Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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A Thankless Job

Can you guess what it is? Parenting. Well, maybe that isn’t quite fair. Kids are pretty cute and grateful until about age 4, maybe longer if you are lucky. Then it turns off until in their thirties, or maybe when they are off on their own, or when they have kids of their own. That’s what they say anyway.

I’m still waiting. I’m a lot better at accepting all of this as developmentally normal when I have my therapist hat on. When I have my parenting hat on, I’m completely confused. I would literally give my life for these suckers. Don’t they see it? And if they do, how can they possibly not be grateful?

I’ve got a few of them at different ages. One isn’t talking to me, going on month five. When there are grandkids involved, the pain takes on a whole other level. The holidays only increase that disappointment by a hundred times or so.

The teenager… Is it enough to just say he’s a teenager? He’s absolutely great as far as the things that lead kids astray. No drugs, drinking, sex, violence, and so on and so on. But he truly recoils if he brushes up against me. Even when you are trying to do something nice like get him a gift, he is a total disrespectful punk sometimes. I just don’t get it.

Another one is just moody. One day you walk in the kitchen and suddenly there is no eye contact whatsoever. There is no response to even the most simple question. It’s like I’m completely invisible. Like I’m not even in the damn room. I just wonder what the hell happened from yesterday.

I just pray and pray and pray that someday it will get better. I love my children and grandchildren so much that my chest hurts when I think about them. There is nothing more valuable to me than them. As we approach the holidays, I want to say with a thousand percent sincerity, I don’t want a thing from them. Not even the tiniest object. I just want them to love me and I want them to let me love them. Nothing would make my heart soar more than that.

Stinkers. I adore them though.


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Holiday Hell

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I think holidays must be one of the most immense Catch-22 situations in our society. Everywhere I go, most people find them stressful. Lots of people say they hate them. A few truly enjoy them.

We put so much into them and their significance which is why the letdown is so bad. Yet year after year we do it to ourselves. We keep hoping something great will happen. We try to set a new precedence. We think the people in our lives will be inspired to put more effort into us just because it is a holiday.

Some go off pretty well. But’s let’s face it. Most of us actually act worse because of the dynamics I just mentioned. The high hopes are usually dashed. What a vicious cycle. And I’m just as guilty.

People who live with grief know that holidays are generally the toughest times of the year. Since Dad died, my grief around mom and Tim are also ramped up. I realized last night that the worst part isn’t even mine, even though that is significant too. The worst is watching my kids grow up with parents and grandparents missing. That just doesn’t seem to get easier no matter how many years go by.

Last year was especially tough and this year is proving to be the same. It is amazing how quickly you can spiral down the rabbit hole. Having it be a holiday just makes it all seem worse.

Family dynamics break my heart sometimes. Missing my sister hurts even know we celebrated our own Thanksgiving when she was in town. This is the first holiday I won’t be seeing my beautiful granddaughter because of painful circumstances.

Thanksgiving is for giving thanks. I believe it. I want it. I’m aware of the good things. But damn it, the sadness can overshadow what the whole purpose of the holiday is. Those who made it special are sometimes gone. The very people who are here are supposed to color our lives with love, but sometimes end up coloring our holidays with hurt. Boo!

Oops, sorry. I forgot Halloween is over.


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God and Human Emotion

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Last Sunday’s sermon had me crying through at least half of it. I’m not exactly sure why, but I have some ideas that might have contributed to my reaction. The message came from an interesting passage in Hosea.

It’s not one of those things that is talked about very often, but God was really ticked off at “His People” and sent Hosea to tell them so. In spite of God’s consistent and constant love and provision, Israel was going through the teenage phase. (Clue number 1 to my reaction.) Yes, I know that rebellion and separation are the developmental tasks of a teenager. I honestly believed mine wouldn’t go through it the same way because there was a time when we were incredibly close. Plus, I would give my life for him. Why would he rebel against that?

Anyway, back to God. He was done with them, finished. If they cried out for help again, He wasn’t going to help them. In fact, He was going to let them go to a place where they would be “devoured.” Pastor Debi asked if we have ever reached that point with someone in our lives. She didn’t really indicate that would be wrong, just that it happens. In fact, she said that sometimes you have to protect yourself from vulnerability from those who repeatedly harm you in some way. (Clue number 2.)

