Painting Your Own Masterpiece


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


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

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


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


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.