Mowing Mother's Day Emotions
Today I had good cry on Mother’s Day - maybe you did too. It could be because you are missing your own mother. Perhaps it's because your child (of any age) passed away, or that you couldn’t have children and are grieving that loss.
Big holidays like today stir up the emotions easily. For me, it seems that taking time to mow, a task my late husband really loved, also cut some fresh feelings within me. The outdoor time had me thinking about how we tried to have our own kids for many years in many ways, and it didn’t happen. This acceptance still stings and had me wishing he was here to talk about it. Of course, I also thought about my mom and the wonderful memories we had growing up and how I wish she was here to share her wisdom with me.
I recently told someone whose mom passed away this year that, “You never stop missing your mom.” Each story is different and there are people with complicated relationships all around, but still this special day contains layers of grief. Like the rings found inside a tree (or as I recently learned, a large hail stone), we carry with us that love, the memories, and the wishes for more time with our loved ones. These feelings are etched into our ongoing lives. And sometimes these feelings will just bust out - they are too heavy to stay in (also like hail from a cloud).
So, in my post-mowing Mother’s Day cry . . . I had to take a moment to bust out/write/process. This post is for anyone who just might need a good cry today . . . to remind you that it’s ok.
It is still also possible to celebrate in the midst of the sorrow. You can be thankful for the moms and women in your life and celebrate them; there are many special ladies in my life who fall in this category. Of course, being both thankful and sad does create a tension and may require you to take a few deep breaths. I also encourage you to lift up these tensions and feelings to the God who loves us the most!
“Thank you Lord for this day. Thank you for the memories with my mom, and ones with my husband. Thank you for the many women who guide and encourage. Thank you for being with me as I continue to walk out this life, cutting new grass as you carry me through each season. Thanks even for the tears that represent love.”
Happy Mother's Day to you all
The Hope of Heaven Day By Day
It wasn’t until I paused in the middle of the day to write the date on a form that I realized it was April 12th. This is the date that still rings alarm bells in my head as the day I unwillingly said "goodbye" to my mom here on earth.
As soon as I recognized the date, my mind began to spiral back in time like a time machine. Memories of our last goodbye, our shopping adventures, and wonderful childhood memories. Not longer after, I stopped and ordered a mint chocolate protein shake and chuckled as I thought about how this type of drink didn’t even exist 25 years ago. I expect my always health-conscience mom would have have loved trying this low-calorie option.
How wild time as we grieve on. Some days you feel frozen in it, other days you are surprised its oncoming. Even still, each day and date is significant to someone. Today someone is facing a heartache that is unlike another, the same will happen tomorrow.
Yesterday, I attended a funeral service for a friend’s grandmother. Sitting in her service, I heard about her faithful life of 93 years and how she prayed for her family daily. It was sad to see the heartache as my friend's mom honored her own mother with a tearful goodbye tribute. Yesterday was a hard day for their family as were the days leading up to this moment. Even when someone has lived a full life for many years, the sorrow and pain of parting is real.
Thankfully, as followers of Christ we also believe in the real hope of heaven. We cling to this hope as our grief and sorrow weaves through our lives in complex ways. This hope doesn't wipe away all our tears, but it softens the blow. I do think at times people can use this forward hope as a way to try and skip over the sorrow and heaviness we encounter along the way, but that's another challenge in the process of grieving. The best we can do is to own our grief and still cling to hope.
These words in Colossians 3 are a good anchor.
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.
– Colossians 3:3-6
The Sting of Grief & Easter
I want to love Easter, and in many ways I do. Yet, within this beautiful celebration of God’s great love and sacrifice, there are rattles of deep sorrow.
Yes, this sorrow connects me to the somberness of Good Friday and Christ’s ultimate sacrifice in a real way, and it pushes me to cling to the victory over death even more. Yet, as I do, there is an ache I cannot shake, a heartache that resonates.
Logically, it’s easy to see why; two major losses in my life center around Easter, starting with my mom passing away on Easter Sunday in 1998, and then coming face to face with the reality of my husband's brain tumor the Thursday before Easter in 2019.
I just went back and read my own words from our Journey with Josh blog, as I remembered that it was in fact on Easter weekend when that journey began. We were admitted to the hospital the Thursday before Easter. It was a devastating weekend and the beginning of a short and long journey. We were desperately “trusting God, and praying for wisdom and healing.”
A few days later, in our first official blog post I referenced, Psalm 20:1,7
"May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. . . . Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”
Reading these verses today, they are affirming yet challenging. I still trust in the name of the Lord, but I can't help but wonder if I trust in him with the same amount of hope. Do I trust he can do anything still today? Honestly, I am not always sure. Trusting God is an ongoing process and choice - especially when faced with deep loss, and when grief still stings.
