Happy Thanksgiving

 

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“Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities.  It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend,,,when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that is present – love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature and personal pursuits that bring us pleasure – the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth”

Sarah Ban Breathnach

Wisdom

“What do you know now that you wish you’d known 20 years ago?”
Here are some of my favourite answers.
“That I already had everything I need to be content and thrive”
“How little time you may have with someone”
“How to say no”
“That I am enough”
“It isn’t necessary to be compliant to be liked or loved”
“Worry less about things you can’t control”
“How important technology was going to be”
“Taking risks for personal happiness is always worth it”
“Live your own life and don’t worry about what other people think”
“How to manage money”
“Not to be afraid to do the things I wanted to do instead of staying where I felt safe”
“Trust your instincts”
“The impact of nutrition on health”
“Experiences and relationships are what matter, not material things”
“That I need to really take care of myself”
“How much fun it is to be retired”

Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day to all the Birth Fathers, Adoptive Fathers, Step-Fathers, God-Fathers, Pet Fathers, and those men who mentor and guide us. Today is a day set aside to celebrate all of them and to remember the Fathers who are no longer here to celebrate with us.

How to Love Someone Who is Grieving Their Child

When someone you love has experienced the loss of a child, it’s hard on everyone. They are engulfed in a sea of unbearable pain and grief and sorrow while you may be struggling to stand beside them, wondering what to say, what to do, and what they need. You love them dearly, but you don’t really know what they are going through and you don’t know what to do.

Maybe you’re grieving too.
Maybe you’re suffering as you witness their suffering.
Maybe you feel helpless.
Maybe you find yourself saying all the wrong things because you don’t know what else to say.

Maybe you want to love them through this, but no one taught you how to do that.

It’s ok.

Most of us don’t really know how to navigate this thing called grief. They don’t teach Grief 101 in high school (although, perhaps they should!).

In an ideal world, your heartbroken loved one would be able to say, “Here, this is what I need. This is how you can help me.” Unfortunately, that’s generally not how it works. They have been crushed by a devastating loss and, chances are, they’re giving everything they have to simply get out of bed in the morning. Trying to articulate what they need and what kind of support they want probably feels next to impossible.

Fortunately, loving a grieving friend or family member isn’t as complicated as it can seem. Generally, it’s simply about being a compassionate and kind human.

Show Up

First and foremost, show up. Be here.

Show up at their door. Run errands for them. Do their laundry. Make them meals and sit with them to ensure they eat (many times in early grief people lose their appetite and don’t eat regularly). Lay on the bed and hold them while they cry.

Continue to show up for months or years – this is a lifetime loss and they will need you for a lifetime. Text them. Call them. Send cards. Remember birthdays and anniversaries of their child’s life. Help them plan birthday parties and holiday remembrances and show up for death anniversaries. Mark them on your calendar so you don’t forget – because they won’t. And they won’t forget those who show up for them.

You will likely say or do the wrong thing at some point. It happens. But if you are willing to keep showing up and work through the discomfort, that’s what will matter. That’s how you’ll help.

Be Patient

Grief is not short lived. Nor is it linear or simple or logical.

Grieving a child takes a lifetime. We love our children for a lifetime and we will grieve them for a lifetime. Society likes to tell us that after a certain period of time, grief should be completed and we should be ready to find “closure” and “move on.”

To be quite honest, if you buy into that way of thinking, you will struggle to be able to support your loved one as long as they will need you to.

Your friend or family member will grieve far longer than you will want to hear about it or be around for it. This is where they will need you to be patient and understanding.

Those who grieve their child(ren) will eventually find a way to live with that grief and that aching hole in their life, but they will never stop missing their child or longing to hold them. Birthdays and holidays and anniversary dates may be painful and challenging for the rest of their life.

When you find yourself tiring of their grief or wanting them to “get over it already,” remember – they are far, far more exhausted and sick of grieving than you can even imagine. This is when they need you most to keep showing up.

Listen

While you might be struggling to know what to say, it’s likely your loved one really just wants someone who will listen.

Really, truly listen.

