Bereaved But Still Me

Grieving with Grace

October 03, 2018 Michael Liben Season 2 Episode 10
Bereaved But Still Me
Grieving with Grace
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Show Notes Transcript
Julia Wagner is the mother of Lizy, a daughter who was taken from the world far too soon. In this episode of "Heart to Heart with Michael," Julia shares with Michael how she and her family still celebrate Lizy. Julia shares how her faith was instrumental in helping during this traumatic time of grief and the role her religion plays in her beliefs about life after death. She also shares family traditions that keep Lizy's spirit amongst the family and how they are still able to celebrate her today.

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spk_1:   0:07

spk_3:   0:14
Welcome to the 10th episode of the second season of Heart to Heart with Michael Program for the brief Community. Our purpose is to empower community with resource is support and advocacy information. The season's theme is a celebration of life, and we were fortunate to have Julia Wagner with us here to discuss grieving with Grace. Julia will tell us about her daughter, Lizzie, in segment, to learn more about how the Wagners faith has helped them heal and in the third segment will learn about new traditions the Wagner family have created that have enabled them to remember and to honor Lizzie. Julia is the mother of six Children, the oldest of whom died suddenly and unexpectedly after an unforeseeable accident at home at the time was he was just two weeks shy of her 13th birthday, which added an extra layer of poignancy to her loss. Not only did Julia and her husband have to learn to handle their own grief, but how to tenderly guide their remaining five Children to the process of coping with their loss as a family and as individuals. Lizzy's parents have focused on remembering over the joy and preserving her place in their family by creating new traditions in her name as well as maintaining old ones. The family cherishes. Julia. Welcome to heart to heart. With Michael.

spk_0:   1:23
I am happy to be here.

spk_3:   1:25
Julia, please tell us about your daughter Lizzie and what she was like and the special role that she played in your family

spk_0:   1:31
as the oldest. She was kind of the caretaker of the family. She loved her siblings. She loved to play with them. Um, makeup games tell stories. He loved her, interact and and help them with different things and other people as well. She absolutely loved it. The color pink and silly, ridiculous jokes she loved to do access service and help others. One of her favorite things was to make fleece blankets to donate to the Children's Hospital. That started when her younger brother was in the hospital for a congenital heart defect, and she would help make these blankets to donate. She also ran a lemonade stand and would donate the money to the Children's Heart Foundation. And he just loved helping other people.

spk_3:   2:25
What did some of the things that she would do to help other people

spk_0:   2:28
well again? It was mostly with a a lot with the blankets and the lemonade. She, uh, would do things just go out of her way. If she saw someone who was sitting by themselves, maybe they were sad. A school event or a church or somewhere else. You would just go set by them, no matter the age. She would just go be there, buddy. Um, she was always ready to lend a helping hand. We'd walk through ah, parking lot out at the grocery stores. You see, someone who was struggling with their kids there with their groceries and she'd run over and help

spk_3:   3:03
Don't like a sweet kid. Yeah. How's the family dealt with the trauma over the resource Is that you drawn when you make plans for going forward?

spk_0:   3:13
Well, at first it was just were reeling from the shock. Um, I don't know that we really knew what did you with what had happened and how to guide the family through it. One of the resource is that helped us the most. Was the group here called in the Cincinnati area called for inside. And the thing that makes this group so unique is they are a child grief support center, and they focus on helping Children go through the grieving process. We knew there were plenty of AIDS for adults, that we were concerned about our Children and how to help them cope with losing their oldest sister. And this group was wonderful. We were able to meet with them, went the week and we would, um, have dinner and they would separate the Children out into age groups. So each of the Children would go with other kids their age and be able to talk with them about their experiences, their feelings and know that they weren't alone in what they were feeling. It really gave them away. Teoh understand and comprehend the grief process and to express themselves. And that's safe place. While the Children were meeting the adults as parents, we had an opportunity to meet with other parents and be able to discuss our feelings. Part of the time. We would discuss how to help our Children through the grieving process, and some of the times we would just voice our own frustrations are and grief with each other.

spk_3:   4:46
Do you find that this opened you up between in conversations between you and your Children. Did they open up to you better?

spk_0:   4:53
Absolutely. We would spend that many times on the drive home from for inside. We would be talking about what you know how, what feelings had come up, how it had helped them and that there were things that we found out because of the Children having been able to express themselves. Sometimes it was through an art project and they'd share with us Art Project. There's one instance when our third child, our daughter Emily, shared with us an art project and in this art project we saw that she was blaming herself for

spk_1:   5:31
Lizzie's passing,

spk_0:   5:33
and we were able to talk with her and address that and bring her comfort and help her understand that it was in no way or means her fault. And she was able to overcome those feelings of guilt.

