When I started this blog a few years ago I thought it would be about writing. That I would share my journey as I learned and struggled with stories and words. Those early posts are stilted and uncomfortable when I read them now.

Slowly, other stories started filtering onto the page in spite of myself. I struggled to find the balance, to keep the focus on writing, to not turn a public forum into a personal diary. But when I gave up trying to be writerly and professional and just started chatting, my friends gathered around.

I’ve struggled for almost a year to not turn this blog into a journey of grief. I come here and chat with friends, but as I’m sure you’ve noticed, some stories sink back into loss.

We near the first year anniversary of our Sam’s death and here I am, laying grief down in words again.

I struggle with wondering what he was doing a year ago today. Living his life fully, dealing with good and bad, stress and joy, friends and work, loving his family, just like we all do. And of course in his case, living fully as a river spirit. He knew what he did was dangerous but I doubt he had premonitions or hesitations or doubt in those last days.

jennie aug 2010 037

I struggle with thoughts about how I would live my life if I knew I had only days. We all ask ourselves that question at some point. But seriously, pause for a minute, move past the cliché of that question, and think about it.

I struggle with how to be around those who love him. Not ‘loved’ him. Their love for him didn’t end when he died. I want to dive deep into that dark well of grief with them, and yet life is all around us. We laugh and share and love each other’s company. And if in the midst of that, we fall into silence, or tears suddenly rise, it’s not awkward because we see and we know and we feel. There’s complete freedom in their company.

And so we look warily at the coming date knowing it is going to be so incredibly hard. And yet there will be a river float and once again all the kayaks will be bright flowers on the water. Afterwards there will be food and laughter, family and friends, in our mountains.

And stories.

I’ve never struggled in the safe cup of stories.

lookout point 007


155 thoughts on “Struggles

  1. Thank you, Lisa for sharing you. I am so sorry for your pain and understand it too.

    I started my blog with just the opposite of intentions. I needed to share my story. I am glad you share yours here, as that is a wonderful way to share life. Life.

  2. you told me once its more realistic if you write about something you know… something like that. It goes to something that the writer feels connected to strongly. So it is just natural, that we write about things that impact us emotionally as is this. This is the flow of things, how they are supposed to be, to write about it, share it and talk about him. It would be unnatural to leave this experience out of everything. Your blog would not have any heart if it would just be facts. Your emotions, your stories make it something to relate to and give it a heart. ❤

      • I agree. The issue, I believe, lies in our natural psychological self-defense mechanism. We’re afraid to share our weakness, our current emotions, oftentimes unaware that it’s those emotions humanize us and allows each of us to connect with one another.

        Great read and sorry for your loss, Lisa.

  3. My sympathies for your loss. I think grief expressed and shared has its own healing qualities and really helps others as well. I didn’t know for sure what my blogging was going to be about when I started. I kept thinking that, as a writer, I should stick to writerly concerns. But actually my blogging is about everything that strikes me and interests me, and blogging that way has connected me to a lot of nice friends. Meanwhile, I felt the connection and importance of friends, reading what you wrote. I think connection between people is what counts most in life.

  4. very touching experience, but your journey has to continue, and still continues, regardless. one thing to never forget: no matter how things go, all things will work together for anyone who has good intentions.

  5. Wow this hit me hard on so many levels. My mom passed away when I was just a child and yet, sometimes it feels like just yesterday. I love that you said “love” and not “loved” — with a “d”, because it’s true, we continue to love those daily who we’ve lost. I never thought about it that way. Thank you. So true.

    As far as the struggle to write or to keep this blog about something other than your truth, well, ART and Creativity are kind of fickle that way. There is no technicality to it. You’re going to do what’s in your heart one way or another, best it come out through your ART, through your Creativity, than somewhere else. Thank you by the way — for letting loose. You helped me today. I still think of my mom daily, and love her — no past tense. And that mattered. Your sharing from your heart, gave me a gift. Thank you.

