For a few very hard years this word was my mantra.
The word means
-undismayed; not discouraged; not forced to abandon purpose or effort
-undiminished in courage or valor; not giving way to fear
But the truth is, I was often dismayed by everything that had taken place, and I did battle discouragement. I battled fear and doubts. I hurt and was angry, and sometimes "undaunted" sounded more like a mockery than a mantra, and I was determined to be real about all of it in these posts, thus the name, Undaunted Reality. More than that, though, I was determined to live undaunted, not because I'm so great or strong, but because my God is, and no matter what this world looks like, He is the only reality that matters.
I pray I live the reality of Him beautifully undaunted.

Monday, December 31, 2012

When Both Parents are Gone

One of my very precious friends lost his dad over the weekend. He posted late last night that this was his first night withput a parent.

Tears fell as I read his words and understood the emotional and mental altering of the world he must be experiencing. In response, I wrote the short piece below.

For those who are adjusting to the world without the place you've always known was least to your heart goes out to you, and I pray God grants you comfort and peace as you find your way through.

God be with you,

It is a different place to be when both your parents are gone. I don't care how old you are. Having a parent is like having a pier you can always find your way back to and a place to tie up your life. It is a settling thing. In your mind you know there is something you are attached to and part of and there is a heart and mind security in that. When both parents are gone, there is a different sense of responsibility, a feeling like your mooring has been cut and you have to find a new way to anchor yourself. It isn't a bad place because it is part of how God set the world to work, but it is a hard place, nonetheless. And God in heaven it is a place with an ache like none other the heart has ever known.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Better Answer--Part 10, The Power of Time

A friend of mine broke her wrist. A small break. Didn't need a cast, just one of those wrist braces. A month later, she had almost all function back.

Another friend of mine was in a car wreck. The airbag hit her wrist the wrong way, and her wrist shattered. It took surgery and a couple of months to heal. When she went to see the doctor, he would x-ray, see how it was progressing, make sure there were indicators of healing there. She went from one kind of cast to another finally to a brace and eventually nothing. Her ability to use her wrist and hand went from nothing to pinching with fingertips to gripping with fingers to full functionality. A lot of strength had to be regained. It seemed like the healing would never be complete, but eventually it was. Now her wrist is fine, but wow, did it take time to reach "fine".

From the outside, the injuries look the same. However, they were very different breaks. While the small break took only six weeks for full recovery, no one would expect that of the second break. There were just too many things involved in the healing process.

Emotional healing works the same way.

Sadly too many people think healing is controlled by calendar pages, not personal pain. They think recovering from divorce, a death, or a given loss works in a pre-packaged time frame.

If only.

The truth is the second year can be harder than the first. Circumstances play a roll as well. This year a friend of mine had her fourth year divorced. It was her worst for reasons few can understand. The first year my mom was gone was drowned by the marital collapse and death of my husband. It wasn't until I had found my way through the loss of marriage and my children's dad that the reality hit--my mom was gone. That was a breath-snatching Christmas.

I know a precious lady whose marriage split up after 15 years. Her sweetheart since high school, only man she had ever dated, ever kissed, ever believed loved her walked out of their home and into the bed of a woman nearly fifteen years younger than she or her husband are. I couldn't imagine what that was like, and a mutual friend and I were discussing it one day because we were concerned, and the mutual friend said, "I'll be glad when she is done with the first year. She'll be fine then."

I couldn't believe the naivete'. Really? You think she will step over that calendar one-year mark and everything will be fine?

"Well, she'll have gone through all the holidays and lived. Then it is time for her to move on and get over it."


Yes. Seriously.

Two and a half years.

That is how long it has been since everything began for us.

When the path we were on became obvious, I made a list. It was my "Other Side" list. It was my criteria for what "the other side" looked like. I would know we had made it through once I saw these things active in our lives.

About a month ago I realized we are living that list. We are on "the other side".

In the last 2 1/2 years we've endured incredible pain, cried more than we thought was humanly possible, questioned, screamed in rage, put up walls to protect us from people with bad intentions...and people with good intentions who hurt unintentionally...laughed a lot, found new hobbies...rebuilt our lives.

Rebuilding has taken time.

Working through the pain of the loss...
Working through the anger...
Finding new hobbies...
Finding new joy...

It is a process, not a switch we get to hit.

One of the best gifts we've received from friends we've kept close to us is the gift of time. In fact, their patience is one of the reasons we've kept them close.

They had no time frame for when we should be past the anger or when birthdays shouldn't hurt. They didn't have the expectation that "the first year is the hardest but the second year will be so much easier." They were simply in, for as long as it took, until our feet were on solid ground again and life didn't hurt so much.

They understood healing isn't about the amount of time that has passed. It is about the progress that is made.

Healing is not about getting through the first year or beyond the milestone anniversary. It is not about ticks of time or flipping of calendar pages.

Healing is about reaching a place that is better than what it used to be.
Healing is progressing from where one is to a place where life hurts less and hope leads more.

And that takes time.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Better Answer--Part 9, The Power of Invasion

As much as I would have loved to have someone offer to mow my yard, fix different things, help in different ways, what I cherish beyond all words are the few people who had the courage to invade when I told them they didn't have to.

Asking for help because I don't have the physical ability or knowledge to use a tool or fix something is one thing. Needing help because my mind or emotions have turned against me...not acceptable.

To have someone who notices when I'm too quiet on FB, haven't texted in a few days, am not picking up my phone, or particular things I say about working in the flowerbeds, turning in paperwork at the court house (where I had to file the divorce petition), or writing thank you notes for those who sent flowers to the funeral...those things are priceless.

As nice as it would be for people to tell us exactly what they need and let us do it, they don't. People don't want others to see their insanity. They don't want people to see them at their worst. So they push through to the best of their ability or shut down when they simply can't go on, and people are too afraid to make them mad or make them cry that they say and do nothing because they are waiting for that "any time you need me" clause to be activated. Except, no one is going to activate it.

So how do you let the person know you are serious about your willingness to be there...even when it is insane?

You invade.

Seriously. Show up at their door with coffee, a movie, dinner, a blender to make margaritas.

I hated evenings after 8:00 pm. The house is quiet. The lack of companionship was a nightmare. I would have loved for someone to show up with a game or a movie and said, "I'm just here to be here." I'm not saying people need to do that every night, but being alone night after night after a day of being the only parent/counselor/teacher/disciplinarian/social-planner/budget-meeter/order-keeper is mentally and emotionally battering. Someone with coffee and a movie who is willing to just be there with

Show up with McDonald's for the kids, a box of kleenex, and a few hours to sit and listen.

Fix a picnic and say, "Let's get out of the house awhile."


Your job isn't to get them out of their rut or to make them see life isn't so bad. If you do that, they aren't going to want you. I wouldn't want you. That is about you, your opinions, and your comfort zones.

This is about them.

Your whole purpose is to be there...with them...where they are.

