When the Light Goes Out

When the Light Goes Out

His natural, thin-lipped, wide-mouth grin carried so much sunshiny warmth I felt like I had just been placed center stage; in the spotlight. His shoulders were broad, yet slender and tilted forward in a slight hunch. The charcoal gray T-shirt that hung loose on his frame was light and the fabric seemed sheer and soft. No graphics littered the front; just a weathered and worn look that gave the shirt a little edge; making it seem casual and cool at the same time. Justin’s* demeanor and magnetic charm drew me in and made me feel like an old friend at once.

And almost as instantly, my body began to feel as if every ounce of life had been drained from it. There wasn’t any remnant of will to live left in any corner of my being. My arms became leaden weights, and I couldn’t muster the strength to lift them. My legs felt weak and unable to sustain an upright posture. The core of my being felt as hollow as a drum. My voice became suppressed, caught in my throat. It felt useless and strangled. My heart rate began to slow and my vision seemed to turn my perspective bleak like new contact lenses were covering my eyes unable to be removed. I knew Justin couldn’t go on for one more minute. The uselessness of life and the anguish in his heart turned into a roaring wave that was capsizing his life beneath it. His first words were, “I’m sorry. I just didn’t have anything left. I couldn’t stay.”

That Justin had chosen to leave this earth shattered my heart into slivers so small I was going to need a microscope to gather them all back up. Unfortunately, I am not sure all of the shards will ever be recovered. Even more, regrettably, this isn’t the first time I have felt this way. It is too hard to fathom how this light could go out; leave earth and leave the dark, vast blackhole of longing in its place. There will never be a day that someone Justin knew won’t look up and hope to see his light shining here with them. Never. It will forever be missed. A light extinguished too soon.

So many sweet souls have visited me, and their humor, charm, easy-breezy souls feel like a long, loving embrace. And it always takes my breath away that their lives were ended on their terms or by bad choices that left them vulnerable to leaving this world early. 

Suicides are impossible. How do you ever reconcile a life taken so swiftly? So forcefully? With forethought? What do you do when the light goes out?

It’s one of those deaths that leave so many what-ifs in its wake. It feels so preventable. It feels so upside down; the sheer force of trying to turn back time to prevent it leaves you breathless and dizzy. I am not saying other deaths don’t feel this way; it is just one of the types that tears a whole in my being and I feel like a tattered flag that will never fly again. After holding court with these souls, I am so devastated by the wake of grief that is felt here on earth for the loss of these souls; it takes days sometimes months for me to shake off the chill it leaves in my body. This also happens with souls that have been murdered, taken too soon due to cancer, and so many others. This particular cause of death is just raw right now, because of a session earlier this week.

There are roughly 129 suicides a day and it is the second leading cause of death in kids ages 15 to 19 according to the Association for Suicide Prevention.* It just seems so startling to think that the rate keeps increasing and we just aren’t entirely sure why. And so many lives are affected by this it is staggering.

After years of speaking to souls like Justin’s who chose to cross over, I still have no decent comforting words. Souls lost to suicide rip every last piece of hope from my heart because all I want to know is why? How does the God I believe in allow this? God, I adore you, but if you have a plan here, I am pretty positive I can’t understand it. It is so unfathomable, and nothing fills the hole or the guilt quite effectively. I have such a strong urge to try and rectify it, and that means keeping the soul here, helping them find peace here.

Maybe it stings so severely because this could have been me. My life has not been immune to suicidal thoughts. It isn’t this way now, but as a teen I remember how my life hung by a thread most days.

Each soul that I have encountered that has played a part in their demise is at peace in heaven. They are in a place where their pain is quiet, they feel loved, welcomed, they have a sense of home in a way that was hard for them to grasp here on earth. And while that floods me with gratefulness it also drips with misfortune because they leave so much love behind here. So many people that wanted them to feel peace and comfort here on earth.

Justin felt no different. The peace that flooded through his being was immeasurable on a human scale. He radiated pure joy. 

I know that some feel that souls that commit suicide are doomed to eternal damnation. 

But these souls sure don’t feel that way to me. They relay through thoughts, emotions and words that God loves them. Forgives them. That they do all the things souls in heaven tell me they do — reunite with loved ones, visit places all over the world, help other souls, visit loved ones on earth, find everlasting peace.

Sometimes they speak of the ability to take classes on how to better handle addiction, pain, depression so that if they do reincarnate, their souls are free of having to repeat that particular lesson over again. They send signs of hope to family here on earth and are well-adjusted to their fate. They want forgiveness from those the love here on earth. They feel immense remorse for the pain they caused, but few believe that there was an alternative to what happened to them. They use the word inevitable. These souls also share that they feel that there was a call for them to return to heaven; that God was somehow also responsible for their assent heavenward.

But all of these messages time and again still leave my heart feeling barren, vacant, devoid of solace. There is an emptiness that crawls up my spine and into my mind and makes my skin crawl with a pain I can’t entirely escape. Silent tears escape my body for days as it works to release this aching sorrow.

The people here on earth who are suffering the grief of suicide are left with questions, guilt, doubt, and broken hope. Why? How do we move forward and find meaning? I think the answer is going to be unique to each griever. It will match the impact of the physical life lost. It will only be understood by that mourning heart. 

Efforts to thwart suicide are valid. Lives can be saved. Why it doesn’t always work; I guess I will have to have blind faith. God knows what He is doing. Honestly, though, it still isn’t enough. My faith fails to cover the bill sometimes. Sorry, God. I love you, I do. I believe in you. I just can’t always understand, and this gift to communicate with spirits doesn’t seem to give me a more in-depth insight. 

The only thing that is helping me pull myself together tonight is the slight possibility that the messages I am able to translate from their loved ones help my clients. I guess, maybe just maybe, God uses people like me to aid in the healing process. To help loved ones know that there is a heaven, and that love connects us. It cannot be destroyed or cut short. Not all is lost.

