Archive for the ‘Grief Support’ Category
Tragedy can be difficult on children, and often parents are unsure how to discuss it with their children. In light of the Boston Marathon Bombing, many resources have are available to help parents talk with their children about the bombing.
- ABC News, Boston Marathon Bombing: How to Talk to Your Kids
- Huffington Post, What to Tell Your Kids About the Boston Marathon Bombing
- Katie Couric, How to Talk to Your Kids about the Boston Marathon Bombings (video)
- NBC Today Show, 8 Tips for talking to kids about the Boston Marathon bombing
You are encouraged to sign our online tribute to express your support for those impacted by the Boston Marathon Bombing.
Thanksgiving was really the Super Bowl of holidays for my mom, and we would usually celebrate with a house full of people, way too much food, and lots of laughter. Mom made sure we made everyone’s favorite dishes, had plenty of coffee and pie, and invited anyone who needed a place to call home for the holidays. She was the glue that held our family together, and we admittedly struggled to keep close after she died in 2007. The first Thanksgiving after she left, we all descended on my father’s house, made lots of food, laughed a little too much and a little too loudly, trying to pretend everything was still going to be the same. It wasn’t, and we all knew it.
For a number of reasons, we didn’t have the big Thanksgiving feast at my Dad’s house the next year, which left me with yet another feeling of loss. So, that second year without Mom, my husband and I went to a friend’s house to eat with them and their young daughters. It was nice of them to welcome us into their home, but it didn’t feel “right” to me. We were invited to a number of people’s homes the following year, but I just couldn’t get into the idea of having someone else’s holiday again. So, last year, we had Thanksgiving at our house.
We had friends over, and made way too much food, and laughed real laughter and shared a sense of togetherness that can only come when it isn’t being forced. I made the spinach stuffed mushrooms that my mom taught me to make, and wore her teeny little diamond ear rings proudly in my ears. It all felt as good as a Thanksgiving without Mom could feel, and helped me to realize that I am in charge of my own traditions now. I can create new ones while still honoring the memory of my mom. I don’t have to feel obligated to participate in other people’s family traditions, or go to certain gatherings because other people think that I should. It was a powerful and freeing lesson to learn.
A close friend of mine lost her brother suddenly, just two months after Mom died. She spent the year following her brother’s death trying to fit into other people’s expectations of how she should be grieving, and how she should be “moving on.” That third year, she made the brave choice to say “no” to a family gathering that would not have been the best fit for her, and she joined us for Thanksgiving instead. I think only people who are grieving (or going through a crisis) can understand the delicate balance of trying to make others happy and keep your own sanity at the same time. It is a difficult thing, and makes the strongest people I know question themselves.
This year, we will once again gather at my father’s home for the traditional family Thanksgiving, in our own un-traditional way. We will be celebrating on the first weekend of December, since that’s when my brother and his wife can make the trip from Nashville. And the warm and welcoming house I grew up in now includes the added love of Shirley, a long time family friend who is now my father’s wife. As usual, we will be joined by Emily, my best friend from childhood, and her family. Emily’s mom and my mom were friends before either of them had children, and they remained close until my mom’s death. Having them around for holidays and special occasions makes me feel the warmth and wonder of my childhood every time.
We will no longer have the company of Aunt Jean, Uncle Eddie, my cousin Jeff, or Bubbie, who had been my last surviving grandparent. I am struck by how many members of our family have died, and also by how close those of us who are left have become.
Life after loss hasn’t looked “the same” for me, my family, or my friends, but it has been good and it has been honest. We have all made some choices, changes, and compromises along the way as we have slowly figured out what feels right for each of us now. We have found our own unique ways to celebrate the things that are important to us, and to honor the memories of the ones who will always be in our hearts.
Through all of the sadness, strained relationships, and awkward moments, we have come to this new place, closer than ever. And for that, I am thankful.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
During those years, Mom watched my brother get married, ate cheese and chocolate with me in Europe, started volunteering at a no-kill animal shelter, read to children with my dad at an inner city school, and planted about a thousand flowers (literally and metaphorically) in her garden and in mine. Many of the things Mom did in those years between diagnosis and death were done with the unspoken knowledge that her time with us, and our time with her, was likely limited.
It is unfortunate but true that it often takes a tragedy to help you clarify what your life is really about. To start looking at the type of person you are, and the type of person you wish to be.
Mom was amazing, but had always been a bit of a nervous person, and spent a lot of time worrying about bad things that might happen, and bad things people might be thinking. She was kind but quiet, loving but low profile.
And then, she got cancer. The bad, fourth-stage, “you only have three months to live,” type of cancer. And that’s when my timid little mommy became a bad-*** cancer fighter.