To their fears. To their grief. To their doubts and guilt and regrets and questioning. To the part of them that feels like they’ve failed their children. To their anger and their rage at the injustice of their children’s lives being cut short. To the urges of grief that make them feel crazy and abnormal.

Let those you love simply talk with you and be heard without judgment or false optimism. Don’t try to fix it or to help them feel something different – just listen.

Listen and when you want to object to something they are saying, or inject your own thoughts, stay silent and listen even more.

Listen and then simply tell them that you love them and you are here.

Forgive

Here’s the honest truth: For a while, your friend or family member isn’t going to be a terribly great friend or family member.

They probably won’t always show up for holiday celebrations or birthdays or fun outings. They’ll probably forget your birthday and anniversary and other special occasions. They may not feel up to attending baby showers and children’s birthdays or being around babies and kids at all (this particular thing might last for years).

In that first year after their child died especially, they will probably forget things you told them or make plans and either forget about them or cancel at the last minute because they just couldn’t get out of bed that day.

When you complain about every day matters like being tired or your child acting up or the annoying co-worker you can’t stand, they may not engage in the conversation the way they used to or may tell you that you’re overreacting. It’s not that they don’t care about your difficulties, it’s simply that what they’ve experienced is so overwhelmingly huge everything else feels small and meaningless in comparison.

So, when they can’t be the friend or family member you remember or want them to be, forgive them. They’re still learning how to navigate life after the entire landscape has changed – not unlike being dropped in a foreign land with no map and no way to communicate.

Get to Know Them

However long you may have known your loved one or how well you might have known them, be prepared to get to know them all over again.

The loss of a child changes us in irrevocable ways.

Your friend or family member isn’t the person they once were and they will never fully be that person again. Grief has forged them into someone new.

Don’t be surprised if they don’t respond to things the way they once would have or if they suddenly aren’t interested in things they used to love or if the beliefs about the world they used to hold so dear are ones they cannot abide by anymore.

No, they won’t be the person you remember and loved so very much. Grief will change and morph them into someone new – and even that will change and morph again over time.

But don’t give up on them too quickly. They may not be the person you knew, but you might really love the person they have and are becoming.

Take time to get to know the new post-loss them.

Remember

Finally, if you do nothing else, remember with them.

Help them remember their child through the years and comfort them with the knowledge that their child has not and will not be forgotten.

Share memories with them. Say their child’s name. Remember their child’s birthday. Honor them on the holidays and for Mother’s and Father’s day. Donate in their child’s name. Read articles like this one and discuss it with your friend or family member.

Give your loved one the gift of remembering their child. It’s the greatest gift you can give.

And above all else, love them. Love them so deeply and openly and clearly they can’t help but feel it radiating from you.

They need you and they need that love.

Love them fiercely.

Thoughts on Mother’s Day

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My Thoughts on Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day can bring a mixture of emotions.
 
I had no idea how challenging Mother’s Day could be until my mother died. Most of my life it was just a day where our family did something nice for our mother. Since her death and after working with men and women who have complicated and non-existent relationships with their mothers, I realize just how much emotion this holiday can bring.
 
My first thought is that a mother is not just a woman who gives birth to a child. A mother is a woman who creates, nurtures, encourages and protects. Not everyone had or has that. Then there are the women who did not give birth to us but who have nurtured us, encouraged us, been there for us and pushed us to be our best selves.
 
Whether your mother is living or dead, available or unavailable, distant or over-bearing, there are always things we wish were different, better or had been more. All relationships are complicated and have challenges. That is just life. Embrace and celebrate what you are grateful for.
 
My other thought about Mother’s Day is about motherhood itself. Mother’s Day can also bring up feelings for women who want or wanted to be mothers but could not, who were mothers but lost their children, or for mothers whose children are no longer in their lives.
 
If you know a mother, yours or someone else’s, who you think is doing a great job, let them know. If you are a mother, be kind to yourself, it is the hardest job in the world.
 
Whether this day is a day of celebration or a challenge, be compassionate to yourself and others.
 
Happy Mother’s Day.