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Ladies of Liberty: Remembering Mercy Otis Warren

By Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal

“The British were indeed very far superior to the Americans in every respect necessary to military operations, except the revivified courage and resolution, the result of sudden success after despair.” – Mercy Otis Warren

As we mark the Fourth of July and the independence brought about after the Revolutionary War, it’s impossible not to remember the historical men and women who played key roles in the creation of our nation. Men like George WashingtonBenjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson are easily remembered, but what about the women – the ladies of liberty – who also deserve our remembrance and respect? Today, let’s talk about Mercy Otis Warren and how she influenced the American Revolution with her mightiest weapon – a pen!

Biography

Early years

Born in Barnstable, Massachusetts, on September 14, 1728, Mercy Otis Warren was the third of James and Mary Allyne Otis’s thirteen children. Like many women at the time, Mercy didn’t receive a formal education, but she learned much about history and politics from her father, her uncle, and her older brother, James Otis Jr., who helped her build her passion for writing.

In 1754, Mercy married James Warren, a friend of her brother and a politically active patriot, and the two had five children together. Thanks to her husband’s position and commitment to the colonies’ cause, their house became the center for much of the political action at the time, and the two often hosted groups of Patriots in their home. In fact, she and her husband were friends with John and Abigail Adams, who supported and encouraged their efforts to aid the Revolution, and the two couples often exchanged letters.

Early Influence on the Revolution

As unrest began to build in the colonies, Mercy was determined to build support for the Patriot cause. While she could not become involved in politics as a woman, she did have one powerful skill she could use to influence others: writing. Starting in 1772, Mercy wrote and anonymously published multiple satirical plays and dramas that criticized Britain’s policies and their Loyalist support.

After the Boston Tea Party in December of 1773, John Adams wrote a letter to James, Mercy’s husband, that asked for Mercy to write about the event. Mercy did, writing a poem titled “The Squabble of the Sea Nymphs; or the Sacrifice of the Tuscararoes,” which the Boston Gazette published on their front page. Her works helped fuel support for the Patriots’ cause and brought the nation closer to the fight for independence.

Photo of the US Constitution

Writing the History of a New Nation

While Mercy’s early writings shaped the course of the Revolution, the works she wrote after the Revolution made an even bigger impact. Mercy was unafraid to stand by her political beliefs and examine the actions of even the most powerful politicians despite some of the backlash she received. After the drafting of the Constitution in 1787, Mercy wrote a pamphlet denouncing the Constitution, pointing out that it moved power away from the people without protecting their rights – an argument that encouraged Congress to add the Bill of Rights in 1789.

Additionally, her most famous work is History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution, a detailed historical account of the Revolution she lived through. Within its pages, Mercy provides a detailed picture of the events of the Revolution, along with her own commentary. Unlike many of her contemporaries, she argued against slavery, stating that the practice was contrary to American principles. While the collection was not popular when published in 1805, Mercy’s account is valued by historians as one of the earliest accounts of the Revolution, with many significant insights about the historical figures of the time.

Mercy continued writing for many years until her death in 1814. She was buried next to her husband at Burial Hill Cemetery in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Key Contributions

At a time when women were discouraged from formal education and politics, Mercy became a powerful force in both realms. Her writings paved the way for the Revolution and created a space for women’s voices and opinions. In addition, she passionately supported many causes, including the rights of the people, education for women, and the abolition of slavery.

From her plays to her historical accounts, Mercy left her mark on the Revolution and shared her unique perspective on the events she experienced firsthand.

Quill pen and ink bottle next to a stack of handwritten letters

Interesting Facts

  • Hosted political meetings at her home
  • A close friend of many Patriot leaders, including John and Abigail Adams
  • Wrote three satirical plays criticizing British policies: The Adulator (1772), Defeat (1773), and The Group (1775)
  • Wrote History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution (1805), one of the first accounts of the Revolution
  • The first female historian in the United States
  • A statue of Mercy stands outside of the Barnstable County Courthouse in Massachusetts

The Importance of Legacy and Remembrance

As you can see, Mercy Otis Warren lived an extraordinary life and used her words to help shape our nation during a difficult time. She was a patriot. An intellectual. A wife and mother. A brilliant writer. A feminist. A historian. She left a clear legacy, both to her children and to the fledgling nation she helped found.

As we remember Mercy Otis Warren and the events that made her life both ordinary and extraordinary, take a moment to think about your own life. Are you leaving a legacy that you and your family can be proud of? Have you shared what’s most important with those you care about?

With our legacies, we contribute to the future. What we do matters. While most of us will never be famous or well-known, that’s not the point of a legacy. Instead, think of legacy as your opportunity to take your family and the next generation to a level you can only imagine. Just like Mercy did!

Younger woman and her second mom baking together

Dealing with Grief on Mother’s Day

By Exclude from Top Posts, Grief/Loss, Seasonal

Mother’s Day is a special day, set aside to honor the mothers who have done so much for us. But Mother’s Day is often a very difficult day for two sets of people: those who are mourning the loss of a mother, and mothers who are mourning the loss of a child. On a day that celebrates the mother-child relationship, these people are faced with painful reminders of their loss.

The differences between losing a parent and losing a child are massive. They cannot be compared, nor should they be. Each has its own challenges, its own hurts, its own obstacles. But there are some similar things you can do to prepare for the hard days you will face, like Mother’s Day. That said, if you have experienced the loss of a mother or the loss of a child, you have our sincerest sympathies. As we approach Mother’s Day this year, here are some tips to help you get through the holiday and cope with the great loss you have suffered.

