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I love whatsyourgrief, it's nice they email articles too!

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When You Are Grieving Thanksgiving Day Feels Painful

AfterTalk Grief Suppport ThanksgivingWhen you lose someone you love and are grieving Thanksgiving Day feels burdensome and painful. When a brain tumor took away our precious Katie’s life I dreaded that holiday. For seven years we served no rutabagas because they were Katie’s favorite vegetable. The thought of their seasonal aroma wafting through our home without her in it was too much to bear.

I don’t share this part of me today to make you sad. I share it because you are my extended family and I am yours – we are all fellow travelers. During our lifetimes we will lose people or they will lose us because that’s just the way the cycle of life goes.

When we suffer loss we question if we will ever overcome the pain of its paralyzing grief. We think we won’t survive and we doubt we can ever feel happy again. Even poor Charlie Brown had doubts, “I think I’m losing control of the whole world,” he once sighed. Giving thanks seems counter-intuitive, too, when we only feel like crying. But we can give thanks and we can go on. Here are a few suggestions on how to go about it.

• Make the conscious decision to live. That means you get out of bed every day and put your feet down on the floor. “Thank you for my feet” even if they don’t feel like walking.

• Allow yourself private time and space to quietly listen to songs that were important to your loved one and cry some more; sigh some more; but then, switch to a different kind of music to distract yourself.

• Do something active such as taking a walk and meditating on your specific pain. Have a little talk with the beloved person you lost and allow your tears to flow; they are healing you.

• Write your longings for your beloved in a private journal; expressing your feelings is crucial for your journey through grief and sorrow.

• Go to someone else’s home this year or to a movie instead if you don’t feel like cooking– normal has been redefined for you. If you have children or grandchildren, hug them. Children don’t always understand death but they understand life and it will rub off, I promise.

• Turn toward your mate or friends for consolation not against them.

• Remember, the stages of grief and loss – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance are particularly intensified during holidays and that includes Thanksgiving, so consciously reflect more on your many present blessings and less so on your sorrow and losses. Our Katie told me more than once that someone else always has it worse and she was right.

• Pray for the strength and courage to accept your now life then pray some more. Meditate, do yoga, walk. Ask others to help you – friends, sensitive family members, a bereavement counselor or spiritual adviser. Yes, I know it’s hard, I am not speaking in the abstract here; I am with you every step of the way.

• Consider all the other people in your life who love and depend on you. They need and want you there physically, emotionally and spiritually this Thanksgiving even if you are sad. Why? Because they love you and they want to give you an extra hug. We all need those extra hugs when we are hurting.

My friends, the Creator has planted an abundance of love and mercy in your heart for your loss. And while yes, we must surrender to the physical absence of our beloved, we also trust with all our soul that they are at peace now and we will be given the grace to find peace, too, and the courage to make this Thanksgiving Day and Every Day Matter.

Mary Jane Hurley Brant, M.S., CGP

Mary’s extraordinary book is available from Amazon. Just click this link:  AMAZON


There are painful moments in life when we think we shall never recover: the end of a long-standing marriage, a devastating diagnosis, the catastrophic loss of our home or our livelihood. Then, there are moments in which we wish we’ll never recover: when a child is wrenched from us through accident, illness, an act of cruel violence, a drunk driver, lost hope or war. In her courageous book, When Every Day Matters, M.J. Hurley Brant chronicles the first year of living without her beloved daughter, Katie Brant. For ten years Katie and her family lived with the diagnosis, treatment and progression of brain cancer. MJ shares with us not the story of a life lost through tragedy, but the legacy of a renewed life filled with grace, compassion, wisdom and choice. A life in which Every Day Matters. Living with grief is a lonely journey, but you don’t have to do it alone. Within these pages you will find a reassuring companion who knows what you are going through because she’s been there. From practical reminders to drink more water so that your body does not suffer the effects of dehydration on top of emotional devastation, to creating memory gardens to channel sadness, MJ Hurley Brant’s words, suggestions and sentiments will comfort and guide you to an understanding that sometimes the only way we get over the unbearable is by going through it.

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Moving Into the Season of Gratitude

by Karla Helbert

This week, many of us will make official entry into the Holiday Season. Thanksgiving can bring with it particularly painful emotions as we are surrounded by reminders everywhere in our culture that we are supposed to be grateful and thankful. In a state of bereavement, those feelings can feel very far away. 

Bereavement is the state of being deprived of something precious to us. The word comes from the Old English bereafian, a word which meant to deprive, to seize violently, to plunder, to rob. The bereaved feel robbed for sure. Grief includes our reactions, experiences and feelings, in response to having been robbed of something so precious. It can be very difficult to imagine feeling grateful when what you mostly feel is that  life as you knew it has been plundered, all the things that made sense, all the things that were true, violated and ripped away. 

It isn't that we in grief don't feel gratitude. We do, likely for a great many things. I'm certain there have been moments that you've been struck with a profound sense of gratitude--for a moment of peace, for a soft bed, for people who have been there at just the right times, for a cup of hot tea, for sunshine after dark days of cold rain. For those moments when you have felt the presence of the one you love who is missing. For the love that you shared, for the love that you still have and which can never be destroyed. Very likely, the bereaved understand better than most that each breath we take is a gift. And we also know that sometimes those same breaths can feel like a curse. 

The problem is not that we don't know that we have things to be grateful for. The problem is that this person we love so deeply is dead. In moments when the pain of missing our beloveds is so raw, so real, so painful, on so many levels of being, it can feel impossible to be grateful. And depending on where you are in your grief, how deeply you have been impacted, those moments of pain may come far more often than moments of gratitude. Inside the fires of grief, the sense of betrayal, anger, confusion and isolation are so great,  the very idea of being grateful can feel like insult on top of the worst injury imaginable. We don't stay in these places, but those places are very real. In those places, the notion of gratitude feels like a sick joke. 

Much of the pain also comes from the feeling that the world around us does not understand. The directive to find and express your gratitude feels forced and pervasive, as if it is just so simple to simply be grateful. It can be easy for resentment and anger to grow up around the idea of being thankful, especially when the gravity of what has occurred feels so huge, the notion of simple gratitude can seem wholly out of reach and completely nonsensical.  

Please know that you are not alone. What you are going through is painful, but it is not pathological or abnormal. Taking the time you need to care for yourself, to spend with your grief, as well as others who you know are safe and supportive, can help you move through the holidays with a little more ease and maybe a tiny bit of comfort. Taking the time to nurture yourself, even in the smallest of ways, can help the natural moments of a sense of connection and along with that, gratitude, to rise. Setting aside even 15 minutes a day to be outdoors, to breathe, to sit and watch birds, to focus on savoring a piece of chocolate or mindfully drinking a soothing cup of tea can all be nurturing practices. 

Making a plan helps immensely. For more on making a plan to get through the holiday, you can read my article Making it Through the Holidays When Your're Grieving. There are even worksheets you can download to help  you make a plan. The holidays are hard and we need all the help we can get. 

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I've learned to focus on what is rather than merely lament what isn't.  It doesn't remove the pain of grief and loss, but it allows us to fully live in the moment and not miss the good that IS!

