When you’re so tired that you can’t see “it”…

When was the last time you were exhausted? The tired body, the overactive mind, the stress or anxiety behind it all…for some of us it’s far too often. Whether it’s everyday life, grief or a particular battle we are facing, it can be overwhelming. Our minds can get clouded by the clutter and we need a sign of relief.

I have a friend who has been actively caring for her husband for years. He has had major health battles that they have won but the battle continues and they need a miracle. She selflessly works to improve and prolong his health.  She has a great faith in God and is a warrior for the truth.  She is amazing and, yet, she is also tired. She won’t give up, and yet, she needs some rest and some hope. 

She posted a photo on social media the other day of one of her houseplants. Instead of the green leaf and stems standing tall, they were collectively drooping to one side and resting on the edge of the pot. They were still beautifully created but they were tired. They needed some major tender loving care to be able to stand again.  She posted the unfiltered photo below with a comment of, “When your plant reflects how you are doing…”

Used by permission – courtesy of DT

What she didn’t see initially, I saw immediately. In the photo there is clearly a rainbow covering the pot and plant. A rainbow, the sign of God’s promise to his people. If you believe in God, you are his people. Yes, love, you may be tired, you may need rest, you may feel like it’s going to be really hard to stand again. But God is covering you in His promises – whether you can see it right now or not.  We see it, we know it and we feel it. We’re not insisting that you need to see it but we want to promise you it’s there. Share your fears, worries and troubles with your friends and the Lord. There is power in prayer – and God hears us.  Tomorrow may be another hard day – maybe the next one will be, too. But God’s with you and he won’t desert you – even when you’re tired and can’t see signs of hope.  He will bring others near you to care for you. Friends, please say a prayer for “D” and the many others that need rest and hope today. 

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. (Psalm 62:5 NIV) 


Burn, baby burn!

Photo credit: werner22brigitte

We are entering the season of fall bonfires. There’s something mesmerizing about a fire…when you are seated around it, with friends, family or neighbors, watching the blue and orange hued flames dance about. These are the fun fires, the smell of the season, the time to relax…

Unplanned fires, however, can be tragedies. My heart aches when I see a house, garage, barn or business burned, erasing memories, value and leaving ashes and brokenness. I know families that have had to start from scratch and grieve the loss of not only the structure but of memories and irreplaceable contents.

These examples are two extremes – good/enjoyable and bad/devastating. Is there a fire in the middle of those two opposites, or a combination of the two? Can a fire be good and bad? Yes. 

Recently I used a fire to extinguish evidence of a time filled with pain and confusion. 

I had been in the process of organizing, decluttering and assessing what I could sell, donate or minimize in order to live more simply. (No, I’m not living simply yet, but there’s a will and I’m digging my way.) I came across binders of letters that my ex-husband and I had written to each other during an awful time. I had saved them all and even made copies of the letters I wrote to him. I’m not sure why I was keeping them, neatly organized by date, even. Would they make for a tell-all book someday? Sure. But these were extremely personal questions, explanations and feelings that I would never want anyone else to read, especially my children. The thought crossed my mind – what if something happened to me tomorrow and my children, friends or family had to go through my belongings and found these letters? 

I made the decision that I was ready to get rid of these letters. They served no purpose anymore except to relive a nightmare, as I started to read through them. I felt the anxiety and anger rise in my body as I had forgotten some of the worst exchanges. I didn’t read them all again, but I read enough to confirm that these needed to disappear. I called a friend and asked if she wanted to join me in a “burn party,” saying goodbye to documents and letters. She agreed and gladly contributed boxes of painful paperwork from two decades prior that she, too, was ready to be rid of. 

It was hard. It was hard to let go even though I knew it was the right thing to do. I felt angry and a little bitter that I had to even spend energy on a task like this. I teared up and tensed up. Little by little,  I tossed the letters into the fire.  I carefully watched the pages curl and brown, shrink and disappear. I gradually felt a peace pass over me as if the pain, at least some of it, was shrinking and fading with the pages. My friend felt the same about her papers. Years of tangible reminders of stress, pain, legal and financial burdens and feelings of grief were being released into the flames … soon to be nothing but meaningless ashes. 

The fire can’t take away what’s in my mind. I’ll have the memories and reminders forever. But letting go of the tangible evidence of pain was the right method. I know how far I’ve come in healing and I’m grateful that I don’t have to worry about my kids, friends or family finding those horrific written exchanges between two people in the midst of an unimaginable tragedy.  The fire was destructive; bad for the papers but good for the healing.

