Little Girl

I see you.

Masking with that wide smile and laugh.

Using gratitude to stay invisible.

Discounting the fear rising inside your belly.

I see you.

Making yourself as small as can be.

Tucking your sorrow deep into your pocket.

Lending mercy to everyone but yourself.

I see you.

Seeking refuge for your fanciful dreams.

Longing for validation of the mysterious unknowns.

Using pain as a weapon and indifference as a shield.

Come little one and crawl into my lap. I will stand guard for a while. Rest in being adrift but safe.

I will meet your tears. Shush any apologies. Offer no advice.

Let compassion flood the silence and create space for you.

First and Last

Two very contradictory and visceral memories have been hovering close this past month. They are so fused onto my soul that I’m not just reliving them; I feel transported back.

The first recollection begins right after Madeline was born.
Her birth was a cesarean booked following a routine checkup. This involved a last minute scramble to get our kids taken care of and Colin arriving at the hospital only moments before the operation. Both of my boys had been rushed off to the NICU after their births; but this time when the surgeon finished with me, I was wheeled into recovery, and my daughter was brought to lay on my chest. I gave an audible sigh as I soaked in this moment I had been yearning for. And as my lungs released that long kept breath simultaneously the part of the heart that expands every time you birth a child was replete. As though this internal cavity had been created and filled at the exact same moment. Not a crevice available. Its full capacity realized. This juxtaposition of uncontainable joy yet sufficient peace. Parts pure love, waves of fierce protection, and a plenitude I wonder if only a mother can know.
From his vantage point above, Colin had snapped a photo that seemed to capture the voyeuristic feelings that moment brought.

The second flashback comes less then a year later.
I am again laying in a hospital bed; but this time I can hear my youngest son somewhere down the hallway screaming, my eldest has been charged to strangers his whereabouts unknown to me, and my husband is absent from my bedside. A man walks into the room holding a phone and asks everyone else to leave. The doctor on the other end, almost two hours away, informs me that my daughter is not going to make it. Before I can utter a sound the crowded part of my heart from only months before collapses. Not soundless or swift as it had filled, but rather agonizingly reluctant. The contents clawing desperately to stop the exit leaving behind deep grooves both raw and exposed.
There was no one to capture the moment on film yet I can recall it from above. Every sense in my body numbed except for this awareness of emptiness. Curled up on my side, my body convulsing as my heart poured out, weak sobs escaping as I tried to hide.

Two individual moments on my life’s timeline that are now inseparable. And as much as I would wish to erase that last memory I know I could not if the cost was to also lose the first.

Didn’t Make It

There are no new pictures of you to post today. No current stories to share through laughter. No man across the breakfast table to celebrate. No father present to dote on.

There is this ache in my heart today that is different. As if I am finally able to cry the tears I could not on that day almost five years ago. That moment I asked why no one was helping my husband and a stranger answered me with, “He didn’t make it honey.” The further time separates me from that statement it is as though it’s echo is on an infinite loop; and, instead of becoming more faint, it grows in volume and urgency.

My boys are still a ways from filling their fathers shoes. Yet not far from bringing him into new photos or making him a part of current stories told with laughter. Almost like that heartbreaking echo is paralleled in them. Just as loud and compelling.

“He is here Mom! Dad did make it because we are alive.”

I Lost My Baby Too

The loss of my soul mate and partner altered life’s trajectory. That his death was sudden, that it was too soon, that it was newsworthy and public added to my confusion. And because it was paired with the death of our child it brought a complexity to my grief that is hard to comprehend. So as the tributes and accolades poured in, it was heartwarming to know how much he was loved. It was validating that those around him recognized all the qualities that brought me pride in standing beside him. That many with me would be mourning that he is not here anymore. An army grieving in solidarity with me.

Yet there was a wounded part deep inside that wanted to cry out, “I lost my baby too!”

