Grief creeps into the cracks

Grief finds shape in absence...

the lack of dressing made just so, 

of sweet potato casseroles 

and broccoli casseroles

and a square of Jell-o salad.


Grief finds expression in silence,

missing the sounds of voices stilled or too far distant,

the silence too orderly without the chaos of children,

a dog's collar no longer jingling.


Grief creeps into the cracks

where tradition and ritual used to be...

Christmas morning.

Thanksgiving afternoon.

Broken and maybe even mended

yet as grief is wont to nag,

never again the same.


We think of grief as big and bold

announcing itself on a timetable

and fitting itself into schedule.


But sometimes it comes


tumbling into our moments.

And what else can we do

but hold our suddenly tender hearts

and breathe.





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She's not crazy; she's just sad

After the fire, no one quite knew what to do with her. Madonna Badger lost her three children and both of her parents in that home fire, and it seemed like she'd lost herself as well. 

She was shuffled from treatment center to treatment center, all of them trying to fight a mental illness they couldn't quite get their hands around. Nothing got better for her.

No one knew what to do with her.

Until a doctor in Arkansas spoke up.

"She's not crazy. She's just sad."

Well, of course she was. She had to be unimaginably sad. We understand that the grief of a parent burying a child is beyond all expected experience. Badger buried all three of hers. Along with her parents.

The generation before her and the generation her after both gone in an instant. She's not crazy. She's just sad.

I don't know why all of those other doctors and nurses missed it. I'm glad someone finally noticed.

For all of the brilliance to the Inside Out movie, a lot of folks (including professionals) are still...

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When Your Fear is Stronger Than Your Faith

We make it harder on ourselves.

I do it; I suspect you do it as well.

It's not enough that we're facing something that has our hearts beating a little faster and our nights a little more restless. It's not enough that life has opened the door and fear has sauntered in.

Nope, we have to add to it. Once the door is open we ask Fear to bring a cousin or two along. We're afraid, and we're afraid that being afraid means that we're not really that great of a Christian.

And if we can't pas this test, well then, what good are we? Maybe we're just lukewarm Christians or backsliders or whatever name you want to call yourself when you feel like you're not measuring up.

Look, I'll tell you this as true as I know it.

Some things in life are just plain scary. Getting the call that something just wasn't quite right with that test and can you come back in for more tests? Oh, and make it as soon as you can. We have an opening  tomorrow.

Or you blinked and that person you thought was going to be...

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How to Fire Your Grief Grader

depression feelings grief loss Oct 31, 2017

"I think I'm doing it wrong," he says to me.

He's had a loss in his life, and he's grieving. That means that sometimes he feels lost. Or sad. Or angry and frustrated. Or numb.

'Cause, you know... he's grieving.

But he's worried that he's not doing it right. Surely things would be more orderly. Or his brain wouldn't be so mushy and unreliable. Or he'd just be done by now 'cause you know, it's been five whole months.

He's not only suffering from grief. He's suffering from the grief grader. It's that little voice in your head (and sometimes not so little) that says that You Are Doing It Wrong.

I tell my clients that no one I know has ever flunked grief. There are days in which we march bravely into the abyss, allowing ourselves to feel every heartbreaking, soul shattering feeling. And there are times in which  we cushion ourselves against such feelings with ice cream and Netflix marathons.

The former doesn't mean we are flunking the latter. It just means that sometimes we need a...

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How Steel Magnolias Transformed a Family's Grief

Imagine you've had a loss and come to me asking how you should find your way through the grief. I have my answer ready for you.

"Take the next ten days and write a record breaking play about your experience, which will then be made into a much beloved movie."

Rightly, you might not come back again.

And yet, that's precisely what Robert Harling did, writing Steel Magnolias a few months after the death of his sister, Susan, from complications from diabetes.

Harlin's grief was complicated by the fact that Susan's husband remarried a few months after her death. Harling feared their young son wouldn't know the story of his mother and her courage.

A playwright friend suggested that he write about it.

Such a saga of strength and tolerance had gone on, and I kept saying, “This kid won’t know anything about it.” I wasn’t a writer, so I fought that demon for a while and then one day I said, “Why not?” I’d planned to write a short story, and I was a...

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When Your Mother's Day Is Empty: Getting through the day

"When's Mother's Day?" he asked me and I had to think. I wasn't sure.

It used to be a day circled on my calendar. I used to spend my time searching for the right present and cleaning the house and dreaming up a menu for lunch.

Now it slips up on me.

My mother is gone, this year marking nine years since we last celebrated Mother's Day. I have no children of my own. Nothing is circled on my calendar.

Maybe you know the feeling.

  • Your mom has died, either recently or a lifetime ago.
  • Or you never had the kind of mom you want to honor or can bring yourself to love.
  • Or you struggle with infertility and are tired of the questions about when you guys are going to get with the program and start your family.
  • Or you never had a chance to have children.
  • Or you lost a child before that child was born.
  • Or you lost a child after holding them in your arms.

If any of these things are true for you, Mother's Day can be tough. Here are some tips for navigating the holiday.

Number One and the Thing You...

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When grief make the world small

death easter emmaus grief loss Apr 28, 2017

They are walking in the way that grief makes us walk, an automatic putting one foot in front of the other because that is just what one does. Consumed with too much too-muchness, they keep unraveling the tales and trying to knot them back together again in a way that makes sense.

Jesus was from God. Jesus was dead. Some women were saying that Jesus was alive, which everyone knew, isn't the sort of thing that happens after one is dead. Like a puzzle they keep twisting what they know this way and that, never able to make all the pieces line up.

They barely notice the guy who joins them until he asks what they're talking about.

What are they talking about? You're asking me what we're talking about? You asking me? 

What else could they be talking about?

Grief made their world small, not much bigger than a handful of days in a crowded city. It was all they could think about, all they could talk about.

We do it too, you know. We have to wrestle and unravel the the weeks and days and...

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