Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Things I'd Rather do than "Play Cars"

Yes, he's a miracle.

Of course, he's adorable.

No, I don't want to play cars 12 hours a day with a toddler who has his bossy-boots on.


Things I'd Rather do than Play Cars: 

1) Receive a dental cleaning after not flossing for 6 months
2) Hand-wash a sink full of dishes, lasagne pan included
3) Fill out camp forms and physicals
4) Attend Traffic court
5) Go to the gyno, pap smear optional
6) Watch an Adam Sandler movie
7) Do laundry
8) Whip up a Greek God costume
9) Sort my sock and underwear drawer
10) Order a yearbook online











Friday, September 28, 2018

Sneak Peek at A Hug from Heaven!

Hi Dears!

The new children's book is READY! I have held it in my hands, and it is big and beautiful. It even smells good!

Mascot Books is already taking preorders on their site.

If you would like a SNEAK PEEK of the entire book TODAY, I have set something up on my author website just for you. You just enter your first name and email HERE, then I immediately send you an email with the PDF of the book! I hope that you will agree to be an Advance Reviewer and leave an honest review of the book on Amazon on Nov 6, RELEASE DAY! I know a PDF doesn't take the place of a big, beautiful hardcover book, but I hope it will give you an idea of what the book is like and help you start thinking of kids you know who will benefit from it.


It is my prayer that this book will comfort many children who are grieving the loss of a loved one, and with your help, we can get the word out!


Friday, September 7, 2018

Seven Years

Tomorrow, September 8th, it will be 7 years since Jack's accident.

Sometimes it feels like a thousand years, and other times a blink of an eye. If you are newly bereaved, I know the thought of someone writing about child loss SEVEN YEARS LATER may seem frightening and distressing. It's too much and too scary to think too far ahead, to let the collateral losses of what is to come pile up on the acute loss you are feeling right now. It's hard to imagine enough strength for the journey of weeks, months and even years ahead.

Today is the one day you need to get through.
To breathe through.
To drink enough water to rehydrate after your tears have run dry.
Today only.

It seems like I don't write much about my own grief here or on Facebook these days, preferring to share what others who are deep in the muck capture with such naked eloquence. There is so much wisdom out there. One of the reasons I wrote Rare Bird so early on, was to capture raw, early grief in real time. I wanted to capture it, but I didn't want to stay there, and I wasn't sure if I'd want to revisit it again and again. I didn't know if I could ever say, or if I even wanted to say, that I was healed, especially if that entailed leaving Jack behind, but I knew that I wanted to be able to say,  even early on, that "I'm healing." In those early days, as I wrestled and wrangled and poured out my heart on this keyboard, you showed up day after day to bear witness to my pain. Thank you.

Now, I feel more like a coach, an ear, or even a light-- illuminating a path up ahead that while almost too scary for the newly bereaved to contemplate, provides more than a degree of hope.

Shortly after the accident, a wonderful fellow blogger sent me this painting one of her friends made for me. It captured the closeness of our family, with a big nod to the numerous signs of comfort we received related to birds.  Jack is reaching out to the sky, to the future, his future. I see this small painting every day and I love it.



Now that our family is no longer in the cloud of grief, I consider this painting anew.

While I used to think it represented our family: Margaret, Tim, Anna and Jack-- with the bird bringing us comfort from above, I now wonder if it now represents Margaret, Tim, Anna, and little Andrew, with the bird being our rare bird, Jack, who continues to comfort us, guide us, and cheer us on, even after all of these years.


For those of you who look at grief as a LIFE SENTENCE-- a life sentence of sadness and pain-- I'd like to suggest reframing it as a LOVE SENTENCE. Your love for the one who died, and his for you, will never diminish. It will stay real and vibrant all the days of your life and beyond, and eventually you will be able to think of him with a love that is no longer tainted by the LACK that feels so strong right now.

That is my experience most days at 7 years in, and it is my hope for you, for me, for all of us.


Monday, August 13, 2018

A Welcome Balm

Thump, thump, thump.

I could hear the balls hit our basketball hoop and then the ground. I couldn't see them from my kitchen table a few feet away, because I'd taped temporary paper shades on the glass in the door and over all the windows.

One by one, my new friends-- friends who had each had a son die-- turned the handle and came inside. They'd parked in the crowded driveway we shared with our neighbors, dodged the basketballs in our carport, and come to our grief support group.

"I don't know how you do it!" they each said to me.

This was a phrase they'd likely heard themselves many times. How did they make it through multiple rounds of chemo with their precious boys? How did they tell their sons they weren't going back to school? How did one go into her son's bedroom to wake him, but find him dead?

