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Am I Going Crazy?

I’m afraid I have some bad news for you….grief makes you feel like you’re going crazy.

But I also have some good news…..it’s perfectly normal!

It may be different for everyone because we all experience grief in a different way, but on some level, we all struggle to understand ourselves and the world around us after facing a major loss. Whether the loss was sudden or you were able to anticipate it, as soon as you understood and accepted that someone you love was dead or dying you began the horrific journey through grief. There is shock, sadness, loneliness, isolation, forgetfulness, numbness, fatigue, guilt, anger, crying, worry, fear…..oh hell….this could go on forever, but you get the point.

In the first few weeks, you are literally in a total fog. You wake up each morning thinking maybe it was all just a bad dream and you try to get through the day trying to live without your loved one. Just when you think you are moving forward you step right back into thinking about your life before your loved one died. It seems odd that the whole world keeps moving on in a normal fashion when this tragic event has occurred. Life is forever changed for you and everything feels meaningless, gray, and empty.

This is when you really start to feel that your going crazy. Friends and family don’t now what to say anymore. You have to get back to work or school. But you don’t feel the same. You worry that you are talking too much about your loved one and people don’t really want to listen. You question your faith and life’s meaning. You wonder if you should be getting better even though the world is no longer in color. Everything just seems black and white.

But don’t worry. Honestly! You’re not going crazy. You’re grieving. These are all normal feelings. I know because I have experienced my own grief and I know because I’ve heard hundreds of other grievers talk about the same types of experiences. (If you feel like you may be experiencing a psychological disorder like depression, anxiety or PTSD please consult a professional counselor or see your doctor.)

Take comfort in knowing that, at some point, things will get easier. The intense and unrelenting distress of acute grief will be replaced by less frequent moments of sadness, anger, and frustration. You will still have bad days, but you will know things are getting better when those days are outnumbered by good days.

This does not mean that you are “getting over it”, moving on, or forgetting. An important part of healing is discovering the role your loved one will play in your life after their death.

Very slowly things will begin to get brighter again. The colors come back into the world. Your journey through grief has left you weary but much stronger. You know you will never be the same and you begin to accept that you must integrate your loved one and your experiences and continue to live. You will be a little bit tired, a little bit crazy, and a little bit wiser as you move forward, keeping your loved one locked in your heart.

The Missing Puzzle Pieces on Main Street

     I remember a week or so after my loss I had to go back to work. (Yes, in our culture we are typically only given 3 days of bereavement leave for a close family member…. spouse, child, parent, etc.) But that’s a whole other blog!

     I was driving down Main Street in my small town and crying in my car (always one of the best places to do that) when I noticed nothing had changed. People were walking along the sidewalks, shopping, laughing, and holding hands. Couples were strolling along together and mother’s were pushing their babies in their carriages. The kids were playing and the restaurants were full of happy people eating their breakfast.

     How could this be? Didn’t they know that the world had stopped for me? Didn’t they realize this horrible cataclysmic event had occurred? Everything was the same for them, yet everything had changed for me. Nothing was the same. Yet there I was, driving down this familiar street where nothing looked different. I was suddenly living in a world I no longer recognized. It was a world I didn’t fit into anymore. I didn’t belong.

     How would I ever feel a part of this new terrain? How would I ever be able to see the world in the same way I saw it before my loved one died? Was it even possible? This must be how Dorothy felt when her house flew out of Kansas and landed in Oz. But that place was colorful and happy (well, except for the witch). The world for me had become dark and lonely. The world had stopped.

     As time went on each day I drove down Main Street, it began to become more familiar. The only difference was that I had changed. I would never be the same again. It was as if my life was like a beautiful picture puzzle. But then the puzzle fell to the ground and all the pieces scattered in different directions. I had to put all the pieces together again and when I did there was one piece missing. A piece that would be missing forever.

