Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Fall Wrap Up: Looking for burrs and hope

Isn't that what happens around this time of year? We say things like:
  • I can't believe it's November, or
  • It's my favorite time of year, or
  • It's the hardest time of year, or
  • A lot's happened this year, or
  • I can't wait for this year to end.
Which one did you find yourself saying? Have you had a year of life-altering events? Have you been accumulating burrs or dealing with open wounds? Are you hungry for hope?

This has been a busy year for the Condolence Coach:
I've interviewed parents who have grieved the deaths of children born premature, unexpectedly during infancy, by accident or suspicious circumstances, by murder, by suicide. Because they survive, they are my heroes.

It is important to learn about grief, even if we cannot change it.

We explored how to write supportively to a friend with a terminal illness. We've heard the stories of widows, dog owners, and grandparents who all agree how much they cherish memories and shared stories.
Burrs are tenacious. It's that time of year when walking in woods or fields renders your clothing in a terrible state. My husband was putting our yard to bed for the winter: taking down garden fencing so deer can browse the remains, lopping off giant pokeweed plants once the birds have feasted on its berry clusters, mulch mowing leaves and debris to nourish the soil, and making countless trips on that snow dusted path back to the compost bins.

After finding a trick for burr removal at archerytalk.com,  I restored Ray's pants and shirt using a plastic card as a scraper. I feel morally obligated to pass this tip along.  
Some burrs--the emotional kind, are not so easily removed. Methods that can help the release include talking about it, prayer, journaling, and often, forgiveness.


As I discovered the charm and relative ease of scraping off the burrs, the enormity of the task faded and hope took its place. These work clothes would see another day, if not another season of burr gathering. I'm reminded of an aphorism that has buoyed me numerous times:  

When the Livonia Public Library invited me to conduct a condolence writing workshop in September, I had plenty of time to dust off my notes. But those old notes didn't suit me or the message I now wanted to share:  

Writing Condolence Notes: It's Not a Dying Art!

Making an intention to try is a powerful thing. It's not always easy; it can require courage, grit, a deep breath. I follow The Compassionate Friends on Twitter TCFofUSA and the majority of their tweets are gentle encouragements to grieving parents: take care of each other; life will get better.
 On the days that I decide to "do a long run," I'm not always feeling like an Olympiad. It had snowed while I sipped coffee and now dressed for the chill, I saw robins as I leaf-slalomed through the off-center gate of the nature preserve. But entering the wooded trails, I heard no tweeting. It was just me and my try-angle and a couple more miles to go. And then I saw it:  the smiling tree. Its greeting was not there last week, but isn't that how encouragement works? A serendipitous blessing imparting energy and hope.

I have said so many things to my readers this year. We have seen plenty of burrs and open wounds. We have seen heroic recovery from losses and seen how kind words (especially those written) can comfort and transform.

What I would like to say now is:
You matter. Thank you for caring!

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