The Clouds of Grief

Dear Zach,

This is not as much for you as for anyone else reading today finding themselves struggling with grief, but this is something I desperately wish I was mulling over and discussing with you! While flying home from Canada today, I found myself even more mesmerized with the clouds than I usually am. There was nothing particularly enchanting about them, nothing exceptionally beautiful about these dreary grey clouds, but my eyes were glued to the window. Really the whole idea of flying and how it compares to grief was on my mind, but especially the clouds.

I realized that flying through the clouds is much like grief. I despise, DESPISE, the five stages of grief concept that people preach about (something those who know me well know I have wanted to write about since day one) because there is no linear track through grief like a subway where you can get on at one stop and take a straight shot to the last stop (something I have already written about). All that to say….. the clouds spoke to me about grief today in a way I had never thought about.

Bear with me as I may seem longwinded, but there has been a lot pondered during this hour layover and it has become heavy on my heart to share. But I do apologize for what is apparently my longest post ever!!!

I know there are so many people out there who think they are grieving wrong because they are doing it differently than how other people are. Society has a much different view of grief and I know I thought I had gone stark raving mad…. that no one had ever felt this way and that I was so wrong to feel this way. So this is me trying to use my own grief to appeal to all the people out there who think what they are feeling is wrong. Spoiler alert – it is not wrong. Your grief is your own and no one can tell you what it is or how you should grieve. images (2) When we get on the airplane, we have a destination in mind. We know where we need to go, but we surrender all control to higher powers – – – the pilot, the weather, good luck, God… what have you. No one can control the timeframe so you have to sit back and let it happen. You will get there when you get there.

GRIEF: once forced upon a journey of grief, you are forced to surrender control. We who grieve know where we should be or need to be (a healthy, functioning, not devastated place), but it may not be our choice when we arrive there. I believe grief is a process experienced by everyone differently and some may heal faster than others, but everyone will grieve in their own way. We have to feel what we are meant to feel and no one can impose a time schedule. The whole “one year to grieve” misconception makes me so frustrated because those are the people who do not understand loss and that maybe you do not heal in a year. It isn’t their place to tell you how long you need to recover from your loss and to go through the grieving process. Go ahead… I give you permission. Grieve as long as you need to until you get to a place of healing. images (3) During takeoff you can feel yourself slide back in the seat slightly as you hurtle at high speeds towards things you cannot see. Still powerless, simply accepting the path. You can feel it coming as the pilot accelerates down the runway, but you never know exactly when he will takeoff and leave solid ground behind.

GRIEF: when I say a “wave of grief”, I am sure many of you know what I mean and have experienced this yourself. A wave of grief can often come out of nowhere and blindside you knocking you off your feet, but sometimes you can see it coming in distance. You know it is coming, you don’t know when and you don’t know what it will entail, but the emotions are building and all you can do is blindly prepare. You hold on. You pray it will not last forever and you accept the powerless feeling until it passes and you can regain control. You get your footing, balance yourself back out, and go back to putting one foot in front of the other. You know another one will come one day, but you go on because you have to. images (5) Then you find yourself lost in the clouds, surrounded by immense amounts of white; sometimes light and fluffy, other times thick and heavy with rain. There is no visual end in sight and the clouds can seem to go on forever. You don’t know what lies on the other side and you may have to cross your fingers or clutch the armrest with a death grip or say a prayer or take a breath to trust that catastrophe isn’t on the other side.

GRIEF: finding yourself lost in a thick cloud of grief can be extremely disorienting. You may find yourself surrounded by feelings and thoughts you have never had before causing you not to recognize who or what you are. Grief can cause you to question everything and it may scare you. It becomes easy to lose your bearings and to become lost in the vastness of your grief because there is no end in sight. You become blinded to everything else other than the crushing emotions surrounding you. A thick cloud of grief that is especially heavy upon you can cause you to doubt what lies beyond it and can make you feel like it will last forever. You have to trust that it will pass and that you will come out unscathed on the other side. You will still grieve for who you have lost, but nothing compared to being lost in a crushing blinding grief cloud. untitled (2) During your time in the clouds, turbulence may rock you, jolt you, maybe frighten you. For a less-seasoned traveler or for one who is afraid of flying, this can feel like the end of the world and make you fear the worst. It feels like the bottom is dropping out as your heart jumps into your throat and the panicked thought of, “This CAN’T be right! The plane is going down!’ may cross your mind. It shakes you around, but leaves you unharmed just as quickly as it came.

