Both of my girls both trudged off to school for the first time, together, in a long time on Monday morning. We have been in hybrid mode all of January, and they have been on opposite days so it was strange to have such a quiet house after they left.

After Claire left she sent us a “sunset alert” text and the rest of us went out and stood on the cold driveway in our bare feet and watched in reverence the sky layered with pink and orange clouds stretched far and wide.

Lucy leaned her body into mine, snuggled close, and described the sky to me in awe and reverence for all that beauty, and all was right in the world. (For some reason she seems to be able to see sunsets and sunrises, and I’m so glad, even if it’s just in her mind conjuring up what she believes is there).

We do Relief Society visits each Monday morning (this just started last week). Women are awesome. And I know I’m biased, but I believe we have some of the best of the best in our congregation.

Dave and I had an impromptu parenting advice session with Claire, sitting on the counters in the kitchen, over whether she could go to volleyball or not, (this newest death is pulling her feet out from under her and she didn’t want to bring her team down). Is part of the problem with depression and anxiety these days that parents help too much? I think it’s got to contribute. Gosh I love these kinds of discussions but I feel a pull to work on changing the locus of control a little better somehow.

It is interesting how life and parenting have so many ups and so many downs. Some moments are so filled up with joy and some are so dark and hopeless. I know that’s the way of the world…adversity in all things…beauty for ashes, everything working together to help us learn. And as I notice nature lately I can’t help but think that it, too, has the moody beauty of the deep darks contrasting the sparkling lights. Below is one night and then the next day:

I keep thinking of this quote a blog reader shared back in this post:

“The work of the mature person is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and to be stretched large by them. How much sorrow can I hold? That’s how much gratitude I can give. If I carry only grief, I’ll bend towards cynicism and despair. If I have only gratitude, I’ll become saccharine and won’t develop much compassion for other people’s suffering. Grief keeps the heart fluid and soft, which makes compassion possible.” – Francis Weller

(Thank you, Kim!)

I love to think that we are being “stretched large” by all the darkness and light that intermix in our days.

Life is filled up with sunrises like that one we saw on Monday. Literal and figuratively. And I’m just so grateful for a God of second chances and new days.

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  1. I have a 16 year old daughter and I have been making an effort to “let go” a bit more and let her make own her decision making and to stop being so afraid that she might make a mistake. Of course I still want to be there as a sounding board but I am trying to ask more open ended questions and trying to focus less on controlling the outcome. She recently decided to step away from a friendship that was becoming stressful. As an adult, I think that all these kids are stressed out because of our current circumstances (COVID–Her high school here in NYC has been fully remote school since last March) and I thought her reaction seemed a bit harsh. Voicing my opinion to her made her more stressed out and she said she felt like I didn’t trust her decision making. I realized that it was important for her to decide when a situation was no longer healthy for her to stay in and me stepping in was undermining her in ways I did not want to. Even if she was being too rash, she could figure that out on her own. As a mother, sometimes it feels counterintuitive to step back when my kids are struggling–I really have to work on not jumping in.

    1. It sounds like you did a great job in this situation! It’s just so hard not to jump in and take care of things when we think we can. So difficult to find the balance, because yes, we’re supposed to guide and nurture, but where’s the line? I love that you just trusted your daughter in this instance. I’m sure she did too. When we trust our kids it gives them the confidence to make other good decisions when the needs arise.

  2. I put that quote in my list of favorite quotes when I saw it in Kim’s comment a while back! Life is certainly about stretching large! Hugs! Good luck! 🙂

  3. Hi Shawni,
    I’m a grief counselor with children and teens in Philadelphia. We support our teens with peer death ALL the time. Youth and teens grieve differently than adults do, and often as caregivers, it can be so hard to know how to best support — especially when it’s the death of a same-age peer! My specific role is in training and educating adults on how to support grieving children and teens, so if you ever need resources or more information, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Our website has a TON of free grief resources too: Also, there are children’s grief organizations just like mine all over the country, so try looking one up near you — the National Alliance for Grieving Children is a great place to start to locate member organizations around the country. I don’t know if the one near you would do this, but we offer school-based grief support groups for the closest friends of the teen who died in schools all over Philly (among other kinds of grief support). There is a HUGE stigma around grief and death in our society, particularly for youth, so you are not alone in struggling to know the best way to support! So please just know we’re out here if I can be of support. Sending gentleness!

    1. Thank you, KS, I so appreciate your thoughts. I’m so grateful all these kids have each other, I do think it’s been healing to lean on each other. Thank you for the information about grief counselors, and thank you for all you are doing to help teens get through the tough stuff. You are doing a work that can change their lives in so many ways. xoxo

  4. I’m so sorry about Claire’s losses this year. My heart truly goes out to her, for those unexpected losses, and for you, as her Mother.. to somehow find the right way to help her heal and buoy her up. I agree whole-heartedly with the above comment. I’d highly recommend therapy. Doesn’t necessarily need to be for forever, but I think professional help through grief is so beneficial early on and helps so much in the long run.

