Friday, May 6, 2022

Living Your Dash


 What an honor it was to speak at Full Circle Grief Center's Live Your Dash Luncheon! 

This fundraiser helps Full Circle provide comprehensive grief support for those in the Richmond, VA area. When Jack died, I was in too much shock to even look for or access this kind of grief support. If you are grieving, or know someone who is grieving, I'd encourage you to see whether there is a grief center in your area. They often offer individual counseling and family groups and activities. 

By just EXISTING, grief centers help acknowledge to our world that grief is a real issue that lasts well beyond the few days between a death and a funeral. 

Something really special happened after my speech last Friday. The setting was a super fancy country club, and many of the servers were young adults. After the luncheon, 5 of the servers came up to me to share how my speech impacted them. We often wonder about this next generation, but let me say, they are all right! They were on the clock, working, but they let themselves open up and be touched by my words and then took the time to share with me their impact. Wow! I am so grateful.

The theme of the luncheon was Living your Dash, and it refers to the dash on a gravestone between the birth date and the death date. 

I'be been putting too much pressure on myself lately about what I'm going to do with my dash during this  short and precious life. It's overwhelming and I feel burnt out and ineffective. 

Maybe you do too.

So today I will just try to do one small thing: be kind.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Monday, March 28, 2022

It Ain't Easy Being Green


This is the face of a kid who did not enjoy soccer. But this post isn’t about soccer.

As we walked into the gym, he saw other kids coming out of the building wearing medals. His ass-dragging mopey-ness transformed into a spring in his step as he contemplated getting a medal of his own.
Mom was a bit worried because say all you will about the worth of participant medals, this guy barely participated, yet she hoped he’d get a 🏅 too.
He participated slightly more than usual on this day, and his mom breathed a sigh of relief that the season was over as they gathered for the bestowing of the medals.
Except there was another team on the other side of the gym receiving trophies rather than medals, and the medals immediately lost any appeal they had once had. This guy, and the one next to him, we’re not pleased.
Have you ever been satisfied, even excited by something in your life, only to be immediately brought low when you see someone who has more?
This mom sure has. Many, many times.
I don't love this about myself, but I try to show myself the same grace I showed this little guy.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Showing up for Someone

I thought I'd share one of the most beautiful examples of holding space for someone that I've come across in my grief work. I hope it will inspire you today the way it did me.

Yesterday I posted about the difficulty of grievers to identify and express specific needs they have, and how sometimes that makes people (me!) make vague offers to help that end up sounding empty and not actually supporting anyone.
These vague offers often feel too risky, because they lack specifics ("Let me know if you need anything"), and the griever doesn't know whether their request will be accepted or rejected, if they ever muster up the energy to put a request out there at all. Grievers already feel incredibly vulnerable, and this can make it worse.
Years ago, right after Rare Bird came out, I met with a newly bereaved mom and dad in their home. Their 15 year old daughter died by suicide, and they wanted to talk to someone a little farther down the road of grief.
The mom told me that 2 friends from church, in those early days of shock and despair, told her they would be available to take a walk with her two days a week.
They said they would show up at the end of her driveway every Tuesday and Thursday at 9 am. If the mom felt up to it, she could come out and walk with them. They could talk about her daughter, talk about insignificant things, or not talk at all. If she didn't feel like walking that day, no hard feelings, but they would keep showing up.
Then, they went to the family calendar hanging on the kitchen wall and wrote "Walk 9am" on all the Tuesdays and Thursdays for the next several months.
When we feel supported, we can use our depleted energy to grieve, process, remember, and ultimately find a path forward. When we don't feel supported, we can expend our precious energy being angry at the people who let us down. Believe me, I've been there! This is why support is crucial.
This mom felt seen and supported. She got out of the house into the sunshine and the rain at time when walking on her own may have made her feel too exposed and vulnerable. Her friends' commitment to showing up and spending this time with her week after week, month after month, was an important acknowledgment that something significant and earth shattering had taken place. Not just in her family, but in the world, because we are all connected.
They bore witness to her pain.
Doing so is not easy, by any means, but it is loving and often remarkable.

Monday, February 7, 2022

Board Games for Days!

Most days are Monopoly Days around here, and Monopoly Empire is our favorite. Yesterday, we tried Sorry. I'm glad the thrift shop has a constant supply of games. 



Anyone Want to Help Me Move a Couch?

 I’ve mentioned before that I have decided quit waiting for enthusiastic buy-in from my husband. 

 

It's frustrating to think it took me almost 30 years to figure this out. I had hints when it was time to get our first dog. The months dragged on as I waited for Tim to show a modicum of enthusiasm. Finally, a one year old chocolate lab fell in our laps, I arranged it, and Shadow joined the family. Guess who was Shadow's number one person? Tim. Years later, we went through the same thing with Charlie. What a love affair! If Tim talked to me and cuddled with me the way he does with Charlie, it would be Valentine's Day every day over here. I’m not saying I did these things behind Tim’s back. I got his less than enthusiastic, barely perceptible buy-in and then ran with it.

