to me.

Today, many are grieving the loss of a family member still on this earth. I’m sure in your wildest dreams, you never imagined your child wouldn’t be speaking to you. You never thought this would happen to you.

Maybe you’re a parent or spouse whose loved one took their own life. When others hear about your loss, suicide, like addiction, carries shame and judgment. As a parent who has lost a child to the disease of addiction, I’ve encountered the look; this happens when they discover why your loved one died. You can clearly see judgment cross their face and practically hear their thoughts: What happened to your daughter will never happen to mine. We live in a friendly, affluent neighborhood, and that will never happen to my child. My daughter was raised in the church. My son plays sports. My child is in college.” Yes, they definitely think it will never happen to them. Famous last words. 

If you have found yourself in the position of receiving the look, I am deeply sorry. Please know you have no reason to feel ashamed and should never be judged. Sadly, bad things happen to good people, even if we do not understand them. 

I hope and pray that everyone would consider walking in compassion, with less judgment, and extending grace toward those suffering. We never know what life holds for us. I never thought it would happen to my family or me, either. 

A New Year: Time to Look in the Rearview Mirror

Have you heard this saying before? For those who are grieving, it takes on a whole new meaning. As a parent who has lost a child, nothing is more important than who has been left behind. Granted, since Melanie ran ahead to heaven, looking back has been challenging. But, on the flip side of the loss and hurt, as we enter a new year, we can also use this as a time of reflection. By looking back, we can see how far we’ve come and how God brought us through our dark times.

Typically, my husband and I will begin to plan for the new year while also taking time to look back over the previous year. In the middle of all the tumultuous feelings loss brings, I know there is still so much we have to be thankful for. As we talk, it brings balance, and I can see how God has touched our lives while continuing to walk this grief journey.

A person’s love doesn’t end just because their loved one is no longer on this earth. Love remains forever. Grief is love and this is just part of our story and journey now. So, when I look in the rearview mirror, I try to remember the love more than the loss. There are days it’s a battle, but I strive to do it daily.

Do I wish things were different? Yes. Every.Single.Day. Unfortunately, that’s not within my power to change. I’m grateful to serve a God who has covered me with this unfailing love and protected me like the fiercest of lions in the land. 

As the calendar page turns to another year, I’m already experiencing pangs of uneasiness. It’s like my heart can tell time. It knows that in a mere 47 more days, I will have to face my daughter’s angelversary once again. Since I can’t escape it, I will do my best to face it – head-on, with tears streaming down my face, re-living every moment of that awful day. For now, I’m going to do my best to chase away the anticipation and anguish of that day by holding on tightly to The One who continues to hold me.

Give Yourself a Little Credit

Here we are, a couple of days after Christmas and moving toward a new year. As we wake up we can look back and say, “Whew, we made it! We made it through another holiday when we didn’t think we could. We survived.”

For some, it may have been barely. Granted, it may not have been easy, but give yourself a little credit. Although there may have been sad moments longing for what used to be, you did make it through the day … One step, one breath at a time.

As 2022 is coming to an end I’m sure there were days throughout the year you never thought you’d make it through. There are some reading this today who will soon be approaching the one-year angelversary when your loved one ran ahead to heaven. You are sitting here wondering, “How could a year have gone by already?” When you think about it time seems so warped – it’s like years in one moment, and a day in the next.

As you reflect back on what may have been the toughest year of your life please give yourself a little credit. Look at how far you’ve come. Even if you don’t feel it – you have done amazing!

This road of grief isn’t managed alone. It takes a village with all of us pulling one another up, encouraging, lifting, and loving. I’m so grateful for each of you following me, commenting, and lifting me up on those hard days. From the bottom of my heart, Thank You!

I will be lifting each of you up as we get ready to say goodbye to 2022 and move forward into 2023. Yes, we will enter a new year without our loved one and it can be scary and sad. Let’s try to remember, whether you have seen or felt the hand of God, He has been lovingly guiding us along this rocky path. We have never been alone, not for one moment.

“For He has said, “I will never [under any circumstances] desert you [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you [assuredly not]!” Hebrews 13:5 AMP

I will tell of your wonders, sing of your grace. The God of creation knows me by name. The Lord is faithful, yesterday, now, and always ~ Always, Chris Tomlin

Christmas Joy and Sorrow

The closer the days move toward Christmas the stronger my grieving heart begins to roar. I’ve been able to keep it subdued and quiet as the weeks have approached. Not intentionally, but it’s been there, bubbling just below the surface. This year I’ve been able to joyfully celebrate the reason for this season – the birth of Jesus Christ. Yet, in the midst of the sweet celebrations there it remains – the sorrow, the ache, the missing of my girl.

You would think after all this time I would know what to expect. However, as time stretches on I am still a student learning at the Father’s knee. He has shown me there is both joy and sorrow at Christmas, and it’s OK to have both. We shouldn’t feel guilty about feeling either one.

This week I had a beautiful visit with my niece. She lost her husband in a tragic motorcycle accident 5 years ago. Though we always keep in touch it was the first time we had any real quality time together. We laughed and we cried. We were both able to share our hearts, our stories, and our memories. It was an amazing time of healing and sharing. What we felt most was God. He was in the middle of it all, sweetly touching each of us as He continues to heal our hearts.

