All of Us

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I Have a Mother...

Photo credit: Bahareh Bisheh – My Chalky World

Through the engagement on social media, and the post on this blog that’s been read by more than 1 million of you, we’ve learned that not all the motherless and fatherless children who benefit from our program and awareness are younger than 18 years old.

Some who have lost a parent are in college, navigating the transition into true adulthood. We’ve heard from many in the early phases of careers, marriages, parenthood. Those of you are navigating what Kelly Corrigan calls The Middle Place of raising children and caregiving parents. Others are facing an empty nest, trying to figure out what’s next. Sadly, some have had additional losses compound their grief.

Despite our age, we remain motherless and fatherless children and we wonder if they are proud of us, let’s give them reason to be. Let’s heal ourselves, together, by helping others. 

  • If you are nearby, join us at the 12th “Race for Traditions“on April 3oth  – or create a team in honor of a mom or dad.
  • Run with us from a distance One Tough Mother Runner – a virtual race!
  • Simply make a donation of $10 for every child in YOUR household to support the collective children in our program.
  • Participate in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) #56164
  • Donate through United Way – #12502 

No child should grieve alone. 

Blink of an eye

 

Helping is healing. Family Lives On needs your help to continue. April is a month of renewal and a focus on raising the funds we need to support the children, teens and families in our program.

 

Tradition Tuesday – Definition of Tradition

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Thank you trio 10-27

Tradition: The transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way.

Dear Family Lives On,
Where do I even begin in telling you how blessed and grateful we all are to you? I guess I can begin with why your amazing organization will forever hold a special place in our hearts. 

In 2013, the most shocking, unimaginable tragedy happened to our family. To lose my husband, the father of my children, so unexpectedly, at such a young age, tore a hole through us that will never close. As I tried to hang on by a thread, I asked myself “How am I going to function daily for myself, much less my children? How am I going to hold on to what memories we had of him and keep moving forward?” 

The month before my husband’s 2 year death anniversary I began reading and searching online for help with our family’s situation- something that could guide me or give me support in coping with our tragedy. It was during this search where I stumbled upon the Family Lives On Foundation. I began reading about the foundation and smiling at the stories on your website. For the first time I felt a bit of happiness creep back into my heart. To be able to carry on my husband’s Traditions through our children- what an amazing experience! 

I decided to take the first steps in applying. I was extremely terrified to do this, to be open about our situation to complete strangers, to hear the kids speak of stories of their dad, it still seemed so surreal that any of this even happened. But with a wounded heart and a small glimpse of hope, I decided to move forward and apply for your Tradition Program. This was by far the best decision I could have made. 

Watching my children Skype with your staff and hearing them talk about wonderful times with their dad, seeing them smile, laugh, and shed a few tears, watching them get so excited about receiving their packages and watching them smile from ear to ear as they opened them, made me realize that my husband left behind one of the most precious gifts he could have left- his Traditions.

Thank you Isis and the Family Lives On Foundation for making all of this possible. For realizing that although the death of a parent can leave an enormous gaping hole in the heart of a child, a gaping hole that will remain there forever, that there is still room to experience moments of happiness and joy, and to keep celebrating the life and Traditions of our loved one. 

And thank you to my remarkable husband Mike. Thank you for the trips to the zoo, the summers at the river, the BBQ’s at home, and the weekend adventures to the movies and the park. Thank you for always keeping us a family and for instilling in us these family Traditions. Because of you and the Traditions and memories we made together, we can now keep them going and pass them on and forever keep your memory alive.
2qtr tu2
2qtr tu


Support the Tradition Program

Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Tradition Program is entirely funded through charitable donations.  If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve, please donate here.

To learn more about the Tradition Program, please use this link.

All She Wanted was to be a Good Mom

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Jenni and her mom

“All she wanted was to be was a good mom – J”


 

 


Family Lives On supports the lifelong emotional wellbeing of children and teens whose mother or father has died. Please donate to help us serve more families and increase the awareness of the impact of grief and trauma on a child. Honor the past. Celebrate the present. Build the future. #givegriefwords

Bindi Irwin – A Finger Trigger

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Performing a dance inspired by her most memorable year, Bindi Irwin and partner Derek Hough chose a contemporary dance set to a cover of the Police’s “Every Breath You Take.”

It would be so easy to assume that in the 9 years since her father died, Bindi is “over it” and has “moved on.” Look at her! She’s on TV, she’s dancing!

In this emotional tribute to her father, the cameras record a “grief burst” triggered by a small gesture of holding a finger. It’s simple actions, smells, sounds, sights and tastes that, often unexpectedly, re-ignite the grief of a child.

The feelings of grief, though painful, are natural. So are anger and joy. Allowing children and teens to feel the sadness is a part of healthy grieving. The challenge for adults is to let them feel it. Resist the well-intentioned desire to try to “fix them,” or help them “move on.” Support them. Companion them. Listen to them.

Sharing her life story, Bindi shows her father is forever a part of her, their relationship unending. Bindi moves forward.


Family Lives On supports the lifelong emotional wellbeing of children and teens whose mother or father has died. Please donate to help us serve more families and increase the awareness of the impact of grief and trauma on a child. Honor the past. Celebrate the present. Build the future. #givegriefwords

As Goes the Parent, So Goes the Child

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This is why Family Lives On Foundation supports the lifelong emotional wellbeing of children and teens whose mother or father has died. The organization also offers education programs to raise awareness of the impact of grief and loss on a child. Honoring the past, celebrating the present and building the future.

“An important part of grief is finding ways to continue a relationship with the person who has died even though they are no longer fully present.  We have written quite a bit on continuing bonds with deceased loved ones and we believe this is an important part of grieving.

When talking about a deceased loved one is discouraged or avoided, the child is denied the opportunity to continue their bond with that loved one within the familial context.  They may find ways to continue their bond on their own, but given the fact that the child is young, you will always be an important source of memories and information about the person who has died.”

A remarkable post by the very talented writers at What’s Your Grief about the profound influence adults have on the ways in which children learn to cope with their grief.

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. - James Baldwin


Donate to support children and teens whose mother or father has died and raise awareness of the impact of grief and loss on a child. Honor the past. Celebrate the present. Build the future. #givegriefwords

This is Her LIFE Song

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1. No one dies from breast cancer that remains in the breast. Metastasis occurs when cancerous cells travel to a vital organ and that is what threatens life.

2. Metastasis refers to the spread of cancer to different parts of the body, typically the bones, liver, lungs and brain.

3. An estimated 155,000 Americans are currently living with metastatic breast cancer. Metastatic breast cancer accounts for approximately 40,000 deaths annually in the U.S.

4. Treatment for metastatic breast cancer is lifelong and focuses on control of the disease and quality of life.

5. About 6% to 10% of people are Stage IV from their initial diagnosis.

6. Early detection does not guarantee a cure. Metastatic breast cancer can occur 5, 10 or 15 years after a person’s original diagnosis and successful treatment checkups and annual mammograms.

7. 20% to 30% of people initially diagnosed with early stage disease will develop metastatic breast cancer.

8. Young people, as well as men, can be diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.

9. Like early stage breast cancer, there are different types of metastatic breast cancer.

10. Treatment choices are guided by breast cancer type, location and extent of metastasis in the body, previous treatments and other factors.

11. Metastatic breast cancer is not an automatic death sentence. Although most people will ultimately die of their disease, some will live for many years.

12. There are no definitive prognostic statistics for metastatic breast cancer. Every patient and their disease is unique.

13. To learn more about National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day on October 13 and to access resources specifically for people living with metastatic breast cancer and their caregivers, visit www.mbcn.org.