Maybe people like me help others understand or have faith that their loved ones are not just dust, but are also alive; risen.

Perhaps it is a comfort to know that their loved ones have found a way to thrive in a place that surrounds us so they can continue to lift, guide and nourish us until we all meet again.

Maybe it is helpful to know that our God is a forgiving God, not a vengeful, punishing God. Our God is a nurturing parent who makes sure we understand and face the consequences of our own actions, but doesn’t kick us out on the street. Doesn’t leave us to fend for ourselves independently, but is always guiding us to the best version of ourselves. He is always guiding us and welcoming us home. And there is never an end to His love.

It still isn’t enough to help alleviate the loss of suicide, but maybe something is better than nothing. The cracks in my heart will remain. I am not sure Justin’s bright smile will ever fade from my memory. His soul shines a radiant light on all it touches even if it is seemingly gone from here; it still exists in heaven.

Most importantly, if you feel like you need help, please get it.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. To learn more about how you can help visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/  or https://afsp.org/.

XO-

*The name Justin has been changed to protect his identity and the identity of my clients.

*Data for these statistics comes from the article: 9 Things All Parents Should Know About Teens and Suicide: Talking about it can be hard, but it’s so important. By Anna Borges.

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Inside Voice # 1

Inside Voice # 1

Struggle – verb: to proceed with difficulty or with great effort*

“You could never understand my pain.” This is a common phrase I hear a lot.

I think deep down a vast majority of us feel unseen, unheard, and misunderstood. We search for connection, but feel like no one could ever understand our pain, or losses, what we have been through. And to an extent that is true. How we experience things is unique, but what we experience can be universal. Right now is a prime example. The world will remember this pandemic. We are all going through it. How we experience it day to day is unique to us, but so much of the what is happening to us is the same. Yet, it must be human nature to compare because we can’t seem to help it.

A few days ago, I was listening to Brené Brown’s podcast, she was interviewing David Kessler, an author and grief expert. During the interview he started talking about how people compare grief. For example, a grieving mother’s pain is greater than a grieving daughter’s pain, and he basically said that we can’t compare grief because “your grief is the greatest grief.” Why? Basically, he postured that the greatest grief is our own because it is the most significant amount of suffering we have endured up to that point in our lives. That truth resonated through me like a I had been hit with a tuning fork.

It has been so difficult for me to write about what I am feeling and experiencing during this time because of all the suffering I know other people are enduring, all while my family is safe and healthy. But listening to David Kessler reminded me we are all grieving something because as he defines grief, it is the loss of something, the death of something, it reminded me that we are all feeling loss. Some may be missing the loss of the school year, the loss of normalcy as we knew it, we are all learning how to cope with Shelter in Place (SIP), or with whatever we may be faced with in new ways. And what we are living through is one of those defining moments that there will be forever a before and after. We will say things like, “remember when we used to shake hands and hug strangers everywhere before the pandemic.”

Our first responders and essential workers are awe-inspiring, self-sacrificing humans whose stories are lifting me up and breaking my heart on the daily. We cannot thank them enough for what they do to help the rest of us. There isn’t a day that I am not thinking about their ability to put others first and what they must be encountering on a daily basis.

There are times I want to keep things light and funny, but I think about what people are grappling with, and it seems like if I do that, I am not being considerate enough. I want to address the death, loss, and gravity of the situation, but I get so overcome with emotion, I can’t seem to pick myself up off the couch and genuinely go into a downward spiral of despair, and that isn’t going to help anyone.

So, I wanted to start this post by acknowledging that I understand that there are so many people across the globe who are suffering and struggling and the people that are assisting others, saving others, and are on the front lines have my utmost and deepest gratitude. But to document this authentically for myself, I may have to keep things a bit lighter moving forward, even if this post stays a bit heavy.

Also, I want to recognize that the shelter in place isn’t safe for everyone, but I think it was the best choice for the majority of our population. While that doesn’t negate the danger, some people who are in abusive situations may be facing I think those in the hardest-hit areas of the country would definitely agree that shutting things down was the right choice. I think it’s funny that we feel because we are in a democracy that we were automatically given the right to chose what is best for us. We want that right, but just like a parent, sometimes our leaders have to make difficult decisions that they think are best for us. It is easy to throw stones, but I am going to side with our governor on this one. I think Gavin Newsom did what he thought was best for our state and the people in it, and I don’t think it was an easy choice. I think it was a weighty choice and continues to be a difficult one.

On to more mundane topics of discussion.

What is my family doing in all of this?

I did shut down my in-person office visits. I have been doing sessions over the phone. It has been good, but also more taxing than usual. The energy it takes out of me seems more daunting than it was previously. I am sure that is because of my own energy, my clients’ energies, and then doing what I do all mixed together. Plus my sensitivity to the hurt that is in the world right now, and there is a lot of crying on my end by the end the day. It is also hard when people ask the impossible of me. There are people who have no boundaries and think I have all the answers, or that spirit does, and that just isn’t true. There are no definite answers, there is only what is best in the moment, and we have to find that for ourselves, no one in this world or the next, besides God, can give us that. We can find comfort from others, but we can’t find definite answers to the universe. At least I don’t believe that is possible in this existence.

My husband has been working from home. He likes his commute, and he is definitely working 9-5, but I think this week, it is getting hard for him to not be in the office with some of his co-workers.

The kids are doing really amazing. I am so impressed with their resilience.

My oldest son is so on top of his schedule, his classes, and what is expected of him at school. That part has been effortless. He is even trying to learn a little Japanese. Some mornings, he spends trying to relearn how to play songs on his keyboard and strums his guitar at various times throughout the day. However, his need to play video games with his friends for hours on end has been harder to manage. We have non-screen time hours, and that has helped, but I still think he is on his devices too much; it is just hard when that is also his social outlet. How can you reduce his contact from his friends even more than it already is? He is such a responsible kid. I am hoping we can help him understand balance during this time.