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The Holidays While Grieving
Here are lots of suggestions for everyone
An article for the griever
and the supporter
Founder & CEO, GriefHaven
The holidays are here, and for most people it is a time of coming together with families and friends. Sure, some of you might dread what happens when your families get together and the challenges of getting along begin, or for some it's nothing but a spectacular time with love and laughter and gratitude that you are all together. Yet, for those who are grieving, the holidays, especially for the first few years, are something often dreaded as people try to figure out how to endure the holidays. What used to be a time they looked forward to is now a time they would rather forget about. Grievers need to figure out how to spend those family gathering periods without their child, spouse, sibling, parent, grandchild and other loved ones who have died. For them, the holidays are some of the toughest days of all and a constant reminder that their loved one is not there.
I was recently listening to a radio show where the host was asking people to call in and share holiday stories. She wanted to not only hear funny stories, but also family stories of difficulties and how they were handled. She asked people to share with us their ideas of what families could do to get along better--to bring more loving kindness to each other. Lots of people called and told funny stories of family fights and people trying to get along, as well as beautiful stories about camaraderie and laughter and joy. Advice came in all forms: avoid politics, don't talk about who you are dating, put your differences aside for one day, and so forth.
Yet, not one person called in to talk about the person who was grieving and how they would deal with that.
That is...until I called in.
People often don't think of that--the person who will be there without that loved one who died, whether it was six months ago or 10 years ago. Grief is not something that leaves a person's life after time; rather, it's something a person learns to incorporate into their lives as part of their lives and does so with hard work, by making new memories, creating a "new normal," and keeping their loved one alive and a part of their lives every day. Of course the nature of the grief changes, and people get to a place where they live happy, productive, and meaningful lives. But it is always there...just a little off to the side...just a trigger or reminder away. This is especially true during family gatherings where the griever is acutely aware that their loved one is missing. Yes, it gets easier eventually, and for some more quickly than others.
So this article is for both of you: the person who directly lost their loved one, and the person who is spending time over the holidays (or any time for that matter) with the one who is grieving. 

1. Say "time out" anytime you need.

2. Talk about him or her during conversations.

3. Tell the truth when people ask, "How are you?" Say, "So sad right now." "I don't know." "Not sure...." "This sucks!"

4. Have some "bah humbug" days.

5. Do things differently than ever before.

6. Leave town.

7. Change your mind.

8. Be where you want and need to be.

9. Allow yourself to laugh and have some fun without feeling guilty!

10. Change directions in mid-stream.

11. Cry.

12. Laugh.

13. Cry and laugh in the same minute. 

14. Let your children be part of the holiday planning. They are grieving, too.

15. Don't forget the grandparents if a child died. It's much harder for them than most people realize.

16. Remove yourself from whatever you are doing if it gets too difficult.

17. Do something for someone else (helping others is often very comforting).

18. Have rest, peace, and solitude.

19. Spend part of the day as before and the rest doing something different.

20. Let people know ahead of time what you would like or need, such as your loved one's photo in a prominent place, mentioning his or her name in conversation, sharing memories about him or her, lighting a candle, etc.

21. Allow others to grieve their own ways.

22. Here's a good one. One mother whose son died went online and created a huge puzzle using family photos and then had everyone gather and put it together. When it was done, there was lots of joy and talk about memories from the past. You can do this on Zazzle or many other sites. 



23. Include one of your loved one's favorite dishes in your holiday meal. 

24. Make a donation to a charity that was important to your loved one in their name.

25. Buy a gift you would have given to your loved one and give it to someone in need. 

26. Put a gift for your loved one under the tree or Hanukah bush.

27. See a grief counselor. Maybe you've been putting it off. The holidays are especially tough, so this may be the time to talk to someone. 

28. Pick a few special items that belonged to your loved one and gift them to friends or family who will appreciate them. At some point, we gave Erika's bed and all of the linens to cousins, and every time we visit them, we get to see the bed!

29. Make a memorial ornament, wreath, or other decoration in honor of your loved one. Get the kids involved, too.

30. It's hard to part with your loved ones clothing, so perhaps you might use the holidays as an opportunity to donate some items to a homeless shelter or other charity, but only if you are ready.  

31. Send a holiday card or email to friends of your loved with whom you have lost touch.

32. Visit your loved one's grave site and leave a grave blanket, wreath, rocks, flowers, or other meaningful holiday item.

33. Play your loved one's favorite holiday music.

34. If your loved one hated holiday music, or you do too, that's okay! Play whatever music they loved.

35. Journal your thoughts and feelings like never before. Let it all out!  

36. Skip some holiday events if you are in holiday overload, and try not to feel guilty for doing so. 

37. Drive yourself so you don't get trapped. You need to be able to leave if necessary. Oh, and there's always Uber! 

38. Pull out old photos and spend some time looking at them. If it gets too hard, put them away.

39. Talk to kids about the holidays. It can be confusing for kids that the holidays can be both happy and sad after a death. Let them know it is okay to enjoy the holiday, and it is okay to be sad.

40. For children, see if you can keep the traditions as regular as possible, for they need to return to their normal routines as soon as possible.

41. Make a dish that your loved one used to make and share it with others.

42. Leave an empty seat at the holiday table in memory of your loved one.

43. If leaving an empty seat is too depressing, invite someone to fill that chair who doesn't have anywhere else to go, such as a neighbor, elderly person, or student who is not going home for the holidays.

44. Don't send holiday cards this year if it is too sad or overwhelming.

45. Skip or minimize gifts. After a death, material things can seem less meaningful and the mall can seem especially stressful. Talk as a family and decide whether you truly want to exchange gifts this year or if you are even able to shop for gifts. If you do, shop online and have gifts shipped.

46. Make a new tradition of exchanging gifts for the children only. Buy your gifts online and have them shipped.

47. Put out a photo table with photos of your loved one and others' loved ones who have also passed.

48. Go to a grief group. When everyone looks so gosh-darn filled with holiday cheer, sometimes it is helpful to talk with others who are struggling.

49. Skip (or minimize) the decorations if they are too much. Don't worry, you'll see plenty of decorations outside your house.

50. Volunteer in your loved one's memory.

51. Let your perfectionism go. If you always have the perfect tree, perfectly wrapped gifts, and perfect table, accept that this year may not be perfect and that is okay.

52. People mean well when they tell you what you ought to do for the holidays. But you need to listen to yourself, trust yourself, communicate with your family, and do what works for you.

53. Speaking what you are grateful for changes the brain and helps with grief. Share one thing each day, at least one, that you are grateful for. Say it out loud, go around the room and have each person share as well. Write it down, photograph it, share it on Facebook.

54. Watch what you eat. You are especially sensitive now, so enjoy but don't hurt yourself. 

55. Watch what you imbibe. Alcohol can take the edge off, sure, but it is also a depressant and can make you feel worse.  

56. If you usually cook, have potluck instead or order "in." 

57. Buy a gift for yourself--something that would have pleased your loved one, or even make the gift from your loved one. 

58. Say yes to help. There will be people who want to help and may offer their support. Let them do it. It often helps others feel good to do something nice for you.

59. Ask for help, even if it's hard.

60. Donate a holiday meal to a family in need through a local church, synagogue, salvation army, or department of social services.