spk_3:   5:46
That's remarkable. I found I had a little trouble getting my kids to talk about it when we lost our youngest, and it's been 5.5 years, and I don't think I've ever sat down either one of them and had a strong conversation. It comes up from time to tell him, but we've never said Okay, today we're gonna talk about it. Andi, I guess it's great that you had a group that gave you the way, give you the tools that you needed to go and do that. So my next question is, Is this something that exists outside of the Cincinnati area? Resist something that can be set up anywhere

spk_0:   6:18
aspires. I know it is not something that exists outside of the Cincinnati area, but I would love to see it and more places I can get a valuable resource that would really help families as they go through the grieving process. And I believe for inside has a website, and I'm sure they would be more than happy to help individuals set something like for insight up in their area if they were to be contacted.

spk_3:   6:48
Were the people that guide this of these professionals or just I don't need to suggest a bit of these professionals or people who have been there before or some combination

spk_1:   6:57
of both. I believe it's some combination of both. I know that they do have some professionals. They're also heavily staffed with those who have been through the process themselves

spk_4:   7:16
forever. By the Baby Blue Sound collective. I think what I love so much about this CD is that some of the songs were inspired by the patients. Many listeners will understand many of the different songs and what they've been inspired. Our new album will be available on iTunes. Amazon dot com. Spotify. I love the fact that the proceeds from this CD are actually going to help those with congenital heart defects. Join Music Home Tonight forever. You are listening to heart to heart with Michael. If you or someone you know would like to be a guest on Michael's program, please email him at Michael at heart to heart with michael dot com. Now back to our program. Tell us

spk_3:   8:09
a little bit about your safe.

spk_0:   8:11
Well, I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and

spk_1:   8:15
it has been part of

spk_0:   8:16
my life since a very young age, and I feel like it's really helped kind of lift us through this. We believe in Jesus Christ is our savior. We believe in God. We also believe that families are eternal and we will be together with our families after we die. That has helped a lot in bringing us hope as we have navigated the grief process and with the loss of our daughter knowing that we will see her again.

spk_3:   8:50
So you're saying it's It's basically it's a temporary loss. It's, um she's for the moment, not here. That's a very interesting you because not everybody has that.

spk_0:   9:01
Yeah, it is. And for ice, it brings comfort. And as we talk about it with our Children, it gives us something to be able Teoh, help them hope and wait for its hard to wait. We know, you know, we have to wait a lifetime, but it really does bring a level of comfort that I wish a lot of other people could feel and experience in their lives as they grieve for loved ones that they have lost.

spk_3:   9:30
Can you give me an example of how your faith has helped you deal with your loss of a specific moment when you drew on that poster?

spk_0:   9:38
Yes. Um, you know, there's been quite a few moments we believe heavily in prayer and praying to our heavenly father as well. Onda, Um there were many moments where I I wouldn't try really hard not to fall apart too often in front of the Children. And, uh so the car was kind of my outlet when they found myself driving alone in the car. And

spk_1:   10:01
there is one moment

spk_0:   10:02
where I was just really, um, just devastated and just having

spk_1:   10:09
really hard time.

spk_0:   10:10
And I was feeling rather hopeless, and I kind of had it out with God. I, you know, got a little angry and

spk_1:   10:20
there may have been a

spk_3:   10:20
little That's a well in

spk_1:   10:21
that car

spk_3:   10:23
has allowed a lot of people get angry. I think anger is one of the most normal things you can feel. And if you are first in the face, then you are going to look towards the source of everything is also the source of your your anguish. I think that's totally fair.

spk_1:   10:36
Yeah, it is allowed. And that was

spk_0:   10:37
something I had to learn that I was allowed to be angry sometimes. And as I kind of just headed out with God, I I just had this overwhelming feeling of love and hope come to me. And I remember to knew that I would see her again and that while it was really hard right now and the years ahead would be hard, and I would miss her every second of every day that I would see

spk_1:   11:06
her again. And I feel her with

spk_0:   11:09
me many, many times. Um, I just I feel a closeness that she is still around us even though we can't see her. She's still part of the family. She still with us, and we feel her presence Onda, knowing that we'll be together again. And, um, and knowing these things, it just helps me get through those really hard, tough parts where I'm just starting to fall apart and feeling like everything just kind of getting shredded to pieces. I can grab onto the pieces and pull them back

spk_1:   11:42
and make it through

spk_0:   11:43
and keep the family together and strong

spk_3:   11:46
in. In my faith, we don't have, AH structure a very good structure of the after life. We have a basic understanding. We more or less assume that were there, that will make it. But we don't We don't have a structure of being together again as a family. Is that specific LDS.

