Out of Order

16 05 2018

Someone I know just lost his twenty-four-year-old son. It is a shocking, awful, unimaginable thing.

I am someone who has lost a child, so I know, with searing clarity, the horror of outliving your child.

What do you say to someone who has lost a child?

You should probably NOT say the first six thoughts that come into your brain. Don’t mouth the empty platitudes. Don’t babble to fill the silence. You should probably not say anything for a while. Try to just BE with the person. Let their suffering flow out of them, absorb it, and neutralize some of it simply by giving your quiet support.

After the shock of the reality subsides, and you’ll feel when the time is right, you can offer heartfelt encouragement. Hearing this simple, but important truth made an enormous difference in my healing and continues to light a path through grief.

You lost someone you loved more than anyone in the world, but there are others here who love you and you love, so you must keep going for us.

I wish peace to the wounded heart of my colleague.

I wish compassion, patience, and perseverance to his friends.

Be kind. Keep being kind.


Of Lions and Lambs

11 03 2015

March is a month of emotional highs and lows for me.

My mother, who is strong and healthy and happy and funny, celebrated her eighty-fifth birthday yesterday.

3-11-15 b









My sweet daughter would have been twenty-five on the first, but she’s been gone for almost five years.

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To honor my Jessica, I am sharing this (just ignore the commercial lead-in) video of another child with challenges she does not deserve to have (Jessica was autistic) and let you in on some lessons I am so fortunate to have learned from the experience of mothering one of these special children.


The lessons are:

  1. Special needs kids get to do some awesome things “regular” kids don’t, but never forget all the things our special kids will NEVER be able to do, and don’t ever begrudge them a single gleeful moment.
  2. Special needs kids are capable of great joy, so never assume that “they don’t understand,” or that their feelings can’t be hurt. Every kid deserves our attention, respect, and kindness. Don’t dismiss any of them as “less than.”
  3. There are a lot of really great people in the world. Some of them are professional athletes; some are doctors; and many are the folks who work at the grocery store, live next door, or drive the trash truck.

Be nice to everyone.

Chances are most of us deserve it and, without a doubt,

ALL of us need it.

A Different Christmas Song

10 12 2014

Ho! Ho! Hum.

Everywhere I look, there is someone bemoaning the season.  Folks are out of sorts because they’re out of work, out of money, out of energy . . .

For many, just plain out of gratitude.

This will be the fifth Christmas without my beautiful Jessica. She was only twenty when she left us. She still believed in Santa Claus.

When I think of that enormous loss, the un-healable wound, I think I need a different Christmas song: Everything I Own https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Q1kB0R4Ijs  sounds about right. Then I remember what a magnificent gift it was to have had such a wonder-filled twenty short years.  I also remind myself that there is no going back, only going on, and that to accept the sadness but refuse all the goodness that still surrounds me is just wrong.

It stinks not to be able to fill your child’s Christmas stocking. It is lousy that you can’t get off work to visit your friends.  Things were better before you lost your job.  I don’t dismiss ANY of these kinds of problems.  I must, though, take exception to the idea that you let your holidays be defined by what you can’t do or don’t have.  In spite of the hardships, which visit every one of us, I wish you a happy season, filled with the celebration of what we DO have.

Don’t find yourself singing a different Christmas song.  Sing FA-LA-LA-LA-LA at the top of your lungs, even if your gay apparel is a few years old and your holly’s a bit wilted! Consider the people in your life who make you smile and warm your heart. Tell them.

Joy to the world.

This Post is Not About Robin Williams

13 08 2014

It is about all of us who remain alive after someone we love has gone from our Earth.

Being the one left standing is an immeasurably hard role, but we have been – or will be cast in it – at some time in our lives.  That is the nature of things, so we should try to prepare for it .  .  .  but we can’t. There’s no training manual, no play book, no YouTube tutorial. We must learn the part the moment it is thrust upon us.  With that understanding, I know this will be of little use to the uninitiated, but I hope it helps those new to the play.

