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.

A Man Cave All Their Own

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Before 11 year old Benjamin’s dad died, he would build the most spectacular blanket forts. The two of them would take over the living room, including the TV, with the largest blanket in the house. All weekend they would hunker down watch TV, play board games, read and snack. Together, they created a man cave all their own.

Building these forts and spending time with his dad are some of Benjamin’s most cherished memories. A continuing emotional bond 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.

Family Lives On will make it possible for Benjamin to celebrate his and his dad’s fort-building tradition. This year, Benjamin will receive an extra large blanket, snacks, including goldfish crackers and freeze pops, along with other special items, from Family Lives On. Benjamin will have his tradition fulfilled every year until he is 18. The tradition will remain the same, but as Benjamin gets older, he will likely adapt it to a more age appropriate version.

Family Lives On understands many of the challenges faced by families who have lost a parent and spouse. Our goal is to support healthy bereavement in children and teens by making it possible for them to continue to celebrate activities or traditions they used to share with their deceased parent. Traditions provide a safe context for grief and foster intra family connection and communication.  Because the relationship never ends, your mom is forever your mom.

How to Build a Fort

How to Build a Fort

Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Exton, PA that supports the lifelong emotional wellbeing of children whose mother or father has died. The free services of the Tradition Program are available to any child (3-18), anywhere in the United States, whose mother or father has died. 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.

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.

8 Important Things that Children Never Forget.

smiling cute kid_thumb[3]Re-Posted from Parent and Child Magazine

My twin daughters, Anna and Emma, are 16 years old, but they still love to relive and retell stories from their early childhood. Emma often asks to hear about how she greeted everyone with her first word, “cookie,” rather than with “hello.” Anna recounts the time she was struck with a shovel full of ice and had to go to the emergency room. “I remember being there!”; she says. “I remember lying on the bed and hearing you go, ‘Ohhh!’ The doctor was a woman, and everyone came to visit me.” She was only 2 at the time! What will your child remember from her earliest years? And what meaning do these specific memories have for your child?

For one thing, memories connect our pasts, our present, and our futures — and they connect us to one another. Our children’s memories can also lend insight into their rich inner lives, and can help them develop what Eric Neisser, founder of the Rutgers Special Education Clinic, calls “the extended knowledge of oneself across time.” Knowledge of oneself is power, and you acquire it by looking inside and at your external experiences. It is one of the ways we find meaning in our lives.

What Children Remember

Jerome Bruner, one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century, suggests that retelling events is a means for children to use narrative to reconstruct their life experiences. Bruner considers storytelling the most powerful way that people organize experience. The youngest “reminiscers” rely on others to help them create a description of the past. The language that accompanies visual imagery and experiences makes them that much stronger in our minds.

Several years ago, I embarked on a study with a colleague at the Early Childhood Education Center at the University of Vermont to capture children’s salient memories. We wanted to find out what the 5 year olds remembered at their school. We hoped to gain insight from them in order to make school a better place for our students. We wanted their memories to be part of the history of our school and to convey what had challenged them and what had brought them joy. We hoped the memories would include some of what the childrenÂ’s parents and teachers held dear. What we discovered about childrenÂ’s memories was even more profound.

We explained to the children that we wanted to help them make stories (visual memoirs) of their years at school before they left for kindergarten. We asked them how they thought they could tell a story in pictures that related what they remembered about life at school. Initially, the children met outside under a shady tree, and their teacher read stories about adults recalling moments from their own childhoods. Then everyone shared memories from school with one another.

Over the course of the project, the children spent time talking about the past and drawing the things they would “never forget.” We went on walks and took cameras with no film in them so children could practice looking at objects, places, and people through a viewfinder. Soon, the children were ready to do some photography. Throughout the process, we were constantly reflecting on the stories they spoke about.

Two hundred and eighty-eight drawings and photographs later, we noticed certain themes running through the memories the children had represented in images. We searched for common threads and patterns, and what we found became the title of the project: Children Remember Important Things.

