The Strength in Confronting our Feelings

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It takes strength to confront our feelings and to reach out for help. If you would like help, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Coping with Holiday Cheer in the Face of Loss

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Coping with Holiday Cheer in the Face of Loss

By Sally Carey

The holiday season, under the best of times, brings it own stressors and expectations, which we have all learned to manage or mangle, for better or worse, over the years. Congratulations on learning how to keep a grain of your sanity intact, hopefully without leaving too many bodies in the wake of seasons past!

But what do we do when we’ve had some serious, life-challenging or life changing event like illness, job and/or home loss, estrangement, divorce or separation, or even a death, and the happy, happy holidays are assaulting us at every turn of the channel?

I know the fantasy of a Hawaiian vacation or leaving the country altogether might be appealing, but most of us don’t have that option. We still have to figure out a way to get food and find shelter from the storm of good cheer while holding down the fort.

What can help?

The answers are as unique and varied as each individual, and each setback or loss. Regardless of that variety, one thing that does help is to make a plan.

Making a plan can give you a sense of control when coping with circumstances that have been spiraling out of control.

Plan your script. What can you comfortably say when greeted by those who may or may not know about your changes or loss? What are the words that honestly and gently express your feelings and experience? Try rehearsing a few phrases so you aren’t caught off guard. Anticipate their responses and your rejoinders along with questions to ask them that can shift the focus. These might be no-brainer responses in better times, but you might not be functioning at your peak right now. Have some ‘planned and canned’ statements in your protective arsenal.

Next, lower your expectations about what you can comfortably do – physically, financially, and socially.

Refocus on your values of the season and give yourself permission to reconsider how you want to express those. If that means changing a tradition like giving gifts to everyone, sending cards to millions, hosting dinner, etc., think about the purpose of that tradition and find a simpler way to accomplish the goal.

For instance, while you use a courier melbourne, or one near you for that matter, to send gifts or cards, also try and make a donation to a charity or cause that is meaningful to you or to someone who has died. Do it in the name(s) of those you would normally give gifts to, and it is a win/win for honoring values and including others. Another bonus is that typically the receiving organization will send out cards to those you’ve identified as donors so you don’t have to do anything else.

Instead of hosting a dinner, you could make a date to do something enjoyable together in the near future. You could also ask someone else to host it this time as a gift to you, or you could tone it down to a ‘cider and cookies’ gathering. It could be that this year, instead of any dinner, you prefer to go to a prayer service. Invite others to join you and maybe have coffee afterwards. A change in tradition does not mean you are forsaking a tradition forever. It just means you’re making it work for you this year.

If you are missing someone who has died, make a plan to remember & honor your loved one-a lit candle, some pictures on the mantle, a prayer service, a gift to their charity, a day of service or creating a service project in their name are a few ideas.

In doing this, you are creating new ways to maintain your enduring connection with the one you are missing. There aren’t any road maps for that challenge. Search your heart and maybe connect with other folks who have done this. You can also turn to your local grief support groups or hospice bereavement counselors to get ideas that are specific to you.

Most people want to avoid public tears and runny noses, so plan on how and when you may need to safely release your difficult thoughts and feelings before going out in public.

If you are “keeping a lid on it,” you will probably blow your cover at a less than ideal time and place. Letting yourself have the private down time for reflection and feeling and maybe falling apart will help you have control when you need it.

If you are out and about, always know where the nearest bathroom is in case you have to hide and wipe your tears and nose. Believe me. It’s not a pretty sight to be sniveling and snotting while asking for directions to the restroom! Your car can be a good safety zone too. It also helps to go places with a trusted person who can whisk you away and make explanations or apologies at the drop of a tear.

Go ahead and make some plans for limited sociability, but also make a Plan B, which could be to only stay a short time or to allow yourself a last minute cancellation.

Also, have an escape plan. That is, plan for a bit of escape in the form of pleasure and comforting activities. You need to balance sadness with enjoyment however you like to create that. And yes, it is fine to turn off the holiday music, TV, or annoying people. Find something else to help you tap into the love and kindness that is your well-spring any time of the year.

If you know someone who may be missing a loved one, simply inviting them to share their thoughts and feelings without trying to ‘fix’ them is a real gift.