Are you holding onto needless and maybe even painful clutter? 

Do you have paperwork or letters in your house that you wouldn’t want anyone else to read? Maybe it’s no-longer-applicable love letters or fight letters or documents that are unnecessary. Is it time for your bonfire? 

If you’re not ready to get rid of it all, consider downsizing it to a smaller box, file or lockbox. It’s ok to let go gradually. But letting go of unnecessary “stuff” is cleansing, freeing, and might just be the healing you need in order to move forward. 

Disclaimer: Make sure your items to burn are strictly your property, within your authority to possess or get rid of, won’t ever be required to be presented again, and that no one else would be negatively affected by the ‘good riddance.’

The missing Grandpa

Y’all, I’ve been widowed 13 years. 

Wait: for the people that know me, they are thinking, “Y’all? Did she say y’all?” I am not from the south, I just really love that phrase. Let’s get back to my story, friends! 

I’m not a “recent” widow. I’m not actively grieving. I still have moments, occasions, days, milestones where I’m sad, heartbroken and lonely. But it’s not my norm anymore, by the grace of God and lots of support from friends and family. 

But this weekend, out of seemingly nowhere, I had the saddest thought I’ve had in a long time. I feel like it was triggered by something my daughter said, but I can’t even remember now what it was. I just remember feeling like a dark cloud loomed over me and my heart sank. 

I realized, being a widow, that my children’s children won’t have a grandpa. Think about that. They’ll just have me. Just a grandma. I grew up without a grandpa (both maternal and paternal grandfathers died before I was born), and I always felt that missing piece. I adored my grandmothers and think about them so often and just wonder what having a grandpa would feel like.  And for whatever reason, this weekend it just made me sad that my grandchildren will have a missing piece in their life, too. 

For those that are widowed, your obvious absence is your spouse. You realize you’ve lost a spouse and your kids have lost a father. Your in-laws have lost a child. Siblings have felt a loss and so have cousins, neighbors and friends. And so on. But in 13 years, I don’t think I’ve ever thought about my children’s children missing a grandpa. It’s so strange how we adjust to life without our person and yet, still 13 years later have these new realizations that hit hard. 

We want our kids to have what we had, what we loved, what we treasure from our past. Realizing something is missing and there’s nothing we can do to fix it is tough. 

When I shared my feelings with some close friends, one agreed that coincidentally she, too, had a tough realization this weekend. Her granddaughters proudly declared that they have three cousins. While listening to their excitement, my friend counted her 38 cousins that she grew up with and spent so much time with. My friend never intended to have only one child but there are things out of our control and we do our best to be grateful for what God allows us to have. My friend, too, realized the strangeness of “missing cousins.” Luckily in her granddaughters’ case, they have three cousins from their dad’s side of the family. 

And so it could be with my grandchildren, too. They may get a grandpa if my children marry someone who has a living father.  And now as I think through this, I shake my head slightly. What in the world am I doing thinking about such things that I really do not have control over? Especially when the timeframe of my “grandchildren” is at least (hopefully) ten plus years away? Why do we do this to ourselves? We think about sad things, about the way things should be but aren’t, what we wish could be.  What do we do about this? Why must we torture ourselves in this way? 

I don’t have the answers. But I do believe that God provides what we need in the best way that they need it. While I missed out on my own grandpas, I had many years of special moments with my grandmas. And my kids have wonderful grandpas (and grandmas) to cherish. Life isn’t fair, that’s for sure. We don’t all get to experience the joy of the same relationships. We simply have to accept what we’ve been given and treasure those relationships that we have.  And it’s ok to be sad for a time; but just don’t stay there too long. Lord willing, tomorrow brings a new day and many reasons to love the spot we’re in and make the best of the moments we have with the ones that God provides. (And try not to think about 10+ years from now!)

How travel has helped with grieving

I love to travel and always have. 

I love exploring new places – seeing what cool foods and places are found elsewhere, outside of my little bubble. 

Traveling with my husband Kevin was focused on national parks – Smoky Mountains, Glacier National Park, Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore. I’m so grateful we took those trips, because eight years into our marriage he suddenly passed away from an enlarged heart. 

If you’ve gone through grief, you know it hits you unexpectedly and turns your world around. You now measure time in terms of before the loss and after the loss since your world is much different from one to the other. 

