Relationships

How to Find a Church by Yourself

There are some things in life that once you find them, you hold on to them and don’t let go: a great hairdresser, an honest mechanic, or a doctor who really listens to you.

Another staple of many peoples’ lives is a good church. But if you are single and unsure of how to find one, how do you even know where to begin? I want to give you some practical tips on how to find a church that suits you and will support you on your spiritual walk.

One thing to consider is what denomination of services you would like to attend. Some people prefer to go to the church of the religion they were raised in, which is fine. However, if that doesn’t meet your spiritual needs, consider taking this quiz to see where your leanings are. This BeliefNet quiz is for entertainment purposes, but it can give you insight if you prefer a more liberal, conservative, or middle-of-the-road church. For example, I scored highest as a Liberal Quaker, ranking far above the Catholic faith I was raised in.

However, being a Quaker isn’t terribly practical in my city of 300,000 people. They meet in a private residence once a week, and I’m not comfortable sticking out like a sore thumb for their meetings.

Another way to find a church is to ask your like-minded friends, relatives, or co-workers if they can recommend any churches. Ask them why they would recommend it, and if they think you would enjoy it. I think you will find their answers to be very telling. Ask if you can go to a service with them – there’s nothing like going to church with someone who can make introductions!

When I visit a new church, I have a list of what is most important to me:

  • Was I welcomed? I like a warm greeting. I don’t want to be a nameless face in the pew.
  • Music – Personally, I like more contemporary music.
  • Sermon – What was the central message of the sermon? Was it hellfire and brimstone, or did it teach an inspirational, gentle, and hopeful lesson?
  • Congregation– Is there diversity in the congregation? Is it all families or all older folks? Do you see unattached adults? If there is a good age spread, I take that as a good sign that the church reaches out to everyone.
  • Ministries – Many of these are highlighted in the church bulletin, which I highly recommend reading. Does the church offer anything of interest to you, like singles’ ministry, bible study, classes, or volunteer opportunities? Opportunities to get you involved will make you feel quickly at home.
  • Service time – I’m squirming after 45 minutes. If it goes past an hour, they’ve lost me.
  • Miscellaneous – Is there anything else that stands out about the church? Things I’ve noticed are coffee before or after services for fellowship, wonky parking lots, use of multimedia in the church, and the general overall church vibe. 

Of course selecting the right church for you is an intensely personal process, and you will unfortunately go to a few churches that just don’t resonate with you. But if you are brave enough to explore churches, keep in mind what is important to you in a church family, and visit the “maybe” churches more than once, I think you are well on your way to finding a worship community that’s just right for you.

If you attend church, how did you find the place you currently attend? Comment below!

The Power of My Family in My Life

It’s Father’s Day.

Cue up the dad jokes!

Why did the Clydesdale give the pony a glass of water? Because he was a little horse!

HAHAHA!!!

Now that I got that out of the way, family is foremost on my mind today, so I want to share with you some of the most powerful moments I have shared with my family—my parents, two sisters, and two brothers—where they have let me know everything is all right and, when the chips are down, they are the rock I stand on.

That time I totaled a car and Mom let me sleep in bed with her. When I was 18, I got into a car accident (my fault) that totaled the other driver’s car. My father was out of town and I was freaking out how mad he would be. My mom told me, over, and over, things would be OK. Being an anxious person, I couldn’t get it into my head. So Mom did something I hadn’t done in years—she let me sleep in her bed, let me cry out my fears, and somehow managed to assure me things would work out. And they did.

That time I was hospitalized in France and my parents were right there. I was 23 and got appendicitis in Paris. My appendix ruptured and I got a blood infection. By the grace of God my parents were already there on a scheduled vacation. Well, their vacay was cut short as they spent the next 10 days with me as I struggled to get my health back. Even though they don’t speak French and didn’t really know what was going on, I never would’ve made it out of their with their comfort and care.

That time my siblings helped me furnish an apartment after I left the convent. After I left the convent, I lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment near where I worked. I had used furniture I managed to cobble together from different places, but I needed sheets, pots, pans, cleaning supplies, etc. That’s where my sibs came in. They pooled their resources to buy me a card to cheer me up and a Target gift card so I could buy the basic necessities. They didn’t have to do that, but it was certainly the most thoughtful gesture. I still have the card and it makes me smile every time I read it.

