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Getting Through Special Days

By Pat Schwiebert, R.N.

pat@tearsoup.com

I’m amazed at how miserable we are able to make ourselves. It’s bad enough that we have to deal with loss, but the added burden of a calendar full of land mines can just send us over the top when we think about getting through the first few years of a major loss.

We feel worse on Mother’s Day, if that’s even possible, after our children have died. We miss our mothers on that same day if they are no longer with us. Valentine’s Day can bring a sad reminder of a love lost. If a loved one dies on a holiday we might never want to enjoy that day again. New Year’s Day reminds us that the life we knew is over and Thanksgiving begs us to look for things we are grateful for, even when we are not feeling grateful at all. Any day that used to bring fond memories of times past can be full of torment when that day rolls around.

Our culture sets us up with high expectations for celebration only to have joy taken from us. The calendar can be our worst enemy. Days jump off the pages almost as if they are daring us to try to enjoy ourselves with others and make the most of a difficult time. I wonder if we actually come to dread these special days even more than we used to look forward to them. Read on here >>>

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A Personal Grief Ritual of Remembrance and Release

by Elaine Mansfield

elaine@elainemansfield.com

When the lupines pop, the bluebird eggs hatch, and lettuce seed germinates, I remember my husband Vic. His death is part of this season, part of the earth and the cycles of my life. Images of Vic’s last days float through my mind as I enjoy nature’s enthusiasm. I remember the moment he did not inhale, just after midnight on June 3, 2008.

Usually grief is my quiet familiar rather than a bleeding wound, but as the anniversary approaches, I feel alone and preoccupied, tense and unsettled. To honor my love and comfort myself, I create a personal ritual. By creating an intentional ritual, we consciously recognize the time of transition and ground ourselves in our new life. I use images meaningful to me and my ritual changes in time as I change, so create anything that feels right for you. Read on here >>>

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Thank you Marty. ^

Perfect for me today, as I sat on our bench up under the old wise ponderosa, and saw that the bitterroot are in bloom. The first time I let Doug come to visit, he walked out into the forest, picked a bitterroot and put in the hat band of his southwestern stetson. Then he told me the story of how he bought a flower for his Army stetson when he was a Cav. officer. Every day, he brought a flower from a different little girl, sharing the money around. His superior officer (ahem) wrote him up for being out of uniform and Doug defended himself on the grounds that it helped keep him sane. The flower tradition continued all during his second tour. :)

Today, the bitterroots are in bloom in the forest. It rained enough to bring them forth. I am surrounded by wonderful memories and the magical, miraculous beauty of life. :)

I still have Doug's ashes, which go to the mountains of Alaska when I can get a pilot friend to fly me in to the glacier where we will leave behind part of the ashes. The rest go for a special art project to be kept at Club HQ. :)

But what a lovely piece to read. I love her writing and her clarity of her emotional flow. What a beautiful heart she has!

Thank you for the lovely price of writing.

namaste,

fae

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Sitting In The Dark With Maya

by Kelly Buckley

www.kellybuckley.com

Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud. ~Maya Angelou~

I’ve always had the feeling that life loves the liver of it. You must live and life will be good to you, give you experiences. They may not all be that pleasant, but nobody promised you a rose garden. But more than likely if you do dare, what you get are the marvelous returns. ~Maya Angelou~

I’ve been sitting quietly this morning, listening to the live-stream of Maya Angelou’s memorial service. To hear the words of so many, celebrating the life of a person who harnessed the circumstances of her life to become a positive force in this world, has made for an uplifting morning.

Since hearing the news of her passing, I have been reading the online tributes that chronicle her life and work, each one telling a story of hardship, resilience, courage, humor and lots and lots of love. Each day this week, I felt compelled to write my own, to give my own tribute of sorts to a woman who helped shape the direction of my life. But my earlier drafts just fell flat, as if I was jumping on a bandwagon that I had no business being on, or that had no seat available to me.

The truth is, I never had the opportunity to meet her, although I wished for it in the months after my son’s passing in 2009, knowing she was just a short drive up the road from me in North Carolina. I never spoke to her, and never wrote to her. I always held back, feeling somehow not strong enough, perhaps not worthy enough to reach out and ask of her time.

But as I listened to the stories of her life from the people who loved her dearly, I realized I did have something to say, and it may be something that others can relate to as we say goodbye to her physical presence on this earth.

