A Letter

Dear Reader,

I hope this letter finds you well. I know things haven’t been easy for you. That’s probably an understatement. I have thought about you often. I have worried and wondered how you are doing. I never wanted you to think you were alone. I had to wait for you to find me. The important thing is you are here now. And, you definitely are not alone.

I know you are a strong, capable person. I am confident you can handle anything that comes your way. Sometimes, it’s just nice to know you don’t have to do it alone. It feels good to know you have someone to walk along side you. I wish had answers. I wish I could tell you how to make it hurt less or how to make it all go away. Unfortunately, that’s something no one can do.

People will try to solve your problems, or at least make you feel better. There are many reasons they do this. Most of them care about you deeply. The rest, well, they are probably carrying their own pain. Your pain and their pain may be too much for them to bear. They will tell you all those clichés people say to each other during hard times. You know the ones I am talking about. Try to be patient with them. Try to remember they do care about you, even if it isn’t in the way you need them to.

Firsts. Oh, there are going to be many of these. Usually we view firsts as exhilarating. They make us nervous, anxious, and excited all at once. The firsts you have now will probably bring you little more than apprehension, sorrow, and pain. Even the simplest task might make you weep. At least, that’s how it felt to me. Firsts are hard for another reason. They don’t all happen in a certain time frame. It might be 10 years down the line and you might experience a first. And, just so you know, it doesn’t feel any better than the first time you slept in your bed without him. Those are things that always bring you back to the pain.

The first dance our daughter went to, I cried. He was supposed to be there. The first baseball game our son ever played, I wept like a baby. The first time our youngest won a swim meet sent me to a room where I sat in tears. Those moments were all firsts for me, even though they were years later.  And they hurt just as bad as if they had happened right after his death.

Now you know; time does not heal all wounds. It does make it easier. It’s easier for a lot of reasons. Those moments that bring you to your knees come less often. And when you find yourself on the ground, getting up isn’t as difficult. And most importantly, time allows you to be happy more often than you are sad. It allows you to find yourself again. It allows you to sleep at night. It allows you to love and be loved once again. Time is a beautiful thing, and it does help.  Just don’t expect too much. It will not separate you from your past. It cannot build a wall between you and pain.

Time is only as good as its accomplice—you. It won’t happen overnight, or even over a month. It will happen. It will happen when you are ready for it to happen. There is no rule book. No one can tell you to do it this way or that. There are tricks and tips that can help you walk through the process, but nothing that can replace.

I can tell you what I went through and I can tell you how I got through. You might find comfort in knowing though, our experiences are different, many of our feelings are the same. Perhaps you will want to try some of my tips and hopefully they will work for you. I should tell you, I didn’t do this alone either.

I found a grief counselor. I never thought I would be a person to share my pain with someone so openly. I have to say, not only did I share with a stranger, but I’m not sure what I would have done without her. I used my husband’s Employer Assistance Plan to help me find the one I used. It’s something to consider.

Please don’t let fear inhibit your healing. I remember being terrified. I was afraid of forgetting him. What he sounded like. Afraid of not remembering his voice, or the way held me at night. I never dreamed that healing actually allowed me to remember him better. Randy is never a closed subject here. Sometimes it still brings tears, but those tears are sweet tears. I can think of him, talk about him, and still be okay. That is what time and healing can do for you. It isn’t the way I had imagined our lives together, but it is all I have. I feel thankful to have that. It’s a good feeling.

I am so proud of the path you are on. You have already made great strides towards recovery. There is a lot of road left to travel, but please don’t be discouraged. Like I said before, you are strong and capable. And, when you feel like you are not strong enough to take one more step, ask for a hand. If we walk this path together, we can learn from each other. We can lean on each other. We are not alone.

I hope to hear from you soon. Until then, please, take care of yourself.

Your new friend,

Sara

Onward and Upward

A couple of months ago, my family and I were talking. Even Brendan, who rarely joins in conversations, had something to say. He’s the guy who hardly ever speaks, but when he does, it’s something important to him. I don’t remember the conversation, but I do remember the important part. Brendan said, “Just write, Mom. You are so good at writing. You could probably make a million dollars.”

Now, he isn’t an author. He isn’t a publisher. Heck, he doesn’t even like to read. That’s exactly why it meant so much to hear him say those words. His words echoed those spoken by sever other people. They all tell me to write. Write a book. Write articles. Just write  something. For some reason, when that quiet 16-year-old boy calls me to action, it jump-starts me.

That was my motivation to start looking at writing as a career. Until now, it has always been a hobby and coping mechanism. It’s what I do when I think I can help someone else. It’s what I do when my kids need help with their own papers. It’s what I do to keep punching someone in the nose. Its how I communicate when I know if I try to speak tears will flow faster than words.

