hugs and grief

hugs and grief

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Sometime during the early swirling days when we were learning how to conduct ourselves whenever we braved the world beyond our walls, Caleb and I happened to walk across a parking lot and heard his name called.

Suddenly I saw a blur of swinging hair and as I swiveled my head to get a better view, Caleb and a childhood friend advanced towards each other with arms outstretched.  At that moment, I smiled because of my recognition of two long time friends but I also heard from behind me, a voice say “Don’t touch each other!” As if I had been dazed, I snapped back into reality, this newfound reality, and watched as the duo stopped quickly enough to achieve an air hug. From a distance, two moms stood wearing the same facial expressions of joy tangled up with sadness because, despite affection, touching can be dangerous.  I won’t soon forget the image of two friends grasping at the space around them to attempt an embrace.


Two Sundays ago, we did a family check-in. We talked about how we each were doing and how we could be praying for one another. Some of us had a lot to say and some did not.

Since we all process and cope in different ways, it is perfectly fine to not have words to adequately describe our emotions. 

I think it is important to keep asking (and asking in different ways, without nagging) allowing for pauses, to give opportunities for fuller answers.  Last week, one of the house dwellers stated, “I’m tired.” Had I rushed to relate or offer a “solution” instead of waiting, I would have missed the fuller response a few breaths later of “I’m tired of this.” Two very different statements spaced apart, a tiny megaphone revealed their current status. 

Another aspect of our checking in with each other has been naming our grief. For example, last weekend, Caleb and a friend were to be away for outdoor school counselor training. It’s disappointing this won’t happen. We are endeavoring to not ignore the crossed off items on the calendar, we are speaking them out loud and honoring the loss. It’s a personal loss but it also extends to countless six graders who are missing this experience. Speaking aloud the canceled event helped loosen his tongue to express a fear of his school year not resuming. Saying the words doesn’t lessen the pain but it does allow the hidden fear to escape from hiding among our deepest thoughts which tend to bore a hole for anxiety to fill. 

We are embarking on a time frame when the activities we have been holding out hope for will be laid aside, postponed or canceled. There has been bad news and the possibility of more news to be received in the future.  Each of our points of grief are important and never meant to be a contest to determine whose is the biggest or the hardest. It can feel this way at times when we hear of so many different ways others are feeling the effects of this solitary time mingled with losses.

The worst grief is always yours.

This is a quote from David Kessler, a grief expert and a recent guest on Unlocking Us podcast hosted by Brené  Brown. If you are not listening to her podcast, I would highly recommend it. I listen to many podcasts in my normal life but there have been very few I feel drawn to now. She has such a soothing voice and perhaps the science related to our emotions feels essential right now.

This quote has allowed me to have compassion for myself alongside empathy for others. 

It is not a comparison game, we feel what we feel. Allow yourself to feel your sadness and if you are able, express it to others. If nothing else, take a deep breath, exhale and wrap your arms around yourself. We all need to keep breathing and feel a hug, even if it is our own. 


What has been helping me:

Being vigilant about what I watch, listen to or read.

Deciding to stop apologizing about sleeping longer in the morning.

Listening to this podcast and this one.

Using this app.

My end of day journal- I read my first entry a few days ago, the day began with my wondering about my jury duty service and ended with our governor limiting gatherings to ten people. In case you are wondering, I will serve in December. In case you are also wondering, I am not perfect in this practice. My mind is easily scattered and I haven’t written in it in several days. But I am glad when I have written in it.

A new mantra-The days are both slow and fast.
I am extending myself grace when I don’t feel productive. 

Good mood songs. I put this song and this one on my Spotify playlist twice to increase the probability of hearing them.

I am praying for more lovely days and dream of summer breezes for all of us.

May God fill the spaces within our lives which suddenly feel vacant and less occupied in the days to come. May He pour out His presence and banish loneliness and emptiness. May He extend His mercy and comfort to bridge the gap from our inability to embrace each other the way we want and are accustomed.

