Thursday, May 4

and still we rise

     Hey again friends, and hey there May:) I felt like I was hiding a bit all through April. Bracing myself for each new hard day on the horizon, and then when it would come and rush over me, I would pick myself up and shake it off only to look up and see the next one coming even faster. I've gotten used to living this way for years now, but I was overwrought all the same.
     Preparing for May offered some relief of anxiety, knowing that there were only a couple grief anniversaries to get through and that overall it would be a slightly easier month. Then the 1st came, and I realized that this is also Melanoma Awareness Month, that yesterday was National Widow's Day, that May is when they told us that he only had a couple weeks left, that this month last year is when Marty really said goodbye to the children and I, and on and on. May came, and I realized yet again that there will never stop being days that stop me in my tracks. Days that freeze my body and rush my thoughts through months of pain and crying children and fear, memories that stop my breath in my lungs and make me sob and mourn and miss and regret and dwell and hurt. Memories that break my heart over, and over, and over again.

     But there comes a point when you have to just live.
     All those emotions are needed and healthy and expected and important yes, but so is peace, and so is joy. It's okay to feel crushed after a year and ten years, and it's okay to get excited and to dream. It's okay to get lost in the fog, to curl up and cry, to feel like a wreck, like you're falling apart and that you'll never be okay again. And it's also okay to dance in the kitchen, to laugh, and to stick your head out of the window to feel the sun and the wind rush over your face. It's okay to surrender to the heartache once in a while, and it's okay to wish for normalcy sometimes. Because grief has no rules, and because grief comes where there was once tremendous love, and just like love, once grief takes over your soul it will never leave you.

     What I've realized (over and over) and tried to share, is that moving through the deepest pains of life can open up more space for experiencing the deepest joys. That the deeper grooves that sorrow carves into our being, the more space we have to contain happiness. We feel lost in the dark and so alone, but we're being shaped to see the brightest light.

     If you had asked me a year ago if I could live without Martin, I would have said no. He was everything to me, my dearest love, my other half, my whole world, and I could never imagine a life without him... and then he was taken from me. We fought his terminal diagnosis as hard as we could for 15 months, but he still just slipped away. And yet here I am, and I'm still alive. I have happiness in my life, I have love, I have peace in my soul, even if just a tiny little fraction at times. I can't think what can be worse than watching my sweetheart die in pain, but I am surviving. This tells me that we as human beings can survive anything. Any loss that we suffer, any heartbreak, any betrayal, any pain. We are forever changed, but it becomes part of us, of who we are. We heal, body mind and spirit. We rise. We thrive.

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     I talk to so many of you every week who are scared of death, who have lost or are losing someone you love and you don't think you'll ever feel happiness again, but you will. I'm not saying you'll 'get over' it and be all better someday because that's not true. I'm not saying that you'll start missing them less because, in reality, you'll miss them more and more the farther away their presence becomes. You'll feel the heartache deep in your bones, but you will adapt, and you will get used to living with the pain and sorrow. You really will.

     Not only will you change, but I've come to meet so many broken people who are the most beautiful people, whose lives are deeper and richer because of their brokenness. Especially after losing a loved one, we see that life is so so short. We don't waste time on trivialities. We have a new appreciation and understanding to savor every moment, and we never have enough time with those we love after a loss. These people that have known such intense fear and defeat and suffering and have struggled their way forward, they have more tenderness, more compassion, and more kindness than ever before. Value is added to even the smallest moments, and we hold desperately to even the tiniest bits of things like hope and faith and joy.

     Light comes, laughter comes, joy comes. The dark doesn't fade, but the little patches of light shine so much brighter than ever before, that even a tiny sliver is enough to flow through you and fill you. It may be a text message from a friend or a little plate of cookies on your porch. It may be a good night's sleep, your favorite song, a sweet memory, or a tighter hug than you've had in a long time.

     Hold onto that light.

     Don't let anyone else tell you to slow down, to turn back around and face the despair when you're struggling every day to find reasons to even breath. Don't let anyone else tell you to walk faster towards the good either, to speed up and stop letting yourself feel pain. It's like you've lost your legs, and everyone is standing around you with their healthy bodies telling you how to feel and how to walk and run again. Shut out the voices, shut out the opinions. Your journey through grief and pain and recovery is as unique to you as your fingerprint.

     Let yourself feel everything with your whole heart. Don't laugh because you think you're supposed to, don't cry because it's expected. Don't shut out the world because people tell you it's what your loved one would have wanted. Anyone who truly loves and cares for you would want peace for your soul and love in your heart. It's as simple as that. Missing them doesn't mean you have to live sheltered and miserable, it means living more richly for their sake. It means becoming their voice and honoring their life through living your own. It means adding more value to each day in their absence. It means not taking life too seriously and enjoying the journey as they would have if they were here. It means finding light and joy and peace, even when it seems impossible.

