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.

17 Things I Miss About My Mom on the Anniversary of Her Death

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Re-Posted from Huffington Post Blog.

By: Jodi Meltzer

My mom died one year ago today. I somehow survived one full lap around the sun without my guiding light. Grief is an emotional vampire that, at times, sucked me dry of my reserve. I felt trapped in an endless, starless night… unable to see the dawn.

So, I faked it.

I smiled through the crippling pain. I laughed through the unrelenting heartache. I rejoiced through the hot tears that burned my cheeks. I didn’t curl up in the fetal position to mourn my mommy because she never gave me that example during her 11-year duel with ovarian cancer. She wanted more for me, and I wanted more for my son. Don’t get me wrong — I host pity parties for one — but I don’t overstay my welcome. Even though my mom’s no longer here, she showed me the way. And I still ache for her guidance every day.

Here’s 17 things I miss most about my beloved mom.

1. I miss her flip phone. She was the only person I knew who had one… and had her ringtone set to Abba’s “Take a Chance on Me” to complement her whole retro non-techie vibe. She had no idea how to text and, most of the time, she had no idea where her phone was. It was part of her charm.

2. I miss her reassuring smiles, her warm, comforting embraces, her unparalleled compassion for anyone fortunate enough to look into her soulful, doe-shaped eyes. When the doctor told her he wasn’t sure she would make it through the night, my mom consoled him. After all, he was the one who had to tell her she would probably die… and how hard was that? After the doctor, she comforted me the way only she could. And then she applied lipstick, brushed her hair, and cracked a joke about how she could at least represent well in the intensive care unit.

3. I miss her voice. I talked to her at least four times a day. How is it possible I have survived 365 days without her telling me what the f*ck to do?

4. I miss asking her questions only she can answer. Did I ever do [insert kid behavior here] as a child, mom? What was I like when I was 4 years old? How was I like my son? How was I different?

5. I miss her inappropriate humor, her ability to deliver 1,000 dirty jokes flawlessly. She didn’t forget punch lines, stammer or even warn you that she was about to tell a joke. She could have had a boo-free career as a stand-up comedian.

6. I miss telling her about my life. Mommy, I finished my children’s book. And, remember Jeff from high school? He’s illustrating it. I am going to make your dream of publishing a children’s book come true. I am writing my blog and for other publications. Can you believe some people actually give a sh*t about what your mouthy daughter has to say? But, enough about my writing. I separated from my husband after you died. I got pneumonia… oh, and basal cell carcinoma. I took myself to surgery and drove myself home (and managed to fit in some shopping while I waited for clean margins… yes, that butterfly necklace from Tiffany’s I bought was in memory of your beautiful spirit). I can’t bear to tell you about Alex the Great; you should be here to enjoy your grandson. But I will say his love sustains me, just as you knew it would.

7. I miss seeing her sitting across from my son, telling him made-up stories that kept him entranced. There was a magic about my mom. She was a hybrid of Mary Poppins, a fairy godmother and Marie from The Aristocats… but she could cackle better than the evil witch in The Wizard of Oz if need be. She was so animated she didn’t need any props. She was the one I wholeheartedly trusted with my son, who went out of her way to make me dinner and reorganize my spice cabinet during naptime (even though hers was a mess). She surprised me with things that filled my heart with pride (Mom, Alex still remembers how you both picked out flowers and planted a garden for me).

8. I miss strategizing about our Thanksgiving menu, beginning in October every year. I was so thankful for her… even when she got in my way in the kitchen. I wish I could bump shoulders with her just one more time.

9. I miss driving aimlessly with her, listening to her sing songs over the radio. I remember all of those “aha” moments — the ones where we discovered we both loved the same song. It happened with Al Jerreau’s “Mornin'” on our last trip to Story Land with my son for her birthday. And with Michael Buble’s “Haven’t Met You Yet.” It reminded both of us of my son when I was pregnant. I hear so many songs, so many words… and they remind me of my mom. I do “the Mimi dance” with my little boy in her memory. I still blast the music, sing off-key with wild abandon and stick my hands out of the sunroof for a laugh. I do it all for her.