GRIEF: going through grief is not an easy process and there will be days that completely rock you and shake you up. It can feel like the end, that the worst has happened, and that there is nothing else for you to do. Grief can cause you to question how so much wrong could have happened and how unfair it is. It can make you feel like the bottom is dropping out and you are freefalling through life, flailing to grasp onto anything that can bring you back to reality. The turbulent effect of grief can make an average day feel like you have gone to battle or ran a marathon because you are left feeling battered and broken. It can make you feel like giving up. But the turbulence in those thick clouds won’t last forever, you will come through it, and you will be left shaken, but ready to face another day. images (4) Eventually the airplane makes its way through and the clouds begin to dissipate and the vast whiteness gives way to glorious light. Regardless of the weather below on the surface, you can find yourself staring at an incredible landscape of gorgeous blue skies and glittering sunshine; you may feel like you are in another world. You may feel a sense of awe at this place and cause you to feel pity for the people thousands and thousands of feet below. It is a place only you are seeing and you are seeing it differently than everyone else on the plane with you.

GRIEF: perhaps grief is nothing like coming through the clouds to a beautiful place so that wasn’t a great explanation to start it off with, but grief will take you to place that you have never been and it is something unrecognizable that you may have never seen or experienced before. Living a life of grief is living a life in a totally foreign place. The house may be the same, you may still work at the same place, and your family may still celebrate things they did before; everything may be the exact same. The truth is that loss has changed your life and grief has tainted it. Things that were once comforting and usual to you may become unrecognizable, stressful, uncomfortable. You are now looking at a life that you did not have before and one that you were not expecting. Grieving is such an individual thing that no two people will experience it in the same way even if they have experienced the same loss. What you are looking at and experiencing may make you question why people aren’t feeling what you are or to ask why they aren’t feeling the impact of grief as much as you. Same as sitting on an airplane with a couple hundred people…. everyone will look out their window and see something different. Your grief is personal to you and no one can tell you that you are doing it wrong. imagesST16XUDK Then come the clouds again. Without warning, you are lost back in the whiteness. Blind to where you are going and searching your way through it, either back to the blue skies or down to the earth below. Giving up the idea of being able to see where you are going is something unnatural to humans, but lost in the clouds you have no choice. You can panic and not trust the process or you can sit back and accept what is happening.

GRIEF: days, months, or even years may pass, but one day grief may sneak up on you again because grief lives with you and becomes part of who you are. Most people learn to live with it and to live their lives as they did before, but I think they will always grieve for the person they lost even if not as deeply as during a time of fresh grief. There will always be part of you that misses them or thinks of them or mourns their loss, but the sense of overwhelming grief has passed. This is a concept that I have not reached yet with my grief for Zach and honestly it feels like an unattainable goal for me right now so I am probably not the best to write about this, but I do grieve for my father who passed away from cancer 18 years ago in this way. I still grieve for my dad. Most days I am fine. Months will go by and I go on day to day, but then there is that one day that sneaks up on me and a wave of grief will wash over me. I mourn for him still and grieve his loss and what he is missing, but that is just what will live with me and for anyone else who has lost someone that they love. I just have to accept it, even when I am unexpectedly plunged back into a feeling of grief, and not try to fight it. images3T0W74EO Finally you break through the clouds one last time and you eventually see land. Just a few more minutes and it will all be over so you can put your feet back on solid ground and regain some of your control. The ground gets closer, you may brace for impact, suck in another deep breath, but in the end you have left the clouds behind and are back to reality.

GRIEF: they tell me that one day this heavy weight of grief will pass and that the burden of Zach’s death will not weigh so heavily on me. I don’t know how it will happen, but just like an airplane making its last decent through the clouds and finishing its journey, I am told that one day it will end and this is my hope for all of us. They tell me that eventually it is supposed to pass and I will regain my footing in life so that day to day living does not feel like a desperate fight to survive. They tell me that eventually I will break through those thick clouds of grief and a less painful day will be in sight. They tell me that one day the darkness will pass, my sadness will lift, and my devastation will ease. Our realties will forever be changed because of what we have lost, but I am told that one day we will more so return to the people used to be. I don’t know when that day will be, but maybe there is hope for all who are grieving.

