A basic dictionary definition of faith includes: “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes spirituality as “the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul, as opposed to material or physical things.” When spirituality is linked to faith, the implication of faith is that it is belief without evidence of proof.
So, what might happen to our faith and our spiritual foundation when we suffer the loss of someone we love?
Some end up on one end or the other of the continuum – either feeling closer to God and finding strength from their faith, OR feeling somewhat distant and abandoned by God, wondering if there is anything about their faith that can sustain them. Some pray more fervently, while others doubt that their prayers get any higher than the ceiling. Some find great support from fellow members of their faith group, while others withdraw and feel neglected or isolated in their grief.
Those are descriptions of the two ends of the spectrum, but it’s also possible to be anywhere in between – and to feel that our “location” changes from day to day… even hour to hour.
If your grief tends to pull you toward the negative side of things, give yourself permission to “wait it out” for awhile. In the depths of painful grief, you don’t have to force yourself to pray, attend spiritual meetings, or put on a “mask” to make people think you’re doing just fine. If needed, it’s OK to take a break from the expectations of the religious people around you while you find your footing again. Like the Old Testament character of Job, admit that you don’t understand, that you don’t have all the answers, and even give yourself permission to question God until you gain some strength and experience some healing. God can handle it.
There will likely be some very spiritual people around you who may say, or imply, that “a person of faith should not grieve – you must allow their faith to keep you strong.” Personally, I don’t think you have to “buy” that. From my Christian ministry background, I would point out that Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. Jesus himself was troubled (grieved) in the Garden of Gethsemane, telling his closest followers, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Some people get tripped up in the verse from 1 Thessalonians 4:13, where the Apostle Paul wrote, “We do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” That teaching does not say that people of faith should not grieve… but that they should not grieve like those without hope.
Years ago, I was involved in supporting a family whose 5 year old son was tragically killed in an accident. The mother and other siblings grieved openly – but the dad’s expressed behavior was, “I am a Christian and I am supposed to remain strong because of my faith.” A distance and disconnect developed between that man and his family… until he traveled to a foreign country without them. Upon his return, he admitted, through his tears, that when strangers asked him about his family back home, he was prompted to describe all of them, including the son who had died. That admission broke open his heart and allowed the grief to spill out, making him realize that yes, a person of faith can and should express their grief – even though they have hope!
Hope is a key element in our lives, isn’t it? Hope allows us to push through the fog of grief with the expectation that our faith, our spiritual foundation, underlies our journey. Hope allows us to realize that our emotions will eventually catch up to our reality, but often not without a struggle or the dark days which may accompany us on our grief journey.
In spite of our faith and spiritual foundation, friends and family members need to know that what we need during the most difficult times of our mourning is their presence. We don’t need their clichés or platitudes. We likely won’t even be ready for their passages of Scripture or wise sayings from their resources of faith. Our ability to hear, comprehend and apply those things will come later… but the pain of our broken heart initially needs people who will hug us, then hush while they sit with us.
Someday (and no one can put a timeline on that day), we will likely realize that our faith and spirituality have strengthened and comforted us along the way. And, because of that comfort, we may find ourselves ready (someday, remember) to share a bit of comfort with another who is dealing with grief that is fresher than ours.
I see that as a “chain reaction” of comfort. In the New Testament section of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, God is described as the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (NIV), who (according to The Message translation) “comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.”
Throughout your journey on the road of grief and mourning, remember that The Hope & Healing Place (806-371-8998) is available to you, to provide additional support through groups or to point you to other helpful resources available in our community.
Hang on to your hope!
By Danny Mize, Advisory Council member for The Hope & Healing Place
Our mission is clear, we are "a safe place to promote the healing journey for grieving children, families and individuals". It's this very reason that our participants become such avid ambassadors for HHP. In the safety of our walls, they were given the freedom to express emotion that they are otherwise asked to move beyond.
Board of Directors member, Natalie Rhodes is an example of the ties that bind our participants to The Hope & Healing Place. She and her family created the Jack Duncan Rhodes Foundation which aims to prevent teenage suicide by providing support, education and outreach to individuals and their families. The organization also offers a series of scholarships for high school students who plan to pursue a degree in a mental health field. We're honored to have Natalie continue to be a member of the HHP family, and grateful for the heart she shares with us as she "takes the lead" this month.
"When Emily asked me to share my story and perspective as parent on the death of my son Jack, I really did not know where to start.
