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Thank you for the article about the theory of grief. I guess I have issues in all of the cathegories. 

I have been on a trip recently, on my own, and I felt more alone than ever. Coming back home everybody looked forward to see me excited, and I struggled so much to deal with their dissapointment, which is mine too. I guess I still naively think I can fix this. I think that doing things will transform my feelings. It is not happening. I still do things, anyway. 



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From our friend and colleague Peggy Haymes:

What Do You Do When It's All Just Too Much?

Sometimes it's just all too much.


That can be true in our personal lives when too many extraordinary demands or deep losses pile up. It feels like too much too muchness.
Caregivers often feel this way, which is why one of the early books written for caregivers of people with Alzheimers was called The  36 Hour Day. 

Increasingly, people are feeling that way about government and political events. In my office, at church, among friends, I am hearing the same thing. People feel just overwhelmed. Whether you are for the political changes or against them, the pace of change is leaving many people feeling overwhelmed. There's no time to  process one change before another one comes.

So, a few survival tips for the  days when you feel overwhelmed.

1. Monitor what you take in. Many of us feel that we need to keep up with everything, but with nonstop news cycles that can become all we do. Our emotions don't get a chance to breathe and our brains don't get a chance to process. Allow yourself a news fast. Don't  worry, whatever  you need to know about will keep coming around, and someone will probably post it on Facebook for the next three years.

2.   Monitor what you put out. None of us can respond to every demand  that comes our way. If you're involved with caregiving you may need to say no to some things that in other times you'd gladly take on.   Don't feel guilty for taking a vacation.

There's a wonderful scene  in the Hebrew scripture story of Elijah. Fearing for his life (and overwhelmed with a bit of self-pity himself) Elijah flees into the  wilderness.

An angel meets him there, offering him bread and water. "Take, eat," the angel says, "lest the journey be too much for you."

I've loved that image  because that's exactly what we need to do sometimes: step back, rest and refuel lest the  journey be too much for us.

3. Break it down into smaller parts and take concrete actions. We feel overwhelmed when there is so much to do or the things we need to do are so big. Start breaking it down into bite-sized pieces. (By the way, be realistic about what  is or isn't under your control.)

After you have broken it down into more manageable pieces, start taking concrete action. Do one thing, no matter how small that thing seems in the grand scheme of things. When we take action we counteract the feelings of helplessness that can come with being overwhelmed. 

Feel free to share this with friends who might find it useful.

Until next time,




So you don't  miss any announcements from Peggy, you can subscribe here.



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Amen heartily to all of that!


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Another gem from our friend Peggy Haymes:


The most embarrassing thing I’ve done… this week… so far

by Peggy Haymes

Monday morning.

I'm rather proud that I'm getting an early start on my lengthy one mile commute to the office.

Briefcase packed, cell phone in my purse, jacket on - I'm ready to go.

Except I can't find my keys.

I usually put them on a coat rack just inside the door. They're not there. They didn't fall to the floor beneath the rack. I check my pants pockets. I paw through the dirty clothes to check the pockets of the clothes I was wearing the previous night.

I check the kitchen counters. The dresser in the bedroom. I check in every room of the house and then I do it all over again. No keys.

By now it's time for my first client who, thankfully, is running behind herself.

As I try to figure out the mystery of the missing keys (thank you, Nancy Drew) my hand brushes against the vest I'm wearing. It's a cute vest, and being as it's from Eddie Bauer, it has lots of pockets.

One of which holds my keys.

I still beat my client to the office and all is well.

Later I thought about what a great life parable that was. We search high and low for something while in reality, it's been with us all along.

We read a hundred self help books. We talk endlessly with friends and family and coaches and therapists, all in a quest to find that missing something.

Direction. Peace. Hope.

The great family therapist Virginia Satir was completely flummoxed after World War II. She began seeing people who'd survived Hitler's camps. She was overwhelmed by their stories and felt completely helpless to help them. She thought about it and meditated on it and even prayed about it.

What could she offer to them?

One day she realized that she'd gotten it all wrong. She felt helpless in helping the victims of those camps but in truth, they were survivors. If they didn't have some kernel of strength inside they wouldn't have made it through, much less making it to her office.

Her job was to help them reconnect to that strength. Her job was to reconnect them with what they already had inside but had just forgotten.

(If there is a single story that guides my work as a therapist, it's this one. If you're able to make an appointment and make it into my office, you have more strength inside you than you know)

We run hither and yon looking for answers but never take the time to stop, be still and listen to our own voice of wisdom. We've gotten disconnected from that voice through the years, or maybe we never had a chance to connect in the first place.

If you want to start listening, journaling is a great way to start. Ask that wisdom to write a letter to you, and see what it says.

You may need someone else to help you listen, whether a wise friend or good therapist. We learn early on to discount our own wisdom so it helps to have someone who can provide a different perspective. Or tell us if we really are full of it.

