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.

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

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.

 

Remembering Mom on Mother’s Day – What’s a Grieving Child to Do?

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REBLOG of Pamela Gabbay’s Post

Mother’s Day For many, this is a special day to celebrate their mom. Some might buy their mom flowers; others might make her breakfast in bed or take her to brunch. What about children and teens that have had a mom die? What about them? They are surrounded by images of Mother’s Day at every turn.  Just about every store they go to has an advertisement about Mother’s Day. There are also plenty of TV ads. When you’re grieving the death of your mom, these reminders can be quite painful.

How can you help the grieving children and teens in your life on this Mother’s Day? The first thing that I’d do is to ask them what they would like to do to remember their mom on Mother’s Day. You might be surprised by the answer. Often well-meaning adults assume that they know what their kids want. I’ve found that adults are sometimes surprised when they ask a grieving child about their wishes. For example, they might want to do something in remembrance that has never occurred to you. If you ask them for their input and they don’t know what they’d like to do, but they would like to do something, here are some suggestions.

  • Make or buy mom’s favorite snack. Enjoy it together on Mother’s Day.
  • Purchase a special “mom” candle and light it on important days, including Mother’s Day. Allow the kids to pick out the candle. If you have more than one child, allow each of them to choose their own candle, if possible.
  • Listen to music. Consider playing some of mom’s favorite songs and dancing to them.
  • Take flowers to the cemetery. Allow the children to pick out the flowers. If you have more than one child, allow all of them to have a voice in which flowers are purchased. Ask them why they chose the flowers that they chose.
  • Invite them to make their mom a Mother’s Day card. After they’ve made the card, ask them what they’d like to do with it. Ideas: keep it somewhere special in their room, display it somewhere special in the house, or take it to the cemetery.
  • Write messages on balloons are then release the balloons. You can purchase balloons that are eco-friendly. Have colored markers on hand to allow them to write words or draw pictures on their balloons. Ask the kids where they would like to release the balloons.

You might have noticed a recurring theme to all of these suggestions; to ask the kids what they would like to do. Some children might not want to do anything at all, and that needs to be honored. Just like adults, children and teens have their own grief road to travel and this road is different for everyone. Even within the same family, some kids might want to do something to remember mom, while a brother or sister might not want to do anything at that point in time. And that is o.k.

Again, asking the children for their input is key. Having support and understanding from others is one of the primary ways that kids are able to cope and heal. Giving kids a chance to remember their mom in their own way on Mother’s Day can go a long way in that healing process.

Originally posted here.

Helping Kids with Grief, Loss and Death

“Even though someone’s body dies, the love we feel never has to die. Our love remembers them forever.” – Anonymous

“Those who can’t weep with their whole heart don’t know how to laugh either.”
–Golda Meir

Learning to mourn, and to be comfortable with the grieving process, might not seem like a parenting skill. But grief is a part of every life, and how we handle loss has a huge impact on the richness of our family’s emotional life. Our comfort level with loss also gives our children an important role model.

At times, there will be nothing we can do for our child except to sit with him and let him experience his grief: over a sports defeat, an inconsiderate peer, a dead pet, or even an ill or deceased loved one. To work through his grief, our child needs what therapists call a “holding environment,” and we are the ones who do the holding, both physically and emotionally.

If we are so uncomfortable with loss that we cannot allow our child to mourn, we give a destructive message that is far reaching. Accepting loss as a normal part of life is important for optimal mental health for all of us. The more we allow ourselves to grieve when necessary, the more joy we can feel.

Thankfully, grief is never interminable. Like all feelings, if we let ourselves feel it, grief swamps us, and then, eventually, diminishes. Not that grief ever disappears, but we can think of it as a slice of the pie of our lives:  at first an important loss pervades the entire circle of our life; but gradually the slice of our life in shadow becomes smaller and smaller.  Eventually, we can go on with our lives in a healthy way, although we may always revisit the pain of our loss.  But if we fend it off like an unwelcome visitor, grief doesn’t leave. It takes up residence like a shadow in our psyches, and we become stuck in its bitter influence. Unresolved grief compromises resiliency, threatening to burst out at even minor provocations, leaving us fragile and prone to depression.

