When Mother's Day is Just A Day

 It's an odd feeling, really.

The day used to take up so much space in my life. There were plans to be made and coordinated. When my brother lived nearby he and his wife hosted both sets of parents for events like Mother's Day so I focused on bringing my part of the lunch.

And, of course finding the right gift and card.  

After my brother and sister-in-law moved out of state, the hosting duties became mine. I enjoyed planning the lunch. Cleaning the house to Geraldine standards? Not so much.

Odd that a day that took up so much space in my life is now just a day.

Maybe you know the feeling. Maybe your mom has died, or maybe dementia has steadily slipped her away from the life you shared together. And Sunday will be oddly empty.

For other women there's more pain than emptiness. It's the first year without your mom. Or the first year since the terrible reality became real to you, and you know that you will never have a son or daughter making macaroni jewelry (is that still a...

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Wasting Your Time Looking For Closure

closure grief healing loss May 03, 2019

The article title on Facebook caught my eye:

When Closure Eludes You

You knew I was going to have to say something, didn't you. And you were right.

Over and over again I get asked about closure. How long before I reach it? When will I know that I have it?

Here's the truth, folks. There is no such thing.

Closure implies that we can tie things up with a neat bow (finally.) The case is closed. We pack up the notes into the file box and store it in the closet. Only it doesn't happen that way.

We never reach closure when we lose someone in our lives whom we loved, whether it was the child whom we carried but never held or the loved one whose hand we would gladly hold forever. But that doesn't mean that we don't heal.

Our lives will never be as they were had we not had this loss. As a hospital chaplain I often talk with patients in their seventies and eighties. It's striking to me how often the conversation is about their parents. They want to tell me about who they were and how they...

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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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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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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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