Gift-giving: thoughtful but inconsiderate

Posted on January 17, 2018. Filed under: Family, Parenting, Suicide | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

The holiday season was interesting. It was the first without my husband, so of course, there was emotional baggage that needed to be unpacked, sorted, and put away to some degree. But the most fascinating thing I learned about this past holiday season was about the gift-giving.

I’ll admit, I was looking forward to the gift-giving! This was my young daughter’s first Christmas without her dad, and I wanted to make it special! I was looking forward to my friends and family helping me take care of her during a potentially trying time of year.

Instead, it was… well, not what I expected.

People are so wrapped up in their own lives, I realize. People are struggling with how to take care of themselves, so they have limited capacity to take care of others. This makes me a little sad. But it also confuses me: when people are presented with simplicity, they actively choose a harder route. I can’t figure this out.

My kid is really into games and space exploration and monster trucks right now. She prefers her National Geographic book about the solar system over a storybook for bedtime reading. I put together an Amazon wish list of gift ideas for her, and sent it out to friends and family.

All those friends and family were so very generous this past Christmas! Yet only one person bought something off the list. My kid got a TON of Christmas gifts, but only a few she actually enjoyed. I felt a little badly for her. To her credit, my daughter got over the disappointment at unwrapping dolls, and quickly pivoted to playing enthusiastically with the few gifts she liked. She was perfectly fine with my donating all the rest to charity.

All those friends and family were so very thoughtful – their gifts showed they loved and cared for my daughter tremendously. The gifts just weren’t very considerate. The gifts were obviously what THEY wanted her to have and enjoy, what THEY wanted to give, what THEY envisioned her playing with, despite evidence (and explicit direction) to the contrary.

One family member always waits until the last minute to Christmas shop, even though he got the list weeks prior. Why not just do a few mouse clicks to ensure my kid loves what she gets? No… instead there were a lot of text messages with photos of toys at the store in the days leading up to Christmas. “What about this?” I reply no. “What about this instead?” I reply no. “How about this?” I say, oh, she would love that! And then later, another text, “What about this instead?”

What the holy hell! Why are you making your life HARDER right now? I already said YES. Just buy and GO!

In that case, my daughter didn’t actually get a gift from him in time for Christmas. She got it about a week later. Something I approved of, that I knew she would enjoy. And it was something she is playing with LIKE CRAZY.

In another case, a very close friend and “auntie” got the list but made an excuse about not buying off the list, even though she said she LOVED the gifts on the list and would have loved to get one of those for her.

And you bought her something else not even remotely related to anything on the list because … why?


My thoughtful (and considerate!) daughter brought me tears by asking what I wanted for Christmas. Do you know that not one other person asked me what I wanted for Christmas? Not one. Not the family member who insists that she loves me and wants to know me better. Not the friends who insisted they would be there for me no matter what. Instead I got extremely thoughtful gifts that didn’t really serve me or help me.

I just wanted someone to get my car washed and detailed. There are a lot of crumbs I can’t get to from the kiddo eating crackers on long car rides, spiders in the side view mirrors constantly building webs even though I clean them off, and I can’t get the windshield truly streak-free. I was so prepared to provide that answer to the question of what I wanted for Christmas… until I realized I never got the question.


Eh. No time for a pity party. Thoughtful yet inconsiderate gifts don’t make or break anything. We love those friends and family as much as they love us – with abundance and abandon. But I learned an important distinction in gift giving that I hope to take forward into my own practices, and a little something to teach my daughter as well.

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I’m excited about life

Posted on August 12, 2017. Filed under: grief, Health, Suicide | Tags: , , , , , , |

I have so much to do and accomplish. I’ve done an incredible amount of work this summer on myself, and I think it has been valuable, productive work.

But I felt guilty. Did my husband have to die for me to realize all this potential? Am I using his death to serve me? Is that wrong?

I realized that he taught me incredible lessons about life that I can take forward. He may have completed suicide, but really, that was a single moment in time and doesn’t erase an entire era of living according to his values that I can keep close as I grab ahold of everything that is new again.

These values include:

  • Preserving working class values and addressing income inequality
  • Volunteerism
  • Commitment to education and ongoing learning
  • Questioning authority, finding independent validation
  • Appreciating and protecting nature
  • Doing the right thing, even if it was against rules or guidelines
  • Seeking help when you need it
  • Travel, exploration
  • Voting, active participation in the political process, local organization and engagement
  • Being neighborly, helping each other out
  • Creating and maintaining distance from toxic relationships
  • Honesty
  • Financial planning and financial responsibility
  • Following through, keeping your word
  • Investing in relationships, putting in the time and work necessary
  • Health and fitness
  • Animal rights, loving and valuing and respecting them
  • Sustainability in everyday practice/ life

Despite his death, he lived his values every day. Those who knew him know this is true. I don’t need to feel guilty about moving on and loving my life, if I keep the values close.

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Moving on

Posted on July 15, 2017. Filed under: Family, grief | Tags: , , , , , , , |

This has been a summer of self-discovery, healing, learning, family and friends, and – let’s be honest! – lots and lots of therapy.

And you know what? It has been FANTASTIC! What a fun summer, full of love and making memories. We’ve traveled, we’ve experienced new milestones, we’ve hosted lots and lots of people from out of town at different times, the list goes on. My daughter is thriving, learning about death and spirit, lasting love, and facing fears. I’ve certainly had my incredibly sad moments after my husband’s death, but I cry my cries, and I wake up the next day and live. He’s dead, but I’m alive!

Now, I’m preparing to go back to work. I met with my bosses, CEO and CFO, in order to plan out my priorities and re-entry to the office and our clients. And that night, I cried from 8pm to midnight.

Full. Stop.

What happened there? Turns out that going back to work triggered an emotional windfall about my husband’s death that I hadn’t experienced in 4 months, and that is the concept of moving on. I thought I was moving on all along. I’m ALIVE, remember?

Nope. Moving on is *actually* going back to regular life, a normal routine, basically the opposite of this summer. And that routine will be without the one person I’ve had a routine with for 14 years. Everyone will go back to their lives, and so will we. So I cried for 5 hours.

In my despair, I reached out to him, and you know what? He sent me a lot of soft green bursts with smatterings of pale pink. And as long as my eyes were closed, I could experience the color. I hung onto it as long as a I needed it, standing there alone in my kitchen at midnight, for I knew what those colors signified. And soon, I was able to breathe through the emotion. I am grateful he would expend the energy for a little something to comfort me. It was enough.

And now I must do the hard work of determining what I want this Fall to be like, how I should define our routine as a family of two instead of three. Others who didn’t have the luxury of taking a few months off of work might be forced into dealing with this issue after a loved one has passed sooner that I had to. But it doesn’t matter. I just need to do it now.

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What I have learned

Posted on April 26, 2017. Filed under: grief, Marriage, Suicide | Tags: , |

I learned that love actually doesn’t conquer all the way I believed. I thought my love could save my husband from his bipolar disorder. It feels foolish when I actually type it out, but whatever, it’s what I believed.

I learned that trusting my instincts and listening to my inner voice doesn’t lead to happily ever after. I wouldn’t do it differently – there’s a satisfaction and a peace that comes with making life choices that way, and that doesn’t go away. I just know now that doing so means I’m on path to learn lessons, not to achieve some culmination of happiness or an ideal. I guess life doesn’t work that way.

I’ve learned that I still held onto very childish, overly simplistic ideals of life. I’m still an optimist. I still believe we have incredible power over our destinies. I just no longer believe it plays out exactly the way we want or hope.

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