Monday, January 2, 2017

Word for the Year? Oh Bother...

Look Out!!

As I sat in my office this time last year, contemplating what my "word for the year" would be, I had no idea what was coming. How could I know? I can't read the future. Who can?

No one.

So, I did what most of my blogger friends do this time of year, I selected a word. It was difficult because the year before (2015) had proven to be pretty ugly. My family had lost a loved one to cancer and the wounds were still fresh. For the life of me, I don't even remember what my word was for 2016, but I do remember I had high hopes for the year. "Let's make it a good one!" I remember telling friends on social media.

A good one.


All I can think of when looking back on 2016 was all the change that had happened. Some of it self-caused while other parts just happened.

Without a plan? Of course not. God is in control of all things. His plan is perfect. I can see that now, but in the midst of the storm, it's hard to see that perfect plan at the other end.

The Year of Change

That's how I will always describe 2016. So much change and much of it too soon.

Beginning with January, because that's how every year begins...the year started out quietly. We lost my sister back in October of 2015, my husband's grandpa in November, and then my dear friend lost her mom on Christmas Day. *Sigh*

Blessedly, January was a slow, boring month by comparison. No one close to us had died.


And then came February...

My cousin called me one morning while I was prepping inside my classroom. She called to tell me that my Aunt had been admitted to the hospital and it didn't look good. Unfortunately, my Aunt passed away not long after that.

More loss. More grief. Another family member gone. All those memories were gone, too...

But we endured and life did continue.

Life continued until March 5th. That was the day I won't soon forget. No one can forget the day they find their mom has died at home. Alone.

*Heavy sigh*

On that day, my heart was ripped out of my chest. I hadn't ever screamed like that before and it was an "out-of-body" experience.


I was outside myself looking at the scene of myself sitting on the ground, rocking back and forth, in front of my mom, wondering what was going on. It was surreal.

My mom was gone. Forever. Nothing could change that. I didn't realize I was suffering from trauma until the Firefighter/Crisis worker at the scene had told me so. I'm forever grateful she did tell me this, otherwise I'd be stuck in the "I'm fine, no seriously, I am just fine..." mode forever after until mental illness took over my mind.

So, I had to write yet another eulogy and plan another funeral service. And God carried us through it all.

And did I mention my Uncle died the day after my mom?


Too much, too soon. Too painful. Too sad.

After all that, the year was just a blur. Death seemed to be everywhere. It began to take over my mind and the nightmares and flashbacks of finding my mom haunted me daily. Who would die next? My brothers? My dad? My husband? Oh God, please not my son!

Grief support groups are tremendous! I followed the advice of my pastor and sought out a group. It was difficult at first. Those meetings made the entire experience painfully real. I was now part of this sad group of sufferers. I had lost five loved ones in five months. My poor husband and son had lost them, too, but I guess I was the one who needed the support. And it's true. I did need it.

Talking about my pain to others knee deep in their own pain did help. Learning how to answer all the questions I had about grief also helped. Reading pre-written prayers to God helped since I couldn't even pray anymore. I would simply sit there and stare at the open Bible, unable to speak or think.

May came and I decided I needed more change. Can you believe it? Yes, that's how I am. I decided to resign as a teacher and see what else God wanted me to do with my life. That was a leap of faith off a very high cliff with jagged rocks below. Sharp, jagged, scary rocks...

Then came June.

My only child...announced he wanted to move out. I don't blame him. I would want to get away from me, too. I cried pretty much everyday.Who needs that? He found an apartment nearby (thank You, God...) and moved out. I handled it better than I thought I would! Was I healing? My support group thought so.

We moved our son out and got him settled in. Then, I decided to make more changes. Good changes. I got a new job at a familiar place: Grand Canyon University. It felt like going home after your folks moved into a nicer house than the one you grew up in. AWESOME.

And then we decided to sell our house and move after eleven years. Because...CHANGE!

That's how I roll.

September came and we had made it through another hot summer, another move (our eleventh, I think...) and settled into a smaller home for the duration of our time on earth. I hope.

The Holiday season was upon us, and now it was time for more CHANGE. But this one was definitely for the best. My support group advised doing something new for that first Holiday season without loved ones. I am so glad I listened to that advice. We spent Christmas in Prescott, AZ at a little cottage and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We laughed together! It felt great to laugh again. Really LAUGH again.

Now, a new year has begun. I'm sitting in my new writing space looking out a my new and trees...and smiling. Really, SMILING.

God has been faithful through it all. I am truly grateful for that fact. I can look back and see His hand over me, protecting me (my heart and mind) all year. What a messy year of CHANGE.

Yet I survived. My little family survived. I'm so grateful we survived.

So, my word for 2017 will be GRATEFUL.

