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Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
This needs to be written about. Not because it’s a topic I enjoy bringing up, but because this is a time of year when, despite the inherent joy of the holiday season, people are hurting more than we think. The reason I know this is because I am hurting more than you think. And I know I’m not alone. For reference, here’s my back story.
If you’re going through your first holiday season after the loss of a parent (or anyone you were especially close with), I don’t need to tell you that it’s practically unbearable. And for me, it was after seeing the Christmas lights strung up on banisters around town that it hit me—whether I liked it or not, life was going on without my mother. And I had absolutely no choice but to deal with it. In the grand scheme of things, the conveyor belt of life continued to operate, and I felt like I had two choices: Stay on and force a smile, or jump off and pout. You’ll probably find yourself doing a little bit of both. Especially during the month of December.
I’ve also learned that, despite the support we get from our close friends and families, how we cope with these losses is something we must decide completely on our own. In other words, it’s our cross to bear. So I’ve assembled a list, a defense strategy against the inevitable sadness that can and will overtake you over the holidays. I’m certainly no doctor, but I hope it helps. It has for me.
This is absolutely crucial. Don’t over-work yourself. As parents, we have a tendency to forget about our own well-being completely, but in grief you’ll realize that this tactic will backfire. So, take days off. Surround yourself with only people who bring you up, not down. Get a massage. Go to the movies. Don’t be afraid to pamper yourself. After what you’ve gone through, you wholeheartedly deserve it. And if anyone dares question your new-found affinity for taking care of yourself, feel free to be blunt with them.
- Remind people you need them
It’s not easy. I’m well aware of that. We all want to be perceived as being strong, a rock. But that strategy works against you in grief. For me, picking up the phone and calling my 87-year-old grandmother or a friend to let them know I still need their support certainly didn’t feel natural. But the people in your life who truly care for you will respond in kind. As I’ve discovered, as soon as the funeral ends, most people will go on with their lives assuming you’re fine unless you speak up. And if talking to friends and family doesn’t help, don’t be afraid to seek counseling. There’s no shame in this game.
- Remember the parent in your own way
I’ve gone through phases of holding onto my mother’s possessions for dear life (keeping her cell phone in my sock drawer, storing her social security card in my wallet) to shutting her image completely out of my mind. I’ve gotten to the point where I feel comfortable having pictures of her up around the house, and on occasion bring her up to my older son so that she seems “present” in his life. And during Christmastime, while every other window is illuminated with a single white candle, I leave the candle in my bedroom off, in memory of her. That might seem odd to some, but it gives me a small bit of peace when I need it most. It doesn’t have to make sense.
- Focus on your greatest blessings
If you have children, hug them tighter. If you have cats, hug them tighter. If you really love chocolate, don’t hug it tighter. That would be weird. But you see where I’m going with this. I’ve found that accentuating the strongest positives in life helps enormously. It reminds us that there’s still plenty of good left in this world to enjoy, despite what we’ve lost.
- Don’t feel guilty “moving on”
I think there’s a tendency to stay “stuck in the moment” of losing someone, especially a parent. Your life grinds to a halt, and it almost doesn’t feel “right” to move on without them. I mean, how can we simply keep living like everything’s fine when it clearly isn’t? I’m incredibly guilty of clinging to this perspective. But what I (and anyone dealing with grief) need to know is that moving on does not mean forgetting. It does not mean we don’t care and it does not mean we’re not in pain. It simply means that we’re choosing to embrace the light rather than the dark. There will be days when the dark wins, but if we put ourselves in situations that enable happiness (for both us and our children), I think we’ll find ourselves smiling more often than not.
Sorry if you were expecting my “lighter side” today, but frankly, the weight we feel on our shoulders (specifically as parents) can feel unrelenting at times. People need to know they’re not alone in their most personal stresses. I hope this provided even the slightest bit of relief for them. So this is Joe DeProspero, guest blogger for Parents.com reminding you that we’re all in this together. Happy holidays, everyone.
On this topic especially, I’d love to hear from you. Simply writing about your personal experience could provide more relief than you’d think. Feel free to add a comment below.
* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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christmas, grief, Losing a Parent, loss, mom, mother, mourning, parenthood, parenting, Parents, santa | Categories:
Joe DeProspero, Losing a Parent
Monday, May 20th, 2013
Once again, the news is just too much to bear. A tornado rips through a small Oklahoma town, destroying neighborhoods and plowing down an elementary school. At this point in the search and rescue, 20 children are confirmed dead, many still missing. At least 51 people have perished, with that number expected to rise.
How to cope? How to handle such grief? We saw the Newtown massacre, and our hearts broke and bled. We heard from the Newtown moms this week–on Mother’s Day–as we pondered the question: how do you go on? And while the circumstances in the town of Moore are far different, our grief remains the same: Those poor parents. Those poor babies. That poor community.
As I tucked Fia in tonight, I felt how precarious and precious this life is…how so much of it hangs in the balance, with fate tipping the scales. I thought about how blessed I am today. How cursed I may be tomorrow.
As we lay in the dark, her tiny arms wrapped around me, she said, “Mama, don’t ever leave me, okay?”
“I won’t,” I whispered as I inhaled the soft scent of her hair.
“And I will never leave you,” she said happily, as if we were two girlfriends making a secret–but lighthearted–pact. If only life were that cut and dried. That easy.