About a year and a half after my husband died I was with some friends who were talking about our friend Carrie, who had moved to Ireland with her husband and kids. It hit me like a lightning bolt. That’s what I need. I need a girls trip to visit Carrie in Ireland. We did and it was amazing.  The trip was therapeutic for so many reasons. The main one was finally getting to take care of and focus on myself. I was the only person I needed to get ready (and not calculate time to get a child ready). When asked what sounded good for dinner, I only had to ask myself and not make sure there was chicken nuggets or mac n cheese on the menu. 

Did I feel guilty? A little bit. Some questioned me leaving my 3 year old with family back home for 10 days. But it was necessary for my mental health. I realized during that trip that traveling with my friends was good medicine for me. I healed a lot on that trip. I ended up taking off my wedding ring after that trip – a personal choice for widows/ers that only they can determine the right timing.

For me, traveling with friends is therapy, a treat, an escape from hard day to day decisions as a single mom. I highly recommend finding those friends that you can be with for a few days that allow you to enjoy this break. I try to take a girls trip at least once or twice a year. It’s no longer a luxury but a necessity for my mental-well being. The trips aren’t extravagant but full of laughter and adventure. 

For some that are grieving, travel can be a welcomed escape. On the second anniversary of Kevin’s death, I wanted to get out of town. I rode the train to Chicago with my son and we met up with my friend and her two kids. I just wanted to be distracted in a different space. Don’t let anyone judge you for wanting to travel and get away and do something different. Do what’s best for you – you might not know if it will be better, but try it anyway. Tradition is good, but there’s no rule that says you have to keep doing the same thing forever. Your tradition could be doing something different each year. 🙂 

One widow friend loves to travel but realized this time upon her return there won’t be flowers on the counter welcoming her home. Another friend says it’s hard to travel since the only person she ever traveled with was her spouse, no longer here. To them I say I am sorry. Your travel, should you wish to keep doing it, will look different. But if you loved it before, you can love it again – just with different people and different experiences. Maybe you have a friend back home arrange to drop off flowers before you get home. Maybe you choose to travel to places that your spouse wouldn’t have wanted to travel to anyway. Or maybe places that he wanted to travel to but didn’t get the chance…and he will surely be glad you did and will be thankful you got there, even without him. 

If you haven’t heard of One Fit Widow, check her out. She is a Michigan native whose husband died suddenly when she had two small children. She created One Fit Adventures that travel to exciting places that check off bucket list dreams that her husband wasn’t able to do. She understands that he would want her to do them even without him.  It’s one of my bucket list items to go on a trip with her group. https://my1fitlifeadventures.com/

The latest travel experience that I’m now addicted to is called Pack Up & Go. It’s a surprise travel agency that plans the details of the trip for you. For single moms, and anyone that tires of having to figure out details and make decisions for everyone, it is a dream. Or, for those that just like to be surprised. You pick your budget, travel method (plane, train, road trip), travel dates (at least 30 days out), you choose where they should not send you, and you fill out a survey about things you like to do on a 3-day vacation. Then…a week before your trip you get an envelope that you don’t open until the day of your trip. The day of your trip you find out where your destination is. You just go. You just go where someone else has planned for you to go. It is lovely. You can follow their itinerary (full of hidden gems) or you can do your own thing once there.  (Check it out: https://prz.io/bpmEXDriv)

Whatever your situation, I highly recommend travel. Travel outside of your bubble once in awhile and try new things. A change of scenery is so good for the soul even if it’s for a 3-day mini vacation. I don’t consider myself to be “actively” grieving anymore, but I suppose as a single mom there is always a level of grief; for this life you have, while grateful, is different than you imagined. For me, travel with my friends helps immensely with that.

Travel therapy: Hike at Red Rocks, Colorado May 2022.

The Strangest Item on my Shopping list: Part 2

If you haven’t read Part 1 you can read it here: https://bethanyfranceblog.com/2021/12/18/the-strangest-item-on-my-shopping-list/. I listened and obeyed God when He asked me to do something strange. Something that didn’t really make sense, but I did it anyway. I posted the story with the teaser of “stay tuned,” for even I didn’t know at that time what the ending would be.

When some read my post they were excited to hear part 2. They were hoping for a cool story, a “goose bump-giving” reaction, an amazing outcome. I was, too. I thought of different scenarios. I shrugged and just figured God would let me know what I was supposed to do with that box of diapers. He told me to buy it, but he didn’t tell me what to do with it. So, it traveled around in my car for a few weeks, got banged around with some skis and other gear, with the same questions: Mom, what are we doing with these diapers?

