My story, well I could say it is complicated…
I have given birth to 4 children, 2 who walk this earth, and 2 who grew their wings, and passed on from this earth. My first child died in a car accident when I was 21 years old, and I was the driver. Then 8 years later my 4th born child died from brain cancer. I know grief and survivor’s guilt. I have had 40 years to learn about my grief journey, and how to live my life with grief. People always ask does it get better or easier? I can say yes it does, but only when I was ready to be better. This is what I hope to empower my reader with. The knowledge that they don’t have to remain stuck in the pain. Of course there are times when pain is triggered by something, but we can control our reaction to those triggers, and let the pain flow out of us, not hold onto it. Self-talk is how we live everyday, learn to change your life by how you talk to yourself!
Grief, it can destroy you, your family, and your faith.
We try to hide it behind a “grief mask” or “happy mask”.
The grief underneath is always there, until we learn to let the pain go.
The mask allowed me to pretend I was normal. It was a coping skill.
I have been through hell twice with the loss my children. I have lived my entire adult life dealing with grief. There are many realities that come into play with extended grief. The stress of “complicated grief” as they now call it, affected my life greatly.
Here is my story of an intense life that led to becoming a grief coach.
I made the choice to move forward, in order to allow joy and happiness back in my life after each loss. Living in the darkness for years was an ugly place. I clawed my way back out of the darkness to learn to live with my son’s memories of love in my heart, instead of holding them in my arms. As I have grown and healed, I have reached out to help others, with 2 grief support websites, speaking and putting on workshops at 2 national conventions for grieving parents, creating a grief retreat, 2 Facebook support pages and the writing of my books. This at times takes a toll on me, as I am human, and an empath, so at times I need to step back to catch my breath. Over 1500 of my Facebook friends are grieving, so when I open up my home page, I mostly see pain. My friends and family are there, but they are drowning in a sea of posts about pain and loss. I try and offer some positive support to turn those negative post to positive posts. If my heart see that someone is struggling very hard, I contact them to offer some love and support. I think Facebook is a great source of love and support, but I see way too much negativity in the group support pages. There is validation in acknowledging the pain and loss, knowing you are not alone, and that others do indeed know how it feels. I just don’t see enough balance, help with actual healing, positive solutions, encouragement for growth. This is why I try to help.
I learned about love and loss at as a young parent. I became a mother at age 19, was a stay at home mom, and totally enjoyed and idolized my son. His name is Terry. When I was 5 months pregnant with my daughter Mindy, I wrecked my car, and watched my son Terry die. My life was forever changed, and my path was full of the cruel reality of grief.
My daughter survived safely nestled inside my belly. She was our miracle baby! So there I was 21 years old, pregnant, and grieving the loss of my first born. My idea of who I was was gone, I was no longer a mother to a 2 year old here on earth, I was an expectant mother who was terrified that her baby was hurt in the wreck also. In 1980 we didn’t the testing available we have now, it was a wait and see. She had a strong heartbeat. She kicked hard. That’s all I knew.
Pregnancy causes mood swings on it’s own, now add total and complete shock, overwhelming pain, and fear and guilt. My world had crumbled in a blink of an eye. I didn’t even know who I was yet, as a young woman, and had no idea of what the word grief truly meant. I thought I was making good progress through the grief, putting the pieces of my life back together, when my fourth child, Brandon became very ill.
It took a couple of months, to find out what was wrong. The first Doctor’s thought he had inner ear infections, then when he could not keep food down, another Doctor did a upper GI test, then told me she had literally no idea what was wrong with him. The journey to find out what was wrong was terrifying for me, but knowing was worse. Brandon was diagnosed with brain cancer and spinal cord involvement, at age 14 months. He died at age 17 months, after 2 brain surgeries and two heart surgeries, and a round of chemo.
Losing my first born child nearly destroyed me,
losing the second child was so much more brutal!
Then my mother died in my arms from an brain aneurysm.
So I know grief, and survivor’s guilt.
I have had an entire lifetime to learn about my journey with grief.
Socially, for many people these are the anchors. Our sense of balance in life. Our family tree, our children, our parents, our siblings. My mother helped me survive the loss of my children, so in losing her, I lost my lifeline so to speak. I was on my own. I had to make the decision to let her die peacefully in my arms, as she had asked me to do. She had survived the loss of two grandchildren, and watched her daughter spiral thru the pain. She deserved to die in peace. I had to be strong enough to provide that last act of love for her.
I was once asked by a young woman holding her newborn baby…
“What is the hardest thing about being a mother?”