Lord have mercy.


what i learned in january

what i learned in january


  1. Hugs from an 11 year-old boy are a gift.
    Of our three children, Caleb is the one who
    asks for hugs the most and without needing a reason.
    He loves having his head rubbed or neck
    massaged. Most mornings, I am greeted by his outstretched
    arms with increasing wingspan and given a hug.
    I have been looking at hugs from the standpoint
    of them one day flying away.
    I am determined to see each one as a gift received and
    not bemoan future days. I cannot stop the day when
    his chin rests upon my head nor can I stall
    his need for mama closeness to change its dimensions.
    I can only embrace and cherish each hug dearly.
    What if he is forever a hugger and I have been
    waiting for the way he has been carved to end?
  2. Speak less, write less and listen more.
    Recently I listened to a fragment of a teaching from
    Beth Moore. She was recounting being
    one of many speakers at a conference. She was following
    the activity on Twitter and was struck by all the tweets posted
    seconds after a speaker had uttered them. She expressed how
    easy it is to borrow what another person has learned. The people
    tweeting the excellent quotes had not done the work
    allowing the words to swim deeply into their souls.
    This is part of the reason I am posting less often. I want to have
    time for my words to marinate. I want them to have come forth
    tender after walking through the toughness
    of my spirit.
    I want to process before I proclaim.
  3. I have racial tension fatigue, is there such a thing?
    When I use the word fatigue, I don’t mean I am tired
    enough to sweep facts out of sight and mind.
    My mind, heart and soul are fatigued.
    The expanse of a day brings an unwelcome accumulation
    of  evidence supporting our tumultuous climate.
    It can be violent or a person of stature’s
    poor choice of words.
    I have felt disheartened when many are surprised
    racism remains.
    When making a cake,
    dry ingredients are added to wet ones and stirred
    until each ingredient is fully incorporated. One final
    scrap along a hidden section of your bowl reveals streaks
    of flour, catching you off guard.
    Where did that come from?
    I thought enough stirring had occurred for the ingredients
     in the batter to be come indistinguishable?
    The streak of racism has been uncovered and deserves
    conversation and action. It demands heart change.
    My soul’s permanent resident of optimism has
    vacated and needs time to move back in
    so I can respond in hope and energy.
    Our church just finished a 3 week series called
    Saving Justice reflecting on the gospel, injustice
    and the lives of Martin Luther King Jr. and
    Coretta Scott King.
    I have listened to this talk twice and will again.
    I found it to be a very balanced and hopeful
    Have a listen here.
  4. I  am going to miss Parenthood.
    By the time this post is published, the sixth
    and final season of Parenthood will have aired.
    Carl and I watched this series with our girls.
    Not everything but so many themes intersected
    our lives. Each week, it was as if we set
    up a water cooler in our living room to discuss
    story lines real and on the screen.
    A fun side note: Craig T. Nelson (Zeek) was in the same
    graduation class as my father and attended
    their 50th class reunion a couple of summers ago.
    So that means I sort of know him 😉
    I will miss the Bravermans.
    Here are 10 ways Parenthood made us cry.
  5. I have given winter a bad rap.
    Although I have never lined up the seasons
    from favorite to least favorite, I have
    always known winter landed on the bottom.
    Living in Portland, Oregon, although many
    escape to the mountains for snow fun, I think
    the rest of us are always waiting for better weather
    and if that isn’t going to happen, let it snow.
    Not rumors of snow but bring on snow in abundance
    for a day or two. Most winters are grey,chilly and
    soggy. I feel badly writing the previous sentence
    because lately it has been quite wonderfully cool
    with fog in the mornings and late evenings and
    sunny blue sky afternoons but this isn’t normal.
    Mark Buchanan is one of my favorite authors.
    For the past several years,his book Spiritual Rhythm
    has been a needed companion for each season,
    especially in the midst of winter.
    Whenever I read about a particular season,
    I am reminded of vital sections
    within the year I am prone to discard.
    I am fervently trying to receive one of winter’s purposes
    as Mark Buchanan details:
Winter's not for adding things but for cutting things.
It's the best season, the safest one, actually, to look
closely at all the tangled branches of your life--the travel,
the committee work, the various projects, the hobbies that
have become burdens or obsessions, the trivial pursuits,
the diversions; or the ingrown snarl of things, the lists in 
your head of people and situations to worry about, the 
proliferation of responsibilities that aren't really yours--
and ask honestly if these are bearing fruit or just sapping
energy. And then, without apology or even caution, cut
to nothing all that which gives nothing. 

I decided to post a second time this week to join
Emily and her community at chatting at the sky
to share what we learned in January.

You can read more here.

What did you learn in January?