Friday, December 29, 2017

Making It Through

It hasn't been pretty, but here I am on the other side of Christmas day. As mentioned here and here, I have been trying to prepare for the moments that I know are going to be hard so there are fewer events that blindside me.

Here are the moments for which I prepared surrounding my first Christmas without KK...

Christmas Tree
When I first thought about getting a Christmas tree, I couldn't figure out if I wanted to get a real tree, get an artificial one, or no tree at all. I wasn't sure if I would have the energy to deal with the upkeep of a real tree and I didn't want to invest in an artificial tree even if I could find one that I liked (I can't stand the feel of the fake needles). After talking this through with Dr. Chuck, I decided to enlist my parents' help in getting a real tree. Growing up, there had to be snow on the ground (or rain in the air) in order to get our tree then we went to multiple lots looking for the perfect tree. As far as following traditions go, KK and I almost always ended up getting a tree on a snowy day in mid-December when school was cancelled...I refused to go to a thousand different places though. My mom kept asking when we were going to get the tree and I joked that there had to be snow on the ground. As soon as the Christmas musical was over (and there was snow on the ground), I knew it was time to face the hard...so I made plans with my parents to get the tree that Wednesday after work. I had a really bad day at work that morning and ended up leaving early. Since I was already having a bad day, I figured I might as well put myself out of my misery and called to see if my parents would mind getting the tree earlier. They came down right away and we got a nice tree just down the road. 

I knew that decorating the tree was going to be hard as well, so I asked a couple friends for their help before I even bought the tree. As the week that I got the Christmas tree continued to spiral downward, I decided that people didn't need to be subjected to the ugliness that was in my head and cancelled their help. I put the lights and garland on because I knew I needed a little light in the middle of this dark season. As I started to go through the bin of ornaments, I couldn't bring myself to put them on the tree.  


Christmas Presents 
I decided that I wasn't doing presents this year. It took me a while to communicate this to my parents. My poor mom called about a week before Christmas to find out what I wanted to have for Christmas dinner and what products I needed so she could fill my stocking. After we talked about food options, I blurted out that I didn't want to do any presents this year just before she was going to ask what I needed/wanted. She seemed a little confused as to what else we could do. I told her we could still eat and we could play games, but I would not be doing gifts.

The idea of buying gifts required too much energy. I have to admit that I have never enjoyed shopping...add in shopping amongst people preparing to celebrate Christmas with their families and I was ready to curl up in bed until December 26.

The idea of giving gifts required too much thought. Grief takes up way too much brain space (I've started another blog post about this that I have yet to finish) leaving nothing for me to figure out what someone else might want or need. 

The idea of receiving and opening gifts required too much happy pretense. To be honest, every gift I found on my "desk" at work had me in tears.

Christmas Day
When snow was in the forecast for Christmas morning, my mom asked if I wanted to go over their house after the Christmas Eve Candlelight Services and stay overnight. I said no. I guess I didn't articulate very clearly that I didn't want to "celebrate" Christmas and December 25 needed to be just another day.

Once the snow stopped and the streets were clear, I drove to their house. We had delicious (because mom cooked, not me!) food and played two full rounds of Mexican Train (mom won the first, I won the second...thanks, Dad, for the games!).

Games are serious business around here!
After the games were over, my dad started to set up the tripod and camera in front of their Christmas tree. I simply stated, "No pictures." I didn't want to celebrate the day, let alone memorialize it with a photo.

If you were among the people that texted me on December 25, thank you for your kind wishes and your prayers. I chose not to respond to those texts because I was not celebrating a merry Christmas and not because I didn't appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Between Christmas and New Year's Day
The plan (or, rather, the prescription from my psychologist 😉) for the rest of this week has been to rest. I have taken this plan very seriously -- sleeping 10 hours per night in addition to a few good naps.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Pushing Through

On the first Sunday evening in December, Chapel has its annual Soup and Bread Potluck and Carol Sing. I went into church that day and shared that I was feeling conflicted about pushing through this event. My heart was saying, "This is going to be too much."; my head and my work ethic said, "This is your job. Suck it up and push through." I knew that there were going to be many events during December that I would have to push through and didn't necessarily feel this was one of them.