10. I miss her handwritten letters, her cards, even the annoying emails she forwarded. I miss that she took the time to “Elf Yourself”… and did it for me and pretty much everyone she knew.

11. I miss taking her to chemotherapy. I spent months of my life in the hospital. Literally… when you add up all of the hours I spent at her bedside, it adds up to months. No matter what we were dealing with, how dire the news or circumstances, how excruciating the treatment, how infuriating the commute home — we always managed to laugh. Sometimes, we’d even have belly laugh crying fits when she was attached to an IV. It was pretty funny when a nurse donned a hazmat suit to administer the poison that flowed through her veins.

12. I miss Christmas mornings at her house. The jingle bells on the front door, the cheesy Santa dancing on a motorcycle, the tree decked out with ornaments from my entire life. She stayed up wrapping all night long on Christmas Eve — every year — and would inevitably forget where she hid a gift. I would get it sometime in June of the following year. She was the most thoughtful gift-giver .. not only on Christmas or Hanukkah (yup, lucky me celebrated both), but also just because. I long for those little gifts. No one does anything like that for me anymore.

13. I miss the things that once drove me crazy. She would put me on hold to answer another call and talk to the person for 10 minutes. She ran late (“You wouldn’t believe it, but I got caught behind a family of turtles trying to cross the road, Jodi”). She called me out if I was being a b*tch. All of it was better than the horrifying silence I suffer through every day without my mom.

14. I miss her validation. She helped me believe in myself. She dared me to dream. She told me the truth. I hope she knew how much her opinion meant to me.

15. I miss her at grandparents’ day at my son’s school (just yesterday, my son said, “When Grammy Mimi died it broke my heart, Mommy”). I miss having a mom on Mother’s Day. I miss surprising her with things to make her smile, with impromptu day trips (she was always game), with movies on a rainy day. I feel so alone without my mom.

16. I miss her companionship. She was my very best friend. A part of me was buried right next to my mom.

17. I miss her love. No one loved me like my mom, and no one ever will again.

Follow Jodi Meltzer on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mommydish

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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 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.

Family Lives On’s Tradition Program is a free (to the family enrolled), direct service for children that supports their bereavement process. The program takes place within the child’s daily family life, helping children continue the traditions they celebrated with their deceased parent.

Holiday Traditions — Let It Snow!

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Re-Posted from The Huffington Post Blog

By Ronda Lee

My dad and grandparents are no longer with us. Now, more than ever, I try to keep holiday traditions going. My granny would bake and you could smell it blocks away. She was old school — sifting flour, everything by hand. Granny would make a separate “tea cake” just for me, plain Jane. The smell of real butter baking in a cake takes me to a happy place and revives the kid in me.

Christmas time meant a snowball fight with the first snow was always in order. We would rush home after school and start making our stash of snowballs to give us a head start over Dad. Even in college and later in law school, I would miss a day of classes on the first big snow. My nephews were born while I was in college, so I told them we had to be prepared to get my dad as soon as he got out the car then run into the house. It was our only chance for victory. We felt like war strategists, finding places to bunker and hide our snowballs. Dad arrived home and we commenced throwing wildly, but without precision. Danger!

He found a stash of our snowballs. I yelled, “Retreat!” We ran inside the house where we assumed we were safe, like Switzerland.

However, I forgot that Dad was a sore loser and defeat was not part of his vocabulary. He wanted to pummel us. We took off our coats and boots and sat comfortably at the kitchen table with hot chocolate musing over how we got him. At the time, my nephews were still preschoolers. All of a sudden, the basement door bursts open and out comes Dad snowballs in hand. He pelted each of us in the kitchen. Mom was not happy. We lost and had to clean up the wet mess in the kitchen.

I said, “Dad it is the kitchen — safe zone!” He replied that he did not know retreat.