Sometimes they don't know how to ask you to be there. Sometimes they don't know what they really even need. They just know they need something...someone...because the demands are too many...the load is too large.

Be courageous.
Be what they need.
Do what they need you to do.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Better Answer--Part 8, The Power of Personal Presence 2

In my last post I shared some of the ways people have been a comfort by simply being themselves and being here. However, each of us has our own empty spots, the spots where a presence would feel good.

I can't list all the possibilities, but if you take a little time, ask a few questions, you can figure some things out. If you ask about favorite memories or traditions or what they did every spring or fall, you may be surprised at how much you can find out. People like to tell stories. They like to remember. They like that people want to hear.

It is a heart-lifting surprise when someone gives you room to remember instead of telling you to forget.

Maybe it is a trip to see fall leaves every year.
Maybe it is putting in the flowers or a trip to the beach or opening day of movies.
Maybe it is putting up lights for Christmas or tailgating at a football game or visiting a flea market.
Maybe it is watching fireworks or attending musicals or just a special day.

What do you say once you know? Say something honest.

"I know you and (the person you love) did (this thing). I was wondering, would you like some company? Would you like someone to do that with you? If not, would you like to do something totally different? I know it must be hard to do by yourself. I'll do it with you, or we can do something else. Just tell me what you need."

Or, just show up.

I have no idea how many times I wish someone had just shown up at my door and said, "I'm taking you to (coffee, dinner, the theatre, the botanical gardens...anywhere but here."

I have found two obstacles when it came to asking for help.

1. Being in pain is exhausting. Simply trying to get the kids and myself through the day...especially on days when I really needed someone to step in and help me breathe...just doing what had to be done took all my energy. I couldn't think of what I needed or how anyone could help. Even when people asked what I needed, I had no answer.

2. I had asked for help, for company, for simple presence, and the responses had hurt. I was already drained. I refused to risk inflicting more mental or emotional pain on myself.

I thank God for those I never had to ask.

My husband had moved out. My mom was dying of cancer. My kids were trying to find their way through the rage and pain. I was tired on every level.
I wrote a simple text.
"I can't put two thoughts together."
A few minutes later my phone rang.
John asked me a few questions, told me to get pen and paper, and gave me the plan to get me through the weekend. I had to think about nothing. It was a Godsend.

Valentine's Day is hard. Rob died around 12:30 am on February 15th. We associate it with Valentine's. The emotional tsunami that hit last year felt suffocating. My kids were in unbelievable pain. I was trying to get through the day as a woman who had not been single in nearly 24 a wife who was still trying to figure out what had gone wrong with her marriage...and as a person whose friend had died.

I hurt. Dear Lord in heaven, how I hurt.

And that day people texted and emailed. Told me they were praying. Confessed they had no idea how hard it must be but they were standing with me in their hearts, thoughts, and prayers.

And then there were the flowers and the DVD.

My friend Kristi had been praying for a month about how to love me on Valentine's Day, and the Lord had answered.

She gave me a beautiful bouquet and the Courageous DVD. I have never loved cut flowers so much. I watched Courageous and cried. It was more than a movie. It was an answer to prayer. I had asked the Lord how I'm supposed to be a mom and a dad, and He showed me all He wanted was for me to be courageous, to fight the good fight, to be a good example. If I could instill His character, the kids would come through okay. He is the answer. I simply had to live courageously in Him.

Kristi had no idea about my prayer or my heart...or how hard it can be to be a mom and dad. She only knew her friend was facing Valentine's alone, and she wanted to help. So she prayed and asked the Counselor, the peace Prince...the One who is with me constantly...and she put love into action.

Birthdays are hard, whether it be having a birthday without someone...or finding the way through the birthday of the one lost. When our friend Lonnie died, multiple friends graced his wife with her favorite flowers on her birthday, just like he did. Sure she cried, but it was a good cry.

Anniversaries are hard. I've spent the last two anniversaries doing vulnteer work. It kept me busy all day, and I was so exhausted when I got home I showered and fell asleep.

Some events are hard. Watching WonderGirl be Willie Wonka, the character her dad had always wanted to be, tested my ability to keep breathing. Thank the Lord we were surrounded by a few dozen friends who held my hand, offered a shoulder, and gave a standing ovation for WonderGirl's courage.

The way to be present varies from person to person because the empty places, the hurting spots, vary with each relationship and with each life. It doesn't take a huge presence to make a huge difference, though. Some courage to invade space, a bit of time, and the willingness to see beyond the platitudes hurting people so often dole out will speak love greater than you can imagine.

You may never know how much your presence is needed in a day, how much strength it gives, or how deeply appreciated it is because honestly, for love like that, there are no real words...only heart deep gratitude.

Presence like that isn't the easiest thing to do...but it is a powerful thing to do.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Better Answer--Part 7, The Power of Personal Presence 1

It was a horrible day. The kind of day you wish you could do over, take things back, handle everything differently.

My son was angry and screaming.
I was angry and screaming.
He slammed doors.
I slammed doors.
My daughter just tried to stay out of the way of the rage and flying verbal knives.

It was a horrible day.

And in the midst of all the horrible, Mary Kate was coming over to help me paint my son's room. A student of mine a handful of years ago. Now a young woman. Instead of a student, she was now a friend...but how far into horrible will friends go?

How much horrible does one want their friends to see?

So I called.

It's bad.

"I'm okay with bad."

Don't come.

"I'm ten minutes away."

Don't come.

"I will paint in a room by myself."

Don't come.

"You don't even have to speak to me."

Don't come.

"I'm not scared."

When I turned off my phone, she had agreed to turn around and go home.

I knelt on the floor and sobbed so hard I ached.

I don't know how long I sat there. I can't tell you what went through my mind. All I know is when I picked my phone and asked, "Where are you?", she answered, "Two minutes away sitting in the parking lot wondering how angry you'll be when I just show up at your door anyway."

"It's really bad."

"I'm not afraid of really bad."

"It's pretty insane."

"Insanity doesn't scare me."

"If insanity doesn't scare you, I need you."

"I'm on my way."

I sobbed. Talked. Maybe some of it made sense. Probably didn't.

She listened.

She sat on the paint spotted drop cloth and listened. I don't remember her saying a word. I just remember she was there.

She was also there when I spent a damp morning walking through the rain dripping grass pulling up ragweed that had taken over my yard.

The week before I had worked in the yard, cleared some flowerbeds...cried the whole time. My husband and I had done the yardwork together. It was my first year to do it alone, and oh what I would have given for someone to just sit in a lawn chair near me, sip sweet tea, and talk. I didn't expect anyone to get on their knees or sacrifice their backs. I just wanted a presence.

It is amazing the comfort a simple presence can offer when all the heart can see is the empty.

And she chose to be present.

She wandered the yard in boots, pajamas, and a jacket with me while we filled three large outside trashcans with milkweed. We talked some. I don't know what about. I remember what I kept thinking.

