The power of joy to heal a broken heart.

Grief Diaries

I love babies. My babies. Your babies. Everybody’s babies.

There’s just something so wondrous about these tiny beings. They’re innocence and pure love rolled like a little magical burrito.

Once a week I sneak away from the office to volunteer in the neonatal ICU. I cuddle, feed, change diapers, and soothe.

As they look into my eyes, I know I’m holding future teachers, humanitarians, astronauts, Nobel prize winners, and world leaders.

I’m also holding future gang members, addicts, and lost souls.

Grief Diaries

It doesn’t matter who I’m holding because in that moment, I give as much love as I can and hope that my little imprint will carry them through life.

When I’m done, I leave with a heart full of gratitude because those tiny babies gave me so much more than I gave them.

They gave me joy.

Doing something that makes your heart sing is a powerful healing modality.

When heartbreak and sadness rule your world, do whatever it is that brings a smile to your face and lifts the heaviness of your heart.

If you don’t know what that is, then go find it. And don’t stop looking until you do.

Then do it as if your life depends on it.

Because it does.

-Lynda Cheldelin Fell XOXO

Tomorrow is your birthday

Grief Diaries
Dear Lovey,
 
Tomorrow is your birthday. Just yesterday I could hear your voice, smell your hair, touch your skin. It’s been nine years but the pain still runs deep. So very, very deep.
 
They say the pain changes with time. It hasn’t. But I have. My coping skills are stronger. I am stronger. I’m a better person with more compassion. And a heightened awareness of a world in need of kindness.
 
But tonight the pain runs deep. So very, very deep.
 
When the tears fall, I need to retreat from time to time to the Wailing Tent where I’m among sisters who speak my loss language. I suppose I’ll always need them when the pain runs this deep.
 
Most days the sun shines gloriously bright and I am grateful. Today is not one of those days, though. I want to tell you happy birthday but the words just won’t come. I know I’m a few hours early anyway, so maybe the words will come tomorrow.
 
It feels like yesterday when I could hear your voice, smell your hair, and touch your skin.
 
I wish it were yesterday.
 
Happy birthday, Lovey. I love you. XOXO
 
Love,

The Wailing Tent

The Wailing Tent

Dear newly bereaved mother,

Welcome to the sisterhood of the wailing tent. With profound condolences, I know this greeting will soon be forgotten, for your heart and soul have sustained a terrible blow. The shock known as The Fog will accompany you for some time, greatly impacting your memory.  So I offer you this written welcome to refer to when your recollection falters.

The wailing tent is an honored place where only mothers with a broken spirit can enter. Admittance is gained not with an ID card bearing your name, but with the profound sorrow freshly etched on your heart.  Membership is free, for you have already paid the unfathomable price.  The directions to the wailing tent are secret, available only to mothers who speak our loss language of everlasting grief.  No rules are posted, no hours are noted.  There is no hierarchy, no governing body.  Your membership has no expiration date—it is lifelong.  The refuge offered within its walls does not judge members based on age, religious belief, or social status.  You can hang your camouflage and mask outside, and if you can’t make it past the door we will surround you with love right where you lay.

The wailing tent is a shelter where mothers shed anguished tears among her newfound sisters, a haven where all forms of wailing are honored, understood, and accepted.  In the beginning, you will be very afraid and will hate the wailing tent and everything it stands for. You will flail, thrash about, and spew vile words in protest. You will fight to be free of the walls, wishing desperately to offer a plea bargain for a different tent, learn a different language. Those emotions will last for some time.

Your family and friends cannot accompany you here. The needs of the wailing tent are invisible to them and though they will try, they simply cannot comprehend the language nor fathom the disembodied, guttural howls heard within.

In the beginning, your stays here will seem endless. Over time, the need for your visits will change and eventually you will observe some mothers talking, even smiling, rather than wailing.  Those are the mothers who have learned to balance profound anguish with moments of peace, though they still need to seek refuge among us from time to time.  Do not judge those mothers as callused or strong, for they have endured profound heartache to attain the peace they have found. Their visits here are greatly valued, for their hard earned wisdom offers hope that we, too, will learn to balance the sadness in our hearts.

Lastly, you need not flash your ID card or introduce yourself each time you visit, for we know who you are.  You are one of us, an honorary lifelong sister of the wailing tent.  Welcome, my wailing sister.

Fondly,

The Sisterhood of the Wailing TentThe Wailing Tent

Written by Lynda Cheldelin Fell  01/26/14

 

Why suffering yields the deepest lessons

Grief Diaries
I was asked this morning by a dear friend what the purpose of life is. Why is it some people face more heartache than seems fair?
 