Tip #1: Prepare yourself emotionally

Woman looking at calendar making advance plans

It’s not just the actual day that’s hard. The week leading up to Mother’s Day can also trigger painful memories and stir up strong emotions and unpleasant thoughts. Take some time before the holiday to plan how you want to focus your thoughts. You may choose to focus on the gratitude you feel for the time you had with your mother or child. You may choose to spend some time in solitude, allowing yourself to freely vent your emotions. Or you may think of a new way to honor your loved one’s memory this year, such as taking a bouquet to the graveside or working on a special memorial project. Try to avoid stressful situations (such as the grocery store aisle with all those pink cards and candy boxes) as much as possible.

Tip #2: Share your story

Two people sitting at a table talking with coffee cups in front of them

Every grief journey is different, and there’s no “right” way to grieve. But it is important to talk about your loss. Find someone you trust – a friend, spouse, family member – who will wholeheartedly listen to your story. Your relationship with your child or your mother doesn’t end with death – that relationship continues on in you. By sharing how you loved them, how they impacted you, and the difference they made in your life, you keep your loved one’s memory alive. But also, by telling your story, you allow others into your life and offer them an opportunity to comfort and support you.

Tip #3: Journal about your feelings

Older woman sitting at home, journaling at a table with a tissue box and flower arrangement

If you are processing difficult emotions this Mother’s Day, consider writing them down in a grief journal. Grief journals allow you an honest, private, and judgment-free place to process your thoughts. Write down everything you are feeling about your loss. Anger, sadness, and things left unsaid, along with gratitude, appreciation, and memories. Don’t leave anything out.

Sometimes the most painful part of loss is knowing that there will be moments you will never share with a loved one. Our hopes and dreams and expectations are dashed in a moment, especially with the loss of a child or a mother much too early. Write down all your hopes and expectations so you can see them in black and white. Sometimes simply acknowledging your hopes can help you come to grips with your feelings and help you work toward releasing them and finding a measure of peace.

Tip #4: Honor the other mothers in your life

Younger woman and her second mom baking together

For those of you whose mother is no longer here, you may have one or two women in your life who have been like a mother to you. It could be a teacher, a mentor, a colleague, a leader in your faith group, or a close and trusted friend. Honor these women by acknowledging the contribution they’ve made to your life! This activity can also apply to someone who has lost a child. Have any of your child’s friends continued to be close to you and your family following the loss? Make sure to tell them how much their continued presence means to you.

Tip #5: Pay a special tribute to your loved one

Dark-haired woman in a mustard yellow sweater working on a crochet project

Some people work out their grief by finding an activity or creative outlet. Art therapy can be very helpful in processing emotions. You may like to paint, woodwork, quilt, crochet, sew, scrapbook, or make a video slideshow, to name a few. No matter what you choose to do, you can make it especially meaningful when you share it with others as a memorial gift. Another way to honor your loved one’s memory is through giving back. Volunteering for a beloved charity or giving back through memorial gifts can be a special way to pay tribute to a loved one.

Tip #6: Talk to a professional

Young woman talking with grief therapist

All grief is difficult, and some grief is unbearable. If you are stuck beneath a heavy burden of grief, perhaps it’s time to visit a grief counselor or therapist. We all go to the doctor for physical check-ups and annual appointments, so why shouldn’t we also prioritize our mental health? A grief counselor or psychologist could be a helpful resource and might provide useful tips for battling grief. Perhaps now is the time to schedule a session. Talking to an educated person about your feelings couldn’t hurt, so why not give it a try?

Tip #7: Do something that you enjoy

Older woman outside gardening in her yard

When you’re feeling down, it can be beneficial to participate in an activity that you enjoy. You may feel guilty about feeling happiness – like it’s an emotion you no longer have a right to feel after the death of a mother or child. But that’s not true. It’s not a betrayal to find hope and joy, and any loving child or mother would want you to find these things again. Oblige them by doing something that gives you joy. Hang out with friends, go to the movies, or buy yourself a treat. Do something relaxing or find an opportunity to laugh. Honor your loved one by living the life you have been given and treating yourself the way that they would treat you.

While these 7 tips won’t take away your pain this Mother’s Day, they can help you navigate through the day. May you find peace in your heart and the healing you deserve this Mother’s Day.

Small wooden cross with purple ribbon, small crown of thorns, and three nails

5 Ways Grief is Expressed in the Easter Story

By Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal

For Christians around the world, Easter is a time for both thoughtful contemplation and joyful triumph. The holiday revolves around the life of Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection, which Christians believe broke the power of sin and made it possible for mankind to live an abundant life of freedom and close relationship with God.

But before the happy moment when Jesus’s friends, family, and disciples realized He was alive, they grieved His loss for two days. As we look at the four Gospel accounts (the Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), we can see 5 distinct reactions to Jesus’s death and how people mourned His passing.

1. Honoring Jesus with a Final Resting Place

replica of what Jesus's tomb may have looked like from the outside

The Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all recount the events of Jesus’s death on the cross. In each one, a man named Joseph of Arimathea plays a key role. In the Book of John, we’re told that Joseph kept his allegiance to Jesus secret because he feared the Jewish leaders. However, Joseph revealed himself to all when he asked Pontius Pilate, the Roman leader, if he could have Jesus’s body for burial. He placed Jesus in a tomb intended for Joseph and his family. Through this expression of grief, Joseph honored Jesus and showed deep respect and care for Him.

