This Is Us. Mention those 3 words in a group of people and you will probably see tears start to well up in someone’s eyes. Showing emotion does not come easily to me, but this is the one TV show that I find myself watching with a box of tissues nearby. Apparently this is true for millions of other viewers too.
Why do so many people get excited about watching a show that makes us cry? I thought about this recently as I was watching an episode about an event I knew was going to happen, yet I still found myself needing multiple tissues to dry all my tears.
I think the answer is - great storytelling.
Any great story is bound to captivate an audience.
Over the past 2 years, blogging has become a part of my life. As a blogger, you put your words out there, not knowing who will read them. This part is a little scary. And most of the time, you have no idea how your words impact someone, but you continue to write. You trust that the words you have been given are meant to be shared with others for a reason. This is the life of a blogger.
Once in awhile, someone might share with you how your words have helped or encouraged them. These moments are gifts….little reminders that your words are making a difference. It’s because of these moments that I continue to write.
Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. As a child, I have fond memories of going with my parents and younger brother to the Christmas tree farm. We would brave the cold and snow in search of the “perfect” Christmas tree. Once we got the tree back to our house, we would turn on Christmas music and decorate the tree as a family. I always looked forward to the Christmas season, and I loved putting up the Christmas tree.
Now, putting up the Christmas tree is bittersweet. While I still love the Christmas season, the holidays are very different. I no longer live at home with my parents, and my closest family members are hundreds of miles away. I’ve always envisioned myself being married with kids, but that hasn’t happened yet. So, instead of cutting down a real tree and decorating it with family, I find myself putting up an artificial pre-lit tree and decorating it by myself.
It would be easier to skip putting up a Christmas tree, but each year I choose to continue to do it because my Christmas tree is full of memories. Some ornaments were given to me by friends or students, but most of the ornaments are the same ones that hung on our family Christmas tree when I was a child. They remind me of Christmases full of excitement, happiness, and fun. This part is also bittersweet, because now Christmas (and all holidays) are a mixture of joy and grief.
The first time I remember grief slipping into the holidays is when my mom was initially diagnosed with breast cancer. With each holiday, I remember thinking, “Will this be our last one together?” Presents became less important to me, as I started to focus more on being present with the people around me. All I wanted was more time with those I loved.
Nine years after her diagnosis, my family and I experienced our first Christmas without my mom. Grief didn’t just slip in that Christmas, it seemed heavy, like a thick blanket of snow. But, just as the Christmas lights glimmered in the night, moments of joy pierced through the darkness. Sometimes you just need a little bit of light to give you hope.
Today, I don’t feel weighed down by grief, but it still lingers. And I’ve learned that’s ok. In order to grieve, you first have to experience love, and I’m thankful to have had a mom who showed me love.
As I look upon my decorated Christmas tree, memories fill my mind. The memories may be bittersweet, but at least I still have the memories.
My eyes always gravitate towards the top of my tree, though. There, underneath the angel, are ornaments that remind me of my mom. Even though it’s hard not having her here, I know she’s with the angels, celebrating the birth of our Savior in heaven, while I celebrate His birth here on earth. Some day we will once again celebrate together. Thinking about that always brings me joy.
We began the weekend as strangers, but left as friends and sisters in Christ.
From the outside looking in, it wouldn’t appear that we have much in common. Some of us are young adults. Others are grandmothers. Some of us are single. Others are married. Some of us do not have children. Others respond to little ones calling them “Mom” on a daily basis. Some of us live in the area. Others traveled great distances.
Despite our differences, we quickly bonded because of a common thread in our stories: All of us have experienced mother loss.
Loss often causes people to isolate themselves, but this time it brought us together at the Motherless Daughters Ministry Journey Retreat.
The Journey Retreat is a chance for motherless daughters to learn about the effects of mother loss and how to handle grief as it appears throughout our lives. We also learn how a mother’s absence shapes our identity and how it influences our style of mothering and our relationships.