The Hiatus


My dearest Zach,

It has been over a year since I last wrote, but mere seconds since I last thought of you.  One year ago I posted saying that I was going to do better, write more, process more, handle my grief.  The exact opposite has happened.

A year ago I lost my voice, my ability to speak.  I lost the ability to process what I was going through.  I lost my words to you, which were the only thing keeping me functioning.  A year ago I succumbed to the weight of my grief and everything just stopped.

Three months ago my best friend begged me to write something.  Anything.  One sentence.  She saw, she recognized the darkness that had taken over me.  She knew I was giving up and that if I wasn’t talking to her about what was going on and I was not writing then something was wrong.

It has taken me this long to take her advice and to write something….. anything.

Was something wrong? Worse? Worrisome? I don’t know.  All I know is everything just stopped.  I didn’t know how to describe what I was feeling or thinking anymore.  Not that I stopped feeling or thinking, but it was almost as if my brain threw its hands up in frustration and said, “Well I don’t know WHAT will fix this!!”

I still don’t know where to start, but I recognize the need to return to my feeble attempt at processing my extreme grief.  It isn’t getting better.  It isn’t fading away.  It lives with me every single moment of every single day like a cancerous tumor eating away at my very existence.

I lost my words, my voice, my ability to process….. but I am still grieving.

So this is my prayer to you, my desperate plea.  Help me to find my voice.  Help me to find my words because I can not continue this way.

The Darkness

Seeing no way out from a life heavy with a lack of light.
Begrudgingly starting every day.
Every single day I regret being silent to those who have come to this blog to read my words and have found help or comfort through them.
Wish I could laugh in the face of every person who has said it will get better one day because all I feel is the overwhelming sense of sinking deeper.
Unsure of where I fit or belong.
Not part of anything yet surrounded by all the things I should be.
No longer able to put into words how I feel.
Hate myself for the inability to function.
Living proof that it is a myth to take it one day at a time and things will get better.
The thought of breathing it all in makes me choke on the misery.
Not at all doing what I am supposed to be doing or living the life I should be living.
Unable to be there for the people who love me or be part of their lives like I once was.
Getting what needs to be done every day is a daily battle barely won.
My original goal of helping others through my words and experience with grief has failed since losing my ability to write.
My heart beats for you with miserably unattainable desire.
Constantly questioning why it was you, not me.
Everyone’s lives seem to be coming together in such a perfect loving way while I am trapped in this dismal cage.
This is the life I have been given and I wish I could return to sender.
The daily motions that must be gone through quickly grow tedious.
Nothing seems to bring joy or relief or brief moments of clarity.
Master of the mask.
Faking it has no longer become an option, just reality.
Struggling to remember the last time I was happy and woke up excited for something to happen.
I am totally unable to forget and move on even though people tell me I should.
Life without you just does not make sense and all attempts to fill the void are inadequate.
So tired of the fight and effort it requires to get through each day.
I feel like I need to acknowledge that my entire life of bad luck has won.
Bandaid solution.
Trying anything to cover the pain and make it go away.
Realizing and accepting that regardless of trying to be a good person and giving so much to others isn’t enough to avoid fate when she comes knocking to take away everything you love.
See absolutely no way out of all of this.

The only existence I know.
Tired of fighting and ready to give in to the unrelenting darkness.


A Different Kind of Post ~~ “The Fault in Our Stars” Book Review

My best friend for the last 24 years and I are obsessive readers and writers.  We have been our entire lives.  Something we started doing together last year was to write book reviews together since it was the perfect combination of our favorite things to do.  Somewhat recently we read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green which flooded the market by storm and it is completely understandable why.  I have decided to include this review here because it is a tragically beautiful book about life, love, death, and grief – – all things typically discussed here.

john green

The Fault in Our Stars

Almost everyone is obsessed with leaving a mark upon the world. Bequeathing a legacy.  Outlasting death.  We all want to be remembered. I do too. That’s what bothers me most, is being another unremembered casualty in the ancient and inglorious war against disease. I want to leave a mark.