Today, we do much the same thing, though we don’t often use tombs anymore. Now, we may bury a loved one in a cemetery or scatter their cremated remains in a special place. No matter what is chosen, we still honor loved ones by giving them a place of final rest. (References: Matthew 27:55-61; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-53; John 19:38-42)

2. Supporting Jesus at the Time of His Death

Depiction of the crown of thorns, cross, and nails that pierced Jesus's hands

Another expression of care and grief highlighted in the biblical narrative is the supportive presence of Jesus’s loved ones at the time of His death. Each Gospel includes the names of different people, so we can conclude that there were quite a few of Jesus’s followers nearby when He was crucified. Why were they there? To offer Him their support during His time of need. To grieve and to see for themselves what happened to Him.

We still practice this expression of love and care today. When a loved one’s death is pending, we sit by their side. Family members come from far away to say their goodbyes. Friends and neighbors offer their love and support. In Jesus’s case, His followers couldn’t hold His hand, but they could stand near Him and make their presence known. (References: Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41; Luke 23:49; John 19:25-27)

3. Preparing Jesus’s Body for Burial

Bottle of myrrh, used to prepare a body for burial during Jesus's lifetime

Jesus was crucified on a Friday, not long before Sabbath began. In the Jewish tradition, Sabbath is a day devoted to rest, which meant that Jesus’s burial needed to take place quickly. With help from Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea prepared Jesus’s body for burial. As was the custom at the time, they wrapped Jesus’s body in clean linen perfumed with ointments and spices, such as myrrh. They then placed Jesus’s body in the tomb before leaving to prepare for the Sabbath.

Before funeral homes became the norm, families washed, dressed, and prepared a loved one for burial themselves. This was intended to show love and respect to the deceased and give family members quiet moments to grieve the passing of someone loved. Today, we work closely with the funeral home to ensure a loved one’s care and preparation, but the custom of caring for and preparing the body still remains.(References: Mark 16:1-2; Luke 23:50-54; John 19:38-40)

4. Visiting Jesus’s Tomb

Depiction of Jesus's empty tomb with linen lying flat on the stone

The day after the Sabbath, several women went to visit Jesus’s tomb in the morning. In Luke 24:55-56, the text states that the women witnessed Joseph of Arimathea taking Jesus’s body and placing it in the tomb. Seeing this, the women went home to prepare additional burial spices, but they were unable to return to the tomb before Sabbath began. Therefore, at the first opportunity Sunday morning, they went to visit Jesus’s grave and further care for His body by applying more spices. Instead, they encountered an empty tomb and two angels, who gave them the good news of Jesus’s resurrection.

Visiting a loved one’s final resting place is still a common practice, and it can be part of the healing process. By visiting Jesus’s grave, the women not only showed great love, but they also created an opportunity to cry together and grieve His death. (References: Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-2; Luke 24:1)

5. Experiencing Sadness over Jesus’s Death

Small wooden cross with purple ribbon, small crown of thorns, and three nails

In Luke’s Gospel, he includes the story of two men who encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus. When Jesus joined the two men, he had already risen from the grave and was appearing to many of his followers. Jesus asked the men what they were discussing. Without recognizing Him and “with sadness written across their faces,” they told him about Jesus’s death (Luke 24:17). This passage shows what many of Jesus’s followers felt – a deep sadness. They not only loved Him as a person, but they also believed He was the promised Savior.

In our own lives, we experience deep sadness when our loved ones die. You may also feel many other emotions, like anger, fear, shock, or guilt. All of these emotions are completely natural when you’re trying to accept and make sense of someone’s death. But as you engage with your emotions and seek to understand them and express them, you will begin to heal. (Reference: Luke 24:17-18)

The Bible has provided wisdom, comfort, instruction, and encouragement to people from all over the world for millennia. In the Easter story, and in other places throughout the Bible, we see examples of what it means to grieve and how to process the pain we feel. If you are hurting this Easter, may God place His loving arms around you and give you peace, comfort, and hope that He is with you always.

Door with fall decorations

Coping with Loss During the Halloween Season

By Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal No Comments

As the seasons change, you may see Halloween décor pop up around your neighborhood. Spider webs and tombstones, skeletons and caution tape, and all manner of ghouls and goblins begin to grace the streets in anticipation of the holiday.

But if you have experienced a sudden, tragic, or violent loss, the Halloween season can feel like navigating a minefield, especially if children are involved. What may have once been a fun, candy-filled holiday may now seem distorted, insensitive, and disturbing. Grotesquely exaggerated images of death seem to be around every corner. Symbols of death, such as cemeteries, become scenes for entertainment—making a mockery of death.

You may even feel betrayed by those around you. Your friends or family may need help understanding how hurtful their enthusiastic celebration of Halloween can be.

But by making a plan for the holiday, communicating with your family, and taking time to mourn in your own way, you can make your Halloween experience better. Below are a few tips for managing your grief during the Halloween season:

Decide What Feels Right

Couple walking in the mountains during the fall

First and foremost, spend a few minutes deciding what you want Halloween to look like for you and your family this year. This is a time to do what’s best for yourself and your family – not yield to the expectations of others. You can avoid that spooky house on the way to work by taking an alternate route. You can skip the store aisles displaying seasonal items. Make a plan for how – and to what degree – you will celebrate this year…if you choose to celebrate at all. Most of the time, anxiety comes when no plan is in place. To avoid unpleasant emotions, decide what feels appropriate for you and your family ahead of time.

Choose Alternate Halloween Activities

Family with kids at a pumpkin patch

Rather than celebrate Halloween as you have in years past, you could choose other, more neutral fall activities, such as visiting a pumpkin patch or going on a hay ride. Or, choose lighthearted or funny costumes instead of scary ones. If you decide to trick or treat with kids, check with them to see if they are prepared to face some of the scary, gory costumes or yard decorations they may see. In addition, be sure you know what you are getting into when you go to a Halloween carnival or party. As a safer alternative, many churches offer family-friendly fall festivals or “trunk or treat” opportunities for children.

