Tag Archives: Family

My Advice to 30 Something Couples

This morning I read a post by Carey Nieuwhof on Twenty Five Random Pieces of Advice to Leaders in their 20-30-40’s. That got me thinking about what advice I might share with 30 something couples.advice

I had recently shared my own advice with my 30 something staff members and was curious if my thought was on his list. It wasn’t. So here it is:

Pay attention to building your marriage and not just building your career and lifestyle.

What I’ve observed is that when you are in your thirty’s you tend to feel like “NOW IS MY TIME.” It’s make or break. You are full of energy and ideas. You’ve conquered some of the big goals of life (spouse, job, house) and you still have some energy, so you push for the promotion, get your masters degree, get a second job to pay for the house you overbought, etc.

Be careful with that.

It’s Easy to Drift

What often happens is your marriage drifts. Or you might be busy chasing your kids and driving them around but you never get to know them. Just because you are with your family doesn’t mean you know them.

If you follow your dreams and fail to develop your relationships, you’ll end up a lonely person in your 50’s and beyond.

You assume that all is good and whatever goal you have in mind will “just be a year” of your life. No big deal. Your family will be so much better off when you accomplish your goal. But when that wraps up you still have some energy. You still want to improve your life and you think the marriage, or time with your kids, can wait.

That’s an illusion. If you follow your dreams and fail to develop your relationships, you’ll end up a lonely person in your 50’s and beyond.

Emotional Abandonment

I know what I’m talking about. Not the lonely part in my 50’s (I’m 59). The busy part in my 30’s. I’m thankful that at age 39 my wife confronted me about my workaholism. I thought our marriage was fine. I was working hard to accomplish a number of goals that I thought would “set us up” to live a happy life in the future. But my wife was miserable in the present. In my quest for success, I had emotionally abandoned her.

Thankfully she told me. And thankfully I heard her. (It took a number of attempts before she found the words that helped me understand). That saved me from being lonely today. We made some drastic changes to put our family relationships first. I shudder to think of where I’d be today had we not done that.

So…watch yourself. Don’t think your relationships will still be there when you have accomplished all your goals in life. Your accomplishments won’t mean anything if you are all alone. Make this #26 on Carey’s list of ideas (or maybe #1).

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Overcoming Loss is an Art

Overcoming Loss is an Art

Overcoming Loss is an Art

In my last post I mentioned that my mother just passed away. Since then I spent two days with my siblings and children going through my mom’s  memorabilia, reminiscing, along with some crying too. Overcoming loss is an art. I don’t know if I have the technique down but I thought I’d pass along what I know and what I’m learning along the way.

I say that overcoming loss is an art because there is no formula for dealing with loss. There are only principles to consider. How well you work the principles determine how  much of an artist you are.

Following are some principles to consider. I relate them to the current loss of my mother but they apply to all losses in life.

The Art of Overcoming Loss

  • Understand and appreciate the power of loss. We deal with loss every day. Every day we have expectations that aren’t met. Every unmet expectation is a loss. Loss produces a range of emotion; anger, fear, sadness, etc. Be aware of this. Explore it. Seek to understand it. Ignoring it won’t make it go away.
  • Give yourself permission to experience the range of emotion. Too often we think that we have to control our emotions. We don’t allow ourselves to feel let alone emote. Why? God gave us emotions for a reason. Feel them. Express them. Let them speak to you about your loss and teach you the depth of your connection to what you lost.  I keep getting hit by waves of sadness. But I don’t want to block that or ignore it. It’s okay. It’s normal. Some of the sadness has to do with missing my mom. But as I reflect on it, some of my sadness has to do with sensing that things will never be the same.
  • Give yourself space to grieve the loss. There is something in us that wants to “move on”. In fact, some of us pride ourselves in not skipping a beat in life. There’s a word for that: denial.  We set my mother’s memorial for six weeks out. But I needed to grieve now, not later. I grabbed my family and joined my siblings in Arizona the last two days to purposefully process our loss together. It was very valuable. I’m so glad we dropped everything to do it.
  • Understand all the losses associated with the bigger loss. Every loss has a chain reaction of other losses. For example, it hurts to lose my mom but there are a string of losses that come from her death:

– my family won’t get together as much

– I will rarely visit Florida any more which I’ve done for 30 years.

