Category Archives: Emotional Challenges

OK

9/11 -13 Years Later-the Escalation of Terrorism

Freedom Tower / Jean-Pierre ElyWith the recent news of the beheading of two American journalists, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that, just like 13 years ago, we are still fighting a group of terrorists who are intent on killing Americans and cowardly hide behind scarves and rags to hide their identity.

I remember when Christians were being slaughtered in the Sudan because they wouldn’t convert to Islam. Our government did little to help until it got so serious a handful in Congress finally shouted loudly enough.

Over the last 13 years, radical muslims in and out of our Country have increased their intent to kill Americans and fly their flag on our White House. They are demanding Sharia law in our courts and expect us to reconfigure our lives around their wishes. Nonsense. Continue reading 9/11 -13 Years Later-the Escalation of Terrorism

OK

30 Years Ago Today…

101When I look back on my life, there are a few days that stand out with such significance that I can’t help but acknowledge them, regardless of the pain.

And while there are happy days I can recall, like when I completed both my degrees, when I was given wonderful awards for my work, when my books were published, there are several difficult days that I’ve lived that caused me and those I’ve loved great trauma.

One was the death of my beloved grandmother, who lived, almost exclusively, a healthy life till her death at 93. She was my anchor when life handed me difficult times while growing up.

Another was my little dog, Daisy, who brought me so much joy every day for almost 13 years. My constant companion, she was always there to snuggle with when I needed her most.

But there was one particular day that, when I look back on my life, shaped and changed who I was and, even though I had helped so many in my life before who had struggled with bereavement, it was her death that catapulted me into leading support groups, writing books, speaking, and starting a national foundation for grieving children.

107She is Angela.

A 10 year old who came into my life when I met her father. Her older brother was then 13 and younger just 9.

I remember her bubbly personality, her courage to ask me those most pressing questions you’d never think would come out of the mouth of such a young lady. But I answered every one and she went away satisfied.

Many who knew her longer than I described her as a firecracker. And for the short time I knew her, they were right.

I specifically remember how much she loved shopping together. How she couldn’t choose between the pink or blue cotton candy.

Or the last holiday she and her younger brother spent with us. It was Easter, 1984 and I made a special dinner for us.

At one point after dinner we took a long walk together. I wanted to purchase film that day to take a few pictures but we didn’t pick it up. And that moment was lost to me forever.

Angela at 11; her last school picture.Because just a few short months later on this day in 1984, that bright, bubbly young girl was murdered on Long Island.

And what followed were 18 years of an unsolved murder.

It took until 2002 to have enough evidence to charge the initial suspect and another two years to go to trial.

We endured a six-week emotional rollercoaster from the time they began picking a jury for her 20 year old murder, to the time he was convicted.

I often wonder what life would have been like if she were still here with us. Would she have been in my bridal party when her father and I married?

Would she have studied for a college degree? And what career might she have chosen?

Would she have married and had children? How many would she have had and what would they have looked like?

But today, I guess there is a part of me that, as my stepson texted me today, which says “I can’t believe it’s been 30 years.”

And he is so right.

Rest in Peace, Angela. You were with us for far too short a time, but the impact you had on our lives, both in life and death, will remain forever.

OK

When Mother’s Day Stings

When Mother’s Day swings around I usually have mixed emotions.

I’m grateful that my own mother is still with me, along with the other ‘mothers’ I have the privilege to still enjoy…my Aunt, my Godmother, and my friend Jeanne, all who really ‘get’ me since I’m anything but conventional in my thinking.

But my heart is with women, today, who are reminded that ‘motherhood’ hasn’t worked out quite as they’d expect. And I’ve met many who have had these experiences; some have had a few.

Like the lady who has lost a child, something she never anticipated. Perhaps her only child or all her children have died. The one who never knew her mother because her mother died before she was old enough to meet and enjoy her.

Or the woman who never had the honor to even becoming pregnant for a whole host of reasons. And the one who is still able to bear children but can’t keep a pregnancy.

We look at loss in many different ways; we see things others don’t see on these types of occasions. We don’t bring it up in conversation, instead we simply let it remain buried deep inside where a lot of that pain still sits.

My mother has graciously gotten to the point where she’ll wish me a Happy Mother’s Day with the caveat, ‘because you are a mother to many’ which is her way of soothing that wound and I’m at a place where I might well up with a tear or two but at least it’s not the piercing pain that I once had years ago.

Sometimes it’s not an actual loss of a mother, for some, that is difficult to grieve. It can also be what hasn’t occurred that can sting on a day like today.

OK

Holiday Grief: Invitations

holiday_grief_hi_res JPG Cover FINALHoliday Grief Tip # 3

Each year we receive numerous invitations to gather with family and friends. And when you’re in the thick of grieving a loved one’s death or other significant loss, there is always an uneasiness as to how to handle these invitations.

Sometimes you’ll feel especially interested in getting out and seeing everyone again. Sometimes you think there is no way you could get yourself energized enough to partake in these events.

There is a solution. If you have a business party or dinner, family or friend gathering, you can simply accept the invitation with conditions.