I had a hard time reading this book and have oddly super procrastinated writing this review.  I sat down to write it this morning and shuddered at the fact that I had made my notes while reading Fault in Our Stars on March 18th.  This book was exceptionally written and I poured through the pages in no time at all.  I felt countless emotions while reading it: humor, sadness, anger, devastation.  John Green has depicted life and death and love so honestly that his words resonated with me and you felt like you were living through the characters.  You empathized with them, you laughed with them, and you mourned with them.

But I had a hard time reading this book because of my own grief I am currently living with following the tragically sudden death of my fiancé in October 2011.  Hazel, Augustus, Isaac, the parents… all were living and breathing life and death so realistically that it hit incredibly close to home.  Hazel’s story put into words the wretched nature of grief that so many of us live with and so many aspects of the story felt like they were my own story.

The pain was always there, pulling me inside of myself, demanding to be felt. It always felt like I was waking up from the pain when something in the world outside of me suddenly required my comment or attention.

At times I felt like John Green was writing my story, writing this directly to me, and describing my grief in a way only I could understand.  That is the powerfulness of his words.  But I guarantee there are thousands of other people who felt the same thing as they read it.  The beauty of this book is that you can take it personally, see yourself within the pages, and completely understand the depths of what Hazel’s story is.  So many times I thought….. this is me!

The waves tossing me against the rocks then pulling me back out to sea so they could launch me again into the jagged face of the cliffs, leaving me floating face-up on the water, undrowned.

As Hazel describes her journey with her illness and her impressions on the futility of life, you find yourself drawn in and you almost cannot comprehend how this young girl is so wise.  Her illness, her brushes with death, and her losses have made her wise beyond her years in a way that only pain can.  Any one of us who has experienced tragic loss or lived with a disease, either personally or through a family member, understands how dramatically pain changes you.  John Green captures all of these emotions with ease and I think anyone who reads this would find it completely relatable to their lives.

What a slut time is. She screws everyone.

Even the concept of time was described in such a simple way and yet anyone who has experienced loss will understand it completely.  There is never enough time.  There are never enough tomorrow’s.  When you have lost someone you understand the obsessive desire for just one more tomorrow.  John Green captures this through his compelling words and you can’t help but be reminded how fleeting time is.  I think that was the best part of this book for me  — not how beautifully it was written, not how honest he describes the reality of life, not how intriguing the characters were, but how he tells life how it is in a no bullshit kind of way.  There is no sugar coating loss, death, suffering, and struggle.  Green is able to write this amazing story with complete honesty and makes no excuses for the reality of pain and one’s desperate need to cling onto time.

And then there is the love.  While the main focus of this book is about understanding death, tragedy, and genuine courage, there is love.  A sweet, romantic, teenage love story that can be seen as beautiful by a reader of any age.  This is no sappy childish love story.  This is one inundated with the harsh reality of their suffering and their unity over understanding the lurking sense of death.  This especially resonated with me and I understand Hazel’s anguish of loss and her unfailing love even after a harsh separation.

I want to close by saying that I fully recommend this book to absolutely everyone, but prepare yourself to be changed, to feel sorrow, and to come away from it with a new appreciation of time, life, and love.

I close with five final quotes that I cannot help but share.  I dedicate these beautiful words to my love, my sweet Zach whom I will forever love and will always wish for one more tomorrow.

I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things.

It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you

I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouln’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.

The pleasure of remembering had been taken from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we’d done were less real and important than they had been hours before.

I missed the future. I felt robbed.

The Paused Life

photo (15)~~ Ian McEwan in “The Comfort of Strangers”


Yes, I am still here.  I am still here thinking about you, missing you, and grieving for you.  For those of you who faithfully follow my writing and have graciously messaged asking if I am still writing, still out there, still functioning….. technically yes.  Back in May I attempted to promise myself that I was going to make some changes and make time for myself.  I told myself, and any of you reading this, that I would start by taking the time to sit down and write out the ten million thoughts that race through my mind daily.  It would appear I have failed again.

