NOTE: Commentary is made as a private citizen and not as Regional Coordinator for Silent No More or Leader of Rachel's Hope, unless otherwise stated.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Family and Unconventional Grief

Barbara Bush once said, “To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there.”

Her words are heartwarming, and in a perfect world, all families would be blessed with that kind of relationship.  Unfortunately, ours is not a perfect world, and some families experience estrangement from time to time.  The disunity is usually temporary and rectified through humility and forgiveness because both sides realize the familial relationship is and should be cherished.

But what happens when an olive branch is offered and refused?  When one party insists on carrying grudges and refuses to accept responsibility for their part in the rift?

After several attempts at reconciliation, each with the same results, it is time to let go.  No matter how willing one is to continue absorbing the hurt and deceit, there comes the point when the efforts are counterproductive.  The toxicity of the relationship can wreak havoc on a person … mentally, physically and spiritually.  No one should have to suffer consequences for another’s heartlessness, be it from family or not. 

Disengaging from any relationship is akin to a death, especially when it is a family member.  We experience something called unconventional grief.  We mourn the person who was.  The person who used to be an integral part of our life, the one who could be counted on, the one who is given love but withdraws theirs.

Unconventional grief, in many ways, is harder to navigate because the person is still alive and in particular circumstances, continuing the toxic behavior.  With today’s technology, specifically social media, it makes letting go virtually impossible.  Friends and other family members see something, and out of concern, feel compelled to tell us or, we grow curious and look for ourselves.

What can be done?

  • Allow ourselves to grieve the loss, no matter how long it takes. 
  • Reach out to other family members, friends, and clergy.
  • Let our friends and family know we appreciate their concern but ask them to refrain from sharing things they read or hear.
  • Block the family member on all social media and resist the temptation to unblock to “see what is going on.” 
  • In the silence of our hearts, tell the family member we love and forgive them.
  • Keep the family member in prayer.
  • Enjoy and cherish the loving relationships we have with others.



Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Assigning Blame - A Mother's Day Tribute

It’s 1:30 a.m.  Everyone else in the house is tucked in and sound asleep.  I’ve been sitting here in the recliner, listening to the dogs snore and the house creak for the last couple of hours …  struggling to find the perfect words for a Mother’s Day tribute.  You might be thinking, “For crying out loud, Patti.  You’re a writer it should be easy.”  Well, I’ll tell you a secret:  There are times when words hide in the recesses of my heart … preventing the raw emotions from surfacing and damming up a lake of tears.  This is one of those times, but through prayer, some gentle prodding from the Holy Spirit and a box of Kleenex nearby, I think I’m ready.

As most of you know by now, I was not the perfect daughter by any means.  The one word that comes to mind to describe my past behavior is “reprehensible.”  During those “dark days,” I would lash out at my mother and blame her for my actions.  Why?  Because in my booze-soaked, self-pitying, self-indulgent brain I was convinced she hated me and considered me a failure.   She would encourage me to strive for a better life, and all I heard was, “You aren’t good enough.” She would invite me to come home to work things out, and all I heard was, “You are not capable of being on your own.”   She would suggest I go back to church and all I heard was, “You’re going to hell.” I twisted all of her words of love and support into a declaration of my inadequacies. I would thank her by spewing out a mouthful of vile and demeaning comments. 

Praise God those days are long gone.  I am so grateful to have had many years of clarity before she passed away to realize and tell her what an incredible mother she was.  Blame turned into gratitude.  Gratitude for a life that overflows with blessings beyond belief.  A life that would have otherwise continued down the path of self-destruction had it not been for her faith, strength and unconditional love.

Thank you, mom, for never giving up on me.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you, miss you and thank God for being your daughter. 

It’s now 3:00 a.m.  The dam broke, and tears are flowing – but that’s okay.  My mom is worth each and every one.