This Easter weekend, strangely four years since Josh's terminal diagnosis, I found myself reflecting on a familiar Easter script, “O death, where is your sting?” Almost immediately, I want to answer the question rather than declare it as a victory statement. The sting is right here, stabbing me in the heart. It's true, the sting is duller today, but I still feel it, daily.
As I feel death's sting, the roots of hope spring up. I know it is okay to acknowledge the sting; it also good to declare the victory. God took on the sting of death, he knows it. On this Good Friday (and Easter weekend), we turn to our Savior Jesus who offers hope and healing that stretches beyond our grief, sorrow, and circumstances. We give thanks and continue forward because of the victory.
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
– 1 Corinthians 15:55-57
If you are navigating grief of any kind this Easter. I hope you will take a step toward trusting God, because he does indeed care for you. This might be the time to honestly share your hurt and heartache with God in a real way! He can take it, and he wants to.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
- Psalm 34:18
Happy Easter 2023
What's Love Got to Do with It?
It's Valentine's Day . . . ❤️ and it seems like a good time to talk about love, right? This day can be fun, romantic, disappointing, sad, frustrating, over-inflated, etc – truly it can be all of these at any point in life.
At age 8, I probably was excited to receive a cute valentine card from a friend or cute boy. If I had heard Tina Turner's hit song, "What's Love Got to Do with It" on the radio that year I would not have understood it. But here and now, this "fun song" causes me to pause and analyze all the lyrics related to love, loving someone, and navigating true love, loss and grief.
At root, this song is about having an attraction and trying to understand the feelings and emotions, the fears and doubts, and of course, wondering, "Is this love?" It's easy to over-analyze the words to any song - especially when you enter conversations about what it means to love someone truly. Pop songs are not always a good guide - ha :)
Experiencing true love has changed my life. More specifically, loving God has brought peace and hope to my soul in an incredible way. Loving my family and friends has rooted me. Loving my late spouse has brought both incredible joy and great heartache –– heartache that is and was worth it. Through the pain, this love has not disappeared, it is rooted deep within me in such a way that it makes it hard to navigate what it means to love someone else.
So when someone innocently asks me, “Do you love this other person?” I can answer, "Yes" but also I know that it feels and looks different. While it seems like it should be simple to "love again," it is not always cut and dry. Of course, there are fuzzy feelings, that some might call chemistry, but these can easily fade in the moments. Love is (and always has been) about more than feeling good. It is about trust, commitment, selflessness and sacrifice; it is delicate and can be risky - especially after being hit by a grief truck.
Losing someone you love deeply leads to heartache. . . there's no escaping it. And it is hard to continue after this detour. As I navigated my own grief journey, I’ve talked with many friends along the way. I’ve talked about why I decided to “get back out there” - because ultimately I still have love in my heart to share. This looks different for people grieving, because each story and love story is unique.
I’ve talked with widows, widowers and friends who were in committed relationships who approach, “what’s next” in different ways. Some people have a strong desire to marry or be in a relationship again, some believe they had their time of great love and intend to remain single and focus on trusting God as a single person for the rest of their time on earth. Some people don't even know where they land right now - and that's ok too. It really is a journey for each person to walk in.
So . . . what’s love got to do with it? It’s got everything to do with it. If we have loved greatly and lost that person, our hearts have been broken. Working with anything that has been broken, and even healed then repaired, comes with challenges. The broken piece might not ever look or feel quite the same.
Of course, God is in the business of healing the broken parts of our lives - including messy hearts broken in grief. This is a beautiful thing to consider. It also is a spark of hope when considering loving and trusting again - whatever that looks like. Yes, it all takes time and often it means taking a risk with your heart.
Tina Turner's song continues with these words that represent how we might feel after loss, "I've been thinking about my own protection. It scares me to feel this way." Here and now I can say, "Yep - that's true." As a widow I do fear I might experience another heartbreak or loss. But at the same time, God has carried me through and there is space to love and care again. And, it could just be worth the risk.
"Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?"
We all do.
Happy Valentine's Day Friends . . .
wherever you are and however you are feeling today, know you are loved. ❤️
Each year on my birthday I take some intentional time away to reflect on life, working on some creative projects and consider that goals or dreams I might have for this next year of life. I started doing this about 8 years ago and find it to be rewarding in so many ways. This year, nestled away in my little cute cabin in Branson, Mo, I found myself thinking about Josh and our lives and suddenly was writing a song. I still miss him greatly but also have found myself at a point where I can also give thanks for the time we did have.
