Tuesday, February 13, 2018

When Dad Dies: Helping Teens and Young Adults Grieve and Grow

les livres
 Sarah Klockars-Clauser
Considering the dozens--even hundreds of books you've lugged in your school bookbag or backpack over the years, there was always one missing.

There is no handbook for life. 

We learn as we go:  by example and by experience. This is the story of a young college student suddenly faced with the death of her dad. She wasn't given a handbook for that significant journey, either. But eleven years after the death, Michelle calls the grieving process "one of my greatest teachers."

What I Wish I'd Known Before An Unexpected Loss

by Michelle Maros   
Reblogged from Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life.org text and story photos property of the author.

Happy Sunday my friends!
This week’s blog feels like a bit of a doozy, but to be honest, it’s a topic that I feel like I’ve been yearning to write about for close to 10 years. Perhaps for catharsis, or for inspiration, we will see. Truthfully, the impetus and inspiration for the blog this week came from a popular television show, as odd as that might sound! I am a super fan of the show This Is Us. I find it very relatable, cathartic, and thought provoking.
For those of you who don’t watch the show, the most recent episodes dealt with a very tragic and unexpected loss of one of the main characters.The loss of this character felt devastating, and while watching I kept wondering what I would do if in that situation. How would I deal? Can you imagine one day having someone in your life and then the next day not? Unimaginable loss.
After a moment, I realized that I didn’t have to imagine too hard. I brought myself back to my own reality. That story is my story. I have been there in my own way, and it took me a minute to own that I, too, am a person who has experienced tragic, unexpected loss. But I also know that I am not alone. It happens to people every day. Likely many of us have experienced an unexpected loss, a tragedy, an injustice, a sadness…and it is brutal.
I’ll share a bit about my own story and then I’ll delve into what I know now and what I wish I’d known then.
When I was 21 and just about to go back to college for my senior year, my mom and I booked a girls trip to California. Upon arrival after a five hour flight across the country, I turned on my phone to find dozens of concerning text messages regarding the wellbeing of my dad. I will never forget returning a call from my step-dad in a chipper tone to let him know we had arrived, only for him to respond with a very stoic, “I need to speak to your mother.” I will never forget the knowingness in my gut that something was very wrong, that was shortly confirmed by my mom’s expression on the phone. No words had been spoken, but I knew. My dad has unexpectedly passed in his sleep.
I will never forget the feeling of still sitting on an airplane on the tarmac at LAX trying to come to terms with the news and also trying to figure out how on earth would we be able to get home. We luckily were able

On the flight back to Florida after we received the news.

to find a flight back east that day, however, I’ll also never forget the five hour flight back (pre-wifi days), where I had to sit with myself in silence and in shock and contemplate what had just happened to my life.
My dad was a huge part of my life, we had our issues of course, but he was one of my favorite people. 
It feels like there is nothing that can prepare you for events such as these, but I’ve learned so much stemming from that day close to 11 years ago, on loss, grief, acceptance, growth, rage, and a whole slew of emotions. I’ve been a witness to its process. It’s probably been my biggest teacher.
So when I watched this TV show recently, and witnessed this loss again, it took me back to that moment on the plane, and it got me thinking. Tragedy is everywhere, and it feels insurmountable when it’s happening. Losses can rock us to our core, bring us to our knees, and immediately change the courses of our lives. There’s no way around it.
So I asked myself, what would I have wished I had known before life took it’s turn?
This is what I came up with:
Life is fragile. It sounds cliche but when it happens to you, you know that in any moment life can go upside down. Though much easier to do in retrospect, try to take in and savor the moments of your life that are unfolding right now.

