Nitty Gritty Dirty Grief


I have talked about the clogged pore on my back and the need to have my husband pick at it.

But I won’t mention it again.

It makes my friend Heidi gag…..sorry Heidi.

Every once in a while, just like my back, I need to do an emotional purge. I tend to feel a bit clogged and the crap needs to come out. It isn’t pretty, in fact I can be a tad ugly.

Once, in the hospital, I kicked a chair (aimed at my husband) across the room and found myself huddled in a ball at the chapel.

Others may recall the time I left Children’s and found myself in Downieville getting a $.05 cup of coffee.

On Thursday evening, I found myself in the same predicament; so full of grief and sadness and anger, I didn’t know quite what to do with myself.

I howled at the moon.

I threw my car keys in the garden at 11:00 at night.

My sane self told my crazy self I might need those keys at some point.

I told my sane self to go to hell and plopped down among my new baby tomatoes to have a good, long cry.

The tough part about sitting in the new-baby-tomatoes-while-grieving-at-11:00-at-night is that I get cold. And my bum gets wet. And sooner or later I dry my eyes and think I might be a bit more comfortable inside. Darn it.

And I wonder what I did with my keys but realize I throw like the proverbial girl and find them among my baby zucchinis.

Going into the house, I don’t say a word

I don’t look in the mirror. I know my face is swollen and tear stained.

But cuddling up to hubby on the couch, I feel 20 pounds lighter.

“Better?” he says as I steal the comforter.

“For now,” I say.

He sneaks a hand down the back of my shirt and picks at that annoying little pore. “There’s nothing left,” I say and sigh into his chest. “I left it all with the tomatoes.”

Nitty Gritty Dirty Grief

The Celebration within Sadness

Last week I spent an afternoon at Children’s Hospital, helping them out with their Family Centered Care Day.

It was good.

It was sad.

It was a bittersweet reunion of a community I love so much and feel so passionate about.

I sat at the registration desk.

And a man came up with tired eyes and an orange bracelet that said he was a parent.

I greeted him with a cheery smile. “Hi! Do you mind signing in?”

“I heard I could get some food here.”

“Oh yeah, go all the way to the back.”

He looked at me with helpless eyes, “It looks like a carnival back there.”

“Oh no.” I went on, “It’s about family centered care day. As a parent, you can provide some great insight as to what’s working and what isn’t.”

The pen dropped onto the sign-in sheet….a thud onto our family centered care day.

“I just want something to eat.”

I back-pedaled, “And you can get that, just go to the back. You don’t have to say a word to anyone,” I gave him my best smile, “I promise.”

“No, thanks. I’ll just go down stairs.” He sighed, a sad, frustrated sigh.

And I watched tired-eyes walk down the hall. I resisted the urge to run down the hall and tackle him in a bear hug and say, I know what you’re going through! You feel beaten and out of control. It will be okay! For the love of God let me make you a fruit and cheese plate!!! It is the least I can do!!!

Instead I watched him walk away. Chicken, I said to myself, You totally should have tackled him.

After Family Centered Care Day, I joined my lovely friend Maria and we hung the rest of my Ben’s Bells. We stood over by the cafeteria.

“I love this place,” Maria said. “When Jacob was really sick, Sarah and her Grandpa used to play hide and seek out here.”

I looked up at this place. This place of hope, despair, loss, life and love, and I hung my bells.

And I cried.

And I hung my bells. My favorite is over by the mama and baby bear.

At this time, our friend Tracey showed up, saw my teared-stained face and grabbed my hand. “I love you,” she said.

I could only cry.

The three of us went out to dinner. Three moms, two have lost their children, one whose child has a fatal disease.

Three daughters, two have lost their moms.

Good Lord and the crazy odds.

And we cried, we laughed, we embraced. And I felt grateful for where my life has taken me and the good friends who can talk about life and death while eating nachos.

Back in the car, I still had three bells so I drove back to University Hospital and hung them in the garden where I used to walk when Samantha was sick.

The ER at University Hospital is packed at 9:30 at night.

And I watched these people. I watched them process their pain, their new diagnosis, and as I hung these bells and I thought, I cannot turn away from someone else’s pain

I will never say I cannot imagine….

I will not tell my friend who has stage 4 breast cancer, I can’t imagine what it is like to loose your breasts…..

I won’t tell my friend who lost her mom, I can’t imagine what it is like to lose their mom.

I will not tell my friend whose son is austic that I cannot imagine what life is like when he bangs his head into the wall.

Because to say I cannot imagine is to say I will not imagine, I will not put myself in your shoes.

It is to turn away……

So I will listen.

And I will embrace.

And I will imagine.

And I have to say, there is a glorious, amazing strength, to embrace and recognize each other’s pain.

And I will celebrate who you have become because of what you have endured….and maybe…just maybe make you a fruit and cheese plate

Nitty Gritty Dirty Grief


Nonnie and Pops took a trip to France a couple weeks ago.

