Archive for the ‘grief’ Category

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soul sisters

May 10, 2013

Dear Mamas,

We’ve lost a sister. My friend Allison, who was diagnosed in winter, died on Tuesday. Her littlest is not yet out of elementary school.

She was quiet and tenacious and brave. Our friends gathered last night, held our hearts, and remembered Allison. It was her birthday. We were reflecting on her birth and death and wondered, how could we best honor her life in between? Her traits. Her strengths. The words that describe Allison.

But they are also words to describe you.

And me. And all of our sisters. Not identically. Not exactly. But there are pieces of Allison in each of us. The DNA of motherhood. Maybe you are quieter. Maybe your neighbor carries her stick-to-it-iveness gene to an extreme. Maybe your college roommate holds up her faith.

How can we carry her forward? We can begin on Sunday. On Mother’s Day. We each celebrate in our own way- if you have a toddler, you may be celebrating by going to the bathroom all by yourself. If you have a chatty preschooler, you may celebrate with an hour of silence. And if you have a teenager, it may mean getting them to hang out with you for an hour is something serious to celebrate.

Do what you need to do for yourself, Mama. Discover a way to ground yourself, reorient yourself. Find yourself.

Then find yourself in every Mama. Setting aside our voting records, our faith communities, our educations, our zip codes. Because it is easy to make assumptions about other Mamas. To judge them and to gossip about them.

Let’s not. Let’s be Allisons instead.

In the days ahead let’s reach out to the Mamas we know and the Mamas we see. The Mama who is too tired, too worn out, too worn down. The Mama who can’t imagine being a mother for one moment more, and yet does it anyway, because stopping isn’t an option. We’ve seen those Mamas. We’ve been those Mamas.

When we see a Mama struggling, looking even just a little bit lost, let’s reach out instead of stepping back. Let’s offer to carry her groceries to the car. Provide a smile of knowing as she stands next to a toddler who has melted onto the floor. Have a spontaneous sleepover for the friend of your tween so her Mama can breathe. And let’s reach out to the Mamas whose lives look perfect. Because none of us are.  And sometimes we are hiding behind façades that we’ve carefully constructed and forgotten to leave ourselves a way out. And let’s reach out for ourselves, because sometimes we are the ones who need help.

Mamahood isn’t always graceful. Mamahood isn’t always filled with song. But most of all, Mamahood shouldn’t be filled with isolation. Remember that Allison is in you.  When Mamahood is chaotic, call on her quiet. When Mamahood is draining, call on her tenaciousness. When Mamahood is overwhelming, bring forth her bravery.

On Tuesday we lost a Mama. One of our own. But there are billions more of us. Just think what we can do. So reach. Touch. Connect. And keep me posted.

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finish line.

April 16, 2013

I lived halfway.

Wellesley College sits at the halfway mark of the Boston Marathon. And on Patriot’s Day every spring, we stood.

By the side of the road we stood and cheered from dawn, when the wheelchair athletes flew by, to the hours and hours and hours and hours later when the last runners, often those in their 70’s and 80’s tortoised by. We stood. We gave water. We showered encouragement. And we roared. About a mile before the course reached us, we were heard. The runners would turn the corner, and begin up the long, slow rise and the pain would fade and they would feel with their hearts instead of their feet.

Sweat might not seem sacred, but it sure felt that way to me. Those days in April, on the side of the road, hold some of the deepest moments of connection to humanity, to the masses, that I know. And that is what our children need right now. Because one of my son’s comments after we explained the shooting in Newtown, CT has stayed with me. “No, I don’t have any questions. I’m still processing Super Storm Sandy, Mom. I’m overwhelmed.”

And now, aren’t we all? So here’s how to help our children.

Tread Lightly. It is tempting as the story unfolds to follow every moment on the news and social media. Don’t. Turn it off. If you want, check in at the top of the hour for updates. Older kids are getting fatigued into numbness and youngsters often think the replay images are fresh attacks.

Speak in Sound bites. Just as with Newtown, give children brief facts and information. Then listen. Listen to the nuance of their confusion, questions and comments. Follow their lead. Then (re)assure them. Remind them of all the helpers.

Stay the Course. We all thrive on routine, and this is especially true in times of trauma. Keep children on their regular schedules. Familiarity breeds comfort.

Look at each Step. Yes, the media will focus injury and death. But we can talk about life. And all the days each person had before today. And all the people who loved them, and whom they loved. And how, even after someone is gone, they are not gone. They are within us.

Find the Sacred Sweat. Look for those who need support. It may mean donating resources, time or expertise to Boston. It many mean doing all these same thing in our own backyards. Help your kids find ways to contribute. When we give of ourselves, we learn we are capable. When we realize we can overcome, our resiliency for future events is stronger.

None of us knows the location of our life’s finish line. But we can live each day as half way. And we can roar for all of humanity. Years ago we stood. We stood for Boston. Stand with me?