I came across this picture quote the other day and I can’t think of a better description for how I feel right now.  Sleepwalking from moment to moment, months have slipped by without even registering their existence, and nothing has made an impression on me in a really long time.  Grief has completely stolen my concept of time, which I know I have talked about before, but is it seriously August 19, 2013?  Where have the last almost two years gone?

I will convince myself that I am doing alright and paying attention to what is going on around me, but then one of my best friends says he moved into his new house a month ago.  I hadn’t even asked how that went or how it looked.  My best friend’s little girl turned four and I didn’t even remember that her birthday was upcoming.  Another best friend’s baby girl is eight months old now and I haven’t even remembered to ask if she is crawling yet.  Friends will call me out on not texting or calling, but while I feel like I just did yesterday it has actually been weeks.  Semesters of school have come and gone.  I feel like I just wrote something for this blog, but it has been months.  Nothing registers.  All evades me.

I don’t care so much about myself.  I have become so numb to my own life that I just go through the motions of the day.  I work, I go to class, I do homework, I cry myself to sleep.  Repeat.  I am probably failing myself in every sense of the meaning, but as long as I keep putting one foot in front of the other I am okay with failing myself.  I’ve given up on myself.  But failing my friends and my family is something I am not okay with.  How do I fix this?  How can I stop allowing the grief to control me and leave me so detached from life?  It is so selfish and I hate it about myself.  My friends deserve better.  My family deserves better.  But the person I used to be is gone and I don’t know how to do better at being there for other people.

Zach, when you and I moved into the house we switched to Direct TV and loved it.  We got NFL Sunday Ticket free for one year, we got all kinds of channels, and better yet we got a DVR.  Oh the joy of recording TV shows, pausing, fast forwarding commercials… oh the power! I’ve started to think of my life as being on pause.  October 9, 2011 someone hit a giant pause button on my life and the person I used to be came screeching to a halt.  To say I am in a rut would be an understatement because nothing has changed.  I feel just as lost as that day with the only difference being that I have become better at hiding it and getting done what needs to be.  The world has gone on around me and life whirls by faster than I can process.  Life has gone on without me and left me stranded in this misery of a life without you.

The paused life.  It is a life that can be seen from the outside and yet all action, forward momentum, and progress has been paused.  Looking at the screen we can see the TV show waiting to be turned on again, but nothing is happening to our favorite characters or with our beloved sports teams.  They are just there.  Frozen in place.  Doing nothing.  Lacking a complete inability to do anything else until someone presses pause again and releases them from their frozen state.

Zach, who has the power to hit pause again and restart my life?  Will it ever restart?  Or will I continue to live this paused life forever?

My Fourth Guest Post ~~~ No Drive is Too Short for a Seat Belt

I was recently contacted by Hello Grief, an amazing website with countless resources for grievers, and was honored to be asked to write another article for them.  They have received a grant from State Farm to work together on Auto Safety Awareness and the online editor thought of me to write the article for them.  As a writer, I am truly honored by this opportunity and am blessed to be able to share my message.  As a griever, it devastates me that I even have the knowledge to write this.  But I know Zach would be so proud and I pray that my message will reach someone who really needs to hear it.  Writing this was painful and much harder than I anticipated because I dreaded going back and thinking about a night I have tried to ignore.  But my precautionary tale, our families loss, and the pain of losing someone should speak volumes to anyone out there who is willing to take that chance.

No Drive is Too Short for a Seat Belt

Most of us have probably seen the car commercial where the father gives his toddler daughter some last minute tips before she drives off on her own for the first time.  “Check your mirrors, no highways, no texting while driving, be careful, call me but not while you’re driving,” he says.  Of course, only the father sees his baby girl as a toddler because she is, in fact, a teenager, but what parent doesn’t still see the toddler inside of their teenager?