I kept thinking of kneeling in my front yard over a flowerbed the week before with tears dripping off my chin and telling God how nice a companion would be...and how He gave me one. It was love defined lived out in my backyard.

.     .     .     .     .

It took months for me to be able to think of writing thank you notes, and when I finally decided I was ready, I pulled out the notes, suddenly couldn't breathe, and walked away from the notes. I mentioned this to some friends, and four of them offered to come and sit with me while I wrote the notes, offered to make me sweet tea, address envelopes, write the notes for me if I needed. What did I need? They were in.

I didn't want people to see me trying to sort through the emotions and thoughts of a marriage gone wrong, a husband who didn't want to be here, and a life gone away. I couldn't explain how I could go from anger to sobbing in seconds, and I didn't trust people to understand. I was wrong. I should have let them come. I should have trusted their strength more. I should have...allowed them to comfort me with their presence.

The next day I wrote the thank you notes by myself...and cried the whole time. Even though I didn't allow my friends to be there, their love and support gave me courage for the task...and knowing they would be there was love.

.     .     .     .     .

It was WonderBoy's birthday, and I was trying to be courageous, but sometimes courageous needs a friend to stand strong.

I sent a text to my friend John.

"I know birthdays will get easier. I know a time will come when we get through the day without memories, without fighting tears. It isn't today."
He wrote back. "I can't imagine. Focus on getting through today. Tomorrow will be easier."

A few texts and a bit of time later, and WonderBoy was ready to head out for dinner and lasertag.

I texted: "Deep breath. I can rock this."

John responded: "Yes, you can."

And I did.

.     .     .     .     .

Yes, this is crazy...I'm not afraid of crazy.

I can't imagine how hard this is...but I'm still believing in you.

I can't fix hell...but I'll walk through it with you.

Wherever you are, whatever you are in...
...I'm not afraid of the pain....
...I'm not afraid of the crazy...
...I'm not afraid of the hard days...
...I'm there. I'm in with you.

That is love.

That is powerful.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Missing Answer--When a Baby is Aborted

Last night I sat at church in a candlelight service looking for the light, looking for the Father's heart, seeking Him in the darkness...the world's darkness..the darkness where He wanted to be found...the darkness where people need to find Him.

Almost before I had finished asking, "Lord, give me your heart," I heard the words, "The Missing Answer--When a Baby is Aborted." My heart ached, and I knew it is because His heart aches. I felt sadness and compassion of such magnitude it was almost as though I would disappear into it, and I thought I understood.

Then I heard Him whisper through His heavy-heartedness, "It isn't for the babies. It is for the mommas."

I saw an ocean of mommas with hearts filled with pain...and arms empty...and they had no way to grieve.

I heard Him say, "And they can tell no one."

Because people think they are getting what they deserve. People think they should feel bad, they should realize the heinous thing they've done, they should suffer for the wrong they've committed...they should know it was their fault.

The world thinks these mommas have forfeited their rights to ache as mommas because they were frightened, confused, and mistaken about the options laid before them, or maybe they felt they had no option at all. They made a choice most of us don't understand because we've never been there.

I've never been there either, but I understand making mistakes I wish I could undo. I understand the shame I felt, the shame that kept me from telling, from feeling like I had a right to feel anything other than horrible. I understand feeling like I not only deserved to feel wretched but by all that was right, should feel wretched. I understand hating myself and what I'd done. I understand feeling wholly undeserving of compassion and having no hope of forgiveness. I understand grief and guilt that suffocates and drowns.

I also understand my God looks at the person not the choice, heals the pain not judges the person, and loves where a person is and not where other thinks she should have been.

I understand that my God's heart is to heal the brokenhearted, set captives free, proclaim release for prisoners in darkness, forgive sins, and restore lives. I understand my Bible says with God the old is done and a new life is available, and I understand the Bible says those promises are for everyone, not "everyone except women who have had abortions."

And I understand these mommas watch due dates slip by that rip at their hearts but they have to pretend all is fine because how do you tell? Who do you tell?
I understand these mommas put on brave faces when children yell, "Mommy," and they aren't the one being called.
I understand watching loving hugs rips hearts to pieces.
I understand wondering...wishing...what if...

As I sat in that candlelight service celebrating a baby who came to be a light in the darkness, I asked the Lord for His heart for these mommas, and this is what I heard:

You have the right to grieve.
You have the right to be brokenhearted.
You have the right to mourn a due date, a birthday, and a large belly.
You have the right to hurt with a first word, every time a child calls someone else, "Mommy," when someone gets a hug you won't ever feel.
You have the right to ache to the very core of who you are.
You have the right to cry, to wonder what would have been.
You are a mom, and you have the right to grieve and mourn as a mom whose baby has been lost because yours was.
You have not forfeited your right to hurt as a mom who aches for her child. You are a mom. You have the right to grieve as one.
I give you that right.
I'm grieving with you...for you...I know how you hurt.
I'm with you.
I know.
And you don't have to be afraid of me.
I'm right here.
I don't hate you. I don't judge.
I love you. I forgive you. I want you to forgive you, too.
Let's talk about this baby together.
Let's walk through this to find your peace.
I don't want you to stay here.
You've hurt bad enough, long enough.
It's time to heal. Give me the pain. Give me your heart.
I can handle it.
I'm all in. We can get through this.
I know who you are. I know your heart.
I'm asking you to trust mine.

If you know someone who has had an abortion, instead of thinking about the act, think about the person living with the ramifications. Instead of being angry a life was lost, open your heart to seek the life still here to save. Listen, and if you can think of nothing else to say, say, "I love you."

Instead of imprisoning them to what they've done, seek God's wisdom to set them free to who He desires them to be. He doesn't desire them to live in pain and self-hatred for the rest of their lives. That isn't how our God works. His heart for them is love, peace, joy, and forgiveness...from Him and themselves.

Live His heart.

And if you are one of these precious mommas (or daddies)...

If you need to talk,
if you need to pray,
if you need to tell me about the baby you hold in your heart,
if you need to know more about the God who wants to hold you,
please visit my profile. You can find my email there.

I'm not a counselor. I'm just a woman...who has hurt horribly...and who knows a God who loves madly. He is all I have, but He is all you need.

With deep heart love and compassion,

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I've Been Praying for a Soggy, White Christmas

As I write this, I'm looking out my window. Here in Texas, we've been in drought conditions for...a long time. Today...this CHRISTMAS day...the day of hope...we are walking in mud. The rain has fallen all night, and now it has given snow.

My mind filled with the scripture from Isaiah 55:
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
There are so many I know this Christmas who are waiting for the promise. I believe the Lord wants you to know He remembers you. He knows your name. He knows His promise to you. He knows your heart's desire. He knows you are waiting...and wondering...
...Wondering've been forgotten...if the promise is for everyone but you...if you are waiting...for nothing.
He has not forgotten you. He has not forgotten the promise. His word is not void or empty.
It is no accident that the long prayed for rain and snow have come on this Christmas Day. It is no accident you reading this post. It doesn't matter if you found it on your own, subscribe to it, like it on Facebook, or someone sent it to you because you came to mind. This is in your hands because God knows YOU need it. YOU. He knows He need to be encouraged. He knows you need to be assured. He is the strength in weakness. He's not ashamed if you've begun to wane. He's the Lion of Judah stepping in to safe your faith, to lift you up, to re-establish your footing.
I don't know what drought you are in. I don't know what promises seem dead.


