3 Ways to Endure Loss at the Holidays

My son’s football jersey lay folded on my lap; it will never be worn again. Not by my son and not by any other player on the High School football team. This is the gift offered in honoring my son’s life by the school and the team.

Determination, strategy, and looking out for your friends was my mantra to the team on Senior Banquet night as I encouraged them to be honest, stay away from drugs, and relayed my son’s struggle with addiction. Teammates, friends, of my son, received awards and applause for their contributions and accomplishments as athletes on this night; But, my son, Caleb, was not here on this night with his friends.  Speaking this message on Dec. 7, 2018, was hard.

You know what else is hard? 

Holidays. 

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Holidays are very hard for those of us who grieve. Holidays magnify the loss of a loved one, no matter if they died two weeks ago, or as in my case, my son died three and a half years ago from an accidental drug overdose; the heartache is heavier around the holidays.

The hard question is: how do we endure it?

I reflect on the words I spoke to Caleb’s teammates: determination, strategy, and looking out for your friends, and believe these are totally applicable to me right now as I endure this holiday season.

Sheer determination is what it takes to stand firm and persevere through the hard emotions, just as a lineman stands planted with both feet on the ground and all his weight pressed forward against the opposition that tries to plow him over. As the opposing teammate pushes against the lineman, hard emotions push against us who grieve and try to knock us down.

Strategy is key. A team does not go out on the field for a play without a strategy. Likewise, we who grieve need a strategy; what plan do we have to help us navigate the holidays when emotions run wild? My strategy is this:

  1. Allow and accept the emotions; it’s okay.
  2. Keep traditions; they provide stability.
  3. Invite others in; don’t isolate.

Lastly, look out for your friends. 

Two-fold, this applies to those of us who grieve, as well as those who watch people grieve. I find when I am feeling low, the best remedy for rising up out of the dark places is to focus on lifting someone else up. This brings me joy: Jesus, Others, Yourself. In this order, I find healing.

If you are watching someone grieve, look out for them by sitting with their emotions, with them. Do not negate them or brush them under the rug, and never say, “you should be over this by now.” (Fact: people do not “get-over” missing their loved one).  Include and invite: open your door for purposeful dates with those friends and speak about their loved one with them in a natural way of remembering; this is healing for us who grieve.

Determination, strategy, and looking out for your friends are three prompts I gave to the football team, friends of my son, Caleb, to spur positive and healthy life beyond the field. They are the same prompts I offer to you so that you may not only endure this holiday season, but have joy too!

Are You Sure Your Kid Isn’t Using Drugs?

If someone asked me that when my kids entered their teen years, I would flat out have said,

Of course my kids don’t do drugs. I raised them better than that.

I home educated all but one of my kids all the way from kindergarten through graduating High School, just one son attended four years at the local high school. We were a family immersed in church life and Christian summer camps and family camps filled many vacations. We were a close family and I knew my kids knew right from wrong and smart from stupid.

And, yes, I believe they did know all we taught them, even as more than one of them succumbed to using drugs and drinking.

Curiosity.

Peer pressure.

Life challenges leading to desire for escape…

All these things played a part into the experimenting and dabbling with things my kids knew they should not have even touched.

So, I ask again, are you sure your kid isn’t using drugs?

I ask, because today is NATIONAL OVERDOSE AWARENESS DAY.

I ask, because one of my dear young sons overdosed three and half years ago at the age of 19.

Before that, I never knew National Overdose Awareness Day even existed.

Please don’t think it can’t happen to your family. I thought the same and the devastation of my sons death blew me away and woke me to a reality that is continuing to devastate so many families in our culture right now.

It wasn’t a sudden thing; it was a slow thing. It began with curiosity mixed with peer pressure. I know for a fact that the drinking began within the church youth friendship group. I know for a fact, the drugs were introduced on the sports teams my kids played on at the public High School.

The problem was, that for many teens, it was just an experimentation and dabbling for the sake of fun; everyone tries something in their teens, right? The kids my kids tried things with, for the most part, had no long lasting issues remain. Even among my own kids, most of them had no lingering issues.

But the problem was, for my son Caleb, it affected him differently because he had a predisposition for addiction. And he was caught by the beast of addiction slowly but surely and by the time he was in over his head, we, his parents were just beginning to be aware of his using and even still we were in denial. We knew too little, too late, because we were so unaware of what to look for or that it could happen to our family.