The first step had to be research. What kind of jobs are out there, how does one find a job, and what sort of resume do these companies look for. For me, this was a daunting task. I started and stopped researching off and on for weeks. I do that when I am feeling a little overwhelmed. Don’t have to worry about failing if you never try. Brendan’s words just kept circling inside my head. I finally talked myself into taking a chance. Freelance writing seemed like the first logical step. I thought that might be the easiest place to snag something small. I needed to get my feet wet. It seems I was wrong; it isn’t easy at all. Everything I read pointed to needing a well established blog with regular followers.

I had thought about doing that forever. Why didn’t I do this long ago? My researched switched from creating a writing career to creating a blog. After looking at many forums, I settled on WordPress. When I went to create an account, I realized I had already made one. Apparently, during one of my other ‘I’m going to be a writer’ modes, I created a an account. How lucky for me! Sort of. I still didn’t know what to do with a blog.

I didn’t know what a page was, how to work widgets, or even how to post. I wasn’t sure I was cut out for this blog thing. There is one thing about me that always remains true, no matter where life guides me: I remain determined. Once my mind is made up, there is no changing it and I don’t give up (ask anyone, it’s true). So, I kept at it. After a few days, I had figured out enough to start. I made the blog private so no one could see my trial and error approach.

I honestly had not written more than a paragraph in more than 5 years, except maybe to pour my heart into an apology or a you should apologize letter.  I knew the first bits of writing would be tough. Perhaps, even they would even be down right ugly. I knew they would be patchy, at best. Just like someone who dances, plays an instrument,  or sings, writers have a style. There is a rhythm and flow to writing. When an author doesn’t write for a while, or isn’t reading, I think we lose some of that rhythm. It comes back, but it might take a while. I knew to get it back I had to just write. I needed to write every day and about anything. I had to read and write and write and read. I gave up sleep and did just that. I was tired, but happy.

I wanted to see what I could do. How would people respond? Could I build followers from people who had no idea who I was? That would be the real test of  talent. I commented on the blogs I was reading and watched a few drop in and read mine. Some liked posts, some decided to follow, but nothing earth-shattering. I knew that it would be hard to generate interest that way. It isn’t like I am the best writer to grace the internet or that I have some new age information never shared in public. If I am being honest, I was a little disappointed and stepped back. I quit making time to write. I suddenly found myself ‘busy’.

When I couldn’t make excuses anymore, I stepped up and started writing. I started doing the weekly and daily challenges again. You know how you try and try to do something and just can’t get it right? Then one day, you decide to give it one more shot. That last chance turns into the moment it all just clicks. That’s it. It just clicked.  I went back to some older pages and posts to edit and proof them (although they probably still aren’t perfect).

All the sudden, I had some interest. The DPchallenge did it, I think. After a month, my faith was restored. My daily views had gone from 1 to 25! And then, it happened! My BIG moment. I see I have a new comment, so I check it out. Someone I admire nominated me for a Liebster Award. Maybe it was out of pity since I had only 6 followers. I don’t care why. She mentioned me in the same paragraph as the words “how many of them rock my world every day with their writing skills”. It made me happy and want to do better. It also made me want to shout from the rooftops. Since I have never done well at keeping secrets, I went straight to Facebook to tell my friends the ‘secret’ good news before I burst. My views more than doubled.

I didn’t consider that people would hound me about the ‘secret’. I wasn’t ready to share the blog. I decided the write the blog to help people through some of the experiences that I went through that have challenged me. The only thing to make a tough time tougher is thinking you are alone. I wanted widows and mothers to know, they are never alone and we all do the best we can. Doing that meant sharing some of my own not so pretty moments. Sharing that deeply, leaves you naked in front of the world. That’s hard. Dream or no dream, it is hard to throw your ugly stuff out there for the world to judge.

My husband, Tim, didn’t even know about the blog…yet. I had to tell him. Like usual, he was very supportive (baffled why it was a secret) and urged me to continue. Even though I wasn’t ready to share with the world, I did just to quiet the crowd. The response was more than I could have asked for. Near or far, I felt nothing less than support. Today, my views have more than tripled from the day of the DPchallenge.

I don’t think I woke up with magic fingers. I know there is a lot of work yet to do. I don’t think I will have thousands of views or be Freshly Pressed by year-end. I am certain my blog will not continue to have these kinds of numbers every day. I do have a lot going for me though. I have hope and drive to succeed. I believe I am on the right track and that makes me one happy girl. Because I finally opened myself up, I know I have people who will always support me. I will continue to work, get better, and reach goal after goal. One day, I know my name will be in a magazine or on the cover of a book. It won’t be happenstance. It will be from hard work, determination, and support. I have nowhere to go, but onward and upward.