I could not possibly remember or count the many times I’ve heard this. Sometimes if I’m being transparent it feels so empty and quite overused. But what else do you say when a loved one has passed? We all want to encourage, or be encouraged and feel some ounce of betterment. We feel the immense sorrow when someone we’ve lost dies. What should we reply when someone says “I’m sorry”? do we just say it’s ok? or nothing at all? After all it is an expression of sympathy. We offer our compassion and concern. We are showing that we care. But what if we changed the script.? What if we expressed our concern by saying My deepest sympathy, or I’m sending you love, prayers, comfort during this time…I’m thinking of you, and I’m here. We struggle to find the right words. Everyone’s journey through grief is so unique. It’s ok to be short and simple. It’s so hard to see our loved ones suffering, and in the grips of a loss. I’m sorry is not wrong. It just simply doesn’t cover what are brutal emotions give us. Good intentions can make “robotic statements” seem less authentic. My hope in this is that we allow ourselves to respond better if you will to offer genuine support.
The death of a loved one is so abrasively shocking to your system. The loss of my son Eliyah has been a journey that even when I close my eyes, if I choose and sometimes when I don’t I am catapulted immediately to the day he died.
Death brings unknowns. You ask the why’s… they seem to go on and on. Even if you had an answer, The question of why would still rear itself to your mind in some fashion. What if it’s unknown? What if there is no tangible reason? What if you had to just accept what has happened and begin the brutal task of healing. Yes healing is brutal. It takes time, it’s painful, it leaves scars to remind you of what happened. Sometimes healing is not what we think it should look like. Sometimes how you picture it, the exact opposite is what you are faced with, and now you must adapt accordingly.
Eliyah’s cause of death was SUDEP. Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy. I will focus on the second word. Unexplained. It means it is not accounted for, there is no identifiable cause. It is Unknown. How unnerving right? If you are someone who needs answers it is a mental drive to the crazy house because there is not an answer. I like satisfaction. I want to know reasons, and sometimes my overthinking mind needs a reason for the reason. And yet here I was dealing with a death that had no reason behind it. And furthermore why my child?
Sometimes it’s fear of the unknown that makes our minds scream. What if? What about? etc. This year specifically has challenged many of us to the core for several different reasons. A world pandemic. So many unknowns involved about how we should move forward to stay healthy. Many of you lost a loved one this year, or a job, I have a friend who lost her beautiful home in a fire. Where do you start? Where do you go from here? So many unknowns.
When my mother was sick, my dad used to tell her take one thing at a time. Slow down, don’t try to do it all at once. Sometimes we must acknowledge that steps must be taken. For example if you want to bake a cake, You follow certain steps first. You don’t just throw all in the oven. Certain ingredients must be mixed. Gotta follow the steps 1 thing at a time. Healing of a loved one especially is a process. You don’t heal all at once. I wish it was that easy. A simple process.
Grief is an unknown. It carries with it many, many facets. It carries with it no timeline, no proper way of “grieving right” no such thing, it scares people away, yet can also make people want to draw closer to you to help you through. It affects one person in one way, and to another a different way. No rhyme or reason. It’s complicated. It has stages. the stages are not in any specific order and can last a lifetime of not. Unknown.
So how do we handle the unknown? Do we know? Is there a playbook out there with the plays? An answer key in the back of a book? Is there a guru high upon a mountain who has all the answers? I chose, yes chose to rely on faith. The bible says in Hebrews 11:1 That faith is the hope or the confidence in what we hope for and assurance/evidence about what we do not see. It means to believe completely even when there is no evidence to support. It is my foundation for my relationship with God. The very start of what matters on a spiritual side. It is my confidence that later becomes fully operational to believe his promises. It’s unseen but exists beneath what is visible.
This is what carries me. It fuels me, Drives my reasoning for how I move in life. Utilizing faith while in the unknown has allowed me to put one foot forward at a time. It is the constant abiding trust in what I can’t see. It’s like the unseen foundation of a building. You can’t see it but you know if it’s not there the building would collapse. It’s knowing it will work when it’s not apparent to my senses. It must be applied to all of life challenges. I encourage you to face the unknown head on with faith in front of you. It will make a difference in your life.