I was not pressured either way and decided I wasn't going to go. However, we had not talked about or planned for the kids' area that we tried last year and I started getting texts about what needed to be done. I realized it would be easier for me to go and do it myself than to try to think through each detail and explain it to someone else.

I did okay until the song "White Christmas" was chosen and the memories overwhelmed me. Memories of a 7-year old KK surprising a waitress at Bertucci's as she sang every word of the song "Sisters" as it played. Memories of us Christmas caroling where an elderly gentleman asked for the song "White Christmas" (which was not on our song sheets) and KK confidently began singing. As the memories came, so did the tears. I could no longer do my job so I told someone on my way out that the kids needed someone to look after them and I left.

I adamantly told the staff that I knew I shouldn't have gone when we debriefed about the event on Tuesday. When I recounted the events of the day to Dr. Chuck on Thursday, he stopped me and told me that he was proud of me for going. I was caught off guard since I thought for sure that he would agree that this was one event that I didn't need to push through. He said that if I had not gone at all then it would be that much harder to go next year.

Touché, Dr. Chuck. Touché.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Amazed

After waiting to see how the cliffhanger I mentioned in the last post would end, I meant to post this back in October, but I have been a little busy...


Not having the mortgage commitment letter by the date listed in the purchase and sales agreement created a few problems...

As mentioned previously, I wouldn't have a door to go through in 2 weeks since I had given my landlords notice that I would be moving out on October 15. They had already shown the apartment and had new tenants lined up to move in once I moved out. I asked if there was any chance I could stay one more week.  Thankfully, they graciously said yes.

I also had to ask the seller for an extension. After talking with the new lender, he thought we could have the mortgage commitment letter by October 17 and close by October 27 (a very quick turnaround). I wasn't sure if the seller would approve an extension or not. He had every right to refuse the extension and keep my deposit. We explained that I was working with a new lender and would be putting down an additional 5%. Thankfully, he saw that as a sign of good faith and agreed to the extension.

If you've done the math as I did, you know that this left me with 5 days when I would literally be homeless. I asked some people to pray and a few of them kindly offered me a room to stay in if I needed it.

I talked through possibilities with my wonderful realtor and we came up with 2 scenarios to present to the seller:

  1. allow me to move in on October 22 and I would pay the HOA fees for October 
  2. allow me to move my stuff in on October 22 and I would pay the cost of storing my things for a week

Before she could present these scenarios to the seller's representative, they called her and offered to let me move in on October 15 for less than the cost of the HOA fees. Since I was a little gun-shy after the issues with getting a mortgage commitment letter the first time, I didn't feel right about moving in before having the letter in hand. We agreed to a move in date of October 21 with a caveat that I would be out of the condo on October 31 if things did not work out.

Unfortunately, there was a delay in getting the mortgage commitment letter by October 17 and we had to ask the seller for another extension. From my understanding, the seller's lawyer advised him not to agree to another extension. He did not sign a formal extension and didn't give us a verbal answer either way, so we continued to work with the lender to get the mortgage commitment letter as soon as possible. We finally got the "clear to close" on Friday, October 20 just in time to move in the next day.

A great group of people from Chapel met me at the condo Friday night to clean the walls, floors, and kitchen. On Saturday, more amazing friends from Chapel and one of KK's friends from HCA and her mom helped me move my hoard in record time. With the looming move out date of October 31 if things didn't work out, I had them stack most of the boxes downstairs in the "in-law suite" and planned to live out of boxes until the closing.

Finally, on Friday, October 27, I became the proud owner of a 30-year mortgage and began the process of cleaning, painting and unpacking. Here are a few pics some of you may recognize from Instagram...

Degrading cat toys and other reminders that a cat lived here previously.

