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Posts tagged ‘toni lepeska’

When We Wonder, “What’s Next?”

I feel like a cook tasked with making a stew of two dozen ingredients from a recipe I’ve never seen, and I’m a bit overwhelmed and not sure where to start.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with a new task? Do you ever wonder where to start? Which direction to go? Where to put your energy first?

“What’s next?” may be a question we ask repeatedly during our grief journey. We probably ask it after the funeral. We may ask it later, after our grief has changed us,  but we’re still recreating ourselves. Or we may ask it after we’re finished sorting through the belongings of our loved one.

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Where to next? Don’t we wish our pathway was laid out as clearly as this trail?

After selling my parents’ home three weeks ago and saying my goodbyes, I was enthused by the idea of paring down belongings at my own home and devoting more time to writing projects. But I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. I’m bogged down. So much to do. So little me.

I should feel excited. I want to be excited. Instead, I am trying to peel carrots, sear chunks of beef, unwrap bouillon cubes and answer a ringing phone. I’m trying to make something deliciously wonderful out of a lot of moving parts. Where do I start?

I’m going to unpack four suggestions here. What might yours be?

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Mother’s Day’s Most Difficult Moment

With the sanctuary lights up and the pastor in the pulpit, they stand. They tower above me like a forest. A forest of women. I am small. An unimportant insect. Applause breaks out.

It isn’t for me. It has never been for me.

This is perhaps the most difficult moment of Mother’s Day. It is the deafening sound of a silent scream – I am not a mother! A nice alternative would be to be seated beside my own mother. To applaud for her. But she is dead. Dead. It is the loudest unspoken word in the church.

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My mother

Mother’s Day is one of those days we get through somehow. How do we manage without our mothers? Perhaps we bask in the appreciation of our children. But what if we are childless?

I stood up in the church one Mother’s Day. Seated along the fringe of the sanctuary this time, away from friends, I felt inconspicuous. I felt raw. I stood for the beloved dog I’d lost only days before. He’d been like my child for 15 years. I grieved him as a mother for a child. I missed the earthy smell of his fir. I missed the sound of his breath.

On that Mother’s Day, I was a grieving mother. A mother of an angel in heaven.

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Wrong Question, Right Attitude

Is this from God or a tool of Satan? In religious circles, we wonder if a difficulty has been allowed by God to strengthen our faith or if it comes as an obstacle from the evil one.

If we decide it’s from God, we may relax a bit, for we assume it was sent to strengthen our faith. If it comes from the hand of our Creator, it won’t permanently harm us. He loves us.

But if it’s from the Devil, we may throw back our shoulders and ready ourselves for a fight. We resist the difficulty with all our might. We put on our soldier outfits and fight heroically.20180324_150814

Problem is, we often cannot be certain whether a problem is from God or of the Devil. And if we focus on God’s all-powerful nature, we may blame God, believing he caused the pain, or that he is cruel for allowing it. Or maybe he was unhappy with us. Punishing us. But for what?

I believed God was loving when things were going my way, but when they weren’t, the questions nipped at me like a feisty Chihuahua I could not escape. It put a wedge between me and God. I couldn’t really trust the one being who could comfort me in my deepest difficulties. I was alone.

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Letting Go of Where You Grew Up

I lifted the piece of plastic under the gutter drain and plucked a worm from the damp soil. I walked to the little girl at the end of my parents’ driveway, the gateway to 13 acres of beauty.

She was visiting with her parents, the people buying the property that’s been in my family 45 years. Her brother watched. At almost 7, he was the age I’d been when we’d bought the land.

“Do you like worms?” I asked the girl. I put the squiggling thing in her open, outstretched palm. “When I was a little girl growing up here, I found all kinds of creatures. Like turtles.”House4

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Resilience: Growing Beyond the Barb

I hiked up the hill of the pasture with a destination in mind. Nearly two decades earlier, I had taken the same route after losing the man I loved. He’d abandoned me for another woman.

