Google Analytics

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

They Just Don't Get It

Recently I was asked why some people 'just don't get it.'  Often we come across people who seem so cold and callous, as if impervious to the feelings of others, yet we know they have experienced similar losses.  One of the basic needs of a griever is to feel and express the gamut of emotions that flood them during a difficult time.  Maya Angelou once said: 'There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.'  Grief is hard work, it takes time and requires our full attention at first.  When we choose to ignore it, eventually it will rear its ugly head, and often at the strangest times.  

The key with grieving is our ability to 'share our story.'  This is a time when we need to reach out to others, find a listening ear, and let our story spill out.  When we bottle up our feelings and emotions, these suppressed feelings begin to eat away at us.  How often have you tried to hold back tears and found yourself having a difficult time swallowing because you could feel a huge lump in your throat, or have an unbearable heaviness in your chest and shoulders.  There is a price we pay for not working through our grief.  Yet so many individuals (often through no fault of their own), have pushed aside the hurt and emotions that come with the death of a loved one in hopes of getting on with their lives that much faster.  

These are the individuals who sometimes come across as impatient with others who they perceive as 'wallowing' in their grief.  These are individuals who have in fact experienced the death of a loved one themselves, but did not fully enter into their grief.  For those of us who reach out to these individuals hoping they can shed light on our own sorrow, we find ourselves stopped by a protective barrier of their own design.  They too may have reached out to someone during their sorrow, only to be pushed back and in turn that is all they know.  The lesson they may have learned about grieving is that it is a private 'thing' and 'no one really wants to hear it.'  

Fortunately for so many of us, the media has been more in tune with the emotions and realities of grief, and more and more shows and movies address the aftermath of loss.  For Downtown Abbey followers, Tom and Mary found that they could talk to each other about their subsequent losses and how it felt to be alone, and the confusion that surrounds us when we have lost someone we love.  The TV series Madam Secretary touched upon the many facets of grief, and how even within our own families there can be so much turmoil, confusion and conflict, especially if the death was suspicious or a suicide.  There have been a multitude of movies that broach the subject of death, and life after death.  Ghost showed us that the love does not die with our loved one; Field of Dreams demonstrated how we can be inspired by those we love even after their deaths.  The list goes on and on, there are so many more that speak of death and how we react to those losses.  At, you can find a list of just some of these movies, with additional movies listed by those commenting on the blog post.

Yet so many people will do everything they can to avoid the feelings and emotions that run wild during our grief; only to find them surfacing months or even years later.  Sadly for many individuals in order to suppress their feelings, they turn to other means of coping, which too often are unhealthy and can have devastating outcomes.  Many have told me that they began using substances such as drugs or alcohol to continue achieving a numbness, in hopes of not feeling and avoiding the pain that follows a loss.  Other addictive behaviors can also be used to avoid the seesaw ride of emotions in hopes that it will all go away.  Shopping, gambling, promiscuity, Internet, etc.; just about anything that begins to take on a life of its own causing us to fore go all other activities and/or other people.  Activities and behaviors which take us down paths that result in further losses and emotional turbulence.  

We have so many choices in life, and what we do with these choices dictate the outcomes.  We are all creations of the environments we grew up in, but that does not mean we need to continue repeating what we learned.  How we cope is learned from those we observed and looked up to, what we do with the lessons we learned is up to us.  It is true that each and everyone of us grieves in a totally distinct way, but the important factor here, is to grieve.  We need to grieve, we need to enter into those feelings and emotions, we need to allow ourselves to be angry, sad, happy, confused, and every other emotion in between.  There are certain rights of mourners, and so often we choose to ease the uncomfortableness of others and disregard our own right to mourn and grieve.  In grief, we often forget we are the one that is going through the sadness and hurt of losing someone we love, and forget to give ourselves the permission we need to enter into that loss.  

Too often we allow the misconception and misguidance of others to decide on how we should proceed through this maze of loss.  We even get mixed signals and directions from those who we know have been there before us.  The best advice I and many others can give to anyone who is joining the ranks of the bereaved, is to educate yourself about grief.  There are so many helpful websites, such a The Grief Toolbox and, and dedicated sites for those with specific types of loss, such as: and  There are a multitude of sites that can at least help you find some answers and explanations as to what you are experiencing, and that let you know you are not alone.  When my daughter Rachel died, it was sites such as these that kept me afloat.  Forums, blogs and informational sites helped me realize that what I was experiencing, feeling and doing where normal and natural reactions to the death of my daughter; and that I had nothing to feel ashamed of or hide from.  In educating myself, I was able to work through my loss, deal with the people who 'didn't get it,' and regain a sense of normalcy in my upturned world.  

