How is it that sometimes we are able to “make lemonade from the lemons?”
To find the blessings and lessons.
And other times we feel like we’re getting the short end of the stick?
How do we choose the path of positive re-framing instead of complaining and blaming?
I believe that it starts with sharing your story.
We all have our stories. And sharing is what shows our authenticity and vulnerability. It’s what connects us and shows us that we are not alone.
I shared last week with my community that I was heading to CT for my mother’s funeral.
I had a chance to say goodbye just 2 weeks prior but hadn’t seen her in 26 years before that.
I lost her the first time as a child to mental illness.
And this second time to acute myeloid leukemia.
And throughout the pain of this last month, I discovered a couple of simple, yet profound insights…..that I hope will support you too.
You see, I had to shift the “poor me” mindset early on in life. I was resilient and strong. And felt proud of my ability to bounce back; to recognize the blessings and lessons along my journey – despite a far from functional childhood.
But I realized over the last few weeks that all my years of being open and vocal about my story weren’t always about strength. I also learned that healing isn’t a one-time thing.
Layers of sadness and grief surfaced this month, as I processed my mother’s terminal diagnosis and then went to tell her goodbye…. for the second time and final time.
I realized in the moments between tears… how much pain was still buried deep within “my story.” I always thought I had closure to this loss. But how could I really? And while I’ve shared my story so “matter-of-factly” all these years, I now recognize that in some ways, it had become a crutch. Armor to shield my insecurities. Especially since becoming a mother. “Look how great I’m doing despite…
Adapting to motherhood myself, is what caused these wounds to begin resurfacing. I found myself feeling “that I just don’t know how to be a good mother because I lived with a completely unstable woman during my formative years.”
And then just last year, I learned that this was a cycle. A horrible cycle of pain I needed to release. Because the trauma my mother faced in her youth….most certainly led to her disconnection from reality.
So how do we find the gifts in moments like this?
It’s not always easy.
But I do see and honor the blessings.
I’ve had amazing women in my life. I’ve learned that it absolutely does take a village…and I’m grateful every day for all the beautiful people who’ve been a part of my village. Who helped raise me and support me and nurture my gifts and my spirit.
I learned about being vulnerable and asking for help.
I learned that “closure” is relative when it comes to healing from the loss of a parent.
But the greatest gift and lesson is one that I teach.
I believe that the universe was testing my core value and belief. Testing my commitment and my practice of being love. Of slowing down, renewing and healing regularly to so we show up as our best selves.
Sharing my story is still important. But the reason for sharing my story has shifted.
It’s to help name and then surrender the parts of the story that are holding me back. The deep unconscious parts transferred in our biology or conditioning and development.
We are shaped by what does and doesn’t happen in our lives. Only in acknowledging and working through the painful parts….can we let go.
That’s the beautiful news. We can rewire our neural pathways. We truly can change. Let go.
I’d wrestled over the years with whether or not I needed to see my mother again. But when I heard the news that she had terminal cancer, I knew I needed to see her and set her free, in order to set me free, and in turn set my daughter free.
It was time to surrender to healing and transformation and releasing her pain. Letting go of the parts of the story that likely led to her demise, while honoring the gifts. Especially the gift of life that she was able to give to me.
So as the tears came, I realized that she was finally going to be at peace. And because this lesson of letting go in order to notice the gifts is so important for us all, I want to share what I wrote and read at my moms funeral last week.
About surrendering and letting go of what no longer serves us as we collectively embrace what does.
And no. This journey has not been easy.
But it’s in the acts of self-love and slowing down that I’ve been able to realize and honor the blessings and lessons. May you find the space and time for your own healing too.
Its so hard at times to know what to say. What to do. How to make things better. How to help.
So we try to muster up the right words. Find the right answers. Ask the right people.
And sometimes the answer is simply to do nothing.
To surrender the pain and invite in love and light and spirit.
I saw this in your eyes just two short weeks ago… its a memory and a lesson I’ll carry forever.
Because you never stopped fighting until you knew you’d be safe…. and I’m forever grateful I got to hug you and comfort you and say goodbye.
And while your spunk and passion didn’t always serve you….It’s what got you through.
So thank you Mom. For being strong and driven.
For always having dreams and hopes and visions.
To make things better. To create positive change. To release pain.
I know in my heart that these were your gifts….
Not everyone was able or ready to see and accept these gifts, including me…..
but i know they allowed you to find some pockets of light in your life…
To build a career and marry. To bring your 2 children into the world….
And then to keep going even when reality escaped you.
It dawned on me recently another time you truly surrendered.
Thank you for loving us enough to let us go too, Mom… so we stood a chance.
I could never fully process or grieve this loss until becoming a mother myself.
I now know that letting us go must have been one of the most painful things you ever did.
And the most loving.
And While many of us spend our lives seeking love, joy and purpose….
maybe our entire purpose is to simply choose to be loving and purposeful day in, day out.
To surrender to the journey, but to still show up and make a difference in whatever small way we can.
It’s a choice I made when I realized that there was nothing I could do to help you.
Tough choice for a child.
So I’d say hi when you’d call…(and yes sometimes it’d be years in between your calls)
I’d try unsuccessfully to find meaning or logic.
And then I’d hang up feeling all your pain.
I’d cry. I’d wonder why. I’d grieve.