61. Identify the people who will be able to help and support you during the holidays and identify who may cause you more stress. Try to spend more time with the former group and less with the latter.

62. Practice self-care. Self-compassion is a powerful way to help you with your grief, and is an important part of your grief journey. Never before have you needed to be kind and loving to yourself the way you do now.  

63. Support kids by doing a memorial grief activity together. 

64. Remember, being happy is usually only "moments." No one is happy all of the time. So allow yourself to have those moments. It doesn't diminish how much you love and miss the person who isn't there. And if you feel guilty when you do have a moment of happiness? Well that's just so unfair, isn't it? So come back to self-compassion and remind yourself that being human means moments of happiness.

Thanks to "What's Your Grief" for some of the great holiday suggestions!
Are You With Someone Who Is Grieving
During the Holidays?
What Can You Say? What Can You Do?
Want to know how to help the person who will be joining you for the holidays and who has lost a loved one? Great! Here ya go!
(You might also be grieving the loss of this person, so be sure to read the tips above.)
1. If you are hosting, ask the person if there is anything you can provide that will make the day easier, such as a photo of their loved one or mentioning them in the conversation.
2. Ask the person if they would like you to let other guests who will be coming know that they are grieving and (a) that they would love to talk about their loved one; or (b) that they would prefer not to be asked anything about it.
3. Give them space to not attend any gatherings you might have for as long as they feel the need to change things around. Don't worry. Eventually, they will be able to be with you again.
4. If you are open to it, think about going somewhere else to celebrate the holidays, such as a restaurant or even out of town. Many families do this, and it works well.
5. Don't go silent when they bring up the name of their loved one or tell a story. Join right in as part of the conversation no differently than you would have if the person were still alive.
6. Remember that death ends a life, but never a relationship. The person will always carry their loved one with them wherever they go and want to keep his or her memory alive.
7. Make it okay for the person to cry. Don't let the crying be a downer. It's healthy and normal to cry, especially when surrounded by others whose families are intact and their loved one is glaringly missing. You can give a little compassion, too, like hand her a Kleenex or give him a hug.
8. Say things like, "I'm so sorry you are feeling so sad today." or "I can't imagine how you must be feeling." or "I miss him too." Don't say things like, "It's okay, don't cry." or "He wouldn't want you to be sad." Definitely do not try and change the subject if someone has a cry during the day, hoping that to skirt the issue might make it all go away. You only make the person feel worse and that they should avoid being with family in the future because it's too hard for you. Right now, it's your love and compassion they need until they get to a point where they are stronger. It's a long journey they are on. 
9. Allow yourself to show the griever that you love them and are okay with however they might act or express their sadness. Over time, all of that will change and the person will begin to feel joy and express happiness when you gather together.
10. Don't be surprised if the person needs to leave periodically throughout the day. Make it okay. It's not personal.
11. Don't be surprised if the person needs to leave. Period. Make it okay. It's not personal.
12. Think of something special you can do for the person's loved one/in memory of that loved one. Perhaps if you say a blessing you will include his name with the others who have also died. 
13. Create something unique and meaningful that everyone can join in together. See number 21 above. Such a GREAT idea!
14. Music can be a killer for someone who is grieving. Figure out a way to find out if certain types of music will just be too painful for the person who is grieving. One mother told us that she tried to spend time with her family right after her daughter died, and they kept playing music like Josh Groban's "You Lift Me Up" and other songs that ripped her heart out. She had to leave, which was so sad. It would have been nice if that music simply wasn't played that year.
15. Not talking about a person's loved one is one of the worse things of all to those who are grieving. They feel as if the person is being forgotten OR that everyone is avoiding it because it's just too hard. Incorporating everyone's grief over the person who died and including that person's life as part of the holidays will make the grieving person feel loved, understood, and safe. You will end up being the one who helps them heal as they find their way of creating that "new normal."
16. Remember that losing a significant loved one and having to rebuild a new life without him or her is one of life's greatest challenges. We hope you will be a part of the healing journey that they so desperately need.
17. Don't take it personally if the griever is hurt by something you did that you thought would be something they would appreciate. At least you tried!
18. Know we are not saying your holidays are over and it's now all about this other person. First, the holidays may very well change forever, but that doesn't mean they won't be wonderful--just different. Second, it really is a lot about the one who is suffering and how you can help that person feel the loving kindness as you spend a holiday with them. Grief is a life challenging experience that can take years until the new balance of life is found again. It comes in waves and often blindsides the griever. So thanks to all of you who care and who took the time to read this list of suggestions. 
May you all have a Peace-of-Heart holiday
with moments of laughter and joy sprinkled in!


What did we miss? Please tell us at
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Saved, love these ideas!

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"The holiday seasons add an extra measure of pain to people already bearing more than they can, more than they should ever have to. There is the empty seat at the table, the heaviness of all the ways the one you love is missing, traditions that have gone flat, smacking against the empty place.

Death, illness, and massive life events – they all sour the season in ways those outside your loss can’t understand.

Whether you’ve always loved the holidays or avoided them as best you could, the first several seasons after a loss or big life event can well and truly suck. So many people want to make this a “good” holiday for you…part of your family wants traditions to stay exactly the same, others want to change everything. Conflicting desires, broken hearts, lots of attention when you’d rather just hide in your blanket fort until the whole thing is over – it’s too much.

Given that this season is going to be rough, how will you survive?

Say no a lot. Really. Other people will tell you should say yes to things, get out more, be social. You know what? No. If “being social” gives you the hives, why on earth would you do that? Remember that “no” is a complete sentence. You can say, “no, thank you” if you must say more.

Choose your gatherings. If you do choose to attend something holiday-ish, choose wisely. Sometimes a big crowd is easier than a small one because you can slip out unnoticed, as you need to. While a small gathering might have been most comfortable in your life before, those intimate things can feel more like a crucible now, with people watching to see how you’re doing.

Find companionship, or find ways to be alone-together with others. Musical offerings, candlelight meditations or services — check those little local newspapers and see what’s going on in your community. A fantastic place to be alone-together with people who really get grief is the Writing Your Grief community. We’ve always got room for you: https://www.refugeingrief.com/30daywriting/

Volunteer. The first Thanksgiving after Matt died, I volunteered in the local soup kitchen. It was an “acceptable” reason for not attending family obligations, and also a way I could serve others in my own quiet way.

Have a plan. Before you go to a party or an event, be sure to make your exit plan clear — with yourself. Give yourself an out, whether that is a specific time limit or an emotional cue that lets you know it’s time to go. Stick to your plan.

Check in with yourself. This is true not just for events and gatherings, but for every single moment of life: check in with yourself. Take just a minute to breathe, one good inhale/exhale, and ask yourself how you’re doing. Ask yourself what you need. It may be that the piped-in Christmas carols at the grocery store are just too much. Maybe you need to leave now — just abandon that cart in the aisle. Or maybe you feel like you can push through, so you put your emotional blinders on and sing yourself some other song to blot out the noise. Give yourself what you need at that moment.