Before she arrived the Lord had given me a song in the night (Job 35:10). Last week when I was awakened with this particular song on my heart I thought I knew the reason why. But as usual God’s thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).

After my niece left the Lord reminded me again of the words to the song. They weren’t just meant for the young girls I visited in a recovery home this week, but they were meant for me, too. I would like to share them with you today.

God is in this story
God is in the details
Even in the broken parts
He holds my heart, He never fails
When I’m at my weakest
I will trust in Jesus
Always in the highs and lows
The One who goes before me
God is in this story

I hope your heart is touched by the words from, God is in the Story by Katy Nichole and Big Daddy Weave. As Christmas approaches may you hold them close to your heart if you too are experiencing both joy and sorrow. He’s the One who holds your sorrow. He won’t leave you here alone.

Wounded Souls Hurt More at Christmas

The impact of grief appears in many different ways. Yet it’s the state of our heart that suffers most. No matter how long we’ve been walking this grief journey, it seems that wounded souls hurt more at Christmas.

When a heart is hurting, even the twinkling lights, pretty colors, and beautiful songs don’t seem to ease the deep ache within. I’ve talked with fellow grievers who freely admit that these things exacerbate and magnify the hurt.

Even though the state of my heart isn’t like the tsunami it has been in years past, there are still moments when it hurts so much. Oh, the missing of my girl. I wish things were different and I could roll back time. If only.

Grief comes in many shapes and sizes. During this time of year, friends will ask, “What are you doing for Christmas? Are you getting together with your family?” During these times, we may learn someone is grieving due to the estrangement of a family member. Perhaps you’ve never thought of this as grief, but some have not spoken with their family members in years. It’s more common than one imagines. The relationship is so broken, and the chasm so wide they can’t find a way back to one another. The heart wounds from fractured family relationships can be as deep and hurtful as physical death.

As holiday songs play on the radio, they may bring back memories of past events. We cannot help but remember happier moments when we were all together.

When the world portrays “all is merry and bright,” we should consider that may not be the case with everyone. We may not know what is going on in someone’s life.

This is a good time of year to apply the golden rule and treat others the way you want to be treated. If your heart is hurting this holiday season, be mindful of those you encounter. Extend love, kindness, and care to those around you, knowing their heart may be breaking like yours.

Someone posted this recently, and I wanted to share it with you. I hope it touches your heart as it did my own.

the wounds in our hearts seem to
ache a little deeper during the holidays

don’t feel like you need to cover your wounded
heart in wrapping paper this Christmas

you don’t have to tie the corners
of your lips with garland to force a smile

you don’t have to keep whistling
“Silent Night” to keep people from
Noticing your bottom lip is trembling

you don’t have to blame an allergy
to nutmeg for why you are walking
around with tears in your eyes

for this Christmas give yourself permission
to feel whatever you need to

last night I was visited by the ghost of
yuletide heartbreak and she told me this:

it’s okay to not be okay on Christmas

it’s okay to be melancholy under the mistletoe

it’s okay to come apart while they are caroling

it’s okay to trace your scars with your fingers
while others are humming ‘Holy Night’

it’s okay to miss the presence of your beloved
amid the sound of opening presents

it’s okay, my love, to hurt during the holidays

don’t stuff your stockings with your suffering

don’t hide your healing during the holidays

give yourself the gift of being
authentic to yourself

it’s okay to not be okay during Christmas

it’s okay to let the broken pieces inside of you
be the only jingle bells you hear
because, my love, because,

it means you are still fighting to stay alive
and I can’t think of anything more to celebrate than that
~ john roedel

An Uncomplicated Christmas

Here we are in December, the month deemed the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.  We know this isn’t true for everyone, especially those who are missing loved ones. This month tends to bring a host of feelings other than wonder and joy.

For some this will be your first year without your loved one and you’re dreading Christmas. For others this may not be the first, but you’re still having a lot of feelings about celebrating a holiday without your loved one. If anyone hasn’t told you – this is all perfectly normal. Please don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise.

This year I’m aiming for an uncomplicated Christmas. What does that mean exactly? Personally, it means I’m going to do what feels good and right to me. I’m definitely a work in progress but I’m hopeful it’s possible. 

I decorated the inside of our house this year, which was a first for me since Melanie ran ahead to heaven. I started early so it wouldn’t feel like a burden. Melanie loved Christmas and I’m trying to bring back some of our old traditions which brought joy to our family. This is a first time I’ve felt a freedom within my heart to do so.

Strangely, now that Christmas is looming large in front of me I’ve begun to feel that old familiar heaviness creeping back in. The missing … the longing … the sadness, which all equals grief.

As I felt the stirrings within my heart I knew what I had to do. In my quiet time I took all those cares to feet of my Heavenly Father, my rock and the only One who can truly continue to heal my heart. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4. He already knows how I’m feeling so who am I kidding if I try to keep it all bottled up. There are many things we can do with all those feelings – we can ignore them, act on them in a negative way or try to make something good from the bad.

