Metamorphosis of Holiday Grief

For many of us, the holidays are just another day. A day to reflect on how much our lives have changed since that (or those) fateful day(s). While many others have to go on celebrating holidays with other loved ones, too often grief is a topic that isn’t discussed. People prefer not to talk about those who are missing so as not to dampen the mood of excitement. What a lonely time to be surrounded by so many but forced to put on a smile and pretend that the grief in our hearts and minds has disappeared suddenly.

I’ve been told, “I didn’t want to upset you so I didn’t ask about them. I thought it would be better not to say anything.” That is a very isolating statement although filled with love and ignorance. I am eager to share ridiculous stories of my brothers and dad. I would much rather be given the chance to speak rather than be silenced by the heedless actions of those who I spend my time with. Grief is desolate as it is. Give the grieving space to be who and where they are during times that are meant to be joyous. Let those who want to share the same stories you’ve heard a million times as they would be told even if those who are missing were still here. We all have those repeat stories we love to tell again and again.

This year the holiday grief has morphed a bit for myself and my family. Both of my beautiful nieces became mothers this year. I have spoken before about the unexpected milestones in our lives and here we are again. I remember the last Christmas I was able to celebrate at home in Ohio with my dad Bubba, both of my brothers, my mother, and my nieces. It was a special time and none of us had any idea that it would be the last.

I am ruminating about how so much has changed in such a beautifully sad way. Those sweet babies will never get to laugh wildly at their grandpa and uncle. They won’t get to sit on Bubba’s lap while he naps. They will miss out on the magical love those three men would have shared with them. And at this moment my heart breaks in a new way. My tears feel different, heavier maybe.

So I am here to remind you that if you care for someone who is grieving no matter the timeframe, ask them if they want to share a memory of their loved ones. Or at the very least, tell them you sympathize with them and their feelings. Give a safe space for them to feel whatever they feel. Not everyone will be ready to talk or share but just holding space will give comfort not many grievers experience.

So to my sweet great nephews Raiden & Xander, I will always hold space for you. And I will continue to do so for your amazing mommies.


My Lonely Secret

*Trigger warning – miscarriage

I drove from Austin to Dallas for a company training event. I was in this beautiful hotel in downtown Dallas and excited for what the weekend held for me. I never would have expected the hours of horror I would encounter alone in that hotel bathroom.

It was a crisp December evening and I was waiting for my assigned roommate to show up. I had never met her but I was excited to explore downtown, find some delicious food, and chitchat. Since she never showed up I headed down the streets of Dallas checking everything out by myself. It was such a nice night and the food did not disappoint. After a couple of hours, I headed back to my hotel room to relax and prepare for the full day of training that lay ahead. That’s when it all began…

I wasn’t expecting my period so when I started getting cramps I rolled my eyes. That’s not something new for me. I’ve always struggled with crippling menstrual cramps since I was a young teenager. The kind where you can’t eat, drink or sleep. You’re just trapped in the prison of pain and nothing helps to even ease the misery. So I thought if I could take some Tylenol before it got too bad I might be able to change my normal outcome. But this wasn’t going to be anything normal or anything I had ever experienced before in my life.

For the first hour or so the cramps felt strong but similar to the pain I’d experienced a million times over again. I tried laying on my side with a pillow between my legs hoping to relieve some pressure but the pain just began to intensify. I went to the bathroom and realized I was bleeding. I thought it was so weird because again, I was not expecting my period. I was on birth control to help regulate my cycles and for the intense cramps that I always dealt with.

Going into the second hour, I was bawling. I was in so much agony and had no idea what was happening. I kept the tv on hoping that the noise that came from the rectangle on the dresser would pull me out of this haze of suffering. I turned it up in a way to implore my mind to become distracted even if it were for just a moment. Nothing worked.

The bleeding became heavier and the pain was so violent that I couldn’t move from the position I had on the toilet. The deep gripping spasms were so profound I couldn’t even catch my breath and I ripped all my clothes off with the hopes that having no pressure on my skin with help alleviate this torment. So I sat there, naked, alone, sobbing, and bleeding to the point where I felt lightheaded. I didn’t know what to do. I was terrified and sluggish. That’s when I realized what was happening.