You see, I sat in the dark with Maya. In the darkest days of my life, I quietly reflected on my very existence, wondering if I was going to be able to stand up again after losing my child. I looked to a few teachers like her for some spark or inspiration, some flicker of hope. So I grabbed one of her books, and I sat with Maya, and Wayne, Pema and Louise. Many days, the heaviness of my grief made me so weary, I did not know if I could turn another page. Read on here >>>

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No Really...How Are You?

by Catherine Tidd (aka Widow Chick)

http://widowchick.blogspot.com/

I had an interesting therapy appointment last week (of course, I find all of my therapy sessions interesting because my craziness always entertains me).

I walked in feeling pretty damn good. It was a beautiful day outside and I'd just finished a walk with my oldest daughter, around our little main street and to a local frozen yogurt place where we sat outside and looked at the butterflies. It wasn't too hot, wasn't too cold, and so by the time I dropped her off at home and headed to my counselor's office...I really had no complaints.

Which was why it shocked me that the second I walked in and she said, "How are you?" I started crying.

"This is so bizarre," I said, wiping my cheeks with the tissues she always has sitting next to my chair. "I was feeling great when I walked in. I have no idea why I'm crying right now!"

"Maybe because you're not as great as you think you are?" she suggested.

"Maybe. But I really didn't have any burning issues on my mind."

"It could be that I'm just really wondering how you're doing. And you know you can really tell me."

Huh. Read on here >>>

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Thank you, Marty, for these articles. The last article: "No Really...How Are You Doing?" struck a cord with me. I have fallen into the "lie" trap many times telling people that I'm FINE when I think they really don't want to know and when someone comes along and asks me who really means it I fall apart. I am hoping this is all part of the journey.

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Yes, Marty, I did read and just re-read the article above. Thank you. Keep the articles coming. I am by nature lazy and it is so much easier for someone else to do the work for me when it comes to finding just the right piece! You amaze me with the catalog of material you have in that brain of yours! :P

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Is Grief Support Getting Better?

by Megan Devine

www.refugeingrief.com/

When sudden loss erupts into your life, the computer becomes your constant companion, your best friend, the place you go searching for anything that sounds true and right and healing.

Back in 2009, my searches didn’t yield much of anything.

That’s no longer true: the grief landscape is changing. There are more websites now that deal with the reality of grief, acknowledging the truth without trying to pretty it up into something it’s not. There are more voices speaking, shouting, singing about their love and their loss. And it makes me both thankful and sad.

Thankful, of course, because no one should have to go through this completely alone. And sad – for me, for that me I was back then. I sometimes feel like I just didn’t look in the right places. Maybe I just didn’t try hard enough, or I had my search terms all wrong. Maybe my sights were too high, and my needs too – different.

But I know this isn’t true. Back then, it really was desolate. In all of those hours of searching, I found loads of resources for fixing grief; I found very few that spoke to supporting grief. I found only a handful of people who sounded like me (and thank all that is holy for that handful). Read on here >>>

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Grief: Still Crazy After All These Years

by Jan Warner

www.griefspeaksout.com

I am sitting here on Father's Day trying to get many different things done. The news is on in the background. I am not really listening but every once in a while I hear yet another tale of grief or someone saying, "Happy Father's Day" without giving a thought to anyone who that simple phrase might feel more like a sharp blade through the heart than a cheery wish. I don't know why I don't play music. It would be so much better. Or those hypnosis CDs (I am so old I still write tapes and have to correct it) that I have been meaning to listen to for about three months now.

I'm coming up on the fifth anniversary of my husband's death. I cannot believe I have lived so long after the day of his death. I thought in the beginning surely he would come get me. How much I would have missed if he had. I wouldn't have known Gwendy blue eyes, my granddaughter, I wouldn't have made so many memories with my daughter and new friends that came in to replace those who disappeared. I wouldn't have been here with old friends who stayed. There are so many things I wouldn't have experienced. There are so many people that would not have experienced me. No blog. No Grief Speaks Out. It is confusing.

What is confusing? How I want more than anything to just lie down and join my husband. How I want more than anything to never have my daughter have to tell my granddaughter that Gammy isn't coming back. I never want to make that little girl cry. Read on here >>>
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Grief: Still Crazy After All These Years

by Jan Warner

www.griefspeaksout.com

I am sitting here on Father's Day trying to get many different things done. The news is on in the background. I am not really listening but every once in a while I hear yet another tale of grief or someone saying, "Happy Father's Day" without giving a thought to anyone who that simple phrase might feel more like a sharp blade through the heart than a cheery wish. I don't know why I don't play music. It would be so much better. Or those hypnosis CDs (I am so old I still write tapes and have to correct it) that I have been meaning to listen to for about three months now.

