Dear future Daughter-in-law,

Dear future Daughter-in-law,

I am going to be your mother-in-law some day. At present, you are perhaps frightened of my title and my position, as I could be of yours. But then, of course, you don’t know me yet. At least, you might not.

But you’ve heard the rumors about mothers-in-law. You’ve been to the movies, and you’ve heard the familiar in-law warning: “If you hurt my son/daughter, I’ll kill you.”

I’m not going to kill you.

But we will love the same man. For many women, this automatically initiates a competition of colossal proportions–a tug-of-war for affection, attention, and admiration–all for a man who will remain relatively oblivious or confused by it.

So let’s not compete. There’s no need. We have different things to do, in regards to my son.

Let’s set some perimeters right from the start. What are our individual responsibilities? Continue reading

In case you didn’t get a valentine . . .

Dear Valentine,

You are a precious, even if you don’t get roses or a dinner out or a card. Your friendship and love for the people around you is not defined by consumerism.

Dear Valentine,

Love is remembering a friend’s birthday. It’s sending a bitmoji to brighten someone’s day. It’s baking cookies for your neighbor. It’s cleaning up your kids’ vomit for 8 days in a row. It’s biting your tongue when you want to lash out. It’s giving grace to a cranky husband. It’s closing cupboard doors and toilet seats. It’s picking up socks and Legos and Barbie shoes and turning off all the lights in the house after everyone else has gone to bed. It’s loading the dishwasher and making a homemade dinner that someone is going to complain about. It’s doing your best work. It’s putting your hobbies on hold so someone else can learn a sport or take a class.

Dear Valentine,

You are an angel of mercy. You listen carefully. You speak kindly. You cry with people who hurt and laugh with people who rejoice. You pray for people who’ve hurt you, and you never even tell them. You choose to be satisfied with your own life, even though everyone else’s looks better. You are the real deal, and people remember that all year when they’re wearing normal colors for normal days. (It’s why they call you when life gets hard.) Your relationships are your valentines, and they endure all year and for all eternity.

Dear Valentine,

You are critically important to the family you support, even though you work overtime, bear the incredible weight of stress, and provide unendingly for people who mostly likely complain about not having more. You are a hero. At some point, your family will recognize your sacrifice and shake their heads in disbelief at all you accomplished. And they will wish they had thanked you more often. They will understand true love, perhaps for the first time ever.

Dear Valentine,

Your life is the biggest love note of all. It’s been read and enjoyed by thousands–maybe even millions, because no one can comprehend the impact of a single life. Your life bleeds real blood and feels real heartache. Did you know that people love you for it? Yes, they do. They love without goose pimples or swooning or eye-batting. Just an old-fashioned, I’d-do-anything-for-you kind of love.

You can’t sell true love. And you can’t buy it, either.

You live it.

Happy Valentine’s Day to someone who’s made the world a better place.

Love,

Your Secret Admirer

image by Petr Kratochvil

Do’s and Don’ts for friends of the grieving

When people you care about lose a loved one, go through a divorce, receive a frightening diagnosis, or mourn over a child gone astray–what, exactly, should you do?

I mean, really? And I’m not talking about casseroles here.

I think we’ve all got an idea of what being the perfect friend is all about–listening, encouraging, helping. But when someone’s tragedy actually hits, you might find yourself tongue-tied and immobile. You don’t want to say the wrong thing, but you don’t want to be that pesky person sitting in their living room making them feel like they need to host you, either. You want to help, but you’re not sure how.

I have a couple of suggestions–some do’s and don’ts.

6 Things NOT to do:

  • Don’t trivialize the grief experience. No “You’ll find another boyfriend” or “At least he didn’t kill himself” kind of comments. Just no. Grief traumatizes and makes it impossible to see alternatives unless the grief begins to subside.
  • Don’t compare your experiences to theirs. Never say, “I know exactly how you feel” or “That’s nothing! When my dad died . . .” All griefs are similar in neurology but unique in experience. You may empathize with them, but let them draw the similarities between your experiences.
  • Don’t promise relief. Try not to say “It’s will get better soon.” You don’t know what their journey entails or how long it will take.
  • Don’t expect them to know how to ask for help. Just jump in quietly with both feet. Set up the meal train, mow their grass, take them to lunch, buy their groceries. Just act–don’t tell them to let you know when they need something. They are just trying to survive. They don’t know how to ask.
  • Don’t judge their journey, Avoid setting timelines for their recovery or restrictions on their process. Encourage them to see a counselor, yes. Make sure they’re not a danger to anyone, yes. But don’t tell them to snap out of it or get on with their life. They can’t see how that’s possible, and they probably doubt it is.
  • Don’t ask them how they’re doing in a public setting. They might seem able to handle the question, but they also  might, for a few moments, be trying to forget their grief. Don’t take that moment away from them. Don’t make them melt down in front of people they don’t trust.

Continue reading