My daughter’s transition to distance learning was reasonably seamless. She was already at a school where everything was digital. Her school is paperless, so textbooks are online or digital, and classwork is submitted digitally already. She was up and running within days of the SIP (Shelter in Place) order. Her phone and iPad were all propped up on her desk, and she was typing away while working with classmates on assignments on day one. Obviously, she is definitely having a more difficult time with the social aspect. She misses her friends and wasn’t planning on returning to that particular school in the fall, so she is rethinking that now that she missed out on the closure of the year. We are just playing it day by day. We have both shed tears over her heartbreak that she won’t get to finish out the year with her teachers, classmates, or on the peaceful campus. I am pretty sure she also misses the food. Our home lunches don’t quite compare to the farm-fresh, chef-curated meals her school offers. She has had some Zoom calls with friends and played on Houseparty the other day with two girlfriends. But she is still lonely.

For the twins, I threw my teaching hat back on and downloaded several units from Teachers Pay Teachers and have been teaching writing, math, science, and reading activities. I also have a geography unit we will likely start in the next month or so. I struggle with the online games and practice, but I am trying to incorporate that as it is part of what their teacher is assigning. We have also been baking, doing science experiments, some art projects, playing outside, bike riding, and walks.

The oldest of the twins is having trouble with his anxiety. We have been working on tools and techniques he can use to self soothe. They seem to be working, but it crushes my heart that he worries so much for being only nine years old. I have been open and honest that adults are feeling the same way he is. It is natural to be worried, this is the first time many of us have ever faced anything like this, but we list what we are doing to keep us all safe, and that seems to help.

The younger of the twins is less anxious, but finally, let out some sadness yesterday as he misses his friends and soccer. We even had a family discussion about how you just need to cry sometimes so you can release that emotion. It can help you feel a little better. Both boys have Messenger kids and FaceTime, so they have been able to connect with classmates over this time period, but I know it isn’t the same.

Of course, when the younger kids said they would have liked to have been over at Noni and Papa’s (my mom and dad’s) when this started so they could have been stuck there for months, it hurt my heart just a little. I told them they would miss me, and one of the twins said, “Oh, we have messenger kids mom, we would have talked to you that way.”

I am trying to make it fun, but I guess not enough apparently. But that is the plight of being the parent, you just aren’t appreciated or cool until they understand what being a parent is like.

To keep my own sanity, I am reading. Thankfully I have been a part of two book launches. The first Jen Hatmaker’s Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire. (You can preorder it here.) The second, Live, Love, Now by Rachel Macy Stafford. (You can preorder that book here.) Both have been uplifting, introspective reads. I am also reading, Little Fires Everywhere and watching the series on Hulu. That has been fun. I may have also got a little caught up in Veronica Mars, which is way too young for me, but the Good Place ended and I miss Kristen Bell. What’s a girl to do?

I have been exercising. But like I told my one of my friends the other day, if I hadn’t created the habit of working out before the SIP, it would have been hard to start because my unworthiness gets the best of me in times like this and motivation vanishes because I just think I will be fat and ugly forever and nothing will help! I know that those are unkind things to say to myself, but in the past, those words and the energy to combat them leave me depleted. Then exercise seems insurmountable. So if you feel guilty for not working out right now, stop it. Just stop it. Whatever you can do is enough.

Writing has been a struggle. I want to be a writer so much, but the voices in my head that tell me I am not enough, even though I can quiet them everywhere else, here in this writer space they remain unchecked.

  • “You have nothing valuable to add.”
  • “You are too wordy.”
  • “You haven’t had enough pain to write in a way that resonates.”
  • “You aren’t entertaining enough.”
  • “You aren’t honest enough.”
  • “When you do tell the whole truth, you hurt people’s feelings.”
  • “Just shut up.”

I can hear you through the internet; I know I am not being nice to myself. I get it. I promise. And on top of that, I asked a friend to answer herself with love the other day after painting hurtful words her brain was shouting at her, I guess I need to do the same.

  • “Your experience is worthy enough to share.”
  • “Your words can take up the space they take up.”
  • “You can be a writer with any life experience; talent isn’t measured by pain.”
  • “Your words are enough; if people like them great. If they don’t, they don’t. Helping one person is more than enough, even if that person is you.”
  • “You are a solid gold truth-teller; it is your default.”
  • “You are kind, and you are honest. Your words always have the best intentions, and that means something.”
  • “Write – let your heart be free on the page.”

And so there you have it. I will write a little each day, show up here authentically and offer what I can. It’s all any of us can do.

It is my sincerest wish that you are well and finding ways to cope with the new normal.

Sincerely,

Finding Answers in the Redwoods: A Perspective on Grief

Finding Answers in the Redwoods: A Perspective on Grief

Lately, I have been praying a great deal about what I should be writing about. I know I haven’t been corresponding to you all as frequently as I should. Maybe you haven’t even missed it. I guess I worry about that too much. If there is an audience. That they dwindle or are bored of my words. Which is why the book I was writing has sat untouched for months. And the end of the year, which was my deadline to finish, is far gone.

As with anything more significant in my life, like a calling, writing is one of those things. I can’t ignore its pull. There is a voice that keeps telling me I am supposed to write. And the prayers I pray asking what I should write about; the answer keeps being whispered back to me. I am supposed to write about death.

Talk about a topic that no one wants to hear about. The topic probably stops me from writing sometimes too. It can be too much. In Western Culture, we avoid death. The bad news is it can’t be avoided forever. Some people have less loss in their lives, while others are bombarded with loss. But the one thing we all have in common is that it will happen to everyone at some point.

We also push past grief or side step it if we can. Rush it; try to ignore it. Maybe it is because we think we can outwit it; hide it; escape it. None of those things seem to be true, at least not long term or without significant side effects.

