Hi Ivy and Spriggers,
I hope you’ve had a great summer! I have to get something off of my chest before we dive into the school year. I needed to take a break and jump into my family for a while. Writing, editing, photos and information gathering takes some routine time and energy and I dropped the string for a bit to be in the moment with my kids and husband. I hope you had a chance to put down your phone and laptop and enjoy the summer moments with your family too.
One more thing, I had to process some losses. Sometimes death is an expected thing and one has a chance to prepare for it by thinking and feeling the loss before it is on you and other times, it’s like a sudden trauma inside your body. Even though God knows the number of our days, we don’t. Which of course is better but makes the letting go sometimes so unexpected that it can cloud your thoughts and weigh heavy on your heart. Letting go isn’t easy.
Those of you dropping kids at college know what I’m talking about. Even though you’ve been preparing, decorating dorm rooms, planning goodbye dinners to celebrate with grandparents, there is also loss. It’s sharp and yet prepared. Confusing because it’s good but still a loss, nonetheless. Fist bump and hugs to you brave moms this month.
I lost three friends to heaven’s gain this summer. I’m grateful for the lives that I knew and loved and their impact on me. I am also grateful for the time to process each one. Processing meant, some tears, some thoughts, some prayers and no blogging. What to say about dinner and parenting today when your friend has just left the earth to go home with her Lord? What to say when you are thinking about her five young children…the oldest is just 13. She was spunky and fun and full of vigor and zest with a thick Kentucky girl drawl. She was the light of a room. And is it right to make laundry a subject when a terrorist drives over some innocent people or violence over race takes your breath away? When the very friend you were emailing with about how to resolve the race issues in our community is suddenly shot dead herself?
Loss is a burning coal in the heart and pain is only soothed by processing all that it means and by grabbing Gods hand again and trusting that He is still sovereign in all situations. This second part may take some time depending on the your loss.
Below are my personal recommendations on how to deal with loss. I’m sure those of you with more experience or professional expertise than I can add to the list of tips and I welcome you to do so in the submit a comment box below. Here are mine in no particular order:
- Rest – grief is hard work on the entire body and sometimes you just can’t sleep through the night because of it so rest whenever you can.
- On Distraction – Routine, mundane things can help you process the thoughts – wash some dishes, sort the laundry, pay some billls, walk the dog.
- Talk about it/Gather/ Call a friend – the natural first response was so instinctive, gather together. We met up to talk over our shock and try to help our own kids. A conference call for prayer was set up and prayer services arranged. The many people that joined together was comforting. I wasn’t alone. When you are struggling, call a friend that gets it, that understands what you are going through and meet up for lunch or a walk or just talk on the phone.
- On Decisions – if possible don’t make big decisions when you are in an emotional state, let things that can wait simply wait. Take it easy. Emotions can come in waves and can cause lots of unusual behaviors. You might regret snap decisions or rants on Facebook or angry responses to an innocent sales clerk. Take a break in your room and take it down a notch.
- Exercise – keep moving and keep eating right. If possible get out and do a little something physical. You can go a little easier but try to keep up your routine of exercise. As Antonio himself used to say, “just because one part of your body is injured, do not let the other parts waste away…in fact work to strengthen them so that they can help carry you.” Antonio was a great fitness trainer and man. His motivational videos will live on and you can see them here. Strong Talk Antonio’s Last Video on Race Relations. He is one of three friends lost. You can see why he had such an impact on so many. A fitness trainer is an intimate relationship as my fitness partner Susanna put it, ” we often all talked politics, parenting. recipes and religion…we didn’t always agree but we all knew each other well.” I digress.
- Let those nearest to you know that you are going to be processing grief and to be aware that it may not always look like crying. It may look like crazily cleaning closets, or cooking like a fiend or trying to book trips out of town or coming up with ideas that don’t sound like you. Shopping, sleeping, making sick jokes or taking unusual risks. A little patience and understanding from your inner circle can help you step down off the ladder and give you a hug.
- Find your spiritual community. As a Christian, I find my family, friends, pastor, and Bible study leaders a great source of comfort and peace when addressing life and death issues. Let them know how you really are and they can support you. Dawn was in my Bible study, Antonio talked often of God and His impact on his life, Paige gave all the glory to God for extending her life with ovarian cancer four more years so that her youngest would remember her. I am certain they are sitting in heaven with God today and that is reassuring. My Christian support team reminds me of that too.
If you are grappling with how to talk to your kids about grief you see on tv related to terrorism, I recommend listening to The Savvy Psychologist podcast episode #039 on the subject from this summer. It is a really helpful guide on talking to kids about scary and sad things in the news.
Grief is a part of life so we will all be dealing with it sometimes. Living with loss is just like author C.S. Lewis says in his book “On Grief”….
…you get up everyday and you put your feet on the floor and you breath and you do the first thing and then the next thing and the next thing. Taking a moment to let you know the truth about my summer mixed with grief is the next right thing for me. I have so many other things to tell you that I’ve learned this summer and ideas I have for this blog but these losses just somehow seemed in the way of moving to the next story.
This post is dedicated to Paige Hardy, Antonio Armstrong, Dawn Armstrong, Stephanie Smither and to my many friends who knew and loved them. Below is a poem for you from the funeral program of Stephanie Smither, my friends Paige and Ashley’s mom.
“Everything in life is art. What you do. How you dress, how you love someone, and how you talk. Your smile and your personality. What you believe in, and all your dreams. The way you drink your tea. How you decorate your home. Or party. Your grocery list. The food you make. How your writing looks. And the way you feel. Life is art.”
Let’s go be the art that we are made to be.
Peace and Best,