     In time I realized that the world hadn’t stopped. It had just changed for me. The picture puzzle was still beautiful, it just had that missing piece. Just like Main Street that I was so familiar with had a different feel to it. So did the world without my loved one. But the picture was still beautiful and the world was still moving. I just had to find a way to move along with it.

     But now when I look at the missing piece of my picture puzzle of life, I smile, because that missing piece reminds me of the love, happiness, and joy that I was blessed to have and the world keeps moving. I can drive down Main Street and once again feel that I belong. I know in my heart that many of those people I see on Main Street also have a missing puzzle piece. I can’t see it, but its there for them just as it is for me.

     I guess that’s what life is all about. We all are born and we all die. It’s what we do to create the puzzle that matters. It’s the pieces of our life that we gather as we go along that create the final picture. I have learned to cherish the missing pieces as much as those that still exist.

Will I Ever Get Over This?

     I get asked this question pretty much on a daily basis. People I counsel ask me, “How will I ever get over this? I just don’t think I ever will!? How will I know when I “get there?” Am I grieving “normally” or “the right way? Is my grief like that of other survivors? Why does it get better, only to get worse again?“     

     There are so many aspects of grief that are almost universal, but each loss is different just as each person who died and each relationship is different. People differ in their ability to cope due to such factors as other losses they may have experienced, what coping skills they have, and what their attitudes and beliefs about death and loss are. Grief ebbs and flows in both predictable and unpredictable ways. People often get frustrated with me telling them that it truly is possible to go from a place of grief to a place of healing. They say it can’t be done. But I‘m not someone talking about this stuff that hasn’t been through it myself. (If you’ve read my book you know this about me.)

     This ability to move forward, while not letting go of our loved one, but instead incorporating the loss into our life, is called Integrated Grief. What I have learned about this stage of grief is that the survivor who has integrated the loss into their life knows that the grief has not left their life forever. Not only will they never forget the person they have lost, their longing for them will probably be a life-long emotion. However, this survivor can speak freely about their loved one and share memories even though it may bring a tear to their eye. I know this is a fact because I am one of these survivors.

     What I do now is attempt to model hope and healing for those who are new to their losses and show them the way through the wilderness of grief. I know firsthand that they will experience pangs of grief in their lives on special days or when they are reminded of their loved one in the face of a stranger. Though they will always be affected by this loss, they will be able to move forward and live a life with purpose.

     So, although you may not believe it now, or want to hear it, the answer to, “Will I ever get over this?” is “Yes!” If it is something you can’t even imagine, at least hold onto it in the back of your mind. Don’t give up. I promise you one day you will see it’s true.

5 Ways to Cope When a Loved One Dies

     Grief happens to us all. Time is a good healer, but it can help to acknowledge grief and take steps to heal. Here are 5 ideas that might help you cope when someone you love has died:

  1.      Join in rituals.  Memorial services, funerals, and other traditions help people get through the first few days and honor the person who died. Just being in the presence of other people who knew your loved one can be comforting.
  2.      Let your emotions be expressed and released. Don’t stop yourself from having a good cry if you feel one coming on. Don’t worry if listening to particular songs or doing certain things is painful because it brings back memories of the person that you lost. It’s natural to feel this way. After a while, it becomes less painful. Know that you can (and will) feel better over time.
  3.      Talk about it when you can. Some people find it helpful to tell the story of their loss or talk about their feelings. But sometimes a person doesn’t feel like talking about a loss, and that’s OK, too. No one should feel pressured to talk.
    Even if you don’t feel like talking, find ways to express your emotions and thoughts. Start writing in a journal about the memories you have of the person you lost and how you’re feeling since the loss. Or write a song, poem, or tribute about your loved one. You can do this privately or share it with others.
  4.         Preserve memories. Create a memorial or tribute to the person who died by planting a tree or garden, or honor the person in a fitting way, like taking part in a charity run or walk. Make a memory box or folder that has reminders of the person who has died. Include mementos, photos, quotes, or whatever you choose. If you want, write a letter to the person. In it, you might want to include your feelings, things you want to say, or perhaps thank your loved one for being a part of your life.
  5.      Join a support group. If you think you may be interested in going to a grief support group, ask a local hospice, grief counselor, healthcare professional or religious leader how to find one. You don’t have to be alone with your feelings or your pain.