So thankful to be able to sleep in my own bed on the first night...
and beyond grateful to sleep soundly all through the night!

My parents came just about every day after the closing to help me clean and paint.
Dad would do the edging while I was at work; I would come home each night and roll.

Before I could hang clothes in my closet, I had to hang some cake pans.

Leaning art. Remembering my girl.

I hope the next Legro kid likes books!

This view!

And this!

I am amazed! Thank you, Lord!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Prepare to be Amazed

I meant to post this back in September, but I wasn't sure how this chapter of my story was going to end so I waited...


The day before my bank was supposed to issue the mortgage commitment letter, I received an email stating that it wasn't looking good for my mortgage to be approved. There was a problem on the part of the condo association and the amount of money in reserves that they had. By the time I read the email it was past closing time and I was unable to contact the bank. My wonderful realtor and I prayed and chatted about next steps.

The bank called me before 9 a.m. on Friday morning and told me that the mortgage was denied. After I got off the phone with the bank, I stopped by Drew Mortgage down the street from my apartment to see if they might be able to help. I was not given much hope. I cried as I headed to work.

I asked a few people to pray about the situation. A couple of them responded by saying something to the effect of "when God closes a door" and all I could think was "In 15 days I won't have any door to go through". I believe that it is true that sometimes God does close a door, but I also believe that sometimes Satan tries to get in the way of God's blessings.

When I got to Chapel, my wonderful realtor (have I mentioned how wonderful my realtor is?!?!) was finishing up the women's book study she facilitates. We spent some time trying to figure out what to do next. She said that five other units in this condo association have been sold in the last six months. We reasoned that it has to be possible to get some sort of mortgage since they probably all didn't pay cash. She called a mortgage lender that she knew and we talked to him about what was going on. He explained that if I put 10% down, rather than just 5%, that the mortgage company would not have to do a thorough review of the condo association's finances. We then started the process of applying for a mortgage through this lender.

Once we got everything rolling, the lender said to her a simple phrase that really stood out to me: "Prepare to be amazed!" I'm sure this phrase has been used in a lot of movies or TV shows, but I recognize it as a quote from the movie Meet the Robinsons. If you've been following this blog since KK passed, you know that one of the phrases that has been part of my vocabulary has been "Keep moving forward." It is not only a direct quote from Walt Disney, but it is the theme of this movie. I just felt like God was saying, "I've got this. Prepare to me amazed!"

To be continued...

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Loaded Questions...They Just Keep Coming

I have learned how to answer some of the loaded questions I mentioned in this blogpost. If you have asked me how I am lately, you may have heard me answer "Moving forward." I may not always be doing well or even okay, but I am doing the work to keep moving forward...be it ever so slowly.

In addition to learning how to answer some of those loaded questions, Dr. Chuck has helped me prepare for times that we know are going to be hard. For example, holidays are expected to be hard so I have had to prepare a Plan A as well as a Plan B for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I have also realized that buying a Christmas tree and doing taxes are going to be hard, so I have made plans for both of those as well.

I have to prepare for these times that I know are going to be hard, because I know there are going to be other hard times that hit me out of the blue. For Thanksgiving, those "hits" came from more loaded questions. Well-meaning people or people that don't know my story have asked innocent-enough questions. Questions like "Do you have anything fun planned for Thanksgiving?" and "How was your Thanksgiving?" have absolutely wrecked me over the last week.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Redefining Emotions

This week, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how grief has affected my emotions. It seems like my emotions have been redefined by grief. It hasn't surprised me that feelings like sadness have been intensified. What has surprised me is how grief has tempered feelings of excitement and joy.

For example, I mentioned in my last post that I wasn't excited during a time when I expected to be -- and others expected me to be -- elated.

I remember similar feelings when I attended the Beth Moore conference in August. One of the things that I found interesting was how I could sing about the goodness of God with tears streaming down my face, but I could not "Celebrate Good Times" during the "Dance Party" before the third session and walked out with tears streaming down my face.

