Growing through loss

I had an epiphany at an Andy Grammer concert.

If you don’t know Andy Grammer, he is an American singer/songwriter and some of his singles have included “Keep Your Head Up”, “Fine by Me”, “Honey, I’m Good”, and “Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah).”

His latest album came out in July and is called Naïve. Grammer has said it’s for the light bringers and the people who choose to see the good in everything, even in the overwhelming chaos of bad. Some of my favorite songs from the album are “I Found You”, “She’d Say”, “Stay There”, and “Best of You.”

My husband and I attended his concert in Indianapolis on Sunday night and it was everything I thought it would be- joyful, inspiring, uplifting, positive, dance worthy, and sing-along-able.

When Grammer got to his song “Wish You Pain” he talked about how going through life’s difficulties can make you a stronger person and can help you grow. To illustrate this idea at his concert he asks an audience member to share a lesson they’ve learned from a painful time in their lives and then writes a song about it on the spot.

It was during this time that I started thinking about the past several years and how I’ve had some of these hard times. My father passed away three years ago, my father-in-law passed away two years ago, and my grandma passed away one year ago. But during that time I met and leaned on my now husband. I prayed more and leaned on God because all of these things were out of my control. I spent more time with my family. I spoke more openly about heartache, grief, and loss. I read and wrote more. I let myself be sad and happy and I spent more time growing into who I am right now.

I still miss them every day but I also know that a part of them is with me. So I’m choosing to lean into that and grow a little each day.

“If it’s stupid to see the good in everything, then call me naive.”

Andy Grammer

Missing my dad on father’s day

I’ve written about my dad passing away unexpectedly at 60 years old and I’ve written about how my grief has changed over the past two and a half years.

I wouldn’t say it has gotten easier, because that’s a strange way to think about it. It sure hasn’t gotten easier he isn’t here. But, I would say as time has passed my grief has changed. I still have some off days but they come and go.

This week I had a few of those days. I was easily annoyed and a little sad and I didn’t know why. It wasn’t until I saw a Father’s Day commercial that it clicked. I was really missing my dad. I saw a grief counselor after my dad died and her words came to mind. She said that your body has a time clock and even if you aren’t thinking about an anniversary or holiday coming up you can find yourself being in a bad mood or upset. She said your body just knows.

That was happening to me. Instead of trying to fix it or push it away I let myself feel sad and then I thought about things that my dad has taught me.

He taught me how to work hard. Whether it was a sport or a career he taught me what it means to work hard at something.

He offered advice when I was unsure of something and it showed me that I am more capable than I might realize. It taught me to believe in myself and to be kind to myself.

He taught me how to ask for help when I need it. He was always there anytime I needed something and today I am able to accept help and ask for it when I need it.

He taught me to let things go and to not take myself so seriously. I tend to take things to heart and overthink things and he helped me learn how to laugh at situations and myself.

I could go on and on because the list doesn’t stop there, but I will just say that I am thankful for the time I had with my dad even if it wasn’t nearly long enough.

Instead of staying here in this feeling of sadness I’m thinking about the countless softball practices my dad took me to and hearing his voice say “finish” during softball games. I’m thinking of summers and bonfires and swimming when he would quiz me while I was on a raft and if I got it wrong he would tip me off of it. I’m thinking about him taking me to see the Disney movie the Princess and the Frog in theaters and watching tv in the basement. I’m thinking about simply sitting on the porch and talking or not talking but just enjoying the time together.

Thanks for everything, dad. I miss you.

I got a tattoo and here’s what I learned

After nearly two years of wanting a tattoo, I finally got one.

The tattoo is of a tree, in memory of my dad. More than 20 years ago he planted several pine trees in the back yard of my childhood home. Today they are tall, towering trees. The tattoo for me represents family, growth, strength, resiliency, and a deep connection to my roots.

When I started thinking about getting a tattoo I made a rule for myself that I had to want the same design for more than a year. I wanted to make sure that it was something I would want for a long time and wouldn’t get tired of.

I googled a lot of pine tree tattoos and I asked my brother to sketch some designs, which made it even more special to me. I knew I wanted the tattoo to be simple but realistic and I did not want it to look like a Christmas tree.

Next I did a lot of research about tattoo parlors, tattoo artists, placement, after care, and more. I started reaching out to artists and realized that many of them are busy and it can be hard to get on the schedule.

Once I found an artist and a business I scheduled an appointment. When the day came I showed up and was told the artist would be there soon. After sitting there for five minutes I got an email that said he would be late. To make a long story a little shorter, I was not loving the vibe of the business. After waiting for another 30 minutes I decided to leave.

I made an appointment with a different artist at a different business. When I arrived for the consult two days later, it was cleaner, more relaxing, and the artist was very nice and knowledgeable. After about 10 minutes I had an appointment booked for a week later.

When the day came I was a little nervous. It obviously was my first tattoo and even though I did a fair amount of research I still didn’t quite know what to expect. I asked my husband if I was making a bad decision and he told me that I wasn’t, he supported me, and reminded me that I had been talking about it for three years.

I arrived for my appointment and went over the design again with the artist. After getting things ready he asked if I was ready and then began tattooing me. I was surprised by how quiet the machine was, how little it hurt, and how quick it was done. The whole process took maybe 30 minutes and although it felt a little bit like a burn a few times it was not as painful as I expected.

The healing process went pretty quickly too. I had saniderm on the tattoo for about four days and after I took that off it was almost completely healed after a week.

