Broken Relationships

Paying It Forward: Who Can Use Your Support?

Posted in Broken Relationships, Caregiving, Grief and Grieving, Illness on March 11th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – Comments Off

Paying it forward is a hot phrase these days, particularly in social networking circles.  Basically it means doing good works for others to repay the good that has happened to you.  (Read this Wikipedia article if you want more background.)

There are people you know who are going through a difficult season.  All of us know someone who’s between jobs.  You probably know someone who is providing care for a family member.  Likely, you also know someone who is dealing with a chronic illness.  And I bet you know someone recovering from a divorce.  Or someone grieving the loss of a loved one.

You may have been through one or more of these life seasons yourself, and had people demonstrate kindness that made a huge difference for you.  Or maybe you’ve been spared thus far from these seasons, but know, as we all do, that they will come.

How about meeting one of the folks you know who’s going through one of these times for coffee or lunch, giving her a call, sending a card, or offering some specific help that you’re aware he needs right now.

That’s paying it forward.

Is Christmas the Hardest Holiday of All?

Posted in Broken Relationships, Grief and Grieving on December 19th, 2008 by Jim Hughes – 5 Comments
A Christmas Present

A Christmas Present

I’m pretty sure that Christmas can be the hardest holiday of all for many people.

I think it’s especially true for folks that have lost a child or a spouse, and for those who are divorced or in the process of being divorced.

Why? Here are a few reasons I’ll throw out for your consideration:

  • Christmas is a season.  It’s not just a day that comes and goes.  The hype starts the day after Halloween, and builds to a frenzied pace beginning about the first of December.
  • There are obligations tied to Christmas that you really can’t avoid.  There are presents to buy, events to attend/host, and decorating to do.
  • Christmas is defined as “fun and happy.” We learn to anticipate fun and gifts and being happy as kids.  And all of this is associated with family.  We develop our own things to do and ways of doing them with those we love most.  So if they’re gone, whether through death or divorce, it’s not only not fun and happy, but we don’t even know how to do Christmas.

So what do you do if you’re in this situation?

The best that you can. You acknowledge that things are different.  You make some changes in how you celebrate Christmas.  And sometimes you have to act better to feel better.

What makes Christmas hard for you?  What ways have you found to cope?

Dealing with the Holidays: Set an Extra Chair

Posted in Broken Relationships, Grief and Grieving on November 24th, 2008 by Jim Hughes – Comments Off
Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Dinner

The Thanksgiving – Christmas holiday season is almost always really tough for those suffering loss.

These are family times, filled with family traditions, family gatherings, and family memories.  So a loss, whether it’s a death, broken relationships, a critical illness, a job loss, or something else, sticks out like a sore thumb.  It’s painful for everyone involved.

Part of the pain is the awkwardness of family gatherings.  The old normal is gone.

Often it’s hard for everyone involved to know how to handle the time together.  Do you risk bringing everyone down by talking about it?  Or do you just try to ignore that something has happened in hopes that you can get through the time together?

What do you do with the elephant in the middle of the room?

Everyone has to do what works for them and their family dynamics.  But here are a couple of ideas to get you started thinking about it:

  • Some friends of ours set an extra two chairs at their Thanksgiving table, one for a dad who had recently passed, and one for a mom in the final stages of Alzheimer’s.  It’s their way of acknowledging the losses while asserting their continuing presence in spirit.
  • We have made expressing some words of thanks for our parents who have gone on ahead a part of our own family Thanksgiving tradition.  It’s our way of acknowledging their continuing importance to our family.

I bet some of you have developed your own ways to deal with this time.  It would be great if you’d share them in the comments.

Please don’t say, “You Should…”

Posted in Broken Relationships, Career Change, Caregiving, Grief and Grieving, Illness on November 13th, 2008 by Jim Hughes – 5 Comments
Ban "Should" from your vocabulary.

Don't say "You Should."