I know that nothing in this world is a guarantee. But what I would do for one to protect my babies…
All I can do is hope. Hope that by the Grace of God, Fia and I can both keep our promise.
Picture via google image/ABC.go
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Wednesday, December 26th, 2012
Oh, don’t let the title fool you. I think my blog is simply amazing. Maybe the best out there… (ha).
But in all seriousness, I do want to talk about someone else’s blog.
I got so caught up in the Sandy Hook tragedy there were moments where I felt like I was neglecting my own family while grieving for those in Connecticut. Then a friend sent me the following blog and it seriously helped me shift my focus.
The author isn’t at all cold-hearted. But she is logical. And from what she said, she too, goes down a dark path when tragedy strikes others.
At one point in my mourning my husband said, “You gotta snap out of this. If you want to be depressed, be depressed for everyone. Have you seen what’s happening in the Congo lately?”
Of course I had, as I read the New York Times every day (until I had to stop last week because of my emotions). I told him though, the thing is, Sandy Hook is much more similar to my life than the atrocities being committed in the Congo. It’s no more or less tragic. But it is different. I could “feel” how those parents in Connecticut must have felt (or so I thought before reading this great blog below and realizing I couldn’t and shouldn’t put myself in their shoes).
Phil didn’t buy my rationale. And I really don’t either.
I will continue my crusade for Gun Control no matter what. But instead of putting myself in the shoes of those who have lost their children, I will walk in my own shoes. I will hold on to what I have and know. Not only is it far better for me, but in many ways it’s also respectful to those parents who have lost so much. I can’t imagine what they are going through. And why should I try? It does no one any good.
But don’t take my word for this. Please take a moment to read this incredible blog post on Mama’s Minutia. She says it much better.
Picture of blog via Shutterstock
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congo, Connecticut, grief, grieving, Gun control, gun laws, mass shootings, NRA, oklahoma, Oklahoma open carry, Sandy Hook, violence | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Losing a Parent, Mom Situations
Thursday, June 7th, 2012
A year ago today my mom died. I woke up this morning not sure how to feel. Glad she is out of her pain? Glad she is no longer a burden to me? Relieved that her tragic life ended so peacefully? And yet, I’m sad. It’s hard to know how to feel when your heart is so full of conflict. From my tween years on, she was an addict. For three decades I simultaneously loved, hated and worried about her. Months went by with no communication. Years went by where I didn’t see her. But towards the end, we were all with her. I was able to whisper my final goodbyes.
In those last days she and I made a pact. We would communicate through lilacs. When Phil and I moved to LA, I realized lilacs don’t grow as abundantly here. But a few weeks ago, we went to the Descanso Gardens. I knew she would be waiting.
Phil played with Fia while I walked privately with Emmett.
I carried him up to the purple blossoms.
“Hi Mom. This is Emmett,” I whispered.
She reached out to us. I felt her smile. I felt her. God she would love him. She would be so happy that I had a son. She always talked about how my brother, her firstborn, was such an easy, good baby. How instant that love was. Mom, I know what you mean! I have so much to tell you.
But as I start to think about what could be, I know in my heart what could never have been. Tethered to tubes in the hospital for a year, free of illicit drugs and alcohol, I got glimpses of the mom I had in the early years. I’ve written about it before–how she was the best of them. That is, before the demons took over.
So on this day, I feel a conflict between my head and my heart. Between what I know and how I feel. I say to the good mom, I wish you were here. To hold him. To smell him. To hug me. I say to the tormented mom, May you rest in peace.
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addict, addiction, alcohol, bipolar, death, drugs, grief, illicit drugs, lilacs, losing a mom, Losing a Parent, mortality | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Losing a Parent, Mom Situations, Must Read
Wednesday, November 9th, 2011
Tonight I hold my daughter tight.
I grew up in State College, Pennsylvania. I went to Penn State. I have always been “Penn State Proud.” But today, amidst the growing allegations and scandals, the disgusting details that I wish I hadn’t read, and the culmination of the firing of the University President Graham Spanier and famed coach Joe Paterno, all I care about is keeping my daughter close–protected from the evils of this world.
My father was a tenured professor at Penn State. My mom owned the only plant store in town: Plants By Suzanne. She did the plants at the University President’s house and Joe Paterno’s office. She was a successful businesswoman—and also an alcoholic—an embarrassment at times. Because of this, Happy Valley wasn’t always the happiest place for me, but still, it was my childhood home; Penn State my Alma Mater. It is where many of my memories—good and bad– are stored. It is part of me.
Today I miss my mom. I want to ask her what she thinks of all this. I know she’d feel the same as most: that there is no lower form of humanity than a child predator. But still, I wish I could talk to her about it.
In a time like this, when something so horrid hits so close to home, you want to connect to those who knew you then…who knew you most.
As I watched the breaking news tonight, I heard Fia cry out from her crib. I picked her up and held her tight. I told her mommy was here. It was okay. That she was safe. Then I wept with her in my arms. She fell gently back to sleep.
I weep for the children and for the parents. I am once again reminded of the burden we carry in raising our babies; of keeping them safe; of protecting them from monsters. I hold her tight. It’s the only thing I can do in this moment. I hope the victims have a loved one holding them tight too.
Click here to see Jill’s interview on Fox LA about the PSU crisis.
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