Breathe Memory Journal Spread Using Watercolor Lettering and Vintage Stamp

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Did you know that the butterfly is a symbol of lung transplant? It’s true. It has been said that when newly transplant lungs take their first breathe, it’s like seeing a butterfly opening its wings, for the first time, as the new lungs fill with air.

Think about that for a minute. Just the thought of transplant gives me shivers. It’s an amazing, life-changing event for the person in need of the transplant as well as all the family and friends that surround that person. Transplant means new life -a second chance.

How do I know so much about transplant? Let me share a little bit of my story with you and how I cope with my loss through grief journaling.

My Story

Thirteen years ago, today, my older brother passed away. He had cystic fibrosis and was listed for a double lung transplant. Sadly, he never made it to transplant and the Thanksgiving holiday that year was a somber one. My brother faced a lot of struggles in his short 32-year life, especially breathing. There were things he struggled with (beyond his breathing issues) that just should not have been. I have so many mixed emotions about his struggle.

To this day, I still struggle sometimes to cope with losing him. For example, whenever I hear someone coughing fiercely, it makes me angry. It doesn’t matter why they are coughing and I don’t know why anger would be my response. But, I think my reaction comes from a form of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)? Or maybe it is simply a part of the lifelong grieving and coping process.

How I Cope

Even more difficult is living after loss. I know how deep my loss of him goes but then I think of my mother. How heartbreaking it must have been to the depths of her soul to have lost a son. I try to keep that in focus as I navigate coping. One way I do that (cope) is through throwing myself into something -a project, cleaning….anything. I guess you can call that avoidance but it does help me get through some hurdles.

One way that I’ve dealt with my loss is through discovering the joy and peace of creating handcrafted beaded jewelry, especially awareness jewelry pieces that have touched so many lives, across the globe. In fact, the butterfly has become a signature of my organ transplant awareness bracelets.

Another way I’ve been learning to live with loss has been through grief journaling. I started with creating a Celebrate Life Butterfly Travelers Notebook Planner Setup and then I also Setup a Memory Keeping Journal Page for Donate Life Month. Doing these things gives me some peace and makes me still feel connected to him.

Breathe Memory Journal Spread

My latest work on grief journaling about my loss was creating this beautiful memory journal spread (shown above). I started by giving the paper a light wash of brown watercolor then I used my brush pen to letter “breathe” across the two pages. One of the central designs I wanted to incorporate was a set of dandelions; for these I used my trusty micron pen. The last step was to put my stamp in the lower right side corner. Now my page is ready for journaling.

Did you know? Dandelions also represent better breathing. For some breathing is so difficult and/or labored that they are not able to blow the seeds off the dandelion and make a wish.

Supplies Used

My Butterfly Experience

You already know what a butterfly represents so imagine my surprise when at work today, I happened to find a very large monarch butterfly in a coworkers office. What makes this event so strange is the fact that I just can’t figure out how it could’ve gotten in there; and of all the things to find. I find a butterfly.

The irony of this story is the office I found this butterfly in happened to be the office of a coworker who had recently passed away after being diagnosed with cancer. I also had worked with this coworker for thirteen years -he was hired in the same year my brother passed away. In fact, only a month after I was hired.

I don’t know if this butterfly was a symbol of my coworker or of my brother. But when I realized what day is was, where I found the butterfly, that it was at work….the hair on my arms stood straight up. Some people would call these events or “weird” things that happen a coincidence and maybe that’s true. But, that doesn’t explain why I’ve had a lot of these “coincidences” throughout my life. It just makes you wonder.

Regardless of who it was, it filled my heart and gave me peace. After snapping quite a few pictures of this beautiful butterfly, I released it outside. I may have watched it fly away but its’ presence will forever be in my heart.

Have you had an experience with a butterfly? Or believed a loved one had come back to visit you? Please share your story in a comment below or tag me on Instagram using the hashtag #btdinspired. I’d love to hear your lung transplant, transplant or butterfly story (and I just might repost your photo)!

If you are inspired to create a memory journal spread with butterflies in it don’t forget to share by tagging me on Instagram and using #btdinspired, I’d love to see your work (and I just might repost your photo)!

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