(click HERE to download a flyer from http://www.mbcn.org you can print and distribute )


Donate to support children and teens whose mother or father has died through the Tradition Program.  Honor the past. Celebrate the present. Build the future. #givegriefwords


This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

A lot of fight left in me

An Open Letter to Every Kid Who Has Lost a Parent

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Originally posted by The Odyssey Online. Written by Lauren Seago

Written by Lauren Seago, reposted with her kind permission. Originally appeared on The Odyssey

A letter to tackle different aspects of losing a parent.

Dear Sweet Child,

First off, I just wanted to start by saying you are strong, even when it feels like the world is crumbling beneath your feet.

Secondly, I wanted to say how sorry I am for the loss of your parent in your most crucial years of needing love and words of encouragement. A piece of your world was stripped away from you, and that will never be replaced. Which I know personally, stings so deep.

As you continue to grow throughout your life, I wanted to address some aspects that I have learned on my own are not the easiest to conquer; that in most cases people do not understand.

1. It’s okay to cry, on the real: Forget those people who tell you crying is for the weak. You go ahead and cry; you probably need it.

2.Every holiday is like ripping a Band-Aid off over and over: Your family will laugh about memories from the past when everyone was all together. Reminiscing what your parent was like, their favorite desserts, or how they would laugh a certain way. With a smile plastered across your face, you’ll nod as family members tell you stories and you’ll think about what you would give to have them there with you.

3. Graduating, moving away to college, first date, first real job, any big event will cause a sting of pain: In the moment, you are so happy and excited as these new chapters open up. But later on, once alone, you think about how awesome it would be to have them carrying boxes into your dorm room, questioning your first date, looking out into the crowd at graduation, and seeing them with a camera recording you with a thumbs up. You’ll get chills as you think about how different life would be with them around.

4. You question everything and ask over and over why?: Whether it was a natural cause of death or some accident, you question everything you know and what you believe in (if you believe in anything). You will replay moments in your head questioning your actions asking what if? But if anything, the re-occuring question is why? An answer that is one to be continued.

5. You will be jealous of kids who have both their parents: You will see kids who have both parents and something inside you will stir; a sense of resentment. Because at one time; that was you and the world wasn’t perfect but it was lovely and everything you knew was great.

6. Watching your other parent heal is one of the hardest things you will ever watch: Though extremely challenging and frustrating at times, watching your parent cry to the point of exhaustion will be really hard, but the grieving process does get easier. So hang onto that small nugget of gold.

7. Family traditions will never be the same: Summers of camping and spending endless days on the water, baking rum cakes together, Saturday mornings spent watching cartoons just become a memory that you hold so close to your heart.

8. You become extremely protective of your siblings and whoever makes fun of them for losing a parent: No one messes with your squad but especially when someone brings up how you lost your parent; you go into protective mode. Just remember to breathe and walk in love. Kill ’em with kindness.

9. Heartbreaks hurt just as much, if not more: You will want that one parent to embrace you in their arms with snot running down your nose and tears streaming. You will just want to hear them say, You’ll be all right, kid. I love you and that’s all you need.”

10. The word “sorry” becomes numb to you: People don’t know your story and openly they don’t know what to do besides say sorry. After awhile, you smirk and softly whisper, “Thanks.” The word sorry no longer has meaning after you have heard it over a million times.

11. Pictures and old family videos are possibly one of God’s greatest gift to you: One day you will come across a tub filled with pictures, and as you sit on the basement floor looking through them, you’ll start to cry. Your mind will take you back to that exact moment and right there alone on the cold floor, you encounter a special moment of what life was like then.

12. Death will change you and your outlook on life: Seemingly the small stuff isn’t so bad anymore. You stop complaining and you really take a check of what is important in your life.

13. You wonder if they’re proud of you: When no one was looking and you did the right thing, or when you ace that test you studied so hard for. You stop to think I wonder

14. Hearing old stories from relatives and friends is a great thing: Shocked and trying not to laugh, you can’t believe what your uncle just told you about the one night they all snuck out and crashed a car. These stories will warm your heart, take the time to listen to them.

15. Lastly, you grow in ways you never thought possible: There will be moments where your whole family will be together and you’ll think to yourself how in a weird way everyone has a quirk of that parent. Then looking at your own heart, you realize how much you’ve grown.

As you continue to grow, just remember wherever you are in life, that parent is right there with you, cheering you on and flashing you thumbs up as you graduate throughout the stages of life.

All my love and tears,

A girl who lost her dad

Lauren E. Seago in 500 Words On on Aug 19, 2015

Authored by Lauren Seago

Author’s photo (Lauren Seago)


Be a pioneer in the fight against the debilitating trauma of childhood grief, DONATE to support children and teens whose mother or father has died.

Family Lives On is tremendously grateful to Lauren Seago for her kind permission to repost this blog in it’s entirety. Follow Lauren on Twitter at @llaureneunice

Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Tradition Program is entirely funded through charitable donations.  If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve, please donate here. To learn more about the Tradition Program, please use this link.

 

It’s Not My Story to Tell, Not Really.

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Photo credit: Heartlinks Grief Center at Family Hospice

Photo credit: Heartlinks Grief Center at Family Hospice

(originally posted by Heartlinks Grief Center at Family Hospice)

The Blank Page 

It’s not my story to tell, not really. Yet, I know that if I don’t tell it, many of you will never hear it and it’s a story worth hearing.

Today, I met a little girl dressed for summer in all white with a beautiful braid in her hair. She had the biggest brown eyes I have ever seen and with her friends she was a sassy in the know leader of her group.

So, it came as a bit of shock when we worked in small groups that this child with her street smart airs refused to put anything but two feathers on a blank piece of paper. And she refused to talk to me. She just kept looking at her paper and then looking up at me with those brown eyes swimming with tears.

I didn’t push, I didn’t call her out, it was her paper after all. And we had asked the kids to put a memory on the paper, a memory of the person who had died – basically to tell us a story about their person that they could choose to share or not. It was her paper and her story, but I couldn’t figure out why it was blank.

As the kids scrambled out of the room and on to the next activity, I asked this child if she would stay with me for moment. The room seemed to expand so that this child and I inhabited a tiny pocket of safety within the walls of the room and in this safe zone, the little girl explained something important to me.

“My daddy died when I was two. I didn’t know him. I don’t know nothin’ ’bout him. I know he’s dead.

He gets two feathers for being an angel and that’s all he gets. Some days I think he must have been good and some days I think he must have been bad.

So I ain’t puttin’ nothing on there – that way he can be who I need him to be on a day.”

It’s not my story to tell and it’s not our job to fill in the blank page for a child when maybe that page is blank for a reason.

Make sure that you ask a child and then listen when you feel like their page is blank. It might not even be blank, it just might be a an ever evolving story that isn’t yours to see. ~Kris

#giveGriefwords


Family Lives On supports the lifelong emotional wellbeing of children and teens whose mother or father has died. Available anywhere in the United States, Family Lives On serves all children & teens ages 3-18, regardless of race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status or cause of parent’s death.

DONATE The Tradition Program is entirely funded through charitable donations and services are provided at no cost to the families. Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve, please donate here.

The Tradition Program isn’t therapy but it is therapeutic. Here’s how it works. 

When a Wave Comes, Go Deep

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Originally posted by Humans of New York, October 1st, 2013

Humans of New York (HONY) originally posted 10/1/13

Humans of New York (HONY) originally posted 10/1/13

“If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?”

“When a wave comes, go deep.”
“I think I’m going to need an explanation for that one.”
“There’s three things you can do when life sends a wave at you. You can run from it, but then it’s going to catch up and knock you down. You can also fall back on your ego and try to stand your ground, but then it’s still going to clobber you. Or you can use it as an opportunity to go deep, and transform yourself to match the circumstances. And that’s how you get through the wave.”

Why she can come up with such profound advice on the spot- she’s an educator! Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs is an author and internationally recognized education leader known for her work in curriculum mapping, curriculum integration, and developing 21st century approaches to teaching and learning.

