On grieving and responding to grief, especially during the holidays~

A dear friend shared this article with me today. She is no stranger to deep grief. When she shares her heart, I listen. She has been a great teacher over the past 5 years on how to respond better to a friend grieving. It’s a lesson I never would have signed up for and she never wanted to teach.

This is by Kay Warren. Like my friend, she lost a dear son to suicide. Before you send your Christmas cards this year, take a minute to read this.

“Ugh. It’s THAT time of year again – the “Hap, Happiest Season of All.” Unless, of course, you’re grieving the loss of your child. There are painful reminders every single day of what has been lost, but the avalanche of Christmas cards sent by well-meaning family, friends, acquaintances, strangers and random businesses you’ve frequented take the knife that is in your heart and give it a hard twist. Believe me – I know the intent of every card sender – I’ve sent my fair share of cards through the years – so I am certain that no one ever MEANS to wound or cause pain. But on behalf of grieving parents (and others), let me give you a few words of advice: please, please, please be sensitive and look at your card through the eyes of the person on the receiving end.
Christmas 2013 was our first Christmas without Matthew – I could barely breathe or hold it together in the grocery store, let alone the mall. So I stayed away. The internet became my friend as I shopped late at night in front of a screen without the repetitive sentimental mall music stirring up memories of Christmases past…..Christmases where all three of my children were alive. I avoided people, places and events that were sure to intensify my pain. But the cards came uninvited into my mailbox every day. I hadn’t thought about the cards – hadn’t pegged them as emotional triggers ahead of time, and so when I opened the first batch, a wave of shock washed over me. Photo cards of beautiful, happy, INTACT families cascaded onto my kitchen table, most with a printed greeting wishing me a “Joyous Christmas.” Some had a scribbled handwritten signature and the words ”Hope you have a great Christmas.” Some sent their standard family newsletter, full of all the accomplishments, fabulous vacations, delightful family moments, etc that had filled the past year for them. What I quickly realized in astonishment and then anger was that none mentioned our grief….no one seemed aware that our precious Matthew had died violently six months earlier leaving us definitely NOT having a joyous or great Christmas. And then I opened a card that said, “I can’t imagine how difficult this first Christmas without Matthew is going to be for your family; you are in my prayers.” I forgave the other overly cheerful parts of her card because at least she had the sensitivity and kindness to acknowledge our loss and to let us know we were being remembered in prayers. I thought that perhaps this first batch of cards were atypical – that surely, most people would be like the kind friend and say SOMETHING that let us know they were aware of how excruciatingly painful Christmas was going to be – but that isn’t what happened. Each day, another batch of cards arrived with the vast majority giving no thought to the stabbing pain their lack of sensitivity was causing. It didn’t take long before plucking the mail out of the mailbox became a task I left to Rick – and the cards remained unopened in the traditional iron sleigh that has cradled our cherished Christmas cards through the years until after Christmas was past. When I finally opened them up weeks later, I tore through them with angry tears pouring down my cheeks as I separated them into three piles: ones that didn’t mention our grief at all, ones that said a quick “Praying for you” and ones that contained soothing, comforting, loving, thoughtful words of compassion and empathy. The third stack was the smallest.
I thought that maybe I was just overly sensitive last year – so immersed in the freshness of our loss that everything was like scraping a raw, open wound. I hoped this year I’d feel differently. But I opened the first Christmas card a few days ago – a one-sided, artistically designed card on heavy paper stock….with a printed signature from a pastor I don’t even know. I threw it away.
What I’m trying to convey is this: please THINK about the recipient before you send a greeting card this year. If you’ve taken the obligatory picture of the “happy family,” consider sending instead a plain card to a grieving family – one that doesn’t smack them in the face with a reminder of how life used to be for them. Tell them in a few words that you are aware of how painful Christmas can be and that you are praying for them – tell them you love them and that you are with them in shared sorrow. Yes, it’s inconvenient – it will take more time than your rushed signature, and it will require entering into someone else’s loss, mourning, grief and anger at a time when the world pretends that all our “troubles will be out of sight.”
Christmas may always have a sting….I don’t know. My friend whose little girl was murdered two years ago in December says Christmas will never be the same. This is only my second Christmas without Matthew. What I do know is I miss my son. He loved Christmas. And I love him.
So, on behalf of grieving parents everywhere, if you aren’t willing to modify your way of sending cards for a while, please do us a favor and take us off your list.”

