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Posts tagged ‘Grief’

Grief at Christmas: When Adopting New Traditions Doesn’t Work

They told me to find new traditions to survive Christmas with a broken heart. It was on all the lists. As I face the 10th year without a living parent, however, I still haven’t found stability.

I still can’t get the Christmases I once had out of my head. I still haven’t found a routine that fills a sad, black hole that I cannot escape.

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My uncle, aunt, their daughter-in-law and son (my cousins) and my dad encircle me at Christmas. My mother is apparently behind the camera.

Have you found traditions and routines yet that calm that yearning for Christmas past? Or are you still looking?

My expectations always do me in. People just won’t do what I want them to do. (Insert chuckle here.) Communication gaps. Conflicting plans. Unnecessary drama. My hopes and plans for a blissful Christmas of ease dissolve in the wake these obstacles.

My emotions don’t do what I want them to, either. They fluctuate each Christmas. I once wrote that each Christmas gets better and better after the loss of a loved one. That’s what I’d experienced – until I didn’t. It was then I realized grief storms come when they wish.

Especially at Christmas. The holiday is full of triggers. One of my primary ones is music. Sad nostalgia rides on sound waves. No, I’m sorry. I cannot go Home for Christmas.

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A Warning from Beyond?

Can dead people warn us of impending danger? Do they provide the grown up equivalent of “don’t run with scissors?”

That’s a dicey question for a Christian to ask because the Bible tells us that God doesn’t want us to try to communicate with the dead.P1000643 (2)

I hope my fellow believers haven’t already tuned out. If you’ve made it thus far, allow me to elaborate. I want to tell you about what I heard last week. And how it caused me to swerve from danger.

I think God brings things to our mind from the past that fit into the circumstances of the moment. He reminds us of conversations past.

I also think wisdom and other bits of information people like our parents gave us get embedded in our brains. And at the right moment, it’s like a “play” button is pushed. We hear them again, but this time, their words apply to present circumstances. It sure feels as though it is from our departed one, doesn’t it? But is it?

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Grief Dialogues In Newspaper

The Commercial Appeal, my former employer, published an article on Grief Dialogues: The Book and on my contribution to the publication. Raina Hanna did a fabulous job on the story, and I want to thank her. What an odd feeling to be IN the story, rather than on top in the byline. GriefDialoguesPhoto3

I’m sharing the link below. I confess my computer skills aren’t top notch, so I hope the link works. If it doesn’t, you can still find the story in the Nov. 28 issue of the paper at http://www.commercialappeal.com.

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Thanksgiving & Envy

It’s appropriate this week to thank you – to offer gratitude – to you. I’m thankful for reader friends and for those who support my writing in any way.

Whether it’s by following my blog or sharing a post, hitting “like” on social media, by showing up at a book signing, or by simply offering an encouraging word, I am grateful.

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Two of my best friends watch as I sign a book with my essay inside. I’m among 61 contributors to Grief Dialogues: The Book.

I recently read a post about envy. Isn’t that unusual, to think about envy during Thanksgiving, a time to express gratitude for what we have? I had to admit I had been guilty. I had wanted something that was someone else’s.

I think back to two years ago. I had wished I was one of those writers followed by thousands. One of the ones whose book had been picked up by a traditional publisher, with my book in a store. One of the golden few. And so when my memoir proposal was rejected by a top-name publisher, I was devastated, though I knew rejection was the norm. I took it personal.

I had a lot of good, wholesome reasons for my book to land in lots of hands. Or in anyone’s hands. But my envy was the fly that spoiled the soup.

I think envy may come from a few places, but for me it sprang from insecurity. I felt confident I could write a good news story, having been in the business for 25 years, but memoir writing was a different animal. Even though I received some great encouragement at a writing conference in 2016, I wasn’t sure I was good enough. I needed affirmation.

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A Bad Hair Day & My 1st TV Interview

UPDATE: The book event may be postponed due to inclement weather. Watch my social media sights & the blog Thursday for any changes.

UPDATE to the Update: We are on schedule. Please join me starting at 4 p.m. today at Master Jewelers, Olive Branch, Miss.

Of course, I was having a bad hair day. Or maybe it’s a bad hair life, nonetheless, this isn’t really about me but about taking grief and mourning out of the shadows.

The former mayor of Olive Branch, Miss., Sam Rikard, interviewed Elizabeth Coplan and me about Grief Dialogues: The Book. As I’ve written, I’m a contributor to this publication, the brainchild of Elizabeth, an author and playwright who resides near Seattle.

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This wasn’t a bad hair day. Always take extra photographs on good hair days. You may need them later.

Sam is called the Weather Mayor around here. He always wanted to be a weather man, and now in retirement, he is. He posted the YouTube link (below) to the interview immediately, and it will go on OBTV, a small station that broadcasts in Olive Branch, on today, Nov. 14. He was a great interviewer, and he’s at ease in front of a camera. Me? Not so much, but I’ve really been enjoying marketing the book this week. Read more

Book Signing & Child Grief Day

He called to me to get my attention – “Mom” – but I wasn’t sure I’d heard him correctly. I wasn’t his biological mom, but I wanted him to be attached to me in that way.