This was originally posted on Humans of New York (HONY) Facebook page in October 2013, and the comments that accompanied it are an example of what happens organically among the followers:

HONY is all about stories. As a community, let’s try to ‘like’ comments from people sharing insights or similar experiences. There is nothing wrong with comments like ‘her hair is awesome,’ or ‘she looks much younger than 50.’ Those comments are kind, supportive, and appreciated. But I think it would make Humans of New York more interesting if we could work together to prioritize stories over opinions. If there’s anything I’ve learned from doing HONY these past five years, it’s that stories are always more interesting than opinions.

For that reason, below are the comments for the visual story “When a Wave Comes, Go Deep.”


Patrick Elliott Kelley “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”


Brooke Truax Her words are poetically beautiful and deep. However, after I read them, I couldn’t help but think: “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…” I blame Dori. 



Rebecca Quinn What she said reminds me of a quote from Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.

“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.

And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.

And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”


Ravi Keswani “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” ― Bruce Lee


Reza Badei I live in San Diego & used to surf a lot. I can totally relate to this very wise advice and great analogy. What I would like to add is take a deep breath before going under the waves , stay loose & flexible (non rigid or you’ll break some serious bones) and let the wave or a set pass you by without you resisting them, otherwise you will , be clubbed and worse, suffocate … 

"Duck Diving" Photo credit: isurfnetwork.com

“Duck Diving” Photo credit: isurfnetwork.com


Kim O’Grady Simensen Anyone that has ever done much Pacific Coast body surfing knows that when you dive UNDER the wave (“go deep), you can minimize the turbulence and lessen the power of the wave that can easily throw you head first into the sand. I like the metaphor for troubled times and the advice of transformation. The challenge can be finding the strength to go to those uncomfortable and scary places. Although body surfing is a solo support, living is not. I wish the author had reminded us to surround yourself with friends and love – that also brings strength and lessens the power of negative forces in our life. Seek Joy!


Family Lives On supports the lifelong emotional wellbeing of children and teens whose mother or father has died. Available anywhere in the United States, Family Lives On serves all children & teens ages 3-18, regardless of race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status or cause of parent’s death. The Tradition Program isn’t therapy but it is therapeutic. Here’s how it works. 


DONATE The Tradition Program is entirely funded through charitable donations and services are provided at no cost to the families. Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve, please donate here.

TIME Magazine – What Parents Can Learn From Inside Out

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Re-posted from TIME’s weekly parenting newsletter. All the fun, none of the scolding.

Amy Poehler stars as the personification of Joy, left, with Phyllis Smith starring as the voice of Sadness.

Amy Poehler stars as the personification of Joy, left, with Phyllis Smith starring as the voice of Sadness.

It’s the anti-helicopter parenting movie

All parents want their kids to be happy. I mean, obviously. But for most of history in most of the world that has meant keeping them from hunger and death and physical bodily harm. What happens when those threats aren’t quite so looming? Pixar’s new movie is an examination of our modern obsession with keeping our kids in a permanent state of delight.

One note of warning. Some people have labeled the movie PMCIFOTC. (Parents May Cry In Front Of Their Children.) Adults should be accompanied by an understanding minor. Read the entire review here.


Tough little boys grow up to be Dads. Happy Father’s Day!

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To all the tough little boys who grew up to be dads. Happy Father’s Day.

Tough Little Boys – Gary Allan


This Father’s Day, honor YOUR father by supporting children and teens whose mother or father has died. Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Tradition Program is entirely funded through charitable donations. Please donate here.

Happy Father’s Day, Mom

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Because sometimes Mom has to fill Dad’s shoes, Angel Soft unveils an emotional new ad in time for Father’s Day.


DONATE  This Father’s Day, honor Dad, or Mom, by supporting children and teens whose mother or father has died. Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization entirely funded through charitable donations. Our services are provided at no cost to the families. If you would like to help, please donate here.

Joy and Sadness – Stars of Inside Out Movie

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imgres-1Excitement builds for the June 19th release of “Inside Out” Pixar & Disney’s newest collaboration. The film stars the emotions of 11 year old Riley, a girl who’s recently moved to California from Minnesota. Featuring the voices of Amy Poehler (Joy), Phyllis Smith (Sadness), Bill Hader (Fear), Lewis Black (Anger) and Mindy Kaling (Disgust) in

“an animated fantasy that remains remarkably true to what scientists have learned about the mind, emotion and memory.”

Dacher Keltner, psychologist, University of California, Berkeley, and consultant to “Inside Out” is quoted in the NPR review:

“When you are in a fearful state, everything is imbued with threat and uncertainty and peril,” Keltner says. And when Riley is sad, he says, even her happy memories take on a bluish hue.

Joy (left, voiced by Amy Poehler) and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith) catch a ride on the Train of Thought in Pixar's Inside Out. The movie opens in theaters nationwide June 19. Disney/Pixar

Joy (left, voiced by Amy Poehler) and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith) catch a ride on the Train of Thought in Pixar’s Inside Out. The movie opens in theaters nationwide June 19.
Disney/Pixar

One of the film’s high points, though, is its depiction of sadness, Keltner says. In many books and movies for kids, he says, sadness is dismissed as a negative emotion with no important role.

In Inside Out, star-shaped Joy gets more screen time. But when the emotions are in danger of getting lost in the endless corridors of long-term memory, it is Sadness, downcast and shaped like a blue teardrop, who emerges as an unlikely heroine.

For kids, Keltner says, that makes “a nice statement about how important sadness is to our understanding of who we are.

We all have emotions, little voices inside our head. I can’t wait until June 19th to meet the emotions inside someone else’s head!

Amy Poehler as

Amy Poehler as “Joy” – Inside Out Movie

Phyllis Smith voices

Phyllis Smith “Sadness” the unlikely heroine

http://www.npr.org/player/embed/413980258/414149726” target=”_blank”>Listen to full NPR review here.


Celebrate Father’s Day by supporting children and teens whose mother or father has died. DONATE  Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization entirely funded through charitable donations. Our services are provided at no cost to the families. If you would like to help, please donate here.


Seriously, Don’t Wait.

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Gratitude. Don’t wait for grief to give you words. Tell them now.


Honor your father by supporting children and teens whose mother or father has died. DONATE  Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization entirely funded through charitable donations. Our services are provided at no cost to the families. If you would like to help, please donate here.

Not Being Quiet About Death is Becoming the New Normal

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New York Times Book Review

Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime.

“There’s a lot of hand-wringing these days about the importance of having The Talk — not the one parents have with their mortified tweens, but the one we shy from having with aging parents or those terminally ill. The one about death and dying.”

Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime.  By Scott Simon.

Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime.
By Scott Simon.

Excerpt from Chapter One:

Our children want to know if you’re dead forever. I tell them yes. But I wonder about that too. Death makes life worthwhile. It gives each moment meaning. I hope I live to one hundred and fifty, and that our daughters can make it to at least two hundred. But death drives life. It frightens and inspires us. Do away with death, and we’d have no reason to get out of bed (or into it), grow, work, or love. Why would we do much of anything if we had the time for everything? It’s the certainty of death that moves us to sing and write poems, find friends, and sail across oceans and skies. It’s because we know that we don’t have all the time in the world that we try to use the uncertain and unknowable time that we have to do something that endures. Death is sad, grim, unwelcome and invaluable. But it’s why we try to make something of life. It’s why we have children.

I don’t know what becomes of us when we die. But I believe I will go on to a place (which will probably look a lot like Chicago and Normandy) where I’ll find my mother and my father, my stepfather, and all of our beloved cats, dogs, horses, turtles and fish who predecease me. I’ll get to take a walk with Gandhi, have a glass of D’Yquem with Mr. Jefferson, and a glass of just about anything with Sir Winston. I’ll get together over tea and an asp with Cleopatra. I’ll have a catch with Jackie Robinson (and hope that celestial climes improve my infield skills).

