Soup, Sandwiches and Humble Pie

Volunteer

Last week my family volunteered at a men’s homeless shelter, serving soup and sandwiches on a gray and rainy Sunday afternoon. I thought it would be a good experience for my teenage daughter who is enamored with $100 Nikes, Beats and iPhones. What I wasn’t expecting, was how that lunch would affect me.

As the men worked their way across the line, picking up soup and choosing a ham or PB & J sandwich- I noticed they were from all walks of life. There were young men, men in wheel chairs, older men- well dressed with slicked back hair. Some were dressed in their work clothes, coming over for lunch before their shift started. As I handed them a sandwich and chatted briefly with each one, I knew that every one of them had a story…and I wanted to hear it.

One by one, the men filed by, picking up their lunch and warmly greeting us. Some of them didn’t even choose what kind of sandwich they wanted- they were just overjoyed to have a meal. Every man thanked us, and many said, “God bless you,” as they reached the end of the line with their warm soup and saran-wrapped sandwich. One man said a long blessing over his lunch, visibly thankful for his food. I couldn’t get over how grateful they were for this simple lunch. It was humbling. I suddenly felt guilty and ungrateful for my complaints about the little inconveniences of life. These men didn’t know where their next meal was coming from and I grumble when the cappuccino machine at work is out of service.

I looked out over the men as they ate and wondered what circumstances had brought them there. These people were no different than my family and me. So why were they in line at a homeless shelter and why were we on the other side of the glass, serving them?

When lunch was over, I couldn’t stop thinking about the men at the shelter. As I laid down that night to go to sleep, I’m not sure why, but I started to cry. I thought serving lunch to a group of homeless men would be a nice thing to do- I had no idea what it would do for me. It was a vivid reminder that we should truly appreciate everything we have, everyone we love and everyone who loves us. Deciding if we will focus on what we have, or fixate on what we don’t have is a choice. Choose to be grateful today.

Questions Without Answers: Why Me? Why God?

questions21Why Me?

Facing a major loss usually causes us to confront or even reconsider our basic beliefs about God, religion, death, and the afterlife. Some may turn to God for strength and comfort, while others find themselves questioning the religious beliefs they have known all of their lives.

Even those who have no religious upbringing may feel angry with God, or abandoned. Everyone responds to loss differently, but it almost always forces us to confront questions we may have been avoiding…about death…about God…about ourselves.

9/11: The Worst Kind of Loss

9-11_Pic-300x200We can all remember exactly what we were doing when the attacks began on 9/11. It was a day that will be forever etched in our memories. For some, the day marked the tragic death of a loved one- a mother, brother, son, co-worker, granddaughter, spouse or friend. An unimaginable loss.

Death is an unfortunate part of life, but when it comes as a result of a tragedy, it seems even harder to bear. My family has suffered many losses since that day on September 11th, 2001. My beloved father-in-law passed away after a good long life, and a daily battle to breathe was ended. My young brother-in-law who fought for his country, fought his last gruesome battle with cancer and finally ended his painful journey. Both of these fine men are in a better place, and while we struggle to fill the holes in our hearts, we have peace.

Can You Be 100% Sure You are Going to Heaven When You Die

The losses that haunt us, are the ones we don’t see coming. My husband’s best friend, an active guy and avid golfer, who died in his driveway of a massive heart attack. He was 41 years old. My excited family member who went to the hospital to have twin daughters, and brought home only one baby girl. The year before 9/11, I lost a baby of my own to miscarriage, before ever having a chance to be born.

When tragedy strikes and takes a loved one away from us, we feel a different kind of pain. The peace that can come from knowing that a painful illness has ended, or appreciating a long, full life isn’t there to comfort us. The chance to say goodbye is taken away. And these are the ghosts that haunt our sleep and make it difficult to heal.

Help with Overcoming Grief and Loneliness

So what can we do if we’ve suffered this kind of tragic loss? The kind that rained down on so many families on 9/11. There is never a magic formula to healing- it is such a personal and difficult journey. However, you must always begin with grieving. You have to feel the pain to move past it- really feel it. You can shove it down, avoid it, but it will be there-lurking and waiting to reveal itself. Grieve. When you’ve felt the pain you can begin the long process of healing. And it is there you have a decision to make. Will you live in the past, holding on to the pain of your loss, covered in the death of your loved one? Or will you move ahead, making a new kind of life, and finding a different happiness? A monumental choice to make.

On this 14th anniversary of 9/11, a date that marks so much pain and suffering, a monument now stands in place of the Twin Towers. The damage to the Pentagon has been repaired, and the pieces of the plane in Pennsylvania have been gathered. If you are grieving a loss today, will you pick up the pieces and move on? You are the living, so choose life.