8 Important Things

In the end we culled eight areas of memories that make an impression on young children. Here’s what children will never forget:

Being dropped off at school. The most frequent memory that children reported was the experience of being dropped off at school each morning. Many children had rituals they shared with their mothers and fathers. For example, Collin remembered this: “Mommy and I would say goodbye with a hug and say, ‘I love you more than anything.’ Then, Mommy would kiss the birds on the door to the center.” In many cases the children wanted their portrait taken saying goodbye to Mom or Dad in their particular way.
Their natural environment. Children generated stories, memories, and rich conversations with one another about classroom pets, gardens, the nearby woods, and the fountain on the University green, where they enjoyed playing freely. They also mentioned places where they sought refuge from storms. The children dramatically retold stories about changes in the weather, the excitement of big winds and rainbows, and the nervous, surprised, even frenzied emotions those changes produced.

Jumping, swinging, climbing. Children often focused on the experiences of active play, such as running, jumping, swinging, climbing, and playing hockey (which is a major pastime in Vermont and a source of real-life superheroes). A typical morning greeting among these children was, “Hey! Want to be on my team today?” Some of these memories included working and playing together and the necessity of having order, rules, and leaders.

Being good at something. The children conveyed a desire to capture images of things they had created. These memories highlight a sense of competence with processes and representation. They wanted to be viewed and known by others as being “good at something”: sewing, papermaking, block-building, painting, sculpting with clay, writing, or playing favorite games.

People I like, and who like me. Friendships are important developmentally, but it was deeply moving to listen as children described having connected with others who shared their interests, who they looked forward to spending time with, who they trusted, and who they imagined would always be part of their lives. They wanted to photograph not only the people they loved, but also the people they knew liked them in return and the people who had been kind to them.

The babies and toddlers. The children wanted to leave a legacy for the younger children they had grown fond of, or, in some cases, for the younger siblings that they would be leaving behind. They remembered eating with them, watching them grow, and understanding what they like to do. Five-year-old Finley put it most eloquently: “I want to take of picture of Rowan so he’ll remember me when I’m gone.”

Being part of the community. There were a lot of feelings the kids wanted to express about the connections they formed with people in the community. This included teachers, people on the campus who had shared food with them, people who allowed them to visit special places, and the bus drivers they were friendly with.

Places and structures. Places were often unforgettable to the children. They documented buildings and destinations that represented areas of meaning for them: the first potty they used, the cribs they slept in, and the slides in the toddler room they ventured down.
Strengthen Your Child’s Memories

Talking with your child — especially thinking out loud about what is happening, what you are doing, and why — goes a long way toward building language skills, which play an important role in remembering. We can also help by narrating as we play with children, thereby offering them a context in which to remember the lessons that play can offer.

It’s also beneficial to revisit favorite books repeatedly and to tell stories from your own life. One of the important things we offer children when we talk reflectively with them is the process of making connections between the moment they are in and previous experiences.

Looking at photographs, home movies, and past schoolwork provides opportunities for talking about what these moments represent. You can ask your child, “What feelings did you have then? How do you feel about it now? Why was this moment important?” We save so many things that our children make at school — drawings, writings, collages, photographs, and more. This adds tremendous value to the children’s experiences. It’s also helpful to write a brief anecdote that your child shares with you on the back of drawings and photographs to aid in keeping the events in our minds and reminding us of the context.

We can learn so much from understanding what moments, events, places, and people are important to young children. We should be mindful of how we say goodbye to our children and give time to creating rituals and traditions. We should find ways to ensure that our children have opportunities to spend time in nature and connect with a variety of important places that they can revisit throughout their lives. Supporting our children’s early friendships — and the enjoyment they feel from being social with other people — is an important way we help them to know and remember that they are loved.

Share your feelings and your point of view as well. Telling stories about yourself is more than just interesting to your children — through your stories, they learn that you believe it is important to give voice to memories, impressions, feelings, and events that may otherwise be held inside and eventually forgotten. They learn how to recount their memories and, more importantly, that you care and expect them to talk about their lives and what matters to them the most.

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Be a pioneer in the fight against the debilitating trauma of childhood grief, DONATE to support children and teens whose mother or father has died.

Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Tradition Program is entirely funded through charitable donations.  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.

