Tag Archives: loss

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After the Family Meeting

So you’ve gathered everyone together and you’ve courageously listened to all the viewpoints about whether to ‘Christmas or Not to Christmas’.

You got more than you bargained for…some want the whole works, some want a condensed version, some want nothing at all. Now what?

It’ll be somewhere in the middle.

Those who want it all, will understand it’s just too overwhelming for you. Those that want nothing will need to honor that the person who died would want you to still live your life. And those who wanted something less than was ideal, are the compromisers of the bunch and thank God for them.

Now consider the list:

  • Tree
  • Decorations
  • Baking
  • Cooking
  • Shopping for gifts/food
  • Entertaining
  • Invitations/Events in the community
  • Cleaning/Painting
  • Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Dinner

Take this list, and add to it if need be, and separate into four columns.

First column is the task (above), second column is how you usually handle this task, third column (most important) is ‘How could I do this differently’ and fourth column is ‘Who can I get to help me with this?’

Now that you have a sense of what everyone in the household wants, develop the answers to these questions on paper, let it sit a bit, then revise again. It’s a very interesting exercise which will soon show just how much time and energy we normally put into our traditions. It may be the cause of unnecessary stress at this point in our grieving process, so please take that into account.

Once you see it on paper, it can be much easier to reevaluate with family just what is ‘do-able’ this year.

OK

To Christmas or Not to Christmas – That is the Question

Last evening as I was decorating and generally clearing away too many papers (perils of a writer), on the television came a 2002 Hallmark Channel movie entitled “A Christmas Visitor”.

It featured a couple whose son had been killed in the Gulf War and had received notification from the US Army on Christmas Eve. Consequently, over the last twelve years, it seems this family had decided to forgo any Christmas celebrations.

In the movie, the only surviving sibling, this young man’s sister, was dealing with surgery to remove a lump in her breast. At the time of her brother’s death it seemed she couldn’t have been more than 10 years old.

In a tender moment, she revealed to her Mother how she always felt unloved growing up because their family, unlike her friends’ families, never celebrated Christmas after her brother John’s death. She believed that by not putting up a tree, decorating the house, etc. that her parents were indirectly telling her that they loved her brother more than her.

Even the mother in the movie embraced the daughter and suddenly realized how selfish she had been in her own overwhelming grief that she hadn’t taken into account how it would affect her daughter or husband.

When we have lost a significant person in our lives, especially a child or a spouse, our tendency as adults is to concentrate so much on our own grief and to dismiss the needs of the surviving children and family members.

If you are in this position now and you are struggling with whether to completely forego all the festivities of this season, please think twice. It’s very easy to just crawl under the covers and just want to disappear, but there may be others in your life who count on you to love them and nuture them and make life as ‘normal’ as it has been in the past.

No one can say this will be easy for you. It’s not. Actually, it’s probably one of the most selfless things you will ever do, especially if this is the first Christmas, Hanukkah or holiday season you are living through without that special someone.

But remember this, please…how you show love to those who are living, will go a long way to how your family survives this tragedy. Your surviving children, and perhaps your spouse, are screaming inside, “but I’m still alive…notice me…love me…look at me…pay attention to me…hold me…cuddle me…say nice things to me…give gifts to me…”

If you are either unsure or have already decided to not do Christmas, please reconsider. You don’t need to do all that you have in the past, but the very best start is to have a family meeting and let everyone express their feelings.

Once you have a clear understanding of what everyone feels, you’ll be able to rethink a more moderate strategy for what you can do and what you just can’t do. At least everyone will have a better sense of why you feel the way you do and they won’t feel so left out of the thinking process.

Christmas or Hanukkah might look a little different this year but it can still be celebrated.

Next post will look at alternative ways to do that…

OK

Tony Snow – A Good and Faithful Servant

I can’t remember the first time I saw Tony Snow on television. But I know it’s been very many memorable years ago.

What struck me most about this fine man, was his optimism about life. Whether I saw him on Fox News Channel, or listened in to his own radio show or Rush Limbaugh’s, I knew it would be a thoroughly captivating and educational time. I knew the time I spent with him would leave me feeling there were options out there I may not have considered. Options that would uplift our America instead of trash it. Options that were feasible.

And when he moved into the White House as Press Secretary, how happy I was to know I’d get to hear from him almost every day.

His husky yet soothing voice was unmistakable. And I would often be thrilled by the manner in which he would deliver his thoughts. As an author, I admire how others string sentences together and he did it so elegantly.

When a man dies, you usually get to know his character by the tributes of his family, friends and colleagues. Everyone was in awe of the manner in which he lived his life before and after he learned of his cancer challenges.

It’s said it’s not how we lived, but moreso how we died. From the accounts of all his colleagues, Tony worked through his illness with class and grace. He was a wonderful example of keeping his hopes high that he would beat his colon cancer.

My thoughts these last few days have been with his family, of course, but also his colleagues. It’s an interesting dynamic which takes place when it’s a dear friend who dies.