She may have been hidden in her father’s large shadow and never impacted the lives he touched, but she is my flesh and blood. This little person grew inside me and entered into my life with no shortage of pain and suffering. She shared my laugh and scrunchy face and her daddy’s gentle spirit and long legs. She had not yet been given the time to journey far or stun the world with her captivating smile and compassionate heart. This child had not had the opportunity to explore the fullness of who she was, let alone learn of the potential inside. This human being stole a part of my heart the moment she was created and has taken it with her to the grave. Because as much as I decided to love my husband, over and over, with her it was never a choice. And the celebrated greatness of the man I chose to marry does not detract from the under appreciated worth of my child.

I ache for everyone to know that even though she did not enjoy the ‘celebrity’ of her father her loss is no less devastating. In fact, the opposite is true. There is not a single life which I value more than hers, including my own. Though the impact of her death to the masses will be negligible it still demands acknowledgment. All grief leaves different scars, but the layers of child loss is deep and unfathomable.

I hear you mama. Your plea rings clear above the chaos. My heart breaks with you as you experience unfathomable overwhelm. I am so sorry that you lost your husband and there are no words to express the pain of losing your daughter. But Know you are heard. I mourn with you even if the world doesn’t stop and listen. I will say it for you and with you. I lost my baby too.


You are regretting the choice in your Friday night movie as you get ready for bed. Every creak and groan of your old house puts you on edge. Each shadow sparks your imagination to picture the hideous creature casting the image. Securely wrapped in your bedspread you suspiciously eye the closet door and worry what will happen to any appendage that might accidentally escape the safety of the blankets.

In a couple of days you will be able to laugh with your spouse about hitting them as they came up behind you to put a hand on your shoulder; or joke with your friends about how you screamed as the cat rubbed against your ankles. Looking back you shake your head at the absurdity of your responses in a harmless environment. But this is a valuable example of the mind’s power.

The brain and the body are intertwined; connected in ways that we never acknowledge. We input data with every experience and activity that we are exposed to and it is processed, stored, and applied to ensure life’s continuance and prosperity. We were designed with the innate ability to prioritize in times of danger. The combination of nurture and nature sets us up to respond with lightning speed and though it may appear that our bodies bypass our brain in reality it is the entrenched neurological pathways of our minds that save us. When time is of the essence we function at a level every AI developer dreams of reproducing.

Then trauma comes and it changes everything.

We are exposed to something beyond our abilities to process or comprehend. Survival is still at the forefront and the body and brain prioritize what is emergent and what is lethal. This strategy is aimed at giving us more time and extending life. Though it also alters those neuro connections that have been the framework of our decisions. All this in the name of claiming one more breath, one more day, one more milestone. Yet when the danger fades and we move further away from the catalyst our physical and emotional behaviours do not always follow suit. They can become cemented. As if the shock of the traumatic event carved deeper and stronger pathways in the brain. Ones that potentially abrogate every other foundational conclusion that existed. The overreaction that saved us now renders us immobile. Functioning on high alert and reacting as though danger is always present.

The only option is to reset.

So when the body tells us there is a crisis or discomfort we have to override our natural response and build new connections. Using all the tools we have to suppress the panic and engage our brains in something different. Un-master the fight or flight responses. The only other time we learned at this level we were expected to nap throughout the day. Things we have always enjoyed will require maximum effort. Conversation and crowds can cause even more exhaustion then before. The ability to store and process new knowledge is diminished and even involuntary tasks now demand the engagement of the brain. Some activities will require that we remind ourselves to just inhale and exhale. Senses are heightened and the cerebrum will be bombarded with information. Everything that is automatic must now be dissected; each response challenged. It is relentless and solitary, but necessary.

There is no reset button.


At a young age she had learned the power that music held. It could touch those parts of her that hadn’t yet found their own words; and it could move her emotions in a way that made expressing them unstoppable. Somehow the right song could connect all the fragments inside. It could still the busyness of her mind. Pierce through the toughest armour surrounding her heart. Reach the feelings buried deep within.

As far back as she could remember, every season and moment of her life had a ‘theme’ song. Every significant event could be connected to a piece of music. Even hearing a melody could transport her right back to a memory, a relationship, even a specific feeling. Many times when she could feel the tides of change within her she would search for the song that could express what she couldn’t. Often wishing she had been given the gift of composing herself.