I believe that I’ll get to look out over the world and behold my daughters. They’ll feel my love, hearten to hear my gentle instruction, and miss me; but not so much that they won’t spend most of their time giggling and enjoying life in full measure.

In time, I believe I’ll be reunited with my fabulously kind and beautiful wife, even if she runs away with a Hollywood star or an Italian race car driver as soon as my ashes cool. I will count on heavenly powers of understanding to look down at her happiness and nobly smile, and if they expect to be with her, too, I rely on God to work that out.

I do not know if God will reveal Him, Her, or Itself to me as a craggy old African man with a long white beard, or a mature, Rubenesque woman barely concealed by clouds, or as some kind of mollusk. I am undecided on the essential questions that can make theologians stammer: if there is a God, how does He or She or It let little children suffer? What kind of Heaven can there be if innocents have to share it with scoundrels? Do gnats have souls?

But when I spent the last days of my mother’s life alongside her in the Intensive Care Unit, our talk about death and whatever follows grew real. The hereafter was no longer hypothetical. It was the stop just ahead, and the next place I knew my mother would be (and the rest of us, too, in too short a time.)

My vision of the hereafter has no scientific, religious or even much mythical foundation. But I just can’t get by, day after day, thinking that we go on to nothing when we’re done here, and never again see those we love. I don’t worry about being right. I just want to wrap myself in a belief that gets me through the long nights of life.

I am getting a life’s lesson about grace from my mother in the ICU. We never stop learning from our mothers, do we?

“If not being quiet about death is becoming the new normal, then Mr. Simon’s “Unforgettable” is one of its cornerstones.”   To read the entire review…

Change societal norms, give grief words.


DONATE  Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization entirely funded through charitable donations. Our services are provided at no cost to the families. If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve,please donate here.

30 Days Later – Sheryl Sandberg – Kicking the S*#$! Out of Plan B

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Sandberg_juneAdjusting to the new normal, Sheryl Sandberg shared a heartfelt post today:

I have learned that I never really knew what to say to others in need. I think I got this all wrong before; I tried to assure people that it would be okay, thinking that hope was the most comforting thing I could offer. A friend of mine with late-stage cancer told me that the worst thing people could say to him was “It is going to be okay.” That voice in his head would scream, How do you know it is going to be okay? Do you not understand that I might die? I learned this past month what he was trying to teach me.

Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not. When people say to me, “You and your children will find happiness again,” my heart tells me, Yes, I believe that, but I know I will never feel pure joy again. Those who have said, “You will find a new normal, but it will never be as good” comfort me more because they know and speak the truth. Even a simple “How are you?”—almost always asked with the best of intentions—is better replaced with “How are you today?” When I am asked “How are you?” I stop myself from shouting, My husband died a month ago, how do you think I am? When I hear “How are you today?” I realize the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day.

Survival mode. One day at a time. Most surviving spouses refer to this as the “numb phase”. Some can’t remember entire weeks or months during this time. Or, paramount to sadness can often be the very real feeling of suffocating, so powerful overwhelmed with the day to day challenges of living.

I have learned how ephemeral everything can feel—and maybe everything is. That whatever rug you are standing on can be pulled right out from under you with absolutely no warning. In the last thirty days, I have heard from too many women who lost a spouse and then had multiple rugs pulled out from under them. Some lack support networks and struggle alone as they face emotional distress and financial insecurity. It seems so wrong to me that we abandon these women and their families when they are in greatest need.

Most families are dual income, the death of a spouse means the surviving parent inherits double the financial responsibilities, the household maintenance, the carpool, the parental duties – all the while navigating their own grief.

I have learned to ask for help—and I have learned how much help I need.

We hope you, and anyone parenting a child or teen whose mother or father has died, will enroll in the Tradition Program. It isn’t therapy but it IS therapeutic based on clinically identified needs for healthy bereavement. Read more about the Tradition Program HERE.

I was talking to one of these friends about a father-child activity that Dave is not here to do. We came up with a plan to fill in for Dave. I cried to him, “But I want Dave. I want option A.” He put his arm around me and said, “Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the shit out of option B.”

Thank you, Sheryl, for sharing this. You are changing the social norms around grief. Honoring the past. Celebrating the present. Building the future. That’s what happens when you #GiveGriefWords #NoShame

On behalf of all the children and teens whose mother or father has died, thank you, Family Lives On Foundation.

To read Sheryl’s entire post, please click HERE


PAY IT FORWARD – DONATE! Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization entirely funded through charitable donations. Our services are provided at no cost to the families. If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve, please donate here.

Support for Students Who Have Lost a Parent: The Family Lives On Foundation

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Posted May 27, 2015 by Erin Flynn Jay in Featured Stories

BoyholdingsoccerballMore than two million children in the United States are grieving the death of a parent.

“When a student’s relative or loved one has died, teachers wonder, perhaps worry, what do I say? Out of our own personal discomfort, or with good intentions, they often say nothing at all,” said Christine Cavalieri, executive director of the Family Lives On Foundation.

“Saying nothing says a lot, particularly to a child who has experienced the death of a parent,” she continued.

Losing a parent puts children at risk for mental health, behavior issues

Studies have shown that bereaved children are between two and three times more likely to experience mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. As they grow up, they’re also more likely to engage in high-risk behavior and have criminal records.

However, these risks can be lessened when children and teens maintain an emotional connection to their late parent. Finding healthy ways to adapt to loss is key to providing bereavement support.

Shakespeare said it best: ‘Give sorrow words’

Cavalieri said that people’s discomfort with grief makes them attempt to ignore it and hope it will pass quickly. As a result, families — especially children — often suffer alone and in silence without sufficient understanding and support of relatives and teachers.

“It is normal and necessary to understand and grieve the death of a loved one. And the process does not end with the funeral,” said Cavalieri. “For a child, it continues their entire adolescence when grief is often re-ignited by developmental milestones.”

Family Lives On serves children and teens ages three to 18, regardless of race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status or cause of the parent’s death. The non-profit organization supports the lifelong emotional well-being of children and teens whose mother or father has died and is entirely funded through charitable donations.

Continuing traditions can help children after a parent has died

Grounded in research and clinically-identified needs for healthy bereavement, Family Lives On’s Tradition Program makes it possible for children to continue activities or celebrate traditions that they used to do with their mother or father.

“We don’t do it with them, we just provide everything the family needs — tickets, ingredients, crafts, and so on. And we do that every year, for each child in the family, until they turn 18 and graduate out of the program,” said Cavalieri. “Then we ask, how will you do this for yourself, for the rest of your life? Because the relationship never ends. Your mom is always your mom.”

How educators can support grieving students

Cavalieri said that educators should understand how family traditions provide a natural context for communication and connection, and help children to maintain a healthy emotional bond. “Celebrating the life story is a powerful holistic approach that focuses on moving forward and the future. It isn’t therapy but it is therapeutic,” she said.

When educators provide support for these grieving children and their families, they are more likely to move from being survivors to thrivers. “The vision is that, someday, the practice of keeping traditions alive after the death of a parent will become mainstream,”said Cavalieri. “And no child will grieve in silence, or alone.”

Bereavement support resources for teachers

For comprehensive resources to assist students coping with parental loss, Cavalieri recommends the Coalition to Support Grieving Children. Both national teachers’ unions are members of the coalition.

“This is a user-friendly site that provides practical, accessible information about the issue of childhood grief and how best to support a grieving child,” she said. “This online resource uses a dynamic multimedia approach to present current best practices for addressing grief at school as well as supplemental information for parents supporting their own children.”


YOU CAN HELP! Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization entirely funded through charitable donations. Our services are provided at no cost to the families. If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve, please donate here.


