Welcome to Week Seven
I am so grateful you all are on this journey with me. What a wonderful six weeks it has been! I want to introduce Tammy Thomas…she has been a very active member of our Community since Day One! Tammy also is in charge of our RAK’s…I appreciate everything you do, Tammy!!!!
Always the encourager she has a Story to share with us all today…one of tragedy, hope and healing. Thank you Tammy for being so BRAVE!
HI, I’m Tammy. I live in a little town in Utah, down a little lane, off the beaten path. I’m married to my sweetheart Scott almost 29 years now. We have 3 children and 7 grandchildren who light up our lives.
September always does this to me. As the first signs of autumn start to appear, the knots in my stomach grow more noticeable each day. Why Do I have to remember, and so soon before the anniversary? The world outside is so beautiful, the colors of fall are just beginning to peek through. I can see smidgens of purple, yellow, orange and red. The sounds of the birds are everywhere. Even the Dahlias seem to have wide, vibrant smiles. Why can’t I do the same?
The days leading up to the anniversary seem harder than the day itself. These days before, just fill me with dread, foreboding and depression. Then, just like every year, for the past 6 years, it all comes flooding back, I have no choice but to remember…
Oct 3, 1998
It was a beautiful, October day; a little unusual, with sunshine and bright blue skies. There were none of the bitter cold winds so common during October in our quiet little town. It seemed Mother Nature had decided to remind us of a nice spring day, but the weather was only a disguise for what would later happen that day.
As I took the short walk next door to my parents home, I couldn’t help but smile as I saw my 3 kids enjoying the delightful weather with their visiting cousins. I was happy that they had this time together. It was great to have some time with my sister too. We didn’t get to see each other often enough, life and distance always seemed to get in the way. Covering the short distance quickly, I stopped in the driveway to chat with my sister and our parents before they headed into town. It was really just chitchat, a “we’ll see you later” and a quick little wave from mom before she climbed into the small Toyota truck. It all seemed so normal then, but later I’d come to realize it meant a lot more.
Us sisters returned to my home to share a long, over due, gab session. We both remarked how glad we were that it was nice enough weather the kids could play outside. Eight kids trapped inside all day was not a pleasant thought.
An hour or so later, the doorbell ringing brought us girls from the kitchen. Wiping my wet hands on a towel, I opened the door. A neighbor stood there waiting. “Is Scott home” he asked? I said, “he is, but he worked the graveyard shift last night so he’s sleeping.” The man paused noticeably, before he spoke again. “I was hoping he was here with you for this, but there’s been an accident, it’s your parents. It’s pretty bad.” I must have cried out, because it was only seconds until I turned and saw my husband at the top of the stairs.
That day almost 20 years ago was a defining moment in my life.
Grief wrapped it’s arms around me, tightly. It was deep, suffocating, sudden, and it was POWERFUL. I thought it would never let go.
In just a few short moments, the darkest of storms ravished the beautiful October day. In a matter of hours, nothing would ever be the same.
No warning, no time to say good-bye. Suddenly, BOTH parents were gone!
We’ve all lost someone we love, maybe through death, through a breakup, a divorce, a lost friendship, or illness. Grief plays no favorites, young or old, none of us are immune.
So, the question is, what do we do with it? How do we travel through it and not close off our hearts. How do we hold on to the light?
There is no question that grief defines us. But, we DO have a choice in HOW it defines us.
Some of us dig down deep and find a strength we didn’t know we had, others, may never recover.
Honestly, for me, it was a mixture of both. Ultimately though, I did find that strength, I did heal, and I found joy
To understand where I am now, I’d like to share about where I’ve been…
Writing, art, creativity, they are healing for me. It is how I get through most difficult challenges. It is how I survive, and YES, sometimes even thrive!
This writing exercise below (5 senses) helped give my emotions a voice, it was freeing to release them, and acknowledge them, so I could ultimately heal them.
Looks like: 2 caskets
sounds like : deafening silence, muffled whispers
smells like: freshly dug earth
tastes like: cotton
feels like: empty room, paralyzing, numb
(that exercise turned into this)
I stand paralyzed, in an empty room of my heart,
vaguely aware of the muffled voices surrounding me.
I feel numb, I’m trembling.
The smell of freshly dug soil permeates the air,
breathing it in leaves my tongue feeling like cotton.
