Sep 102014
 

Chase

I just dropped Chase off at middle school. MIDDLE SCHOOL.

Like I’ve been doing for three weeks now- I let him out of the car. I let him walk away from me and toward that huge building filled with PEOPLE AND DYNAMICS AND IDEAS and other horrible wonderful things that will break his heart and MAKE his heart and that I have no business trying to control. I let him walk toward a life that is HIS and not mine. Toward experiences that he is meant to have without me. Toward journeys he has to take alone.

Someone needs to create a word that describes what happens inside of a mama’s heart as she’s watching her child walk into a school building. We need a word for the feeling that overtakes her after saying goodbye to her infant who is somehow masquerading as a young MAN and who is walking away from her into his adolescent life. A word to describe the phenomena that is a mother sitting helplessly in her empty van while her heart silent screams her daily PLEASEPLEASEPLEASES!!! PLEASE be good to him Please see his strengths and overlook his weaknesses Please sit by him at lunch. Please smile back when he smiles. Please want to be his partner. Please be gentle. Pleasepleaseplease.PLEASE.

And how as she watches him walk away- toward the unknown of his day and away from the KNOWN of her (SO BRAVE! HOW DID HE GET SO BRAVE??? IS THIS LEVEL OF INSANE BRAVENESS EVEN WISE????) her head understands that the world is unfolding as it should. Her head KNOWS that all is well. That he is beginning his LIFE and that LIFE in all its bruty is what he came here for. And that he is ready. But her heart will not receive that memo. Her heart wants to run after him and pull him close and say: JUST JOKING HONEY! WE MADE A MISTAKE! THIS IS TOO MUCH! Come home and we will stay together forever and I will make sure that life NEVER HAPPENS TO YOU. Don’t worry. We will snuggle forever. Because I am not ready.

So she just sits in her empty van for a moment- holding up the car line for a split second too long. Her body is temporarily paralyzed, short circuited by the opposing messages from her head and her heart. The mixed messages SWARM her being and all at once she feels pride and fear and terror and excitement and hope and hopelessness and tenderness and ferocity and loss and gain. All these emotions swirl until her heart becomes so swollen that it threatens to escape out of her throat into tears and so she instructs herself to snap out of it. She shakes herself a bit. She breathes deeply and shrugs it all off and she drives away. And on her way home she tries to restore her heart to its original size by thinking of other things. Practical things. Because it’s all too much. Whatever that feeling is- it’s a lot like looking right at the sun. It’s simply too bright to stand for longer than a moment.

Is it love? Is the word love? Damn. Love wins but love hurts.



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest


Sep 092014
 

5 Ways to Help Your Grieving Friend

We’ve never launched another author’s book here at Momastery. Today is a first, which is fitting because Rare Bird is a one-of-a-kind book.

Yesterday was the third anniversary of the death of Jack — the beloved son of my friend Anna Whiston-Donaldson. Three years ago yesterday, Jack and his little sister Margaret went out to play in the summer rain and Margaret returned alone. Jack was literally swept away. It is all unthinkable. But the miracle is that Anna thought about it. She looked all of it right in the eye and she did not turn away. She did not run or numb or fade. She felt it all and bore it all and so the hole left by Jack has become a Holy Hole for Anna.

Anna grieved and she still grieves, but somehow she grieves with great hope. And she channels her grief into service to the world. To that end, she wrote RARE BIRD – which LAUNCHES TODAY. Rare Bird is a book about Jack’s life and death. It’s about how a family survives the loss of one of its own and it’s about hope and miracles and pain and redemption. Rare Bird is an absolute masterpiece.

The incredible thing about this book is that while Anna is telling the story of her family- she is also telling the Story of Grief. Anna gives the world an incredible gift as she becomes Grief’s Translator. The horror of grief is that it so rarely can explain itself. Grief stuns the griever into silence or wordless wails so that those who love the griever cannot know what she feels or needs. And so the griever become even more alone, more isolated, with less hope. The magic of Rare Bird is that- ANNA BUILDS A BRIDGE FOR US- a bridge from our heart into the heart of the griever. Anyone committed to becoming a better friend or a wiser human being should read this book.

Please, please –  let us not say: I can’t. I won’t read it. It’s too much. That pain is too much. That is not what we say to someone in grief.  And it’s simply not true. We can bear each other’s grief and joy. That is what we’re here for, in fact. And so please remember that loss is not contagious but it is inevitable. Loss visits us all. And so when a prophet steps forward and says: Let me teach you. Let me tell you how this feels so that you can be ready when loss comes to you- and so that you can be ready to serve when grief comes to your friend. We say: YES. Tell me. I’ll listen. And I will understand that in telling me your story you are offering me a GIFT. I accept. Thank you. 

This book is a GIFT that Anna has offered to the world. Let us say THANK YOU and buy it and read it and give it. Let us do our part to conquer at least the alone part of grief. We can beat that part. Rare Bird will help.

One of the gifts of Rare Bird is the glimpse into how to help a friend in crisis. Below, Anna shares her wisdom with us.

ALSO- Listen to our podcast to hear Anna and me discuss how we met, writing, faith, and why – on the night of the accident- my van never made it to her house.

Anna Whiston-Donaldson’s
Five Ways to Help Your Grieving Friend

Show up.

Memorialize and Honor.

Listen.

Remember.

Don’t Give Up.

1) Show up. Go to her house. Go to the funeral. Mark your calendar for a few days or a week afterward to stop by with a latte and a hug. Do it again. Grief is isolating, while also being exhausting and overwhelming. Your friend will likely need you to initiate for a while, but if you remind yourself to “Just Show Up” physically and emotionally, you will help her heal.

