I remember the day well. I wanted to stay home. I didn't want to be seen. I didn't want to expend the energy of taking my girls out anywhere. But instead, we packed the car with the stroller and day pack, and went to meet a couple loving friends at the museum.
I watched with adoring eyes as, my daughter, Maggie moved through the Dia Museum. Her playful heart had no idea what just happened to her, to me, to us as a family, and to our community. At that moment, Maggie's young age was protecting her, if only for a short time, from the heartbreaking reality of our new life.
I could hardly see the gigantic, sharp metal sculpures in front of me because my eyes were constantly filled with tears.
This moment was one of countless since we lost Jon, my late husband and my girls' dad. My emotions were consuming me, flooding me and overflowing every moment of every day. However, through the blur, I saw Maggie and her joy. She was (is) adventurous, fearless and full of fire. I was exhausted and heavy in my body that day, but my mind could see Maggie's light. I tried to stay present with her. I tried to witness her sense of wonder while feeling nearly hollow inside.
"I let her watch me cry without hiding or apologies."
I tried to be in her bliss. I waded through my tears and followed her lead. I laughed spontaneously with her goofiness and then just as effortlessly retreated into my sorrow clogged mind. Sometimes she would see me cry and come closer, sit on my lap, or hold my hand to comfort me. I let her do this. I let her watch me cry without hiding or apologies. I stayed in the flow of emotions. I had no choice. I literally felt like I had no shut off valve. This experience was scary, new, confusing and strange, but somehow it felt like the place I needed to be with my current existence; as a mom, a caregiver, a woman, and a grieving wife.
In reflection of this day, I realize this is when I gave myself permission to feel all kinds of feelings. Even though it seemed inconvenient or strange, I stepped into this new tango with life. The give and take, the pain and the happiness. This was the first time, I allowed myself to experience emotions freely without shutting them down, holding them in, or pretending to be fine.
In my earlier life, I recall being told I was too sensitive, too emotional or there simply was no time for difficult emotions. I learned to "just move on," which was a recipe for disaster. Years later, my emotions came to the surface as depression, anger, fear and anxiety. I wasn't going to let this happen again. On this day at the museum, I chose to be present with my daughter, open myself up as needed, and be more vulnerable.
Today, and most days, I dance with the flow of feelings that run through me. I understand now that it is possible to feel multiple emotions at the same time, and in fact, it makes all the difference in how I grow and bloom as a mom, partner, friend, daughter, sister, teacher and coach of other women. Some of the (dare I say) beautiful combinations I experience are love and anger, confusion and excitement, hopelessness and compassion, patience and anxiety, fear and courage.
Months after the museum trip, Maggie's awareness of her daddy's death grew exponentially and so did her explosive emotions. She would focus on play one minute and then suddenly start screaming at everything and nothing at all. Often, she would call out for her dad over and over. She knew for sure he was gone now, and she was experiencing an intense range of feelings and emotions. I would hold her while she screamed and sobbed until she melted into a puddle in my arms or at my feet. Sometimes she would fall asleep immediately from exhaustion and other times she would bounce up off my lap and engage in play again. She was doing the same dance with her feelings that I had been doing for months, but in her own way. She was moving through the flow of emotions as she needed.
These days, Maggie's dance with grief is not as frequent or intense, but when it rises inside her, I am grateful she has the ability to be present and feel all the feelings. I am confident, she will continue on this incredible path of being emotionally healthy and resilient and I will hold her through all of it.
Today, when each dance with grief moves through me or my daughters, I know we will be ok on the other side. Actually, the outlook is better than ok. I know in my heart, we are slowing down enough, paying attention as needed, and healing one day at a time. Our emotional expressions are healthy and helping us grow as individuals and as a family. We are thriving together.
Learn more about me: Wild Blossom Coaching