 

 

Posted in Christmas, Compassion, Empty Nest, Family, Friendship, Grief, Grieving | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

On getting fit #CrossFit

A little over one year ago I was out doing my regular “exercise” routine, walking along, or rather, strolling along the W & OD bike trail near my home in Vienna. In a flash there was a petite woman running toward me like the speed of light, suddenly she dashed off the trail and ran through this huge garage door opening, jumped up on something that look like a monkey bar, and started doing pull-ups like crazy. I stood there for a moment in shock, thinking I could never ever do anything like that. That’s when I noticed the name above the door. It was CrossFit. That was the first time I’d seen that name and as luck(?) would have it, a couple days later, in my email there was a Groupon for a one-month membership at the North Vienna CrossFit. I decided to see what is was all about. Albeit a bit scared. Signing up in the middle of steamy July to join a gym, without air conditioning also seemed a bit crazy. I had no clue what I was getting into. My first day in the fundamentals class we had to do something called wall balls and, what seemed like a million air squats. At the time I could barely squat and get back up. I was in a class with three other women all younger than me and I was determined to keep up. Boy did I learn a tough lesson. I over did everything that day. The next day I was not able to return to class because I could barely walk. No exaggeration. I had to drag myself up the staircase at home using the handrail. This may be TMI, but when I used the bathroom I could barely sit down – it was excruciating. Miraculously, a few days later I was back, able to finish the fundamentals, and graduating to regular classes. Woot.

That was July. In August we were off to a lovely family holiday in Northern Michigan – the Sleeping Bear Dunes area, voted by Good Morning America viewers as the most beautiful area in the U. S. And it is certainly one of the most…IMG_3178 IMG_3137 IMG_3089 IMG_2924

In September, after Samuel left for Seattle to begin his Junior year at the university, Sam and I took the plunge and signed up together at Crossfit North Vienna. I was thrilled. Sam too, he just didn’t know it yet.

It’s been well over a year now and we are addicted-ish. We may be junkies…TBD. Seven a.m. is when we get our fix. I guess that’s enough ‘punny’ hyperbole. We do have the best coaches and the best class though. Without them we likely would not have lasted this long. Just call us a work in progress. We are so much stronger and feel so much better. At least any aches and pains are well-earned now.

Side note: 3 years ago Sam was diagnosed as diabetic. He no longer is. I was diagnosed with Lyme about the same time I started CrossFit. It hasn’t always been easy, but I believe this journey has definitely helped my body in my ongoing fight.

I still aspire to dash off the trail, jump up on the bars, and do at least a couple of pull ups. (That petite woman I mentioned is now one of my coaches.) Nevertheless, it really is great to finally be down to a weight I never wanted to get up to! Like I said, a work in progress. At least my clothes fit a whole lot better now.

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Now go do some CHRISTMAS SHOPPING!

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On fav fall foods~

There is one particular vegetable I love in the fall. It is roasted Brussels sprouts. Well, really, I love roasted Brussels sprouts all year long but in the fall I have to have them. Tonight is no exception. On the menu is Adobe Chili Chili, chock-full of vegetables with a side of roasted nutmeg & brown sugar Brussels sprouts. Mmmmm.

Don’t hate. Give them another try.

It’s simple:

Clean. Cut. And place Brussels sprouts in bowl. Add olive oil, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and a tablespoon-ish of brown sugar. Stir until well coated. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375-400 degrees for 20-30 minutes depending on their size. Enjoy!