It can be an awkward topic even if you do want to approach it or understand it.

It never occurred to me that it would become such a center point of my existence. I guess I started out like most people do, trying to deny it.

Day in and day out, I work to breathe life into death. It is always my goal as a faith-based spiritual medium to do God’s work and light the way into the darkest corners of our grief and loss so that hope can grow there. But it doesn’t change the fact that our lives continue to be wrapped in it.

One thing is certain, grief doesn’t end. Just like love never dies; grief never ceases. We miss our loved ones and long for them our entire lives.

I think it was Anne Lamott that said, “But what if the great secret insider-trading truth is that you don’t ever get over the biggest losses in your life?” Isn’t that the truth? We never get over the biggest losses in our lives. They shape us, move with us, are in us.

Grief does evolve; I think that might be true.

Last fall I got to spend some days among the Redwood Trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains and they reminded me of grief. They reminded me of us.

Redwood Trees are giant, long-living creatures that tower over everything in a forest, and they force you to take them in. They are hard to ignore. From their strong aroma to their massive size, to the needles and cones that fall from them, you are forced to recognize them, just like grief.

Redwood Trees are also mostly fire-resistant. Did you know that? I didn’t before that visit. Of course, repeated fires can cause damage and create hallows called “goose-pens” that are found around the base. Grief definitely damages us, but we survive, whether we want to or not, and continue to grow around the pain even though the marks of it remain on our surface or maybe even at the root of us for the rest of our lives. Grief goose pens, if you will.

Grief like a Redwood is majestic in its own right because grief is love. Did you know that the germination of Redwood Trees from their seeds isn’t very high? The fastest way to grow a new Redwood Tree is from a stump sprout. Because their root systems are so strong these stump sprouts have a better chance of success because they can easily connect to that strong underground root system. That underground root system is like love. So even though grief looms in our life, seemly crippling us, new roots will shoot up all over and force us to keep moving on, changing our emotions. That is love at work. Love for our heavenly loved one, love for those here that keep us going. Giving hope to new moments in our life. Allowing us to honor and promote our deceased loved ones in the new ways we begin to show up in our changed lives. It is because of them we can grow.

Sometimes grief can wrap us in a fog so dense it is seemly endless. Lonely. But what we often don’t know until this fog of grief has lifted, even if temporarily, is that the harder moments prepare us for the beautiful moments where the most radiant amounts of joy find us. And these intertwined grief-stricken and joy-filled moments create their own forest of memories. Memories that sustain us in the physical world where we breathe life into our loved ones. We carry them with us wherever they go, and so they go on. Grief isn’t just pain, it is a legacy of love that will last for hundreds of years. Just like a Redwood Tree.

Redwood Trees have shallow root systems and these roots can grow to be hundreds of feet long and even intertwine with the trees around them. Just like us. We may not be able to see those surface connections in grief, but we become intertwined with those around us who are also experiencing that loss and pain and we stand along side those that witness our losses and stay connected to them forever.

Redwood Trees do die and they can tumble to the ground. When a Redwood Tree falls it can take other trees with it. Some have described the grunts, cracks, crashes and groans of a Redwood Tree falling as a symphony. What happens when a Redwood Tree falls is that it begins to allow for extra light to reach the forest floor. New trees can begin to grow from the fertilizer that becomes of the decomposing tree. Animals can find homes in the newly fallen tree. The tree may no longer be standing and “breathing” among its peers, but it still provides nourishment and opportunity to the forest it belonged to. Just like us. We will see the dead tree, our lost person, everywhere we step for almost all of our days, but that loss allows us to incorporate that person’s beliefs into our lives or creates a new perspective for us so that we can shine light on others to help them grow and flourish in ways we may not have understood before.

We share stories of our lost loved ones with our friends and family, and they share those stories. Our loved ones in heaven are given new life as they travel through these memories and continue to become a part of new experiences.

We will never stop missing them, but we will go on. We will hurt, but we will grow. And they will live on in us, our stories, and by how we remember them in our actions.

Death is scary. Loss is awful. But lives are beautiful. Legacies are legendary. We can breathe life into the spaces and hollows that grief leaves and learn to live with our losses in a way that can make life sweeter and more full.

I guess, I have to keep writing and talking about death. Life after death both on Earth and in Heaven. I pray it lifts someone up in their pain. I pray they feel heard and loved through their deepest moments of sorrow. I hope that what I do, what I write about makes someone feel a little less lonely. That they maybe can see through the fog of grief for a moment. That they know it will never be the same again, but it isn’t the end either. There are beginnings to still be had. Miracles to see and find. Life continues and death is inevitable. But there is something beyond this place and our souls continue to stay connected to one another. Just like the magic and mystery of a Redwood Forest there is something deeper and indescribable about how life and death intertwine.

Until next time,

Open Letter 2020

Open Letter 2020

At the beginning of last year I wrote a letter to myself, you can read more about why here. Accountability is important and it truly did keep me on course most of the time.

I wanted to do it here again, so I have these to look back on, plus it is my own version of therapy. My goal is that this helps you as well. I always write to reach just one soul that might feel like me so they feel a little less lonely, maybe a little more inspired to be unapologetically themselves and maybe this letter will hit the mark.

I wish you all a happy, successful, healthy 2020.

Dear End of 2020 Michelle,

I wrote this to you in a time when my soul felt bitterly broken, for that, I apologize. I tried so many times to write this from a place of hope, success, cheer, but alas, weeks passed, and my heart still feels achy, torn, defeated. Depression does that to you, no matter how hard you try. No matter how much work you put in. No matter how illogical it may seem, your brain sabotages you to believe you are nothing, worthless. Even though I hope that isn’t true, it sure feels like it with a force I cannot shake. And I finally decided that writing the truth is essential because I am a truth-teller, and that is what it is. So this letter is not as uplifting as I would have hoped, but I still want it to guide you, and I hope when you read it back, you are in a place where you have risen above, a place where you have found peace and strength in who you are now. 

