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 All the darkness of the night is no match for a single candle that refuses to die out.

Hello friends. It’s me. Just a little candle that’s been holding on in the wake of the darkness of grief.

I haven’t been writing or sharing regularly, because, when living with grief, it is hard to tap into creativity or really anything in addition to the daily things needed for survival. If that sounds dramatic, it is. But it’s the truth.

What I have learned is the timeline for “feeling better” is fluid. The feelings ebb and flow with periods of light, then darkness, then a little more light. Annnnnddddddd, repeat.

There have been so many times when I thought about sitting down to blog but something stopped me. I felt blocked. I had no energy. I didn’t know what to say. There was this emptiness in me that made it hard to channel any words. I felt like I had nothing to give.

My therapist gave me good advice – just start writing. Write something. Anything.

So here I am, writing something.

Losing My Mom

For anyone happening upon my story for the first time, I lost my mom to pancreatic cancer in 2016 after a 10 month battle from diagnosis to death. My super happy and “normal” life got turned completely upside down in an instant. I will look back at photos, and there is a definite, distinct separation of time. Life before, when everything was okay in the world and life after, when nothing would be the same again.

When my mom got sick, I stopped everything, including blogging regularly, to help her and my dad. I researched about the disease, treatments, clinical trials and attended every doctors appointment.  I would have done anything to save her. When she got sick, nothing else mattered. It’s all I could think about. She was my best friend. I couldn’t lose her. I couldn’t live without her. But then the news came, there was nothing else doctors could do, the cancer had taken over. She was home for 27 days on hospice care before she died and our collective hearts, mine, my sister’s, dad’s, my precious girls’, were broken into a million pieces.

The First Year of Grief

The following year, the first year after she died was a blur. I remember getting through the memorial service, and then each day thereafter was a mix of fuzziness, grit and despair. The pain and anxiety was so bad, my mind had to put an end date on it. I tell myself if I can just get through this first year, I will be better next year. There is no choice, it has to be better, it can’t be worse.

So we power through as a family all the firsts. The first birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, etc. without her and the list goes on and on. I find the anticipation of the event in the days and weeks leading up to it are not quite as painful as the actual day. When you have kids, you can’t spend Christmas in bed sobbing, so we fake it, we make it magical for them. Because that is what my mom would have wanted. We do this, over and over again, until we make it through the first anniversary of her death. We survived.

The Second Year of Grief

Okay, time to “feel better” now. I have lived a year without my mom. I “should” be better this year because I have gone through it before. I know what to expect.

Except it doesn’t quite work that way, at least it hasn’t for me.

It is sort of cruel to think that year two could be worse than the first year, but for me it has been. I didn’t think that would even be possible. But the hole of missing her so much keeps getting deeper.

I am now able to deal with the obvious hard “event days”, because we know how to do it. It’s the surprise ways that the grief sneaks up on me I wasn’t prepared for.

Like looking at a photo I snapped of my girls on their first day of school this year. They looked so pretty and grown up. My heart swelled with love and pride.

It was the “second” first day of school since she died, but this year, looking at that photo, I just started sobbing uncontrollably because I couldn’t share it with my mom. She would have been equally enthusiastic about their cuteness and agree my kids were THE most beautiful kids that ever walked the face of the earth. And I would say, RIGHT?! But I couldn’t.

The fuzziness of the first year is gone, but as the fog lifts, the reality becomes more clear. She really is gone. She’s not coming back. It’s those moments like the above that reinforce that fact over and over. Little things, incidental things. The loss is immense.

Enter a little depression and anger. And loneliness, so much loneliness. It’s hard, so hard, to lose someone who can’t be replaced.

Finding Some Light

About halfway through this second year, I knew I had to get back to therapy. I have always been a huge fan of therapy. I have always gone on and off on in the past, but for some reason, when I needed it the most, I stopped going. Didn’t have the energy to face it. But I decided I need to get back and found a new therapist who has been really good for me. When you are struggling it’s important to realize we don’t do life alone. There are people to turn to for help. In this case, I needed a professional!

There are many, many, many difficult emotions that come along with grief, and they will wait there for you until you are ready to deal with them.  At some point you have to look at them smack in the eye and say, “OK, bring it.” Therapy has given me the space to do this. In facing them, I have started to find healing.