Each Christmas since Melanie has been gone the one thing I’ve found to bring me comfort and joy is to serve others, especially those who had the same struggles that she did. This year I am partnering with my women’s bible study group, and we are visiting a local women’s recovery home. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), it’s one where Melanie went many years ago. I’m sure as I walk through the doors of that home it may be a mix of emotions. Yet, I cannot wait to love on these girls because it will be just as if I am loving on my own daughter.

Even though I will continue to feel all those feelings of missing my girl, my goal hasn’t changed – I’m still aiming for an uncomplicated Christmas. I will enjoy the beautiful twinkling of the lights on the trees in our house. I will watch all the silly, predictable, and yes, uncomplicated Christmas movies I feel like watching and I will accept only the invitations where I am truly comfortable being myself.

Spending an uncomplicated Christmas may be different, but since I’m not the same person I was before Melanie died, different is OK. I hope you will consider joining me – step out and dare to be different, too. Be as uncomplicated as you’d like to be this Christmas.

One Holiday Down, One To Go

Although it may not seem like the most jolly way to begin the holidays, how many will admit this thought crossed your mind this past week? It’s pretty common among grievers to say if not out loud, at least to themselves, “Whew, we made it!” And that doesn’t mean we made it through Black Friday getting the top gifts on our list at a good price! It simply means we made it through another holiday.

For those walking the grief journey, this time of year adds an extra blanket of heaviness on already weary shoulders. As we approach December telling ourselves “one holiday down, one to go” it can be a means of survival. It may be a way of assuring ourselves we can make it, one (holi) day at a time.

There is nothing that will make me miss my daughter any less. But perhaps telling ourselves we just have to get through the next 27 days before we can be on the other side, may help a hurting heart get through this time without our precious loved one.

While Christmas music playing on the radio and in every store we enter we can expect our emotions to run amuck. Although I’m no expert, but just another mom missing her child there are a couple of things I’ve found that can help.

Continue reading the rest here: Surviving the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The Empty Chair

As we approach Thanksgiving many of us will look upon the empty chair at the table. The hole deep within our heart will now be staring openly at us. Holidays are hard. If you are early on in your grief journey you may wonder how you’re going to get through the day.

The empty chair is a symbol of remembrance for a loved one who is no longer with us. Some families even leave a place setting on the table in their honor.

As you sit around the table perhaps you can exchange stories of past Thanksgivings when your loved one was still with you. Even if the stories stir up sadness, it’s okay if the tears are mixed with laughter and smiles as we reminisce about happier times.

The holidays may never quite be the same, but that’s because we are not the same. We are different now and that’s OK. This is the grief journey.

I will keep an empty chair at our table to remind me of the last Thanksgiving we shared together as a family before Melanie ran ahead to heaven. We will have some of her favorites, like cherry pie.  Last year it was just 3 of us and we ended up with 5 pies! 😊 Yes, one of them was cherry, and we all had a slice or two in her memory.

Thanksgiving is a time we are meant to reflect on all we are thankful for. As for me, I will forever be grateful for the years God gave me, however short, to be Melanie’s mama. I will choose to focus on the love and the laughter, not the loss.

A time of total joy and happiness is now a mixture of grief and gratitude. I have settled in my heart that I will forever have a mixture of feelings on the holidays and place no expectations on myself otherwise.

Strange as it seems, this is part of the grief journey. I will continue to lean on Jesus – my rock, my deliverer, the one who continues to carry me through. That alone is so much to be thankful.

Invite Grief and Gratitude to the Table

Here we are just a couple of short weeks away from celebrating Thanksgiving. If you’re grieving you may be feeling anything but thankful. Holidays are hard. As we get together with family you may feel pressured to smile and act like everything is fine when your heart is actually broken.

My friends, this year let’s do something different. Let’s invite grief and gratitude to the table.

It’s taken me a few Thanksgivings to realize that I do not have to act a certain way or be someone I am not during the holidays. I mean no disrespect, but I am not going to paste on a fake smile to appease others. It’s disingenuous and I’d be denying my own feelings just to make those around me feel more comfortable.

Everyone will go through grief at some point in life. Grieving is normal. What I think is abnormal is acting as if my loved one isn’t on my heart, and this is just another happy holiday.

When our loved ones run ahead to heaven we will forever miss them. Yet, there is something about holidays, anniversaries and all those special days when the sadness increases exponentially.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that grief and gratitude can co-exist. I can have both joy and sorrow in my heart.

Instead of acting as if everything is perfect and I’m not thinking of Melanie, I’m going to invite both grief and gratitude to the Thanksgiving Day table. If there is a memory I want to share about a past Thanksgiving I will do so without shame, and I encourage you to the do the same. I hope our family and friends will feel comfortable mentioning their name. May they realize it doesn’t bring us sadness but instead brings us joy to know they have not been forgotten.

Grief and gratitude are welcome here. We may shed a tear one moment and have a burst of laughter the next.  This is normal. This is grief.

Let’s Talk Self-Care: The Struggle is Real

No matter how hard I try it seems as if I still struggle with prioritizing myself and my needs. Let’s talk self-care for a moment. The struggle is real my friends. Some days I wonder if self-care is really achievable.