That time I had a nervous breakdown and had to be institutionalized. Long story short, I was living in another state and I had myself committed to a mental hospital for suicidal ideation. My parents dropped everything to come take care of my cat, get me out of the hospital, and stayed with me until I was well enough to look after myself. That was a very dark time in my life, and it was only my family looking out for me that got me through that very scary time.

That time I lost my job and practically moved in with my folks. I lost my job last summer, and my family saved me from being home alone, freaking out about the future. My sisters invited me over to watch TV to take my mind off things. My brothers took me to movies to cheer me up. I went over to dinner at my parents’ place five days a week. During all that time, they let me laugh, cry, share my frustrations, and were the first to celebrate with me when I got the job. They helped me more than they will ever know, nor will they ever know the depth of my gratitude.

So today, stop and think about your family—biological, adopted, friends, pets, or anyone else close to your heart. Remember how they helped you in the rough spots. And cherish the time you spend with them.

How has your family impacted your life for the better? Comment below!

Why You Need to Maintain Long-Distance Friendships

I am in the process of losing my best friend from elementary school.

Just writing that is a punch to the gut.

I’ve known this woman since 1985. Though we haven’t lived in the same town in fifteen years, we have seen each other through high school, college, job changes, moves, countless boyfriends, a husband (her), a kid (her again), a nasty divorce (still her), and medical problems. But we always maintained a strong friendship and have been there for one another.

That is, until her divorce was finalized. Then she vanished.

I know where she is, but between her work, her kid, and her new boyfriend, maintaining contact with me has been put at the bottom of her list.

The way bottom of the list, somewhere next to scheduling a root canal and doing her taxes.

I might sound like a whiner when I say it’s not fair. But it isn’t. I listened to her cry on the phone, vent, yell about her ex, and I invested my time to be there for her while she was in the process of getting a divorce. But when she found a new sweetie and the divorce was finally over, she ghosted on me. I call or text to see how she’s doing, I never hear from her. No Facebook, no Skype. Nothing.

I finally told her how I felt completely left out and that our friendship is dying. I don’t know what the next chapter of our friendship is—or even if there will be one—but I do know why it is critical to maintain relationships with your friends, even if they live in other states or countries.

Life is too short to dump someone you’ve been friends with for years. Unless the relationship is toxic/abusive or the “friend” is an emotional drain, why would you not cultivate your long-distance friendships? What good does it do to cut people you love out of your life?

Few people understand you like your best friend. Yeah, your significant other and/or family know a lot about you. A lot. But if you’re like me, your best friend knows the darkest side of you, and still loves and accepts you for who you are. That I something that is so rare and special, you owe it to yourself to maintain the friendship bonds.

You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends. There is something so unique about friendship. Of the 7 billion people on the planet, you picked this special someone to walk arm in arm with in this thing called life. Your close friends who live far away may not physically be there, but they are the special people who choose to love you and will do whatever it takes to be there for you.

A little communication goes a long way. It really doesn’t take much to tell someone you’re thinking of them. A Facebook message, a text, a phone call, even a card. Don’t be like my friend—invest five minutes of time into someone you haven’t talked to in months. You will reap rewards that pay off in years to come.

Friends come in handy when you travel. One of the greatest pleasures in life is traveling to visit friends in different cities. Not only can you score a free place to stay, but they will show you all the local great local sites not mentioned in the tour guides.

Life happens. This is the biggest thing. When the chips are down and you need a shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear, or you just need the comfort of knowing someone cares, that’s where friends play the biggest part. Think about the last time a friend offered support or helped you solve a problem.

Seriously, where would we be without friends?

Take some time to think if there is a friend you have been neglecting. What can you do today to let them know you are thinking of them? Pick up the phone and call or message them. I promise you won’t regret it!

Who is your best friend in the world, and why do you love them? Comment below!

