Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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It’s Not Me, Right?

Sometimes it feels like things are so ridiculous, I wonder if I’ve lost my mind. I feel like I live in a world where so many people are consumed and passionate about these crazy things and missing the whole point. Are they serious?

One example from the world outside my immediate setting. Let’s ban Rudolph because of the bullies in it. I happen to think it has an amazing and relevant message, especially for such an “old” movie. You bet there are bullies, even Santa himself. But the “victims” (Rudolph and Hermie) overcome the crap treatment and become heroes. The end of the movie? All the bullies apologize. His dad, Santa… they realize they had behaved wrongly. Amen! What the hell is wrong with that message? Bullying is worth our attention. Focusing on Rudolph? Um… I don’t get it.

Plus, he’s pretty cute!

Overall, I like Frankie’s school, but sometimes I scratch my head. The athletics department is supposed to keep an eye on grades. Big bad on their part this year. Mistake #1, they forgot to notify the parent. Mistake #2, they forgot to notify the teacher. Mistake #3, they forgot to check in DAILY to see if their athlete was staying after. Three huge oops. And they wonder why the warning papers get thrown in the bottom of the gym bag and ignored. Failing academics? I think that is a pretty important thing for them to worry about.

You know what they did focus on? Frankie’s track meets are 6-7 hours long on Saturdays. In between events, they are left to entertain themselves. Now teens have incredible opportunities these days to get into trouble. Frankie found himself doing the worst thing I could imagine. He put on his nerd glasses he got for Christmas, put on his baseball cap backward, tucked in his shorts, and found himself in a dance battle with kids from another school. Unfortunately, he didn’t get video. I was very disappointed because I would have loved to have seen that.

At practice, he got scolded for fooling around between events.

He and his buddy got in the car and he told me what a “rascal” he was. I told him that he better not try to sing either. I assured him and his friend that I would send them more appropriate things to keep themselves occupied. I would send a vape with cannabis oil so they can calm down, a flask with some liquor, and a couple of porn mags so they can sit quietly next time and stay busy. They appreciated the offer.

I don’t know, is it me? There are dozens of other examples, but it just seems to me people are hyped up about the wrong stuff. I wanna hit my head on the wall sometimes. I just hope my kid doesn’t lose his personality because I think he lights up a room when he wants to. Certainly that’s better than hiding in the dark.


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Failing, Failure

The last couple days have been tough. There is nothing monumentally wrong that most families and relationships don’t typically go through. But when I feel like everything around me (or 80%) is failing, I end up feeling like a failure.

My sister was her supportive self today when we talked. She gave me her opinion that I am one of the most capable people she knows and far from a failure. Thanks sissy! Deep down, I guess I know I’m not responsible for everyone else’s choices, but it’s hard when stress can feel unrelenting.

I got talking to a client today and it reminded me of research I read years ago. It said that females in particular tend to be prone to an “internal locus of control” which, like anything else, has its good and bad points.

When a woman is faced with a problem or hurt, she usually asks herself what she did wrong and looks for how she can fix it. An external locus of control would assume someone else screwed up. The good part of the internal focus is that it can lead to empowerment and change. The bad part is that it can lead to over-responsibility and unnecessary self-blame.

Generalizations almost always get you in trouble so please understand these thoughts don’t apply to every single person in every single situation. As an observer of human behavior and relationships, I have to say that it does seem to often be the case though. Women are often the “emotional thermometers” in relationships. It’s almost comical when a couple sits down for session and the man briefly declares things are ok. The woman wants to know who he has been living with because it apparently isn’t their home. As she recounts the week’s activity, the man will eventually nod in agreement. “Oh yea, I forgot about that,” or something similar.

Anyhow, when you intensely love and care for people around you, it can be heartbreaking when you are disappointed, worried, concerned when you see those around you making choices that hurt you, or worse hurt themselves. Probably the most intense pain is around the love and concern a parent has for their child. A child of any age, no matter how old he/she gets.

I’m doing ok tonight. I’m exhausted and feel like a wet dish rag. But talking to people who care and an unscheduled call to Scott (my trusted therapist) reminds me that these things too shall pass. They hurt like hell, but I don’t need to fall into the abyss or anything. Tomorrow will come and I will just do the best I can again. I’m usually the only one that asks more of me than that.