Today can’t stop. It’s like being on a never ending carousel. You get on and the ride goes up and down, round and round. The attendant has left and you have no choice but to continue. There are 365 days of the year, (or add one more for Leap year). I have had times where I have cringed certain days. Days that I just want to skip right over. July 4th is now a bittersweet day for me. I’m on that carousel. Horse up is the wonderful memories he brings me. The utter joy I have of the happier days in my life. I can still see his face and hear his voice the night I last saw him. Those are the “horse highs” on the ride. The “Horse lows” is him not being here to celebrate with me. I have the horrible complex catch 22. I’m taken back to the my pregnancy and the day he was born to wanting to hug him, see him, hear him…. Oh man, The elation of that day. My first baby, The anticipation of holding my son. Him being a holiday baby to the now remembering that he’s not here, but now resides in Heaven. The constant round and round makes me dizzy. Up, down, up, down, round and round… And someone please turn off that creepy music.. It’s supposed to remind you of happy childhood days, but I’d rather hear a classic R&B jam from the 90’s. Today is a tricky day…
This is what I see now.. July 4, 1996 – January 19, 2013. 16 years of life. And every year is the same now, I add another year. He would be 24. Every year I ask the same questions according to that age..This time it’s What would he be doing now? Working? Still in college? Would he have a girlfriend? What would he look like? Yep, I wonder about it all, and it’s never going to stop….Those wonderings will continue for the rest of my natural life. And it’s ok. I’m not sharing because it’s a problem, it’s my reality.
Are there birthdays in Heaven? Is there any recognition? I’d like to imagine that there are for just a moment. I close my eyes and envision not birthday cakes, not party favors, but music and dancing. I see our loved ones looking at us and saying a prayer that we will be ok as we remember them on the day they were born. My dad told me about a dream he had of Eliyah. He saw him sitting on a very bright street corner playing his trumpet. He said he had a look on his face that embodied more happiness than he had ever seen. My father then went on to say that his look gave him peace that Eliyah was doing just fine. I can’t help but have the same vision. Eliyah left this earth 7 years ago and I have yet to have a dream about him, or talk to him in a dream. But I could see him thru the lens of my father’s dream. However on his birthday I picture him celebrating with Jesus. Playing his trumpet for him. I talk to him always and today I would ask of him to remind Jesus of my prayer to make this day less heavy for me. To shine on me in a very special way because my heart hurts….
I have/had a video of Eliyah playing happy birthday on his trumpet to me. I say have/had because thru much searching I still can’t find it. I can see what he had on, where he stood, and his big smile of joy afterwards, when I remember it. But I still can’t find it. It bothers me.. It was so personal. And because he’s not here I grieve it’s whereabouts… Had to bring it up because it’s in my thoughts, but I’m not going to dwell on it any further today.
I write and share with the heart of transparency. I want people to know that broken crayons still color. That it is ok to share the broken pieces, the broken moments, the broken dreams gone unfulfilled. This is an unthinkable journey, yet here I am. By the grace of God I can share with all of you. My heart is to encourage, uplift, and to inspire. Happy birthday Eliyah. You’ve inspired me, and through your life gave me purpose to pursue a life worth living. Thank you Eliyah for I know even now there is value in each and every struggle and pain. Your life pushes me forward to manage said pain and to complete what God has called me to do!! I love you forever my son.
I haven’t written or shared anything here since the beginning of the year. My father Wayne Wilson passed away suddenly at the end of January, and being a daddy’s girl, it did a number on me…… Thinking about it now it’s probably been 6 months. I kept saying to myself I need to write in my blog. I’d say c’mon girl aren’t you thinking about writing? Sure.. I thought about sharing..But it just didn’t feel possible. I think and have thoughts about much this year. We are still in a pandemic of sorts. Many have lost love ones this year, and would probably conclude that this is the worst year ever in their lives, and for different reasons. I write this blog in an effort to help with my own personal healing in my journey, but to also encourage others who have experienced the loss of a child. Some have reached out to me saying that this blog has helped them through other losses, and to that I say to God be the glory.
