Empathy vs. Sympathy

Posted on Feb 3, 2014 in General Grief

You will never forget this short animated video

After watching you will “at least” know how to act better—even if you don’t believe it’s necessary

Social researcher Brene Brown and illustrator Katy Davis help us understand the difference between empathy and sympathy. This video compliments an earlier TakingGrief.com post about the difference between authentic supportive listening and highlighting what is “good” about another’s personal crisis. Brown calls these off-base “comforting” comments “as least” statements.

If you have a few more minutes, listen to Brene’s funny and fascinating TED video presentation on shame, vulnerability and connection.

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Mark Slouka’s New Yorker Magazine Post “Nobody’s Son”

Posted on Jan 14, 2014 in Parent Loss

Old Man

“And grief, like love, is resistant to reason….”

Mark Slouka’s father recently died. He acknowledges that old men die every day, but then his dad isn’t just any old man, and there is also the kicker that he is now the sole living member of his family—no aunts or uncles, no cousins, no brothers or sisters—no more shared blood. I understand this strange circumstance as I am also the last one standing in my family.

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The holiday season is over!

Posted on Jan 3, 2014 in General Grief, Holidays

For those grieving the recent loss of a loved one, January can’t come too soon. It’s over—no more pretending you are fine for the sake of others. Yes, there are going to be tough days ahead—birthdays and other anniversaries will bring you down—but the big hoopla season of good cheer is over!

Consider celebrating what doesn’t go wrong in 2014

I have a suggestion for 2014. Try it for a few months and see what happens.

At the end of the day consider what didn’t go wrong. It may seem like a small idea, but is it? Yes, you are struggling to deal with the loss of your loved one, but have you considered what could have actually gone wrong today – and didn’t? No one called with bad news, nothing broke down, no one was hurt, and your house didn’t burn to the ground. If you add in any unexpected good news, it’s hard not to feel grateful.

And the kicker? It is January so you can be grateful without looking at decorations, without buying presents, and without cooking a meal!

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Advent Reflection on Life, Sorrow, & Loss

Posted on Dec 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

Source:   On Being


Jay Blossom turns our frame of reference from feeling that grief conflicts with the joy of Christmas—to reminding us that the Advent was a time of mourning as well as joy—for Jesus was born into a sorrowful world.

Blossom says:

I suppose there is nothing inherently tragic about an elderly parent dying. My dad lived well and long, and burying parents is a principal duty of children in every culture and every age. And there’s certainly nothing exceptional about putting down a 17-year-old cat. But we feel the loss, especially at this time of year, even though the loss itself is natural and normal. We miss our dads and our pets. We grieve our childhood home, friends who have hurt us, people in authority who have let us down. And sometimes we weep over bigger, truly tragic events — a typhoon’s destruction, children murdered in their school, a society that seems off the rails.

But just as waiting is part of Advent, so is mourning a part of Christmas….

Read the entire article from On Being by clicking here.

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What do I want for Christmas?

Posted on Dec 12, 2013 in General Grief, Holidays

Robert Fulgham

I want to be five years old again!

Robert Fulgham, author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, writes about what he wants for Christmas.  “It’s hard to talk about, but what I really, really, really want for Christmas is just this: I want to be five years old again for an hour. I want to laugh a lot and cry a lot. I want to be picked up, rocked to sleep in someone’s arms, and carried just one more time. I know what I really want for Christmas: I want my childhood back.

(Click on link at bottom of this post to watch video of Fulgham talking further about Christmas. Good stuff. I wouldn’t miss it if I were you. Heartwarming.)

I think most of us can relate to what Fulgham wants. Christmas is a complex time of the year. A loss of any kind feels more obvious during the holidays. When Christmas follows on the heels of the death of a loved one, it is healthy for the family members to work together to create a positive symbol honoring the presence of the absence. Here are two suggestions.

Making message ornaments

  • Buy one ornament for each family member. Be sure the ornament top is removable and not exceptionally narrow. Traditional inexpensive ornaments provide plenty of room for this project.
  • Cut a sheet of 8-1/2”x11” white inexpensive paper into ½” x8” strips.
  • Write a private message to the deceased on one of the strips.
  • Remove the hanger top of the ornament, and set the hanger and ornament aside.
  • Roll the paper message as tightly as possible. It helps to do this on top of a table so it can be rolled very tightly.
  • Push the rolled message through the ornament opening and replace the hanger. The message will rapidly unfurl inside of the ornament.  It is now ready to hang on the tree.
  • Note: You might want use a permanent magic marker to date the bottom of the ornament.

Creating a paper memory garland

  • Cut 1” strips of different colors of construction paper. Make sure they are the same length.
  • Give three strips to each family member so they can write favorite holiday memories of the deceased, and/or a few words about what they miss about not sharing this holiday with them.
  • If a family member can’t attend, mail their strips of paper, requesting they send them back prior to Christmas week.
  • At the family gathering, take a vote as to who will thread and staple each strip into a loop, creating a memory garland for the tree.

Scheduling a family activity around the loss of your loved one is good for everyone and breaks the ice for those who have trouble expressing themselves. These are just examples; maybe you can come up with an even better one!

In closing, here is what I promised earlier

Fulgham talks about the child who came to his door at Christmas.


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Sweet Lorraine

Posted on Dec 5, 2013 in Spousal/Partner Loss

Sweet Lorraine

96-year old Fred Stobaugh writes a song to his deceased wife

Green Shoe Studio sponsored a songwriter contest asking people to submit videos of their original songs, promising to professionally produce the winner. Fred Stobaugh read the contest ad in his Peoria newspaper and decided to participate. Unable to send a video he mailed the lyrics of “Sweet Lorraine” to Jacob Colgan at the Green Shoe Studio.

When Jacob received Fred’s entry he couldn’t resist: he decided to put Fred’s lyrics to music. The rest is history. Below is the link to Diane Sawyer announcing Fred had been chosen as the ABC News Person of the Week.


After “Sweet Lorraine” was produced Fred said, “The song really helps me. It really helps me. It just seems like she’s just sort of with me. I know she’s smiling, she’s smiling down and she likes that song, I know.”

View this Tribute of Love on YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xN8B0gCpi3o


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