Hope all is well in your world, wherever you are. Take some time for self-care, but stay engaged in life and people. It’s worth it, even when you’d rather punch them all…LOL.


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More Rules

Upon discussing some of the things that went sideways where my dad was living, the corporate folks pointed out that sometimes people get so fixated on obeying rules, they stop using common sense. I’ve been aware of that dynamic for a while and spot it in so many settings. Last week someone on the phone just spoke to me like a robot because she couldn’t stray from the script long enough to answer simple questions from me.

Today was another incident that had me seeing red. Dave was supposed to have his first ever indoor track meet today. It was at Buff State, about 25 minutes away. I was supposed to wake him at 5 am so he could catch the bus at 630 am. I didn’t notice that I set the alarm for weekdays, so it didn’t go off as it is Saturday. Oh no!

I woke up at 630. We told his peers we would have to drive there and off we rushed to get there. We weren’t going to be late, but it turns out there is a rule that students need to ride the bus or they can’t participate in the sport.

I called and pleaded with every source I could, all to no avail. They wouldn’t let him race. I had to drive back and pick him up. I even spoke with our counselor who is also on staff at the school. I understand why they have such rules, but you should still be able to use common sense. In other words, no parent (single or partnered) can ever, ever make a mistake or an error without their child being punished. There will never ever be a circumstance where exceptions should be made to the general rule. That’s ridiculous.

We also talked about how I have always been hard on myself for being less than perfect, and things like this trigger me like crazy. This is why you have to be perfect. The system doesn’t allow for being human. And it’s a million times worse when your kid suffers instead of you.

Follow the rules for the sake of following rules. Turn your blinders on. 

I know that David didn’t die because he couldn’t race today. Worse things can happen in life, I know. But it was still a very stressful, exhausting and disappointing morning with an already difficult season upon us.

Please feel free to share any thoughts you have and/or repost this on your page. Wish me luck as I continue on my Mary Poppins goal… Practically perfect in every way. 🙂


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He WAS there!

It’s funny how sometimes the “facts” of your life can change as your perspective and experience grows. Maybe a little growing up too. I remember when I was initially immersed in therapy in my 20’s and I was doing the whole evaluating my family of origin thing. Mom and I were in a lot of conflict at the time. I had this “aha” moment when I realized that I disagreed with her a lot, but it was because she was “there.” Dad just wasn’t. At least that is how it felt at the time.

I’ve mentioned before that Dad was a good, stoic German. He was not very demonstrative with his emotions or affection. It made him uncomfortable. That’s why there are lots of pictures of me sitting on his lap or my sister and I kissing him when we were older because we just kind of forced it on him (lovingly). You see his smile though, he liked it!

Progressive-Lisa, Dad, Darcy

But I was laying in bed the other night and one memory after another popped into my mind. I am rewriting my story. Dad WAS there.

The first time that comes to mind, I’m not really sure how old I was. Maybe five or six? Dad played softball at the fire hall. I think he was the pitcher. I was sitting on a blanket on the sidelines. Don’t know what family I was with but it wasn’t my family. All of a sudden I got hit hard in the head with a baseball. I was dazed. My vision was blurry but I looked and saw Dad running to me. He was there. I remember being home that night with ice on my face and Mom saying, “Poor baby.” But Dad came running, literally, when I needed him.

Next, fast forward to fourth grade. My grandma died. She and I shared a bedroom so I was very close to her. We had this ugly, brown, upholstered rocking chair, but we had it for years and years. I remember being curled up in Daddy’s lap in that chair and just crying. He didn’t say anything, just held me. He was there.

Right after I graduated high school I went on a mission trip to Europe for six weeks. I was in the driveway saying goodbye to mom and dad and we were hugging. I remember looking up and being shocked to see Dad crying. I mean tears, streaming down his face. He didn’t say a word but he didn’t have to.

In 1990, we had a huge tragedy in our family. My niece was killed in a car accident at only 10 years old. Dad was directing traffic as a firefighter and had no idea who was in the car. That tore him up. I remember him talking about it. And I remember our family going to the private viewing at the funeral home before everyone else arrived from the public. I am pretty sure it was him that stood next to me with his arm around me as we all sobbed.