How Wearing Masks Is Stopping You from Living a Full Life

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a Phantom of the Opera super-nerd. One of my favorite lines comes from the beginning of Act II:

Masquerade…

Paper faces on parade

Masquerade…

Hide your face

So the world

Will never find you…

Think about those lyrics, and I’m not talking about fancy-dress balls. I mean masks you wear to protect yourself and your true identity. How many different masks do you wear every day? Are you shyer, more complacent, more self-conscious, more cautious, than you want to be?

Today I want to talk about the different masks we wear as women, and why we need to take them off in order to live our very best life. Because if we go through life too cautiously, our lives will be very empty and unfulfilled.

Are you holding yourself back from deepening relationships?

There is probably someone in your life that you want to see more of. Maybe there is a coworker you want to invite out to lunch. Or the cute neighbor you see every day who you want to ask out for coffee. But for whatever reason, you can’t bring yourself to say what is really on your mind or take that first step. You hide behind the mask of shyness, of keeping the status quo.

What are you accomplishing by not letting more people into your life? What can be gained by pining for someone from afar, thinking about what might have been, and not enriching your social circle? Take off the mask, be brave for 20 seconds, and ask that person out to lunch or for coffee. The WORST thing that can happen is that you get a “no.” And is that really the end of the world?

Is there a problem you know how to solve?

You’re in a meeting, people are trying to solve a problem, and you might have a solution, but you don’t want to look stupid. Or you may feel passionate about a cause, but don’t know how to get involved or you don’t want to offend anyone. The mask of self-assurance prevents you from helping people – not getting involved is easy. And safe.

But you have the power to make a difference. It takes 20 seconds of courage to volunteer an idea. A little more courage to find a group to connect with about the cause you care so much about. Take off the mask of keeping up appearances. Allow yourself to be vulnerable for the sake of others. 

Are you preventing yourself from living your best life?

Maybe your job has golden handcuffs – the pay and benefits are good, but the work is unsatisfying. Or you want to explore changing careers or starting a business. Or you have always wanted to live in one part of the country (or world) and never had the courage to move. Or maybe you want to try a different church, but never had the guts to try. The mask of comfort keeps you from making radical changes in your life.

This is probably the hardest mask to take off because as single women, we have a very real need to feel secure. We are the sole breadwinners, after all. But think to a time in your life – there had to be at least one time – when you made a drastic change, and it was for the better.

Getting that new job. Making that move. Dumping that lousy boyfriend.

How much better was your life after that? How did you summon up the courage to do it?

You owe it to yourself to take off the mask of complacency and make a plan. You have had it in you before, and you can do it again.

I know it is hard to take off the masks and step outside the status quo. But what would be possible if you were your best, authentic self? What would be possible if you stopped hiding your face and the world actually found you?

What was one time you had to step outside your comfort zone to improve your life, or someone close to you? Comment below!

Why You Should Care About Politics

“God damn it! We just got through the ugliest election in this country’s history! I never, ever want to hear about politics again!”

As of this writing (late October), the elections are, sadly, not over with yet. Nearly everyone I know is weary of this election, and I know more than one person who swears they will never vote again.

Never. Vote. Again.

Um, no. Not voting is not an option.

I used to work in an election office, so I’ve heard a lot of arguments why people don’t care about politics. If you hate politics or ignore them altogether, read below. I want you tell you why your lack of interest in what’s going on around you could hurt you in the end.

Excuse #1: My vote doesn’t matter.

I’m so tired of hearing this. First of all, if you knew the history of how different groups in our country had to struggle to get the vote, you might think a little differently. American women only got the vote in 1920, and that was after a lot of hard work. My grandmothers were born without any voting rights, and they only could when they turned 21, not 18.

And if you think your vote doesn’t matter, you are so wrong. More than a few local elections are decided by a single vote. In national elections, sometimes the presidential vote is decided by only a few hundred people. 2000, anybody? So your vote does matter. And if you sit at home on Election Day, you officially surrender your right to ever complain about politics ever again. And you’re dismissing the sacrifices of your great-grandmothers and all the other women in your family who worked to ensure you get the vote.

Excuse #2: There’s nothing on the ballot that affects me.

Not true, either. Many ballots have tax initiatives on them for levies, school bonds, sales taxes, etc., that hit you in the wallet. You could wind up paying more or less taxes. Your vote can affect how children in your city are educated, or which building projects get funded. In my state this year, we are voting on whether or not to abolish the death penalty. My vote is literally a vote of life and death.

