by Jill Francis on March 25th, 2017

"Miscarriage"...a word we whisper as we look away or gaze at our feet;  as though it implies something shameful or dirty or something not to be discussed in "polite company".  A word that rarely affords the sympathy it should convey to the sufferer, for we deem the loss minimal and expect them to "move on".  A word we need to associate with loss.  Pain.  Grief.  And healing.  

We rarely hear from men on the topic of miscarriage, but thanks to a young father, brave enough to share, today we will.  This is Jared's tribute to the twins he and his wife lost to miscarriage.  Babies.  Lost.  
Thank you, Jared

​Dear Precious Little Ones,

Your mother has the most beautiful eyes. Your sweet brother and sister were blessed with those same eyes. With every grieving teardrop that has fallen from those eyes, my heart has been broken.

I had dreamed of you for years, and just those thoughts alone filled me with such wondrous joy! From the exciting moment you two were conceived, you were a part of our family, and we adored you and loved you dearly. Both of you were alive, and you already had such beautiful and wonderfully unique souls!

You are fraternal twins, so we wondered if you would both be boys, girls, or one of each. We talked to you, we sang to you, we prayed about you, we prayed with you, and we imagined with such excitement what amazing plans were in store for you. You two were fearfully and wonderfully made, and I praise God for the short time that I shared with you as your father while your mother carried you. Both then and now, I think about you every moment of every day.

I admit that my heart feels crippled by the devastating agony of your loss. It feels like I was robbed of not one but two whole lifetimes of joy. I have wailed in misery of the void left behind by your early deaths, and I have screamed in anger of the injustice felt. For the rest of my life, you two will be constantly with me in my mind yet painfully beyond my reach in every other way. Oh, how much I long to hold you and kiss you just one time!

Even more so, nothing crushes my spirit more than witnessing the torment that my wife and best friend continues to endure. Your mother is such a beautiful, strong, amazing, miraculous woman, and it frightens me to see her so broken. I cannot even begin to fathom what she has gone through and has yet to go through as she mourns the loss of her two precious babies.

Still, God is good. He loves us, and He continues to comfort our broken hearts. It is such a blessing that you two were born perfect into an eternal paradise in His awesome and glorious presence. I am thankful that neither of you will ever have to experience pain of any kind.

I cannot wait to one day meet you in heaven. I know you two will be easy to find: you'll be the most beautiful and perfect among all of the angels, and you will have your mother's eyes.

Today would have been your due date. You both will forever be on our minds and in our hearts. We miss you more than you can imagine, and we love you more than words can say. We will always cherish the precious memory of you both. Happy Birthday, my twins, my little perfect angels!

- Your Loving Father

by Jill Francis on March 9th, 2017

I had breakfast plans with a wonderful friend of mine this morning at 9:00.  At 10:30, after going to three IHOPS, sending texts and making calls, I finally called her home number.  Thank goodness she still had a land line.  Her husband told me she had left her cell phone at home, but he thought she was going to the Silver Diner.  The light in my brain turned on and I suddenly remembered where I was supposed to be.  “Silver Diner” was even in print, in the text she sent a week ago, and yet my brain saw “IHOP”.

As I began to drive to the correct location, and as I attempted to contain my hysteria, I called my brother…who thought the entire ordeal was hilarious and who laughed in my face…even though he understands my panic.  As “Alzheimer’s children”, we have heard the statistics and we know what our chances are for acquiring the disease.  We are afraid we will one day lose our minds.  This fear of the illness lies dormant within us until mornings like mine.  Then it raises its ugly head and whispers, “see, it’s already begun…your mind is failing…you are forgetting”. 

Those whispers are heard by many around the world, for anyone caring for an Alzheimer’s patient is afraid they are next.  The whispers are also heard by caregivers of other dementia patients and caregivers of patients with other genetic illnesses.  We are not alone in hearing the whispers of Fear, therefore we do not have to succumb to it.  We also have choices:  we can advocate, in little and big ways; we can talk and share and educate; we can help someone else who is struggling; we can live each day to the fullest and make our corner of the world a little brighter for having been here; the list goes on.