I sat there for what felt like an eternity with blood and tissue pouring from between my legs. I would look down and between my blinking tear-filled eyes, I could see it all. I was having a miscarriage there in that bathroom, fatigued, confused, and so alone. I should have called for help and I should have gone to the hospital but instead, I sat there on that toilet until the excessive bleeding stopped. It wasn’t until after 3 in the morning that I was finally able to move but just to the cold floor that held my feet so firmly.

The feelings that followed are still hard for me to comprehend. I felt ashamed, I felt pathetic, I felt scared, and I felt more alone than ever before. Although I knew what had happened, I couldn’t really make sense of it all. I was so tired and felt as if I was dreaming with my cheek smashed against the cold hard floor of that white bathroom. I still had some cramping and bleeding but it was easing up after hours of havoc.

I finally managed to pull myself to a sitting position and looked down. I had blood on the insides of my thighs, on the floor, and on the toilet. I didn’t know what to do so I wrapped myself in a towel and went to lay in bed. I cried softly to myself. I didn’t call or text anyone. I just lay wrapped in that white towel, in the white-covered bed, and stared at the tv until my alarm when off.

As my alarm sounded I took a deep breath in and turned to lay on my back. I was exhausted and terrified of what had happened. I reached for my phone to turn off the screaming sound of reality. I had to get up and go to work. I gathered my weak limbs and stood up on my shaking legs that carried me to that white and now red bathroom. I cleaned up the toilet and the floor before I got into the shower. I washed my powerless body as best I could in such an uncertain time. I wasn’t sure what else I was supposed to do. So I got dressed, grabbed some breakfast to try and gain some strength, and headed to the training.

I still had some cramping and bleeding that day. And when I was around people I smiled and acted as if nothing had happened. How do you tell someone that you didn’t realize you were pregnant until it was in pieces falling from you? I didn’t tell anyone until two and half years later. And I just recently shared this with my own mother two weeks ago. It’s a strange thing to be ashamed of but here I am, still feeling a weird sense of shame and sadness.


Unexpected Milestones

The first year after a loss is filled with so many firsts. The dread of celebrating anything without them is daunting. The weeks leading up to those days are agonizing and seem to go by so slowly yet speed by without you realizing. You feel a new and perplexing grief that fills your world in a way that’s indescribable.

The grief you carry changes and morphs many times over. Some days it’s bearable and you remember to laugh and feel alive. Other days you feel as if you’re stuck in quicksand, the harder you fight, the more suffocating it feels. Each day is unpredictable and that’s what makes grief unmanageable at times. All you want to do is scream and fight, run and hide, just not be you.

The worst part of it all is that life goes on without them. YOUR life goes on without them and that seems impossible. How can you keep living when they aren’t? You start reaching these milestones in life. You start new careers, get promotions, start new relationships with people they will never get to know, and you think about marriage and babies. These are all milestones that are expected but still so hard to accept. Life keeps on as if nothing has changed even when you’ve changed into a new person, again and again.

Then you have unexpected milestones. I’m a baby sister. That’s one of my identifying factors and something I’ve always been very proud of. Today is the last day that I will be younger than my big brother Adam. I don’t want to close my eyes to sleep because this is a terrifying moment in my life. How can this be possible? How can tomorrow come and expect my world to not crumble all around me? How can my lungs be expected to accept the task of breathing without hyperventilating? It’s times like these when I can’t recognize if this is my reality.

So tomorrow will come either way. If I lay awake until my alarm goes off or I fall into a stupor, half-dreaming, half-awake. And my heart will be broken once again, in a new, unknown way. I will cry until my face hurts and my eyes swell. Hopefully, I will also laugh and remember I’m alive. But I don’t know how grief will show up on this unexpected milestone, my birthday.


What Does Beauty Look Like to Me?

The word beauty has been swirling around in my head. The actual letters, bobbing up and down, twisting and turning, a full color animated picture. Bright colors that slowly turn black & white, back and forth. It will play in my mind with my eyes wide open or shut. Sometimes I get lost in the places I see beauty and wonder…do I see beauty in myself?

