7 Ways to Help Someone Who is Grieving

Wednesday, 15 February 2017



This is the fifth (and final) post in a series this past week in honour of the three year anniversary of my sister Jocelyn's death. I'll share writing from a variety of places (old blog posts from here, from other personal blogs, writing never shared), but all things that I've written about her death and my grieving. While not the most cheerful stuff to read about, my writing about losing her has been pivotal in my healing process. Thanks for allowing me to share with you this week!

This post is one of the most popular on my blog, so may be familiar to many of you here. I've updated it a bit for clarity now that it's been a few years.

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Note: we deal with loss in as many different ways as there are people...so these are just 7 things that I, personally, found particularly helpful and worth mentioning.

ALSO... please don't feel like this is a mandatory list of must-do's either! This is simply a list to refer to if you are desperate to help and need ideas.


7 Ways to Help Someone Who is Grieving

1) Reach out. Just do it.
   Whether there's awkwardness between you, it's been a while, or you think you have nothing to say, just reach out anyways.  I was so touched when people I hadn't heard from in forever cared enough to reach out to me with a simple "I'm so sorry to hear" or "thinking about you." Tragedies have a way of making all the distances between hearts disappear.

2) You don't need to make them feel better.
   This one is tricky to explain out-loud, so bear with me.
   There is nothing that you can say that will make them feel better right now. Nothing. What they are going through is just 100% crappy and that is it. The end. It is just hard and it hurts, regardless of anythinganythinganything. Reminding them of their beliefs in an after-life, saying someone is in a better place, telling them anything that starts with "at least...", or anything else that is intended to lessen the pain is off-limits. For now, at first. Let them take the lead on seeing whatever silver lining they can, when they're ready...and, even then, maybe just listen and nod.
   People are so good and caring and kind...and it's only natural to want to cheer someone up! One of the (many!) things that surprised me about experiencing the loss of a loved one was how little I wanted people to make me feel better...like, not at all. When you try, you run the risk of trivializing their pain, and coming across like you're trying to make it not-such-a-big-deal...even though that is not your intention at all, I know. 
With all that said, however, the effort to be kind was always appreciated, on some level...so (as a disclaimer) don't feel so stressed about saying the "right" thing, that you end up saying/doing nothing at all.

3) Validate
   So maybe you can't make them feel better, but you can validate how they must be feeling right now. Defend and protect their right to be in agony, and let them know that however they're feeling is okay. Do give your condolences, tell them how you can't imagine how hard this must be, let them know you're thinking of them...anything, really, that will let them know that yes, this is awful, and you love them.

4) Give Specific Help
   ...instead of offering the too-general "if there's anything I can do...."  (which we are ALL guilty of!) If you really want to help somehow, just do something. Don't necessarily rely on the person grieving to tell you what they need because 1) It's hard to even fathom exactly what you need when everything aches...and 2) When you experience a great loss, ALL of the normal things like eating, showering, parenting are overwhelmingly difficult and exhausting! It's really the little, day-to-day things that help the most. Take them a meal. Mow their lawn. Steal their kids for a couple hours. Bring them a movie you know they'd like. Give them a bath bomb and tea. Send them a gift card for some guilt-free retail therapy...or a restaurant so they don't have to make food themselves. Go clean their bathroom, or send a cleaning service over. Bring them a bag of groceries. Drop a favourite chocolate bar in their mailbox. Anything is something.

5) Keep Reaching Out...But With No Expectations
   Send them a note that doesn't necessitate a reply. Stop by with a treat, but don't expect them to visit and chat like usual. Keep sending love out even if it seems there is nothing coming back for a while. Invite them for a walk, for dinner, for hot chocolate...but understand if they decline. And keep inviting them anyways, no pressure. They need the reassurances that they have all the space they need, but they are also not forgotten.