Erin Flynn Jay is a writer, editor and publicist, working mainly with authors and small businesses since 2001. Erin’s interests also reach into the educational space, where her affinity for innovation spurs articles about early childhood education and learning strategies. She is based in Philadelphia.


A Mom’s Fantasy vs. A Mom’s Reality – by ScaryMommy.com

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This, too funny, and absolutely accurate, post elicited more than one chuckle.

As a mother, you have expectations. Expectations of what your child will experience, understand, love and hate growing up. As moms, we set the bar high, and have a tendency to have unrealistic expectations of our children. We tend to forget they are kids, not miniature adults. It’s the simple things in life that bring smiles to their faces. A balloon. A chocolate ice cream cone. A kitchen dance party. Don’t get me wrong; I still take mine to the science center. I just try to accept the fact that the first thing they’ll talk about when they get in the car is who got to press the elevator button. A taste of fantasy vs. reality from a mom’s perspective.”

Trip to the Museum

Mom’s Fantasy: We are going to meander through the museum, look at the dinosaurs, and tour the butterfly exhibit.

Reality: The kids sprint through the exhibits, tell you it’s boring, but pop a squat for over 20 minutes at the T-Rex exhibit because they like the fake blood. Lunch consists of overpriced hot dogs and chips.

Trip to the Beach

Mom’s Fantasy: We’ll take a relaxing walk down by the beach, look for shells and watch the sunset.

Reality: Your son picks up a condom, your daughter steps on a large stick and now they are both ridiculously hangry, so you leave before sunset.

Read the ENTIRE post here

Admit it, we’ve all over-compensated, overspent, over-prepared and over-thought, at one time or another. And with the very best of intentions. But –

“It’s the simple things in life that bring smiles to their faces.”

It’s also the simple, seeming mundane, every day things that children and teens miss most. The death of a parent changes everything.

Children go through so many developmental stages and it is important for the adults in their lives to understand, and remember, that it is a life-long process of adapting to the death of their mother or father.

Family Lives On supports hundreds of grieving children and teens by helping them continue traditions they used to do with their Mom or Dad. Traditions provide a more natural context for intra-family communication and connection as well as giving permission and encouragement to go on living even after a parent has died.

Read the ENTIRE post here


DONATE  Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization entirely funded through charitable donations. Our services are provided at no cost to the families. If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve, please donate here.

Glitter in a Jar

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“Just Breathe” by Julie Bayer Salzman & Josh Salzman (Wavecrest Films)

“The film is entirely unscripted – what the kids say is based purely on their own neuro-scientific understanding of difficult emotions, and how they cope through breathing and meditation. They, in turn, are teaching us all …”

“Sometimes it’s the same moments that take your breath away that breathe purpose and love back into your life.”
Steve Maraboli


Family Lives On supports the lifelong emotional wellbeing of children and teens whose mother or father has died. Available anywhere in the United States, Family Lives On serves all children & teens ages 3-18, regardless of race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status or cause of parent’s death. The Tradition Program isn’t therapy but it is therapeutic. Here’s how it works. 


DONATE The Tradition Program is entirely funded through charitable donations. Our services are provided at no cost to the families. Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve, please donate here.

10 Things Girls Who Have Lost Their Dads Want You To Know

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#GiveGriefWords

When I was 17 I lost my dad unexpectedly. It’s been seven years and the pain is still very real. Over the course of those years I have come to realize many things that I feel need to be shared with others. I know there are many other young women who are in my shoes. To our friends, these are the things we want you to know.

1. We’re sorry.

We are sorry for being quiet every time you talk about your dad to us. We don’t mean to sound uninterested or make you feel that your happiness is unimportant to us. It’s just that when you talk about moments with your dad, it takes us back to moments with ours. Moments we wish we could relive and share with you, too. We don’t get quiet on purpose; it kind of just happens. It’s our mind’s way of protecting us from bursting out in tears.

 To read the entire post, click HERE.

Thought Catalog

Flickr / Anastasia Yankovskaya Flickr / Anastasia Yankovskaya

When I was 17 I lost my dad unexpectedly. It’s been seven years and the pain is still very real. Over the course of those years I have come to realize many things that I feel need to be shared with others. I know there are many other young women who are in my shoes. To our friends, these are the things we want you to know.

1. We’re sorry.

We are sorry for being quiet every time you talk about your dad to us. We don’t mean to sound uninterested or make you feel that your happiness is unimportant to us. It’s just that when you talk about moments with your dad, it takes us back to moments with ours. Moments we wish we could relive and share with you, too. We don’t get quiet on purpose; it kind of just happens. It’s our mind’s…

View original post 726 more words

#GiveGriefWords: This American Life Podcast: Birds & Bees

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A trifecta of challenging conversations adults have with children is the topic of a recent episode of This American Life: Birds & Bees. I found the entire podcast thought-provoking, particularly the discussion of racism and discrimination. But the purpose of this blog post is to focus on the final section (from the 40 minute mark) on death. To listen to the entire podcast, use this link.

“While it’s hard to explain to kids how babies come into the world, it might be harder to explain that people leave the world too — especially to a kid whose mom or dad or brother or sister has died. There are grief counseling centers all over the U.S. that cater specifically to children. Reporter Jonathan Goldstein visited one in Salt Lake City.”

Nancy says children just grieve differently than adults, especially little children. They grieve in fits and starts. They can’t focus on it for very long. And grief is more physical for them.

They’ll act out their anger, maybe kick a door, which is the reason for the volcano room at The Sharing Place. They might also regress, suddenly using baby talk or sucking their thumbs. And if they’re potty trained, they might become untrained.

They’re also magical thinkers. I heard stories of kids who were afraid to go to sleep because grandma went to sleep and didn’t wake up. One little boy wandered away from his mom at the emergency room saying, I’m looking for Dad. We left him here last time. Another boy said he just wanted to die for a few days so he can go to heaven and teach his little sister how to ride a tricycle.

Children also re-grieve. That is, with every new stage of development, they experience their grief anew. And with every milestone– when their braces come off, when they get their driver’s license, when they graduate– they’ll inevitably think, I wish my mom was here.

And given all of this, the thought behind The Sharing Place and other centers like it is that kids can help one another in a way that adults perhaps can’t help them. That’s why they’re brought together in these groups. In short, kids speak the same language.

To listen to the entire podcast, use this link.

The Sharing Place is one of many grief support centers available nationwide, to locate support near you, please visit the National Alliance for Grieving Children.

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Family Lives On supports the lifelong emotional wellbeing of children and teens whose mother or father has died. Available anywhere in the United States, Family Lives On serves all children & teens ages 3-18, regardless of race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status or cause of parent’s death. The Tradition Program isn’t therapy but it is therapeutic. Here’s how it works. If you know a family whose mother or father has died, please encourage them to enroll here.


DONATE The Tradition Program is entirely funded through charitable donations. Our services are provided at no cost to the families. Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve, please donate here.

– Chris Cavalieri, Executive Director, Family Lives On

Tradition Tuesday – Eliana and Emma

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Before he died, Eliana and Emma’s Dad would often take them to a nearby high school so they could all ride together. Sometimes they would play tennis, too. To make sure they had lots of energy, they would pack a small bag with cheese and crackers, and some water, to refuel.

What did your family enjoy the most about the Tradition program?

The fact that my girls can continue to celebrate something so special in the midst of such sorrow. Their happiness is of utmost importance. The girls were able to recollect specific memories/places we shared with Louis. Every part of this experience has been amazing. We have inadequate words to express the gratitude in our hearts. We LOVE Family Lives On! – Mom


DONATE to the Tradition Program

Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Tradition Program is entirely funded through charitable donations.  If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve, please donate here.


Family Lives On supports the lifelong emotional wellbeing of children and teens whose mother or father has died. Available anywhere in the United States, Family Lives On serves all children & teens ages 3-18, regardless of race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status or cause of parent’s death. The Tradition Program is grounded in research and a number of clinically identified needs in bereaved children.  Here’s how it works.

