My blog posts for Still Standing Magazine

As a contributory writer for the excellent grief resource, Still Standing Mag, I have listed here links to the posts I have had published on the site so far. Writing these each month has been a great way to keep my blog writing going and also seen much more widely as they have a fantastic following of writers and readers. Simply click on a link below to read them.

Sept ’18 – How to avoid burnout when supporting grieving friends

Aug ’18 – Don’t hurry to ask me why my child died

July ’18 – Hypochondria, anxiety, and grief: what comes after loss

June ’18 – Overcoming grief sabotage

May ’18 – Why her, God? Why not me?

April ’18 – 5 tips for using social media when you’re grieving

March ’18 The strength of a grieving mother

Feb ’18 – Don’t be sorry that you’re not grieving

still standing

 

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JustGiving’s Crowdfunder of the Year Award – vote for me

It takes me way out of my comfort zone to ask people to vote for me (even if I did ask them for their money), but having been nominated for the JustGiving Awards 2018, I have quite amazingly been shortlisted in the Crowdfunding category, so I suppose I’ll have to spare my blushes and just ask for a vote!

When I set up the crowdfunding page, I hoped it would bring in something to help pay for the design and print costs for The Dragonfly Story, which I published in April 2018. I had a wonderful illustrator in Helen Braid, and also a fantastic printer lined up; I didn’t want to cut corners. It was so important that this story was gently narrated, colourful and engaging, and that it had the quality of a book that could be read again and again… Why?

Because I know how important this is when you’re in your darkest hour, sat on the bedroom floor with a child who is asking you questions you don’t have the answers to, who sees your tears and is scared because you are. Having a book that can be shared, that talked about real life and loss but blended with that a hope that when we die there is more wonder and peace than we can ever know, was why I said ‘yes’ when I stood praying in the shower over a year ago. ‘Ok, yes, I’ll do it… but I’ll need some help’

And so with the crowdfund page set up, I knew that, with my limited funds, that literally anything would help. And the money came in, from family, friends, strangers, people who have followed my story from losing Abi in 2013 until this moment when I had decided what it was that would honour her best.

I didn’t raise all my target. I raised half the money, which was still a fantastic contribution in my mind (over £1,000!) and far more than I expected. And it helped enormously, making covering the remaining costs that much easier without long-term debt.

The book was published to 5-star reviews from those who bought a copy and I receive orders steadily from all over the world. I have them piled up in boxes in my office and post each one out myself – choosing the right envelope, buying and printing postage, and getting them to one of the few larger postboxes that fit the size! It would probably be easier to let Amazon take care of all that, but I like the process. I want to connect some way with each person who orders it, giving a personal touch, because sometimes it might be for their own child who has just lost someone they love.

Anyway, I’m so thankful for the nomination. I don’t need to win anything of course, as I have the book that has been in my head for so long, but if you’d like to vote for me, you can click here, or the button on the main home page.

Voting closes on 14th October 2018.

What’s in a name? For me, everything

My journey through my faith hasn’t been smooth by any means, but it’s been there to various degrees for as long as I can remember. My relationship with God changed dramatically when Abi died and what had become a passive sense of anger, resentment, ridicule and distrust (mine, not His obvs) became an active relationship of love, reverence, worship and trust.

I sometimes wonder if I would have revived this relationship had Abi not died. Would I still be living apart from Him, not knowing anything about the ways He could make me better, happier, content? Still blaming Him for all the bad?

I don’t know. God shows up when we need Him and I believe He would have used another event to help me find Him again. It just happened to be that at my lowest, darkest, bleakest place I felt the presence of a man next to me, between me and my husband, there for us both. It’s so hard to describe how this felt without sounding a little crazy, but having read countless similar experiences and met people who have known the same, I know I’m far from alone.

I needed to know more about this Christianity stuff, after all it had become infinitely important. If Abi had gone to heaven, I needed to know how and whether it made a difference to my life.

So months of research, attending church, meeting Christians, listening to experiences, praying, waiting, reading… I realised that I had found Jesus! I understood who He was and what He did, that He was more than a painting or statue… He was everything. He was God. Not a man on a cloud, a ghost or a fairytale. And I found a love relationship like I never knew possible.