I'm coming up on the fifth anniversary of my husband's death. I cannot believe I have lived so long after the day of his death. I thought in the beginning surely he would come get me. How much I would have missed if he had. I wouldn't have known Gwendy blue eyes, my granddaughter, I wouldn't have made so many memories with my daughter and new friends that came in to replace those who disappeared. I wouldn't have been here with old friends who stayed. There are so many things I wouldn't have experienced. There are so many people that would not have experienced me. No blog. No Grief Speaks Out. It is confusing.

What is confusing? How I want more than anything to just lie down and join my husband. How I want more than anything to never have my daughter have to tell my granddaughter that Gammy isn't coming back. I never want to make that little girl cry. Read on here >>>

Marty,

Coming home from a visit, where I talked a lot about Doug and his thoughts, even as I struggle to find out who I am these days, these lines resonated:

So are you. Alive. Whatever you do that you think is crazy probably isn't - it's probably being felt or done by millions of other people in the world who just aren't telling anyone either.

Mary Oliver asks, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

The first thing is to find a way to actually think of your life as still precious. The second thing is to show up and keep showing up. No that's wrong. The first thing is just to breathe. To accept each breath as having a reason.

There are a lot of days when just breathing is still the primary focus of the day. Just to keep breathing. That is a wonderful piece, and thank you for posting it for us all.

fae

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The Secret to Healing Grief

by Maria Kubitz

www.aliveinmemory.org

Now, let me begin by saying I am not – by any means – “healed” in my grief from the death of my four-year-old daughter, Margareta, in 2009. I don’t think I’ll ever be. The day she died, a part of me died too. That loss left a gaping, tormenting hole in my heart and soul that has mostly stopped bleeding and shrunk a bit over the years, but will remain with me until the day I die.

And yet, in the years since her death, I have managed to not only learn how to live in the shadow of grief, but to allow joy and happiness back into my life. In fact, I would argue that I have learned how to harness the pain and devastation into fundamentally improving myself. Over the past few years, I have started the process of transforming from someone who used to just “survive” life without truly enjoying it to someone who is learning to thrive in most aspects of living. I am not referring to thriving in a monetary or materialistic way, but in how I open myself up to, interact with, and relate to the world around me.

So what is the secret to healing from grief? Over the last few years, I have tried to write about it. I have bared my soul and deepest, darkest feelings and fears in order to try and capture “it” so that others may use it in their own journeys of healing. And yet I’ve never been able to capture its essence in one succinct idea.

That is, until now. Read on here >>>

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Maya Angelou's Gift of Gratitude

by Linda Hunt

http://pilgrimagethroughloss.com/

Sometimes we grieve the loss of a person we’ve never ‘known’ except through their public contributions to our world and our own lives. I feel this way about Maya Angelou, who gave our nation such truth and wisdom in her honest writings and public presentations. Often I have shared her story of a life-changing moment in young adulthood written in her memoir I Know How the Caged Bird Sings. She felt utterly distraught one afternoon, sinking under ravages of guilt heightened by her young son’s distress when she left him for a music tour in Africa. Fearing she was on the verge of suicide, she sought solace from ‘Uncle Wilkie,’ her beloved vocal teacher. With great lament and tears, she told him she thought she was going crazy and might kill herself.

Instead of the comfort she expected, he handed her a legal-size, lined yellow pad and a pen. He said, “Write down your blessings!” Furious that he didn’t understand her condition, she shouted, “Don’t talk nonsense, I’m telling you I am going crazy!”

Ignoring her rant, he said, “Write down that you could hear me say ‘write down’ and think of the millions who cannot hear the cries of their babies, or the sweet words of their beloveds, or the alarm that could help them seek safety. Write down that you can see this yellow pad and think of the millions on this planet who cannot see the smiles of their growing children, or the delight in the faces of their beloveds, or the colors of the sunrise, and the softness of the twilight. Write down that you know how to write. Write down that you know how to read.”

