If you have experienced grief, you know that “No One Talks About It.”  My story is about how confronting my grief led me to an unexpected pivot in my motherhood journey.

During our premarital counseling, my husband Matt and I discussed everything down to the decision that I would stay at home with our future children.  Both of our mothers were stay at home moms and we wanted our children to have the same experience.  I was grateful we had made that decision because when our daughter Cate was born there is no way I could have left her at daycare or with a nanny.  I could barely leave her with Matt for 30 minutes to go to Publix.  You could say I was the stereotypical first time, overprotective mom.  Then two months after Cate’s 2nd birthday, our family was complete when Connor arrived.

In summer 2014, we were approaching Connor’s first birthday and life was good.  Not to say it was sunshine and rainbows everyday – being a stay at home mom is the hardest job I’ve ever had.  But we were blissfully unaware that our lives were about to change forever.  On August 24th, my family visited from Tennessee to celebrate Connor’s first birthday.  The next day on August 25th I received a phone call you never want to receive – my sister Tamsen was gone.  She had died in a car accident the day after Connor’s first birthday.  The fact that we had just been together the day prior for his birthday was a bittersweet blessing but also a curse because I will forever associate his first birthday with tragedy.

The next few years were a blur, but Cate and Connor kept me going.  You can’t stay in bed all day with toddlers to care for.  Although I was functioning, it wasn’t long before I realized that I needed to see a therapist. I have a loving and supportive husband, an amazing network of friends and family, but I knew nothing about grief… because “No One Talks About It.”  For better or worse, I have always been good at deflecting my feelings, but Tamsen’s death was omnipresent in my life.  I felt like it came up in every conversation and I was relieving the trauma every day.  There were days I felt like I was wearing a giant sign that said “my sister died” and I quickly understood why people used to wear mourning clothes.  I was mad when people didn’t ask about her and then there were days when I was upset when they did.  Grief makes no sense and there is no roadmap.  One moment you are fine and then the next it hits you like a ton of bricks.

My amazing therapist helped me work through my grief and understand other traumas I had never fully processed.  Through several years of therapy, tough conversations, and a lot of prayer I came to the decision that after seven years as a stay at home mom it was time to pivot and return to the workforce.  Add that to the list of things that “No One Talks About.”  This decision was confusing for some people in my life and honestly it was for me too.  Looking back, I think I felt a little selfish but I knew it was time to make myself a priority.   I love my children more than anything.  I will never regret the seven years I spent as a full-time stay at home mom.  However, my desires had changed, and therapy helped me accept that was ok.  That this didn’t mean I was a failure as a mom, it was just time for a new chapter.

Returning to the workforce was not in our plans, so for this to work for our family, I needed to find something flexible and ease into the transition.  I made the decision to get my real estate license and within a couple of months I was a licensed Georgia Realtor but I still didn’t know what my new career was going to look like. I’ve always been a confident person but I was intimidated.  I had been out of the workforce for seven years. What was this new chapter going to look like and how was I going to do it?

Two months after getting my license I attended a weeklong sales training that changed my life.  I was inspired and felt equipped to take my new career to the next level. The final day started with the following reading:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

Next, we were instructed to write a letter to someone special in our lives.  After several years of my therapist suggesting that I write to my sister…I finally did and then read it through tears to a room full of REALTORS.  It is true that when God gives you a push you can’t ignore it. I had found my “why.”  I was going to let my light shine and live my life to the fullest to honor my sister.

It has been nine years since Tamsen left this earth and I miss her every day.  The grief isn’t gone and there are still very difficult days.  I am grateful to have a fulfilling career that also allows me to be a present parent.  I am proud of what I have accomplished in the last five years in my real estate career, and I am confident that Tamsen is too. Don’t be afraid to let your light shine mamas!