Digging into the Past: Recovering from Emotional Abuse (Part Four)

I remember the first time I saw this quote. It was years before the split between my mother and I. “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.”Yall, it broke me. I recalled hearing myself be critical of one of kids FOR NO REASON on a video and being devastated I was doing what had been done to me.

Don’t misunderstand my timeline here. My relationship with my mother ended five years ago but since I was 7 I knew she didn’t love me. Since I was 11 I knew she wanted to control me. Since I was 15 I knew she and I would never be like my friends with their moms. It’s not like I woke up one day and was like oh this sucks and I’mma call it Emotional abuse and make a big fuss. If you knew me as a young person you would have heard it said that we had a “difficult relationship”…by teachers, family members, even peers. Of course since not every one had this same dynamic in our house, it was heavily insinuated (and sometimes flat out stated) that this was BECAUSE OF ME. I wasn’t smart. I was hard to love. I was too emotional. I was dramatic. I was selfish. I knew for years and years and years my inner voice was loud and mean and didn’t like me very much.

And I wanted most of all to not repeat that voice in the minds of my kids. Even as they were newborn babies I would cry in fear that they would believe her version of me instead of who I really am. That they would be triangulated and lied to and controlled and emotionally punished.

And this is why for us no contact is all we can do. Boundaries didn’t work. Speaking against the cruelty didn’t work. Trying to change the voice myself didn’t work. I could not be my best self while being who my mother says I am. And my kids deserve so much more. They deserve to be heard, to be guided as they grow, to be treated as individuals with special personalities and struggles and strengths. They deserve real love that says “you are loved by me” and sacrifices made for their betterment, not for a scorecard or status. They deserve my attention and my best thoughts and words. They deserve healthy parents who seek growth and God and good things. They deserve to be told truths and kept from lies and negativity about people they love. They should be able to be safe emotionally with anyone we allow to influence them. This is my purpose and my intention in life. Some days I wish I could go back and have a different growing up experience. Most days I’m just glad to be free.

Every early into my recovery, I adopted this one: be the mom you want them to remember. And that remains one of my top priorities every day. BE THE MOM YOU WANT THEM TO REMEMBER!

We don’t get to act however we want and expect people to only remember our glittered up version of it.

Who we are to our kids is WHO WE REALLY ARE.

As I leave you with those thoughts, I’m also going to leave you with a book list.

1. Boundaries- Henry Cloud

2. Safe People

3. Children of the Self Absorbed

4. Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists-Eleanor Payson

5. Will I Ever Be Good Enough

6. Mean Mothers- Peg Streep

7. Daughter Detox- Peg Streep

8. The Mom Factor- Henry Cloud

There are certainly more and this is not an exhaustive list. Some of these folks also have blogs or websites with further information. Pinterest also has quite a few links to pertinent information. Good luck learning and growing on your journey! 💜

Digging into the Past, Emotional Abuse: Part Three

If I wasn’t naming this in a series, I would call this one something clever about dirty laundry.

When my mother first cut me off, she uninvited me to Christmas events and did the regular silent treatment as emotional punishment thing. We even invited her to our home despite the avoidance of any kind of amends or talks. She refused. In fact she said things were better the way they were (aka, without us). Then a few months later she wanted to pass gifts off to my kids from her

through a family member (without communicating or speaking to us in any way) and we said no. That’s when the people turned on me. That’s when it all became my fault. I was attacked on multiple sides and cut off by more family members than I can count. Don’t worry, I now know that’s not only a common occurrence in these situations, it almost ALWAYS happens this way. People who have for years heard the slander and half truths and been triangulated and basically trained to disbelieve you and think badly of you will jump head first into the smear campaign as soon as it starts. (Most days I don’t blame them. They’re her victims too, for the most part.)

Interesting just before the switch, I sat down with several members of what would become the supposed army against me and every. single. one. would not/could not deny the behaviors I have described to you in part two or that I share about my mother. These acts she’s done, not just to me but to many, many before me and I imagine after me as well. They’d seen them, they could acknowledge and name them. But their thought process was that this is “just the way it is” to be in relationship with her. It’s part of the deal. One (gosh I could write a whole other series on that person) would explain that it’s just that my mother and me and a few other people don’t mix well- she could see the abuse but justified it because it had not ever been directed at her. Lovely.

The consensus was: don’t air the dirty laundry. Sure this is all happening, no one denies that but don’t you dare call it abuse and don’t you dare tell people about it.