Me and my dad (circa 1987)

Life is a gift. This really puts a lot into perspective for me. I find the pettiness and shallowness of ordinary life falls away when I remember that it is a blessing to be alive, especially with loved ones surrounding me.
Life is messy. It’s silly to expect every day to be rainbows and butterflies. The bad isn’t necessarily bad. It’s preparation. Take each hit and learn from it, you never know the value it will bring you in the future.
Life has purpose. Every moment is brought to us for a reason. We are living our own unique lives on purpose. Our stories are precious and our paths are unchartered.
Life is unpredictable. We just don’t know when life will swoop us up and change our course, so be present, be gracious, be passionate, and be grateful. Life is ever changing, this moment never stays the same.
After writing all this down, I then thought it might be nice to give you a little bonus! 
It’s great to have the lessons before, but it’s also really helpful to know the biggest lessons learned after too.
There are no rules to heartbreak. You don’t have to follow anyone’s mold of how to cope. Allow yourself to feel in your own time, space, and pace.
The new normal is uncomfortable. When managing a loss it’s very uncomfortable because there is something in your life that is missing, that can’t return. It’s a new normal. Be gentle with yourself and you slowly acquaint yourself with life as it is now.
Reflect back, but don’t live there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve relived moments with my dad. Sometimes it feels very torturous, sometimes cathartic. Allow yourself to take in the memories, but try not to live there. Hold close to what has happened, but be present in the now.
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else’s journey. There are times that I have downplayed my own heartbreak because in my mind it wasn’t “tragic enough.” Whatever that means. If you’re going through something that’s difficult for you, it’s exactly that. Difficult for you. It doesn’t matter the degree of difficulty. Comparison in heartbreak is a game that no one wins.
Allow yourself to feel. After my dad died I was really an emotional mess. I was young and going through a lot and had a lot of emotions. Sometimes I would get down on myself for “not being over it yet.” I vividly remember someone close to me saying that I get a whole year after he died to just cope. That brought me a sense of relief in the moment, but when that year passed I thought to myself, “Does this mean I all of a sudden have to act as if I’m okay”? The truth is the feelings are always just below the surface, even now, and I no longer try to push them away. When they come, I feel them, but I don’t let them consume me.
Get help as often as needed. Having a trusted team of support is crucial. I would not be a functioning human if it wasn’t for my family, my counselors, my therapists, my coaches, and my true friends. And I have no problem being vulnerable enough to ask for their help, when I need it. Even now. This also goes for outside the times of crisis, but especially true in these circumstances.

The last birthday that I was able to celebrate with my dad (2006).

Cultivate a new relationship on your own terms. It wouldn’t be a Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life blog without a little bit of woo. One of the most comforting aspects of losing a loved one is the ability to cultivate a relationship even after they’ve passed. I still talk to my dad, I ask for signs from him. We have a new relationship now, and it’s absolutely perfect. He is my cheerleader on the other side, and he helps me in so many ways. So if you’ve lost someone, you can miss their physicality, but remember you can still have them in spirit.
Phew! I told you this one would be a doozy! I really hope that any of you who have experienced a loss or something of this nature finds some sort of comfort from this blog. Please remember that this is all my own personal experience and not meant to be an all-encompassing “how-to” but simply my take on it all.
Michelle Maros,
Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life

Do you crave a few moments of gentle reading? 

The Condolence Coach confesses... I was tired of reflexively clicking on one or two news sites only to scroll through a sea of stories about humans behaving badly! With a simple keyword search, I discovered the antidote to trashy news. Read more gentle wisdom to "make your everyday life an inspired life" at  Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life.org

To learn more about supporting a grieving teen:
Condolence to Teens

Share this story...
and Thank you for caring!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Was It a Peaceful Death? Opening the Door to Healing Conversation

Source: Michael Jastremski

The everywhere-ness of life

Not long ago, a friend known for her goodhearted nature confided to me that a member of her church had lost a family member; it was announced to the congregation during the routine list of meetings, fundraisers, and children's activities. "Later that week, I saw her in the grocery store, and felt tongue-tied to say anything. I didn't want to upset her." This hesitancy is very common, I explained to my friend. But I assured her that a brief acknowledgement like "I was sorry to hear the news of your dad's death," has great value. I also explained that feelings of grief reside with the grieving: caring remarks do not cause grief.

When I learn of a death during a conversation 

Feather in bush
Author photo
I like to ask questions that immediately inform the family member that I am not afraid to talk about death. I want them to lower the social barrier they've learned to quickly erect; to understand that I care about their experience with this crucial moment of our humanity.