Bella Thorne Explains Sharing Her Father’s Death (“I couldn’t cry”) in Her New Book

video-undefined-23C8E4C900000578-356_636x358By Yahoo Celebrity Staff

Don’t be fooled by her willowy frame: Bella Thorne is a beast. With successful careers in film, television, and music — not to mention nearly 6 million followers on Twitter, 4 million on Instagram, and 9 million on Facebook — the 17-year-old has become quite the influencer. And now she’s about to take over the publishing world, too.

Thorne’s first young adult novel, Autumn Falls, arrives in stores this week. If you’re not a Bellarina or a Bellarino who has been counting down the days until the book’s release, you should know that the teen did what the best authors three times her age (and more) do: write about what they know. And Bella knows loss (her father died in an auto accident in 2007). And challenges (she is dyslexic). And bullying. And romance.

Bella and her Dad

Bella and her Dad

The book — the first of a trilogy — follows a young lady named Autumn Falls and kicks off with the shocking and sudden death of her dad in a car crash. Soon after, Autumn, her mother, and her brother move out of state and she’s forced to start at a new school. New friends and new boys abound, but so does a fresh new rumor mill… and it’s brutal. Through it all, Autumn writes her wishes in a journal left to her by her father — to a potentially magical effect.

Thorne also knows honesty, which was probably the biggest takeaway from our lengthy chat with her about the book. Bella was open about her work with ghostwriter Elise Allen, and even more open when the discussion turned to her experience with losing her father and her family being taunted about it.

What was your writing process like?

I’ll draft out some stuff and write down some ideas where I want the story to go chapter by chapter. I’ll hand it to my ghostwriter and we’ll talk about the things that really need to be portrayed by these characters. … We try to have something happen in every chapter. You know what your main thing is, then you kind of write the story around it.

How much did you really collaborate with your ghostwriter?

We work together very well. She’s amazing and really knows what she’s doing. She’ll send back to me a draft and then I’ll make more notes and send it back to her. We keep that process for awhile and then we’ll send it to the editor and see what they think and get notes back.

There are so many parallels between your life and Autumn’s, particularly in relation to the death of her father. It felt a bit like you laid it all out there.

Exactly. I laid it all out there. … When my father first died, the day I heard it, I couldn’t cry. It was very odd. You’re still in a state of shock, I think. That’s kind of where Autumn is. There are times where I’m completely normal even to this day and I’m just like, “Oh, that light post looks nice. I wonder if Daddy would like that light post.” And then, all of a sudden, I realize I’m crying…

A lot of what happened to [Autumn], like the outside forces, too. There’s a rumor that she’s upset about and when she wakes up and hears [her father’s] voice — those are things in the book that happened to me and I wanted Autumn to feel that pain.

That stuff couldn’t have been very easy to write. Were there tears shed in the process?

Oh my God, there were so many.

You mentioned the rumor a classmate spreads that put the blame for her father’s death squarely on Autumn’s shoulders. What’s the real-life version of that incident?

The rumor happened a little bit differently to my family — not to me but to my family. It was so messed up and I just felt that it was a good thing to write in the book because people can be so evil.

How does some of that compare to some of the things you see written about you online now?

It’s just 10 times worse. I mean, it’s just my life. I’m not in public high school like Autumn is. … I realized that people can read whatever they want and they’re going to choose to believe it because they want to, not because it’s the truth, but because they want to believe you’re doing this or that. If they want to believe it, there’s no changing their minds, and that’s the same thing in high school.

Kyler Leeds is Autumn’s big celebrity crush. Who is your Kyler Leeds?

If I was in the time of the ’80s when Billy Squier was really big, he would have been my Kyler Leeds. I think he’s amazing and I love his music videos even though they are so much older.

One book down, two to go. Is that scary?

When Autumn Falls comes out and does well, I’ll be less worried. When I get feedback from my followers and they say how much they love it and this part inspired them and this would happen in their life and “Oh, Autumn went through this. So did I. I loved that you put it in there,” that’s when I’ll be happy.

I just really, really hope that everyone loves it and is like, “Wow, this girl isn’t just the Disney Channel girl. This is a girl that had hard times. This is a girl that has been through a lot of stuff and is still standing strong, still here.” I really hope people see that.

