Just Keep Breathing ~ Jana Brock

Just Keep Breathing, by Oregon Author Jana Brock, was written to raise awareness and share vital information about the effects of losing someone very close. Many books on this subject are not written to reach the reader on an emotional level. So that we might remember these critical lessons, this one has been.


At some point, we will all succumb to death. Before that day comes, it is also likely we will lose people we love. We will see friends, family and colleagues suffer those losses, too. When death occurs, we become a support system for the bereaved, just as they will at some point be in a position to give their support to us. Learning how to best support those around us is key to maintaining strong relationships in times of crisis.

Take a walk down the path that stretches from the present day back to the turn of the 2011 New Year. Read. Learn. And pass your knowledge onto others so that they may do the same. May this book travel far across many miles and oceans, helping as many people as possible.

Just Keep Breathing can be purchased in paperback and in ebook formats on Amazon, Barnes & Noble. It has also been distributed to over 115 book stores in several countries through online outlets and other literary sources.
Copyright 2015, Jana Brock, Author. All rights reserved. No duplication, distribution, use or copying of this material without express and written permission from Jana Brock or Starry Night Publishing is permitted. (c) January 2015.

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Calling All Authors: Starry Night Publishing

Greetings ~

As authors do, I did a good deal of research on large publishing companies for possible acceptance of my manuscripts. I learned that taking that path to publication would mean not reaching goals I have worked toward all these years. I would also have to give up rights to my own work in addition to accepting unfair compensation for my books.

After deciding the large publishing houses were not the best fit for me, I looked into self-publishing. I determined quickly it was not my thing, either. Hours turned into days and months of searching for the right outlet for Just Keep Breathing. Because I have other books in the pipeline which are also ready to release this year, I wanted to find a solid publisher – someone established in this business. A fellow author recommended I look into Starry Night Publishing. At long last, my search was over. They offered me exactly what I needed.


Starry Night Publishing is not about greed. They are about helping good writers succeed as known authors. This company will handle your manuscript with integrity, answer endless questions and publish your book on time. If your manuscript is not ready for publication when submitted, you will be told that up front. In addition to countless perks of publishing with Starry Night, the CEO is genuinely a nice person.

Be well,


For more information on Starry Night Publishing, click here: http://www.starrynightpublishing.com/
Copyright 2015, Jana Brock. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication, copy, rewrite or other use of this material without express and written permission from Jana Brock or Starry Night Publishing, is strictly prohibited.

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Just Keep Breathing – Book Release

Death is a harsh reality of being human. Our bodies do not live forever. Some lives are cut short, leaving behind emotions that have the power to disable even the strongest among us. Every loss is significant to someone.

Just Keep Breathing, by Oregon Author Jana Brock, was written for many worthy reasons, to include informing others about the effects of losing someone very close. Many books on this subject are not written to reach the reader on an emotional level. So that we might remember these critical lessons, this one has been.


At some point, we will all succumb to death. Before that day comes, it is also likely we will lose people we love. We will see friends, family and colleagues suffer those losses, too. When death occurs, we become a support system for the bereaved, just as they will at some point be in a position to give their support to us. Learning how to best support those around us is key to maintaining strong relationships in times of crisis.

Take a walk down the path that stretches from the present day back to the turn of the 2011 New Year. Read. Learn. And pass your knowledge onto others so that they may do the same. May this book travel far across many miles and oceans, helping as many people as possible.

Just Keep Breathing can be purchased in paperback and in ebook formats on Amazon, Barnes & Noble. It has also been distributed to over 115 book stores in several countries through online outlets and other literary sources.
Copyright 2015, Jana Brock, Author. All rights reserved. No duplication, distribution, use or copying of this material without express and written permission from Jana Brock or Starry Night Publishing is permitted. (c) January 2015.

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Just Keep Breathing: Excerpt

In the months following my son’s passing, I thought about how easy it would be just to lay down and close my eyes for the very last time. If I could just slip away like he did…all of the sadness, pain, guilt and confusion would disappear with me. I would not have to feel anything. It would all just stop.

But only for me.

Everything else in my life was accomplished by that time. I had two great kids up to that point. I had overcome anger issues and done a great deal of hard work on myself. My career was solid and I finally felt like I was where I needed to be.