Which brings me to my favorite anytime-not-just-the-holidays tip:

LEAVE WHENEVER YOU WANT. Please remember that this is your life. You do not have to do anything that feels bad or wrong or horrifying. Even if you agreed to participate in something, you can change your mind at any time. Stop whatever you’re doing whenever you want.

The holidays are going to hurt, my friend. That is just reality. Whether you are missing someone who should be part of the festivities, or you are missing someone who shared your love of quiet acknowledgement over raucous partying, this season will add some to your grief.

Companion yourself. Care for yourself. Listen. Reach out where it feels good to reach, curl in when that is what you need. Make this season as much of a comfort to you as you can."


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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Winter's Light

(Advent and Hanukkah begin on Dec. 2 this year.)
When the year’s shadows are heaviest, when nights become long and cold, when feelings of self-doubt, despair, and death draw near, we light candles to push back the darkness that surrounds us. 
The light of stars, the roaring bonfires, the calm flames of candles remind us of people we’ve loved, dreams we’ve followed over the years, and the guidance of wise teachers. They call us to reclaim what stirs our passions, what brings us energy and meaning. They challenge us to care for those among us for whom the light has grown dim. 
The flickering of the flames tonight draws us out of our normal preoccupations to focus on this moment. 
We set aside the burdens of life and let our hearts fill with light and with compassion for others, because when the light comes, it comes for all. Each night I light a candle and let dreams return that I have put off for too long. 
People find renewal of their faith in this dark season. Many use lights in their rituals of remembrance and rededication, like Christian candlelight services, Jewish Hanukkah, Hindu Diwali, and the African American celebration of community in Kwanzaa.
We celebrate the message, waiting beneath the holiday decorations, that despite the trauma of what has happened this year — bad jobs, no jobs, lost homes, struggles with health, the death of loved ones, the unrest in society — hope is not gone. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, glad news will come that we do not expect, the miraculous will happen, if we do not give in to despair and we work to keep the fires burning.
Some will return to the rituals of ancient traditions to find a fresh breath of spirit. 
Others will find renewal outdoors, surrounded by mountains and forests. We will feel part of something greater than our individual lives, and stand in awe of nature’s majesty rising up above us. Although grief has pulled our lives apart, the transcendence of nature tells us that one day we will be okay. 
In a couple of weeks, the Winter Solstice will signal the turning of winter back toward spring. Before then, in the movement of the natural world, the long hours of darkness encourage us to slow our rushing through the day to move at the meandering pace of the creeks. We feel the Presence of life around us as we watch the light glow on the top of the mountains, and reclaim the connection between our lives and the Spirit of creation. 
The darkness does not do away with the light but completes it, just as grief completes our understanding of love.
The Sierra peaks in Yosemite will give little hint that they have noticed the sun’s subtle shift back towards the Northern Hemisphere, but Half Dome will hold the day’s light a bit longer. 
Down in the valley, along the Merced River as it winds through the meadows in its winter clothing, the ouzel, John Muir’s favorite bird, swims under the water, hops up and down in the rapids, and sings its song of joy to the day’s fleeting warmth.
May you find a place this holiday season where the sacred fire in your heart is rekindled.
Posted by Mark Liebenow 
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Not only beautiful, but appropriate timing!  It's dark outside, the snow's falling, I've been up (all day, all night) tending a burning pile that doesn't seem to want to go out...reminded of George being gone and me having to do everything myself, shoveling snow as time permits, and yes, feeling a bit of despair.

Then I read this poetry, and it gives me just a little umpf to go on...

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Holidays and Trauma: Holding Both

By Gretchen Schmelzer on Dec 06, 2018 03:39 pm

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Holidays are rituals. They are traditions. They are anniversaries. And if you have experienced significant loss or trauma, holidays are an archipelago of memory and loss. Holidays come embedded with reminders and triggers and explosions of memory. That’s exactly what tradition and ritual are supposed to do. But holidays, unlike many ordinary days, are designed as full sensory experiences—they hit our sense of smell, our sense of taste, what we see, the songs we hear. It may be 2016, but to your nose, or your tastebuds or your ears—it’s suddenly 1943, or 1969, or 2003. This time travel at the holidays is true for everyone, not just for people who have experienced trauma, but it is faster for trauma survivors because the memories connected to the songs, or tastes or smells were more frightening and highly charged. They left a more solid imprint.

For many trauma survivors the problem is one of presence: it seems at the holidays you live in two worlds even more than you usually do. The world of the present and the world of the past seem to constantly collide, with the past just as present at times as the present. Perhaps the memories would be easier to hold if there wasn’t the constant pressure to not only hold them but to be happy the whole time. It’s this awful juxtaposition between the memories you hold and the outside expectation of fun. You are sitting at a beautiful meal in the present and you are hearing the violence in your head from fifty years ago. Yet no one at the table knows.

For people who have experienced significant loss, the problem is one of absence. Every holiday marks another occasion where someone or something is missing. It can be a time when the loss is felt so keenly, when you count how old they would be now, what they would think about this holiday, when you see the world without them in stark relief. You feel badly for enjoying something without them. And of course for many people—both are true—the presence of the trauma and the absence of loss. Soldiers who know where they fought during a previous holiday and the troops who didn’t come home with them.

So I say to all those who struggle with trauma and loss at the holidays—you are not alone. Like the tale of the mustard seed, it is unlikely you could sit at any holiday table in the world without finding a fellow pilgrim on the journey of healing—either from trauma or loss. The cure isn’t the modern notion of ‘moving on’—the cure is a more difficult task of holding both. You see when you try to just ‘move on’ –then its either the past or the present—you are jostled involuntarily from one to the other. But if you can build the muscles to hold both –hold that both the past and the present are true—then paradoxically the present can become more real. Holding both allows you to hold your feelings from the past and your feelings in the present as real and true. Holding both is not so much an effort as a softening. You breathe, you acknowledge, you hold, you sit. You don’t do anything in particular, but you don’t run away from yourself and you don’t expect yourself to feel differently than you do. Holding both allows an integrated whole memory to begin to form out of the colliding worlds, out of absence and presence. So start slowly, be kind to yourself as you begin this new practice, and as you feel more solid, reach a hand to someone who is just beginning.

© Gretchen L. Schmelzer, PhD 2016

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I am sure that I am not alone in approaching Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, and New Years with sorrow in my heart over the death of a loved one.  I hope these reflections will provide guidance for reaching through the sorrows of loss in the coming season.


During the holidays, the pain of separation from loved ones who have died can become acute and preoccupying.  Many will feel especially distant from others when the world is caught up in material consumption and merriment.  It's hard not to resent life in the world around us going on as if nothing has happened when loss has brought profound change in the world of our experience.  Others can be, or at least seem, so joyful when we are so far from being so, our grief so not in the spirit of the season.


Many of my own dear friends and a close relative have died this year, but the loss of my best friend of over sixty years has been the most challenging for me.  Bill was born only three days before me, and we grew up living but two short blocks apart. We met and playedmail?url=https%3A%2F%2Ffiles.constantcontact.com%2F2ee8022d301%2Fbe69be8f-87f0-48aa-8cc8-66834f511dfe.jpg&t=1545316292&ymreqid=29ee3fd4-8ba1-edf1-2f14-84006a010000&sig=YgKGpAm_vFDPB_1VjLJzZA--~C

together even before we entered kindergarten.  We attended the same schools, were best friends in high school (through times of serious illness for him), and edited our yearbook together.  We maintained contact through the years as we went our own ways into marriages and academic careers. I never tired of telling stories of his remarkable academic and public accomplishments and of our early days together.