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On a small world…

… a big shout out to United States, United Kingdom, Brasil, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Germany, Philippines, Spain, Barbados, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, Malaysia, Argentina, Italy, France, Sweden, Vietnam, Chile, Japan, Indonesia, China, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, South Africa, Denmark, Finland, Colombia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Russian Federation, Nigeria, Korea, Pakistan, Iceland, Moldova, Mauritius, Portugal, Botswana, Taiwan, Peru Uganda, Suriname, Greece, Costa Rica, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Belgium, Austria, Honduras, Iraq, Latvia, Cambodia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Croatia, Fiji, Cyprus, Venezuela, Egypt, Ukraine, Lesotho, Slovenia, Poland, Kuwait, Haiti, Bulgaria, Federated States of Micronesia

I’m humbled that anyone reads my blog, but who knew it was happening all over the world.

Thanks!

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On things I want my kids to know and/or remember 💬

Above all, always love. Even the annoying coworker, friend, and family member. Also, love your enemies. No one should be exempt from your love. As you rise in the morning remember it’s your job to love. This, above all else.

The rest is in no particular order…

Never be within a 20 mile radius from your siblings and declare you are too tired to visit.

No matter your circumstances, always choose to believe that God is good and there will be a day when He sorts it all out. Do not become bitter. Refer back to the first paragraph.

Never wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden. Think about it. I see each of you planting beautiful gardens.

If someone doesn’t have a smile, give them yours.

In finances, as Shakespeare’s King Lear advised, “Have more than thou showest.”

Promise only what you can deliver. Then deliver more than you promise.

Forgiveness is the answer to carrying a grudge.

As Dale Carnegie wrote: “You can make more friends in 2 months by becoming genuinely interested in others than you can in 2 years by trying to get people interested in you.

The only thing that ever sat its way to success was a hen.

Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye.

When driving, do not refer to discourteous drivers as idiots, like I do. Just forget it and drive on.

Do for others with no expectation in return. We should all plant some trees we will never sit under.

Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb as that’s where the fruit is.

A great man shows his greatness by how he treats the little man.

When you are angry or frustrated, what comes out will be a good indication of what you are made of.

True wealth is what you are, not what you have.

You can consider yourself a good manager when you get superior work from average people.

Master enemies, not by force, but by forgiveness.

When we remember how hard it is to change ourselves we will begin to understand what little chance we have of changing others.

Good manners sometimes means putting up with other’s bad manners.

Remember, the big print giveth and the small print taketh away. This should be well ingrained since your Dad is a lawyer.

Enjoy being smarter than others–just don’t tell them so.

The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother. Your father does such a good job of that.

Doing something for others is a powerful contributor to health and long life.

To change much, change your attitude.

Always laugh. Even when it’s inappropriate.

Put an uncommon touch on a most common task.

“By swallowing evil words unsaid, no one has ever harmed his stomach.” Winston Churchill

Only God is in a position to look down on anyone.

Fill your time and space with joy.

Religion is what you do when the sermon is over.

Compliment someone every day.

Do not inhibit your happiness with judgement of others, negative thoughts, or envy.

Good character is built piece by piece via thought, choice, and courage. I’m proud of your’s.

“He has achieved success who has worked well, laughed often and loved much.” Elbert Hubbard. So true.

If someone remembers your outfit and not your smile, you didn’t smile enough.

The best way to be happy is to make others happy.

Always know the name of the janitor.

When problems cease, so do opportunities. So welcome them.

Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness, and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.

I’m not sure why I’m telling you all this. You have each been my teacher. Maybe I learned most all this from you. I love you so.

