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.

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

Lean In to Mourning Clothes, My Wish for Sheryl Sandberg

Sandberg coupleFor all the savvy wisdom you have amplified, I wish the Victorian practice of mourning clothes still existed. Anyone seeing you would be reminded to give you a wider emotional berth. And knowing that you had the space, you might allow yourself to lean in to vulnerability and grief.

Particularly in your position of power and authority, it would be easy for those around you to follow our grief avoidant cultural norms. A outward sign of your inner grief could encourage those closest to you to be more patient, to reach out to make you feel a little less alone in your sorrow. Strangers would know to be gentler with you, not to take your distraction or brusqueness personally.

 “Consciously remembering those we have loved and lost is the key that opens the heart, allows us to love in new ways” – Thomas Attig

The memorial service is over, but the mourning isn’t. There won’t be a return to normal, or to business as usual.

Chris Cavalieri, Executive Director, Family Lives On Foundation


“Give sorrow words” – Shakespeare. Sheryl Sandberg so eloquently did so on Facebook.

I want to thank all of our friends and family for the outpouring of love over the past few days. It has been extraordinary – and each story you have shared will help keep Dave alive in our hearts and memories.

I met Dave nearly 20 years ago when I first moved to LA. He became my best friend. He showed me the internet for the first time, planned fun outings, took me to temple for the Jewish holidays, introduced me to much cooler music than I had ever heard.

We had 11 truly joyful years of the deepest love, happiest marriage, and truest partnership that I could imagine… He gave me the experience of being deeply understood, truly supported and completely and utterly loved – and I will carry that with me always. Most importantly, he gave me the two most amazing children in the world.

Dave was my rock. When I got upset, he stayed calm. When I was worried, he said it would be ok. When I wasn’t sure what to do, he figured it out. He was completely dedicated to his children in every way – and their strength these past few days is the best sign I could have that Dave is still here with us in spirit.

Dave and I did not get nearly enough time together. But as heartbroken as I am today, I am equally grateful. Even in these last few days of completely unexpected hell – the darkest and saddest moments of my life – I know how lucky I have been. If the day I walked down that aisle with Dave someone had told me that this would happen – that he would be taken from us all in just 11 years – I would still have walked down that aisle. Because 11 years of being Dave Goldberg’s wife, and 10 years of being a parent with him is perhaps more luck and more happiness than I could have ever imagined. I am grateful for every minute we had.

As we put the love of my life to rest today, we buried only his body. His spirit, his soul, his amazing ability to give is still with it. It lives on in the stories people are sharing of how he touched their lives, in the love that is visible in the eyes of our family and friends, in the spirit and resilience of our children. Things will never be the same – but the world is better for the years my beloved husband lived.


Family Lives On Foundation

Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports children whose mother or father has died. 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.

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.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper Copes With Grief: The Famous Journalist has Made a Career of Tracking Grief Around the Globe While Drowning Out his own Feelings of Loss – until Hurricane Katrina.

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Family portrait: The Coopers photographed in their Long Island home in 1972. Anderson Cooper is seated by his mom, heiress Gloria Vanderbilt Cooper, while brother Carter is on their father Wyatt Cooper’s lap 

Re-Posted from WebMD.com

By Matt McMillen

WebMD the Magazine – Feature Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

While in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami, in which 35,000 of that country’s people perished, CNN reporter Anderson Cooper met a small group of women, each of whom had lost a loved one to the sea. Cooper envied their ability to talk through their pain. “I still find myself unable to do it,” he writes in his new memoir, Dispatches From the Edge. “Walking in this village, listening to these people, is as close as I can come.”

From the outside looking in, it would seem that Cooper has led a life of privilege, not of pain: a child of wealth who grew up in Manhattan’s toniest neighborhoods, the son of successful fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt, and a rising star in the dog-eat-dog world of television journalism. Even so, Cooper seems to identify most with the grieving, the shell-shocked, and the abandoned, whether he finds these citizens of loss in Southeast Asia or in his late father’s former stomping grounds, New Orleans.

In fact, Cooper has made a career out of pain: The newsman has reported from many of the world’s most dangerous places. In addition to his tour of Sri Lanka, he has witnessed the horrors of Bosnia and Rwanda, and has filed countless stories on human suffering and against-the-odds tales of survival. But it was only in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina — an American tragedy that saw the anchor, live on CNN, interrupting authorities, demanding answers, pummeling bureaucrats with unflinching questions, and fighting tears of enraged frustration — that he started to come to terms with his own family’s tragedies and how they have influenced him, on and off camera.

Love and Loss

When Cooper was 10 years old, his father died unexpectedly during heart surgery. His older brother and only sibling, Carter, killed himself 10 years later in a surprising jump from the family’s 14th-floor balcony window. The combined loss overwhelmed Cooper and left him numb, he says now. He never talked about what had happened, not even with his mother. Instead, he found comfort in reporting on the tragic losses of others, if only to drown out his own grief.

“I had cauterized my feelings,” he explains. “I wanted to feel — to match my pain with what I was witnessing … at first, I didn’t even realize why I was always covering war. I just felt like a shark that had to stay in motion in order to live.”

Everyone experiences grief in his or her own way, but there are certain tasks that each person who loses a loved one must undertake, says J. William Worden, co-director of the Harvard Child Bereavement Study and a professor at the Rosemead School of Psychology. The first task is accepting that the death has happened.