    I don’t struggle at all with the idea that we may only have days to live because that’s how I live my life — I have since the day I was 11 years old. Something changed in me when I lost my mother. She was so young. I’ve always felt I lived on borrowed time. I’m not sure that’s a great way to live your life either by the way, I overly celebrate my birthday now because I always think “wow, I made it another year”. There’s something cliche about “living in the moment” and thinking we may be better people if we knew we only had so much time to live. Truth is, we do the best we can, while we can because ware human. And living like we may be here next week or next month or a year from now, is not a bad thing. It’s what humans do and it doesn’t mean we’re not grateful, or taking things for granted or anything like that. And just like humans we fall into cliche’s all the time. You can live one day at a time — thinking that might be better, but there are trappings in all of it — trust me.

    I don’t know you, but I look forward to reading and learning more. I’m sending you a hug anyways because you walked me through this early morning with a fresh idea. I love when that happens. In the meantime, continue to be kind to yourself. What you’re going through is hard, it just is. And that’s okay. Get through this day however you can — knowing that your writing, your art, your creativity – is a gift and maybe part of how you walk on through…

    • Thank you so much for not only taking the time to leave this response but for also saying such kind things and giving me the reminder to be kind to ourselves. I rather fail at that one. But most of all, thank you for the wisdom in your words at the end, about our creativity being how we walk on through. Yes, yes, and yes. Best of luck to you on your path.

    • Thank you. I think if we can touch our deepest emotions and some how find the words for those, then we touch the lives of others around us because we all respond to those things we recognize in ourselves. Good luck with your writing.

    • There are so many of us out there in the same boat. It’s amazing how words keep us afloat. Oh, gee, just realized I’m a poet and didn’t know it. Seriously though, thank you for your kind words and good luck with your diary.

  6. My dear sympathies for you and all who cared for Sam.

    I believe you said something quite interesting, and it made me think very deeply as well. Where you said, “I struggle with thoughts about how I would live my life if I knew I had only days.” I think that most people go straight into thinking that they might try to do the things they wish they would have done before they found out they had a short time left, like go sky-diving or climbing Mount Everest. I’ve probably said it myself. However, when I really honestly and seriously ponder over it, I wouldn’t do any of that. I would probably stay home with my family…laugh with them…watch a few movies…play a couple card games…finish the current book I’m reading…and enjoy the things I care about most with all the time that I have remaining. I started my blog over week ago, and I am beginning to wonder if my purpose may change as well. Since really, when it comes to it, we all have stories to tell, or we will.

  7. Just attempted a baby step this morning in starting my own blog and I came across yours, Lisa. I was so blessed and inspired by what I see on your blog. I love your transparency. I don’t know the story of Sam, but I suffer with you. We can choose to block our pain and not live, or let us feel the pain and “live”. Sometimes the pain gets so dramatic we temporarily “pass out”, just like in the natural world. I am just starting to “come to” from a deep trauma. I was dramatized with losing both parents and a close brother at a young age but nothing compares to what I have been through the last 18 months. I was the editor of a large Amish newspaper for 26 years and writing is my pass time. I loved printing stories of hope and “life” in my paper. Many people responded to the articles telling how it affected their lives and because I had many free hours, I spent hours corresponding with struggling and hurting people. Because I showed acceptance and compassion to the Amish downtrodden and socially barred people I was challenged on my beliefs. When I upheld Jesus as the only way to “life” and did not shun people who the Amish shunned, I was dramatically attacked in front of my church. We were so emotionally dramatized, my wife and I walked out sobbing. It has been a really really tough time for my family these last 18 months. It cost us our reputation, our business, and is nearly destroying my family, but we are still alive; maybe a little numb and not as confident – but alive. At 52 years old I am adjusting to working out and making do with a minimal income, but I struggle the most of being shunned and not being able to help my people. My life was in writing and walking with people, and suddenly all of that was cut off. I have not written anything to speak of in the last 18 months, but I have resolved to crawl out of my shell and “LIVE”. Your blog reminded me that there are other humans out there, just as real and needy of each other as my people. Thanks so much for the reminder and may God bless and comfort you on your journey.

  8. “I struggle with thoughts about how I would live my life if I knew I had only days.” ==== Back in the ’60’s the Grass Roots had a hit song entitled “Let’s Live For Today”. It was a great anthem but then most of us grew up and realized that the cliche “Live for today but plan for tomorrow” was sadly true. Fifty years later I still struggle with that but I’ve decided what it really boils down to is: What am I willing to leave undone? Loving and nurturing of relationships don’t even show up on that list. May you find comfort for your grief.

