Resources for Those Who Grieve

DSCF0569When someone dies, and we are enveloped by our own grief, the thought of explaining what has happened to a child or grandchild can be truly overwhelming. Whether the death is sudden or is the culmination of an extended period of grieving, finding the right words is so, so hard.

A few years after our children came to us, our family pet — a much beloved border collie named Missy — was hit by a truck. Judging by the pile we found by the side of the road, she couldn’t have suffered. But the horror and shock quickly gave way to a kind of numbness that felt like swimming through mountains of batted grey cotton. Jut awful.

“I’ll bury her, if you tell the kids,” Craig offered. I’m not sure who got the harder task. All of us cried as I held the kids and waited for the initial tears to subside. “Why did Missy have to DIE?” Chris asked.

The simple answer was not the right answer. Missy died because she escaped the confines of our yard and wandered into a busy street. But this is not really what my son was asking. He had endured so much loss already — nearly his entire original family, except his sister. Why had God allowed so much pain to enter into one little life?

“When God sends a baby into the world,” I found myself saying, “He sends three things along: a gift to share, a burden to carry, and a job to do. When that job is done, if we stay close to God, he takes us back to heaven to be with him forever. Christopher, you have already been such a gift to us, and you have so much more to share. The burdens you have carried are so very big, and so very hard. I can only imagine that one day God is going to give you a VERY special job to do. Something that you could only do if you stayed very close to God. All that you have suffered, all that you have lost, can help you stay close to God if you choose. God does not cause our pain — he cries along with us, when he sees us suffer. And he always helps us carry it if we ask.”

I meant every word. And as the years went by, I realized that my son had heard me not just with his ears, but with his heart. He still feels the loss, but he trusts in the goodness of God. This, I think, is the best we can hope for when we explain death and grief to our children, that they understand that (1) death is a part of life and (2) suffering is never wasted when we offer it back to God.

In my last article, about starting the adventure of elder care with my mother, I mentioned that a woman named Jennifer Scott had sent me links to a couple of articles about coping with grief. These are not written specifically from a faith-based perspective. However, I think the information about what children are capable of handling at various developmental stages is useful, and so I wanted to offer it here as a resource for you.

Saying Goodbye: Talking to Kids About Death

Preparing for the Death of a Terminally-Ill Loved One: What to Expect, and How to Help the Entire Family Move Forward

Letting Children Share in Grief

The Bereaved Employee: Returning to Work

How to Create a Peaceful At-Home Hospice for Your Loved One

Keeping the Peace While Settling a Family Estate

5 Things You Must Know as the Executor of an Estate

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31 Days of De-Stressed Living, Day 27: Wear Something Pretty

beautiful womanIt’s a chicken-and-egg kind of thing: Do we feel good when we look good, or do we make more effort to look good when we feel good? Maybe it’s a symbiotic kind of relationship.

I will tell you this: For the past several weeks when I’ve woken up, I’ve been so sore I could barely roll out of bed and into a pair of sweats. One of the perks of working from home, I guess. But after a night on a new-to-me featherbed, I jumped out of bed, showered and slathered on my favorite face cream, and put on a GOOD work outfit. Yes, just to stay home.

And I feel … great!

I’ve been thinking about my mother, who has been in a hospital for the past two weeks. She doesn’t want to be there, but she can’t go home yet. This morning I’ve been thinking about how to help, eight hundred miles removed, and I remembered a time when I was in the hospital after my car accident (I was 18), and someone unexpectedly lifted my spirits.

Crabtree & EvelynThree weeks in bed will leave anyone a bit grumpy. One day my friend’s mother surprised me with a visit. She had a basin and several large plastic bags. “Let’s get you cleaned up,” she smiled. Arranging the bags underneath my shoulders and torso, and the basin under my head, she washed my hair and shaved my legs, then slathered on Crabtree and Evelyn body lotion. (The scent of gardenias still makes me smile.) Finally, she did my nails and makeup.

Thirty years later, I still remember her kindness.

And now, remembering that day, I know just how much it will help my own mother, to feel like her beautiful self.(For those who need a little bedside beauty, try this portable wash basin!) bed wash basin

If you’re feeling stressed out and grumpy, maybe it’s time for you to primp and pamper yourself a bit. Wear something beautiful — a pretty scarf, a soft sweater, a new pair of shoes. It won’t change the journey … but it might just put a spring in your step!

Photo Credit: “Always” by Stella Im Hultberg, from “Smashing” magazine’s “50 Beautiful Feminine Illustrations”.