All I know is the ground is a soggy mess covered over by a few inches of snow in this drought hardened area of Texas. Promises are soaking in, germinating, preparing to blossom even as I type this to you. Just as it would be impossible for such blessing to fall from heaven and have no affect...even more the ability of our God to speak...and accomplish nothing.
This is the second white Christmas in our area in about 90 years. This...never happens...and yet it did.
God wants you to know what you are waiting on "would never happen"...but watch...because it will.
Praying your faith stands and you hold on to the hope of your own personal soggy, white whatever form that takes for you.


A Christmas Out of Sorts

It's Christmas morning, about 10:00 am. My kids are sound asleep. There are no gifts under the tree. The stockings are lying in a pile on the coffee table. And I'm sitting here with my computer wondering what happened to Christmas.

Oh. We had stockings...
...opened gifts...
...ate dinner...
...enjoyed family...


We've ALWAYS had some Christmas something on Christmas Day.

We didn't bake for our friends and neighbors, and we ALWAYS bake for our neighbors and friends.

This year we didn't do Toys for Tots. We ALWAYS do Toys for Tots.

We didn't drive around drinking designer coffee looking and Christmas lights and singing like we do EVERY year.

Now it is Christmas day, and it is too late for Toys for Tots, gifts and all are done, we are already eating leftovers, and I'm not really keen on looking at lights after the fact.

My heart I've missed Christmas.

It feels like the day came...but Christmas didn't.

Is it just that we haven't done what we always do? Am I missing tradition? Am I missing the familiar? Surely after the last 2 1/2 years I don't suffer from that.

I think it is far simpler...and far more complex...than that. The simply complex fact is...I miss the mass of the Christ.

Christmas isn't about the gifts or the stockings or the dinner or the lights.

It isn't even about the gift of a baby in  manger. If it were, candlelight service at church last night would have fixed my melee.

No. It's different than that.

Christmas isn't about a baby come to save or a "life everlasting".

The mass of the Christ is about relationship. It's not about an aloof King who took time to walk among the vagrants, set a good example, and make promises about when this life is over.

It's about a Creator who had tried every way He could to get involved in life HERE and NOW. The mass of the Christ isn't about God offering us life in heaven. It's about His stepping into our lives here on earth. It's about a God who couldn't reach us through others, so He stepped right into the mess and the ugly and the pain and the craziness and the ways we miss Him so He wouldn't miss us.

The mass of the Christ isn't about what He wants us to be for Him. It's about what He needed to be for us.

A baby in a manger wasn't because it was the only way to reach Him. It's because it was the only way He could reach us.

The entire mass of the Christ is about a God who isn't fascinated with pretty wrapping of perfect lives but is drawn in by the desperate need of the broken.

The Christ-mass has everything to do with the people-mess, and it wasn't about making them perfect. It was about finding them in their imperfection.

It was never about getting people to follow a religion. It was all about opening a door to build a relationship.

Our shopping for Toys for Tots, our looking at lights, our baking for others, family gathering with isn't about activities wrapped in pristine hearts or memories fit for a Rockwell painting. It's about real people finding relationship, making time to reach beyond the usual space of our lives, taking time to see the needs of others...because sometimes what others need is us.

Maybe I'm missing Christmas...because Christmas is missing me.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Missing Answer--When A Baby is Lost, Teach Us

In my last post, I offered my "wisdom" on how to love someone who has lost a baby. I have never lost a child, so I was offering what I've learned from parents who have taken time to share their hearts with me. But we need more. We need a light on the path, not the blind leading the blind hoping we won't step on anyone while fumbling through.

Moms and Dads,

Please, we don't know what to say or do. We are walking in the dark. If you've suffered this loss, will you be a light to our paths? Will you share hearts with us?

What can we say or do or NOT say or do to help?

What do need us to be that we may walk with you through the loss and through the healing?

We want to walk with you. Will you please be courageous and teach us how?

You can leave comments or email me via my profile.

Thank you for sharing healing insight.

With deepest heart gratitude,

The Missing Answer--When a Baby is Lost

Donna brought up a hard topic in her comment this morning. A friend has lost a baby, do you say to that?

I think there is no pat answer, but I will share what insight I have.

I have a friend who has lost two babies with a son between them. We have talked throughout the years of healing, and I will share what she has said I did well.

First, I cried with her. She called me, told me about the loss, and we cried together.

I think I muttered, "I'm just stunned. I'm so sorry," a dozen times or more. They had tried so long to get pregnant and were so excited...I just cried.

Second, I also sent her a card on her due dates. I know that might odd, but I've learned moms do not forget their due dates, and those days are very hard for a lot moms. Often they feel like they are alone because no one remembers, and by then, they are supposed to be "past it", so they try not to say anything. Society is really cruel with what we expect folks to sweep under the rug. I chose to jerk the rug up.

 I wanted her to know I remembered these precious lives that had been part of her. Most folks either forget those dates or try to let them slip by unnoticed. I wrote in the cards if they were the wrong thing I was sorry, but I wanted her to know I remembered these precious gifts. For probably 2 or 3 years after that, I would call or email and say, "I know this would have been a birthday. How are you?" It was so non-glorious. I had NOTHING. BUT, she said the fact I remembered was precious, and I remembered the names they gave the babies.

She thanked me who knows how many times. She said it felt good to know her babies were remembered...that SHE was remembered.

Along those lines, I also checked in at Christmas, especially the first Christmas because this was their first child, and they had been trying for a couple of years to get pregnant. That year they lost their son but two nephews were born well and healthy. Can you imagine how hard Christmas was? I confess I couldn't. BUT, I wanted her to know I knew she must be hurting.

Something I did for another friend was take her to lunch or coffee or something...and coincidentally, our plans always fell at the same times as baby showers for other friends of hers. She knew I understood if she wanted to go to those showers, but she always chose time with me...after all, we already had plans, she wanted to keep her word, and she knew I was really looking forward to that time. A few times, our plans conflicted with first birthday parties. Oddest thing how that happened. It was like they planned those things just to make it so she couldn't go.

I think the key is to let the person know you realize they have lost someone, someone very real.

I hate that garbage about, "Well, at least you never held that baby and learned to love it." I loved my babies from the second I saw those two pink lines. When I was 9 weeks pregnant with my son, I started spotting and cramping. A beating heart has never looked so beautiful as his did on that monitor that day in the ER. Losing a baby is heart-shredding stuff. There is no "at least", and the whole, "God needed that baby more than you..." If I were on a jury and a parent were being tried for violence comitted by him or her against someone thoughtless enough to say that, I would send that parent home without so much as a reprimand. In fact, I might pat the parent on the back and thank her for educating the masses on the result spewing obviously thoughtless comments. Just saying.

