Sunday, January 30, 2011

This week I'm THANKFUL FOR.................

I never saw our daughter Savannah run or do so many things after she became when Dempsey’s sweet girlfriends taught her to jump rope I never take these little things for granted.  Watching the thrill in her eyes and her dimples emerge deep in her cheeks as she hurdled the rope…giggling and out of breath, brought a smile to my face…………

When there's so many starving in this world I'm thankful for the delicious waft of fresh baked bread that invokes comfort……still warm and crusty and waiting to be torn apart and devoured.........

And then feeding the crumbs to the starving sparrows that wait for me now in the fresh morning air.

I hear fluttering in the trees as the birds flock to our yard…hopping from branch to branch in eager anticipation….starving, they watch me sprinkle crumbs onto the dewy lawn……I feel good that I’m sharing with natures tiny friends.

Listening to Demps twinkle our piano keys as she practices every morning, it's breakfast for my soul.  Her latest song "You fill my heart" just does that!  :)

Watching Dempsey shake out her pocket money from her piggy bank and count it for the hundredth time as she hoards penny after penny away for the Panda bear she's desperately saving and waiting for..…..

We bought this pretty rainbow wind catcher. It's calming to watch it spin and twirl in the breeze outside my window............

Dempsey had a Grandparents day concert at school on Friday. 

Oh the tears spilled as I watched my baby on the big screen to the tune of ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’  A special moment I had the privilege to witness however was bittersweet as my Dad and of course my beautiful Mum, couldn't be there to see her..... 

She was the only child in her class without a Grandparent and this made me sad...but wait, oh how lucky we are.....Dempesy's BFF's Grandparents invited her out for lunch with them......  "Would Demps like to adopt us for the day?"  they asked me.  I tried hard not to cry at how grateful I was!  They will never know how special it was for me...and Dempsey...even if it was at 'Denny's' :)

And the icing on the cake was yesterday!  Meet Pixie the Panda...its a Fur Real Pet and growls, giggles and snores if you leave it alone for more than ten minutes! (louder than my husband too!)

My absolute joy yesterday was watching my baby in the long check out line at T J Max.  She smiled at strangers and they smiled back....with love in their eyes at Dempsey, waiting patiently, piggy bank in one hand, brimming with coins.....and her Panda in the other. 

Even the check out boy wasn't perturbed at the crash of coins she unleashed on his counter....and I was also THANKFUL for that!:)

Wishing you Sunshine if your cup is blue and a great start to a new week!

love D x

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Losing AND gaining friends after grief! x

Sometimes, after a life altering event, strangers become friends and friends become strangers…..

It’s like some friends put you in the “too hard basket.”

I am blessed to have all weather friends, and I love them for that.....but I did lose some after Savannah died!

It’s difficult when friends run and duck for cover, avoid us and pretend everything is ‘normal’ when it’s not…… But that’s human nature I guess. It certainly weeds out the people who matter, who didn’t and who never will. And that is sad, but it’s the reality of being a casualty of grief.

As I lost one after the other, after the other, after the other of my family...I saw friends drop off the radar, stop emailing, phoning and making an effort to invite me out. And to be honest, I DIDN’T want to be lured out to trivial birthday or house warming parties where everyone was laughing or drunk…or celebrating some insignificant (to me) ‘happy’ occasion…...

No, I wanted to hide from reality and get through some tough days, or hours, or minutes….where I could curl up under the blankets and pretend the world was different to what it truly was.  It was the only way I knew how to survive.

When Savannah was diagnosed, out of the blue with her fatal illness, I went from a girl who occasionally danced on tables and was the life of the party to someone who’s world had been demolished…shattered! Like a hurricane had ripped through it!  And I didn’t know how I would get through moments let alone days after being told my child was going to die and there was nothing we could do to save her life.

Savannah at Disneyland just after she was diagnosed....we wanted to take her there before she got too sick.  Love this photo!

Life doesn’t get any harder or any more real than that. And I knew, having such a large circle of friends, they would call, some out of pure love and concern, and others out of curiosity…….. And I couldn’t face them!

So at that time, Peter and I decided to send out the email below ….

Peter and I thought we should email our friends and let them know about Savannah's test results. We know people are probably aware she was having tests, and up until last week we did not have a diagnosis.