    • I still love that song. And your question is exactly what we need to think about – what are we willing to leave undone. You put that into words perfectly.

  9. Thank you for sharing, because I’m new to this platform I don’t know your story connected to the loss you mention here but as one who has recently experienced grief of a very close loved one I sympathize and feel your pain. Yes continue talking and sharing as you feel comfortable you are supported. Blessings.

    • Welcome, and nice to meet you. If you go to youtube and type in ‘Sam P. Grafton’ you will see a lot of videos of who we have lost. Though the world knew him as a world-class kayaker, we knew him as a baby and little boy and young man and part of our family and community. Wishing you the best as you move through the life ahead of you with your grief.

  10. Thanks for sharing, I understand it too.. I just started my blog recently and I need encouragement to keep up with what I’m doing.. I also need inspiration

    • Good luck with your blog. I think the inspiration comes with being honest with our thoughts and emotions but at the same time it’s scary to make yourself vulnerable on a public forum. Hard to find the balance.

  11. Hi Liza,
    My deepest sympathy to you and the family. As it has made other readers to think hard about it, I am no different to contemplate about the phrase you wrote in your article ” I struggle with thoughts about how I would live my live if I knew I only had days to live”. It is so powerful, and the fact that it didn’t even cross my mind, makes it so much of a blessing and opportunity for me to have read your story and pick up such great value for human life. Thanks for the lesson, and sorry once again for your loss. “JOY WILL COME IN THE MORNING”. Stay blessed

    • I’m not sure why it is that we so seldom think of our own mortality as we move through our days of jobs and responsibilities and just plain being busy. There are so many things more important than that, right?

  12. I lost my father a few months ago and grief has certainly weaved its way into the words on my pages…your post is achingly beautiful, and the images, haunting…we recently scattered my father’s ashes among the tall trees of the forest that I can see outside my city windows…I’m so sorry to read of your loss, yet glad I stopped by to lose myself for a few moments in your words.

  13. Hi Lisa, it was refreshing to read something where I felt the emotions behind the words. Too often that personal emotion is non-existent in writing today. It is written very much removed from the topic or without context. I felt your pain through the writing and want to say I am sorry you are going through that pain. I felt connected right away and will continue to see what you put up on your blog. I am brand new to this blogging adventure and am focused on being me and being real in what I am putting out there. Take care!

  14. Hi Liza
    I sympathize with you, i understand how it feels to loose someone but I’ll just tell you it is well. I actually just opened my blog and decided to check some bloggers and then I saw you. I must tell you that STRUGGLE is a hit, I mean its encouraging and I learnt a hand full of lessons. Thanks for that. Just reblogged it now.

  15. I don’t know who Sam was or what happened to him, but I connect with your grief and grieving. I too have lost a loved one. I feel your grief. Hugs.

  16. This gives me so much inspiration. I am an extrovert socially but some things I can’t share and anonymity gives me the power to share them.
    Starting my blog for the first time, it was a struggle to make that decision, somehow having done it relieves me of the stress of having thoughts in my mind that I can’t share with anyone.

  17. Ugh! First I am so sorry for your loss. I always think of those that have left us, too soon, as angels watching over us, right there with us although we can’t see them. Losing a loved one is so hard and so tough, but with time the grief will leave and you will be filled with great memories of the happy or special moments you had together. I hope that eventually, you will be at peace with it and that every time you think of your son, you will smile and laugh and share amazing stories of his life.
    Many Blessings!

  18. I am extremely new to blogging, just joined this site. But to read even the title of this post draws me in. Your emotions are so strong in your story and it’s incredible. I’m so sorry for your loss. I absolutely love that you tie personal thoughts and grief into your writing. It’s healthy. Again, so sorry for your loss!

  19. Love never dies. And as a writer, we vent and commune through our writing. Don’t feel sorry sharing your grief. Sending good thoughts and prayers your way.

    • Thank you. Words are how we see and move through our lives, aren’t they? I have a terrible eye for color and told a friend once that I’m not color blind, I just see the world in words instead.

  20. This is beautiful Lisa. I started this anonymous blog after my 25 year old brother committed suicide. He died after calling 911 for help. He was suffering in that time of his life, silently. So in his honor, I chose not to lice another day silent and confront the root of my issues head on.

