Wednesday, May 27, 2009

When One Door Closes - Another Opens

I'm often asked about the logistics of owning a "house pig". To us, it doesn't seem strange at all. Floyd is not only a grief facilitator at Tomorrow's Rainbow, but he's also a member of our family. Our little piggy (he'll always be a little piggy to us) is a great role model for teaching us lessons in resilience.

When Floyd was a piglet, he was capable of doing many things with his young, energetic body. He could wrestle with our dog, Philly, for hours. His little pig tush could fit quite easily in the litter box, and he could maneuver the steps to climb up on the couch and the bed effortlessly. But as Floyd grew, the things that he used to be able to do with ease, became difficult.

Floyd could have resisted the obvious. He could have dug his hooves into that litter box and insisted that he fit just fine, all the while his piggy cheeks hanging overboard. No, Floyd was too proud for that - if the litter box didn't fit, he wasn't wearing it! Floyd taught himself to open the screen door and relieve himself in the wild like his ancestors before him. There was only one problem - the screen door closed behind him and he couldn't get back in the house. That didn't stop Floyd from what he always knew: When one door closes - another door opens. And so Floyd continued to use that screen door until one day it happened; Floyd became the proud new owner of a door that led him back into the safety (and air conditioning) of his home.

When someone you love dies, it can be real easy to get those hooves stuck in the litter. But even if you're in denial, your butt is still gonna be hanging out. Take a lesson from Floyd about resilience and have faith in yourself. As you push through those new doors, even if they close behind you, believe with all your being that new ones will open.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Attention Please!

In front of two television stations and several newspaper reporters, Mr. and Mrs. Digory Donkey tied the knot! It seemed like a simple concept to me. Tomorrow's Rainbow was the new kid on the block as far as non-profits go, so if you want to get noticed, do something a little outrageous. I believed that it was the perfect plan to wake up a community that had all but ignored grieving children. WRONG! The donkeys became more famous, but our mission to support grieving children and their families did not.

Consider these staggering numbers:
When children are supported during their grief journey, they are...
~5 times less likely to complete suicide (USDHHS, Bureau of Census)
~10 times less likely to engage in substance abuse (Rainbows for all God's Children, UK)
~20 times less likely to develop behavioral disorders (Center for Disease Control, US)

What made me tear up my wedding dress from 1986 and remodel it for a donkey? I wanted to get our community's attention. Digory, Duchess, and the entire Tomorrow's Rainbow herd are great ambassadors for grieving children, but they need your help. It's time we all start talking about the forgotten mourners, grieving children, and get some real attention...PLEASE!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Well, To Tell You the Truth...

One of my favorite shows is Lie to Me. My family and I have become "armchair lie detectors" as we practice the skills that each week's episode turns up. Granted the show is fiction. I suspect that the skills are partially fiction too, but it sure is fun to pretend that we know what we're doing!

When fiction turns to reality, the lies aren't so harmless - especially when it comes to the death of a loved one. No matter how difficult the truth is to tell, it's always the best approach. Did I always know this? Of course not!

When my minivan crashed head-on at 65 miles per hour into another car, I wasn't thinking about how I was going to explain this nightmare to my son. I was pinned under the dashboard of our van with my husband crushed behind me. I had one second to respond to my son's outcry, "Mommy, Daddy's not moving!"

To this day, I'm not proud of my response, "Daddy's sleeping." I just blurted it out without even thinking. I wanted to protect him from the painful truth.

Children want to know two things: that we will love them no matter what, and that they can trust us no matter what. I have spent 9 years regretting my response. I suspect that my poor choice will always be one of those things that I'm not proud of. From that horrific day on, I made a promise to my son and myself that I would always be truthful (he already knew that I would love him no matter what).

When grieving children come to Tomorrow's Rainbow, they have the opportunity to share about the death of a loved one. A common thing that happens to children that don't know the truth about how their loved one died, is that they will make up a story that includes bits and pieces of what they've heard. They'll fill in the blanks with whatever they can relate to i.e.-cartoons, video games, television shows, etc. Typically, their version of the story is much worse than the truth. The solution is simple. Be honest in age appropriate terms.