It is a story that is told each year so that even now, my youngest nephew, born after my father’s death knows about snowball fights with grandpa. Since he cannot ambush Grandpa, he likes to ambush his older cousins. One winter, he anxiously waited for snow.

When it finally snowed, he giggled, “Auntie we’re going to get the boys with snowballs.” It is fun, but I have yet to claim victory. The older nephews are athletes and their aim is just as good as my Dad’s.

The only thing I have going for me is that I am Auntie – an adult – and they cannot violate Switzerland (the kitchen)!

Follow Ronda Lee on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Rondaisms

Share your special holiday traditions with us!!! Comment below or email your traditions to Family Lives On’s webmaster. We would love to create a blog post around your holiday traditions!

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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 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.

Family Lives On’s Tradition Program is a free (to the family enrolled), direct service for children that supports their bereavement process. The program takes place within the child’s daily family life, helping children continue the traditions they celebrated with their deceased parent.

 

 

Holiday Grieving: How to Best Support the Mourning This Time of Year

Spiced-Gingerbread-Man-Cookies-4-1Re-Posted from Huffington Post Blog

by Dr. Cara Barker 

The table is set. One chair is empty. Meanwhile, the rest of the world goes merrily on its way, as if nothing whatsoever has happened. Traditional songs are sung, festivities held, presents purchased, speculations made about whether the economy is “back.” But there is one group of people too-oft overlooked, not out of indifference, but really out of confusion. What do you do when someone you love is grieving, especially this time of year? Do you really know how to best support those who mourn during the holidays?

Intially, it is tough for those suffering profound loss to find their footing, much less connect with the hustle and bustle of what comes this time of year. Too often, those of us who are aware of the bereaved get tangled up in our efforts to help, feeling incredibly awkward. What follows is a simple guide that can boost your confidence, and their sense of being understood, and loved.

Bridge Building. Keep it simple. The real issue beneath loss is that love needs an outlet and a means of contact. When someone dies, physical connection seems broken. Love’s flow gets interupted. Now, you know what happens when a river gets obstructed: cess, turbulence, and disturbance. Holding back your compassion, for fear of “blowing it,” only makes matters worse. The bereaved are not looking for perfect. They are longing to re-establish connection with what heals their heart. Be this bridge.

What if you simply shared how grateful you are that your loved one is in your life? If you knew the person/s they lost, you could add a brief statement about your appreciation for them, as well. It helps to get specific. What we are “going for” here, is a means of bridge building across the chasm they are feeling, which tends to estrange them from life and living. They are where they are. This will shift, over time, if they are willing to take their time, be real, take themselves seriously, and open to growing forward through what’s happened. But, that is then and this is now. At this time, connection is what’s needed.

Let’s get real. It might surprise you to know, increasingly, what the grieving are finding annoying is the statement: ‘I’m so sorry for your loss.’ Believe me, privately, they tell me.

Listen in, and I’ll share some quotes: “Gretta”: This 47 year Old Dutch widow, who lost her husband four weeks ago, whispers the following:

I know that my friends are trying to be nice. But if I hear that statement one more time (“I’m so sorry for your loss.”) I’m going to scream. I know they don’t know what to say, so they are trying. I wish they wouldn’t try so hard and just be real. I have no idea how to be with myself, especially now with the holidays. I feel really isolated.

“Harvey”: Following a 4 year marriage to his “dream girl,” Helen is killed in an accident two weeks ago. Says he:

I have no idea what to do or where to go this year. I’m alone. Really alone. It’s too quiet. I like the quiet, and I don’t like it. People look at me with pity. I’m uncomfortable at work, although I know people feel for me. But, no one really says anything. I feel like a leper. The subject of the holidays is up and, maybe I’m paranoid or something, but they seem to start to nearly whisper when the subject of plans comes up. I’m afraid they must be worried and not know what to do.

“Martin”: Martin and his wife lost their 4 year old to leukemia in August.