Before you ask a question

You too, can reverence this deeply moving experience by offering cues of invitation. But first, be aware of the situational moment! Are you or the bereaved in a hurry or obviously on the way somewhere? Have you met during a social occasion that dictates a light or celebratory mood? How much privacy do you have? Most importantly, tune into the person who had the loss. Something has prompted her to share 'my husband died in December;" so your compassionate interest certainly begins with "I'm so sorry. How are you [and your family] doing?" 

As you tune into responses and weigh the situational moment, you will know whether to quickly conclude with a hand on a shoulder, a hug, a suggestion to soon meet for coffee or a walk. If you are fortunate to sense the right blend of privacy and interest, you may begin asking gentle questions.

Begin with one question 

The Condolence Coach is not handing out free passes for nosiness. You do not have the right to pry, request medical details, financial arrangements, or confessions of grief's darkest moments. If you do not know the decedent's name, do ask, and as questions are used, include the person's name!

If the death occurred due to tragic or criminal circumstances

Compassionate interest begins by giving the bereaved a moment of control. Your one question should be: "Do you want to tell me about [it] [name]?" 

If the death was of natural causes such as advanced age, disease

Compassionate interest begins by acknowledging mortality. Your one question may be: "Was it a peaceful death?"

I follow up by asking, "Did you use hospice?"  Thankfully, end of life support has become the norm, with hospice providers routinely referred. Hospice is a specialized type of care that may address the patient's physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs; often, many support services extend to family caregivers. It can be comforting for a grieving person to speak about good end of life care because it acknowledges that something went right: one of the many caregiving and health advocacy decisions felt like TLC-- tender, loving, care.

If there was a hospice used, here are a couple followup questions:
Author photo
  • What did you think of the hospice? 
  • Which services or staff did you find most helpful?
Remember that compassionate interest and opening the door to healing conversation should not feel like an interview. At all times, allow the bereaved person to be in control. Be sensitive to cues of facial expressions, body language. Keep it relaxed and simple. The conversation will come to a natural conclusion like water filters into the ground at the end of a creekbed.

Be thankful

As the conversation ends, express gratitude for the trust and sharing you've been given. "Thank you for sharing this with me" is sufficient. Consider a warm handshake or pat on the shoulder--certainly a hug, if appropriate.

Learn more! Click on the topic links throughout this post to read other relevant Condolence Coach posts!

Thank you for caring!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

5 Lessons Little Kids Teach Us About Loss: Guest post by Alexis Marie Chute

Once again, Grief Digest Magazine, produced by Centering Corporation has inspired me with an excellent article. 

What are your views and concerns about how children view death? 

  • Do you feel youngsters should be protected from sad events? 
  • Do you hire a babysitter when you have to attend a funeral or memorial service?
  • Do you tell the kids you "have somewhere to go" instead of explaining the occasion? 
That's how it went in my childhood; my siblings and I did not visit a grandmother's deathbed or attend her funeral; when an uncle died in a farm tractor accident, my dad travelled alone to attend his brother's services and comfort surviving family. 

These are very common responses, but Alexis Marie Chute tells a different story. When her newborn survived only one day, her whole family faced the loss. Here is her story...

Alexis Marie Chute

 5 Lessons Little Kids Teach Us About Loss

by Alexis Marie Chute

I think it’s safe to say that our society does not prepare us for the death of a loved one, either in how to experience it when it is happening or in how to grieve afterward. We are taught to shelter the living from death as if it is an unfortunate reality, better ignored than embraced. Grieving individuals, and those that support them, often struggle for a vocabulary to talk about the loss and the resulting feelings. Instead we have a vernacular ripe with cliche that leaves mourners wanting and isolated, instead of comforted and encouraged.

I experienced all of this when I lost my son, Zachary, from a cardiac tumor at birth in 2010. He was minutes old. He died in my arms. That day was a stake in the road for me; I ceased to be my old naive self and began – what is called in grief literature – my “new normal.” As I look back on myself, I recognize that much of the trauma of Zachary’s death came from my childlike desire that we all will live forever and that everything will be okay. My parents did not talk to me about loss when I was little. I wish they had.