Perhaps this is more of an issue for women. What do you think? I am typically a very organized and focused individual but there still aren’t enough hours in the day, and there are days I still feel worn down. I have lists upon lists – digital and paper! The older I get I find I need a few more reminders, and quite honestly, since Melanie ran ahead to heaven I found that grief brain is a real thing.

Here we are and it’s already November while I’m still wondering what happened to October! For me this change of the calendar signals the beginning of the holiday season – which means more lists and more to-do’s. Instead of visions of sugarplums dancing in my head, my vision includes a lovely spa day with this mama in a fluffy robe (sans kerchief or Father in his cap) listening to relaxing music in front of the fire, sipping a glass of bubbly while waiting for my masseuse to come call my name. Ahh, a girl can dream can’t she?!

Seriously, self-care is more than a spa day, but it’s sure is a place to start. This year as we head into the holiday season I am determined to focus on the joy in my days. The next several weeks will fly by and Christmas will soon be here. In order to help focus on the joy in the midst of missing my girl, I need a reminder of a few of those “A-Ha” moments that helped me the last time I was feeling overwhelmed. Read the rest here: Self Care or Selfish and let me know if you have any great ideas to share on self-care. Hugs, Pat

Finding Goodness After Loss

As a parent who has lost a child I never thought I’d find any goodness in life after the loss of my only daughter. When Melanie ran ahead to heaven I saw my world in only shades of gray and wondered if I’d ever really see the sunshine again.

Although my coat of grief isn’t as heavy as it once was it’s not something I’ve been able to shed. I still wear my coat daily and quite frankly I think that’s OK, too.

The past few weeks I’ve been reminded how quickly life can change. Recently I was on vacation and soon after I found myself in the hospital getting prepped for emergency surgery. All is well now, but it shook me. Life is so fragile, and we never really know when it will turn on its axis. Recovering over the past couple of weeks made me think about something I wrote a few years ago, In the Blink of an Eye. Yes, life sure can change so quickly.

Grief and loss often cover us up in darkness and we need to search for the light. But I know in my heart, because of my faith in Jesus, that I’m never really alone. He is my shelter through every storm and the one who carries me when I am too weak to walk.

There are some who think we are wading in our grief too long. Some tell us it’s time to get over it and move on. Every time I encounter this I choose to give grace and forgive. Clearly those who say this have no idea what it is to be a warrior mom and have never lost a child.

As I continue to look for the light on the dark days I can still say how truly grateful I am for the life God has given me. Even in the middle of the hard times I can see the goodness in my life after loss.

While I have been healing and considering how quickly life can change, I choose to focus on the goodness around me. God has gifted me with a beautiful group of ladies who readily pray for me and lift me up any time of the day or night. They bring meals, send flowers, check-in and are truly the hands and feet of Jesus.

In between the hard moments of grief, I pray you will begin to see the shafts of light no matter how small the sliver. May this week bring you to a place where you can see the goodness of God and His hand touching you in unexpected ways.

Did I Do Enough

Since you’ve been walking along this grief journey I imagine at some point you asked yourself, did I do enough? Did you do all you could to help your loved one move from their disease to recovery? Did you do enough to offer support during their trials and tribulations? Did you do enough to guide them in the right direction? Did you do enough (fill in the blank)?

If you had a loved one who suffered from the disease of addiction you will want to hit pause and take a moment to read on. Today, I want to share a poem with you that came across my path a few months ago. I pray the following words touch your heart and release you from any guilt or questioning you’ve been holding on to within your heart.

You Did Enough

You did enough. I know you may not believe this now, but it’s true.

The next few weeks will inevitably be filled with a relentless stream of questions. Should I have been more involved? Should I have been less involved? Should I have called her just one more time? Should I have left him in jail a little bit longer? Should I have hospitalized her? Should I have forced her into treatment? Should I have stopped enabling him? Should I have just left him alone?

Truth be told, you might always feel like you could have done more to save your loved one. But please hear me when I tell you that you did enough. You did way more than enough. Loving him or her, despite their addiction, was the absolute best thing you could have done, and you did that so well. You loved them deeply. You saw past their pain and the ugly ways they ran from it, and you loved them anyway. Your love never failed and that will always be enough. Your love is the reason they kept fighting. And your love for them in this moment, and in every moment forward, is the reason they are resting peacefully.

You did everything right, even though it may feel like a lifetime of wrongs. So when you’re feeling at your weakest, immersed in the sadness of grief, please remember this:

It is not your fault.

You are likely drowning in a sea of guilt right now, but believe me when I say that nothing you did or didn’t do caused your loved one to become an addict. I know it’s hard to comprehend the baffling nature of the disease, but you did not cause this and despite your best efforts, you could not have prevented this. Addicts are born with a propensity toward becoming addicted. The addiction is triggered by a combination of many factors; elements over which you have little or no control. You are not at fault. You are not to blame.

I heard it said once that guilt is anger turned inward. Do yourself a favor and let the anger out. Direct it elsewhere. You are in no way responsible for the life he or she lived or the way they died.

