The Pieces

Welcome to my first post!


I thought I would begin by explaining the name I have chosen for my blog and why I have chosen to blog.


I have always been  acquainted with death, dying and grief on a personal and professional throughout my life. My father died in a boating accident when I was 10 and for the next 12 years there were the deaths of grandparents, great-grandparents,  other family members and friends. I chose to make the field of death and grief my focus in my professional life. As a result, I have spent the past 12 years working as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the role of grief counselor for Hospice. I have loved the work and the people I have had the privilege to work with and to  help them through their grief journey.


For many years, I have been blessed to not deal with personal grief. I have had, and currently have, a wonderful life – a loving husband and family, wonderful friends, good health and continuous opportunities. However, our life hasn’t been easy. For the past 6 years, my husband and I have attempted to conceive and dealt with infertility. We have gone through  3 physicians, which included surgery for me, rounds of basic infertility drugs,  multiple IUI”s  and then finally IVF. Last year, we were fortunate enough to become pregnant on our first IVF cycle. We didn’t expect to become pregnant but we had what our specialist called “a perfect cycle” for our age. (Yes, in the infertility world – we are old)

The early weeks of my pregnancy were wonderful and with the exception of mild fatigue I felt the best I ever had. Sadly, on June 26th, I miscarried at 10 weeks. The miscarriage was physically not painful and for that I am grateful. The emotional impact has weighed heavy. We were advised to try again as the first cycle had been so good. My husband and I took some time as neither of us were sure we were willing to take the risk again.


In September, I was prepared to begin another cycle – despite an inner voice telling me not to. I went through all of the motions of ordering my drugs, making the appointment and  going to Cincinnati to see our specialist. It was finally upon arriving home that I knew we/I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t sure why but we didn’t begin the cycle.


In October, I discovered that the inner voice was preparing me for the future. It was during October that my Mom discovered she has a mass on her kidney. After a month of CT scans, MRI’s and meeting with multiple physician and surgery to remove her kidney and the mass, she was diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer. Her prognosis was poor from the start but she did not want to know a time line. She did allow me to speak with her oncologist as I told her my Hospice experience always took me to the worse case scenario. When I met with her physician, he only confirmed my worse case scenario.


He had hoped at best she would have 5 -9 months but that was only if she would tolerate chemo. Unfortunately, before her chemo, she developed a crushed vertebra (it couldn’t be confirmed it was due to cancer), had additional surgery and later tried radiation for palliative measures.


As any Hospice clinician can attest, there are some cancers and diseases where the decline occurs overnight. I describe my Mom’s decline not as going slowly downhill bur rather going directly off of a cliff. She was admitted to a neighboring hospice outside of my current hometown on a Wednesday February 13, 2013  and died in the local Care Center at 4:00 am February 19, 2013. It was a beautiful death and what I wanted for her.

Throughout the short months of Mom’s illness, I provided e-mail updates to a close group of friends. As I am a journal writer, my e-mails were therapeutic but also provided a mass update where I wasn’t verbally telling the same story multiple times a day. (and ultimately, you never tell everyone the same story as you forget aspects)


My life has changed greatly over the past 6 weeks. The day before my Mom’s admission to Hospice care, I made the decision to leave the job I have done for 12 years. I began to think about leaving last fall after the miscarriage. Sitting continuously day by day with clients who had their own losses was becoming increasing difficult. I felt like grief was all there was. I knew my Mother was dying and I was uncertain of where my own grief would fit.


I developed the name for this blog two years ago during one our our many IUI cycles when I thought about blogging about our infertility journey. I liked the name as we were truly trying to make a new life. I never took that step but now I feel this is something I should do. For anyone who has grieved the death of anyone, you know that you often aren’t sure who you are anymore. It is normal to reevaluate everything in your life.


With my clients, I often used the jig say puzzle analogy. Before a death or loss, your puzzle is intact with the people you love, activities you enjoy – all playing different size pieces. When the death occurs, a piece is missing. As with a puzzle, the other pieces may stay intact if the puzzle stays on the table – just with a missing piece. However, life does not stand still. After a death, the next day occurs and you must move forward. When one tries to pick up a puzzle with a missing piece – the puzzle falls apart. Most of my clients would openly acknowledge that early in their grief cycle, it feels like nothing fits anymore and that everything has fallen apart.


It is now my turn to pick up the pieces of my own puzzle and to make a new life for myself. A new life without my Mom, perhaps without any children of our own, without the job which has been  a significant part of my life. I must add, I am not scared. Rather I am excited for what may be.


This blog will be a continuation of the email updates I provided for my friends. I plan for it to be sad, funny and everything in between that comes with a grief journey. For I am on a journey and I welcome the support of anyone who chooses to come along by following me.

Sheryl Signature (1)




  1. Ken Wilson on March 23, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Congratulations on starting your new life! I look forward to walking (or skipping) down your path (perhaps yellow brick?)with you. Now, I must say that to see you starting this new journey at 4:31 AM on a SATURDAY scares me. I may have to catch the bus to catch up with you. But I’ll be there! Looking forward to the journey!

  2. Sheryl on March 23, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Ken – you will see a corrected time. My settings were set for Pacific time zone. Perhaps I’m thinking I should be in California!

  3. Erin on March 23, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    Sheryl! I’m so honored to have known you in high school. Who would have imagined the kinds of trials we’ve had to go through. I had no idea you were struggling with infertility. My heart goes out to you. You have such a kind, loving heart and I always appreciated how you just took care of Julia, Renee and me during flags. 🙂 Thank you for your inspiration.

  4. Sometimesphotojenik on November 18, 2014 at 1:28 am

    Wow, I don’t even know where to start except for that I cannot imagine the pain that you have gone through during those six weeks and since. You have a beautiful way of writing, I deeply admire and respect your career in hospice (I’m a pediatric nurse and don’t think I could ever work in hospice), and I am loving everything I read ESPECIALLY your tab on self-care… so important! I found you through the Oak + Oats linkup and look forward to reading more!

    • Sheryl @ How to Make a Life on November 18, 2014 at 1:34 am

      I’m so glad you stopped by and commented. Writing has always been therapeutic for me and this blog has been a significant part of my grief journey over the past year and a half. I feel it’s so important (as a professional helper) to remind others that they do have the strength to get through what life throws at them. Self care is a HUGE topic for me. Without it, I couldn’t have done the work I’ve done all of these years.

      • Sometimesphotojenik on November 18, 2014 at 2:28 am

        I can only imagine how much of a part self care plays in your work! In my last year as a nurse I’ve really realized that I need to make a conscious effort to make time for self care in order to effectively do my job. I love that it’s such a big topic for you- it is SO important and usually implies but never thoroughly addressed!

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