Skip to content

Grief: It’s NOT a Shame

I’m accustomed to feeling all sorts of colliding emotions with grief – anger, depression and even regret, but shame was a new one on me. I didn’t even know what to call it when I experienced it.

Do you ever feel shame within the context of your loss? My dictionary defines shame as “a painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace.”

There’s room for shame in society. We should be ashamed for things that are against morality. Grief isn’t something to be ashamed about, and yet there it was, sitting on top of my chest.momspaintings.jpg

That afternoon, I had been at my parents’ unoccupied home with my husband. I’d been rambling about the house, trying to figure out what next to discard, give away or pack. I’m down to the wire on this one – after eight years, we’ve decided to sell the house. I gotta finish cleaning it out.

Read more

Advertisements

The Profound Nature of Suffering

Sometimes I want to scream. Somewhere along the way, I decided that someday I’d be through with suffering, but I’m not. The tag I put on it is expired, and yet I’m still suffering.

I hesitate using the word suffering for my struggle. I’ve not been to war. I’ve not lost a leg, been burned in a fire or experienced the death of a child. My suffering isn’t going to kill me.ToniProfilePic

But sometimes I’ve despaired of life because of it. I’ve thought it might ruin me. It’s certainly changed my life. It changed the way I took care of my parents. And I hate that. Really hate that.

Read more

Mountain Climbing: Releasing Parents’ Home Sparks Renewed Grief

I don’t want to tell you that I’m grieving again. Not that I ever really stopped, but after eight years without my Mom, it wasn’t intruding into my every hour or day in that heartbreaking way.

But lately, it has – in that heartbreaking way. In that way that hinders sleep. In that way that casts a pall over everything I do. I smile, but inside a part of me is crying.

I know what happened. I’m being called upon to let go of my parents’ home. I’ve known all along this is what I’d probably do. Sell. But the day was far away.Mountain

Read more

Awestruck by Eclipse: A Spiritual Journey

I stared into the sky at the black hole ringed with white-hot fire. I’d never seen anything like this before in my life. It was unearthly. Alien. Tears flooded my eyes. Awe flooded my soul.

My mother taught me to gaze into the cosmos as a girl. She walked into the front yard, brought the binoculars to her eyes and found the craters on Luna. Then she handed the binoculars to me.

Mom never saw a total solar eclipse. I wish she’d been alive to see it with me Aug. 21. My husband and I traveled from Memphis, in the partial eclipse zone, to western Kentucky to see the sun go totally dark. We’d booked our hotel room 10 months in advance. I packed a bracelet of Mom’s. I’d wear it during the eclipse in honor of her.

TotalEclipseByPhotographer

Photo by Rick Fienberg / TravelQuest International / Wilderness Travel

In the moments before the moon totally blacked out the sun, I was skeptical, building to upset. I’d heard it got dark enough to see stars, but it was daylight with more than 90 percent of the sun covered. An eerie pallor draped us, but I’d seen a partial eclipse before.

Read more

Death Does Not End Relationship, Letter Reveals to Daughter

Loss can feel like a great abyss, like my parents are a trillion miles in space, on a planet I’ve never seen, in a place I can neither fly to nor telephone. But death doesn’t end a relationship.

Nor does it end a connection. No, it’s not the one I want. I want them here. In front of my face. But at least our bond isn’t completely severed.

I felt the connection again one July evening in 2013 when I was going through my parents’ things at their home. I found a letter. It had been mailed to them in the 1960s before I was born.

ParentsEarlyOn (2)

My parents, probably during their courtship, in the 1950s.

Read more

Cleaning Out a Deceased Loved One’s Home: Four Tips to Spark the Process

I didn’t expect to take eight years cleaning out my parents’ home. But here I am.

I also didn’t expect to feel walls of resistance erect inside of me, blocking my ability – or rather, my willingness – to throw away, give away or pack up their stuff. Propriety dictated I go over to their home and get the job done. I just wanted to sit with their things and cry.

parentthings1.jpg

A set of teeth and molds my mother made in dental school. I discovered them during the cleaning out of my parents’ home.

Along the way, I noticed what nudged me to act when I’d get stuck holding on to their things. I’m not advocating we push ourselves past the point that our emotional journey takes us. In fact, I’d say take all the time you need and can reasonably acquire. I had the luxury of keeping my parents’ home, the house where I grew up, for almost as long as I wanted. I wasn’t paying a mortgage on it, it was close by, and my husband indulged me.

However, if you discover you need a nudge, try these strategies to get back on track.

Read more

How Can We Feel Safe?

Do you feel safe? I don’t mean do you fear you’re in danger of being robbed or burgled or murdered. I mean do you feel like you are emotionally in a place of safety?

I admit I haven’t always felt safe. In fact, one of the most unsafe times in my life was after my father died in the summer of 2006. I wasn’t aware of it in exactly those terms at the time, but in the years that have followed, I’ve thought a lot about this human drive for safety.ToniPic

I think we all recognize the desire for physical safety. We lock our doors. We look twice to cross the street. But emotional safety is sort of nebulous. Undefined.

I find safety in relationships and in roles. I didn’t realize how glued I was to my parents and my identity as a daughter until I lost my dad, and then three years later, when I lost my mom. Over time, I’ve examined how magnetized I was to them, even though I was an independent woman. I bought my own home, alone, at age 29. Umm….it was 10 minutes from their house.

Read more

Time Machine: Church Tour Reconnects Daughter to Father

Have you ever felt like a social misfit? The feeling was never greater for me than at the mega church I attended in junior high school. But I’d put that out of my mind until this past weekend.

BellevueTour1

The youth assembly room as it looks today. It is in an unused part of the church site.

I dressed for comfort and convenience, not for style and statement. I wore my hair straight and tucked behind my ears, though big ‘80s ‘dos were in. I lived in a double-wide trailer across the state line in rural Mississippi, and I went to a public school, not a private one.

My peers at the Memphis church wore alligators over their hearts, braces on their teeth and pennies in their loafers. My parents couldn’t afford those things. So I never asked for them.

Read more

Grief: A Doorway to God?

What is the good of grief? Is there anything we can snatch from the jaws of death? Or is it a final defeat – senseless, purposeless and meaningless?

My mother died eight years ago today. I remember feeling the sense of total defeat for her. I was still alive. I might rise from the ashes of my grief and find joy again. But she was dead.ToniDoor

My feelings contradicted my spiritual beliefs. I believed my mom was in heaven and in the presence of God. But I live in a tangible world. I could not see where she was or how she was.

Read more

The Healing Properties of Being a Child Again

I dreamed I was a child again, playing with my toys. I feel like a child a lot when I grieve. I even cry out for my “mommy” and “daddy” like a girl who has tripped and bruised her knee.

But in my dream my parents were alive, and I was playing with the toys they’d given me. I woke up with a delightful sense of well-being. I felt loved. I felt taken care of.

I realized of all the things I sifted through at my parents’ home, the toys in my old bedroom always made me smile. I cried over a lot of their possessions, but the toys took me back to joy.

Benji

My brother, Rich, and me in my room as children. I posed with my new toy, Benji.

Joy is an important ingredient in grief. We cannot properly face the ocean of sorrow that death plunges us into without the life preserver of joy. But how do we find joy at a time like that?

Read more