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This piece stands alone, but is also a companion to what I wrote for parents after the tragedy in Newtown, CT. To read that, click here.

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chains of love.

December 14, 2012

We want to shield our children.  Protect them.  Keep them safe.

We want to make the truth of what happened this morning untrue.  We worry about what to say.  We worry because we don’t want to say anything at all. So how do we parent in a moment when our own humanity feels so vulnerable and fragile?

We walk bravely into the face of love.

We talk with our children.  Because if we don’t, they will hear the news from a hundred other sources.  We need them to know that we are here.  That we are bigger and stronger than any disaster.  That we will be present for them, no matter how overwhelming life feels.  We give them the briefest information, not the gory details.  And then, we listen.  We listen to their concerns, their confusion, their worries.  We allow them the space to weep and wonder, and we model for them the river of tears that is our grief.  We cannot solve this for them, nor should we.  These are the deep mysteries of life.  We can be their guides.  We can show them how we wrestle with understanding events that can never be fully understood.

And we show them love.  We point out that while there is only one shooter, there are hundreds of responders.  Hundreds of adults who are right there helping each one of the children.  As Mister Rogers reminded us:  “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

And then we can ask for their love.  Is there anything you’d like to do for the families in Connecticut?  They may initially not know.  And that’s ok.  We can circle back later and ask again.  Or offer up possible ideas- do you want to draw a picture?  Start a fund to help hire grief counselors?  Hold a vigil?  Say a prayer?  Create a paper chain – each link a hug for the children of Newtown.  By finding their own voice in this tragedy, they learn that they can make a difference in the world, no matter what events unfold.

Don’t fret about the words you use.  Simply start the conversation.  See where you child takes you.  Listen for the emotions that are under their words, assure them that all of their feelings matter.  Hug them tightly.  Let them feel your tears.  Then hug them again once more.

My love to you all.

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Murphy’s Law

September 24, 2012

Yesterday I traveled over 400 miles, past rolling hills and pasture lands.   I drove along country roads and scenic byways, multi-lane highways and quiet lanes.  I passed million resident metropolises and tiny towns.  All the way to Philomath, Oregon.  Population 4,610.

Now 4, 609.

Yesterday all roads brought me to Murphy.  You know, our friend Murphy.  Wait.  You hadn’t met?

Let me introduce you.  Murphy lived out loud.  She was filled with a gentle sweetness.  She danced with a wild heart.  She ran races and came in last.  With a huge smile.  She loved with her whole being.  She would throw open a front door and announce “Murph is in the HOUSE.”

She defined persistence.  She found a way over or around when through didn’t work.  She held nothing back.  She was true to herself.  Later wasn’t on Murphy’s mind.  The moment was at hand.  That was what mattered.  Wise young woman, Murphy.

So you see, you were Murphy’s friend even if you didn’t yet know her.  Murphy gifted everyone with friendship.  Everyone.

So ask Murphy in, throw open the door.   Invite her to the house of your soul.  She can teach you to how to quiet your inner critic, how to set aside the restraints that hold you back.  She’ll show you how to walk with kindness, love with abandon, and how to plant joy.  She’ll stand beside you as you learn to delight in the effort, not focus on the end.

Yesterday the roads I travelled also brought me home.  And as I drove I watched a flaming red sun set on the horizon.  Intellectually I could say it was colored by the haze of distant fires.  But I know better.  It was Murphy.

Because Murphy isn’t gone.  She is right here.  In each one of us, her friends.  Look for her.  Recognize Murphy in the face of a stranger.  Watch her in the dance of your child.  Appreciate her as you set aside judgment.  Know her as you embrace difficulty.  Be with her as you walk in the world with peace and light and love.  When you feel her, when you see her, when you follow Murphy’s Laws, let me know.  Keep me posted.

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no words

September 19, 2012

Passed. Loss of Life.  Eternal Rest.  Widow. Widower. Orphan.  We have words to describe death and we have others to identify the survivors.

Unless.  Unless it is the death of a child.  For the surviving parent we have no words.  Why?  Perhaps because the human heart of a mourning parent cannot be transcribed by the words of mortals.

Yesterday she was alive.  Today she is gone.

Today touch your child’s cheek.  Breathe in their scent.  Listen to their peals of laughter.  Taste their salty tears.  See all that they bring to the Earth.  Embrace all of their beautiful imperfectness.  Love them with an overflowing heart.

Then, please, release your love into the universe for my friend Phoenix.  Stand with her in her sorrow.  Hold her up in the days ahead.

Hold her, for the times when the Earth ceases to spin, when the sun cannot light the days.

Hold her, when grief’s gravity pulls at every cell.

Hold her, as anguish tears at her limbs.

Hold her, as memories of her daughter flood her soul.

Hold her in your prayer traditions, your quiet meditations.

Hold her.  For her heart is broken.  There are no words.  Only Love.

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