My husband, Aaron, and I have been honest with our living children about Zachary, what happened to him, how it affected us, and how we still miss him today. That discussion has opened the door for my children to think about death. Some of their responses have taught me valuable lessons.

1. Talk about the dead.

This sounds like something out of the Sixth Sense movie or the perfect set-up for being labeled the weirdo at the party. It shouldn’t be. Children are not predisposed (unless we teach them) to the negative societal taboos around loss. My seven and four-year-old kids bring up Zachary all the time. If someone dies, they mention Zach. If I am asked how many kids I have and I say, “Three,” I am immediately corrected. “No, Mom. You have four kids!” they say proudly. Sometimes I worry how others will respond to this behavior from my children, but then I give my head a shake. Talking about those we love, even if they have passed, should be the most normal thing in the world.

2. Accept death as a natural and beautiful part of life.

We have a cultural obsession with youth and beauty. This is one area, among many, where the cult of celebrity sets us up for heartache. We do not have public and prolific guidance to help us accept death as inseparable from life. I believe life and death are yin-yang, two equal parts of one complete whole. In contrast, our society has erected opposing notions of life and death as one being good and the other bad.

Children, however, when spoken to about death as a part of life, do not fear it as a scary monster to avoid, but integrate it into the fabric of their understanding. There are many natural parallels that children more innately connect with on this topic. The seasons are one example. Leaves fall from the trees each autumn and we have winter. Then new life grows again in the spring. A seed that is buried in the ground, just when we’ve nearly forgotten about it, sprouts and blossoms into a flower. In a short span of time a great grandparent passes and a new sibling birthed. This is all natural, cyclical, and connected.

3. Think about death and strive for personal understanding.

My older children used to go to a day-home while I worked. One day the woman who ran the home took a step closer to me than normal and in a hushed voice said, “I just wanted you to know, your kids were playing make-believe today and they said the baby-doll died. I made sure to tell them that they shouldn’t play like that.” Instead of being concerned, I was proud that my kids were working out their own personal understanding of our experience and what death means to them! They were doing that in the only way they knew how - through play. When I talked to them about it, I affirmed their actions and encouraged them to make-believe however they wanted. They were not distracting themselves or repressing their feelings on loss, like so many adults do, only to rack up steep therapy bills just to re-open their hearts in this expressive way.

4. Loss is a family matter, not only a solo experience.

The bonds between family are not severed because of loss. That is what my children have taught me. When my kids talk about Zachary, he “is” their brother, not past tense. We talk about how Zach lives on in our hearts. If we are discussing loneliness, my kids pipe up and say, “You are never alone because Zachary is right here,” as they point to their chests. I know they do process the loss in an individual way, we all do, but in mourning and celebrating Zach’s life, it is a family matter.

My daughter, Hannah, my seven-year-old, will draw a portrait of our family and, without prompting, include Zach in the picture. That is her solo action, but she immediately shows Aaron and me the drawing, and then hangs it from the fridge with magnets. As a family, on the anniversary of Zach’s birth, and death, we take the day off from work and school and bake a cake, go swimming, plant a tree, and just generally cuddle-up and spend quality time together. I believe because of this, the kids do not feel they carry their grief, or the weight of death, all on their own. It is a shared experience and therefore shared support and love.

5. Speaking of love… It never dies.

My kids often say, “I love my whole family! I love Mommy and Daddy, and Hannah, and Eden, and Luca, AND Zachary!” They talk about loving their unseen brother. They talk about missing him and wishing he was alive and with us. In these moments, I take a deep breath, pause from busyness, and feel my own love for Zachary and the throb of ache in missing him and the life I had hoped we would share together. Yes, my child died and that is my personal tragedy, but the love I have for him can never be taken from me. Though society uses phrases like “move on,” I choose to take the lead from my kids. Zachary is a part of us and we love him – present tense, and that is okay.
Expecting Sunshine, A Memoir by Alexis Marie Chute

In her memoir Expecting Sunshine, A Journey of Grief, Healing, and Pregnancy After LossAlexis shared her journey--from pregnancy and the discovery of Zachary's in-utero condition, to the family's decision to always love him as son and brother: present tense!
Click here to learn more about the book

Alexis Marie Chute is the author of the award-winning memoir Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing and Pregnancy After Loss, available on Amazon and wherever books are sold. Alexis Marie is a writer, artist, filmmaker, public speaker, and bereavement expert. Learn more about her book and documentary, Expecting Sunshine: The Truth About Pregnancy After Loss, at www.ExpectingSunshine.com. She is a healthy-grief advocate educating others on how to heal in creative and authentic ways. You can also connect with Alexis Marie Chute on Facebook, LinkedIn Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and YouTube.