I don’t know. I prayed about it. I asked God to let me know what to do with them. I wanted to see the person that was going to benefit from these. But the constant answer I got is that it wasn’t my business to know. It was just my business to obey.

I finally took the box to church and set it in a cradle that holds donations for the Pregnancy Resource Center. There it was. I was going to have no idea who it would go to, there weren’t any witnesses to me leaving it there. There would be no amazing grace story that I could report back to my friends. I felt a tinge of longing for something more. Not so much accolades for me, but so I could see the joy or relief in someone else’s eyes. But just when I thought, “that’s it?” I heard God whisper, “that’s everything.” Following God’s prompting even when it seems odd, different, out of our comfort zone…it’s what He wants from us. He wants us to trust that He is always up to something, many things, and we play a role in His plans if we’ll follow His lead.

I’m thinking tonight of the people that don’t think what they do matter. The people that get stuck in the mundane, every day same old life. Maybe it’s chaotic and it’s spinning and there seems to be no rest. Maybe it’s a lonely place to be and there’s not much to look forward to. Maybe you think you’re not fantastic. You’re no miracle worker, you’re not saving the planet or curing diseases. Maybe no one looks to you for expertise and there’s just nothing you do that’s extraordinary. Maybe you try but it really doesn’t seem to make a difference and there’s not really much God can use you for. He uses the great ones, the well-spoken, the popular, the ones who really have it all together. (Wrong). Wrong. He uses all of us, if we let Him. No matter how big or small the task is that you feel driven to do, if God affirms it is the right path, or better yet, if He led you to it, it’s an important part of His plan. If you don’t understand it, what it means, or how it all ends – it’s ok. Maybe you’re not meant to. It’s His business, not yours. You may just be the conduit through something larger He’s working on.

Tonight’s prayer: God, I know you’re always up to something – lots of somethings. Let me be part of your plan. Show me where you need me and I’ll go. Give me a sense of direction to do something small, big, fun, inconvenient, strange or uncomfortable to help you. I may wince, shrug, or question, but I promise I’ll try. Even if it’s something small, like calling someone that you place in my mind, or going out of my way to open a door for someone, you may actually be doing something big with it. I won’t always know the reason or outcome and I’m learning to embrace that. Use me, God, for your will. Amen.

The strangest item on my shopping list…

I started writing down my shopping list and I got a very strong nudge to put diapers on the list. Whaaat? Why? I have not needed to buy these for over three years. But it was a strong feeling that I just had to buy diapers for …someone. No harm in putting it on the list. 

Once at the store, as I weaved through the aisles, knowing this was my last trip here until after the holidays, I found myself staring at the diapers. As I looked at the prices in the $40 range, I thought how expensive these are! I don’t miss buying these on a regular basis. Was I really going to buy some? That strong nudge again – buy diapers. But what size? I didn’t even know who they were for so how would I know what size to buy? I’m not sure why but I grabbed a box of size 2 diapers. I put them in my cart and just shook my head while smiling to myself like a crazy person. 

Alexas_Fotos / 21621 images

So, the diapers now sit in the back of my car. Could I drop them off at church – sure. A food pantry could use them or a foster/adoptive care donation center could find someone that has that need. But somehow I feel like I am supposed to be in a situation where I hear of the need and say, “here you go” and hand over the box. When and where will this situation take place? I have no idea. 

I told a couple friends who have recently studied with me the “Voice of God” (Priscilla Shirer, highly recommend!) and they were so supportive of me responding to God’s nudge and obeying what he was asking me to do even though it sounded ridiculous. He’s not asked me to build an ark but it is still a strange and very clear request to buy a product I have no need for myself or anyone in my immediate circle needs. I can’t recall another time when He has asked me to do something this odd or this far outside of my comfort zone. It’s actually kind of a cool feeling the longer I think about it. 

After my supportive friends cheered me on in my listening to the voice of God they said, “I can’t wait to hear how this story ends!” I’m thinking that I can’t either. Will it be some magical moment? Will it be a story that I can share with others as an example of why it’s so great to listen to God and obey Him – because of the outcome? Will people get goosebumps upon hearing the story? 