For my husband
my son
my brothers
my nieces
my aunts and uncles and cousins
my in-laws
my friends
my little doggies
my new job
my new home
my talents
my lack of talents
my books
my artwork
my Savior
and for all the opportunities that are to come.

I know more challenges are coming. More CHANGE is coming. Some will be self-caused and all will be God ordained because He is sovereign. There's rest in that fact.

Looking back can be painful...looking ahead can be scary...but knowing God is there through it all makes life doable.

Here we go, folks!! 2017 up ahead!!

I wish you all the best. Keep the faith! I know I will...

Your turn:  What is your word for the year 2017? Looking back on 2016, what were your biggest challenges and successes?


Social Media and the Grief Process

 Social Media

While developing some college courses for a mental health and wellness program, I read some interesting articles about the impact of social media on those dealing with grief.

I had never really noticed this impact before until I was knee-deep in the bereavement process myself. We all have our opinions on social media. Some consider it pure evil while others consider it essential for quality living.

My opinions fall somewhere in the middle.

But one thing I can attest to is how effective social media has been on my journey in grief. So, I wanted to share some of that experience with you in case you, yourself, are dealing with this unfortunate process or know someone who is.

When we think about social media, images of delicious food recipes and videos, cute puppies and kittens, or funny memes come to mind. But lately, I have seen how people use social media to deal with loss. For instance, on Facebook, when my sister passed away, her page remained open. I and others have posted on her page knowing full well she will never see the posts, but yet we write on her "wall" as a means of keeping her memory alive. 

Why do we do this? 

Does it help us to express our emotions on her page? I believe it does. Somehow, knowing others are reading my thoughts and seeing my posts does much to end the feeling of loneliness one can feel when grieving. I have seen evidence of this phenomenon on other pages as well. This type of expression was never experienced before this century. People steeped in grief were only given the chance to write eulogies or obituaries for newspapers, and (if their experience was unique enough) publish a memoir. And that's about it. 

So what? You might ask this question, but I strongly feel this type of expression is good for mental health.

In the article, "You Don't De-friend the Dead," the author wrote:

 But how do we cope with this grief over time? Grief communication theorists suggest that the          attachment we feel toward the deceased postdeath can be understood as a continuing of bonds:    Rather than severing all ties, the bereaved finds way to renegotiate and understand their relationship  with the deceased now that they have passed on (Silverman & Klass, 1996). 

Continuing of bonds. Yes, I can definitely agree with that assessment. Perhaps that is why social media has greatly assisted those dealing with loss. By connecting with others suffering through the loss of the loved one, that connection to memories of experiences shared or expressed can help understand the impact the loved one had on so many. It's those connections that help keep that loved one "alive."


Move On, Already

But can this connection be harmful? What about those who believe it is best to "move on" from or "get over" the loss? Is there merit to such suggestions? Can social media cause the grieving to remain stuck in their grief?

Many say, no, because grief is a process and not a destination. From that same article, Pennington (2013) suggested that the connections found on social media can help those left behind form a new understanding of their relationship with the deceased that will help them move forward through the excruciating grief process. Life without the deceased then becomes a new normal and those grieving are able to heal and grow. 

I can attest to this from personal experience. As a writer and avid social media user, I find that posting about my journey through grief as well as sharing memories about my deceased loved ones has helped me heal and grow as I move on toward that new normal. It also benefits me to know there are others out there who have endured and made it through the various steps in the process. These "friends" converse with me in the virtual setting that proves to be more comfortable than an actual face-to-face setting (Pennington, 2013). 

This encouragement leads to mental health and wellness. 

Better Left Unsaid

Unfortunately, there is always a dark side to social media and some decide it is best to air their grievances toward the deceased on social media sites. These acts can cause much harm to the grieving. As per all parts of social media, discretion is necessary and some people aren't capable of this type of critical thinking. So, harmful and hateful posts are read, leading to more harm than good. But could this harmful behavior also happen without social media? Yes and has happened since modern communication methods have existed. That is truly unfortunate. The grief process is different for everyone and emotions can take over. 

Social Media to the Rescue?

In the end, can social media benefit those who are grieving? Research suggests that it can. There are so many valuable forms of social media sites helping those deal with grief:


All of these sites offer effective assistance to those dealing with loss. I have used many to help me through the process. One thing is for sure, in this age of technology, social media has touched so many parts of life now. Is it going away anytime soon? I, for one, do not think so. Therefore, why not make social media a benefit to those dealing with loss rather than a hindrance? Blog about your experience, post about your loved ones, or simply acknowledge the loss someone else is experiencing. You could be helping someone more than you know. 

Your turn: Have you ever posted on a deceased person's Facebook page? Why or why not? How have you seen social media impact grieving and loss? 



Pennington, N. (2013). You don't de-friend the dead: An analysis of grief communication by college students through  Facebook profiles. Death Studies, 37(7), 617-635.  doi:10.1080/07481187.2012.673536.