I think in some ways losing a baby during pregnancy can be harder because folks don't realize how hard it is. I've never experienced it, but from conversations I've had, the feeling no one understands or gets that YOUR CHILD HAS DIED is horrificly painful.

I think a good guiding principle is to remember that baby was a person, and those who lost that baby lost a valuable life. Treating that life as valuable, demonstrating to those grieving that you know this is a life-shaped hole in their hearts, showing the lost baby is precious and those dealing with the loss are precious...that is where our compassion and comforting abilities has to pour from. That is honestly all we have to give.

And as always, I'm a big proponent of asking what the person needs.

Instead of just saying, "Call me if you need me," you make the call. Say something like, "You were on my mind today, and I am concerned about you. I don't know what I can do, but I know this is incredibly hard and painful, and is there anything I can offer you? Do you just need to talk? You need to cry? You need me to make dinner? Want me to take your other kids so you can just have some rest?"

Honestly, this person may not be able to think of a way you can help because thinking is not a strength when one is grieving. Do a bit of thinking for this person. Toss out some ideas. Give the person a chance to pick something instead of having to expend the energy to create an answer.

And if you aren't close enough for physical presence, ask the same questions via phone or computer. "How are you? I'm praying for you. You've been on my mind. The holidays are coming up. I am concerned about you. I know these can be hard, and some folks feel they just have to push through as happy as possible. Are you alright? Need to talk?"

Sometimes I just say, "I can understand feeling like something is missing...a friend of mine dealt with a lot of anger during the holidays the year she lost her son...I think Mother's Day would be hard..." I'm amazed at how making an effort to empathize opens doors for conversation and offering comfort.

I've also asked frankly, "How do you need me to be on this road with you? I want to be here, and I don't know how. Tell me what I need to be for you."

Speaking from experience, it is crazy amazing how powerful it is when someone tries to step into the pain instead of trying to make you get over it. It is wildly comforting when someone walks right into where you are instead of expecting you to pull it together and get to them.

I think the greatest thing anyone can do is acknoweldge the loss and the pain. A gift from God has been lost. Yes, that baby is in His hands, but a momma and daddy have empty arms. Empty arms hurt. The size of the baby doesn't matter. The loss is still heart-size.

Parents need to know someone else knows that, too.

Believing in Full

It is late, and I should be sleeping. Instead, I've been lying here in the dark staring at the ceiling I can't see as the day ambles back through my mind. My mind is so awed, and my heart is so full. Sleep cannot find its way in.

Every year I pray for a "word" for the year. It might be an actual one word thing, or it might be a phrase. I've had years when God gave me a whole chapter. This year He gave me one word--"fulfill".

I looked the word up. It means "completely whole lacking nothing, containing all that is possible."


The definition stills leaves me amazed.

I will tell you straight up that the Lord has fulfilled a LOT this year. My children and I are in great places spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. It has been a very good year. However...

There are areas of my life that don't feel fullfilled. In my mind and heart, there are some things lacking and there is space for a few other things. In fact, there are some things He has promised that have not arrived. And there are only 9 days left in the year, and I'm getting a bit...antsy.

This morning as I was praying, I confessed my weaknesses. In my weakness, He is strong. I need His strength to keep my faith boosted. I need Him to strengthen me because this is an area where I am still maturing. Instead of trying to cover it up, I took it to Him, laid it at His feet, and asked Him to handle it. Then I went on and prayed about other things.

When my quiet time was done, I checked my "random verse of the day".

Numbers 23:19
God is not human, that he should lie,
not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill?

"Jerri, have I ever promised anything and not fulfilled it?"


In fact, He is so crazy deep concerned about me personally I often find myself lost in the awe of it. He is so personal. I lose my keys, look until I am convinced I tossed them in the trash somehow, ask Him to show me, minutes later keys are in my hand. REALLY, He is totally all about me.

Like today.

My neighbor is Vietnamese. She makes the best eggrolls I have ever had. I could eat these things until I was sick. In the past, she brought them over fairly regularly. However, it has been over 2 1/2 years since the last time she has blessed us with egg rolls. I was thinking about that this morning while considering what to bake for everyone in the neighborhood for Christmas, something we used to do every year but haven't as we've been healing.

A few hours later, someone knocked on our door. Yes. It was Pham. Yes. In her hand was a bag of eggrolls. In the other hand was homemade sauce. Such delights! Inconsequential to the world, but so good for my heart. Desire of my heart? Maybe. Who am I to say what importance God puts on desires? I enjoy these eggrolls immensely, and I missed them. Perhaps when an Almighty God is totally all about showing you His promises do not fail, that is desire enough.

That would have been amazing enough, but there is more.

Tuesday night I was doing some much needed shopping. While looking for winter clothes, I prayed about jewelry. In a clear answer, I heard, "I will handle that."


When Pham was here, she said she had something for the kids and me. She went home and returned with a beautiful set of candles (also a WAY amazing story) and a bag of stuff. I know. You know what it is, but not just jewelry. Try EIGHT earring/necklace sets, and they are lovely.

Then my Christmas plans took a hit.

My brother, whom I think very highly of and enjoy greatly, was going to be here Christmas Day. However, he is driving in from an area with a good chance of rough winter weather. He can't stay the night, and I don't want him to risk driving into ice and freezing stuff, so I suggested we reschedule. And that was hard because I know his life schedule, and he is genuinely busy. His schedule is not forgiving or agreeable. Until a few days ago, we weren't even sure he was scheduled off for Christmas, so I knew if I gave up Christmas Day the chances of Christmas with him at any point plummeted. Still, I would prefer he be safe, so I told him I thought it would be better if he stay home and tried to psych myself up to cooking a "big" Christmas dinner for three of us.

"I have off Christmas Eve. Want to do Christmas then?"

What?!?!?!? Christmas Eve?!?!?!?! YES! YES! Happy Snoopy dance YES!!!

There were other things. Other prayers answered, kindnesses received, and just overwhelming personal attention. Things I would think of or wonder about or wish I knew...and within hours, they were put in my hands.

And these things keep floating through my mind over and over, and sleep isn't coming, and I'm really okay with that because I have this love drunk smile on my face because of everything He did...and what He is going to do...the promises He is going to fulfill.

Think about it. If He values me so much that He plans ahead to give me my favorite eggrolls that I haven't thought of in...,months...
...if He gave me jewelry that is beautiful...
...if He worked my brother's schedule to get him here despite the weather so we could have Christmas together because I really like it...
...if He adores me so much that He gives me the unnecessary things in my heart and the people who give me great joy...
...if He is all about those "little" things that look so nothing-ish from a life impact perspective...
...surely there is nothing "great" that He will not give me... promise of fullfillment He will withhold.