The thoughts I was having were not healthy. I had my daughter to think of, and she was hurting too. I was a single mother then and had been for some time. At the time Lewis died, my immediate family was small. I was not married, so it was just him, Alexis and me. Sad that I would have ever thought about leaving my amazing daughter to carry the burden throughout her life that not only did her brother leave her, so did her mom.

Even with that knowledge, grief had enough power in those early weeks that the thought of checking out repeatedly crossed my mind. In fact, I was in so much consistent pain that I actively prayed for God or whatever existed of a higher power to take me off this planet completely. A car wreck or some other accident – just something to end me having to deal with what had happened.

Not everyone has a good support system to remind us that emotional responses are not reliable solutions. Fortunately, I did.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Copyright 2015, Jana Brock, Author. All rights reserved. No duplication, distribution, use or copying of this material without express and written permission from Jana Brock or Starry Night Publishing is permitted. (c) January 2015.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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Only Love Can Do That

A great leader of our past spoke volumes about people and resolving the conflicts inherent in the human condition. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Imagine the world if we took hate and all things associated out of our lives and replaced those interactions with behaviors that emanate light and love. Though we will not be perfect, we can certainly head in that direction.


We know what the characteristics of love manifest as in each of us: Living honestly; giving; treating one another with respect; being kind; keeping our commitments; practicing ethics in all areas of our lives; helping others and truly caring for our fellow man/woman/child; being loyal to friends and loved ones; omitting greed; respecting others for their merit rather than their money; admitting our faults and working to correct them; and practicing gratitude consistently.

Conversely, hate breeds: Dishonesty; disloyalty; greed; treating others with disregard and disrespect (and standing by those actions); putting politics before ethics; using people; taking; cheating; habitually gossiping about others; stealing; causing others pain – to include hurting others unintentionally with no remorse, et cetera.

I don’t know about you, but I can see a little of myself in both lists. Like many, I have more work to do.

What if each of us were to shake the web we have woven by doing whatever we can to reach unity and peace? If you have hurt someone, apologize. If you have stolen something, give it back. If you are struggling with a behavior (or several) that do not serve you or others well, make a commitment to get it resolved. Give. Give. Then, give some more. In the big picture, good actions benefit the people around us. Hence, we heal the world.

We could all use a good dose of widespread love and light right now. Even the most positive person cannot deny that if we do not turn things around, our collective legacies will be a dark planet. We cannot add light by continuing behaviors that are based on hurtful actions and hateful things.

Let us behave in such a way that begins to repair the messes we have made individually and as a whole human race. Only love can do that.

Be well,


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The Journey to Authorship

Greetings, Friends ~

Having a book-length publication eminent, my awareness of others’ desire to see their own names in print has been heightened. I am reminded of my long journey and what it took to get here. Not only do I write every day, but like fellow writers, I constantly read. When you read a great deal, you quickly learn to separate well-written books from those of lesser quality. Certainly, there are excellent books for sale. Some, however, are not worth the purchase. When writers do not put in the time and hard work prior to publishing their books, those shortcuts become obvious.


In my view, there are only two types of pro writers. I am not talking about descriptive, expository, poetry, narrative, etc. I am referring to the two main types of people who write: 1) People who write but would never do so without compensation or other persuasion; and 2) People who are writers at their base. Those in the second group can be found scribing on lunch breaks, weekends and even on vacations. They sit by the ocean, around a campfire or by their bay windows, journals-in-hand, just…writing.

I am the second type, although I intentionally situated myself in careers that require me to do a lot of reading and writing. It was strategic, getting myself into these professional positions. Even in college, I knew I would not graduate and then suddenly become a well-published author. The next-best thing was to get paid every day doing something that moved me closer to my long-term goal.

The documents I have written which were published nationally often did not list my name as author. They are owned by the government because I was being paid on salary to write them. In fact, some of the best writers never get any public credit, nor is their work widely published under their own name. Ghost writers also come to mind.

Also indicative of a true writer is the sacrifices they are willing to make to become proficient. After working our respective 8-5 career jobs each day, my husband often finds me tucked away in solitude, working to capture whatever idea that woke me up the night before. No one told me to do that, nor did I have a sudden epiphany. I just showed up with writing hardwired into who I am. The sacrifices involved in developing my skills, however, were my choice. While everyone else was watching t.v….

Several of my paid vacations have been spent locked in my home office with the door shut focusing 100% on my manuscripts. I know I am in good company, as my peers in the craft have done it too. Not for a few hours here and there, mind you. But weeks at a time with the only interruption being showering, sleeping and eating. Knowing friends were vacationing somewhere on a white sand beach, I was hulled up with my laptop, chewing on my pencil erasers and reading out loud until my throat was sore.