I always supported Obamacare, but I never thought I would be on the receiving end of it. Welp, I am on it right now and I make sure my vote ensures politicians who support it stay in Washington. I want my voice heard, because what is on the ballot indeed affects my daily life.

Excuse #3: All politicians suck. Why should I even bother?

I actually don’t disagree with this argument. A lot of politicians do kind of suck because they are in perpetual campaign mode. They lose their empathy and connection with the very constituents who voted them into office.

That is why I think term limits are a good thing. And in the meantime, I am voting straight across the board to bring in new blood. I am weary of the establishment, so it’s time to shake it up. And even if the same old clowns get elected, at least I can hold my head high knowing I did my best to make a change.

Excuse #4: I don’t have time.

LAME. It take seconds to fill out an absentee request form. Vote at home in your jammies, then mail the puppy back in.

You don’t have to vote for every issue on the ballot, but you are doing yourself a huge favor to stay informed. Read editorials in your local paper. Visit the websites of the major parties in your state. Watch a debate or two. Ask questions of a friend or coworker who is well informed. Again, you don’t have to know everything, but educate yourself!

I hope I’ve refuted at least one argument on why you don’t care about politics. You aren’t only helping yourself, but you’re making a meaningful contribution to your community. It takes little time to educate yourself, and you are honoring the work of everyone who fights to ensure you have access to a ballot at every election.

YES OR NO: Did you vote last month? Why?

How to Handle a Family Argument

Picture it…your family gathered around the Christmas dinner table. There’s a fire roaring in the fireplace, turkey is on the table, presents are under the tree, Christmas carols are cheerfully on in the background…

And a heated family argument erupts at the table, hotter than anything in the fireplace.

This scene will probably play itself out in, sadly, countless American homes this holiday season. If it’s about politics, money, or someone’s significant other, it takes very little to send some people over the edge.

This blog post is to give you some advice if you find yourself trapped in one of these unfortunate scenarios, what you can do to bring things down a notch, or, at the very least, preserve your sanity.

  1. Set some boundaries. If at all humanly possible, try to head any arguments off at the pass. When you extend or accept invitations, make it very clear you will only do so if people are on their best behavior and will not fight during the festivities.
  1. Not your monkeys, not your circus. One way of preserving your sanity is to just completely stay out of it. If the argument doesn’t involve you in the least, staying silent can be a wise option.
  1. Do no harm. It is extremely important to remember that you can only control yourself, not other people. You can control what you say, but not how other people will react. If you have something valuable to add, by all means do so. But jump in only if you think it is wise to do so. If you are arguing just to argue, you are throwing gasoline on a pile of oily rags
  1. Be the diffuser. OK, so maybe you’re not a trained hostage negotiator, but what can you do to improve the situation? Can you sneakily change the subject? Can you get one of the fighting parties out of the room to help you with dessert or outside for a bit of air? Anything you can do to restore some modicum of peace will be appreciated by nearly everyone present.
  1. Stay on topic. If you are bold enough to join the fracas, that is your choice. But in any argument, you aren’t doing anyone any favors by bringing up things that happened five or ten years ago. If you are questioning your sister’s taste in boyfriends, talking about her junior high crush is really not going to be much help to you.
  1. Shut people down, right then and there. Especially if you are the hostess (or even if you’re not), you are entitled to enjoy a drama-free holiday. There is nothing wrong with reminding people it is Christmas, and FFS, can you all act like grown-ass adults for a change?!
  1. Just leave. Assuming you came on your own power, when all else fails, just leave. Out of the room or out of the house. Sometimes distancing yourself from the drama is the best thing you can do for your sanity. Allow yourself to cool down.
  1. Be gracious afterwards. If you said something to hurt someone’s feelings, apologize. Even if you know you were right, try to make up with your family. The holidays only come once a year, and you are so much stronger and better than a petty little argument.

I wish you the very happiest holiday season and hope you don’t need to use any of these. The best offense is always a good defense, so try to set some boundaries before you go anywhere for Christmas Eve/Christmas dinner.

What is the stupidest thing your family has ever argued about? Comment below!