2) Memorialize and honor. Honor your friend’s loved one by attending vigils, visitations, and any charity events held in his or her name. Support causes that are meaningful to the family. If you did know the loved one, write down your memories to give to your friend. If you didn’t, that’s okay too!  Let yourself learn about him or her through your friend. Keep your eyes and heart open for a meaningful way to honor him or her. A few women tied blue ribbons around trees and mailboxes in our neighborhood, and it spread throughout town as a way to memorialize our son. Small gifts such as a special piece of jewelry, a book, candle, or artwork, may give your friend something to hold onto even as her tangible connection to her loved one feels like it is slipping away.

3) Listen. Your quiet presence and silent hug mean MUCH MORE to your friend than any grand gesture. Supporting  a friend is scary because we are terrified of saying the wrong thing. Words are next to useless at a time like this, so give yourself a break. A simple “I’m so sorry” and a listening ear are enough. Your intention is pure, and your friend will be able to sense that. “Do you want to tell me what these past few days have been like?” might be a way to give her permission to open up if she wants to. But silence is okay.

4) Remember: Remember the birthday of the deceased, and the anniversary or the time of year of his or her death. Call, text, or send a card– “I’m thinking of you today as you miss your mom.” Or, make a note to reach out on a significant holiday such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or Valentine’s Day. Depending on the situation, this could also be the first day of school, or the opening day of baseball season when the pain could be acute. Don’t worry that you will be reminding your friend of her loss. She is likely already thinking about it, and your small acknowledgment will let her know you are too. Find a way to bring up the loved one’s name in conversation. The more you do it, the easier it gets, “I watched the Yankees play last week and thought of Jack,” or “Your mom really loved summer, didn’t she?”  This helps your friend know that even though time has passed, you still remember.

5) Don’t give up: Your friendship may feel one sided for a while. You may be tempted to back off, give your friend space, or let her reach out to you once she knows what she needs. You may even feel a bit let down that she seems to be relating to others more than you these days. Perhaps she has formed bonds with others who have experienced a similar loss, and you are wondering what this means for your friendship. The key is to keep letting her know you care. Let go of expectations of how/if she will respond. Grief is extremely disorienting and lonely, and you can stave off some of that by being consistently present even if that is just through Facebook, texts, and (unreturned) phone messages.  Yes, your friend has changed due to her experience, but she still loves and needs you. And if you are willing to walk beside her in her grief, you will both be richer for it.

 



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest


Sep 042014
 

One evening, an elderly Cherokee brave told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf wins?’

The old Cherokee replied simply, “The one you feed.”

LISTEN. The scarier and more shocking the news gets- the better their ratings.  If we look to the news for the truth of our world we are feeding only one wolf. Because the news is not really a reflection of WHAT HAPPENED TODAY –  it is a reflection of the CRAZIEST, MOST PROVOCATIVE things that happened today. And so if we swallow only what they’re feeding us- well, it all feels exciting going down- but we end up feeling a little icky, a little paranoid, a little defeated.

BUT LOOK- our friends at CWS would like to remind us that yes, there is evil in the world –  but there is much, MUCH MORE GOOD IN THE WORLD. That while the news shows us the loudest acts of evil from a few –  the masses go about quietly doing good. Trying to take care of each other. Making sure that in our immediate and global communities, as often as possible- Love Wins.

So, without further ado…I bring you today’s GOOD NEWS, brought to you by our friends at CWS.

1. THIS GUY IS GOOD NEWS.

Maurice Bloem

This guy, Maurice Bloem, was in Indonesia when the devastating tsunami hit in 2004, and he headed up CWS’s response for storm survivors there. Every single day he pours out his life in service to others. He knows that the first 1000 days of a life are the most important days for child development, so he walks 100 MILES EVERY YEAR to help mamas and babies he’s never met get the nutrition they need. THANKS, FRIEND!

Healthy Baby


2. THIS CREW in Louisville, Kentucky IS REALLY GOOD NEWS.

Refugee Welcome Group

These folks welcome refugees into their homes and serve them and love them and then speak out to anyone who will listen-  so that refugees around the world might find the peace and freedom that is their birthright.

Refugee Girl


3. THESE GORGEOUS PEOPLE in Mapleton, Minnesota are GOOD NEWS.

Packing School Kits

They spent afternoons filling bags of school supplies so that these kids in Missouri…

School kits

…and these girls in Serbia, and thousands and thousands more children like them in the US and around the world will have the supplies they need to go to school. Look at the smiles. I die.

serbia-jeffrey


4. THIS VOLUNTEER in Raleigh, NC IS GOOD NEWS!

foodbank

She uses her hands and her huge heart to restock shelves of a CWS-supported local food pantry so that for today –  her neighbors will not go hungry.


5. THIS COMMUNITY in Red Bank, New Jersey IS GREAT NEWS!!!

Redbank CROP Hunger Walk

Hundreds of community members in Red Bank show up every year to participate in the CWS CROP Hunger Walk, a walk that supports all the rest of the good news we already talked about.  The CROP Hunger Walk tagline is “Ending Hunger One Step at a Time,” and each step is a step to empower the millions of people around the world who are forced to walk to get to find clean water, to access education, to escape violence or natural disaster.  There are over 1000 CROP Hunger Walks taking place this fall in communities around the United States. Here’s a link to find one if you want to join your steps with theirs. THANK YOU, RED BANK!


6. And here’s my favorite.
This is the President and CEO of CWS, Rev. John L. McCullough, getting arrested in Washington, D.C. for peacefully protesting the lack of care that the immigrant children were receiving.

Rev. John McCullough

This is what We Belong To Each Other looks like!  I WANT TO MARRY CWS AND THEN SPEND FOREVER BAILING THEM OUT OF JAIL.

Okay. Good Wolf feeling strong? Great. Carry On, Warriors and:

be-the-good



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest