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.

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.

 

The Rules of Grief

grieving-man

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. 

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

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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.

Less is more, much more.

bright side

We found this fabulous post written by Tim Lawrence on BrightSide.

Instead, the most powerful thing you can do is acknowledge. To literally say the words:

I acknowledge your pain. I’m here with you.

Note that I said with you, not for you. For implies that you’re going to do something. That’s not for you to enact. But to stand with your loved one, to suffer with them, to do everything but something is incredibly powerful.

To read the full article

Written by Tim Lawrence

Image by: Nino Chakvetadze Art


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.

 

Tradition Tuesday – Jada

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After her father died, Jada and her mom had to leave their family home to move to a small apartment. They were no longer able to host the barbecues Jada remembers celebrating with “grillmaster” dad. Every year, Family Lives On provides Jada’s family the space and supplies they need to host an afternoon of grilling and fun with family and friends.

Thank you, Jada, for giving grief words. #givegriefwords


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.

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Tradition Tuesday – Jozy

Jozy & Mom

Jozy remembers dad’s love for music – he was a hobby musician and listened to many kinds of music. In particular, he loved The Who and Coldplay. Every year, the family would attend The Bridge School Benefit Concert, held by Neil Young to benefit children with special abilities. It was one of dad’s favorite events of the whole year.

blanket“Thank you so much!!!! We had such an amazing time at the Bridge School concert this year! Remembering being there over the years and enjoying the concert. Was really amazing!”

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.

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.