So she began to write, listing all the good that existed in her frazzled life. She found her mood lightened immediately as she gained perspective on the gifts in her world. Read on here>>>

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http://blogs.psychcentral.com/after-trauma/2014/06/get-overwhelmed-maybe-this-easy-grounding-kit-can-help/

This "tool" might be helpful to have in your purse or car for when you get overwhelmed with a situation or feelings. Easy to do and looks helpful. A great many years ago when I was doing some healing, I created a similar packet that was always in my purse...quotes, cards with reminders, blank cards...all very similar to this kit.

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The article is terrific, Jan ~ please let Heidi know that we appreciate her finding it and, through you, sharing it with all of us. I am pleased to know that she's stayed in touch with you. I too miss her presence here, and wish she would come back to us. Please let her know that if and when she decides to do so, she will be welcomed with open arms and caring hearts.

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Grief: I Never Get Used to...

by Jan Warner

www.griefspeaksout.com

I never get used to...so much.

I was warned. The fifth year is tough.

I am trying to change how I feel by changing my language. I have a good time now - often - when I do something I've planned but I never look forward to anything. I miss out the fun of anticipating things. My brain is not easy to train. Or my heart. I am sitting in a hotel room waiting for my daughter to pick me up to take me to her house. (I didn't sleep there because they are remodeling things and I am allergic to dust etc...) We are taking Gwendy blue eyes (my granddaughter) with us to London. She is so excited. She loves a cartoon character called Peppa Pig and we are going to Peppa Pig World. A friend of mine guides at Hampton Court - the palace that Henry VIII built for Anne Boleyn. She is going to make a treasure hunt for Gwendy there - and has a little costume for her to wear. There's the zoo and much more. For me - when they leave I'm going with another friend to see the Monty Python reunion and Bill Nighy in a play. Then flying back to Boston for the fourth of July with Erin and Gwendy.

So why am I sitting here with a knotted ball of fear in my chest? I got in yesterday thinking I would like a little time by myself I couldn't stand it. Artie wasn't here - of course not - I mean - he's been dead for almost five years. When I travelled by myself the first thing I did when I got to a hotel room was call him to tell him I was okay - and to make sure he had my phone number and room number. Love before cell phones! Five years of not being able to do a simple thing like call him and hear his voice. I turned on the TV and ate through the mini-bar. Read on here >>>

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One of the better articles I've read, Jan. Thank you for sharing.

Marty, Jan Warner has such insite into grief. I enjoy her articles. It is true about what they say that time means nothing when grieving a loved one.

Yesterday was 25 months since Jim died and it was a tough day. I went to lunch with a group of ladies (we go once a month) who most of them knew Jim and we talked about many things but none mentioned Jim. Our special days really mean something to only us especially as the years pass. Even though I enjoyed our lunch when I came home I had a sadness that filled my heart again. We are indeed alone in our grief. Those we have loved remain in our hearts and others go on with their lives caught up in the now as we are left to face the reality that our lives have somehow stopped dead in their tracks and only memories remain. I know that the memories are good to have but it does not ease the pain we experience on a daily basis.

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I know, dear Anne. In so many ways, mourning our beloved is a solitary experience ~ as in the beautiful words of Robert Fulghum, to be felt only in the solitude of one’s most secret self, in the tabernacle of one's own soul.

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Marty said: “ Mourning ~ in the words of Robert Fulghum, to be felt only in the solitude of one’s most secret self, in the tabernacle of one's own soul.

When I was a media specialist working in middle and high school one of my jobs was to read young adult literature and approve it for the district libraries.

Your quote, Marty, reminded me of a quote in a book by Aidan Chambers written for young adults titled: This is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn

“Everyone wants more than anything to be allowed into someone else's most secret self. Everyone wants to allow someone into his/her most secret self. Everyone feels so alone inside that their deepest wish is for someone to know their secret being, because then they are alone no longer. Don't we all long for this? Yet when it's offered it's frightening, because you might not live up to the desires of the one who bestows the gift. And frightening because you know that accepting such a gift means you'll want-perhaps be expected- to offer a similar gift in return. Which means giving your *self* away. And what's more frightening than that?”

When our spouses were alive many of us allowed them into our “secret selves” but now we have to hold that gift alone as we mourn their absence on this earth. My hope is that those who still have their spouses tell them every day that they are loved in a way that only they can love one another.