There is no strength He will withhold... gift of faith to strengthen my ability to stand...
...knowing He does not, cannot lie.

As I finish this, there are now 8 days left of this year.

I believe they are going to be full.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

When You Don't Know What to Say...Declassified Navy Information Works

Yesterday my wonderful friend Sharilyn Klahn moved from this piece of eternity to the next. She had hoped to be Home by Christmas, and the Lord was so kind to give her this gift.

I won't lie, and I won't wax poetic. The honest fact is I know things  that hurt her here are no longer hurting her. I know the cancer isn't ravaging her body, and I know she can smile for the first time in months. She had so missed her smile since the cancer had paralyzed her face, and her smile was so beautiful. I know all that.

I also know I keep looking at her blog...wishing to see a new entry. I know I saw a rock in a stream yesterday, and it looked like a heart. I almost texted her a picture. I know the package of goodies that she always sends at Christmas isn't coming this year, and I have never craved peanut brittle like I do now. Not just ANY peanut brittle either. SHARILYN'S peanut brittle.

Around 10:00 last night, I called my friend Scott and told him Sharilyn was gone. He told me he didn't know what to say. Trying not to sound like I was crying really hard, I said, "Just talk to me about anything. Tell me about your day...your plans for the weekend..."

And he did.

Then the conversation wandered.... his time in the military and declassified Navy stuff...and how he checks online to find out what is public so he knows what he can talk about. :-)

...then we talked about funny funeral moments--sing alongs, surf music, and songs neither of us like. certain key people in his life make some navy shooters look bad.

...weddings...and how weird wedding planners can be...and how candles not being lit should be a sign to simply turn around and walk back out.


...and I'm smiling again thinking about it, thinking about the fact he had no idea what to say...and neither did I really...but by picking up the phone after 10:00 and talking even when he had to be up just talking and being there...he said tons...

...And it was what I needed to hear.

It's the Little Things

I posted this on my writer's page on Facebook, but I thought I'd share it here.

I had no idea how precious...inside jokes were...until there weren't any.

*          *          *          *        *
One of the greatest pieces of healing I've found, and it happens so slowly and quietly it nearly sneaks in without being noticed until it is suddenly there, and you realize what you've been missing...isn't anymore...

Inside jokes.

This morning I am blessed with the joy of laughing across distance with two wonderful friends with whom I share inside jokes. That makes my heart so full I don't even have words.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Looking Forward to the Best of Me

I've been spending some time considering our accomplishments and progress of the last year. Really, I am very happy with it all. We've come so far. We are doing great, and we are excited about where we are and where we are going. 

Really, it's good.

Now I am looking forward to next year and thinking about where I want us to get, what I want us to do, and the how of it all. I have a lot of ideas. Most of it is pretty typical or at least low key. Challenging but probably nothing that will make its way here.

 But as usual, I have ideas and "want to" things that trigger the voice in the back of my mind that says, "Um, maybe we should run this by someone and make sure you aren't crazy."

 I love when that voice goes off. It tells me we are offroading, and that is where the best of me comes out. :-)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Where Prayer is Needed

I keep hearing people say we need to get prayer back into schools. However, prayer in school has always been an option, just ask any child facing a test. Prayer in school is as pointless as prayer in church...unless it is taken home.

We need to get prayer back into homes--around kitchen tables, around a family altar (and I don't mean the TV during a football game), and by beds at night. If we want to see America change, we do from our homes out. The question is whether we are willing to be responsible to make the hard choices required to be the change we keep saying we want to see.

Instead of praying IN school, we need to be praying ABOUT schools, about teachers, about leaders.

We need to be praying about the education of our children in school...and in our living rooms.

We need to pray about what our kids are learning from the kid down the street...and what our kids are learning from us.

We need to do more than pray FOR our kids. We need to pray in front of our kids and pray WITH our kids.

To say we need to put prayer back in schools takes the responsibility from the leaders who are preventing it to the kids who aren't getting to do it.

What these kids need is for parents to stop dumping the responsibility on everyone else, get on their knees, and do the job themselves like they are supposed to.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The One Thing You Can Say that Always Makes a Difference

I keep watching this group and that group give their take on the Connecticut nightmare, and as I watch gun owners yell for more freedom to shoot bad guys and gun haters yell for more gun bans to stop bad guys and this group scream for prayer in school and that group scream about their pet purpose, I just keep thinking...

There are parents who will never hear their kids say, "I love you," again, never feel arms around their necks in a hug, never hear the wonder of their child's laughter.

There are siblings who will grow up without a brother or a sister.

There are children who lost parents who will never feel arms around them, the tears wiped away, or the words, "I love you," ever again.

There are empty table seats, empty beds, and empty life places.

There is a hole the size of a human life for every body carried out of there.
Those are not numbers.
Those are people whose lives are gone, and there are lives who will have to try to find a way through that horrific loss.

People say all they want about this cause or that philosophy, but ultimately...

In three or four days there will be a series of services to remember the lost.
Less than a week after that parents, spouses, children will walk through a day called Christmas and all the gifts under the tree will mean nothing because all they will want back are the people they love...and there is no magic to bring them back.

And the one thing anyone can say that will make any difference at a prayer.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Finding Relevance--What is Relevant?

When I finished writing that last post, I sat here awhile and thought about Jesus finding people. I just kept thinking about the woman at the well (story below). She was a Samaritan, which meant the Jews thought she was trash, and she shacked up with a list of men, so her people thought she was trash. This woman who was the community gossip column.

She was so tired of the stares and jeers and cutting comments that she waited until all other women had come to the well and gone home before she snuck up there by herself. I doubt she strolled up there, whistling a happy toon. I think she probably walked with her eyes down, her body rolled in trying to make herself small, trying to be as small a target as possible.

I think she was used to feeling man's hands on her, but she never really knew the feel of love.

I think in many ways she was a shell, numb, empty. She had given the best of her, and now she was simply a person trying to get through the day until...she didn't know what. Things were never going to get better.

Then this Jewish man shows up at the well one day and asks her for a drink, and her world is rocked.

Not only does He not care that she is a Samaritan, He doesn't care that she has lived with multiple men and is living with one now. In fact, He is unconcerned with her past or her present circumstance.

His only concern...she is empty...and He has what it takes to fill her.

So why did He mention her past?

Because He wanted her to know He knew her. He wanted her to know He already knew the worst and darkest. He already knew the ugly...and it had no relevancy at all.

He wanted to silence that voice in the back of her mind that likes to torment with, "If He really knew...If He knew everything...There is no way He could want or love someone with a past like that. He could never love or want someone like you."

He told her right up front, "I already know everything, and I want you anyway. I knew all that when I started walking toward you, and I came here just for you. I know how empty you are. I know how life has drained you. I know what you have given away, and instead of making me turn the other direction, it made me walk right straight to you."

For Jesus, the only thing relevant was her need.