Grief is not about survival. It is about living each day well through hurt, pain, loss, fear of future, etc. My heart has been overwhelmed lately watching the news in part and seeing what is happening across our nation, and our world. I think about those that have experienced new loss, and the indescribable pain they now feel.
Yesterday, I visited the cemetery where my son Eliyah is buried. It’s not something that I do often, or make a habit of but I felt the need to get out of the house and go somewhere where I could cry, pray, and not be bothered. When I got out the car and walked to his grave my body just fell into a sit down position and I just weeped. I weeped for the son that I miss so much, my father who’s loss to me is still very raw, I just sat there and cried. I just cried because I had the feeling of being on the “backburner” on the stove. Through this time I’ve had to console others. When my daughters were younger and even now of course I have to lay aside my hurt to help them. One of my girlfriends always reminds me that I am of no help to anyone if I am not cared for. Airlines always tell you to put the mask on yourself first, and then proceed to help someone else. Who will care for the person that must care for everyone else? Who provides love to the one that feels depleted? I sat on the grass. I never sit on the grass anywhere because within about 5-10 minutes I’m super itchy. Hahaha. I even had a little blanket in my trunk but I was too weak to move so I just sat there. I dont know how long I was there. Maybe 30 minutes, but I needed to talk my thoughts out loud. I needed to pray, I needed to read, and re-read Eliyah’s marker over and over.. I could feel the tears in the back. What do I mean by this? Well, when you are cooking a large meal, maybe for Thanksgiving or a celebration. Most stoves have 4 burners on top. The burners in the front get priority use for what is needed quickly or what is needed or being tended to first. The burners in the back are used for maybe warming something up, or you have already cooked the dish, so you put it back there to get out of the way. It’s important however that these burners are not left alone or forgotten about because of their placement. This is what parenting, or moving through these times feels like for me. Like I’m crying in the back somewhere unattended. It’s a catch 22. God gives you strength, and people see that and make assumptions that you are A ok. You help your friends, your kids, family members, your neighbors, and even help those who are just going through the first year or first few weeks of grief. They’re looking to you because you made it on the other side, and smiles are there again, and comfort for them is needed and you are the only one who can give it. I understand it completely.
The struggle of staying sane through these difficult days is what the tears in the back are. I know I had to reconcile that time moves on even when you aren’t ready or don’t want to. I know that it is ok to not be ok. I know that broken crayons still color. I want you, me, us to be well. Self care for you is important. Do not neglect what it is that you may need. Do not push or allow yourself to be on the ” back burner” if you need the attention in the front that is condusive to your healing. Tears in the back requires an assessment. I am no good to others when I am a mess. Most times even the people that I’m closest to fail to recognize the distress signals. Or the expectation is that I’ll be good in a day or so. Tears are cleansing and given by God for a purpose. Never loose sight of that. I’ve cried often this year. It’s been a year for the record books. Just keep the tissues on standby…But through this difficult season I know that God will wipe the tears away. He bottles up the tears. Joy will come again, and it will be unspeakable. This is my hope that I cling to…….
Have you ever seen an actual mustard seed? It is so tiny. Almost barely visible. I have a tiny jar that I have 1 in. I have also gone to the store in the spice section just to look at them. Matthew 17:20 Jesus said ” Because you have so little faith, Truly I tell you, if you have faith like grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ” Move from here to there, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
My father passed earlier this week unexpectedly. It has shaken me to my core. I have never lived life without him, so this feels very different. It hurts beyond what I can write in words. Experiencing the pain of loss first of my son, then 2 years later my mother and now almost 5 years since her passing my dad, needless to say my faith has been tested, rocked, challenged, and more. I have sat quietly for many hours wondering, praying, thinking, asking God why?, I’ve sat in tears feeling broken, helpless, asking God to help me, heal me, hold me.
So what can I say about faith? It is the substance /confidence of things hoped for and the assurance that God is working even though we can’t see it. It does not come easy. It must be exercised to grow. As with the mustards seed, it can grow to an immense proportion. When you look into what a seed does once it is planted, it is truly amazing. But it will do nothing until it is planted. Seeds have the ability to remake worlds, and areas around them.
