October is one month out of the year for us to focus on reaching out and teaching others about these issues. These issues are not just "someone else's problem." What impacts one impacts us all.
The issues don't disappear when October ends. Once you are diagnosed with breast cancer, once you have been abused or bullied, once you lose a baby, things never go back to the way they were before. You will never be the same. You will never "get over it." It leaves an indelible impression on your life.
As a survivor - and someone who has spent lots of time being there for other survivors - I will tell you that most days are okay. We go on. We live, we laugh and we love. But there are those days when we question our very existence. We ask why--why did this happen and why me. We stay on the verge of tears. Then there are moments when we give in and bawl our eyes out. There is no timetable for grieving. Each of us grieves in our own way for as long as we need to grieve.
People often don't know what to say or what to do. They don't want to do or say the wrong thing, so they distance themselves. That is the worst thing you can do. All most survivors need is someone to be there. Have you often wished for a list of do's and don'ts when you are dealing with survivors? Here it is:
What we need most is your presence. Be with us in our moment. Hold us, hug us, love us. Listen to us, just listen, and don’t interrupt. Keep tissues handy - all the time! OH and CHOCOLATE, COFFEE, TEA or WINE!!! You know what we love. Just show up with chocolate, listen and care. Really. It's that simple. (Did I mention National Chocolate Day is in October?)
Please don't judge us. One of the worst aspects of human nature is our tendency to blame the victim. Don't.
Don't tell us what we should or shouldn't do - or feel.
Please don't tell us stories about people who have it worse than we do. We know the world is full of suffering - and our commonality in suffering gives us more compassion than most - but their pain doesn't make our pain any less painful.
This is a gentle suggestion for our well-meaning friends. You don't need to try to solve the problem for us. Trust me, most of the time, we have already explored every option available. If we want your help finding resources or your opinions, we will ask. It's hard for people who love us most to just sit with us in our pain. They have a tendency to want to fix it. They want to show us how much they care by telling us exactly what we should do. Give us the room to find our own solutions.
Pay attention to the things we don’t say. People tell me that they can tell when I am not having a good day, they see the cloud that covers my normal sunshine. When our days are cloudy, be our sunshine. It really doesn’t take much, sometimes just a smile will do it. Just someone else recognizing that we are struggling and that they care about us - and are paying attention - helps to lift the cloud, even if only for a moment.
Volunteer and donate. Walk in a walkathon, bring your clothes to a shelter, volunteer on a hotline, write a check. In whatever way you can, just try to make a difference. The 4th Saturday in October is National Make A Difference Day.
I have a list of do's and don'ts for survivors too:
If you need help, ask for it. You'd be surprised how many people are willing to help if you would only let them know what you need. If the first person you ask says no, ask somebody else. Every no brings you one step closer to a yes. If people tell you no, it's not a reflection on your character but rather on theirs. Don't take it personally.
Be gentle with yourself, be gentle with others. Forgive yourself, forgive others. Try not to be angry when people are trying to help and aren't doing a very good job. Try to focus on gratitude that they care enough to try to help.
I'm a pastor's wife so you know I'm going to tell you that God loves you. When you lose everything and God is all you have left, you will find God is more than enough. That may sound trite, but it's not a platitude. I speak from firsthand knowledge. God is everywhere - all the time - and there is nothing God cannot do. Ask for miracles and expect them.
If you have reached a level of healing where you have something to offer other survivors, reach out to them. Be there. Volunteer. Change just one life. If it feels right, do it again. Over and over.
Same advice we gave above: Volunteer and donate. Walk in a walkathon, bring your clothes to a shelter, volunteer on a hotline, write a check. In whatever way you can, just try to make a difference.
Living Loving Giving
We're been discussing the idea of featuring an ageless woman in need in each issue, so we can all join hands and change somebody's life. If you know of someone who is in exceptional need, share her story with me. Even if she is not selected as the woman featured in the next issue, we will have a page with all the stories that our readers can choose to read if they are looking for a woman they can help. Please mail your story to us with a notarized, signed release from the woman in need. We don't have to use a name in the magazine, but we don't want to feature someone's story without their permission. Go here to find and print the release form.
Montrose holds a bachelor’s degree and two associates degrees from Kent State and has her own business, Helping Hands Computers & Things. She is employed by Washington & Lee in Lexington, Virginia, and applies her creativity and many talents as an active community volunteer – in service projects like the Rockbridge County Community Table. She is active in her church and currently serves as the President of the Women’s Ministry for the Berean Valley Baptist Association. Montrose is married to Rev. Dr. Louis F. Grandberry, Pastor of Beulah Baptist Church in Stuarts Draft. They are the parents of six sons, three daughters and 21 grandchildren. She enjoys encouraging youth and assisting the elderly. In her scant spare time, Montrose is an avid golfer.
October is the perfect month for penning my very first Helping Hands column for Ageless Woman. In this one month, we wear pink for Breast Cancer Awareness, purple for Domestic Violence Awareness, Orange for Unity Day, and pink and blue for Pregnancy and Infancy Loss - among many others. Check out the list in the sidebar to see some of the many causes for which October is the designated awareness month.
Julie, one of my very talented young"daughters."gifted me with the photo to the left. She took one of my Facebook profile pictures and added the lettering. Julie knows me well and knows each of these issues is near and dear to my heart.
I wear these colors not just in October but throughout the year because people deal with these physical and emotional wounds every single day - their entire lives. The colors remind me that we all have a responsibility to do and be better.