Over the period of 24 hours, the lyrics and melody to this song came together. I know I could keep tweaking it in many ways but at core, this song reflects my heart and love for my late husband. Below is a (not perfect) recording and also the lyrics.
Everyday… It’s Hard to be Blue
written by Jenn Brown | 1/6/2023
All my life I had waited, to find someone like you
You came along and our love was true
True love, it carried us through
Through the dark days and sun rays too
But then you were gone, faster than I wanted
But it’s hard to be blue when I think of you
You brought a smile to my face every time
You brought laughter to my heart
And joy to my soul
Everyday, everyday … I called you mine
If I would have known our time would be abridged
I would have loved you still
Cause each memory lingers like a capsule in my mind
A treasure for all time
But I’m still sad your gone
Faster than I wanted.
I hope some way, somehow
You can hear these words from me now
Cause wherever you are without me.
I hope you know I loved you truly.
I can barely believe how long it’s been
Since I felt your embrace
Sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago
But then only yesterday
We hoped, we cried we prayed for more time
But time can’t be contained
Still it’s hard to be blue when I think of you
You brought a smile to my face every time
You brought laughter to my heart
And joy to my soul
Everyday, everyday … I called you mine
Memories worth missing
Recently, I pulled up a random photo of “us” and found myself starring at it longingly. In doing so, the thought could not escape me, “I miss you.” The photo was a good one taken after we learned that the next few months held a lot of uncertainty. We were both smiling wonderfully – even as our eyes clued into something more.
The sorrow of losing you lingers in my heart; "I miss you so."
This is the narrative in my mind. As it scrolls, it is easy to dive into analyzing my "status" in the grief journey. “Am I ok?”. . . “How sad am I, still?” . . . “Should I feel like this?”. . . “Is this what 3 years feels like?” "It's thanksgiving shouldn't I be thinking about gratitude?"
As a reader or friend you might be tempted to answer these questions for me, but I’ll save you the time, as this isn’t necessary. I know it is ok to be “whatever.” I say it often. It is “ok” to feel however I am feeling at any point. Yet, even when facing the facts and feelings about grief and fully accepting the various levels of permission, there still remains this humanistic desire to try and fix the piece that doesn’t feel right. To find a solution to the part that we know is just a little out-of-sync with what was or what we imagine should be correct.
This tangled mess of grief that lingers like the lyrics of a song by The Cranberries remains an unsolved mystery. It tears at my heart and seeps into my mind making it hard to navigate the present moments. The shear fact that "I miss him" pops in and out of my mind, even in fun moments, like an ongoing bass line of a song fading in an out. It impacts how I handle various stresses in life and how I navigate the relationships around me. This grief allows me see the immense value of enjoying the big and small moments of each day, and leaves me disappointed at the big and small parts of life in other ways.
This grief badge also provides opportunities to minister to new friends walking in their own heartache. There is joy in this, although I have found that in in doing so, my own feelings of loss can be rekindled and enhanced.
Maybe . . . (and this is me trying to “figure it out again”) . . . this is why I find myself starring at our old photos missing “us” terribly. Of course, it could also be the holiday season – which easily triggers grief, both fresh and tucked away. There are so many memories with family and friends who once sat around a room or table; things change, and there are people to miss who are no longer here – for me, my late husband being a key figure.
These memories are beautiful and hard. Encountering these emotions makes me want to burrow down in my sorrow. Of course, they also serve as a fuel for gratitude. I am thankful for our story. There is a tension and a challenge in it all. A challenge for myself and reminder to keep making those memories worth missing.
This Thanksgiving, I will spend time with friends and family who I love who are still actively part of my life - thanks to God's grace. I want to enjoy these moments and will. I already enjoyed time with friends tonight listening to great local music – a new memory and something I wouldn’t have pictured three years ago. .
Of course, it's fair game to know there will be times when I need to say out loud to the heavens or to family member or friend that indeed, "You are missed." This acknowledgement is a perfectly acceptable part of any holiday season.
One last word of encouragement for my grieving friends. Joy might feel like it is also missing but it is there, it truly is. It is there because God is there with you.
Photo captions: this post contains both that picture of "us" (below) that I looked at for a long time (and still do) and a photo of a fresh bouquet of Thanksgiving flowers bought for me, resting in a cup that was from a few years back (Royal game memories) what a mix of then and now.
Bonus pic of a fun night out listening to local music to bring in the holiday and kicking off Turkey day with a fun run!
Hi! It's Jenn Brown, writing my story that is now slightly different as we enter a season of new grief. On September 30, 2019, my dear husband Josh passed away after battling brain cancer.