It has been a long, bumpy road to get here, even with confidence in what I thought I knew, but for me, it is important that I try to build on my relationship with Jesus for as long as I can, because when it’s my turn to meet Him I want to be running into his arms.

The name of Jesus, however, has long been a cliche, a joke, a curse, a flippant remark, an angry word. I’ve used His name this way myself, to my utter shame, along with For God’s Sake, Oh God!, Heaven’s Sake, Oh My God, Crikey, Lord… the list of ways I’d inadvertently been taking His name in vain is endless!

The more I came to know this beautiful man of peace, who loves me despite all that I’d done to myself and others, despite all I had said about Him, the more the way He is treated hurts.

It’s now that I realise how much the name of Jesus is used. People shout it, whisper it, write it in frustration, pain or anger, on TV, in books, on social media and in conversation. It’s so common that we don’t even know we’re doing it.

I wince. I feel uncomfortable, like when you hear someone slag off someone you know well and you don’t know how to respond.

But to curse the name of Jesus is to curse hope. It’s saying no to hope, that hope is hateful or abhorrent, that there’s no need to care one bit about hope.

And, without hope, there is nothing.

Millions of people draw hope and comfort from Jesus. Why is his name used in vain at all? Why not a genuinely bad human like Hitler or Stalin? I expect over the years, as language and meaning has changed so has how the name is used. It was likely used as some form of protection in the past, and has gradually become slang. But words are very important to us. People are particular and mindful of how appearance, gender, race or sex is referred to. We are respectful of other people’s beliefs and sensitivities (in the main!), choosing our words carefully so as not to offend, so why not with this?

For me, Jesus has become a beautiful word. A word filled with hope, comfort and friendship. A name that Abi loves. It’s the only word I can depend on. After all, there are over 170,000 other words in the English language I can choose from to express how I feel.

26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

John 17:26, NIV

 

Guard your grieving heart

For many bereaved parents – coping with the worst thing that could ever happen – the next most awful thing is thinking about other people who might be affected by a similar fate. It’s distressing to think that anyone else might have to experience what you have, especially if it could have been prevented.

It’s a good idea to consider the things that are supporting you through your grief, and what is adding to your grief. In my recent post on Still Standing Magazine, I suggested some healthy ways to use social media in grief. Social media is a lifeline for us, but it also makes the world a much smaller place. Now, it’s a matter of a few clicks to find hundreds of people who have lost ‘exactly’ like you have. It can be distressing as the realisation comes that life’s fragility is more certain than its longevity.
Superhuman grief strength makes for super humans!

Forget ultramarathons though, nothing can match a grieving mother’s mental and physical strength (dads too, of course). I liken the strength to that of a woman in labour. The moment of crowning when animal instincts take over and she finds power that she never knew she had, despite overwhelming exhaustion, to push the baby out.

Grief pains create a similar inner strength. Often this is channelled into something worthy… a legacy, a charity, a cause. This work saves lives. Brings hope. Comforts the brokenhearted.

It’s important to remember that almost every campaign, whether small like my book or large like MP Carolyn Harris’s recent victory to scrap children’s burial fees, is driven by the strength of grief. There is a parent who is the driving force of the work. There is a child no longer here because of the work that needed to be done.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the work that has been borne out of a loss which, unlike a normal job, can’t be resigned from easily. Once you start offering support, or to lead a campaign, or fundraising, or write a self-help book, whatever it might be, where does it end? Do you now feel obligated to help heal the world indefinitely? Maybe so, it’s no bad thing, but only so long as it is beneficial for you also…

If that person, that project, that campaign could be handled well by anyone else tomorrow, how would you feel? If the answer is ‘free’, ‘relieved’, ‘better able to cope with your own life’, then it might be worth considering delegating some of your work, stepping back for a period or even completely.

Look after you, so you can look after them

Early on, I felt surrounded by grieving mothers, having never identified with one (not openly anyway) previously. The loss upon loss was heartbreaking. Each story had its own trauma, shock and anger. It’s not just the taking on of other’s emotions but also the sudden awareness that early death and trauma happens to so many people, every single day. The despair sets in and pushes hope out.