Bill and I became close again about twelve years ago when we both moved to the San Francisco Bay area.  We teamed again on another book project, Catching Your Breath in Grief...and grace will lead you home, a gift book for the bereaved featuring my writing and his uncannily matched nature photographs.  It seemed to us as if a special grace brought us together on the project, as we breathed deeply again into our friendship and talked regularly about things that really matter.


Then, one morning in late May, Bill's housekeeper found him dead in his bed.  My heartache was made worse by growing awareness of how very alone he was in the last days and years of his life.  In all likelihood, I was the last person to speak with him. Looking ahead to the holidays, I appreciate in my bones how dissonance with the season can feed alienation, resentment, and intense sadness.
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A beautiful holiday message from our friend and colleague Gary Roe:

3 Things I Wish for You This Christmas

by Gary Roe 

3 Things I Wish for You This Christmas


It can be wonderful. It can be tough.

For most of us, there is pain associated with this time of year. We’re all missing someone – probably several someones. Our hearts yearn. Old wounds and losses resurface, and we feel the pain.

I know there is nothing I can say that will wipe away the pain or restore what and who you’ve lost. So this morning, I’m praying for you. As I pray, I find myself wishing three things for you this holiday.

On this Christmas, I wish you hope

Hope can seemingly disappear in times of loss. Our hearts have been hit, broken, or even crushed. Pain and grief can take over. We can barely lift our heads.

Hope did not disappear. It is not threatened by loss or tragedy. It is always present. We must find it. For most of us, hope reveals itself when we’re ready.

I wish you hope.

On this Christmas, I wish you peace

Peace is not the absence of turmoil, pain, or trouble. Peace is a sense of “okay-ness,” no matter what is happening to or around us.

Peace flows from a sense of safety. When we feel safe, we can begin to heal and grow. We can begin to live with more boldness and less fear.

I wish you this sense of okay-ness and safety, no matter what is happening to you or around you.

I wish you peace.

On this Christmas, I wish you love. 

This is why we grieve – because we dared to love. We’re designed to connect and wired for relationship. No wonder loss hurts.

Love lasts. It endures. This is why we still grieve.

Love is about seeking someone else’s ultimate good, even at great cost to ourselves. Love is about commitment, service, sacrifice. It comes from the heart.

You were made to love and be loved. I wish for you that you could know how loved you are. I want you surrounded by safe, understanding, and compassionate souls. We all need that.

I wish you love.

Hope. Peace. Love.

I know they may seem distant or to have disappeared entirely. But I believe these blessings are still there (and have always been there), waiting for you.

When all seems lost, may hope become visible. 

When chaos and uncertainty seem to reign, may peace invade our hearts.

When loneliness and longing encompass us, may love surround us and whisper what we need to hear. 

I wish these for you – hope, peace, and love.

Thank you for the honor of being in this with you.

Merry Christmas.

Read more here >>>

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019


As you start to walk on the way, the way appears. Rumi
We don’t get through grief by sitting on our butt. Well, okay, sitting is fine for a time, but grief is not going to leave on its own. We have to pay attention to what it is doing inside us. We have to walk with grief and listen to what it is saying.
When death hits, a list starts in our heads of everything we’ve lost, and the list becomes lengthy.
The journey of grief involves accepting what has happened. This doesn’t mean that we agree or like what’s happened. And it involves letting go of a bunch of our dreams and expectations. This is anguishing because we don’t want to risk losing anything that we have left, and it tears us apart to think of doing so. We also have to let go of death if we are to feel the warmth of life again and turn back towards life. So where does that leave us?
Letting go in grief is like Inanna’s descent into the Underworld in Mesopotamian mythology to find her sister. In order to pass through each gate on her way down, Inanna has to give up something valuable she possesses. At the end, even her clothes are taken away and she is naked, with no power or prestige left. It is only then, when she has nowhere to turn, that she looks inside herself and finds the strength to continue.
When we have given up everything, when the light has faded and darkness has replaced its last glimmer with loneliness and despair, and we take that first step into the unknown, it is then that we notice a trail of breadcrumbs left by those who have traveled through grief’s wilderness before us. 
We could not see this trail until we faced our fears, gathered our courage, and took that step, trusting the wilderness before us. The breadcrumbs and trail ducks lead us through the Forest of Uncertainty and over the Mountains of Dark Silence to a place we’ve never been.
What are these breadcrumbs? 
They are the words of others who have dipped their pens into their hearts and written the raw truth of their grief. They are the voices of those who stop to talk with us on the street and share words of support. They are the open arms of people who hug us long and hard. They are those who show up on our doorstep with freshly baked bread and listen to us share the wilderness of our hearts.
Posted by Mark Liebenow 
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Finding Your Balance in the New Year
and In Grief

2019 is now well underway. For those in grief, the new year can be extremely painful. The heartache potential of December 31st and into January is sometimes overlooked when we're wading through the griefy sludge of the winter holiday season. We can be surprised at the pain that the inevitable turn of the calendar brings. It means another year of our lives that our beloveds are not here. If it's your first New Year without your beloved, it may hit you hard when you realize you can no longer say, "This time last year..."  If you're further down the road, looking back at the years and the calendar pages piling up behind you--without the one you love--each new year is at best bittersweet, and at worst, excruciating. 

We spent this past New Year’s Eve with extended family. My brother-in-law and nephews engineered a spectacularly  beautiful fireworks display in the front yard. Historically, fireworks at the New Year are supposed to light up the night in order to chase off the demons and darkness of the old year, making clear the way for new things and better luck to fill the new year. For those in grief, the happy-making traditions feel like so much wishful thinking. We know that there is no good luck tradition, no New Year's day recipe, no resolution we can ever make that will bring us what we most deeply long for in this or any new year to come. 

Outside with family and friends, I was laughing, oohing and ahhing along with everyone else. The display was truly beautiful and I was grateful to be with the ones I love. At the same time, I was also missing my boy who would now be 13. Standing there looking up at the cold night sky, watching the explosions of light and color, thinking of him, I was asking in my heart,
"Where are you? Are you up there? Can you see this? Can you see me? Are you here? Where are you? Where are you really?"
I wondered too how things would be different were he here. And as I've wondered so many times over these nearly 13 years now, who would he be? What would he be like? What would he look like? How would life be different? And always at the holiday times, when everyone is gathered, the missing is so much more piercing. My firstborn child is always missing. And I am always missing him. 

Holding all my feelings, watching the night alight with fire, I know that I can appreciate the beauty in the light, only because of the dark. I don't need my darkness chased away. I need to acknowledge it. I need rest in it sometimes. I need it to cover me sometimes. We need the dark as much as we need the light. For light to exist, it needs the darkness to shine forth. It took me a long time to be okay with both the darkness and the light. And I know now that I can never have, or be, only one or the other.

