Making a Difference is Easier Than You Think

Some people’s passions lead them to headline making, world changing careers.  

Most of us spend our days in smaller ways. 

And we often feel like our tiny efforts create barely a ripple in the giant ocean of human experience.

But I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful or perfect to make a difference in someone’s life.

All you have to do is care.

Compassionate companionship is a gift.  

Learning to sit with another heart in joy and sorrow, victory and pain, sunshine and darkness all the while assuring her you will not leave-no matter whatis priceless.

Think about it:  People pay thousands of dollars for a stranger to listen to their heart cries.

Sure, sometimes folks need a professional to help them untangle complex emotions, underlying mental health issues and substance abuse problems.  But often, at root, they are simply lonely with no trusted companion for life’s journey.

Who do you know that needs a listening ear, a shoulder to lean on, a heart to affirm that his or her heart is worthy of love?

Choose to reach out.  

Be a friend.  

Make a difference.  

 

To-make-a-difference-in-someones-life flower elder hand younger hand

Care & Feeding of Your Grieving Person: “You Don’t Need to be Perfect, You Just Need to be Present”

I just love this.  

It’s simple, humorous, shareable and oh, so true.  

“You don’t need to be perfect, you just need to be present.”

care and feeding of your grieving person

The Art of Listening

We’ve all experienced it and probably been guilty of it as well:  listening with one ear while anxiously waiting to reply or to make a getaway.  

I hate that.  

What I LOVE is people who really listen.  

I knew a woman once who made me feel as if whatever I was telling her at that moment was the most important thing in the world.  She would look me in the eye,  often take my hand, and never made even the slightest body movement to suggest she had things to do or people to see or anywhere else to go.

Even when we were talking about the most ordinary things.

I want to be like THAT.  

I want to make every single heart that shares feel honored, loved, heard and safe. 

speak so others listen listen so others speak

 

 

Speaking Truth

In the South, we tend to pussyfoot around hard truths because most of us grew up with the admonition, “Now just be nice!”

And while that makes for charming dinner table conversation, it makes for lousy long-term relationships.

Because we all know the longer you live with, work with and love another body, the more things that should be said but aren’t add up.

Pretty soon the pile is so big it obscures the love or fun or shared interests that should be holding hearts together and instead they drift apart.

I haven’t been all that good at following the southern tradition of code words and cute phrases that mask true intent. But I used to be guilty of it from time to time.

These past years of heartache and hardship have pretty much stripped all the veneer that was left off my tongue.

I doubt you will find a soul that would call me a silver-tongued devil.  They’re more likely to call me a brash something else.

But I have important things to say and I don’t want to waste time sugar-coating them.  I don’t want the meat of my message hidden inside a puff pastry of silly words.  I believe truth should be easy to swallow but not necessarily tasty.

Often the most efficacious medicine leaves a nasty aftertaste.

So I’m here to tell you:  don’t drown your important relationships in unsaid words, unshared feelings, unacknowledged wounds.  

All that does is guarantee distance grows between your hearts.  

If you let the distance become too vast, or the pile of unsaid truth get too high, you might just find you can’t reach that far or that high to reconnect.

It takes a bit of brave to say what’s important and uncomfortable. 

But it’s worth it.  

And it’s really the only way to authentic and lasting relationships.  

business-authenticity

Should I DO Something? Yes. Absolutely.

It’s possible to stand frozen at the corner of good intentions and helpful action.

I’ve done it dozens of times.

And every time I’ve allowed myself to swallow “but I don’t know what to do” and done nothing I’ve regretted it.

Every. Single. Time.

So I’m here to tell you that when you get that urge, feel that itch, hear that still, small voice that says, “DO something“, then do it.

You may already have a good idea of what it is you need to do, but in case you don’t know exactly how to make a difference in the life of a heart hanging on by a thread, here are some things to get you started:

  • Text, message or write.  Sometimes a phone call is too hard for a weepy friend to answer.  Better to send something that she can read and answer when she is able to talk.  You can always ask, “Can I call you?  I really want to hear your voice.”
  • Deliver a meal or send a restaurant gift card.  Sometimes daily chores are overwhelming and having supper already decided often gives a little breathing room to a heart already struggling to breathe.
  • Offer to tag along.  Go with your friend to that required event or necessary appointment and be a safe space in the crowd, a buffer against too many unwanted questions.
  • Send flowers or a plant or almost anything sweet and unexpected.  There is something magical about the doorbell ringing and a beautiful surprise offered on the other side.
  • In the case of a grieving friend, photos of her loved one are always a wonderful gift.  In the age of digital everything, taking time to print and frame one or two is really special.
  • Clean the house.  When things are cluttered, dirty and messy, it reinforces a sense of futility.  Sometimes waking to a tidy space makes all the difference in whether a heart has the energy to get out of bed and start the day.
  • Run errands.  Things that are easy for most people can be overwhelming for a hurting heart.  Pick up the dry cleaning, buy stamps, grab some bread and milk.  Anything that can save extra stops on the way home from work.
  • Make a care package.  It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant.  If you know the person well, include small things that show you are thinking specifically about THEM.  A new journal, a pretty pen, a puzzle booklet, tea bags or anything that they might like will encourage a heart.
  • Take the kids where they need to go or just take them out for a fun time.  Parents often bear the burden of their own struggle and also the burden of knowing that same struggle is hurting their kids.  Doing some of the heavy lifting of getting children where they need to go helps so much.
  • Offer quiet companionship.  Just come over and sit with your sad or hurting friend.  If she chooses to talk, then listen.  But don’t feel you must fill the empty air with words.  Often silent support does more for a heart than all the sappy sentiments we like to toss at people when they are upset.
  • “Like” their social media posts.  You’d be surprised at how isolated a heart might feel in this age of hyper-connectivity.  If your hurting friend is bold enough to admit it publicly, then let her know you see that, affirm it and are not offended by the admission.  Sure it can be hard to hear the same sad song over and over but if it’s hard for you-and you can walk away or shut it down-how hard do you imagine it is for the person who cannot get away from the reality of living it?

Don’t ignore that voice that says, “Do something”.  

Showing up and choosing to walk with a hurting heart can make the difference between a person giving up or going on.

In the end, love is what we DO and not simply what we SAY.

love is not what you say it is what you do pooh

 

 

Speak Up, They Can’t Read Your Mind

I’ll admit it.  

I tend to be an emotional stuffer. 

It never seemed like it was worth the drama to expose my feelings to others.  It rarely resulted in changed behavior and often resulted in confrontation, retribution or worse.

So I learned to swallow tears, stuff pain and slink off into another room and lick my wounds.  

But that’s hardly healthy.  

And it cannot be sustained when a heart shatters into a million pieces.

Because trying to hide THAT pain is impossible.

It slips out eventually-usually in a way that is awful and untimely and creates more hurt and more drama than if I had simply owned up to it in the first place.  

It may be frustrating, not to mention exhausting, that you have to take the time to help others understand what you need. But this is part of living with grief. It’s part of the healing, coping process. Plus, if you don’t, you’re setting yourself up for more awkward, painful moments. Therefore, communicating with your comforters — be it through a spoken conversation, a letter, or an email — is wise. You won’t have a great deal of energy to reach out to others, but find a way that works for you. Let your comforters know:

* what helps
* what doesn’t help
* the truth about how you are feeling
* how thankful you are for their friendship.”

~Samuel J. Hodges and Kathy Leonard, Grieving With Hope

It IS frustrating AND exhausting.  

But I am learning (slowly, very slowly!) that it is oh, so much better!

Instead of energy spent on being wounded and trying to hide it, I’m learning to speak up, own the wounds and suggest ways to prevent them in the future.  

dont trade authenticity for approval

I’ll be honest, not everyone around me appreciates it.  I am sometimes met with exactly what I hate:  confrontation, opposition, accusations of selfishness and no more understanding than I had before I risked transparency.

But at least I’ve unburdened myself of what I could.  I’ve given them tools to use (if they want to) in helping my heart heal.  

There is so little I can control in this journey.

This is one place I can give it a shot.

what makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful

I Need A Little Help From My Friends

I’ve been asked to speak to a group of healthcare professionals and social workers employed by the hospice industry.

I plan to share a talk entitled “Lifting the Veil on Grief: the Ongoing Impact of Loss on Individuals, Families and Society”

But I need your help.  

Because Dominic left for heaven suddenly, in a motorcycle accident, I did not have any interaction with the healthcare system specific to his death.  And while I can speak about the grief that comes AFTER, I’d like to also speak a bit on what parents, siblings and other close family members need from these folks when a child goes to heaven in a hospital or hospice care facility.

So I have a few questions: 

  • What did a nurse, hospice worker, social worker or other professional do that blessed you around the time of your child’s death?
  • What did they do that was unhelpful or even detrimental?
  • Did any professional present offer grief counseling or recommend a grief support group?  If they did, did you take advantage of that resource?  Why or why not?
  • What do you want these folks to know about your family’s experience?
  • What would you say if you could speak to them today, in light of your experience?

Please note that comments left on the blog site are PUBLIC.   But you are welcome to comment in the closed Facebook groups where I post the blog everyday and those comments are PRIVATE.  

You can also use the “Contact” link to email me comments that will only be seen by me.

I will not use any identifying information when compiling your comments so please share freely and in complete confidence.  

I want to represent the bereaved parent community honestly, bravely and gracefully. 

Your participation will help me do that.  

Thanks in advance. 

I knew I could count on you!