The commercial resonated with me. We can tell our loved ones to be safe one million times, but in the end we have to let go, say goodbye and hope they never come face-to-face with danger on the roads.  But the road is a crazy place, full of people talking and texting on cell phones, checking Facebook, reaching for something in their backseat, eating while steering with a knee or two, putting on makeup, and driving too fast.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 34,080 motor vehicle fatalities in 2012.  I think we can all agree this unnecessary and preventable loss of life is way too high.  Dave Barry wrote, “The one thing that unites all human beings…is that deep down inside, we all believe that we are above-average drivers.”  We trust ourselves and blatantly ignore our own bad driving habits, and can be quick to blame other drivers for unsafe circumstances.  As a society, we often believe we are invincible, the masters of our own destiny, and completely convinced that those terrible accidents we hear about could never possibly happen to us.

I am here to tell you that it can.

On October 9, 2011, I got that phone call.  The one we hope to never get, the one that causes your life to crumble.  That night was the worst night of my life, an unimaginable hell that I would not wish on my worst enemy.  My fiancé Zach’s best friend came to town to spend the night at our house and watch some football.  The three of us spent some time together, but I was suffering from a brutal migraine. Zach tucked me into bed and went with Rob to a friend’s house that was just two minutes down the road we lived on. After an hour, they left to return home. They never made it.

This is a story of two beautiful lives brought to a tragic end by no seat belts, rain, a dangerous curve  and speeding. Individually these factors might not add up to an accident, but combined they made for tragedy. And if it weren’t for a migraine, it was a tragedy that might also have claimed me.

I want to ask everyone to take the utmost care while out on the roads and driving the cars we trust so much, because overlooking even the smallest safety factors are often what leads to tragedy.  This accident has left me, both of our families, all of our friends, the entire community and education system shell-shocked, hurting, lost, and grieving.  This is an accident that could have been prevented… if only.

Sitting down to write these words was unfathomably hard for me, because I live with this grief every single day. I would give anything to undo that night, to get back my fiancé, to have never lost. But I write about his accident because I know it is what Zach would want me to do.  He would want me to share my story, to use my writing and my words to share with others the risks they take if they don’t respect the road and the vehicle they use to travel down it.

I write to caution you to take care with your safety each and every time you drive your own car.

So when you hear yourself think, “It’s only a mile down the road, I don’t need my seat belt,” or “The roads are slick, but my car can handle it,” or even “A car accident would never happen to me,” please understand that it can happen to you or someone you love. Cars are big, heavy, powerful machines, and someone who loves you is counting on you to take every measure of safety when you get behind the wheel of one. If you don’t, it could change your entire life, and the life of people you love, in a blink of an eye.

Let my cautionary tale speak volumes to you.  Wear your seat belt.  Slow down in bad weather.  Don’t trust your car to handle speed on slick roads. Know that no one is immune to an accident.  Act now and talk to your loved ones about safe driving.  Talk about seat belts and bad weather and speeding.  Talk about respecting the road.  And from the bottom of this broken heart of mine, I beg you to respect the life you have been given.  Cherish it with every action you make, every word you speak, and every moment you are blessed to live one more.

A Thought for Fellow Grievers: A Picture Says a 1000 Words


They says a picture is worth a thousand words and as an obsessive photographer I have always agreed with that.  I have also always been a big fan of quotes in that I am constantly saving ones I see or writing them down from the books I read or posting them on my fridge or sharing them with my best friend, Lauren.  Since I lost Zach, my fiancé, I have either come across or been sent various pictures with quotes about grieving that have so strongly resonated with me that I now have an extensive collection of them saved in my phone or in my email.

I would like to share them here with you today because maybe you also have found yourself trapped in a similar journey with grief and you feel like me in that it gives you a small degree of comfort to know that other people are thinking and feeling the same way as you.  Maybe you can also look at a picture of someone who has experienced loss, recognize the raw emotion, and know exactly what they are feeling in that moment.

That’s the worst part about grief: to feel like you have lost your mind, that no one could ever feel the way you do, and that what you’re feeling isn’t normal.  Our grief stories might be different, our loss can have a completely different face, but grief is grief and we experience it together.  So maybe you have already seen some of these pictures or heard these quotes or maybe you won’t even get anything out of me sharing them, but I am doing this today because I need the same reminder that grief is shared by all….. even through the pure kindness of faceless online supporters.

These pictures depict, describe, define, and demonstrate grief whether it be through words or just a picture.  I hope you draw the same thing from them as I have.

From me to you,