No Substitute For Showing Up

These past two weeks have reminded me once again that there is absolutely NO substitute for being present when someone needs you.

Sure a phone call, text message or card in the mail express concern but there’s just something about showing up with a hug and maybe a casserole or pie that says, “You are important to me.”

It reminded me of this post from a couple of years ago:


I totally get it
we are ALL so busy.

Calendars crammed weeks and months in advance and no white space left over to pencil in lunch with a friend even though we desperately NEED it.

It seems impossible to make that call, write that note or stop by and visit a few minutes.

How can I meet my obligations if I use precious time doing the optional?

But when the unexpected, unimaginable and awful happens, suddenly that calendar and all those appointments don’t matter.  Balls drop everywhere and I don’t care.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/10/07/being-there-no-substitute-for-showing-up/

Five Minutes Or Less Is All It Takes To Encourage a Broken Heart

I have to admit that I’m not nearly in the fog as much with my mama’s death as I was with Dominic’s death.

I’ve found this time around I can kind of stand a little apart and be a little more objective.

It’s no less horrific or painful or sad, but it IS an orderly death (parents before children) and gives me space to take a step back and observe some things instead of having to filter every single interaction through my emotions.

So can I share a little secret?

It literally takes five minutes or less to encourage a broken heart.

I know people often think that if they don’t have the perfect words or lots of time it’s better to do or say nothing.

That’s just not true.

Send a text, a private message, an email, a card. Make a quick phone call (believe me, the bereaved will not keep you on the line!) or leave a voicemail.

What grieving hearts want to know is that someone sees their pain, someone has taken notice of the drastic and unwelcome change that’s been thrust upon them.

We don’t want to feel invisible. We don’t want to be overlooked because it makes you uncomfortable.

Be brave!

Face your own discomfort (which is microscopic compared to the heartache of the bereaved!) and make the call, send the message, write the email or card.

I promise you will waste more than five minutes today.

So take that tiny bit of time and focus your efforts on speaking courage to a hurting heart.

You don’t have to have the perfect words- “I’m so sorry” is just fine.

Then your head can hit the pillow tonight knowing you helped a heart hold onto hope.

You made a difference between someone giving up or going on.

So What SHOULD I Say or Do For My Grieving Friends or Family?

I have learned so much since that day when Dominic left us suddenly for Heaven.

Some of the things I know now are things I wish I didn’t know at all.

I’ve learned some things that serve me well-not only in how I respond to my own pain and loss-but also how I respond to the pain and loss in the lives of those I love.

I’ve had to practice them this week since my mama was desperately ill and then joined Dominic and Jesus.

It reminded me how hard it is for those who have not walked this Valley of the Shadow of Death to really comprehend how their words and actions either truly support or subtly (or not so subtly!) wound already hurting hearts.

So here’s a short list of things things to say and do that actually HELP grieving friends and family:

  • Not everyone leaves earth quickly. Some are ill for a long time. It’s natural for friends to want to stop by home or hospital to see a sick loved one and show support for the family. Please call ahead to see if it’s convenient. If it’s not, then don’t come. Respect that while it may feel like a reunion to you and others gathered in the living room or the waiting room it’s a very sober and frightening and stress-filled time for the family. Loud laughing and back-slapping are unwelcome reminders that the person in the bed can do neither.
  • Please don’t impose your desire to help on the family’s unwillingness to accept it. Offer-that’s wonderful and appreciated-but there may be circumstances you don’t know about that just make it hard or impossible for them to let you do what you would like to do. It’s really, really hard to use the limited energy available to politely turn down an offer.
  • When you stop by to pay respects, don’t overstay your welcome. You’ll probably never notice that the family is working hard to extend hospitality and make small talk. It’s exhausting. You are not the only people “stopping by for a minute” while the family is trying to take care of funeral details. They are deciding on what clothes their loved one will be buried in, what photos to include in a memorial slide show, what will be served at dinner after the service, who will sing or speak or play a piano solo. There’s just no energy left for small talk. Express condolences, leave the dessert or congealed salad and leave them to the little bit of quiet they may enjoy before the next few days of crazy.
  • Take time to write notes of remembrance if you can. Facebook comments, text messages, emails, written notes or cards are wonderful! These can be gathered together, printed and saved as a beautiful tribute.
  • If you haven’t played an active role in the deceased’s life or the life of their family recently, don’t show up and insist on “inner circle” privileges now that they are gone. This is not the time to force reconciliation or expect a family reunion type celebration. While that may be the ultimate outcome of this traumatic and life-altering event, respect those that have maintained relationship over the years.
  • Instead of asking, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do”, instead say, “How may I serve you in the weeks and months to come?”. Grievers may not have an immediate answer, but ask again in a week or so after others have drifted away. Also consider asking if specific things may be helpful.
  • Don’t wander around the house. Respect the family’s privacy.
  • Don’t ask personal questions such as “How did he die?” or “What happened?”. If the bereaved want you to know, they will tell you.

