Sunday, July 07, 2013

How To Help the Grieving

Note: I began writing this post over a month ago – pardon the time lags.

Today I learned my son is dead. Missing since December, his body was found and identified this week.

This blog post on grieving was to have been full of sage observations of how folks have come along side and comforted grieving parents, spouses, siblings, friends. Not a new experience for me, but this is the first time losing an adult child, and I’ve been experiencing this comfort first hand.

Matthew left behind a wife, three young children, parents, siblings, in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, church family, co-workers and many, many friends.

We are stunned, grieved and relieved all at once. The waiting is over. Some ugly possible scenarios turned out not to be true, but many questions remain. Was it alcohol? A mental crisis? Could we have done something to change the outcome? God knows, and we leave it in His hands.

So – here are my previous ideas interspersed with what folks have been doing for us these past few weeks;

Put the pie on the table, sit in the corner and wait for us to come to you. (Novelist Michael Walsh during an interview on 3/14/13). Be there for them. Show up and shut up. (Hugh Hewitt, interviewer of Michael Walsh.) This particularly regards recent and sudden death. Grieving families can be overwhelmed in group situations, just being there counts. You don’t have to say much more than, “I’m sorry.” Profound isn’t what is required, being there is.

Our family appreciated the food, cards, phone calls, visits, texts, and Facebook posts. Facebook, in particular was a great way to communicate swiftly and at great distance – we have friends around the world and were blessed by their support and prayers. We also appreciated those of you who forgave us for overlooking you – my brain was certainly fried, and I thought I’d contacted everyone…

Listen, because the grieving are angry, scared and confused – all at once. They may trust God implicitly, but how that should work out in real time is something different all together. Pray over them. Pray for them. For comfort, encouragement and a way forward.

Hold them. Give them hand squeezes. Bear hugs that go on and on. Sitting shoulder to shoulder. Sit and drink together; Hot cocoa, iced tea, fizzy soft drinks or coke and rum. Be willing to talk. Don’t be afraid to remember.

Books can encourage. Give them with the good parts bookmarked and highlighted. They’ll read it when they’re ready. It you are desperate to impart some gem immediately, read the passage to your friend when you visit, then leave the book. The ‘ah hah!’ may come later. Maybe not. I can now recommend Tear Soup by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen, a picture book about grief for adults (and given to me by a StandUp parent).

Decide how much time to spend with your friend. An initial burst of support may be helpful, but if you want to be there for the long haul, pace yourself so you don’t burn out and your friend doesn’t grow tired or become annoyed with you. Some move through their grief quickly, others can take a good long time. Be flexible.; Take Them a Meal is a website where you can schedule meals to be taken to a person in need. It’s free and there is the ability for people to see what days are available and what others are bringing so there aren’t repeats. Also included are recipes, ideas of how to package and present a meal, as well as other things that can be done to help out a family.

This is long, and some of these thoughts are random – but I’m finding, for me, this is part of the grieving process – being random, accident prone, forgetful.
Two days ago, Saturday, we had Matthew’s memorial service. It was wonderful. A conglomeration of his friends and co-workers, our friends, family (some we had never met – our son was adopted), folks from StandUp Parenting, and our churches. I left the service being energized by all the love and wonderful memories. Thank you.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Living a Normal Life in Traumatic Times

First the Newtown murders, now the Boston Marathon Bombing - is your family on overload? It's hard enough to steer your family through the push and pull of living with an out of control kid. Add to it a national trauma that may well involve someone you know, and your own family members could easily spiral down to a very bad place.
September 11, 2001 was such a time. We were all stunned. The skies were silent, except for the occasion scream of fighter jets flying low on patrol. We gathered round our televisions for hours at a time watching airplanes crashing into towers, and the towers collapsing, over and over.

The FlyLady ( sounded a note of encouragement. Turn off the TV and pursue comforting family activities – pull out board games, tell stories, read favorite books out loud, go for a walk together, prepare comfort foods.
Early this week blogger Nancy Schwartz ( quoted Mr. Rogers; “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”.

Of course that was what we saw at the Boston Marathon – runners and all manner of first responders running towards the bomb blasts – their first impulse was to help. Then a few days later the hunt for the bombers began and the first casualty was MIT Police Officer Sean Collier. What got my attention was a news picture of a mom and her two elementary aged sons being escorted by officers as they brought flowers and food to the Collier home.

Our world is full of trauma – nationally, locally and personally. I would like to be that person who is helping. Taking a meal, getting together for a game night – being there. I would like to help my friends and family do normal things along with reaching out to the victims. I will pray for them, look for opportunities to donate to organizations that will help them. How about you?

Sunday, April 07, 2013

When Traditional Schools Just Don’t Work

Our local StandUp Parenting support group has a long history of children of all ages attending alternative schools. They come in all shapes and forms – and we are thankful!

Currently, we have children in two charter schools and an alternative school.

One charter school serves elementary children, focuses on basics and lots of group repetition.

Another charter school is also elementary school, but is adding a grade each year. It successfully serves children with Sensory Integration Disorder, creating a specialized environment where they can succeed.

The third school is a high school alternative school which allows for variety of student needs – one area where they are particularly helpful is giving students who have a hard time functioning before noon the ability to start school later and make use a number of different methods to accomplish the course load.

It is not uncommon for the children of our parents to take five years to get a four year high school diploma. Of course, those are the kids who manage to stick it out.
Personally, I had one child who needed the help of a public industrial arts alternative school to secure a diploma by the age of twenty one. A second kid got a GED by the age of twenty seven, because of the help of a very specialized program.

One of our StandUp group parents, in an effort to get their young adult kid to follow through on a GED course, went back to school in their 50’s to get their own GED certificate. That’s what they call, ‘Putting your money where your mouth is!’

Don’t give up on your child’s education. It may take longer and look different than your neighbor’s or your sister’s kid’s experience – but with patience on your part and perseverance on your kid’s – it can happen!

Monday, March 18, 2013

5 Mistakes

We all make mistakes. But both parents and children become paralyzed with fear that they will make the same mistake twice. They pile themselves with guilt over their inability to get the simplest of things right.

This can happen with parenting issues and just everyday living for kids. We are all negotiating new skills and projects, new challenges and crisis. The fear of getting it wrong makes it worse.

A local college sent a group of young people and their professor to Rwanda to assist area pastors in reaching out to the poor and needy in their community. Faced with language and cultural barriers they experienced real trepidation. They decided right away to implement a version of Nike’s ‘Just Do It’.

Since they were going to make mistakes anyway, they decided to plan on at least five mistakes a day. That took the stress off the group and they were able to jump into challenging situations with the knowledge that they had a ‘quota’ of mistakes to fill!

This concept of allowing for five mistakes has been freeing for me. And I’m working to apply it to my parenting. Encouraging my adult children to make room for mistakes curbs my own expectations for them as well as their expectations for themselves. We feel a greater freedom to jump in and try things, rather than slowly trying to get everything ‘just right’.
Will you try to allow for making mistakes in your parenting? Join in with a StandUp Parenting parent group, face-to-face or online, to get the support you need to make these freeing changes in your life!