This is Our Story
(Continued from the Home Page)
It felt like we were cut off and isolated from the world when Emily died; we were just 14 days into the COVID lockdowns. It seemed like everyone had disappeared, and I withdrew from the few people who continued to reach out. Unable to celebrate Emily's life for months or find comfort in the companionship of family or friends, I began to read every book I could find on grief; it was easier than talking about it. I stayed up all night consuming blogs, joining online grief groups, and building grief playlists on Spotify that comforted me during the dark hours. I contemplated taking my life. I thought about leaving that part of this story out; disclosing it feels scary and vulnerable. Yet, not sharing my state of mind at that time seems disingenuous.
Finding my little girl in Heaven consumed my every waking thought to be sure she wasn't alone or frightened; that's my job; I'm her mom. I thought about how my adult children no longer need me, but Emily may - because she always did, we needed each other. I pray that sharing my heart may offer another drowning in grief and thinking the same thoughts to pause a moment, find hope in my story, and breathe. I want to acknowledge your reality. It absolutely sucks. No one can fix your pain, but there are ways-support systems, and tools that may help you emerge from the heartbreak you feel encased in today. Maybe you'll come across something that resonates in your soul, and you'll hold on and find your way; this is what happened to me.
What changed everything for me was something I read by Berly McCoy. She said that grieving is a form of learning; it's teaching us to be in the world without someone we love.  Now, this made sense to me; this idea was something I could wrap my head around. I can learn. I believe education and motherhood are my life's calling; after all, I was a teacher/Reading Specialist for 33 wonderfully rewarding years. Several months after Emily died, I shared something I learned about grief with a friend. She pointed out that educating myself around whatever challenge I face is how I've coped my entire adult life.
Like most new parents, I constantly read about how to enrich my children's development and inspire them to be happy, self-sufficient, and resilient adults. My children aren't aware that I researched my way through raising them; knowing their personalities, they'll probably do the same when they have children. I worried when my 8-year-old daughter's self-esteem seemed precarious. I focused on learning to help her develop a solid belief in herself and her abilities. It taught me that in almost any challenge we face, someone else had met it before, and we can apply their hindsight to our life. The answers are there if we look. Today, she is a confident, self-reliant woman I admire more than any other woman I know. When my son attended a highly demanding and competitive military academy, I learned all I could from the moms who went before me. Later sharing what I learned and contributing to a book for mothers about the academy helped support the next group of cadet mothers. It taught me the importance of community. It helped me better understand his military life as he worked to achieve his dream. Today, he is a distinguished leader, a man of character; I'm very proud of him.
When Emily struggled to read, I learned how to teach her to read. I immersed myself in studying special ed law, lifeskill development, and special needs advocacy expanding my knowledge and helping other parents do the same as a certified Special Needs Coach. Anyway, you get it; I research my way through life, and now I'm learning a new perspective on death. I didn't realize that reading, journaling, and connecting with others were teaching me about grief's unique yet universal experience. I earned my certification as a Master Grief Coach and studied the Continuing Bond Theory while doing so. I came to understand and believe that Emily has never left me. She walks with me every day just out of sight, and our bond can not be broken; it's just different; this knowledge literally saved me.
I read about Itaru Sasaki and his Phone Booth of the Wind. I imagined sitting in his white phone booth surrounded by Itaru's beautiful garden, holding the phone to my ear, dialing Emily's number, and listening as the rotary dial clicked back for each digit. I could hear the phone ringing in my head, and I imagined her answering in the same way she always did, "Oh, Hellooooo," in her playful voice. I imagined us talking about everything and nothing all at once. I thought about traveling to Japan someday to visit the phone. After further reading and research, I discovered wind phones in various locations across the United States! Exceptional, caring individuals inspired by Itaru have created and installed beautiful versions of a wind phone, sacred spaces for people to reflect and heal their grief. A place where those who grieve can continue and deepen their connection to the people they love on the other side. We often hear that when there is deep grief; there is great love; it is true. Creating this website and helping others ease their pain is where I choose to channel my grief. It is my way of making any sort of meaning from my beautiful daughter Emily dying. I believe it to be a calling that Emily guided me to, and I will live the rest of my life to make her proud.
I hope that on your walk with grief, your path leads you to a Wind Phone, where the wind will take your words to those you love who have walked ahead.