The very thing that made others walk away from her is what made Jesus go find her.

We are strange critters, we humans. We go to doctors when we are sick because they are doctors and we are sick. Their whole purpose is to make sick people well. It is what they want to do, so when we go to them sick, we never expect them to berate us, "You know it is flu season. You didn't have the sense to get a flu shot? Then, honey, you are on your own. I don't have time to deal with idiots who know better than to skip a flu shot and then get sick because they are dumb. I only take care of people who do all the right things--like wash their hands, wear masks, get immunizations, take vitamin C, exercise daily, eat right--and don't even get me started on that number on that scale out there. YOU have obviously not gotten it right or you wouldn't be sick, so no, I have no desire to help you."

Sure. We expect them to mention the blood pressure, the weight, the option of a flu shot, but good grief, they are here to help us. Even if it a lifelong smoker battling lung cancer, we expect the doctor to try to help us.

That is what they do. It is who they are!

All of the other stuff is irrelevant.


But when the Great Physician shows up, we get ashamed of the fact we are sick because we didn't take the flu shot. We're ashamed of the cancer our lifestyle has caused. We are ashamed of how sick we are, and surely, if He knows...

He knows what we forget.

The only thing relevant is that we are sick...and HE is the cure.

 And when He seeks us out, when He sits down at our place of loneliness, when He walks into that place no one else will go with us, it isn't because He doesn't know us...It's because He does.


John 4

New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman

Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Friday, December 14, 2012

Prayers for Connecticut

Oh, Holy God, I lift up to you the families in Connecticut.

 Lord, grab hold of them and don't let go because there will be times they simply do not have the strength to hold on to You.
Send the right people to come in, take them by the hurting by their  hands, treat their hearts as treasure, and lead them through this darkness.
Oh, God, let hurtful answers and cliche's fall on deaf ears.
Send warriors to step in and fight for these families, to fight their way through this unfathomable void to life again. I know right now they feel the oppression of death. Father, only you can get them through this dark place and to a place of life again. Send your angels in heavenly and earthly form to lead and aid as these people need.
I pray for your warriors to come along these hurting people and help them battle through this darkness using practical means, presence means, and prayer means.
Holy God, meet every need on every level and be as faithful to them and theirs as You have been to me and mine.


Oh, Holy God, I am asking You to be with the responders to today's tragedy in Connecticut. I cannot fathom what it was like to walk into that school, to hold bodies of children, to see their children's faces. I cannot imagine the feelings when they learned the one who committed this horrific act had taken his own life. I cannot imagine the sense of injustice they must feel. Holy God, give them people to truly walk them through the healing process from this tragedy. Give their families understanding and strength because this...oh, God, this is hell invading earth, and these men and women have to find their way back out of it. Send your ministering angels in the spirit and in the flesh to give aid. Be with them as they try to sleep, as they close their eyes and see these lost ones, as they bed to kiss their own babies good night...but only see faces of those whose parents will never tuck them in or whose spouses and children will never give them goodnight hugs. Oh, God, you alone are the light in this darkness. You alone. You are the only hope of healing. Cling to them. Hold on to them when they have no clue how to hold on to you. Thank you for being the warrior who fights for those who fight for us. With all my heart...Amen

Finding Relevance

I have just finished scheduling part eleven--ELEVEN--of a series about grief and helping and support and...there is so much more running through my mind, but there are already ELEVEN posts. Is it really smart to write MORE?!

Seems sort of hyperfocused to me. Not my idea of a topic to read a large audience, and surely God wants to reach a large audience. He wants His word out, right? And yet, every time I sit down--or just try to sleep--this topic about grief and helping others in the midst of loss or trauma sits right in the forefront of my I keep writing...and I'm wondering...

What am I doing?!

My mind worries.

What if in the next 11 scheduled posts people find me depressing or babble-some? What if readers begin to suspect my closest neighbor has a perpetual cloud over him and has a hard time keeping up with his tail? What if people decide I am wholly NOT undaunted? What if people see no reason to keep reading?

What if people don't find these ELEVEN posts relevant?

What He keeps speaking to me is that numbers are not relevant.

The Lord sometimes feeds multitudes, but it wasn't a crowd standing around a well at happy hour that had His heart. It was one woman who walked up when the sun was hot so no one would see.

When He walked into that graveyard, He wasn't looking for an adoring crowd. He was looking for a man who needed to find sanity in a crazy world.

It wasn't about the numbers.

It was about a lonely woman at a well who had succumbed to public opinion...only to find out Jesus' opinion is the only one that mattered...and a man in a graveyard who had succumbed to the craziness of this world...who found out real sanity is found in Christ alone.

Being found is always relevant.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Soldier--by Gavin DeGraw

For every undaunted heart standing for...soldiering for...someone...

You are beautiful.

Video by Gavin DeGraw
Music video by Gavin DeGraw performing Soldier. (C) 2012 RCA Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Love From a World Away

Me: My friend is mostly unresponsive now (due to the brain tumor). She is ready to go home. My heart is so sad.

MK in Spain: I'm so sorry.

Me: I know. Me too.

MK in Spain: Want to Skype?

Me: You'd just watch me cry.

MK in Spain: Yeah. You want to Skype?

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Better Answer--Part 7, The Power of Accepting Another Reality

I spent three days mostly in tears.

I made the mistake of telling someone who promptly said, "Jerri, you need to get on meds and go to a counselor. Three days of crying is not normal."

I agree. In HER world where her husband who is wonderful comes home from work, her mom lives close enough to drop by for dinner, she is successful in her career, and she thinks she has control of time it would be extremely abnormal for her to cry for three days. Anyone who has a life like hers and cries a lot would be concerning.

However, I wasn't living her life.

I was living a life that included children grieving their dad with the anger, sadness, and insomnia that includes, a family that had disintegrated, the attempt to figure out what was real in 19 years of marriage, being alone ALL THE TIME, working through an estate, and a whole slew of other things. AND I was trying to do it by myself because I was infinitely tired of the suggestion of counseling and drugs to make me happy enough for public acceptance.

In MY world, grief and all that it entails was normal. Crying on any given day over any given thing was normal. However, it did not fit into HER world, and she didn't take time to understand mine.

She never asked what made me sad. She never asked how she could help. She never offered to listen. Instead, she demanded I do whatever it took to fit back into her world and her comfort zone.

What she did not seem to realize is I had no way to fit into her comfort zone because I no longer lived in her world.

Imagine if life as you knew it were gone forever. Imagine if your routine, the key people in your life, the way you lived, the security you had, even the idea you actually controlled what would happen tomorrow or later today were gone. Imagine if your reality...was a vague memory covered in the dust of major devestation.

Imagine this with me: more Lego building with Daddy more father/daughter dances or dates
...the texts/emails/calls never coming again
...imagine the inside jokes...that only belong to you now
...dinner coming and the empty chair that won't be filled when Daddy gets home from his business trip more date nights
...8:00 o'clock coming EVERY SINGLE NIGHT...and you watch your favorite shows...alone

Need I go on?

