8 SIMPLE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP A GRIEVING FAMILY

Six months ago I experienced the greatest loss of my life when my husband of nineteen years died suddenly. I can say that through this loss I have experienced the greatest joy of my life as friends, family and perfect strangers helped in ways that eased the initial pain and suffering. Helping a family who has lost a loved one can be simple and yet sometimes we just don’t know what to do. If you ever find yourself in the company of someone grieving, here are eight simple things you can do to help.

  1. Smile – Sometimes our heart is so sad we forget our face reflects it. When you smile, I hope to meet your smile with a smile. Be patient with us as we discover new reasons to smile about. Smiles communicate when words can not. Thank you in advance for sharing them so freely.
  2. Sort – Offer to sort something. Sort socks, sort songs, sort pictures, sort something! Several friends made it their mission to sort my stuff. So much stuff needed sorting! People offered to sort through our pictures and music in preparation for the memorial service. Keeping up with so much change left me physically exhausted and emotionally drained. Doing what needs to get done is challenging and the need for help is multiplied to a greater degree within a crisis situation. If you want to help in this way please offer!
  3. Sponsor – Offer to sponsor a child’s extracurricular activity, school dance, dental work or house payment. Financial instability is the first fear I had to overcome after my husband died. Uncertainty about providing for my family as a single mother weighed heavily on my heart and mind. This has been the most bittersweet type of help. On a weekly basis I am reminded of the people who give so that my children can participate in a sport, dance or camp. The smile and pride of participation I see on their faces ministers to my soul deeply.
  4. Silence – Offer your silence. People can say strange things to avoid saying nothing. Be confident in this, you are right, THERE ARE NO WORDS. The silence may be awkward but it is necessary. I sought a higher power on this one and asked God the following question, “Why do they say such awful things?” He answered quickly. He said, “You love them more than what they say.” He’s right. I do.
  5. Shop – Offer to shop. Shopping for items needed to sustain life at home is necessary but can be hard to accomplish during a time of crisis. For me personally, this was extremely difficult because my husband was supposed to meet me at the grocery store the night he died. Shopping is a sadness trigger for me. I do more shopping online and believe AmazonFresh (An online grocery shopping service) was invented just for me and for such a time as this! Others sent a healthy supply of toilet paper, hand towels, dish soap, laundry detergent, mops, and fly swatters. When I use each of these items I can’t help but remember the kindness of people who blessed us in this way!
  6. Sentimentality – Offer to be sentimental by writing a note, making something with your hands, or expressing yourself creatively. I cherish all of the gifts we received that were accompanied by thoughtful notes, poems, songs and scripture verses. We received hand-knitted prayer shawls and blankets, original paintings and pictures, a personalized necklace and a variety of other items that continue to lift our spirits when we see and use them.
  7. Snacks – Offer to cook a meal, bake a dessert or purchase snacks. Food speaks a language of comfort to children. Meals were delivered to our home for more than a month and a family in our church committed to providing us snacks for an entire year! Every other week my front porch is full of our favorite foods and I celebrate this provision every time I pack school lunches.
  8. Surrender – Surrender can be described as the intersection between acceptance and change. We visit this junction often during our grief journey. We ask, “Why?” and, “What now?” questions here. Sometimes we like the answers, other times we don’t. We accept our new reality in varying degrees and process the change as best we know how. Remember we are learning a new normal.

Thank you for keeping us company,
Adriana

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Death And Dancing

It’s been 139 days since Mr. Bradley danced his last dance on earth. He died 139 days ago and upgraded his humble abode on earth for a home in heaven.

It’s been 139 days of:

Going here and there.

Buying this and that.

Saying yes and no.

Eating right or fast.

Roughly 3,336 hours of learning a different rhythm. The thought of him is never far. It’s a sweet sounding harmony uniquely tuned for my heart, mind and soul to recognize.

We have experienced many firsts in those 139 days. Nostalgia has become a familiar melody and a soothing companion. I remember the first time Mr. Bradley told me he loved me. It was outside, a sunny afternoon. I was a senior at San Pasqual High School, living in Escondido and he was a senior at San Diego State University, living in San Diego. He told me over the phone and in another language. He said it in Spanish. His love was bilingual. Te quiero. Two words. Eight characters. The sum of our love story.

I remember one of our first “solo” dates. It was a wedding. He was a maniac on the dance floor. Do you know what a dance circle is? Before I knew what was happening he was in the middle of one, doing a ridiculous and over the top breakdance move called the worm. I was wearing a royal blue and black pant suit with black platform heels and my hair was in an updo. He was wearing brown corduroy pants (with a black belt above the waist) and a black turtleneck sweater. He had lots of hair on his face and head.

I remember the first time we took dance lessons. I was tortured. He was elated. I wanted to follow the rules. He wanted to make his own rules. We were in a room with several other couples and he was clearly not following instructions. When I confronted him about his rhythmic waywardness, he smirked and quickly responded, “I dance to the beat of my own drum.” He sure did. My feet fell victim to his unassisted style.

I remember the weekend before his earthly departure. We were at a wedding. My brother married the love of his life 144 days ago on March 12, 2016. Mr. Bradley was a maniac on the dance floor again and for the last time on this earth. I took a video of him with a royal blue necktie wrapped around his bald head, dancing to the popular YMCA song. He enjoyed moving to whatever beat. It was at this wedding we experienced our last dance circle on earth. Our family was together and we danced the night away. I remembered he made it a point to dance with Grace at the wedding. Insert tears here…

It’s my 20 year high school reunion tomorrow night. I will be celebrating two things, 20 years of life after high school and 20 years of my bilingual love story.