I find beauty in kind words that float from a stranger’s lips to another’s ear. No expectation of the one receiving the kindness, just hoping to share a smile with another. Witnessing a small gesture, like picking up something that’s fallen without anyone noticing and giving back to the person who would have lost it. That is beauty. I believe beauty has no intentions. It’s not there to be praised or even be noticed. It’s there as a guide. A guide to teach us the way of life, to take our hand and show us where the next adventure is meant to be had. Sometimes that adventure is on the corner as you cross the street and it lasts for less than a minute. That’s the beauty that follows us throughout our days.

I also find beauty in all the expected places. The face of my pups, the big beautiful willow trees, and the soft rain that tickles your face. I find beauty in nature each day and I’m so thankful for our Mother Earth. Experiencing the change of the seasons in slow motion should seem so bizarre but it’s not and it’s so wonderful to explore it. Life is outlandish and that’s what creates all of this beauty.

I’m also starting to see beauty in self-love. To stand in front of a mirror, naked and just accepting your body for what it is; Fingers free of any skin that could be pinched or pulled between them. Allowing your mind and body to recognize each other as one and celebrate that freely. Taking the time to learn what you fancy and what you have aversions to is so important to your own beauty. Being able to set healthy boundaries within all facets of life is one of the great beauties of our journey.

I am finding beauty in myself. Learning boundaries that allow me to grow into the person I’ve yearned to be for so long, as I continue to love strangers in my own way. I am also recongizing the beauty I have to share with those I choose to spend my time with. Being open and valunerable while not holding any expectations for that moment, rather only accepting them and this life exactly as it is. That is beauty.

I want to be beautiful and possess beauty for myself so that in turn, I can give more to others.

Although this post has nothing to do with physical beauty per se, I took a picture of myself to send to my two best friends and nieces for their opinion on my lip stick color. I did not use a filter, just took a quick snap in my hallway. I have never felt so much confidence in my life and I feel like the picture shows that and I feel beautiful in it. I made the choice to share it here.


The Holidays After Loss

This is for those who have lost loved ones and for those who want to help support someone who has lost a loved one. I wish I could have told those around me before what I needed during this time of year but I was too deep into my grief to do much of anything. I hope this helps someone just a little.

I want you to know, truly know, that whatever you’re feeling right now is okay. If you’re excited about the holidays, that’s okay! If you’re angry and full of rage, that’s okay. If you are numb and have no idea what you’re feeling, that’s okay, too. It’s okay to be and feel whatever it is at this very moment. And it’s okay if those feelings change in an instant. The rollercoaster of life and grief can spin us in motion without us even realizing what’s happening or where we are going. The only true advice I can give for that is to allow yourself to experience those feelings but to let them go as quickly as they come. Holding on too tightly to our emotions is when we become stuck and I’ve been stuck before and it’s excruciating. Let those feelings move through you like a breeze on your cheek, experiencing it without touching it.

This part is for the supporters. Thank you for being there when many times those grieving are left alone because others are unsure what to do. The best course of action is to physically be there just to hold space. Sometimes we don’t know what we want but what we need is to not be detached. Grieving during the holidays can be arduous and lonely. By letting that person know you want to be near may be what gives them the courage to allow themselves to feel hopeful.

Another aspect that many people seem to shy away from, which can be most damaging, is pretending like the ones lost never existed. People don’t want to say their names because they don’t want to upset those grieving but hearing other’s speak their names give their life even more value. Sharing stories of those who are gone breathes life back into their memory and keeps their spirit strong in the hearts who are left behind. Ask them to share their favorite stories with you and ask why it’s their favorite. People live on through our memories because we love them and because we share who they were and who they are to us in those anecdotes. Those are what keep them closest to our hearts.

Life is tough. Feelings are exhausting. But the love we get to share with those near to us is why we are in this wildly, unapologetic world. And even with the constant soreness I feel from losing my two big brothers and Dad, I want to talk about them. I want to make people laugh by telling them all the stupid things they would do during the holidays!