 Visit Alexis' bereavement blog:  www.WantedChosenPlanned.com

Condolence Coach Photo
The Condolence Coach did a 5-part series on how to understand and respond to a family facing miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death:
  1. Angels Above Baby Gowns: Soothing a Terrible Loss
  2. Angels Above Baby Gowns: Someday I'll Meet My Brothers
  3. Angels Above Baby Gowns: Delivery at a Birthing Center
  4. Angels Above Baby Gowns: A Time to Tear and a Time to Mend
  5. Angels Above Baby Gowns: Heartbeats and Lightening Bolts
And remember that the grieving family includes grandparents:

"Punk Bird" by Suzy St.John
A widely celebrated project for kids is the creation of a memory box. Here's how to introduce the idea:  Grieving Children and the Memory Box Condolence Gift

In this season of giving thanks, I say to all readers:

Thank you for caring!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Physics of Intuitive Compassion: Albert Einstein had it right!

I never thought I'd have much in common with a physicist. 

[Source: René Mérou]
Aren't their brains wired for deep dives into time, space, and matter? For most people, time is a digital display pushing us to the next task; space is a gap in clutter; and matter is about our 'stuff.'

After reading this quote, embedded in a Holiday Mathis horoscope , I wanted to know more about the goofy-haired mathematician who's name has become synonymous with genius:
"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."
[Author, Bob Samples interpreted Albert Einstein's regard for qualities of higher consciousness in his 1976 book, "The Metaphoric Mind: A Celebration of Creative Consciousness.” ]

Does everyone have intuition?

Yes, but engaging it is like using different muscles to talk or sing.  If you rarely sing (or have been told you can't!) you may feel awkward or incapable. Einstein said: "It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer." [Source]  Intuition requires that you stay with the issue! Take a gentle, deep breath and tune into an inner voice or prompt. If you can, be quiet and still for a few moments and ponder a person or situation; you may feel:
  • a flutter in your heart
  • a sense of calm--or--excitement--or danger
  • a sense of being pulled forward--or--pushed back
  • a muting of voice or stilling of reaction
[[Source: Miroslav Vajdić]
It's been called listening to your heart, a gut feeling, instinct, divine guidance. Albert Einstein suggested it is a sacred gift. He also described it as a powerful, personal tool. 
"Intuition is the father of new knowledge...Intuition, not intellect, is the ‘open sesame’ of yourself." [Source]

Are there benefits to honoring and engaging the intuitive mind?

Absolutely. Intuition can save your life, steer your life, and deepen your experience of life. I've enjoyed all of these. It takes practice...it is a practice in the true sense of the word. You can strengthen your reception like wiggling a television antennae. Professor Einstein reminded us, "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." [Source] It's okay if you used to think of intuition as woo-woo nonsense or a carnival act; new awareness is part of the fun of living. 

As a young student, Albert Einstein came to a liberating insight about honoring and engaging a higher knowing:
Albert Einstein, age 14 [Source]
"The basic laws of the universe are simple, but because our senses are limited, we can’t grasp them. [emphasis mine] There is a pattern in creation. If we look at this tree outside whose roots search beneath the pavement for water, or a flower which sends its sweet smell to the pollinating bees, or even our own selves and the inner forces that drive us to act, we can see that we all dance to a mysterious tune, [emphasis mine] and the piper who plays this melody from an inscrutable distance—whatever name we give him—Creative Force, or God—escapes all book knowledge."  [Source]

What is intuitive compassion and how can it help with condolences?

