No Comparison

I met with a client last week, suffering from a crushing loss, and as I sat while she wept, my heart ached for her. There is nothing I can do to change what has happened in her life. I can only be there to help her as she travels what can be a very rocky road.

At one point she mentioned that people seem to think she should be ‘better’ by now. They are comparing her to others and thinking she should be further along in this grieving process.

If there is one thing about grief that we can say with assurance, it is that there is no room for comparisons. We cannot compare our grief with theirs, or their grieving with another person’s. Grief is so all-encompassing, and it differs vastly based on the person’s past experience, their source of support, their self-confidence, and on so many other things that it is ludicrous to think that any two people would grief identically.

When we compare ourselves with another, we almost always come up short. We see all our weaknesses, and tend to only see the polished public view of others. On the other hand, if by chance we compare with someone else and we appear to be “better” than they are, we risk losing our tenderness and compassion for others. I have never known comparisons between myself and other people to be helpful.

I love the phrase I once read: “Know yourself, like yourself, be yourself.” It helps me realize that I was created to be me – Roslyn. Not Ruth, not RaeLynne, not Sue or Becky, but Roslyn. My Creator isn’t comparing me to those other people. I’m not expected to be as good as, or as talented as, or as happy as or as anything as one of them. I’m only expected to be the best Roslyn I can be.

And when I’m grieving, I can take my time. The process is mine, and I don’t have to keep up with – or wait for – anyone. And if I meet others traveling the same path, I will give them the same courtesy, and travel with them – with no comparisons.

May you be tender with yourself today. Yes, if you’re ready, move ahead and take the steps you need to take to continue to heal. But don’t allow yourself to compare – because as the popular quote goes, “it was never between you and them anyway.”*

*Attributed to Mother Teresa

Your Sweet Spot

I was reading in Max Lucado’s Cure for the Common Life, and read of something that Max was counseled to do one day when he was discouraged and feeling “hollow, robotic, and mechanical.” I thought that was a pretty apt description of what life can feel like when we are recovering from a devastating loss.

His friend suggested that he “describe some occasions when you did something you love to do and did it well.”

Max was counseled to take a step back from his busy schedule, find a quiet place, and review his life, listing events when he had belt both satisfaction and success.

As Max did so, he saw a pattern emerging.  And when his friend later asked him, “What one word describes your sweet spot?”, Max was able to answer immediately: “Message.” He had felt his greatest satisfaction and success when studying, giving speeches, writing, and preparing lessons.

Not all of us have that gift. But all of us have some gift. It could be anything – cooking, designing things, creating beauty, speaking, writing, interacting with people, working with numbers, teaching children, baking, or any of a thousand other things. You do have a gift  – and likely more than one. And if we are allowing our lives to be filled up with those things that we do poorly and dislike, and never take time to develop and enjoy our gift, life can become hollow, robotic, and mechanical.

Take a moment today and make your list. When have you felt both satisfaction and success? What do you enjoy doing?

It might be that finding your own sweet spot can be a turning point in your healing. And that would be sweet indeed.

We Cry Because We Love

Yesterday my “baby” – the last child I brought into this world – drove off to cross the country to go back East to college. The last few days have been overly full with extended family gatherings, a cousin’s wedding, a baby shower for another daughter, and a quick trip to a high-mountain lake for a few hours in the sunshine with friends. They were all good things to be doing, but through it all I wished I could have squeezed in a few more hours with just her and me, time to visit, to talk about all the years we’ve shared, to share our hopes and dreams for the future, and just to hold her in my arms.

The night before as she was getting all the last-minute things together, we did take time to sit on her bed and chat while I massaged her feet – one of our favorite things to do in the evenings. I will always cherish those few minutes. But the night was late, she was exhausted, and we soon said goodnight.

The next morning came and it was time for her to go. Her brother is going along to help with the driving, and they hoped to get in at least 800 miles that day, so we hurriedly packed the last few things into her car. Our morning prayer was tender as we pled for their protection on that long journey.

Before she got into the car, we exchanged a long hug and the longing look in her eyes spoke a thousand words.

She doesn’t like it when I cry, so I did my best to hold back the tears until the car pulled away. But there was no stopping them then. My new husband took me into his arms and told me, ‘It’s okay – we cry because we love.”

He’s right. I’ll be crying more as the days go on, and it’s okay. Every time I pass her room (I haven’t been able to go in yet…) that pain arises in my heart, and I realize anew that she’s gone. But I remember that the pain is there because I love her, and because parting from those we love hurts. Each time I cry, the tears help ease that pain, so I allow them to come often, and freely.

