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Getting Through a Crisis

The drama unfolded at Memphis International Airport inside the compact Honda Civic I’d owned for seven years.

I shut the door, and with the windows rolled up against the July heat, I opened my mouth and screamed. I screamed as loud as I had ever screamed.

lonely woman crying with closed eyes

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

The man I loved, the one waiting for a plane, no longer wanted me. I had thought he was the one. He decided someone else was the one. She, too, had been at the airport. I screamed to release a wad of pain lodged in my gut.

The year was 2007. To add insult to injury, the event occurred a year and a week after my daddy’s death. Grief on top of grief.

What happened next illustrates an essential aspect of getting through a crisis, surviving something that rips out your heart.

What I did then I try to do anytime I lose something or someone important to me.

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No Fear – Our Father Is in the Room

Did you ever imagine monsters were under your bed or in your closet? What did you do as you huddled under the covers? You called out to your parents, right?

Did they speak softly to your fears? And did you hope they’d stay in the room all night? You were sure to be safe with your mother or father in the room.

Or maybe you drifted asleep in complete peace with them in the house. You knew they would come to your side at the slightest cry.

girl sleeping on bed

Photo by Sam K on

We don’t grow up, not completely. We’re adult orphans now, and we wish they’d appear in the doorway of our dark room to rescue us from the monsters. Monsters like loneliness, depression, rage, regret, resentment and fear. If only our parents were here, they would chase away the yearning carved into our souls the day they died.

Earlier this month, I was driving to the cemetery 14 years to the day my daddy died. That’s when “The Father’s House” by Cory Asbury came on the radio. The song conveys that “failure’s never final” with a God who sees beyond shortcomings. He offers to take up our burdens and love us through this rocky journey called life.

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5 Things to Do When Life Feels Out of Control & You Need a Mid-Year Reset

The year 2020 will probably go down in history as a bad one. We all know why. The pandemic. Shelter-in-place orders. Isolation. Deaths of people we know and love from COVID-19.

We’re just past the mid-point of this awfully difficult year, but we don’t have to surrender the next six months to the trash can of time. We can proclaim a mid-year reset.

photo of person covered with brown textile

Photo by Noelle Otto on

But how do we do that when so much is out of our control? Disease. Death. Grief. We cannot dictate the outcome of our lives.

I declared a mid-year reset last year. I drew a line in the sand at July 1st. I’d been battling depression, the result of a relationship that was neither totally dissolved nor solidly intact. Uncertainty is one of the greatest foes of humanity. Sometimes a final goodbye feels better.

As a species, humanity is squirming under the force of uncertainty this year. Will we get sick? Will our spouse, a parent, a child? When can we go back to work? Will we be sent home again?

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When We Don’t Feel Safe Anymore

What happens when we don’t feel safe anymore? When uncertainty rules the day? When life is turned upside down?

The pandemic qualifies as a world-changing event in terms of individuals, families and nations, but even a virus cannot hold a candle to my personal world-turned-upside-down event.

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Fatherless Father’s Day: Writing to Heal Grief

Expressing our grief through storytelling deepens our understanding of grief. And that deepens our potential to heal. ToniBioPic4

I’ll be part of a podcast this coming Saturday, the day before Father’s Day, to encourage anyone, experienced writers or beginners, to utilize this important tool within their grief journey.

The authors you’ll hear will be reading their personal stories of loss beginning 7 p.m. CST, June 20th for Fatherless Father’s Day — Writing to Heal Grief.

You can slide over to and register now. The podcast is free but donations to the organizations are encouraged to support their valuable work. (Note: These funds go to the organizations. I receive no money for my participation.) You’ll see the donation option in the link.

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Peace in the Storm

Are you going through a storm? Do you feel battered by the modern world’s equivalent of swirling winds and pounding rain in a sea of uncertainty?

I remember the day my dad died. He was there, and then he was gone, and there was nothing I could do to bring him back. The storm of my life followed.