This week, I experienced another example of this. During the ice-breaker at LifeGroup, we were asked to name something we love, something we hate, and something that always makes us laugh.  Everyone's answers were lighthearted and not serious at all (people were naming things like ice cream and coconut, not their spouses or children). I couldn't think of anything lighthearted at all...all I could think of was that I love my girl, I hate cancer, and nothing makes me laugh right now. I took a pass when my turn came around. The first two answers, though true, were way too difficult to verbalize. As for the latter, I honestly could not think of anything that has made me laugh recently. I know I have laughed in the last four months, but I could not pinpoint anything in particular...it would be safe to assume that it probably had something to do with a baby or child, but my head didn't even go there.

The final catalyst for this blog post has been the constant question, "Are you excited about your move?" as the closing date on my new condo quickly approaches. To be perfectly honest, I can't say that I am excited...what I can say is that I'm looking forward to it.

As I continue to do the grief work and keep moving forward, I know that one day my emotions will once again be redefined.

"Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning."
~ Psalm 30:5 ~

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Looking Ahead

One of the things I had to do for "homework" for counseling over the last two weeks was to look at a calendar and try to figure out what dates might be hard over the course of the next year. The idea being that there will be dates I know are going to be hard and there will be other dates that will take me by surprise, so let's prepare for the ones I know about it.

Two important dates, KK's birthday and our "gotcha day", have already passed. Though I feel like I honored her well on those days, I just plowed through and felt completely exhausted and emotionally drained afterwards. Prior to this homework assignment, there were a couple "take me by surprise" moments like the one month anniversary of KK's death. A text from a friend on that day (as well as on the second month anniversary) saying she remembered and she was praying meant the world to me. It helped to know that I was not the only one remembering my girl.

I began looking at the calendar with obvious dates in mind: Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, diagnosis, adoption day, Mother's Day, my birthday, and the day KK died. However, I couldn't think of anything besides the obvious.

Then last week happened.

Earlier in the summer, I bought tickets to a Patriots game for all the staff. At the time, I was so excited on so many levels: the tickets were for the kickoff of a new football season, it was going to be (Super Bowl) banner drop night, and the Patriots would be playing Pastor Derek's team, the Kansas City Chiefs (whom KK said she never considered to be real competitors). The week of the game, everyone kept asking me if I was excited. I was surprisingly not excited and I couldn't figure out why...until I was at the game. It was then that I realized the last game I was at was with KK on banner drop night. As "Crazy Train" began playing and the Patriots ran onto the field, I teared up as I remembered KK's Celebration of Life. A friend who was watching the game at home texted me saying she teared up as she heard "Crazy Train". Again, it meant the world to me to know that I was not the only one remembering my girl.


Despite the sadness & the fact that the Pats forgot to play for a full 4 quarters, we had a lot of fun.

This got me thinking of other dates, or rather events, that are going to be hard. Super Bowl Sunday, the next Star Wars movie, vacation, and speaking at chapel at HCA are just a few of the ones I know are going to be hard.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Fitting Tribute

9 years ago today, my baby girl left her last foster home.
Tonight, I had the opportunity to help kids in foster care
by packing over 100 backpacks with my church family.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Keep Moving Forward

"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. 
We keep moving forward..." 
~ Walter Elias Disney 

When I sent my rent check in July, I wrote a letter asking my landlord to address a few things that have been ongoing since I moved in 4 years ago (including the cat urine smell that intensifies in the humidity). When I didn't hear anything right away (actually, I didn't hear anything until August 3 right before they went on vacation), I began looking at my finances and decided that it might be time to buy my own place.

I started looking for homes with an in-law apartment and found a cute little place in Shrewsbury. I went to the open house with Bethany one Sunday after church and loved the "tiny house" feel of the main floor. Though the seller considered it to be in "move in" condition, a walk-through with a contractor friend from church proved otherwise. Unfortunately, the seller was unwilling to negotiate on the price so I knew it wasn't for me.