There are exceptions to every rule. But when it comes to good writing, editing, and wide distribution of an author’s work, there is no way around it. It takes sacrifice – and a lot of it. If that sacrifice feels like a sacrifice, then writing may not be your thing. Editing won’t be, either. To me, working 10 hours a day in my regular paid job, and then spending another 4 hours each night on my books is heaven.

Fortunately, my years of hard work and perseverance have led me to 2015 – a year when several of my book-length publications will be released. In addition to my nonfiction book, Just Keep Breathing, I have three novels in progress. My first, The Rose Wall, has been written for almost a year. It will be edited in the Spring, followed, no doubt, by a massive rewrite.

Just Keep Breathing took me four years to complete and still, I do not see it as perfect. Perhaps it never could be. Its path to publication included several editors, countless rewrites and consistently reworking my original manuscript outline. That is just one book of six manuscripts I have in progress. All of it is being done in my spare time.

Also due for publication this year is my light-hearted, out-of-the-ordinary cookbook, Recipes From the Vault (Lessons From the Kitchen of Hard Knocks). I work on that manuscript at times when I must put my other manuscripts aside. Though authors must keep several plates spinning at one time, taking a break from heavy or intense composition is important. That does not mean we drop our writing for months on end. Writers….write.

In addition to composing a book intended for the stove-challenged among us, I am in the introductory phase of developing two online college classes. I have done a great deal of teaching and public speaking over my career. As well, I am an excellent editor. That said, good writers have good editors. I never edit my own publishable work anymore. Editing one’s own work is about as smart as representing oneself in court.

A writer’s job is to make any story seem as though it just effortlessly develops. That takes more work and skill than you might imagine. Writing also requires the ability to do thorough research, have good organization and the ability to take rejection well. That is true of both fiction and nonfiction authors.

A final thought to those who decide all-of-a-sudden to be the world’s next bestselling author. Read – a lot. Become proficient in high-level, complex editing. Take English classes. Do the long-term homework that is behind every successful author. And by all means, keep writing – constantly.

If you dig into any well-known author’s past, you will likely see evidence of their blood, sweat and tears spanning from the present time all the way back to their beginnings. It is not easy. It is not difficult. It is just either a part of who you are, or it is not.

Be well,


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Elements of Style

Elements of Style: Jana Brock / Ash Creek Writers

Ash Creek Writers

Each well-read author has taken some kind of consistent action to achieve publication goals. While being schooled in the craft, the literary world is moving forward – whooshing by us at high speeds. How do we keep pace with what is current?

Searching for the next great learning tool should become as natural as breathing. Classes, videos and ebooks flood the market each year. With only so many hours available to us each day, choosing the right writing resource can be arduous work. Even so, our work needs to be refined, relevant and marketable.

Some years ago, I happened upon a book that captured a wealth of information in just a few pages. Some writers refer to it as their writing bible, but it is formally titled, The Elements of Style (by William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. white). If it is not already occupying a space on your shelf, perhaps…

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Write Right

Greetings, Friends ~

There is a certain feeling one gets when reading well-written prose. If done carefully, a story can take us right into its pages. As writers, the manner in which we connect words on paper is important. We are ever striving to give our readers an imaginary passage which will transport them to the scene.


Evidence of great nonfiction work lies in whether it has the ability to spark emotion in the reader. Worthy fiction allows one to visualize the scene and characters we introduce in its early chapters. Regardless the subject matter or genre, writers need to become artists of mental imagery.

To accomplish this in my work, I travel with my camera and consider it just as important as my notebook and pen. Whether I focus on a clock tower in Atlanta, a country roadside stream or the dramatic rock cliffs of Coastal Oregon, I will find use for those images later. It has become a vital part of my research process.

Pictures help me construct sentences intended to recreate scenic locations for a subsequent manuscript. In fact, every state and country I have visited is aptly memorialized in my digital albums. Twenty photographs may result in the production of only one, single paragraph. It is time well spent. The importance of “show, don’t tell” cannot be overstated when writing publishable work.

