Sunday, December 30, 2012

Another Christmas Behind Me...

I made it through another holiday season.  I didn’t shed a single public tear.  People don’t want to hear about loss or watch you grieve when everything is so festive.  The grieving are dark spirits in a season of laughter and light. 

Christmas has been extraordinarily hard for me for many years.  I buried my father on Christmas Eve.  I was so overwhelmed the first Christmas without my husband, that I loaded up my children and ran away to a warm, tropical location.  Frankly, we just skipped Christmas that year.  The second year it was financially impractical for us to go away and this year logistics and work schedules didn’t give us a window of escape.

Steve's Tree
And so, we marched on with our traditions and festivities.  I decorated a tree just for Steve and lit a candle for him to burn through the holiday.  The family tree is especially hard…for each ornament is a time capsule…a season of each of our children’s lives, a place we have been…or special events...all good memories.  But wonderful memories can be the hardest ones this time of year.
Memory Candle

But memories are all we have now and I refuse to run away from them…for they are the things I treasure most. 

Family Tree
God gave me the gift of a wonderful husband who was a loving and supportive father to his sons.  Christmas is a time to be thankful for gifts.

Thank you, God, for my time with Steve.

Thank you most of all for your gift of Jesus Christ.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Losing Something

I have a lovely pair of 28 carat gold earrings that my father-in-law brought back to me from Saudi Arabia early in my marriage.  The earrings are simple and beautiful…and for many years, I wore them exclusively.  

When my late husband finished dental school and we moved to a new city, one earring was lost in the move.  I was heartbroken.  Being a sentimental fool, I saved the remaining earring and put it in my keepsake box.  A year later, while moving from a rental home to our brand new home, I rolled up a rug and there, dangling from the underside was that missing earring!  What good luck!

Years later, at a weekend long soccer tournament, I lost one of those earrings again on the first day of the tournament.  Discovering the loss at the hotel that night, I was again heartbroken.  It rained the whole next day, but soccer play didn't stop.  I walked multiple fields looking for the lost earring with no luck.  On the last day of the tournament, heading back to our car, I spotted something shiny on the ground.  Yes, it was my missing earring.  Serendipity!

Last week, I noticed early in the work day that one of my beloved earrings was again missing.  I had people all over my school looking for my earring.  After several days of fruitless searching, we gave up.  Sadness again.  Sigh.  Then, over the weekend, while taking out the trash, bam…there was my earring…right by the wheel of my car.  How fortune!

It's a joy to find lost things...

In J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Luna Lovegood, seeking to comfort Harry, asserts, “Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.”  

I lost the love of my life.
How will my love come back to me?
I'm looking forward to the unexpected.


Monday, December 10, 2012

A World of Hurt

The last few weeks have been very difficult for my community.  One of our teens died at school and another in her bed.  One of our school administrators and his daughter were in a tragic car accident last week.  While the child is fine, he still lays in ICU.  Over the weekend, another automobile accident took the lives of two of our teens and another hangs on to life in ICU.

As a teacher in this close-knit community,  I know/knew all these people.  I ache for all the grief and pain these families are going through.  The fact that it comes at Christmas, which should be a time of joy, makes the pain cut even deeper.

As my grandmother used to say, "We are in a world of hurt."

All these well as my own...remind me that life is ephemeral.  We are not promised tomorrow.  We have only today.  Make your today count.

  • Smile at a stranger.
  • Keep the day positive.  Don't let a whine, vent, or negative thing out of your mouth.
  • Look for a beautiful picture to take with your camera phone and preserve a memory.
  • Make a new friend, even if it is the odd man behind you in the check-out line at Wal Mart.
  • Open the door for someone.
  • Say thank you.  A lot. 
  • When you come to the end of the day, count your blessings.  They are far more than you think.

So, when a world of hurt rolls your way, choose to make your day count.  It will definitely make you feel better, and might shine a little light on another's day, too.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Imperfect Christmas

A perfect Christmas does not exist. In a human way of thinking, the place Jesus was born, a cave, a dark stinking cave where animals were kept with the stench of manure, was not a perfect place for the king of mankind to be born. 

We see perfect Christmases portrayed in movies and television. On television and in the movies, we don't often see Christmases where people are grieving, where they have lost homes, jobs, or opportunities. When we find ourselves in dark times, especially at Christmas, we must go back to why Jesus was born. Jesus was not born so we could throw a party. Jesus was born so we could have eternal life. 