As I continued browsing homes online, I found a nice little condo with an in-law suite last Thursday. A realtor friend from church arranged for us to see the property on Friday. After a little negotiating, I put down a deposit on Monday and had the home inspection yesterday. If all goes well, I will have the deed on October 10.

When I told Dr. Chuck my plans on Thursday and the reasoning behind the "in-law suite", he told me I am weird. I always knew I was weird, now it's official (though I'm pretty sure that "weird" is not a clinical diagnosis). He said that he usually counsels people not to make major life decisions in the first year of grief. In my case, he doesn't see any reason to offer that advice since I have thoroughly thought about and prayed this through. He did give me two homework assignments this week (that's what I get for "celebrating" last week when he didn't give me any homework). The homework: start packing and ask for help.

As for the first...I have less than 2 months to pack. I wonder how many boxes I will need to pack each day between now and the closing date.

And for the second assignment...I'm putting it out there: I need help. Granted, most of the help isn't needed until October, but I am putting the "to do" list (including things noted during the home inspection) together now...
  • The seller has a cat and I had trouble breathing by the time I left both times. Once I can get into the condo, the walls will need to be steamed and cleaned (dander is a sticky substance that sticks to every surface).
  • HVAC cleaning (see reasoning above).
  • Walls and ceilings will most likely need to be painted. 
  • There are a couple small areas where grout needs to be fixed.
  • Recaulking is needed in a few areas.
  • I will need a plumber and electrician to install a washer and dryer in the utility room in the in-law suite.
  • Though this is not a priority and may need to wait for a while (especially since it could be costly), I will need an electrician/HVAC to separate the heat/AC system into two units.
  • I will need lots of help moving. I have a lot of stuff. I am going to work on purging between now and then, but the hoarder in me is already throwing a tantrum.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream...

...ay, there's the rub.

Don't worry, this post is all about literal sleep (or a lack thereof) and not the figurative sleep Hamlet implied.

During the first month of grieving, there were several nights that I had trouble falling asleep because my mind wouldn't shut off. Normally, it is a rare night that I have trouble falling asleep and I find that I'm able to fall asleep as soon as I write down whatever I'm thinking about...not so during those first few weeks. For example, I remember replaying everything I said over and over wondering if I shared everything I needed to the night of KK's Celebration of Life. Thoughts such as these weren't things I could just write down and be done with them.

The other thing that interrupted my sleep during the first month was a couple horrible dreams. I can count on one hand the amount of dreams I remember throughout my life...these dreams I can't forget. The first dream was short, but memorable. In the dream, I was yelling at KK and woke up with an intense feeling of anger. When I realized it was a dream, I felt awful and was unable to fall back to sleep. The second dream was much more detailed, but the details were all wrong. In the dream, KK was reading in the dark (no night light or other ambient light) in the futon bed (which she hadn't slept in since January) way past her bedtime. I was mad and started quickly slapping her face (her hair was short and fuzzy like when it started growing in) until she put the book down. I told her to go to the bathroom since she was already awake. As she walked to the bathroom, I noticed she was dragging her left leg (she had right-sided weakness, not left) and asked if she was having a seizure. She turned to look at me and nodded her head yes. I woke up at that point and just cried. Needless to say, I couldn't go back to sleep. As I tried to process the why behind these dreams, I reasoned that it was the "anger" part of grief coming out subconsciously.

So now you can understand why I wrote this back in June:
Finally, don't text or call early in the morning or late at night even if you know the person is a morning person or night owl. I'll say it again, grieving is exhausting. Sleep is a precious thing and sometimes it doesn't come easily.
Thankfully, I haven't had any more dreams like those. I haven't had nights where my mind is racing either. However, I have not slept through the night in weeks. I am waking up multiple times each night and having trouble falling back to sleep at least one of those times. I have never had trouble sleeping like this for such an extended period of time. I am so tired. I have tried taking naps in the evening. I have tried not taking naps in the evening. I have tried going to bed earlier. I have tried going to bed later. I have taken supplements. I have begun diffusing essential oils. Please pray for restful and restorative sleep.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

#playforKK Patriots and Princess Style

When KK was admitted to the hospital this spring, her friend Josiah Needham started a hashtag #playforKK (a little twist on #prayforKK). He decided to add K K to the back of his cleats and play his baseball games for KK. A few other kids from Chapel followed his lead to #playforKK as well. Then, when the middle schoolers went to HUME for summer camp, they chose to #playforKK in their competitions (and won!!!).