You threw a birthday gathering for yourself, which is a huge accomplishment, and I am so proud you didn’t cancel even though you wanted to. It was good to see a room of people show up for you. Hugging each one of them felt like home. It is necessary that you continue to be the kind of friend you want to have, even when you struggle with it. Believe me, I know you still struggle. At the gathering the topic of friendship and worth came up. You were rocked to your core when you said how hard it was for you to feel like you do things right and immediately everyone’s voice raised to shut you down in seconds. This is hopeful, and I want you to try and focus on the idea that people don’t see you the same way that you see yourself. I know that is extremely difficult when several of your friends you had to work so hard to get them to notice you to begin with, but that happens. Even if you feel invisible, you are seen, respected, and loved for who you are.

I know you think people care more about what you can do, speak to spirits, than who you are. I know you struggle with that so immensely. I know that you love what you do, but it doesn’t define you. It isn’t who you are, and those that can’t see the difference aren’t worthy of your heart. You are not what you do. You are not your calling. It chose you and you answered that call because of who you are, not the allure of that calling. It puts a barrier between you and those around you that are connected to you because of it. But there are people that love you for who you are. Remember that and seek them out, they will not abandon you, and they won’t care if you are a quiet, homebody who likes to read and stay in her jammies. In fact, those things make them love you more.

Remember always that the quiet girl who wanted to put good into the world, the one who is shy and scared, but full of faith; she is who you are. That girl is worth something. She has value. Keep trying to find her and love her so that she won’t feel so lost, so lonely. My biggest goal is that ten years from now, heck one year from now I want to walk into a room and feel like I belong here, feel enough, capable, funny, wise, warm and engaging. I hope this year you find a balance between what you do and who you are and how you handle that so that goal becomes a reality. You should never have to apologize for the space you take up in the world.

2019 was a good year, you should be proud. You run a successful business that has grown exponentially via word of mouth and you do it all scared. Each day is leap in faith. But I know how much this wonderful job, this calling, means to you. It is vital to your human existence, because at the end of the day all you have ever wanted to do in this life is help people and be a mom. 

Both you have accomplished. But I know it’s beating you down. I know each loss weighs on your heart. Each person you carry with you and can’t seem to shake how loss feels. It catches in every breath, shades every moment of joy, and leaves you feeling so lost and empty because there is so much pain. This pain is a continuously exposed nerve ending, and there is nothing it doesn’t touch. I know there is nothing else you would want to do in this world, but I also know this is not the job you asked for, it was given to you, and you have done your best to rise to every challenge. I know you do not feel worthy of being chosen and that writing these words makes you feel as if you will lose it all because you sound ungrateful and that is the farthest thing from the truth. You just want to keep going and find a way to carry the load so it doesn’t break you. My wish, my hope is that right now at the end of 2020 you are reading this and have found a way to carry that sorrow and loss that is brought into your heart over and over, day in and day out in a way that doesn’t leave you feeling hollow and less than. I know you have struck out with every therapist you have contacted. No one will see you because of what you do. You have risen above judgment before. You have found a way, and I know you will figure this out, too. You are not forsaken, remember in every moment whose you are. HE will not forsake you. HE led you to this spot, and HE will see you through.

As a mom, you have grown so much. You catch your tongue and temper and meet most moments of chaos with peace. You have spent this year truly learning your children’s hearts. You are ready and watching to see how they greet you. Almost always you drop what you are doing to meet them at the ready and listen. You spent time with them. Work came second, and in your workaholic heart, that has been an enormous adjustment. You define yourself by how much you accomplish, and while you like the new pace of life, you feel like you didn’t do enough. Remember that whatever time you spend with your family is more than enough. You saw soccer games, watched dances, made family dinners, read books, had movie nights, game nights, listened to stories, baked together, laughed together. All of that time is what life is about. It is more than enough and it will be the one thing that fills your heart and soul completely.

As a wife, you have put your marriage as a top priority and work from a place of grace with your husband. You are always grateful for all he does and work to make sure he knows it. You spent time together and shared your heart openly. You have seen how he has responded with so much love and openness. You are one lucky girl he chose to marry you and has been by your side every day for nineteen years. What a beautiful life and marriage you continue to build with one another. 

Regrettably, you didn’t finish your book or start a podcast by the end of 2019. It eats at your soul that you let fear stop you in your tracks. That you allow what is hard and seems insurmountable leave you voiceless. The book is now done. You have a clear plan to publish and that is enough. You feel satisfied and hopeful that you completed what you set out to do. The podcast isn’t on the radar anymore, but you published a blog post bi-weekly most of the time, did more quick little videos via Facebook and Instagram, and again that is enough. You like keeping it small and being out of the limelight and that is okay. Small steps filled with great love is always enough. And in doing this you kept what is most important sacred to you and at the forefront; your family. This season is about them, time with them, and you can set anything else down that doesn’t make that the focus. They are worth more than any book, any business, any podcast, they are your world and time with them is priceless. So if you took time and space for them and for you, so you could be better for them, then great job, keep up the good work. WAY TO GO! When you have everything that is good in the world at your fingertips, and you have that in your family, that can be enough. Don’t let yourself or anyone else tell you differently, even Rachel Hollis.

You did keep up with your workouts. Working out is your jam. I know crazy, right?!

You have found lifting weights to be fun and ran 2 5ks officially, more than that off the record. You did your two 10ks this year. You ran six whole miles without stopping, something you never thought you would do again. YOU ARE A WARRIOR GODDESS, AND YOUR BODY CARRIED YOU THROUGH THOSE MILES – think about that every time you don’t like the way something fits. You have strength, stamina, and are working toward your best physical self. It is great that this year you got your check-ups, you took a better look at nutrition and shed that last 20 pounds. I am so proud of you for putting yourself on your checklist and knowing that taking care of you means you can take better care of others.

