Riding the waves of grief

This week we were going to go deeper into self-care and how to build that rhythm into our days and weeks, but it’s taking a bit of a different turn.  I’m going to focus on grief and loss and hope and the importance of knowing what matters most to you - and living it out.

I often hear grief described as a roller coaster.

And while that makes sense to me (the ups and downs, the “hold on tight” and all), from my first deep grieving experience when I lost my mom in 2018,

I see grief more as riding the waves.  

I had been fortunate enough that at 42 I hadn’t lost anyone super close to me before.  Mom’s death was sudden and unexpected. Despite working up close with death as a hospice nurse for 12 years at the time, I hadn’t been on the other side of death and grieving.

One of the things that stood out to me the most were the waves of grief that would come out of nowhere.

I could be driving down the road or doing something mundane and wham! My feet were swept out from under me and I felt like I was drowning.  I felt a fogginess, a sense of falling, and a bit of dizziness.  And sometimes I could get my bearings again quickly, and other times it took a while.  And it was so unpredictable! With a roller coaster, you can see what’s coming. And if you’ve been on it before you can rest assured that it will be the same twists and turns and will last the same amount of time.  But with waves? You just don’t know.  Sometimes it’s a sunny calm day and suddenly a big one pops up and you’re down.  Maybe it’s a short little storm, or maybe it’s days of rough seas.  And while the first inclination may be to fight against it, I’ve found that just riding the waves works best for me most of the time. With my mom, the waves come less frequently than they did, but they still come, and often unexpectedly. 

This week I lost a dear friend, a life sister.

Lanita was only 58, and three and a half months ago she thought, like most of us do, that she had many years ahead of her.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

These past few months have been surreal. I have witnessed her unwavering faith in God, her determination to get things checked off of her list to make sure that her family is taken care of, and an outpouring of love like I’ve never witnessed up close. Saturday we celebrated her life, a life that feels too short but was also full of so much love and impact. And on my Facebook memories that same day I saw that 5 years ago my boys and I, along with my best friend and her son, were heading to Florida to see Lanita. This was such a huge step outside my comfort zone. 

I’ve learned so much over the past 5 years and even more over the past few months.

One of the biggest lessons is that amazing things can happen outside your comfort zone.

Another huge lesson is to prioritize relationships, not just in your mind and heart, but in your calendar as well.

And speaking of time….

As a follower of Jesus, I believe that this life is not the end. 

While I’m a big fan of dreaming and planning and setting yourself up for a life you love, we just don’t know what will happen tomorrow or next week or next year. I came across this passage this week and it really hit home. 

 

‭‭James‬ ‭4:13-15‬ ‭NIV‬‬   “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.””

 

Four months ago Lanita was living her life.  Some things were falling into place, others were a bit chaotic. You know, like it is for most of us. And this week she met Jesus face to face. 

But here’s the beautiful part. She was READY. Yes, she lived life in such a way that she really loved and lived and touched so many people and did a lot of fun things, but even more importantly, she had a faith that is unwavering. She KNEW where she was going. And that is such a beautiful gift to leave all of us who believe as well - the promise that she’s ok (so much more than ok!) and that we’ll see her again one day. 

Today as my heart aches over the passing of one of my dearest friends, but I am choosing to focus on the gratitude I have. 

I’m grateful for people that I love so much that it hurts like this when they leave. 

I’m grateful for so many others who understand how amazing she was and how much better all of our lives are for having had her in them. 

I’m grateful for the vision given to me by God in the midst of Him making one of her last wishes come true. A vision of thousands of people in heaven telling her what a difference she made for them. I can’t even fathom all of the lives she touched directly in hospice and indirectly through starting Guardian Angel Hospice! And I was even able to share that vision with her. 

I’m grateful for all of the lessons about hospice, but even more so the ones about loving and life and faith and grace that she taught me just by being herself. 

I’m grateful that I’ve been able to have so many sweet little pockets of time with her in these last months. 

I’m grateful that I have greater clarity and purpose for my work and mission - I know even more than before that I want to keep helping women live their life intentionally - because we don’t know when it will dramatically change. 

Lanita had been a part of my life for 16 years, but much more so over the past 5 years.  I had reached a point in my life where I didn’t know who I was anymore, and I started working hard on figuring it out.  She opened her home to us for vacations, and we went on several girls' trips together. We were able to talk openly about our faith and our families and the challenges and struggles we had. 

And all of this started at a point in my life when I felt like it was too late to develop meaningful friendships.

If you’re feeling that way, like you really want the company of other women but feel like everyone else already has “their people” I encourage you to take chances.  Connect with other women.  What I think you’ll find is that there are a whole lot of them in the same boat as you. 

I recently came across this quote from Grey’s Anatomy season 13, episode 17:

“I need more time. Time to help him learn how to be alone. I also want more time with him.  Can you believe 60 years is not enough?”

One thing that being in hospice for almost 16 years taught me is the truth of this - there is never enough time.

It doesn’t matter how old someone’s parent is, how many years someone has been married, it’s never enough. 

But there IS a difference in those relationships that have been a priority.

It seems to be a different type of grieving, full not of regret but of loss of more memories. I am experiencing the “loss of more memories” type of grieving right now, and while it still hurts, it feels more peaceful.  It’s the kind of loss that I want people to feel when I’m gone.

When I came up with my company name “Becoming YOUR Best with Jenny Lytle, RN” and the tagline “Never stop becoming the best version of YOU” it was with a huge focus on you as an individual.  I was tired of always comparing myself to others and feeling like I didn’t quite measure up. It took a lot of time and work to appreciate my unique gifts and talents. And although I still find myself in the comparison trap from time to time, it’s not as deep and not for as long.  Now I truly strive to be the best version of MYSELF that I can be.  And the word becoming was very intentional as well - I will never “arrive” and neither will you. I never want to stop growing.  I am always becoming - it’s not a destination, it’s a journey. 

Becoming YOUR Best - practical application for this week:

  1. Do you have the right quality and quantity of relationships for you at this point in your life? Remember, there is no magic number, no right answer here.  Do YOU feel like you have what you need relationally? And if not, how can you change that?
  2. Are there things that are important to you that you haven’t done? Things that you would feel regret about if you were to get a difficult diagnosis? What can you do to make those things happen? (I’m not talking about a bucket list of things you’d love to do someday - this is for the BIG things that would keep you up at night or make you feel a sense of loss.)
  3. Are there areas of your life where you are comfortably uncomfortable? Where you know you’re not living out your life the way you want to be, but it just feels too challenging to step outside of your comfort zone? I’d be happy to talk through this with you. You can schedule a no-obligation discovery call at https://calendly.com/jennylytlern/

To be quite honest, I’m not sure what next week will be about.  Right now I’m finishing this week an hour before I publish it, so my goal for this week, as well as the upcoming weeks, is to bring you something that is honest, raw, and will hopefully encourage you along your journey. 

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you! What are your experiences in this area? What would you love to hear about? Or do you have some great tips to share? DM me at http://www.instagram.com/jennylytlern

And if you’re ready to go deeper into any of these areas, check out ways to work with me further at https://www.jennylytle.com/work-with-jenny

Until next time, take a deep breath or two and never stop becoming the best version of YOU.

I am also always open to suggestions and show ideas, and want to collaborate with other like-minded individuals, so feel free to reach out to me at https://www.jennylytle.com/podcast-guest

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