Savannah has been diagnosed with Metachromatic Leukodystrophy (MLD), which we had never heard of until now. Metachromatic Leukodystrophy is a terminal illness caused by a rare genetic fault from Peter and I.

Unfortunately, there is no treatment. Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant is experimental at this stage and we are still consulting with Doctors' as to whether it is an appropriate treatment for her condition.

Savannah is still the same beautiful little girl she always has been, she is just having problems with her walking at this stage.

As you can understand it is a very emotional and difficult time for us and our families. We are trying to come to terms with everything and make decisions on what is best for Savannah.

We just ask that you give us some time and not contact us, as you can understand it is just too difficult to talk about at the moment.

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers. Thank You.

And we did need time out……to sort how we were going to carry on……. And as days turned into months and years I didn’t think ‘some’ friends would take that email literally and NEVER contact us ever again….but that’s how it is.

And I can look back now at all the people who aren’t in our life anymore….some I’ve chosen to cut ties with….who didn’t ‘understand’ that to lose a child is one of the hardest things that life can deal you! And some, have chosen not to stay in touch….and I’m fine with that NOW too! I’m not the same! There’s no going back to who I was……my identity now, has changed.

In saying all that, one friend I love who I did lose contact with, just through moving and life getting in the way, tracked me down me last Saturday…..through this blog!

I don’t have the words to express how thrilled I am that Natalie somehow found me……and we’ve talked, and laughed and cried and talked on top of one another. And the beauty of ‘old friends’ is that you have history with them.

Natalie hugging me at her wedding.....I was her bridesmaid and she was mine! :)

Natalie knew my sister, my beautiful mum AND Savannah……how lovely for me that she had the courage to make that first move and reconnect!

So to any of your reading that aren’t sure how to act around someone facing a challenge….pick up the phone or type that email…. Bonds that are created during hardships are some of the strongest ones…..YOU have the opportunity to really help and touch another….and it feels good, trust me!

And as for Natalie and me, well we’ve planned a reunion.  I promised to dance on a table again…with her …and to hug her and introduce Dempsey to her twins. It will be big! :)

love you Nat! x

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A smoking gun? One explanation for growth after grief! x

Do you ever read something or hear something and it’s like “Whammy?”

Like a lightening bolt has struck you!

You shake your head, utter “Wow, Oh my gosh…I get it now!”

Oprah describes it as an “Aha Moment.” Well I had one of those moments….a revelation after I read Kim’s insightful “Alive and Mortal” blog.

As my eyes scanned the article, it was like someone had turned a blinding light on….like I'd found the smoking gun that explains why I see beauty in the minor details of life….now! 

And sometimes it sounds cliché, but I do see the richness of the little things in my day to day experiences, that I didn’t before.

Kim posted an article from on post trauma. It’s not about post traumatic stress syndrome, rather “Post traumatic GROWTH syndrome.”

In the article it states how after grief or trauma,

“Some never recover. But most do. In fact, nearly two thirds of trauma victims, even those who had extreme pain, say they ultimately benefited from the aftermath of their experience, according to the research of Richard G. Tedeschi, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Tedeschi and his colleagues have tracked outcomes for people who survived accidents and other traumas, such as life-threatening illnesses or the death of a child, and identified a phenomenon they call post-traumatic growth:

Some survivors grow closer to people they love; others develop a sense of personal strength or appreciation for life.  Still others deepen their spiritual beliefs or change their career and life goals."

 You can read the full article here on Kim’s blog:

I have to agree…my direction has changed, altered, been hijacked….however you want to describe it!  I wouldn't be writing this blog if it wasn't for grief.  I do see life in a different light now. A beaming bright glaring a more appreciative and intensified manner.

Savannah is why I see the world the way I do today! My sister Tarnia, and my Mum have also added to my growth into a person who values every crumb of my existence. Even though my grief will always be there, it’s like now, the world has been stripped bare for me to see the beauty. And I have grief to thank for that.

So in saying that, every week, I hope to post some photos from my days to inspire, to show gratitude and to ‘choose life’ in just the little things that I grasp onto…

Here are some moments from my past week that I am thankful for.....

   Dempsey all rugged up, on her first trip to experience snow at Writghtwood!

A picture speaks a thousand words....squeezing my there anything better?

Watching Demps build her very first Snowman with tender loving care!

Winter has melted into Summer this week in California....I love to watch my girl swim laps on a warm Saturday afternoon

 Another day I am blessed to enjoy..............Sunset from our backyard last words are needed!