It’s important to find some kind of balance. Always check in with yourself. If the person or thing lifts you up, or you look forward to seeing them/doing it, that’s a sign to do more of it. If it drains you or brings you into a depressive or anxious state, step away even for a short time and pursue something more healing and restorative for as long as you need.

I’m not suggesting you stop helping others, or that what you have worked for isn’t worth the stress on you, some people have to be the driving force because there is simply nobody else. The world needs people that care about each other. I’m saying, with as much love as I can, that it is not your responsibility to help everyone, even if they are experiencing exactly what you have.

So, guard your heart. Be aware of your own physical and mental health. Take a step back regularly, reassess what you’re doing and why. Check in to see if there is anything that could be done differently. Healing is a lifetime process that comes in the most unexpected ways, and in its own time. Running from that is unlikely to do you any good, but walking slowly with it is the kindest thing you can do, for you.

Sunday Notes: Is the Easter story too scary for children?

Having just celebrated Easter, I noticed a definite preference for bunnies and chocolate than the events surrounding the death and resurrection of Christ. Beliefs aside, I wonder if it’s because we feel death is too hard for our children to understand… bunnies are better… right?

I read a blog a few weeks ago where a mother complained about Christianity being taught in schools. That she didn’t want her child to be exposed to stories of torture, human cruelty and the horrific execution that is crucifixion. Especially as an atheist, she didn’t see why her children should learn this distressing aspect of a religion which is supposed to claim a loving creator God. (I’m not saying this mother’s opinion is wrong, I wouldn’t want my child doing yoga in school because it goes against my beliefs, she’s of course within her rights to say the same about what offends her unbelief. This is about what we should tell our children about the real events around Easter.)

I could understand her point, as a mother, I have wanted to protect my children from the death and evil in this world as much as anyone. To focus on the good is the most natural thing in the world. My four-year-old refers to Jesus as ‘baby Jesus’, so to explain to him that the man hanging on the cross is Jesus grown up wasn’t the easiest thing. But I explained it as simply as I could, and he grasped it. He said it was sad and in the same breath talked about Buzz Lightyear.

Watching the news with my 10-year-old son, my heart was broken to see tears roll down his cheeks at the fighting in Syria. The confusion on his face as he watched news story after news story about humans terrorising each other not just in far away countries but in his own county. The evil in this world shown on TV is far more distressing than the story of Jesus.

My younger son starts school this year and already I’m saddened at exposing him to the big wide world that is school life. The anxiety as he learns new things and his world expands, the struggle of trying to find his place among a classroom and being told off for not doing the expected thing. School of course, has so much excitement to it, but I know that it brings fear and worry too. But of course he must do it, to live a protected life away from other people is not to live at all. I want him to find his way to God through an understanding of what happened, not that Jesus brought him some chocolate.

At Christmas, we throw ourselves all in… with bells on. Christians and non-Christians alike gather gifts and decorations to express their joy of the season. The school plays often feature a nativity where the children learn that a baby was born and that’s why we are all doing this Christmas thing. It’s an innocent, happy occasion. A baby Jesus is the most harmless image in the world. We are comfortable with a chubby baby, gentle shepherds and donkeys.

Easter, which in the Christian church is like Christmas with extra tinsel, is the marking of the resurrection of the King. The cornerstone of our beliefs. It’s our biggest day.

But Jesus’s death must come first.

I attended the Good Friday service at my church as usual and saw familiar faces and a reasonable attendance, but it was nothing exceptional. There were a number of empty seats.

The Good Friday service is reflective but there are hymns and crafts for children and we think about the way Jesus’s death relates to our lives, to who we are. As a bereaved mother, I often think of Mary watching her son be strung up by these hunters. And, while my own grief is opened up, I take immense comfort from this.

Still, it’s about death, no one really wants to talk about that bit. Why celebrate death? Where is the love in all this?

