Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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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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Ex’s and Formers

I’ve never really liked the word “ex” so I try to use the word former. Lately, I’ve been challenged about the “formers” in my life so of course I challenged myself and even dedicated a good part of a counseling session to it.

I like the fact – well, I am actually proud of the fact that I have remained cordial, and in some cases even close to my former boyfriends. Part of me feels like when you love someone, there is always part of you that loves them and wishes them health and happiness. That is genuine.

I also know that part of me (as was pointed out to me again recently) has a strong need for everyone to like me. It really eats away at me when someone doesn’t like me and I will literally spend years trying to figure out how I should have improved myself to be more likeable.

My therapist pointed out that some of it goes back to family of origin stuff- specifically my dad. I always searched for evidence that he was proud of me. I’ve known that for years, but it surprised me this weekend because Dad is gone now and I felt deeply resolved with him before he left us. We never had that healing conversation, but I know how he looked at me to help him. Even though that was also painful, I realized how much he needed me and counted on me. When I think of him now I just miss him terribly. The other parts are just healed up.

Anyhow, Tim and I recently went to Seattle/Friday Harbor for vacation. The main draw was my friend Darren who I have blogged about relatively frequently. He was my 7th grade rolling skating boyfriend and he found me online a few years ago when my book came out. He and his wife were two of the most generous hosts we have ever experienced. That could not possibly have been kinder to us.

The big surprise that was unplanned, was also getting to have lunch with my first husband and his wife. I have been surprised by how many people have responded with, “Why would you want to see him?” It catches me off guard because I think, “Why wouldn’t I?” Sometimes we don’t even realize we could use closure and healing. I think John felt it too because he hugged me goodbye and thanked me for making it happen. The next day he texted a photo of the four of us and said it was a memorable lunch. No big discussions, no rehashing, just a chance to feel warm toward someone who was a tremendously important part of my life at one time.

Maybe all my motives aren’t perfect, but I stand by my position. I am proud of the healing that has happened in my life. And even though I have made some very, very big mistakes, I’ve conducted myself well enough that people find a way to feel warmly back.

Thanks to John and Darren for being part of my life. And mostly thanks to Tim for being by my side and trusting our love and commitment enough not to find it all too weird!


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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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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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Month-Aversary

This last week I celebrated my six month anniversary with my boyfriend. It is hard to believe it has been a half a year already. When I woke up that day, I found a text with a poem that he wrote at 3 am. He said I could share it, but I hesitated because then everyone will know he is actually a better writer than I am…lol.  Anyhow, I think you will see that some things are worth waiting for. I am indeed a blessed/lucky and grateful woman.

Six months ago,
You appeared.
Six months ago,
Our eyes met.
Six months ago,
You touched my hand.
Six months ago,
Our hearts met.
Six months ago,
We shared a little kiss.
Six months ago,
Our voyage began.
Today,
I absolutely love you.
Six months from now,
I will absolutely love you more.
Six years from now,
I will unconditionally love you more than more.
Sixty years from then,
My heart will always be with you.
I love you Darcy.
Darcy, Tim