Finding Joy amid the Winding Path of Grief . . .

by Brandi Lytle
Photo of stars scattered on a rainy sidewalk on "Finding joy amid the winding path of grief," on Not So Mommy..., a childless blog

I cannot believe that the first month of 2019 is already behind us.  Although if I’m honest, January isn’t my favorite month.  While I enjoy celebrating our nephew’s, middle niece’s, and Bruna’s birthdays, I often find myself a bit flat during January.  After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the first month of the year always seems a little dreary.  I mean, taking down the tree isn’t nearly as much fun as putting it up.  Normally, I look forward to February, with the anticipation of a special date night with my hubby and the knowledge that Spring is getting closer.  But this year, as February approached, I felt myself getting even sadder, as grief set in…

February Funk…

My best friend’s birthday is in February.  Those of you who follow along here regularly know that Jennifer passed away last September from a very aggressive form of breast cancer.  (You can read more about that here.)  On February 20, she would have turned 41 years old.

When we found out that Jennifer was sick, I thought she would get better.  My plan was to wait until she was healed, and then take our group friends pic in March (the one month when we four girls are all the same age).  Obviously, that’s not the way things turned out…

Changing My Perspective…

But it’s the beginning of February, and I’m committed to writing a Good Things blog the first Monday of every month.  So, I decided to write about one of my favorite things—Mexican food.

From focusing on grief to focusing on a good thing…

And how did I get from being sad about my friend to talking about Mexican food?  Well, it’s not only one of my favorite things, but it was one of Jennifer’s favorites, as well…

Fond Memory #1

Every year when I visited Oklahoma for Christmas, Jennifer would pick me up and drive me to our “girlfriend gathering.”  Inevitably, dinner included Mexican food.  One year, as we drove, Jennifer asked, “Do you think burritos and tacos are two separate meals?”  (Yes, she and I always had very serious conversations.)  “Absolutely!” I exclaimed.  Well, according to Jenno’s hubby, burritos and tacos were to be eaten at one meal on the same evening.

I disagree.

I think you can have burritos one night, tacos the next, enchiladas after that, and don’t forget about the nachos.  And eating Mexican food at home is different than going out to a restaurant.  So, after having Mexican four nights at home, Friday night can be at your favorite Mexican restaurant.  But restaurant Mexican is different than fast food Mexican.  So, Saturday afternoon, you can go to Taco Bueno (our favorite fast food Mexican in Oklahoma).

Jenno agreed.  We laughed, and I told her that she was welcome to tell her hubby what we had decided!

Fond Memory #2

I suppose one reason Jennifer and I love Mexican food so much is that it reminded us of snow days back in Oklahoma.  Growing up, whenever there was a snow day, my mom and Jenno’s mom would load us up and head to Monterrey House so we could “check the road conditions.”  It is a fond memory…

Fond Memory #3

Another wonderful “Mexican Food Memory” is when Jennifer asked me, “Do you put sour cream on your homemade burritos?”  Well, of course I do!  That’s what she thought, but her hubby wouldn’t let her use sour cream because he said he didn’t like it.  “But he likes your burritos,” she exclaimed!  I told her not to tell him they had sour cream, or he would never eat them again!

My Final Fond Memory…

And my last memory I have of talking to my beautiful friend…  I took my homemade burritos (with sour cream) over to her house.  We chatted for a bit, we hugged, and as I left, she said, “I can’t wait for some of your burritos!”  (She even trilled the Rs!)  Her Daddy told me it was the last time she had an appetite and ate well before she went to Heaven.

Why am I rambling on?

So, why I am rambling on about Mexican food and sharing all these memories with you?  Well, although I am currently crying as I type, these memories have always made me smile.  I want to cling tight to Mexican food as a good thing and allow it to remind me of Jenno, helping me to feel closer to her.  I don’t want to allow Mexican food to become a source of sorrow, but one of joy…

Navigate Grief…

And I think that is what we have to do as we navigate grief.  We have to focus on those things that brought us happiness and cling to that.  We cannot allow the grief to steal our joy.

And as childless, grieving dreams lost…  Well, there may be things that we must let go…  For there are dreams that will never be.  But we must also remember what we loved, what brought us happiness, what made us smile before…  We may have to redefine a bit, but we must cling to those things, while crying and smiling all at once.

Because the journey of grief is hard.  It’s complicated, with a winding path that brings unexpected pain.  But if we keep walking, if we keep trying, if we keep feeling all the feels, the sorrow becomes less and the joy shines once more.

by finding your Good Thing.

So, find your “Mexican Food Memories,” fabulous ones.  Find your Good Thing.  Cling to it.  And ramble about it with those who have an empathetic ear.  When you do, I’ll bet you’ll find yourself feeling a bit lighter, a bit more hopeful, with a smile (even if it’s ever so slight) upon your lips…


If anything I wrote resonates with you, fabulous one, I’d love to hear about it in the comments…

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Featured Photo:  Suzy Hazelwood on

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M March 2, 2019 - 2:48 pm

Loved, LOVED LOVED this story!! Thank you for sharing ?

Mali February 6, 2019 - 12:31 am

We don’t have much Mexican food here in NZ, but I do like the way you have woven in memories of your friend with your love of Mexican food. Because that’s what memories are all about. Remembering the happy times, being grateful that you had them, even when you are sad that your friend has gone. You truly honour her, and your friendship, by doing this.

Brandi Lytle February 6, 2019 - 10:09 am

Thank you, Mali.

Lisa Hansen February 5, 2019 - 6:26 am

I love this a lot. Trying to bring out a good thing in the sad times.
I’m a step mum but I do not have and will not have biological children of my own. And I am currently trying to work through that grief myself. But one thing I’m focusing on, is my families love for all things motorbikes right now! At least once every week, we put our phones down (unless recording) get all our gear on and go motorbike riding. I watch the men in my life have the time of their lives. And I get to be apart of learning new things. Right now; that’s my Mexican Food Moment or Memory.

Brandi Lytle February 5, 2019 - 10:27 am

Thank you for sharing your “Mexican Food Moment” with me, Lisa! I love that even during a difficult time, you are still looking for the good. I am certain that positive attitude will help as you navigate the grief of childlessness.

Despite the circumstances, I am so glad you are here! Hugs to you…

Sherry Stout February 4, 2019 - 6:23 pm

Road conditions!! A favorite memory of Higgins and Milners…. I ate today at the old LaMansion on 41st. Every single time I go in there my eye darts around looking for Jenno. We bumped into each other regularly during the lunch time crowd. Sweet memory and a Monday good thing.??

Brandi Lytle February 4, 2019 - 7:04 pm

So many great memories at La Mansion! Is it strange that I feel closest to Jenno when I’m at her Church and at La Mansion?! (I’m chuckling with tears in my eyes…)


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