She said God’s heart was breaking. He was absolutely heartbroken. (Clue number 3.) I know what that feels like, but I wasn’t even consciously thinking of myself. It genuinely made me cry to think of God in that way.

No sooner had God thrown up His angry hands when He recanted. Of course He will come to their aid. Of course He will forgive them. God’s love is persistent. No matter what.

Debi pointed out that for those folks think that God is big, out there, and so far removed from us, we are actually made in His image. That includes the full spectrum of human emotions. That includes the phase of being totally pissed off.

I have often told clients that sometimes it is not about what we choose to do, but why we choose to do it. At one point in my life, it was my spiritual growth to stand up for myself. When I was in my twenties and just entering the therapy world, I was a nightmare for my family. Every word uttered became introspection for me and I needed to declare my conclusions to the world, especially if it was about them.

Later, I realized my spiritual growth was to stop judging so much. I tried to be the next Mother Theresa. No matter what, I would respond with love and kindness. Even if that meant being a doormat, so be it. It was what God called me to be.

Now I am balancing the two (I think). I am learning to draw boundaries with people who consistently hurt me. Even if it means walking away, I am doing it. But I am trying to remain open to whatever happens if they come back to me. I don’t think it will be hard though. I’ve always been like butter if someone offers me a genuine apology. I’m emotionally learning the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation, even though it’s a concept I’ve known intellectually for years.

It’s a half-baked thought, but I wondered if the entire universe/world/earth goes through the same phases. The Old Testament God is pretty tough to grapple with sometimes. There’s a lot of events like entire armies being drowned in the sea in the name of justice. Then the New Testament comes along and Jesus blows it all away in the water. He is one big heart. His biggest beef was with the Pharisees, the avid churchgoers and leaders. He hung out with the prostitutes instead.

Anyhow, lots of food for thought. Thanks again Pastor Debi for the push to keep growing.


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Estrogen Infusion

In September I spoke at a conference about 3 hours away. I was kind of dreading it because I was on the committee over the previous year and just wanted it to be over with. However, I had a great time and met some great women. I was surprised to hear myself say I didn’t want to go home.

In October, I went away with 7 of my girlfriends to our annual “Magical Misery Tour.” Some said it was the best year yet. We laughed, sang and danced. There was some intense grief being processed as well. The epitome of bittersweet.

This month, I went to Chicago (I lived there for 9 years) for a death doula training. I spent 5 days with some of my dearest friends, was educated in a very stimulating educational training, and met some super cool women. One of them articulated it perfectly. She said “I’m wholly unaccustomed to quick-witted, loving, likeminded people.  It fed my soul.” I REALLY didn’t want to go home this time. Here’s our crew:

It got me thinking. When Mom died in 2007, she was my best friend. She hated when I said that and would come back with, “Stop saying that! I’m not your friend, I’m your MOTHER!.” True that, but she didn’t have a choice. She was my favorite female in the world. The hole that she left in my life was astounding. I made a decision to find and nurture good female folks to bond with.

When I didn’t have a significant other in my life, I had to rely very heavily on my girls. Now I do have a significant other, I realize how deeply I can just appreciate them and my connection to them.

The last 3 months I have been so terribly fortunate to have those little trips away. Next month I am supposed to go to Florida for work. A friend of mine got me the job and she is on the team with me. I imagine that will be another great experience.

Yay for estrogen! I love my ya-yas, the old and the new. I’m so grateful for every one of you. Every single one!  


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Secular & Sacred

I believe that I have been approaching a crossroads. I am well aware of folks in my life who love and forgive me for mistakes I have made (and I mean big, hurtful mistakes!) I am also aware of a slew of folks that don’t like me. Some might even hate me. The ironic piece is that they are generally folks I have gone out of my way to be kind to, yet that has somehow been twisted in their minds.

In the church I have been recently attending, I have had my heart pierced again with messages of forgiveness, grace, freedom, which of course begins with God’s perfect love and sacrifice for us. I find myself lying awake at night wondering if I should be knocking on doors and trying to repair the broken relationships I have out there.