To show an example in the difference between show and tell, I submit the following:


There is a long road with an old steel guard rail that stretches alongside its entire length. Steel hand rails are on either side. The yellow paint on the railing is old and started chipping off years ago. The steel is bolted to a concrete foundation which is covered in brown, dying moss. At what appears to be the end of that road is a forest. It is built over Detroit Dam and goes on to take a sharp turn at the edge of a line of trees. If you It continue on that road, it will take you closer to the forest where you can find other places to access Detroit Lake.


An aging road spans between Route 22 and the massive Douglas firs, mighty oaks and tall pine trees of the Willamette National Forest. Providing safe access for sightseers and fishermen to cross Detroit Dam, this area also boasts a breathtaking backdrop for even the most novice photographer.

Browning moss clings to massive concrete structures that border each side of this passage. Steel railing intended for the safety of onlookers is aptly bolted down for those who dare lean over it. Without it, getting a closer look at the North Santiam River’s swift water some 1,500 feet below may be a death wish.

Chipping yellow paint tells the story of this time and weather-worn structure. Standing at one end of the road looking toward the opposite side of the dam, it seems that the Pacific Northwest wooded areas stretch all the way to forever.


Good writing takes a lot of research and attention to detail. It is an intensely time-consuming craft, but well worth the effort. Authors who make an effort to master these skills will produce publishable and competitive work. They will be writing right.

Be well,


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Authors of Ash Creek Writers Move Forward in 2015

Good Reads.

Ash Creek Writers

Fellow Authors and Readers ~

We would like to start out by wishing each of you a safe and happy entry of what promises to be another great year. As 2015 unfolds, we are mindful of fellow writers who continue a quest to provide the world with great literary works. Around our ever-spinning planet, imaginations spawn ideas for aspiring writers. Closer to home, however, two of our authors have completed new manuscripts.

Just Keep Breathing, by Jana Brock, follows a significant event which changed Brock’s life entirely. Though nonfiction, it is written so that even those unfamiliar with the subject matter can relate. This book speaks to readers on an emotional level, inspiring us to embrace circumstances so powerful they can change our lives forever. Just Keep Breathing will be ready for sale sometime in January in both paperback and e-book from major stores such as Amazon and Barnes…

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A Spoonful of Sugar

It is 2 a.m. I am tossing and turning, hoping I don’t wake the most amazing man on the planet. He is sleeping peacefully at my side. For that reason, I am the luckiest woman anywhere. I am also the mother to the most amazing daughter. And son.

Between my fits of discomfort and squirming, I ponder the past few years. I don’t do that often. It hurts. Down one child, I notice his absence moreso as we enter the holiday season. Always, there is one seat at or family table that remains empty. It belongs to him.

Absent contact with the sandman, I disable the house alarm and wander outdoors to look at the night sky. I needed to leave my bedroom nest so as not to wake my husband. He must work tomorrow, but I have been instructured not to work for now. My first of two hip replacements has left me with a level of pain that most would find intolerable. As an added bonus, nausea and fevers grace most every waking moment.

My hip replacement surgery seemed to have gone well, but the months that followed became increasingly difficult. Still today, the experts have not identified the problem. I am weary from invasive, painful tests, medications that make me feel strange and long drives back and forth to the Northwest’s best trauma hospital.

In the meantime, the quality of life my new husband and I were meant to enjoy remains in abeyance. We grab moments when we can. Even so, as newleyweds, now is a time when we should be busy living our lives to the fullest. But I am sick, so that is delayed. He is handling it much better than I.

Struggling to find a star between the heavy, dark clouds, I shift my focus to the positive. Even with my hardships, I cannot complain.

Every day I have a roof over my head, clothing to wear and food to eat. Each time I turn on the faucet to take a shower, warm clean water comes out. And I have a solid, awesome family and good friends that love me. Even my step kids are amazing. How can that be anything but an extreme blessing? Millions of humans on this planet do not have such luxuries.

I step back inside the house. The sky is fierce with evidence of eminent rain and the winds are picking up. The 68 degrees of our home feels too warm as I enter. That is the fever.

I put the tea kettle on high and gather my favorite cup – the purple one my daughter gave me. Reaching for a ginger teabag, I am reminded that I do not like the taste of ginger. Turns out it works well for nausea. To dull the undesireable flavor, I follow the old spoonful-of-sugar adage from my grandma’s generation. My choice, however, is raw honey, which makes even the most bitter taste go down smooth. It is also good for just about all-things-health.

Thinking about it, a spoonful of sugar is an apt analogy for my entire situation. This hardship is more palatable with an amazing man at my side. He is the sweet that makes even the most bitter of pills easier to swallow. He reminds me to stay positive, for this too shall pass.