6) Support Healthy Mourning
   Grief and mourning are different, I've learned. Grief is your ailment, mourning is how you deal with it or "let it out." Mourning is essential to learning to live with grief in a healthy way, to healing. Allow and encourage the person grieving to talk about it, cry about it, just sit with the pain, feel it. Support things like music, writing, creative projects, running, tributes in honour of the person lost, goals made in the wake of new realizations, etc....anything that allows the person to "let it out" in a healthy way and/or acknowledge the person who's loss they are mourning. 
   I know some of us are uncomfortable when people cry in front of us...feeling like we've ruined everything, that it's an intensely meaningful moment we are unprepared for, or (because we asked them about it) it's our fault they're sad...but chances are that they've cried so much already, it's not weird to them anymore (you know, like how when you have a baby, you get over the embarrassment of people looking between your legs real fast? Like that.). So you don't need to feel weird either. Just let them get a few tears out, without making it into a big deal, or trying to fix it, or feeling stressed like this means you are the only person they can trust now, or ever. Just be there and let them feel what they're feeling.
   It's also okay if they are okay. Losing someone is difficult, but some are just better equipped to handle the fallout. And that is okay.

7) Be patient
   Grief and mourning are not just emotional burdens; they actually have mental and physical symptoms/side effects as well, like fatigue, short-term memory issues, attention and focus difficulties, etc. They are processing something HUGE, and that takes a lot of physical resources and energy. 
   Most people are resilient and get through the worst of it okay, so take heart. However, some spiral into longer-term issues like depression and anxiety (especially if the loss is not dealt with in healthy ways or bottled up)..and even something called "complicated grief" which may require professional counselling to get through. Grief never goes away, though the waves do become less intense over time. You just learn how to live with it...and it takes longer for some than others. Let your person have their time. 


Dear Jocelyn (6 Months Later)

Friday, 10 February 2017


This is the fourth post in a series this week in honour of the three year anniversary of my sister Jocelyn's death. I'll share writing from a variety of places (old blog posts from here, from other personal blogs, writing never shared), but all things that I've written about her death and my grieving. While not the most cheerful stuff to read about, my writing about losing her has been pivotal in my healing process. Thanks for allowing me to share with you this week!

This post was originally posted here, on this blog, a while back. In the 6 months following Jocelyn's death, every member of my immediate family had something in their life explode...all seemingly unrelated to her death, though I'm sure each of them probably came to a head because of our collective emotional fragility...just to give you some context.

Other posts in this series:

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Hi, sweet sissy.

It's been 6 months since you died. 6 months! I wish we could sit in Mom's living room to stay up late and talk about that. As in, what is it even like, dying? How are things on the other side? Does it feel like 6 months over there? Now that your life on earth is done, did you have any premonitions that your life would be short? Hindsight, they say, right? I can't wait to talk to you again.

Have you been watching us a lot? Or is there lots to do over there? Are you busy and happy and peaceful? Because that's how I imagine you. But I also imagine that there might be a part of you worrying about us, just because you're...well, you, still. Ha.



So...I know there's been lots of really hard things you've had to watch happen with our family lately. It feels like your death was the first of many really heavy dominoes that starting crashing through all these dreams and expectations our family has held with almost cavalier confidence. Can you even believe some of the things that have happened!? And how they ALL had to happen within the same six months?? JEEPERS, right!? Well, maybe you're not as bewildered as I am about the timing. Maybe you've been let in on the secret, a little bit, about some of the ultimate purposes and reasons behind the rapid-fire catastrophes that have left us crawling through the ruins and sifting through the ashes, trying to figure out what's left of Life-As-We-Expected-It...and Who-We-Thought-We-Were...and, most importantly, What-We-Thought-We-Could-Endure. That last one has been the most surprising of them all so far.