Our children, therefore, not only need to grieve sometimes, but need our help to do so. Give children ongoing opportunities to ask questions and to talk about their loss. Create large and small rituals of remembrance, and to honor the deceased and help them keep them alive in your child’s heart.  As the months go by, make a point of mentioning the lost loved one’s name in conversation when appropriate.  Don’t insist that your child grieve when he or she is trying to be happy, but don’t act as if the loss didn’t happen, either.

Be aware that children grieve differently from adults. They need rituals that offer safe space for grieving, and then a defined end point so they can play again and go on with their lives without guilt.

The kids who successfully live through loss are the ones who find ways to feel connected to the person they’ve lost AND to go on with their lives.  Even children experiencing severe losses need time off from grief.  They need safe space, such as school, where they will not be reminded of their loss and can forget for a time.  They need to hear that we are there for them when they want to talk, and they need us to normalize talking about the loss, but they also need our permission to go on with their lives.

Books to help you talk with children about death.

More resources for griefcounseling needs: National Alliance for Grieving Children

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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 enroll in the program as a family in need, donate, volunteer or for more information visit the Family Lives On Foundation website or Facebook Page.

Twitter: @familyliveson

Instagram: @familyliveson

email: info@familyliveson.org

More Than an Endless Bread Basket

Dinner “out” for special occasions is often a family tradition. For children who have lost a parent, continuing family rituals fosters lifelong emotional wellbeing. One family’s annual holiday tradition involves their local Olive Garden restaurant.

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A few years ago, the family (a single mom and her seven children) began the tradition with the Olive Garden on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. With such a large family on a modest budget, going out to dinner was a big deal. They would huddle in a big booth for the occasion, excited to be out to dinner with each other. Following dinner, they would stroll through the nearby Christmas Village and admire the light display at City Hall. On the way home, they would drive down two particular streets known to have magnificently over-the-top holiday decorations and “ooooh and ahhh” appropriately.

Since that mom lost her battle with cancer a few years ago, Family Lives On Foundation has made it possible for this tradition to continue. We hire a van to pick up the kids from the three different foster homes they now live in. The van transports them and three foster parents to that same Olive Garden on Chestnut Street. The Olive Garden generously reserves the booth and provides the meal, free of charge. Following the meal, they visit The Christmas Village, City Hall and the same two streets with spectacular displays before being dropped off at their separate homes.

For the past three years, these traditions facilitated by Family Lives On are some of the few times all of the children have been together as a family.

This tradition will be fulfilled every year until the youngest child turns 18. A continuing emotional bond to their deceased parent is a clinically identified need for the healthy bereavement of children and teens who have experienced the profound loss of the death of a parent. We’re proud to be able to bring together the seven siblings every year around the holidays and we are grateful for Olive Garden’s hospitality.

In the United States, more than 2 million children and teens are grieving the death of a parent. One in 20 children experiences this loss before the age of 16—that’s one in every classroom and two on every school bus.

Family Lives On’s “Tradition Program” serves as a therapeutic tool that enables children to move from survivors to thrivers and from “at risk” to “at promise.” Based on research and experience, Family Lives On understands that family rituals can be used to provide structure and routine to the chaos of life impaired by loss. Traditions provide a more natural context for young people to talk about the person who has passed away.

By: Christine Cavalieri, Executive Director, Family Lives On

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 enroll in the program as a family in need, donate, volunteer or for more information visit the Family Lives On Foundation website or Facebook Page or follow us @familyliveson Twitter Account or @familyliveson Instagram. To check out our 30-second PSA click here:The Family Lives On PB & J PSA.

United By Grief, This Couple Felt Whole Again After Blending Their Families

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Re-Posted from The Huffington Post 

By Brittany Wong

Deb and Chris Gottschalk are a bit different than your average blended family. The couple, who has seven kids between them, met at a support group after they lost their former spouses. United by their shared grief, the shared experience of single parenthood and lots of shared tears and tissues, the pair eventually fell in love.

Below, Deb shares more of the family’s inspiring story of love and resilience.

Hi Deb. Please introduce us to your family.