And it will.

Be well,


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September Till Then

Greetings, Friends ~

August left quietly in the great Willamette Valley of Oregon. The month of my favor is always September – a time when the sun gives way to cooling evenings and southerly winds.

The Pacific Northwest boasts one of the most beautiful Fall seasons on the map. As each day progresses, so will the depth of color and hue. Various shades of green will begin to brighten, illuminating the ground with oranges, yellows and reds approaching October. By month’s end, we begin to lose evidence that Summer was here at all.

Today, the streets will be littered with buses and children bound to and from school. Holiday sales end as retailers scramble to mark down prices on fashions that do not bode well with Autumn. Outdoor activities begin to wane as fellow residents prepare for a nearing season that carries with it apt rainfall.

Though I enjoy them immensely, summertime here is brief. Seasons change quickly when heat rolls into the valley. It exits just as swift.

The smell of neighboring grills make evening nostalgic in a good way. Beautiful plants in the yard give way to flowers and the garden yields food absent of chemicals and process. Work is heavy in the warmth, but I remain grateful for every outdoor chore. Those are opportunities to make everything look fresh and new again while taking advantage of a too-scarce sun in the opposing months.

The definite seasons of this majestic valley are a blessing to its dwellers. Though partial to September and the onset of Fall, I do wish the seasons did not change so quickly this time of year. Alas, Mother Nature has a scenic backdrop to maintain, and this type of beauty carries with it the price tag of wet, unyielding weather.

Till then, we have September.

Be well,


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Perfectly Imperfect

Greetings, Friends ~

There are times in our lives that can only be described as moments. Those moments can seem few and far between but they breath life into the mundane of day-to-day. As we move forward we each leave marks on the world – good and bad. Those marks are webs which trail behind us and connect to other webs spun by people close in our lives. Those webs all connect to the larger web of the world. They are expansive, so much so that it can be overwhelming to follow even one strand to the point of its origin, especially when we approach middle-age.

My now-husband and I recently started weaving a new web. By arrangement of a formal wedding just several days ago, we legally connected our lives in a way that says from this point forward, we partner to weave only one. Insodoing, we leave the tangled and undesirable “relationships-gone-wrong” strands behind us forever. We accept each other’s successes and failures, and make the agreement that whatever life throws in our direction henceforth, we face it united.

We made a firm decision to document this union with very few family members, colleagues and friends present. The guests list was very short, as we each have so many people close in our lives it would have been impossible to include even half. We agreed to be very methodical with the invitations, knowing that people we love understand that not every party can be a large one. As difficult as the selection process was, we were happy with our intimate, backyard wedding. The entire day, from start to finish, was a moment…never to be forgotten. The web we began weaving together that day is completely in sync, each strand beautifully trailing behind us and connecting our now one-life to the web of larger life on this planet.

Joining lives at 40-and-50-something will naturally have its challenges, but for us it was an easy journey once we finally met. There was no decision, per se, to stay together. From early on, our entire relationship was a discussion of logistics. Our families melded completely. Those who care about us were immediately and fully supportive once our engagement became public, knowing the very difficult life circumstances we had both overcome on our journey to here.

As so many who found themselves repeatedly single in this day and age, we had past relationship failures, engagements we called off and whatever other wrong turns we corrected along the way. As any single person today knows, you can kiss a lot of frogs en route to your perfect mate. For us, those unfortunate people who focus on past experiences are few. We keep good company these days and have a great support system. Being single and navigating the current dating climate is not for the weak. Resilience is key, and we have both become rock-solid in our boundaries and ethics which defined what we were looking for. We find the few negative associations easy to ignore. My husband and I are busy living a happy, healthy and amazing life together. That leaves little energy for things that do not concern us.

Like everyone this age, my husband and I left web strands behind us that were beautiful and unique. We also each had a few tangled, messy webs which we were happy to detach from. On the most positive side of our union, he has two amazing adult children and I have two (one, deceased). I also have an amazing son-from-another-mother who is a solid fixture in our life. These adult children have all grown to be awesome people who considered themselves siblings since early on. Like anyone, we have life complexities that apply to our situation, but they seem simple to us. Joining our lives was one of the easiest things either of us has ever done. As I repeatedly stated at our wedding, THIS we got right.