(Bubba, Joshy and Allfaye, we miss you so much. Make sure Momo isn’t getting into too much trouble. I love you more than ever. Lots of XOXO)

My Starting Point Is Here

After I wrote my last post I wanted to do something with my darkness I held in both my body and my mind. I felt so heavy like my hands were weighted down and I couldn’t quite move right. As if I was crawling on my knees and elbows on a shore of broken shells and rocks. Each movement causing tiny little cuts stinging in the saltwater as it washed ashore. But I didn’t want to just sit there. I asked where the starting point was and I realized where mine had to be.

My starting point is on that shore covered in blood and pain surrounded by walls of terror and scars. I either needed to pick out the slivers of shells in my knees and arms or lay there and rot away in the fungus that was growing inside me. So I started pulling little fragments out.

The first thing I did was think about what was frustrating me. The feeling as if I was stuck in my home was causing so much frustration. I work from home, clean my home, cook, bathe, do EVERYTHING within these four walls and it can drive me crazy. So as soon as I clocked out that Thursday, I put on my shoes and went for a 4 mile walk/hike. I live in the hilly city of San Antonio so being out in nature was healing. I saw multiple deer on my walk, felt the warm sun on my face then the back of my neck. I saw birds and insects in beautiful trees with a slight breeze blowing the little hairs around my face. It was freeing and relaxing. It was what I needed. I did it again the next two day.

This past Monday I started meditating again. I hadn’t done it in so long and I forgot how powerful it truly is. I only spend about 10-13 minutes in the morning before I start work and I’ve done it each day this weekend. I’ve been using the Calm app and it’s amazing. Having the guided meditation is helping me stay focused on why I’m taking this time for myself. I can feel such a difference in my mind. Yes, I still feel the heaviness and darkness but it’s not as debilitating.

Of course, this is just the starting point and I’m glad I’m here instead of being pulled out by the current of the hopelessness. I hurt my back just a few days into my walking sessions so I haven’t been able to be back out in nature like I was but hopefully within the next few days I can get back out there (doctor gave me limits but it’s getting better slowly). I’m also going to start reading again. I’ll set aside at least two 15 minute breaks throughout my day to read. I’ll be starting “Against the Stream” by Noah Levine.

Having this plan to add one new thing a week has really helped me. They are all small, achievable actions. I’m not expecting to feel safe and happy right away, all at once. I’m allowing myself to enjoy these little things and as they grow, so does my internal calmness.

I hope you’ve found your starting point.

Where’s the Starting Point?

We can’t be happy all the time. That’s the truth of life for each of us. However, we shouldn’t be unhappy all the time either. What do we do when happiness starts becoming harder to find in our daily lives?

Recently, I’ve been having a harder time feeling happiness or joy. It comes easily to feel happiness for someone else when they share a bright moment or experience they are so eager to shine a light on. I feel true excitement and delight for their happiness in their lives. How special is it that they want to share those moments with me? I would never want to miss any of it.

I don’t think we can ever anticipate when blocks of sadness will wash ashore. And when the blocks continue to build up and get pushed closer and closer by the waves of emotions and daily life, it feels like there’s no way to purge them. It’s almost as if we didn’t see them until they’ve morphed into a wall of wretchedness. Each angle that we face shows us a new contorted feeling of sadness that is now a new encounter; a new wound that we realize needs healed. So with each new wound we observe, comes a flood of fresh tenderness that trickles down into the puddle of sorrow where we stand until that puddle turns into a pond that we are drowning in.

Feeling overwhelmed is an understatement. I’m not sure where to begin. Right now I’m longing for tears that can warm my face and hopefully guide me to a starting point.

The Month of June

The month of June holds layers of love and grief toppled throughout each moment. As each day passes, I have new memories scattered in my brain that I wish were happening. I imagine that they are still here celebrating these times with us all. The “they” I speak of are my dazzling brothers who I painstakingly miss every moment of my life.

Yes, June is Pride month and we have so much to celebrate. At times it hard to imagine Adam is not here to be apart of it. When we lost my brother Adam, everyone lost. The world and the LGBTQIA+ lost a great eccentric, loving and magnificent man.

