Beliefnet
How Great Thou Part

Bush 41 was the quintessential example of an individual who lived his life by the ‘Big 3.’

God, Family, and Country.

Followed only by the ‘Big 3’s’ necessary counterparts – service and selflessness.

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Perhaps this is why President George H.W. Bush teaches us so much about love.

After all, the ‘Big 3’ are often referred to as…

 The Love of God.

The Love of Family.

And The Love of Country.

Bush 41 lived by exactly the type of strong foundation this great country was built upon.

This devotion to unwavering and unshakable values likely led to his beautifully enduring marriage.

It is the longest marriage in presidential history. George and Barbara Bush celebrated 73 years of love before he lost her. The only other presidential marriage coming in a close second is that of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter who have now celebrated 72 years of marriage. The third and fourth longest presidential marriages are John and Abigail Adams and Gerald and Betty Ford with 54 and 58 years respectively.

What enabled President George H.W. Bush to leave such a great legacy of love while holding the most demanding and difficult job in this great nation?

It is undoubtedly his devotion to the ‘Big 3’ and its counterparts – service and selflessness.

As well as…

These 3 Things Bush 41 Taught Us About Love

Let Nothing Interfere With It

Many a man and woman have allowed their profession to separate them from the family.

Often with cries of commitment and importance, pressing schedules and demands.

However, Bush 41 certainly puts these claims in perspective.

Absolutely no job is or should be an excuse to ever dominate a relationship or a family.

If the president of the United States can maintain the love and balance and inclusion of his family far be it for anyone to say it’s impossible.

Love and love of family were made a deliberate priority.

 

Communicate It

Communication is one of the most difficult aspects of relationships.

Somewhat ironic as love often begins with couples endlessly expressing it to one another yet it often decreases over time.

This never happened for George and Barbara Bush, their love stayed fluent.

Bush 41 was an excellent communicator.

He understood love should be spoken in infinite ways.

Be it making time for family or his affinity for the written word.

As well as many other ways including a beloved family exchange.

The words, “I love you more than tongue can tell.”

These precious words were spoken by his three-year-old daughter Robin just before her passing. Their original origin is a poem by Joy Allison.

 

Demonstrate It

It takes little effort to show love.

However, it does require great confidence to demonstrate it.

Bush 41 possessed the degree of self-esteem necessary to not only illustrate love but genuine kindness.

This extended far outside his own family and to the American public.

He did not demonstrate the stereotypical political shaking hands and kissing babies.

When President George H.W. Bush stopped to hear a story or hold a sick child his empathy exceeded his political presence.

He was the young Navy aviator long ago called to a life of service and selflessness.

Bush 41’s actions spoke one language – love.

 

Many years from now President George Herbert Walker Bush will be remembered for his vast accomplishments and infinite service to this great country.

His impressive military and political resume will speak for itself.

He will also undoubtedly be recalled as one of the greatest examples of confident love.

Known to a nation who loved him “more than tongue can tell.”

 

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Nothing warms the hearts of the holidays more than a fireside reading of A Christmas Carol or perhaps Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Kids nestled next to their parents, sipping hot cocoa and absorbing classic tales of wonder and inspiration.

As the adults slow their pace and remind and embrace all that truly matters in this world.

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Books have a storied (an appropriate pun) past of uniting families in the season known for hope, faith, and love.

And now there is a new must-have Christmas classic filled with real-life stories of faithful inspiration.

Godwink Christmas Stories: Discover the Most Wondrous Gifts of the Season is the latest in the Godwink Series by New York Times Bestselling author SQuire Rushnell and his wife Louise DuArt.

Rushnell is a former television executive turned author/speaker and DuArt an actress, comedian, and author.

Together they form an indomitable duo scattering messages of hope from above in the form of true-life stories.

The term Godwink was originally coined by Rushnell and is now permanently defined in the dictionary…

“Godwink – An event or personal experience, often identified as coincidence, so astonishing that it is seen as a sign of divine intervention especially when perceived as the answer to a prayer.”

Godwink Christmas Stories includes 21 new stories of divine intervention as well as 9 great Godwink classics. And while these particular tales revolve around the holidays, these stories of devout faith working in real-life far transcend the season.