My son Jack started showing signs of depression at the age of 15. We had no idea why, and to this day still do not understand. We had him in counseling and on antidepressant medication. He took his life on May 11, 2012.
I had heard of HHP through the Junior League but really didn’t know much about it. At the time my daughter Madeline was only 12 and unable to attend the SOS program as it is for adults only. The rest of the family - Myself, Douglas grandparents and even my step mom’s mother had all signed up for SOS. Although very hard, I believe it was helpful in starting our grief journey.
Douglas, Madeline and I started the Generations program that Fall. This was extremely helpful.We met other people in similar situations. It was nice to be reaffirmed that we were not alone. As so many of the facilitators have said in the past, it is the clients talking to one another that is the most impactful. The facilitators just kept us from running off the rails. They encouraged us to talk when we were too afraid to be vulnerable. I would recommend the Generations program to any family going through this most horrible grief process. It’s kind of like you are in the secret club. No one wants to be in this club but its nice that you are not the only one.
Through our grief journey we established the Jack Duncan Rhodes Memorial Fund at Amarillo Area Foundation. We are working on giving a grant to the Emerge program here at HHP. Emerge is a grief support program specifically for teens 7th through 12th grade who have experienced a suicide death of a family member or friend. This group will give teens the opportunity to connect with peers who understand the unique and complex experience of being a teen grieving a suicide loss. Emerge will begin sessions this October. Please call 806-371-8998 for more information.
I believe in what we are doing! We are helping our community."
We are humbled to be able to share the comforting writing styles of Danny Mize. It is important that we preface this particular blog and inform you that trauma often accompanies loss/grief. However, we at HHP deal specifically with the grieving process, we do not serve as a trauma center. For those who have also experienced trauma, it is especially critical to address the trauma, most of the time, before one can adequately process their grief--and by someone who specializes in trauma therapy. HHP will help with referrals for that purpose.
In the weeks following the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, I made weekly phone calls to a list of people affected by the tragic event. Some had lost loved ones in the blast. Some had been injured by flying debris or parts of a falling building. I often hung up from those calls and groaned out loud for the burdens these precious people were carrying.
My weekly pastoral phone calls taught me many things about people who are dealing with trauma and loss. One “pattern” that I observed involved an initial response to my greeting that usually went something like, “Oh, I’m fine this week,” or “I’m doing well…I’ve had a good week.” Before our conversation was over, however, those people who were “fine” and “doing well” ended up sharing some of the deep pain they were actually feeling.
I don’t think these folks were trying to be dishonest with themselves or me. I believe we are conditioned by our society to offer a safe first response to people – to hold up a mask in front of our true feelings until we can feel relaxed enough or safe enough to let some of our real emotions show.
Ten years after the traumatic bomb blast of April 19, 1995, got back in touch with some of the same people from my calling list. Circumstances had changed. By necessity, life had gone on. The responses, however, were not much different than they were a decade before.
One dear woman who was severely injured when she was buried in the rubble of the collapsing Murrah Building recognized my voice before I even identified myself. She was delighted to chat and compare notes about our lives. When I asked her how she was dealing with the upcoming tenth anniversary of that April date, she replied: “Well, like I told the guy from CBS, I’m doing fine. It’s not really bothering me.”
As we continued to talk, I asked her if she was still finding satisfaction from volunteering at various organizations. She responded with an enthusiastic, positive affirmation… before hesitating. She then admitted that she had given up one of her volunteer roles. She said she found it too difficult to help out at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. She confessed, “I’m still angry that all of the attention seems to be focused on the 168 people who died, with no notice of the hundreds of us whose lives have also been forever changed!”
Then, before completing our phone visit, she told me that she had endured yet another surgery on one of her injuries from 1995, and had been struggling with depression. And, she was dealing with a very painful case of shingles. She mused, “I don’t know that any of that’s connected to the bombing, but it seems that I have some problems during the spring almost every year.”
I’m fine, but…
I called another friend that I would have never met had it not been for the loss she and her children suffered in the bombing. After some catching up and sounding very nonchalant about the upcoming events surrounding the tenth anniversary, she mentioned that her son had been acting up and getting into trouble. When I opened the door for her to tell me more, she “told all,” like a person who had been single-handedly carrying a heavy load for too long. She concluded by asking, “Could any of this be related to our loss ten years ago? Or, could it just be part of him now being a teenager?”
