by Jill Francis on May 1st, 2019

I’ve been cleaning out my dad’s house for what seems to be the last 15 years.  It’s full of stuff.  A lifetime of stuff.  Stuff we like to call memories:

The milk pitcher from when he was a child.
His mother’s cornbread pan.
My mother’s mother’s handkerchiefs.
My mother’s Hummel plate collection.

The list goes on…

My friend has spent about 120 hours cleaning out her mom’s house and going through 50 years of stuff.  Since she’s self-employed, going through her mom’s house meant time away from work and lost pay.  It cost her 3 weeks in lost wages to get rid of her mom’s stuff.  

The Greatest Generation grew up with nothing, so they kept everything.
The Baby Boomers had some affluence so they bought everything and kept everything.
The Gen Xers don’t want it, they bought their own, they inherited everyone else’s, and now they’re discarding the previous generations’.
The Millenials have their own ideas about everything, so they don’t want the stuff and they don’t want to discard someone else’s.

What do we do with the stuff?  

See the source image

Here are some thoughts:

While everyone’s lucid, have family conversations about the Stuff (even if your parents, grandparents are fairly “young”).  Make lists of who wants what or who Grandma wants the spoon collection to go to, etc.  If items are valuable, call in an appraiser and know ahead of time what has value.  Some items can be given away ahead of time, and Grandma and Grandpa can experience the joy of “passing down” the heirlooms.  If money’s preferred, an estate sale or auction can be done, and the money divided among the beneficiaries.  

Working out these kinds of details before someone special leaves us, can help us avoid angry, frustrated and hurt feelings during a time of sorrow.  

Maybe we should stop collecting and giving stuff and start having shared experiences instead.  The point is, start talking, planning and preparing...and maybe even downsize and start cleaning out “the stuff” today, so your loved one (and those left to clean up a lifetime of memories), can have a Gracious Goodbye.

by Jill Francis on September 21st, 2018

Some of us have no idea what to say when someone we know loses someone they love.  Some of us think we know, but in reality, what we say does more harm than good.  Others believe that by imparting their “wisdom”, they will be comforting the hurting, when in fact, they do more damage. 

If you don’t know what to say, see Grief Etiquette 101( .  If you don’t have time to read it and still aren’t sure, here’s a list of what NOT to say:

  • I know how you feel.  Even if you THINK you do…you don’t; you don’t have the same life circumstances as the one grieving, all of which impacts how one feels.  So don’t ever say you know how they feel.  Ever.
  • You will get through this.  Even if it’s true, no one wants to hear it
  • This was meant to be.  Unless you’re God, you have no idea what was “meant to be".
  • Thank Goodness he/she didn’t suffer (or is no longer suffering). Even if this is true, no one wants to hear it.  Trust me…I learned the hard way.
  • My story is similar.  Even if it is…this isn’t about you.
  • All things work together for Good.  This is a popular one in the Christian community and needs to stop. 
  • This was part of God’s plan.  Again, popular in the Christian community and needs to stop.  If you don’t know why, e-mail me and I’ll tell you.
  • God’s timing is perfect.  Do you see a pattern?  Unless you’re God…shut up.
  • This will make you stronger.  No one wants to be strong due to loss.
  • You’ll move on.  I don’t want to.  I want to stay right here with my loved one beside me participating in life.  I don’t want to move on.  Shut up.
  • He/She’s in a Better Place.  I don’t want them in a Better Place…I want them here.

Silence, listening, and a big hug are better than saying something trite, insensitive and stupid.  (Ice cream can be good too, or warm banana bread).  Loss is as individual as snowflakes; no two of us are alike as we grieve.  What worked for you may not work for someone else, even if they’re in a similar situation. 

Listen and listen some more.  Let the hurting one talk, cry or tell stories.  And if they invite your story or ask for advice, then share, but only when invited.   Give them Time, avoid the List and listen.  And one day, when they’re feeling better, you may be invited back for ice cream.  :)