By contrast, Easter Sunday service is heaving, standing room only. So many new faces and a buzz of celebration. The party is here…

Outside of church, in the family life, there are chocolate, eggs, bunnies and chicks. We have made Easter colourful, fluffy and child-friendly, we can focus our attention on the commercial aspect of buying gifts and treats. ‘Jesus has risen from the… erm… oh, but look, let’s go and find some chocolate!’

Can children not cope with the evil in this world, the evil way Jesus was killed? I find that they can. I have struggled myself in the past to explain the story to my children, I know it’s not easy. But children can handle far more than we realise. My children aged just 5 and 10 had to handle the sudden traumatic death of their much loved sister at home. All children will experience a personal loss of some kind. I like to teach them that because Jesus was God, he knew that the people wouldn’t understand and would be scared so they would kill him, which is an emotion where most of the evil in the world today comes from anyway. But he also knew that he would come back to life, not as a spooky ghost but as a living breathing man. I teach them that because he is God, he came back to show us that he loves us and has a wonderful place for us to go to, when it’s our turn to die.

Celebrating is great, but sometimes we can learn a lot from the tough stuff. The Easter story is not meant to be frightening, it’s meant to be the most hopeful, comforting story we humans have and that, in my opinion, is the most important story of all.

Repost: Ways to Support Grieving Families

A child has died. You’re at a loss. You don’t know what to say to the grieving parents. You don’t know what to do, but you feel that you must do something to support them. 698 more words

via Reaching Through The Dark: 5 Ways To Support Grieving Families — Still Standing

 

 

 

5 ways to do self-care when you’re grieving

Self-care is a power hashtag. Women of all ages and stages of life, in particular, are proclaiming the importance of making time for themselves amidst the busyness of life. Self-care encompasses anything that helps us unwind or makes us feel good, even for a moment, from little things such as sipping a hot cup of coffee and reading a book to spa weekends and aerobic workouts. The point is to not forget about you while you’re busy spinning numerous plates, and particularly when life is going wrong or is throwing up more challenges than usual. Taking a moment to care for ourselves is one way to help us find hope and restoration when we are up against it.

Instagram is one place that people share the ‘self-care’ moments. A quick search calls up nearly 500,000 posts, the majority of which are are exercise, beauty or food related. It can be easy to compare how we ‘invest in ourselves’. The gorgeous picture of a beautifully designed latte froth or candles by the bath can all feel a little unrealistic, and also that having this moment somehow makes everything okay, the audience are reassured, we’ve admitted a struggle but don’t worry it’s not too messy…

But we all know that Instagram gives only one view. In fact, one of the simplest forms of self-care is to switch off your devices and avoid the temptation to compare altogether.

Self-care is not just a nice thing to do, it’s not just a nice photo, it’s an essential part of survival. Taking time for yourself will lift a mood, improve self-esteem and dilute stress to name a few benefits. I find it makes me calmer, less irritable and clears my mind.

Being kind to yourself when you are grieving

Because grief is so personal, how you find your peace is also different for each person. In the early stages of grief, people want you to feel better. Good friends will support you with food, company, or practical tasks to ease the pressure. In my grief, I didn’t know what I needed and felt guilty for any act of self-care. When you’re grieving, self-care in the traditional sense is very hard to do. I had been a busy working mum who made time for regular exercise, reading books and lunches with friends, but found I couldn’t do any of these. It was another layer of grief to lose my ‘self’ too.

It was two years before I could do anything remotely relaxing. I tried a gentle exercise class with meditation but my anxiety went through the roof as I lay there feeling my heartbeat slowing. As the group were guided into peace and relaxation, I felt a panic attack developing. Suddenly I was being transported to Abi’s hospital bed and experiencing how it must have felt for her to die. I was forced to close my eyes yet I felt tears coming. Meditation was like dying to me. Despite being fit, exercise had a similar effect and triggered panic attacks, so I avoided anything that raised my heart rate.

I finally went for a facial, but again, I had to fight the urge to run. It’s crazy as it seems such an innocent, ‘lovely’ thing to do. I wanted to talk about trivial stuff as she applied the lotions, to help distract my mind from the expectation of relaxing, but the therapist insisted on turning the lights down and being as quiet as possible (which would be great normally but not when that reminded me of a dimly-lit intensive care ward).