     This may seem like pretty basic advice, but the reality is that when you are grieving anything you can do to alleviate the pain can be very helpful. I call this the “grief work” of bereavement. In order to heal we need to do the work of dealing with our feelings, expressing our emotions and working through the pain. Experiencing the pain of grief is actually part of the healing process. If you can find outlets to release some of the pain you will ultimately  feel better.  None of this is easy, but it keeps you from getting “stuck” in the pain of loss. 

Guilt and Grief

     As an Author, Speaker and Grief Specialist, I often have people say to me, “I wish I could have done something to keep my loved one from leaving me by suicide.” or “I wish I could have done something as a caregiver to keep my loved one alive.” These comments are “guilt” which is common in grief.

     In the situation of suicide we can easily blame ourselves for not seeing the signs or not doing something to prevent what happened. In the case of a dying loved one, in which we are the caregiver, we can get caught up in the thinking that we could have done more or better to prevent the death. There are many more situations where we not only blame ourselves but friends, family and medical professionals for what happened.

     So here’s where forgiveness comes in. We can continue to recycle these thoughts over and over again but to what end? Will it bring our loved one back? By recycling these thoughts we are showing love for our loved one that has gone. But, instead of recycling these same thoughts, we can also ask ourselves this question, “Did I love them the best I could, in the moment, at the time?“ I’m sure you did!

     The reality is that guilt benefits no one. The antidote to guilt is forgiveness. To forgive others is sometimes difficult but to forgive ourselves can sometimes seem impossible. What we need to realize is we had no attachment to outcome. In most cases we really have no control over anything.

     Forgiveness is hard but only when we chose to forgive, not only others, but ourselves, can we truly be free of recycling the thoughts of guilt we take with us as we move forward.To help ourselves to forgive we can talk it out, write it out or act it out. The point is to release it like we were releasing a caged bird. Only then can we be free.

Loneliness

If you’re grieving, you may feel this has become the story of your life. There are aspects of bereavement that make loneliness seem inevitable and unsolvable. Primarily, the fact that what you desire is your loved one, and what you have is an emptiness molded so precisely to your loved one’s likeness that no one else could ever fill it.

People who are grieving are at a disadvantage when it comes to loneliness because the person they long for is forever gone. I’ve come to understand that loneliness after the death of a loved one is many things. Above all else, it’s the ache of having loved someone so much that pieces of you became them, and pieces of them became you. 

When they were taken from this Earth, a piece of you, your heart, and your history went with them, and you were left behind to live a life that feels forever incomplete. Now that your loved one is gone, there are parts of you that no longer make sense; the roles you both filled, the jokes and memories you shared, their part of the routine. 

What do you do with all these things now that your loved one is gone? If the common experience of feeling misunderstood and alienated in grief wasn’t enough, you have now lost one of the few people in this world who really truly “got” you. You feel alone in a world full of people….you feel lonely.

As time goes on the hole in your heart will fill with new love and happiness. Although you will never forget the love you lost you will also carry them forward into your new place of peace. 

Thinking of Those On Mother’s Day That Have Lost Their Mom

       I am fortunate that my mother is still alive. She is in her 80’s and doing well. This is not the case for many of my friends. Being middle-aged, I have attended the funerals of many of my friends and relatives who have lost their mothers. I personally can’t imagine what that feels like, so like everyone else, I just extend my deepest sympathy to them. I never imagined my much younger spouse would die before my own mother.

      Most of us go through life expecting our parents to die before we do. This is the way of nature. We may experience the loss of grandparents when we are children and for some people even their own parents. We know that people grow old and die. We become even more aware of our parents dying if we ourselves are now aging.