Considering every good thing and bad thing, success and failure, mistake and accomplishment, we know that life cannot be perfect here on this planet. But when you find that person that makes every single day feel like one big moment, you hang onto that person forever. For us, life has become as close to perfect as it can be. You could say that our life is now perfectly imperfect – a profound blessing I wish for everyone.

Be well,



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Just Keep Breathing – The End

I feel like dancing! Singing! And maybe even throwing a party in my own honor. You know, one of those on-the-spot…let’s-get-everyone-together-and-celebrate kind of parties. Why?


Forty-One highly-focused, grueling hours were spent butt-in-chair over a three day period this past week in order to accomplish this feat. Without a doubt, this is the second most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. My recent marathon of writing does not even consider the countless weeks, months, and years I worked on it up to now.

Elated, I encrypted the chapters and emailed it off to another experienced writer (also, an excellent editor). I realize the reality of what lies ahead: deleting text, making corrections, rearranging chapters (AGAIN). It is all part of the process. I am also prepared to revitalize a lot of work I left on the cutting-room floor.

As any good writer knows, after reading your own work a bazillion times, you no longer see the mistakes. The stark truth is that even after massive and thorough edits on my part, there are many errors I did not catch. Even the still-ahead major corrections will pale in comparison to what it took to get me here. Blood, sweat and tears doesn’t even come close to describing it.

Holding a final printed copy in my hands is now a close reality for me. BRING IT!

Be Well,


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The Closet

Greetings, Friends ~

Of the many high crimes occurring in our world, child abuse rates among the worst. There is no excuse for it – none whatsoever. We would all prefer to look at the happy, bright side of life. If only “not looking” could change it.

This is a poem that I wrote back in 1996. I was not the seasoned a writer I am today. Despite, I think this poem does a good job of describing the lasting damage to kids when their innocence is selfishly robbed from them. If these truly evil perpetrators are caught, our system provides them with free shelter, food, education, entertainment, activities, etc., while in prison. System = broken.

Be well,


The Closet

She cannot speak to me
Except from a corner of the closet
She is safe
Hiding in the shadows

I position my chair
Within her view
I watch
As she plays

She sits in a full crouch
Talking to her dolls
She speaks
Of an unforgivable sin

Listening to her
My heart is heavy
Searching for sensible words
I can find none

As God’s advocate
I near the closet
She cowers behind barriers
That cannot be seen

Whimpering, she says
He is coming for her again
Her eyes glaze over
with terror-soaked tears

I watch her rocking
Conversing with dolls
Revealing the soiled infancy
Known only to her father and God

Twice each week
I witness this
Meanwhile, Evil sits in prison
Fed, clothed, warm.

Copyright 1996, Jana Brock. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Help The Grieving

Greetings, Friends ~

This week has been painful – a harsh reminder that in one moment of time, everything can change. A few days ago, someone very close passed away. Julie was a young woman – too young. Her passing was not expected. It was shocking and cruel and sudden. Her close family members are heavy in grief right now, and for that, my heart breaks. I grieve this loss with them.

We do not go to bed thinking that a phone call could come the next morning telling us that we just lost someone we love. It would be too much pain to even process the reality that in a second of time, the connection that binds you to a person you love can be immediately cut, and you are forced to feel emotions that are too severe to describe to someone who has never been through a very significant, close loss.

I am deeply saddened that any of the surviving family members are feeling that level of pain. I am even more heavy at heart for Julie’s mother. I do not know what she is going through inside because this is her loss, and it is very personal and close to her heart. However, as a mother who has lost one of my children to sudden death, I absolutely know a daily baseline for her is sheer agony – a level of pain that most people cannot possibly fathom.

There is something about a mother’s fierce love for her kids. Losing a child has the power to force a surviving parent (moms and dads) to the edge of what humans should be expected to effectively handle emotionally. Imagine trying to get through your days after such a loss.

I am reminded of some very important lessons I learned when in this state of heavy grief. There are all types of books and pamphlets telling us what to say and what not to say to someone who has recently lost someone very close to them. There is no time to do research once a sudden death has occurred. Even so, these survivors are in a heavy grief period, and we want to be mindful of what we say to them about their loss.

When approaching someone who has just experienced a very significant loss, here are some things I learned after the passing of my son. I would not purport to speak for everyone who is heavy in grief. But there are also similarities whenenever one of us loses someone close. I hope you find it helpful:

* Do not compare your losses to theirs or say things like, “I know how you feel. When my grandmother died, I felt exactly like you do.” They are dealing with heavy emotions and the focus needs to remain on helping them recover, not pulling attention away from what they are feeling. Right now, their feelings matter and they need your support, not comparisons of losses.