Making it the perfect read all year long and attesting to why the Godwinks Series have become enduring bestsellers.

This book is garnishing great demand.

Not unlike the captivating premiere of Hallmark Channel’s A Godwink Christmas starring Kathie Lee Gifford, Kimberley Sustad, and Paul Campbell. This is the first movie bringing to life one of the stories in the Godwink Series and it too has met with overwhelming interest and viewership.

A testimony to a storied history that unites one and all.

Classic tales of wonder and inspiration.

The type of wonder which can be derived from only one thing…God.

And a reminder to slow the pace and embrace all that truly matters in this world.

 

(Footnote: You can find Godwink Christmas Stories on Amazon and in bookstores.)

 

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I am at the mall grabbing lunch at Norstrom Cafe. 

One of my fav places to nosh.

A young girl in front of me appears to be searching for payment and urges me to go before her.

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I pay for my food and notice she is now asking others to go in front of her. It seems there is little reception in the Cafe so she struggles to bring up the necessary financial information on her phone. I make it look like I am stopping to peruse some yummy cookies and it becomes pretty clear she is in a bind.

I discretely hand the cashier twenty dollars and urge him to pay for her lunch.

As she realizes her bill is paid she protests. 

“No worries,” I say. “I understand financial stress so it makes me happy to do it.”

We sit not far from one another as we enjoy our food.

When she is done, this beautiful young girl comes over to my table to attempt to give me the few dollars she has on her.

“No, need,” I say.

She thanks me again.

In a somewhat bewildered tone she says, “Really, people just don’t do this for other people.” I paraphrase but it was something to that effect.

“Money isn’t that important to me. I was happy to do it,” I say.  

We say our goodbyes and her gratitude leaves me with two thoughts.

My first thought…

My ex-husband has spent years using money as a weapon and I worry the impact it will have on my children.

Our relationship should be with people. We should not have a relationship with money.

My second thought…

I cannot take credit for what I did.

The credit goes to my mother.

My mom lived far outside her four walls.

Much in part to her father a New York City Policeman, her mother a midwife, her brothers who were cops and firefighters and a priest.

What I did had nothing to do with me at all.

It can be accredited to my ancestors.

An emotional heirloom handed down for generations.

A desire and ability to live far outside our own four walls.

To make our relationships with people.

 

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I belong to a Facebook group called Parentless Parents started by my friend and author Allison Gilbert.

I first connected with Allison many years ago when she interviewed me for one of her books. 

There is a common theme amongst us Parentless Parents.

We are hyper-conscious of this thing called ‘time.’

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It’s hard not to be when alone at nineteen a doctor ushers you out into the hallway, asks how old you are first and then says, “your father has cancer.” And then at twenty-four years old, you receive the first call about your mother who you will lose just four years later.

I don’t have the typical regrets about a failed marriage.

Why?

My spirituality prevents them. 

I know all of the bad things were meant to be. God chose this path for me. As a human being did I complicate it? Yes. Did I make some poor choices, stay too long and more? Yes. But ultimately, my faith frees me from any long-term regrets. It is one of the greatest blessings of being a believer.

I will admit; however, it was much harder to get past my regrets as a mother. The pain my children have suffered took years for me to forgive myself for. That is, until my marriage counselor said, “Colleen, you feel strongly how you grew up was meant to be. Did it ever occur to you this is the path God intended for your own children?”

It’s been an emotional and spiritual evolution yet I do still have one regret.

Time.

Or should I say the loss of time with those I love?

Marital problems are consuming. 

When the issues started I remember some of my best friends from high school asking me why I wasn’t calling or seeing them as I always had. I also vividly remember my response.

“All of my emotional energy is devoted to my children right now,” I would say.

In other words, I was coping. 

Just getting by.

My world was failing and falling apart and this left little time for anything outside of my world. 

When our problems first began and my husband started acting out my life became unpredictable. I was always running interference. Everything in my world became about my husband and what he would do next.

I would tell him, “You have to stop this and address whatever is bothering you. You are consuming all of my attention and I have children to raise. They are the ones who deserve my attention.”

A home should not revolve around one person.

My biggest regret is not attempting to rescue my marriage but rather keeping it on life support for so long. 

It cost me dearly what is most valuable to me.

The luxurious emotional exchanges between family and friends.

