I am smack in the middle of my ‘year of firsts’ over losing my Dad six months ago. You know, the first year journey in the grief of losing someone you loved so very much.

I have found that grief isn’t a 5 stage process or any finite number of stages, but rather a continuum of emotions that seem to feel more like a roller coaster ride where there are ups and downs, forwards and backwards, and sometimes some super-duper twists thrown in for good measure.

This is my first holiday without my Dad. Usually, the holiday season is a sparkling vista of joy, laughter, family, cozy traditions, and treasured times with friends; it is truly my favorite time of the year. This year, the holiday season spreads before me more like an emotional minefield, with memories and emotions littered like bombs just waiting to take me by surprise and implode my aching heart.

I find myself consoling the people who try to console me. My grief and sorrow is a raw, jagged edge that people don’t want to get to close to…not because they don’t care, but because they don’t know what to say or do when they bump into that edge and feel that pain. Part of it is the fact that losing a parent is within the natural order of life right?

As in jeeze, lady, move on already.

 

A parent is supposed to leave before us and therefore it’s deemed that one would grieve rather quickly and move on with life. Because it’s your parent and you’re supposed to be ready for this when you’re an adult. But you’re not. Ever. Ready.

That is utter…as my father would say…bullshit.

The magnitude and depth of feelings over the loss of my father is something no words can adequately measure or even come close to. You can truly feel your heartbreaking in the face of such loss.

One of my dearest friends came over right after he passed away (she actually asked me if it was okay rather than show up at my door unannounced), and as I fumbled around in the midst of an ugly cry, she said the most profound thing that captured my grief. She said, “well you know, it’s understandable because you’ve lost your person.”

Four words that said it all.

You’ve lost your person.

My Dad was my person. Please don’t misunderstand this because my husband of 34 years and my children are also my people, but my Dad was my person.

 

He was the only person on earth who has loved me from the moment I was born. The only person.

He was the single 22-year-old father who fought for custody of me when I was four years old.

He was the only person who was the keeper and teller of my childhood stories.

He was the only person who always introduced me as ‘my daughter’ with that pride so evident in his voice.

He was the first person I called with good news or bad.

He was the only ear that listened without judgment when I felt like I had no one else.

As I move through this journey, I have learned so many things in such a short amount of time. In no particular order here is what I know as it relates to the death of a parent.

You’re never ready.

My Dad was 71 when he died and I’m 53…and I was completely blindsided by his passing. He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer at its early stages, did everything the Drs. told him to do, got great reports from the Drs., and he passed away due to complications from the surgery. I was lulled into a sense of ‘everything was going to be fine’ and when it was not, I was devastated.

My FIL was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer at the same time my father’s cancer was detected, and at Stage 4, we knew the outcome was grim. However, he passed away much quicker than we expected and we were not ready.

So it doesn’t matter the circumstances or how much you expect it…you’re never ready to become a member of the I-lost-a-parent club.

Your grief is not my grief.

Although grief is a universal path we all must travel, each path is only yours. Please don’t say I know how you feel, because, nope you don’t. The depth of relationship (or lack thereof), background, experiences you had with the person who is now gone, the circumstances of death, all make your relationship with grief unique. My husband lost his father a mere ten weeks to Stage 4 cancer before my father passed away and I can tell you that we grieve very differently.

Don’t ever let someone tell you that there is a right way and a wrong way to grieve or how to express your grief.

I am still shocked at the ferocity of grief I feel at different times and how it can undo me. I went to a local store the other day to buy a card and walked past the candy section. One of my Dad’s Christmas presents from me every year was a Whitman’s sampler…I burst into tears when I saw that simple yellow box at the end of the aisle. A reminder that my father will not be here to accept that long traditional gift from me. 

It will take as long as it will take.

There isn’t a timeline on grief; in fact, I believe it will always be there, ever at the ready to either gently tap you on the shoulder or hit you with a sledgehammer. You are entitled to travel this journey at your own pace and not made to feel like you ‘should be over it by now’. And if you have people in your life who feel that way…minimize your contact with them. If the burden feels like the weight never eases, then please seek support and help as appropriate to your situation.