When I was talking with Cori at Dana Farber on Monday, she asked what I was going to do on Friday for KK's birthday. I told her that I had no idea. She encouraged me to do something fun, even check something off my bucket list.

Monday night, my friend Bethany (who happens to be Josiah's mom) texted me to find out if I had a plan for Friday. As I still had no plan, she suggested that we could #playforKK by catching a cheap flight to Disney on Friday morning then come home Saturday before anyone missed us. I thought that would be totally fun if it was any time other than summer...I do not do the heat and humidity that is summer in Florida. She then suggested going to New York for a show. I pointed out that would also be a great #playforKK day in an entirely different sense of the word. I told Bethany I would think more about it and talk to her at the office on Tuesday.

As I thought more about it, I started looking at what shows were playing on Broadway and found Disney's Aladdin. My mind immediately started thinking "Patriots and Princess" and I remembered that Patriots training camp was open to the public this week. I started to get excited since this would also be a way to #playforKK. I told Bethany my ideas on Tuesday morning and we immediately finalized plans to go to Patriots training camp on Friday morning then drive into NYC to see Aladdin Friday night.


Unfortunately, Bethany was diagnosed with pneumonia on Wednesday and was heart-broken when she told me that she had to cancel. I cried as this "perfect plan" to #playforKK with a Patriots and Princess theme seemed to be falling apart. After a few minutes of tears, I decided that I would just go alone since I had already bought the tickets and paid for the hotel. A little while later, I decided to text my friend Cheryl to see if she had any plans for Friday and Saturday. She responded, "We going to Disney?" (Hmmm, am I that predictable? Nevermind, don't answer that!) I explained to her the plans and she was game, despite being a Steelers fan.

So, early Friday morning, we were off...



              

It was a perfect way to #playforKK on her birthday!

...and I got to enjoy a little bit of Disney along the way.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Happy Birthday Wishes, KK!





May the kids in homeless shelters celebrating birthdays this week have the happiest of days in honor of KK's birthday! It was a joy, even through the tears, making these cakes for you.

Thank you to all who have given to our Birthday Wishes campaign thus far so Birthday Wishes can continue throwing these special birthday parties. 



Tuesday, July 18, 2017

To Thine Own Self Be True

I need to preface this post with a little info for those that may not know me well:

  • I am pretty self-aware. For example, I am not usually surprised by the results of annual reviews (though I still have anxiety issues going into them). 
  • I am an introvert. I often joke that I don't like people. The truth is I don't do well in large groups of people. It is draining to be in large groups. (I am fully aware -- see above -- there is another reason I don't do well with people, but I'll leave it at that for this blog.)
  • I am a processor. It takes time for me to think through possibilities and figure things out. Sometimes I wish I could just answer "off the cuff", but I know that my answer to a question or solution to a problem will be better if I have time to process. (This also plays into why I don't do well in large groups of people.)



The grief has been overwhelming at times.

I recognize that no two people will grieve the same way, I just wonder if what I'm experiencing is normal. In that vein, I sought out a bereavement group for parents who have lost children to cancer. My hope was that talking with people who have been through similar experiences would assure me that I'm okay. 

I attended one meeting in June and a second meeting last Wednesday. Unfortunately, I walked away from both of those meetings feeling pretty discouraged. Honestly, I have no idea why I thought a group like that would be helpful. 

The group consists of a large number of people that all need time to process and to talk. Besides introducing myself, there was no time for me to share as the facilitator spent the majority of the time checking in with other members of the group who have been there for years. Not that it matters much, since I am pretty quiet in group settings anyway. In addition to all that, the subject matter is tough and I need more time than usual to process and talk.