      Still, we’re never ready to say goodbye to these people who play such an important role in our lives and our upbringing. Our parents bring us into the world, care for us through our childhood, guide and support us as we grow up, and sometimes even remain the people we turn to as advisors when we’re adults. I sure do!

      Since it is generally assumed, we’ll lose a parent, there is not much information or support for those grieving this loss. We are told that it is the natural course of life and that it’s just the way it is. None of which makes the loss of a parent any less painful or significant. It still hurts.

     If your mother has died, it’s only natural for you to feel deep pain, fear, and overwhelming sadness. You experience this grief and the usual process of having to say goodbye. Grief is how we begin to untangle the emotional bonds formed with someone who was very special to us in so many ways. A person who shaped us into who we are today.

      Adults are often surprised at the emotions which can threaten to overwhelm them following the death of a parent. After all, they reason, it is in the natural order of things that children will one day bury their parents. Why then the pain, the sense of confusion, the feeling of having been abandoned? This may well be because, buried in our subconscious, is the belief that our parents are immortal. They will live forever.

    So on this Mother’s Day I wish all those who are missing their mothers a sense of comfort and peace in knowing that because of them you are here and you carry on their special legacy. Make their life count by being the best example of the life lessons they passed on to you and find comfort in the happy memories they left behind.

I Believe the Second Year is Worse

     I believe normal grief can go on well past that first year. In fact, I believe the second year is often more difficult because the emotions can be as strong as the first year but the bereaved person feels less comfortable in talking about his or her pain and loss. In that second year fewer friends and relatives talk about the loss or allow the bereaved person to do so. In addition, during that second-year bereaved persons perceive the societal message that grief should be finished after 6 to 12 months and respond by keeping their pain more to themselves. Perhaps this is why my first resolution was to feel, “I will grieve as much and for as long as I feel like grieving, and I will not let others put a time table on my grief.”

     The first year I was walking around in a fog of disbelief. My heart could not accept what my mind was telling it. That my loved one was gone. Never coming back. Never to hold me or talk to me again. I would never have those moments of joy and happiness that we spent together. Life as I knew it, and understood it, was over. Little did I know it but that was just a precursor to what was to come.

     The second-year was harder for me because in the first year I was able to say things like, “Last year on this date we were doing this together”. Or, “Last year on this date we were celebrating our anniversary.” But in the second year I was no longer able to associate certain days with certain events. This made the loss seem so much more real and final.

     It was not until after that horrible second year that I was able to accept the reality of what my life had become. It was not a “new normal”, (a phrase I detest), it was a new world. A world without my loved one. A world I had to figure out how to navigate. A world i couldn’t understand.

     There is no set path for grief. Anyone that tells you there is has no idea of the pain of a major loss. All we do is learn to live in a world without our loved one. We learn to live each day with a little less pain and a lot more compassion. We learn to live with a hole in our heart that can never be filled. We learn to go forward because there is no other direction in which to go.

Grieving the Passage of Time

    I’ll be a year older next month. Though I wouldn’t say I look upon the day with dread, I’ve reached the point in my life where I’m never terribly thrilled to mark the passage of time. Especially now since I have lived a year longer than my spouse lived. It always makes me feel like that isn’t fair. That I got more time.

    Whether it’s my dog, my dad, or one of my friends getting a year older – I greet milestones with mixed emotions. Yes, I know good things come with getting older and that the future is filled with possibilities, but ultimately, I’m someone who would maybe like to see what it’s like for time to stand still for a little while.

    I know those of you who have found peace with the passage of time may be thinking I’m being a little shortsighted, but I suspect just as many of you agree. Whenever I do one of my Coping with Grief Workshops and ask people about the losses they grieve, inevitably someone shares something like “the passage of time” or “getting older” or “the feeling that memories of my loved one are fading.”

    Experiencing a sense of loss over the passage of time and, perhaps, getting older is extremely common. Though I can’t present a list of all the reasons why this might be so, I’d like to discuss a few of the more common time-related losses that a person may experience.