Imma call “BS” on that one, y’all. Airing dirty laundry is part of my charm (do a little Meyers Briggs search on INFJs if you don’t believe me). And it’s part of the culture of the day….the same people who want you to hide a truth about them will read every tabloid magazine cover to cover. The further you try to stuff your truth down, the faster someone else is trying to dig it up. I would go so far to say that the further you try to stuff your truth down, the faster the Holy Spirit is working to dig it up and expose it. God doesn’t leave things in the dark- He brings them to light to change you, to work on you, to create love where there was decay.

It’s not anything good to lie, hide truths, change terms, or be someone you aren’t in order to make other people comfortable.

The truth is, the dirty laundry goes way back…and the more I learned about narcissistic parents and patterns, the more I could see it. If you have a narcissistic parent, do you also find traits in those who’ve gone before them? Many of the people I know with these experiences can see it in their family line. What we also read from these studiers of people is the belief that the behaviors of a narcissist are mostly taught and not instinctive. That is a relief as a parent, (right?), and as a non-narcissistic person. One therapist said you know you’re not a narcissist if you worry you might be one- a true narcissist will never even consider the fault may be their’s. (If you know one, you’re nodding right now because you know exactly what I mean 😉.) But the relief is truly is deep as it tells us that if we teach our children empathy, kindness, self-awareness, the ability to focus on others, to really listen to hear…we immunize them from becoming narcissistic.

It’s been five years since the split, twenty-eight since my first vivid memory of knowing my mother didn’t love me. And I still find out old lies, half truths and brand new shiny lies about me and my people. I still run into mutual folks that are considered “hers” and see in their eyes they believe horrible, ugly things about me that aren’t real.

It’s taken all the days in these five years to tell you this: the only weapon against a narcissist is to continue to be who you truly are. The first couple years of recovery I shared the lies word for word and all the proof I could muster. Now I know I’m free because I don’t feel any need to try to convince you I am me. I simple am me. I’m not perfect or immune from anger or anxiety when I hear their stories. But I’m also not what she has told me I am my entire life….who she claims I am isn’t true. I am who God says I am. And everyday that I walk that out, I prove her wrong with my life. And that’s my advice to others like me.

Breathe deep. Know yourself. Live in who you are and truth of that person. Keep loving. That’s the win. ❤️

Digging Into the Past, Emotional Abuse: Part Two

There are many forms of abuse. Most forms widely accepted in our culture are those we can see. For longer than we care to think about, abuse of any kind was denied and we as a people turned a blind eye to it. It was a mans choice how he treated his family or how he allowed his family to operate. This is no longer true, thank goodness. We have entire departments of our state governments designed to protect members of every family, resources to rebuild unhealthy families into healthy ones, etc. And I can tell you a lot about that as a foster parent off and on for the last 10 years or so.

But it remains true that abuses we accept readily as abuse are largely physical ones. We cannot deny abuse when people have broken bodies. We cannot look away when someone is neglected or starved or withheld medical care.

But verbal and emotional abuse are much harder to advocate against and to prove. Emotional abuse is commonly dismissed by general society and even its own victims.

What we know scientifically now is that emotional abuse (in this I’m including verbal abuse because you can’t have verbal abuse and it not lead to emotional abuse) is as detrimental to our souls as physical abuse. In studies the same mental and physical reactions happen internally even at EXPOSURE to all abuses. This means a child watching someone else being emotionally or physically abused has the same responses internally as the person being abused. How much more then can we place Emotional Abuse in its position of honor on the list of childhood abuses. And I’m including late child into teenage years as childhood, for those looking to pick me apart.

Now let me clear, I grew up in a nice house in a beautiful neighborhood. As a little girl, we went on vacations and had fancy pictures and I owned books and coats and always got fed. We had close relationships with lots of family members. We had sitters and friends and church connections when I was young. As I grew up, I watched many of those relationships erode away. Some flat out exploded. These behaviors I’m sharing with you are not exclusive to me; there were many on the path before me, some who I have even been blessed to talk with in the past few years to share their versions and give me peace (this is where our mantra comes in, y’all; it’s not me, it’s her). What I’m telling you is to ignore our societal expectations of what abuse looks like and who participates in it. We know this to be true but we somehow forget: it’s not just poor “rednecks” who are abusive to people in their life. Abuse happens in all classes and in all places.