Life unfolds differently for each of us. I believe we are here to learn lessons for our own growth. We don’t learn from the easy stuff, and great challenges often yield the deepest lessons.
 
Why, then, do some people go through life unscathed while others suffer greatly?
 
Sometimes we’re the pupil meant to learn something from our own suffering. Sometimes we’re the teacher imparting wisdom to those who witness our suffering.
 
When faced with great challenges, we have two options. One is to resist the change and stay outside immersed in the storm. Two is to surrender to something we can’t change, and tend to our wound inside. Once the storm has passed and the wound less raw, you can re-enter life using the wisdom you learned.
 
You are the author of your own life story. Every sentence, paragraph, and page from cover to cover. What do you want to write what has yet to be written? You alone get to decide.
 
My answer to the question about the purpose of life is that it’s a glorious and mysterious classroom. Sometimes we’re the pupil and sometimes the teacher.
 
It’s up to each of us what we teach and learn.
 
Lynda Cheldelin Fell XOXO
Grief Diaries

Employers don’t know what they don’t know

Grief Diaries

Her name was Kristen. As editor of Human Resources Executive magazine, she contacted me for an interview about employee grief two years ago. Her own story is startling and sad, yet I was moved by her courage to publish an article about a big problem.

Her story? She was covering an expo in Vegas when she got a call that changed her world: her husband died from a heart attack. In shock Kristen returned to her hotel, packed her bags, faced a sleepless night, grabbed a morning taxi, sat through security and then a 6-hour flight home in mind-numbing despair.

Because she had used up her FMLA leave caring for her father in hospice earlier that year, Kristen was left with the allotted 3 days of bereavement leave—the national standard.

Three days to plan a funeral. And attend.

Three days to mourn.

Three days to transition from two to one. No longer part of a pair.

Three days before returning to the demands of her job.

Three days.

It just feels wrong. Yet employers don’t know what they don’t know.

But we can help them. Together we can educate and inspire change for a better way.

How? Ask questions. Share experiences. Talk strategies. What kind of bereavement leave does your employer offer? If you don’t know, they probably don’t either.

Thankfully, they’re starting to listen. I just received word that Glen Lord and I will be presenting Managing Grief in the Workplace at a second national conference this year, this one in Salt Lake City.

I know we face tremendous work ahead. But it’s a challenge worth fighting.

Because employees are people. People matter.

You matter.

Together we can make change. And the world is starting to listen.

Lynda Cheldelin Fell

Grief Diaries

 

Why giving is good for the griever

Grief Diaries

The other day I was asked why I advocate for the bereaved to give to others as a way to heal. In the midst of autopilot, brain fog, and feeling utterly depleted before even getting out of bed, most have nothing left to give.

So here’s my explanation on why giving is good for the giver.

When one suffers a broken leg, it takes time for the body to heal. The fracture will always be there because once done, it can’t be undone, but strengthening the muscles and tissue around the break will help protect from further damage and promote healing.

Just like physical therapy is to broken bones, giving while grieving is therapy for the broken heart. It releases powerful dopamine and endorphins—a natural high, which are like little happy pills for brain pain. It’s also good for our body by reducing common grief banes—stress, anxiety and insomnia.

Does giving cure grief? No. Losing someone we love causes grief that cannot be undone. It is something we learn to live with moving forward. But we can soothe the rawness and strengthen the areas around the wound—our broken heart—through activities and actions such as giving.

What can you give when you feel empty inside? Give blood. Give a smile. Give a genuine compliment. Give blessing bags to the homeless. Give a car room to merge during rush hour. Give time at a homeless shelter, which serves as a powerful reminder that we’re not alone on the struggle bus. Give a hug.

Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” In other words, helping others helps our own heart to heal. It truly does.

-Lynda Cheldelin Fell  XOXO

Grief Diaries
Giving is good for the giver

The Big Reveal

Today is the last of the 12 Nights of Kindness when we reveal our identity to the Naidu family. It wasn’t that long ago when we faced our first Christmas without our daughter Aly, and nothing soothed the rawness except acts of kindness from others. Fast forward 9 years later and I’ve learned that kindness remains a powerful balm—for my own heart.

Thank you for joining us each evening and watching our elves learn the joys of giving. I hope our 12 Nights inspired you to give kindness to someone because no matter how large or small, all it takes it one small act to make a big difference.

-Lynda XOXO

Night 4 of the 12 Nights of Kindness

Tonight we’re joined by a seasoned elf, our youngest son Shaun​, who just arrived home from college for the holidays. We started this tradition when he was 9. He’s now 23 and all grown up but young Elf Aubrey is doing a great job giving kindness to a family mourning the fresh loss of their loved one.