It’s okay to be angry.

You reserve the right to be angry. Losing a child (or a sister, mother, brother, father, friend) to the disease of addiction gives you a justifiable reason to be angry. But please don’t be angry at them. Believe me, they didn’t choose this life. They undoubtedly made several bad choices, but they weren’t in their right mind. The disease had warped reality so thoroughly that they weren’t seeing the world as we see it. They were seeing a perception of reality that felt threatening, and their body and mind kicked into survival mode. And while trying to protect themselves, even though outwardly, it looked like self-destruction.

Be mad, but don’t be mad at them. Be mad at the disease of addiction. Use that anger to fuel a passion for helping other addicts and their families find a way out. Your son or daughter or friend or parent did not choose to leave you — broken, hurting, and empty. They weren’t the one choosing. And their disease didn’t care about you or even them. Get angry at the disease. Seek revenge on his or her behalf by spreading awareness, hope, and shedding light on the realities of addiction. The worst thing you could do right now would be to stay silent because silence feeds the disease.

Your story is worth telling.

Addiction is a family disease. Although you might feel as if this is not your story to tell, I assure you that you are as much a part of the story as the addict. You were in it together. As much as your loved one tried to shut you out, you were still in it with them. You were probably more emotionally affected by their addiction than they were. Addicts often begin using drugs and alcohol as a way to numb their feelings and they continue using because it works. For a while, the drugs effectively numb the pain. But you didn’t have a numbing agent to turn to while your family was walking through hell. You felt the gravity of the situation. You carried the weight of their addiction. You were the one who was thinking and feeling clearly and you have a powerful story to tell.

Shame might try and stop you from telling your story. It might tell you your story isn’t worth telling because the disease won, but listen closely: Your story can and will save lives. Owning and sharing your experience is the bravest way to fight the disease. The life of your loved one mattered, and their death has the potential to matter even more. Help to make his or her story — your story — matter.

Don’t shut people out.

Despite the overwhelming presence of addiction and the rapid rise in suicide and accidental overdoses, people are extremely uncomfortable talking about addiction. Your friends don’t know how to navigate this painful time. If they are shying away, that doesn’t mean they don’t care. They are just lost. They don’t know what to say or what to do; they need your guidance. You might not even know what you need right now, but when you start to figure it out, tell them. Let your people in. Show them how to support you. If you want to talk about your loved one tell them that. If you want to talk about their death or disease, talk to them. Your friends want to be there for you, they just don’t know how.

You will get through this, and the acute pain you feel right now will lessen. Their death will inevitably change you, but it doesn’t have to destroy you. Let the grief evolve you. Let your love for them propel you into a dimension of living you never knew was possible. But in the meantime, rest assured that the hearts of other families rocked by addiction are bleeding with you.

With love, a recovering addict, whose demons are the same as your loved ones.


This weekend my family and I traveled to the New England area to catch a glimpse of the Fall foliage. It was beautiful – the golden yellows meshed with bright oranges and vibrant reds on the trees were magnificent! If you have never been to that part of the country before put it on your list!

While we were there we also attended a Toby Mac concert in Boston. If you’ve never been to one, I recommend adding this to your list as well.

Toby’s newest album, Life After Death, are all songs written over the past 2 years as he has been mourning the death of his son, Truett. Someone blessed me with a copy of his album a few weeks ago and as I listened to each song I could relate to every word.

I wanted to share one of them with you today. It’s called Faithfully. The words are a sad but honest glimpse into how we feel after experiencing loss. In the end he shares where we find the hope we all so desperately need to survive walking through the valley of the shadow of death. I hope it touches your heart in a deep and meaningful way.

It’s been a long year
It almost took me down, I swear
Life was so good
I’m not sure we knew what we had
I’ll never be the same man
I’ll never feel like I felt before

It’s been a hard year
It almost took me down

But when my world broke into pieces
You were there faithfully
When I cried out to You, Jesus
You made a way for me
I may never be the same man
But I’m a man who still believes

When I cried out to You, Jesus
You were there faithfully

I’ve had a hard time
Findin’ the blue in the skies above me
And if I’m keepin’ it real
I been half-fakin’ the happy they see
I may look like the same man
But I’m half the man I was (Half the man I was)
It’s been a hard year
It almost took me down

But when my world broke into pieces
You were there faithfully
When I cried out to You, Jesus
You made a way for me

I may never be the same man
But I’m a man who still believes
When I cried out to You, Jesus
You were there faithfully

In my darkest hour, You met me
So quietly, so gently
You said You’d never leave
And you stood by Your word
So quietly, so gently
In all my pain, You met me
You said You’d never leave
And you stood by Your word

‘Cause when my world broke into pieces
You were there faithfully
When I cried out to You, Jesus
You made a way for me
I may never be the same man
But I’m a man who still believes
When I cried out to You, Jesus
You were there faithfully

When I cried out to You, Jesus
You were there faithfully

My fellow travelers, grief and loss are more than enough to take any one of us down. It’s a hard road we are walking but there IS hope if we place our faith in God. If you’re trying to climb out of the deep pit of despair due to the death of your loved one, you don’t have to do it alone. It’s not easy but it is possible when we do it together

Navigating Life After Loss

There was a time soon after Melanie ran ahead to heaven when I realized I had no choice but to push pause on my grieving. Unfortunately, the reality is when a person dies there is a myriad of important details which need to be handled. Funerals to be planned, people to be notified, insurance companies to deal with, notifications to be made. The list is endless.

