Glad Tidings and Great Mourning

A daughter of a friend of mine passed away this month. Since then I have been acutely aware of those who are mourning this season. People I normally don’t think of much have been coming to mind---my sister’s friend who lost her husband, my friend Kari for whom this will be her first Christmas without her mom. Last year I met my sister’s friend on Christmas Eve and now he is dead--leaving behind a wife my age and a small son. 

Kizzy is getting through Christmas without her husband and another friend too because of a divorce.  Others are mourning job losses and being far from home.  And now today, millions of students mourn the defeat of the Dream Act--a law that would make a way for people raised in the United States to earn their legal residency by going to college or serving in the military. After ten years of work, advocacy, and the bill passing the House of Representatives, we missed the vote by five votes. I feel disappointed and sad.  I feel my friends’ grief and loneliness.

It is awful to be surrounded by rejoicing and parties and festivity when you are grieving and mourning.  I have wondered how my friends could possibly relate to the Christmas season this year. Yet, it was in the Christmas Story itself that I found words of mourning, and so somehow of comfort. Matthew’s gospel recounts the Escape to Egypt when Jesus parents fled to another country. As they left, Herod was leaving a wake of destruction and death. Matthew quotes the prophet Jeremiah to describe the scene:

                A voice is heard in Ramah,

                Weeping and great mourning,

                Rachel weeping for her children

                And refusing to be comforted

                Because they are no more. 

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Friendship, Suicide, Loss and Jesus

I had this friend named Collette.  I met her in a creative writing class at my junior college.  As I recall she had written a story which turned out to be a thinly veiled story about herself, in which the main character was dealing with some conflict with her husband.  I mentioned in the feedback that the story was frightening, to see such a clear example of spousal abuse, and she came and talked to me afterward, to ask if I really thought what she had written about constituted abuse.  I told her I thought it did, and in some mysterious way this caused us to become friends.  That's my first memory of Collette.

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A Song for Those Grieving in Ft. Hood

My parents lived at Fort Hood in 1973, when my dad was still in the Army. In fact, my brother Matt was born at the Army hospital there. When I spoke with my dad yesterday, he was deeply troubled by the events yesterday. Of course, all of us are troubled, but for military personnel, active or retired, this is a particularly difficult thing to walk through.

I wrote this song right after the Virginia Tech shootings in April 2007, and when I heard about the Fort Hood shootings yesterday, I wanted to share it again. I am praying for all those affected by this horrible tragedy.

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, You are with me..." (Psalm 23)

The Thick of Pain


In church a few weeks ago, my pastor talked about what happens when a person dies within a Jewish community.  The friends and family of those left behind travel to the grieving’s house and simply sit with them.  They don’t make pat comments, they don’t swoop in and try to fix everything, and they don’t come in armed with an array of distractions.  They respect their grief and just sit in silence.  


Earlier today, I was watching the movie “Sunshine Cleaning” - a story about two sisters that form a bio-hazard clean up business, cleaning up the messes often left behind when people die.  In one poignant scene, they arrive at a house and find the frazzled widow waiting to give them the house keys.  Amy Adams’ character senses the grief of this old stranger and offers to simply sit with her. She reaches over and clasps the old woman’s hand - just as I imagine occurs in those grieving Jewish homes.  

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Good Grief

I am constantly awe-struck by our culture's response to death and loss.  We don't know how to deal with it and sometimes offer not-so-helpful advice to those who are hurting.  We also rush through it much too quickly.  Other cultures are much better at this.  My friend recently wrote a great article on grieving and I wanted to share it because the insights are extremely helpful.  Click here to read the article.  

If the link doesn't work copy and paste this: 



Grief and Mourning Turned Upside Down...

A friend sent me the following note in response to a post I wrote on Beliefnet as a tribute to my mother on the first anniversary of her death. I wanted to share Julya's wise and practical thoughts on dealing with grief and mourning. Julya writes...

I had the privilege of meeting up with you for the first time in nearly 20 years just two weeks ago. When we met up you were remarking about being in the middle of the first anniversary of your parents tragic and untimely deaths and how they were less than 3 weeks apart. You said,..."The month of April is always going to suck!." I know it does now-but here's a little uncanny advice (from me to you)...It's going to take a lot of your inner strength but you can do this and maybe spread it to your siblings or other relatives and friends. 
Each year slowly try to make April the greatest month of the year by celebrating the lives of your parents separately and together. Some examples: If your dad loved chocolate chip cookies-bake dozens and send them to those who knew it. Include a note remembering him that day. If your mom was a fan of a certain musical group, make a CD and send it to friends and family with a note reminiscing about her air guitar abilities. Then play it really loud and dance around the house. If your parents loved the beach, take your husband on a romantic date with a picnic to the sand and water like your parents would have done. Maybe you can have an annual dinner. Not a pity party but a celebration of their lives with your siblings, family, friends and order in what they would have liked-Chinese, pizza, whatever and enjoy. 
Try to turn a negative into a positive. Mom was a nurse, so send roses to a nurse (any nurse-anonymously) thanking her for her hard work in memory of your mom. Your dad was a New York City firefighter, so send a cake to a firehouse for the crew to share with an anonymous note for them to celebrate a brothers life and their own. Don't let April consume you with grief-as time passes good things will occur in this month again. Your children could marry in the month of April, your future grand children could be born, you could be named to the NY Times best sellers list!...Make April a good Month for Mom, Dad, you and yours.
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Shout out to the Hurting at Christmastime

Tonight is Christmas Eve and I find myself facing the first Christmas in recent memory, maybe ever, that I wish was over before it began. I'm not bah humbug, nor am I falling apart sad. I am just not feeling it. Not interested. Indifferent.

Part of it has to do with the loss of both of my parents this year.  Those of you who may have read my piece on Stages of Grief know that they died at ages 67 and 65 within 20 days of one another in April.  He from a stroke and she from cancer.  Loss and Christmas can be difficult to reconcile.

Part of it has to do with watching one of my children struggle with the first sober Christmas and all that entails for the addict that is turning their life around. I remember that feeling from my first sober Christmas a number of years ago and I wish this child well.  Sobriety, depression and Christmas can be difficult to reconcile. 

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