We may be crawling, stumbling, sitting there catatonically shocked...or just laying there breathing, afraid to move lest we reopen a tender, slow-healing wound...but I want you to know, sister friend, that we still are holding on, so tightly, to each other. Sometimes it hurts because we feel your absence sharply when we're huddling so close. But in those moments where it feels like it would just be easier to run away, and push away, and avoid...there is this exquisite truth that we are learning to embrace, a little at a time: that we cannot experience great joy without first experiencing great pain: how would we recognize it, appreciate it, otherwise? I can confidently say that I'm pretty sure we're good now, on the pain front, that we've had quite enough and are ready to just focus on the joy part, ONLY. 

I wish it was actually up to me.


My relationship with God has been unusually complicated these past 6 months. I haven't known what to make of it, so I've just tried to let it be, whatever that means. However, deep down in the rare, invincible parts of my heart I know Heavenly Father has a plan for you, for me, for our family. When I am being honest, and very untheatrical, I realize that I trust Him; He has this remarkable, unknowable way of weaving threads of joy and peace through times like these. I keep trying to remember to look for those sparkling flecks of hope. Sometimes I find them, sometimes I'm too dark to see anything except fog. But through it all, I ultimately feel His patience with me; I don't feel He is displeased with my finite mortal perspective, even when I'm having a temper tantrum about things not going the way I think they should; I just feel His perfect understanding and acceptance of my current state...and my potential. When I was learning to drive a car, my instructor was going through strategies to remember in crisis situations: "when you're hyrdroplaning, just take your foot off the gas...when you've lost control on the ice, just look where you want to go and your car will follow." That's the only message I've felt coming through this last little while of losing traction, spinning and sliding: wherever you are at...it's okay, you are loved.  Just look where you want to go, the rest will follow.

If there's any one resounding lesson that I've learned so far, even if it's just from your example alone, Jake, it's to be gentle with people...to just love them. You were so good at that down here. Now, with every face I look into, I can't help but wonder if their sister died, too. I wonder if they are feeling crumbly today. I wonder what hard things they have endured, are enduring, and whether they are finding the tiny flecks of hope. It makes me want to be a bright spot for someone, anyone, everyone. Because everyone battling their way through something that is their own brand of difficult...and trying to figure it out loudly, silently, or a little of both. This new depth of sheer feeling for everyone I see often has me feeling raw and straight-up staggered...but hopeful. At least there's that.

I miss you...so, so much. I want to shrug my shoulders with you about parenting, and pool our memories to try and figure out how mom and dad did it so successfully. I want to complain a little (with love, of course) about our sweetly stubborn husbands. I want to roll my eyes at your effusive, over-the-top praise and affection, and snort at your unbelievable ability to pull a pun right out of thin air. I want to have that singing group us sisters were going to have, and watch you have a near panic-attack about children running around near water without life-jackets on ("You're so safety-conscious..."). There are so many people who will never see how alike we occasionally look.

I'm not sure why we are all simply shards and pieces right now, but I've got to believe that it's because there's something new to be built here, out of all of this. We will be okay. Stay close, sis. We need all the help we can get.

Love you more than chocolate,
Your Favourite Oldest Sister.




On Life After Her Death

Thursday, 9 February 2017


This is the third post in a series this week in honour of the three year anniversary of my sister Jocelyn's death. I'll share writing from a variety of places (old blog posts from here, from other personal blogs, writing never shared), but all things that I've written about her death and my grieving. While not the most cheerful stuff to read about, my writing about losing her has been pivotal in my healing process. Thanks for allowing me to share with you this week!

This was originally posted on our (now neglected) family blog just shy of a month after Jocelyn died.

Other posts in this series:
Friday
Stop and Take the Call
Dear Jocelyn (Six Months Later)

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I have waffled on whether or not to write a post like this, one where I tell you how things are going with us since my sister Jocelyn passed away about a month ago. Sometimes it's really just easier to keep it close, pretend no one is wondering anyways, and march on. And how do I put it into words again? I don't really know. But I'm going to try... because SO many people have been SO perfectly available and aware and caring that I want to be able to answer your questions about how I am doing...answer them with more than the honest, but vague, "I'm okay."
So... just, thank you, whoever you may be, for being there for me and my family.

