Grief and a Girls Trip- How I Found My Way Through The Pain

Vacation Amanda is my favorite Amanda. The daily stress of mom, employee, teacher, wife, housecleaner, cook, etc. are gone. In its place is the girl I used to know. Carefree, go with the flow, and peaceful. While I love all the other aspects of my life, it’s nice to get back in touch with this other part of me. To take a break from the duties of the beautiful life I’ve created and just be me. 

My life changed so much in the last 4 years. Our family grew from 0 to 2 kids then 2 to 4, then back to 2. Navigating my role as mom in a pandemic, becoming the primary teacher, figuring out my job amidst it all. Fighting a corrupt foster system and getting all too familiar with our legal system in the process. Helping broken children become whole again and watching them leave against their will. Helping my remaining children cope with the tremendous loss they felt while grappling with my own grief. There was no rest for the weary. And I was WEARY. 

Before we knew for certain that the girls would leave us, my husband told me of some amazing flight deals he saw from San Diego to Maui. We were in the middle of a court battle against the county for the social workers many failures to protect our girls and I was literally withering away. I was so anxiety filled that I started losing weight. I would wake up every morning and immediately dry heave from the nausea. Once I found the strength, I’d crack open a can of ginger ale and nurse that the entire day until I went to bed. My family, friends, even my therapist worried about the rate at which I was losing weight. The fear I felt for the girls, the anger I felt at a corrupt social worker and system, and the stress of fighting wore me down. So when my husband suggested I take a trip to Hawaii, I said why the hell not! 

While I love traveling with my husband, It was going to be too hard to figure out childcare in the middle of the week for the kids and so he suggested I make it a girls trip. Ladies, this man is a true saint! I put it out to some friends and had a few say they could make it happen. My Birthday Girls Trip was planned. And then court happened. California law now says that children should be with bio families pretty much no matter what. Safety issues ignored, our girls were leaving. While we fought the corrupt system to give the girls a proper transition instead of the “just take them without warning” that they wanted to do, I quickly realized my “trip” wasn’t going to happen. I had to stay and see this through, to help all of my children work through this massive change that was about to happen. 

I pushed the trip out a few extra weeks and thankfully my friends were so understanding and gracious about the change. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a restorative respite from the chaos of the last several months turned into a time to grieve in a pretty location. I wanted to bail. It felt selfish to leave my kids so soon after this big loss. My therapist, mom, husband, and others removed that guilt and encouraged me to take this time to heal myself so I could come back stronger.

With the overwhelming feeling of powerlessness, I found ways on this trip to take some of it back. It was actually here on this trip that I decided to launch my blog for real this time. Screw the fear of vulnerability and failure. On this trip, I voluntarily ate fish, which if you know me, is a big deal. I swam into a specific part of the ocean where sharks are known to hang out and jumped off rocks. I treaded water for 20 minutes in that same water while my BFF tried to conquer her fear of jumping off. I snorkeled without death gripping the hand of another person and pushed aside my fears in order to be truly present. I invested everything I could into myself knowing that when I got home, the emptiness would be waiting, my children would need my nurturing, and my heart would still need mending. 

Moments after this photo was taken, I started sobbing. Greif is so weird and truly overcomes you in the strangest times.

While this girls trip wasn’t like what I had planned, it turned out in so many ways to be everything I needed. Before I left, my therapist told me to just be honest in how I’m feeling. If the grief swelled, just let it come and pass. No judgment for whatever came, even if that feeling was a fleeting moment of happiness. I set the expectations with my friends who thankfully were gracious. So when the tears came in the middle of a crowded restaurant, or I just needed to be alone, they supported and uplifted me. It turns out, we all needed this time together. We had all walked hard roads in the previous years and this trip became a time of introspection, setting intentions, and healing past hurts. 

During our time, we ventured around the beautiful Kaanapali coast, ate like queens, and basked in the sunshine, taking a much deserved rest. I introduced my kids the best kept secret of Warren and Annabelles Magic Show, shopped in the cutest stores in Lahaina, and took leisurely morning strolls as we watched the humpbacks breach just offshore. The energy of the island lifted my soul and brought me a feeling of peace I hadn’t felt in months. 

If you find yourself so blessed to be surrounded by people willing to share their vulnerabilities and uplift you during your darkest hours, hold tight. It is a rarity. I count my blessings and am so grateful I was in a position to do this trip. The circumstances were far from ideal, but it was everything I needed and more. This trip reminded me of 3 important things. 

  1. There is always a silver lining, no matter how small, even on the darkest of days. 
  2. You matter too. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t truly take care of others. 
  3. Surround yourself with people who reciprocate in the relationship.



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