     Thanks so much for reading, and I'd love to hear your thoughts below if you have a minute to share:)



  1. You are so inspiring and I'm so glad that I ran into your blog. Everything you say has so much power and truth to it. So thank you so much for inspiring me and showing me that no matter what type of trials or struggles we go through that in the end we will all be okay. xoxo

  2. I have a simple thought, but I really mean it: you are so, so brave. Cheering for you and praying for healing and strength. Praying our great Healer and Protector wraps you and your family up in his arms as you all power through. He promises not one single tear will be wasted. :) Thanks for sharing all the hard parts of your story.

  3. Once again, you touch me and move me with your experiences, thoughts and words. I sent you a message in January about my mother who suffered a devastating brain hemhorrage due to an aneurysm that went undetected. I'm on a bus riding home from visiting her in a hospital where she lays in a vegetative state with no clue as to what her future holds. While she is still living, I watch her lay helpless, once a woman so fiercely independent and beautifully alive, and I have no way of knowing if she's aware, if she's in pain, if she's afraid, if she knows who I am. While she hasn't passed away, this has created situation wher there is no finality, no closure of any form and a lot of fear and questions.

    Your thoughts are a great comfort to me because I'm grieving who my mother was as I face who she is now and who she may -or may not be- in the future. Thank you for giving so much to us. Thank you for bearing your hurt and your heart to lift us up and to let us know that everything we are feeling is ok.

    Much, much love Emily.


  4. So true and real. It's nice to hear someone else put it down in words.

  5. Emily, your words are so incredibly beautiful. We lost our niece less than a month ago to a sudden and tragic accident. This has filled my heart with hope and love. Her sweet mama will find so much healing in your words. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. You are forever in my prayers, dear one.

  6. Grief is like an ocean comes in waves..sometimes it is to the ankles and barely affects you other times as a tsunami and overtakes you totally and leaves you breathless and helpless..prayers for you sweet day at a time..

  7. You put it all into words so beautifully. I lost my father unexpectedly two years ago and have felt e erything you have written. It can be dark, but in the darkness the light shines the brightest.

  8. Within a letter grief begins to make a little more sense. In the way I feel about grief I cobtinue to experience and to better understand how to respond as a "healthy body".Thank you.

  9. I've to say goodbye to one of the most important beings in my life. Every time I think about it, my whole body hurts, but I know, that moment has to come.
    When I think about the future, I feel guilty for planning my life without him. I feel like I don't deserve to be happy if I can't share it with him.
    People say he wants me to be happy. But he deserves to be happy now, he deserves to enjoy all the things I'm planning for my future but can't reach for know. I know that, when I'm able to reach it, he won't be here anymore. So, why should I try? I don't deserve to be happy in life if he isn't it either.

    I know it's a negative and destructive thought and I try to avoid it. But it escapes my control. I'll try it harder.

    Maybe your courage infects me too :)

    Lot of hugs, little Fox xoxo

  10. I've to say goodbye to one of the most important beings in my life. I don't know when, but every time I think about it, my heart breaks in million peaces.
    I'm struggling with guilt feelings. I'm planning my future and I know, he won't be here anymore. I feel like I don't deserve to be happy in life if he isn't it either. He deserves to be happy now, to enjoy with me all what I'm planning for my future. But achieving my goals takes more time than he has so.. does it worth it? I want a future with him. I want to share my achievements, share my life with him. If I'm "alone" I don't want it. I don't deserve it. Not if he isn't here to enjoy it too.

    It's a negative and a destructive thought, I know, but can't avoid it.
    Reading your thoughts gives me hope. Maybe one day I'm strong enough to be brave, or viceversa, and feel prepared to face a life without him.

    Thank you for being you, and inspiring us.

    A really big hug, redhead fox <3



  11. I like reading your thoughts. Our stories are similar in many ways: 15 month battle with cancer for my husband. He passed away not long after your husband. As I read I can relate so much, and have experienced many of the same things. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. They make me realize I am experiencing "normal" emotions and feelings.

  12. Though our stories have some similarities- young husbands and fathers diagnosed with cancer, our outcome has been different so far. My husband's cancer is aggressive and may return, but he is currently in remission. This has brought its own roller coaster of emotions for us. I appreciate the reminder that it's ok to feel deep joy and deep sadness even in the same day. It helps us feel more alive. I have been struggling with wanting to do new things but feeling constrained by what others expect of me. After reading your post I feel more excited to move forward and pursue what I feel is right for me, regardless of what others think. Thank you!

