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?”.

Grief Greetings

For many, the holiday season is fast approaching. Nothing can stop it from rolling on in, not even a worldwide pandemic. Definitely not the heart wrenching grief that fills my existence just weeks before Halloween.

You see, for me, it’s not Season’s Greetings. This is the season of loss and realization that I am much more alone than I like to admit. I’m also burdened with a deep sadness that strips me of all my fabricated happiness that I’ve conjured up. It’s the breaking point of where I cannot hide behind the success I’ve had both professionally and personally.

October 31st (or at least very close to it) is usually a fun and exciting time for many. They get to decorate their homes and persons, celebrate being someone or something else while surrounded by people they love or new possible friends. So many different things happen around Halloween for people of all ages. Most get a sliver of excitement within their own boundaries. My brother Adam absolutely loved Halloween. He went all out with decorations and parties. Adam made you feel light as a feather with his magical entrancement of the holiday that ended with the start of his birthday with the strike of midnight, Day of the Dead.

Of course, this is just the inauguration of the Grief Greetings. Not far behind is the blindside of December 1st. It seems to slide me off track like rubber on black ice. Never even seeing it before I realize that I’m spinning out of control with anxiety and flashbacks of that call. Wondering if this has all been a bad dream when I realize his number doesn’t call him anymore.

Then of course, everyone around me is making plans with their families and complaining about someone that they have to “put up with” at the family gatherings when all I want for Christmas is for my brothers to drive me crazy so I can roll my eyes at them and I laugh hysterically. The actualization of never experiencing these moments with them again steep deep into my essence. Moments overcome me when I want to wail my pain and frustration out of my soul and into the chilly air for all to experience.

Grief Greetings. Ah, I am not alone…yet I am. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will come and go. I will inevitably sneak off into the bathroom to cry for my brothers and Dad, wishing them happiness and peace although I really just want them to magically appear when I open that door back up with rosy cheeks.

So as you make your way to your Season of Greetings and Holidays, fully and sincerely enjoy yours for those of us who may not have that ability. Our journeys may not be the same but we all still have love to remember and give.

Who Me, Anxious?

I didn’t realize that I was having a panic attack until I was preparing to fly back home to Ohio when we lost my brother Josh. I was on the phone with my doctor asking about something completely different and the concern in his voice made me feel terrible! But of course, him being the amazing human that he is, he guided me into a small space of comfort and I began to breathe in a more relaxing state but not quite back to normal. That’s when he dropped the bomb of reality on me. “You’re having a panic attack.”

Boom! What? How could that be? Shouldn’t I know if I have a panic attack? Wouldn’t I be able to read my own body and know when it’s going haywire? Apparently not.

I didn’t have time to reevaluate my reality or perception of my emotions and reactions. My doctor said he was going to prescribe me something to help me on my disturbing journey home and we could talk about it when I got back to Austin. However, when I picked it up at the pharmacy the pharmacist told me to be careful because it would turn me “into a zombie” so I didn’t take it at all. Looking back I wish I would have taken it. It wasn’t until I got back and spoke with my doctor that I decided to use it when I needed it.

Fast forward to the current day and the state of affairs that are happening globally. My anxiousness can overflow my bloodstream as I read article after article and my heartbeats faster and faster until I feel it vibrating my brain. My mind goes straight to two main fears and unfortunately, with an anxiety filled mind or not, I fully believe them to be accurate beliefs and fears.

My mind goes to the fear of my Mom being exposed to the virus that’s taken over our Mother Earth. Not only is she “high risk” for catching it due to her suppressed immune system, she’s SUPER “high risk” for complications of the virus. So I try to calculate how she can be exposed and how likely is it to actually get to her. Many times I believe she’s taking all the precautions she can and there’s a faint chance of her coming into contact with it. All her doctors are canceling her appointments & tests, she doesn’t leave her home too often and her friend is helping where she can. THEN! That’s when I realize! Starr has to go out into the world to help my Mom and she’s going to bring it to her unknowingly! Or my grandparents, one has Alzheimer’s pretty bad now, but the other one is dragging the other out to eat and whatnot. My Mom has stopped going to their house to visit. But that won’t last too long because it’s my Mom’s Mommy who has Alzheimer’s and she wants to be with her as much as she can before she forgets who her first born is. (My heart shattered into a million pieces as I typed that out.)

Next thing that flashes bright in my face like a spotlight heating me up and I’m sweating while panting out of breath; A thought that haunts me daily but it’s now under a microscope and I see it so clearly. The idea of me contacting the virus and due to my underlying health issues, I succumb to it and leave my parents childless. What an appalling thought to even stomp around in my body but it does. I can feel it in my spine, in my stomach, on the back of my neck.

Anxiety is something, at times, I’m not able to control and that’s extremely hard to admit. My mind races with fears and realities that I’m not able to contain and I can feel angry or I can feel overwhelming heartsick. The anger is something new to me so that’s even more combating. I try to recognize it when it starts oozing into my being, yes my being because it fills my entire body not just my mind. I can’t just snap out of it so I take walks, I take a shower and say everything I’m thankful for starting with the water. I cuddle with my puppy dog and sing or talk to her. I spend time with people who bring me happiness. Even then, it is still there so I spend sometime alone with my thoughts and let them be and try to talk through them.

Anyone else anxious like me?

Side B – To the Man Who Loved Me

I’ve never dreamt of a man who would come rescue me. I never anticipated a spark of a love that would glow bright in a darken stretch of loneliness. Then you showed up.

We spent weeks divulging secrets we didn’t share with other lovers. We laid our hearts bare at each other’s feet and had the deepest confidence in our affection. It was pure, it was profound. It was more than either of us could ever envision.

We cultivated a life that we cherished and shared with those around us. Before we knew it we grew into a family and shared all aspects of our lives together. Long enchanting road trips that never became boring, nights of laughter and new experiences that we both loved. We traveled, we entertained ourselves, we adored one another.

Life wasn’t always perfect and I made my share of mistakes. But I will never regret the life we shared. I will hold our years close with fondness and growth. You showed me that I was capable of more than I believed and helped me accept the success I was achieving. For that alone, I am forever grateful.

Thank you for sharing nearly six years of your life with me. Thank you for loving me. Because of the man you are, I am now the woman I am today.

I hope this reaches you. I hope you know that our love was magic and that no matter what, I will hold Side B much closer to my heart.

To the Man Who Broke My Already Broken Heart

I want to be angry with you because I feel like that might make healing easier. But I’m not angry, I’m saddened and heartbroken.

The lies that rolled off your curled tongue has stolen the trust I had for not only you but for myself. I no longer trust myself to believe the words that flow from another’s mouth into my ears. I question the genuineness of those who want to exist in my radius. The unprotected love I thrive to share with the world is starting to feel filtered. And that’s life altering.

Thoughtless phrases that trickled from your jaw to my center still ring in my head. Begging you to say something nice to me because I could not receive another put down no matter how innocent you perceived it to be. Replaying moments where I should have spoken up and loved myself more than I loved you. Allowing red flags to wave gently in my face as I pivoted away from them.

Through all of this pain and grief I’m searching for goodness, even a subtle hint. Although it’s uncomfortable to admit this, I feel like the goodness I’ve found is me. I loved you the best I could. I helped elevate you in ways that will stay with you forever. I was the other half of our home that I loved so much. Now I have to be that goodness for myself and do all those things I did for you, now for me. You exposed my weaknesses and through that I discovered patience & acceptance for myself. That’s a gift you gave to me through all the tribulations.

There’s no elegant way to end this piece of brain matter that I deem necessary to share. So, to the man who broke my already broken heart, I hope you read this and feel something.