The thing we really want to do is lay in our bed with the covers pulled up, and give in to the heavy ache in our heart. Unfortunately, there is a business side to death that doesn’t easily allow us to simply stop and truly grieve our loss.

It’s after the funeral when everyone has gone home that the real grieving begins. It’s then that we begin to wonder, how do we begin navigating life after loss? I think this is a million-dollar question and the best answer I have come up with is one day, one moment, one breath at a time.

One day you wake up and the reality of it all hits you. Your loved one is no longer here, and you begin to realize you’re on the grief journey. A road you so desperately wish had an exit where you could get off, never to return and have life go back to the way it used to be. If only…

Even though I will never understand why my daughter had to die so young, the one thing I remain strong and steadfast in is my faith in God. His ways are not my ways, and His thoughts are not my thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). Faith continues to allow me to stand firm on the only solid ground I know and that is Jesus – my Cornerstone.

Navigating life after loss is an ever changing, forever winding, bumpy road. There have been numerous days when I sat back and reflected on another time when life was simple, lighthearted, and good. Worries were few, or at least not the life and death kind. I still long for those days.

When grieving, our mind begins to go into overdrive with the number of questions that bombard our thoughts. What is the right thing to do after your loved one dies? During the early days of grief, we may look at our lives and all we see are remnants from the world that has blown up before our eyes. It’s like being in a war zone. How we handle some of these things is different for each one of us. Some of the most common questions I’ve been asked are:

• When is the right time to clean out their closet?
• Do you give their clothes away or do you keep them?
• Do you keep their room and things “as-is”?
• When is the right time to stop wearing your wedding ring?
• When should I return to work?
• When can I begin going out socially?

These are all such great questions and ones that I’ve asked myself. I’ve talked with many parents who do all of these things and some who do none of these things!

Some parents keep their child’s room exactly as it was the day they died. After a period of time, that only the parent can determine, they sometimes begin to put things away and often times will donate to an organization. Navigating life after loss has no formal blueprint. Let peace be your guide and go with what you feel in your heart is best for you.

I know of some wives who keep their husband’s clothing hanging in the closet because it makes them feel as if they are still there. It’s the same thing when a spouse continues to wear their wedding ring. They still feel married and doing so makes them feel connected to their spouse.

Melanie was not living with us at the time she ran ahead to heaven, so I did not have to face some of these decisions. However, I was able to get all of her belongings after she died. About a month later I went upstairs by myself and went through every single item, piece by piece. After inspecting each one and holding it to my face, slowly inhaling her scent, I carefully folded the clothes and packed them away in storage boxes which I have kept. Every once in a while I will carefully open the boxes and breathe in deeply. Even after all this time they still smell like her. It’s all I have of her, so I doubt I’ll ever give them away. Today, I still have her backpack with all her favorite perfumes, lotions, and personal items which I wrote about here in Memories in a Bookbag.

We each have to travel our own path, navigating our loss in the best way that feels most comfortable to us. There is no time limit on when you need to clean a closet, remove items, or stop wearing your wedding ring. Instead, I encourage you to take your time in making any decision. We are not thinking clearly during the early days/weeks/months. What you may think you don’t want to keep today, you may regret a year or two from now.

As you navigate your loss may you lean into the One who can heal your broken heart like no other.   

The Road to Healing Begins with Normalizing Grief

Sadly, one of the most common things I’ve been told as I’ve walked this grief journey is this: “No one wants to hear about my loss, or how I feel anymore. No one wants to talk about grief.” Every time I hear this my heart breaks. Unfortunately, I understand all too well as there have been many times I’ve been made to feel the same way. How are our hearts supposed to heal if we are made to feel there is something wrong with us because we are “still grieving?” I believe the road to healing begins with normalizing grief.

There is no shortcut you can take when you find yourself here, and our time on the grief journey varies with each one of us. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and more importantly, there is no way to avoid this journey either. Instead of being made to feel guilty for how we are feeling, we should feel a freedom to talk about our loved ones and our loss.

This week I met a lovely young woman who bought multiple copies of my book, Beautifully Broken Finding Hope During Loss. She told me two different friends had each lost a child. One a 14-year-old and another only 12 years old. My heart broke for those mamas. I know what they are going through and the road they are embarking on. Child loss is an out of order death. There is not timeframe for grief. Mamas who lose their babies will grieve them forever.

The sweetest part of my conversation with this beautiful young woman was when she asked me, “How can I best help support my friends? What should I say, or not say?” The simple fact that she asked and sincerely wanted to know touched my heart so very much. I shared with her a few suggestions which included:

• Don’t be afraid to say the child’s name.
• Just be there. Sometimes there are no words, but simply sitting with your friend in her grief so she doesn’t feel so alone makes all the difference.
• Share a story you remember about the child.
• Send a note or a card that simply let’s her know you are thinking of her, praying for her, loving her.
• Make a note on your calendar and reach out on those especially hard days – birthdays and angelversaries.