Let your host know that this has been a difficult time of year since the death of your spouse, child, etc. and tell them you’d like to accept their kind invitation on the condition that if you feel it’s just too much for you on that day, that they will understand your not making it to the event.

You might also add that if you do come by and feel it’s too much for you, you might choose to leave a little earlier and hope that would also be acceptable to them.

This way you have an out, either way. You can attend and leave early or you can decide against it at the last minute.

Either way you have at least graciously communicated with your host and let them know you appreciated their gesture, while reducing your anxiety and stress during the holiday season.

My book Holiday Grief: How To Cope with Stress, Anxiety and Depression After a Loved One’s Death is available now by clicking here.

How have you handled Christmas/Holiday invitation during your grieving process?

OK

Grieving Children Helping Grieving Children

I received this note from 20 year-old Maeve last evening…

Mary Mac,

Hello, my name is Maeve. I am 20 and I just recently lost my aunt to cancer. She was the mother to four children, two sets of twins. The older two and girls, aged 13. The younger two are a girl and boy, aged 12. I worry about them knowing the struggles and pain they are enduring and will endure. I am traveling tomorrow (Friday) to see them and to attend my aunt’s funeral (Saturday). I am not sure what I should say to them, what will resonate or what will not sound genuine, so I look to you for guidance on this tough time. Thank you for all you do. All the best.

~~~~~~~~~

My Dearest Maeve,

I can’t imagine the pain you are enduring just now having experienced the death of your beloved Aunt, more than likely at a rather young age herself. And to have four small children who will grieve their mother’s death, is tragic as well.

When death strikes our life, whether it is anticipatory, as in the case of cancer and illness, or sudden, as in the case of murder or suicide, the finality of it all is still jarring and fills us with struggle to know what the right thing to do is when we help our fellow mourners.

First of all, may I say, that for a young woman of your age to reach out to me in her own grief, seeking answers as to how best to help her cousins in ‘their’ grief, tells me you are an amazingly compassionate woman. And because of this character trait that you possess, I am certain you will exude deep empathy and care for them.

But there are a few things you may wish to know.

Every child (and adult) grieves in a different manner.

So it will be unlikely that each of your cousins will deal with this in the same way. For example, one may wish to be pensive and sit alone to deal with it. Another may be the gracious host to greet those attending the services. Another may wish to give the eulogy as their act of remembrance, while another may wish to write notes and tuck them into the casket.

What you say and how you touch a person at this time can be anchored in their mind for a very long time.

When we are in a highly emotional state, sometimes subtle things stay with us. So it’s important to be careful with our words.

Well wishers who attend the services and funeral sometimes think it is their job to come up with some ‘pat’ phrase which will ultimately make them feel better but actually causes the grieving person more harm than good.

Phrases like “It was God’s will” or “Well at least she’s not suffering any more” or “At least she’s at peace” or “God never closes a door without opening a window” or “Just give it to the Lord” or “Everything happens for a reason” or “It’ll get easier with time” all leave me with the horrible inclination to smack someone. Sorry…

Maeve, the most appropriate thing to say are words that cannot sting. Words like, “I’m so sorry.” “I can’t imagine what’s you’re going through.” “I wish I could take away the pain.” “I’m going to miss her.”

Speak from your heart. Don’t try to make it perfect for the other person because you can’t. This is one thing you absolutely cannot fix. You don’t have any control over the death of your Aunt, nor over how your cousins and other relatives will feel, but you do have wisdom to not make it worse.

Be with them.

I know this sounds like such a simple thing, but the most powerful thing you can do when someone has died is to actually be present with those who are mourning. And that includes you.

Spend time together in silence. Not saying anything may feel strange at first because you feel the need to fill in the gaps of silence but don’t. Let the pain be present. Let the moment go where it’s going to go.

Let the sorrow be felt. Let the tears come. Don’t try to hold them back. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t try to make it all right in some manner, because you just can’t.

Allow whatever is going to happen, happen. Have the faith that each of your cousins will have the experience they personally need to have to deal with their Mother’s death.

But by you being genuine and kind and loving, they will always remember your compassion. They will always remember how you took the time to travel so far to be with them at one of the most devastating times in their life.

So ultimately, my dear Maeve, it’s not the words as much as it’s about the love. The care. The tenderness. Your presence.

Attend to their needs. Ask them if you can get them anything. Bring them water at the funeral home. Make life easier for them when you can.

Talk aloud about their Mother.

When you all get together for a meal, or back at the house, don’t be afraid to bring up her name out loud and speak about wonderful memories you may have experienced with your Aunt. Even though folks may cry, it’s ok. Nothing is more precious than sharing stories which will make others feel better.

“Do you remember when Aunt and I did this?” “Do you remember when you and your Mom did that?” “I will always remember when Aunt gave me that beautiful bracelet for Christmas.”

Lastly, share your grief, too.

It’s perfectly fine to say things like “I will miss her so much” or “I wished we had lived closer so I could have spent more time with all of you” or “I’m glad she was my Aunt, she was a magnificent person”.

Remember, Maeve, as much as you want to be there for your cousins, you are grieving also. Feel your feelings, too. Give yourself permission to grieve, also.

Mary Mac