Or…we can simply call someone who we know will laugh with (at) us and allow the laughter to quiet the fear.  That’s what I did.  But I am also going to update my Living Will to have an “in case of insanity” provision.  I may even add my husband to my Google calendar…so at least one of us will know where I’m supposed to be…

by Jill Francis on February 25th, 2017

David Cassidy is just one more of those who appear "bigger than life" to have been diagnosed with dementia.  The Huffington Post article does a very good job educating us about some of the various types of dementia (there are approximately 72 types, some which are reversible).
I'm posting it for your convenience:  ​

​David, we wish you well...and we think we love you....

by Jill Francis on February 19th, 2017

 I have always thought I had a balanced identity; an identity which came from many parts of me, from the many hats I wear.  I am a wife and mother but I have also worked outside the home, so “home-maker” was not my sole identity.  I considered my jobs to be a means of contributing to the family finances, I have never been “career-minded”, and so my job has never been my identity.  I am a sister, who is fortunate to have a good relationship with my brother, and I am a daughter.  The daughter part of me has been a bit complicated the last 15 years for I became the daughter of an Alzheimer’s patient, and that role changed my “daughter identity” a bit, but I was still a daughter.  I am also a friend, Nanny, occasional mentor and founder of a non-profit organization.  Last, but not least, I do my best to be a Christ-follower, but I tend to mess that up a bit every day (no, I did not vote for Donald Trump….or Hillary for that matter).

All in all, I thought I had a fairly balanced identity, with some days being more one thing than another perhaps, but all-in-all, balanced.  I even welcomed the change in identity from “mother” to “friend-of-adult-child” as my boys left the nest.  I am fortunate (and grateful) that I still like my husband, so becoming an “empty-nester” is something I’ve enjoyed and I like that change in identity.

I like balance.  I thought I was living in balance.  That’s why I never saw it coming…the identity crises.  At some point, after turning 51 and after the loss of my sweet mamma, I was suddenly lost.  I can’t blame it on grief, for it was so much bigger than losing my mamma because I lost…me.  My purpose.  My identity.  My dreams.  Me.

I have always believed Life comes in seasons:  child, teen, young adult, professional, spouse, parent, etc.  I always expected Life to change with these seasons and since I anticipated the changing seasons, I thought I would easily grow and change right along with them.  But the wind shifted and a season came for which I have no name other than “The Loss of Identity Season”, and the wind of this season knocked me over.
I recently had coffee with a long-time friend.  She is beautiful, creative, vivacious, compassionate, empathetic, artistic…and struggling with who she is.  She admitted she has spent the last year having an identity crises, wondering what her purpose is and wondering, at her lowest, how she would survive the day; for the sadness was overwhelming at times.  I admired her courage to be transparent, vulnerable and honest with me, and I regretted my deficit.  I wish I had had the courage a year ago to confide my struggle with some of my friends…there is strength and healing in community and yet I hid…and I know better.

So, for all of my  sisters out there, especially if you're over 50, I’m coming clean now and letting you know I’m struggling.  And worse yet, I have no answers as to what my new identity is.  My friend is wise and has been to a counselor, improved her nutrition, taken time for therapeutic massage and looked in the mirror.  I’m starting with the mirror…the one that looks on the inside and leads me to soul-searching and reflection.  I’m also going to work through the book, Start Where You Are by Meera Lee Patel.  It’s a journal for self-exploration, given to me by a dear friend who always knows when I need help.  It’s fun, creative and helps me dream. 