One of my favorite things in my world...candles!  My new candelabra on our Friday night happy hour where I get to enjoy laughter, love and the company of friends! 

 Dempsey feeding the swarm of ducks chunks of stale bread.  Grubby and gorgeous after a day in the sand at the park!

 Just one word!  "Love"

The thought of Dempsey opening her lunchbox today and imagining the smile my little notes bring to her sweet cheeks!

I hope in the future, those of you reading who are experiencing fresh grief will also have this gift….actually I don’t hope…I know in time, the gift of engaging in life and being grateful for the little things and who you become through grief will transform you.

PS:  Thank you to all those who commented, emailed and supplied me with love on Savannah's Anniversary.....know you made a difference to my day.  Thank You!  Diana x

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Some thoughts of my Angel for her Anniversary.......

Tears come easy this week.  It’s Savannah’s week. 

Even though the Anniversary of her death is on the 14th, my sadness starts early….and every year I wonder if THIS year will be different.  Well its not! 

I had to count on my fingers how many years it's been as it still feels like yesterday.  And I ummed and ahhed over writing this post as it's not inspirational, just my honest feelings......  I didn't want to seem like I am having a 'pity party'...but I am.  

Monday, I found myself in the cheerful card aisle at Target, with tears dripping down my face as I tried to choose a birthday card for my Dad.  I can’t help thinking his time to leave could be any moment.  He turns 77 on the 23rd of January.  And I know he can’t live forever.

The song "Because you loved me" came on the radio in the car this morning…..I changed the station, but my fragile state of mind couldn’t be altered……

My daughter’s Anniversary is one of my hardest days, yes, every single year!  And I know I can’t fix that.  I know I have to work through my grief and let the misery and unfairness of it all envelop me.  I also know that by mid afternoon I'll feel better as  the day moves on.  It’s the only way I know………….

    Savannah the week she was diagnosed with her fatal illness.....

Tomorrow it will be seven short years since she left

Tomorrow I will sob

Tomorrow I will relive her final hours, remembering her fighting to breathe

Tomorrow there will be a crushing pain inside me

Tomorrow I will be grateful I am her Mum

Tomorrow I will obsess over ‘why?’

Tomorrow I will try and stay busy

Tomorrow I will be thankful for everything Savannah taught me

Tomorrow most people I encounter won’t know my daughter died this day

Tomorrow Dempsey will help remind me how lucky I am, even when I feel unlucky

Tomorrow I won’t have the energy to do something in her memory but knowing if I do I will feel better

Tomorrow some people will avoid me

Tomorrow some people will be there for me

Tomorrow I won’t care about anything that needs to be done in my house

Tomorrow I’ll avoid watching the healthy happy kids at school her age

Tomorrow I will conceal my tears from others

Tomorrow I will miss some special friends

Tomorrow I will hurt that Savannah went through so much pain that she didn’t deserve

Tomorrow I will feel guilt at that pain she went through, that as a mother I couldn’t take away.

Tomorrow I know those who remember will remember how special Savannah was

Tomorrow I know my mum won’t hug me and make me feel better

Tomorrow I will feel sorry for myself

Tomorrow I will appreciate my family and friends

Tomorrow my husband won’t acknowledge Savannah’s Anniversary

Tomorrow will be a day normal for most…life goes on the same for them

Tomorrow I will still be without my daughter

Tomorrow I will miss what I could’ve had, should’ve been and isn't 

Tomorrow I will miss smelling her smell and smoothing her hair and looking into her beautiful blue eyes that said so much, even though she'd lost the ability to speak

I wish I could skip tomorrow………………………………………

     Our angel..................

Tomorrow if you can, do something you love for my little girl who can't be here.  Hug your children, indulge in something sweet, notice the smell of a flower and the warmth of the sunshine.....all those things were so special to her and will make me feel she has touched someone on her special day.....

Thank you!

Diana x

Monday, January 10, 2011

My wall of 'dead people'

**The following article was published on where there are some wonderful articles on surviving grief.....

Do you ever find comfort from a stranger?

I guess people who are the closest to us treat us differently……they mollycoddle us, handle us with kid gloves.....treat us in a different way……..

While in Australia over Christmas I met a girl, an outsider to my world, who knew nothing of my losses. It was interesting to chat to her about ‘my life’……I don’t usually tell new people I meet how I’ve lost so many family members, it blows their minds sometimes.  But I’m glad I did with her!