They knew they were not made of stronger stuff than other moms. They'd just been thrust into unwelcome, nearly untenable situations that they couldn't run away from. They knew that grieving moms are just people doing the best we can.

But that night they said it to me, quickly piecing together that the boys playing outside my door were the ones who were with Jack when he had his accident. While I'd never experienced hospitals, blood draws, invasive tests, toxic treatments, and having Jack lose his beautiful hair, I was experiencing something excruciating as I saw Jack's best friend, and his new best friend, bond and live and play right in front of me, day in and day out. The stark contrast between these living children and my dead son was almost too much to take, and these mothers' hearts recognized that in an instant.

I talked about this with my pastor and friend, Glenda. I felt terrible for feeling angry and uncharitable toward children-- so jealous and petty. My magical thinking would have one of them die, while Jack would live. This was so far from how I wanted to be-- Anna The Super Griever who spread her love and warmth like fairy dust-- but it was real, and raw, and exactly where I was.

There would be no warm and fuzzy tv special about how I'd taken the boys in as my own, cultivating a surrogate mom role to make up for losing Jack.  Nope. So, I piled guilt on top of my anger and grief.

But I wanted to feel my pain and anger and not cover it up by pretending like everything was okay--faking kindness and compassion that wasn't yet there. Grieving Jack felt too holy for anything other than truth and light and 100% honesty.

After hearing all of this, Glenda touched my hand and rubbed it gently. She said, "If your hand is raw and in pain, there is nothing wrong with finding a balm to soothe it. To coat and protect it as it heals. That's not weakness. You don't need to feel guilty. That's just taking care of yourself."

I honestly couldn't think of one thing that could be a balm in the colossal missing and longing for Jack. But as those early days turned into months, and then into almost 2 years, a balm came into view.

I was healing, I could tell, but the pain of seeing the two boys multiple times a day continued to be incredibly painful. I made the difficult decision to move our family to a new house, even if it meant dragging Tim and Margaret along with me. It was not a savvy financial decision. It was very hard on Margaret as it represented her leaving her childhood behind. It meant driving over the creek where Jack was found multiple times a day. It meant leaving Jack's room behind.

But it was a balm.

Of course I still felt grief and pain while I healed, but that rawness, that fresh pain anew every single day, was coated by a bit of distance, just as ointment buffers and protects a wound.

This month it will be 5 years since we moved. Our windows are bare and the light streams in.

I was not a bad griever, or a bad person, for recognizing my need and doing something about it. For letting myself off the hook of being the comforter for everyone else, including my neighbors.

If you are hurting right now, feeling the sting of loss and disappointment or dreams unrealized, perhaps you, too, could find a balm. Something unexpected and sweet that doesn't numb you from your experience, but gives you a bit of a buffer of protection.

Is your balm to decline from going to baby showers or weddings? Is it to walk away from a friendship that causes you nothing but pain? Is it to log off social media for a good long while?

I don't know, but I send you love as you consider it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Help Grieving Kids and Comfort Your Heart Too

As you know, I've had a bunch of t-shirt ideas bumping around in my head. I created a few awesome shirts to sell on Amazon, and while the shirts are gorgeous, I've been less than thrilled with my ability to communicate with the company when the need has arisen.

So when I got a new t-shirt idea, this one VERY CLOSE TO MY HEART, I decided to look into alternatives. I chose to use a fantastic company, Custom Ink, and it has been the perfect fit.

My friends and I have used Custom Ink for years to design cool shirts for sports teams, family reunions, and concerts, and it has been a 100% awesome experience. I remember last year when we were on a time crunch to get Margaret's field hockey T's ready for Senior Night, and a real live person at Custom Ink made sure they arrived with a few days to spare.

But what I didn't know was that Custom Ink also has a fundraising platform

I could design a t-shirt (or have Custom Ink's artists do it for me) and have people purchase it online as a way to raise funds for a cause I believe in. I wouldn't have to worry about inventory or shipping either, because Custom Ink would take care of all of that for me. Thank goodness.

In honor of my children's book about grief coming out this fall (A Hug from Heaven), I knew I wanted to raise money to help grieving kids. 

I chose Comfort Zone Camp as the recipient of any profit these shirts make. Comfort Zone was a safe place of healing and growth for Margaret and our whole family after Jack died, and being with other grieving kids helped Margaret feel less strange and alone. There are so many grieving kids who need our support. Did you know that one in five kids experience the death of a close loved one before age 18?

Many, many of my readers have experienced the death of a loved one, and I hope this simple t-shirt speaks right to your heart the way it does to me. Love Never Dies. 



It comes in a variety of colors and styles, including kids' sizes, and is super soft and comfy. 

