Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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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!