I’m having such a hard time going to work. I can’t even imagine making it through the holidays. Halloween was the pits. Annie was so happy last year, trick-or-treating in her Dora costume. I’m a mess. I never know when ‘the wave’ will hit, and I’m reduced to tears, when I least expect. How in the h—- am I going to get through Christmas? We just love Christmas, always went to our cabin in the mountains. Nobody gets it, either. They try, but they don’t. I need a playbook. So do they.

Playbook for Supporting Those Who Mourn During the Holidays: 8 Practical Tips

Let them grieve. No kidding. Do not underestimate what I call the Power of the Listening Heart.
Make contact statements that are true for you.

Example: “I’ve been thinking about you. I don’t know what to say. I can imagine that the holidays are pretty charged this year.”

Now, just listen.

Your job is neither to be the fix-it person, nor be clever. Lay down that burden. Just be you. When you are fumbling for what to do, say it! e.g. ‘I’m fumbling for what to say. I wish I were good with words.’

Listen to your instinct. Trust it. When the time seems right, say something like:

“I find myself wondering if there is something I can do for you during this time? An errand to run? A time to share a cup of coffee? Maybe we can just be together, without agenda? A walk through the park, or in nature, where we are away from the entire hustle bustle? I’m open to what seems right.”

Listen.
Offer some form of acknowledgment to them. How can you share something that represents how grateful you are for being in their life? Keep it simple. Perhaps you could do one of the following:
a) Compose a little love note that let’s them know their qualities that you are especially fond of, and give you cause for appreciation for your relationship.

b) Collect some autumn leaves, tie some ribbon/raffia around them, and offer them as a token of your love. If you have the energy: put the aforementioned around a votif candle in a glass holder, and offer it as an ‘I’m thinking about you, especially now.” You won’t find this token at the Mall, nor on Cyberspace.

c) Find a picture in a magazine that reminds you of some memory or dream for the future you share. Mount it on paper, say a few words, and drop it by, or send it.

d) Share a cup of hot cocoa. Feel good remedies are winners.

When you think of this person, call them! Even if you have only a few moments, that’s O.K… You can even say:

“I’ve only got a moment, but I was thinking about you just now and wanted you to know I’m here.”
Evenings can be especially tough since the noise of the day subsides. It’s a great time for check in, just to give the message, ‘you are in my heart.’

Use your own words. You cannot fail.

Remember, your job is not to take away the loss. Your job is to be you, be real, and be a fair witness to one of the most difficult times in your loved one’s life. One of the most supporting factors in growing forward through grief is reconnecting with life without feeling pushed.

Never underestimate the power of your love, the beauty of your outreach. It is a gift that is so rare, it will never be forgotten. It is a treasure so rich, that it cannot be purchased. Priceless, just like you!

Now, your turn. What’s helped you most during the holidays when you’ve struggled, or known someone else who is hurting? What’s helped? What’s hindered? What do you wish others knew about how to build a bridge to you? I’m listening!

Thanks for passing this along to those you love.

Dr. Cara Barker is an author, analyst, and founder of The Love Project, Love Fests and Retreats. For more, see carabarker.net. For updates, contact her at http://www.carabarker.net, or dr.carabarker@gmail.com. To save time, click on Become a Fan. Stay tuned for upcoming developments with The Love Project, including “Practicing Love.” I’ve got a great idea for those of you who are willing to step out on the playing field and have an amazing time. Stay tuned! Follow Dr. Cara Barker on http://www.twitter.com/DrCaraBarker.

Follow Dr. Cara Barker on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DrCaraBarker
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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 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.

10 Things Your Mom Never Told You

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Re-Posted from The Huffington Post
by NATASHA CRAIG

Pregnant.

There it was, clear as day, two blue lines staring back at me from the small pregnancy test I had just purchased.

I double checked…

One line = not pregnant.

Two lines = pregnant.

Yup, I was definitely pregnant.

My heart was pounding.

My head was spinning.

My stomach was churning.

I was nervous, excited, scared and ecstatic all at the same time.