spk_0:   12:04
I don't know if it's specific to LVF that it is something that as being a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints that we it is definitely part of our religion. We we believe, you know, family is a central and integral part of our

spk_1:   12:22
religion, and we

spk_0:   12:23
believe that, um through Jesus Christ and God, we are able to be together as families. Um, for all eternity as a central unit and we believe we existed as families before we came to Earth and that

spk_3:   12:39
we will

spk_0:   12:40
exist families after we leave this.

spk_3:   12:43
I think it's one of things that has always intrigued me is the centrality of family because we we believe in some sense that, um, we'll be together in a way that we don't completely understand. It's not exactly physical, it's non corporeal. We don't really know what, what what it holds for us. But we don't have the sense that we will be together in one place and our family will sit together for dinner. Our family will be a family again. We'll be together. But we don't really understand what that means. And so I find it very interesting that the centrality of family and you mentioned before came to Earth as opposed to after. I just thank you So my question is, what the purpose of of of the middle part, the purpose of being alive is that in any sense, connecting the two parts from before and after or is it something else?

spk_0:   13:33
So it absolutely connects the two parts. We believe that we come to this earth to gain experience, to learn and to grow, to become let God wants us to become, to learn to have faith in him on

spk_1:   13:50
Teoh, follow

spk_0:   13:52
him. And as we learned the things we believe that when we die there's two things we can take with us. And those two things are knowledge. The things that we learn and experience while we are

spk_1:   14:01
here on Earth

spk_0:   14:02
and our relationship. So our families and also the friendships we make. We believe those relationships will continue on. And so the friends we make here will be the same friends that we have and hold dear after we pass on. And so the being here on Earth is the bridge

spk_1:   14:22
between those two parts. And so we have a chance to come and to learn and grow and experience. And then we carry that with us after way.

spk_5:   14:34
This program is a presentation of Hearts, Unite the Globe and is part of the Hug Podcast Network are tonight. Theglobe is a non profit organization devoted to providing resource is to the congenital heart defect community to uplift on power and enrich the lives of our community members. If you would like access to free resource, is pretending to the CHT community. Please visit our website at www dot hugged dash podcast network dot com for information about CHD, the hospitals that treat Children with CHD summer camps for CHD survivors and much, much more.

spk_1:   15:09
I was five hours old when I had my first surgery.

spk_4:   15:12
The only advice I could really give someone like that is to be there for your family.

spk_1:   15:17
This is life and you have two choices. You either live it Are you in a corner and cry.

spk_4:   15:22
I am in a Gorsky and the hosts of heart to Heart with Anna. Join us on Tuesdays at noon Eastern time on speaker are blocked. Talk radio will cover topics of importance for the congenital heart defect community. Remember, my friends, you are not alone. I am with origami l jewelry and we personalized luck. It's it has helped me heal so much by having that locket. I've had other friends and customers who have created lockets. They'd love their lockets, and they gift lockets to people who are bereaved or they're celebrating somebody to get your own origami. Our luck it contact Nancy Jensen on Facebook for her website. Dancey dancey may dot origami owl dot com. You are listening to heart to heart with Michael. If you have a question or comment that you would like addressed on our program, please send an email to Michael, even at Michael at heart to heart with michael dot com Now back to heart to Heart With Michael Welcome back.

spk_3:   16:26
We've been learning about Julia's daughter Lizzie, and how Julius Family's faith has helped them to deal with the trauma of losing Lizzie at the tender age of 12. Julia, tell us about the activities your family takes part in on a regular basis to remember and celebrate Lizzie.

spk_0:   16:43
I think one of the most important things that we do is we talk about her a lot. Um, our youngest child was

spk_1:   16:51
not quite

spk_0:   16:51
you when she passed away, and he was just so attached to her that we were worried about him growing up without any memory of her. And so we would tell stories on and, um, she loved jokes. We just do a lot with humor in our family. And so we have favorite jokes that she would

spk_1:   17:13
tell that we

spk_0:   17:14
just tell all the time as a family. And even though we've heard him a 1,000,000 times, we

spk_1:   17:18
still laugh over

spk_0:   17:20
him. And ah, we we talk a lot about her. We look at pictures a lot. Uh, there is special things that we do on the holidays and throughout the year. Teoh kind of keep her memory alive. Um, especially in the u the month where she passed away in April. We do some very special things at that point in time and over her birthday. Teoh help kind of ease the pain that that time of year brings.

