Holiday Helps For Grieving Hearts: What The Bereaved Need From Friends And Family


I know it is hard.
  I know you don’t truly understand how I feel.  You can’t.  It wasn’t your child.

I know I may look and act like I’m “better”.  I know that you would love for things to be like they were:  BEFORE.  But they aren’t.

I know my grief interferes with your plans.  I know it is uncomfortable to make changes in traditions we have observed for years.  But I can’t help it I didn’t ask for this to be my life.

I know that every year I seem to need something different.  I know that’s confusing and may be frustrating.  But I’m working this out as I go.  I didn’t get a “how to” manual when I buried my son.  It’s new for me every year too.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2016/09/03/grief-and-holidayswhat-the-bereaved-need-from-friends-and-family/

Companioning The Bereaved

I’ve learned so much in this journey.

I’ve had to unlearn some things too.

One of the things I’ve had to unlearn is that the medical model of “identify, treat, cure” is not applicable to grieving hearts.

Grief is not a disease. It’s not an abnormality. It doesn’t need to be treated and cured so that it “goes away”.

It’s the perfectly normal and appropriate response to loss.

A more helpful model is compassionate companionship.

What grievers need is faithful friends and family who choose to come alongside and refuse to be frightened away when the process seems long, tortuous and challenging. We need others to be present, to truly listen and to bear witness to our wounds.

Recently I found this list from Dr. Alan Wolfelt, founder of the Center for Loss (http://www.centerforloss.com) and I love it!

It’s an elegant synopsis of what compassionate companionship looks like in practice:

  1. Being present to another person’s pain; it is not about taking away the pain.
  2. Going to the wilderness of the soul with another human being; it is not about thinking you are responsible for finding the way out.
  3. Honoring the spirit; it is not about focusing on the intellect.
  4. Listening with the heart; it is not about analyzing with the head.
  5. Bearing witness to the struggles of others; it is not about judging or directing these struggles.
  6. Walking alongside; it is not about leading.
  7. Discovering the gifts of sacred silence; it is not about filling up every moment with words.
  8. Being still; it is not about frantic movement forward.
  9. Respecting disorder and confusion; it is not about imposing order and logic.
  10. Learning from others; it is not about teaching them.
  11. Compassionate curiosity; it is not about expertise.

~Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Eleven Tenets of Companioning the Bereaved

At one time or another each of us need someone to be present, to truly listen and to bear witness to our wounds.

When your world is profoundly dark, an outstretched hand is often the only way a heart can hold onto hope. 

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Eight Grief Quotes That Help My Heart On Hard Days

I’m kind of selective in what memes I toss around.

I don’t usually share them unless I can agree wholeheartedly with them.

But sometimes a meme is the simplest and most effective way to communicate truth.  And sometimes I just need a quick lift on a hard day. 

So here are a few I like:

mixed stages of grief

Grief is not a smooth path up and out of the pit of despair, it’s a tangled mess of thoughts, feelings and physical manifestations.  Grief is WORK.  So, so much work.

grief not a disorder

Grief is not abnormal.  It is not weakness.  It is the natural response to loving someone who is no longer within reach.  There aren’t any shortcuts on this journey.

grief lasts longer than sympathy

This is a hard one.  People mean well but unless they have lost a child (or experienced other significant loss) they just don’t realize that grief lasts a lifetime.  What is a date on the calendar for everyone else-a finite experience with an endpoint-is an ongoing reality for us.

Sympathy will not outlast grief.  The friends who stick around are the ones who understand that.  They choose compassion-which lasts forever.  

grief only exists where love lived first

Another way to say it is “Grief is love unfinished”.  Grief isn’t something conjured up by a heart.  It’s the natural expression of love when the object of that love is no longer available.  Grief IS love.  So it’s no wonder a parent will grieve the rest of his or her life.

give yourself space to do the work grief requires

You cannot do the work grief requires without setting aside time and space to do it.  Running away, stuffing and distraction seem like real options but they aren’t.

Grief will not be denied. 

It will not be ignored. 

So face it. 

Do the work it takes.

grief jumps out least expect it

No matter how long it’s been, grief will still surprise you.  Tears at the most inopportune moment, memories washing over you like waves, joy and sorrow meeting when the camera flashes.  That’s OK.  Let it roll.  Feel it.

its ok to ask for help

It’s not only OK to ask for help, it’s vitally important to ask for it.  NO ONE can bear the burden of grief alone.  People around you might not realize that or might not know how to help.  ASK.  Get counseling if you need to.  Get practical household help if you need to.  Take medication if you need to.  There is nothing shameful in asking for and receiving help.  

one step at a time necklace

Finally, rest assured that there is really no way to face this life in the Valley except to simply take it one step-sometimes one breath-at a time.  Looking too far down the road will only discourage you.  Perseverance IS the victory, dear heart.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.  It’s not a sickness that can be “cured”It’s a heart condition that must be acknowledged and impacts life every single day.  