The Condolence Coach has addressed compassion in other posts; in fact, search my keywords "labels" list and you'll find nearly fifty references. Think of  intuitive compassion as allowing your inner tree roots to seek out pools of sensitivity. You can go beyond the obvious "I'm sorry, we'll all miss her" and share unique observations and impressions. Spend time with your intuition, browse my posts and build your skills. You might start with Compassion and Condolence: Finding the Words to Walk Together.

Thank you for caring!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

ALS or INSPIRATION: What Makes Kay's Star Shine?

I met Kay today, and I'd like you to meet her, too. She's a fellow blogger, a retired high school math and computer science teacher with Midwestern roots. She raised two kids and now enjoys two grandkids.

Kay's Facebook blog, Kay's Shining Starsreveals a brilliant mind, sharp wit, attention to detail and a bedrock attitude about rolling with whatever life hands you. For Kay, life literally rolls.

She spends a good part of her day in a power chair with everything at her fingertips...except that Kay no longer has the use of her limbs. No sweat; Kay is a problem solver:
"For the past year+ I've gotten along by duct taping a long stylus to a ball cap. I look like a giant bug as I use my "stinger" to peck out texts and fully utilize my iPad, in spite of my non functioning fingers."


Every so often, when a pity party or the mirage of an insurmountable problem infects my attitude, I know the best antidote is a dose of inspiration. Sometimes I find it in a book or a walk in the mountains, but in human form, inspiration can also be breathtaking. Kay inspires with a universe of love. It is a calming pulse, as smooth as her complexion, which draws people in, like hummingbirds to nectar. She knows her limits and yet freely rides beyond time and place on that pulse of love.
"It is highly unlikely that I will get the chance to visit my hometown again. But I visit it often in my dreams, and I like to daydream of a bike ride about town visiting my favorite landmarks and recalling precious memories. I can't go home home, but home comes to me. Here are my hometown Shining Stars who continue to show up to offer support every Walk to Defeat ALS. Love you guys." 
Readers of my series on living beyond disabilities, discovered what Kay views as one mission of her blog:  "It's all about awareness."  The Coach believes it is also important to recognize the humanity of those who inspire; they have the right to express a spectrum of emotions. This is exactly what I (and her hundreds of followers) love about Kay's Shining Stars:  she tells it like it is! But don't expect to read something dismal:  Kay may be living with an incurable disease but she is not spending her days 'dying'! She maintains hundreds of friendships-- those 'Shining Stars'-- each brightening in Kay's universe of love.

  With permission, I am reblogging one of Kay's awesome posts:

I am a Low Talker

Maybe you remember the episode of Seinfeld with the "low talker" who no one can understand and it ends with Jerry wearing the "puffy shirt" to an important event. Very funny. But now that I am a low AND slow talker communication issues are a real challenge and not so funny.
I really miss being in the thick of a robust, entertaining conversation, Interjecting interesting, witty or annoying tidbits to keep the conversation rolling or telling my own usually enhanced story. Now I've become more or less an observer. By the time my oh so witty comment can be formed by the muscles of my tongue and mouth, the conversation has moved on. This was super frustrating when it first started happening, but now I'm getting better at sitting back and soaking it all in. This is actually a skill that most of us should practice more frequently as you learn so much this way.
But I'm much better in quiet one on one situations.
Kay wears her brilliant humor

Here are some tips for talking with people like me. By the way, it is almost always well meaning strangers who make these errors.
Listen carefully, stand close, and make eye contact. 
Repeating things is very hard and takes so much energy. You will likely have to do some lip reading. I've stopped repeating things when people say, hmm or what, which happens all the time now. And guess what, mostly the listener does grasp the gist of what I tried to say or it really wasn't important enough to repeat anyway.
Do not asśume that my ślow voice means I'm mentally challenged. 
It makes me craźy when you address my caregiver or talk to me aś you would a small child.
Please use your normal voice, volume and vocabulary.
I do realize the woman at the hospital was just trying to be helpful last week when she said in a sing song voice, "Do you want some juice, sweetie?" Before I could reply, no just ice, she repeated loudly and slowly, "Do. You . Want. Some. Juice. Sweetie?" Now I'm just sounding ungrateful, and I'm really not, but part of me wants to SCREAM when this happens. "NO I DONT WANT YOUR STUPID EFFING JUICE CUP. I WANT TO WALK. I WANT TO RUN. I WANT TO RIDE MY BIKE. I WANT TO HUG MY CHILDREN. I WANT TO SIP A FINE WINE. I WANT TO LEISURELY ENJOY A MEAL. I WANT SOME SHRED OF PRIVACY. I WANT MY LIFE BACK. BUT WHAT I REALLY REALLY DONT WANT IS THAT STUPID JUICE CUP!!!"
But I said nothing, drank the juice and whispered thank you to the nice lady.
At least no one has tried to put me in a puffy shirt, but this happens a lot these days.