Faith has allowed me to remain rooted even in thee most unsettled of situations. This immense grief I’m feeling has my faith right about the size of the mustard seed. Grief brings yet again it’s challenges with all of the feelings associated with it. I have come to understand that faith like grieving is a journey. Sometimes prayer is difficult in the presence of grief.
My prayer for you, and for myself is to be willing to accept that things will be different. And in this, I can still be assured that even with the tiniest of seed of faith, we can be confident that God loves us. And one day, although it may not be today, we will flourish under the fire.
It’s Christmas today. For some it really as the song says is The Happiest Season of all. For others it is a season of struggle, depression, and grief. As I reflect on today, I am overwhelmed with many emotions. As I prepare breakfast, and later dinner there is one place setting that remains empty. It belongs to my son Eliyah Linell. 2012 was the last time he sat around the Christmas table. Unbeknownst to us, it would be our last Holiday together. He passed suddenly in his sleep on Jan. 19th, 2013.
I say that I have many emotions because I have other children and a grandson that look forward to this day. They have the expectations of the joy, and happiness associated with Christmas. We believe as a family in the birth of Jesus. Yet, I know the commercialism of this holiday is hard to fight.
Eliyah loved this time of the year. It was his absolute favorite. even more than his own birthday which was July 4th another holiday. He looked forward to decorating the tree and the house. We went to Disneyland during this time, and really loved our time there as well.
I will keep this blog today brief. I will go to the cemetery and say prayers for all those that are bereaved, and grieving. For many this is the first Holiday without their loved ones. I know that it’s hard. I know that many around you will do their best to make you smile, when inside you want to scream all day. My prayer for you is to hold tight to the good memories, and remember Gods sovereignty.
Oh, and that empty plate… Pay it forward. do something for someone that least expects a blessing or gift from you. Give a smile to yourself. Give grace that grief is a process that will take time. The pain will become less acute over time. I love you and God loves you more!!!
Over the last 6 years since Elijah left this earth, I have encountered many people. I have built many beautiful relationships. I’ve met other moms who have lost a child and there is a unique bond that only we share. However many of my relationships changed. Many people whom I thought would remain in my life are no longer a part. Including family members. I also see that those who I maybe at one point was not close to or did not know well are some of my closest confidants.
Grief has an awful effect on most of us. It itself is a complete stranger. My parents told me never to talk to strangers. Do not engage or become familiar with. Therefore, when grief hits, everyone deals with it in a different way. It is an unwelcomed stranger that forces itself usually immediately after a loss. Many of those who I counted as my friend during my deepest part of my grief could not handle it for whatever reason. Some I would say hated to see me suffer so they backed away not knowing how to handle it. Some were trying to handle their own grief and maybe felt like they would make me feel worse by sharing their hurt too. And maybe others feared that my tragedy would somehow affect their lives differently so they just vanished all together. Losing someone will either 1. bring you closer together, or 2. be the catalyst for falling apart. And I experienced both.
I had to ask myself a question… Am I asking to much from my friends/family/comforters? I mean he was my son, my heartbeat, I carried him!!! Right?? Surely no one is grieving harder than me.. Not true. I had to ask myself also What are if any are my expectations? Should someone automatically know how to comfort me? No, they aren’t mind readers. No one could assess my emotional, spiritual, or physical needs without my input. People were grieving in their own way, and because he was my son many people would in fact heal quicker than me because of the relationship to him. Some of the anger I had was towards those closer to me. Some demanded more of my attention to them and I couldn’t give it and I was hurt in the process. I could not understand why I was being avoided in my time of utter and complete sorrow, and brokenness. I mean just because you don’t know how or maybe at a loss for words you avoid me? Yes, people did. I had a friend who 3 years later called me and told me that it was to hard for him to see me hurt so he stayed away. I understood yet at the same time could not give myself a reason for our friendship to just pick up and continue. I instead thanked him for telling me and wished him well in his life. Even through my own grief, there were times I had to sacrifice and be there for others through their pain as well. I also had those who said some pretty dumb things. Some things said were even quite disrespectful. I could say it was because they were at a loss but some people at the heart of it are just insensitive and even if you wrote it out and they took a class and then explained it again, they would still be insensitive and there is nothing that you can change about that. And I could not make excuses for them, so I in turn isolated myself to protect my heart.