We’re fine, but…
I touched base by e-mail with a friend who was one of the emergency responders at the Murrah Building soon after the blast. He was traumatized by his experiences and sought professional help away from the Oklahoma City area on numerous occasions. I watched him with concern for several years, but was delighted to see a “new person” when our paths crossed in the northeast while we were both helping people in the wake of the horrible events of September 11, 2001. In response to my inquiry about how he is doing now in light of the media attention related to the anniversary of the Murrah bombing, he wrote:
The national news media has kept me really busy the last few weeks. I have been interviewed nearly as many times this year as I was in 1995. The best thing, though, is that it will be over next week. This will be the first year for me to go to the memorial service on the anniversary. I always felt the memorial service was for the victims and families of victims and I did not want to interfere with their time. This year though, I didn't have much choice. The City of Oklahoma City and my current employer both thought it would be nice if I participated in some of the activities. So, I have and will.
Danny, I have been doing really good emotionally for the last two or three years. I’m back the way I was before 1995. But, doing these interviews and having to go back through all the letters and pictures has brought some of the emotions back. I think they will go away shortly after the 19th. April 19th will end it for a while and things can go back to normal.
Thank you for the offer of an ear to chew on. I would really like to visit with you for a short time, but not about any problem on my end. As usual, I am so busy it is nearly impossible to find time to stop and relax. This is my weekend to work my second job, and I have some things I have to do with my parents, my wife, and my children this weekend. That will take all my time. I keep too busy to get depressed. Actually, I am really enjoying my life.
I’m fine, but…
Several weeks after the bombing, one of my visits took me to the apartment of a young woman who was severely injured by debris propelled by the blast. I remembered being shocked by how different she looked from the photo sitting on the nearby end table. My mind couldn’t comprehend that she was the same person. I left there with my heart breaking and my eyes crying for the long, painful road she had ahead of her. She described some of that journey in the following message written for her current website:
It is human nature to take the simple things in life for granted, like the way we look. Smooth skin, flawless facial features, and the confidence to smile are simple pleasures to me especially after April 19, 1995. For 27 years, I looked a certain way and then in a brief moment in time at 9:02 a.m., my life changed forever.
The Oklahoma City bombing changed many lives forever. For me personally, I was devastated, embarrassed. I felt self-conscious beyond words. I suffered extensive facial and throat damage, lost most of my teeth, and nearly lost my right eye. After an extended hospital stay, my husband left me. I found myself wallowing in self-pity with certainty I would be alone for the rest of my life.
The large lacerations to my face were physically and emotionally painful – not only to me, but also to my family and friends. Even though they tried to hide their pain I could see it in their eyes. So I learned how to hide. I learned how to detach myself and ignore the whispers and looks from others. What little self-esteem I had seemed to be dwindling to nothing.
She once told me that at one point she was so tired of people staring at her that she had thought about having a large button created that she could wear, proclaiming, “YES, I was injured in the bombing!” She finally moved away from Oklahoma, wanting a clean start in a new place. She did marry again, but the procedures to rebuild her damaged body did not end.
I received an e-mail in response to my recent note asking her how she was doing and how the 10th anniversary of the event might affect her. She spoke of her involvement with a national foundation (named after her!) that exists “to provide funding towards a comprehensive emotional, spiritual, and physical rehabilitation for victims of abuse and disasters who might not otherwise have the financial means to defray the costs of re-constructive surgery, follow up wound care and emotional support.”
She also told the exciting news that she and her husband are expecting their first child in the summer! What progress she has made. She has turned her traumatic experience into an opportunity to help others! She continued the explanation on her website:
After many months of treatment, I was left with many scars as well as non-healing tissue covering the majority of my face. As doors are closed, new ones are opened. Through God’s grace, I met Dr. Chernoff. He immediately began treating my face and now, nine years later, I continue to benefit from the research and subsequent therapies offered to victims of violence through this service.
With the patience of Job, Dr. Chernoff has dramatically reduced the physical scaring to my face. Through countless hours of labor-intensive procedures, he has seemingly worked miracles on my scars externally as well as internally. Emotionally, I am a new person. Even though I have a long road ahead, I now feel comfortable to go to the store without wearing makeup. I am gradually letting go of being a victim and moving on by educating others over the last 8 years to help lend clarity to troubled times and teach others before they become victims.
Her e-mail told about her charitable work to help others, about her expected baby, and included inquiries about my family and my work with The Kids’ Place family grief center. But, she didn’t comment on how the tenth anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing is affecting her. That was a question that went unanswered.