 

What made me think of this today? Well, despite my bad back, I swapped our kitchen and dining room tables by myself. It doesn't look great, and will probably only stay this way a week, but I don't care. I was feeling itchy in these four walls, and sometimes you just want to move shit around. When it comes to house stuff, if I didn’t get the ball rolling, we’d be in a state of stasis forever. Men, don't often wake up and say, "I wonder if that couch would look better by the window." My latest project is getting a tree cut down, and I've set a goal for myself to on figure that out this week. Tim will know, but I won’t wait for him to high-five me on it. Few things turn a man into an ardent conservationist or decorating purist than saying you want to cut down a tree, or, God forbid, paint wood paneling. 

 

I'm not saying men shouldn't have a say in anything. I'm just preaching to myself here, REMINDING MYSELF not to use Tim's general lack of enthusiasm as an excuse, when I really could pick up that paintbrush, move that table, plan that trip, or do that next thing. 

 

99.9% of the time, he likes what I've done. He becomes the dog's best friend. He appreciates having appliances that aren't broken. He thinks white paint really brightens the space. He’s glad we went on those trips. Now I know I’m probably mashing everything up because it’s Monday morning and I haven’t had my third cup of tea yet, but it kind of reminds me of fooling around. I may be less than thrilled about the prospect, but afterward I’m always glad to have participated. Sure, there’s buy-in from me, but sometimes the enthusiasm comes later. 

 

Let’s hope Tim feels the same way about the tree. 

Monday, November 15, 2021

5 Ways You Can Help a Grieving Friend

It seems like an important time to share this again. Grief is disorienting and lonely. You can make a difference.

Note: *for health and safety reasons, during the pandemic, you may need to be creative in the ways you reach out. 


  1. Show up. Go to her house for a hug and show of support. Make visits brief, and look for cues as to whether it’s time to leave. If you see a tangible need, whether it’s for a jumbo pack of toilet paper or a dress for her daughter for the funeral, take care of it. I’ll never forget my friend Robin taking my broken glasses out of my hand and getting me a new pair to wear to my mother’s funeral. Go to the funeral, whether in person or virtually. You may feel like just a face in the crowd, but your presence is important. Then, mark your calendar for a few days or a week afterward to show up in a different way, such as stopping by with a latte and a hug. Do it again. Your friend will likely need you to initiate for a while, but if you remind yourself to “Just Show Up” physically and emotionally, you will help her heal.
  2. Memorialize and honor. Honor your friend’s loved one by attending events such as a vigil and any charity events held in his or her name. If you knew the loved one, write down your memories and give it to your friend. But it’s okay if you didn’t know the loved one—you are here to support your friend.  You belong! Yours could be the face she needs to see. As you support your friend in her grief, you will get to know more about her loved one, and that will help guide you in other ways to reach out such as donating to charity, planting a tree, giving a book to a library, or through a small gift. A special piece of jewelry, a book, a candle, a photograph of her loved one, or even a cozy robe in her loved one’s favorite color help your friend feel closer to her loved one, even as their tangible connection feels like it is slipping away.
  3. Listen. Your quiet presence or silent hug means more to your friend than any grand gesture or the "perfect" words. Showing up for a friend is scary because we are terrified of saying the wrong thing. That’s okay.  Words are next to useless at a time like this, so give yourself a break. A simple “I’m so sorry” or "I love you" and your presence are priceless. Your intention is pure, and your friend will be able to sense that. “Do you want to tell me what these past few days have been like?” might be a way to give her permission to open up if she wants to. But silence is okay, too. If you feel the words "At Least" moving from your brain to your mouth, force yourself to be silent.
  4. Remember: Remember the birthday of the deceased, and the anniversary or the time of year of his or her death. Call, text, or send a card. “I’m thinking of you today as you miss your mom.” Or, make a note to reach out on important holidays such as Mother’s Day or Father’s Day or other holidays that would be particularly meaningful to your friend. This could be the first day of school, or the opening day of baseball season. Don’t worry that you will be reminding your friend of her loss on those days. She is already thinking about it, and your quick card, email, or text will let her know you are too. Find a way to bring up the loved one’s name in conversation. The more you do it, the easier it gets, “I watched the Yankees play last week and thought of Jack.” “Your mom really loved summer, didn’t she?”  This helps your friend know that even though time has passed, you still remember that her life has changed.
  5. Don’t give up: Your friendship may feel one sided for a while. You may be tempted to back off, give your friend space, or let your friend reach out to you once she knows what she needs. You may even feel a bit let down that she seems to be relating to others more than you these days. Perhaps she has formed bonds with others who have experienced a similar loss and you are wondering what this means for your friendship. The key is to keep letting your friend know you care. Let go of expectations of how/if she will respond. Grief is extremely isolating and lonely, and if you can stave off some of that by being consistently present even if that is through texts, and (unreturned) phone messages.  Yes, your friend has changed due to her experience, but she still loves and needs you. And if you are willing to walk beside her in her grief, you both will be richer for it.

Show up.

Memorialize and Honor.

Listen.

Remember.

Don’t Give Up.