The tune could have words or it could not. There was no genre of music that she wouldn’t consider and was often surprised by what she stumbled across. It would sometimes connect instantaneously. Causing a release of emotions, clarity of thought, and permission to process. It was not really a solution or an answer, though it had the ability to calm the tempest inside.

And so when she heard, “I’ve been beaten and broken and tread upon.”, the opening line of the song “Fall” by James Arthur, she stopped what she was doing and closed her eyes. The lazy guitar strumming was soothing and the melancholy tone in his voice resonated with her heart. When the chorus came around a second time, her voice joined in slipping easily into the harmony. As if to confirm in that moment her soul had found its song.

Sometimes I feel nothing at all

Sometimes I want someone to hold

Sometimes I carry on

Just to stumble down once more

Sometimes I wanna fall

Just Heal

In terms of recovery after trauma, child loss, or PTSD I think the word “healing”can be misleading. It brings images of scabs and stitches; fading bruises and non-tannable blemishes. The mysterious inner workings of our circulatory system and the magic of time. The body is designed to protect and restore itself. So it can be confusing when we see someone who has experienced extreme circumstances or loss and wonder what is holding them back from fixing themselves and moving forward.

Healing is natural.

Give it time.

Learn to move on.

It would be unfair to assess if progress is happening from a limited list of qualifications. Almost assuredly it is, even if the ‘what’ and ‘how’ are unmeasurable. Injuries of this nature and magnitude include physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual ramifications. And just as the body clots to prevent bleeding out, it also tries to protect the mind and soul from being overwhelmed. Though,unlike lab results that indicate deficiencies and show abnormalities, trauma does not have a report card.

Causes and triggers are unknown.

Wounds are layered deep within.

Many stay dormant until it is safer.

Rebuilding after loss is not natural. Unless waking up inside an abandoned warehouse in the middle of a war zone and being told by a complete stranger that there is no one qualified to help, but to look around and there should be some stuff to help get by and to make sure to remove the shrapnel as soon as possible is considered normal. All this on top of paying the bills, feeding the kids, attending concerts, volunteering on weekends, and staying hydrated. The task seems impossible, but this is not a job that anybody else can do.

So it’s survival.

As long as it takes.

And then one day the patient IS the surgeon.

Without 8 years of med school or residency.

The operation is messy. It starts and it stops over and over again. The doctor is untrained and doesn’t even know what to look for. New wounds are uncovered. Small victories are won. Progress, setbacks, intensity, and rest. There are no stand-ins. It will be the most intimate procedure ever preformed and only one is qualified. Digging into the depths of brokenness to make sense of the pain. Nothing can be left untouched.

Recognizing what is felt.


And again.

And again.

Until there is no more distress.

This is no bandaid repair. This task requires strength and bravery. Fear cannot rule the heart, but rather determination and persistence. And the ‘leaning in’ to those you are loved by.

Just to heal.

What Would You Say

I wonder if you would forgive me.

For every misstep I’ve made along the way. When I chose to pull the covers over my head instead of getting out of bed. In the times I allowed the boys to see some of the worst of me leaving grace in the dust. For being selfish and feeling like I didn’t have the capacity to consider others in my choices. In each moment that I just wanted to stop trying and settle for mediocre. And for every time I was jealous that you are free from all this pain.

I wonder if I’ve made you proud.

For how I’ve considered my role as a mother and a father in raising our children. When I have chosen love and forgiveness instead of anger and hate. In allowing my heart’s capacity for compassion and empathy to change and grow. By using the gift of so many serving me as an opportunity to serve others. Desperately living each day to prove I could have been a worthy role model for our daughter.

I wonder if you would recognize me.

I am not the girl you married. I am not even the same woman that you left on the hi-way four years ago. I’m scarred and broken. Though I am not an empty shell. I am not stuck or swallowed by chaos. I am not without purpose and hope.

I wish you were here.

To say I forgive you.

To say I am proud of you.

To say I see you.

To say I love you.

Give Madeline a hug from me.

Give her ten thousand.