Mourn in Your Own Way

Mourning is a deeply personal journey; only you know how to mourn for yourself. You could light a candle in remembrance, decorate with fall leaves and gourds instead of skulls and cobwebs, or start a new tradition! Make caramel apples, watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, or make some s’mores over a fire–maybe even spend time remembering what you loved most about the person who died and honoring their life.

Communicate with Others

Father comforting his son outside in the fall

If you are having trouble with this holiday, be honest about how you feel with those around you. If your friends or family ask you to participate in something you are not quite ready for, let them know what you are going through. You can also share your feelings with a support group, online forum, or trusted counselor or friend. Sharing your feelings can help you process any emotions triggered by this season and help you move toward healing and reconciliation with the loss.

Try Not to Blame Others for Their Halloween Zeal

Although this time can be challenging, others haven’t experienced what you have. Most people see Halloween as a chance to dress up and be someone else for a while. Try to understand that most people are unaware of what you’re going through and that they aren’t trying to be insensitive. Stick to your boundaries, communicate them to others, and explain your reasons if you feel comfortable.

 

As you navigate through Halloween, give yourself and those around you grace. If your feelings about Halloween have changed, that’s okay – accept your emotions as valid and set up the boundaries that will help you grieve. Above all, give yourself time and space for healing, without rushing the process.

Soldiers dressed in Continental Army uniforms, holding rifles

Ladies of Liberty: Remembering Deborah Sampson

By Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal

I became an actor in that important drama with an inflexible resolution to persevere through the last scene, when we might be permitted and acknowledged to enjoy what we had so nobly declared we would possess or lose with our lives – Freedom and Independence!” – Deborah Sampson

As we mark the Fourth of July and the independence brought about after the Revolutionary War, it’s impossible not to remember the historical men and women who played key roles in the creation of our nation. Men like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson are easily remembered, but what about the women – the ladies of liberty – who also deserve our remembrance and respect? Today, let’s talk about Deborah Sampson, a woman whose story you may never have heard.

Revolutionary Era American flag with just 13 stars on it

Biography

Early life

The first of seven children, Deborah was born on December 17, 1760, near Plympton, Massachusetts. Her parents struggled financially, and while she was still a child, her father Jonathan Sampson Jr. died at sea. Her mother could not support all seven children, so they were each sent to live in different homes. Eventually, young Deborah became an indentured servant in the home of Benjamin Thomas, a farmer with a large family. She lived with them until her indenture was complete at age 18.

After her time with the Thomas family was complete, Deborah worked as a teacher in the summer and a weaver in the winter. But then, in 1782, Deborah did something completely unexpected – she disguised herself as a man and enlisted in the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment in the Continental Army. Her alias was Robert Shurtleff, and it was more than 18 months before she was discovered.

Military service

While incognito, Deborah was assigned to Captain George Webb’s famous Light Infantry. Some of her missions included scouting neutral territory to assess British build-up, leading 30 infantrymen in an expedition that ended in a skirmish, and raiding a Tory home where 15 men were taken prisoner.

At one point, she took a bullet to the shoulder, but in order to stay undiscovered, she removed the bullet herself rather than seek medical attention. However, in the summer of 1783 (mere weeks before the Treaty of Paris was signed), she fell unconscious with a high fever and her gender was discovered by the attending physician. Interestingly, she was not reprimanded, but was instead given an honorable discharge on October 25, 1783.

Soldiers dressed in Continental Army uniforms, holding rifles

Following the war

After the war ended, Deborah returned to Massachusetts where she married a farmer named Benjamin Gannett in 1784. They had three children together and adopted a fourth. In 1792, she petitioned the Massachusetts State Legislature to receive back pay for her service, and she won.

Then, in 1802, she went on a lecture tour in Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island, where she talked about her experiences in the Continental Army. She was the first American woman to complete a lecture tour, and it was quite the success. Afterward, she petitioned Congress that she be allowed to receive a disability pension due to a shoulder injury she sustained. Though it took time, and she was denied once, Deborah ultimately won the pension. She became the only woman to receive a military pension associated with service in the Revolutionary War.

Not much is known about her later years, but in April 1827, Deborah died in Sharon, Massachusetts. Her headstone in Sharon honors her service and calls her, “The Female Soldier.”

Key Contributions

Much of Deborah’s story is unknown, but without a doubt, she was committed to the cause for independence and made history. While she is the most famous, she is not the only woman to have served in the Revolutionary War. Other women include Anna Maria Lane, Elizabeth Gilmore, Anne Bailey, and Margaret Corbin, to name a few. We also honor and remember them for being ladies of liberty.

However, unlike her counterparts, Deborah’s dedication and commitment were recognized and honored by state and federal governments – long before women were allowed to vote or have a voice in political matters. In this, she is unique and showcases the strength and fortitude of Revolutionary Era women.

shows encampment tents common to the Revolutionary War

Interesting Facts

  • The only woman to receive a full military pension for participation in the Continental Army
  • A descendent of two prominent Mayflower families: Myles Standish and William Bradford
  • Joined the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment disguised as a man named Robert Shurtleff
  • A member of George Webb’s Light Infantry, which was the most active troop in the Hudson Valley during her time of service
  • Shot during a skirmish, it’s said she left the bullet in her shoulder, so she could continue to serve undetected
  • Her life story was recorded in The Female Review, or Memoirs of an American Young Lady (by Herman Mann); it is thought that some stories were likely embellished
  • The first American woman to go on a lecture tour
  • The only woman to receive a full military pension for service during the Revolutionary War
  • After her death, her husband was granted pay for being the spouse of a soldier, and the committee stated that the Revolution had “furnished no other similar example of female heroism, fidelity, and courage.”
  • Outside the public library in Sharon, Massachusetts, a statue stands in memory of her Revolutionary War service

The Importance of Legacy and Remembrance

As you can see, Deborah Sampson lived an exciting and unconventional life in many ways. She was a survivor. An overcomer. A soldier and a patriot. A wife and mother. A public speaker. A woman of resilience and strength. She left a clear legacy, both to her children and to the fledgling nation she helped found.