There are more examples than I could possibly give in my own arsenal of experiences but there are many patterns and signs of emotional abuse. I’m going to cover a few of my favorites but please continue exploring books, blogs and other resources if you have wondered if you have a narcissistic or toxic person in your life. These are very short explanations of these things so if this is helpful or interests you, keep digging!

Gaslighting- Gaslighting is a favorite I have a lot of experience dealing with…. it’s that special ability narcissists have where they do or say a thing and then as soon as you confront it or react to it, they claim they didn’t do it or you’re overreacting: basically You Are Crazy. ‘How dare you have feelings or be upset about this thing they did.’ They make the crazy and try to convince you that you did. It’s one of my least favorite things ever. Gaslighting is powerful and dangerous. Don’t mess around with a gas-lighter. (The best part of being 5 years post recovery from narcissist abuse is that I can spot gaslighting a mile away. Like a super power!)

Manipulation/Control/Isolation/Triangulation- Narcissist use these tactics so much more covertly than overt abusers. They spend so much time and energy talking about people to other people (who they then talk about), no one is sure what is true about each other. There can be no trust in the other members of the family or group because so much ugly and twisted information has been spread. Sometimes narcissists are obvious with their isolation/attempts at control, like the time on a Christmas trip my mother sat my husband down and told him that he loved me too much and needed to do what she said in how to deal with me. Anyone who could not be controlled was out of the inner circle and not devoted to, liked, included, or loved. Control is paramount to a narcissist. Which is why “no contact” is often necessary for unloved daughters.

Triangulation- I included that with a few others that go hand in hand but broken down when someone gossips/lies/puts down someone to person A about person B and then does the same in reverse, this is known as triangulation. My mother would bash someone to me and then I’d walk in on (or get the “accidental” text about me sent to me- yes that’s happened multiple times from multiple narcissists) her doing the same to me. Sometimes to or in front of my children. Triangulation is a nasty beast and at its core is regular old gossip and slander. Run away from a gossip. Period.

Silent Treament/Emotional Punishment- I never realized how much I hated this one until my kids got older but essentially, you’re ignored and excluded for some amount of time for anything that isn’t approved of. This could be standing up for yourself or it could be something unrelated to the punisher like getting pregnant or going on a trip they don’t approve of. (Yes these things have happened and yes Im open to talking privately 😉🤣.)

Preferential treatment/golden child vs scapegoat- This is a huge one and honestly I’m not ready to hash this one publicly yet. Suffice it to say there are favorites or a favorite who is treated vastly differently than others inside the family.

Entitlement- All narcissist have entitlement, often in that they feel they have a right to say and do anything they want without consequence but do not extend that to anyone else.

Projection- Really simply, projection is when someone blames you for behaviors or fears they themselves are doing or feeling. A great example is when someone who has hurt you claims to then be your victim instead. Or perhaps they accuse you of something you’ve never done or expressed but have seen them do or say.

For me, a lot changed as far as tolerance level as my kids got older. I’ve seen a narcissist turn to my child and call me names to her face. One’s lies were repeated by my then four year old in tears and confusion. When it comes to our kids we are so much quicker to protect them than ourselves. I am thankful daily that my kids won’t grow up with the exposure to narcissism that I did. They are my purpose in life and I will do everything I can to protect them.

In the last conversation I had with my abuser, it was never argued that these things don’t happen, only that I don’t accept these things because I’m not “one of her people.” (Again let me remind you with regular moms not to try to understand- you won’t be able to. Bless you for caring and trying.) This human who gave birth to me, who watched me give birth myself, who claimed once upon a time to love me absolutely cannot admit or profess sorrow for any of her wrongs toward me. There is reason and justification for everything.

And that, my friends, is what it’s like to break down the experiences of an unloved daughter. But don’t be sad. I am free.

Digging into the Past, Emotional Abuse: Part One

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Five years ago in October, I confronted someone in a lie about me and instead of remorse, they attacked back. I was called names, belittled, told I was a bad mother and a “bad Christian,” which was a typical situation with this person. Then, in a final text I was told “I am done with you.”

Picture with me the many, many times this scenario has played out in the past. Years of mind games, gaslighting, triangulation amongst siblings and friends, flat out lies coming out years later, manipulation, confusion, emotional abuse, extreme conclusions without evidence, being used for status, for money, for lies…I could (and will eventually) go on.

Oy vey, it’s a frustrating story. But that’s more than an ending OR a beginning. Because that person is my “mother.”

