Valentine’s Day: survival and sensitivity tips

Like most holidays, Valentine’s Day can be fun for some people and painful for others.   If you’re in the midst of a budding romance or deeply in love with your soulmate of 30 years, it can be a sweet time of celebration.  But if your Valentine has never shown up, your marriage is strained, or you have lost your spouse to divorce or death, the day is a vivid reminder of what you’re missing.

If you’re in the latter category, here are a few pointers for surviving Valentine’s Day.  (You folks who are love-struck, don’t tune out, because some “sensitivity” tips for you will follow.)

Continue reading “Valentine’s Day: survival and sensitivity tips”

One-year reflections of a grieving daughter

Last Thanksgiving, instead of gathering with loved ones to enjoy a feast, I huddled alone in front of my laptop, tears streaming down my face.  My father had died just two days earlier, and I spent the holiday planning his funeral.

While I felt the intense void of dad’s absence this Thanksgiving, I also experienced gratitude for the progress I’ve made in my grief-journey.

Here are eleven things I learned about grieving during this past year:

1. Grieving can begin while a loved one is still alive. I began feeling the deep ache of losing my father long before he died.  This is called “anticipatory grief.”   Some end-of-life journeys are very long good-byes.  As our loved one declines, we not only grieve incremental losses of  physical and mental abilities, we begin to pre-grieve losing him or her completely.

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2.  Everyone expresses grief differently. I didn’t cry at my dad’s funeral, even when I gave a tribute.  What people never saw were the countless times I privately wept from the depths of my soul.  It’s important to remember that outward appearances may not tell the whole story.  A person who looks like they “have it all together” may be falling apart on the inside.  On the flip side, individuals who freely let their emotions show may not be as fragile as they appear.

3.  Grief doesn’t follow a timeline. The “five stages of grief,” (denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) [1] are interpreted by some to mean that once we check off the final box, we are done mourning.  In reality, grieving does not follow a predictable path, nor is it something we “finish.” Major loss changes us forever—and it should.  To put pressure on ourselves or others to “just get over it and move on” is both unkind and unrealistic.

4.  Grief hinders life functioning. I became frustrated during my first few weeks back at work because I made many more errors than usual.  Later I was reminded that a grieving person’s body, brain, and emotions are in a compromised state, making it harder to focus and think critically.  In fact, several grief recovery resources state that it’s wise to avoid making any major life decisions for at least six months following a significant loss. [2]

5.  It gets easier. Really, it does.  Recently I’ve been following the grief-journey of a man who lost his wife to cancer.  His sorrow is so profound that he cannot fathom ever feeling better.  I used to feel the same way.  But one day, at about the 3-month mark, I noticed I could sometimes make it through the day without crying.  My grief “symptoms” gradually lessened from that point on. While everyone progresses at a different rate, it does get easier. Continue reading “One-year reflections of a grieving daughter”

A cancer survivor’s perspective: the difference between faith and trust

My best friend from college, Kelly, is a two-time cancer survivor.  Breast cancer first struck her at the young age of 31.  Kelly was a mom of two small boys and a new missionary in Africa when she discovered a lump.  The diagnosis changed the course of her family’s lives, as they had to leave their overseas post and move back to the United States for Kelly’s treatment.

The dreaded disease returned fourteen years later.  This time, Kelly faced a much more aggressive treatment regimen, including a mastectomy and chemotherapy.  The side effects of chemo decimated her, both physically and emotionally.

In God’s mercy, she eventually recovered and has now been cancer-free for eight years.  Nevertheless, she understandably still battles anxiety when it’s time for her periodic checkups.  She knows there’s always a chance the doctor could deliver bad news. Continue reading “A cancer survivor’s perspective: the difference between faith and trust”

Is singleness a tragedy?

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I finally got the courage to approve the comment.  It was written in response to a post I published some time ago about feeling left behind in the marriage department. The reader incorrectly interpreted that I was making light of my struggle, and wrote, “Please don’t refer to heartfelt sadness as a ‘pity party.’ To leave this earth without marriage and family is a tragedy for too many people.”

While she missed the overall intention of the post, which was to celebrate how God helped me focus on the blessings in my life, what continued to gnaw at me was her statement that being single is a tragedy.

If what she wrote is true, then nearly half of the adult population in the United States [1] are living  tragic lives.

To put it more bluntly, it means my life is a tragedy! Continue reading “Is singleness a tragedy?”

Cherish Your Parents (while you can)

Cherish.  This one-word comment was left on my Facebook page by a long-time friend.  I had just posted the news that my brothers and I were holding bedside vigils during our dad’s final days.  Looking back, I realize that my friend’s brief post hit the mark.

Dad gazing at Jane

While helping oversee the physical aspects of dad’s end-of-life care was of paramount importance, it was even more critical to treasure our final relational connections:

. . . to see a light of recognition in his eyes;

. . . to tell him how much he meant to me;

. . . to feel his parched lips kiss my hand.

These are moments I will always cherish.

If you still have your parents, I hope you’ll have the bittersweet privilege of being with them in their final hours.

But more importantly, I urge you not to wait until their lives are slipping away to treasure them.

Begin cherishing them NOW.

Continue reading “Cherish Your Parents (while you can)”