In 2010, Tim was diagnosed with cancer. Our cat was too. Oreo was put on steroids and had another month where he functioned normally. Then the day came when he couldn’t walk and we knew what had to happen. Of course, the irony of knowing what lay ahead for Tim didn’t escape any of us. We were all in the bathroom as that was where we found Oreo unable to walk. It was Tim, David, Dad and me. All four of us cried. Dad was right there with us. No words were necessary.

I will never forget October 14, 2010 as long as I live. After his five month battle with cancer, Tim died at the Hospice facility. The room was full of loved ones, but it was Dad that stood next to me as the nurse examined him and looked up at us to tell us he was gone. Crazy thing about a terminal illness. You know the end is coming. You wait for it. You plan for it. But when it happens, you are shocked anyway. My knees literally buckled underneath me. Dad caught me. He literally held me up because my body wasn’t capable of it.

My story is rewritten. I had two amazing parents. As we all kept vigil as Dad was living out his last two weeks, my boyfriend Tim carved out some time alone with Dad. He told him that I wouldn’t be alone anymore. He promised to take care of me. He promised to take care of David. Even though he wouldn’t articulate it to me, I know that helped Dad to let go more peacefully.

As I had foot surgery this week and have had to sit still (which is almost impossible for me), Tim has kept his word. He has held me up, literally and figuratively. I remember him telling me that he knew he would never replace Dad, but he would do his best to be there for me.

Thank you, Dad. Thank you, Tim. And thank you God for all of them.

Graduation June 22, 1985 (3).jpg


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Screwed Up Priorities

Frankie is an avid athlete. He gives 110% for any sport he plays. Currently, he is a cross-country runner and a hockey player. You can see his effort and passion just by looking at him.

DSC_5798.JPGI have been making sure lately that I am thanking his coaches. When I go to meets or games, I am often appalled by the behavior of other coaches and parents. We have truly been lucky to have had great role models 90% of the time.

At a recent hockey game, I was sitting near a kid who looked like he was in sixth or seventh grade. He yelled on and off during the entire 75 minutes of the game. His mother sat next to him not responding in the slightest. He was belittling the referees by calling them “zebras” and “blind zebras” over and over again. At some point, everyone gets frustrated with refs and yells out, but there is a difference when you are denigrating them. If for no other reason, this young kid should show respect to them simply because they are adults. What is this kid’s future going to look like?

Cross country showed some unsavory characters as well. One coach was screaming at the guys, “You are running against these guys. They are not your friends. Stop running with them.” I can’t give you the intonation in written word, but it was awful. Frankie’s team supports each other and have each other’s backs. They cheer each other on and want everyone to be successful.

The worst was when I was talking to the girls after their race. They were talking about the moms from one of the other teams. She said one mom yelled out to her daughter, “At least you can burn off those calories you ate last night at dinner.” I was proud of our girls for realizing that was inappropriate. Plus, they had seen how that girl reacted to her mom and it wasn’t good. All I could think about was how she was a shoe-in for developing an eating disorder.

Competition is good for us. It motivates us and challenges us. Not everyone can have a trophy. But what I adamantly believe, is that my son needs to be a great human being first, and a great athlete second. Winning is NOT everything. Character IS everything. I’m extremely grateful for the coaches and parents we are surrounded by that seem to agree with that.

By the way, I’m pretty damn proud of Frankie- his skills as well as his sportsmanship. Well done!


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ZZZZip it!

You know how when you are saying something that others don’t want to hear, they look at you and say, “zzzzzz” while acting like they are closing a zipper? I get that done to me every now and then. I did it to myself though this week and it worked out rather well.

Dave- Cross Country

Frankie runs with cross-country which is just amazing to me because I can’t run to the end of my driveway. I’ve been complaining this summer though because he practices Monday through Saturday which means waking up at 6 or so. What about summer break? Then I remind myself that soon he will be off to college and then I will singing the blues because he isn’t here to ask for rides anymore.

One day this week it was pouring out. I mean really, really pouring. I woke Frankie up and asked him if he was still running. Yep. The other carpool mom took him and it was my job to pick the boys up afterward. He called me to get them and asked me to bring as many towels as I could.