The most important thing to remember is that you have suffered through the loss of someone you loved, someone who has been a part of your life, and has left an indelible mark on your heart.  You have the right to mourn and grieve for this person and no one can take that away from you.  For this very reason so many sites list the Mourner's Code or Griever's Bill of Rights, written by Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., Center for Loss and Life Transition (, because we and others need to be reminded that we have earned the right to grieve.  Humans have grieved since the beginning of time and continue to do so, until we ourselves die.  This has been such an integral part of humanity, that rites, rituals and customs have been created and instituted by every race, creed and belief system to help us cope with our losses.  So the next time you come across someone who is unsympathetic or lacks compassion, let it go, and just remind yourself that they 'just don't get it!'  Someday maybe they will, and hopefully with the knowledge and experience you gained, you will be there to help them.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Monday, February 1, 2016

It's been A While

Lately there have been so many deaths that leave a person questioning 'Why?'.  As a grief and support group facilitator, I have helped individuals who have suffered through the death of a loved one.  Many of those who I have worked with want a quick solution to the pain they are feeling or want to know how long before they will get over it.  Alas, there is no quick fix, no magic pill, or easy way out.  Grief is hard work, difficult to avoid and it takes time.  But those of us who have stuck in our heels and rolled up our sleeves, have found that the pay off is well worth the struggle. 

When it comes to time, there is no rushing it and it will take as much time as YOU require; there is no preset time frames or measured length.  Looking back after the loss of my daughter, for me it was a good three years before I can honestly say I was fully functional.  What I mean by this, is that I had learned to accept that Rachel was gone, but yet she was closer to me than ever before.  I could go through the day thinking of her without having to run and hide, or breaking into uncontrollable sobs.  It was also at this point, that I realized that listening to someone else's pain and grief did not send me back into a fetal position, as it had so many times before.   Yes it still hurt to know that Rachel was gone, and I still feel the ache of her absence even almost 10 years later, but it is a not a crippling, stop-me-in-my-tracks, kind of hurting.

Anyone who has had any major loss knows, that you truly never get over the loss of your loved one, you just learn how to live without them in your life.  Yet, some how some way that is hard to explain unless you have gone through it yourself, they become a bigger part of your life.  They go from the physical existence to a place of love that you keep in your heart. That place in your heart that knows that love truly never dies.  

So why does it hurt so much?  Why do I feel like the winds been knocked out of me?  Why?  Love!  Love is the reason it hurt so much.  We feel this way because someone we loved so dearly is gone and we miss what they represented in our lives.  We feel empty and alone and that somehow it just isn't fair.  Often I will hear words such as 'I needed more time' or 'it wasn't enough time,' and 'I didn't get to say good-bye.'  Yet would anyone of us be willing to give up what we had as a trade off for not hurting.  I can't speak for the rest of you, but I would not want to have missed a moment with my daughter, and given the outcome, I would gladly do it all again. 

Grief is a necessary part of healing.  If we are willing to allow ourselves to go through the process of grief, we emerge on the other side of it, with a new sense of who we are and what we value in life.  For the willing pupil, grief is a remarkable teacher.  Robert Browning Hamilton's poem 'I Walked A Mile With Pleasure' sums up what so many of us have learned about grieving...

I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When sorrow walked with me.

For me, I learned empathy,compassion and how to step back at truly look at a situation from every angle.  This has not only helped me, but now I have come to help others.  As I share with those I help, the benefits are two-fold, not only I am helping others through their grief, but I am also helping myself as well.  Each time their is participation and sharing in the group setting, I am reminded of how far I have come since the loss of my daughter.  For those who attend the group, I am visible proof that even though the struggle is real, you do make it and if you allow it to, you can become a better version of your old self.  Will you ever be the same again?  No!, because the person you were before the death of you loved one, has been transformed in ways that others may not understand or see.  These are not physical changes, but internal changes.  

Most of us recognize the changes in ourselves by the way we view our world and those around us.  We may be more aware of the sights and sounds, colors appear more vivid; we find ourselves leaning in a bit closer when a family member or friend is speaking; we may linger a few seconds longer over a cup of coffee when we are with someone we care about.  Subtle enough for others to miss, but profound enough to impact our lives and way of thinking.  We may also find that we lack patience with trivialities and nonsense that once consumed us, looking instead to what brings value and meaning into our lives..  There are a multitude of ways in which we adapt and change after the death of a loved one, and what we do with these changes is entirely up to us.   

The key to healing is sharing the stories (theirs and ours); expressing our feelings and emotions; giving ourselves permission to grieve, and allowing ourselves to take the time necessary to heal.  For those who find it difficult to open up to family and friends or get the sense that they don't want to hear it again; support groups, grief facilitators, counselors, ministers, etc., are all resources that you can tap into that can help.  These are all safe environments where you can share, listen and know that others understand, and are willing to walk with you during this time of grieving.  One thing to remember is that you are not alone, others have been there before, and so many are willing to help you go through it.  Look around you, someone is holding out their hand, do not be afraid to reach out and take the hand that is offered.  

Our grief is unique and no one truly knows what you are going through even if their loss is similar, but what they do know, is the pain and isolation when can feel when their grieving.  Be good to yourself, take care of yourself, and don't be afraid to ask for help.

Blessings!  Until we meet again.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What Advice Would You Give to Another

Recently I challenged those in the support group to share what advice they would give to someone who had just lost a loved one.  The answers varied depending on how long it had been since their loved one had died. My hope is that you will find some of the experiences these individuals have come to understand insightful to you.

As we began the sharing you heard some deep sighs as those present gave it much thought, but slowly they began to share imparting their new found wisdom on those who had just joined us.  

One participant began by sharing that you need to give yourself time; time to let it sink in; time to adjust to the changes in your life; time for yourself and most importantly time to go through the range of emotions.  

This is so very true, we find ourselves "rushed" through everything we do in life.  We rush to appointments, we hurry to get to work or class on time, we look for the shortest line in the grocery store, etc., etc.  But when it comes to grief, we begin to learn that in order to heal, we need to give ourselves time;  a commodity that is in short supply.  In grief, time is a relative word, because each of us requires different time-frames, and there are no rules or time frames when it comes to grieving.  It requires us to be patient with ourselves, understanding that there will be days when we need to stop and allow the emotions to run their course.  Days when all are good intentions are dashed away by some infinite trigger that turns us into a confused, emotional blob.  Days when we come to the realization that we are becoming someone new as we adapt to the new life we have been thrown into.  All this effort and work takes time, and in grief it is important to remember to take all the time you need, regardless of what society, family, friends and co-workers are telling you.  

Another participant said that they would strongly recommend that they seek out others who would at least understand, by joining support groups and going to counseling.  Further adding that they would also recommend that when ready, to seek out activities that would give them something to look forward to each day.  

Sage advice from someone who is hurting.  The key message here is that none of us needs to go it alone, there are many others who have experienced what we are experiencing; who have an understanding of what it means to lose someone we love; who gets it.  Joining support groups are a great way of sharing our stories and that of our loved ones, as well as listening to others; helping us to realize that others may be feeling the same way.  It also provides us with a safe environment that allows us to share thoughts, feelings and emotions; in a non-judgmental setting.  Counseling also gives us a safe place to fully express ourselves and many grievers will do both - get one-on-one counseling and join a local support group, finding that one lends itself to the other.  The goal is to find a support system that will be there for you on those difficult days and times during your grief.  And when you feel ready, finding activities that allow you to do things you love, helps you regain focus and gives you a renewed sense of purpose.  

It is important to remember that grief is hard work, it does take time, and it will get messy.  Learning all we can about what we are going through, about grief and its emotional and physical manifestations, can help us make some sense out of the chaos.  We need to be good to ourselves, taking it one day at a time, and if that seems like too much to handle, taking one moment at a time.  Learning to be patient with ourselves and the new person we are becoming with all its growing pains.  Coming to the knowledge that we are not alone, nor do we have to go it alone.  And realizing that we are not demonstrating weakness by shedding tears or asking for help, but rather, demonstrating great courage by doing so.  Grief can make us feel so terribly isolated, as if we are afloat on a vast sea, but that does not have to be the case.  There are beacons of hope all around us, we just need to believe that there are others who understand.  The only thing that is required from us, is to simply stretch out our hand, trusting that someone will grasp it, hold on tight and guide us into a safe harbor.  There we will find all the encouragement and hope we need.   

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Allow Yourself to Feel

Why are we so afraid to express our feelings?  What prevents us from releasing our pain, our sorrow?  Sadly, we live in a society that inhibits us, unless of course we are feeling happy, and have no cares in the world.  But even when we are feeling elated, we keep those emotions at bay as well.  Are we so afraid of letting others know how we feel, that we forget to feel.

Grief tugs at all those societal taboos that we have learned or experienced.  In grief the heeling begins when we start to share our story, when we allow the emotions to run their course.  Suppressing them only adds to our pain, and in time, whether we like it or not, they rear their ugly head, forcing us to face them.  

In the early days of my grief, I tried to remain strong, keeping it together.  At first it wasn't too difficult, after all the shock I was experiencing kept me safely cocooned from the harsh reality.  But eventually that too went away, and I was left standing at a precipice trying to decide which way to turn.  Where could I hide?  What could I do to escape this pain?  So many choices, so much to deal with.  After weeks of uncertainty and confusion, I began to give in to the emotions that would not relent.  Slowly at first, trying to control them, allowing (so I thought) the tears to fall only when no one was looking.  It became quite evident early on that this was impossible.  My emotions would flood over me, taking all my willpower with them, leaving me in an exhausted heap of tears.  To tired to fight, I would succumb to these "bouts" of uncontrollable tears, rage, quilt, and every other emotion that one could think of.  I felt like one big jumbled up mess.  

But what I did not realize at the time, was that my body was doing what it needed to make sense of my new reality.  By allowing myself to release those emotions I was keeping locked up inside me, I was allowing myself to begin to heal.  Each new tear that fell, each moment of speaking my thoughts and fears, and every time I allowed my body to succumb to the emotional roller coaster, brought me closer to healing.  It was not a continuous healing process, there where many, many days where I felt I was slipping backward, as if everything was beginning a new.  It was as if I feared if I "got better" I would forget Rachel, after all she had died, and I had no right to be happy again, to laugh again, to enjoy simple things again.  

Yet I did feel moments of happiness, especially when looking at photographs and recalling the times when Rachel had brought so much joy and happiness into my life.  At first foreign sounding to my ears, laughter did return, aided by remembering those moments that Rachel would make us all laugh until our sides would hurt.  Yes, with these memories tears would flow, but it was the memories, the reminders of a life lived that helped me move in a new direction; a new life without Rachel physically in it.  Like the releasing and sharing of my feelings and emotions, the memories too, helped me heal.  They helped me to accept the reality that had become my life, helped me to let go of her death and truly grasp onto what her life had meant to me, to my family and to all who had been privileged to know her.  

Speaking Rachel's name, and hearing it spoken, was music to my ears.  This simple gesture, helped ease my fears that she would be forgotten.  Finding individuals that not only allowed me to cry, but allowed me to share her story, my story, helped me make sense of it all.  There is a wonderful quote that I came upon just recently that sums up this last statement so well:  "A friend who understands your tears is much more valuable than a lot of friends who only know your smile."  (Lessons Learned in Life)  Grief is not a journey that we must travel alone, finding others who give us the space we need to express ourselves, to cry without trying to stop us, and to simply hold our hands when no words can be spoken, is truly an asset.  

Many of us may not have someone whom we feel we can be candid with, or comfortable enough to lay bare our vulnerability, your task is to seek out someone who will.  There are so many ways we can find help.  There are counselors and grief therapists, support groups and local faith communities that are available.  If you cannot find a local group, there are so many online communities that have ongoing forums and chat groups.  Speak to your primary care physician, he or she can direct you and help you find what you need.  Your local hospitals and hospice agencies may also be a source of information.  The important thing to remember here is that we only can begin to heal when we begin to express our emotions, share our story, talk about our loved one, and allow the tears (or what ever emotions that well up) to flow.  

