Posts in Grief
Past Tense
I love words. Well-chosen verbiage captures my attention and stirs me inside. You could say that great writing speaks to me. ;)

My love of words led me to a journalism degree in college and then to a job as an editor for 11 years. I did have to brush up on my grammar in order to edit. It often came naturally to me; I felt what was correct and incorrect, even when I couldn't recall the exact rules.

My strengths involved the main idea. When you first choose a manuscript to publish, you work with an author to develop a story. Make sure it stays focused. Ensure the true meaning is conveyed to the reader. Then you proofread the details.

One detail I occasionally had to fix was verb tense. Authors choose to use present tense ("he says") or past tense ("she said") in a story. Rarely an author might slip up and switch tenses.

Last January, a dear, dear friend switched tenses. Kathy had an amazing life story focused on one main idea: loving Jesus. Nothing could shake the joy and hope she conveyed to others. But I found it so hard to switch tenses in speaking of her. I still want to refer to her as with us, present tense rather than past. She still remains in my heart daily. And I know she remains a present tense with the Lord.

Today, just over a year after Kathy's passing, I am heartbroken to find out that another friend has switched tenses. The same foe is to blame: cancer.

Suzanne's focus has been fierce. The main idea of her story has been loving her family and making every effort and sacrifice to retain her health and strength. Her humor and wit has never been phased. She has regaled us with tales from the absurd to the painful but always with spirit and smiles. Book club has had many entertaining stories outside the bound pages we read—thanks to Suzanne!

Early this morning, Suzanne's details changed. And I now have to proofread my words to speak of her in the past tense. It remains the hardest editing I have to do.

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Thoughts on Grief, part 2
While I was processing my own emotions, I was thinking of all the helpful things people have done to comfort me during two especially trying times that have befallen me this year. And so I thought I'd make a list to help you (and me) when someone else is grieving and we don't know what to say or do to be of comfort. (Funny how I don't know what to do at times. All I have to do is read this list. If these things comforted me, then I'm sure they would be ideas I could do for someone else!)

* food—You may have figured this out about me, but food is the way to my heart! I love food, and I loved the fact that people brought me food when I was down. Because who wants to decide what to do for dinner when your brain isn't functioning right? Some people took me out to eat. Some people brought meals. In the spring, my family sent us a fruit bouquet. (There's nothing like dark chocolate-covered ANYTHING to lift my spirits!) And Diet Coke—months ago Tabitha knew the way to make me smile by bringing me Diet Coke in my time of need, since I can't function without it! :) Back when we were at Christ's Church at Mason, Sally was always great at organizing food deliveries to friends! Food is so common, yet for me it helped so much!

* hugs—I'm a tactile person who feels much better when I've been given a hug. I feel that way every time I see my parents! And I especially remember when Susan gave me a hug at church when she first heard I had sad news. She didn't have words to say, but she didn't have to say anything; the hug was perfect. And I appreciated Melissa giving me a hug too. I know she's not a huge huggy person all the time herself, so it meant even more! :)

* the unexpected—Another thing Melissa did was to leave a book on my doorstep that she thought I'd like to borrow. She knew reading would be wonderful for me, and it was just what I needed. Lyndsey brought me flowers at Bible study. A freelancer I worked with but have never met face-to-face sent me flowers. Examples of unexpected tokens that let me know others thought of me.

* cards—How rare it is to receive cards in the mail anymore, right? Well Beth has an amazing card ministry. She has sent me cards during sad times and even everyday encouragements for no special occasion. They mean more than she will ever know. Audrey has done the same, never failing to make me smile with the cards (and photos!) she sends.

* visits—I know visiting is hard, especially in a hospital when someone is ill or going to someone's house, because you aren't sure what to say when you get there. And sometimes there isn't a lot to say. But it can mean a lot to have someone sit with you, even in silence. And grieving can happen when people fall ill themselves. Many people visited me when I was hospitalized several years ago. Carol and Mandi were great at that, coming to chat and make me feel normal again.

* specific offers—Where would I be without Sheryl and Ed watching Kaelyn for me? (That's on regular occasions, but in sad times too!) Sometimes people make that general offer, and I don't know whether to take them up on it, but Sheryl is always insistent and specific on times and dates. And the break in responsibility, just for a few hours, is what I need. Sometimes I offer to others in generalities, but I may have to change that now and ask, "When can I watch your kids for you?" or "When do you need a ride?" or "When can I take you out for coffee?" Not just a general offer, but find a specific time to help. Sometimes it's easier for people to accept and be helped when we are specific.