Awareness of the void these two graves represent washes over me,
from somewhere I hear a soft whimper.
I want to run!
When will this nightmare end?
I feel warm, salty tears wash over my face,
I recognize that whimper as my own.
The ensuing silence is deafening, as slowly, ever so slowly,
the two caskets are lowered into the ground.
Grief moves in and takes residence. It becomes an unwelcome friend even. Healing, takes time. It is a slow, often wandering, path. Grief ebbs, and flows. Sometimes the waves may overtake you, it feels like you may drowned. Sometimes, it feels like you can breathe.
Grief looks differently for everyone. Healing is different too.
This is what it looked like for us, for me.
I had 3 really young kids who loved spending time with their Grandpa and Grandma. It was just a short little walk next door. They’d shadow grandpa around the yard, or help grandma knead bread. There were family dinners, reading books, lots of fun times together. There wasn’t hardly a day that wasn’t spent together.
When we lost them, the kids, (well all of us actually) really struggled to find our footing. It was so hard, because none of us got to say good-bye.
Three days after the accident, on my oldest daughters 8th Birthday, we found a way, to say goodbye.
All of us gathered in our parents front yard, wrote messages on balloons and we released them. This did a lot to heal our hearts and bring us just a little bit of peace and closure. It was especially helpful to do this together as a family.
This would continue to be healing for years to come for my then 2 year old son, who whenever he got a balloon, asked if he could send it to his grandpa. He always asked “do you think he’ll know it’s from me?” I always said he would. I wished I could hold tight to those balloons and fly to greet them.
If Tomorrow Never Comes
“If Tomorrow Never Comes, will she know how much I love her? Did I try in every way, to show her every day, that she’s my only one…And if my time on Earth were through, and she must face the world without me, is the love I gave her in the past, Gonna be enough to last…”
If Tomorrow Never Comes…” Sung by Garth Brooks
(pg. 1) (full song lyrics)
This song speaks of having NO REGRETS, making sure you are loving WELL, sharing how you feel, and avoiding the circumstance where, THERE IS NO SECOND CHANCE.
We’d only lived next door to Mom and Dad for 2 short years. We’d moved there so we’d be close to help my dad. We already spent a lot of time there helping with things dad just couldn’t do alone anymore since he’d injured a hand at work. We enjoyed being there and sharing so much of our lives.
When we first lost mom and dad I was ANGRY. I asked God, WHY?, why did you have us move here to be close to them, just to take them away. I didn’t want to live here anymore. I didn’t want to be here without them. I didn’t know HOW, to be here without them. I was having nightmares of the accident scene, nightmares, where once again I couldn’t save my dad as he was calling out for help.
I PRAYED , a LOT. Finally, several months later, while walking the lane by our houses, I received an answer. “I moved you here for YOU. I moved you here, so that you would have the opportunity to HEAL your struggling relationship with your mother. I did it for YOU”.
I cried that day because I knew it was true, I was so grateful. If we hadn’t moved here, I would have had to live with so many regrets. As it was, I KNEW that my parents both loved me, and I KNEW that they knew, I loved them! What a wonderful gift I had been given. I had NO REGRETS!!!
It was at that same time, that through those prayers I was freed from the dreams. One last dream I was given, I was able to “save” my dad, by freeing him from this world. Both of these were faith building, hope building experiences that have carried me through the last 20 years.
That last year of their lives while we lived right next door, was a gift. My little one’s knew their grandparents who loved them so, so, much. Our days were filled by sharing the lane, sharing meals, sharing work, and loving each other! It was a priceless time together.
My parents didn’t have any regrets either. They served well, lived well, and they LOVED well, each other, and all of us.
My dad especially loved my mother. He’d often mow messages for her in their grass. Just a few days prior to their accident he made one such message, which ultimately, became a healing message of love, to us! What a tender mercy, to have this message waiting for us when we returned to their home that day. Writing about these experiences, and using art as therapy, soothed my heart, and helped me get through one more day.
So many times before they died, I’d pick up the phone and call next door just to share a little part of our day. Sometimes mom would come sit and play my piano on days she might be feeling stressed. Dad would often come sit and visit a while, before my 2 year old would run off and spend the day with him. So much of our lives intertwined, and when they were gone, the void was deep and the silence was loud.