In our little cottage in Australia I have a wall of dead people! 

That may seem strange to some, but not to anyone reading who is traveling this road through grief, it’s not so odd..  I love my wall. I love that my mum’s photo is there, in her stunning black hat.  Looking elegant and happy on the day of our wedding.  It's healing to have my sister Tarnia up on it, to remind me how precious her children are....and as a reminder to enjoy life!  And then there's Savannah....oh how I take comfort being surrounded by her sweet angelic face!

   My wall in Australia...and if I'm not mistaken, as I posted this I'm sure there's an ORB next to Savannah's baby photo.......maybe it was our Angel wanting to be in the photo!

However, I guess it’s confronting to some, maybe a bit morbid……but it’s no different to having them there if they were alive. It’s just that they aren’t!

Peter and I have decided to build a new home in Australia, overlooking a lake, on a grassy hill where I will be able to enjoy my morning fix of caffeine while drinking in the view and serenity of water. I can’t wait! Well anyway, this girl who is handling our home plans had to meet with us to discuss the changes we’d made to the sketches.

   Our 2 acre block in Australia where we'll build our new home and new memories.

During her two hour consultation we sat in front of my wall. This is how the conversation went…………..

“It’s nice to finally meet you both….What brought you to this little country town anyway?”

I told her about my sister Tarnia, how after she was killed we wanted to be near her children and Tone……. She was shocked of course and offered her condolences…I pointed out the photo of Tarnia I have on the wall and I could see in her eyes that she felt genuinely sorry for my loss. But I didn’t go further as I could’ve......

After a few minutes of her absorbing my bombshell about Tarnia, we got back to business.

“So Peter and Diana, I see you’ve enlarged one of the bedrooms, why was that?”

“That’s our daughter’s room, so we’ve decided to increase her space.”

“Okay, so how many children do you have?”

This is where it always gets tricky!  I'd already traumatised her after Tarnia's story.....should I tell her about Savannah....Mum?

I know from experience people can freak out when you tell them, it's like I've somehow grown two heads!  Some don't know how to react and I notice them shift in their chair, uncomfortable and not knowing what to say with such information……that we HAD two children but one died…… So I decided not to go there, just to say we have one child, Dempsey! We discussed the plans and while Peter stepped outside to take a call she was admiring my photos on the wall…this one in particular……

    Our Family Portrait taken when Savannah was three and getting sicker.  Dempsey was only 6     weeks old.............

I could see her mind ticking over, she could clearly see there were two children in the photo, and I have to admit, I was slightly amused that I knew what she was thinking…..who was the other little girl in the photo? I also knew she wasn’t going to ask.

Because I know how people react when I tell them ‘my story’, I didn’t want to spoil her day… I decided against putting the pieces to the puzzle together for her.

Anyway, a few days later she had to phone me over some house stuff. I guess her curiosity got the better or her and that conversation went like this…….

“So, Diana, Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure, what’s up?”

"I couldn’t help but notice in your family portrait that there are two children……was the other little girl from a previous marriage?”

I had to smile…funny, I never imagined someone thinking that. Especially since I had told her I’d been with Peter since I was a teenager.

So I decided to spill the beans, tell her EVERYTHING…..her reaction was just as I suspected….shock, disbelief, amazement and…………  She went on to ask if I minded telling her what Savannah died of?  How does someone survive that? How do I cope?…amongst other things.  And I found the whole conversation so comforting. Here was a complete stranger giving me comfort that some of my friends haven’t been able to supply….some 'best' friends!

And I found out she has skeletons too, life altering health issues that she felt she could confide in me about. How amazing I thought!

We chatted for almost an hour, not about trivial house plans but about “life” and hopes and our fears. And I have to wonder why this ‘stranger’ could talk to me about all this and some of my closest friends can’t?

I kinda believe it’s because people feel talking about Savannah or Mum or Tarnia will upset me…..that somehow it will remind me of all the sad stuff……. Well you don’t forget….it lives inside you every single day! If only people would take a moment to mention their names sometimes, or tell a story of something they remember… is soothing to the soul of anyone who has lost a loved one. A gift! It keeps their memory alive for us who remain without them.

I also remember meeting my lovely friend Steph. The first night she joined our crew for a BBQ, she took me aside and said she’d heard so much about Savannah….and could she see a photo!  How special that was for be able to introduce and show off our beautiful angel who touched so many lives. I will never forget it!

