One thing I’ve learned, and likely you have too, is that every loss is different in how you grieve. In 11 years, I have lost my two grandmothers (one that took an active role in helping raise me, who Mazie is named after), my best friend and my daughter. All hurt to the core and that pain varied.
My nana, Mary Ellen, on the left and my grandma, Mazie, on the right
Both of my grandmothers and my best friend, Jessie, all battled a form of cancer. Of course we grasped for every ounce of hope throughout their individual journeys. They were all three such fierce women, which is beyond tough to see them at their weakest and suffer in any way.
Watching my friend in her mid-30’s, who was also a mom of a little boy, in this fight was an elevated level of “hard”. Her faith inspired me and so many others. She even prayed for her doctor on her last day at hospice! Knowing she had so much life yet to live adds to the grief tremendously.
My beautiful friend, Jessica Faith, and her son Rhye
And that brings me to Mazie. Grief cannot be compared but trust me when I say that losing a child brings on so many added layers. Just imagine all the milestones and years we miss out on. I’ll reflect on that more in the next blog.
Now, I’m going to be very transparent and raw about what we have faced this last year as I hope this cultivates expanded compassion and understanding to anyone you know that has lost a little one.
“They” say there are different stages of grief and while that may be true to a degree about the various emotions and places the bereaved navigate through, when you unexpectedly and suddenly lose anyone those go out the window. In fact, there is a major layer of TRAUMA that interferes with any movement or progression to be made.
With a very sudden loss, it takes a physical toll on you. I lost 10 pounds over the first week and was sick for months. Friends and family were so sweet during that time bringing me broth or smoothies since I couldn’t eat anything solid. Then both mentally and emotionally, a fog comes over you to prevent clarity for a long while. I had no energy or desire to go anywhere or do anything. With a tendency to isolate, I couldn't help but remain in an extended state of shock, numbness and of course depression. Upon waking every day, and still now, I feel lost knowing nothing looks as it should without Mazie here. When you stay home with a child 24/7, your sense of purpose and fulfillment fades away.
The trauma kept me at a standstill for several months. And even worse, it brought me to the darkest moments of my life. I don’t just mean not wanting to get out of bed. That’s normal and I still have those days A LOT.
Only a few people know this but in the beginning of the year, thoughts crept in my mind of possibilities to make the pain immediately go away. Luckily, these were more passive and the first time it happened I was in the middle of my first inner healing retreat. As I shuffled through my nightstand drawer, Jesus met me right in that moment and saved me! So did some very encouraging women in my life that He brought to me at a critical time. The next week, my doctor and counselor both advised to increase the dosage (temporarily) of my anti-depressant and I dove even deeper into my EMDR therapy.
Speaking of medication, I promised Mazie that I would not take or do anything to numb my pain and have been very self-conscious not to. Fast forward to now, I have been completely OFF that anti-depressant for 3 months! I cannot begin to explain how good God is. It is an answered prayer that I was even able to get into my PTSD counselor who continues to be a light in some of the darkest times I encounter daily. Jesus shines THROUGH her during each session and that has been my ultimate source of healing.
Myles, Mazie & Latson - November 2019
This past year has been all about SURVIVAL. While I was prescribed medicine to cope with depression and even the trauma, I desperately needed any kind of aid that would help me sleep. Immediately, this was a major issue and was for months. As soon as I would lie down, I was haunted by flashbacks and those thoughts would be what woke me if I did fall asleep. I needed to not only get rest to function but continue to be mom for the boys. As any bereaved parent could testify to, you learn to do what it takes. And for me, nothing in a bottle was the answer.
Back to the layers. One of the first, was the gut punch in the mail whenever a medical bill would come in. Whether they were for previous services for Mazie or many of the hospital/ambulatory expenses, it would take the breath out of me every time. SO NOT FAIR. Adam was such an incredible supporter over the months the bills would come in as he did his best to shield me from seeing them and making the calls to see what could be done. The love and grace of Jesus shined through many people who blessed us with eliminating some of these overwhelming burdens, including the funeral and burial expenses. Side note – I used to work with a wonderful local organization, Maddie’s Footprints, who came full circle by helping our family during this time too. We are forever grateful to ALL OF YOU!
Other painful layers along the way have been seeing the mausoleum stone engraved for the first time, a reality no ever parent wants to, and then encountering the many triggers. I will never forget the time my mom, Latson and me went to my nephew’s high school football game and I saw a mom standing with her baby not far from us. Emptiness came over and my arms truly ached for Mazie, which they always will. Coming in contact with toddlers around Mazie’s age is also a trigger, especially seeing children hit milestones she never got to, even talking. That’s why I have to limit being on social media. Other triggers are any reminders of those traumatic events like hearing an ambulance, going by the hospital or being around a pool.
Without my faith (which has evolved more than ever this year), consistent therapy and a solid support system, I can honestly say I wouldn’t be here today. Thank you God for your sustaining hope and strength.
Yes, peeling back these layers is painful to relive but they are a part of my testimony and transformation. Sifting through the layers is necessary to begin processing (fully healing) and revealing the beauty in the ashes that lie beneath. And I can't wait to share more about God’s miraculous beauty as we intentionally honor Mazie over the next difficult days to come.