The Joys Of Having a Best Friend

Who was your best friend growing up?

It’s probably not hard to think of your first childhood friend. Chances are she was someone in the neighborhood or who you met at school.

If your friends were anything like mine, you probably spent hours outside playing, riding bikes, swapping Barbies, having sleepovers, and dancing to your favorite cassettes. (Yes, I am old.)

You may have changed best friends in middle school, high school, and college. And that’s normal, because that’s a time in your life where hundreds of people drift in and out. And not everyone is going to be your bestie – that “kindred spirit” Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables spoke so highly of.

But chances are you had that one friend you could cry on the phone to at 1:00 in the morning after a break-up, who was your ride after your first car accident, or who got you your first job at the restaurant they worked at.

Yeah, having a BFF is great, but do you have one now? I want to talk about the importance of having a best friend in your life and how your life can be enriched by having one.

  1. She is willing to go to bat for you. She has seen you through job losses and bad break-ups. She is willing to slash someone’s tires or leave a negative review on someone’s LinkedIn profile because they said something cruel to you. OK, maybe she won’t shiv the tires or really leave a negative review. But she can provide ice cream and wine and help you rag on your enemies.
  1. She is a sister you never had. How many sisters do you have? One? None? I am lucky enough to have two great sisters. But even though we live in the same town, I rarely see them. My best friend knows me better than they do. We explore new restaurants, go out for happy hour, and even just Netflix and chill. Blood is definitely not thicker than water.
  1. She brings out the best in you. My best friend listens to all my wacky schemes, from my desire to write a book, supports my writing career, and quietly cheers me on in the background. In turn, I support her in her studies, I am there for her when she has a bad day, and will even be a nurse if she’s sick. But at the same time, she will call me out if I’m being a jerk or hurt her feelings. She makes me want to be a better person, and there are very few people I can say that about.
  1. She nurtures your inner goofball. I am always respectful when I’m invited to others’ houses. But when I get to her house, it’s ok if I walk right in, snuggle her cats, and command her to get wine with me. After which we laugh at awful reality TV shows and swear at bad movies. Yes, my BFF will let me be my weirdest, which is something I can’t even do all the time with my family.
  1. She pushes me to try new things. Whether it’s sampling hipster cocktails, cooking new recipes, going to an antique store I’ve never been to, or watching a new local band, my best friend will push me a little outside my comfort zone to enjoy all that our town has to offer. In turn, I drag her to vintage jewelry stores, make her watch foreign movies, and she is my willing henchwoman on day trips outside the state.

I can only hope your best friend brings out some of the best qualities in you as mine does. If you don’t have a best friend, who could you consider allowing into your life right now to share it with?

Tell me about your best friend! How does she make your life better? Comment below!

How to Enjoy Your Own Company as a Single Woman

new-yorknew-york-2Radio. Podcasts. Facebook. Twitter. Emails. Snapchat. Phone calls. Instagram. YouTube. Pinterest. Texts. Netflix.

Even if we are single women, are we ever truly alone?

When I think about the ways I can distract myself, it’s small wonder I’m usually uncomfortable with silence. How many of us take the time to proactively shut out the world and just enjoy ourselves for a few hours?

When was the last time you can honestly say you enjoyed your own company – really and truly? Here are five ways to tune the world out, reconnect with yourself, and remind yourself why you are an amazing woman in the first place:

  1. Plan for a day to yourself. Take a sick day from work. Or a legitimate vacation day. Heck, even part of a weekend is fine! Plan on doing things you love to do: a manicure, a bubble bath, a good book, binge-watching Netflix, or downloading an app you wanted to try. Ignore the phone and disconnect from your email. Schedule several uninterrupted hours of goofing off time to charge your batteries and love the company.
  1. Take yourself on a road trip. Whether it is to an art gallery across town or the Klown Doll museum four hours away (hand to heart, that is my next solo road trip. Yes, I am weird.), pick a destination you’ve always wanted to go to and just go Don’t wait for a friend or a date to take you. You are in control of yourself, your car, and the music on the radio. And make sure you have fun when you get there. Take some silly selfies or buy some postcards!
  1. Take yourself out to lunch. I’ve found that dining alone can be intimidating for the uninitiated. (Personally, I don’t mind eating alone when I’m out of town, but it somehow feels weird in my hometown.) So lunch is a great compromise: It’s cheaper, less of a time commitment, and you can try out a new restaurant without splurging on the dinner menu. Of course, if budgets and time are limited, sit-down fast food is good, too. Discretely people-watch, savor your food, and order whatever the hell you want!
  1. Enjoy yourself outside. Go for a bike ride, sit out on the patio, take a walk to the park, or go for a jog. It doesn’t matter if you’re listening to music, a podcast, or just the sounds of nature. There is something primal and soothing about being outside in fresh air. The frustrations of the day don’t seem quite as bad, you get some exercise, and you can allow yourself to simply be for a while.
  1. Allow yourself to think. I don’t know about you, but being alone with just my thoughts can be rather scary. Suffering from depression, I can do to some dark places pretty quick. And frankly, sometimes I don’t want to know what I am thinking. But once in a while, I schedule a brain dump for myself. I get comfy on the couch and spend 5-10 minutes furiously writing on a steno pad. I allow the stream on consciousness flow from my brain to my hand and I write till time is up or my hand cramps up. Read what you wrote the next day. Did something bother you before that seems petty now? Or is something weighing on your heart? What insight have you gained about yourself?

Try one or try all five. By scheduling a little time to rediscover the magic of yourself. You gain a greater sense of self, and I think you gain a little more wisdom in knowing who you are, what you are about, and that you know how to be gentle with yourself. We are all our own harshest critics, but when we learn to love ourselves for who we are, we can start tapping on the brakes of life and learn to just be.

What was the last thing you learned about yourself that surprised you? Comment below!

Where the Hell Has the Plus One Woman Been the Last Three Months?

It’s ironic my last blog post was “What to Do When You Don’t Get the Job.”

The very next day, my boss’s boss sat me down and told me in no uncertain terms that I was no longer employed.

I’m not going to get into the whys, the hows, or the long saga – that is all water under the bridge. Over the next few months, I will share lessons I learned – there were a lot. And suffice it to say, it was heartbreak followed by six scary weeks of unemployment. But I want to explain why I have been on hiatus and why I have chosen to come back now.

I stopped blogging because my biggest priority was self-care: getting my butt out of bed daily, filing for unemployment, getting health care situated, and forcing myself to eat and interact with people. I lost 15 pounds in three weeks, and my depression took me to some scary places. In good conscience, I could not blog about being a strong, independent woman when I was always one sad song away from bursting into tears.

While unemployment is harder than hell, I found a few truths that I can engrave on my heart:

God provides. I am not overly spiritual, but God had a plan for me. I left a job that no longer sustained my and brought me to a new workplace, and I work with nicer people than I ever dared hope for.

Family is everything. To keep my spirits up, all my siblings treated me to a movie. I got out of the house to see several movies and deepen my relationships with my brothers and sisters. My parents fed me dinner every day and let me watch TV at their house in the evenings. That prevented me from going crazy alone in my apartment.

Friends are life. My best friend was a HUUUUGE support for me, inviting me over for dinner, letting me hang out at her house while I applied for jobs, and providing a friendly face. Other friends introduced me to people looking for writers, and I was lucky enough to score some wonderful writing gigs!

Getting unemployment is a joke. Laws vary in every state, but it took my state two weeks to receive my paperwork and another two weeks to process it before I saw a dime in unemployment. Even then, I couldn’t earn more than $90 a week working even a part-time job, or else I would lose my benefits for the entire week. How is that an incentive to have people work stop-gap jobs while they look for work? And the state’s unemployment website made me apply for jobs on it every week. Many of them were either for minimum wage or for jobs like nursing, which I am definitely not qualified for. In any case, my heart goes out to the under- and unemployed.

The Affordable Care Act is a godsend. You may hate Obamacare with every fiber of your being, but it allowed me to get the medical care I desperately needed. I was able to afford my antidepressants to get my through this difficult period, and I know I would have been suicidal without them.

I learn from my mistakes. I am determined not to make the same mistakes in my new job that I did at my old one. So far, so good.