Because I have always been hyper-conscious of this thing called ‘time.’

And the moments of irreplaceable love that magically fill it.

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Downsizing and getting rid of the majority of our belongings is no longer a trend for strictly retirees.

In this era of tiny houses and millennials less is now more. And Baby Boomers are opting to strip themselves of possessions and large four-walled obligations in favor of condos and travel and more.

Yet downsizing can still present formidable challenges.

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Not so much the logistics of physical packing and moving but more of the emotional brand.

Because let’s be honest.

We shouldn’t have a relationship with ‘things’ but we do.

It’s hard to disseminate our lives. 

To take a home apart brick by emotional brick.

Of course, some items are easy to part with. The table we never really liked or the couch on its last leg. And the accompanying thrill of new items which will one day replace them. This is the easy part of emptying out a home.

But then there are the other pieces we love too much to part with or feel some type of emotional connection to.

And yes, it happens to the best of us.

Even those who swear possessions aren’t to be valued or important.

Because it’s not so much the particular item but a memory it evokes or a feeling it gives us.

A connection to home.

The teapot which belonged to our mother, the chair our babies were rocked in, the kitchen table where homework was completed or the lamp which belonged to our grandmother. Parting with these types of things can evoke guilt not only pain.

But alas, they are only ‘things.’

And it can lift great emotional weights to part with them. 

Saying goodbye to the first few items is akin to ripping off a band-aid but after that initial wince, the healing begins.

So how do we do it?

First, it’s a good idea to rid the house of all unimportant items. The aforementioned easy ‘stuff’ to purge. Make the goodwill trips, give away other things to friends and family members and have broken pieces and trash hauled away.

Secondly, scout out the pieces which really aren’t favorites but rather family obligations. The dishes which have been passed down and the antique dresser. These are emotional dead weight. Items which are in our homes not because we necessarily want them but because they are heirlooms. Pass them down to the next generation. If they pass then it’s time to part with them anyway.

Thirdly, determine exactly where the next home will be and how much space there is. It’s amazing how much becomes unimportant when you take 3,000 square feet down to 1,000 square feet. If it’s logistically impossible to travel to the next nest pretty much every item becomes expendable.

Do not underestimate the burden of emotional weights.

And do not minimize the degree to which we can have a relationship with ‘things.’

Letting go can be as freeing as ending any other relationship in our lives which is no longer working.

Just like any other relationship which ends keep a few mementos to make it easier.

Snap pictures of the heirlooms, put batteries in the lullaby baby and record the music, keep just one cup to have tea in, frame a scribbled childhood portrait and go from room to room logging pics of just how home once looked.

Or rather felt.

Then leave knowing you have enough to build the next home brick by emotional brick.

 

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When I was a baby my family experienced a house fire in the home my parents were renting.

Moving would be complicated. The strain of my dad’s drinking was shifting the financial burden to my mother. And they did not have the money to put down on a house. Therefore, my mom did what she always did. She turned to her faith.

She made a promise to God.

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If they were able to purchase our house she would put a Sacred Heart statue on a shelf along with a weekly sweetheart rose.

The developer of the community ultimately allowed my mother to pay the deposit over a period of time. So up went the shelf in our dining room as well as the accompanying bud vase.

Over the years and many dinners, we would often joke with our mom she was falling down on her deal as there were no longer the freshest of roses sitting on that shelf.

My ex-husband had long ago said there was no longer any savings or retirement. That it was all gone, but I had not anticipated him being in contempt as soon as our divorce finalized and my credit being severely damaged once again.

No one would rent to me.

So like mother like daughter…

I made a promise to God.

But initially, I must admit I wasn’t sure what that promise would be. The Sacred Heart statue was out. That was my mom’s promise. And having had an uncle a priest I already have quite a bit of other religious items in my home.

And of course, I write about God and faith.

Quite a conundrum I found myself in.

What could I possibly promise to God if he would just help me find housing?

And then it hit me.

I would have “With God All Things are Possible” inscribed on pens.

I would discretely leave them when I signed a bill in restaurants or coffee houses or at the counter of the bank and post office. Essentially any place I could leave them undetected.

My hope?

They would ultimately travel towards strangers who might come upon them at just the right time.