spk_3:   17:50
We're going to hear about that in the rest of section, but go back a second. I want to hear about the humor because I think that's probably more important than it sounded.

spk_0:   17:58
Yes, so the humor we are family has coped with, um, trauma with humor for for years. Whenever things get stressful, my husband and I start cracking jokes. Um, and it all started with our when our son was in the hospital with a congenital heart defect. I'm not sure that the hospital staff knew quite what to do with us.

spk_1:   18:18
Um, that being able,

spk_0:   18:19
Teoh laugh about things. I was always of the opinion. You can choose how you react in this situation, and

spk_1:   18:27
you can laugh

spk_0:   18:28
or you can cry, But crying gives me a headache. So I prefer to last

spk_1:   18:32
on, and, uh and

spk_3:   18:33
I don't think you're alone.

spk_0:   18:37
So in order to relieve that stress, um, of of the grief and the heartache, we would tell jokes. And there was a period of time where she was in the hospital, and we weren't sure if she was going to make it or not. And it was that period of waiting time where it's just awful. No one likes to wait and find out what's gonna happen.

spk_1:   19:01
And in those

spk_0:   19:02
moments, we just I sent a message out over Facebook comic relief, and just all of these stupid jokes came flooding in, and it just gave something just kind of positive. And the hope ease the pain of of the moment and what's going on. And so that's just something we turn Teoh is. You know, when it starts getting too heavy, we start cracking jokes.

spk_3:   19:26
No, I totally agree. And I think there's no holds barred. Ah, friend of mine was recently in the hospital receiving his pacemaker at the age of 78. And we passed around on the Internet that, you know, the day he got his pacemaker is also, by coincidence, his birthday and that we passed on the word. We're all gonna get on roughly at the same time and fill his Facebook wall that day with hospital jokes. Okay, Going straight for the, you know, straight for the jugular. We're gonna joke about being in the hospital. This was a guy to take it, but I think that the idea is, um you have to break it with something. You've got a punch, a hole through it and the biggest hole that you can make. And really again, I people who haven't been there think that we're crazy. Where they haven't, they don't understand it. And I hope they never get there on the hope in that sense that they never do understand it. But From my personal experience, we've never been through morning or loss of it. Somebody in our house and our family like grandparent's without hysterical humor and laughter. And I think that's one of the most healthiest things that a human can dio. I really, really do. But let's move on. Tell me about you mentioned certain days of the year and you have different traditions. You talk about Valentine's Day. You talked about her birthday. He talked about that whole month. Tell me some of that

spk_0:   20:39
with Valentine's Day. That's a really special When, um, that wouldn't started when she was very little. She was about eight or nine years old, and she came home from school one day with a flyer that talked about a father's daughter. Valentine stands and she really wanted to go. And of course, she is one of three girls, and then we have three boys. But at that point we only had four. I believe, maybe five of the Children, and she came to me with the Flyer and she said, I really want to go and do this with my dad, and I looked at it, and the cost was something rather unreasonable. especially when we considered that he wouldn't be able to take just Lizzie, who would have to take all three girls. So I had to tell, Is he No. And she was pretty disappointed, and she's kind of staring at her feet and you could tell she was just really, really sad. And then she gets this little glimmer of hope in her eye, and she looks at me. She says. Well, can we have our own family dance?

spk_1:   21:38
Yes, of

spk_0:   21:39
course we can. And so a true

spk_3:   21:42
do It was born.

spk_0:   21:43
So she helped me make decorations, and we We cleared the kitchen area of the table and terrors and hung all these valentine decorations, and we made finger food and refreshments just like you would have at a dance. And she helped me pick out all the music and we just had a family dance. And so every year we had a family dense, and then she passed away and Valentine's Day came around, and we're all kind of looking at each other. And do we continue this tradition? And the kids were like, Well, we can't have a family down without You know it'll be hard to do without Lizzie, but we can't not have it. And

spk_3:   22:21

spk_0:   22:22
I went to the grocery store of all places just before Valentine's State and was walking through the grocery store and they had the shoes. Gigantic stuffed animals on surprise, surprise sitting on top with this huge pink lizard. And Lizzy loved lizards that

spk_1:   22:40
would force nicknames.