My therapist also happens to practice something called EMDR, which I had never heard of before, and she believed would help me. I didn’t realize how much trauma, anxiety and post-traumatic stress I was holding on inside me. The visions, the snapshots, the memories of those last days, were all there. The EMDR has helped me process them in a way that doesn’t elicit the same panic response it used to.

I am not done, I don’t know if you are ever “done” but I am on the way to days filled with more light than dark. The journey continues.

Writing

My therapist has really encouraged me to start writing here again, she must know how healing it will be for me, and I know she is right. But I am also a bit scared because blogging isn’t the same as when I started in 2008! This summer will mark my 10 year anniversary of starting Tiny Oranges.

My baby, Emma, who was 2 at the time is turning 12 and going to Jr. High next year. This summer I will have a 12-year-old and a 9-year-old. I have TWEEN ORANGES. There is so much I want to write about but it’s not the same vision I had here when I started. We don’t go to many parks anymore but, oh my, there a lot to talk about.

Moving Forward

Let me let you in honestly, on what I am thinking, I am just going to blurt it all out. I welcome, encourage, and would run to your house with a latte and hug you if I could, for any and all feedback or thoughts. Here are some ideas I have been pondering for this space…

How about a branch of Tiny Oranges called TWEEN ORANGES? A place for me to talk about the issues parents of tweens are facing today. Would you be interested?

But what about all those mamas with TINY ORANGES? I loved having resources and tips and sharing life when I was in the trenches of having babies and young kids. I feel like I still want this to be a place where mamas can connect. But it’s just not my phase of life anymore. Is anyone out there reading this, someone with littles, who might want to take on writing about life with tiny oranges? Drop me an email, jennifer @ tinyoranges.com. Let’s talk.

I don’t have the answers today, but like my therapist said, just start writing.  The posts to come might feel more like a stream of random consciousness but I just want to get back in the saddle. Will you take the ride with me?

Life is so hard. Life is so beautiful. Life is so unpredictable. I want to share it all.

In the meantime, here are 5 random things I want to share in upcoming blog posts since I am talking about random streams of consciousness, and want to get some ideas out on this paper.

No. 1.  I love my Instant Pot. You might be saying, welcome to the year 2018, Jen. But truly, for anyone that doesn’t have it…TOTAL game changer! I will share my favorite recipes please share yours when I post because I am really obsessed and finding those no fail IP recipes make me happy.

No. 2. You guys. This article on teens and phones. Wow. I am working on a blog follow up with my own letter that suits my 11-year-old in the stage she is at and want to share.

No. 3. Books. I love to read. Love, love, love to read. But I need page turners, books that grab you from the get to. Recently discovered Holly Seddon.  I am a fan. Want to share more page turners. Here’s a list of 15 of my all time faves. Want to do a new updated list.

No. 4. OC Locals. Have you been to the old lighthouse / lookout tower thing in Laguna? Lived here my whole life and just discovered with the family this weekend. Will share deets. Super cool. 

No. 5. Gotta EARN it sometimes! My daughter begged me to go to a $675 gymnastics camp this summer, of which the price seemed exorbitant – just learned how to spell that word – and we said, OK, if you want to go that badly, dad and I will pay for half, but you have to find a way to make money so you can pay for half as well. She has made over $240 selling something in just over a month! Super cool, will share.

How about we start there? Love you guys. Until next time…

xo,

jen

38 Comments

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38
  1. 1
    Tiffany DeBorde says:

    Oh Jen I am so sorry for your loss and trauma! I lost my dear, sweet step-mother to brain cancer in 2013. It took 14 months from diagnosis to her death. In a moment my life as I had known it was gone, never the same. My twins were only 6 months old and I was devastated that they’d never know their silly, fun, loving grandma. It broke my heart. I really connected with your comment about the trauma of those last few weeks. I used to tell people it was like a form of PTSD. I don’t know what EMDR is (maybe that would be a good future blog post?), but I’m glad it’s helping you. I can say from my experience that at some point I’ve been able to compartmentalize those darker memories and focus more on the happier times. They don’t haunt me like they once did, but it takes time. I hope you can find more peace soon. Big hugs to you. Thanks for sharing. You’re not alone in your grief.

