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.

 

The Rules of Grief

grieving-man

Sharing a fabulous post from Good Men Project, written by Shawn Doyle about society’s rules for grief, and how you can navigate around them.

Grief is not like a highway on a roadmap. I can’t look at the map and tell someone “OK, this map is 100 miles and based on your average speed you’ll complete the journey within 12 months.”

Rule #1- There are rules. Somehow our society made determinations about exactly how a grieving person should conduct themselves at all times. If we expected other people to live by our pre-defined rules they would actually resent it. Yet for some strange reason it seems perfectly OK to tell a grieving person how to live. Hmm… One of the things that I find fascinating is that people often don’t realize they are dictating the rules—they’re just blindly following social “norms”.

The problem is—what is normal? Your loved one dying was not normal. Your loved one passing away tragically was not normal. Your loved one dying too young was not normal. Your loved one dying before her parents was not normal. Your loved one being killed in a tragic accident was not normal. So my point is that none of this is truly normal. It’s all well—just weird, and sometimes very surreal, like we are caught in a real-life nightmare. So I don’t know why people are trying to dictate norms for something that’s not normal!  Rule breaker solution: So my suggestion for you about the rules is to ignore them all, except for rules that make sense to you and feel right. Don’t let other people dictate your life to you.

Rule #2- You must act in a certain way…

The information is so helpful, but equally powerful is that grief conversations increase. #GiveGriefWords #IRemember

Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart, and bids it break. – Shakespeare

To read the post


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 and entirely funded through charitable donations.  If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve, please DONATE here. 

Tradition Tuesday – Danis

My name is Danis, and our dad died May of 2013. Thanksgiving was his holiday. While we would make cookies, pies, fudge and everything else, he would sneak in and try all of the goodies. This year we made all of the goodies, and we could each feel his presence with us. 

Mom: “Last year, while making the cookies, that Richard loved to sneak so much, Danis could feel him behind her at times, breathing on her neck (she was alone in the kitchen at the time), this year, I was with her, and we know he was still waiting for his opportunity to score that perfect cookie before someone else could eat it. 🙂

Thank you for joining in with our Thanksgiving, we have many reasons to be very Thankful in our lives, y’all are a big part of it!”

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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.

Bindi Irwin – A Finger Trigger

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Performing a dance inspired by her most memorable year, Bindi Irwin and partner Derek Hough chose a contemporary dance set to a cover of the Police’s “Every Breath You Take.”

It would be so easy to assume that in the 9 years since her father died, Bindi is “over it” and has “moved on.” Look at her! She’s on TV, she’s dancing!

In this emotional tribute to her father, the cameras record a “grief burst” triggered by a small gesture of holding a finger. It’s simple actions, smells, sounds, sights and tastes that, often unexpectedly, re-ignite the grief of a child.

The feelings of grief, though painful, are natural. So are anger and joy. Allowing children and teens to feel the sadness is a part of healthy grieving. The challenge for adults is to let them feel it. Resist the well-intentioned desire to try to “fix them,” or help them “move on.” Support them. Companion them. Listen to them.

Sharing her life story, Bindi shows her father is forever a part of her, their relationship unending. Bindi moves forward.


Family Lives On supports the lifelong emotional wellbeing of children and teens whose mother or father has died. Please donate to help us serve more families and increase the awareness of the impact of grief and trauma on a child. Honor the past. Celebrate the present. Build the future. #givegriefwords

As Goes the Parent, So Goes the Child

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This is why Family Lives On Foundation supports the lifelong emotional wellbeing of children and teens whose mother or father has died. The organization also offers education programs to raise awareness of the impact of grief and loss on a child. Honoring the past, celebrating the present and building the future.

“An important part of grief is finding ways to continue a relationship with the person who has died even though they are no longer fully present.  We have written quite a bit on continuing bonds with deceased loved ones and we believe this is an important part of grieving.

When talking about a deceased loved one is discouraged or avoided, the child is denied the opportunity to continue their bond with that loved one within the familial context.  They may find ways to continue their bond on their own, but given the fact that the child is young, you will always be an important source of memories and information about the person who has died.”

A remarkable post by the very talented writers at What’s Your Grief about the profound influence adults have on the ways in which children learn to cope with their grief.

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. - James Baldwin


Donate to support children and teens whose mother or father has died and raise awareness of the impact of grief and loss on a child. Honor the past. Celebrate the present. Build the future. #givegriefwords

It’s Not My Story to Tell, Not Really.