I’m fine, but…
Now, someone may be ready to ask me, “How are YOU doing with all of this?” OK, I’ll admit: I’m NOT doing fine with it! I got choked up over lunch the other day when telling a friend about the young lady whose appearance was so changed by her injuries. Just last week I felt like I’d been hit in the chest when I ran across a magazine from 1995 that I didn’t even remember having. There, on the cover, was the graphic, unforgettable photo of the Oklahoma City policeman handing the little baby off to the fireman in the rubble of the Murrah building. I am still touched by the struggles and pain that these friends will never get over, no matter how long they live. Their lives were altered forever.
I’m NOT fine, but…
Maybe I’m noticing how these people are dealing with their pain in order to be reminded of two very important lessons:
1. “Fine” does not always mean that everything is fine!
2. I need to listen long enough, and with a heart of compassion open enough, to allow people to get beyond the “I’m fine” to the “But…”
By Danny Mize, Advisory Council member for The Hope & Healing Place
Let me begin by saying, I had an amazing concept for this video. However, my abilities where lacking.
As a friend of mine would say, "It's fine. I'm fine. Everything's just fine". Because it isn't about the dramatic pause and floating quotations. It's about the message of previous board member and avid HHP supporter, Bob McPherson. I was intrigued when a coworker eluded to Bob's story. Unwilling to betray his confidence, she said I'd have to ask him directly.
I still don't think that Bob knew what he was getting into that day when I requested to visit him. He shared his story not once, but twice. Once to a curious individual in the business of grief work, and then again to the Development Director of a mission that can be difficult to quantify. Both were me. I hope you'll look past the amature video and you'll hear the importance of Bob's story.
I leave you with these thoughts on what Bob has to say:
By Danny Mize, Advisory Council member for The Hope & Healing Place
Keeping a record of your journey through grief is a valuable experience. Some people appreciate the fact that journaling encourages them to face their pain. Others express the benefits in terms of the way it helps them get a handle on what they are experiencing – aiding them in understanding and processing their pain.
The following is an attempt to answer the question “Why keep a journal while you mourn?”
Some Mechanics of Journaling
There are no strict requirements regarding journaling. Your expressions can be handwritten in an inexpensive spiral notebook or in a bound book of blank pages from a stationery store. Thoughts can be typed and kept as loose pages or put in a three-ring binder. The use of a word processor allows the work to be easily saved for future editing.
Journals don’t even have to be in written form. Audio recordings can keep a running log of your thoughts and experiences, capturing the emotions and inflections in your voice at the time you make the recordings.
Your journal doesn’t have to be completely serious, full of deep thoughts, or even all grief-related. It doesn’t have to be professional looking or sounding, and it is not limited to polished writing. Don’t feel compelled to write daily or according to any strict schedule. A journal should not become your master.
Your journal doesn’t have to be consistent in form or purpose. It can contain notes to God, letters to your loved one, entries to yourself, or even the typical “Dear Diary” entries.
Consider including whatever has captured your attention at the time. That doesn’t always have to be original thoughts. Include a song, poem, newspaper clipping, a card, a note that you’ve received from a friend, or a memory that has popped into your head. Try writing some of your prayers in your journal. God doesn’t require that all prayers be verbal, with eyes closed and heads bowed.
It is helpful if you and your family members decide on the level of confidentiality of your writings. Are they to be shared openly with immediate family? Will they be passed on to the next generation? Or do you intend to keep them completely private and have them destroyed upon your own death? If you have any strong feelings about the confidentiality of your writings, be sure to communicate those feelings to your closest family members and friends – asking them to take the steps necessary to have your wishes followed.
By Danny Mize, Advisory Council member for The Hope & Healing Place
We are often caught up in some misconceptions about grief and mourning simply because we believe what the general public says about it – or, we accept what we saw modeled by our immediate and extended family. But, not every grief or mourning statement is TRUE – even though it may be posted online, mentioned by friends, or even printed in books. Consider some things I believe about grief under the two categories of “Misconceptions” and “Realistic Expectations.”
Some MISCONCEPTIONS About Grief and Mourning
1. Grief and mourning are the same thing.
2. Your mourning will progress in predictable, orderly stages.
3. You should move away from grief, not toward it.
4. Tears of grief are only a sign of weakness.
5. Being upset and mourning openly means you are being “weak” in your faith.
6. When someone you love dies, you only grieve and mourn for the physical loss of the person.
7. On holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays, you should try to avoid thinking about the person who died.