Insert your own imaginations. Whether it be a spouse, a child, a parent, a sibling, a best friend...the person(s) who makes your lifescape what it is.

Imagine taking that person out of the lifescape, what is left untouched?


Now imagine people expecting you to act as though nothing has really changed.

Welcome to reality.

Do you think you would be happy? Do you think you could face each day with a smile? Do you really think you could walk in a closet where your spouse's clothes used to hang or down the hall where your child's laughter used to come through the door...and be "normal"?

Or do you think you might be angry? You might be confused? You might have questions? You might just want to go to bed and not get up? That particular songs, clothing, or days would send you tumbling into the reality that nothing can ever be "normal" again?

How do you think you would feel if someone told you not to feel that way?

How do you think you would feel if someone told you not to cry, to get over it, move on, or focus on what you have? How do you think you would feel if someone suggested the children that are still living should make you feel less loss about the one who has died? How would you feel if someone quoted scripture about not having a right to be angry, not having the right to ask questions, not having a right to be sad?

What if you had the flu and someone told you the Bible says to be joyful in all trials because trials produce all those good things, therefore, you should be joyful you have the flu? Or what if you are to give thanks in all things, so you should give thanks for being worthy to have the flu? What if someone told you to not whine about the aches or fever or vomiting that makes every muscle in your body hurt? What if they told you to get out of bed and act like all was fine because really, this is so inconvenient for everyone else? Would you think they really understood what it meant to have the flu? Would it cross your mind that if you sneezed their direction, a small case of the flu might help them understand YOUR reality?

Or would you want them to understand your misery, understand the pain, understand that in the midst of aching all over physically and mentally you feel like it is never going to get better? Would you want them to understand that you hate that this has happened to you and you might be angry or confused by how intense the suffering is?

Would you possibly just want someone to understand?

Would you want someoen to ask how you are? What you need? How they could help?

Would you want them to reply without judgment of the accuracy of your feelings, thoughts, or desires? Would you want them to simply accept your answer without tleling you how correct or appropriate for the situation it was or how you compared to other who have had a cold?

Would you want them to simply accept you as you were for that moment knowing if given time and the right care you will heal?

Here is the reality check:
Flu reality is in a whole other league from normal, everyday annoyances reality.
Loss and grief reality is a whole other world.

It is wholly unrealistic to expect people living in those worlds to act as though they were in yours.
If you want to have a relationship or want to support them,
 you have to accept them where they are, as they are.

The goal is not to help them find their way back to your reality because they can't.
It will never happen.
The goal is to help them through the grief so they can build life in theirs.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Better Answer--Part 6, The Power of Understanding

When people ask me how to help others, they are asking what to do or say, especially what to say, that will give comfort to someone who is hurting. They sincerely want to extend a tender touch and envelop the person with kindness and love.

This is beautiful, and taking time to learn to do it better shows me deep wisdom and honest love.

As I've said before, we would all love exact words to say. A script would be so nice, wouldn't it? Unfortunately, there isn't one, so I'm trying to give you some things to consider, and I hope if you understand the reality of someone going through trauma or deep loss, it will help you speak wisely.

Sometimes, helping isn't about what you say, though. It is about what you don't say.

I don't often give hard and fast rules, but in this case, I'm going to do just that.

If you really, honestly want to express empathy and concern for someone...
If you really, honestly want that person to feel like you are truly trying to understand so you can support and love them...

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER say you understand.

Because the fact is, you don't understand.

I don't care if your husband has died or your dad has died or your whomever has died. You do not understand MY experience with this loss. Perhaps you can relate, but you do not understand.

Let me try to explain this so it doesn't just sound like a rash blanket statement.

My husband died. He was 42. Massive heart attack. His last words to me were, "Jerri, you're a great mom. See you tomorrow."

I almost let the words slip out, "Rob, I love you," but I didn't. How pathetic would that be? We were a month from the divorce being final. He had made it clear he no longer loved me but wanted to move into his new life. I said nothing.

Three hours later, he was dead.

I don't know anyone who has experienced those  circumstances. Can you really tell me you understand the guilt of not saying those words, the shock of his being dead at 42, the anger at burying someone who didn't want me, the absolutely absurd accusations by his parents, and the children's reactions? Oh, and by the way, this happend 4 1/2 months after my mom died, my stepdad quit speaking to us, close friends took sides, and....

Really. You want to tell me you understand that?

I didn't think so.

I have known or met several women whose husbands have died.

In one instance, a wife watched for nearly a year as cancer stole her husband's mind. I cannot imagine. I cannot imagine knowing it will be the last anniversary or the last birthday or the

In another instance, her husband died on Christmas. He took a nap and didn't wake up. I cannot imagine trying to celebrate Christmas. I cannot imagine seeing the world celebrate when the heart aches so badly.

Another friend lost her husband to a drunk driver. For the one you love to die from causes no one can control is one thing. To lose your loved one because someone is selfish and irresponsible...I cannot wrap my mind around that.

And then there are the men I know who have lost wives. It is a whole different thing. I've met men raising children alone, men who are single after losing the love of over 50 years, and a few in between. I have no clue what their experience is. I don't understand what it is like for a man to suddenly have to figure out girl's hair, menstrual cycles, and house keeping. I cannot imagine a lifetime of being and becoming one...only to have the one who made you whole ripped away.

Sure. We all lost our spouses, and I can relate to their loss, but I don't understand.

There are simply too many factors. I don't understand my friend who is now raising three stepchildren in their teens and a son under five all by herself. I don't understand the young man with the baby only a few months old trying to figure out life without his wife who died of an aneurysm in his arms.

No. I don't understand that at all.

I don't understand the stress of finances or family relations or social relations or emotional demands. I don't understand trying to balance jobs or helping children who had to walk right back into public school. I don't understand having the opportunity to end with closure. I don't understand the peace of knowing everything that needed to be said was.

I just don't understand.

Honestly, I think when people say they understand, really, they want to feel like someone understands them, like someone gets it. I think they want validation for their experience and reality.

However, the truth is no one can fully understand because every experience, every reality of loss is personal. It is customized to that person and that situation. It is impossible to truly understand someone else's pain.

Knowing that can feel very defeating. How can I help if I don't understand what I'm helping with?

Believe it or not, one of the best ways you can help is to fess up and tell the truth. Look the person in the eye and say, "I don't understand what you are going through, but I understand pain. I understand feeling lonely. I understand how life changes in ways I don't expect or want, and I understand the confusion and pain. How can I help you with yours?"

Your willingness to tell me you don't remotely understand tells me you at least understand the magnitude of the effect on me. It tells me you know this is heart crushing. Your telling me you can't imagine the pain, confusion, and shock validates my looking around at the remains of what used to be trying to get a grasp on what happened...and trying to figure out where life goes from here.

Your telling me you don't undestand, tells me you really do.

And that is powerful.