So if you feel the need to cry because of the absence of someone in your life, know that it’s okay. It’s okay, because we cry because we love. 


This morning I looked back at my journal and saw this entry from about a year after my first husband drowned:

“I feel depression creeping in. Not feeling settled about anything; feeling up in the air about every decision before me; unable to say what’s wrong…”

Depression can unfortunately be a frequent visitor when we are healing from a loss. One very real contributing factor is fatigue. Grief itself drains our energy. When it is a spouse we have lost, we might be trying to do the work of two people in keeping house and raising a family. It is easy to overextend ourselves, and then depression takes hold.

I heard a good quote last week regarding that situation:

“In preventing illness whenever possible, watch for the stress indicators in yourself and in others you may be able to help. As with your automobile, be alert to rising temperatures, excessive speed, or a tank low on fuel. When you face “depletion depression,” make the requisite adjustments. Fatigue is the common enemy of us all—so slow down, rest up, replenish, and refill. Physicians promise us that if we do not take time to be well, we most assuredly will take time later on to be ill.”*

I have not dealt with deep depression for many years now – thankfully. You can take hope in that – healing can come. But I find that the above counsel is good for me still. I still have the tendency to try to fit too much into each day, and when I do, I get frustrated and fatigued, and my mind and my body begin to show the signs. I lose energy and it is harder to look on the bright side of life.

So when you begin to “feel depression creeping in”, slow down, rest up, replenish, and refill. It’s good counsel for us all.

*Jeffrey R. Holland, Oct 5, 2013 Address at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Three Deep Breaths

Once, early in my journey through the grieving process, I asked a mentor to help me. I needed some guidance, and I knew there were things I needed to learn if I were going to heal well.

We met over the phone, and the first time we spoke, the very first thing she asked me to do was to “sit back, close your eyes and take three deep breaths, slowly exhaling after each one.”

She called them “cleansing breaths”, and after I had followed her instructions, we would begin our session.

She taught me that those breaths serve many purposes. I’ll share just one today.

Those breaths allowed me to just ‘let go’ of everything I was worried about, concerned about, or sad about. I would fill my lungs as full as possible, and then as I exhaled, I imagined all of my troubles leaving with each breath.

I have used that technique ever since. When I notice I’m getting tight in the shoulders, or when I’m facing some really tough decisions; when I am confused or in pain about a relationship or a loved one’s decisions, I can close my eyes, sit back, and take three deep breaths. 

If only for a moment, I let all my concerns go. And sometimes that’s all it takes to be able to face the rest of the day with a heart of peace. 

Try it! It can be one more skill to help you manage your own journey – and to find peace more often.

More on Cleansing Breaths

I talked two days ago about the three ‘cleansing breaths’ that my mentor taught me to take at the beginning of each mentoring session as I worked through my grief.

Today I want to share one more lesson she taught me from that technique. I learned that when we take charge of some of the usually-automatic physical processes of the body (like breathing) and consciously slow them down and focus on them, we are triggering the mind and body to ‘take note.”

We are in essence saying, “What’s coming is important. Listen! Pay attention!”

I can use those breaths now whenever I want to re-focus or wake up my mind for a task or a study session. It helps me settle into the activity with more complete attention – and I find I remember what I’ve heard or studied better afterwards, too.

There are so many things we can do to speed our progress. I am grateful for every idea I’ve been taught that helps me find clarity, healing, and peace. Hopefully they will help you, too! 

To your healing!

Do You Have Holiday Plans?

Here it is half-way through November, and the holidays are quickly approaching. Have you made your plans?

I met with a client two weeks ago who was already anxious about the upcoming holidays. This will be her first Thanksgiving and Christmas since her loved one passed away, and she’s dreading the whole thing.

So, we strategized. I suggested first that she write down everything that could go wrong – everything she was dreading, and everything she was certain she wanted to avoid.

Then I had her write down the things that she was sure she wanted to do, and her “if-everything-goes-well-this-is-what-I’d-like-to-happen” list. 

Then, we looked at the first list. We brainstormed about how she could prevent a lot of the potential disasters, how she could eliminate the major stress-causers, and about how she could let others know she wouldn’t be participating in the events that she knew would cause her pain or embarrassment. 
We made a list of alternatives she could suggest to her family, and activities and events she felt comfortable trying this year. 