I know you are a recovering perfectionist and that the call of the Western Culture screams that you have to do more to be enough, but I am so proud you are listening to your heart and finding that the greatest, most valuable moments, are the ones that come in every day simple things. You read all the books, you cuddled with your littles, if you felt like laying in bed a little longer you did and were grateful for the luxury. You filled your year with moments and memories and there will never be anything bigger or more meaningful than that.


Sincerely,

Beginning of 2020 Michelle

Love never dies…

Love never dies…

A few weeks ago, our house was in the throws of ordinary sickness. But it can still be exhausting. I had spent two nights mostly awake, caring for sick children. One with croup. One with the stomach flu. And as I dragged myself out of bed with a stuffy nose and groggy head, it took all my effort to slapdash an outfit together and make myself presentable.

I had an appointment that had been booked out for about twelve weeks. This particular client had met with me before, but she reached out to me when her mother was dying. I felt it best to wait before meeting with her, her sister, and her father. She contacted me again after her mom had passed, and we set a date to meet a bit before Thanksgiving.

All of my sessions are important. Still, in this case, we have mutual friends in common and past history, add to that the holidays, and she had just had to sit with her dying mother, a relationship that is so important to all of us; I really wanted to make sure this went well. I said an extra prayer for strength since I was slightly sleep deprived then set off to meet them.

They arrived and after introductions I walked them back to my office. I was in awe as they each found a place to sit in my little office. The steely strength that only love can build rested securely in each one of their souls. Grace be to God, their loved one arrived and started to describe herself, heaven, and deliver messages for each of them.

The sheer power of her spirit was astounding. The depth, earnestness, and ardor these four people had for one another was breath-taking. To witness this kind of fortitude in a premature loss like this one, at this time of year, was definitely atypical.

It rocked me awake. On this Eve of Thanksgiving, this session brought me right into the present. What I witnessed about love that day, I am sharing with all of you; in hopes that it will sustain you the same way it does me.

I sat in awe and wonder as I delivered messages from their beloved, who had been in the afterlife for roughly three months. This spirit was so at peace. So full of hope and love. She was the most content spirit I have ever spoken to this quickly after transitioning to heaven. When I asked her how se was okay, she told me it was faith that let her feel so calm and content. When I shared this with her family they were not surprised. They said she had been like that through her entire illness.

This mother who gained her angel wings came forward not to share things she wished she had said because she had said them all. She spent every day loving her family and rested in a deep faith that whatever happened to her would be okay. She spent her days focusing on her family and nourishing them with memories and warmth. So whatever we are doing right now, if it isn’t that, we need to make more time for it. You won’t regret it. You don’t want to miss your people more because you didn’t make the most of the time you had here.

Love is the strongest element in the universe. It is built out of kindness, compassion, trust, and hope. Love doesn’t die. Our bodies may stop working, but our souls continue on, and what comes through is love. To bear witness to the love that existed across the boundaries of heaven and earth during this session was life-altering.

We get one chance at this life, the one we are given. And we grieve a great deal of the time we are an adult. We grieve relationships, people, opportunities. We mourn the past, present, and future. We focus on the hustle and bustle and monotony of life because we must. It is how we persevere.

What happens though if we live in the present? What happens if we act from a place of love and believe in miracles? What happens if we live right now?

Love happens. We can feel and experience things we never thought possible. Of course, it doesn’t allow us to escape pain; in fact, grief is love. They are two parts of a whole.

This family who sat in my office grieving and navigating a new normal had more composure, compassion, and gratitude for one another than I commonly see. Why? Because they spent the time, they had together physically making moments. Saying the things that they wanted to say. They counted on one another and honestly shared and showed up for one another. And they continue to do that.

They live in the present with their loved one in heaven. She is a part of everything, even though it hurts, even though it is hard.

Grief is a fingerprint, and no two loses, even for the same person, are alike. Unfortunately, you can’t go around grief, you can’t go under grief, and even if you try to avoid it, you find yourself face to face with it eventually. The only way to deal with grief is to go through it. Whatever time or path that takes will be unique. However, one thing I find to be a commonality are those who find a way through often ask for help, say what they need, face regrets head-on, and genuinely use love as their center and grounding force to guide them. Both with the loved one in heaven and the surrounding people they have here. And they live in the moment. They take life moment to moment. Just like the family, I was able to visit with on Thanksgiving Eve.

Love is worth it all. Love truly wins because it never dies. It is what allows you to experience one another across heaven and earth. It is what binds us together through it all.

I know this season can be hard. I miss my people, too. We will never get over our loved ones. We carry them in our hearts, minds, souls, and we grow around the holes they leave behind. Those holes are where love has left its impact.

Grateful doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about being able to witness miracles day in and day out. Awe of what love can help us endure leaves me speechless.

I hope that you find a way to live in the right now. To love your people both near and far with a vulnerability that allows you to say the things that will matter across space and time and leave you without regret. My wish for you is that you believe in miracles and have hope that anything is possible. Your words, thoughts, love it all reaches heaven. Your loved ones are with you if you can find a way to believe that their love will guide you through your grief.

Your angel loved ones are sending the little hummingbird that shows up on a cold December afternoon. They are the energy displayed by the two flickering lights on your Christmas tree, even though the rest of the strand is fine. They are visiting in a vivid dream where every detail is remembered. They are present in the smell of their favorite aftershave or perfume. They are showing you they can still exist past what life holds for us here. To give you hope to show you a way through, to let you know they miss you, too. To remind you, they will never leave you, and love never dies.