    I was the YW’s president during the time we had a school shooting in our town (Parkland) almost three years ago. One of my girls passed away, and another was hospitalized with multiple gunshot wounds. It was really, really traumatic for all of us, but especially for our young women. Our YW group wasn’t very big so they were all a tight-knit group.

    I think the most helpful thing was having grief counselors in place right away. Most of them took advantage of that resource right away and often and were able to work through the grief with professional help and other resources. Grief is a difficult beast because it will show itself in many different ways for everyone as they work through the grief cycle. There are still triggers three years later (especially as Valentine’s Day decor makes its way into stores).. but the grief eventually makes itself more manageable and it comes and goes less intensely. A good therapist will be able to help her work through it all.

    Love and prayers to you all ❤️

    1. AMEN to all of that, Rachel!!!!!! I can’t tell you how much it means to me to hear about what an amazing Grief Ambassador you are — that’s the name I give other adults so bravely supporting their young people in their grief. 🙂 What a profound, transformative impact you have had on the young people you support to so powerfully convey that vulnerability is COURAGEOUS and that seeking professional support is not just helpful but often necessary and responsible. I guarantee those wonderful young people will remember this forever (right along with forever remembering their friend they lost, since we know grief changes/evolves but doesn’t really end). I really believe that your courage in not avoiding their grief, but instead leaning INTO it, has shifted their life trajectory. I am confident that the way they take care of themselves in future losses or trauma they might have to face will now be different, because of you. I deeply thank you. Also sending you sooo much love — the death of a young person we support can impact us so tremendously at the same time we’re working so hard to support all our other youth. I’ll be thinking of you with the anniversary coming up too. You are extraordinary and I am sending you infinite gentleness 💛
      Shawni, please let your amazing Claire know she’s in my heart and prayers as well, and that every single feeling, thought, and behavior she’s having right now is normal (every, single one — I promise). If working with a therapist one on one feels too intimidating right now, I’d also recommend a grief support group, so Claire could meet other kids her own age who are going through something similar. Grief can be SO hugely isolating for teens (even when it happens in a school community with many impacted) and it is indescribable to witness how freeing it is for our teens to connect with each other in group and realize they’re not alone. Our parents/caregivers often worry that a “grief support group” is going to be super sad with everyone crying all the time and make their kids feel worse, but my program supports thousands of kids each year and that is almost never the case. Sure there are heavy moments and tears, but there’s also sooo much friendship and joy and liberation and laughs, too. If there are none nearby you, the virtual world is exploding with them right now which would allow you to really look far and wide for a good fit. Sending SO much love + gentleness ❤️

    2. Thank you Rachel and KS. Wow, Rachel it sounds like your community went through so much. I am so very sorry for the losses. Tragedy can impact a community in so many ways, I’m sure, and it sounds like you guys put the right resources in place. Sending so much love on over to you and your community. KS, thank you for the added insight as well. I feel like Claire has some really good built in grief support which has been beautiful to watch, and I’m thankful to know more about grief counseling should she or any of her friends need it. Some have taken it harder than others. Our hearts just ache so much for the family. They are sure dealing with a lot. Hope they feel the love of so many to buoy them up. xoxo

  5. Wow, the teens in your area have been dealing with a lot of loss. So sad.

    Have you ever read the book that the deaf blind lawyer Haben Girma wrote? It was inspiring to see how she tackled obstacles and didn’t let her blindness (and deafness) get in her way.

  6. So happy that I could share an uplifting quote with you since I have enjoyed readying your blog for years and have learned so much from you.

  7. Sorry for my slow reply, KS. Thank you so much for your kind words. ❤️ It sounds like your community is blessed to have you and have a lot of experience in this area.

    I can’t take much credit with the resources that were available after the shooting; our church brought in professional therapists for church that same week (in fact, counselors for the youth AND adults (separate classes) were the teachers for our Sunday school class that Sunday.. teaching us about grief/the grief cycle.. and how we could help the youth through this tragedy.) Our community came together in great ways with so many professionals offering their services for free. It was such a public thing affecting so many that so many resources became available in our community. Grief counseling was offered in many ways, one of them being horse therapy. Some of the girls responded well to that, others through talk therapy. As leaders over the youth group, we made sure to plan activities where they could simply be together. Sometimes it was just for them to sit/talk/cry together, other evenings it was to play a sport, watch a movie, or eat treats. It was helpful for them to be with others who were experiencing the same feelings and “just *get* it..”

    Anyway, I wouldn’t wish those experiences on anyone, but understand now why I was in the position I was and why… and therapy is so so helpful!

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