Sometimes all you can do is put one foot in front of the other. The first two or three weeks was the hardest. I would cry because I wasn’t hearing anything back for interviews. I know now HR works on a different timeframe than I do, but it was hard not to feel like a huge pile of poop. Taking one day at a time, an hour at a time, even one breath at a time was a challenge. But I kept walking. And eventually I won.

Now that I am back in a routine of working a new job, I now have the energy to devote to this wonderful blog and I am excited to be back! I missed you all so much!

10 Ways to Grieve When You Have to Do It Alone

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Grief is the price we pay for love.—Queen Elizabeth II

You get a phone call or open an email and you finally get the news you’ve been dreading.

Someone you love has passed away.

There are few things in life that are as profoundly sad or difficult as losing a loved one, be it a friend or family member. Whether it was after a lengthy illness or completely unexpected, it can be enough to knock the wind out of you. You can literally feel your heart break. You wonder whether you’ll ever be happy again.

Facing grief is difficult even if you have people to lean on. But living alone, single women have a difficult time of it. Here are some things to remember when facing the death of a loved one. They won’t make the heartache go away, but they will help anchor your emotions and permit you to grieve at your own pace:

  1. Allow yourself to lean in to your emotions. You might be like me and cry at the drop of the hat. Or you may be stoic when you first hear the news. Whatever you are feeling, the most important thing to remember is that you are entitled to your emotions.
  1. Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel. Western culture has a warped, awkward view of death. We think people should “snap out of it” after a week or two and then carry on with a stiff upper lip. That is quite possibly the worst advice you can give anyone who’s mourning. Tune out all that noise.
  1. Be gentle with yourself. As I mentioned, I’ve been known to cry anywhere and everywhere. Bus stops, grocery shopping, at my desk, coffee shops—I can’t help it. That’s how I deal with it. And that’s OK. Anger, depression, tears…don’t apologize for how you feel and don’t beat yourself up for having those feelings. It shows you are vibrant, caring, and human because you can express what that person meant to you. Even if it means slobbery, messy tears and tons of wadded-up tissues.
  1. Remember grief has no timetable. Every person is irreplaceable and there will never be anyone like the one you lost. You may not feel your loss until days, weeks, or even months after the funeral. And that’s fine. There is no schedule to grieving, and that should never be forgotten.
  1. Reach out to your support network—even if they don’t know who passed away. People who truly love you will let you cry on the phone, over Skype, or in person. Be it your mom, your best friend, your counselor, or a pastor—let yourself be vulnerable and talk about your grief.
  1. Find solace in nature. I am about as far from an outdoorsy person as you can get. But going for walks or even sitting on the porch, watching a sunset help me center me and allow my thoughts to wander. I can pause and remember the beauty in the world, even if it’s just for a couple minutes.
  1. Be there for others who mourn the loss. I absolutely hate wakes and funerals. There, I said it. But I know it’s not all about me. I draw a lot of comfort in seeing friends and family at these services. It is also a sign of respect to the person’s family that you are enough to come. Don’t run away from wakes/funerals, even if you hate them as much as I do.
  1. Think about what your loved one wants for you. The timing of this is probably more after the funeral. But if you have a special connection with the deceased, you know they want you to be happy. Remember this when you reach for your eighth box of tissue or feel like you will never smile again. They would want you to smile. And eventually laugh. It may take time, but you know they want the very best for you.
  1. Do something to honor your loved one’s memory. Develop a good habit or ditch an old one. Do something you’ve always wanted to but never had the courage to. Just do something different to remember. And honor your loved one when you actually do it.
  1. Remember the ties that bind. I see lots of Facebook messages of “Praying for you…let us know if you need anything,” after someone passes away. Follow through when you say those words, and not just with a casserole or a card. If you are in a position to do so, call, visit, or email the family of the person who died. They will be in great need of comfort in the weeks, months, and years afterwards. Loneliness is a crippling emotion, and if you can do something to alleviate it, you are honoring the departed.

Death is never easy to talk about. But by allowing yourself the time and space to grieve, honoring your loved one’s memory, and by being there for others, you are giving yourself the tools you need to cope with your grief. And in your sadness and heartache, you will find comfort and strength in yourself and in others.

What has brought you the most comfort when you’ve grieved? Comment below!

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