Your stories and childhood memories are gone forever.

My Dad was a great storyteller and he loved telling stories of my childhood. He was a bit of a hothead and brawler in his younger days and he was chock full of stories about a time that was really quite traumatic, but he made it sound humorous and exciting. He had certain mannerisms when he told a story, and even the most mundane of tales made you laugh and wanting more. He was a vault of memories that I don’t have and now never will again.

 

It’s important to find a way to honor your person and your grief

My Dad was always adamant about not wanting a memorial or service in any way, and my bonus mom and I honored those wishes. I find though, that it hurts my heart not to have had some sort of way to celebrate him. To talk with, laugh with, and cry with people who have fond memories of him. To share a story or to simply say he touched their life in some way. He was a man who was very well-liked, gregarious, and respected in the town he lived in and I would have loved to see the many faces of those whose lives he touched in some way.

Grief can be very isolating and yet universal at the same time. For me, writing is cathartic and I can share about what an amazing man my father was to me.

Develop a ritual or routine

In relationship to the above, I have found something that helps me quite a bit. I never realized how much I talked with my Dad on my phone on my daily walks until I resumed them a few months ago. Now I talk with him every time my feet hit the pavement and it brings me a sense of peace to continue those walks and talks with him.

You won’t ever get over your grief

I’ll speak to this more in a few years perhaps, but I’ve talked to a lot of people over the last several months and what I’ve heard time and time again, is that you don’t get over your grief. The edges soften, and memories that made you cry at one time may make you smile in bittersweet remembrance, but you don’t ‘get over it’ completely. Nor should you be expected to.

I’m not sure, but I have a feeling that the year of seconds is going to equally hard.

There are, shockingly, points of light along the way

My father was not a conventionally religious man, but I know he had a deep down faith and believe in God. I couldn’t even tell you the last time he went to church, and he was, by definition, a lapsed Catholic, but when we had a priest called in to perform last rites, I swear you could almost see a peace come over my father’s features and he passed away shortly after the priest came into the room. This is significant because it was on a Sunday, the priest was performing services and couldn’t get there until later in the day. I had also received a call at around 5:15 am that morning from the hospital that we needed to get back there.

The wallpaper on my computer changes randomly, and the next day the image was a beautiful sun breaking through the clouds…I kid you not. Ironically my Dad wasn’t one for ‘signs’ and such, but I knew without a doubt it was a sign for me.

I often look at the clock and see numbers such as 11:11, 2:24 (my birthday), and I know he sending me a signal.

I can laugh and joke about what he’s doing ‘up there’ (having a glass of wine with God) when he should be paying attention to what’s happening down here.

I have a beautiful bracelet that I wear constantly that has my dad’s ashes in it. It brings me immense comfort when the grief feels crushing and overwhelming.

There is no finish or end to mourning and grieving for your person. The death of that oh-so-precious loved one leaves you with a wound that will never fully heal, will never completely scar over, and that, perhaps, is as it should be. Grief is messy, uninvited, and yet is the only way we have to express how much we loved and were loved in return.

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172 Units of blood in 18 hours

100 pounds of blood products

14 vascular coils

5 days in the ICU

4 surgical teams

4 surgeries in 15 hours

4 massive transfusion protocols

1 resuscitation

1 perfect baby

1 beloved daughter

 

Imagine the despair standing in the ICU watching a team of medical professionals work to save your daughter’s life as she lies in 3 liters of blood (the human body has 5.5) while attached to a ventilator with tubes and ivs all over her body while a chaplain prays and maintains vigil with your family..

 

Now imagine the joy and blessing of welcoming a perfect new born baby while his mother desperately fights for her life. The terrible mixed emotions of welcoming a new life and saying goodbye to another much loved one are ones I never thought I would experience.

 

Such was the horrific situation that my husband and I found ourselves in on June 15, 2016. But this story is not about us, but the remarkable woman who is the epitome of grit, determination, spirit, and the many anonymous people who had a part in saving her life.