    Our stories will help someone. This post brought me solace, even if it’s just for the moment, thank you!!

  21. For the past month I have been feeling the anxiety building as the first anniversary of Sam’s death approaches. I cry more easily. I imagine his death with a depth that makes me uncomfortable. I find that all of the ways I have carefully kept myself insulated from the deepest pain associated with his death are less effective now, this too seems part of the process of accepting that he is well and truly gone from the world.

    His spirit has been a strongly motivating force this past year. I have pondered my reason for being, made drastic life changes (one of those things that you’re not supposed to do, sorry but it’s been really good for me, I am financially poorer but richer in all other ways) and am trying hard to leave some good in my neck of the world.

    I have also been making some art, which is far more therapeutic than I ever knew. I’m carving lino blocks for printmaking, most recently one with his kayak, one that says ‘for Sam’ which I will put under the other blocks I have made that say ‘shine’ and ‘love’.
    I made some prayer flags and will block print them and those who attend the one year anniversary get together can write messages and then the flags will hang around his kayak. His dad and I have plans to go to the rapids where he died and hang some there as well. It’s a difficult place to get to, by land, by water and also emotionally.

    I thank you so much Lisa for continuing the conversation about the grief associated with his death. For saying his name, for not letting this whole thing slip into the past. My biggest fear is the erasure of time and as long as I live I have to keep him here close by.

  22. Thank you for sharing your struggles. It is good to know I am not alone in my struggle. I never know how much to share, where is the line. I ended up starting with a safe helping others with budget topic just to feel like I am helping somehow instead of lost in my feelings.

    • Share what you need to make it through your struggle. Take care of yourself and do what you need to find your way. How will anyone around you know what you need if you don’t share? If that sharing helps you process, than share away.

  23. Hi. It’s almost 2 years that my son in law aged 33 passed away of a heart attack in his sleep. We must live life in a way that stays true to who we are.

  24. Completely relatable, every time I try not to make my blog a public diary – I find nothing but what I feel and my life to write about and I’m learning how to be okay with that despite being stripped naked to the virtual world

    • I think it goes back to one of the tenets of writing in general. If we can’t dip deep into our emotions and be honest about them, we can’t expect our readers to identify, relate, and feel those same things. If you like to read, think about those stories that have stayed with you long after you put the book down, and I’m willing to bet it’s because of the emotions you felt and reacted to. I think it’s the same with our blogs, which is also the reason it can be scary. So here we are, emotions exposed to the virtual world, like you say. Good luck with your blog. I’m willing to bet if you are being this honest, it is good.

  25. Wow. We must allow ourselves to feel every emotion fully, whether food or bad. It’s part of humanity. Don’t feel bad for sharing. It is also part of healing. Even in your grief, your writing is beautiful.

    • Thank you for your kind words. You’re right about the importance of allowing ourselves to feel every emotion. I remember a doctor once giving me a prescription allowing me to get angry and slam doors. He also wrote out a prescription allowing me to have fun. It was pretty funny. I was recuperating from an illness and my emotions were all messed up. He said ‘do I need to put it in writing that it’s okay to feel emotions?’ and I walked out with prescriptions. I still have them as reminders! As you say, it’s part of healing.

    • Someone said once that we die twice. Once when we die physically and once when there is no one left who remembers us. That’s always stuck with me and I wish I could remember who said it. But it’s also why I like to write down the stories of my great-grandparents so my son will remember them. As you say here, it keeps them close.

  26. This was so well written. It’s like you can hear the heart break in every word and you want to rejoice that you have that place to grieve freely. I am sorry for the loss you suffered but rest assured your shared struggle is helping others who don’t have people to grieve with. Thank you for sharing.

    • Back years ago, from, say, the 1930s and earlier, death was more common, I guess would be the word. These days it’s like our society doesn’t know how to handle it. So we become uncomfortable talking to the grieving person, or talking about our grief. When sharing is what is needed. Not for all, obviously, but for many. Not having that community like what used to exist, makes it harder and more isolating. We were incredibly lucky to have a community, both within a small town where Sam grew up, and in the larger world where he was well known as world-class kayaker. Community makes all the difference, whether that community is a whole town or just a single person to talk to. Wishing you the best.