by Jill Francis on September 20th, 2018

What to Say When Someone's Hurting

Some of us have no idea what to say when someone we know loses someone they love.  Some of us think we know, but in reality, what we say does more harm than good.  Others believe that by imparting their “wisdom”, they will be comforting the hurting, when in fact, they do more damage. 
If you’re never sure what to say, here’s a list.  If you think you’re great at comforting the hurting, then review this list and make sure what you’re saying is on it:
  • I am so sorry
  • I am profoundly sorry
  • This sucks
  • I can’t imagine how you feel (even if you can, don’t offer your feelings, this isn’t about you)
  • This must really hurt
  • This must be really hard
  • May I sit with you?
  • May I call you tomorrow (next week, etc)?
  • May I visit you next week?
  • May I walk your dog for you?  Clean your house?  Babysit your children? Pick up your dry cleaning? Change the lightbulb? (Find a chore that needs to be done and offer to do it.  Then, follow through and do it!)
  • May I put this ice cream in your freezer or would you like a bowl of it now?  (If the person has a favorite treat, make it available.  They may not want it now, but it may bring comfort later)

Stick to the list or add to it if you have something similar to say.  And if you offer to call or visit, then set an alarm and do it!

Silence and a big hug are much better for those who are hurting, than saying something “full of wisdom” that just makes them want to punch you in the face (I’ve been there, yes, that’s how we feel).

Stay tuned for the list of “What Not to Say”.

by Jill Francis on March 22nd, 2018

​Standing in the grocery store, choosing a cake to celebrate Two who should have been there; and Grief creeps up…unexpected.

Looking at a family photograph and missing the One not pictured, the One who made the family whole; and Grief sidles up…unbidden.

Finding a familiar sweater, worn and scented with One who has gone; and Grief entwines itself….unwanted.

Laughing with Loved Ones over a shared memory of One who is forever absent; and Grief joins in…uninvited.

I have come to believe when Love is high and long and wide and deep; when it is unconditional and strong, faithful and true; then Grief becomes its Ballast…its Counterpoint.  It becomes the unexpected, unbidden, unwanted, uninvited, unwelcomed, Undesired Guest who refuses to leave when asked.  Who refuses to stay away when ordered. 

And even when we give Grief entrance, even when we spend a Season with him and allow his presence to dwell with us until the anger and sorrow has subsided…he yet refuses to abandon us completely…or forever.  He knows Love remains…and so he remains also; ever lurking, just outside our periphery, always waiting for a moment when we are vulnerable.  Always waiting to remind us of our Loss.

But perhaps I need to welcome him when he appears unexpectedly…because I know his presence means I have Loved greatly.  Perhaps I need to celebrate the unexpected moments because they point to Love of height and depth, of length and breadth; Love that has been unconditional, strong, faithful and true. 

Perhaps I need to welcome Grief…as a Reflection of my Love…and as a reminder…

Love.  Always.  Wins.

by Jill Francis on January 12th, 2018

 When my mother was living with Alzheimer’s disease, the end of each year brought reflections of her cognitive and physical decline, and I often dreaded what the New Year would bring.  After her death mid-2016, I simply wanted the year to be over, so I could tell myself I could shut the door on the dark painful journey that is Alzheimer’s.  Although I knew that wasn’t possible, there was something about the end of 2016 that brought relief.   My brother felt the same way and I am sure we are not alone.  For those who have lived with long-term illness, Death, and the closing of a year, can bring a sense of relief, a sense of closure, for it offers an end of suffering.

The close of 2017 was different, though, because my dear friend Dale left us suddenly.  There was no warning, no chance to say “goodbye”, no time to say one more “I love you”.  In a moment, he was gone; and our time with him was…over.  No.  More.  Time.

And therein lies the problem with the New Year…it is a reminder that time continues, even in the midst of our pain, our sorrow, our grief.  It will never be 2017 again, a year when Dale was with us.  We cannot rewind the clock, we cannot go back and be with him; we go into 2018 carrying his memories in our minds and hearts, but without his presence.  The reality of moving forward without him seems cruel in the face of the blessings, best wishes and anticipation of a new year.  It is difficult to hear others make plans for their futures and know ours are forever altered because of an absence.  We don’t want to close the door on 2017.  We don’t want closure.  We want Dale.

For all of you who have lost someone suddenly, who don’t want closure, who are dreading the New Year…I hear you and you are not alone.  Talk, cry, eat ice cream, go to a support group (there are online groups like if you prefer), hug someone, exercise, breathe deeply, allow yourself to be loved and cared for by others, and do it all again tomorrow.  And the next day.  And the next.  Take each day moment by moment, breath by breath, step by step.  And one day, when you turn around and peer at 2017, you will see how far you’ve come…in time.

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