– I will no longer have the rhythm of calling and visiting my mom

– I am now, with my siblings, the keeper of the legacy. Not mom.

– Holidays and vacations will be absent her presence. There are many more.

  • Understand that your loss experience is unique. Don’t force your experience or expectations on others. How my siblings and children deal with the loss of my mom is different from how I deal with it. Our experience with mom has been different. I can’t judge their experience – or mine – as good or bad, right or wrong. It just is what it is.
  • Talk to people about your loss and their loss experience. When you talk about your experience things come out of your mouth that gives insight. When you bottle it up you lose that insight. Talk and keep talking until you feel like you have moved through it.
  • Don’t think you are “over it”. The more you love someone or something the longer the pain of loss. The pain may never completely go away and that’s not a bad thing. That just shows how deeply your life was knit to what you loved. If you expect yourself to “get over it” but don’t….then that’s yet another loss. Don’t set an unrealistic expectation like that.

I find grief and loss fascinating. I’ve written some about it in my upcoming book (STUCK). Overcoming loss is an art. I hope we can all develop the artistry.

Question: My list isn’t exhaustive by any means. What principles have you learned about the art of overcoming loss?  Leave your comment below. Consider “sharing the knowledge” on Facebook.


Grieving the Loss of My Mother

Grieving the loss of my mother isn’t something I was fully prepared for. I guess we never are. Mom passed away last week after 93 very active years.

My mom in Texas the week before she died.

My mom had just held an all-family reunion. She and everyone there knew it would probably be the last time many people saw her. We just didn’t know how quickly she would leave us.

I left her just a few days before she died and I sensed she didn’t have much time. On the flight home I read a poem about Sabbath and it seemed like it might be foreshadowing what was to come.  It speaks of fall but it speaks of death in general. Following is the second half of the poem…

It seems cruel
  that something that used to be so beautiful
    should fall to the ground
      sinking into the earthy mud
        along with everything else that is dying,
         no longer recognizable for what it used to be.
It seems cruel but it is the way of things.
One generation gives its life for the next.
   One season slips away so another can come.
      One crop of fruit falls from the tree so that more can be born.
         One wave recedes while another gathers strength to crash upon the shore.
It seems cruel
    but it is the rhythm of things
               and rhythm has its own beauty.
                                                            from Sabbath in Late Fall by Ruth Haley Barton

This seemed so appropriate after having just been at a reunion that was marked by a new generation of children.

My mom died under almost ideal conditions. She lived a long life (93). She died in her sleep. She got to say good-bye to almost everyone important to her. She had a reunion and one last cross-country adventure weeks before she died. Any one of us would sign up for the way she left this world.

Yet even under “ideal” conditions it’s still a loss. I saw it coming but it still hurts. That’s true of any loss. To the degree your life wraps around something, to that same degree it hurts when it’s gone from your life. It must be so hard when people lose someone when it’s anything less than ideal.

There are times when I feel fine. I’m grateful for how things ended up. But in spite of that waves of sadness hit me unexpectedly. I’m sure that will be true for some time.  I crave family now and friends. Just being with them helps the process.

I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts in days to come. But I’m interested in how you may have grieved the loss of your mom or dad. Leave a comment below. Thanks.


Aging Parents – a positive story

It’s never easy dealing with aging parents. Not only do they present their own complicated issues but families often have so much dysfunction that it’s hard to agree on caring for the aging parents. I’ve heard many sad stories through the years.

Aging Parents

Mom eating Texas BBQ in Amarillo

Thankfully, my family has done a good job of working together to help my parents. I’m taking a break from my typical blogging to celebrate that and share our story.