We have nine family members in all. There’s me, my husband Chris and our seven kids: Lily (23), Nick (21), Alex (21), Grace (19), Jacob (15), Sam (13) and Josh (11). The youngest three live at home with me and Chris.

I had Nick, Alex, Jacob and Sam with my late husband. Chris had Lily and Grace with his first wife. They divorced. He remarried and had Josh with his late wife.

How long have you and Chris been a couple?

We started dating in January of 2012 and eloped June 20, 2012 — then had a big wedding celebration on June 22, 2013 with the kids, family and friends.

We tell people we met at The Cove.”The what?” they alway respond. “By the water? What’s that?!” “The Cove” is actually the Cove Center for Grieving Children. It’s an amazing local organization that helps children who’ve lost a loved one, usually a parent. It’s a safe place for kids to meet other kids who are grieving and also for parents to meet other people going through similar circumstances.

One night in December 2011, a fellow Cove friend threw a holiday party and we both showed up. We quickly realized how much we had in common: a love of the arts, music, travel, hiking, Maine, cooking, family, wine and really good aged gouda! More importantly, in our new unrequested role as single parents, we shared stories, strategies, challenges — and lots of tears and tissues. We eventually decided to meet for dinner and we haven’t missed a beat since.

How would you say the experience of blending a family after widowhood differs from blending a family after divorce?

One of us had prior experience with divorce, remarriage and step-parenting. That is its own delicate, sometimes tense and even unpleasant, journey. The difference between that and being a double-widowed family, is — in a word — loss. The loss of a spouse and parent are huge, there’s simply no way around it. Each person in our family has experienced incredible pain and no two the same. We each go through our own healing process at a different pace and intensity.

The loss is permanent and you never get a break from the blending and the butting of heads that sometimes comes with that. It’s not an every other weekend shift. There’s no chance for reprieve from the new family dynamic. One of the biggest factors we had to take into consideration is that, for us, once you’re in, you’re in. There was no way Chris and I were going to possibly put our children (or ourselves) through additional loss — so we had to be sure of this relationship. (Or as sure as one can be.) We met with a family therapist (actually two) to help us feel as confident as we could that we were doing the right thing.

Being a full time mom or dad to children who never asked to have their family change forever is both an amazing blessing and seemingly unachievable. As a step-parent, you never want to make a child feel as though you’re here to replace anyone — especially someone who is no longer physically here. Time has stopped for the kids and their relationship with their lost mom or dad — and now there is a new surrogate who needs to create a living relationship with a future in place of those. And how do you live up to a beautiful soul who is no longer here on this earth? You don’t. You can only try to be the most loving person you can. Chris and I have both tried to learn about each others’ late spouses so we can maybe — just maybe — incorporate shadows of what we believe was important to them into their children’s lives. Virtually impossible, but we try.

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What are some of the biggest challenges of blended family life?

Like many blended families, one of the biggest challenges has been that our kids were raised differently. The meshing of different household rules, interests and expectations has been a hurdle for all of us, especially the youngest kids. I tend to want to understand the kids’ feelings about everything — which is good some of the time, but not always. Chris is more clear and concise, which can pose a challenge when someone wants to discuss everything. We’re getting there.

What’s the best thing about being part of a blended family?

Lots of extra love to go around. When we got married we gained each other’s extended families as well as our late spouses families — so we are overflowing in such a good way. Embracing a wide range of personalities and interests among the kids is actually fun.

We feel whole again — at least some of the time; compared to the constant sense of loss or something missing or elephant in the room when living as a family after loss, the moments of balance that occur are a real blessing.

What makes you proudest of your family?

We’ve been together long enough now that there are people who are new in our lives who don’t know we are not an “original” family. I think that’s pretty cool! It’s kind of like a dance and it just takes time to build enough trust to let someone twirl you without wondering if they’re going to drop you! Chris and I talk a lot — we continuously adjust and tweak the way we interact with the kids.

What advice do you have for other blended families who are struggling to click?

Whether your family has changed due to loss or divorce, this is such a fluid situation that needs as much stability as possible. Really take care of each other. The couple is the core that needs to be strong and committed so the relationship and children can go through what they need to and you’ll both be there, united.

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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.