I am really happy with how it turned out and it’s even more special to me because of the meaning behind it.

My takeaways:

  • Get something that is special to you and make sure it’s something you will like for a long time.
  • Do research, look at reviews, and ask around for recommendations.
  • Take someone with you.

Coming to terms with my grief

“Grief is such a specific thing for everyone and it’s a lifelong journey. It’s always there. You deal with it and you go through it and all of the sudden years later it’s like ‘oh no buddy, I’ve been here the whole time.’”

Jason Ritter

My dad died unexpectedly a day after his 60th birthday. I didn’t have the words for a long time and I still struggle to find them sometimes but I’ve learned that my grief ebbs and flows.

It’s now been a little more than two years since he died and my grief has taken a different form. I no longer feel a constant sadness of the things I wish I could have said. When my dad died I thought of the last time I talked to him, the last time I saw him, and the things I wish I could have said to him. At the advice of a pastor I wrote it down in a letter – all of it. How much I love my dad, how much I missed him, how proud I was to have him as a father, and how thankful I am for all the things he’s taught me.

My dad was a constant sounding board. Anytime I was anxious about something or needed advice I would talk to him. He showed me what hard work looks like. He encouraged me to write because he knew I enjoyed it and he cheered me on at every stage in my life.

I truly believe he knows all of these things and is with me still today. But my grief is still there. I say my grief because I think that everyone reacts differently to loss. There’s no right way to act or feel and some days are harder than others.

Jason Ritter talked about grief recently on Dax Shepard’s podcast Armchair Expert and it really resonated with me. He said: grief is such a specific thing for everyone and it’s a lifelong journey. It’s always there.You deal with it and you go through it and all of the sudden years later it’s like ‘oh no buddy, I’ve been here the whole time.’” He went on to Tweet about grief: “So cool how grief is just like ‘ok, that’s enough, I’ll leave you alone, I understand that sobbing forever isn’t a realistic life plan’ and then years later you see or read something and it’s like ‘PSYCH I never left, have fun bursting into tears for the rest of the day, hahaha.’”

This. This is what grief is like. There’s no preparing for it but having people in your life who are kind and understanding helps a lot.

Not a lot of people can put grief into words because it’s ever changing, but for now, these are the words I have.

Keeping resolutions by setting intentions

Now that it’s almost March I started thinking about my New Years resolutions. This year I decided to set intentions instead of specific goals. My list includes:

  1.  travel more
  2. Be kind to myself and others
  3. Read more
  4. Write more
  5. Fear less
  6. Love fiercely
  7. Grow in faith
  8. Enjoy every moment and stop waiting for weekends and big events to have fun.
  9. Work on finding a balance between work and life

So how have I been doing? I’m happy to say that I’m working on all of these.

  1. I traveled to California last month and have a few trips planned this year.
  2. In my previous post I pointed out the importance of self love and extending the same kindness and grace to others.
  3. So far I’ve read 7 books this year and I’m reading two right now. I’m also getting ready to start a book club with a friend.
  4. This blog is proof that I’m working on writing 🙂
  5. For me the next three are all connected.
  6. I am a worrier and I’ve been working on that this year by choosing to worry less and spend more time growing in faith and prayer.
  7. Part of that is loving people and myself more.
  8. I am blessed to have a husband and family that love doing adventurous and fun things. I went to a Cher concert with my mom recently, I just took a trip to Chicago with my husband and we’re planning a family vacation. But instead of spending all of my time looking forward to these events I’m working on enjoying every single moment- even Saturday errands, grocery shopping, and lazy afternoons of watching Netflix. More time is spent in the small monotonous moments than in the big moments and that’s beautiful too.
  9. I’m still working on finding the balance. I used to think success was defined by long hours and burn out and that’s just not the case. It’s important to have both.

All of these are tied back to being kind to others and myself, spending time with my loved ones, and finding time for the things I love to do. It continues to be a work in progress but I’m enjoying the work.

What about you? Did you make any new year’s resolutions? Did you keep them? And if you did, what helped you succeed?

How you talk to yourself matters

“This shirt is unflattering– I look awful today.”

“I can’t believe I said that earlier, I was so stupid.”

In the month that is all about love, sometimes it can be easy to forget how important self-love is.

I am guilty of this.

I pride myself in being kind and supportive and would do anything for any of my friends and family. In fact I’m quick to offer grace and words of encouragement to others especially when they are down on themselves.

Annie had a bad day of work? Girl, you got this. You are an intelligent, capable, badass warrior princess.  

Heidi is frustrated with a series of first dates that haven’t gone anywhere? Love, you are such a catch and you are going to find someone who can keep up with your wittiness, intelligence, and humor.

Laura feels like she’s in a slump? Lady, you’re doing just fine. In fact, you’re doing more than fine and continue to multitask and work toward your goals with the best of them.

But do you think I talk to myself this way? Most of the time I don’t. I’ve become more aware of the way I talk to myself this year and am working on extending the same grace, kindness, and patience to myself.

I know I’m not alone in this.

Here are some things I’m doing to keep the negative self-talk in check:

1) When I think something negative about myself, I ask myself if I would say what I just thought to someone else.

2) If the answer is no, I acknowledge that I’m being hard on myself.

3) If it’s something I want to work on – getting in better shape, for example – then I remind myself to be patient and do small things daily to work toward a goal.

I think we could all be a little kinder to ourselves and I hope this helps if this is something you struggle with too.