Sometimes when I’m having an especially hard day, I have to remind myself of all these things.  

It helps me.  

I hope it helps you too.  ❤

Grief Changes

This life is not all sadness and sorrow, death and darkness.  

It was.  For a very, very long time all I could see was distant flickers of light.  

They were just enough to keep me going but not enough to lift the utter blackness that surrounded me.  

Now I would characterize life as hazy gray-most things still filtered through a lens of grief but generally brighter.  

I can see and feel the change.  It’s not as hard to get up most mornings.  Not as hard to put dates on a calendar.  Not as hard to commit to social activities and to actually show up.  Not as hard to talk about family life with strangers and acquaintances.  Not as hard to do so many things that were practically impossible in the first weeks, months and years.

I am so, so grateful.  

And there are good things-very good things-happening in my family.  

I’m even more grateful for those.  

A baby who could have had a sad story has a happy one!  He is growing and grinning and getting ready (within the month, we think) to escape the hospital.  His dad is home from deployment.  His mom is healing like a champ from severe illness and from her surgery.  They are forming a happy trio and full of love.

ryker smiling

A wedding is less than two weeks away!  After some (typical) stress and struggle things are falling into place.  My daughter is joining her life to a good man and that fills my heart with joy.

fiona and brandon at farm

My niece is graduating high school.  All the kids in that generation are grown ups just as we finally added one to begin the next.

My mother and father are still here to enjoy these things.  

If you are afraid you will never, ever feel joy again, I understand.  That was one of the most frightening aspects of early days and months and years.  I could not imagine having that heavy, dark cloud envelope me for the rest of my life.

It seems impossible it could ever be otherwise.  

But I’m here to tell you-it doesn’t have to be that way.  If you reach for the tiny lights you can just barely see in the distance and make whatever feeble and faltering steps forward, your heart will learn to feel something besides sorrow again.

At first it may only be a split-second when a smile nearly, but not quite, crosses your lips.

Then it might be an hour when you realize you’ve actually been completely engaged and present with your family or good friend.

One day you will be slipping into bed and think, “Today was a pretty good day”.  It will shock you, sadden you  and encourage you all at the same time.

It’s not a smooth upward journey that lands you out of the pit of grief.

It’s a bumpy road that tosses you around.  Highs and lows, ups and downs.  And it lasts a lifetime.

But if you purpose to hold on with both hands, to stay the course, keep heading toward the bits of light, laughter, love and loveliness teasing you in the distance, you will make progress.

Bad things have happened-the worst, in fact. 

Bad things still happen. 

But good things happen too.  

Very good things.  

I want to be present for them, don’t you?

courage is always an act of love

Instead Of Fixing, Offer Space To Share

I didn’t realize until I was the person who needed comforting how unhelpful and sometimes painful my own past comments were to my suffering friends and family.

There are many important and necessary conversations going on right now about how we talk to and talk about our fellow humans.  I’m thankful folks are learning that words are rarely (ever?) neutral.

They build up or tear down. 

And we are responsible for them.

I wish that along with other areas, we would consider how we discuss and address those who experience painful life circumstances.  But we rarely do.

This is one place where the right words can make such a difference.

Instead of shutting down the broken heart or lamenting soul, we can choose to invite them to share and then stick around to listen.

We can create safe spaces instead of closing the door to further conversation.

We can participate in healing instead of perpetuating the pain.

 

instead offering compassion.png

Repost: Zero Points for Pretending-You Can’t Hide Your Heart

Oh, sometimes I think I’m clever enough to do it.

I edit my words, costume my body and fix my face so  I can act the part.  But truth is, I never manage to fool anyone who looks closer than my plastic smile.

I can’t hide my heart.

And I don’t know why I try-I don’t get points for pretending.

There’s no prize at the end of this long road for the one who makes it with fewest tears.

Read the rest here:  Zero Points for Pretending: You Can’t Hide Your Heart

Repost :Why Friends Abandon Grievers

It’s been a long year. 

And an even longer last three months.  

I can tell the stress is easing, the burden lifting and the clouds parting.  But carrying the load for so long has caught up to me.

And I think I’ve finally reached the end of any reserve energy I may have had.

I try hard to write original material most days and there’s a backlog of over 1000 blog post drafts I can draw from but I just don’t have it in me today.  

So here’s another repost of a popular blog from earlier this year:  

“It happens in all kinds of ways.  One friend just slowly backs off from liking posts on Facebook, waves at a distance from across the sanctuary, stops texting to check up on me.

Another observes complete radio silence as soon as she walks away from the graveside. 

Still another hangs in for a few weeks-calls, texts, even invites me to lunch until I can see in her eyes that my lack of “progress” is making her uneasy.  Then she, too, falls off the grid.

Why do people do that? 

Why is it, when we need them most, many friends-and I mean really, truly FRIENDSjust can’t hang in and hold on?”

Read the rest here:  Why Friends Abandon Grievers