Keep going through it; even though the light at the end of the tunnel is heaven when you will finally have peace and everyone is reunited; there is still joy, life to be lived, hope, fun, and things to look forward to on the journey through, here on Earth. It is different because it will forever be through the lens of loss, but that doesn’t make it less than; it just makes it different.

May you have peace in your heart this holiday. May you have family, friends, and loved ones to help guide you through and the faith to believe the signs they send you along the way are real examples of their love because love lasts forever.

Bless you this holiday season in whatever life may hold for you.

May God hold you in the palm of His hand

When our loved ones move on to heaven our human hearts want the world to stop. There is a need for everything to be frozen and covered with ash gray quiet. Forward movement seems so unbefitting when we are mourning loss. We yearn for a blanket of stillness to cover the globe and keep us isolated while we adjust to a life where they are no longer physically present. And yet, somehow everything keeps moving,  changing, evolving, growing. There is an abundant amount of laughter and light that seems so out-of-place. For me it seems this must be God’s way of trying to soothe us to let us know that one day forward movement will not seem so odd. His way of reminding us that life is all forward movement. There is no pause button, no still frame except for in our photos and even then sometimes nothing is standing still.

All four of my grandparents are in heaven. My fingers shake as I write this because a world without their stories, advice, unconditional love seems a bit colder, less comforting. As each of my grandparents passed I tried to merge some of who they were into me; into my soul because if I did that then they continued to live. If I have to move forward because of the will of the world and the will of God, then it is my need to take the essence of who they were with me.

Twenty-one years ago, my grandfather (papa) went in for a routine surgery, and then I got the news he wasn’t going to ever leave the hospital again because his body had decided the surgery was not so routine. The day I heard I ran up and down the stairs in our house and did sit up after sit up. I thought if I could feel some physical pain that matched my emotional pain then that would bring harmony and peace. It did not. Time would come to pass and I would learn that nothing brings back the peace you had before you lose someone. Nothing is ever the same. I wish I could have had more wisdom in my adolescent brain that June, but I did not. For my grandfather, who was Irish to the core, I decided to move on with the importance of heritage being a core value.

papa at Salt Lake
Papa, my friend Shannon and I on Antelope Island the summer before my Sophomore year of high school. 1994ish

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At Coyote Reservoir probably 1992

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New Year’s Eve at our house in 1993 probably

He also loved his family fiercely and that too I incorporated into the fiber of my being. I know that he watches over us; his pennies from heaven are everywhere when I need them. He was also a wonderful story-teller. I think that I chose to write again because of a need to make his story-telling live on. Slowly picking up my once abandoned journals after his passing and beginning to fill them with my own stories. His picture sits at my desk and I talk to him every day. The hole he left will always be empty. I wish I had done more to remember all that he was, record his stories, ask more questions, learn more, but I was too naive and young to gather those extra memories of him when I had the chance.

My mother’s father passed on Valentine’s Day almost 8 years ago. It doesn’t seem like that, but time keeps moving propelling us forward. I had been so fortunate to see him two weeks earlier. He lived in Utah, so it was a treat that I was out there visiting friends and was able to escape away for a day and spend it with him. We visited my grandmother. Then, watched a part of the series “Earth”. We made plans for breakfast the next day and I headed back to the house my husband and I were visiting. A freak snowstorm set in that night and I was not able to get back to see him for breakfast. I called to tell him and of course he put my safety first and understood. I told him I loved him and he told me the same. As I hung up, I cried uncontrollably. Everyone thought I was crazy, but I knew I would never hear his voice again. That was the last time we spoke.

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My Grandpa goofing around at my wedding in 2003

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Grandpa toasting at my wedding in 2003

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Grandpa and Grandma together at my wedding in 2003

When my dad called to tell me two weeks later, I sank to the ground in my kitchen. And a cruel joke that on Valentine’s Day he left the Earth, leaving behind the woman he loved so much. My grandfather took care of my grandmother as she struggled through Alzheimer’s for 12 years. His unconditional love became an example to me; to our family to love those dearest to you through anything. His goofy jokes and singing became part of his essence that I needed to carry on. A sign of his hangs in my kitchen, “A good day is not complete without laughter.” That is what I carry with me and try to incorporate into my soul. Also to always drive the back roads, that is where the good stuff happens. There is no need to take the freeway when you can avoid it.

A few short weeks later, the love of his life, my grandmother passed away. My sweet, kind, generous grandmother who fought early onset Alzheimer’s for 12 years went to heaven to be with him. My grandmother was one of the most selfless, thoughtful people I have ever met. When I would complain about how someone being rude or grumpy she would say, “Michelle, they might be having the worst day of their life. Maybe they need a little kindness.” or “You don’t know their story.” This has become a mantra of mine, to give people the benefit of the doubt, to offer kindness no matter what. She had the best giggle and enjoyed her family and grandchildren so much. She was always finding the neatest toys for us to play with. Little People became a favorite of mine for my own children because it reminded me of her house. She also was a writer; she had written for the paper in college for a brief time. She is another reason that I write. Her grace, kindness, and love of knowledge and life I try to absorb in every way.

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My grandma with the love of her life my grandpa in the late 80s. I wish I had more pictures of her before she started to get sick. She loved to giggle and was such a beautiful person.

I call on her daily because she raised six with ease and sometimes I feel like I am drowning raising four and I long to hear her words of wisdom. My drive to help others comes in part from her.

This past Friday, November 6th at 8:15 PM my grandmother went to join my papa 21 years after he passed. That is a long time to be a part from one another, so I know they are catching up on lost time. I am grateful that she can be with him and her brothers and sister that have passed. I know she missed them dearly. But as I stood on the Boardwalk, listening to my dad tell me she had passed, the dazzling sunlight and joyful volleyball games and happy adventurers that passed and buzzed around me seemed so wrong. Why couldn’t everything stop just for a minute; my last grandparent had left this Earth. Why wasn’t there quiet and calm? Why hadn’t clouds at least dulled the blazing sun?