Again, are you sure your kid isn’t using drugs?

If you have the slightest inkling, do not deny it.

If your kid has slacked off school, or chores, or hygiene, or cooperation, or conversation, or become moody…

If you have found plastic baggies, or burnt spoons, or empty straw-like insides of pens, or bottle caps, or odd shaped glass pipes, or unidentifiable pills, or small propane lighters…

pay attention!

Talk to your kid, talk to a professional, call your local DART program at the police station, or call your local Recovery Center for help and advice.

Be sure. Be wise. Be proactive.

Because if your kid is caught by the beast of addiction, he or she needs your help and needs it fast.

My heart forever aches.

I share with you today, this post, because I wish for no other momma to ache in their heart like I do.

For Those Who Grieve in Any Way

Is there any comfort?

Are you grieving the loss of a loved one?

Is it due to a substance misuse? Is it due to waywardness? Is it due to illness… even possibly to Covid-19?

Is it your spouse? your parent? your child? your friend?

Is it over the state of our country, the world, and all we once knew as normal?

I know certain loved ones, and friends who are very heavy of heart right now, including me.

Is there any comfort?

 

“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

This is some comfort.

“As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it….” (Luke 19:41)

This is some comfort.

“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” – coupled with, “…he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears…” (Luke 22:44 & Hebrews 5:7)

This is some comfort.

The comfort is this: Jesus knows your pain and your sorrow and your psycho-symptomatic responses – He has experienced all of it.

He wept over the death of His best friend. He understands the loss and the void and the hole it leaves in the soul. Even more, He wept at the lack of faith of humanity, He wept at the loss of peace humanity could have had, if they had seen and understood what was before them. And He wept for each of us, people of every generation, as he faced all that led Him to the cross.

My son drew this picture of Jesus. My son was able to draw this picture of Jesus’ sorrow because he wept too; he wept over the struggles of mental illness and addiction, over a battle he felt powerless to… but underneath, my son knew the comfort of Jesus, and despite his failing and falling to overdose death, I believe and trust that Jesus loved Him into heaven.

I have wept ferociously, to the point of biting my pillowcase and voicelessly screaming, gasping for air; how much more emotion and heartache He must have endured to sweat drops of blood?

This is all comfort to me because I know that none of my grief is misunderstood or disregarded; I know Jesus weeps with me; He will never tell me, get over it. There is true comfort when one speaks to one who knows. A person suffering the loss of a child is most comforted by one who has also lost a child; a person suffering the loss of a spouse to illness is most comforted by one who has also lost a spouse to illness…and so on – we who grieve and suffer for whatever reason, understand this.

Jesus is the answer to our grief and our pain because He knows and weeps alongside us.

During these days before Easter Sunday is a time to reflect on this. If we can imagine the walk of Jesus to the cross, I believe we can understand both the power and the depth of Love that is ours through Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the cross.

Look to the cross today…

Know that you are not forgotten in your sorrows. Jesus understands and offers you comfort and peace that is not understandable. Today, you can know the love of being held by the One who has conquered death and lives in Heaven.

Will you turn to Him?

Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face… and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

Click on the line above and be blessed.

I love you, my readers, I pray you will each find your comfort in the One who knows it all and has the power to lift you and hold you and save you.

Holidays: Not a Time of Cheer for Everyone

Expecting one, who has lost their legs in an accident, to get up and walk like they use to, is ridiculous. They cannot do it – even with all the best wishing in the world – because life for them has been altered forever.

The same is true for every.single.person. who has suffered a tragedy, no matter what it was, or when it was; time makes no difference. Loss from disease or accident, expected or sudden – it does not matter – it’s all the same terrible.

For me, my tragedy is the sudden, unexpected death of my son to an overdose, eighteen months ago. I am altered for life – not just for a time, or a season; Life for me will never be the same. I walk around with a weight that bears down and a hole that has blown through my heart.

The trouble with holidays is that the expectation for everyone to be of good cheer, be happy, and enjoy the season is rampant.

And for some, it is very hard to embrace the holidays where “family all together” carving turkey at the proverbial Norman Rockwell table is thrown in our faces by ads, movies, and the general chatter of the holiday season.