Ciao for now 💛💙💜

*wisdom over time of mine and others – credit given when known

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Is pacifism for when “life happens”? A response to Rachel Held Evans

myfullemptynest:

On pacifism when life happens

Originally posted on Thinking Pacifism:

Ted Grimsrud—September 29, 2014

From time to time, I like to return to the core motivation that led me to start this blog. This blog is a place to think and converse about pacifism. I always wish I could find more time and energy to write, because I am thinking about pacifism all the time. But when I look back, I see that I have managed to squeeze out quite a few words over the past nearly four years—and have probably repeated myself numerous times.

To keep my thinking current, I like to write posts when I can where I articulate convictions off the top of my head without going back to what I have written before. This is how I think about pacifism now. The other day, blogger extraordinaire Rachel Held Evans (who I greatly admire) wrote a short comment on Facebook that asked some hard questions about pacifism. These…

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On Spanking… or not.

“While a violent expression of guidance could be gleaned from Proverbs 13:24, it is not in line with New Testament teaching.” a wonderful article by Kurt Willems

When Violence Hits Home: “sparing the rod,” spanking, & peaceful parenting

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A Canadian’s View On Our Disrespect Of President Obama’s Presidency

Originally posted on The Fifth Column:

EgbertoWillies.com

America – He’s Your President for Goodness Sake!

By William Thomas

There was a time not so long ago when Americans, regardless of their political stripes, rallied round their president. Once elected, the man who won the White House was no longer viewed as a republican or democrat, but the President of the United States. The oath of office was taken, the wagons were circled around the country’s borders and it was America versus the rest of the world with the president of all the people at the helm.

Suddenly President Barack Obama, with the potential to become an exceptional president has become the glaring exception to that unwritten, patriotic rule.

Four days before President Obama’s inauguration, before he officially took charge of the American government, Rush Limbaugh boasted publicly that he hoped the president would fail. Of course, when the president fails the country flounders. Wishing harm upon…

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The Patriotic God: A Review of “Our Great Big American God” by Matthew Paul Turner

myfullemptynest:

I really like your critique. It seems balanced. I have read all of MPT’s books (loved them all) and wasn’t so sure I wanted to add another to my pile, but I’m intrigued now. Behind all that snark is a caring, compassionate Christian to whom I’ll always owe a debt of gratitude.

Originally posted on Dangerous Hope:

Having the honor of being Facebook friends with the preeminent progressive Christian blogger and Evangelical culture critic Matthew Paul Turner, I ran across a posting of his one day which spoke of his upcoming book “Our Great Big American God.”  He was offering people who are bloggers, critics or other culture influencers a free copy of his book for them to review.  I messaged him.  He was gracious enough to send me a copy even though I don’t know if I fit any of the aforementioned categories.  I do my best impersonation of a blogger and critic.

As mentioned Turner (MPT) has a built-in reputation of being a more “liberal” Christian.  I would not have that designation (although I freely admit that the terms “conservative” and “liberal” are loaded terms and we all should talk more specifically about what we believe on the issues).  As a matter of fact, I have responded to MPT…

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Before Robin Williams Shows Up in Your Sermon, Think Again

myfullemptynest:

A lot to think about here. My husband represents people with mental health issues. It’s pervasive and families are struggling.

Originally posted on Allen White's Blog:

By Allen White robin williams

Most people are well aware of actor Robin Williams’ passing this week. The public outpouring from every sector is tremendous. This man touched a lot of people’s lives. Whether they embraced him as Mork from Ork, or “Captain, my captain,” or a DJ in Vietnam, or a loveable, hope-inspiring doctor in Patch Adams, Robin Williams connected deeply in a lighthearted way with such a broad cross section of people. His inner child was his outer adult, which shows bravery most of us lack. But, pastor, before Robin Williams appears in your sermon, here are a few things to consider:

1. Suicide has had a Personal Effect on Your Congregation.

Somehow, someway, everyone’s lives are touched by suicide. For me, it was a friend who took his life during the last week of Bible college, because he lived in such turmoil he could see no way forward. Most…

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