8. After someone you love dies, the goal should be to “get over” your grief as soon as possible.
9. Nobody can help you with your grief.
10. Time heals all wounds – including the grief over a death.
11. When grief feelings are finally reconciled, they never come up again.
Now that we’ve put some misconceptions on the table (often called “bad advice from well-intentioned people”), let’s consider some helpful reflections, which I call:
Some REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS about Grief and Mourning
1. Grief is what we feel in response to loss. Mourning is the outward expression of our feelings of loss.
2. You will naturally grieve, but you will probably have to make a conscious effort to mourn.
3. Your journey through mourning will involve a wide variety of thoughts and feelings.
4. Your mourning will impact you in five realms of your experience: physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual.
5. You need to feel the pain of grief to heal the pain.
6. Your grief may end up hurting more before it hurts less.
7. Your grief will be unpredictable and will not likely progress in an orderly fashion.
8. You don’t “get over” grief. You learn to live with it and reconcile the loss to your current life and activities.
9. Having support from the right people can help you work through your grief.
10. Time alone does not heal. It’s what you do with your time that heals.
11. You will not always feel bad.
Submitted by Danny Mize, Advisory Council member for The Hope & Healing Place
Submitted by Danny Mize, Advisory Council member for The Hope & Healing Place
The above statements were compiled and adapted by Charlotte Burrough, the first Family Services Director and Co-Founder of The Kids’ Place, Edmond, Oklahoma. It includes contributions by teen-aged participants in bereavement groups at Hospice of the North Coast.
It’s time to stop focusing so much on yourself.
There is a big difference between self-care and selfishness. Taking care of yourself while you are emotionally fragile is acceptable and necessary! Keep the spotlight on your needs until you reach a more comfortable place on your grief journey.
You need to be strong for everyone else.
The “big boys don’t cry” mentality affects men and women alike. Each person in your circle of influence can and will mourn differently. Each person will find their own sources of strength – in themselves and/or in others. You do not have to be strong – not even for yourself. It is OK to let down, to feel your feelings, and to find the road to strength at the starting line of your weakness.
Your family and friends are getting tired of your tears and sad story.
It is part of our nature to need to tell our story. Whether in a doctor’s waiting room, on an elevator, or in the lobby at a convention – people will exchange stories if given the opportunity. Your tears right now are part of who you are. Your story may be sad to others, but it is your reality. Family and friends may feel awkward about your tears and the retelling of your story, but what is uncomfortable for them is therapeutic for you.
You shouldn’t be angry at God. After all, God loves you!
That fact that God loves you doesn’t prevent you from being angry at God, circumstances, family members, friends, or even the one who died. Unexpressed anger won’t simply fade away. The emotional and physical toll of internalized anger is cumulative and unhealthy. Besides, God is “big enough” to handle our anger toward him.
I think you’re staying too busy, just trying to escape the pain.
What is wrong with some escape from the pain now and then? There is no “rule of mourning” that says you must sit still and allow the pain of grief to overwhelm you. The simple fact of moving and doing something, anything, may help us endure smaller doses of pain in the midst of our busy times.
I think you’re not staying busy enough. You need to get out and get more involved in life.
There is a time and season for everything. In the early days and weeks of mourning, it may be very natural for you to slow down and take things at your own pace. No one can create a blueprint or time-line for your grief. Handle life at your own pace – realizing that when your emotions are ready, you will be more involved with things and others.
You’ll be all right. After all, look at others who have had the same kind of loss.
When will people stop implying that they “know just how you feel” about your loss?! You may consider yourself “all right” in time, but you will never be the same as you used to be. You will experience a “new normal” someday, but the pain of loss is felt in the here and now. AND, nobody else’s loss makes mine any less or theirs any greater. Mourning is not some kind of competitive game!
If you act happy, you will eventually be happy.
You don’t need to attend a “positive thinking rally” to get through your grief. There is enough “wearing of masks” in our society. You should not have to put on a false smile for the public while your heart is crying out in pain! Happiness after a loss is not accomplished with the flip of a switch or from simply pretending to feel the way others want you to feel.
I think you should be spending more time in Bible reading, prayer, and attending church services.
Although many find support and comfort from spiritual activities and resources, no one can prescribe what you should or must do in that realm. Your loss may draw you closer to God and spiritual things, or it may cause you enough concern and confusion that you need to hold those things at arms length for awhile. Find comfort and strength in what you can, when you are ready.