1. Deceased Loved Ones Become More Distant.  

    Being that this is a grief website, this is the most logical place to start because many of our readers are grieving the death of someone very important and significant. People who are grieving are especially susceptible to feeling grief over the passage of time because they may grapple with the sense that they put more distance between themselves and their deceased loved one with every year that goes by.

    Not only may it feel disconcerting to think, “It’s been ‘X’ amount of years since my loved one was here on Earth”, one may also struggle with the sense that their memories are fading.  Though some memories seem vivid, others grow hazy, and it becomes more difficult to recall sensory memories like the sound of their loved one’s voice, the smell of their hair, or the feel of their embrace.

2. Our Memories of the Past Become More Distant.

    As noted above, fading memories may feel especially troubling to someone who is grieving because, in many ways, it can feel like this is all a person has.  That said, grief over the loss of memories can impact anyone – grieving or not. We never like to think that our memories of our loved one, or the past, are fading.

3. Time Seems to Fly By.

    Do you ever feel like the older you get, the quicker time seems to pass?  Well, it turns out there are real scientific reasons for that! Though physical time is an objective fact, ‘mind time’ – i.e. your perception of time – is a little more subjective and as you get older, mind time seems to speed up.  So yeah, as we get older, it truly seems like we’re losing time faster.

4. Places Change.

    Some people don’t mind seeing non-human things like places and objects change. I am not one of those people. Not only do I feel that certain places and objects have a spirit all their own, but they are the props and backdrops involved in my most cherished memories.  If you’re like me, you get it. 

5. We Change.

    Aging is a mixed bag.  Many people feel that as they age they become wiser, stronger, less stressed (at a certain age), better at recognizing what matters, better at managing emotions, and so on.  In fact, many say that their happiness has increased as they have grown older.  

    At the same time, aging brings many physical and cognitive changes that may cause a person to mourn for a time when they felt more healthy, independent, and indestructible. Again, a person doesn’t have to feel entirely one way or the other.  It is possible to appreciate the growth you’ve experienced with age, while also wishing you could scan a restaurant menu without your cheaters.

6. Other people change.

    Though you may feel the changes in your own reflection are gradual, the changes you observe in others can sometimes seem rapid. Kids grow into adults and parents grow elderly in a blink of an eye. People get sick, people get born, people die, and our friends come and they go. Such changes can cause a person to experience losses related to death, distance, and estrangement.

    So my birthday is next month and I will face it with courage. I’ll do what I do every year, hold my breath and wait until it passes!


Where Have All My Friends Gone?

    I am a widower. I suffered a tragic loss and my life changed forever. I went from married to widowed in the blink of an eye. I became a ‘widower.” I joined a group that no one wants to belong to. I became a statistic that no one wants to be a part of. I lost a huge part of my identity and struggled to face each day. I lost friends that I assumed would be there to help me as I struggled to regain my life.

    Friendships, I learned, are not immune to grief. Despite what you may think, some friends will leave you when you need them the most. Perhaps they don’t know what to say or how to act. Maybe they are afraid to deal with your sadness and grief. Maybe they’re afraid that being a widow or widower is contagious and will happen to them. I don’t know the answers. All I know is that I am surprised at how friendships changed when I needed them the most.

    I decided to ask some widowed friends about their friendships. Did friendships change after their spouses died? Did people treat them differently now that they were widows/widowers?

    I quickly learned that I am not alone. The other widows/widowers faced unique but also similar circumstances with their friends.

    After speaking to people in similar situations, I now realize that in many cases, friendship and grief do not mix. Whether you have been friends for six months or 30 years, you do not know how your friendship will hold up during a crisis. Some friends step up and the bond becomes unbreakable while others simply disappear from your life.

    The reality is that people don’t want to think about their lives changing. They don’t want to think that they may someday be part of the group of people that are now referred to as widows and widowers. But when the day comes that they are a part of the group guess who they will come to for support? That’s right, those of us in the group. We most likely will be there for them, although they weren’t there for us. This is because we know the pain, loneliness, and isolation of being in the group. We have newfound compassion and tolerance. We have survived.