We got to say goodbye to Jocelyn, over the phone, before they unplugged the machines. She was sedated, but we knew she could hear us...and we each had a chance to tell her how much we loved her, how proud we were of her, and promise to take care of her hubby and babies. 

When the call came that she was gone, it was the last thing I heard for days and days, and it felt the way movies portray the moments following an explosion; all I could hear, mentally and emotionally, was ringing, ringing, ringing. Everything else felt so far away, fuzzy and unclear. Everything was in slow-motion, with lots of stumbling and shock and not-enough and too-much.

The night before her funeral, I got to help my mom dress Jocelyn's body for burial. It was the most beautiful and brutal experience of my life. Jocelyn was there; I felt her so, so close. It was the first time I felt fully, intensely present since her death.

The funeral was surreal. People were there, and they loved her, and they loved our family, and I was so amazed at all of the love hanging in the air. I was feeling so, so many things that day. I have a hard time catching my breath thinking about it. Thank you for your presence and/or prayers that day. 


And in the days since, we've been experiencing the fallout; we've been watching where the pieces have landed, the wounded shuffling around to the wounded, and trying to attend to the everyday needs that suddenly feel really, really exhausting.

Right now, it feels like I am a computer with a heavy program called Grieving running in the background, making everything else run slow and inefficiently, with frequent glitches and the occasional full-on crash. I can't really do anything to speed up Grieving or make it go away, so I just have to let it run its course. 

And, really, things get a little better every day. We talk about her all the time. We talk about her like she's there with us, and like we're going to see her again soon (...just not soon enough!). And we cry together, leaking out of our new cracks and fissures, slowly coming to terms that things are different now; we are trying to heal our way to our new normal. It's slow and stumbly, but we're doing the best we can.

My kids have been so great. They stop at least once a day, mid-play, and tell me that they miss Auntie Jocelyn, and give me the chance to say the same, out loud. It's therapeutic. My sweet Darren has carried me and cared for me, taking care of all of us with strength and compassion. 




And it's going to sound so cliche, but what these past few weeks have left me with, most of all, is an appreciation for the beautiful things in my life. I better savour moments like these ones that I have taken pictures of lately. It has forced me to the sidelines of my life for a while, and from here I have been able to see things a little differently. I feel like this is not only true of experiencing the death of a loved one, but for any tragedy...I want to let this change me.

I know I will feel her absence for the rest of my life; when I have clothes I want to pass on, when I want to sing with her, when I want to share recipes I know she'd appreciate, when I want to rejoice in a great deal on cloth diapering supplies, or a stellar find on Kijiji, when I want to hear her take on situations in my life, roll my eyes at her non-stop puns. This is losing my sister to cancer. This is what it means to have to go through this life without her. 

I have faith in God and His perfect plan. I may not understand The Why, but I trust that He does, and that is enough for now. This doesn't take away the hurt. This does give me a place to go when I am hurting. I know He is there.




Plus, these sweet faces I see every day soothe my soul. I am so grateful to have them. 




Stop and Take the Call

Wednesday, 8 February 2017


This is the second post in a series this week in honour of the three year anniversary of my sister Jocelyn's death. I'll share writing from a variety of places (old blog posts from here, from other personal blogs, writing never shared), but all things that I've written about her death and my grieving. While not the most cheerful stuff to read about, my writing about losing her has been pivotal in my healing process. Thanks for allowing me to share with you this week!

Other posts in this series:
Friday
On Life After Her Death
Dear Jocelyn (Six Months Later)

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Shortly before she was intubated, my sister Jocelyn called---Facetimed, actually--- from the hospital in Switzerland. Switzerland because it held hope for beating The Cancer; the hospital because her body had been fighting to breathe and was losing the battle. I was shopping at Target.