Think of how much worse off others are. Some people have losses much greater than yours.
Who has the right to determine a scale that ranks and compares losses? Your heart may be tender toward someone else in pain, but their journey is not your journey. There is no comfort from someone trying to artificially rank your grief experience at a level lower than another’s.
Just think of all the blessings you do have!
Appreciation of blessings may be relative to your capacity to recognize them. It is not always easy to see beyond the fog of grief to recognize the good things about life and circumstances. The journey of grief often serves as a magnifying glass that focuses your attention on the pain. Someday, it will be easier to see the blessings which have been there all along.
A word about well-intentioned family and friends:
I truly believe that the people closest to us have our best interests in mind, even when they offer advice and instruction that is so difficult to hear. Most inappropriate or hurtful comments arise from the helpless feeling of not knowing what to say to one who is mourning. Since nature doesn’t like a void, the emptiness is often filled with clichés or words of advice which can do more harm than good. Life would be better if we could help family and friends go against the “norms” of society with these admonitions:
Don’t just do something… stand there!
Don’t say anything… just be here with me!
By Danny Mize, Advisory Council member for The Hope & Healing Place
Besides the actual loss itself, people’s poor responses to my miscarriage have caused the most pain and frustration. It’s sad that most of those who I would consider closest to me didn’t know how to respond, so they simply didn’t. For most of those who did, they tried to offer cliché encouragements which were not encouraging at all. My assessment came down to most people being uneducated about empathy and bereavement; people feeling so insecure or uncomfortable that their responses became selfish. They focused on how they felt about what they said rather than what would have been most helpful.
Before I continue, what is empathy and how does it differ from sympathy? According to Jolliffe & Farrington, “sympathy involves the appraisal of how one feels about the emotions of another” It does share aspects with empathy, but empathy involves “emotion congruence” or possessing the same emotion as another person (2006). If you have not seen Brene Brown’s video on empathy, please do so immediately. I’ve included the link in my references. Brene describes empathy as “fuel[ing] connection” and sympathy as “driv[ing] disconnection.” She also states the four aspects of empathy as:
Please if you don’t take away anything else from this blog, do remember this. “Rarely, if ever, does an empathic response begin with ‘At least…’”. I had someone tell me, “At least you know you can get pregnant”. I totally get where she was coming from because she has a daughter whose reproductive organs were removed. That is such a difficult thing to deal with, and she was trying to point out the good in my situation. However, that was not an empathetic response. The truth is I would rather know I can’t ever have children rather than keep having false hope. It’s the world’s most painful emotional roller coaster. Because of my miscarriages, I do not agree with the phrase “It is better to love and have lost than to have never loved at all”.
The many questions about when/if we were going to try again did bother me when the miscarriage was still fresh. In my head that translated to things such as:
“You’re fine. This happens all the time, and you’ll get pregnant again”.
“Once you give birth, the other lost pregnancies won’t matter”.
“I have absolutely no idea about the physical and emotional pain of miscarriage”.
Now that I have had time to heal, I don’t feel that way about this question. However, I was recently asked a ridiculously ignorant question by one of my oldest friends. She started with the same inquiry but finished with “…you shouldn’t have problems because your mom is a baby-making machine”. WOW!!! That statement hurt me a lot. I was hurt initially when my mother arrived at the hospital just after I had miscarried. She was very helpful, but even she pointed out how she had never experienced it, and she couldn’t imagine the pain I was in. I wanted so desperately to connect with someone who did fully understand, so bringing it back up was very harsh. I’m not entirely sure what my friend’s goal was for that conversation, but I’m going to assume the only thing she cared about in that moment was her own curiosity with no regard for my feelings.
On a brighter note, I will share what I viewed as the perfect response. Of all people who responded most gracefully, it was my neighbor who I was not super close with at the time, but definitely am now. When she became aware of our miscarriage, she offered practical help. Her daughters made me cards, and they brought me flowers and dinner. I took a few days off work and laid in bed crying. One day she came to my door crying…for me…for my situation. She said she couldn’t stop thinking about why God would allow the loss of my baby, and it broke her heart. She told me she was so sorry, and basically that the situation really stunk. She then hugged me and prayed for me on my porch. I am fighting tears as I write this currently because that was EXACTLY what I needed. Though she had not had a miscarriage, I believe she felt what I did. Another of my favorite Brene Brown quotes concerning empathy is “It’s a vulnerable choice because in order to connect with you, I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling”. This is what drove the right response from my friend.