spk_0:   22:42
Um, and she actually didn't lighten the nickname Lizard

spk_1:   22:46
on, and she thought it was great. And so

spk_0:   22:48
there's this gigantic pink lizard and I was like, What are the odds? So I bought the lizard ticket home. We had the family dance and we still do it every year now. And we still have the big pink lizard and it comes down and everybody takes turns dancing with Lizzy the lizard. Since

spk_1:   23:06
you can't be with

spk_0:   23:07
us physically. So that's one thing that we dio

spk_3:   23:10
I think it's totally beautiful. And she's brilliant for coming up with it. Totally beautiful. Yeah,

spk_0:   23:16
yeah, and it's just brought so much joy. Uhm and we look forward to that. Uh, some of the other things we dio celebrate, um is in the month of April. So you know her? We call it her angel verse Ary when she passed away is,

spk_1:   23:33
you know, of course, two

spk_0:   23:34
weeks just before her birthday. And so the month of April gets to be really hard. And, um, she also passed away the day before Easter And that, of course, Easter is really big in our family. And so all of those things kind of combined make April kind of the month that were like, Oh, April's coming So

spk_1:   23:55
we decided

spk_0:   23:55
we needed to do something positive in her memory to get us through the month. And we thought back to how much she loved to make fleece blankets and donate them. And we began making fleece blankets in her memory and donating them to Fern side. The group I talked about earlier. Um, Burnside has a camp once once in your life camp that kids can go to, um, that works through grieving and all these things and at the camp that they give the Children these blanket. And so we started making blankets every year to donate to Fern Side. And it's been amazing because we get donations from people for police, and every year we make more and more blankets. Um, and this year we were able to donate 26 blankets and the other blankets we make in about

spk_1:   24:47
a two hour

spk_0:   24:47
period. And so

spk_3:   24:50
two hours blanket.

spk_0:   24:52
No, Like we set up a time, you know, we're gonna make these blankets between four o'clock in six oclock and all these people come from the community and

spk_1:   25:01
Kurt's toe

spk_0:   25:02
help us, and we get police donations from them before and during and just we start making blankets and we make as many as we can. And the fear we made 26. There was one I had to finish after the activity was over. But,

spk_3:   25:20
I mean, that's amazing. You. I think these are things that you can really only do with big families. But I'm trying to picture what it must look like every working on blankets. All right, so let's talk about Christmas before we go.

spk_0:   25:34
Okay? So Christmas, um, that was another really special when it was another course really hard holiday as it came up with. How do we cope with getting through Christmas? And I was getting ready. We're decorating the house, and I pulled out the Christmas stockings and, you know, we hang them in order of age And so you know, she's the 3rd 1 I hang and I picked up her stocking and I just sat and stared at it. And

spk_1:   26:00
you know, of course

spk_0:   26:01
I cried And I was like, What? Like I can't bear to have the stocking hanging there empty, But you know what? I can't not hang it. And so I talked with my husband and we said, Well, what if we fill the stocking with acts of service and encouraged

spk_1:   26:20
the family to

spk_0:   26:21
serve each other and other people? And what if we ask other people to send in access service and we can put them in the stocking? And that's what we did. We gathered our family and told them what our plan was, and they were really excited. And so they would go around all of December finding every way they could possibly think of, to do something nice for their siblings or for a neighbor or just someone in the community. And we put it out on Facebook, and we had her friends and even strangers that found out about it, sending in acts of service that they had done so that we could put them in Lizzie's stocking and we'd help. You were like it could be anything that's been done throughout the year. So we have some people now that, like save them all up all year long and they send them to us in December. So

spk_1:   27:07
then, after everything's

spk_0:   27:09
done on Christmas Day, after we've opened all the presents and done all of our usual things, we gather around and take Lizzie stocking down and read all the service that was done. And we think it's just a beautiful way. Teoh a gift for her and also ah, gift for our savior, Jesus Christ in for God.

spk_3:   27:32
It's a wonderful thing that you do. It's wonderful. I want to tell you before we go that I have fallen in love with your family. I've fallen in love with you. I have fallen in love with Lizzie and everything that you do. I just think you guys are great on. You're a model for people who are going through loss now. And you, What can I do? What? How do we possibly get through this? And how can we remember our loved ones in ways that we can keep them close in and not break down all the time And you guys really found that middle road? Um, I really and I'm proud to have met you because I think you really have given me something to think about personally. And I hope that our listeners will I have a very similar experience. And that concludes this episode of heart to heart with Michael. I want to thank Julia Wagner for sharing her story with us. And I hope that her family's creative ideas about honoring Lizzie have inspired those who are listening. Thank you again for being with us. Please join us at the beginning of the month for a brand new podcast. I will talk to you soon, and until then, remember, I loved ones. They're still with us as long as

spk_1:   28:36
we keep their memories alive. Thank you.

spk_4:   28:42
Thank you again for joining us. We hope you have gained strength from listening to our program. Heart to heart with Michael can be heard every Thursday at noon Eastern time. We'll talk again next time when we'll share war stories