Maybe; maybe not at all.  The doubt and questioning of purpose set in. What if there is no exciting story to tell after this? What if the diapers sit in my car for a few weeks and/or I get impatient and just go ahead and drop them off at church? There’s no exciting ending there. There’s no realization of: this is the moment. This is what God’s voice was leading up to! It would be a pretty boring ending to what seemed like the start of a great story. 

And then “it” hit me. Maybe I’m not supposed to know who this box of diapers will bless. Maybe that’s none of my business. Maybe God will take it from wherever I drop the box off to. Maybe my business is to listen to God, do what He asks me to do and let Him handle the rest. After all, I’ve been wanting to give more anonymously so here’s my chance, right? 

When is the last time you listened and obeyed, not knowing what the outcome would be? We won’t always get to see what God is doing with the rest of it. Think of the ripple effect that happens when you do a nice gesture for someone; you may never know how far the benefits carry on, you just knew it was right to do the gesture in the first place. When you pay it forward at a fast food drive through, you bless the person behind you by paying for your meal and theirs, but you don’t really get to see how far that goes or how it affected other peoples days. You bless them and keep moving forward. What happens after you pull away is not in your control.

When we step out in faith, when we obey “promptings” or “gut feelings” or other terms for what I believe is God’s voice, we won’t necessarily see the end result. But God knows it all. Perhaps your role in His plan is to fulfill part of it and He’ll take the rest from there. I think He really likes it when we follow his lead regardless of if we understand or will see the outcome – but do it on pure obedience. 

If they obey and serve him,
    they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity
    and their years in contentment.   Job 36:11

I’m not patient but I’m trying to be.  I’m not sure how long this box of diapers will be in my car. I’m waiting. I’m waiting to get direction on what to do with them. I’ll be going to church in two days – do I bring it inside and drop it off? I have a strong feeling if I’m quiet I’ll get that nudge to know what to do next.

Five EASY ways to decorate when you’re tired but don’t want to be a Grinch

Credit: Shutterstock MALIZ ONG

  1. Buy a few artificial wreaths that already come with bows or bulb ornaments and hang it around your outside lights. It is festive and takes approximately 30 seconds. Yes, this might mean supporting a big box store to get a really cheap wreath, but read on, friends, there’s support for small businesses in a minute. 
  1. Change your outside light bulbs to red or green bulbs. Easy and quick. Decorator pro tip: If you use red bulbs, these will last right into Valentine’s Day. Use green bulbs and you’re set for St Patrick’s Day. Or, follow me and use a mix of the two and change the red/green back to normal bulbs just before Easter. You’re dabbling into decorating for several holidays for months to come. I know!! Keep reading for more mind blowing ideas.
  1. Buy a porch pot made by a local vendor. Local ingredients, local support, even if you spend a bit more than the outside light wreaths (idea#1) it’s worth it.  If you’re local to the West Michigan area, check out The Kraft Shack. Alternatively, if you’re crafty you can go for a hike in the woods and collect these items for free. (Of course if you are really crafty you are probably not reading this post to get ideas. But maybe you’re a tired crafty person and have given yourself permission to treat yourself this season and contract out some of your decor- wise choice!).  Note: be prepared for your dog to relieve himself on the porch pot (or deck pot, in my case). With all the branches and pine, it’s an understandable confusion and we’ll just hope it doesn’t affect the aesthetics.
  1. Buy a candle that smells like pine, mistletoe, cinnamon or sugar cookies.  The sense of smell is so powerful and can bring back all sorts of memories even if you don’t have energy to do much decorating or baking. Your nose will convince you and your family that you’re all up in the holiday spirit, even if it’s coming from a simple glass jar. Warning: if you choose the sugar cookie scent, be prepared to face the disappointed look from your family when they realize the scent does not lead to an edible treat. Consider quickly tossing them a wrapped chocolate candy from your private stash to prevent the chaos that could occur in this situation.
  1. Get a tree. Even if it’s an artificial, pre-lit small tree. There is something so mesmerizing about having the lights off except for the tree lights. Even if you don’t put any or many ornaments on, there is something magical about it. If you can put some ornaments on, choose the ones that bring you the happiest memories. For me, it’s the handmade ones from my kids. The ones where you’re not really sure what it’s supposed to be, or a half-painted train because their attention span at that time was 3 minutes. Those are special.