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My grandma and my dad in 2002

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My grandma and me in church 2000

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The summer before my wedding at Los Gatos Opera House 2002

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My grandma as always the life of the party – my wedding 2003

My grandmother talked to everyone. When I would visit in the summer, it would take us an hour or more to get through the aisles in the grocery store. The first time I thought she knew everyone and then I picked up that she was meeting all these people for this first time. She always talked to anyone like a friend, an important note that I need to gather into my soul and become one with so that she can live on through me. She also loved to laugh and was always about a good time; even though she hated parties that were thrown in her honor. It will be good for my soul to laugh even more and something I will fold into the fiber of my being so that she can continue to exist here on Earth. My grandma won everything all the time, so I know the Bingo Game in heaven will be forever changed; she is pretty unbeatable. There was a lot my grandmother didn’t talk about from her past and I know there was a great deal of pain that she carried with her from that. I hope that escapes her soul as she settles into heaven. My grandmother also loved to give back to the community, she helped with Girl Scouts, the Soup Kitchen and her church. I think a part of me knew this was coming, a need to make this year’s 25 Days of Holiday Cheer bigger and grander than the past two years a need to make a mark, a memory in her honor.

Life keeps going. We can’t stop it. We can only join it as best we can. I try to do that with my grief; warp it into a part of the person I loved and use it to move forward and pass that piece of their memory onto others I meet. If I keep pushing them forward with me in the best way I know how, a piece of them will always exist here on Earth.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Until we meet again,

Michelle

Unbounded

First and foremost, I am a deeply spiritual person who has a vast and limitless faith in God. Everything that I am able to carry out in this life is a gift directly from HIM. I rarely openly share my unbounded faith in the Lord. Spirituality is an exceptionally private matter that I feel resides deep within an individual and is not up for dissent from another human being. Each of us has an incredibly unique relationship with faith and spirituality and there are no right answers when it comes to this subject. And so I don’t discuss it usually because it can be a divide; something that we humans use to separate ourselves and that hurts my soul. There is no reason we should be divided over faith. Faith is beautiful, imperfect and immensely personal.

Faith

That background needed to be given before I speak more openly about the readings I do and what those experiences have taught me. First, these experiences have taught me that anything is possible and that there is always a divine purpose to the things that happen in our lives.

Secondly, I have learned that I am capable of anything with the right amount of prayer and the ability to follow that faith and intuition.

Allowing myself to follow my faith has led me to so much more than I ever could have imagined in this last year. In my readings, it has become clear that God’s love is unconditional. We are loved beyond what we could ever imagine. God never once gives up on us. That hope that we feel comes from that love. It knows no bounds. We are always enough and each time we get knocked down, God is our biggest cheerleader willing us to move forward and do better. God knows we can.

Live with pure and good intent

I have also learned that while there is a plan there is never a good reason we lose someone we love. Nothing that will soothe our human hearts. Somehow, some way when we reach the other side there is an understanding that is awakened in our souls and all is revealed. But there is never a reason that is valid to our human brains and hearts. 

 What is more, is that I believe all I do is speak another language. I am able to communicate soul to soul. We are all capable of this gift. Each of us has this ability. It is not void or missing in a single one of us. We just forget. The longer our souls spend in a body the more and more our brain and logic takes over. The more and more we operate in the physical realm. But we can all find a way to open up our souls. This is not something exclusive to me. We all have this ability. I just never allowed mine to shut down and continually cultivated the ability to speak with my soul. Just like if you learn Spanish, but you never use it you lose the majority of it. It is just like that. Nothing flashy about it.

we are lvoed

 

What I think is most important are these things: we are loved profusely, we are capable of all things; we are our only obstacle, and while there is no sensible reason to appease our grieving hearts we are forever connected to our loved ones through our souls. We are surrounded by those we love in a more emotional, spiritual plane and they are not as far away as they may seem.

Grief

I hope these things that have been revealed to me over the last year through my readings bring some peace to you.

Until next time,

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Cheer Day 18

Cheer Day 18

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click for original source

The one thing I know from witnessing and living through loss is that “there are certain sorrows that never fade away.” We carry our loved ones with us and the grief in our hearts until we ourselves pass on to the next life.

Cheer Day 18

A teacher friend from mine, Shirley, wrote to me to nominate a dear friend of hers from her church, Jenny Nguyen. Jenny is a mama of four beautiful little girls whose ages range between 3rd grade and preschool. This past year her husband passed away and this will be their first holiday without him. She is having to live and survive through the unthinkable.

Amor pendant

Shirley wrote that Jenny is, “a wonderful soul”.

Jenny as you move one foot in front of the other taking each day as it comes; know that you are surrounded with prayers.

May God keep you in the palm of his hand,

The Cheer Squad

My friend Death

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click here for original source

Death has been with me for as long as I can remember. Death never ever speaks, but I can always see Death. She is not dark, or hooded, or wielding a weapon as she is often pictured. In fact, she resembles Gwenneth Paltrow. She lingers though; sometimes for years over the souls she is preparing to lead to heaven.

Death isn’t scary or unnerving; Death is calm and peaceful.

Doesn’t mean I would want to go with her anytime soon, nor does that mean I understand how she works. I have just seen her for as long as I can remember. I sense her presence when she is near and sometimes if she happens to be preparing a soul of someone close to me – I don’t even ever have to see her to know what is going to happen next. I almost always know the last time I will see someone.

I don’t think Death gets a fair shake. She doesn’t make the decisions; she just aides in the transfer of a soul. She is a guide; an assistant. She ensures that the soul arrives in Heaven safe and sound. Patient and understanding, quiet and calm. She soaks up the anger, resentment, fury, frustration, fear, grief and pain that people throw at her without complaint or judgement.

I just wanted to share my experience with her with all of you so that you could more clearly see her for what she was really like instead of how the world perceives her.