Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Hope Awakens: A Lesson from Star Wars

by Beth Saadati

I thought it would never come.

Anticipation knots my stomach as I lean back in the movie seat while too many previews play. Then, finally, it’s there. The new VII. 

Just like before, it begins with the familiar orchestrated theme song. The “A long time ago” text. The Star Wars logo over a black field of stars. The yellow slanted words—the opening crawl—summarizing events that transpired since the last film one generation past.

Suddenly I’m that 9-, 11-, and 14-year-old girl who sat in the theater mesmerized by the original release of IV, V, and VI. Who listened to the screenplay and soundtrack records—my treasured Christmas gifts—again and again. Who pounded out John Williams’ score on the piano, the way my son does now, and read through the Scholastic-ordered book trilogy until the pages were worn. Who talked all-things Star Wars and quoted movie lines during a fourth-grade sleepover with a favorite friend until his digital R2-D2 watch blinked 5 a.m.

On the screen before me, the tale unfolds. Awed by the seamless merging of new and old, I connect with characters from the movies I loved. Themes resonate with me—of remaining faithful to friends, of choosing to fight, of clinging to hope while resolving to wait. The clock creeps toward midnight but, immersed in story, I stay wide awake.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

11 Things We Ought to Say When Someone's Lost a Loved One

by Beth Saadati

Most of us have experienced the awkward situation. Someone we know has lost a loved one, and we're unsure of what to say. Not wanting to utter anything hurtful, we stay away. Or, we attempt to communicate around the elephant in the room. 

Although everyone’s grief journey is unique, based on the loss of my teenage daughter, here are some words I’ve found to be safe—even healing—to speak:

1. I’m sorry. Or, I wish it weren’t this way for you. This may sound ordinary. Unoriginal. Even cliché. But, oftentimes, there really are no adequate words. To the one who’s grieving, this simple phrase says far more than most people know. And, if tears come, please don’t apologize or hold them back. Offer them as an unspoken gift as well.

2. I can’t imagine the pain of your loss. It’s okay that you don’t. That honesty—and acknowledgement that I hurt—still comforts.

3. Her life made/is making a difference. If you recall a specific memory, share it. For example, a year ago, Katilyn, 18, told me how much it had impacted her when my daughter invited her to a game night, made her feel welcomed, and, though Jenna didn’t yet know her well, introduced her as a friend to other teens there. Hearing about it brought me joy. I want to remember, to be reminded, to know that Jenna’s life mattered when she was here . . . and that it still does.

4. You were a good _________ (mom, daughter, sister, friend, etc.). Or, It wasn’t your fault.  I needed to hear this then. I still do. Too often it’s easier to recall all I wish I would have done differently than it is to remember what I might have gotten right.

5. You’ll see her again. If you can confidently say this, do. Remind me that, regardless of how disheartening the unexpected plot twist may seem, the story will have a satisfying ending. Just don’t say “soon.”

6. I care about you. Or, if it’s not too awkward, I love you. Like “I’m sorry,” this simple phrase speaks volumes. Most of us don’t verbalize the words enough. And, when we’re grieving, most of us can’t hear them enough.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

10 Things We Shouldn't Say to Someone Who's Lost a Loved One

by Beth Saadati

Holiday season cheer tends to intensify feelings of grief. So, what should we avoid saying to those who have experienced the death of a loved one? Based on the loss of Jenna, my teenage daughter, here’s what I would advise:

1. Time heals all wounds. Sure, grief changes with the passing of time, and a certain amount of healing comes. But I’ve heard from enough people to know that, twenty years later, there will be plenty of times when it still hurts.

2. You’ll get used to the new normal. I have to embrace the “new.” But will it ever feel “normal” to never see my daughter’s face or hear her voice again during the years that I’m alive? Or see her friends driving, attending dances, going to college, and someday establishing careers and families of their own, when Jenna’s not here? I don’t think so.

3. You’ll see her again soon. The last word poses a problem. Time is a funny thing. For example, even though it’s been twenty-five years since my college graduation, it seems more like five. So, when I finally see Jenna someday, the skipped years will probably feel like a hiccup. But, on this end, the thought of a four-decade separation doesn’t match my definition of “soon.”

4. She’s happy now. She’s in a better place. This one’s messy, because it’s true—she’s happy in heaven and I’ll see her again. I want to be reminded of that. It’s still hard to hear, however, because Jenna was fourteen. It wasn’t time for her to go, and I never got to say goodbye. Plus, like any parent, I naturally long to know what she’s seeing and experiencing. But there are no texts, no phone calls, no Facebook posts . . . nothing but a sometimes-unbearable silence.


5. Her death was worth it if it reaches even one person. When I was pitching Jenna’s book, a literary agent asked me this question. I wanted to give the noble—the godly—response and say “yes” . . . but I couldn’t. Because I’d give anything to have Jenna back. Since I can’t undo her choice, the price of capturing her life, and my grief, in words is worth the time, effort, and heartbreak it costs if it only speaks to one person. But that—no pun intended—is an entirely different story.