“You should…” is the last thing you want or should have to hear from friends and family during a difficult season.

Yet when our lives are in chaos because of the loss of a loved one, a broken relationship, a lost job, or a serious illness, it seems to be the natural reaction of those well-meaning folks who want to help us.  You see, it’s part of the faulty co-dependent gene that most of us have floating around inside us that makes us feel like it’s our duty to fix people.

But as this quote from Louise Hay says perfectly, the “You should” statements are extremely harmful — not helpful.

“You see, I believe that should is one of the most damaging words in our language. Every time we use should, we are, in effect, saying “wrong.” Either we are wrong or we were wrong or we are going to be wrong. I don’t think we need more wrong in our life.”

When we’re in difficult seasons, our lives are dominated by chaos and grief.  We’re simply not capable of accepting and acting on coaching or advice.  And that’s especially so when when the coaching or advice  points out that we are not handling things the way someone else thinks we should.  It just makes us feel worse.  Less adequate.  Less able to cope.

When you’re in a difficult season, you’re just trying to cope, to put one foot in front of the other, to get through it.

What you need and want is someone to be a quiet affirming presence in your life.  Someone to listen.  Someone who is interested in what it’s like to be in your shoes today.  Someone who intuitively knows what you need and provides it.

What you don’t need is someone who wants to fix you.  Someone who is uncomfortable with your pain and justs wants you to “be normal again.”  Someone who’s quick with the “You shoulds.”

So please, don’t say “You should…”  Do say, “I love you.”  Do say, “I care.”  Do say, “I’m here to listen if you want to talk, otherwise I’ll just hang out with you.”

Thanks to JJ Lassberg (@jj4tlr) for using the quote in her blog post yesterday which prompted this post!

I Like Politicians Up Close, Not So Much From a Distance

Posted in Broken Relationships on November 4th, 2008 by Jim Hughes – 5 Comments

Image Credit: Brandt Luke Zorn

This may seem like a strange topic for a blog dealing with difficult seasons of life.  But it’s my contribution to a groupwrite project called “What I learned from…government.” And, I suspect that for some, this election season and what follows will be a difficult season, and that some of you may find yourselves in grief.  But that’s not the topic today.

During a season of my life when I was involved as a member, director, and eventually chairman of the Greater Southwest Houston Chamber of Commerce, I met and got to know a number of politicians.  They included U.S. congressmen, state representatives and senators, members of city councils, and several mayors.  I also had the opportunity to meet lots of candidates who didn’t win as well.  Those of you from this area would recognize the names, but they’re really not important.

What I learned was that I truly liked these people, and frequently admired them.  They were real. Often they would hang around after the meetings and just visit with folks.  They’d talk issues if you wanted, but were just as happy to talk about kids and activities and what you were doing.  Often it seemed that although they were there in an “official” capacity, that they enjoyed the opportunity to just be part of the group.

Since the chamber would sometimes work in partnership with them on a project benefitting our area, I also got to see some of the stuff that makes political life difficult.  I saw the personal attacks they were targets of, the meanness that people are capable of.  No attempt to do something good ever seems to happen without some people rising up to attack not only the idea, but anyone involved in trying to make it happen.  I saw the toll that takes, and it made me sad.  Because I learned to like these folks both for who they were and what they were trying to do.

I also learned that I liked them independent of what their party or political leanings were, at least from up close when I could see them as people.

Interestingly, over the years some of these same people have run for statewide office.  It happened after my chamber years were over,  so I wasn’t bumping into them at functions.  My contact was limited to the sound bites and the commercials and the campaign rhetoric.  And I found that I didn’t like some of the people very much that I had liked before.  In fact, I don’t like that part of any politician.  I think it’s because of the partisanship that’s required these days to be a candidate, and the partisanship that engenders in followers.

I miss feeling good about politicians because I miss getting to see them as real people.  But I’m trying to remember that they are real people trying to do something good in what has become a difficult environment.