She was in good spirits, smiling at me in her gentle way through my cell phone screen, face to face through that little rectangle. My little family and I were wandering aisles together, shopping for nothing important: a case for my iPad, a few household items we needed. It was mostly just an outing together, the kids clothed in hopeful pajamas that suggested they fall asleep on the short drive home.

I almost answered just to ask if I could call her back when we got home. I was trying to choose an iPad case alongside an increasingly restless crew of a husband and three little kids; it wasn't really an ideal situation for a good chat. But there was something that compelled me to answer and not rush through it. She was calling from Switzerland after all: the time difference, calling from the hospital, having been a while since we'd chatted...could have been those things that stayed my first inclination. Although the fear of her dying wasn't deep and cold and real yet---I was still pretty confident she'd be okay after the antibiotics, the anti-fungals, the hospital things ---she was still calling from the hospital and it surprised me, just enough to jar me out of my own practical thoughts and hear the voice from elsewhere saying, "you need to take this call."

I shudder now, to think how close I came to not seeing her and talking with her then, how close I came to brushing it off until later when it was more convenient and appropriate for a chat, the kind of chat I thought we should be having, the kind I wanted to have with my sick sister and her faithful husband. I thank God that I did answer, that I could joke about the hospital equipment she was wearing to help her breathe being a great-looking necklace, that I could make her smile. I'm so grateful I got to take her shopping for iPad covers with me, showing her the ones I was thinking of. She liked one, but I picked the other because we were like that: my style a little wilder, hers more reserved. We started chatting about movies and shows they'd been watching to kill time, but she starting coughing and having trouble and had to go. At some point in the conversation, I remember feeling the need to tell her something---anything---tender. I don't remember what it was, probably something like "you've got this" or "you're doing so good, keep fighting" or "hang in there," but I do remember that I said something, fumbling a bit to communicate what was in my heart in just a few words. But I do remember something said in earnest warmth, and witnessing that it made it through that screen, across the ocean, to her sitting upright in her Swiss hotel room...her small nod, smile, kind eyes glowing.

Our conversation wasn't long, maybe five, seven minutes. It wasn't really unusual that I stayed with the call and said heart-felt things, but they were actions made significant because it would be the last conversation we had here in this life. They had to put her under to intubate her soon after that, an "under" she would never recover from. Years of fighting cancer had left her body too weak to fend off the infections that eventually claimed her life two weeks later.

And now, when the experience comes to mind, it reminds me of the importance of stopping to just take the call. To just take the time, take the deep breath, stop the whirlwind and look and pay attention to what's important.

To just stop and take the call.

Friday

Tuesday, 7 February 2017


This is the first post in a series this week in honour of the three year anniversary of my sister Jocelyn's death. I'll share writing from a variety of places (old blog posts from here, from other personal blogs, writing never shared), but all things that I've written about her death and my grieving. While not the most cheerful stuff to read about, my writing about losing her has been pivotal in my healing process. Thanks for allowing me to share with you this week!

(Jocelyn passed away on a Friday...the following post was written on the Tuesday prior to her passing.)


Other posts in this series:

Stop and Take the Call
On Life After Her Death
Dear Jocelyn (Six Months Later)

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My sister has been battling lymphoma for the past two years. In the past three weeks she has contracted pneumonia, and is currently hovering precariously on the brink of leaving this life behind.

It's just The Waiting right now. Any phone call could be "THE" phone call. Our family is huddled together, both literally and figuratively....just waiting.

And I think to myself, So, this is what this feels like....facing the possibility of continuing this life without the presence of someone you expected to get to keep close for a lot longer. It feels surreal, like a bad dream. I keep waiting to wake up, with relief flooding over me, so grateful it was just a nightmare. But instead I just keep waking up to check my phone, again, with my heartbeat quickening at every message, email, call.

My thoughts are consumed by this, swinging from wildly desperate hope that she will make it... to the crippling consideration of what it might feel like without her here, to hug, laugh with...for her babies to grow up without their mommy.