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This comes to us from Jo-Ann Lautman, co-author of Tears and Tequila and Founder, OUR HOUSE Grief Support Center:
I’m writing to share information about TEARS AND TEQUILA TALKS, an online summer discussion series featuring some of the leading voices on grief, loss, and renewal, because I think it may something you wish to pass along to readers on the Grief Healing Discussion Groups.
TEARS AND TEQUILA TALKS is hosted by Linda Schreyer and me, co-authors of a brand new novel called Tears and Tequila. The book is a fictional testament to the friendships, support, and eventual renewal that comes with the process of dealing with grief --through Grief Groups and Grief Centers, and friend networks.
Tears and Tequila Talks is an going online conversation with some very cool writers, thinkers, and doers in the grief support world that we are talking to as part our efforts to share our passion for the subject matter with as many as possible in the most interesting ways we can.
You can find our first feature here, a Q&A with author author and 9/11 widow Abigail Carter:
Our featured guests are an amazing group of well-known and respected voices in the grief community—and our lineup continues to expand and grow. We launched on June 25 with Abigail Carter (The Alchemy of Loss and other books) and have now added authors Ann Hood, Edie Lutnick, Joan Anderson, Christina Rasmussen, plus Litsa and Eleanor at What’s YourGrief.com, as well as author/therapists like Ashley Davis Bush, Judy Brizendine, and others.
The Tears and Tequila Talks series is about loss and grief, yes — but also about the lives we find after loss. The stories are inspirational and uplifting; the experts, bloggers and guests enlightening.
Co-author Linda Schreyer is an accomplished writer, having written over 1,000 hours of daytime serial television, including shows like General Hospital, Port Charles, Sunset Beach (for which she received a Writers Guild Award nomination), and The Bold and The Beautiful. As for me, I’m Jo-Ann Lautman, founder of OUR HOUSE, the first ever free-standing Grief Support Center, located in Los Angeles. Our House was just featured this past month on the HBO Documentary, One Last Hug, featuring Camp Erin, the center’s grief camp for kids. More on Our House: https://www.ourhouse-grief.org
You can find out more about the book and the series at Tears and Tequila website at this link: http://tearsandtequila.com
Jo-Ann Lautman,
Founder, OUR HOUSE Grief Support Center
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A really important message about self-care appears in this week's Refuge in Grief Newsletter by Megan Devine:

This anniversary season is kicking my butt.

I hadn't intended to lead with that sentiment, but there we have it.

I've been overscheduled, which never helps. Too many people, on too many days, has always made me crabby. I know that's a huge part of what's been going on. I also dropped yoga, stopped taking my usual hour long walks with the dog, and let my typically healthy eating habits lapse into a diet based mainly on pie.

Why do we do this? When we know things are going to be stressful or emotional, whydo we drop all self-care?

I say "we" because I know I'm not the only one.

In grief, especially in the early days, "self-care" is often a fantasy. There's no energy for - and often, no interest in - caring for yourself. Lack of appetite, poor sleep, indifference to exercise, not caring what happens to you - these things are the normal territory of grief. When you're inside a life you don't want, taking care of yourself is not exactly the highest priority.

And sometimes, there's just nothing in you that cares. That's also true.

The thing is, though, that while nothing will "fix" grief, it can definitely be made better or worse by the life that surrounds it. Low blood sugar, no exercise, poor sleep, lack of enough time alone all turn pain into suffering. Rest, nourishing food, grounding exercise, time alone - at least for me, these things quiet me. I may still be in pain, but it's "pure" pain: my mind is calmer, I'm less reactive. I'm less likely to whip myself up into crazy-brain. It's just - better.

Read on here >>>

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I agree, Marty. I read that early this morning and loved her presentation and advice. Good information.

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Focus On Connections Even When Mourning The Death Of A Loved One

by Lou LaGrand

www.extraordinarygriefexperiences.com/

Everything that is in heaven, on earth, and under the earth is penetrated with connections, with relatedness. -- Hildegard of Bingen

Connecting with people, places, and things of interest is an integral part of joyful living. It is the lack of such connections that often perpetuate isolation and depression. This is obvious when we are not grieving. However, it is especially devastating when we have to face the challenges and transformation to be faced after the death of a loved one.

We are wired for connections. All of us need them as much as we need fresh air. Without connections we wither, live exclusively in the past, and fail to grow from the difficult experience of loss and change.

Examine the depth and number of connections you have. Become aware of how frequently you engage the connections in your life. Planning connections for each day is a powerful coping technique as you deal with the "new life" without the physical presence of the beloved. Increasing the number of connections is a worthy goal that can help immensely in adapting to your great loss. Read on here >>>


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