    • 2
      jen says:

      Thank you Tiffany for sharing your story and for your encouragement. I am so sorry for the loss of your step-mother – it is so difficult to watch your loved one die. It IS a form of PTSD – absolutely – I don’t know if people talk about this as much, and I want to. And yes, I will do a future post on EMDR because it has really helped me with my PTSD. It is also so helpful and encouraging to hear a time will come when happier times and those memories are more salient than the final days. Much love to you. xoxoxo

  2. 3
    Antoinette Suggs says:

    Hello and Suggs *HUGS*,

    It’s not only your day, it’s your life. What is relevant to you at any period of your life, will always be relatable to others. Without question – I’m here for the ride with you, and I have no doubt so are countless others.
    I was just at Rancho Las Lomas last week with my 8 yr old son for a school field trip. Reminiscing of my special wedding day there (10 years ago this May), with ‘It’s your day’ by my side… just before your Tiny Orange came to be. Love the idea of a new ‘branch’. As a mom of a child only a couple years away from ‘tween & teen’ years, I’d love to read and have some insight on ‘Tween Oranges’.

    Thank you for being real, and finding the courage to share. Reading your stories from the past two years helped me guide a best friend whose only sibling (44 yr brother) was also diagnosed with pancreatic cancer – stage 4. He was with his family about the same amount of time after diagnosis as your mom. My ability to share your story really helped them brace themselves for the reality that was soon to be…

    So again, thank you for just being you.

    You have more support than you know, and I was compelled to comment in hopes you would feel the support – instead of me ‘supporting from the shadows’ by reading but never commenting.

    Suggs *HUGS* to you 10 years ago, today, and always.

    A & D Suggs

    • 4
      jen says:

      Oh Antoinette!!! It is AMAZING to hear from you!! Has it really been 10 years you have been married?! Hard to believe how much can happen in 10 years. Yes, I feel your support, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love and encouragement. I am so sorry to hear about your friend’s brother. Pancreatic cancer is ruthless. And brutal. I am so sorry. And as a blogger, comments mean more than you can ever imagine, so thank you for taking the time to reach out and not support from the shadows. Sending love to you and your family!!!

  3. 5
    Annika says:

    Thank you for sharing Jen ❤️

    • 6
      jen says:

      So happy to see your name in my comments Annika, thank you for taking the time to leave one. Love to you and your family!

  4. 7
    Melanie says:

    Just wanted to say you are still my hero! What a brave, honest, vulnerable post. I am beyond moved and honored to call you my friend. Warmest hugs to you and the whole family. Keep it going, and the path will become clear as it unfolds!! xoxo

    • 8
      jen says:

      Love you Melanie, thank you for always being there for me. xoxo

  5. 9
    Holly Giuliano says:

    Love this so much Jen. So many hugs and prayers for you. And I am LOVING the upcoming topics and will be watching for them. I am 100% for Tween Oranges. As you know I have 9 and 12 year old girls. My oldest lost a classmate to suicide in January so I am ALL over this topic/social media/phones/etc.

    • 10
      jen says:

      Holly, it is so amazing to see your name again in my comments. Thank you for the encouragement, and thank you for sharing my post. Means more to me than you probably know. And, yes, we have the SAME ages so I know the topics we are facing will resonate and I look forward to having more conversations with you about raising tweens in this day and age. How tragic to have your daughter experience the loss of a classmate, at only 12. Heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing. Prayers for her family and friends.

  6. 11
    heather harder says:

    Yay!!! So glad to hear/read you again. Enjoyed all of this. I’m here for you! I’ve been wanting IP recipes – mine has been sitting more than anything. And of course I’m interested in Tiny Tweens – great ideas! Please share. I admire your honesty. Love you Jen xoxo

    • 12
      jen says:

      Thank you HH for being such an amazing friend. I am excited to share my IP recipes with you! xoxoxo

  7. 13
    Monica A. says:

    Thank you so much for the honesty and the genuineness of your post. I sat in the bathroom reading it…as my boys, 2 and 7 played in the bath. I couldn’t put it down—it touched me deeply…especially your comment about losing someone who couldn’t be replaced. It’s my biggest fear.
    I love all your ideas for the future. In addition to my boys, I have a 6-month old baby girl…so I am just starting out in that regard. I love to read about new places to go w/ the kids…but I also like the deeper pieces/reads as well. Can u do some type of combo/ a little of both?
    Thank u again for the post.

    • 14
      jen says:

      A thousand times yes, on doing a combo. There are parenting topics that are universal to all ages. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. You are busy with those ages, I know how busy, so thank you. Please keep coming back. Love to you and your family.