Annabella Avery “Bella” Thorne[1] (born October 8, 1997) is an American actress, singer, model, and dancer. She is best known for her roles as Ruthy Spivey in the TV series My Own Worst Enemy, Tancy Henrickson in the fourth season of Big Love, and CeCe Jones on the Disney Channel series Shake It Up. She appeared in the 2014 film Blended as Hilary / “Larry”.

Read more: http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/bella-thorne-explains-sharing-her-fathers-death-and-more-in-new-book-20141311#ixzz3LJXTJi6l

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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.

 

 

Grief doesn’t magically end at a certain point after a loved one’s death. Reminders often bring back the pain of loss. Here’s help coping — and healing.

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Re-Posted from Mayo-Clinic In-Depth

By Mayo Clinic Staff

When a loved one dies, you might be faced with grief over your loss again and again — sometimes even years later. Feelings of grief might return on the anniversary of your loved one’s death, birthday or other special days throughout the year.

These feelings, sometimes called an anniversary reaction, aren’t necessarily a setback in the grieving process. They’re a reflection that your loved one’s life was important to you.

To continue on the path toward healing, know what to expect — and how to cope with reminders of your loss.

Reminders Can Be Anywhere:

Certain reminders of your loved one might be inevitable, especially on holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and other special days that follow your loved one’s death.

Reminders aren’t just tied to the calendar, though. They can be tied to sights, sounds and smells — and they can ambush you. You might suddenly be flooded with emotions when you drive by the restaurant your partner loved or when you hear your child’s favorite song. Even memorial celebrations for others can trigger the pain of your own loss.

What to Expect When Grief Returns:

Anniversary reactions can last for days at a time or — in more extreme cases — much longer. During an anniversary reaction you might experience:

Sadness
Loneliness
Anger
Anxiety
Trouble sleeping
Fatigue
Pain

Anniversary reactions can also evoke powerful memories of the feelings and events surrounding your loved one’s death. For example, you might remember in great detail where you were and what you were doing when your loved one died.

Tips to Cope with Reawakened Grief:

Even years after a loss, you might continue to feel sadness when you’re confronted with reminders of your loved one’s death. As you continue healing, take steps to cope with reminders of your loss. For example:

Be prepared. Anniversary reactions are normal. Knowing that you’re likely to experience anniversary reactions can help you understand them and even turn them into opportunities for healing.
Plan a distraction. Schedule a gathering or a visit with friends or loved ones during times when you’re likely to feel alone or be reminded of your loved one’s death.

Reminisce about your relationship. Focus on the good things about your relationship with your loved one and the time you had together, rather than the loss. Write a letter to your loved one or a note about some of your good memories. You can add to this note anytime.

Start a new tradition. Make a donation to a charitable organization in your loved one’s name on birthdays or holidays, or plant a tree in honor of your loved one.

Connect with others. Draw friends and loved ones close to you, including people who were special to your loved one. Find someone who’ll encourage you to talk about your loss. Stay connected to your usual support systems, such as spiritual leaders and social groups. Consider joining a bereavement support group.

Allow yourself to feel a range of emotions. It’s OK to be sad and feel a sense of loss, but also allow yourself to experience joy and happiness. As you celebrate special times, you might find yourself both laughing and crying.

When Grief Becomes Overly Intense:

There’s no time limit for grief, and anniversary reactions can leave you reeling. Still, the intensity of grief tends to lessen with time.

If your grief gets worse over time instead of better or interferes with your ability to function in daily life, consult a grief counselor or other mental health provider. Unresolved or complicated grief can lead to depression and other mental health problems. With professional help, however, you can re-establish a sense of control and direction in your life — and return to the path toward healing.

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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.

Grieving and Giving Thanks: How to Enjoy Thanksgiving Without a Loved One

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“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” ― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Re-Posted from The Huffington Post

By Dr. Carmen Harra

If I recall Thanksgiving in 2003, I see the shining face of my husband, Virgil, from across the table. Healthy, vibrant, and brave, he cracks jokes on his younger cousin over his over-demanding wife. Next to him sits his brother Sandu, chuckling and undecided whether to join in this debauchery. A few seconds later his choice is made and Virgil and Sandu roar with laughter. The two were inseparable and their bond nothing short of admirable. They could not only finish each other’s sentences, but maintained a solid foundation of respect and loyalty. Their common denominator was a boundless love for their family.