Being present is not an easy thing to do. It requires patience, faith, love, gentleness, being kind, and discernment to name a few. In my life today are some wonderful people that encourage me, pray for me, love on me through my tantrums, and push me to keep going. I have healthy relationships with those who didn’t run away. Those who could bear the weight of my grief. I have met wonderful souls who do not mind me talking about Eliyah, his impact, and his life. I evaluate my expectations better than I did before. Even as my journey continues and yet still the layers of loss that are still being uncovered come, I have those in my life I can call. I’m careful not to except someone to give me what I know only God can. I have friends who are present and find it not to be a burden on them. I’m aware that friendships change. My life became more complex, and not easier. I’m so grateful for those that God placed in my life, and I’m grateful for those who he knew would not be good for me and he removed. God has given me beauty for ashes. Thank you Lord for all that you have done in my life!!! Thank you for being present and never leaving nor forsaking me. Amen!!!!!!!!
One of my many main concerns when Eliyah passed was Survival. How would I survive? How would I wake up and continue to live? Why did I wake up? How long will I feel like this? How long will this valley of Hells darkness consume me? Am I going crazy? These and other questions about life not being fair, and having no control, and apologizing over and over to him that this happened to him, and I his mother couldn’t do anything to stop or prevent it. Feeling anguish, overwhelming sadness, guilt, a hurt so embedded in my heart that I felt the physical manifestation of it.
Farewell on this side of eternity is a difficult journey!!!!
So to you who has recently entered this place. This place is grief. It has no respect of person. It doesn’t care that you’ve visited it many times. It will do its best to consume you and build residence within. Well, for a time it is ok. Contrary to what we may hear others say or what we may have believed before, it is ok to not be ok. Grief is a disorienting thing. There is a hole in your heart that wasn’t there before. I carried a heartbeat inside of me that no longer beats, and the excruciating pain of that is unlike any other. Grief challenges you. It makes your body weary, tires your mind, weakens your soul. It causes you to overthink, underthink, (not a real word but it’s fine) It makes you gasp for air. Grief causes every container around you to fill your tears. Tears of heartbreak, tears of what is lost, tears of what will never be, tears of utter disbelief that this is happening, and happening to you, tears of shattered dreams, tears of lost hope, tears of slight happiness because you are still serving although you are in despair. Every tissue box around you consumed. And just when you feel there are no more tears, a thought, memory, sound, smell, something triggers and the tears fall yet again. I would say enough, I don’t have any more tears to cry, but here I am again with a wet pillow because my body could not withstand any other place outside my bed.
This was the loss of my son. My firstborn and only son. I knew him the longest of my children. He made me happy with kicks in my belly first. And now he is no longer living on this earth. How do you live with your heart shattered in a billion pieces? You take each moment by it’s moment. You begin to defy the impossible, withstand the storm, and take on the enormous task of Survival. This grief and mourning that you are in although irrational is survivable. Oh it rocks and shakes your foundation of what you believe. It makes you question your faith. I asked God so many questions after Eliyah’s death. Soooooo many questions. I needed answers.I wanted answers. God said in time. But I said no. I need them now. He said in time. And with time came healing. Healing was a very far away thought. I needed not to feel so much pain, and I needed the antiseptic now. With time came answers to purpose. With time came strength. The reminder that love really is stronger than any other thing. The love that I have for Elijah. The love that family and friends had for me, and most importantly the love that God has for me. Love kept me afloat. It would not let me drown.