  8. 15
    Janie Duke says:

    Oh Jen! So glad you took your therapist’s advice and started writing. I’m so sorry for your devastating loss. You are such a gifted writer and I could feel your pain. I wanted to reach through the screen and hug you. Praying for you as you grieve your mother’s loss.

    Thank you for sharing the article on teens and phones. This has been such a hot topic for me lately. I saw Kirk Cameron’s new movie Connect a few weeks ago and it is playing one more time this Saturday. It’s a must see! Check out connectmovie.com. After watching the movie, a friend purchased a book from one of the experts called Teens and Screens which left her speechless. She shared a couple of things with me at the beginning of the book and it was shocking. I have to get a copy now. Then a couple of days later, I saw a post from a 9th grade teacher that has gone viral on FB about what her students shared that their parents don’t know about social media and devices. Shocking and heartbreaking! Then at a volleyball tournament this weekend, a mom shared an article about Musically which my daughter has been begging me to let her have for the last year. I was uneasy about it and now so glad that I said no. I have a 10 year old daughter and am dreading the day she gets a phone. I would love articles on this and other Tween/Teen topics. XO

    • 16
      jen says:

      Oh Janie! Thank you for the thoughtful comment! I feel like there are like a hundred topics to cover with Teens and Screens. And I feel for our generation having to parent our tweens and teens through this time because we don’t have experience to draw from. I am going to check out Kirk Cameron’s movie. And can you please share the article on the 9th grade teacher? Thanks again for the thoughts and encouragement. xo

  9. 17
    Denise says:

    Jen,. Thank you for your honesty and raw emotions. You were such a welcomed text at the most difficult times when my mom was going through her horrible cancer diagnosis. I was out of my head. You taught me such a valuable lesson. A little reminder of a text, saying, “Hi, I’m just thinking of you today, no need to respond back. That was the most heartwarming and soothing feeling. Really, a friend from a far, with little connection to me. This was a gift. I will pass this tiny, but hugh blessing to someone else in need of a friend. Keeping writing, you have a way with expressing yourself as others can’t put down on paper.

    • 18
      jen says:

      Denise, I am so deeply sorry for the loss of your angel mama. Thank you for taking the time to comment. xoxox

  10. 19
    Shauna Mullins says:

    Jen, Beautifully written and oh so sad I almost can’t take it… thinking of what you’ve been through and naturally relating it to “what if I/we had to go through that”? I’m so sorry for your pain and I’m so happy to hear there is more light in your days than darkness. Love the transition from Tiny to Tween Oranges- too clever! P.S. The Tether yourself article was amazing and I’ve read 11/15 of your favorite books! Look forward to your next entry! Love, Shauna

    • 20
      jen says:

      Shauna, thank you so much for taking the time to write such an encouraging comment. Love to you and your family. I look forward to sharing more tween conversations with you!!!

  11. 21
    whoorl says:

    Oh, Jen. Although I haven’t lost a parent, I have felt the depths of grief and everything you wrote connects with me on an incredibly deep level. Know that I am thinking of you and sending you so many healing thoughts. xoxo

    • 22
      jen says:

      Sarah, thank you so much for taking the time to comment. You know how much it means to me :). I miss you.Love to you and your beautiful family.

  12. 23
    Melanie says:

    Love you my friend! Thank you for sharing! You are an amazing person and I totally admire your strength!! xoxo
    I need some Tween advice, my vote is for a Tween blog! And I always love your book suggestions!!

    • 24
      jen says:

      Love you too Melanie… send me your tween issues / conversations you want to have. We are in this together!

  13. 25
    Pam says:

    Jen – sharing your story is helping SO many that are suffering with grief. Please keep blogging and YES would love to open the conversation to teens and tweens. Tiny Oranges are growing up right along with you!
    Your voice is so honest and true!

    • 26
      jen says:

      Pam, thank you for being such an amazing voice in my life, and for your never-ending support and love.

  14. 27
    Cameron says:

    Jen – Such a powerfully important and brave message to share. Thanks for being so open and honest. As you know, I’ve been traveling this path as well and couldn’t agree more on everything you said… especially the 2nd year is harder part. I know I was pretty numb that first year and not fully registering the grief. I SO wish my Mom could be here for all of Libby’s milestones. What we would give for just one more phone call or hug from Mom. And yes, Tiny Tweens would be awesome! You are amazing! Love you so much my friend, xo

    • 28
      jen says:

      Cameron, I am so sorry you are also on this path. I wish no one else ever had to be. The milestones are so hard. Our moms SHOULD be here to experience them. I just have to believe in some way shape or form they are. Love to you.