When Rae approached me about contributing on her blog, she told me I could write about anything: parenting, foster care, adoption, marriage, life. But she asked me to consider writing about my story of being an unloved daughter, a daughter with a narcissistic mother. Years ago I tried, but more to process than to guide anyone else. Now, almost five years down the road of recovery with a group of supporters, therapists, friends, I think (I hope) I am ready to unpack this in public and face the potential storm that may follow.

I spent the first few years of recovery from emotional abuse defending myself. Defending my terminology, my feelings, my history, my experiences, my thoughts. Defending with any and every scenario I can remember.

And there are many.

And perhaps there is a season for that for anyone coming out of narcissist abuse. And I’m always available for anyone who wants to hash those experiences personally.

But, five years out, I know I don’t have to prove what happened to me. Even though there is actual proof for lots of it, I don’t feel I have to carry it like a shield anymore. The truth is THE truth.

There is a slew blogs, books, articles and actual humans who have had the same experiences as me. And I don’t even mean generally; I mean exact abusive conversations and experiences. Because narcissistic abuse does follow a pattern. I now know hundreds of people who are like me, I have close personal friends (and even family) who can say “that happened to me too”…and I can now just say “I have a toxic mother” or “I’m a child of a narcissist” and people know what I mean. No defense, no battle, no explanation required. And I thank God for that daily.

If you are someone who thinks they have a narcissistic parent, I implore you to read Children of the Self-Absorbed. If you’re like me and a child of the magazine quiz generation you’ll love this book for that reason alone 🤣😉….there are checklists and questions to help you figure things out based on your experiences.

If you are someone who thinks you’re a child of a narcissist or know one, by all means also read Safe People and Boundaries (both are wonderful books for every person). There are many more books to share but those three are where we will start. And for the love of sanity, start following Peg Streep on Facebook (she’s got some books too for those readers past this beginning list.)

What I want to tell you is that ANY type of abuse is still abuse and you are not to be faulted for what has happened to you. If you are someone blessed with a wonderful, loving, giving, honest set of parents, and you know of a child of a narcissist, don’t judge them or place them in your shoes. You cannot understand them in the realm of your own parental experiences. Open your heart as you hear and learn from the emotionally abused.

I find myself holding my breathe as I finish this and set myself to send it to Rae. I hope to write a Part Two soon so bear with me through the storm.

Holy Ground and Sacred Things

Navigating the waters of loss & practical things to help your grieving loved one.

By: Rae Sells

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I met Amy when I was 20 and living with my best friend, Leslie, in a little apartment in Elizabethton, TN.  Amy was a newlywed and her husband was my soon-to-be-boyfriend’s best friend.  She and I were opposites in every possible way.  She was beautiful and well put together and I probably had on a tie dye that hadn’t been washed in longer than I care to admit.  If you would have told us on the day that we met how close we would become, we would have laughed you out of the state.  Flash forward to almost exactly one year later and that beautiful blonde would be fastening my pearls before I walked down the staircase to marry my husband.  Our friendship is one of the most treasured things I have in my life.

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Amy would have three kids by the time I finally got pregnant with my second daughter. I had joked with her that she needed to have a fourth so that we could be pregnant together.  She called me one day and she said, “Well….it looks like you got your wish.”  She had just found out that she was pregnant with her fourth and our youngest kiddos would only be five months apart.

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This next part is written completely from my perspective.  I would never presume to know Amy or Charlie’s point of view.  This is the perspective of her best friend, Auntie, and someone who loves her and her sweet family deeply.

What would happen in the next few months were a blur.  At Amy’s 20 week gender scan they found there were several issues with their sweet baby boy, Seth.  The day after Christmas it was confirmed that Seth had Trisomy 18, which is considered incompatible with life.  Amy chose to carry Seth as long as God would allow and even five years later, when I think back to that time, I remain in awe of her strength and grace.  Amy was induced and I was just about to leave the house to go be with her when Charlie called to tell us that Seth had already passed away.  I went to the hospital and Amy honored me greatly by asking me to stay in the room while she gave birth.

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Being present in the room for Seth’s birth was one of the hardest experiences of my life.  The room was quiet and the lights weren’t super bright like they usually are when you’re about to give birth.  The doctor and the nurses were so amazing and gentle and respectful.  There was a peace in that room that I cannot explain.  I have never felt the presence of the Lord so clearly as I did that day.  It felt like holy ground. I know that Charlie and Amy’s faith carried them through and continues to today.