“What?” I asked. He shook his lowered head. “What did you say?”20180324_150814

He refused to repeat himself. I then realized he seemed embarrassed. He had spoken accidentally, and to my disappointment, he’d wished he hadn’t called me Mom at all.

Even in my youth of 25 years, even in my inexperience with grief, I assessed that he likely felt as if he’d been disloyal to his real mom. She had died months earlier, when he was 10.

Children’s Grief Awareness Day is on Nov. 15 this year. It falls on the calendar as the joyful togetherness of the holiday season approaches and punctuates the sense of the loss of loved ones.

To mark Children’s Grief Awareness Day, I’ll be at Master Jewelers in Olive Branch, Miss., to sign books. I’m one of 61 contributors to Grief Dialogues: The Book, the brainchild of author and playwright Elizabeth Coplan. Elizabeth and I found each other via Twitter while she was looking for contributions. She’s flying in and will do a reading at the Thursday afternoon event, and I will read from my entry, Standing in the Gap.

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Seeking Connection Thru Objects of the Dead

What do you hold onto that makes you feel close to your deceased loved one? Is it a shirt with their smell? A love letter? Or maybe it’s not an object but a shared cause or creed you foster.

Connection. We all seek it but in different ways. For a long time, I thought I was hugely different in my grief. I kept my parents’ home and their things for eight years. I went through every stitch, every piece of paper, every photograph, every junk drawer, and I felt them beside me. With me.

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Connection: We may feel close to our loved ones through their objects or place, but the barrier of death remains

I thought I was a bit weird. And then I noticed in the most popular posts and tweets a common thread – a search for, or a celebration of, connection. Connection gave comfort. It was an affirmation that love never died, or that perhaps the loved one was still around in some mystical way. By achieving connection, we seem to conquer death, if only for a moment.

How do we bridge that gulf, that space that death created?

We bridge it in dreams. We bridge it by putting up photographs of our parents, our grandparents, our husbands, our children. We bridge it by keeping their room just as it was. Or by engaging in a cause that was near to their hearts. We may run a race in their honor. We may go to their favorite places, or plant their favorite flower, or visit their favorite friend.

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How Real Death Changed Halloween

I will never see Halloween the same. I loved it as a child, but once you come face to face with real death, images of ghosts, ghouls and skeletons aren’t playthings anymore.

I’m not trying to rain on the Halloween parade. Really. And I’m not such a stiff that I don’t participate. A few years ago, I was a lady vampire. Another year, I was a gypsy. And another year, a black cat. But when I see really ghastly images, I cringe.Halloween2.jpg

I know I’m not the only one. You aren’t the only one. For us, real death changed Halloween from a playful parade of goblins and delightful, frightful surprises into painful reminders that death took our loved one. That bodies we hugged decay. That beloved spirits fly away.

A neighbor’s kids love to color skulls. One of their Halloween decorations is a skeleton. As I walk through the seasonal aisle at Walgreens, it’s those boney images that bug me the most. I was never a big fan, but now they remind me of death. Of real death. Despite the fact that as a crime reporter I visited murder scenes, death didn’t seem real to me until I saw my daddy’s body, lying in the hallway floor, covered in a white sheet. I dropped to my knees and put my hand on his chest. He was still warm. And then three years later, called by the aide, I rushed home.

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How Mom’s #MeToo Rescued Me

My mother prepared me for the onslaughts of lustful and malevolent men. I was a girl, encased in loving cocoon, listening to how they had hit her. Tried to rape her. Tried to kill her.

She left her first abusive husband only to be abused by the second. He then poisoned her with arsenic. Later, a landlord’s son cut a window screen. He tried to rape her. Mom tricked him and escaped. Through the years, many men claimed superiority over her simply because they had different sex organs. As incidents of men brandishing power mounted, her courage grew.ToniProfilePic

And she became the mother I knew. She refused to be subdued.

Lifesaving Tales

Her stories didn’t teach me fear. They taught me bravery. Boldness. Nerve. But as a girl, I didn’t think any of the violence she’d gone through would apply to me. I was unaware that Mom was giving me valuable tools that would protect me. That might even save my life.

I think about Mom’s cautionary tales – her gift to me – as women flood the public stage with #MeToo stories of sexual assault and harassment. I think about her stories as a nation stands divided between a Supreme Court nominee’s good name and a woman’s life-changing tale of trauma. All the narratives ping pong in my head against the backdrop of October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

On the emotional, physical and sexual fronts, many women share an uncomfortable if not painful experience. I don’t have a #MeToo story like the ones that are circulating. But yes, I’ve been the subject of unwanted advances and tiptoed around the edges of dangerous encounters.

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When the Cosmos Is Against Us

Daddy died, and I thought the universe owed me a break. My mother was terminally ill. And I had a chronic illness. I deserved a pass on all other trouble – or so I believed.

And thus, understandably, I blew my top six months later when the guy I adored walked all over me and out the door. I yelled at God for the first time since my daddy’s death.ToniHilton

I experienced an unbelievably chaotic, bizarre week, which reminded me of that period a dozen years ago. I would put this past week into the top five crazy weeks of my life.

What happened? And what can we do when the cosmos seems to be against us?

Check out this list with the tune Livin’ La Vida Loca (Living the Crazy Life) in your head:

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