 

Her story starts on June 14th, a beautiful early summer day, and my daughter Brienne, who had not been feeling well, had been admitted the night before with pre-eclampsia symptoms…three weeks before she was due to give birth to her second son.

 

It was determined that her condition had advanced to eclampsia and labor was induced early on the morning of June 14th. Things were progressing slowly when suddenly we heard the words “Code C Room 66” over the intercom. In the blink of an eye, the room was full of nurses disconnecting equipment and announcing that the baby was in distress and a C-section was necessary.

 

The NICU team was called and Brienne was whisked off to surgery. Within 15 minutes the drs came in to tell us that a perfect baby boy had been delivered and he had arrived “hootin and hollerin”.


We all breathed a big sigh of relief and waited to meet our new addition….and waited and waited. After an hour I went to see what was happening and we were informed that Brienne had started bleeding and would need to go back into surgery. Shortly after we heard “MTP OR 5” repeatedly, and as we watched with anxious hearts from the waiting room, several nurses came running down the hall with lunchmate coolers (we found out the MTP stands for Massive Transfusion Protocol and that the code was for our daughter…and the lunchmate coolers were full of units of blood).

 

After some time, the drs came in to tell us that they had stopped the bleeding and that Brienne was in recovery. We rejoiced and went to meet baby Jameson. Within the hour the drs came back in to tell us that Brienne was hemorrhaging again and would need a hysterectomy to stop the bleeding. She went back into surgery and another MTP was called for. Needless to say, we were terrified at this point and when the drs finally returned to talk to us, we found out things had progressed from bad to worse.

 

Brienne had developed a condition called disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) which causes blood clots to form and use up the blood clotting factors, resulting in massive hemorrhage and organ failure. She was being transferred to the main hospital’s ICU about 10 minutes away in very critical condition and on a ventilator.

 

I don’t have the words to describe our feelings in that space of time. Holding this perfect human being that my daughter gave birth to and the child I birthed hanging onto life by a slim thread.

 

At 1:30 am on the morning of June 15th we stood around her bed and heard the prognosis from the dr. My beautiful daughter was heavily sedated, on a ventilator, receiving blood products, her organs failing, and IF she recovered, she faced months in the hospital.

 

I went back over to the Womens and Babies Hospital with a heavy heart to check on the baby while my husband and my son-in-law stayed with my girl.

 

At 5:26 am, my phone rang and my husband’s voice breaking with grief on the other end. “You need to get here right now, she’s still alive, but it’s bad”.

 

I don’t remember much from the drive except running down the hall of the ICU and seeing a wall of nurses and drs surrounding my daughter’s bed. At that moment, another MTP code sounded, and by now the familiar figures of medical staff running down the hall with coolers of blood were all we could see.

 

Right at that moment, I knew she was dying (we found out later that that was when she was being resuscitated) and sank to my knees overcome with grief. The calm, cool gynecological oncologist on call sat down with us and informed us that without another surgery immediately our daughter was going to bleed to death.

 

We were told that she would be going into the hospital’s hybrid operating room to accommodate the numerous surgical teams that would be trying to save her life. At 7:35 am she was wheeled into surgery and at 8:06 am as we gathered in a waiting room we heard “MTP hybrid OR”.

 

The fourth massive transfusion protocol in 12 hours…our hearts were breaking. For over 5 hours we waited, prayed, and held each other in comfort as the lead nurse came out and updated us periodically. At one point one of the drs came out and said the situation was dire, blood was going out as fast as they were putting it in, but they were not giving up on her.

 

My dearest friend organized a blood drive that was shared on social media hundreds of times….people from four states away came to donate blood and the hospital had an unprecedented record day of donations. My child was held up in prayer, faith, and love from countless strangers all over the world on social media as the medical teams fought to save her, and even had her own hashtags: #briestrong #briennesabadass

 

Finally, at 12:36 pm on June 15th, not quite 24 hours after our ordeal started we saw the two head surgeons come out to us and the nurse told us they wanted to speak with us privately. We could read nothing but weariness on their faces and feared the worst. As our family crowded into a tiny room, Dr. Olt sat down and told us that they had stopped the bleeding. She was being looked after by the radiology team to make sure, but they were ‘cautiously optimistic’ and she would be transferred back up to the ICU where we would be able to see her. In almost 35 years of marriage, I have never seen my husband sob as he did when we heard those words.