Be attentive to body language.

Allow grievers to lead.

Don’t ignore comments that indicate it’s time to go.

Accept that what you may want to do and what is truly helpful may be two different things.

Fewer words are almost always better than idle chatter.

Give grace.

Repost: Why Grievers Need Faithful Friends

My mama joined Jesus early Friday morning.

And I’m reminded once again how very important friends are along life’s journey.

So. many. people. have called, texted, messaged and expressed love and concern for our family.

It’s really encouraging!

But what I know, that others may not know (if they’ve been blessed to escape losing a close loved one so far) is that it’s not too long before all this attention fades away.

People usually don’t choose to stop connecting with broken hearts. It’s just that life gets busy and while grievers can’t ignore the palpable absence of their loved one, other folks have mostly filled in the space where they used to be.

Please don’t forget us.

Even years later, there are days when grief overwhelms a heart.

We NEED faithful friends to remind us that pain is not all that’s left in the world.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/09/29/help-wanted-why-grievers-need-friends/

Most Shared Posts: Why Friends Abandon Grievers


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? 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/03/08/why-friends-abandon-grievers/

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. 

`

Animal Therapy: Meet Tilly

I got a new kitten the other day.

For those of you following along, it’s not like I needed another animal in my personal zoo.

But my precious companion, Roosevelt , died in April. 

roosevelt in box on table spring 2017

Which was just in time to make the anniversary of Dominic going to Heaven, his funeral and his birthday harder since I didn’t have my favorite cat’s calming presence in my lap when grief overwhelmed me.

Once all the family festivities died down (seeing our grandson, celebrating our daughter’s wedding) I realized I really needed another cuddle bug.

My two other indoor cats are giants-great at hanging close to me but lousy at sitting in my lap.

So, meet Miss Tilly the Kitty.  

Tilly under kitchen chair 6_16_19Isn’t she the cutest? 

I’m trying to do on purpose what I did by accident with Roosevelt.

I’m working on orienting her to me, getting her comfortable being held and training her as a good traveler on the cart and in the car.  I need her to sleep next to me in the bed at least until I fall asleep.

So far, so good.  

After one day going around with me to feed in the morning, she’s no longer afraid of anything except the donkeys’ loud greeting.  (Which could make a grown man jump if he didn’t expect it!)

She makes me laugh.  She runs like a bat out of you-know-where between the living room, kitchen and dining room.  She’s entertains me and herself for nearly an hour at a time by rolling a  jingle bell ball around on the floor.

And she’s been really good company. 

As I’m typing this, she climbed in my lap which is exactly what I want her to do.  She lies down with me at night and sleeps so hard I can reposition her like a limp dishrag.  That’s what Roosevelt used to do,so I’m hopeful.  I’ve slept better the past few nights than I have since he died.

Today Tilly finally convinced one of the big cats to play with her a little.  The other one just shakes his head and walks away.  I’m calling them the “bachelor uncles” because all they really want out of life is a routine that includes plenty of food and peace and quiet.  I think they are not pleased I’ve brought this young whipper snapper into their previously predictable home.

 

moonshine and lightening grown in my chair faces

They’ll adapt.

Eventually.  

As for me, I’m enjoying the animal therapy.  

tilly on my knees and computer june 19