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Voices of Experience: My Self-Care Basket for 2019

by Anne M. Gorman

When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.   
~ Jean Shinoda Bolen

As a caregiver for my beloved Jim for five years, one important thing I learned during that time was the importance of caring for self. I think that part of healing has to do with self-care and this is what I'm doing for the New Year. I just came off of a Stay-at-Home Retreatand decided to prepare a Self-Care Basket that I can go to when I need a day to focus on myself. This did not happen to me in my first years of loss, but we change – and for me, today I like to focus on doing something for myself.  Read on here >>>
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Wednesday, January 30, 2019   Widowers Grief    

An Honest Journey Through Grief

What we want from a memoir when matters of life and death are involved is honesty. We don’t want sugar. Sugar doesn’t give us real hope. Sugar melts away when tears begin to fall. We want truth because we know that one day we will face what they have gone through, and we want to know how to survive. 
Elaine Mansfield’s book, Leaning Into Love, is honest about her husband’s struggles with cancer and chemotherapy, and honest about her struggle with grief and beginning a new life alone.
Even with people who have as strong a faith and are as determined as Elaine and Vic, death still wins the physical battle. Elaine writes of her battle to hold on and the longing to let go because it was so hard to live without him until she had no choice. “His gentle passage opens my heart and stills my mind,” she writes after Vic dies. She bends but does not break: “The downward pull of grief persists, but I often touch the slippery edge and rise above instead of being sucked under.”
The book is divided into Before and After, with death as the turning point. There are no magic words here that will erase death’s sorrow, but she offers insights — stay attentive to grief, do not give up when grief goes on for longer than you expect, screw up your courage and do what needs to be done, even if it scares you.
After Vic’s death, Elaine begins writing as a way for understanding her grief, guided by friends and teachers. She writes about how lost she felt in the first months, the slow movement out of constant sorrow, and how grief still periodically returns three years later, brought back by a stray memory or seeing one of Vic’s possessions. “Grief doesn’t end for me, or anyone,” Elaine writes, “If we dare to love, then we will grieve. Mortality is the shadow that falls when the sun shines.”
Sprinkled through the narrative are the words of Elaine and Vic’s spiritual mentors — Anthony Damiani, Marion Woodman, and the Dalai Lama, as well as words from the poems of Rainer Maria Rilke and Naomi Shihab Nye, including Nye’s astounding “Kindness” poem.
There is much that I admire and treasure about Elaine’s book. I underlined over 150 passages that surprised, challenged, or delighted me. What I did not realize, until I closed the book and reflected on its words, was its balance. 
Elaine often returns to the land as a nurturing place, and writes of her desire for daily exercise and cooking healthy food, even though, on some days, these are the last things she wants to do. This is the Physical dimension of being. She writes of her ongoing practice of meditation, worship, and of spending time in solitude. This is the Spiritual dimension. And she speaks of her volunteering to help with a hospice group, and of the support she received from her community of friends, both during Vic’s illness and their presence after his death. This is the Heart dimension. All three are needed.
Death changes our lives, not for better or worse. It simply sends us off in a different direction. Six weeks after Vic died, Marion Woodman wrote to Elaine: “Something is emerging that could not have happened in your old life.” Each year Elaine raises Monarch butterflies and watches their transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. She felt her own life undergoing a similar transformation.
Everyone’s experience of grief will differ, but this book is a testament to holding on when a large part of your life is taken away. Elaine writes, “Vic’s death taught me that only kindness and love matter in the end. When we fall, and we all will fall, we can rise up if we lean into each other and the sacred gift of life.” 
Elaine’s words move with the flow of a powerful river that picks us up and carries us into a deeper understanding of life.
Posted by Mark Liebenow 
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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Longing of Saudade

Nine years after Evelyn’s death, I stood on the coast of Maine at dusk looking over the Atlantic Ocean, feeling what I have come to know as saudade, a Portuguese word for profound melancholic longing. I desperately yearned to see Ev again, knowing that I never would. She died suddenly, and I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye.

My love for her did not end with her death. Nor had I ceased hoping that she would walk into the room and I would feel my heart skip a beat. I wanted to see her smile again and hear her laugh. I wanted to hug her and ask all the questions that had piled up in her absence. I wanted her to tease me for some of the stupid things I’d done trying to cope, in ways that only she could do. She made ordinary days feel special.
So much had changed over the years. I’d remarried and was happy again. Yet, in my eyes, you could see a certainty, a hardness, perhaps, from my close acquaintance with death. I share more of my emotions than I did before, and I was thankful for this. Hopefully, I was also more compassionate for the suffering of others because people had set their lives aside to help me when I didn’t have the energy to ask.

Anyone who loses someone close, whether it’s a spouse, parent, child, or friend, feels an edge to their lives that don’t leave, along with residual anger, frustration, and despair. And if someone died young, and unfairly in our eyes, our new awareness of the depth of life can open into darkness that worries us.

Our lives are constantly being reshaped by changes, with moments of grace, clarity, and unexpected encounters. If we are brave and face them openly, they can nudge our lives in the direction we want to go.

Because of grief, we tend to speak directly now, and we’ve developed a b. s. meter because many people who said they cared and wanted to help, didn’t. They told us what we wanted to hear. But words without actions are worse than useless. They build up expectations and hope where none exist. It would have been better if they had said they couldn’t deal with grief because then we would still trust them to be honest.

As the years go on, our lives will fill with people we’ve loved who are gone. Even when new people enter, no one replaces the ones we lost. They remain nestled in our hearts. 

That night, standing on the shore with the ocean stretched out before me, rather than move on to my next task, I let the feeling of saudade deepen. I lingered and let myself feel the complexity of the moment—both joy and sorrow—as I watched the graceful beauty of seagulls flying low over the water. The ocean was calm because of an offshore breeze, and the lighthouse was sending beams of light from the rocky coast into the gathering dusk, guiding people into harbors of safety.

In the midst of my gratitude for the present, there was also sadness when I thought about what might have been and the dreams we had that will not be.

As love once changed me, so now does grief. 

Posted by Mark Liebenow 
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Life after Caregiving: AfterTalk Inspirational 3.7.19

I was a caregiver for my wife. She had symptoms shortly before we were married and she was diagnosed after 2 years of marriage with MS. We were married for 50 years and she was progressive for the last 25 or so. The last several years were very intensive care at home. I did have the benefit of having very good home health aides to help me keep her at home. We used hospice and she passed away last year and we observed all of the appropriate religious observances which gave me comfort.

I have made new estate plans and all arrangements for me since I don’t want to be a burden for my family if anything happens to me. I revoked the trust I had set up for Kathy and filed all the appropriate claims and completed all the paperwork for her passing. With all that behind me I am planning for and contemplating a secure retirement for my future. I got counseling and attended a grief support group and did some reading on the subject. Grief for a well spouse is a little more complicated. Not better or worse than other grief but more complicated. It is complicated by more survivor guilt. Relief of the caregiving burden may cause more guilt. The lack of a person to care for can lead to an identity crisis. I was a caregiver. Who am I now?  Read on here >>>

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Call Me Anytime


I watched the first episode of a new show on Netflix this morning called Dead to Me. In the episode, two women meet at a grief group, both widows. They end up building a new friendship as late night phone buddies since neither of them are able to sleep. The show goes on to take a lot of unexpected twists and turns (and believe me you should so watch it!), but that one aspect had me remembering the early days of my widowhood… of building friendships with fellow widows in the wee hours of the night.