Mark Zuckerberg Shares Pain of Miscarriages on Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg Shares Miscarriages on Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg Shares Miscarriages on Facebook

Using Facebook to share the joys of life is common in our “virtual” world. What is not so common is an honest post that shares your pain. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook creator and founder, did just that recently when he announced the joy of his wife’s pregnancy and then shared the pain of the couple’s multiple miscarriages.

See the story: Mark Zuckerberg Shares Pain of Miscarriage

5 Techniques for Coping with Loss

5 Techniques for Coping with Loss

5 Techniques for Coping with Loss

Just this week, I heard someone say that when dealing with loss you have to choose your attitude. He said, grieve and then choose to move on. While that sounds good, it can be tough to do. Guest blogger, Jessica Kane has some helpful advice in dealing with loss, in her article, “5 Techniques for Coping with Death.” My favorites are numbers 3, 4 and 5, but I hope you will try them all.

5 Techniques for Coping with Death

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is one of the most difficult challenges that people face in life. According to the National Institute on Aging, prolonged mourning is unhealthy and can lead to anxiety and depression. It is important to take appropriate steps to proactively cope with the grief and pain. Below explains 5 ways to successfully cope with the loss of a loved one.

1. Understand Who Grieves the Most

The National Cancer Institute has detailed research on risk factors for grief and bereavement outcomes. They have found that those who lack social support, have a history of depression, a lower income and are pessimistic tend to suffer more. In addition to this, those who had an insecure or an ambivalent relationship with the deceased tend to experience more negativity and grief. People who tend to cope through overthinking almost always have higher levels of stress and depression. The younger the age, the more difficulty after a loss. Understanding your personal situation and being aware of your risk factors will help with coping.

2. Social Connections

Social interactions are very effective with normalizing emotions, improving mood and enriching overall quality of life. Socializing engages the mind, reduces stress and provides opportunities to bond with others. An active social life can actually improve nutritional intake because people tend to eat more when they are around others. In addition to this, being social can help lower blood pressure, boost the immune system and reduce the symptoms of depression. Sometimes those who are grieving tend to withdraw, avoid others and become sedentary. However, researchers at the University of Berkeley’s Greater Good Institute have found that socially inactive adults are 70 percent more likely to experience cognitive decline and related health issues compared with socially active adults. Being socially active results in excellent emotional and physical benefits.

3. Active Choices

According to the National Institute of Health, exercise and physical activity reduces stress, improves mood and prevents and delays disease. Being active is a key to dealing with the stress and grief while doing something productive. Physical activities can be simple things like gardening, dancing and housework. Exercise can be regularly scheduled specific physical activities such as jogging, cycling and lifting weights. Exercise has been proven as an effective treatment for improving cognitive functions and reducing the symptoms of depression. Exercise also decreases the likelihood of developing chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Even walking 30 minutes a day will improve health and sleep quality while relieving anxiety and depression.

4. Travel

An ancient Chinese idiom says that traveling is better than reading 10,000 books. Many people coping with grief tend to withdraw and fixate on the past. However, travel forces us to be active, adapt to new situations and exposes us to the wonders of the world. Traveling forces us to engage others and experience life. Traveling locally or even internationally are excellent ways to leave the painful comfort zone at home and embrace the beauty of the world around us.

5. Spirituality and Religion

Most people only turn to religion during holidays or special events. However, there are benefits to both spirituality and religion. While there is great diversity with spirituality, yoga, tai chi and meditation have proven benefits for stress release and health. These aren’t just exercises, but actually ancient methods of spiritual practice and purification. Religion can play an important role in coping. While there is limited empirical research on the benefits of religion, studies have shown that religion is very helpful with coping because of the social support. Religion also provides a belief system that helps to understand and cope with death.

Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Legacy Headstones, a leading Ohio-based headstone manufacturer and vendor.

Men Have Feelings Too: Father’s Day After Loss

After the loss of a baby, Father’s Day can be a painful time for men that isn’t widely discussed or recognized. They will often hear friends and family asking their wives how they are doing, but rarely do men recieve the same type of attention. The lack of understanding and support offered to men makes grief a very complex and difficult situation for them.
It may sometimes appear that a man is not experiencing the pain of pregnancy loss. It is critical to understand how men and women grieve differently. Life experiences, along with cultural and personality differences mean that men and women are going to have separate, but equal dealings with grief.
If the lines of communication and support break down during loss, you will find a man feeling alone and unsupported. Here are some ways you can help a man during grief:
  • Remember that men normally grieve in private- not in public. You may not see outward signs that a man is grieving, but do not be fooled. Understand that a man in grief will find himself in a difficult position- he will be shamed if he expresses deep emotions in public and he will be shamed if he does not.
  • Be aware that men often experience anger differently then women during grief. While women may tend to point anger inward, men often direct their anger outward. This can manifest as anger toward you or even God. Remember that expressed anger is a normal and healthy response, however hostile behavior is not.
  • Listen. Remember that some men want to talk, but they feel there is no one to listen. A man may also be uncomfortable putting his feelings into words. Encourage him by listening during those times when he does talk about it.
  • Ask what you can do. It is very important to ask what you can do to help a man during his grief, and then do your best to meet his needs.
  • Keep an open mind. Remember that grief is an individual experience. Assuming that a man is not feeling pain if he grieves differently than you will only cause strife and misunderstanding.