Many feel they cannot share their sadness, as it isn’t ‘fitting’ with the season of happiness and joy. Listen to them and honor their feelings. Letting them know they are normal even if they feel ‘out of it’ can be invaluable support for them. If you ask them to share some of their memories of the person or holidays past, it may bring up a tear or two, but it will surely affirm the value of their loved one and offer a treasured opportunity to share that with someone who cares.

The holidays during a time of loss can be devastating. But make a plan for handling people, give yourself plenty of down time, and remember that traditions altered are not traditions abandoned. And in all things be patient with yourself. This, too, shall pass.

If you would like help with grief and loss, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

Don’t say “Don’t Cry”

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If you would like help from someone who won’t tell you, “don’t cry,” please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

Stifled Grief: How the West Has It Wrong

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Stifled Grief: How the West Has It Wrong

By Michelle E. Steinke

I’m here to say that the West has the concept of grieving all wrong.

I’d like to point out that we are a culture of emotionally stunted individuals who are scared of our mortality and have mastered the concept of stuffing our pain. Western society has created a neat little “grief box” where we place the grieving and wait for them to emerge fixed and whole again. The grief box is small and compact, and it comes full of expectations like that range from time frames to physical appearance. Everyone who has been pushed into the grief box understands it’s confining limitations, but all of our collective voices together can’t seem to change the intense indignation of a society too emotionally stifled to speak the truth. It’s become easier to hide our emotional depth than to reveal our vulnerability and risk harsh judgment. When asked if we are alright, it’s simpler to say yes and fake a smile then, to be honest, and show genuine human emotion…

Let me share below a few of the expectations and realities that surround grief…

Expectation: Grief looks a certain way in the early days. Tears, intense sadness, and hopelessness.

Reality: Grief looks different for every single person. Some people cry intensely, and some don’t cry at all. Some people break down, and others stand firm. There is no way to label what raw grief looks like as we all handle our loss in different ways due to different circumstances and various life backgrounds that shape who we are.

Expectation: The grieving need about a year to heal.

Reality: Sometimes grief does not even get started till after the first year. I’ve heard countless grieving people say year two is harder than year one. There is the shock, end of life arrangements and other business matters that often consume the first year and the grieving do not have the time actually to sit back and take the time to grieve. The reality is there is no acceptable time frame associated with grief.

Expectation: The grieving will need you most the first few weeks.

Reality: The grieving are flooded with offers of help the first few weeks. In many cases, helping the grieving six months or a year down the line can be far more helpful because everyone has returned to their lives and the grief stricken are left to figure it out alone.

Expectation: The grieving should bury the dead forever. After a year, it is uncomfortable for the grieving to speak of their lost loved one. If they continue to talk about them, they are stuck in their grief and need to “move on.”

Reality: The grieving should speak of the dead forever if that’s what they wish to do. When someone dies, that does not erase the memories you made, the love you shared and their place in your heart. It is not only okay to speak of the dead after they are gone, but it’s also a healthy and peaceful way to move forward.

For the full article, please go to the original post online.

If you would like help in your grief, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.


6 Ways to Help A Grieving Friend

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6 Ways to Help A Grieving Friend

By Sam Altis

Two years ago, I endured what was, hands down, the most painful season of my life. After a series of long-term, compounding health issues, my dad died suddenly. Part of me felt like contacting wrongful death lawyer Gary Bruce as I felt that he could have been saved, but I don’t think it would have given me the peace I was craving.

My experience of grief shaped me in profound ways that I am still discovering, but one of the things that has come most clearly out my grief is the desire to see others grieved with well. When comforting a grieving friend, everyone has good intentions. Unfortunately, those good intentions often don’t translate to loving, helpful action. And when you’re grieving, you don’t have the energy to see through to good intentions.

So, as I reflect on my own experience of loss, here are a few things you can do for a friend who has lost someone they love deeply.

Don’t try to fix it.

I remember standing in line at my dad’s visitation and enduring an endless string of well-intentioned one liners. Classics like “He’s in a better place” and “You’ll see him again someday.”

Then a total stranger came up and said something completely different that stuck with me: “It doesn’t get better. It gets different.”

Here is what was so impactful about that statement: She wasn’t trying to fix anything.

Most of the things we say to a grieving friend attempt to smooth over their pain. Grief can’t be fixed or smoothed over. It has to be endured and, in some sense, it never goes away. It gets different. Less pervasive. Less overwhelming. But it’s always there because the person we lost is not.

Whatever you say to a grieving friend, make sure it doesn’t try to fix their grief.