If you decide to purchase it for yourself, or for someone else, may it be an encouragement to you that death ends a life but not a relationship. Your purchase will help spread hope to the kids aged 7-17 who attend Comfort Zone Camps each year. 

Thank you for your support of this campaign! And if you are looking for an easy and enjoyable way to spread your message and raise funds for an important cause in your life, check out Custom Ink. They made this process a breeze.

This post is sponsored by Custom Ink. Thank you!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Shoulder Taps

I shared a short video on Facebook about "Shoulder Taps" last week.

Generally,  I DO NOT LIKE strange men coming up to me and commenting on my appearance-- ICK-- but I believe this man was moved by the Holy Spirit to approach an elderly woman, and it ended up being exactly what she needed to comfort her in her grief.

Several times in my life I have felt a strong urging to say something to someone, to pay for someone's meal, to give a word of encouragement, and I pushed through the discomfort because somehow I knew the urge did not come from me.

I thought I'd share an example of someone reaching out to me, that I don't think I've written about before.

Lady Jennie, a writer who lives in Paris, supported me big-time following Jack's death. She is now a dear friend, and we've had the opportunity to spend time together in NY and in my home (alas, not Paris-- yet!)

Shortly after Jack died, Jennie was studying her Bible and praying when she felt a nudge to share something with me.

It was a rather obscure Bible verse from the book of Isaiah. Weir-d.

But not so weird that I wasn't open to it.

Remember when my little Margaret felt a similar prompting? If you go back and read this post from before the accident you will be BLOWN AWAY when you consider it in light of what happened a few weeks later. (Note: I used to call Jack and Margaret Jake and Molly on the blog for privacy)


This is what Lady Jennie sent to me, a stranger, after feeling the strong urge to do so:

"Though you were ruined and made desolate
and your land laid waste,
now you will be too small for your people,
and those who devoured you will be far away.
The children born during your bereavement
will yet say in your hearing,
'This place is too small for us;
give us more space to live in.'"

Isaiah 49:21


Lady Jennie and I didn't know that within two years we would move, an action that was painful and would make zero financial sense but would get us out of a difficult living situation and allow us space to heal. No, our house isn't much bigger-- but our world has grown to include new friends and new opportunities.

She and I didn't know that in 4 1/2 years I would have an unplanned geriatric pregnancy that would result in sweet Andrew joining the family. And yes, in light of this verse I did wonder if Andrew would be twins!

While the verse didn't make sense to me at the time, it helped reinforce what was becoming clear even in, no, especially in, those early days of raw grief-- there was more going on than I could see and understand. In Virginia, in Paris, in Heaven. In many ways this helped me stay still and just TRUST, even when life felt desolate and ruined.

Trust that the right people would reach out to comfort me.
Trust that there was a plan for my life, even to expand it when it felt so diminished and depleted. Trust that somehow the deep, deep pain I felt would not always be so sharp.
Trust that the same God who told Margaret "You are MINE" and kept her safe by the creek, attentively loved and cared for Jack just as much.

We hear a lot about people making unsolicited comments to others, especially about parenting.

Ugh.

I think a good test could be whether we feel compelled to say something because it makes us feel superior, powerful, or it serves us somehow. Believe me, now that I have a toddler again, I am in situations regularly for people to HOLD THIER TONGUES when they see me parent in public.

I'm guessing Jennie didn't feel superior when she sent these verses to me. She probably felt vulnerable and a bit weird.  But she reached out anyway.

Whether you want to call it a nudge, a shoulder tap, or a prompting of the Spirit, I'm so glad she paid attention.



Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Children's Book Cover!

Introducing the cover to my new book for grieving children, A Hug from Heaven!


I hope you LOVE IT! The artist, Andrea Alemanno, is from Italy. I picked him from hundreds of illustrators, and am so pleased with how the illustrations throughout the book turned out. In the coming weeks I will be sharing Facebook live videos about how the whole process has been such as:

Deciding to go with a hybrid publisher
Choosing an illustrator
Deciding how to translate the words into pictures (harder than I thought!)

I pray that this book will fill a real need for the "forgotten grievers"-- children. When I managed a church bookstore, I kept searching for good grief books for kids, but kept coming up short. Then, of course, I wished there had been one for my own family when Jack died.

One of the neatest things about A Hug from Heaven is that it is told from the point of view of the person who died, speaking directly to the grieving child! A child experiencing the loss of any loved one, from grandparent, parent, friend, sibling (born or unborn) will be able to find comfort in these pages.

Can't wait to share more with you!

I'll let you know the actual release date as soon as I know it myself. It's looking like mid to late September. There will be opportunities to PRE-ORDER, which is extremely helpful in positioning the book to "find" more people, and to leave reviews. In the meantime, please start thinking about someone in your life who might be helped by this book.