I went to see Scott, my decades-long therapist. He knows the history and story of most of these people that I am estranged from. Some of them he has even met. He gave me an empathic NO, I should not be knocking on doors of people who have pretty much abused my kindness because of their own brokenness. Why do I have such a deep need for everyone to like me?

He pointed to my missionary spirit. I even got a degree in it in college. I have a vision of love and healing and I am crushed when life doesn’t happen that way. Unfortunately, it rarely does. I walked away thinking that I do not need to assertively push my, “I’m finally walking away from your toxicity” quest, but I also most definitely do not need to assertively walk into a space where I am most likely going to be hurt or abused again. I can be open if they ever approach me with a goal of reconciliation.

Then I decided I wanted to chat with my pastor as well. Would she say forget the world’s wisdom? Give unconditional love and grace, turn your cheek over and over. That is God’s example to us – radical love. Doesn’t that feel more “right?”

She did not say those things. I was shocked to find that such an amazing woman also has “haters” in her life. She talked about God’s vision NOT being that of a doormat. She talked about working hard to accept that we cannot control other people’s response is to us. What God does call us to, is to be who we need to be every day when we wake up. A person dearly loved by God who continues to love and grow.

She then challenged me. What will it take for me to accept that kind of love from God? For me to believe in my heart what my head has believed for years now? To take my own passionate advice when it comes to supporting other people?

I think I have glimpsed moments of that in the last decade of my life. I think as I have aged I have begun to push back when treated badly. I have begun to seek reciprocity. Scott says to sink my energy into the people that love me and desire my company.

There was no big disconnect between the secular and sacred wisdom I sought out. They complemented each other.

I’m sure I will stay lay awake some nights and feel bad about the people around me who have rejected me and the efforts I made to be a good person to them. It will still hurt. But I am also going to seek to turn my energy away from that and focus on my own growth.

And be deeply grateful for the many truly wonderful people who have chosen to love me.


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GUEST BLOGGER: Natalie Jones

Natalie and her husband, Jason, recently bought their first home. She hopes to make the process of buying a home less scary for first-timers by sharing what she and Jason have learned along the way.

How Couples Moving In Together Can Save Money During the Home Decorating Phase

If you’re part of a couple that is cohabiting for the first time, decorating your new home or apartment is one of the first true tests you’ll face. You’ll have to come together, make sacrifices, and show each other extreme patience. What will certainly throw a wrench into all of this peace, love, and harmony is an overblown decorating budget. Here’s how you can save money during the decorating phase and put as little strain on your relationship as possible, whether you’re coming up with a budget or using a Crate and Barrel promo code.

First things first: Budget

As Vogue notes, moving in together often presents a “serious test for how well couples will work together in the financial realm. To avoid any financial surprises, map out a master budget for decorating your new space — and stick to it.”

Planning how much money you are willing to spend is a tried-and-true method for saving money. That’s what budgeting is on a large scale. When it comes to the still important but significantly less ambitious task of budget for home decor, be sure to estimate on the high end for every item. This will also help you avoid surprises.

Make use of coupons and other deals to acquire your basics

Major retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond or Kohl’s often offer coupons and other deals that serve a great purpose: filling your new living space with the essentials. Before you begin shopping for things like pillows, bath towels, and small appliances (like a coffee maker), be sure to check for online coupons and discounts so you can save as much money as possible. For example, if both of you love to shop at Crate and Barrel but you want to keep that cost as low as possible, find promo codes and savings to bring those purchases in under budget. Also, when you take advantage of the Crate and Barrel free shipping offer, you can even more money. There are also a handful of solid apps that allow you to set up alerts for price drops on certain items.

Take your time gathering furniture piece by piece

Hopefully, you and your partner will bring some of your own beloved furniture with you to your new living space, but inevitably you’ll need to populate your new home with new pieces. Patience is the key to saving money. You can’t expect to find great furniture for good prices all at once. Making a habit of thrift shopping on the weekends, for example, is a good way to save. Remember: it’s smart to shop for second-hand items in physical, brick-and-mortar stores and online (sites like Craigslist and others).