If you know a family whose mother or father has died, please encourage them to enroll here.

A Friend “Shows Up”

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The Friend, Esquire, May 2015

So incredibly powerful.

People who can sense the sorrow behind your smile, the love behind your anger, and the meaning behind your silence are your true friends in life.

Reposting this from The Dougy Center who included this introductory paragraph: “In this courageously honest story, Matthew Teague shares his struggle in caring for his dying wife, Nicole, and for their two young daughters. Not knowing what is in store, his friend, Dane, offers him a profound and unexpected gift: both his emotional and physical presence. Matthew and Dane’s friendship is an inspiring example of choosing to be present with one another in the most dire of circumstances.

Warning: Please be advised that the imagery content and language of this article is graphic and may arouse an emotional response.

The Friend (Esquire, May, 2015)

His wife was just thirty-four. They had two little girls. The cancer was everywhere, and the parts of dying that nobody talks about were about to start. His best friend came to help out for a couple weeks. And he never left.

Later that year, I remember him standing sentry at the hospital. He had driven from New Orleans—we were living in a small town called Fairhope, Alabama—to stand guard for hours in the hallway outside Nicole’s room so that she could sleep. One afternoon, a group of church ladies arrived. There is no force under heaven as mighty as a band of middle-aged Baptist ladies, and from inside the room we could hear Dane wage a battle of kind intentions.

“They are resting right now,” he said. “I’m so sorry.”

“Well, we came by to pray for them,” one of the ladies said.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said. “But I feel pretty sure God can hear you out here in the hall.”


Family Lives On supports the lifelong emotional wellbeing of children and teens whose mother or father has died. Available anywhere in the United States, Family Lives On serves all children & teens ages 3-18, regardless of race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status or cause of parent’s death. The Tradition Program is grounded in research and a number of clinically identified needs in bereaved children.   Here’s how it works.

If you know a family whose mother or father has died, please encourage them to enroll here.


Donate to Support the Tradition Program

Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Tradition Program is entirely funded through charitable donations.  If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve, please donate here.

Sheryl Sandberg, Finding Strength in Membership

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Kelly Corrigan, in her moving video essay “Transcending: Words on Women and Strength” describes how, when faced with adversity, “we will rally around, and hold each other up.” The comments to Sheryl’s post from so many other members share personal experiences, support and learning. I’m overwhelmed by the powerful human connection made possible by a virtual medium.

Late last night Sheryl Sandberg commented on a beautiful post Laura Wellington wrote a about the challenges faced by the members of “The Exclusive Club Sheryl Sandberg Never Wanted to Join“.

Laura Wellington is right – this is a club that no one wants to join. Laura, I am sorry for your loss – and my heart goes out to the many women around the world who have experienced this loss too. I learned from your advice and I am sharing it here so others can learn too. My condolences to you – and my gratitude.

Laura quotes the numbers of others facing the price of this club membership:

There are approximately 29,000 other women under the age of 49 and living in the United States that can claim the same. They make up an exclusive club none of us ever wanted to become part of. We became members anyway and so did our kids.

And shares wisdom:

1. Take time to grieve…

2. It is important that your children know Dave, even if he can’t be around to share.

3. Establish traditions that keep Dave in your children’s lives throughout their youth. 

4. Kids need time alone with you and you with them.

5. Others will assume that you and your kids are feeling the loss exactly like them.

6. Take baby steps into your future and realize that you will make mistakes along the way.

7. Cry when you feel like it.

8. Dave was an important chapter in your life but not the end of your story.

9. Dave’s love for you and yours for him that will allow you to love again.

10. Finally, honor his life by living yours well and teach your children to do the same.

 (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)


Family Lives On supports the lifelong emotional wellbeing of children and teens whose mother or father has died. Available anywhere in the United States, Family Lives On serves all children & teens ages 3-18, regardless of race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status or cause of parent’s death.

The Tradition Program is grounded in research and a number of clinically identified needs in bereaved children. Traditions provide a more natural context for communication and connection, and help children to maintain a healthy emotional bond.  Here’s how it works.

If you know a family whose mother or father has died, please encourage them to enroll here.


Donate to Support the Tradition Program

Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Tradition Program is entirely funded through charitable donations.  If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve, please donate here.

To learn more about the Tradition Program, please use this link.

Painting Your Own Masterpiece

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Lauren & her dad

Lauren Seago, Gregory Seago.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad

Contributing Writer: Lauren Seago

Introduced to the crowd as the daughter of the late Gregory Seago, my hands grasped both sides of the podium and I started to cry in front of hundreds of people. In that moment, I looked up to not only see a gym full of people, but to embrace the feeling of grief that had overcome me. I wiped my cheeks and apologized to the crowd because this ‘life’s first moment’ for me was hard — really hard.

I have always heard the first anything is the scariest.

The first moment you step in a classroom full of new faces.

The first time you ride a bike without training wheels.

The first time you jump into a pool without someone to catch you.

Your first date.

Your first kiss.

Your first heartbreak.

I could tell you those ‘life’s first moments’ without your parent get easier over time, but that would be a lie.

My high school graduation was one of my ‘life’s first moments’ that my dad would not be attending. I stood with my graduating class and watched as families flooded through the doors. Moms, dads, grandparents, siblings all filed in to celebrate their soon-to-be graduate and indulge in a huge life moment.

I went on to finish my speech and left the podium to return to my seat. But before I did, I realized that, my life would continuously be filled with many more ‘life’s first moments’ that my dad would not be at. And not just in my life, but my siblings’ as well.

This thought of my dad missing my whole life was extremely overwhelming and discomforting. It was a painful confirmation that my dad was really gone.

There have been so many different ‘life’s first moments’ my dad has missed. From graduations to first days of college, move in days, first days of middle school — the first of everything and anything my dad had missed.

Moving throughout the years, Father’s Day has become like any other day for me. But I don’t avoid it or pretend like it is not there.

One of the biggest things I struggled with was the idea that people paint this canvas of grieving as this terrible ugly picture. Filled with blacks and greys, grieving is portrayed as an emotion that when expressed is a weakness.

See here’s the thing, there’s power in the process of grieving and painting your own grieving masterpiece. You have the opportunity to fill a canvas with mistakes, doubts, and fears, all crafted by your own hand.

Those feelings and emotions come to life when you reach one of ‘life’s first moments,’ or when you finally let lose the words you’ve buried, and it hurts. But it also starts to paint your road to recovery and your very own masterpiece. The colors may bleed together, it may be dark, it might be sad, and anger could radiate throughout, but the thing is, it is not like anyone else’s.

It is your own.

For the longest time, I believed the lie that crying is a weakness, that grieving is a weakness, expressing how I feel is a weakness. Now I know it is apart of my masterpiece.

 Painted and crafted in my own time.

As you celebrate Father’s Day or any of ‘life’s first moments,’ just remember crying, talking about past memories are all different pieces of your own masterpiece, and it will be okay.

Lauren Fathers Day Profile


Be a pioneer in the fight against the debilitating trauma of childhood grief, DONATE to support children and teens whose mother or father has died.

Family Lives On is tremendously grateful to Lauren Seago for contributing to this blog. More than a million people viewed Lauren’s post An Open Letter to Every Kid Who Has Lost a Parent. Follow Lauren on Twitter at @llaureneunice

Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Tradition Program is entirely funded through charitable donations. If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve, please donate here. To learn more about the Tradition Program, please use this link.

Repeat.

Don’t-Get-on-the-Anniversary-Train-654x436

Honoring the past. Celebrating the present. Building the future. Repeat. Because Family Lives On, love lives on, the relationship never ends.

Read Christina Rasmussen’s beautiful post “Don’t Get on the Anniversary Train

That anniversary train was not fun.