 

A few hours later my husband, myself, and my son-in-law gathered around her bedside hardly daring to breathe as we watched the machines keeping this most beloved child alive.

 

Her lungs were saturated with fluids, her kidneys were in danger of shutting down, and the strain on her heart was tremendous, but she was alive.

 

During this time Brienne received:

 

172 units of blood (the average person has 9-10 pints of blood) so her blood was completely replaced over 17 times

 

Over 100 pounds of blood products and fluids (her kidneys were severely compromised in an effort to expel all this fluid and her lungs could not function on their own for several days)

 

14 vascular coils in surgery to stop the hemorrhaging

 

Because every blood type was used during the MTPs, her blood type changed from A negative to O negative.

 

While she was on the ventilator she communicated to us that she wanted to try to pump milk and in the midst of all the machines was a breast pump so the nurses could expel milk for the baby.

 

We had been told she would be in the ICU for weeks, but four days later she was transferred back to Womens and Babies Hospital where she got to meet her son for the first time in almost a week.

 

She went home a full week after her ordeal started.

 

We are blessed that our story has had a happy ending. In a strange twist of fate, we later found out that June 14 is World Blood Donor Day and we have become passionate advocates for blood donations.

Brienne’s story is a powerful reminder that with just 60 minutes of your time, you can literally give someone else the gift of life. This time of year the need for blood becomes critical, with people traveling more, and enjoying more outside activities, blood donation becomes vital and blood banks experience severe shortages in the summer months.

 

Someone needs blood every 2 seconds

One pint of blood can save up to 3 lives

17% of people of non-donors cite that they never thought about donating, while 15% say they are too busy…we need to change this statistic.

 

Giving blood is one of the easiest and fastest ways that a person can give back and save a life.

 

We believe sharing Brienne’s story can give a face to the power of spending just 60 minutes every 56 days to give back in a big way.

 

Please consider contacting your local blood donor center and schedule a time to donate.

In just one hour you can save as many as three lives all while having a snack and sitting in a recliner playing Candy Crush, Facebooking, or meditating on whose life you may have just saved.

 

#blooddonationsaveslives

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Here’s Your Recap:

 

If you do not have an opt-in on your website (which is the most valuable piece of online real estate you own), you are really missing out on several essential and vital components for your brand and business.

 

First of all let’s define what an Opt-In is and isn’t:

 

We can define an opt-in as an ‘ethical bribe’, ‘lead magnet’, or a ‘freebie’ typically used in exchange for an email address. An opt-in should be something of value and is designed to give someone a quick win and address a problem or challenge he/she is having. In addition, it should be specific to problems or challenges as they relate to the clients you most want to work with.

 

An opt-in isn’t this:

“sign up for my newletter”

“sign up for periodic updates”

or solves every problem your audience has

 

An effective opt-in can do the following for your business:

Solidify your brand positioning

Show your expertise

Start to build the KLT Factor (know, like, and trust)

Build relationships with your audience

Position you as a trusted advisor

Shows consistency in your brand messaging

 

Have I convinced you of the importance of an opt-in that is effective and powerful?

One of the specialities of Her Influential Brand is helping clients come up with an opt-in that is on brand and relevant to your audience. Don’t miss out on the chance to book a Brand Intensive Session for 50% off the regular price! Book your session here and use the code: MARCHMADNESS for an instant $500.00 savings. Let us help you have the business you want with a brand you love.

 

 

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Smart and Strategic Tips to Increase Your Visibility

February 15, 2018

  Here’s Your Recap:   Define what “visibility” means to you and your service-based business. I’m going to define it generally as: a state of being ‘seen’ and the degree to which you have attracted the attention you want   Now that you’ve defined your degree of visibility, what is holding you back from achieving […]

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