We sketched out the next two months, and she wrote out her ‘ideal’ plan. 

(Life is never ‘ideal’, but if we know what we’d like to happen it’s a lot more likely that something close to that could come to pass!)

Her assignment was to take it home and discuss it with her family. She gets final say, but she is willing to let the others give some input, too. Then, hopefully, she’ll enter this holiday season more prepared – and not feeling so out-of-control. 

Do you know what you’d like your holidays to look like? I promise – thinking about it now is a whole lot better than ‘winging’ it, especially the first year. So pull out a sheet of paper – and make a plan!


Life is just full of surprises. If you are reading this website, it’s likely that at least one of those surprises was not a happy one. 

The day my husband drowned was one of those. And although its been almost 8 years since then, I can still remember the feeling of shock I felt when I realized he was gone.

Surprises are unexpected, unplanned for, and unanticipated. Gratefully, however, life holds some good surprises, too. 

Like yesterday.

For Thanksgiving, several of our children will be coming into town to join us for the day. Our daughter who has been attending her first semester of college away from us on the other side of the country was scheduled to fly into town late tonight, and for weeks we’ve been anticipating her arrival and planning who would pick her up, what we would do with her on the way home, etc. We’ve been sending texts back and forth counting down the days. 

But yesterday morning she showed up on the doorstep – and boy, was I shocked – and surprised! A change in flight plans (and some sneaky planning with siblings) allowed her to come 36 hours early, and you should have seen the rejoicing that created!

This week is a great time to take a moment to count the many things that are good in life, despite the challenges. I’ve started my list of things I’m grateful for, and this happy surprise will definitely be on that list! 

Have there been surprises in your life that lifted your heart, and helped you feel hope? Even a very small thing can help. Take a moment today to add to (or start!) your list of things you’re grateful for – and you may be surprised at how many you come up with!

Good People

I was out shopping yesterday and made a quick stop at a store for one item. I made the purchase and hurried out to my car, got in and turned the key.

Nothing happened.

I tried again, and heard a clicking sound, but the engine didn’t even turn over.

I let it wait a moment, and then tried once more, but I could tell there was no use in continuing to try. The battery was dead.

I sat thinking about what to do, and decided to call my son. He was in a nearby town, but said he would leave as soon as possible to come help. So, with the hood of the car raised, I sat in the car and waited.

Two customers who walked past my car stopped and asked, “Do you need help?” but I explained that my son was on his way, and they continued on into the store.

It had only been a few moments when an employee of the store came out and asked if there was anything they could do. I explained the situation, and she said, “Oh I’m sure one of us can help – let me go check.”

She was back immediately with a co-worker who smiled and went to pull her car up next to mine. We attached jumper cables; the car started, and I called my son to let him know all was well.

As I drove away I thought about how busy those store employees were, and how, in spite of that, they had seen someone in need of help and had come to my aid. I don’t think that was on their “to-do” list for the day, but they made it a priority, and it blessed me.

I wondered if, in my quest to get everything on my own “to-do” list done, I’m missing opportunities to help someone in need. I’m pretty sure I am.

So, for today, I’ve added one item to my list:

“Find one way to serve someone.”

If I keep my eyes and heart open, I’m sure I’ll be able to check that one off.

Good people. They are all around us. Someday, I want to be counted among them!

New Year’s Eve!

I absolutely LOVE this day!

I love new beginnings and fresh starts. I suppose it might be because I make so many mistakes and take so many mis-steps that I need the belief that it’s okay; I’m still learning, and I can always start over! If I didn’t have that, I fear I would drown in discouragement.

So, today I take a minute to think back on 2013, and write down in my journal every good thing that came of the year. At first the list isn’t huge, but I keep it by me, and as I go through the day I add everything that comes to mind. I know I’ll have quite a list by the time we sit down to dinner. This year I’m inviting my family to join me in the activity, and we’ll have something pretty fun to discuss at dinner.

I also have another list I’ve started – one of things I hope to accomplish in 2014. It could be called a list of resolutions, but I think more of it as things to look forward to, to motivate me to grow and take more steps toward becoming the person I’d like to be.

Life brings us much of sorrow and difficulty. It’s just an inherent part of this existence. But I hope that today you can take a moment  – or a few – and make note of the good things that have come into your life this past year.  May you find joy in those memories, and hope for the future, knowing that in every challenge there lies the possibility for growth and greater wisdom.

Here’s to a great 2014!