Saturday marked the fourth August 9th without my sweet daughter. Two days later, hordes of fans, friends, and family felt the shock and loss at the death of Robin Williams.  The magnitude of mourners differs. The way in which they died differs. The rest of the story is the same. A light in our lives has been extinguished.

That does not, however, mean there is no other light.

Last week, many of my friends reached out with words of kindness and comfort. One who also shares the mother-wound, but who is in a different place in her grief, moved me to write this in response to her email of support and sympathy.

We lost immeasurably, my Friend, but we have not lost all. Your wound is fresher, but I hope you are – please – allowing it to heal.  The scar remains, but the love and laughter of family and friends makes it less acutely painful.

This morning, I looked out at Jessie’s pond and it was alive with birds, splashing and splattering water all over the place for their Saturday baths and I felt joy. I chose to feel the way Jessie would feel to have seen such a feathered water fight.  Choose, with all your might, my Dear, to feel the joy life has given you; the anguish does not deserve such energy.

Every time you choose to feel the joy – although it will be hard at first – you will strengthen your heart’s ability to feel it the next time. By choosing joy, you will be a light in the lives of others. Without any other effort, your choice will brighten their paths, your joy shining into the darkness of their grief.  For my sake and for your sake, please, choose joy.

Boy, am I Full!

16 07 2014

My heart is broken. That’s surely an odd phrase; what does it mean?

For me, when I lost my sweet Jessica, it meant I needed to wear a cast made from the love of my family and friends and a sling of fond memories until it healed.

My broken heart has mended. There is still a big nasty scar and I find I rely on that sling when it feels particularly heavy, but it works.

My heart works.

When we feel the wound of great loss, for a while, it surely seems as though it could be a mortal blow, but it isn’t. Our hearts are not meant to die with our loved ones; they are meant to rebound with renewed appreciation for what we had, what we have, and what is yet to come.

My heart is full.  This is an equally interesting one.

To me, it means to be so aware of all the love around and within us that, like a toddler with a full glass of juice, we can’t help but slosh some out and get it all over the people around us. That’s why hearts full of love always have the ability to hold more.

Splash that love around.

Jump into it with both feet.

Litter your neighborhood with it like cosmic confetti.

Even if your heart is broken, the exercise will do it good.

My broken-mended heart is full.  If your heart needs some love, I hereby give you some of mine.

purple pavement a 6-24-14

This post is dedicated to a dear friend and his sweet mother.  Love and strength and peace to Big Henry and his family.

Not Hollow Words

21 08 2013

“I know how you feel.”

These are the words I never want to say, but I must.

These are the words I never want to believe, but I must.

These are the words that, when said truthfully, mean only one thing. They mean that at least two hearts share the same gaping, gruesome, indecent, and irreparable wound.

Early this week, I learned of the tragic and untimely death of one of our neighbors’ children. The young man had been a dear and loving friend of my Jessica, who also left us far too soon.  There is nothing I can do for these parents. There is nothing anyone can do.

I know.

I know how they feel.

What I can do is to remind, encourage, exhort you – every one of you – to not miss a single chance to show love to the people who are important to you. Show love to people who need to be shown love.  Show love to yourself so you can love others.

Trust me, please. You do not want to know how surely I know this is the way to live.

I know that the loss of a love does not mean the loss of the ability to love.

My wounded but working heart goes out to all those others who truly know how it feels to lose a child.  This is my small but earnest gesture of love to you.


8 05 2013

How is it that a heart that is broken can remain so full of love?  It surely is one of the miracles of human being-ness.

As Mother’s Day approaches, I find myself in a kind of emotional riptide that alternately pulls me under into the salty dark of tears and loss, only and always, eventually, throwing me back to the warm safety of happy memories and loving family.

Grief comes and goes as it pleases; we cannot control it. We can and we must remember, though, that the   magnitude of our grief is the mirror image of the magnitude of our love.  I hold tight to that fact and I know I am fortunate to have loved so deeply.

My grief is different than yours, but the same.

It is born of loss.

The nature of the loss is different than yours, but it is the same.

It is born of love.

Although it is broken, my heart is truly full of love, so this Mother’s Day, I wish you a heartful of love, too.

bleeding hearts caught dew 4-8-12