I told her not being one…
And turned away to hide the tears that came, even after 25 years.
(I worked in a hospital, and I had just finished poking her baby for a blood test, and had wrapped her up and gave her back to her mom. As I was walking down the hall, I thought to myself, “WOW where did that come from?”) YEAH grief is always there, it is a part of me forever.
To me grief is like the ocean waves. It can grab you and drive you down into the depths of the darkness, drag you across the rocks, stick you in a crevice or two, and then it eases up so you can swim back to the surface. When you come back up, you are cut and bruised, and in a way different part of the planet, gasping for air. You start swimming again for the shore, and sometimes you make it, and sometimes the clouds roll in before you make the shore, and the waves get you again. I had made it to the shores of Grief Beach. I felt the sand between my toes, it was hot, and felt like broken glass, but as I started to walk away from the water, a “sneaker wave” came up from behind and washed me away again into the sea. This time I fought even harder to get back to the beach, for I knew I could make it! I was tired of swimming in the sea of pain, tired of holding my breath and dragging across the bottom rocks. I made it back to Grief Beach, with bigger emotional scars, but stronger emotional muscles from all the swimming THRU the pain. Now as I walk upon the sand, I am able to dip my toes in the water, but not get washed away. I sit upon the cliffs during my emotional storms and watch the waves crash against the rocks, but I can hold onto the strength that got me to the beach, and wait for the sun to come out and dry my tears. I can sit upon Grief Beach and watch the beautiful sunrises and sunsets with love and joy once again in my heart. I have learned the emotional storms come and go, and yet the most beautiful sunrises are here each day if we only look..
When Brandon was diagnosed with cancer, at age 14 months, and died at age 17 months, I was back on the bottom of that ocean… dragging across the rocks… but as I came up again, yet in a different place, with new scars, this time I made it to Grief Beach. In the beginning there were days when I thought I would not make it another day, now I look back and see that indeed I made it many more days.
How did I do it? Simply one day at a time, and when times were tough, one breath at a time. No more no less. For a while, years in fact, I was lost in my grief. Nothing made sense. I was angry at the world, but especially angry at myself. Pain became my best friend, I took her everywhere with me. She was my constant companion, always right there in my heart. When it was time to let her go, I was afraid of that too, who was I without her?
It took great courage, and much love to take that turn in my journey to become bigger than my pain. But when I finally took the correct path on the beach, I started to live again, I allowed myself to feel joy and happiness again. I stopped crying because they were gone, and started smiling because I got to share their amazing love for a short while. I did not do this alone, I had so much love and strength from others in my life. My passion now is to pay the love forward, and help others reach the shores of Grief Beach.
Thirty years ago when I wrote the first edition of my book, Love & Courage. I wrote to help outsiders looking into the grief of losing a child. I have grieved for others in my life, my mother, grandparents, aunts, friends, but truly no grief was as deep as my child loss. That being said, the “stages” of grief for anyone you care about are the same, it is the intensity that changes. So here on my grief support site, the focus is on healing from any loss, not just children.
I do not think my pain is any more or less than someone else’s, it is just different.
Grief is emotion, and what are emotions?
Energy in motion.
My Book, Becoming Bigger Than Our Pain – Thru Love & Courage is a revised edition of the book I wrote 30 years ago. My first book was titled Love & Courage – Becoming Bigger Than Our Pain so when I make reference to a book that is what I am talking about. What I want to mention is the history of my logo, it was drawn originally 20 years ago by a high school art student. I told him my heart had been ripped apart, and that I was healing, but that I wasn’t completely healed, it was a work in progress. I wanted two hands sewing a heart back together. His drawing is in my first book just as he drew it. He did a great job for a 17 year old boy who did not have a clue of what grief was. As I prepared to publish the second book, I contacted a local graphic artist, Brynn, to update my artwork with color, and refine his drawing. She did an awesome job of making the logo come alive! To many people a logo is just a cool picture that grabs your attention, but for me, it is a part of who I am. It represents the grief journey of having our hearts ripped open, and the lifelong journey to repair the jagged edges. So when you see my logo I hope it inspires you to know that healing does take place in our hearts, one stitch at a time.
I have published articles online and in print, and was interviewed for a national magazine after the first printing of Love & Courage. I am still actively writing, but I take time for family to stay balanced. Loving the ones who are here on this journey with me.
“Sandy Brosam is a courageous author and speaker; she has the ability to put her deepest thoughts and emotions into words. Having survived the death of two children, Sandy draws from 40 years of grief experience to help others move forward in their grief. She devotes a great deal of time on social networks in dialog with others providing support and help.”