Even 2 years later, I’d find myself reaching for the phone, sometimes even picking it up, before realizing I couldn’t call.
Finally, I want to share a concept that became a healing balm to my soul.
Periodically, I write an “unsent letter”. This type of journaling provides an outlet to release hard emotions, say things you might not want, or be able to say in person. You can write and then tear it up, burn it, you may even just keep it. The purpose, is to just get it out, let it go, and be free of it.
This isn’t something that only helps with grief. I’ve also used this method when It wouldn’t be healthy to actually give my words to someone else. As I write them a letter, it is freeing, and I am able to forgive.
Sometimes, as in grief, it is a way to feel a little bit of a connection to those we loved and lost.
As displayed here, I wrote just such a letter to my parents. The first is from 2000, and 2002, The second I created to share with you today.
I titled them “Did you Know”
I wrote the things I’d say if I could pick up the phone and call. I told them my struggles, I shared our joys. And I REMEMBERED them.
It’s comforting to know I can still share things with them, and though they aren’t here, they are always in my heart.
Supplies: vellum, eyelets, fibers, magazine cut outs, wash tape, chipboard words, neocolonial pastels, inks, pattern paper
Honor, and Returning HOME
Loving my parents was a gift. Losing them was one of the most difficult challenges of my life, but because I DID love them, I live my life a little differently since they’ve been gone. I try to love others, serve others and honor them by the way I live.
I am trying to honor them by being a light, and sharing what I’ve learned. My hope is to lift others when they have the heavy burden of Grief, to help make that load a little bit lighter, and to show them that there is still JOY.
Our hearts are still healing, I don’t think that ever fully happens, but my faith comforts me in knowing I will see them again. We cherish the memories, accept each level of healing as it comes, and we try to live with no regrets.
We still live on that little lane, next to where we shared two wonderful years with my parents. We have some new neighbors that we love, and so many good people that help fill the void. We still love hearing others in town talk about mom and dad, sharing memories of what great people they were.
Once again, this place feels like HOME, for sure it has been much different without them, but the good memories now overshadow the grief, and we are happy each time we return home.
This is my most recent Art journal page, created with a poem I wrote soon after my parents death, and a new current one with the same theme, with hope, and joy weaved into it now. The first is much different than now, it is raw, and hard to read what I wrote back then, but there beauty is in the new! I have grieved deeply, because I loved deeply.
Turning for Home…
First page is the New Poem, the second page has the old poem under the vellum tip-in (Supplies: vellum, personal photography, stencils, texture paste, inks, stickers, acetate butterfly, wash tape, stamps, patter paper.)
A Glimpse of my Creativity…
I love old things, books, lace, journals, wooden spoons and music. One of my favorite things to do is go “antiquing” or to yard sales and thrift stores. I treasure things from the past. I am emotional and sentimental. I’m ok with that, it is part of who I am.
At the very center of me, lies the drive to create. When I am creating, my struggles, worries and sorrows don’t seem so heavy. I feel free, and it inspires me to do better, be better, and be a light. It makes me want to RISE, and be more brave! Creating is joyful!
I love to read, write, sing, serve in my church and of course, spend time with my family.
When I’m not creating, I enjoy photography, it is healing for me. I feel God near when I notice his beauty.
I’m so grateful for the healing that comes through creating and using the gifts that God has given me. Here is a selection of some of my favorite art pieces. Some are healing pieces. ALL have special meaning to me.
Writing and journaling are essential to my well being, my joy, and acknowledging all that I have been blessed with.
A Favorite quote of mine right now is this,
When expressing my creativity, I like to use paper, color, texture, paint, words and photos. I like to mix old and new, pretty and imperfect.
A book of my moms writing I put together after her
death (includes my own and my siblings writings
too), using pattern paper, mulberry paper, printed
images, and personal writings.
Supplies: Cardstock Clock, metal butterflies, die-cut border, printed vellum
metal crown, distress ink, metal letters, printed ephemera
Kintsugi art bowl
an experience from a Healing Retreat Last year.
Dreams: Supplies used:
Word tiles, printed ephemera, paper tearing,
burlap ribbon, distress ink, chalks
This week’s art journal therapy page is all about how YOU think OTHERS see you and how that affects the Connections you make. Be sure and share your pages in our group if you want to.