This is what they sent me:

From Notre Dame

The two candles in front are for Samantha and Jack….right by Mary holding Jesus. Pops has a way of doing these things on his own. He went and lit the candles and then told Nonnie in a quiet whisper.

“I lit candles for Jack and Samantha. They are the two in front.”

Nonnie looked over at the two perfect votives, the two tiny little flames in the church and started to cry.

“I ugly cried at the Notre Dame,” she told me.

As you know, I am a big fan of the ugly cry. “I can’t think of a better place,” I said.

“Me neither.”

They told me that they lit the country with candles in honor of Jack and Samantha……Jack and Samantha candles through the French country side.

Je t’aime.

Nitty Gritty Dirty Grief

Who is in Your Neighborhood?

This is me and my friend Jenny during the Ben’s Bells distribution at Red Rocks. Jenny is a good hugger….look at that hug.

Ben’s Bells was started by a mom in Tuscon who unexpected lost her beautiful, three year old son, Ben. The message behind the bells is about spreading kindness, the power of healing, hope and a community.

Jenny has brought Ben’s Bells to Colorado and on Saturday, we distributed those bells in the community for others to find them and pass them on.

Aren’t they lovely?

I was talking to a coworker on Friday about my weekend and the Ben’s Bells distribtion.

“I’m going to a non-profit event founded by a mom who suddenly lost her three-year old son.”

Co-worker makes a sad face.

But I continued, “my friend Jenny, whose daughter has an anoxic brain injury started the organization here in Colorado as a way to spread kindness and healing here.”

Silence and nodding…..I took a long sip of my diet coke. I should talk.

“What are you doing this weekend?” I asked

“Oh, the usual, soccer game, trip to Costco.”

I sometimes forget to filter the things I am used to in our lives. I can talk lovingly about my daughter, switch to seizure control and talk about marketing plans in the course of two minutes. I forget that these things might not be the norm in other people’s everyday lives.

When Samantha died, my Supermom friends and I talked about the possiblity that I might have leave our cozy nest of friendship…..that it might be too painful or a reminder of our old life. But this place, this place and the tragedy we share, continue to share…..and the hope, healing and kindness… envelopes your heart and reminds me of what is important. It is a place where we are not sad, we just are.

And who else hugs like that?

Nitty Gritty Dirty Grief

Oh Mother….

It’s Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day.

I still have not come to peace with this holiday but I am working on it. My battle began this week with the radio. We have a local jeweler who I will call ……Shom Shane.

Shom Shane spends a lot of money on radio advertising; even more money during Mother’s Day and times when I happen to be commuting back and forth to work.

I’m driving along, innocently, and I hear this, I’m Shom Shane, Mother’s Day is a special time to honor that special lady.


There is no greater honor than to be a Mother. That’s why we have created a beautiful pendant of mother and child. The mother holding her baby close to her heart….

Usually at this time, I change the station. Except the one time when I changed to another station and the commercial was playing there too!

We carry these beautiful pendants in blue gemstones and in pink.

At this time I put in a CD of angry chick music.

Shom Shane can kiss my big toe.

Mother’s Day 1.

Heather 0.

It has made me realize that Mother’s Day must be hellacious for those trying to get pregnant….those who want nothing more than to have a little pumpkin….those who want nothing more to be a mom…..stupid Shom Shane and his mother and child pendants.

I pulled out of my funk on Saturday to join my friend Lindsay and her lovely dancers at Dance Fusion. They had been running a fundraiser for Miracles for Mito and presented us with a dance in honor of Samantha and a check for $218.06

The dance was to Baby You’re a Firwork. The six cents was because those little dancers were digging deep into their piggy banks to give money for Miracles for Mito; even pennies count

One little girl said that Samantha could take care of her kitty, who is also in heaven.

I think Samantha would like that job.

Nothing removes a Mother’s Day funk like watching 40 little girls dance in honor of your child. It made me speechless.

Which is hard to do.

The rest of Saturday was spent at the lovely Stanley Hotel, hanging with Hubby in a beautiful mountain-side suite.

Nothing removes a Mother’s day funk than a Hubby who just wants you to be happy.

In the midst of me working through my own Mother’s Day issues, a friend celebrated her 3 year anniversary of living with stage four breast cancer, another friend cared for her son in Children’s Hospital, another admitted her son today through the ER, another celebrated her first Mother’s Day without her mom.

And I thought, none of us live a Shom Shane radio commercial.

But we get through….some of us celebrate with home-made Mother’s Day cards, some of us celebrate with good friends who understand. I felt honored to have a troop of fabulous dancers and a hubby who took me to the Stanley.

And I never, for one moment, felt like I was on this journey alone and for that I thank you. I was bathed in the memory of who I am because of Jack and Samantha.

I hope on this Mother’s Day, no matter where you are in your journey of your life, kids, no kids, family, no family, I hope you are embraced.