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.

 

TIME Magazine – What Parents Can Learn From Inside Out

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Re-posted from TIME’s weekly parenting newsletter. All the fun, none of the scolding.

Amy Poehler stars as the personification of Joy, left, with Phyllis Smith starring as the voice of Sadness.

Amy Poehler stars as the personification of Joy, left, with Phyllis Smith starring as the voice of Sadness.

It’s the anti-helicopter parenting movie

All parents want their kids to be happy. I mean, obviously. But for most of history in most of the world that has meant keeping them from hunger and death and physical bodily harm. What happens when those threats aren’t quite so looming? Pixar’s new movie is an examination of our modern obsession with keeping our kids in a permanent state of delight.

One note of warning. Some people have labeled the movie PMCIFOTC. (Parents May Cry In Front Of Their Children.) Adults should be accompanied by an understanding minor. Read the entire review here.


Happy Father’s Day, Mom

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Because sometimes Mom has to fill Dad’s shoes, Angel Soft unveils an emotional new ad in time for Father’s Day.


DONATE  This Father’s Day, honor Dad, or Mom, by supporting children and teens whose mother or father has died. 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, please donate here.

Joy and Sadness – Stars of Inside Out Movie

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imgres-1Excitement builds for the June 19th release of “Inside Out” Pixar & Disney’s newest collaboration. The film stars the emotions of 11 year old Riley, a girl who’s recently moved to California from Minnesota. Featuring the voices of Amy Poehler (Joy), Phyllis Smith (Sadness), Bill Hader (Fear), Lewis Black (Anger) and Mindy Kaling (Disgust) in

“an animated fantasy that remains remarkably true to what scientists have learned about the mind, emotion and memory.”

Dacher Keltner, psychologist, University of California, Berkeley, and consultant to “Inside Out” is quoted in the NPR review:

“When you are in a fearful state, everything is imbued with threat and uncertainty and peril,” Keltner says. And when Riley is sad, he says, even her happy memories take on a bluish hue.

Joy (left, voiced by Amy Poehler) and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith) catch a ride on the Train of Thought in Pixar's Inside Out. The movie opens in theaters nationwide June 19. Disney/Pixar

Joy (left, voiced by Amy Poehler) and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith) catch a ride on the Train of Thought in Pixar’s Inside Out. The movie opens in theaters nationwide June 19.
Disney/Pixar

One of the film’s high points, though, is its depiction of sadness, Keltner says. In many books and movies for kids, he says, sadness is dismissed as a negative emotion with no important role.

In Inside Out, star-shaped Joy gets more screen time. But when the emotions are in danger of getting lost in the endless corridors of long-term memory, it is Sadness, downcast and shaped like a blue teardrop, who emerges as an unlikely heroine.

For kids, Keltner says, that makes “a nice statement about how important sadness is to our understanding of who we are.

We all have emotions, little voices inside our head. I can’t wait until June 19th to meet the emotions inside someone else’s head!

Amy Poehler as

Amy Poehler as “Joy” – Inside Out Movie

Phyllis Smith voices

Phyllis Smith “Sadness” the unlikely heroine

http://www.npr.org/player/embed/413980258/414149726” target=”_blank”>Listen to full NPR review here.


Celebrate Father’s Day by supporting children and teens whose mother or father has died. 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, please donate here.


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

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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.

A Mom’s Fantasy vs. A Mom’s Reality – by ScaryMommy.com

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This, too funny, and absolutely accurate, post elicited more than one chuckle.

As a mother, you have expectations. Expectations of what your child will experience, understand, love and hate growing up. As moms, we set the bar high, and have a tendency to have unrealistic expectations of our children. We tend to forget they are kids, not miniature adults. It’s the simple things in life that bring smiles to their faces. A balloon. A chocolate ice cream cone. A kitchen dance party. Don’t get me wrong; I still take mine to the science center. I just try to accept the fact that the first thing they’ll talk about when they get in the car is who got to press the elevator button. A taste of fantasy vs. reality from a mom’s perspective.”

Trip to the Museum

Mom’s Fantasy: We are going to meander through the museum, look at the dinosaurs, and tour the butterfly exhibit.