    • Thank you. Although it seems like I receive way more than I give, if that makes sense. So much kindness out there in the world. That gets lost in the amount of negativity right now, especially in social media. But truly, there is more kindness than we realize.

  27. How would I live my life if I knew I only had days? I, too, think about that question. The answer I have arrived at is to live each day with purpose. Hopefully then, should I have foreknowledge of the date or time of my death, the question will not be how I will live my last moments. I would hope to live these moments with the same sense of purpose I had lived each day. Time will tell, of course!

    • That’s a good way to look at it. I’ve decided to make sure each day has some little kindness in it, whether to another or to myself. So many days get sucked into stress and negativity and then they’re gone. As you say, time will tell.

    • Thanks, Colleen. I saw grief described once as looking like an EKG printout – you know, the heartbeats with the highs and lows. It said at first it’s like your heart is beating very fast, with deep lows. Then it smooths out, slows down, maybe the lows don’t dip as far, maybe the high points climb a little. And then it races in again. My takeaway was that grief isn’t something that ‘gets better’ with time, but is that long, never-ending strip, with good days and bad days, for the rest of our lives. I found that image comforting as it allows you to know there’s nothing wrong with us because we’re not ‘getting over it’ or ‘moving on’. Wishing you days of more highs than lows on your EKG path.

  28. I thank you Lisa for your courage and honesty…your vulnerability…YES it is that raw openness that helps us to recognize and accept what is in us, and therefore connect us more strongly to others.
    Thank you for your “lifeline” that you share here with your blog. I am grateful for your heart and share the sorrow of your loss. Thank you for bringing beauty and love in your words.

  29. So sorry to hear that but as you said it is life and we have to seriously live it while being aware of its end…i started my blog the same way,and i share the lessons i learn from life and my prespective on certain concepts and as the name suggests i only do that every once in a while…so yeah thanks for sharing and remember that we are all in it for a good reason 🙂

  30. safe cup of stories. yes this is true. stories are a huge part of my happiness on earth. as I share them and listen to others I get lost in the magic of storytelling and love it…
    Thank you for your deep personal thought. just what i needed to read today…

    • I think we’ve been about stories since the beginning of time. Even people who don’t read or don’t think of themselves as storytellers. Something as simple as someone asking them how their day was, and they become a storyteller. It’s hardwired into our humanity, right?

      • Oh, my grandmother told the same stories over and over and over. As kids, we’d get so bored with them. Now I wish I’d written them down as I no longer remember most of them. Or that I’d paid more attention while she and her stories were with me.

      • To be able to tell your story, always power in that. Some people can only share their stories in places where strangers are, or a select few that are close to them. I am still waiting to share, and not feel angry. Or feel like my story even makes sense when I tell it. But that is why I have started up with WordPress, and reading other peoples stories. So it gets easier. 🙂

  31. To be able to tell your story, always power in that. Some people can only share their stories in places where strangers are, or a select few that are close to them. I am still waiting to share, and not feel angry. Or feel like my story even makes sense when I tell it. But that is why I have started up with WordPress, and reading other peoples stories. So it gets easier. 🙂

  32. I lost my husband November 24 2018. I know your pain and live it everyday. Sometimes I feel lost but I try to push myself as I know he would want me to be happy. Everyday seems to bring a different emotion. I just try to get through each day, trying to be positive and moving forward.

    • I’m sorry to hear this. Can’t imagine losing a partner. Are you getting the support you need? I imagine you have a network of family and friends. But there are also wonderful grief counselors out there. And if you’re a more private person, even a grief journal can help. Yes, try to be positive, but also allow yourself to grieve. You have that right and you’re worth taking care of yourself.

  33. It was painful to read all this, life is full of struggles. We also achieve many things which we want. But one thing which is important in difficult times is “Be Optimistic & Hope for the Best”. From World Eye Watch

    Wish you a happy life.

  34. Hi Lisa, thanks for sharing. Writing should he therapeutic, imaginative. Free. Never restricted by anything. I hope it continues to help you through the highs and lows. Look. After yourself

  35. I agree so much life is overflowing with struggles and I feel that that makes life more of an adventure because once you achieve that strife you feel as if you can accomplish anything and everything. I don’t know if this is just me but nothing is impossible. “the word impossible says I’m-possible” Audrey Hepburn.

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