  15. 29
    Megan Swanek says:

    I lost my Mom in October of 2014 when I was 6 weeks pregnant. I never expected the 4th St. Paddy’s day to be even harder than my 2nd Christmas without her, but last Saturday I was crying on and off all day. It all started when I was making small talk with a nice Mom in my daughter’s dance class, who had her mom there watching. I asked where she lived…and when she explained they lived together, I think she was a bit self-conscious. To counter that, they both started speaking at length about how amazing it was to see her growing up, see her daughter as a mom, etc. I held it together until I went home and my husband asked how dance was. I lost it completely. I find little things that make me feel better, like “Quality over quantity” but mostly feel robbed of the 20+ years we could have had together.

    My Mom was my best friend too, and we had 14 months after her diagnosis. I am so sorry we have this in common. Thank you for sharing.

    • 30
      jen says:

      Megan, there are no words for how sorry I am you also lost your best friend like I did. And, I can’t even FATHOM going through what you did and what I did being pregnant. I want to give you a huge hug and just let you know how inspiring your strength and resilience is. I spent some time on your blog….so many similarities with our experience. She is with you and she will always be with you, and the things she taught you live on in you and your kids. But oh my gosh, even though we know that, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t give to have her HERE with me. Thank you for sharing. Sending you so much love.

  16. 31
    Maryann says:

    Thank you for sharing yourself is. I will be praying for you and am so glad you are writing again. It brings me and so many others joy.

    • 32
      Jen says:

      Thank you so much. Your comment fills my heart with hope and joy.

  17. 33
    Dana M says:

    Hi Jen! This may sound so strange, but I thought about you this week. I wondered how you were doing and if you would ever come back to writing on Tiny Oranges again. Getting your email made me smile!

    I am glad to hear you are thinking about writing again. Our kids are the same ages, so I am sure you going through the same things I am currently going through (smart phones, social media, peer pressures, etc.). Any of those topics would be great. I’ve also really started enjoying “lifestyle” bloggers. Sharing your favorite finds….including clothes, recipes, etc.

    With regards to your mom, I am just so sorry. My dad passed away 3 years ago and life for me has also been so tough. I would like to tell you that things get better, but they don’t…they just get different. And, yes, I also have a defining line in my memories….BDD (before dad died) and ADD (after dad died). It is strange how that works.

    Well, I hope to see a Tiny Oranges email pop up in my inbox again soon!

    • 34
      Jen says:

      Dana I will never forget getting your Chipotle gift cards in the mail to help us through that time. Only when your heart has been broken open yourself can you truly know and understand when someone else’s heart is going through the same. And your gesture was a sign of just how much you KNEW what we were going through. I will never forget it. God utilities Angels on earth to get us through hard times and your gesture was certainly part
      Of His plan. I say BC and AC, Before Cancer and After Cancer. Once again sign of our kindred spirits.

  18. 35
    Aracely says:

    Oh Jen! Thank you for sharing. I’m in my car sobbing as I’m reading this. My mom is currently in the hospital and the end is near. I can’t even function right now. I function because I have to and I know what lies ahead. I am beyond moved by for post. Thank you for your honesty and rawness. I think many will relate to what you’ve shared.

    PS there really is a need for teen/tween blogging. I know I would read. ❤️

    • 36
      Jen says:

      I cannot tell you how much my heart is with yours and feels the heartbreak that this time brings. It is unfathomable. I am so so so sorry. It is also a sacred time too, in a way, like witnessing a birth into eternity. But it almost rips your heart out in the process. My love and prayers are with you. I am here for you….

  19. 37
    Mary Martinez says:

    Jen, I was so happy to see Tiny Orange in my Inbox, and happy to see you writing again!

    Thank you for sharing your story on your path navigating through a time of grief.

    I’m excited to hear about the Instant Pot- I do not even know what this is, but apparently I need to!!

    I’ll also be interested in hearing about Tween Challenges. I’ve got a few years to go, but I’d like to be as prepared as possible for when my kids hit that age.

  20. 38

    […] my last, heavy post on grief, I wondered how I could segue into a light and fluffy post on my five favorite no fail Instant Pot […]

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