While I am blessed to have a large, living family still gathered around, my momma’s heart weighs heavy… there is still one empty chair, one forever missing in the “family” photo, and one less child eating the traditional Christmas cookies – specifically, the butterscotch ones.

WHAT. TO. DO……?

That’s a question with a two-fold answer.

What to do if you are the friend, or family member, of someone who is not full of cheer and suffers with a broken heart this holiday season: 

  1. Be patient and do not judge when they do not want to attend a christmas tea, or the cookie swap, or even put up a tree.
  2. Extend the offer of conversation, a listening ear, and willingness to just be there alongside; try to understand; allow their feelings to just be.
  3. Do a practical help if possible – doing life is hard under normal day-to-day circumstances when a heart is broken – even more difficult during the holiday season, getting out of bed, some days, might be the total accomplishment for the day.

What to do if you are the one suffering from a tragedy, the same or different, as me:

  1. Have faith, God knows your pain and heartbreak; Trust He will provide all you need.
  2. There’s no way around the holidays – we just have to go through them;  even if you have nothing but tears – let yourself feel what you feel – be true to yourself, but be kind to those around you – it’s no ones fault.
  3. Don’t turn away from well intentioned acts of love; allow God to work in you, as well as in the well intentioned.

 God has not forgotten me, nor has he forgotten you;

“God is close to the brokenhearted.” Psalm 34:18a

So yeh – Holidays: not a time of cheer for everyone – but I tell you the truth, there is something even better than good cheer, it is knowing that you are loved by God with an everlasting love, no matter what…and in that, there is  HOPE – there for the taking, for everyone.

Be authentic in this season of holidays, Jesus loves, you just as you are.

Are you suffering with grief of one sort or another?

Are you local to the Pioneer Valley?

If so, I invite you to “SONGS for the NIGHT”

(click above, on Songs for the Night, for details)

 

My calendar is marked, is yours?

“Grief; Get over it and Move on…”

Grief; get over it and move on…” This statement, sometimes accompanied by the coy-inpatient look, even without speaking the exact words, is both feared and despised by those of us who have lost a son or a daughter to a substance, overdose death.
You don’t know, until you know.  So don’t presume to know when someone should get over their grief and move on.
The fact that this mom is even out of bed and moving at all, is an accomplishment on some days…
…because GRIEF, never goes away.
This is my battle with grief; this is about my son.

I am in the egg that sizzles in the pan with a pop and a splat;
I am among the crumbs left strewn across the counter with drips of hot butter trailing off the counter.
When the moon is heavily misted, on a cool night, I am there in the exhaled puff of your breath,
And in the rise of tiny goosebumps.

I roll in your mind like the ocean tide that breaks on the pebbled beach,
tossed over and over and over.
As the farm supply truck passes by,
And the bearded friends walk past, I am there too.

I am in the lulls and quiet places; Always in the holding bear hugs.
In the chuckles and giggles…
In the cannonball jumps…
In the flipping of the anticipated burgers, and the crackles of the bonfire, I am present.

Body, mind, and heart remember me.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Another day,
each day,
today;
I am always as close as the warm, sweet, milk breath of an infant sleeping on a momma’s bare breast.

As the shades of night are pulled,
And when the dawn awakens with the song of the mockingbird,
I settle in upon e v e r y t h i n g.
In the trash piled by the backdoor,
In the gritty grind of the stones underfoot,
and in each clomping step up the bare wood stairs.

The measure of love is immeasurable,
unable to be weighed and counted because I am always pressing.
Grief matches the love.
I am in it all.
Especially when the refrigerator door is left open.

So, you see…
There’s no getting over my grief because memories are everywhere.

Move on? I do.

Every day I get out of bed and do life as it unrolls before me and I live; I live with the grief undergirding my experience of everything in my path, it has become part of my DNA. My way of living is forever changed and I may walk slower than before, I may forget the to-do’s and ignore the insignificant, I may choose a different path than everyone is expecting. Fact.

No. Grief never goes away. Even when I smile, or laugh, and look as if all is well, know…that at any moment, a lump is in my throat, a tear is trickling, or a good cry is on it’s way.

If you know someone like me, be patient, be understanding, and be ever so tender. Treat others the way you would want to be treated if the tables were turned. Just do me a favor, do not tell your grieving family member or friend to, “Get over it and move on…