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Photo credit: Heartlinks Grief Center at Family Hospice

Photo credit: Heartlinks Grief Center at Family Hospice

(originally posted by Heartlinks Grief Center at Family Hospice)

The Blank Page 

It’s not my story to tell, not really. Yet, I know that if I don’t tell it, many of you will never hear it and it’s a story worth hearing.

Today, I met a little girl dressed for summer in all white with a beautiful braid in her hair. She had the biggest brown eyes I have ever seen and with her friends she was a sassy in the know leader of her group.

So, it came as a bit of shock when we worked in small groups that this child with her street smart airs refused to put anything but two feathers on a blank piece of paper. And she refused to talk to me. She just kept looking at her paper and then looking up at me with those brown eyes swimming with tears.

I didn’t push, I didn’t call her out, it was her paper after all. And we had asked the kids to put a memory on the paper, a memory of the person who had died – basically to tell us a story about their person that they could choose to share or not. It was her paper and her story, but I couldn’t figure out why it was blank.

As the kids scrambled out of the room and on to the next activity, I asked this child if she would stay with me for moment. The room seemed to expand so that this child and I inhabited a tiny pocket of safety within the walls of the room and in this safe zone, the little girl explained something important to me.

“My daddy died when I was two. I didn’t know him. I don’t know nothin’ ’bout him. I know he’s dead.

He gets two feathers for being an angel and that’s all he gets. Some days I think he must have been good and some days I think he must have been bad.

So I ain’t puttin’ nothing on there – that way he can be who I need him to be on a day.”

It’s not my story to tell and it’s not our job to fill in the blank page for a child when maybe that page is blank for a reason.

Make sure that you ask a child and then listen when you feel like their page is blank. It might not even be blank, it just might be a an ever evolving story that isn’t yours to see. ~Kris

#giveGriefwords


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.

DONATE The Tradition Program is entirely funded through charitable donations and 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.

The Tradition Program isn’t therapy but it is therapeutic. Here’s how it works. 

When a Wave Comes, Go Deep

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Originally posted by Humans of New York, October 1st, 2013

Humans of New York (HONY) originally posted 10/1/13

Humans of New York (HONY) originally posted 10/1/13

“If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?”

“When a wave comes, go deep.”
“I think I’m going to need an explanation for that one.”
“There’s three things you can do when life sends a wave at you. You can run from it, but then it’s going to catch up and knock you down. You can also fall back on your ego and try to stand your ground, but then it’s still going to clobber you. Or you can use it as an opportunity to go deep, and transform yourself to match the circumstances. And that’s how you get through the wave.”

Why she can come up with such profound advice on the spot- she’s an educator! Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs is an author and internationally recognized education leader known for her work in curriculum mapping, curriculum integration, and developing 21st century approaches to teaching and learning.

This was originally posted on Humans of New York (HONY) Facebook page in October 2013, and the comments that accompanied it are an example of what happens organically among the followers:

HONY is all about stories. As a community, let’s try to ‘like’ comments from people sharing insights or similar experiences. There is nothing wrong with comments like ‘her hair is awesome,’ or ‘she looks much younger than 50.’ Those comments are kind, supportive, and appreciated. But I think it would make Humans of New York more interesting if we could work together to prioritize stories over opinions. If there’s anything I’ve learned from doing HONY these past five years, it’s that stories are always more interesting than opinions.

For that reason, below are the comments for the visual story “When a Wave Comes, Go Deep.”


Patrick Elliott Kelley “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”


Brooke Truax Her words are poetically beautiful and deep. However, after I read them, I couldn’t help but think: “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…” I blame Dori. 



Rebecca Quinn What she said reminds me of a quote from Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.

“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.

And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.

And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”


Ravi Keswani “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” ― Bruce Lee


Reza Badei I live in San Diego & used to surf a lot. I can totally relate to this very wise advice and great analogy. What I would like to add is take a deep breath before going under the waves , stay loose & flexible (non rigid or you’ll break some serious bones) and let the wave or a set pass you by without you resisting them, otherwise you will , be clubbed and worse, suffocate … 

"Duck Diving" Photo credit: isurfnetwork.com

“Duck Diving” Photo credit: isurfnetwork.com


Kim O’Grady Simensen Anyone that has ever done much Pacific Coast body surfing knows that when you dive UNDER the wave (“go deep), you can minimize the turbulence and lessen the power of the wave that can easily throw you head first into the sand. I like the metaphor for troubled times and the advice of transformation. The challenge can be finding the strength to go to those uncomfortable and scary places. Although body surfing is a solo support, living is not. I wish the author had reminded us to surround yourself with friends and love – that also brings strength and lessens the power of negative forces in our life. Seek Joy!


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. 


DONATE The Tradition Program is entirely funded through charitable donations and 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.

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.


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.