Dealing with pregnancy loss is difficult for anyone. Understanding a man and giving him the space and support he needs will be critical.

The above information was adapted from the book Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death.

Am I a Mother?

Are you spending this Mother’s Day wondering if you are, in fact, a mother? 900,000-1 million women in the U.S. alone face this question every year after suffering pregnancy loss.

“For women who experience a miscarriage during their first pregnancy, the question of motherhood is an even greater one,” says Lisa Church of HopeXchange, a company dedicated to the support of women and their families facing pregnancy loss.

Am I a Mother?

Am I a Mother?

Mother’s Day is the most difficult holiday a woman must face after pregnancy loss. A time that was supposed to be a celebration of a new life and a new motherhood becomes a time of sadness and grief. Church’s book, Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death, encourages women to use the holiday to remember their babies, rather than making it a dreaded event to endure each year. “Nothing will lesson the pain of Mother’s Day, but with some planning you can make sure the day has meaning for you,” says Church. Here are some tips from the book that can help:

– You Are a Mother.

The best gift you can give yourself on Mother’s Day is the acknowledgment that you are a mother. You may not have a baby to hold in your arms, but you do have one in your heart.

– Let Your Family Know What You Need.

If you feel uncomfortable being recognized as a mother at a banquet or other function, substitute an activity you would feel good about. If you would rather not receive or wear a flower, then wear an item that helps you to connect with your baby, such as a piece of jewelry that includes the baby’s birthstone.

– Remember Your Baby.

Mother’s Day can be a great time for a husband and wife to talk about their baby and what the baby meant to them. Take a walk, have a quiet dinner, or just set aside some time to remember your baby together.

– Decide Ahead of Time.

The way you chose to spend Mother’s Day should be your decision- and one you make ahead of time. Setting time aside to remember and talk about your baby will make you “feel” more like a mom on the very day designed to do that. Church also reminds women that their spouses may experience similar feelings on Father’s Day, “so be sure to ask how he would like to spend the day.”

We run this article each year to help grieving Moms handle Mother’s Day.

Christmas is About a Baby

christmas-star-77979-m As I look back over the Christmas Holiday that just passed, there was another story of grief and loss; a baby that was never born. The grand daughter of a good friend experienced a miscarriage that was followed with three months of physical complications and pain. Her emotional saga finally came to a close with a final procedure that took place the week before Christmas. It has been a very difficult time for the family.

I thought about how many times I have seen and heard about stories just like this one in my many years of supporting families who are dealing with the grief and loss of miscarriage. The “regularity” in which it seems to happen is striking and disheartening. It could become easy to focus on this very sad reality. But then I think about all of the new babies that I have welcomed into the world this year, and years gone by, with gifts and showers and notes of congratulations.

Just like anything else, we can choose to see the tragedy the world can bring, or the hope we all long for. During the Christmas Season we tend to turn our thoughts to the joy and peace we’d like to have all year long- not just while we attend festive parties, eat our goodies and tear open gifts with family and friends.

When the tree is taken down and the gifts have all been put away the spirit and joy of Christmas can disappear as well. It can be tough to hold on throughout the year- especially if we are dealing with grief and pain. Unless we remember that Christmas is about a baby- a baby that was born to bring us a peace and hope that does not fade when the decorations are put away. Want to know more about this baby? Would you like to know a peace that does not get packed away in attic each year? Find a pastor, rabbi, priest, church or trusted friend who can tell you more.

May you find and keep the Christmas spirit throughout 2015 and beyond.

Dad Raises Money for SIDS with World Record Light Display

Sids_pic

Photo: Stefan Postles/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images

If you are looking for some Christmas cheer that comes in spite of a personal tragedy- this is it! A Dad in Australia is raising money for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) awareness and support for families affected by the unthinkable and unexplained deaths of their babies. He was inspired to take action after his own one-month old died of SIDS in 2002.

How? By using his World Record Christmas light display! He’s already raised more than $200,000 for SIDS for Kids, an Australian organization that supports awareness and support for grieving families.

See more photos and read more of this inspiring story!