I couldn’t read a book for years after Abi died. I read, oh yes, I read a lot, but it was all about grief, death, therapy related. I read a lot about faith as I sought answers to my questions. There was no head room for escapism in popular fiction.

In those early years, I had to find a way to care for myself without the painful reminders and anxieties. It wasn’t easy. I had to think outside the box. Here are five ways I found time for myself:

Journalling – It’s no surprise that writing became my main way of relaxing. I mixed it up between blogging on the computer and writing in journals. Writing using ink and paper is actually very therapeutic as it works on different parts of your brain, enabling you to process and release emotion. It was this that inspired my grief journal. I always feel calmer after a writing session.

Walking – Being outside getting fresh air is a popular stress reliever. In my grief haze, I’d look intently at the details of everything: the patterns on the pavement, the shapes of the trees, the clouds and skies. Walking allowed my mind to wander and helped me process my thoughts. However, on difficult days the walks needed to be somewhere different, so I could be anonymous, as the fear and stress of having conversations with people I’d bump into was too much.

Resting – Not wanting to see anyone is a common aspect of grief. Just having a space at home to be peaceful but without going out was helpful. My bedroom often is a place I like to lie down in the day, as I can look out of the window, watch the birds and clouds, rest and reflect. With a busy home, finding solitude is near impossible but I grabbed moments when I could.

Showering – Baths are nice but often too much hassle with a busy family, and again they gave me too much time to think, but showers I have found to be therapeutic. There’s something about the water pouring over you and down that washes you clean yet cloaks you in warmth and comfort. It’s a safe, quiet place to cry and pray.

Photography – Being behind the lens gives me a fresh perspective on what I’m seeing. By focusing on the detail of a moment, I can almost step inside it, and forget the overwhelm and fog around me. This is why Instagram is my preferred social media app, as it’s a way of sharing images without the information overload of the other networks.

These self-care moments helped walk me through the bad and not so bad days. Exercise, facials, meditation, could all wait until I was ready. Four years after Abi died I started to read fiction again. Five years on and I felt able to exercise. I have enjoyed a massage at a spa. My creative mind has returned and I have written books, and been able to genuinely enjoy crafts I once loved such as knitting and baking.

It may sound like I’ve returned to myself and that I’ve recovered the person that I lost, but that’s not entirely true. I still struggle and have wobbles. I still use food as a comforter. I have some dark periods where everything feels hopeless, but knowing ways I can help myself, gently, without guilt or fear, goes a long way to getting me through them.

What about you? What are the ways you look after yourself through difficult times?

Sunday Sermon Notes – 11th March 2018

This year at my church we’ve been invited to bring our Bibles and notebooks to help us reflect on what we are studying. The notes I’ve made have been really interesting for me, and there is always something I can relate to, draw comfort from or feel encouraged by… and it’s not always the ‘easy’ side of Christianity either, there are some real challenges that have got me thinking. Sharing my notes in a blog post is a useful way for me to reflect on them later in the day.

Sermon 11th March 2018

Today is Mother’s Day. We listened to this passage from Exodus 2: 1-10 (CEV).

A man from the Levi tribe married a woman from the same tribe, 2 and she later had a baby boy. He was a beautiful child, and she kept him inside for three months. 3 But when she could no longer keep him hidden, she made a basket out of reeds and covered it with tar. She put him in the basket and placed it in the tall grass along the edge of the Nile River. 4 The baby’s older sister stood off at a distance to see what would happen to him.

5 About that time one of the king’s daughters came down to take a bath in the river, while her servant women walked along the river bank. She saw the basket in the tall grass and sent one of the young women to pull it out of the water. 6 When the king’s daughter opened the basket, she saw the baby and felt sorry for him because he was crying. She said, “This must be one of the Hebrew babies.”
7 At once the baby’s older sister came up and asked, “Do you want me to get a Hebrew woman to take care of the baby for you?”
8 “Yes,” the king’s daughter answered.
So the girl brought the baby’s mother, 9 and the king’s daughter told her, “Take care of this child, and I will pay you.”
The baby’s mother carried him home and took care of him. 10 And when he was old enough, she took him to the king’s daughter, who adopted him. She named him Moses because she said, “I pulled him out of the water.”