Some days in your life are so significant that the memories of the day appear almost as snapshots in your mind.  Or at least they do in mine.  There are four moments in particular that are ingrained in my memory.  The first is of Charlie rocking and patting Seth’s booty while they were cleaning Amy up after the birth.  That’s just what you do with babies. It’s as natural as breathing. The second is the sound that Amy made when her mom came to embrace her after the birth.  If I never hear that sound again that will be just fine with me. The third was seeing the tears roll down the doctor’s face after Amy had given birth. The fourth was the fierceness in which Charlie’s mom held my hand while we watched Amy deliver Seth. He was so small and beautiful.  I stayed for just a little while and then left so that they could have time together with him, alone.

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This was the first time I had been this close to loss and grief.  I have had family members and friends pass away, but this was, by far, the most personal experience I have had with grief and a deeply hurting friend. Amy is much more like a sister to me than merely a best friend and I was absolutely desperate to be able to do something to help.  I was terrified I would say or do the wrong thing.  I reached out to friends that have lost children and begged for their wisdom on how to help Amy and Charlie.  Mainly, I just didn’t want to say something or do something that would cause Amy anymore pain.  As a general rule, people are super well-meaning when dealing with grief or other hard circumstances, but they can often say stupid things.  Hurtful things.  And they don’t mean to.  They just don’t know what to say or do.  So they offer platitudes and clichés and inspirational quotes.  They try to fill the silence.  Because the silence and the pain and the grief make them extremely uncomfortable.  Grief is not pretty.  Loss and deep pain make people nervous because they simply don’t know what to say.  And most of the time you don’t really need to DO anything.  You just need to show up.  You need to make yourself uncomfortable to offer comfort to your friend.  You need to hold that space with them.  Grieve WITH them.  Cry with them.  Don’t shy away.  They don’t have the luxury to escape their grief and the very least we can do for hurting people is to show up and hurt with them so they don’t feel alone.

So, what I’m writing next are some things that Amy told me helped her and that other friends who have lost loved ones offered me as guidance.  I hope that they can be of help to you.

The Circle of Grief or the “Ring Theory”

This is probably the most important and invaluable thing I have EVER read about grief and loss.  It is important.  It is essential information.  This is my explanation of the theory and I hope it’s clear enough that you can understand it.  If I don’t do a well enough job of explaining it, then google “grief circle” or “grief ring theory”.  The general idea is that when someone is grieving there is a circle of the people who are grieving. There are many rings to the grief circle.  Envision a target. The center of the circle are the people most affected by the loss.  In the loss of a child, then the center of the circle would be the parents and siblings.  If the loss is of a parent, then the center of the circle would be the spouse and children.  For this example, I will use the loss of a child.  So, the center of the circle would be the parents and siblings.  The next ring would be the grandparents and aunts/uncles.  Next would be other family members.  Then close friends and so on.  When you are grieving you ALWAYS give comfort IN, and dump OUT.  Meaning that if you are in the third ring, you offer comfort to the people on the inner two rings, and when you need to talk about your grief you dump OUT to a circle outside of you.  I have talked to so many people that have lost loved ones and they almost universally agree with the ring theory of grief.

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Social Media Etiquette

We live in a world where people can share their thoughts in a nanosecond from their phone…anytime, anywhere.  This can be a wonderful thing.  It can also be a very painful and inconsiderate thing.  Under no circumstances do you EVER post condolences on any social media platform until the family has posted of the loss.  EVER.  Until they make an announcement you DO.NOT.POST.  I have seen this happen numerous times where people start posting condolences on someone’s page and there are still family members that haven’t been notified that the person has passed away.  The same goes with birth announcements.  Until the parents have posted that the baby has been born you DO.NOT.POST.  It’s not your place in either circumstance.

Running Interference

There are lots of things that have to be arranged when a loved one passes away.  Most of those arrangements have to made by the family.  There are things that someone else can handle.  If you are close to the family and have the ability, volunteer to run interference for them.  If you can give people your phone number for them to call and ask questions about arrangements, do it.  It’s going to be hard for the grieving family to answer all the phone calls to ask how they’re doing, when the funeral arrangements are, where they can bring food.  These are questions that you, as a close friend, can answer so that the family doesn’t have to.  Since we knew the date that Amy would be induced with Seth, I set up a private Facebook group and added friends and family to it.  I posted updates on her labor and other info that people wanted so that Amy and Charlie could concentrate on their family without getting a million texts and phone calls.