As we remember Deborah Sampson and the events that made her life both ordinary and extraordinary, take a moment to think about your own life. Are you leaving a legacy that you and your family can be proud of? Have you shared what’s most important with those you care about?

With our legacies, we contribute to the future. What we do matters. While most of us will never be famous or well-known, that’s not the point of a legacy. Instead, think of legacy as your opportunity to take your family and the next generation to a level you can only imagine. Just like Deborah did!

Waman in white dress sitting at table with candles, paper, and quill pen

Ladies of Liberty: Remembering Abigail Adams

By Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal

“To be good, and do good, is the whole duty of man comprised in a few words.” – Abigail Adams

As we mark the Fourth of July and the independence brought about after the Revolutionary War, it’s impossible not to remember the historical men and women who played key roles in the creation of our nation. Men like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson are easily remembered, but what about the women – the ladies of liberty – who also deserve our remembrance and respect? Today, let’s talk about Abigail Adams and the indelible mark she left upon our nation.

Portrait of Abigail Adams Portrait of John Adams
(Portraits of Abigail and John Adams later in life)

Biography

Early years

Born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, on November 11, 1744, Abigail was the second child of Reverend William and Elizabeth Quincy Smith. Like many women of her time, Abigail was educated at home, and she showed a great voracity for learning and reading. Even beyond lessons from her tutor, she took it upon herself to read the books in her father’s library and became one of the most well-read women in the 18th century.

Through a mutual friend, Abigail met John Adams in 1759, and soon, they began a courtship. Even with a nine-year age difference, the two were a match in both heart and mind. They married in 1764 and had their first child within a year. Throughout the early years of their marriage, the Adamses focused on John’s career as a lawyer, caring for the family farm, and raising four children.

Rise to prominence

In 1770, John’s name rose to greater prominence when he elected to defend the nine British soldiers on trial for the Boston Massacre. With greater and greater responsibilities before him, John was away from home more and more. This led to a series of famous letters between he and Abigail. In fact, over the course of their marriage, the two exchanged more than 1,100 letters! And in each one, John sought his wife’s guidance, wisdom, and opinions, which she freely gave.

When you compare John’s political stance with the opinions expressed by his wife in their extensive letters, it’s clear to see that he greatly valued her mind and her thoughts. In many ways, it was their partnership that helped form a new nation.

John Adams would go on to serve as a Continental Congress representative, a U.S. Minister, Vice President, and President of the United States. Through each season of life, Abigail stood staunchly by his side. When she stayed at their home in Massachusetts, she educated the children and kept the farm prosperous. Additionally, when possible, she shared information about military confrontations around Boston. She and her son, John Quincy, witnessed the Battle of Bunker Hill from a hill near their farm.

Sepia-toned map of the Braintree and Weymouth area where the Adamses lived

Becoming First Lady

After the conclusion of the war, Abigail joined her husband in France and Great Britain where he served as a U.S. Minister. Upon their return to the United States, John was elected Vice President under George Washington (1789-1797) and then President (1797-1801). After one term, John lost the presidency to Thomas Jefferson. He and Abigail retired to their home in Massachusetts. After 54 years and four children together, Abigail died of typhoid fever on October 28, 1818. At her death, her husband stated, “I wish I could lay down beside her and die, too.”

With her quick wit, strong opinions, and fierce love of freedom and independence, Abigail Adams is considered the strongest female voice in the American Revolution. We will never know what would have happened had she not expressed her opinions and partnered – shoulder to shoulder – with her husband, and we don’t want to know.

Key Contributions

Through her extensive letters with husband John Adams, we have a clear view of what life looked like for Revolutionary Era women. Abigail is most known for her strong and firm opinions on the:

  • Abolition of slavery
  • Rights of women, especially education
  • Importance of independence and representation

Additionally, she was also a pivotal presence in her son John Quincy Adams’ political career. Though she did not live to see him elected the 6th president of the United States, her influence and wisdom played a large role in his success.

Though she herself refused to publish her personal correspondence, her grandson Charles Francis Adams arranged for their release. By doing so, he forever preserved her unique experience and perspective on American life and democracy.

Waman in white dress sitting at table with candles, paper, and quill pen

Interesting Facts

  • Abigail was both the wife (John Adams – 2nd) and the mother (John Quincy Adams – 6th) of U.S. Presidents. The only other woman to hold this distinction is Barbara Bush.
  • Often unappreciated by her critics, scathingly called “Mrs. President” due to the amount of influence she had with her husband
  • The first Second Lady of the United States (wife of the first Vice President)
  • The first First Lady to live in what would become the White House
  • Had a total of six children, but two daughters died in infancy
  • President Harry S. Truman had a high opinion of her, and stated, “She would have been a better President than her husband.”
  • Became close friends with Martha Washington, George Washington’s wife
  • Missed her husband’s inauguration to care for his dying mother

The Importance of Legacy and Remembrance

As you can see, Abigail Adams led a noteworthy life, though she may not have said so herself. She was a wise and loving wife. A devoted mother. A staunch feminist. A bold abolitionist. A tireless letter writer and communicator. A woman with deep thoughts and strong ideals. She left a clear legacy, both to her children and to the fledgling nation she helped found.