* keeping things normal—I appreciate the sentiment behind people trying to protect me. For instance, I had a friend not tell me someone was pregnant, thinking it might hurt my feelings after my miscarriage. That was very thoughtful. However, I don't know how it is for others, but for me, I don't want people to hold back information. It makes me feel left out. I can fully rejoice for others, even if I'm hurting. And I want to have the opportunity to share in everyday joys. Calling to invite people to join social events, even if they've just experienced a loss, can be helpful. They might need a distraction. Or they'll say no if the timing isn't right yet.

* prayers—I am the worst at praying for myself when something difficult happens to me. It's that fog again, clouding my thoughts. I know that in all my times of pain, I've been strengthened by others prayers when I didn't have words to pray myself. I didn't always know how to ask for prayer, even during prayer request time at Bible study. I appreciated when people prayed for me even when I didn't speak up. Or offers to pray WITH me, right at that moment. Obviously all prayers at any time are good! But the occasions when someone wants to talk to God with me, sitting right beside me, are so powerful. I remember my in-laws coming to the hospital years ago and bringing me the Lord's Supper and praying with me. Those are moments of God I will never forget.

I can't list all the ways and all the people who have encouraged me over the years. (I hate to begin naming names because I will leave someone out!) But these were specifics that came to mind, and I thought it might be a good list for me and anyone to consider when offering comfort to friends.
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Thoughts on Grief, part 1
So I'm processing, and I thought I might do this online. I often read other people's blogs about emotional issues, and it helps me. Perhaps these thoughts can help someone else.

It has been a little over six weeks since we found out that we were not having the baby we were eagerly anticipating. And to be honest, Steve and I have both expressed that we can be happy whether the future holds another child or not. We are not "incomplete" in any way. We feel blessed with everything God has given us in life, and we are OK with however it turns out. Yet I still feel like I'm going through some grieving or maladjustment with my own emotions at times. It's not every day. But at times. It's just weirdness inside my head—and I think that everyone goes through funks at times, from different triggers. Maybe this was just my trigger.

I wrote this down last week when I was having a moment:
I feel like an egg. I'm looking good and whole and composed. Yet the slightest turbulence makes me feel as if I'm cracking open and spilling out. It comes unexpectedly when I think things are OK. Tears come over something small.

Makes me want to nestle away in my mind, shutting everyone out. Or I feel like snuggling up in my cozy Grinch pants and Snoopy sweatshirt and hide and not face the dishes or the dirty bathrooms or even the simplest decision, like what to fix for dinner.

I keep up a good appearance on the outside, smiling and enjoying people. And I do enjoy people. But I'm ignoring thoughts. When I'm by myself, I must distract myself. I end up using some sort of media or game or anything to avoid the silence. And I used to love and crave silence.

I talk to God in snippets, but at times I've tuned out opportunities for long conversation.

I feel like eating junk foods (but that's just normal!) and buying stuff for me and Kaelyn every time we are out, when I'm normally a tightwad and not prone to use shopping as a catharsis. I'm unmotivated to do things that used to motivate me. I don't know why or how to change any of it right now.

That's what I wrote last week. I also feel like I've given in to some angry feelings, lashing out at Steve or Kaelyn or even inanimate objects when things don't go my way. I feel like I keep justifying these emotions and bad habits, thinking I deserve it somehow as a comfort. I think I've made progress in a few areas the past few days, so that's good.

I also realized that I need comfort from people, even when it looks like I have everything together. When we first got the news and told people, they asked how I was. I could tell certain people felt awkward about asking, just as I feel awkward knowing how to comfort people at times. Subconsciously, I tried alleviating such awkwardness by giving short answers and changing the subject. Later I'd be sad, thinking I had passed up an opportunity to be comforted . . . or to explain that I was in pain. I don't mind that people know I'm sad. I just don't always know how to express that verbally. Which is why I write! :)

That's where I am. I'm just trying to figure out why I feel the way I feel and finding motivation to do some things I've been putting off. I'm not walking around with a little grey cloud over my head all the time. I'm just in and out of some emotional fog. Can we make a deal? If you see me foggy, please ask how I'm doing, and I'll try to get over my awkwardness and give you an honest answer! And if you're in a fog from grief or from anything, no matter what it is or how long it's been, I'll do the same for you.
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