It was all about the death day.

And not about the man I was in love with away from the hospital beds, the morphine and the pain.

It had nothing to do with honoring him.

Nothing at all.


Be a pioneer in the fight against the debilitating trauma of childhood grief, DONATE to support children and teens whose mother or father has died.

Family Lives On is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Tradition Program is entirely funded through charitable donations. If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve, please donate here. To learn more about the Tradition Program, please use this link.

If they only knew…

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Be a pioneer in the fight against the debilitating trauma of childhood grief, DONATE to support children and teens whose mother or father has died.

Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Tradition Program is entirely funded through charitable donations.  If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve, please donate here. To learn more about the Tradition Program, please use this link.

The Rules of Grief

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Sharing a fabulous post from Good Men Project, written by Shawn Doyle about society’s rules for grief, and how you can navigate around them.

Grief is not like a highway on a roadmap. I can’t look at the map and tell someone “OK, this map is 100 miles and based on your average speed you’ll complete the journey within 12 months.”

Rule #1- There are rules. Somehow our society made determinations about exactly how a grieving person should conduct themselves at all times. If we expected other people to live by our pre-defined rules they would actually resent it. Yet for some strange reason it seems perfectly OK to tell a grieving person how to live. Hmm… One of the things that I find fascinating is that people often don’t realize they are dictating the rules—they’re just blindly following social “norms”.

The problem is—what is normal? Your loved one dying was not normal. Your loved one passing away tragically was not normal. Your loved one dying too young was not normal. Your loved one dying before her parents was not normal. Your loved one being killed in a tragic accident was not normal. So my point is that none of this is truly normal. It’s all well—just weird, and sometimes very surreal, like we are caught in a real-life nightmare. So I don’t know why people are trying to dictate norms for something that’s not normal!  Rule breaker solution: So my suggestion for you about the rules is to ignore them all, except for rules that make sense to you and feel right. Don’t let other people dictate your life to you.

Rule #2- You must act in a certain way…

The information is so helpful, but equally powerful is that grief conversations increase. #GiveGriefWords #IRemember

Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart, and bids it break. – Shakespeare

To read the post


Be a pioneer in the fight against the debilitating trauma of childhood grief, DONATE to support children and teens whose mother or father has died.

Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and entirely funded through charitable donations.  If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve, please DONATE here. 

The Key to Resolving Grief

Source: The key to resolving grief

The key to resolving grief is the feeling of acceptance that comes through validation. To resolve means to settle, to work out, or to find meaning. It does not mean to erase, or to end. Grief does not end, but grief is transformed. Grief can soften. It can be accepted. It can take on another shape, rather than taking over a person’s life. One can carry grief differently after working through grief and finding resolution. But grief does not end.

The great healer of our grief is validation, not time. All grief needs to be blessed. In order to be blessed, it must be heard. Someone must be present, someone who is willing to “hold” it by listening without judgment or comparison.

Those who grieve need both verbal and non-verbal permission to feel whatever feelings arise during grief. Their personal way of experiencing their loss should be given consent and validation. The ways they “know” their grief should be honored. Mourners need to be encouraged to express their grief in ways that are most comfortable for them, through words, tears, song, art, movement, or activity.

While grieving, those in pain need a sense of a compassionate presence. That is a person who provides a healthy relationship and companions them. It is the person who can “just be” with them in whatever way is helpful throughout the journey. There may be several people who support with their ability to be present, and each may offer different aspects that are needed. The bereaved need:

  1. To be cared for with your presence, permission, patience, predictability, and perseverance.
  2. To have their feelings acknowledged and their loved one remembered.
  3. To have their feelings and needs normalized.
  4. To be heard.
  5. To be seen and acknowledged.

Shopping at 7-Eleven Got Me Through Losing My Father

Sarah Bridgins' Author Photo

Written by Sarah Bridgin. Originally appeared in BuzzFeed, reposted with the kind permission of BuzzFeed.

After my dad died, the junk food we’d shared when I was a kid comforted me in a way that nothing else could.

The last time I went to the 7-Eleven store near my apartment in Brooklyn, the cashier asked if I wanted to sign up for a rewards card. Needless to say, I did. He searched around for a few minutes without finding one, and eventually I said, “Don’t worry about it. I’m here, like, every day.”

He looked up from the drawer he was poking around in and said, “I know.”

I have lived in New York for more than a decade and don’t generally feel much nostalgia for my childhood in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. The one exception has always been 7-Eleven. When branches of the chain started popping up in the city several years ago, I was thrilled. The first one I went to was near my office in Union Square, to attend the grand opening “party” on my lunch break. If you have ever wondered what a 7-Eleven party involves, the answer is lots of balloons, a van parked in front of the store blaring dance music, and free turkey sandwich samples.

A few months later, I was elated when a sign appeared announcing that the shuttered car repair shop a couple of blocks from my apartment would be turning into a 7-Eleven, even though I knew that this potentially spelled doom for the locally owned “Eleven Seven” bodega across the street. (They have managed to co-exist so far, no thanks to me.)

Going to 7-Eleven was comforting, even though I rarely bought more than a Diet Coke. Sure, these particular stores were a little grimier than the ones I went to as a child, and the one near my office smelled overwhelmingly of pizza grease and freezer burn. But walking under the fluorescent lights, through aisles stocked with gummy slugs and waffle-flavored potato chips, was oddly soothing.

I’ve long had a habit of buying food as a way to deal with stress. When my mother and grandmother both died four years ago, I spent hundreds of dollars I didn’t have at Union Market, stocking my kitchen with pickled figs and cave-aged gouda that cost $25 a pound. I didn’t have the appetite to eat most of it, but knowing the food was there gave me some illusion of control over a life that was starting to feel terrifyingly unpredictable. I might have been burdened with the realization that I could drop dead at any time, but at least I knew it wouldn’t be the result of starving to death in my apartment.

I was already going to 7-Eleven with enough frequency that my dad gave me a gift card for it as a Christmas present two years ago. Then, three weeks later, he died of a heart attack.

My dad had been my best friend. He was the person I called when anything happened, good or bad, and his reaction, his sympathy or his pride, were what gave those events meaning. When he died, I wanted to die. Not in a way that I would have ever acted on, but in a way that made me want to dissolve into the atmosphere like a spray of dandelion fluff. I wanted to float away, separate, become nothing.

My father’s death also ushered in a new kind of food-related neurosis. I didn’t want to go to the grocery store, and I certainly didn’t want to cook. I didn’t want to consume anything that would require my body to expend more than the absolute minimum amount of energy breaking it down.

Every day was a struggle. I started taking pills to help me sleep. I had no appetite and ate whatever people gave me: a tin of mini brownies sent by my aunt, a giant roast chicken delivered by friends. After those things ran out, I didn’t know what to do. Enter 7-Eleven.

My diet has never been great. I cooked occasionally, mostly simple things like soups and chilis. After college, I briefly experimented with being a vegan. But I was never great at self-deprivation, and attempts at healthy eating were pretty half-hearted. Still, there were certain foods I generally considered off-limits: no full-calorie soda, no bags of gummy candy that I would inevitably finish in five minutes, no Bagel Bites and pizza rolls, and absolutely nothing corn-based, crunchy, and covered in cheese dust.

In many ways, what I was eating was the opposite of comfort food.

This all went out the window after my dad died. For the first time in 15 years, I bought chocolate frosted doughnuts (2 for $1) and bags of Cheetos. I bought cappuccinos from a machine and garnished them with the dehydrated mini marshmallows that you could shake out of a plastic jar, like a spice. I made sundaes with Häagen-Daz vanilla ice cream, Reddi-Whip, and Hershey’s syrup. For lunch I ate white cheddar Cheez-Its and for dinner I ate Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese, which I baked in the oven for too long until the perfect crust developed along the edges of the black plastic tray.