Malc, our vicar, spoke about the emotions and struggles of a mother who felt she had no choice but to put her baby out onto the water, to let him go in the hope that somehow he would be okay. The Nile was a river of death, where the bodies of the Hebrew children had been discarded on Pharaoh’s orders. This mother, feeling the danger coming closer, made a reed basket and set her baby out on the water, releasing him to she didn’t know what but knowing that it was better than staying.

Most parents will have experienced times when they’ve had to ‘let their child go’, to put their own fears and needs aside to allow their child to get that next level of independence. Even as soon as just after birth, the first time you leave your baby with anyone other than you is one of the most significant introductions to this type of parental love. We know our children can’t and shouldn’t be tied to us and spend our lives trying to strike a balance between holding them close enough to protect, strengthen, love and support them, yet far enough to help them become their own person and live their own life.

What resonated with me most, however, about the image of Moses’s mother, was the death of Abi. I’ve read this passage countless times, I know this story so well, yet verse three stood out to me today.

3 But when she could no longer keep him hidden, she made a basket out of reeds and covered it with tar. She put him in the basket and placed it in the tall grass along the edge of the Nile River.

I identified with the mother placing her precious baby in a basket and giving that unwilling gentle nudge, not even a push, as she lets him go. We put Abi’s body into a woven casket made of willow, we followed the casket to the church, and then to the crematorium, and then I looked on helpless as I let her go. This is not about the ‘letting go of my grief’, this is about the physical act of leading my child to a new place, alone.

There is significance about the letting go, because as a grieving mother there is no letting go. In the grieving mother’s mind you want to stand by that casket forever – you don’t care about life or death, that people might feel awkward if you made a scene, that they would try to convince you it’s not a good idea – you just don’t want to ‘push’ that casket away. But we do. I did. It was the final way of giving her back to God, of trusting Him to care for her. I may have let Abi physically go but she is always part of me. I’ve no doubt Moses’s mother would have felt similar grief.

Moses was saved, picked out of the water by royalty, welcomed into a prosperous kingdom, and even reunited with his own mother.

That’s where my comfort lies.

GUEST POST: 2 ways fundraising helps you heal

There are numerous ways to set up memorials for loved ones, and Beautiful Tribute has successfully provided one way to do that online. An online tribute is a simple way to remember someone, and because it is accessible anywhere it can be seen and contributed to by other people who also take comfort from it.

Set up by UK-based founder, Sandeep Sekon, this website also offers a fundraising option to help people raise memory of their loved one.

Victoria at Beautiful Tribute wrote this blog post especially for Chasing Dragonflies to share ways that fundraising helps comfort the bereaved.

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When we deal with the death of a loved one, the emotional pain is so intense that we feel it may never end. For some people this might be the case. However, for most people it can take around two years to understand how to cope with these emotions. Even when we’re aware that over time we will heal and the feelings will lessen, it is mentally challenging to accept this in the initial grieving stage.

So, instead of trying to alleviate this pain and sorrow, why not try to channel our feelings – in a more positive way? Fundraising in memory site Beautiful Tribute has seen just this. People are increasingly honouring the memory of loved ones by creating memorials online and fundraising in memory. It is clear that given the opportunity, we can find comfort in personalising memorials by including pictures, having a favourite song play in the background, sharing loving videos and stories. Fundraising for a personal event or a charity is also an important part of this. Not only is this an effective way to pay a tribute to a loved one, it also creates a sense of healing by uniting those affected by loss and branching out the support system.

Fundraise for a personal event

We have hurt and cried and now it’s time to celebrate – celebrate the life of our loved one! Give them the beautiful tribute they deserve! Family and friends are collecting funds and taking part in events, personal to their loved one, to commemorate them. The rising trend in in-memory funding has proven that it has a positive effect. So ask yourself: What were their hobbies or favourite holiday spots? Did they enjoy skiing? Or rocking and rolling to a Michael Jackson concert? Whatever it is, this is exactly what you can do! What’s more, you will find peace within yourself in doing so.