As we remember Abigail Adams and the events that made her life both ordinary and extraordinary, take a moment to think about your own life. Are you leaving a legacy that you and your family can be proud of? Have you shared what’s most important with those you care about?

With our legacies, we contribute to the future. What we do matters. While most of us will never be famous or well-known, that’s not the point of a legacy. Instead, think of legacy as your opportunity to take your family and the next generation to a level you can only imagine. Just like Abigail did!

Mourning as a Community in the Face of Tragedy

By Current Events, Exclude from Top Posts

Senseless. Horrifying. Heartbreaking. No words can capture the disbelief and heartbreak we feel at learning about the mass shooting in Allen, Texas, at Allen Premium Outlets. At this time eight victims are confirmed dead, and several others are receiving treatment at a local hospital. After an event like this, less than a year after the tragic events in Uvalde at Robb Elementary School, we’re all left stunned and grappling with questions.

Tragedies like the events unfolding in Allen encompass not only the grief and mourning of individual families but of entire communities. As we seek to mourn the victims and process the events, we should consider how to mourn together, as people, as communities.

People of different backgrounds and ethnicities holding hands in solidarity

Communally, how do we mourn such traumatic events?

Respected grief expert, Dr. Alan Wolfelt, has worked with families dealing with grief over the unexpected, traumatic death of a loved one. He says, “After someone you care about dies a sudden, violent death, you are forced to struggle with both the traumatic nature of the death and your grief over the loss. Naturally, traumatized mourners often find themselves replaying and reconsidering over and over the circumstances of the death. This is both normal and necessary. Such replay helps you begin to acknowledge the reality of the death and integrate it into your life. It’s as if your mind needs to devote time and energy to comprehending the circumstances of the death before it can move on to grieving the fact that this person will no longer be part of your life.”

As individuals, as communities, we struggle to comprehend these events. How and why would anyone do this? The survivors and the victims’ families will likely replay the day in their minds over and over. They may even wonder if they could have done something different. They couldn’t have. No one could have known what had been planned. So, now we ask, how do we move forward? We band together, support each other, and mourn as one.

What does it mean to mourn?

Grief is an internal feeling. It is the part of us that feels anguish over these events. Mourning is an outward expression of our internal grief, and it pushes us to externalize our grief, to take action to express that grief. Without externally expressing our grief, emotions can become internalized and remain inside us, unaddressed.

When an event touches an entire community, an entire nation, it is important to externalize our grief and mourn TOGETHER.

Woman attending a community vigil, holding a candle of remembrance

Community mourning – how do we do that?

Prayer Vigils

First, our churches and houses of worship can open their doors for prayer vigils. After the events at the Boston Marathon, places of worship all over the city opened their doors to the community. It was an act of communal mourning and a way to come together, grieve together, and heal together.

Candlelight Vigils

Similarly, individuals, businesses, churches, or schools can coordinate candlelight vigils and invite their communities to participate. In 2007, the Virginia Tech shooting horrified the nation. Then, and even now, ten years later, the community, the students, and the families came together to mourn and to remember those who lost their lives. The candle indicates the unity of those participating, their prayers and thoughts for the victims, and their desire to remember those who have been lost.

Many red carnations left a memorial for those who died

Memorials

Finally, communities mourn together through creating memorials. To mourn the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, people near and far came together, wrote prayer notes, paid their respects at memorials throughout town, mourning the tragic events together. These memorials help us feel connected to the victims. As a result, they give us a way to show that we care about them, that we mourn their loss.

Communal mourning events are important. We are all affected by this event in some measure, and we need to support each other, giving special support to the survivors and the families of the victims. A significant way that we, as friends, neighbors, and fellow Americans, can show our support is to come together to acknowledge and mourn this significant loss.

Person in white sweater leaving a flower memorial of pink flowers

How can we take action?

  1. Donate blood to your local blood bank.
  2. Give funds toward the victims’ funerals and assist the families financially.
  3. Participate in moments of silence, prayer or candlelight vigils, or visit memorials to offer a token of our mourning.
  4. Create an emergency plan for our families, in preparation for unexpected events.

It is imperative that we mourn as communities; that we support and pray for those most closely affected by this senseless act; and that we come together and deepen the ties of our communities. May God be with the families and friends of the victims of these tragedies.

Shows family and grandmother at a Halloween family gathering

7 Tips for Supporting a Grieving Friend at Halloween

By Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal

It’s Halloween. Costumes are coming out, parties are being planned, and thousands of pounds of candy is flying off the shelves across the nation. But even as people revel in the changing of the seasons and the fun of dressing up, we can’t forget that many of our neighbors, friends, and family members are hurting deeply. Grief is not relegated to certain parts of the year. But how can we be sensitive to the emotional needs of those around us who are hurting during this festive time?

While there’s no need to put your own Halloween plans on hold, let’s discuss 7 tips that will help you be sensitive to and interact with grieving friends and loved ones this Halloween.

1. Recognize and accept that others may be hurting, and they are going to experience grief during the Halloween season.

While you may want your grieving friend or loved one to “enjoy” the season, don’t push too hard. What you consider enjoyment and what your grieving friend considers enjoyment may look completely different right now. They are experiencing a myriad of emotions, and much of the time, they don’t have control over when those emotions show up. Let your friend experience their feelings and concentrate on being a safe person they can talk to.