    Julieann Selden

  13. I cheer for you and your band of little ones...stay strong! Know there are many prayers in your behalf!

  14. This is beautiful. The best description of walking through grief and joy than I've ever heard. Coping it for myself for future reference. I appreciate you sharing what you've learned. Beauty in the ashes and it indeed, is beautiful.

  15. Wow. I've never read your blog before but this made me cry.

  16. thank you thank you thank you for this.

  17. Thank you Emily! I am also continually battling stage 4 cancer (breast cancer, I'm now age 32, was 30 at diagnosis). My boyfriend of 4 years had to move back home to India. I'm doing it on my own now and find such honest INSPIRATION in you and your beautiful family.
    This post was exactly what I needed today. Thank you for sharing your lives with us. I am so happy to see you and your family happy. Thank you for continuing to be a positive light. It is very much appreciated. I wish there was some way to do for you, what you have done for me.
    Thank you!

    1. My sincerest prayers are with you Kristi. Your words touched my heart to the very core. I pray you have the love and support of family comforting you and caring for you.

  18. The photos in this post are breathtaking, and the words so touching, so moving. My heart aches at your story, and then rejoices that you've found so much light and joy in the midst of your grief. I'm grateful to you for sharing your story, your light, your dark, your real & vulnerable self. Thank you.

  19. Dear Emily, I feel so humbled by your words. You are so wise, and a great writer. I wish I knew you ;-) Best wishes, and much more, Hanne

  20. My experience was different, I recently almost lost my 17 year old son in a car accident. We've been in the hospital with him now for 41 days, and have at least another week or two before we will be able to bring him home. He's partially paralyzed at this point, but survived several life threatening injuries through what I would call miracles. Even the fact he survived the accident was a miracle in itself. I'm so grateful for my sweet son's life being spared, and I must be strong for him. When it's my night to sleep at home with our other children, or I can hide from the outside world for a minute, I feel overwhelming grief for the life my son lost, for the pain he's in that I can't take away, I feel guilt that I get to keep my son, while the mother down the hall is saying goodbye to her sweet
    child. Every time I hear about a car accident or I hear the helicopter flighting in another patient to the hospital, I'm immediately brought back to day one standing over my son and truly not knowing if he was going to live or die. The fear is paralyzing. Reading this made me feel normal. Like there's no right or wrong way to be dealing with this. Everyone keeps telling me how to feel, everyone who's never been through this. I know my experience is different, I get to keep my son here on earth with me, and I'm so grateful for that, but I've felt very alone dealing with the emotions of everything. Thank you for being so open with your journey through grief. You have such a beautiful soul. Sorry for such a long comment, this just truly touched my soul tonight while I laid here sleepless trying to deal with a roller coaster of emotions. ❤

  21. I've never lost someone so dear. But death has always loomed on the horizon; my parents are old and I know I will see them die. Reading this is like someone telling you about marriage or birth. These are experiences we can understand until they happen to us but we always want to try and understand. Thank you for adding to my morning. I'll try to understand and when I finally walk through that dark valley, I'll look for that light.

  22. Dear Emily,

    I'm writing to you from France so I hope you will excuse my english.
    I 'd like to tell you how much you are inspiring for me... Your beauty inspire me, your motherhood inspire me, your love stories with Martin and Richard inspire me, and your fitness way of life inspire me (even with a injured leg :-)!!! ). And most of all your WISDOM inspire me. I wish I was as wise as you when I was your age. I wish I had a so filled life at your age. I wish I could have shared with so many people by helping them in their daily life like you do. But it's never to late, as I like to tell to myself !!!

    Anyway, despite the distance between us I can feel your pain and your struggle. So I'd like to send you all my love and my respect for the very very special woman you are to me.

    Je vous embrasse de tout coeur.

  23. My mom passed away almost 5 years ago, and every day something reminds me of her. I recently got engaged, and even though I'm so happy and exited and I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with my person, I dread the day we marry because I know my mom isn't going to be there. I look through photos to choose a photographer and there's the inevitable picture of the bride and her mother, and I won't get that. I won't have her there to help me pick a wedding gown or have her fit my veil. But I will get through. I will have my circle to know when it's time to clear the room so I can breakdown, to hold me up when I'm finished, to remember her with me as I walk down the aisle. I will hold this pocket of sadness on my happiest day, I will roll through the grief to get to the celebration. I will feel my feelings and not let anyone tell me differently. I will rise. We will rise.