As soon as I got home from the bereavement group last week, I emailed a long-time psychologist friend to see if he had any time available to meet with me. He responded, "So let's get you in." 

The next day, I shared with our associate pastor that I didn't think the bereavement group was a good fit for me and that I emailed Dr. Chuck to meet with him. Daryl simply said that made more sense for me. The phrase from Shakespeare's Hamlet immediately came to mind: "To thine own self be true." I guess the whole self-aware thing got lost somewhere in the grief. 

I took this picture on my way home from counseling. It reminded me that,
yes, there is beauty in the rearview mirror, but the sun is shining ahead.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Birthday Wishes

As you may or may not know, KK would have turned 15 on July 28. To honor her, I have set up a Birthday Wishes Campaign in her memory.

Birthday Wishes is an organization that KK and I have enjoyed supporting over the years. I will be making cakes for two shelters celebrating multiple birthdays at the end of July. Would you consider giving a gift to Birthday Wishes in KK's memory so they can continue to throw birthday parties for kids living in homeless shelters in our area?

Here is the link to KK's Birthday Wishes Campaign. Please pass this along to those you think may be interested in honoring KK in this way as I don't know how many people still read this blog.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Loaded Questions

Shortly after KK died, I told Daryl, our associate pastor, that there are two questions people should not be allowed to ask someone who is grieving: "How are you?" and "What do you need?"

How are you?
I've always hated this question for two reasons:

  • We (I mean me) ask it so flippantly. One Sunday when I was in my early twenties, I remember my pastor asked me if I really wanted to know how he was when I asked him how he was. It really made me think.
  • We feel compelled to ask "How are you?" in return. Over the years, I have caught myself replying "I'm well. How are you?" then walking off without waiting for the other person's answer. Obviously, I didn't want to know how they were...and that is so not okay.

Right now, I don't know how to answer people when they ask me how I am. When I'm asked in real life or on the phone, I almost always tear up and have a hard time speaking. When I'm asked via text, I tear up and put the phone down. Most times I don't have the energy to "go there". Sometimes I wonder if the person really wants to know or if he/she just wants me to say that I'm doing well. If you really want to know, be forewarned that the answer may be messy. I have my good days and my bad days...or, more accurately, I have my good moments and my bad moments within each day.

What do you need?
Oh, man...I really don't know how to answer this question. The only thing that I need is my girl back. Other than that, I often have no idea what I need or what you can do to help. And when I do know, I don't want to impose upon you. You have a life. You have a family. You don't need me to add to your plate.

So, what's a person to say or do?
Rather than asking these questions, I would suggest the following:

  • Let the person grieving know that you are praying for them and thinking about them. 
  • Make it known that you don't expect a reply or a call or a thank you.
  • Don't put the responsibility on the grieving person to contact you. 
  • Try to think of what the other person wants, not what you would want (i.e. you may want a hug, but hugs may be overwhelming to others me).
  • Offer to do something specific (go out to eat, make a meal, etc.), but be okay with a "No, thank you" or a last-minute cancellation (the person may be doing well when making plans on Monday, but who knows what Tuesday will bring...grieving is exhausting).  
  • If you really want to know how the person is doing, ask specific questions and be prepared to listen. Even then, consider the setting before you ask. The answer could be messy and the grieving person may not want to fall apart in front of a room full of people.
  • Finally, don't text or call early in the morning or late at night even if you know the person is a morning person or night owl. I'll say it again, grieving is exhausting. Sleep is a precious thing and sometimes it doesn't come easily.
I feel the need to mention a couple more things:

  • It is okay to talk about your life. My loss and grief do not minimize what you are going through. I need to get out of my own head and think about others.
  • It is okay to talk about KK...just remember to consider the setting and be okay with a "not right now" kind of response. I love her and miss her terribly. I want to know that she had an impact on your life, that you think about her, and that you miss her too.