2. Encourage your grieving loved one to set healthy boundaries and be prepared to support and abide by those boundaries.

The person who is grieving may have limited energy (grief is hard work), so it’s important that they figure out what will work for them this Halloween. If you are close to someone who is grieving, encourage them to set boundaries, and then, be prepared to support those boundaries, abide by them, and if necessary, help your grieving loved one fight for them.

Shows family and grandmother at a Halloween family gathering

3. Give your grieving loved one plenty of notice about any Halloween events or gatherings.

More often than not, someone who is grieving needs time to work up the energy to go out to an event or gathering. Make sure you give them plenty of notice so they can mentally and emotionally prepare. Also remember! You are encouraging them to put down healthy boundaries. Don’t be offended or hurt if they decide not to come to your party.

4. Be mindful of your Halloween decorations.

By nature, Halloween decorations include skulls, gravestones, blood, depictions of death, and other macabre things. These types of images may act as unpleasant reminders of a recent loss for those who are grieving. While you don’t have to completely re-decorate, consider whether any specific decorations could act as a grief trigger, and if appropriate, remove these items when the grieving person comes over for a visit.

Shows young woman serving at a soup kitchen

5. Invite your grieving friend to take part in a service project.

When we grieve, we can sometimes become so focused on the strong emotions we are feeling that we forget to come up for air. It’s a good practice to focus on others so that we can let our minds rest from the grief for a while. To make Halloween a more pleasant experience, invite your grieving loved one to give out candy at the community trunk or treat or the church fall festival. Alternatively, you could participate in a Halloween 5K for a cause or in another opportunity available through the church or community.

6. Look for ways to honor the memory of a lost loved one.

There are so many special things you can do to honor a lost loved one at Halloween. Buy or make a special gift. Dress up as a lost loved one’s favorite character. Sit down with your grieving friend and share memories or stories. Join your grieving friend for a special trip to the gravesite. Watch that annual scary movie in honor of the person no longer present. Your friend may be perfectly fine with Halloween. Even if they are, most people appreciate it when efforts are made to honor a lost loved one’s memory.

Man making a phone call to check on a friend

7. Follow up after Halloween to see how they are doing.

As human beings, we aren’t always the best at following through on things, but in this case, try to put extra effort in. It’s important for a grieving person to know that your love and concern aren’t just temporary. By following up after the holiday (especially if you know it was difficult for them), you cement your sincerity and care.

And of course, make sure to reach out and offer your support all through the year. Grief isn’t a walk in the park; it’s a journey. Your grieving friend or loved one is going to continue to need love and support long after the loss.

Making Christmas Meaningful with Family Interviews

By Christmas, Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal

Christmas is a time to come together with loved ones and share in the joy of the season. There’s lots of food, fellowship, and conversations. While this Christmas may look a little different, why not use the conversations you do have to preserve the essence of your loved ones – the stories of their lives, the tone of their voices, and their beloved quirks of habit? Too often, we take our time on earth for granted, and before we are ready, a loved one is gone. With family interviews, you can learn things you never knew before, share a few laughs, and record your family’s one-of-a-kind stories for future generations.

If the idea appeals to you, sit down with or video call your living loved ones this Christmas for an oral history interview. But what is an oral history interview, you may ask? It’s pretty simple, really. Schedule time with someone, ask questions, and record their answers. That’s it!

Why Should I Do This?

First and foremost, it’s a tangible way to show someone you love them. By spending one-on-one time with them, asking questions and sharing conversation, you add value to your and your loved one’s lives. You make them feel loved, appreciated, and important to you. Also, think about what you could learn from your loved one’s successes, or even more importantly, from their mistakes? Did you know that your loved one used to go swing dancing every Saturday night as a young person? Did you know how they felt when their first child or grandchild was born?

People are simple and yet complex. So much of our lives take place internally. By asking questions, you can begin to know your loved ones even more intimately and learn things about them that you may never have known.

Secondly, it’s a practical way to preserve family history for future generations, to discover the stories that bind our families together. In today’s world, so many people are interested in where they came from, what their ancestors were like, and what kind of life they lived. New websites pop up every day related to genealogy and family history. Do you want future generations to know who your loved one was and what their life was like? Take the time necessary to preserve your family’s story.

Thirdly, when the day comes that your loved one is gone, hopefully after a long and fulfilling life, you can take the information you’ve gathered and create a meaningful funeral service. Additionally, if you video your interviews, you will have priceless footage to use in the creation of a special tribute video that will be meaningful for the funeral service but also for future generations of family.

Who Should I Interview?

Whoever you want (but make sure to ask for permission first). You can interview your mom, dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, a next door neighbor, or anyone else. There are no rules that say you can only interview family members, so go all out. Your interest in each person’s life might just make their day.

How Do I Do This?

1. Determine what questions you will ask.

The first step is to decide what questions you want to ask. Thankfully, resources exist online that share in-depth, open-ended questions that you can ask your loved one. There are tips on interview etiquette, how to set goals for your interviews, and how to help everyone be at ease and enjoy the time together.

2. Select a documentation medium.

The second step is to decide what medium you want to use to record your interviews. Some options are:

  • Handwrite everything in a special journal
  • Type everything on a computer
  • Use an audio recording app or other equipment
  • Film the interviews using a phone or other equipment
  • A mixture of these options or something else that’s easy for you

3. Spend quality time with your loved one.

Lastly, go spend time with your loved one. Start this Christmas Day! If you need more time (and you probably will), talk to them and decide what day and time is best for a chat, whether in person, over the phone, or on a video call. Let the conversation flow naturally. Don’t get hung up on trying to get all your questions answered at once. Just be there and absorb. Remember, you won’t get everything recorded in one sitting. Take your time and have fun!