Do something tangible and simple.

There was one day in the weeks that followed my dad’s death that felt particularly overwhelming.

I was exhausted, indescribably sad and hurting in ways I didn’t know were possible. And then a package came in the mail. The teens that I worked with at the time had made me cards and sent gift cards to cover meals. I could feel their love in this simple expression, and it gave me just enough energy to go on.

Unless they’re particularly profound or horrible, the things we say to our grieving friends won’t be remembered. What will be remembered are the tangible acts of love we do for them: meals, cards, showing up. So if you’re lost for words, don’t say anything. Just do something simple.

The latte you bring them may just sit coldly on the table, but they’ll feel your love in the action. That love is the best thing you have to offer them.

Ask about the person they lost.

After my dad’s visitation, my wife and I went to dinner with some friends. After a few minutes, the conversation lulled and that “what can we possible say” silence set in. Then my friend said the best thing anyone could have in that moment: “Tell me about your dad.”

Talking to a grieving friend can feel like walking through a mine field. You don’t want say something that will trigger a fresh wave of grief or hurt the person because you said the wrong thing. This, almost always, seems to result in avoiding mentioning the loved one who was lost. This can actually be the worst thing for someone who is grieving.

When you’ve lost someone, you want to hold on to them in any way you can. Often this is through talking about them to others. It’s incredibly comforting, even for just a moment, to share about the person you lost. Give your friend the opportunity to do so.

Be slow to compare.

In the wake of losing my dad, I was flooded with conversations about my loss, most of which I don’t remember at all. What I do remember is a theme: comparison.

Many people said things like, “I know how you feel, I lost an uncle,” or “I felt the same way when my boyfriend broke up with me.” This was well-intentioned, but usually pretty unhelpful.

When we bring up our own experience with grief to a friend who has lost someone, we’re shooting for empathy.

Unfortunately, what we often end up doing is minimizing the uniqueness of their loss. Every grief is different because every person and relationship lost is different.

If you want to show empathy without comparing, try to identify the feelings you felt in your grief and ask your friend how they’re handling those same feelings. This simple act says, “You’re not alone” while avoiding comparing losses.

Don’t have expectations for their grief.

Perhaps the greatest act of love I received in my grief came from how my wife walked with me. As grief hit me and I responded with everything from anger, to numbness, to tears, my wife sat with me uncritically. She never questioned how I was responding. She was just sad with me, which is all I needed from her.
For more help in the grieving process, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

Life Without a Bucket List

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Life Without a Bucket List

By Kara Tippetts

{Editor’s Note: On March 22nd, 2015, Kara Tippetts went home to be with Jesus after a long and difficult battle with cancer. While she was here, she touched so many lives, and helped people understand how you can find God, even in the midst of suffering, even in the midst of the mundane. Kara’s response to her terminal cancer was filled with grace, hope and peace. This devotional comes from her final book, And It Was Beautiful. We hope these words will speak to you in a special way today.}

I can confidently say I don’t live with a long list of things I want to do, see or complete before I’m done in this place. I carried a dream for years of having a farm. I was in love with all things Wendell Berry. I could picture it, the life of routine created by the land and its rhythms.

But beyond that, I’ve never longed for having a list and checking things off. I’m happy with my old cars, my simple wardrobe, my lack of fancy things and vacations. Don’t get me wrong, I do love a good concert, but I also love an organic dance party in my kitchen. I love great food, but I also love a hot dog over the fire pit in my backyard. I love a hike in the mountains, but I also love a walk around the block with my people.

Last week, when I heard I may have another long road to travel on this journey, I turned to Jason and cried. I told him how day after day this place is losing its grip on me. Driving down the street, this place sometimes feels so [vulgar], so wanting my money without care for my heart.

Billboards blare at me what to buy, what to think, how to vote. But the tie that binds me here is relationships. Sickness makes those bonds more real, more important. It’s people who grip my heart.

Suffering has a way of exposing our theology, certainly our practical theology, where what we believe about God collides with where we live. My heart always hurts a little when someone hears my story and begins to question God’s goodness.

I have found that suffering makes my faith more childlike, more simple. Our ideas of God are not necessarily made bigger or more grandiose through suffering, but they are simplified as we wade through the unknown of what comes next.