These past five years, had I gone to sign a bill and read that inscription it would have felt comforting. A sign all things will get better and what author SQuire Rushnell would refer to as a Godwink.

My boys and I along with my nephew and his girlfriend set about leaving the first pen. We finished our meal and once the waiter left the table, I signed the receipt and placed his pen on the table and put mine in his folder.

“Aunt Colleen,” says my nephew. “But you won’t ever hear any of the stories of how these pens touch people’s lives.”

“I know,” I reply. “In many ways, that’s the point. To silently reach people who need faith and inspiration.”

It wasn’t long before I was also giving pens to a few friends and family. Much to my surprise, many would ask for another to give to someone who was experiencing a hard time or would simply love them.

Since I signed that first bill, the pens have taken on a life of their own.

And induced some very funny stories in more ways than one.

Including waiters chasing me down because they fear I have mistakenly left the pen since it’s far too nice.

It became a challenge to succinctly explain I intentionally left God behind.

That I made a promise.

Because like mother like daughter.

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John McCain chose a political party but first and foremost he chose to be an American.

In this nation’s Capital where people with differing opinions must break bread and come together for critical solutions, McCain was a champion.

He demonstrated the ability to see contradictory opinions and various backgrounds as a part of a whole rather than the entire slice of this great country.

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There was not necessarily right and wrong but rather a variety of opinions, needs, situations, and crisis to tackle in order to keep this United States just that – UNITED.

John McCain was a patriot but most importantly he was an individual with a strong value system who truly valued others.

Political affiliations aside, there is much to be learned by his work and a life genuinely well lived.

7 Things John McCain Taught Us About Relationships

Foundation  

Relationships involve individuals (and individuality) but never lose sight first and foremost of being a part of a larger equation. If you focus on core foundation and values your relationships will remain centered.

When push comes to shove you may differ in person and opinion but you will not sacrifice the wrong things nor lose sight of keeping the relationship grounded and whole.

Resilience  

Relationships will be tested with great emotional wars. But it’s worth remaining rather than surrendering. Not every battle will be won nor should they be. It’s the teamwork and resilience which ultimately stand the test of time and prove relationships stronger together than apart.

Walking away from people is not a sign of strength. Resolving issues and conflict is.

Honor  

Living outside of a person’s four walls and standing for something greater leads to a selflessness which can only improve a relationship. It is a less self-absorbed version of the world.

Standing for something which unites a couple far beyond their own personal gain and far more meaningful can only help a relationship gain perspective of what’s important.

Loyalty 

A dedication to one another is a quintessential relationship characteristic. The outside world will always bring challenges and adversity and therefore, it’s critical to have a devotion to one another which is unshakable.

Exhibiting loyalty means you have the confidence to have someone’s back whether fair or foul weather.

Tolerance 

The world is full of varying opinions and beliefs. They are not something to be fought but rather a celebration of individuality. There is no one right or wrong way. There are just different ways.

Allowing each person to be who they are means they are fully apart of a relationship rather than fully controlled by another in a relationship. 

Diversity 

There is a beauty in diversity, not a threat. It isn’t a forum for conflict but rather a forum for robust conversation and education. No one way is necessarily the right path. The goal is figuring out a way to bring all of the paths together and intersect.

If one individual can show another the way to a new point of view it can be enlightening not frightening.

Respect 

Every person should be allowed their own opinion rather than talked out of it. It is possible to disagree with passion rather than anger.

Ultimate confidence without the presence of ego means allowing someone to be entirely who they are even if they have an entirely different worldview. 

John McCain was unbelievably passionate about his own beliefs but incredibly tolerant of those of others.

One of the most notable examples was the woman who negatively commented about Barack Obama and McCain famously spoke the words now paraphrased – Obama was a great man the two of them just had differing opinions. 

Ultimately what McCain demonstrated was the ability to possess great confidence minus any type of ego.

The best relationships involve authentic confidence.

 

An incredible ability to fully and passionately live one’s own purpose while never needing to clip the wings of others.

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When I was in my twenties I would tell my uncle I wanted him to live with me one day.

He would smile and laugh.

“No,” I would say. “I am serious. Promise me you will live with me.”

I remember my aunts asking him if he would come back to New York City to retire. He had lived in the Washington D.C. metro area for so long it had never occurred to me he might move back to his native New York.