There is life after death of your child. There is hope. I have learned that I have no control over life. But, I was enduring. Every day I was bearing insurmountable pain. I was given a strength that only God could give me. He had given me grace and peace. I asked him for it. My friend Carolyn spoke of Beauty for ashes. That is what God was giving me. This void I had, he was giving himself to me. It was a choice. I was never going to get “over” this, and shame on people who tell you that. They don’t know that you don’t get over this. There are no “at leasts” I heard all of this and more. I thank God for the grace he gave me in those moments to just smile, walk away, because they don’t get it. Love, kindness, and grace goes a long way with others who empathize yet say things they don’t understand. You don’t just move on, and get passed this. I chose to survive. I chose to press my way towards healing. It’s a choice. Be kind to yourself. You have never faced anything like this before. Trust in God doesn’t come easy. I battle for it. I’m choosing to turn my grief into gratitude for what I still have…and one day I will see Eliyah again!! Praise God!
Faith doesn’t guarantee good feelings. For me, it’s expressed thru the dark shadows….I’m praying thru the pain… So you too must pray through the pain. Grief doesn’t get better, we get better at it. This time is rough, but don’t be discouraged, do not, I repeat do not give up!! This journey is so difficult and full of complete heartache at times. I can’t wait for the day when sorrow ends. God says it will be so one day. We will see our loved ones again. We don’t get to “choose” the obstacles that are in front of us, but to hope, to trust God is a choice and because he is my ultimate source of everything, that’s what I must do..Nothing else matters. Persevere, endure, press through and pray, and let the tears fall!! It must get better. It will get better. Through the adversity, I/We can find rest in God’s peace…There’s comfort in his plan…
I pray that Our loving God would enfold you in His awesome arms while you journey through this painful season of your life. I pray that He will even carry you on the days that the weight seems unbearable. Never give up on trusting God. He does great things when we don’t know why or when and turns the worst day into our best right before our eyes if we allow him to keep his place in our heart. Suffering does not create character, it reveals it. Healing on this side of Heaven will continue everyday. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Isaiah 40:29 and for that, I’m grateful.
From a mother who knows to you…I love you all and you are always in my thoughts and prayers!
Today marks 1 year to the date that I began this blog. It is also my son Eliyah’s 23rd birthday. I have to say that I am proud of myself for starting something in honor of him. A blog that has allowed me to express many things of my grief journey. Thank you for following and I pray it has and will continue to bless you, bring healing, and understand my grief a little better.
Milestones as today hit very hard. The unpredictability of grief is what I hate the most. You make plans, and then boom! Plans change in a heartbeat because now you no longer “feel” like it or maybe what you thought you’d do you no longer have an interest in doing. Or the weight of the day just became so much that it became to much of a burden. Sometimes it’s other people’s expectations that you must now battle through.
Eliyah was born on the 4th of July. So, in addition to dealing with all the above. It’s a national holiday. People invite you to bar-b-que’s, for some it’s a beach day, and the fireworks at night. This requires leaving the house. It requires being around people who may not get it. they may want you to be happy as not to bring their celebration down. I can look at a the from the perspective of a clock. I may be up for all of it around 10 am, and not want to see anyone at 4pm. I may just want to reminisce with close family until noon and see some people for a little while at 6 pm. There’s really no rhyme to the reason. It’s just how grief works.
Today, I had plans to celebrate at Disneyland, because it was one of his favorite places, and mine. However my plans changed do to some other things coming up, so I will more than likely go next week. It’s been 7 birthdays now without him and I have felt the sting, emptiness, hole, every year. every year I’ve done something different. some have been planned and others not so much. I too what feels necessary for my heart, spirit, and mind. 1 year I remember I forced an ended early a trip because my mother wanted me to celebrate with the rest of the family in town. I was miserable.. I didn’t want to be around anyone, and 1 family member even asked “oh is today his birthday”? just completely unaware and didn’t understand my pain. I vowed to never let that happen again, and it hasn’t. I celebrate and honor Eliyah as I see fit. Not under anyone’s request.
I am honored to have been chosen to be Eliyah’s mother. He came into this world calm. I had no drugs, no I.V. and a very relatively pain free natural childbirth. Eliyah lived his life loving us his family, and had a heart for others. He loved God and although he was 6 foot 3, he was a gentle guy. He loved his sisters, and was proud to be their older brother. I miss him more than anyone could possible think. Time doesn’t make my heart less empty. Living my life for God makes it bearable.
Happy 23rd birthday in Heaven Eliyah J. Linell