Some of our mothers have passed away, while others have living mothers but do not experience nurture and care from them. Our stories of loss are different, but we all miss having a loving mother.
At the retreat, those of us who were leaders first shared our stories of mother loss, and then we listened as the participants bravely shared their stories. We were no longer strangers once we knew each others’ stories.
Our hearts broke for one another, yet at the same time our hearts started to heal.
Instead of ignoring our grief, we expressed it.
Instead of pushing others away, we allowed others into our pain.
Instead of feeling alone in our grief, we finally felt understood.
Throughout the weekend, we honestly shared our emotions and opened up about other struggles and parts of our lives. Being vulnerable will often give others the courage to be vulnerable.
We supported, listened, encouraged, comforted, and prayed for one another. We laughed with one another. We cried with one another. We gave each other permission to grieve and to be authentic.
And then we watched as God fulfilled His promise from Psalm 147:3 – “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Sharing our brokenness in a safe and loving community allows God to use our stories in a powerful way.
Even though we’ve experienced mother loss, we found healing and hope.
It’s available for you too.
Our next Motherless Daughters Journey Retreat will be on June 21-24, 2018. We would love for you to join us!
*** This blog originally appeared on the Motherless Daughters Ministry website.
There are certain moments in time that change our lives forever. For me, one of those moments was when I learned my mom had passed away.
It was eight years ago, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. I remember waking up at 12:40 a.m. to my phone ringing and talking to one of my sisters. I listened as she told me about our mom’s final moments. I remember hanging up the phone and laying in bed for hours…going between moments of shock (did I just imagine that phone call?), moments of anger (why didn’t God allow me to be there?), and moments of feeling completely devastated.
My mom had battled breast cancer for 9 years, and while deep down I knew her time on earth was coming to an end, in that moment I learned that the thought of losing someone is very different than actually losing someone.
At the age of 26, I became a motherless daughter.
Motherless daughters share a special bond. Recently, I was reading the book, Never Unfriended: The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships, by Lisa-Jo Baker, and within the first few pages she shared that she became a motherless daughter at the age of 18.
While her book focuses on how to create and keep lasting friendships, Lisa-Jo Baker also shares how her friends supported her after her mother’s death. I saw myself in part of her story.
Lisa-Jo’s first phone call after her mom passed away was to a friend. My first phone call was also to a friend.
A few weeks before my mom passed away, one of my closest friends told me to call her whenever I got “the call.” She didn’t want me to drive myself back home alone. She said she would drive. She wanted to go with me.
My friend followed through on her offer. After I called her, she dropped everything for me. She left work, packed her bags, and before I knew it, she was at my apartment, with food in hand, and her adorable dog. We had a quick lunch, and then she drove me to my hometown, which was 4.5 hours away, so that I could be with my family.
It was the longest car ride of my life, and even though my heart was broken, I felt incredibly loved by my friend (and her adorable dog who sat on my lap the whole time).
In Never Unfriended, Lisa-Jo Baker says, “Maybe the most intimate, radical thing we can do for our friends is to show up.”
Losing my mom helped me understand the truth in this statement.
I felt loved when my friend showed up to drive me home. I felt loved when my former teaching mentor (who I hadn’t seen in years), showed up at my mom’s visitation. She drove an hour just to give me a hug. I felt loved when 7 of my friends/co-workers showed up at my mom’s funeral. Most of them had never met my mom, yet they drove 4.5 hours to comfort me.
In the midst of my grief, God revealed His love for me through my friends.
I learned that friends make sacrifices.
Friends put others’ needs in front of their own.
Friends are willing to share your grief so you don’t have to walk through the darkness alone.
The hardest phone call of my life allowed me to experience the beautiful gift of friendship.
I’m so thankful my friends showed up for me. Who will you show up for today?
I'm an ordinary introvert who loves an extraordinary God.