Our eternal life is much bigger, infinitely bigger (as in infinity) than anything here on earth. No, we do not have perfect Christmases here on earth. However, in our imperfect Christmases, one perfection still exists. The perfection of Christmas is Christ and His love for us. 

No matter what we face on Christmas, no matter what happens to us at any time, Christ still loves us beyond our comprehension. His love is perfect…just perfect!


This post is borrowed from the Christmas Daily Devotional

Thursday, November 15, 2012


God has made everything beautiful in its time.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

As I was leaving work on Wednesday and looked in my rear-view mirror to back out of my parking spot, as was startled to see a stranger looking back at me.  Who was that crypt keeper in the mirror?  Surely not me.  

But it was me.

It seems that in my effort to stretch out my last few minutes in bed that morning, I woke up 20 minutes late.  My dash to readiness was fast an furious.  It wasn't until the end of the day that I realized I had not put make-up on.

And no one said a word.
Well, a few people asked me if I wasn't feeling well.  
But still...

All make-up aside...I've aged 10 years since Steve died.  I am not the vibrant, smiling, happy-go-lucky girl of my past.  

That makes me sad.
I miss that inner glow of beauty that being loved brings.

Perhaps God will bring it to me again.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Grief and the Holidays Survival Guide

The holiday season is upon us and for those grieving the loss of a loved one...this normally festive time can be a source of heartache and pain.  Today, I am sharing some holiday management tips for anyone grieving the loss of someone they love this holiday season.  These tips come from The Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation, a wonderful organization that helps the included.  Please check out their site and programs, especially Camp Widow.  I attended Camp Widow last spring and it was a wonderful healing experience for me.