Another super helpful thing is something called a Meal Train.  This is an amazing service that you can use for all sorts of circumstances.  Death, birth, serious illness.  There is something so comforting about having someone bring you a hot meal.  You can use this website to set up meal deliveries for the family.  You can personalize the page with any food allergies or dietary restrictions the family has and set up a schedule for the deliveries.  People can put the meals they are bringing so everyone can see and they won’t get 42 pot roasts. There is also an option for people to donate money to the family to help with gift cards for meals or other expenses. The website is http://www.mealtrain.com.

This is a very personal decision that the family must make. If you know if advance that the family will be dealing with the loss of a child at birth, shortly after, or from an illness there is a wonderful organization that will come and take professional pictures for the family, free of charge. The organization is called “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep”. The photographers are very kind and respectful and these images can be a treasured memory for grieving parents. If the family decides that they do want the photographers to come and it is ok with them, it might be helpful for you to be the one to call when it’s time. The parents might not have the presence of mind to make the call in the hours following the loss and it would take the burden off them for you to make the call and handle the paperwork.

Say Their Name

When our children are born one of the first things that people ask is, “What’s their name?” We spend hours researching and making lists of the perfect name for our babies. It’s not a decision we take lightly. We want our children to be known and this doesn’t stop when a child dies. I know that when you have a friend that has lost a loved one, your first instinct might be not to say their name because you don’t want to cause them pain. Please, say their name. They existed. They are their child. Just because you don’t say their name doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking of them, every minute of every day. Don’t let them feel like their child has been forgotten.

Sit with your friend and talk about their child. Cry with them. Let them know you are grieving with them. Let them tell you about them. I know it can be hard and uncomfortable, but HOLD THAT SPACE. Do not run away. Do not shy away because you are afraid of saying the wrong thing. You don’t have to say anything other than I love you and I am here. And then BE there. I remember one night in particular, a few days after Amy had gotten home from the hospital after Seth’s birth. Amy’s parents were there and Jon and I brought a meal over. After we had talked to everyone for a few minutes, Amy took me by the hand and we walked back to her bedroom. She locked the door and we sat down on the bed. She got out the special box that held all of Seth’s things. His footprints, the gown he wore, the blanket she wrapped him in, and the urn that contained his ashes. We sniffed the gown and marveled over how teeny his little feet were. And then she asked me if I wanted to hold him. She placed that tiny urn in my hands and we both just sat in silence and cried. I can’t even type that sentence without crying. This was a precious moment shared with the woman I love more than anything. That she would trust me with this most sacred moment took my breath. It still does. Say their name. Realize it is sacred and precious. Treasure and protect it. And always let them know you will never forget them.

Just BE

This is a HARD one for me. I’m a fixer. I want to fix ALL the things. If you’re sad, I want to make you laugh. If you’re hungry, I will fix you 39 casseroles. If you’re burned out, I will take your kids and buy you a pedicure. Just BEING is hard for me. I want to DO something. Every year around Seth’s birthday I try to do something special for Amy. I either send her out for a day and keep the kids, get her a massage, buy her a little “happy”. This past May around his birthday I was fretting over what I was going to do for Amy. I was on the phone with my sister and I was talking 90 to nothing about what I could do for her. Should I send her to a spa? Should I get her a gift card for a pedicure? How about keeping the kids to send her on a date with her husband? While I was rattling away, my very wise and very blunt big sister interrupted me and said, “Rae….STOP!” I stopped, because I always do what my sister says. She said to me, “I know you love Amy and I know that you want to do something for her, but you CAN.NOT.FIX.THIS. There is absolutely nothing you can do to make this better. You can’t make her forget that she lost a child. You need to stop.” To be honest, it hurt my feelings. I got off the phone and cried. But she was right, as she always is. In my fury to make it better, I lost sight of the fact that nothing I can do can make this better. I can’t bring Seth back. A pedicure or a massage isn’t going to make her forget the fact that her son is not here. But what I can do is listen to her. I can talk to her about him. I can tell her that I love him and all her babies. And that I love her. You don’t have to fix it. Not only can you NOT fix it, you may end up making it worse. Your time, love, and acknowledgment are what your friend needs.

If you made it through this gigantic novel, thank you. I know it was long, but I hope that there is some little nugget in here that will help you help someone you love when they are grieving. I know that I didn’t do everything right when Amy lost Seth. Nothing anyone did could have made the loss of that precious boy any easier. But what I do hope, is that Amy and Charlie felt my love and that they know how much I love Seth. I hope they know that his Auntie will not forget him.

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