When I first connected with other widowed people, it was through a private Facebook group. Many of us ended up fairly often online, in the middle of the night. Effectively being late-night “phone” buddies for each other when we could not sleep. There was almost always someone there ready to listen, in the middle of the night or any other time of day that we just needed to feel heard and lay down our guard. And because we got each other, there was just this ease. A kind of comfort no one else could really provide. I ended up making a few of my closest friends from that initial group, people I now travel to see and talk on the phone with often.

I was fortunate to have found groups like that online, and to have since built friendships with people who will actually fulfill the words “Call me ANYTIME”. I have used that lifeline even now, seven years after my fiance died. Because new things do come up. You start dating again. You move in with someone new. You get engaged to someone new. You hit the 5 year mark or the 10 year mark from your person’s death. New stuff always comes. 

So yes, I have been very fortunate to find places to spill out all my shit no matter the time of day. But I do remember for about the first 6 months, I didn’t have that.

For those first 6 months, I didn’t know a bunch of other widowed people. I didn’t feel like I belonged to a group of awesome, strong, brave, hurting, totally unconditionally supportive people like me. And even though I had a lot of amazing friends, they weren’t widowed. I felt alone, and weird, and like the only widow under the age of 30 in the whole world.

I felt like everywhere I went there was a shining beacon that everyone could see… a beacon that told them there was something different about me. That I was now abnormal. How I couldn’t even remember to buy dental floss, much less floss my actual teeth. For like, a LOT of months. Or how I just quit my job and left my entire life because of how broken I was. Or how, even though I had the money, I had not paid any of my credit card bills in 6 months because I just didn’t give a shit anymore. Or how I refused to buy cherries for the rest of my life (he died in a helicopter crash in a cherry orchard, long story).

It isn’t their fault really. All of this strangeness scares the shit out of people who aren’t grieving. Because they know, eventually, they WILL be grieving, and they’re so terrified to end up like YOU. They’re scared of your pain and their scared that when death comes knocking they won’t be able to handle it even halfway as well as you are. I picked up on this pretty quickly… essentially, for a lot of people, I had become a beacon of death. A walking reminder of all of the most unthinkable things that will one day happen to them. How awesome.

And so, until I found other widows, I would lay awake at night, alone. Alone in my pain. Well, not entirely alone since I still had my two cats and endless reruns of Drop Dead Diva, which was the only show that seemed to be able to take my mind off of my own grief for more than two seconds. But otherwise… alone. Despite having amazing non-grieving friends and a wonderful best friend, there are just those times when none of that is enough.

Having other widows, having late night buddies, can be so life-changing. I remember finally being able to laugh for the first time with people who were not weirded out by all of the strange darkly humorous things about widowhood. People who did not cringe when I made jokes like “if the world ends tomorrow I’d be completely fine with that, really!” I remember I started to sleep better, just knowing they were there. I remember feeling, finally, for the first time, less like an insane person, and less like a walking beacon of death. And eventually, when I met those people in person, I remember that they helped to transform this feeling of embarrassment I had about being widowed into a feeling of pride. Which was a really huge turning point for me. And those late night buddies, and those fellow widowed comrades were the ones who did it for me.  

I remember feeling like these people actually saw me, not just the death that happened to me. And, they saw my person, and wanted to know about him and his life and the life we shared… which was so, so healing. Most of all, I remember feeling that here, with these people, I’m normal again. I know that not everyone actually finds that at the time they need it. Hell some of us aren’t even capable of mustering the energy to get out of bed, much less try and find a group of other widows. And sometimes it takes us years, for all sorts of reasons. In part, that’s why I write here. I mean, it’s also for selfish reasons of being able to blab out all my own shit to you. But honestly, I know what it’s like to feel completely alone at 3am and not feel like there is anyone on the planet you can reach out to - or want to reach out to.

I know how sometimes just reading someone else’s story helps you feel less alone too. I did a lot of that before I ever actually talked to another widowed person. I also know how vulnerable and scary it is to take the steps to talk to anyone new when you’re widowed, because you don’t want to accept that you have to introduce yourself as a “widowed person”. That this is now your life. I totally get it.

I think that’s why blogs like this and many others are so important. Why it’s important for anyone who feels the desire to put down their feelings in words and put it out into the world. Because there are a ton of people who don’t yet have the energy to interact with others about this new world they were dropped into. Many who silently read our words, at 3am, needing desperately to feel a little bit less alone, but feeling too fragile to reach out. That’s a very real place.

I hope this actually finds at least one of you, in fact, at precisely that time of night when you need it most. At a time when maybe you don’t yet have those late night buddies and you need to feel less alone.

I hope this also encourages you that if you are in need of late-night widowed buddies - your “call me anytime” widowed peeps - you will find them. Maybe in the Soaring Spirits forums here. Maybe in a private Facebook group. Maybe in a local grief group or at Camp Widow if you’re feeling especially brave. Maybe in a totally random and unexpected way even. But you’ll find them. And if you have already, maybe this post for you is more about just taking a moment to be so glad for those incredible people that have made this chapter of your life so much more full of understanding, love, and laughter. 

Maybe this is just a reminder someone out there who is nowhere near ready for any of this widowed community crap - to just know that we’ll be here, writing every day, just in case. Just in case you’d like company at 3pm or 3am, with no pressure to share your feelings or ever write us back. Because that’s the sort of thing that real “call anytime” friends do.

[Source: Soaring Spirits International Blog]

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Does this ever get easier?


I had these exact same thoughts a year ago; and, tonight I wonder if any of this ever gets easier.

Am I a lousy widow?

Am I doing this wrong?

What the hell am I supposed to do?

What can I do to make any of this better?

Is this even possible.

Is it fair to assume that I will recover from Mike's death?

Still, 2.5 years later almost every thought still begins with him.

I am still unable to live in the moment because part of me lives in the past.

I struggle to be present because in my mind I am endlessly travelling to a better place in time.

Again and again I return to this place where he existed once upon a time.

Time has gone on without him and I am left here living in limbo...

When his heart stopped, the hands of time were unaffected.  I thought I felt time stand still when I saw his lifeless body; but, time itself callously marched on when he died.  Time did not stop.  Not even for a moment - in spite of my circumstance.  The world just carried on without Mike.  But, my world was left in ruin when the life I knew ended.  However, from the wreckage, something bigger than me, dragged me out from the rubble created by my shattered Soul.  I was rescued because my heart is still beating.  My life didn't end when Mike's did.  Life is for the living; and, now, I'm left to figure out how to do just that.

Almost immediately after his death, life demanded things of me.  On a surface level, I was forced to participate in life because children need raising.  Work needs to be completed.  Bills need to be paid.  Dishes need doing.  Laundry needs folding.  Lawns need mowing.  Things need to be said.  I need to show up.  There are people to meet and obligations to attend to.  Life has not stopped because Mike no longer exists here in this dimension.  Time has gone on and I've carried along with it.

