Category Archives: Living

Mother Loss & the Necessity of Self Care

The Empty Chair

Mother Loss & the Necessity of Self Care

My Mother’s birthday is April 1st.

The month of April encompasses her birthday, then my birthday, sometimes Easter. Closely followed by Mother’s Day.

This time of year when everything is coming awake again my mama is never far from my thoughts.

Purple pansies and white tulips

Mother Loss and Nurturing Ourselves

 

April Showers Bring May Flowers

Normally, on her birthday I would have planted flowers, pansies. They were one of her favorites. However, our spring rains put a damper on it. The rain has only postponed it. (Oh, how we need this rain!) I am always looking for new ways to honor my Mother that remain meaningful and personal.

I often wonder what she would look like and what we would talk about. What kind of relationship would she have with our children? My Mother was sweet, kind, intelligent, very thoughtful and loving. She had a great sense of humor. She laughed at my antics. She got my inside jokes.

She was beautiful.

She was so many wonderful things.

We had a good relationship. We were close.

She died at 45. I was 16 years old.

Our relationship, forever crystallized at this point in our development. We will never know anything more.

She was murdered by my father while I slept. After he shot my mother, he shot himself.

I slept through it all.

I woke to my little sister and brother whispering to me from the foot of my bed.

“I think Dad’s in the house.”

I went downstairs. I opened the door to my parents’ bedroom.

I found my Father.

I found my Mother.

I lost myself.

I lost my soft place to land and my anchor. My world would never be the same.

I walked around with an invisible gaping wound for a long time.

All those thoughts once shared. “I can’t wait to tell Mom … ”

You can’t pick up the phone. You can’t walk in the front door. You can never go home again. Where there was once warmth and love, emptiness.

The loving presence with a willing ear and kind words at the ready is missing, replaced with unbearable silence. I miss her voice. I miss her company.

Holidays and birthdays, all those rites of passage? Absence.

The day I lost my Mother, is the day the world lost its shine.

I sought to work through my immense grief with talk therapy and running, lots and lots of running. Over the years I have learned what works for me.

Yet, I know there is no set period to grieve. It comes and goes in waves. It can be postponed but it will not be ignored. Unless those close to you have experienced such a loss, there is no comprehension of the residual grief. Grief is personal, primal even. We all do it in our own way.

To grieve is to be human.

We’ve been told time heals all wounds but there are scars that ache, more in some years than others and this year is shaping up to be challenging.

This means, I double down on creating, being, doing, that which brings myself and my loved ones, joy.

I have to nurture myself.

This chosen life, my family, my babies, my gardens, they all put the lustre in life.

They bring me so much love and joy, and I do my best to give it back in spades!

The best therapy I have ever had?

Being active in whatever nurtures my soul.

It is grounding.

It is healing.

It is GOOD.

It is NECESSARY.

Gardening has been a very big part of my recipe for healing my grief and has righted many wonky days.

Sewing, creating, anything that allows me an outlet to express what I am feeling through DOING, has been very cathartic.

When I feel the grief monkey on my back I have to be proactive. Sometimes I involve the whole family, other times, I need my space.

I have 5 children. My house is bustling with activity and it can get loud. If you have children you may need to “schedule” this time with your spouse or partner in order to get the time you need.

Be prepared! If you have kiddos and involve them it may become a tradition each year!

This can be good! Or, it can be not-so-good depending on where you are at in processing your grief. If you have children, you may have to do these activities away from the house to recharge your batteries.

Surround yourself with loving, supportive, people. Remove your company from those who are not. You are worthy and deserving of love and peace. Like a garden, this takes cultivating. Don’t be afraid to weed your friend and family garden by setting healthy boundaries. This is yet another way we must nurture ourselves.

A Nurture List

Plant a memorial tree and/or garden

Build something BIG

Be kind to yourself by practicing a loving inner voice “I look sooo good today”

Give compliments to loved ones, to strangers

Do a silly dance

Have a dance-off with your kids – your friends

Find reasons to Laugh – the best belly laugh

Find reasons to smile

Pottery – handbuild or throw pots on a kickwheel

Photography – take pictures of everyone making funny faces – make your own funny faces- get them printed – frame them hang them

Candlelit bubble bath with lavender oil (favorite essential oil) & favorite music

Paint your nails

Go to the spa

Create your own perfume and/or lotion 

Get a manicure, pedicure or massage – or all of it

Take a solitary walk or hike

Go Stargazing

Go Cloudgazing

Sunbathe

Go Camping

Go on a run – barefoot

Join a support group

Start a support group

Go to the gym

Go to the gym more

Play an instrument – The harp sounds heavenly no matter what you play or your skill level! (Harpsicle Harps are very affordable,)

Try a new hobby

Journal, Blog, Vlog

Sew, knit, crochet

Draw, Paint, Craft

Take a nap

Take a day trip somewhere new

Go on a country drive 

Visit a botanical garden 

Visit a museum 

Visit an animal sanctuary

Adopt a pet

Whatever you do, it needs to honor your grief and feed your soul.

Make you feel alive. Make you feel loved.

After all, that is what your mama would want for you.

A Nurtured Life.

Reading Resources

Hope Edelman Books Motherless Daughters, Motherless Mothers, Letters From Motherless Daughters

“Mother Loss: A List of Suggested Resources”

 

 

Nurturing Chaos and Taming Joy

The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect Theory  “sensitive dependence on initial conditions”

“Nurturing chaos and taming joy” 

It is meant to be tongue-in-cheek but it’s a pretty accurate way for me to describe what it is like raising five children.