This Father’s Day will be my 14th without him.

beach dawn daylight horizon

Photo by Tatiana on

Will we survive our storm? We may sense that we will, but we cannot see how nor know when our misery and desperation will end. In the meantime, we white knuckle the experience. But is peace possible in the storm?

I was in a literal storm a few weekends ago, caught out on a Mississippi lake up to a mile from shore. We saw the cloud bank and then heard thunder.

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“When Will I Feel Better?”

The question goes through our minds in a dozen different ways and sounds like this: “When will I feel better?”

We expect to grieve during the funeral and for weeks after the funeral, but then a month passes. Six months. A year. Five years.

We want our living hell of loss to be over. Or at least tolerable. If we knew how long we had until we reached some kind of acceptance, we’d know we could hold out for that day.

woman in gray tank top while sitting on bed

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

I asked a version of the question, too, though I was well versed in what to expect with grief. A few years had passed since the deaths of my parents. And yet I’d stumble into a grief trigger and find myself longing for them in the same way I’d done the first year.

I’d get mad at myself. Feel like I was a hopeless case. Or that I was destined to be forever in a grief loop.

So, what is the answer to “When will I feel better?”

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Searching for Safety During COVID-19, Motherless Mother’s Day

By Toni Lepeska

The coronavirus pandemic has elicited a new catch phrase – “stay safe.”

I hear it on the telephone with doctor’s offices and in text messages from friends. It has replaced “take care,” “see you later,” and “be careful.”

How essential is safety? Where can we find it when our world has been turned upside down?

The urge to secure safety was my initial knee-jerk reaction to COVID-19 and stay-at-home measures. I wanted my mother. I wanted to “circle the wagons” with her. But she’s been dead almost 11 years.

young gorgeous woman standing behind iron grate

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Interestingly, I also hunted for safety after my father’s death. My mother, terminally ill, became my responsibility. She could not be the source of safety and comfort that she’d always been. I cried out to God, “Send me a protector!”

We often overlook the essential need as human beings to feel safe until we feel threatened or at risk physically or emotionally. The desire to secure safety is hardwired into us, on par with shelter and food.

Our first source of safety is our parents, especially our mothers.

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Five Strategies to Clear the Way for a Grief Breakthrough

The loss of a loved one is difficult enough but what often follows are impossible questions, bitter anger and self-accusatory thoughts that nag us with what ifs and should-have-dones.

What lifts us out of the quicksand of such a situation and puts us on the path of healing? What puts lingering questions to rest and transforms pit-sinking sorrow into peace?

woman in brown coat and purple scarf holding silver tablet

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

I believe the course of our grief changes with breakthroughs, aka epiphanies, or “aha” moments. I adopted the term “revelations” the year after my dad died. Whatever the name, these are sudden, transformative thoughts or realizations that shift our perspective and give us healing.

I experienced a series of breakthroughs that helped me forgive myself as a stressed-out caregiver to Mom. I accepted the inability to be perfectly loving and knowing. I accepted her dire need to control things. Her world was falling apart. She was trying to cope, and I was, too, in our individually different ways.

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Shut In & Sad: 9 Coping Strategies

I thought I needed to get around people. What I needed was to be alone.

I’m a loner of sorts. A homebody. An introvert. I was raised by a woman who left the house only two or three times a year. When the stay-at-home orders came down amid COVID-19 fears, I thought “I’ve got this.” I was right – for about a week.

woman inside the car

Photo by emre keshavarz on

Don’t get me wrong. I love my husband, and I love his company. The primary breadwinner, he took over my home office. I willingly gave up my chair, but I itched to go to the coffee shop and hang around perfect strangers. And go for walks. Alone.

And then as the days wore on, I got angry. Not at my hubby. I believed I was angry at being confined. Have you ever been sad-angry? Or angry-sad? I think that was my affliction. I wasn’t afraid. I was angry.

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