* If they start talking about the deceased, just LISTEN to them. Do not shy away from them or make them feel as though they cannot remember their loved one. People become uncomfortable, and that is natural. But they need to process this death and all they have left now are their memories. If they feel they cannot share them with you, they will stop trying.

* If you struggle for something to say or are afraid to say the wrong thing (which is very easy at times like these), just say something along the lines of… “I am sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine what you must be going through…” If you are scared you might say something wrong, stay neutral. It is so much better to just say something reassuring if you are unsure what would help and what might hurt.

* Do not tell them that their loved one is better off in heaven, even if you know they are believers in the afterlife. Most people heavy in grief are focused on controlling an overwhelming amount of emotional pain associated with their loss. It can be extremely hurtful, even though well-intended. Of course they would prefer their loved one remained here and that this situation is not better than the way things were.

* Give them space if they need space. Most people heavy in grief tend to withdraw from everyone except immediate family members. This is a natural response to very significant losses and it is what they need. They will let you know if they want you close early on.

* Don’t give them “help” advice early on unless they ask or voice wanting that kind of referral (counseling, grief books, etc). Give them some time. They are not broken or clinically flawed. They are heartbroken, and rightly so.

* Be careful with joking if you are the type that tends to want to “lighten” the situation when bad things happen to people. If they are joking with you, great. But if they are talking about very serious and difficult things associated with the death of their loved one, do not insert jokes. It is not funny to someone heavy in grief and is easily misread. It’s just not the time or place.

* If they do not respond when you reach out to them, do not take it personally. If they say unwarranted unkind words to you or about you, do not take it personally. Back away if this occurs and give them space. Most people will apologize later if they inadvertently do damage or say unkind things during a period of heavy grieving. Those heavy in grief are not in their natural behavior process. Everything is out-of-place for them, especially early on. They may not respond to you in the manner they usually would. Don’t analyze their actions or behavior. Just accept that things are out of order for them and they are trying their best to find their way through a very painful period of time.

* Do not ask a person in heavy grief to do anything supportive for you. Their minds are busy 24 hours a day trying to put the pieces of their life puzzle back in place. Those pieces do not fit together anymore because someone is now missing. It takes all of their energy to just get through the day now. If someone has just experienced a significant loss, it is not the time to lean on them for any reason. They WILL remember the people that try to get something from them during a time when their hearts are so broken.

* People in heavy grief may withdraw from social events and not be present as they used to be. Again, do not take it personally. Significant losses affect everything. Those losses change everyone in some way.

* People want to help. Unexpected, sudden deaths are brutal emotionally. But they can also be financially devastating. Imagine going along in life and living on your financial budget – walking a tight rope with monthly expenses and your income. Within 3 days from now, a funeral director tells you to put $10,000 or $20, $25K on the table to pay for final expenses of a loved one because of an unexpected, untimely death. Surviving family members must meet this financial obligation within days of a loved one’s passing. Thank you to everyone who has donated to Julie’s fund so far. If you have not and are willing and able, here is the link to donate to help Julie’s family:


There are many things to say and not to say. Things that help and things that hurt. I would encourage everyone, regardless how near or far you are from an unexpected and significant loss, to consider always what the surviving family members are going through. Most people have a good idea of what to say and what not to say. But surprisingly, my experience with this great a loss is that we say things wrong anyway because we are all caught off guard and not sure how to approach the surviving family and close friends.

Unexpected losses, such as Julie, are deeply painful for the family members. The recovery is long and difficult. If you do not know what the “wrong things” are to say, just tell them you are sad for them. Let them know you are sorry about what happened. That will be enough.

Please join me in saying goodbye to Julie Lerma (Clem). If I could have said goodbye, these would have been my words to her:

Thank you for being such a beautiful soul and a light in the world around you. Thank you for the beautiful children you brought onto this planet. Thank you for being an amazing surrogate sister to my daughter, and always treating her and I with love and respect. Thank you for including her and I in your family occasions and special times and not only saying my daughter was family, but behaving as such. We will love you forever and cherish all the memories, photos, moments we had you in our lives. Your children will be deeply loved in your absence because you are part of one of the most loving, caring and special families I have ever known. You are a beautiful soul and will be greatly missed.

Be Well,


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