My mom held one last reunion (she’s 93 and aging rapidly) the week of July 4th. Following that I helped move her from Tampa to Phoenix in a RV with my sister and brother-in-law.

Both events were very meaningful to me. My family has always been separated by distance. My siblings moved to different states (FL, AZ, CO, WI) and I’ve never gotten to know their children well. I’ve always regretted that but the reunion really helped get us all caught up. As I get older I’d really like connecting more to them, not less.

Moving my mom proved to be more than we bargained for. There’s really no easy way to move a frail 93-year-old woman cross-country. We chose the RV thinking it would be less stress than a plane ride. But when we hit Santa Fé (7000 feet) her breathing got very labored and we had to take her to the Emergency Room. The rest of the trip was more like a survival mission with two more stops at ER’s in other towns. But we finally got her to her new home where she is trying to get her strength back.

The whole trip made me thankful for many reasons. We moved her because of my siblings and my commitment to mom ending her days with dignity. Her Florida assisted living home wasn’t providing that. Working with my siblings to make this happen was rewarding. I’m proud of our hard work on this. We moved her to a very small (ten person) home that looks more like a bed and breakfast than a care facility. It made me thankful to my dad (deceased) for his hard work and savings that made something like this possible. I know he’d be happy to see us doing this for mom.

What makes me especially happy is that there was a time when I thought my family would never be close. Everyone moved away and we lived separate lives. But when my dad died we decided to use some of his savings to have an annual reunion with my mom and siblings (not with all 36). Those reunions over the past twelve years have brought us together.

I mention this as a way to encourage you about your family.  It’s so easy to let the relationships slip away… especially when it involves distance and dysfunction. But maybe you can establish some traditions that will bring you back together in meaningful ways; a reunion, fishing trips, making sure you attend weddings, funerals, baptisms, etc.

When life is all said and done it’s really about our relationships. And family is at the top of that list.

Question: How has your family come together or fallen apart throughout the years? Leave your comment below.


Forgiveness, Boundaries and Family

How to Forgive Your Family

How to Forgive Your Family

Forgiveness with family members is tricky business. It involves a good understanding of how to set boundaries. Today I answer three questions that are related to forgiveness, boundaries and family.

Q: I have struggled with the “what happens now” after forgiveness has been given.  I would love to hear your perspective on how to let-go of an unhealthy relationship (sibling, etc.) in a way that still honors God.

A: With family members the ties and history give you more reason to work at reunion after forgiveness. But don’t let that coerce you either. Don’t feel obligated to get back together or spend every holiday together, etc. Give yourself permission to set boundaries that create distance between you and your family. Just because they are family doesn’t give them immediate access to your space. They must earn that right like anyone else.

Be careful not to let family members pressure you to live up to their expectations. I’m amazed at how often  people allow their parents to dictate their lives well into adulthood.  You can set boundaries respectfully. Your family might resent the boundaries, especially if they aren’t used to them. But don’t let them intimidate you.

We honor God by respecting our own personal space that he wants us to have (versus being overwhelmed by unhealthy people) and communicating boundaries in a firm and respectful manner. Don’t use boundaries to punish. Don’t be cruel. But be firm and consistent.

Q: What if my child is on a self-destructive path? I want to help him but not enable him. But I can’t stand the thought of him dying because no one intervened.

A:  You can follow the teaching of Jesus who tells us to do three things; one, go to the person. Two, bring others to confront with you. Three, tell it to the church. In other words, you keep increasing the intensity of the confrontation in hopes of them changing their lives.  Speak directly to them but don’t nag. That only shuts them down.

You can perform an intervention with family and friends. This is what causes many people to “see the light”. You can even call the police if you think they are in danger of harming themselves. But ultimately it is up to them. You can’t solve their problems for them as much as you’d like to.  Unfortunately death is a real possibility. You need to come to terms with that reality just like parents do who send their children off to war.