In a moment of genuinely love driven panic, I asked him if he would retire in NYC or DC.

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He said New York would forever be his home but he had built his entire adult life in Washington.

What a relief.

He wouldn’t be leaving us.

What I never told my uncle was not only did my love for him drive my hope to care for him but so did the debt I felt I urgently wanted to repay.

As my mother’s brother, he had far exceeded any average uncle duties. Quite the contrary, every time the five of us entered the room he lit up even if he had seen us moments before.

He watched out for our mom and he watched out for us.

Or what I should say is he showed his love for all of us.

He was a constant in our lives.

Quite a gift for children who would ultimately lose their dad in their day to day life and be raised by a single mom.

When the day finally arrived I begged to be the one who housed my uncle.

I think my aunts and other uncle felt it would be too much for me. I had my own family and young children. I truly believe they thought it would burden me. But this was a childhood promise I had made to myself.

And I would fight for the right to care for him.

I would fight for the privilege.

My brother and sisters were incredibly supportive.

They had cared for our mother.

An emotional debt I will owe them the rest of my life.

Because the debt we owe to the caregivers of our greatest loves is insurmountable. 

I had been young when our mother was sick and as the baby of the family, I found it overwhelming. My mom would come and stay with me for a few weeks and I would get her bathed and clothed and fed and then I would spend several hours crying myself to sleep. As older siblings, they seemed so much stronger and so much more capable.

So my brother and sisters bared the day to day with our one sister ultimately gifting us taking on the entire responsibility.

Something our brother never lost sight of.

Each year he texts her on the anniversary of our hugely substantial loss to thank her for caring for our mom.

When it came time to care for our uncle I believe we all knew on some level what one of our mother’s best friend’s had once told me.

I feared I had let my mother down.

That the avalanche of disabling tears brought on by her decline made me far less equipped than my older siblings to watch out for her – I should have done more.

As I sat at my mom’s bedside the night she was called home, this dear family friend told me…

Every person steps up in the time they are called to.

We can’t feel guilt over who did this and who did that. We find our own demand for presence when it is most needed.

So ultimately I got my wish.

My beloved uncle, the one who had stepped into our lives when he didn’t have to, who had made us feel so incredibly loved came to live with me.

The first few weeks were tough.

He was up three to four times a night and with the broken sleep, I struggled to care for him and my kids and get through the day. We made the decision to get an outside caregiver in to get him through the night so I could manage everything else.

We settled comfortably into a routine.

My boys understood this was a time for increased self-sufficiency and increased love. They made me incredibly proud as they managed their school work and other responsibilities and still coveted the time where we would all come together around the dinner table, a movie or more.

At night after I got my uncle ready for bed they would come into his room for some prayer and a few songs as I sang him to sleep. On other nights, they would just listen to the sounds of a few Irish songs and Amazing Grace drift up and down the hallway while they were lulled into slumber.

Being a caregiver is challenging and for many, it lasts far longer than the coveted months I was gifted with my uncle.

Of course, having already lost my mom I viewed it somewhat differently.

I had walked these steps before. Scratch that. I had traced these steps before after my heroic brother and sisters. Therefore, I eagerly awaited this incredible opportunity I had been far too emotionally ill-equipped for in my youth.

I was now old enough to be tough enough to feed and care for one who had once extended the same loving tendencies towards me.

And no longer cry but smile through it because I am one of the lucky ones who got to repay an enormous emotional debt.

A few months before my uncle had to be moved to a nursing home he sat at my kitchen table. I made him the quintessential Irish feast. A cup of tea and a bit of sweets. In a moment never to be forgotten he gazed out the bay window and said…

“I’m happy here.”

And with those three incredible words –

I knew I was able to return just a bit of what he had spent a lifetime giving me.

 

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I woke up yesterday with one thought.

I’m finally single.

Happy Birthday to me!

Sure, technically it happened in June but with all of the contempt charges and house sale resistance, it felt anything but liberating.

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There was no time to finally feel single. 

In actuality, I’m not really sure what this means.

Or just how I will attack this new adventure.

Will I try speed dating? Or perhaps go to ‘Just Lunch?’ Play some singles kickball, sign up for Match or try a few blind dates? Buy a couple of new sassy outfits? That of course, would require losing what I now refer to as thirty pounds of ‘Ralph.’ And then there’s always matchmaking.