This was actually happening! After years of dreaming, preparing for and anticipating this day, it was finally here. I was going to be a mother.

Little did I know that in nine short months, I would begin the most exhausting, life-changing, heart-wrenching, but indescribably rewarding journey of my life.

In nine months, I would learn the price of motherhood firsthand. I would know exactly what it takes to be a mother. I would gain a whole new understanding of and gratitude for the beautiful woman I call Mom.

I would learn about things mothers experience that their children often know very little about.

Here are 10 things your mom never told you.

1. You made her cry… a lot. She cried when she found out she was pregnant. She cried as she gave birth to you. She cried when she first held you. She cried with happiness. She cried with fear. She cried with worry. She cried because she feels so deeply for you. She felt your pain and your happiness and she shared it with you, whether you realized it or not.

2. She wanted that last piece of pie. But when she saw you look at it with those big eyes and lick your mouth with that tiny tongue, she couldn’t eat it. She knew it would make her much happier to see your little tummy be filled than hers.

3. It hurt. When you pulled her hair, it hurt; when you grabbed her with those sharp fingernails that were impossible to cut, it hurt; when you bit her while drinking milk, that hurt, too. You bruised her ribs when you kicked her from her belly; you stretched her stomach out for nine months; you made her body contract in agonizing pain as you entered this world.

4. She was always afraid. From the moment you were conceived, she did all in her power to protect you. She became your mama bear. She was that lady who wanted to say no when the little girl next door asked to hold you, and who cringed when she did, because in her mind no one could keep you as safe as she herself could. Her heart skipped two beats with your first steps. She stayed up late to make sure you got home safe, and woke up early to see you off to school. With every stubbed toe and little stumble, she was close by; she was ready to snatch you up with every bad dream or late night fever. She was there to make sure you were OK.

5. She knows she’s not perfect. She is her own worst critic. She knows all her flaws and sometimes hates herself for them. She is hardest on herself when it comes to you, though. She wanted to be the perfect mom, to do nothing wrong — but because she is human, she made mistakes. She is probably still trying to forgive herself for them. She wishes with her whole heart that she could go back in time and do things differently, but she can’t, so be kind to her, and know she did the best she knew how to do.

6. She watched you as you slept. There were nights when she was up ’til 3:00 a.m. praying that you would finally fall asleep. She could hardly keep her eyes open as she sang to you, and she would beg you to “please, please fall asleep.” Then, when you finally fell asleep, she would lay you down and all her tiredness would disappear for a short second as she sat by your bedside looking down at your perfect cherub face, experiencing more love than she knew was possible, despite her worn-out arms and aching eyes.

7. She carried you a lot longer than nine months. You needed her to. So she did. She would learn to hold you while she cleaned; she would learn to hold you while she ate; she would even hold you while she slept, because it was the only way she could sometimes. Her arms would get tired, her back would hurt, but she held you still because you wanted to be close to her. She snuggled you, loved you, kissed you and played with you. You felt safe in her arms; you were happy in her arms; you knew you were loved in her arms, so she held you, as often and as long as you needed.

8. It broke her heart every time you cried. There was no sound as sad as your cries, or sight as horrible as the tears streaming down your perfect face. She did all in her power to stop you from crying, and when she couldn’t stop your tears, her heart would shatter into a million little pieces.

9. She put you first. She went without food, without showers and without sleep. She always put your needs before her own. She would spend all day meeting your needs, and by the end of the day, she would have no energy left for herself. But the next day, she would wake up and do it all over again, because you meant that much to her.

10. She would do it all again. Being a mom is one of the hardest jobs anyone can do, and it will take you to your very limits sometimes. You cry, you hurt, you try, you fail, you work and you learn. But, you also experience more joy that you thought was possible and feel more love than your heart can contain. Despite all the pain, grief, late nights and early mornings you put your mom through, she would do it all again for you because you are worth it to her. So, next time you see her, tell your mom thank you; let her know that you love her. She can never hear it too many times.

This post was originally shared on Natasha’s blog: http://www.confessionsofateenagebride.com

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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.