Each have their own agenda; five beautifully vibrant souls in their own orbits, at times coalescing then separating, zigging and zagging.

It is at times a chaotic and joyful life punctuated with periods of peace and contentment.

I spend a lot of time keeping everyone from destroying the house or each other. Most times, I am taming joy. When someone decides to jump across furniture like a leap frog, start a game of chase in the house, or climb the banister like Spiderman, I must step in for safety. You may do parkour outside but you may not do parkour in the living room.”

I repeat myself, a lot. Small victories add up. I just have to have faith some of it sticks. I figure as long as I am consistent 80% of the time that other 20% just means I am human.

A game of tag in the backyard is going well with no yelling or bickering. I peek in on a board or card game underway and everyone is content and harmonious, which is heartening, even if it only lasts for 10 minutes before someone is yelling.

Without my prompting or suggesting, everyone is quietly reading or looking at books; I fall over dead. No, actually I race away to actually get something done for myself. I do as much as one can do with a toddler in tow. Small victories.

I am the manager of chaos. There is order in chaos.

InfinitySparkler0715

Sparkler in motion, summer 2015.

It may not be readily apparent but it is there all the same. This is especially true in human interactions. We are social creatures and our nature requires that we interact with others. We move in and out of various states of order and disorder, converging and diverging. For most of us, family is the first social group in which we learn to differentiate ourselves from one another while simultaneously embracing our “oneness” or solidarity. It is about our attachment to one another. Family should be our safe base. Home should be our soft place to land.

We attach and we individuate.

This is a sometimes messy but always necessary process. 

I must nurture this process while providing structure and boundaries. I often remind my older kids Mom is a person too. Everyone needs their own time and space to nurture themselves, for self care. This looks different for each family and this is because we are not raising clones but individuals with their own distinct views, drives, and desires of the world. Our world.

Where do you end and I begin?  

"Mother nursing her child" 1906, Mary Cassatt

“Mother nursing her child” 1906, Mary Cassatt

As a mother I am acutely aware of the eternal enormity of my role.

We set the tone of the home. As humans, as mothers, fathers, sisters or brothers; we each influence one another in our own way. There exists a “sensitive dependence on initial conditions.” Some conditions we have control over and others we most certainly do not. Our children come to us with many default features.

Mothers nurture nature. We are all nurturing nature.

Each day I am reminded of my strengths, limitations, and humanity. Doing human is hard and growing them is even harder. I often tell my kids it’s the hardest job you’ll ever love. I am doing my very best and sometimes that has to be good enough.

Chaos Theory

Attachment Theory

Communication and Accommodation Theory

The principle of individuation

Behavioral Epigenetics: How Nurture Shapes Nature

The Art of Mary Cassatt

… more on Mary Cassatt

The Art of Josephine Wall

 

Big Families: Abundant in Love… and Illness

Baum

Get your own “Literary Classics” handwashing awareness posters free for print here.

We have had so much illness come through our house these last couple of years. The kiddos missed lots of school. We started to feel like freaks by the amount of events we could not attend. For a time, life was bleak.

House projects went unfinished. We spent thousands of dollars on cleaning supplies, doctor visits and medicine. We forgot what it was like to be and feel healthy on a holiday or weekend… or ever.

We scrutinized our nutrition, cleaning routines and doubled down on our children’s hygiene habits.

We still got sick a lot.

 

 

Ever notice how NO ONE seems to come down with illness at the same time? It takes an average of 1.5 to 2 weeks for it to travel through our whole family. Unless you all have food poisoning. Then it seems to be instantaneous!

One of my theories as to why we were sick so often was having 3 children in a school environment; one being a Kindergartner. Germs just seem to love them!

Recently, I came across The BIG LoVE Study led by the University of Utah School of Medicine. It is a very interesting read for anyone growing a family.

Using modern diagnostics, they studied 26 families (106 members; 3 births occurred during study) in a Utah community over a period of one year. Family sizes ranged from those with 0 to 6 children. Families of our size (5 children) had viral illnesses 65% of the year, families with 4 children were ill 58% of the year, and families with 6 children were ill 87% of the year!

In contrast, families with 0 children were only ill 7% of the year, whereas, those with only 1 child were sick 35% of the year. 

This study suggests that by adding a second child you stand to be ill 56% of the year.

Children under 5 were found to be infected with respiratory illness 50% of the year. “When infected, they were 1.5 times more likely to have symptoms, including severe symptoms like wheezing and fever.”

Therefore, if you have little ones in the house you are going to be sick a lot more often, especially when you have 4 or more children. I know, not very earth-shattering news!

For those parents with a larger family that have had a lot of illness lately it is heartening to know you are not alone

It appears that they plan on studying larger and more diverse populations. I look forward to more research involving a larger demographic. You can read more about The BIG LoVE study at the links below:

Viruses Thrive In Big Families, In Sickness and In HealthUniversity of Utah Health Care. Web. 4 Aug. 2015.

Byington CL, Ampofo K, Stockmann C, Adler FR, Herbener A, Miller T, Sheng X, Blaschke AJ, Crisp R, Pavia AT. “Community Surveillance of Respiratory Viruses Among Families in the Utah Better Identification of Germs-Longitudinal Viral Epidemiology (BIG-LoVE) Study.” Clinical Infectious Diseases 15 Oct. 2015 61(8): 1217-24. Web. 4 Aug. 2015.

Stevenson

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