The possibilities are endless.

I can log onto Facebook and switch my relationship status to single.

And of course, I did just that only to realize I must have deleted my marital status when I initiated my divorce. Alas, the social media world will not hear me proclaim my new found independence. It somehow seems anti-climactic declaring myself single rather than switching from married to single.

I can sit and watch A Star is Born and ugly cry with no one shooshing me.

I can wear red lipstick while I sip pink champagne.

My birthday belongs to me again.

I get to choose my tomorrows. 

The hard-fought single world is now my oyster.

Scratch that.

The world is again my oyster.

Happy Birthday to me!

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It’s difficult to understand divorce unless you experience it.

In fact, that’s true with most aspects of life.

The deepest empathy is derived from a true understanding of walking in another’s shoes. 

Take grief for example.

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When we are young it’s difficult to grasp unless it touches our lives.

We don’t necessarily attend a funeral, take the time to send a card or simply sit with a friend. As time goes on and we sustain the loss of parents and other loved ones we begin to understand the true impact of showing up at someone’s front door, sending food, a card or making a phone call. We now comprehend the first three months do not dissolve the pain and the journey will get far worse before it gets better.

Divorce is an extremely misunderstood adventure.

It too will get far worse before it gets better.

And it will mimic many aspects of grief.

It is a profound loss and a feeling of being disconnected accompanies it.

Because of this, it’s important to understand what those experiencing it crave most. 

3 Things People Crave Most While Divorcing:

Understanding

This may be an emotional death but it is a death. 

It is a severe life change.

The loss of someone who once made everything in the world make sense. And it can lead to an exponential loss. The friendships which were more couple than individual, the family members who are now oddly strangers, the community which doesn’t understand and often fears divorce, the home which built your family and more.

Children suffer and are often forced into roles where they now worry about their parents instead of the reciprocal. Some may act even act out in their pain. Because this is a massive loss in their world too.

Divorcing individuals just want to be understood. They need the world and those around them to realize they are treading emotional waters and doing the very best they can.

This means the necessity of a ‘no judgment’ zone.

It’s a huge life event and those who go through it crave understanding.

 

Comfort

This is a long journey filled with many emotional bumps and bruises.

And yes, some divorces last far too long.

The system is broken and should not allow for emotional and financial abuse throughout the divorce process but unfortunately, it does and can’t shut down a partner who behaves badly. Therefore, some may have a harder time resolving this relationship and need comfort and support even longer than most.

People who are going through a divorce can use a phone call, a cup of tea, a glass of wine, an unexpected meal, a faucet fixed, or literally anything associated with comfort. A new pair of pajamas, a comforting blanket, a manicure, or a card.

These are typically people who are experiencing financial overload and more parental responsibility.

Some people chose to divorce and others do not. Regardless, it is a temporary hardship meant to restore long-term happiness. And it can take a village at different moments. Or the village showing up with a crowd and dinner to infuse a home with joy again.

What do we know about moments of kindness and comfort? They are actually moments of love and this is a person who has lost love.

It’s a huge life event and those who go through it crave comfort. 

Inspiration

People who are muddling through the mud and the muck of divorce desperately need hope.

The assurance the world will be a tear-free zone again.

It is easier for some to let go of love and tougher for others.

It is initially an unimaginable thought to imagine the dissolution of a relationship and the rearranging of a once whole family. It’s excruciating the heart can be suffocating.

But little by little the sun peeks through and dries the tears and joy wipes them away permanently.

Additionally, there can be fears of starting over, being alone, gaining financial independence, keeping children whole and more.

This is why any glimmer of inspiration is essential. A text message with a positive quote or Bible passage, a calendar of quotes, a wooden sign with just the right inscription, an occasional card sent routinely, tea bags with messages or any other small little ‘the people who love you are rooting for you’ message.

It’s a huge life event and those who go through it crave inspiration.

These 3 things encapsulate the broader emotional needs of anyone divorcing.

Whether quiet or loud, bold or reserved, a talker or a listener, these needs are universal.

Because divorce requires the strength of grief and the resilience to do it without leaning on a partner for comfort.

 

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