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.

5 Life Lessons Losing My Father Taught Me

5 Life Lessons Losing My Father Taught Me

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HuffPost Healthy Living

by Susie Moore

My father was just 59 when he passed. I was 19. We knew for a few years that it was coming — he had a bad heart and an addictive lifestyle. But the finality of it was still shocking and heartbreaking. That was almost 11 years ago. I think of my father every day and the funny, assuring thing about time is that it allows grief to change shape. Certainly if I remember certain tender moments my dad and I shared, on a particularly sensitive day, I can weep as if losing him were yesterday. Over the years however I have consciously sought some positivity in the loss and have tried to live a life he would be proud of.

When I reflect upon my life without him I realize that there are five key things that the past 11 years have taught me.

1. Love is stronger than death.
My relationship with my dad continues. He lives on through my sister and I. When I make a delicious roast lamb, win at scrabble, watch old English television, read the classics and even write an article (my father was an author), I feel as if we are together. Physical planes cannot separate love. My sister feels this way, too. And I know we are right.

2. People who are going through the most can often hide it the best.
I hid my loss from people to avoid sympathy. I still do. Anyone who had lost a parent, or anyone for that matter, knows the awkward moment when family arises in conversation. Like when people ask about our parents and we talk about only one. It’s not that it upsets us to talk about it (although sometimes it might), we don’t want to explain, make you feel comfortable with having asked etc. When I was struggling the most I had the shiniest veneer to deflect any further discomfort. Never guess what someone’s story is or what they are going through. It’s impossible to know.

3. Mortality is motivating.
If I live to my dad’s age, and I hope I am fortunate to live much longer, my life Is already half way through now at age 30. This sounds morbid but to me it is encouraging. I think when we come to terms with our death, both metaphorically and literally, we are at our most courageous and powerful. I also simply don’t sweat the small stuff like I used to.

4. To write memories down.
I share this advice with friends when people they lose a loved one and they often thank me later. It is such an intense time — the months we grieve — there is so much we can forget. Write down the last moments you shared and the most precious moments you can remember with that person. Be vivid in your writing. You will reread this many times over the course of your life.

5. Get to know the people you love.
As the old Baz Luhrmann song, “Wear Sunscreen,” said, “Get to know your parents, you never know when they will be gone for good.” Spend time with your parents, your siblings, your old friends. Ask them questions about their lives. What did they think about the world when they were your age? What are their passions? When were they the happiest in their lives? I did this recently with my mum and the answers surprised me. Nothing is more important and worthy of your time than the people you love. Nothing.

What has loss taught you?

Follow Susie Moore on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/susiemoore

If I Die Young

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If I Die Young

Reposted from Huffington Post Blog: Parents

by Kari Kubiszyn Kampakis

Author, columnist, and blogger at karikampakis.com

Posted: 05/15/2014 2:03 pm EDT Updated: 05/15/2014 2:59 pm EDT Print Article

Nobody likes to think about their mortality, but the untimely deaths in 2012 of two young moms in my city of Birmingham, Alabama, really made me consider mine.

I never met Laura Black or Elliot Williams in person, but they inspired me. They were the moms/friends/wives/amazing women everyone knew and loved. For months I followed their stories on Facebook, praying as our mutual friends posted updates and crying at my computer.

Whenever I started to complain about my life, I thought about Laura and Elliot. Compared to two moms losing their earthly battles to cancer, my problems suddenly seemed small.

What Laura and Elliot made me mindful of was that good health is a privilege. All the ordinary events I take for granted — driving carpool, grocery shopping, taking care of my kids — would seem like incredible blessings if one day I woke up and couldn’t do them. Because of Laura and Elliot, I became more grateful. I realized what an honor it is to be able to serve the people I love.

After these women passed, I sat down and did what I’d thought about doing for years: I wrote down long-term advice for my daughters. I thought about what I want them to know when they go to college… start working… get married… and begin a family. Just in case I’m not around.