Oh My Heart

Oh little heart that’s trying to mend

That wants to feel whole again

Don’t grow cold

Don’t turn dark

Or let pain suffocate the spark

When you feel there is nothing left

And you cannot see beyond regret

Don’t succumb

Don’t lie down

Try to see how much you’ve grown

If your smile won’t reach your eyes

And you have no strength for more good byes

Don’t have doubt

Don’t give in

Allow yourself to stay soft within

Though weariness slows your heart

And you feel like you’ve been torn apart

Don’t despair

Don’t ever quit

Oh little heart this is not it

The Chrysalis

From her earliest memories she had only known her one physical form. Starting at her emergence from the egg and maturing through every phase, that steady constant had been a comfort. She had learned to trust in its design and marvel at its adaptability.

At the start she was small and translucent, pale green in the light. Insignificant and unremarkable though immediately purposeful in her actions. Driven by an internal power she could not resist, she feasted upon the platform which she was born. And continued to consume milkweed with a voracious appetite. Eating, in a circular pattern, everything she came upon as if she could never be satisfied. Soon her skin felt tight and ill equipped. And, as though her being knew what was ahead and was preparing her for a journey her mind could never fathom, her fragile exterior was left behind and was replaced by a coat of white, yellow, and black. Transverse bands of colour no longer translucent splayed across her frame; and small bristle like hairs covered the exterior.

The drive to consume milkweed was still present. And her days were filled with traveling from plant to plant; learning how to navigate each challenge with the structure she had been given. She continued to grow comfortable with herself, adjusting to each stage with expanded patience.

Again she became stretched and recognized the signs of new changes approaching.

This time her colours developed more distinctly and and her two sets of tentacles became longer. She noticed more differentiation in her legs and how her tastes had changed. She was now drawn to consume the edges of the plant leaves. This new direction excited her and emboldened her sense of adventure. Though every shift had been increasingly difficult, this journey of maturation had aided her in recognizing inner strength and confidence.

Soon her banding pattern evolved again as though it was an external sign of her progression. An outward expression to others of the work happening inward. White spots started to develop on her legs and her internal momentum had become a constant comfort.

She was consumed with finding leaves to eat and had established a rhythm for each day. When her white, yellow, and black covering molted into its most complex pattern yet, and the white spots became pronounced dots on her legs she handled the change with experience and grace. Feeling as though she had reached the pinnacle she was unprepared for any new challenge to be foisted upon her.

Then a different desire emerged, one she was not prepared for. Her appetite had evaporated and in its position grew this yearning for a safe place. She wasn’t exactly sure what she was looking for, yet seemed intuitively to know what she didn’t want. And in an instant she felt as though she was home. The need to keep moving and searching left and her predilection took over. Choosing a strong branch, she used silk to attached her hind legs and then began to weave. It was a methodical process and it took time before it was recognizable as anything; but soon a blue-green chrysalis encased her. It was opaque and covered in gold dots. It was an exquisite sight to behold and hung regal and defiant on the branch.

From the outside things appeared frozen and unchanging; within she was undergoing her most rapid metamorphosis yet. The form she had always known, the one she had grown up in, was melting away and a new foreign shape was taking its place. She was terrified and helpless as she felt all that she had been mutate before her while she was powerless to stop it. The chrysalis was dark and encompassing. No reference for her on which to begin understanding this transformation. It seemed an eternity as she became formless and then was reconstructed anew. Finally it was complete and the cuticle of the chrysalis began to lighten. The opaque shell became translucent and and her new body was revealed.

Now this is where she hangs, quivering with fear and excitement. Part of her wanting to go back to what she knows, but comprehending beyond any logical understanding that these changes are irreversible. As she ponders every step that brought her to this place she wonders how this new body will work and if she can trust it to carry her through. Yet instinctively knowing that staying paralyzed in her cocoon would be a death sentence. She is still and quiet, peering out of the used up shell. Trying to envision the next moments and anticipate the strength and bravery she will need to take this leap. Wondering if her wings will open and delight the world with their beauty; If she will soar to great heights with her powerful yet delicate frame. Or if they will be too frail to support her or withstand the elements. Leaving her vulnerable to predators and extremes.

So there she waits perched on a precipice. The choice is hers alone. Closing her eyes she feels the warmth of the sun and the wind in her face.

And that is when she hears it. A gentle whisper in the breeze saying, “Come out little one, you were made for this.”