“Talking about a loss is a way to make it real,” Worden says. “Part of how you make meaning is by telling others about the loss. … It brings the reality home.”

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Cooper and his mom together in 2010

Cooper knew this to be true. He had seen others survive by sharing their suffering, as the grieving widows and mothers did in Sri Lanka. Yet he himself remained incapable of doing so until he began to write his own story. Since the beginning of his career he had been planning to write a book; he’d considered its structure and how it would jump back and forth in time and crisscross the globe. “It was always about loss — an exploration of [it] and what other people have experienced,” he says now.

But it took a brutal swipe from nature in the Delta to motivate him to begin writing. After years spent trying to escape those buried feelings, he landed at a place that reopened the original wound: New Orleans, a place his father once called home.

The Storm Hits

While covering Hurricane Katrina last September, Cooper found himself overwhelmed by memories of his father, who had lived in the Big Easy as a teenager and who had taken Cooper there as a child to visit. He passed his father’s high school, and ran into his dad’s former friends. “The past was all around,” says Cooper. “I had forgotten all that, and it came rushing back.”

Cooper’s age when his father died, says Worden, is one of the toughest ages at which to lose a parent, especially a parent of the same sex. And sudden deaths are particularly difficult.

“Losing a parent at an early age, [kids] are not prepared. Their coping strategies are not matured,” says Worden, author of Children and Grief: When a Parent Dies. “And sudden deaths are more difficult to wrap their minds around. There is hurt and often a feeling of the need to protect oneself against loss. … If you feel vulnerable and have no resources to talk, you close down.”

Which is just what Cooper did: “For years I tried to swaddle the pain, encase the feelings. I boxed them up along with [my father’s] papers, stored them away, promising one day to sort it all out,” he writes. “All I managed to do was deaden myself to my feelings, detach myself from life. That only works for so long.”

He put off his pain by being constantly on the move, moving from one tragedy to the next, like an addiction. He writes of the world’s most tumultuous regions: “The pain was palpable; you breathed it in the air. Back here [in the United States] no one talked about life and death. No one seemed to understand. I’d go to movies, see friends, but after a couple of days I’d catch myself reading plane schedules, looking for something, someplace to go.”

Wherever he landed, others’ tragedies made his seem less significant. Surveying the carnage after the tsunami and talking with its survivors, he says, “It’s a strange calculus of survival. I’ve lost two people. They’ve lost whole families; they don’t even have any pictures left.”

For psychologist/author Worden, that type of reflection is often healthy — especially for a child. When a young person suddenly loses a parent, it is often as if his whole world has collapsed. Later, witnessing greater suffering can “give perspective on his own pain … and it’s helpful to see that others survived.”

It shows the child that he can, as well.

Living With Grief

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Anderson Cooper, blue suit, pictured with brother Carter and mom Gloria Vanderbilt in 1979.

As a boy, Cooper reacted to his father’s death not only by closing himself off to the world but also by determining to become absolutely self-reliant: He wanted to prepare himself for future losses. He took survivalist courses while in high school, earned his own money despite being born to wealth, and made his own way in his career, starting as a fact-checker, then working as a freelance journalist, traveling alone with a fake press pass to cover conflicts in faraway places like Burma and Bosnia. He often reflected on survival, both others’ and his own.

“I wanted to know why some survived and some didn’t,” he says.

After reporting from Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, Cooper had seen enough death. He took a job as a correspondent for ABC, working mostly in the United States, “which was fine by me,” he writes. “I needed to stop searching the world for feeling. I needed to find it closer to home.”

And find it he did, with Katrina. After returning from New Orleans to New York, he spent the next five months writing the book. Monday through Friday, he wrote from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., then went to CNN, where he worked until midnight. He went to sleep at 2:30 in the morning. When he woke up, he’d start again. On weekends, he wrote nonstop.

“I wanted to get it all out before I forgot it,” he says. “It was a hard thing to write. … I stayed focused on the sentences, how the words go together — all very clinical. In some ways that’s easier, because you’re not affected by what you are writing. But then you tell the stories and relive what you are writing.”

The book was published in May 2006, 18 years after his brother’s death and 28 years after his father’s.

“An assumption one cannot make is that grief ever ends,” says Kenneth Doka, author of Living With Grief: Who We Are and How We Grieve and a professor of gerontology at the College of New Rochelle. “You have to live with it. But over time, bad days are fewer and farther between.”

His father’s heart disease has been a lesson to him. Cooper gets his heart checked regularly, along with cholesterol and stress tests. He says that he goes through cycles of regular exercise followed by long stretches spent traveling, when he isn’t able to work out at all. His diet follows a similar pattern. When he travels, Cooper says, “Some food can be pretty tough to swallow — literally. I bring Power Bars and canned tuna.”

Nowadays, though, life has slowed down some. Although Cooper still goes where disaster calls him, “the idea of decompressing is new to me in the last several years. I’d always stay in motion. I was always driving fast, always going out at night. But it lessens your creative abilities. Now I go out to my house on Long Island for two days and do nothing.”

He pauses. “I used to be afraid of stopping. Now I have a life, a home, a mortgage.”

And, it seems, a degree of peace.

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Family Lives On Foundation supports the lifelong emotional well-being of children whose mother or father has died. Our Tradition Program provides opportunities for intentional remembering, creating a safe haven for grief, communication, and celebration. To donate, volunteer or for more information visit the Family Lives On Foundation website. “Moving Towards the Pain of Loss” is one of our organization’s process goals.