Yes, Christmas is a time when families come together, enjoy each other’s company, and share laughter and memories. This year, what better way to spread a little cheer to your loved ones than to show an interest and intentionally get to know more about their lives?

Reducing Your Christmas Stress During Times of Grief

By Christmas, Exclude from Top Posts, Grief/Loss, Seasonal

Grief can be exhausting – mentally, physically, and emotionally. And Christmas, even though it’s often a joyful and festive season, has its share of stresses, especially during times of grief when it’s a battle to do the normal everyday tasks. So, what can you do this season to reduce your Christmas stress while you process your grief?

Before we move into a few tips, remember that whatever you’re feeling is normal. You’ve lost someone you love, and it’s hard. You may feel a wide range of emotions, including sadness, shock, denial, guilt, anger, or even relief. No matter what you’re feeling, these emotional responses are normal and natural. All you need to focus on is taking care of yourself through the holiday season so that you have the energy you need to process what you feel and begin the journey toward healing.

Tips for Reducing Your Christmas Stress

Your feelings may tell you to skip Christmas altogether this year, but before you make any big decisions, take some time to evaluate what changes you can make to keep things simple while also taking your loved ones’ needs into account.

For example, you may decide not to attend your work party, but instead, you go out to lunch with your closest office friends. Or, instead of getting individual gifts for everyone, you get gift cards instead. There are little changes you can make that will make your life easier while also ensuring that your family and friends still get to enjoy your presence during the holidays.

Here are a few tips for reducing your holiday stress:

Keep Things Simple

You may normally go all out for Christmas, but this year, give yourself permission to take it easy. With a few adjustments, you can take a task or event from stressful to simple.

  • If the stores are too crowded and holiday shopping is stressing you out, do your shopping online or cut back on the number of gifts this year. Or, after talking to your family, consider skipping gifts altogether this year and picking up next year.
  • If signing and sending holiday cards is too much, skip it this year. People will understand.
  • While putting up all the Christmas decorations usually brings a sense of joy, the thought may be stressful this year. Consider minimizing (or even skipping) the decorations if it seems like too much.

Don’t Overcommit

The Christmas season is often filled to the brim with events, parties, get-togethers, recitals, concerts, family gatherings, and more. You may not have the energy to go to everything, and that’s okay. Choose the most important events and pass on the rest.

As you prioritize events, make sure to talk to your family about your plans so they know when to expect you and when not to. This way, they can let you know what’s important for them – maybe a child’s recital – and you can plan ahead for the events you will attend. Plus, communicating your plans to family and taking their requests into account will help soothe any ruffled feathers and keep things relaxed.

Accept Help

If you’re like many of us, you learned early that it’s good to be independent and self-reliant. And while these two things are not inherently bad, we can sometimes take them a little too far, refusing help when we actually need it. So, this Christmas, don’t be afraid to accept a little help. Let people support you through this time of grief. Accept casseroles, offers to run errands, and assistance with household chores. It will only make things less stressful and easier for you.

Practice Self-Care

Grief takes a toll on us, and it’s important to find ways to take care of ourselves. That means getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, pampering yourself every so often, and not overdoing it. At Christmas, self-care may be splurging on a gift for yourself, going to the golf range or the day spa, or simply spending quiet time alone to journal, meditate, listen to music, or take long walks. No matter what it is that helps you relax and feel cared for, take time to do that this holiday season.

Express Your Feelings

You may be tempted to push down your feelings and power through the holidays but try to resist the temptation. Instead, build opportunities for reflection into your holiday season. Make time to express yourself. This could mean journaling, painting, talking with friends or family, or attending a grief support group. There will be times when your grief shows up unexpectedly, and that’s okay. People will understand if you’re teary. But by intentionally taking time to address your emotions, you can better confront and reflect on what you feel on your own time and on your own terms.

Honor Your Loved One’s Memory

This year, you’re missing someone special. Rather than ignoring their absence, consider finding a special way to honor their memory. Avoiding the elephant in the room – your grief and loss – may lead to feelings of stress. By openly honoring a loved one, you will have the freedom to include your loved one’s memory in the festivities without reservation.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Save a seat for them at the table
  • Create a remembrance item
  • Serve their favorite dish
  • Play their favorite Christmas tunes
  • Pull out the family photos and reminisce
  • Visit the graveside and leave a wreath, poinsettia, or memento
  • Continue one of their favorite traditions or incorporate a new one in their honor

While remembering your loved one may bring moments of sadness, there will be joy in finding ways to make them a special part of the season.

Let this Year be Different

If you’re someone who wants everything just-so, one big way to reduce your holiday stress is to let things be different this year. Let go of the need for a perfect tree, perfectly wrapped gifts, and the perfectly prepared meal. Give yourself a little grace and some room to breathe. Christmas is different this year; it’s harder. Do what you can to keep things simple.

Now, it’s important to acknowledge that no two people are alike. Some of these suggestions will resonate with you and some won’t. That’s just fine. If having the perfectly trimmed Christmas tree helps you relax, then go all out. If shopping provides a release of tension, do it. You know yourself best, so implement the ideas that work best for who you are.

Just remember – it’s okay to let yourself feel however you feel this Christmas. You don’t have to force yourself to be cheerful, and you don’t have to stop yourself from feeling happy if you enjoy the season. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love or miss the person who is gone; it means that you are human. We are complex beings, and our lives are filled with moments of joy mixed with moments of grief, sometimes both at once! Take time this Christmas season to step back, take care of yourself, and enjoy time with the people you love the most. If you do, you will create sweet memories to cherish in the years to come.

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