  1. Give yourself permission to feel how you feel about a particular holiday, or the holidays in general. Mixed feelings are normal may find yourself okay one day and not okay the next. Try to go with the emotional flow.
  2. Don't be afraid to consider doing something totally different for this year or one for one particular holiday. You are living with changes to your holidays that you didn't choose...why not make some you do choose?
  3. Feel free to add tears to any recipe. Really. Sometimes a good cry is just what you need when smelling, cooking, or eating your loved ones favorite dish. A change of scenery sometimes makes a difference. If you are feeling blue, plan an outing that has nothing to do with holiday cheer just for a respite from the holiday buzz.
  4. Identify what your grief triggers are in regards to the holidays. It is easy to say, "Everything!"...but what are they exactly? Family time? Traditions? Lights? Certain foods? The more information you are armed with the better....knowing is so much better than NOT knowing where your "grief bruises" are located!
  5. Give yourself permission freely: to change things, to keep them the same, to stay home, to go out, to skip a portion of an event or to skip the whole thing...allow yourself to consider what you need, then give yourself the permission to DO it...or not do it....whichever works!
  6. Remember that there is no such thing as the "perfect" holiday. No matter what the commercials on TV tell you. It may appear that everyone else has it all, but we are all just humans doing the best we can. This is not meant to minimize the loss you feel, but rather to point out that romanticizing the holiday season is a very easy trap to fall into.
  7. Revel in small comforts. Allow yourself to get momentarily lost in a cup of hot chocolate, a hilarious moment, or a movie you love. Even small doses of calm will improve your overall ability to move through the holiday season.
  8. Make plans. Watch a movie at home or go to the park or take a walk or have lunch with a friend...making even a small plan helps you take some charge of your days.
  9. Take the holidays one at a time. Try not to lump them together. Rather than think of the long lead up to the end of the year, try taking it just one day at a time.
  10. Practice gratitude…especially when you don't feel like it. Find just one thing every day that makes your heart swell.
  11. Give your feelings about the holiday season room; space to just be what they are without trying to change them.
  12. Get outside. Literally. Take a walk, get out of the house, go for a drive....when you feel overwhelmed by the idea of not spending this holiday with your loved one a change of scenery may be a balm for your aching heart.
  13. What is your plan for the holiday dinner? Maybe you can have a meal with other friends and neighbors who don't have a place to go for the holiday. Your invitation might be totally make their day!
  14. Accept love, time, and invitations from friends who lift you up. Community matters.
  15. Think of ways to include your loved ones memory in your holiday celebration. Whether you cook their favorite pie or ask family members to share something about your loved one for which they are grateful...including someone you miss, in even a small way, acknowledges the gift they have been in your life. That gift is never lose the love.
  16. Plan an escape route. You may need a minute during a holiday celebration to let the tears fall. Just like on a plane...identify your nearest exit and be prepared to use it if needed! Taking a short break sometimes makes all the difference.
  17. The day before a holiday can sometimes be harder than the day itself! Knowing that families everywhere are preparing to share the day with loved ones, and imagining the joy of holidays past can lead to a tearful day for those missing a person they love so much. Grab onto the memories and remind yourself of why they are precious to you. Imagine a funny moment with your loved one and replay it as many times as needed. You can do this!
  18. Try not to let what you don't have rob you of the joy you get from what you DO have. Make a memory today that you will cherish tomorrow. Remember that so often when we lose someone we grieve the small, everyday things...don't let those slip through your fingers today. Celebrate your love by loving.
  19. Don't be surprised if you have a "grief hangover" the day after a holiday. Emotional days can take a toll physically. Get outside, do some good self-care, and give yourself a break the day after!
  20. Holiday decorations are going up all over the place! So, create a safe place in your home. Decorate or don't decorate; buy a candle you love; let the kids decorate however they like; create a decor free spot where you can retreat; make your space, YOUR space. When you are traveling through your day in an environment you can't control...know that you are going to return to the safe space you've created. Now, go make your safe haven!
  21. Allow yourself to have something you love. Doesn't have to be a big deal, but taking a fun time out will improve your coping stamina.
  22. Holidays are often accompanied by a sense of obligation. In your past life maybe you never missed Aunt Mae's holiday bash, you put up decorations on a specific weekend, and you had your gifts purchased and wrapped by a certain this new life, give yourself permission to NOT do it ALL. Choose one thing that you will commit to showing up for, and let the rest be optional. Missing the party one time doesn't mean you are never going back.
  23. Go ahead be a Grinch. Yep, stomp your feet, shake your fist, and shout something inappropriate out loud. Sometimes you just have to embrace your inner green goblin to release some holiday tension!
  24. Gather. Gather your friends, gather your family, gather your thoughts, gather candles, gather flowers, gather some widowed peeps...gather around you what fills your soul. Fill up, so you have fuel for the journey ahead.
  25. Say YES sometimes. Struggling with the holidays may cause the desire to hibernate all season long. Some days that is just fine, other days saying yes to an invitation may be just what you need to lift your spirits. Go ahead say yes.
  26. Take a moment during the holiday fray to focus on the person you are missing's LIFE, and what they added to yours. Really celebrate that for a focused moment. It can be so easy to get swallowed up by our loved ones death, that we lose track of how they lived their life. Cheers to your amazing person!
  27. Weekends can be especially hard during the holiday season as "everyone" seems to be busy with family things, parties, and general merriment. Make a plan for the weekend, even if the plan is to stay in. Consciously choosing what you are doing makes a difference...and if you don't want to stay in...get out! Take a drive, go to a park, have lunch with a any case the choice is yours.
  28. Go small. If you are trying to regain some holiday spirit or just muster enough for the kids, start small. Less lights, smaller tree, ten cards instead of fifty, Hanukkah gifts for only the nearest and get the idea. You don't have to do it all, you can decide to do some.
  29. Go ahead and count the days. When you think of all you have already made it can do 30ish more days! Consider it a different kind of count down
  30. Go Charlie Brown. Simple is beautiful.
  31. Buy yourself a gift your loved one would have delighted in giving you...something just for you.
  32. Share a memory of your loved one during the holidays. Out loud. With someone who loves them too.
  33. Take a break. Having a hard time with a holiday task? Walk away for a minute or an hour and then try again. No one says you have to get anything done all at once!
  34. Drink water, eat well...give your body what it needs to help weather the emotional days. Often easier said than done, but try to keep yourself as physically well as possible!
  35. Try really hard not to imagine that everyone around you is having the holiday season of their dreams. In so many ways we are all just making our way the best we can...even those who 'appear' to have everything...or those who aren't grieving the loss of someone they love. Imagine hope.
  36. These are just a few ways we have found to make the holiday season a little easier for those missing someone they love so much. For more tips, and to find a community of support for anyone grieving a loss, please visit The Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation.

Hope Matters.