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.