She had a stem-cell transplant, took round after round of chemo, and endured seemingly endless radiation. She lost her hair, her appetite, and her short term memory. She emerged skinny, bald, and weak, but cancer free. Take that, cancer.
This post-cancer mom was still my mom, but more like Mom3000. All of the tiny wonderful things she always thought, she started saying out loud. And all of the things she had been afraid of seemed to sink into the background.
She complimented rough-looking teenagers on their pink hair and pretty flower tattoos. She lent a hand to single moms who were struggling to get groceries in the car while three wiggly kids were trying to get out. She gave money and time to causes that she supported, and told others to find causes they could support too. She told every single person in her life exactly what they meant to her. And one by one, everyone she touched started to do the same.
We all started to be a little more kind to ourselves and the people around us. We stood up for the disenfranchised people and animals in our communities. We spoke openly about our love and concern for the people in our lives. We started saying “no” to things that took time away from our families and our true selves. We all started to grow into the people my mom knew we were all along.
Cancer does not destroy the spark in our loved ones – it just challenges them (and us) to make it burn more brightly in the time they have left.
Do I wish my mom never had cancer, never got sick, and never died? Absolutely. But I can’t help but wonder if she and the people around her (myself included) would ever have grown in such countless ways without the Cancer Deadline that was always looming in our thoughts.
I have always hated the euphemism that someone “lost their battle with cancer.” My mom touched and changed more lives than I could ever count, in more ways than I will ever know. Cancer only took one of those lives. So, from where I’m standing, it pretty much looks like my mom was stronger than cancer. In the difficult journey we had to travel, Mom gave us each so much more than cancer could ever take away.
My mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, and went through phases of “having cancer” and “not having cancer” in the five years that followed. Technically, she beat cancer quite a few times, and it only beat her once – so I still think she’s the winner in that battle
Recalling pleasant and life-forming memories can be so very important when we have lost someone we love. A fear some people hold is that over time memories will fade away, and while this is partially true, significant memories stay with us for a lifetime. Lots of every day bits of interaction do fade and this is because they were really not important at the time –a conversation on what to have for dinner or the need to take the trash out, or what the weather forecast is for the week. However, many memories are anchored so firmly in our senses we need not fear we will forget. Here’s a personal story:
My oldest son had a good friend in college; that friend had been blind from age five and the only colors he could remember were bright orange and bright green. His friend, Mike, had a bicycle built for two so a person with sight could sit in front and steer while he could enjoy the ride and peddle in back. My son and Mike painted the bike fluorescent orange and green. One fine spring day they went out for a ride and Mike said, “Is it a pretty day?” and my son answered, “It’s an absolutely gorgeous day.” Now any time my son sees a bicycle built for two or his wife says, “Isn’t this a pretty day!” And on the first lovely day in spring; guess what memory floods his mind.
Now just a few things about memory anchors –hopefully not too technical, but important. Anchors may be visual (bicycle), auditory (birds singing), kinesthetic (peddling) or a combination. Combinations are the strongest. For example; a woman who lost her brother, when he was just seventeen at the time and she was fourteen, remembers her brother’s birthdays vividly because his favorite cake was not a cake, but a cream filled donut with a single candle on top that represented all birthdays, and the birthday song that was sung by his musical family was done in beautiful harmony. The anchors are in the sight of a donut and candle, the smell of the donut and the hearing of the song –visual, kinesthetic and auditory. Each year on his birthday the family repeats the ritual and the anchors become even stronger. It doesn’t even have to be a birthday for the memory to appear –just a trip to the donut shop will do it every time.
For me; my mother wore White Shoulders perfume so whenever I smell it I recall memories of her loving spirit and dressing to go out with my dad on a special occasion. My dad enjoyed making things and he was very skillful so whenever I use one of his tools or use the box on my dresser he made I recall memories of helping him in the workshop when I was a young boy. Both of those memories bring a smile to my face and tears to my eyes and trigger other memories. You just don’t forget those things.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that some anchors are of unpleasant memories. There are awful examples I am too familiar with in working with bereaved individuals. A quarrel someone had with a loved one the day of their birthday and on that day the person died in an auto accident, or seeing a parent hit the other parent in a dispute over drinking. These can painfully trigger the memories on the birthday or when seeing someone get angry when drinking too much. I have some painful memories from my own life –I suspect we all do. For some of these I’ve sought professional help, for others I’ve managed to forgive if not forget entirely and for others I’ve simply accepted as a part of living and that dwelling on them does not change them, but only diminishes the mostly good things in life and let it go.
When a memory that is anchored in us that makes us feel deeply; it is a message that we are alive. They are opportunities to recall, celebrate and face up to something. While new memory anchors will occur unexpectedly, we also have opportunities to create positive anchors for ourselves, our families and our friends that sustain us all. Perhaps it’s a new a birthday ritual or holiday idea or vacation reunion, event attendance with friends/family, or a memory party during the holidays where we share stories of someone we’ve loved and lost.