Our conversation then drew in another person, as we began talking about how we truly need to begin normalizing grief.  We should talk about grief and death, just as we talk about life. Why can’t we become comfortable talking about when a loved one dies?  Grief is normal. Each one of us will walk this journey one day.

Talking about grief and some of the myriad of emotions we experience can help us realize what we are going through is indeed, normal.

Did you know that grief is so much like fear and anxiety? Unfortunately, no one tells you that when your loved one dies. Everyone is so busy trying to get on with life and get back to normal. Your normal has forever changed and your normal now includes grief. So, today if you find yourself feeling fearful and full of anxiety, take comfort in knowing this is very common and normal when walking the grief journey.

Grief can be extremely isolating and lonely. No one tells you that either. Please seek professional help if this becomes something more than you can handle on your own. Talk to someone about it – a trusted friend or family member, a doctor, your pastor, a therapist. Just don’t keep it all bottled up inside of you.

Remember, grief is grief and loss is loss. We must stop judging based on how a person died.

Be there for the person who lost their child to death by overdose or suicide in the very same way you would support someone who lost their loved one to cancer, heart attack or an accident.

Let us begin to talk about grief and not in whispers. Today, help someone begin healing their broken heart. And for all of you who are walking the grief journey just like me, I SEE YOU!

With Great Loss Comes a Major Change of Perspective

Have you found that since the loss of your loved one the things that were once so important to you no longer are? I’ve come to learn that with great loss comes a major change of perspective.

While talking with a friend over lunch last week we spoke about how our priorities and thoughts had shifted since we found ourselves walking the grief journey. The things that used to be so very important no longer are. Have you found this to be true in your life?  

When death knocks on your door your life changes in ways we never imagined it would. The things I once saw as mountains have become mole hills.  

There was a time I used to really sweat the small stuff. I was hyper focused on perfectionism both personally and professionally. I was always concerned about what people thought of me. Was I good enough? Smart enough? Thin enough? Pretty enough? Fashionable enough?

I wore my mask every day to hide my imperfections and cover all the things I didn’t want others to see. I didn’t want people to know my daughter had S.U.D. (substance use disorder).  What would they think of her? What would they think of me? Would they look down on me? Blame me? Label her? I was a poster child for the stigma that is associated with addiction.

After Melanie died I realized all of that “stuff” was hogwash! Totally unimportant. The only person I needed to answer to was God. It took the death of my only daughter to make me realize all of this “stuff” ultimately had no real bearing in my life. It was then that I removed my mask and all that came with it. It was so liberating!

Grief and loss are hard. Dealing with our grief takes courage. If you are early in your journey or if you just haven’t been able to deal with it, please don’t run away. Instead, when it gets too hard, lean in to the One that can help lift you up, carry you through the valley, and ultimately heal your brokenness.

Friends, we are never the same people we once were before our loved one died and that’s OK. This change in our perspective on life is like looking through the lens of a different pair of glasses. No longer cloudy, or rose-colored. We realize how short life can be and how it can change in the blink of an eye. It’s different, but we see things more clearly now.

Healing our grief takes a lot of work. If we don’t deal with it, grief can destroy our lives. As we begin to view things with that different lens, we can become comfortable within ourselves accepting that we are no longer the same people we once were. Be brave and take the step. You’ll be glad you did.

There’s no way around it but through it! Right up the middle like a linebacker! If we don’t do the necessary work it will show up at another time in another way. Be brave, my friend. We can take each step together. There truly is Hope During Loss!

Grief: The Price We Pay for Love

When researching grief there are hundreds of quotes to draw from, yet I believe there is none that so aptly describes it as this:

This quote is from none other than Queen Elizabeth II who passed away last week at the age of 96. As a beloved leader for over 70 years, she certainly had opportunity to witness both love and loss in life.

I was moved when reading of the Queen’s personal faith in God. She did not hide her light under a bush but spoke openly about it. This is one of the reasons I admired her so.

While the grief journey continues to be a tricky road to navigate, I take comfort in knowing that grief truly is the price we pay for love. On those days when I may feel particularly sad I reflect on this and remember I wouldn’t have it any other way. I loved my daughter in life, and I still love her, even in death. The love hasn’t gone away nor lessened over time and I can’t imagine it ever will.

Grief is the price we pay for love.

Have you had well-meaning family or friends tell you that it’s time to move on? After a period of time has passed, there are oftentimes expectations which are thrust upon us. One of the most common is that enough time has gone by, and we should be over our grief. Let me simply say, there is no time limit for grief.

Grief is the price we pay for love. Yet, while we walk this grief journey we can still move forward in life, experiencing both joy and grief at the same time.

For those who have lost a spouse, there are many thoughts on how to move forward in life. Please note that I did not say, moving on. Moving forward and moving on are very different.

