Finding Focus


I knew something was wrong; it was that little niggle in the back of my mind that prompted me to stop what I was doing and call Mum's doctor. Sure enough Mum had just been admitted to hospital for the second time in a few weeks.

That was late September and from that point on my life became a surreal blur of hospitals, medical jargon and an emotional roller coaster that is impossible to describe in words but many of you sadly will understand all too well.

Mum passed away on October 27th as I sat by her bedside and held her hand. Barely allowing myself time to grasp the reality of what had just happened I went into full 'organization' mode, planning the funeral, completing the mountains of legal paperwork and clearing my childhood home for sale. With support from amazing neighbors, friends and my family I managed to get through it all and made it back home just before Thanksgiving.

Rock cairns are often used to mark the pathway along a journey

Rock cairns are often used to mark the pathway along a journey

I'm a list maker at heart and so far I was checking off the various 'to do' items at a good pace. The plan was that I'd take a few days to recover then get straight back to work, writing blog posts, designing gardens and more. You may have noticed that hasn't gone so well; my last blog post was over two months ago and whereas I have continued to draw up designs it is taking me three times as long as I struggle to focus. Imagine yourself swimming through molasses (aka treacle) – that's what my head feels like. I thought it was just me but now realize that this is a very common form of 'emotional jet lag' associated with grief.

It's the little things that throw me; looking at a purse full of coins and not having a clue what they are, forgetting the PIN for my debit card that has been the same for 20 years, turning up for a medical appointment – exactly one day late, going to buy Christmas cards for the family and realizing with a jolt that there is another whole section of cards that I won't be shopping from any more…. and being convinced there are more cards for Mom, Mum and Mother this year than ever before.

A carved 'eye' in the top river rock focuses our attention

A carved 'eye' in the top river rock focuses our attention

So this short post is both apology and explanation as well as a promise to myself and readers that I will find my focus again shortly. I have some wonderful garden design ideas to share with you as well as some inspiring 'before and after' images from my own work. I'll have ideas for every size of garden, budget and style and will continue to seek out the best of the new plants that hit the nurseries.

Meanwhile I'm going to focus on gratitude;  for treasured memories of those no longer with us, for friends and family near and far, for dog snuggles, for the blessing of a garden I can call my own.

Thank you to a group of precious friends who commissioned artist Like DeLatour to make this cairn for me, and had it installed in my garden for when I returned.

Thank you to a group of special friends who commissioned artist Luke DeLatour to make this beautiful cairn for me, and had it installed in my garden for when I returned. Your thoughtfulness and support means the world to me.

Wishing you all peace in your hearts, even where there may be sadness. Tomorrow is a new day.

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  1. susan on December 18, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    Grief fog Karen is like a shallow depth of field in your photography. The background blurs so that what's important in the foreground remains in sharp focus. Perhaps a shallow analogy but really the mind and soul protects itself during grief and give you the strength and clarity necessary to carry on. Be kind to you and know that you are letting you focus on what's important. What's in focus now is the next step in front of you. Soon the entire road will be back.

    • Karen Chapman on December 18, 2015 at 3:08 pm

      That's a really helpful analogy Susan – thank you.

  2. Patricia Mickelson on December 18, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    Hi Karen: I am so sorry to read about your mom. I lost mine over 20 years ago and I still miss her. It does get better with time but it is important to take the time you need to mourn your loss. Grief has its own time table and in the long run it is important to honor that.

    Take care of yourself .

    Pat Mickelson

    • Karen Chapman on December 19, 2015 at 10:52 am

      Thank you so much Pat

  3. Richard on December 18, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    You owe us no apology. I lost my own Mother on February 28th of this year and I fully understand the thick fog that you are trudging through. Being that your loss has been so close to the present Holidays doesn't make it any easier either. Spend as much time as you can with friends and family as they can help with the healing process. This fog will lift in due time. May you and yours have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year despite your loss.

    • Karen Chapman on December 19, 2015 at 10:53 am

      I'm so sorry to hear you have also recently lost your Mother. Thank you for the reassurance that the fog does eventually lift! Take care

  4. Sidney Paquin on December 18, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    Karen, I lost my mother 3 years ago and it still catches me by surprise at times. My thoughts are with you during your time of grief.

    • Karen Chapman on December 19, 2015 at 10:55 am

      Thank you for taking time to leave me a note Sidney and for sharing your thoughts. Hugs to you.

  5. Maria Carlos on December 19, 2015 at 11:45 am

    Please accept my condolences, Karen. The loss of mother/mom/mum is hard. I know from experience that the fog will lift, and you will adjust to the new reality of missing your mum every day. But, for now, be extra gentle with yourself, and allow yourself to grieve in your way, finding solace in your way.

    • Karen Chapman on December 19, 2015 at 11:59 am

      Thank you for your encouragement and kind words Maria

  6. Riz on December 19, 2015 at 8:20 pm

    Sending you caring thoughts, condolences , and all the best during this difficult holiday season.

    • Karen Chapman on December 20, 2015 at 1:06 pm

      Hugs to you Riz and thank you. I wish you could have met her; she was an amazing floral arranger (a gene she didn't pass on to me!)

  7. Alyson on December 19, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    Tears brimming… beautiful post, Karen. XX

    • Karen Chapman on December 20, 2015 at 1:05 pm

      Thank you for your part in making this beautiful surprise come together xxx

  8. Sheila Schultz on December 19, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    Losing a beloved Mom takes the breath out of our lungs sooner or later. Time is a beautiful caretaker though, she gives us the chance to breathe again when we are ready.
    Take your time Karen… not that you have the option. Hugs.

    • Karen Chapman on December 20, 2015 at 1:05 pm

      Thank you Sheila; love to you and the family x

  9. Teresa Watkins on December 20, 2015 at 11:36 am

    Karen, so sorry for your loss. I lost my Scottish Momma at Christmas time. The fog and blur of heartache is real while trying to maintain a normal facade. That normalcy of everyday mundane activities helps to keep you busy, and everyone else from worrying about you. It will subside when you're ready. Put the kettle on, have a cuppa tea and biscuit, be good to yourself. xx

    • Karen Chapman on December 20, 2015 at 1:04 pm

      Your message is so timely Teresa; the kettle is indeed on and You've just twisted my arm to have a biscuit; a nice chocolate one at that! Thank you for making me smile and for understanding, Take care

  10. Craig on December 21, 2015 at 7:40 am

    I am very sorry for your loss and wish you well in you and your family's time of sorrow. Like the days that have come to their darkest, things will brighten; hard to tell at first, but the sun will come back. Take all the time you need. We look forward to hearing more from you when ever that time is right.


    • Karen Chapman on January 6, 2016 at 9:30 pm

      Thank you so much Craig. I really appreciate your kindness and understanding

  11. Annie on December 28, 2015 at 10:09 am

    Karen, thank goodness for our gardens so that we may fall deep within them as our souls sort through transitions of loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Take as good of care of yourself as you do your garden.

    Simply, Peace Be With You.

    • Karen Chapman on January 6, 2016 at 9:31 pm

      Than you Annie. I spent most of today out in my garden. It was the first gardening I have done since tidying Mum's little garden before I put her hoe on the market. Baby steps