Whatever you choose to do this season for decorating, give yourself grace to let it be what it is. Pressure from your kids to carry on traditions can be ok…they look forward to certain things that are an important part of their childhood and lifetime memories. Many times, once you uphold those traditions whether it be decorating a certain way, or making a certain baked good, you’re glad you did. But also be good to yourself. If you just don’t feel like doing a certain activity this year, give yourself permission to skip it. You don’t have to skip it forever, but this year, it’s ok. It’s ok to change it up. Less is sometimes more. This year I only got out about one-third of our ornaments and I am completely at peace with that! Do your best to declare this Christmas season the season of PEACE. Maybe that means less decorating and more sitting and staring at a smaller, less glam tree. Whatever a more peaceful Christmas means…I wish that for you. 

What is one way YOU are simplifying your decorating this year? 

5 things many widows/single moms are missing right now …

If you’re not a widow or single person why is this post worth reading? Because this is a peek into our world and it’s important to tell your partner today which one you’re most appreciative of. If you are a single mom or widow, you’re not alone.

  1. Hugs 

Not until I met my husband Kevin did I actually like hugs. He hugged like no other. The kind that cracked your back and lifted you up off the ground until you shrieked and he set you down. Many people know “the Kevin hug” I’m talking about. I haven’t really liked hugs (except with my kids) since then.  The hug from your partner is not comparable to any other hug. The strong arms, the closeness, the extended period of time you could just stay in that spot without any need to move.   The feeling of: “I’m yours, I’ve got you, we’re together.”   Single and widowed people don’t have this feeling with their partner anymore. 

  1. Couples friends

When you married your spouse, they usually came with friends, some of which became your “couples friends.”  Or maybe the couples friends were people that you met together through church, or kids’ sporting events or through your neighborhood. You go camping with them, vacation with them, have game nights together, have bonfires with them, or go out to a new restaurant with them.   I miss being a couple and having couples friends. 

  1. Financial stability

The financial stability of knowing if one of us had to leave our job, there was still the other holding us up. I’ve been a single mom way longer than I was a married mom but I miss that stability that comes with another income. It’s a big responsibility to be the sole income earner without another person that can supplement. To have double my income would be amazing – more giving, more saving, more stability.  

  1. Teamwork mentality

When your patience is wearing thin, when your anger is escalating, when you can’t be in two places at once, when you need to bounce an idea off of someone who has the same vested interest as you, when you need a night off….your teammate is there.  Single parents may have friends or relatives that can help with some of these issues but nothing beats the “immediate swoop.” The in-house, right there, “I’m coming,” that is available to those that have a teammate in the house.   I miss my teammate. 

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

  1. Balance

It doesn’t usually happen that household responsibilities are split 50-50;  (most) moms, I see you!  For single/widowed moms it’s 100-0. Working full time, having a house and car and being responsible for 100% of the duties of the house is exhausting. Depending on age, our kids can help with chores. You can have “cereal nights” for dinner. You can hire out snowplowing, yardwork, cleaning, and fix-it jobs but at a cost not always affordable. It’s still not even close to 50-50 when you’re a single mom. The weekend is a “this or that” situation. If you do x, y and z…then a, b, and c don’t get done. We have to choose which tasks to do and which to let go of; we cannot do it all alone.   When you have that partner, you can split up or share the responsibilities. Even if it’s not 50-50, it’s better than 100-0. Having a partner to help means you can say “yes I’ll be there” and “yes, you can sign up.”  Two partners still have to make choices and don’t get everything done, but I miss being able to count on that other person to balance out the parenting responsibilities. 

This isn’t a “poor me” post….just a peek into the world of single momhood/widowhood so that others can understand and be grateful for what they have. When you feel moved to, reach out and help others that don’t have what you do. 

If you are a widow or single mom, which of these are you missing most today?

The one thing they really need…

Recently I took an unofficial poll and asked friends and family, “What is the one thing that a newly grieving person needs right after their loved one has died? “ 

Some good answers included: A listening ear; a shoulder to cry on; to know they are not alone; a connection. 

These aren’t wrong. In my experience, though, the one thing newly grieving people say they really need is: their loved one back in their arms. 

I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to respond that way, when people said, “Let me know if you need anything.” My thoughts were, “Ok. Well, I need Kevin (my spouse) back. Now. Can you do that?” 

I never actually responded that way because it would have probably scared some people off; they wouldn’t offer help again. They might even feel slightly offended at my seemingly quick dismissal of their help and my ask of the impossible. It might have made some others tear up, or tilt their head slightly sideways in a “poor thing” interpretation.  If I responded in that honest way, it would have been awkward.