Recently, I was speaking with my friend, Tom who lost his wife to the disease of Alzheimer’s. It’s been 3 years and Tom still wears his wedding ring. Is there a time or moratorium on when a spouse should remove their wedding ring? I think this is a very personal and individual decision. My mother wore her wedding ring until the day she died even though my dad had been gone for 30 years.

Tom remembers his dear wife, Mary Ellen and their life together every, single day. He explained that even though his wife is not physically here, wearing his wedding ring makes him feel connected to her.

As we all walk this journey called grief, let us endeavor to lift and hold one another up as we walk together. Each of our stories though similar are as individual as our fingerprints. How I am managing through the grief of my daughter may not be exactly how you would handle it.

I have a dear friend who leaves a message to her child on his Facebook page every night. It’s a way for her to talk with him. What a special way to remain connected to her beautiful boy.

Let us remember the words of Queen Elizabeth, grief is indeed the price we pay for love. Let us move forward with kindness, love, and respect, leaning into Jesus, the one true rock and strength of our lives. It is there we will find our hope during loss.

How Can We Survive the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

Hello my friends! Well, we just said goodbye to Labor Day and depending on where you live in the world, this is oftentimes the end of Summer as we begin to make our way into Fall. And whether we like it or not, it’s here again – time to plan for the holidays. How can we survive the “most wonderful time of the year?”

In our family it’s during this time when we begin talking about what we are going to do for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I know it seems early, but in our local stores, Christmas trees began going up in early August! Argh! While we don’t celebrate Halloween, it seems all three holidays – Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas all get shoved together and become “HallowThankMas”.

For those walking the grief journey I know many who would prefer to just climb into bed and wake up on January 1st. I understand feeling that way, too.

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday of all. It was the one time when we were always together as a family. I miss those happier, simpler times, before death came knocking on my door.

Since Melanie ran ahead to heaven each year has been different. At this stage in my grief journey all that truly matters to me is having my son and daughter-in-love here with us. Since Covid made that decision for us the past 2 years, it felt as if I lost both of my older children during this time and not just my daughter. It’s no longer the holiday, it’s being together which matter most to me.

If you’re contemplating what to do for the holidays and struggling about your decision, the one thing I encourage you to do is this: Do whatever feels right for you!

If that means you don’t feel like cooking for Thanksgiving, then don’t! Order in. If your home was the place where everyone gathered, perhaps this is the year to gather in someone else’s house. If the thought of the meal itself brings anxiety and stress, order pizza!

Christmas can be a stressful time of year, without being in the midst of grief. If you don’t feel like decorating for Christmas, do as much or as little as you like. But do only what you feel you can. Feeling pressured to celebrate and do something you aren’t truly emotionally up for isn’t good for anyone – especially you.

Each Christmas that has passed since Melanie died has been different. I have taken each one as it comes and gone with it. One of the things I haven’t done is decorate like I used to. After the first year, since I had a younger child in the house I felt prompted to make it festive, but it’s still not like it used to be. And do you know what? That’s OK!

Every year we used to have a gingerbread house contest. I thought about it last year, but just couldn’t bring myself to order them and do it. I kept remembering the last time we did it was with my girl and finally gave myself the grace I needed. It was OK.

Some people decide to travel on the holidays. I’ve always thought that would be a good idea and actually began looking at places in Hawaii last week.  I am a realist though and I am aware that being in a different location will not remove the pain of our loss. Although I’ve been told it does help to ease the hurt and quell some of the memories. We’ll see if the Aloha state becomes our Christmas destination.

Whatever you decide to do, dear ones, I hope you feel the freedom to do what feels best to your grieving heart. I hope you do not feel pressured to do anything you are not ready to do. Remember, even though others may think it’s “the most wonderful time of the year” it’s truly OK to not be OK during the holiday season. This is grief.

International Overdose Awareness Day

Today is International Overdose Awareness Day. Each year on this day I create a special post specifically dedicated to honor the memory of all those who were lost to overdose and the parents who are grieving them.

My daughter, Melanie lost her life to the disease of addiction. Before that I never knew such a day existed. Sadly, this is the 3rd year I have been a member of this group that no one ever asks to join, and have met hundreds of other bereaved parents along this road.

If you have not had this disease touch your life directly I imagine you know someone who has. Regardless of the way your loved one died, grief is grief and loss is loss. We all hurt the same and miss our loved ones.

In 2020 when I first learned about International Overdose Awareness Day it was recorded that 81,000 people lost their lives to drug overdose during the previous 12 months.

Now, 2 years later this number has increased to over 107,000!

Today, on International Overdose Awareness Day I want to bring awareness to what is an often overlooked disease in our country.

Did you know that Substance Use Disorder is in fact an actual disease?

Are you aware that the disease of addiction touches people of all backgrounds, despite race, religion, education, or social class? People from all walks of life have suffered from substance abuse or known someone who has.

People who suffer from substance abuse are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends to many. It is up to us to make strides to reduce the stigma associated with substance abuse and bring about education and healing.

Today the Governor of the State of Georgia has issued an Executive Order to fly our flags at half-staff to honor the life and memory of individuals who passed away from drug overdoses.

This is a great, but small step in the right direction. However, there is still much work left to be done.

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