Life demands participation - even after your person dies.  Life is unavoidable.  And, in truth, this is a good thing.  At this point, there is no part of me that intentionally wishes to escape living.  I think this is why my heart feels so heavy.  I want to breathe life in again.  I absolutely want to feel alive again; but, re-entering life is much more difficult than I imagined it would be.

I want to wholly participate in life.  I want to radiate happiness.  I want to see real joy in my eyes again.  I want to laugh until I am out of breath.  I desperately want to feel alive.  And, wouldn't you know it, all of this is in my power.  It's in yours too.  With this power comes responsibility.  As human beings, we are responsible for our own happiness.  At the end of the day, happiness is not dependent on anyone but ourselves.  I am responsible for the quality of my own life.  And, you are too. 

But, it's hard.  I know.  I'm tired too.  Sometimes I want someone to come along and take me by the hand.  Sometimes I want someone to help me re-enter life because it is so difficult to become engaged in a full life when you are sad and physically and emotionally exhausted.  But, this is not how life works.  It is no one's job to rescue me.  It is not up to someone to help me out of this conundrum.  I have to do this on my own.  Thankfully, it's not impossible to re-enter life.   And, I know, eventually, this will happen for me because I am not satisfied skimming the surface of a fulfilling life. 


I am not content just existing well. 

I want to dig into life again.

I am here.

I want my hands to be dirty from the work of a life well lived. 

I want to jump back into life with both feet. 

Actually, I want to run straight into the unknown. 

I want to pause with confidence as I stand on the edge,

I want to look towards the sky and blow him a kiss,

And, then I will leap.

Knowing full well that I will be okay as I free fall...

Right now, I can close my eyes and I can feel this happening.

This life is mine.

For the taking.

It is all unfolding somewhere in a parallel universe.

Waiting for me to catch up to it.

Waiting for me to reach out and grab- what is rightly mine.

I can and I will take this much needed leap of faith

because I know full well he is there,

And, like always he will break my fall. 

Love never goes away. 

He is everywhere,

Mike is here.

Beside me,

Like he always was.

He will never leave me. 

I feel him.

It is only me standing in my way. 

I don't just want to reengage in life,  I need to.  My Soul needs to live boldly again.  I don't want to live life any other way.  I want to live like he showed me...  And, in time, I am certain that I will feel alive and I will live again like I did once upon a time...


[Source: Soaring Spirits International Blog]

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Kelley Lynn on Facebook, Saturday August 30, 2019  

August 30th is/was National Grief Awareness Day. After eight years of living with the sudden death of my husband, here are some things about grief that I would like to share forward - things that others should be "aware" of on this day, and every day . . . I hope these insights help:

1. Grief is not linear. It has no logic or sense of time. There are days when the pain sits in the background, almost silently, like a dull humming sound. Other days, the pain sits on top of your sternum, and feels like it's stabbing you viciously and endlessly and repeatedly. This is all normal, and it all feels completely abnormal. You feel like you are losing your mind.

2. Grief has no ending. It will change and it will shift, and the weight of it will get lighter as time goes by and as you get stronger. But it never goes away. There is no finish line. Grief is something to be carried, and so we carry it forward, for the rest of our lives. HOW you carry it, and what you do with it, is ultimately up to you.

3. Losing someone that you love dearly changes you in a visceral way. It alters you on a cellular level. Pieces of your old self will remain, but so many things about you will change. How you see the world will change. What you find important will change. Who you let into your circle will change. How you love will change. You cannot go through something this enormous, and not be forever changed. You cannot go back to who you were before. Death ends one life, and awakens another. Yours. Everything about the core of you will be different, and coming to terms with that is a personal and emotional process that takes energy, patience, and an open-mind. The sooner you can embrace the new version of yourself that has been born from this enormous loss, the more you will keep growing, learning, and emerging.

4. Grief is the great revealer. It will show you who your friends are. It will show you who YOU are. It will show you who REALLY wants to know how you are doing today, and who is just asking to fill the awkward pauses. Through grief, you will lose many people. They wont much like the "new you." They wont agree with your choices. They will judge you, or they simply wont understand why you cant just "get over this already." For a long time, this will hurt like hell. But after awhile, you will learn to let go of people who cannot walk this path with you, and focus on the ones who have remained by your side, and the new friends who most likely you have met because they also understand loss from first-hand experience. Grief will show you 

over and over again, who is worth your energy, and who you should let fade away. Listen.

5. With grief, the only way out is through. You cannot drink it away. You cannot deny it away. You cannot wish it away. Well, you CAN, but none of that will work. It will still be there after you drink or after you numb yourself with sex or food or whatever else. Everyone lives inside their own grief tsunami. We all have to go through this however we can. Many mistakes will be made. Its okay. Just know that, at some point, eventually, if you truly want to start healing, the pain and the grief and the hurt cannot be pushed aside or ignored. It must be faced head-on, and you have to talk about it, write about it, process through it somehow. You have to dig through all of your grief emotions, until you exhaust yourself and come to a new, healthier place with them. There is no finish line to this process. Its ongoing. But if you face your grief, I promise you there are very good things on the other side of the pain.

6. When you lose someone you love to death, one of the best things you can do to help make them feel closer, is to take on some of their very best qualities in your own life. If your mother was a great cook and you miss it, start making some of her recipes and share them with friends and family. If your brother spoke to strangers like friends, start doing that yourself, and see how it transforms your day, and your life. If your husband had a lot of patience, work on being a more patient person yourself. Take the best pieces of who they were, and bring them back to life. The minute you start doing this as practice, you will feel them closer to you. Trust me.

7. There is nothing more powerful or validating than meeting other people who share a similar type of loss to your own. A grief that is shared, is cut in half. Community and friendships built out of loss and pain, are some of the most important relationships you will ever have in your lifetime. Not only can you help each other to get through the pain, you can also find inspiration, hope, and evidence from one another - that love and joy and laughter will all still happen, even after devastating and life-altering loss.

8. Be kind to others who are hurting. Judging them or berating them or dismissing them is not helpful. If you truly dont know what to say, saying nothing is perfectly welcome. Sitting with someone inside of their pain, and just simply letting them feel it, is more valuable than you will ever know. Do that, and you cant go wrong.

9. Grief magnifies everything. The sadness I felt in my other life, was nothing compared to the intense longing and sorrow I am capable of today. Everything has more depth. Everything feels louder somehow. The good news is that I said "everything." So, yes, sadness is so much more intense now - but so is joy. And noticing beauty. And nature. Music. Gratitude. All of it is felt at maximum volume, and I wouldnt have it any other way.

10. When all is said and done, nothing matters except for love. Love each other hard. Grief will never take the love. Death will never take the love. We get to keep the love - always, forever, and eternally. Share the stories and the moments of those we love who have died, and do so proudly. When all else fades away, Love remains. If you do everything with the intention of being love; you will live a life of purpose, meaning, and beauty; and your heart will beat on forever; in every single life that you have touched. In a life well lived, the ultimate legacy is Love.

-Kelley Lynn , author of My Husband Is Not a Rainbow; the brutally awful, hilarious truth about life, love, grief, and loss on Amazon 

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