    One of my wall's here that I had the pleasure of showing Steph!

And my dear friend Lynny, I still read the sympathy card she sent us…pouring over her words. They don’t say “Sorry for your loss”….they talk of a time when we visited her house…and how Savannah loved gooey pizza and the song “Five Little Ducks.” And I love her for that! All these things may not mean much to those living, but they mean so much to us…………..people who are missing their loved ones.

So to any of you reading who haven’t lost a child, or a parent, or a sibling….or somebody special…..I encourage you to talk about our loved ones, it’s like a warm embrace to us. A chance to revisit some memories and say their names again. I love to talk about Savannah but find the opportunities are becoming less and less these days as time marches on, and I find that sad……..

And as for my new friend who is helping build our home….there’ a bond there now. The last conversation I had with her she told me she hadn’t stopped thinking about me, Savannah or our it's changed her priorites.  She also told me she wanted to go to Italy, more than anything....and that she's going, this year now! 

We ended our chat with her telling me she was about to phone her her mother in-law, who was uncomfortable leaving her house and leaving her husbands ashes behind. Kim told me with a smile, she was going to invite them BOTH for Christmas dinner this year………………………..



Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Gratitude after grief for the new year! x


"The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude!” Thorton Wilder

Every new year I buy a diary.

In it I write important dates like birthday’s and anniversaries for the coming twelve months. It almost seems there are as many death anniversary dates as birthdays these days……..I always wonder where I’ll be in the pages ahead….who will be with us and IF we’ll lose anyone this year? That’s my reality! However, I think that’s a gift….to be aware that TODAY, the present, is a gift. To be enjoyed and never to be taken for granted.

January is a difficult month. It’s the month our daughter Savannah died. I do think of what we were doing on these days in January years ago as she got sicker and sicker and we knew her time was running out. And I try not to let my mind wander to the painful parts…….It was so sad and it’s hard not to think of what she endured. All of that is part of who I am now. I will be that person forever.

     Savannah a few months before she died..............

I am changed, there’s no going back.  However, now I look at life differently and live life fuller than what I did all those years ago……before I experienced so much loss.

I tell those people important to me how much I love them….and probably indulge in a bit too much red wine sometimes!  And as each new year converges on me, I feel a little bit further away from Savannah. And I hate that!

At this time of year, so many people are making lists, new year resolutions with hope’s and things they want to change about themselves. And it is a good idea to set a new goal…… wish this year is to cultivate happiness! It’s all about choices and choosing to have the right attitude each day. How hard can that be?

   We bought this last weekend's a lovely reminder to keep wishing and hoping........

And how can I not be happy when I have so much to be grateful for? I only have to look at Dempsey’s mischievous grin and soulful eyes to boost my serotonin levels. She’s a walking, talking example of how simple life is and how in truth, all we really need is unadorned love and mindfulness of what can be taken away in a heartbeat to become appreciative.

   My precious Demps!

Peter bought me a camera on the weekend, you know, one of those fancy, fan dangled cameras with buttons and dials that look like something out of a space ship! I can’t wait to learn how to capture memories and decorate this blog with tiny bits of my days that I am fortunate enough to enjoy…… get ready to be inundated! I want to be able to illuminate the little things that can magnify just how exquisite the world really is!

I have the privilege of being alive, of being present……it is my responsibility as Dempsey’s mum to be HAPPY and notice and pass on to her the little things in this world. Just this morning on the way to her school we noticed the mountain Big Bear is almost covered in snow. It’s magnificent! How fortunate we are to have this view every single day, when so many are stuck in poverty and homelessness. Yes, grief has left its mark on me…..opening my eyes, that’s for sure!

     Big Bear Mountain in the background this morning!  Beautiful!

So fasten your seat belts! 2011 will pass us by before we know it!

Don’t forget to slow down, to smile at strangers, to grab the good out of every single day….to STOP and notice the little things that can feed your spirit, share them around. Set good intentions, dream big and hold on particularly tight to your loved ones around you. There’s no stopping time!

                                The card my lovely neighbor Renee gave me..............

Thank you to all of you who have read my blog this inspire me to keep writing if I know I've helped just one of you with my journey!  I appreciate your support...YOU fill my blue cup with sunshine! :) x
Happy New Year!