I feel like I'm on a roller coaster...how you hop on, get a few ups, downs, and turns...just to get you started. But, in the distance, you see the huge hill and the massive drop. These past couple years have been the initial ups and downs...and these past few weeks have been climbing, climbing, climbing straight up this big hill where the only thing left seems to be The Drop. I feel like I'm reaching the summit, where something is about to give, the bottom inevitably about to fall from under me...and the only thing you can think is "Well...here we go. Here it comes."

I think about my kids. I think about what they know about death. The only frame of reference they have are fairy tales, where death is cured with a magical kiss or special potion. I watch them when they are playing and pretending, and every time someone "dies," they are soon kissed awake and restored. We have talked about how their auntie is sick, and might have to go home to Heavenly Father. Baby-Rae, now four, asked only "How does Heavenly Father carry her?" Very carefully, is all I can think to say through the lump in my throat.

I have never appreciated friends bringing meals over so much. It is just that much less to think about, that much more love to feel, and that much more comfort by way of eating my feelings. I don't feel even a little guilty about it in a time like this. I'm finding little joys where I can, be it in my sweet-smelling baby's neck, or in the warmth of a cheesy lasagna.

I've been walking around in a fog, simultaneously lost in my thoughts and hiding from them. But it is amazing to me that the things that can pierce the fog are how pretty my slices of apples look in the morning light, the way my baby's eye sparkle when she sees me, the lovely steam curling peacefully from a rooftop into the sky. I know that it is my God whispering, for only He can cut through these clouds. He is reminding me that even in the darkest sorrow, He is there, and there is beauty.

"Each of us will have our own Fridays---those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.

But I testify to you in the name of the one who conquered death---Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come.

No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come."


-Joseph B. Wirthlin

Happy 2017!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Photo by Sue Moody Photography
Happy New Year!

I honestly get why people aren't really fans of New Year's Resolutions...BUT I TOTALLY AM. I love excuses to refocus, reevaluate and start fresh.

2016 wasn't a great year for a lot of people (so many challenges to deal with on a world events level, amiright!?) but it was a really good year for me personally. I credit it to starting the year with de-cluttering my house/life Konmari style during January. What? You're sick of hearing about this Konmari thing? TOO BAD, I'm a convert. Haha!

My reflections on this past year are best understood within the context of the last few years, so bear with me as I take you aaaaalll the way back to...2014.

2014 was the roughest year of my life thus far. I wrote a little about why I call it "dirty 2014" in this post here. Everything fell apart that year in ways I would have never expected, beginning (but definitely not ending) with the death of my sister Jocelyn. But all that churning up and breaking apart did, indeed, make way for new growth. I hope I never have to go through a year like that again, but now that I stand on this side of it, I'm able feel the gratitude for the refining process that some of those trials put me through...and trust that some of the others have their purpose, too, even if I don't understand them yet.

2015 was the year of healing. It was a year I learned to be patient with myself and started tip-toeing back into more of life's regular ol' demands without feeling like I was drowning. I got familiar with my warning signs that I was taking on too much and learned to let myself feel the waves of grief that would inevitably wash over me at random without pushing them down or away. I learned to not be scared of my pain...or, consequently, the pain of others.

By the time 2016 started, I was ready...really ready...to clear out some of the dusty debris that had gathered, both literally (STUFF) and figuratively (stale and outdated expectations of myself and my life). I majorly cleared out my house of things that "didn't spark joy" and was surprised at how much I learned about (you guys, don't make fun of me for this) listening to my heart. Ha! But seriously, though! You can actually make fun of me all you want because I can't even deny it; was such an eye-opening process that helped me recognize what truly belongs in my life and start owning the decision-making process for what I include and what I just don't from here on out...without feeling ashamed or guilty about it. It was a great exercise in learning to listen to that still, small voice.