Q: Is everything forgivable? Affairs?

A: Everything is forgivable, even affairs. But some people don’t want to be forgiven. Or some people want to work it both ways. They want the marriage but they don’t want to change their behavior or ask forgiveness. 

Forgiveness is free. Trust is earned.

Refer back (in earlier posts) to what I said about forgiveness not meaning trust. Forgiveness is free. Trust is earned. You can forgive an affair but not trust someone until they rebuild your trust. And forgiveness doesn’t mean that you stay together. Forgiveness is simply giving up the right to get even.

Question: What questions do you have about forgiveness, family and boundaries? Leave them in the comment section below. Please share this post on Facebook, etc. if you found it helpful.

Receive a free sample copy of my book, STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships, when you subscribe to this blog.


Tough Questions and Answers about Forgiveness

Send me your Forgiveness Questions.

I spent the last two months talking about forgiveness; what it is, how to do it, and how to be forgiven. Now it’s time to answer some questions that you’ve asked.

Q: What about the people you love who don’t want you to forgive?

A: It’s always harder for your friends and family to forgive your offender.  They don’t understand the dynamics of forgiveness. They feel the need to protect you fearing that what happened will happen again.  See the good in what  they are trying to do. Give them permission to let go and not protect you.

Also, let them know that forgiveness isn’t excusing or trust.  That’s what they fear…that you will allow yourself to get hurt again. Assure them that’s not true. You are simply choosing to not get back at your offender and let the past control your future. Once they understand this they will be more at ease. Maybe even write them a note thanking them for their concern and outlining what I just wrote.

Q: When does “love” not equal being used, manipulated, and mistreated and when is it being giving, humble, peace-loving, etc.  Sometimes the lines are very blurred! 

A: This is why a good understanding of boundaries is so important. Everyone needs to know who they are and who they are not; where they stop and the other person starts.  Love is giving to others out of an abundance not being depleted by others.  If you are being depleted then a day will come when you no longer exist. You will be used up. That can’t happen. You need to have a monitor on what fills your tank and what depletes it.

You also need to monitor who is stealing from your tank or tanking it for granted.  Many people allow themselves to be taken advantage of because of low self-worth. They need the affirmation of others, even if others are taking advantage of them. Or they sense an obligation to give to be considered a good person or “good Christian”. Be careful with this. If you allow one person to totally drain you then how can you be available to love others? You might want to ask a close friend who knows you what they see happening. Get another perspective. Seek counseling for perspective as well.

Question: What questions do you have about forgiving or being forgiven? Leave your comment at the bottom of this page and I’ll answer them in a post or the comments section.

Be sure to subscribe to my blog and I’ll send you the preview to my book, STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships.  


Parenting without Shame is Possible

Parenting  Someone stopped me the other day and said, “I bought your book and I’m getting a lot out of it in regard to parenting”.  I had to smile because I get that a lot.

 Healing the Hurts of Your Past wasn’t written with parents in mind. But so many of my examples refer to parenting that it’s a natural connection.

I could rework the book using the same information and just target parents. But in the meantime you should know that the book can help you in this department. In fact, it definitely helped me with my parenting.

My Shaming Ways

Fifteen years ago, when I was researching the topic of shame, it dawned on me that I had shame issues. I was passing them on to my children. You’ve probably heard it said that “hurt people hurt.” Well, “shamed people shame” as well.

I sat my teenage kids down and explained what I had learned about myself. I defined shame.  I  told them what it looked like in our lives and apologized for my shaming ways. I warned them that I’d probably still do it some more… I was a work in progress. But I wanted them to know what it looked like so they would know when to discount what I might say or do.

I’ve come a long way over the years. I have a pretty good “shame detector” in my brain now that keeps me from shaming people, or at least alerts me to when I do it so I can apologize appropriately.

Healing the Hurts of Your Past will help you see what it looks like to shame your children and how to reframe your parenting to be more positive in your approach.

Please comment or share. Thanks.