In charge of all preparations, Virgil and Sandu acted as the delegates of Thanksgiving, a flagship celebration of family. Fast forward 10 years to the present, and with both Virgil and Sandu missing, I can only imagine what this year’s table will look like. A more somber crowd, there will be no hilarity, no feuding over the last swig of wine, and no brothers-in-arms up to their usual antics. The silence will be felt.

The empty chairs will be most evident perhaps to my cousin Claudia, widow to the late Sandu, who left our family just last spring. Having already endured a number of ceremonial meals without Virgil, I became accustomed to attending festivities without my better half. For the last four years, I intruded on different friends, drove to distant family members, and held my three daughters as close to me as possible. But despite my efforts to be in physical contact with others, I realized one thing: I didn’t really belong anywhere. My two older daughters had families, and although I watched lovingly as they kissed their husbands and scolded their children, I knew I didn’t fit into their immediate familial circle. Even my younger daughter, 27, had a life of her own: a boyfriend and friends and parties to run off to later. I thought, Where will I go when this dinner is over? An unwelcomed answer followed.

My struggle is not mine alone. It is the shared challenge of millions around the world who fight to fill a heartfelt void after having lost their spouse, child, parent, sibling, friend, or worse, a combination of. A dreaded battle, at best. But we as humans come equipped with the greatest, rarest grace imaginable: resilience. This unfailing sense of fortitude and endurance, of getting up and forging ahead, allows us to conquer almost anything. Profound resilience never fails to see us through. And knowing this is the first step towards true healing after loss. Implement my tips below to manage through Thanksgiving without your loved one and feel their consoling company on any day:

Talk to them. Before stepping out for Thanksgiving dinner, speak out loud to your beloved. Conjure their memory in your mind and tell them exactly how you feel. You can confess that you miss them, explain your hardships, even ask for their help. Start by saying, “Well, today’s Thanksgiving and I wanted to tell you that…” The words will flow from there. When you release your emotions and speak your mind without restraint, you feel an instant sense of relief. You will also feel inexplicably connected to your loved one, as if they are there and listening. This will endow you with the hope and strength to go out and enjoy your holiday like you deserve.

Celebrate their memory. Reserve a chair at the dinner table for your precious person, as if they were sitting right there with you. Raise a glass for your dear departed one and toast to their name. Prepare their favorite dish for others to enjoy. Rituals like these serve as a reassuring reminder of the spiritual presence of a late loved one.

Find a strong support system. Spend Thanksgiving with whomever offers you the most moral support. This is the time to take things very easy and do what makes you feel comfortable. Stick closely with those who can boost your strength and vitality, whether they be family or friends. Don’t be afraid to call on people who can show you unconditional love and patience in a time when you need compassionate above all else.

Don’t force yourself. The grieving process is unique for each of us and everyone heals at a different rate. Don’t force yourself to feel happy if you don’t, but do try to stabilize your emotions and use them to a positive advantage. It’s perfectly fine to release your pain and cry as long as this provides genuine relief. Excuse yourself from the table and take a quick walk or meditate in another room for a few minutes. Emotions may be difficult to control, but you should both allow your feelings to run their course while also putting in effort to better your mood little by little.

Find a sense of peace. True wisdom means seeking peace in all situations, especially in those which you cannot change. Attain tranquility by adopting the right mindset, whether it’s reminding yourself that at least your loved one is no longer in pain or that their spiritual presence will forever be felt. Dwell on thoughts that create comfort and serenity and banish those that evoke guilt or regret. Remember that the past is unchangeable and that contemplating “what if” will do you no favors. Understand that there is a greater reason for your dear one’s departure, one which you will fully comprehend in time.

A holiday like Thanksgiving can be burdensome with the one we love absent from the table. But we must not forget that we possess resilience, an inherent gift that helps us surmount any obstacle. Add my advice to your holiday routine to discover a deep-seated sense of acceptance and feel the undying presence of your loved one.

To Virgil and Sandu

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For more tips on how to navigate the holidays when you are grieving check out this article, Help Yourself Heal During the Holiday Season by Dr. Alan Wolfelt and many more tips can be found on the The Center for Loss & Life Transition  website.

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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.