In many ways, what I was eating was the opposite of comfort food. Most of it was created in a lab, produced in a factory, and composed of chemicals; mass-marketed and impersonal. But the same qualities that made it seem bland and generic to some people were what made it so reassuring to me.

Now that both of my parents were gone, so was any concept I might have had of “home cooking.” I was an only child with no home to return to. And even if I tried to re-create recipes that my parents made, they would never taste exactly the same. I discovered that one of the only ways I had left of revisiting my past that wasn’t entirely, unbearably, painful was through the processed food that hadn’t changed since I was a kid.

Growing up, I ate a lot of junk. My parents split when I was a baby, and because of my mother’s struggles with mental illness and alcoholism, I spent most of my time with my father. He was a salesman for companies that manufactured restaurant equipment, and spent his days driving around the tri-state area selling pizza ovens and plastic patio furniture to local businesses. He was a wonderful cook when he had the energy, mostly making “man food” — anything that he could throw on our charcoal grill. More often, though, my father would be too exhausted from driving around all day to make anything that took more than a few minutes to assemble.

I had a palate as refined as any child’s, and was just as happy on those nights as I was when he made something more elaborate. Once a week we would have Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese with a side of Stouffer’s “escalloped apples” (which, if you’ve never had them, are essentially a plastic tray of pie filling). To mix things up, he would make Kraft macaroni and cheese and garnish it with slices of deli ham or Lit’l Smokies cocktail wieners. I was a big fan of the entire “Helper” line, including the much-maligned Tuna Helper. The fridge was always stocked with soda, the freezer was full of ice cream and frozen pizza, and the kitchen counter was covered with discount holiday candy or whatever pastries he’d picked up at the Entenmann’s factory outlet that week.

When my dad didn’t feel like making anything at all, which happened a few times a week, we would bring home fast food from one of the many restaurants near our house. Over the years I became something of a connoisseur. Wendy’s had great chocolate chip cookies and baked potatoes. For a while I got the hot ham and cheese at Arby’s, until I wised up and learned to skip the meat entirely in favor of a large order of curly fries and a Jamocha milkshake. All of the food at Popeye’s was amazing, but my favorite thing was the fried crawfish basket, which was only available a few times a year. For dessert there we would get a large banana pudding, which few people knew was on the menu and boasted a perfect Nilla wafer-to-pudding ratio. Red Lobster had the best Shirley Temples. Checkers had the best banana milkshakes.

7-Eleven was where we got banana Slurpees in the summer, and where he bought me last-minute stocking stuffers at Christmas.

Then there was 7-Eleven. That was where we stopped every Christmas morning, before driving to visit my grandparents in Philadelphia. It was where my dad went to get his coffee and newspaper on weekends. It was where he custom-mixed my favorite machine cappuccino (half French vanilla, half hot chocolate, snatching the cup out from under the stream of liquid right before it became nothing but hot water and diluted the whole thing) and got me a pack of Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpets to go with it. 7-Eleven was where we got banana Slurpees in the summer, and where he bought me last-minute stocking stuffers at Christmas.

Junk food was something we bonded over, and my father’s attitude toward feeding me reflected his parenting philosophy as a whole. As an essentially single parent working a full-time job, he didn’t have the energy to stress out about what I was eating, or most of the choices I made. He just wanted me to be happy, and trusted me to make my own decisions.

This did mean occasionally going a couple of days without eating anything green, or showing up to school in a princess costume he’d bought me for Halloween. But it also meant that when I told my father I wanted to move to New York at 17 and go to NYU, he helped me find a way to make it happen. When I graduated and used my expensive degree to pursue a low-paying career in publishing, he was supportive. A few years later, when I started publishing poems and essays in journals that had few readers and no money to pay me with, he couldn’t have been prouder. I never went through a rebellious phase when I was a teenager, because there was never anything to rebel against. We were a team.

So, in the months that followed my father’s death, I went to therapy, took trips to visit friends, and lived almost exclusively on corn syrup and salt. If eating a bunch of crap was going to make it a fraction of a percent easier to get through the day, that’s what I was going to do. It didn’t matter that this food was technically bad for me; it made me feel good in a way that went beyond a sugar-induced serotonin rush. It brought me back to a time in my life when I felt loved, safe, and taken care of.

It’s been almost two years since my father died. My appetite eventually came back, along with the 10 pounds I lost. My diet is more balanced now, probably because my body recognized on some molecular level that I would have died from malnutrition otherwise.

I still eat junk food whenever I’m craving it, which is often, but no longer all the time. There’s a perpetually full candy bowl on my coffee table that currently contains gummy worms, Reese’s cups, and some Cadbury Scream eggs I got for 70% off after Halloween. There are four flavors of ice cream in my freezer and Jiffy Pop and Cheetos in the cupboard.

Sometimes I end up eating this stuff, and sometimes it goes stale and gets replaced. But just having this food around reminds me of my dad and the house I grew up in. It does more than fill me up with empty calories. In its own way, it nourishes me.

Written by Sarah Bridgin. Originally appeared in BuzzFeed on January 5, 2016


Be a pioneer in the fight against the debilitating trauma of childhood grief, DONATE to support children and teens whose mother or father has died.

Family Lives On is tremendously grateful to BuzzFeed for the kind permission to repost this blog in it’s entirety. Read more writing by Sarah on Tumbler.

Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Tradition Program is entirely funded through charitable donations.  If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve, please donate here. To learn more about the Tradition Program, please use this link.

You Should Be Here – Cole Swindell

Video

It’s perfect outside it’s like God let me dial up the weather
Got the whole crew here, I ain’t seen some of them in forever.
It’s one of those never forget it, better stop and take it in kinda scenes.
Everything’s just right yeah except for one thing.

You should be here, standing with your arm around me here.
Cutting up, cracking a cold beer, saying cheers, hey y’all it’s sure been a good year.
It’s one of those moments, that’s got your name written all over it.
And you know that if I had just one wish it’d be that you didn’t have to miss this
You should be here.

You’d be taking way too many pictures on your phone.
Showing them off to everybody that you know back home.
And even some you don’t yeah
They say now you’re in a better place
And I would be too if I could see your face.

You should be here, standing with your arm around me here.
Cutting up, cracking a cold beer, saying cheers, hey y’all it’s sure been a good year.
It’s one of those moments, that’s got your name written all over it.
And you know that if I had just one wish it’d be that you didn’t have to miss this.
Aw you should be here.

You’d be loving this, you’d be freaking out, you’d be smiling, yeah
I know you’d be all about what’s going on right here right now.
God I wish somehow you could be here.

Oh you should be here.

Yeah this is one of those moments that’s got your name written all over it
And you know that if I have just one wish it’d be that you didn’t have to miss this.
Aw you should be here.
You should be here.


Be a pioneer in the fight against the debilitating trauma of childhood grief, DONATE to support children and teens whose mother or father has died.

Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Tradition Program is entirely funded through charitable donations.  If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve, please donate here. To learn more about the Tradition Program, please use this link.

Tradition Tuesday – Danis

My name is Danis, and our dad died May of 2013. Thanksgiving was his holiday. While we would make cookies, pies, fudge and everything else, he would sneak in and try all of the goodies. This year we made all of the goodies, and we could each feel his presence with us. 

Mom: “Last year, while making the cookies, that Richard loved to sneak so much, Danis could feel him behind her at times, breathing on her neck (she was alone in the kitchen at the time), this year, I was with her, and we know he was still waiting for his opportunity to score that perfect cookie before someone else could eat it. 🙂

Thank you for joining in with our Thanksgiving, we have many reasons to be very Thankful in our lives, y’all are a big part of it!”

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Support the Tradition Program

Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Tradition Program is entirely funded through charitable donations.  If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve, please donate here.

To learn more about the Tradition Program, please use this link.