When I told my husband I was having an identity crises, he asked me if I needed a sports car.  After giving it some thought (and telling him “no”) what I’ve decided I need most, while I figure it all out, is:   Jesus, vulnerability (thank you, Brene Brown), laughter with friends and family, a place where I can give of myself, a huge helping of gratitude for all I have…and a new pair of shoes.  After all, identity is about balance, right?

by Jill Francis on January 10th, 2017

I am not a sociologist, psychologist, psychiatrist, scientist, researcher or otherwise trained professional who studies people, grief, and loss and then tells the rest of us what the data means.  I studied French.  Bonjour.  And although I'm no expert, I have fifteen years of studying the effects of Alzheimer's and grief on my family, I have studied friends who have suffered loss and I have observed casual acquaintances process grief.  I have many hours of personal research which have led me to non-scientifically determine there are Three Truths about loss/grief/pain that apply to all of humanity (in my humble opinion).

Truth I :  It is good to have perspective on my pain; someone else's pain may be greater than mine.  Before you tell me to stuff it, please continue to read...

 I tend to manage my "dark days" by sitting on the couch with a blanky, a bowl of ice cream and a list of "must see"  chick flicks; If there's a princess involved (animated or "real"), so much the better.  After about day three of this*, there is an Inner Voice that speaks to me and tells me to get up and join humanity.  If I don't, then on day four, (it never fails), a friend or acquaintance will call me and tell me their story of pain...which is often much greater than my own.  

There is a benefit to having a perspective of my hurt in comparison to others:  it reminds me I am not alone in my suffering and it reminds me there are those who suffer more; thereby reminding me to be grateful for my own circumstances, even if they're difficult.  Alzheimer's and the loss of my mother was painful, but I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child or of having a child with a terminal illness.  For me, that kind of pain is greater than mine and it gives me perspective.  My GPPS (Global Pain Perspective Scale) interrupts my obsessive dark thoughts about myself and helps me adjust my focus to a healthier place outside myself.  It helps me stop the wallowing in my own pain and self-pity.   But...this does not mean I can run away from my own pain...

Truth 2 : My Pain is real and in need of healing.  

Placing my pain on the GPPS and determining its relationship to others, does not mean I can hide behind theirs and ignore my own.  If I am going to be healthy and whole, then I must acknowledge my pain and go Through (​ the process of healing.  This takes time.  And the greater the loss, the longer the recovery.  

We would never expect the recovery from a knee replacement surgery to be easier than the recovery from a scraped knee, yet when it comes to emotional pain we often treat it as a simple scrape and expect to "rub some dirt on it" and move on with life.  
That.  Doesn't.  Work.
A patient with a new and artificial knee must go through the difficult process of physical therapy in order to walk again and in order for the new part to mesh with the old bones; and they will never fully recover if they don't do the hard work of physical therapy...they will forever limp.  

Unresolved grief can lead to emotional pain needs to be confronted addressed and healed.  I may even need a counselor, support group, pastor or other professional to help me...and that is ok.  If I want to be whole, I need to be healed.

Truth 3:  We recover at different rates of healing.

I have a friend who lost her precious momma to Alzheimer's.  About three months after her mother passed away, she mentioned that she was still struggling with her grief.  "Of course you are", I told her, "it's only been three months, that's nothing.   You're allowed a year!  Minimum!"
My friend believed she should cry for a couple of months and "move on".  I explained that most counselors and therapists believe we all need at least a year to mourn, in order to transition through all of the seasons, birthdays and holidays without the loved one.  A year.  Minimum.

I have another friend who took two years to really process the loss of her mother and she went through the Grief Share ( program twice.  Six years later, we still speak about her momma in almost every conversation.  That's ok.

Both of these scenarios may seem extreme, but the point is this:  there is no right or wrong timeline in which to process our long as we do it.  So give yourself a break if it's taking you longer than expected, or less time than you expected, and offer the same grace to someone in your life who may be hurting.  We are all unique creations and the way and timeline in which we heal is uniquely our own.

Three Truths common to all of us, yet unique to every individual.  Three Truths, that I believe, can lead to wholeness if we choose to live in them. 

(*Please recognize that my "dark days" are typically due to circumstantial depression or "the blues".  I am not suggesting that everyone should only have three days, I am simply sharing my experiences without judgement on anyone else.)

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