CWCO 2009 Thursday: “If You Send an Editor a Query Letter”

cwco_topic3Today is one of my favorite days of CWCO 2009: Real, live editors from Catholic publishing houses all over the country are going to be chatting with aspiring (and, in some cases, previously published) writers. Some writers pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars (I kid you not) for this kind of networking opportunity … and here at CWCO they get it for FREE!!!  (Of course, if an actual CONTRACT results from these discussions, you might want to make a donation of $20 or more to the CWCO coffers and get your a nifty conference e-book!)

In honor of today, I thought I’d dig out this little chestnut to entertain the troops while their waiting nervously for their turn.

 

Have you ever wondered what happens to the hundreds of query letters and proposals you have generated over the course of your writing career? Does some editorial assistant use it to line the bottom of her ferret cage? Do they cast shovels full of unsoliciteds onto the fire at the annual editorial weenie roast?

 

If you’ve ever wondered about this–or are just a fan of the full-circle themes of Laura Numeroff–keep reading. This piece, based loosely on the experiences of some editors I know (many of whom have exceptional assistants), offers a glimpse into the real world of editors everywhere. Enjoy.

If You Send an Editor a Query Letter…
(With thanks to Laura Numeroff.)
(c) 2004 by Heidi Hess Saxton

If you send an editor a query letter, she’ll want an SASE to go with it.

When she sees the SASE, it might remind her that she’s almost out of stamps. She is also low on Diet Coke and Excedrin Migraine. So Ms. Editor loads up her 1993 Toyota Tercel with three large bags of cans–last week’s soda supply–to take to the Piggly Wiggly on her lunch break.

On her way to lunch, Ms. Editor will pass the Fed Ex man, who is carrying a stack of boxes for her: three manuscripts (two of them late) and 260 proposals her cute-but-clueless new assistant requested while Ms. E. was out of the office last week. This reminds her to compose an ad to find Fabio’s successor.

As she faxes ad copy, Ms. E’s eagle-sharp editorial eyes will fall on her day planner: Meeting today at 3:00 with the publisher to discuss next year’s fall lineup. Ms. E. digs production quotes and sales projections for her top six proposals (including your query, which she skimmed with enthusiasm as she guzzled her lunch) out of the mountain of paper in her inbox, getting a paper cut in the process.

The blood reminds her of the last editorial planning meeting, when some hapless editor (never mind who) suggested going to contract again with a talented but unknown writer, whose last book sold so poorly that the warehouse was using remainders as door stops. Ms. E. shudders and combs her pile of proposals for evidence of marketability, leaving frantic messages for you to e-mail her sales figures for your previous books and a copy of your speaking schedule for the following year. While Ms. E. is on the phone, one stressed-out graphics designer and three unhappy authors leave their own frantic messages, on a line to which no one but her mother is supposed to have the number.

Thoughts of her mother will remind Ms. Editor of a manuscript her mother’s hairdresser’s nephew sent for review “when she has a free moment.” Ms. E’s mother has been gently chiding her daughter about it for the past month. It doesn’t seem to matter that the house Ms. E. works for doesn’t publish science fiction, or that the young man couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag. Ms. E. must convince her boss to publish it, or the hairdresser will make Mom look like she’s backed into a weed-wacker for her fiftieth high school reunion. Ms. E. reaches for the Excedrin next to her office clock, and sees it is now 3:05.

Late for the meeting, Ms. E. carries your e-mail between her teeth, proposals in one hand and her Diet Coke in the other, and sprints for the conference room. Her ideas are met with unanimous enthusiasm. Giddy, Ms. E. proposes to give you a six-figure advance and a three-book deal. Someone asks Ms. E. if she’s been sniffing glue.

The glue remark reminds her of the stamp on your SASE, which you so obligingly supplied. Ms. E. uses it to give you good news and bad news: They want to publish your book. But she doesn’t work there anymore. If you want the contract, Ms. E. adds, please send a full proposal and three sample chapters to her colleague, who was smart enough to keep her mouth shut during the previous editorial meeting.

A little surprised, you go ahead and submit the requested material, putting the new editor’s name on the envelope. Four weeks later, you get a form letter from the new-and-even-more-clueless editorial assistant. “Sorry, but we don’t accept unsolicited proposals. Next time you send a SASE… Be sure to send a query letter with it.”

Heidi Hess Saxton is the editorial director of ChristianWord.com, a freelance writing and editing business. She has ten years experience as an in-house editor, most recently as senior editor of a medium-sized CBA publishing house. For permission to reprint, contact Heidi at hsaxton@christianword.com.