Reality: The kids sprint through the exhibits, tell you it’s boring, but pop a squat for over 20 minutes at the T-Rex exhibit because they like the fake blood. Lunch consists of overpriced hot dogs and chips.

Trip to the Beach

Mom’s Fantasy: We’ll take a relaxing walk down by the beach, look for shells and watch the sunset.

Reality: Your son picks up a condom, your daughter steps on a large stick and now they are both ridiculously hangry, so you leave before sunset.

Read the ENTIRE post here

Admit it, we’ve all over-compensated, overspent, over-prepared and over-thought, at one time or another. And with the very best of intentions. But –

“It’s the simple things in life that bring smiles to their faces.”

It’s also the simple, seeming mundane, every day things that children and teens miss most. The death of a parent changes everything.

Children go through so many developmental stages and it is important for the adults in their lives to understand, and remember, that it is a life-long process of adapting to the death of their mother or father.

Family Lives On supports hundreds of grieving children and teens by helping them continue traditions they used to do with their Mom or Dad. Traditions provide a more natural context for intra-family communication and connection as well as giving permission and encouragement to go on living even after a parent has died.

Read the ENTIRE post here


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.

#GiveGriefWords: This American Life Podcast: Birds & Bees

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A trifecta of challenging conversations adults have with children is the topic of a recent episode of This American Life: Birds & Bees. I found the entire podcast thought-provoking, particularly the discussion of racism and discrimination. But the purpose of this blog post is to focus on the final section (from the 40 minute mark) on death. To listen to the entire podcast, use this link.

“While it’s hard to explain to kids how babies come into the world, it might be harder to explain that people leave the world too — especially to a kid whose mom or dad or brother or sister has died. There are grief counseling centers all over the U.S. that cater specifically to children. Reporter Jonathan Goldstein visited one in Salt Lake City.”

Nancy says children just grieve differently than adults, especially little children. They grieve in fits and starts. They can’t focus on it for very long. And grief is more physical for them.

They’ll act out their anger, maybe kick a door, which is the reason for the volcano room at The Sharing Place. They might also regress, suddenly using baby talk or sucking their thumbs. And if they’re potty trained, they might become untrained.

They’re also magical thinkers. I heard stories of kids who were afraid to go to sleep because grandma went to sleep and didn’t wake up. One little boy wandered away from his mom at the emergency room saying, I’m looking for Dad. We left him here last time. Another boy said he just wanted to die for a few days so he can go to heaven and teach his little sister how to ride a tricycle.

Children also re-grieve. That is, with every new stage of development, they experience their grief anew. And with every milestone– when their braces come off, when they get their driver’s license, when they graduate– they’ll inevitably think, I wish my mom was here.

And given all of this, the thought behind The Sharing Place and other centers like it is that kids can help one another in a way that adults perhaps can’t help them. That’s why they’re brought together in these groups. In short, kids speak the same language.

To listen to the entire podcast, use this link.

The Sharing Place is one of many grief support centers available nationwide, to locate support near you, please visit the National Alliance for Grieving Children.

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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 isn’t therapy but it is therapeutic. Here’s how it works. If you know a family whose mother or father has died, please encourage them to enroll here.


DONATE The Tradition Program is entirely funded through charitable donations. Our services are provided at no cost to the families. Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve, please donate here.

– Chris Cavalieri, Executive Director, Family Lives On

Tradition Tuesday – Eliana and Emma

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Before he died, Eliana and Emma’s Dad would often take them to a nearby high school so they could all ride together. Sometimes they would play tennis, too. To make sure they had lots of energy, they would pack a small bag with cheese and crackers, and some water, to refuel.

What did your family enjoy the most about the Tradition program?

The fact that my girls can continue to celebrate something so special in the midst of such sorrow. Their happiness is of utmost importance. The girls were able to recollect specific memories/places we shared with Louis. Every part of this experience has been amazing. We have inadequate words to express the gratitude in our hearts. We LOVE Family Lives On! – Mom


DONATE to 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.


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.  Here’s how it works.

If you know a family whose mother or father has died, please encourage them to enroll here.