Whining in my mind again. Of course I can but they are all in the gazebo which means getting soaked myself to go get them. I grabbed four, figuring two each. While I was driving there, you should have heard what was going on in my head.

This is utterly ridiculous. They aren’t training for the Olympics or anything. Can’t they skip days when it’s pouring out?  I mean they run six days a week.  They take this too seriously. Besides, it’s no wonder that Frankie’s $80 sneakers only last a couple of months. You aren’t supposed to run in a flood. I’m going to tell them how silly this is and hope they make a better decision next time.

(Oh yeah, I don’t have much time left to be “inconvenienced” and then I’ll be sad. Besides, they ARE teenagers. They probably think this is fun. This is my much smaller voice.)

I pull in next to another vehicle. I recognize the grandma that usually picks up her grandson. She’s driven my kid about a thousand times too. She rolls down her window and says, “Those crazy kids!” You said it Grandma.

Frankie runs over with a smile on his face and grabs the towels. I then watch with pride as he gives the other towels to all his teammates. They were so appreciative and I could tell he was thrilled to be the thoughtful hero.

He and his buddy get in the car and I can’t resist saying, “Maybe you guys should skip rainy days?” Frankie replied with, “MOM! You don’t understand the grind.” His friend chuckled in the backseat and then, of course, the radio was turned on and blaring.

Frankie was in rare form. He was singing and dancing with gusto and silliness that had me and his friend cracking up. I realized he was high on life. Honestly, sometimes I am such a dope.

The next morning the weather was great again and I woke up at 6:30 am without the alarm and panicked. I woke Frankie who said, “Nah,  I’m not running today.” Go figure.

Please feel free to comment or tell one of your own stories!


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Ya Never Know

Frankie and I used to be super close. He has my emotional makeup so I really understood him when others didn’t at times. Slowly we have separated over the years to the point that I hardly recognized who he even was sometimes. Now we are slowly, ever so slowly, finding ways to re-connect.

I think he is so unbelievably resilient. Even though I get frustrated, I can’t believe that he is the way he is with all the losses he has suffered from age four on. He is funny, popular and smart. Then the social worker part of me worries. He must be suffering underneath it all, right? Is he just holding it off until he is 30 when he is in some therapist’s office spilling how much he hated his life?

I remember when he was about 10. He had been in the peer support group at school for two years that focused on kids with loss. Out of the blue he got in the car one day and said matter-of-factly with maturity that shouldn’t be possible, “Mom, I’ve been in grief group for two years. I think it’s time to move on.” And that was that, he was done.

When I look at pictures of him when he was only eight, the age when his father died, I can hardly bear it. The grief comes back like it was yesterday. He looks so tiny. Just so damn little. I don’t remember at the time thinking he was so small. How the hell did a little boy deal with all that?

Tim has never been a taboo topic in our house, nor with our friends and family. But I can’t say it comes up all that often either.

This week, out of the blue, I’m in the car with Frankie and I stumbled upon the right question by fluke and I find out he has a friend whose mom died three years ago. He says they talk about it sometimes. I’m surprised, but very glad that he talks about it. Then he says, “Remember that song ‘Save a Place for Me’ that was in Dad’s funeral?”

I’m stunned again. Of course I do. I had no idea HE even had an inkling. Turns out his friend had the same song played at her mom’s funeral. What a coincidence. And how the heck did that even come up in conversation between two teens?

Final shocker. “Yeah. I’m surprised you’ve never said anything to me when I play it on the piano now.” Frankie has been teaching himself how to play the piano for a couple of years. He’s so talented. He mostly plays pop songs from the radio. He took (well, I say stole) the piano upstairs a couple of months ago so I can only hear through the walls. Usually it’s late at night and if I listen closely I can hear him play and sing before I fall asleep.

Holy crap. He knew the song, looked it up and learned it. I never knew.

I get tingles when I think about it. I shouldn’t worry so much. He remembers and he’s processing. He’s talking. He’s working it out. Knock me over with a feather.

The only thing more mind-boggling is that in a month he will be 16 and driving a car. How did THAT happen?

(Here’s the song by Matthew West  https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=zbsBUf9VKyc  if you want to cut and paste the link)