If the loved one was sick or suffering, the grieving person can process that their loved one is no longer suffering and is healed. Even in those cases, selfishly yet full of love, we can feel that we still need them with us.  

For all of you that lovingly reach out to a newly grieving person and offer, “let me know if you need anything,” just understand that you cannot deliver on their likely biggest need.  It’s hard for newly grieving people to think about the tangible things people can actually help with; they are thinking of the big picture and the long-term loss. We just wish we could bring our loved one back, that we could go back in time and somehow change the outcome. 

Since we can’t turn back time or bring the loved one back, what are five ways you can truly help? 

G – Grace. Understand that they will be tired, distracted, forgetful and withdrawn. Give them some space without taking it personally or judging them for how they act. Give them grace and know that grief is complicated and exhausting. Allow them to be what they need to be right now. 

R – Reach out.  Send them a card, a text or make a phone call. Offer a specific way in which you would be glad to help, or a specific need that you can fill. “Can I bring you dinner on Tuesday?” or “I’m at the store, what can I pick up for you – I’ll drop it off”. Continue reaching out for months and years to come, letting them know you remember their loss and that they are loved and not alone.

I – Include. Don’t assume that the grieving person is busy or wants to be left alone. Include them in your thoughts and your invitations. It’s possible and completely acceptable for them to decline but making the offer is so important. Allow them to change their mind, too. Invite them even if you think they might have plans or even if you’re not sure they’d be interested. They might surprise you.  

E –  Ears. Sometimes a grieving person just wants to talk about their loved one. Or, talk about their day and have someone pay attention to them (especially if they’ve lost their spouse). If they mention their loved one by name, don’t act uncomfortable or change the subject. Acknowledge it by repeating their name in the conversation. Don’t try to fix their problems or always point out the bright side; just listen. 

F – Friendship. Be kind, comforting, supportive, loyal and fun. Don’t forget the fun. Grieving people want to have fun with friends, too. They are dealing with a lot, they may be struggling,  but they want and need their friends to treat them the same as before the loss- invite them, tell them jokes, laugh about funny memories, check in often, be a friend. A lot has changed in their world; maintain the friendship. Sometimes friendships change after a loss, but keep being friendly.

Father’s Day: The Gap

Our reunion day will come, I am confident of that, but the gap is not easy.” —Joe Pighetti

Father’s Day, for many, is a day when the gap is not easy. 

Whether it’s been many years or a few days since we hugged the fathers in our lives, there is an obvious gap on this day, magnified by social media posts and photos, billboards and television ads. 

The role of a father is one that is hard to fill completely. We try – we learn to fix things that normally the father of the house would. Or, we admit defeat and ask for help. We teach our children things that the father would have probably done better. We take over the stereotypical father duties, hoping that the absence isn’t too obvious. We tell the stories and jokes that they told better than us.  We imagine what they’d be doing today if they were here. We remind ourselves that we are doing ok. But today, the gap is not easy. 

We can celebrate fathers – the ones we were born into, the ones that raised us, the ones that become fathers, the ones that partner with us while raising kids, the ones we gain by marrying into, the ones that are fatherly to us and the ones we see as inspiring fathers.  But today, the gap is not easy for the ones we are missing. 

Today we think of the gap – the time without those beloved fathers. We think about what those missing fathers are missing. Fishing, hunting, grilling, boating, golfing, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, watching children grow, tough talks with children, teaching how to fix things, discipline decisions, teaching kids to ride bikes and waterski, tossing a football around, making long-term goals and sharing dreams, being by our side helping, partnering, advising, hugging and cheering us on. There is so much more that is being missed – every day. The gap is not easy. 

Today, though,  I am also feeling lucky. I have three earthly fathers – my own (Pat)  and two fathers gained by marriages (Phil and Mike). I also have fatherly figures to me and my kids – cousins, uncles, brother, neighbors, Scout leaders and friends.  The gap exists for me due to the death of my husband, Kevin. Today I am thinking of friends who have lost their own fathers or women who have also lost husbands who are fathers to their children. To not be overwhelmed by the gap, I think of fathers who help to fill it. 

To anyone feeling a gap today, I want to remind you of the most loyal Father of all, God. He has placed these fathers in our lives to help fill the gap. And He will never leave us. He will provide gap-fillers in our time of need. He gives us the hope that the gap will not last long. He provides us with memories that result in tears but also smiles.  The gap is not easy, but it’s not so wide after all. 

Happy Father’s Day…may you feel blessings in the gap.