Embrace eclectic design

If your design aesthetic is all about matching decor, you’re going to have a tougher time saving money. The more eclectic your design style, the more freedom you have to incorporate decor of all different styles, with cost instead of style being your main determining factor. Eclectic doesn’t mean ugly or low-quality. It simply means having an open mind and being able to embrace alternative design elements

Prioritize multitasking when buying furniture and decor

HGTV calls it pulling “double duty,” but you may think of it as multitasking. You can save money on decorating by prioritizing furniture and other decor elements that serve multiple purposes. Think coffee and end tables that offer plenty of storage and convertible furniture. You don’t have to be trying to save space to opt for this sort of smart decor. All you have to try to save money.

Above all else, don’t forget this one important tip: communicate. Open communication between you and your partner is vital if you want the moving in and decorating process to go smoothly. Be honest about your wants and needs — especially your budgeting. Only when you take the time to develop a real strategy can you make your new home beautiful without breaking the bank.

Photo by Unsplash


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The Way It Should Be

This is the pamphlet from a church we visited recently. The service had the same feeling as its bulletin. Tim and I were both moved to tears by the end of the service. We know we are just at the beginning of a relationship with these folks, but I have no doubt that it was no accident that we found them just in the nick of time.

The church I attended when Tim (deceased) was dying had been my church home for 7 years. It indeed felt like home. I was heavily involved, sometimes volunteering and eventually as paid staff.

About 2 years before Tim’s illness, the church hired someone that turned everything around. Our staff was amazingly close and functioned like a relatively healthy family. Until then.

I’m not sure what personnel was thinking when they hired someone who openly said he was “not religious.” It was obvious this was a paid job for him, not a ministry. There was formal skill, but no heart.

He didn’t like the role I played in the church so he slowly but surely made my life miserable there. The details are not worth getting into, but let me just say there are many, many stories. He really turned the fire up when our minister went away on sabbatical just when Tim was diagnosed. It is quite unbelievable but unfortunately true. He did his best to undermine me while I was desperately trying to help my dying husband and family while still working at the church. I needed that spiritual connection.

Three months after Tim died, I resigned. It should never have happened. Had I not been grief-stricken, I would not have done it. And it should never have been accepted. There had been other resignations over the years that were rejected and mine, without a doubt, should have been. I was deeply involved, faithful even when in crisis, and dedicated to those people I ministered to. I literally had an impeccable work history.

The craziness that came next was lawsuit worthy. That is not my heart though, and I certainly did not have the energy to pursue one. Besides, where would that have left me if I had won? A church of worship and job where I had to sue in order to be treatly justly and compassionately.

Over the last 8 years I have tried every now and then to heal my heart. I reached out when my books were written. I reached out when the church started addressing end of life issues. No matter what I tried, the door was slammed in my face.

Finally this summer, the minister moved and a new personnel committee was formed. This was a long time coming but I finally had my chance to make peace. I reached out and asked when I could come in and meet the committee. I made it clear that I didn’t expect anything to be done. I didn’t ask for justice, although truth be told I certainly could have. What was done to me was inexcusable. I just wanted to be heard. I had been silenced as well as the rest of the staff 8 years ago. And what was worse, the church folks let the congregation believe that I was just a “grieving widow” and left. I couldn’t believe they would desecrate our sacred memories like that.

I just wanted to tell my story and I felt my heart could finally heal. Just hear me. That’s it.

I was more than stunned when I got the call back that the committee “wasn’t interested.” They are only interested in moving forward in the church. They weren’t “equipped” to hear me. Equipped for what? Listening? They are in more trouble than I thought if that is the case. He said they talked to the church lawyer who advised them to “forget it and move on.”

I couldn’t believe after such a long wait, the final door was slammed. I didn’t think the church could hurt me more, but they managed to do just that. I’m not sure what is going on, but that is most certainly NOT how the church of Jesus Christ is supposed to behave.

I’m dumbfounded.

My human side wants to attend there again. Make sure my story gets told to anyone and everyone that would listen. All these years I’ve kept silent in order to “be the bigger person” and remain professional. I want to create havoc for them the way they injured me.

But like my new pastor says, that isn’t my heart. It never will be. And besides, how could I possibly waste a Sunday morning going there when this warm and nurturing door has opened up for us? This is no coincidence.

Thank you, God for providing this new place, for however long we will be there. And thank you to those folks that understand the true mission of Christ and follow that call- the way it should be.