There are so many of us who have experienced the death of a loved one, who are willing to listen, or to simply just sit for a while, to be a presence and a beacon of hope.  Individuals who serve as proof that this storm will pass, that we will make it through that rocky shore, and find ourselves standing once again in a place of peace and calm.  A place where we will embrace the life that our loved one possessed and the gifts that they brought into ours.  A place where we have a keen awareness of their presence in our lives, and can feel their love wrapping us in a warm embrace, letting us know that they are still with us.  Love has a beautiful way of reminding us that no matter what events take place in our lives, what upheavals may occur, we are gifts to each other.  Love conquers all, and it is because of love that we hurt, that we feel, but I would not trade anything in this world for the love I felt and still feel for Rachel and all my deceased loved ones.  Nor would any of you trade what you had with your loved one, their loved filled your life and continues to fill it still.  

Let love guide you through this time in your life, and allow yourself to express and share your feelings and emotions.  Allow yourself to feel.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Friday, July 18, 2014

You Should be So Over this By Now.

So many times I am asked the question, "When will I get over this?"  With grief, the sadness of losing someone does not completely go away, what we learn however, is to adapt to our new lives.  Often I will hear a comment that is worrisome from family or close friends of the griever, they will say something like it has been 6 months already, or it is going on 2 years, they should be totally over this by now. 

These comments send a mixed message to the griever, they are left feeling as if something is wrong with them, they can't be normal.  How can they be, when everyone that knows them well keeps telling them they should have seriously moved on already.  To add to this madness, the griever themselves is already in a whirlwind of confusion, not knowing which way to turn, or how to get a grip on the overwhelming emotions that refuse to subside. 

Instead of reducing someones grief to time frames and limits, allow the person who is experiencing the multitude of emotion that rage unbidden, to express themselves, share those feelings, and most importantly to talk about their loved one.  One of the greatest fears for those of us who are grieving is that others will forget about the one who died; so hearing his or her name is like a symphony to our ears.  Yes it may bring a tear to our eyes, but they are mixed tears, those of missing our loved one and joy in knowing that someone else remembers them. 

The main thing to remember is that no two people grieve alike, like snowflakes, we are each very unique.  When my daughter, Rachel died my husband and I were like polar opposites, he craved noise and busyness, I longed for the silence.  My two other children reacted in their very own unique ways, yet they were both morning the loss of a sibling.  But the thing most of us forget is that, yes, the loss may be the same, but the relationship with the deceased and vice versa, was totally unique to them.  In the loss of a child, a mother feels empty-armed, as if the baby she carried was whisked away.  For the father, there is a need to protect, to fix, to make things right again, and that moves them in different directions.  Only when their wife seems to be getting better, do they begin to let the pain in.  For those on the outside looking in, it appears as if the father isn't letting go, refusing to move on, and that opens up doors of vulnerability that men are unfamiliar with. 

In times of tragedy and death, there will be those who openly express their emotions and feelings, and others who remain stoic, almost uncaring.  The world perceives our attachment to our loved one by the way we react.  This is so unfair to so many people,  not everyone is comfortable openly expressing their feelings and emotions, while others are pouring it all out.  Our childhood, how we have watched others deal with loss, also effects are behavior, and is stored away and drawn upon when we are faced with life's crises.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve, there is no starting or stopping points.  The key is to express our feelings, to share what we are experiencing, and above all, to speak about our loved ones.  We must allow the memories of those we love to carry us into the future; a future where we will be able to laugh again, to find the beauty in nature, and the joy in simple things.  And to remember that our loved ones are always with us, watching over us, loving us as they always did.  

So allow those tears to flow or not, allow yourself the time you need, take care of yourself by eating properly and getting rest, know that you are not going crazy; you, your mind, heart and body are trying to figure this all out.  Be patient with yourself and others, and give yourself the space you need, and do, do the the things that bring you comfort, that help you cope.  

And always remember that even though our loved one is no longer with us in this physical world, they remain with us always and that no matter what, their love never dies.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Grief Awareness Event

I was honored to be a guest speaker at such a wonderful and informative event.  This is a topic that so often is not addressed, and there are so many people who feel isolated and alone, believing no one else understands.  Great wisdom and insight from all the speakers.  Thank you Darlene for the invitation to be part of this detrimental event.  Grief is not something we sweep under the needs to be expressed and shared.