Thank you to Hello Grief for this article.
Father’s Day can be a rough holiday when you feel like you are the only one without a dad. It can be tempting to just ignore the day. Instead of pretending Father’s Day doesn’t exist, or doesn’t matter, try to find fun and meaningful ways to make the day a good one.
Here are a few suggestions for ways to remember and celebrate your dad on this special day.
Connect with his friends. Ask them to share a funny story about your dad, or what it was about your dad that made them feel close to him.
Write about your dad and positive things he used to say to you. Buy or make a card that expresses what you’d like to say to you dad, his favorite quotes or write down the positive things he told you.
Watch a movie or TV show that he liked. Think about why your dad enjoyed it, and what he might have said while watching it with you.
Ask other family members to join you in celebrating your dad on Father’s Day. Spend the day with your mom, siblings, grandparents or aunts and uncles. Do something that you all loved doing with your dad.
Find a song that reminds you of your dad, and share it with us. Find a video of a song on YouTube that reminds you of your dad and share the link in the comments below, or on our YouTube channel.
Try one or two of these, or combine them all to design an entire day of celebration. You get to decide how you want to remember your dad, and what you want your own traditions to be.
How will you remember your dad on Father’s Day? Add to the comments section below to share your ideas with us.
The below article was originally posted on http://www.americanwidowproject.com/. The American Widow Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to the new generation of those who have lost the heroes of yesterday, today and tomorrow, with an emphasis on healing through sharing stories, tears and laughter… Military Widow to Military Widow. Thank you to Hello Grief for sharing.
6 boxes are all that is left of my husband. One filled with his socks, another with his uniforms, and another with every card or photo he had received. Three more contain his books, sheets, and other military effects.
I remember when the boxes arrived, I sat there so anxious to see what was left of my baby. Opening each one I had no clue what I would see. Cautiously, I lifted the lid of the hard black containers.
There are the cards I wrote him, there are the movies he’d watch every night, there are the photos of me he had hanging next to his bed………there is the only thing left of my husband’s existence while in Iraq.
I remember opening up his laptop to find an snapshot of me I never knew he liked. There was the bear that had the personal message I had recorded telling him I can’t wait to see him come home and be together again. There were all the things I had sent, all the memories on film we had captured, all the literature he adored reading, now with no reader.
I forgot all that he had accumulated over his 8 months over there. Due to that fact, many items were so heartwarming but always with an aftertaste of anger.
I remember going through his clothes and immediately putting them to my nose……detergent. ‘I’ll try another shirt or maybe his socks!’ …….detergent. The fact that they had washed all of his clothing made me so infuriated! Let me have one last breath of his smell. The smell I was unable to be without for 8 months…..and now forever.
Some of Michael’s things I pulled out right away, others are still sitting in those looming boxes sitting in my garage. Every now in then I’ll open them to get a small inhale from his pillow that they DIDN’T wash, or go for a search for some hidden letter he may have written in the case he would die.
I never found the letter, I never got my husband to come home, and all I am left with are our memories, a few items of meaning and………6 black boxes.
Often, a pet is a member of the family. Your time with your beloved pet is meaningful, and the loss can be painful. In the book A Dog’s Purpose, author W. Bruce Cameron tells the story of a dog that is reincarnated until he figures out what his purpose is.
In an interview with Paw Nation, Cameron said the readers he most wants are those that have lost a dog. The book was inspired by an experience with a dog that reminded him of his childhood dog. The hope and love between a dog and its family is heartwarming and poignant.
- Keep traditions that your loved one started, and that you can continue. This is a way to help honor your lost loved one on Thanksgiving.
- Try to establish new traditions. You can include a new activity that everyone enjoys. Grief can have a unique way of giving us the opportunity to evaluate the parts of the holidays that are enjoyable and those that are not.
- Give thanks for the time you had with your loved one. While saying what you are thankful for, share that you are thankful you had your loved one in your life.
- Talk about your loved one with friends and family. Thanksgiving can bring your family and friends together. Share your memories with them and encourage them to share favorite stories as well.
- Do an online tribute for your loved one. Click here to light a remembrance candle:
- Chat online about your loved one. Join the conversation at Beyond Indigo’s Message Forum: http://forums.grieving.com/
- Light a candle for them. In addition to lighting a candle online, you can have a remembrance candle lit on your Thanksgiving table.
- Remember to take care of yourself. Thanksgiving marks the start of the busiest time of year. Take time now for yourself by going on a long walk, listening to music, and getting enough sleep.
What are ways you have been able to remember your loved ones on Thanksgiving? How have you been able to cope with grief on this holiday?