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Growing up, our family lived in a house on Lincoln Avenue until I was ten. Then we moved to a bigger house (where I could had my own room!) on Garfield St. And like some parents, they waited until we were all grown and out of the house to build their own home! LOL I have vivid memories of the two houses I spent most of my time in. My sister and I had to share a room in the first house. And yes, we had the tape down the middle of the room. I was not to cross that line for any reason! We had a large backyard, a neighborhood we could go ride our bikes around, and a neighboring lot we were able to play baseball in (our own version of Sandlot!). Our mom would stand in my brother’s room each morning and watch for the bus. As soon as she saw it, she would holler, “BUS!” and we would dash out. I remember our family huddling in the living room during the blizzard of ’78. Good times. Good memories.

We, then, moved to a bigger house, in which I had my own room! Mom and Dad even let me pick what color to paint my room. I was so excited!! (It’s the little things in life!) My room was at the front of the house next to the front porch where mom had hung chimes. I lost count how many times I went out in the middle of windy nights and took down the chimes because they kept me up. I loved the spacious kitchen and living room. Dad built a garage, new driveway and of course a basketball goal. It seemed my brother was always out their with his friends playing hoops. We were closer to “town” and I was able to ride my bike to the “Dime” store and get gum and candy. I would even run to the grocery store for mom. One year, I was in middle school and our mom had surgery. She ended up having to stay longer in the hospital. So, my sister and I had to do a few extra things around the house. I remember my Dad giving me a blank check and a grocery list. The grocery store was only 3 blocks away. So, off I went, got the groceries and used the cart to push the groceries home, unloaded and took the cart back. We also had neighbors that were my age. We played many rounds of hide and seek on summer nights. Good times. Good memories.

We grew up and moved out then Mom and Dad built their new home. Overtime, the house on Garfield deteriorated and had to be torn down. I drove by the lot recently. The garage and basketball goal are still standing, but the house is gone. It’s sad and tugs at my heart to not see the physical house. Yet, the memories are embedded in my heart and mind. Even though I can’t physically go and visit the house, the memories of the home we had are within me and a part of me.

We experience loss and grief more often than we realize or more often than we are willing to admit. Because, really, it’s sad and hard and depressing. Who, willingly, looks forward to loosing something or someone. Yeah, not me. But we can’t avoid it either. Do you stuff it, express it or let it be? Yes, to all of the above.

Over the years, I’ve experienced the loss of jobs, friendships, long term dreams (I thought I was a teacher for life, that they would have to wheel me out in a wheelchair! Life happened and that’s no longer the case.). I’ve also experienced the loss of an unborn child, women in my life whom I looked up to and sought our for advice; my father: the hug and shelter I needed when times were tough, the lap I crawled up on as a girl and fell asleep in his arms; my husband: my rock, my safe place, my calm in the storm, our dreams of being married for 50 years, the fun in retirement we would have, the joys of raising our 3 crazy kids together.

It’s no wonder we don’t talk about loss very often. It’s sad and it hurts and it reminds us of what we don’t have and what we lost. Grief is tricky. There are days and moments when the hurt works it’s way to the top and has a tendency to bring me down and send me down a dark road. In those moments, I do stuff it, push it back. I’m not avoiding it. I’m not allowing it to overtake my emotions and heart. I’m not letting it determine my state of mind. I focus on what I did have, be thankful for the time we had together. That leads into the strength to express it. I want to remember. I want my kids and everyone else who knew my loved ones or any loss to remember the positive impact they had on our lives; to tell stories, share memories, learn something new we didn’t know. And to cry, it’s okay to cry. At times, I thought I was doing okay, felt like I had made some positive steps forward in healing. Something happened and a tear leaked out, then in comfort, someone said, “It will be okay.” The water works started and there was no stopping it. I had myself a good cry and let it out. God’s timing reminded me that “it will be okay.” A phone call from my Mom to tell me she was thinking of me and that she loved me was just what I needed. Tears are healing. They are not a sign of weakness or a point of awkwardness. Maybe the subject isn’t brought up because others don’t want to make you cry. It’s a nice thought and appreciated. Yet, one; we may want and need to share to confirm the person or event it still there so we know they aren’t forgotten. Two, tears are part of it. I cry at commercials. I’m a sympathy crier. You start crying, I’ll cry along with you. You won’t be alone in your tears. There is no need to feel embarrassed or apologize for tears. It’s time to let it be. It’s a part of you.

Grief looks differently for each person. There is no check list or specific stages of grief. It is different per person, per situation. It can also sneak in when we least expect it. It can also surprise us when we are able to do something and it doesn’t hurt quite as much. Grief doesn’t define us, yet it becomes part of our story. How, when and where you decide to share and live out that part of your life is up to you.

My prayer for you, my kids, me and anyone going through a loss is that you allow yourself to feel it, but don’t get stuck in it. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it hard. Yes, it terrible! This is not what you thought your days would look like. Yet, here we are. I can tell you, as I’ve lived through a variety of losses, the sting fades. You can’t “just get over it.” You learn to live with it and not let it define who you are. Over time and with healing, the sting fades. It still hurts and may bring you moments of sadness. Yet, there is joy in the morning. For real, there is. You will be given a crown of beauty instead of ashes, joyous blessings instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. Go easy on yourself. Give yourself a break. There are days when all I can do is just breathe, that’s all I have in me. There are also days of beauty, joy and festive praise. Soak in the beauty, joy and festive praise. Let it warm you from the inside out. Let it seep into your soul and heal the brokenness.

Some of you may be thinking, you crazy girl! Well, yes I am! No doubts there! 🙂 I hope my craziness brings you Light, comfort and assurance that it will be okay. You will make it to the other side. And if you are on the other side, it won’t pull you back in. You are a survivor because we have the Greatest Warrior fighting our battles for us. Wherever you are at physically, mentally, emotionally, may you open yourself up to receive His comfort and peace in knowing you are in the shelter of His wings as He is fighting your battles and clearing the way before you. You will be blessed and you will bless others. There is joy in the morning.

Thanks for sharing a moment with me. Share your story, bless others, and you will be blessed. We are in this together in Him.

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