Last week, in that unknown, I was smooching on [my son] Lake and the thought hit me that I won’t be around to help him navigate his first heartbreak. I was in a public place and I nearly lost my footing because of the fear that gripped me in that moment. I looked up and saw my growing girls and was almost suffocated by the thought of who will help them during the awkward years of puberty. Shouldn’t it be me? That’s the way it’s supposed to be, right? Can’t I stay and be here for them when they need me?

The truth is none of us know the length of our lives. So we pray for daily bread and say thank you when it comes. For today I have a little boy who will cross the room to give me a hug. I have a baby girl who gives me 10 kisses when I ask for five. I have a preteen who still holds my hand in public, in front of her friends even. I have a second born who loves to tell me every tiny detail of her day. I have a guy who makes coffee just like I like it.

A bucket list? No, I don’t need one. I’m so rich. It’s relationships that matter. And for me, paying attention to the precious gift of today is the only thing on my list.

– See more at:


If you would like to talk with a counselor or coach, please contact  CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003.

‘That Dragon, Cancer’: A Video Game on Death, Grief, and Our Living Hope

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dragon cancer

‘That Dragon, Cancer’: A Video Game on Death, Grief, and Our Living Hope

By Chris Casberg

Some years ago, the late film critic Roger Ebert weighed in on the debate over whether video games could be art: “Let me just say that no video gamer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form.” Oh, Ebert. I love you, and I miss you, and how strongly—achingly, even—I wish you were right. For if what you said was true, then I wouldn’t have to wipe these tears from my eyes.

This weekend I played “That Dragon, Cancer,” an autobiographical video game that tells the story of the Green family and their son, Joel, who was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer at the age of one. Joel battled his cancer for four years, overcoming repeated terminal diagnoses until dying at the age of five.

Over the course of about two hours, players accompany the Green family through Joel’s diagnosis, treatment, and death, alternating between hospital rooms and surreal, fantasy-like vistas that make up the landscape of unspeakable grief.

Along the way, players sit in on joyful picnics and frightening doctor visits, listen to frantic voicemails, and read letters of both mourning and encouragement. It is the anguishing record of a family’s journey through tragedy, and there is nothing quite like it.

Difficult Game

As you can imagine, “That Dragon, Cancer” is a difficult game. Not in the traditional sense of game difficulty, of course—it requires neither physical dexterity nor quick reflexes. You cannot fail the game. You will not run out of lives and find yourself at the start again. In fact, it rarely asks you to do more than move the mouse cursor and click on objects.

The game’s demands aren’t physical. Rather, they’re emotional and spiritual. “That Dragon, Cancer” requires the player to enter into the grief of the Green family and walk with them as they lose their son to a frightening and relentless illness. Courage is what’s needed.

“That Dragon, Cancer” is a hard experience to reduce to language, and perhaps this is part of why Ryan Green, Joel’s father, chose the medium of video games to tell the story. Things like sorrow, pain, fear, and doubt can be named and, to a certain extent, described; but as long as they are mere words and concepts their power is limited.

We can keep a clinical distance from the aesthetic experience of grief as long as we know grief only as an abstract idea on a page. In the game, though, we’re utterly submerged in the nightmare, and the parents’ helplessness and sadness is made our own.

Theological Heft

Often, the allure of video games is that the player is granted special power and agency. One becomes a soldier, business magnate, or superhero at the press of a button. “That Dragon, Cancer” frustrates and subverts the normal expectation of agency. Players are given game-like tasks, like navigating Joel through a field of cancer cells as he clings to a handful of balloons, or racing a wagon through the hospital.

The facade of power and control crumbles away. It’s a brilliant piece of artistry in terms of video game design and theological heft; we players, accustomed to the power to trample our enemies, are shown our impotence in the face of a broken and fallen world. Our works cannot save Joel.

The overall effect is devastating. I cried multiple times, and I even had to stop the game to go hold my infant daughter. I’ve never had a game move me so much.


Yet for all the pervasiveness of fear and hopelessness, there’s another, greater theme: hope.

Ryan and Amy, Joel’s mother, are Christians, and they’re explicit about their faith. They pray often and sing worship songs, and they find encouragement in the small victories in Joel’s battle. In one scene, the parents explain Joel’s cancer to their other sons as a battle between Joel the Knight and a wicked dragon. Grace is Joel’s superpower, and it’s what helps him climb the mountain to face the dragon. In another scene, Ryan is overwhelmed by his inability to soothe a wailing Joel, who vomits any liquid he drinks. Ryan collapses into a chair and utters a desperate prayer, which is answered with Joel at last falling asleep. It’s a small miracle, but one met with gratitude.