  24. Emily , I've been following your blog for a while and it has brought me such comfort.
    This post especially could not have come at a better time. I am in my early 20's , just recently lost my husband and I'm expecting my first baby in June.
    The pain , grief and fear that I feel sometimes just overwhelms me and I wonder how I'm ever going to move on.
    But like you said , we do , -and get stronger from it.
    When I get up each day , go to work , smile, it may sometimes feel like I'm putting on the show of my life... but not always.
    It's okay to feel happiness too. There were times I felt like I was being disloyal to my situation when I felt happy - like , your life has fallen apart - and you're laughing ?
    Seriously ?
    Then I realized's okay.
    It's okay to feel the grief and cry and cry ... and it's okay to let go and see the Beauty in the world.
    And sometimes it's okay to feel both emotions at the same time. Everyone takes grieving at their own pace.
    And there comes a time when you look around and see the blessings in your life , -and you realize, I've survived.
    I'm not on the other side and I prob never will be. I still take every day as It comes and it's rare that I have a day without tears .
    But I can see the sunshine.
    And when I feel my baby kicking inside , my heart fills with gratitude at this tremendous gift I've been given , to bring a new soul into this world, god willing.

    I've actually never posted anything before but I just wanted to say what an inspiration you are - may you continue to have the strength to be an amazing beautiful momma to your babies !
    Thank you for being so open and honest and sharing the hard times as well as the good.

  25. Thank you for writing this! Thank you for getting us to be more understanding to others. I will come back to it when my time of grief comes, and be more prepared. You are not alone, we are praying for you and your family although we likely will never meet.

  26. I think this is my favorite blog post you've ever posted. When I'm weighed down with grief, anxiety, and all-encompassing fears, your example helps me to push through. You may never know what your inspired words have done for me, but thank you :)

  27. I stumbled upon your blog early last year, and hadn't come back to read it in a while. As I read all of your posts, they inspired me to love My husband, family, and loved ones just that much more and to make sure that I remain a stronger woman. I was going through my saved things on pinterest and after reading your blog today this made me think of you.
    Native American prayer for the grieving
    I give you this one thought to keep-
    I am with you still-I do not sleep
    I am a thousand winds that blow,
    I am the diamond glints on snow
    I am the sunlight on the ripened grain,
    I am the gentle autumn rain
    When you awaken in the mornings hush,
    I am the swift, uplifting rush
    Of quiet birds in circled flight
    I am the soft stars that shine at night
    Do not think of me as gone,
    I am with you still in each new dawn-
    You don't just have anniversaries of your husband, you have moments that may catch you at any time. Taking comfort in these moments knowing that he is still around you and your family is what I find amazing and help carry on those special memories.

  28. I need to come back and re-read this several times. I lost my wonderful husband a year ago this month. He fought cancer (with a 5 year prognosis) for 13 years. I wish I had half the courage and faith and attitude that he had. I know that to honor him I need to live how he would have, but right now all I'm feeling is sadness. It's hard to lose your spouse when you've been married 49 years. Half of me is missing, and I'm just existing and "waiting"--not sure for what, but still. I'm hoping that I'll begin to see some light and happiness eventually. But right now isn't the time. The memories I have of him are of suffering, and hospital visits and chemo and doctors and it seems like I can't dig deep enough to get to the good memories. Anyway, your post is wonderful, and when I'm particularly down I'm going to come back to it. Thank you.

  29. I enjoy reading your words and hearing your continuing story, but what really gets to me is reading the comments. People who want to know you, who see bravery and strength in your words, who feel some sort of connection even though they have completely different lives. It reminds me that we were created to connect with others, and we can touch another life by simply being honest, open, and encouraging. As much as we want to wish away the pain in our lives, it is so often the pain that opens our eyes to who is around us, who is similar to us, and who will stand by us.
    I think it speaks to your character that so many of your followers don't express a desire to be just like you, but to sit with you and be your friend. That speaks to my soul. Truly.

  30. Prayers with you this month. April was the 1 year passing anniversary of my dad and I completely relate to you. I remember every single day, what happened and at what time. Each "day" of sad news kept coming all the way up through the actual days. The grieving is so hard and overwhelming.

    You're not alone, and I know you know that but I'll be thinking of you. xoxo

  31. This is so raw, and honest, and lovely and true. Grief is a unique journey for each person; we must find our own way through it. You are braver than you think and stronger than you know. You and your kids will be in my prayers ❤️

  32. I always tell people to Feel All The Feels. Grief is so hard!

  33. Wow. What a beautiful piece of writing. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  34. Wow, this is such a moving, beautiful post on such a painful matter. Thank you for opening your heart and mind to us.

  35. Oh my goodness. this cut to my core. This is what I experience on a daily basis and have begun sharing with the world. You articulate all this so well. Thank you!! Please do not stop sharing your heart. This is so encouraging to me to read. Encourages me to keep sharing my story.

  36. this touched me to the core, i felt everything while i was reading . May you find peace for the rest of your life