And then I’d commit myself to honoring the life you gave me: finding the lessons and blessings in everything and everyone and doing my best.
And most people don’t understand… How could they?
But as I told you in our goodbyes…I know you did the best you could.
So did I Mom. So did all of us here.
Because we didn’t know what to say. Or what to do. Or how to make things better. Or how to help.
So we tried to muster up the right words. And ask the right people.
But now we’re surrendering too, Mom.
Surrendering your pain.
Surrendering your suffering.
Surrendering to light, love and grace as we release your burdens and purposefully carry on your gifts.
Shari, your words hit my soul and ring true of all of our lives…we have different challenges, different pain, but we share the human experience and if we try surrendering that which we don’t understand…and see the gifts in the pain, light and love come in – sometimes just a glimmer and later, if we let it, it can fill us up. Thank you for sharing yourself…your experience, hopes, and struggles….
Thank you Ruthie for your beautiful words as well. Much love to you. xo
That was a heartfelt, beautiful post. I was drawn to it because, even though my mother is still alive, I feel sometime as if she is not. For reasons only really known to her, she has chosen to be almost totally absent from my sister and me. I lost my father to cancer when I was fourteen and I honestly feel like I have lost my mother permanently. Mental illness is confusing and painful. Thank you for sharing.
Heather, my heart is with you too. I think losing a parent, fully or partially but knowing they’re still alive is such a challenging journey…and though I blocked much of the pain, I realized the importance of letting it go. And that it’s never too late to heal. Hugs!
Thank you for your willingness to share this, Shari…and for your beautiful mission in life to Be Love.
What an amazing journey for both you and your mom, and it touches my heart to see you recognize the “blessing and lessons” in it all (even when it’s not easy, even when there’s grief, even when it doesn’t make sense).
Sending you (and her spirit) love today <3
Thank you Sabrina. Love your recognition of “being love” 🙂 It’s something I’m working on after my own wounds set me back for so many years.
Mmm. So beautiful and touching, Shari! And I totally agree with you about finding the gifts and learning opportunities . . . and being grateful . . . even in the most challenging times. Thanks for sharing this!
Thanks so much Leanne. Gratitude is a gift in so many ways, right, my friend? Hugs!
Thank you for sharing your story, Shari. Losing a parent is always difficult regardless of illness. You are brave to see that even though life is filled with challenges, there is something to learn and the learning makes you grow as a person.
Cassie, thank you. A bit of bravery plus a WHOLE lot of asking for support….it takes a village! xo
Dear Shari, what a beautiful piece that we can all relate too. I have tears in my eyes. We all have our struggles, and it can be so difficult to make sense of it all. I’m sending you hugs and love. I’m so sorry that your mom has passed. I think writing can be so therapeutic. Thanks for sharing, and helping all of us find blessings and lessons. Maybe we can get together one day – I would love to see you! Love, Jen Fleming
Jen! Thank you so much for the note and for reaching out. I’d love to see you and catch up…it’s been such a long time. Sending love and hugs right back to you my friend. Let me know how you are and if you want to meet up some time. You’re still here in CO, right? xoxo
Have you ever been to the Indiana or Michigan dunes?? Kind of old school but it’s rellay fun – feels almost like the ocean! It’s fun to walk up the huge sand dunes too 🙂
Beautiful, brought tears to my eyes. And powerful for those of us with our mothers still living to honor that connection.
Thank you Miss Laura. For your note. And for being a part of my healing and rebuilding journey. Much love to you my friend.
Never have I felt more proud and connected to you despite being so far away this summer. I hope you know, you are seriously someone who inspires awe in me everyday. Lucky for me, I have the pleasure of calling you my sister.
To those who haven’t found the kind of peace that Shari has, please know how much strength and bravery it takes to trudge into the waters that she has, but it is in no way, shape, or form impossible.
I think you have achieved something everyone strives for in some way or another throughout their lives: awareness. Not only awareness of lessons, love, challenges, and every other aspect of life you have experienced, but also awareness of self. Too few people accomplish this goal.
I was able to embody your emotions as I read your journey, having remembered the steps you have taken along the way and the advice you have given me in the process. Thats how I know the love within you that grew within you was genuine. I felt it too.
I love you.
P.S. I think you are a beautiful writer.
My dear sister. Thank you. My tears are overflowing and my heart is full. It means the world that this supports you. Not only because I love you, but because when I was standing where you are 2 decades ago, I too began my cravings for grounding and support. Awareness and meaning. And I so treasured the connections, friendships and relationships that lent unconditional love and empathy as I tried to figure it all out. Of course I’m still “trying to figure it all out” 20 years later 🙂 I now know that it’s not about “arriving” at a final “aha” but learning and sharing all the little ahas along the way.
Oh Shari – Your vulnerability in this post has touched my heart in such a significant way. I wept to be honest. The reality of loss touches all of us at some point but to be able to have such grace and reflection is so wonderful. Thank you for being a shining example to all women, all mothers and all people that have been touched by loss. I am ecstatic to say I have a friend (albeit new friends…friends) with such an incredibly deep soul, someone with huge and abundant gifts and love to share. xoxo
Andrea, thank you so much. I’m beyond thrilled to connect with you as well on our respective and collective journeys. And yes. I pretty much wear my heart on my sleeve and I’ve finally stopped apologizing for it!! 🙂 hugs!!
Not seen her in 26 years !? you must have loved her deeply.