Thank you, Kay, for letting us laugh as we grow in awareness!

To refresh your awareness with other inspiring people, readers may wish to visit my posts:
Part 1 Debunking Stereotypes
Part 2 Getting By or Growing Great
Part 3 Enjoy Your Journey

To read more about supporting someone with a terminal illness:
Ask the Coach: What to Write to a Friend with Terminal Illness

Thank you for caring!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Grow Up! The Condolence Basics You Need Now. Part 1

Grow Up! 

How many times did you hear that before you were 25? Are you still hearing it in your 30's or 40's? If so, someone is trying to persuade you toward mature choices. "Grow up!" is a verbal face slap, taking you by the figurative shoulders for a shake and command: it's time to think of somebody other than yourself.  "But I do think of others!"  you protest. The Condolence Coach agrees and believes you are trying, but...

If you're stalled on the playground plateau of just playing nicely, mastering condolence skills will launch you off the swings and onto solid grown-up ground.

[Author photo]
This post reaches into the Condolence Note Coach archives to quickly deliver the basics you need now. Clicking on the post link will flesh out the concept, but if you need a 5 minute crash course, here it is.

1. Beyond 'I'm Sorry'  You can't change the circumstances facing your friend, co-worker, neighbor, cousin or client...but there is an additional way to communicate sympathy long after the loss:  a memorable condolence note.  

2. FAQ's  It is never too late to send a note. Never. The death remains a fact in your [friend or] co-worker's life and, in a year's time, the stream of sympathies has likely dried up. Your note will be a gift. Don't Rush Your Condolence Note  Waiting can enhance the note you will write…as you have opportunities to gather a little information, view photos, hear stories.

3. To Have Another Birthday is a Privilege  We are powerless over the loss and subsequent pain, but saying "I'm sorry" and applying a sincere hug or handshake is an act you DO have power over. You have the power to express that you care.

4. In A Better Place  It is never appropriate for you to offer a platitude such as "she's in a better place." But if the grieving express this to you, a lovely reply might be:  "I'm glad that is a comfort to you."

5. Death Doesn't Take a Holiday  Can sympathy be commingled with seasonal greetings during holidays and other special days? It can’t.  Should traditional messages be set aside? Yes.

6. Condolence After a Suicide  Survivors of suicide [family of the deceased] have great need of compassionate, non-judgmental words. Acknowledge a normal life, once lived: share a memory or tell a kind story.

7.  When Children Die
A good condolence acknowledges the pain and offers to listen. The note says that you are praying for comfort, but does not tell the recipient to. You pen a sweet memory and hope to hear some of theirs. Grow in awareness and sensitivity: do some reading about the grief experiences of parents.

8When a Pet Dies  DO NOT ask when they will get another pet. Period. 

9. Supporting Grieving Teens  Journaling or writing poetry is one of the most widely suggested tools for teens to process grief. Consider a “condolence gift” of a blank book or journal. Write a question on the first page, like: "How did you feel when you heard the news?"

 10.  Supporting Someone with a Terminal Illness  Remember this: until you are dead, you are alive.  Recognize the life, the day-by-day simple moments of the person you write to. Embrace the opportunity to say thank you, to ask for a story, to appreciate a sunrise, a funny pet, a song.

So, did you notice that writing condolence is about supporting survivors? The Coach invites you to read The Mourners Bill of Rights   One of the grown-up skills you are adopting is COMPASSION. Living compassionately, daily, is a standout characteristic. You will be astonished by how it changes you!

Thank you for caring!