Just because your children don't have lie detector skills like the TV show doesn't mean that they can't sense that they're being lied to. You can do it. They can handle it. If the goldfish dies, don't tell them that you're sending it on an ocean voyage via your toilet bowl! Tell them the truth. The same goes for people that you love. Be honest, be sincere, be truthful.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Scott Peterson sits on death row for killing his wife and unborn child. According to PEOPLE magazine, his commissary account "has a significant amount of money" from people sending checks from all over the world.

Are you kidding me? I watch an amazing, dedicated group of volunteers struggle to help ensure that Tomorrow's Rainbow will be helping grieving children and their families for years to come. Money that could be spent to help so many worthwhile charities worldwide is helping Scott Peterson buy soda, candy and cookies.

Our economy is rapidly creating a new "death row." Non-profits that work so tirelessly to heal our communities are facing extremely difficult times. Many won't be able to withstand the storm.

How can people be so misguided? How much toothpaste can an inmate possibly need? I vacillate between anger and sadness over this total insanity. I'm so absolutely privileged to have those feelings balanced by the genuine goodness of those that dedicate their time and energy on behalf of grieving children and their families at Tomorrow's Rainbow.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Who Makes This Stuff Up?

I get absolutely nuts when people are praised for being a pillar of strength when a loved one dies. Who decided that strength and stoicism
were the barometers for successful grieving?

Oprah once had some gentlemen on her show that had experienced the death of their father at a young age. She was so impressed that the very next day they were back at school. Why was that deserving of praise?
Liam Neeson and his son's Michael, 13, and Daniel, 12, were recently praised for showing "remarkable public poise" after the death of Natasha Richardson. Who decided that public poise is something to be complimented?
In my opinion, giving kudos to those that grieve in nice, neat packages is hurtful and harmful. I suppose that it would be nice if volcanos never actually erupted, but they do. Their energy can't be contained forever. Well, grief energy can't be contained forever either - even if non-grievers would feel more comfortable with us being "poised." And does that make those of us that display our emotions more openly, a total failure at grief? There simply isn't a reason to applaud or judge how somebody grieves. Being open, supportive and present for them is a much better use of your time.
Accolades are for accomplishments. Grief is a part of life that hurts really, really, really bad. A grieving person does not need, nor do they deserve, a report card.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The miniature horses tend to get all of the credit around here! Riley and Little Bit are amazing therapy horses, too. We call them our "big girls" because when you're over 1,000 pounds, you're hard to miss.

People assume that I've been around horses my whole life. Not true. I just had great teachers in these two gals. I guess that makes me the teachers' pet!

Friday, April 3, 2009

We Don't Bite!

Walking a mile in someone's moccasins would sure be helpful! Especially if that person had just experienced the death of a loved one. Taking their footsteps would give us an advantage in knowing how to "be" with them. But each pair of moccasins has been uniquely worn, and no matter how hard we try, we won't know how that pair feels to its true owner. If the shoe fits, wear it. If not, ask!

I have the priviledge of learning each and every day from some very special children and their families. For young children, experiences such as being bullied because their loved one died, are common. Grieving teenagers are often annoyed by peers pretending to be supportive, or saying, "I know how you feel." And since I fit into the adult category, I will share from my own experience...unless you have E.S.P., you'll never be able to figure out what we want because at any given time, we could be dazed, confused or we'll change our minds!

I believe that empowering those that are grieving is one of the greatest means of support you can offer. Throw away those assumptions! Ask. Listen. Be present. You might just be surprised at how different those moccasins are than what you've been taught, experienced, or expected.

It makes me laugh when toddlers close their eyes to make someone go away!
It makes me sad when people that have experienced the death of a loved one are treated with the same naivety. Together, we can do a better job of supporting those in mourning. Will you please join me? My moccasin's feel amazing and your's can too!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Let's get this party started!

There are many aspects of my journey that I have kept private. I now believe that I've been selfish for doing so. It's a disservice to the children of Tomorrow's Rainbow and to those that might benefit from my experiences, so here I go. My hope is that by opening up my world, the forgotten mourners, children, will receive the support that they deserve and need for a successful, resilient future.

These are my thoughts.
These are my concerns.
These are my hopes and ideas.
Welcome to my blog!