In Tony’s case, he’s in the media spotlight. Most of us will honor our friend and then go back to work immediately. But their loss and presence will be felt when we see their office empty, when they aren’t around to reach out to when you have a thought or are working on a project you know their advice would be valuable.

So I want to acknowledge and validate the pain of a friend’s grief. It’s real and sometimes it’s more real than grieving for a distant relative or other relative with whom we barely had a relationship. But a friend, and especially a business colleague…well, we’d see them or speak with them continually in the process of fulfilling our work. The vacuum left by their empty office, voice, writing, strategy, humor, talents will be felt for a very long time.

And when we lose a man like Tony, the level of that pain and loss, felt at FOX and on the radio and in the White House is significant.

When I think about the people I’d like to have the honor of meeting in my lifetime, Mr. Tony Snow was right up there on the list. I feel sad I’ll not get that pleasure now.

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Lord, Can We Please Replay This Tape

Remembering Tim Russert 1950 – 2008

My love of politics began at the assasination of President Kennedy when I found myself looking up at all the crying adults in my elevator wondering what would bring so many grown-ups to tears.

I woke up in the middle of the night when Senator Bobby Kennedy was killed to find my Dad on the edge of his living room chair staring at the television and there I was sitting next to him. The pain on his face was intriguing to me and I wanted to share that with him.

It caused me to walk into New York City Mayor John Lindsay’s storefront campaign office at the age of 11 with my best friend who sat behind me in class, Ellen McHugh, to ask if we could help. They put us to work hanging posters on street lamps and we were so proud to be a part of that campaign.

The summer I was 16, I worked for the Mayor of my Village on Long Island and had a blast. I’ll never forget those funky colored outfits he’d wear to go golf on Wednesdays.

As I went onto college, I ran and was elected to floor rep and dorm president and was active in school government. I loved it. And later I helped run Perot’s NYC campaign and became Head of the Petition Drive to get him on the ballot in NY State. Eventually I ran the campaign in Queens and Staten Island.

But the most memorable was as a Precinct Captain and member of the Executive Committee in Florida during the 2000 election. What a wild ride to live that there.

Although I had many wonderful experiences during that election cycle, what stands out in my mind so vividly was the reporting and white board of Tim Russert that year. I was amazed at how he knew all the electoral votes within each state and I found myself working the numbers with him. It was heaven for me. It was thrilling and challenging and so amazing that it kept you hanging on for all the latest projections from Tim.

On Friday when I went online to see my email and there the headline said he had suddenly died, I was shocked as was most Americans who follow politics. I just stared at the computer screen and slumped in my seat.

I told a friend who said, “Tim Russert? Meet the Press Tim Russert?” To which I replied, “Yes, THE Tim Russert.” And everything within me just simply could not believe this.

I spent the majority of my weekend watching all the tributes on MSNBC Friday night and Saturday night and then today I taped Meet the Press. How could I not.

I guess because my love of politics coupled with my passion to help the bereaved, makes me somewhat more sensitive to these kinds of things.

I looked at the Lord’s picture which hangs in my home and said, “Exactly what were you thinking? Can’t we rewind this tape?”

From my perspective, and others are saying this as well, it was absolutely, postively NOT the right time for him to leave us. His work was not done here, in my eyes. He had so much more to tell us and educate us on the political process. And he had so much more to give humanity and his family and friends who deeply loved him.

So I ask you Lord, “Can’t we please rewind this tape? Can’t we at least finish out this incredible election cycle because nothing would have been more thrilling than to see him play with that white board scribbling down possibilities as we come close to election day?”

Yet from a bereavement perspective, I’m aware that death is never fair. It doesn’t come in the time factor we’d request. Because there really never would be a good time for someone so great to die, would there be. When exactly would the right time be.

If it were after the election, then we might enjoy his play-by-play, but his family wouldn’t see him and his beloved wife watch Luke marry.

If it were after the marriage, perhaps his family and friends wouldn’t see him as a grandfather sharing the joys of grandparenting.

But it turned out, God called him now…bad timing for us, but obviously the right timing for the Lord. That’s the sucky part. We don’t get to be in on the decision. And quite frankly, it never seems like good timing anyway you look at it.

So since the Lord can’t rewind the tape I wish he would, I must be content to wish his family and friends comfort in knowing that there were many of us, who never had the privilege of knowing this gentle giant, but saw through the television that he was indeed so genuine, so pure of heart, so committed to those around him, so funny, so real, so enthusiastic about what he did in life and from my perspective, he gave us a legacy of love that will never leave any of us.

Someone like Tim Russert lived his life to the fullest. I often say I want to live till I die. And it’s rare I find others who share that passion. Tim had that. He was a rare and treasured man to his family and friends and I, for one, will miss his smiling face and exuberant energy and laughter.

His passion to engage and educate Americans in the political process was simply divine.

So now God gets to have the firsthand play by play this election cycle, while He’s greeting Tim and saying, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”