I spent the rest of 2016 learning that lesson in greater depth, with more sticking power. I would start letting things get cluttery again, feel the difference right away, and try and get at the heart of why while I reigned it back in. It confirmed an already-suspected direct correlation between feeling overwhelmed and chaotic on the inside and seeing that chaos show up on the outside in my surroundings...though which came first is the whole chicken/egg question.

I started exercising regularly again. I started making room in my life for the things I actually love like laughing with friends and reading and taking opportunities to serve. I finished off the year reading (well listening to) Shauna Niequist's book Present Over Perfect three times (!) after seeing a friend recommend it on her blog. I could not stop re-visiting the words of that book over and over because it felt like a full summary of everything I was aiming for and learning about during the past year.

And so, with seeds planted in the churned up, clean up soil of the past few years, I stand here at the beginning of 2017. The excess is cleared away (well, mostly...kind of. Ha! I think I'm actually going to do another konmari-style declutter of my house this month. A new tradition, perhaps...?) and stock taken of how I'm spending my time, I think I'm ready to start focusing next on growth....slowly, wisely. I want to give some attention to a couple areas that I am passionate about (like writing! music! food!) and start nurturing them, cultivating them with a little more time and effort...the time and the effort I didn't have when I was healing, or thought I didn't have when my life was cluttered with unnecessary things.

Here's to 2017! I hope this year is just AWESOME for you, friends. Love and best wishes!

I Need You (A Poem)

Thursday, 15 December 2016





You need me

I need you, too,
to make me face the hurts I felt
when I was small like you.

I need the way you love,
forgive,
play,
and fight,
so unrefined and unrestrained,
to teach me how to do them well:
where to let loose,
and where to master myself.

I need your fingers pressed in dough
to remind me of what is true.

I need your eyes,
the way you glow at ladybugs and worms
the reminder to slow,
to notice,
to see,
deeply.

I need you to make me question
and think through how to raise you
to humble me to the depths
of the pages of parenting books
and my knees in prayer.

I need you to watch me
so I remember to be the kind of person
that I hope you become,
to remind me I can’t fake it.

I need you to stop my thoughts,
interrupt my pursuits,
insert yourself in my business.
I need you to give me all the chances
to choose love and patience and goodness
over convenience and comfort and me-first.

I need you to drive me crazy
so I can clearly see were I’m stuck,
where I’m hanging on to crusty habits
and where I still need to grow up.

I need you to eat in the middle of the night,
deprive me of sleep,
to throw your food on the floor,
to cry for no reason that I understand,
and scream in the grocery store.
I need you to show me what I can endure for love.

I need you to require me
to try and see things from your perspective
so I can try to keep from damaging
your confidence in your own vision.

I need to see you sigh with relief, safety,
when you see how much I love your dad
and how much he loves me,
when we kiss and hug in the kitchen.

I need all your differences from me,
the ultimate testing ground
for loving unconditionally.
I need all your sameness
so I can heal vicariously.



I need your quick and easy smiles,
I need to watch them get heavier, weighted, with each passing year
as you witness and experience pain
so I can plead in whispers,
“please don’t let that ever be because of me.”

I need you to ask me what it means to be grown up,
so I can ask myself the same question,
trying to stay curious and adult at the same time
so I can tell you it’s possible.

I need your faith, your belief
in the good things you can’t see,
your trust that they are there,
that the best things come eventually.

I need your warm arms around my neck,
your wet kisses on my lips,
your sticky hands on my cheeks,
their softening effect on my callouses.

I need your sparkly pinks, your swords and guns,
to remind me to lighten up
and not see problems everywhere.

I need all your reminders
that you don’t need so many things,
but you do have the right to me:
present and imperfect, but trying.

I need you to give me practice
at saying an unqualified “I’m so sorry,”
again and again.

I need you to be my reminder
to be careful and gentle with you,
of the importance of tenderness,
the kind that makes you run home to me at Christmas,
and want me when you’re sick,
take care of me when I’m fragile,
and remember how much I loved you
with every touch,
with every smile,
with every moment I could meet
one of your needs.