Tomorrow night I have a choice to sit it out or dance.

Tomorrow night I will choose to dance.

This time I’ll be the maniac on the dance floor and I’m dancing like I’ve never danced before.

#bestwidowever
-Adriana

Two scripture verses I’ll be thinking about as I dance.

  • Psalm 30:11: You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy.
  • Ecclesiastes 3:4: A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.

Soundtrack of my current journey and songs that will trigger instant dance parties in my heart, mind and soul.

  1. I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack
  2. Oceans by Hillsong United
  3. Flashdance, Final Dance – What A Feeling by
  4. Save The Last Dance For Me by Michael Buble
  5. Dancing Queen by Abba
  6. Stayin’ Alive by Bee Gees
  7. Eye Of The Tiger by Survivor

 

 

CONFESSIONS OF THE #BESTWIDOWEVER

You are about to read a confession from the self proclaimed #BestWidowEver. It’s not an easy confession for me to make, but I must. A confession which gives you, the reader a glimpse into my glorious grief. Today, I’m airing some dirty laundry in hopes that I continue to pursue the best version of who I am as a daughter, mom, friend and #BestWidowEver. Today, I confess to the world that I have not made my bed or changed my sheets in over three months.

Shocked? It’s understandable, it’s even justifiable if you knew the oversight directly correlates with the amount of time my husband has stopped sleeping with me in between the sheets. Mr. Bradley died on March 17, 2016 at 12:42 in the afternoon. Learning to sleep and live without him has presented a few challenges that pale in comparison to an unmade bed or dirty sheets.

To be honest, I prefer my dirty laundry stay at the bottom of my private hamper. Isn’t that where dirty laundry belongs until we have exhausted all other resources? Sharing this part of my life with you is risky. I must acknowledge my unlaundered, unhygienic, unsanitary, unsightly, untidy, unwashed, disheveled reality. With you. Right now. On this my first blog post ever.

A few days ago a trusted friend asked the question I’ve always struggled to answer, even more so right now. You know that question everybody cringes to answer when experiencing heartache or pain. You know, that one, the “how are you” question. How do I respond? (On a side note, I googled this question and an awesome resource popped up which has helped tremendously I’m sharing the link here  100 Ways To Answer The Question Here.) In this circumstance,  I chose to respond with the truth sorted through my imaginary laundry mat of emotions. This is exactly how I was doing. I cried-fessing. I could feel my friend doing a mental sort of my emotional laundry. This friend was intently listening with her heart and eyes. This friend also made me an offer I could not refuse, but more on the offer later…

I have slept next to the same man for the last 19 years of my life. The bed was significant and symbolic in so many ways. The one that holds great value and  most importance at this time is the privilege of being the wife of a man who cultivated safety. I felt safest next to him in-between the sheets.

I was reminded of a time I had a pressing issue to deal with on the teenager front. I was pleading with God on a specific decision I had to make. The weight was more than I could bear. I thought I would make it easy on God and requested a simple yes or no answer from him. Easy right? Not so. The answer he gave me was this, “Be a safe place.”

Be a safe place for your children. Your teenager needs you to know you are safe. This was the answer to all questions up to that point in my parenting. I embraced this realization and intentionally started cultivating myself as a safe place for my spouse, family and friends. The fruit of this effort was immediate. I saw an increase in my own ability to  be vulnerable. I will start with this answer in mind. I ask my children and myself how I can be a safe person for them in their current situation or with their current request.

Back to the offer. My friend offered to do for me what I could not do for my self. She offered 4 things that were life giving for me. First, she offered herself by listening and being a safe place for me to share my current struggle. Then, she offered to give me a gift, the gift of new sheets. She went shopping for sheets, sent me text messages throughout the day asking me about color preferences and styles.  Third, she offered to make my bed for me. By herself or with me. But most importantly, she offered to wait until I was ready to make the necessary change.

Being a widow has some obvious perks, I know it’s a stretch for some of us to think this way, but I would consider this one of the perks. Friends, family and sometimes perfect strangers lavishing copious amounts of understanding and patience with my hurts, habits and hangups. The necessary changes that fuel all that needs to happen to be a better version of myself.

Insert eternal significance here. Two things about her offer and Jesus. From scripture I know Jesus to continually cultivate safe encounters with people who confess hurts, habits and hangups. I also think about the eternal significance of my heavenly fathers choice to do for me what I could not do for myself by sending his son Jesus to be the bridge that leads me to eternal life with God. (Eternal Salvation Help Here)

Now, I will leave you with some life giving words, words that on occasion are used for consequences to poor choices but not today! Today, I will claim them as words of victory. They will hold victorious significance and will remind me forever of my journey as the self proclaimed #BestWidowEver today, I will make my bed and lie in it.

-Adriana Bradley #BestWidowEver

A few thoughts to help others on a journey to better versions of themselves…

  • Be intentional about creating a safe space for others to confess their struggles.
  • Embrace the time you need to make necessary changes in your life. Remember we are creating a new normal. Don’t rush to solutions and overlook significance.
  • Never tire of doing good. To ourselves, to others.