What keys have you tucked away in your pocket? 


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Let Go and Let Be


When I was in my twenties, I wanted desperately to become a writer. But for several miserable years, I labored under the misconception that this meant putting words on paper that would (1) get published and (2) be praised by the critics as great or better than great.

I’m sure you know what came of that! I wrote very little, and nothing worth reading. My inflated notion of what it meant to be a writer left me frozen in fear of failure.

Then I read some words that changed my life:

“A writer is distinguished by the fact that he or she writes.”

I don’t remember who wrote those words, but they triggered an “Aha!” moment that still makes me laugh.

Suddenly it all came clear: “To become a writer, I don’t need to write world-class stuff. I simply need to WRITE! Hoo-ha! There’s an amazing idea! OK, here we go!” And so it has been ever since.

I blush to confess it, but I’ve had to relearn that lesson in recent years as I’ve begun aspiring to be a poet. It’s taken me a while to realize that this does not mean I need to be as good as Mary Oliver or William Stafford. A poet, I suppose, is distinguished by the fact that he or she writes poetry!

So here’s another one of my poems. In dark times, I often find solace at the ocean. But somehow, the Atlantic in winter brings me more peace than balmy breezes and a blazing sun on a tropical beach. This poem comes from an experience of seeking consolation on “the February shore.”


“The February Shore”
by Parker J. Palmer

Let this stillness settle on
the surface of your mind—

The figured sand, its fossil prints
and hieroglyphs held fast in memory of ice…

The surf-flung pools framed here and there
as mirrors to behold the shining day…

The ice-glazed rocks that lose their weight
while floating in mirage of glancing sun…

Upon that sea of cold foreboding blue
a second sea of sequined, dancing fire…

Over all, the silken air,
the seamless and forgiving sky…

Now let this ocean breathe for you,
beat your heart and pump your briny blood,
heave your sighs and weep your sea-salt tears
that flow beyond the rim of earth
farther than your anxious eye can see—
while under all, incessant surf
insists on letting go and letting be.


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My wife is dead. An unknown heart problem in her 40s. The shock of her sudden death has sent me digging through crayons trying to identify my emotions.

Blue Denim holds my cold, clenched fists of anger. Royal Purple radiates the bruise that oozes under my skin. I like green, so I draw each green crayon across the paper, but none calm me like being in Yosemite. Shamrock is too bright. Granny Smith Apple too warm. Forest Green comes close — grainy and gray like grief.

The colors of sorrow are the primaries. They’re also a thousand shades. They take me to the edge of what should have been if she had been allowed to live. I color the hard sky Steel Blue because I no longer believe the True Blue crayon. I color the earth Rojo Oscuro and Maroon because it’s stained with the blood of my dead.

In the left corner, I swirl three dark colors — Timberwolf Gray, Silver, and Black — but my darkness is different. It’s Pewter. Charcoal. Midnight Slate and they don’t make those crayons. When a person dies, life is reduced to colors without form, the tohu va vohu (תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ) of Genesis, the chaos before there was light, but I feel no assurance that light will return.

I color outside the lines because grief has erased the boundaries of polite. Destroyed my belief in cause and effect. People say, “Work hard. Follow the rules, and happiness will come.” That curtain in Oz has been yanked down. Compassionate people die. Hateful, greedy, pompous people don’t. At least, not often enough.

Crayons do not speak of ethics, only emotions. They don’t say she wasn’t supposed to die. They don’t say the doctor missed something. They don’t say the paramedics messed up and didn’t restart her heart soon enough, which is what they are trained to do. Isn’t it?

People say, “She’s dead. You have to move on.” They’re right, in time. But her death was wrong and I am not going to accept it. I will never be okay with it, and I will carry this anger the rest of my life. But somehow I will learn to live with it. Color me Cantankerous Cardinal.

I am a bucket of emotions, swept along in a flood that surges from one feeling to the next, and I can’t control them. I am Vicious Violet. I am Raging Red. I am the Buffaloed Blues.

What is the color of loneliness? What is today’s shade of despair?

I have been broken by something I cannot see or name. This is deeper than melancholy. It’s the Portuguese saudade, of desperately longing to reach out and touch her hand once more. Hug her warm body close. See love for me shining in her eyes. But she is never coming back, and I fear that if I look in too deep, I will find that only emptiness is left.

What crayon is going to color that?

I try every crayon in my box of 96. My paper is a rat’s nest of colored streaks and swirls. While the crayons have helped identify what I’m feeling, they aren’t helping me dream of what comes next.

I create my own colors and find hope in the wonder of Impossibly Peach. The iridescent sheen of Indigo Bunting. The passion of Totally Mad Magenta. The delightful shiver of Elusive Moonbeams.

~ Mark Liebenow  


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