Below is a list I’ve made as a starting point, something to add to over time. I’m sharing it to encourage other parents to do the same. While this was a little hard to compose, it was also a relief because with a written legacy comes a small peace of mind.

Please remember that you don’t have to be a writer to create a list. Should something happen to you or me, our families wouldn’t care about perfection. What they’d search the entire house for is anything that sounds like us and reflects our unique filter. What they’d want is a keepsake that keeps our memory alive as accurately and poignantly as possible.

With that said, here’s my list. Here are some basic things I want my daughters to know:

Genuine interest in other people will attract you friends quickly. If you learn to be a good listener, you can find friends anywhere.

Nothing done out of love is a waste. Love is the best gift you have to offer.

You’ll spend half your life waiting — waiting for a test result, waiting for a relationship, waiting for a chance. But remember: What happens to you while you’re waiting is often more important than what you’re waiting for.

The world is full of talent. It’s not a lack of ability holding most people back; it’s attitude.

People will push you as far as you let them. Set personal parameters and learn to say NO.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s okay to be the only person in the room not doing something.

Be grateful. This alone puts you ahead of the game.

Character is who you are in the dark. It’s doing right when nobody is there to monitor you. Character enables you to face yourself in mirror and like what you see. It’s essential to a good life.

You will make mistakes. You will feel ashamed. You will know the sting of regret. Own your choices and use the past to your advantage by learning from it so you wind up in a better place.

When misfortune strikes, see it as a chapter of your life, not the story of your life. A storm in one chapter can lead to a rainbow in the next.

Practice forgiveness daily so your resentments don’t build up. Forgiveness is about letting go and releasing anger. Not everyone who wrongs you will ask for forgiveness. Forgive them anyway and move on.

Don’t judge. We all need mercy, and you never know what someone is going through.

Be real, be authentic, be you. What makes you different is what makes you great.

Stay away from toxic people, and don’t enable or justify poor behavior. You can love someone without them being in your life.

Find a job that pays the bills. If it isn’t your heart’s desire, pursue that on the side. Not all passions immediately turn a profit.

Beware white liars. Small liars become big liars.

Trust your gut and value the opinions of your loved ones. When they all tell you the same thing, it’s time to listen.

Speak the truth regardless of what the consequences may be. Sweeping the truth under the rug creates a mess down the road.

Believe in goodness. Don’t let the bad seeds in your life ruin your hope for mankind.

Stay close to your siblings. Your sibling relationships will be the longest relationships in your life, so nurture the ties. Should the world desert you, I hope your sisters remain as your last friends standing.

Don’t keep score in love. Keeping score is exhausting and breeds competition. Nothing about love should be competitive.

In both friendship and love, it’s better to be alone for the right reasons than with someone for the wrong reasons. If someone treats you poorly or puts you on an emotional roller coaster, distance yourself. A relationship is not about you keeping another person happy. It’s about two people helping each other grow and get better, being stronger together than apart. (Think of it as synergy, where 1 + 1 = 3.)

Say what you mean. It’s unfair to expect others to be mind-readers.

When you’re upset, ask yourself if the issue will matter in one year, five years, twenty years… Chances are it won’t.

Keep God first. He loves you madly and has great plans for you. Problems often begin when you drift away from Him. A strong prayer life can keep you anchored.

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So how about you? Are you ready to begin your list? All it takes is a pen and some paper or time with your computer to get the ball rolling. Reflect on your past and empty your heart and mind until there’s nothing left to tap.

Don’t edit yourself either — not until the end. The point is to get your thoughts down. What your family wants most is YOU. As long as you capture that, you can’t go wrong. And whether you hold your list close or share it now, you’re giving your family a priceless gift. This slice of your existence will only become more valuable with time and more meaningful to the people who know and love you best.

This post originally appeared on karikampakis.com. Find Kari on Facebook or check out her upcoming book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, to be released by Thomas Nelson in November 2014.

Follow Kari Kubiszyn Kampakis on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/KariKampakis