Being gay in small towns of Pennsylvania and Ohio was no easy feat and notably this was in the late 80s and early 90s. A beautiful queer boy wearing leopard print bikini underwear while doing his little sister’s makeup in a trailer in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. How could you not admire and look up to him? He was amazing.

Adam ended up doing some of the most fierce drag I’ve ever seen! Nikki Monte was a fabulous dancer, entertainer and loved by so many, especially in Buffalo, NY. He won many a crowns and had a standing act at a bar/club called Buddies (I believe that’s the one but I cannot remember). He was never afraid to be who he was and I admire that oh so much. He had a presents about him that made you feel light and airy. I miss how he made me feel. I miss our talks and reminiscing about the stupid things we did. Or how I’m still terrified of people curling my hair because of how many times he burnt me!

June is also the home of my brother Josh’s birthday. It’s memories like these that feel like a kick to the chest, just knocks the wind out of you. You know it’s coming, you see it barreling straight for you but there’s no jumping out of it’s way. This year I took the hit and decided to completely feel it. I went through every photo I own. I laughed, cried and felt sorry for myself, my nieces, my parents, and all the people who miss them dearly.

June holds so much in it. It’s a time to embrace all the shitty things that come with growth. To know that the people of the world can be cruel but that they can also overcome. June is about remembering where we’ve come from and how much farther we still have to go. It’s about never giving up on ourselves and standing for those who can’t. June for me represents strength, pain, light, anger, grief, sibling empowerment, and growth.

So until next June, I will continue to work to advocate for those who need me. For those little boys in leopard print undies just wanting to do makeup and for those who struggle with self love. You are worthy of your own love first and the respect of the world.

Living For Those I’ve Lost

Potential. There’s this phrase, “…living up to your potential.” Yet, we all have that potential to do and be great. That’s a weight we as humans carry around like an invisible backpack strapped tight to our shoulder blades. How are we using this time we’re given to reach that potential that people put upon us? Better yet, the potential we all know we have but at times just don’t feel like doing anything with.

I recently wrote about questioning my worthiness and grief playing apart of that. I’ve been examining my grief with a magnifying glass. Parts of it are still so foreign that I can’t make them out while others continue to sting like a fresh sunburn still out in the sun. Grief is a piece of my soul that vibrates with each breath that raises my chest.

I’ve been picking apart this notion of my own potential. I feel like I’ve grabbed those invisible backpacks of my brothers and thrown them on my back, too. I want to do so much but the thought of all this potential combined is just paralyzing. Where do I start? What do I need to do for them so that they have a spark of fulfillment within my doing? Living for those I’ve lost is interlaced with self doubt and an urgency for their legacy.

February is a grueling and exhausting month. I lost my dad (Bubba) on the 18th and my brother (Adam) on the 25th. I remember those days like a movie I’ve watched over and over again. It doesn’t feel as if I’ve lived them as much as experienced them on a level unknown to the mind and body. How can I live up to their potential if I’m unable to navigate my own movements.

Am I Worthy?

I find myself asking that question with “Am” in italics.

Many times thoughts float into my overloaded brain and stick on the top like a fluorescent note screaming in my face. Recently that note screams “Am I worthy?” and I’m taken back for a minute debating it. Then I get back to my task at hand until that beaming question sticks on top once again.

I’ve worked very hard to redirect my thoughts to be kind and loving words to myself. This has been a mammoth undertaking since I’ve wrestled with it all of my existence. Gentle and fierce love is one of the great qualities I have toward others but never inward. I’m proud of the person I’m becoming to myself because I believe it’s allowing me to love in a healthier way to those dear to me. So when this strange feeling seeps in deep with a feeling of uneasiness, I’m confused about what to do.

How do we convince ourselves that we are worthy of so much more than we currently have? Again, survivor’s guilt is a deep-seated sorrow that I carry on my chest as I maneuver through my everyday life. I want to be more and do more than they ever imagined but the question floats in like a fluffy, weightless feather that hits like a brick, “Am I worthy?”.