This is a remarkable portrayal of faith. The game isn’t preachy, and there’s no prosperity gospel promise that faith results in material health and wealth. Joel’s parents genuinely struggle. Amy is desperate for a healing miracle that never comes; Ryan expresses doubts that God even cares.

The game didn’t have to be this honest, but it is, and this makes it a powerful witness. It shows the horrible condition of the world, and it offers hope for something better. In the end, through the heartache and loss, the Greens remain hopeful and true to their faith.


“That Dragon, Cancer” is powerful. So powerful, in fact, that some gamers have vocally refused to play it, for fear of how it might affect them. The old narrative is turned upside down: We used to mock Christians because they were afraid of the effect video games might have on people. Now, gamers are the ones afraid of a game’s impact. It’s an incredible thing, and it shows how much the medium has matured.

In an era where so much Christian creative produce is either kitsch, Jesus-themed counterfeits or, at its worse, edutainment, “That Dragon, Cancer” stands out as authentic in both form and content. It is lamentation literature in digital form, A Grief Observed for the Nintendo generation. Like C. S. Lewis’s essays that recount the passing of his wife, this game is haunting and brutally personal. It plays by the conventions and trends of the video game medium and at the same time subverts them, exposing the illusion of total agency and control in our lives for the farce it is. It is a heartbreaking adventure that’s also an excellent work of artistry and a faithful witness to the hope of the gospel.

This one’s a game-changer.


If you or a loved one is struggling with grief, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Getting Through Grief Together (Podcast)

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Take a listen to this hour long podcast Getting Through Grief Together. David and Nancy Guthrie take the listener through the grief process and the strength that comes through going through grief with a helpful person.


If you would like to find help in your time of grief, please call CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to set up an appointment with a counselor or coach.

Miscarriages Are Not As Rare As People Think

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Most Americans think miscarriage is rare. Most Americans are wrong.

By Sarah Kliff

sad motherMost Americans hugely underestimate the frequency of miscarriage. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to speak openly about the topic could help change that misperception.

Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, used a pregnancy announcement Friday to share information about her three miscarriages as they’ve tried to conceive in recent years.

Their experience with miscarriage is not a rare one. The best data available suggests that miscarriage occurs in 15 percent of all known pregnancies.

Researchers don’t always understand the cause of miscarriage. They do think it often occurs when an embryo has an abnormal number of chromosomes, essentially too much or too little genetic material. The mother’s health condition – whether she has an infection, for example — could also play a role.

Most Americans underestimate both the frequency of miscarriage as well as the cause. In a survey published earlier this year, researchers at Montefiore Medical Center in New York found that 55 percent of American adults think miscarriage happens in “fewer than 6 percent of all pregnancies.”

Survey respondents were asked to choose possible causes of miscarriage; 76 percent thought a miscarriage could be caused by lifting a heavy object (research disagrees), and 64 percent said previous use of oral contraceptives could play a role (it doesn’t — Pill users actually have lower rates of miscarriage).

In his Facebook post, Zuckerberg talked about the loneliness of experiencing a miscarriage. “Most people don’t discuss miscarriages because you worry your problems will distance you or reflect upon you — as if you’re defective or did something to cause this,” he wrote. “So you struggle on your own.”

Women who have experienced miscarriage tend to feel the same: When the Montefiore researchers looked just at respondents who had miscarried, they found that 40 percent felt ashamed about the experience and 47 percent felt guilty.

There’s the chance that Zuckerberg and Chan’s disclosure could help change this: 28 percent of the women who miscarried said, in the same survey, that “public disclosures of miscarriages by celebrities and public figures helped with feelings of isolation.” Zuckerberg and Chan’s decision to open up about miscarriage could actually help kick off a new conversation.


If you are struggling with the grief, depression, or anxiety related to miscarriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services to set up an appointment with a counselor or coach who can help in the midst of your pain.

Pregnancy is Not a Joke…Even on April Fool’s Day

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1 in 4 women will experience pregnancy or infant loss in her lifetime. Each life, whether carried for days in the womb or years in our arms, is precious, loved, and missed. So on April 1st, please remember that pregnancy is not a joke. Not even on April Fool’s Day.

By Hope Mommies

pregnancy not a joke