Archive for February, 2015


we all fall down

February 11, 2015

weallfalldownring around the rosie

Death. It has come to our little corner of the world. It has taken the life of a young child from a local elementary school. It was sudden. And unexpected. It leaves us raw and asking why. And our children feel this, too. Why him? When me? How you?

pocket full of posies

Not long ago, we lived fully in life’s cycles. We planted, tendered, harvested, fallowed. We knew death as a season. We raised our cattle and flocks. We knew death as part of the rhythm. But now we live away from the land. We live in a place that often idolizes youth and doesn’t always hear the wisdom of our elders. We lead longer, healthier lives. And so death surprises us. Especially when it is the death of a child.

ashes, ashes

How can we help our children when another child dies?

  • Answer every why. With each question your child asks, give them the information you have. And when you don’t know, say that. You don’t have to have all the answers. None of us do. But in responding, you are honoring them with your truth, and telling them they matter. Offer answers.
  • Sit in silence. Grappling with death is big work. Providing quiet down time allows kids to think. And figure out how they feel about their thinking. Don’t feel pressured to fill the silence with words, simply sit with them. Allow them the space to start conversations. Then ask them how they feel. Offer quiet.
  • Reach out. Being held is one of the greatest comforts in grief. Give an extra dose of hugs. Ruffle their hair. Hold a hand. Rub a back. Kids open up when snuggled close. So offer couch time, or set bedtime early so they have time to talk before sleep. Offer touch.
  • See the signs. Grief may show up in unexpected ways. Your child may now not want to be alone, when before they craved solitude. Or might become afraid of the dark—which hasn’t happened in years. Or your adventurous child may suddenly not want to try new things. A great sleeper becomes restless. A loud child, quiet. A calm child explodes. Expect the unexpected. It’s all part of grief. Offer compassion.
  • Mourn in style. We grieve the way we learn, because mourning is learning the steps of death. So consider, what is your child’s learning style? Are they a reader? A writer? An artist? One who learns by talking out loud? Or does their best while in motion? Outside? Provide them options that match the way they learn best. Books. Journals. Art supplies. Talk times. Walk times. Nature hikes. Offer support.
  • Ride the rollercoaster. The feelings of grief will sometimes be sharp and at other times muted. And the feelings themselves will change. Anger. Sadness. Confusion. Even envy. All of this is real in grief. You may hear about some mystery aches and pains. It’s hard when we are hurting. Offer empathy.
  • Playground perspectives. What happens when we die? And what comes after? Talk to your child not only about death, but about your family beliefs about what comes next. Let them know that friends and classmates will be talking about it at school—what happened, how they feel, what their families’ faiths say happens beyond death. Share with them that there are many traditions about our souls, and each one speaks to the heart of the believer. Offer belief.
  • Act out. Resiliency grows when we know we are capable of making a difference, especially in difficult situations. Ask your child if they’d like to do something to remember their friend. It may be organizing a group–donating new books for the library or raising money for a friendship bench on the playground. It may be on their own–writing a letter, drawing picture, something they may want to share with his family. Whatever way gives your child strength. Offer action.

we all fall down

We will all die. If we are lucky, we will be surrounded by, remembered by, honored by those who love us. Show that. Model that. Help your child walk that path in their mourning. Because when your children know they can talk to you about death and any big event in life, it is one of your greatest gifts.

with deepest empathy & love,


Related posts:

Chains of Love. {written in response to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary}

Finish Line. {how to help children with the bombings at the Boston Marathon}

No Words {a prayer for my dear friend upon the sudden death of her daughter}

 P.S. Please share. We want our parents to feel as much support as our children.



February 6, 2015


Once Upon a Time…

The beginning of every fairy tale. And isn’t that how the tales of our lives are supposed to start?

Once upon a time, we met. And fell in love.

And the love was blissful. And the love was fun. And the love was easy.

Back then, back in the bliss-full stage, when we were living the easy life {but had no idea that’s what it was} we’d read the newspaper. We’d have time to read it all, page by page, as we sipped espresso and would absentmindedly pet the dog.

And in our local paper there was a nationally syndicated columnist who wrote about relationships. And each weekend we’d read what he had to say. Sometimes we’d nod our heads sagely. Sometimes we’d lift an eyebrow in distain. But there was one column that sent both of us into hysterics. In it, he wrote that when times are tough act as if you cherish your partner. And then, over time, you’ll cherish them. Act? As if? Please.

Yet even though the column, we were sure, was completely out of line, the message lingered. It is the only one I remember to this day.

Which might be because of my mother.

She had one golden rule about the person you love: find someone who cherishes you. She said it often over the years. Lots and lots and lots of often. I’m sure I rolled my eyes. I am less sure if I was savvy enough to do it behind her back or actually did it to her face. {please note I said savvy, not mature}.

Well, here’s the thing. It turns out she was right. And so was he.

Because after the fairy tale starts of Once Upon a Time, we move on to the playground rhymes.

First comes love…

Remember that one? First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage.

And now here we all are. On the other side of our modern-day fairy tales. Love. Commitment. Kids. And life on the other side has, let’s be honest, less bliss. It has moments of fun, but not very often whole weekends of it. And easy? …

So it turns out, now is the time to cherish.

But not in the way either of them framed it {sorry, mom}.

Because here’s what I think they forgot to say: it is the thought that counts. The power is in your thought. It isn’t your partner’s job to do all the cherishing {sorry again, mom}. Nor is it going to happen by action alone {sorry columnist-guy}.

It is the thinking. It is the I-want-to-do-something-that-cherishes-you-if-I-did-cherish-you-what-would-that-be? thinking.

In short, #iwtdstcyiidcywwtb.

What does that look like? It’s all about the little things. For example, picking up their favorite Talenti sea salt caramel ice cream on your way home. Just because. Because once you #iwtdstcyiidcywwtb and you get to see their delighted surprise, or genuine thanks, or, hey, they in turn do something for you, you want to do it again. And again. And after awhile, your brain shortens the pathway. It becomes something more like I-want-to-act-like-I-cherish-you.


And after a dozen or so #iwtalicy moments in which the action gets great feedback, you find yourself, well, cherishing them. It starts so small. And ends in an avalanche of love.

So this year, don’t wait. Don’t wait for the calendar to tell you it’s time for 1000 long-stemmed roses. Or hundreds of balloons. Or dozens of chocolates. Or one big piece of jewelry. Don’t wait. Start early. Start tiny. Start now. Each day. #cherish. How will you act? I’d love to know. Keep me posted.

And, if you’d like some sweet support getting this started, come join us. Return to Us is all about {re}discovering each other.

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