Yes, it may feel like there are one too many things to consider. And of course, it isn’t easy to think about planning an event when you’re simultaneously trying to accept the loss of a loved one. However, you can remind yourself that this is a positive and essential step towards healing, so you will need to be brave. Try to focus not on how, but why you are doing this.

Fundraise for a charity

When someone dear to our hearts passes away, it is easy to feel lost and without purpose. We may find that acting in good cause can help us to feel slightly better. We get a sense of purpose and satisfaction from helping others and this is exactly what we need during a time of bereavement. One way to go about this is by fundraising in memory of a loved one towards a charity. Whether the charity has supported you or your loved one through a difficult period, or whether the purpose of the charity is to help fight against a specific medical condition, creating a fundraising campaign can see you through a tough time. Not only are you honouring someone’s memory by helping others, you’ve also turned what is often a dark and depressing time into a genuine act of kindness.

Try to see the silver lining

We all deal with death differently. Even though some of us cope with our emotions easier, or heal quicker than others, what remains is that we all grieve when someone close to our hearts dies. While we can’t lessen this pain completely, we can attempt to heal in a healthy way. Try to see the silver lining in fundraising in memory of a loved one. Whether you fundraise to plan a personal event, or for a charity, you are sure to feel uplifted and will find yourself better coping with your emotions.

 If you’d like to create an online memorial for someone, please visit www.beautifultribute.com 

Image credit: Beautiful Tribute

Does it get any easier? Grief five years on

I somehow thought it would be easier to grieve as the years passed.

I feel I need a badge or something.

I’ve survived five years.

I’ve moved into the second stage grief club… that’s for the more experienced grief survivors. The ones who are asked and can give advice to the unfortunate newbies.

But at five years I’m still sad. I still miss her. The memories aren’t as fresh, but they are still there.

The other day, I sat with an elderly man, in his eighties, and we shared the usual small talk about ourselves and family. While pleasant enough, he was a man of few words. He didn’t often make eye contact and appeared to want to keep himself to himself. His answers brief and clipped.

As I gabbled on, to fill the awkward silences, as I tend to do, talking briskly about my children there came the inevitable time when I had to mention Abi. My daughter who died aged 12.

He looked right at me. He dropped his gaze again and ever so softly that I could barely hear revealed he too had a lost child. A child he hadn’t mentioned to that point. His child died around 35 years ago, aged just 17. The middle child.

My heart opened up to him then, my perspective changed, knowing he has lived not just five years but a lifetime of grieving.

I didn’t care about etiquette then. I gently laid my hand on his thin, frail hand and he looked at me again. With tears in my eyes for both of us, I said simply, “I’m so sorry.”

He continued to look at me, sightly stunned. A delayed reaction of a man who rarely mentions the child who died.

His grief and mine were very different. He went on to say they were advised at the time not to grieve forever, he felt his child wouldn’t want him to. Even so, the pain of childloss was still there and could be brought to the surface in a moment. From what he said of his other children, the impact was still felt, unsaid, the family forever scarred by loss.

I’m not over it. I’m living with it, and I suppose pretty well. I’m working, creating, homemaking. I’m still a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend. I’m still me but behind my eyes and in my heart is the small hole pierced by the sword of grief.

On special days, memorable days, I cry. The memories press into my present mind asking to be replayed. I start them, but then find it too much.

I miss her so, so much…

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I miss the child her and the young adult her. I miss everything about her.

I remember it all. Her being alive, her dying, her being gone. I haven’t forgotten the sound of her voice, her quirky mannerisms, the infectious energy she seemed to radiate. I treasure those memories and hope, when I’m in my eighties, I  will be able to talk about her the same way I do now.

I’d love to tell you that it gets better. It doesn’t, not really, but it gets a little easier with time. But just because this is part of you now, that’s no reason to give up, to succumb to the despair. Grief may be part of my story, but it’s not my whole story. I take comfort knowing she is safe, with Jesus, and also that Jesus is with me. So we can never truly be apart.

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