For as long as I remember, my parents’ pasture has been my go-to place when grieved or troubled. It was a refuge. A place to find peace, even before I became acquainted with God.Barb1

Losing Our Safe Place

What is your go-to space? A city rooftop? A quiet room? A park bench by a lake? Or maybe it is a person. Grandmother. Sister. Or the warm arms of your husband. What if that place is lost? Where do you go to find strength, encouragement and love after that?

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Inheritance: How to Stem Conflicts

No two people could be as different as my brother and me, but even if siblings share a lot of similarities, the death of their parents and dividing of an estate can be a wedge between them.

I’ve heard numerous stories about money and possessions segregating families into warring factions. Accusations fly like nuclear missiles, and the devastation lasts a lifetime.ToniProfilePic

At the end of this post, I’ll provide tips to help others grease the task of dispersing an inheritance, but first allow me to share my story. I learned a little from being the executrix of my parents’ estate, but the two primary reasons it was mostly hassle-free weren’t things I put in place. You could say my brother made it easy for me.

He lacked an attachment to the family and to the household property. And he was a resident in a Florida prison.

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The Biggest Factor to Heal Grief

What is the single biggest component of finding healing within grief, besides expressing it?

Embracing the new.

Inviting what’s next into our lives.

Believing we can love and laugh again.

Today is the first day of spring. I hadn’t noticed until I received a life-changing phone text this afternoon, and then I realized the irony.

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The daffodils outside my parents’ home have bloomed every year since my family bought the property in 1973.

A real estate agent sent me a text about my parents’ home:

“Just sent full price offer in.”

The house where both my parents died, the house I’ve spent eight years cleaning out, has been listed for sale only four days.

It’s a mobile home enclosed by conventional roof and walls, and it sits on a beautiful treed 13-acre lot. The floors sag. The ceiling sag. The cellar fills with water.

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New Life for Old Stuff

What a waste land. A dirty, wet road led past 15-foot-tall piles of car parts, discarded machinery and crushed appliances. I situated the truck bed under a crane that dwarfed the vehicle. And me.

As a menacing claw reached inside and crunched my parents’ old dryer in its grip, I leaned away from the rear window, pressing my body into the steering wheel. I was inches from destruction.RecyclingCenter.jpg

It was probably my sixth trip to the recycling center after harvesting metals from my inheritance, but I’d never before noticed the site’s parallels to our grief journey.

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Looking for Love on Valentine’s

Who was your first Valentine? Maybe that cute boy with the cowlick who sat in the back of the classroom comes to mind. Or maybe you think of your daddy. I do.

Our dads get us ready for all the Valentines that come afterward. If our dads treat us well, we look for a romantic partner to treat us well, too.

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I discovered this Valentine in a drawer of my dad’s. He’d kept it all those years.

I didn’t always get a man who treated me well, however, I never settled for emotionally abusive behavior. My daddy hadn’t been like that. In the end, I found a Valentine who was like my dad. Unfortunately, Dad died before I met Richard.

I realize Valentine’s Day is a made up holiday, but I value its message – that love and relationships are important.

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When Loss Screws With Our Identity

We wear internal labels like name tags on our chest. Mother. Daughter. Wife. Winner. Loser. Lazy. Sick. Wealthy. Poor. Sinner. Saint. Do any of those labels sound familiar?

They often come from external voices, from people we admire, or even people we don’t. But the loudest voice we hear is the one that comes from within. Our internal voice.WhoAmI

I started thinking about identity this week after an editor called me an “accomplished journalist.” I liked the label, but it came as sort of a surprise. That’s because my inner voice often tells me I don’t measure up. I wear the name tag “Inadequate,” despite all the bylines that Google reveals, or all the job offers I get. I’ve struggled with that label all my life.

One of the other name tags I wore for a long time was “Daughter,” and another was “Caregiver.” Even after I became “Wife,” I focused on the other two labels, and then my mother died, and I was lost. I was an identity in search of a cause. I poured myself into the project of taking care of what my parents left behind. Cleaning out their home. “Dutiful Daughter,” I was.

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