I’ll finish with one last quote from Brene, “Rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is a connection.”
By Summer Hilliard, HHP Contributor
Consider the concept of bibliotherapy — the fact that books or stories can have a beneficial (therapeutic) effect on the reader or listener.
Children love books and stories. As a story-reader, YOU make the story come alive for the kids. The story flows through YOU!
To make that happen, you must really “get into” a book. You have to know the book — the story and the pictures (if there are pictures). Read it, work with it, define words, and work on pronunciation and emphasis.
Make sure you are prepared to use the expressions and emotions that are appropriate to each part of the story. For instance, you won’t want to stay in an excited, bubbly mode when you get to a line that says, “It made her so sad.”
BOOK: My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss — an illustration of using your voice to convey different feelings.
When you read books about feelings and allow the audience to share their comments and experiences about the feeling(s) dealt with in the story, you give them the opportunity to realize that others have some of the same feelings that they have. You can ask, “Have you ever felt that way?”
It’s important to learn the vocabulary — how to pronounce the words and what they mean. You need to be prepared for when children ask you. Feel free to skip a word or phrase or substitute a different word or phrase to maintain the meaning, but make it something you can handle.
BOOK: Alicia Has A Bad Day by Lisa Jahn-Clough (3 minutes) — It has a key word that you must learn ahead of time. “Lugubrious” which means mournful, often to an exaggerated degree. In the book, it means dark and dreary.
It’s good to ask questions as you begin a book, attempting to pull the audience into the story. For instance, for Alicia Has A Bad Day, you might ask, “Has anybody here ever had a bad day? If so, tell us what made it a bad day for you.” After some comments, read the story.
For the book, The Day I Saw My Father Cry, you might ask if anyone can describe a time they have seen an adult cry. “How did that make you feel?” and “How does it make you feel for an adult to see YOU cry?”
BOOK: Everett Anderson’s Goodbye by Lucille Clifton — Possible opening questions for this book: “What do you think this story might be about?” On the first page of the book, we learn that it was written “for my sad friend.” We learn from this story that Everett Anderson’s dad died…and that saying goodbye is not always easy. “Have you ever had trouble saying goodbye to someone?” Read the story.
Sometimes, you will want to pause during the story, asking a question to draw the audience more deeply into the story (or back into it, if they are drifting). You might ask a “Why do you think he/she (in the story) was feeling or acting that way?” After responses, you can continue with the story.
There may be times that you will only read part or parts of a book because of time constraints or because only part of the book relates to the theme of the evening or to the point you are trying to make. Being familiar with the book or story ahead of time will help you decide what sections or pages to skip if you are short on time and have to cut the story short.
If the pictures in a book are large enough for the audience to appreciate and if they add to the story, have one person read from one copy of the book and another person use a second copy of the book to show the pictures during the reading. If you only have one copy of a book, one person can read from a typed copy of the text while another person holds up the pictures for the audience to see.
Some books are appropriate for adults as well as children. My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss is one of those. Another is Lifetimes by Mellonie and Ingpen.
A book for grade school or middle school kids is Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park. It’s a small paperback book of about 84 pages, but a particularly helpful section is where the girl is talking to her dad about her brother’s death – and she finally admits that she felt that it was her fault. Dad offers a great response.
At the end of a book or story, you can make some comments or initiate interaction with the audience that can help create a transition out of the story and into the next activity. For instance:
• “After hearing that story, can anyone tell me why this book has the title it does?”
• “Now that you’ve heard that story, what might you say to a friend of yours who was feeling that way?”
• If your group is old enough, you might ask, “Did that story give you any ideas about how you might handle a similar situation the next time it comes up in your life?”
• After completing the book Alicia Has A Bad Day, you might ask, “Now that you’ve heard about Alicia and her bad day, do you have any ideas of what can help YOU handle a bad day the next time you have one?”
Finally, be flexible and sensitive to your audience. If you sense the need to pause to reflect or allow the audience to process the material (or to be supportive of each other during an emotional time), take the time. If you see that you are running out of time or if the group is too “antsy” to continue through the whole story, look for opportunities to shorten the story (skipping some of it or paraphrasing some parts of it).
Remember – pour yourself into the story and let it flow through you!
by Danny Mize, Advisory Council member for The Hope & Healing Place
Join Our Email List