 

Lean Into your Grief

 

     I was finding it difficult to deal with my grief after my loss. The grief support group I joined just didn’t seem to be enough for me. There were too many other personal issues I didn’t feel comfortable talking about in front of a group of people.  So, I went to see a grief counselor. She told me I needed to “lean into my grief”. I asked her how I do that. She said, “Really let yourself feel the pain of your grief and sadness. Let it take over for a while.”

     I did what she said, and I paid attention to the words and thoughts that were going through my mind. I felt the overwhelming feelings of loneliness and sorrow. It felt as though I had fallen into a deep dark well with no way of climbing out.

     I was afraid to cry for fear that I would never stop, and nobody would hear me or help me. Then she told me to take a breath and stop leaning into my grief. When I did that, it was if I began to rise to the top like a bubble in a can of soda. She told me to think of grief as just one of many emotions. I also had the power to lean into happiness. She told me to breathe and trust that the moments of intense pain would eventually subside. I would rise out of my despair and out of the well.

     I’ve learned that leaning into your grief means feeling the emotions, being willing to REALLY feel and accept them. It’s not a pleasant experience by any means, but once you feel them, you can also release them. Just as you can feel the pain, you also still can feel joy, but you must be willing to lean into that as well.

     I believe my loved one would want me to live a life as happy as possible, a full life. Living a full life means leaning into my grief when I need to but leaning into my happiness as well. I have the option to lean into my grief but also the option of embracing the joy, love, and peace that life has to offer. And when I fall into that deep dark well, as I do from time to time, I remember to breathe and let the emotions out so I can rise once again to the top.

You Will Survive!

    The thing about grief is, no matter where in life you are or how stable you think everything in your world is, there is no way to prepare yourself for what it will do to you.

    There is no way to possibly be ready for the feelings, the pain and the sadness that grief will suffocate you with. It could never be possible to be ready for the heartache and numbness that losing someone you love will do to you.

    The positive side? You will survive! It doesn’t hurt this bad forever. Although grief will always be a part of you, the pain won’t sting this bad forever. One day, you’ll wake up and realize you haven’t cried in two days, and for you, that will be a triumph. There will come a time you will smile again, genuinely smile and laugh and enjoy life again.

    Although this person will forever be with you, the pain will subside and you will keep going. You will survive this pain and this mess.

    You will come out stronger than you ever were before. You will survive. You will thrive.

How Journaling Helped Me Heal from Grief and How It Can Help You Too

    The day I was told that the person I loved was going to die from cancer, I went to a stationery shop and bought a supply of journals.

    Why? Because those journals were my lifesaver at a time when no therapist could help me. Grieving is a very long and lonely journey, and those journals were my most intimate, trusted friends during the most difficult time in my life.

    Here is how it helped me….

    Grief turned me into a depressed mess, which made me feel like an outsider. It’s a common experience. As anybody who has been there will know, one of the most surprising things about grief is how alone it makes you feel. Only those who have grieved will be able to understand what you are going through.

    Your friends and loved ones will offer as much comfort as they can give, but they’ve got their own lives to live and nobody wants to hear your sad story over and over again.

    Writing provided comfort and relief at a time when nothing else did. I lived remotely and didn’t have access to a therapist. My journal became my lifesaver and my best friend. It was the only place where I could speak my truth and where I could safely express all of my emotions.

    My journal was always there for me to listen to the same story, over and over again, without judgment, until I was finally ready to let it go.

    We live in a culture that is averse to grief. In the absence of proper grief rituals, people struggle for words and end up offering platitudes that diminish your grief. Before my bereavement, I too was ignorant about what to say to a grieving person.

    How many times did well-meaning friends, lost for words, offer meaningless platitudes? “You’ll be okay,” was just as hurtful. Of course, I would be okay. I hadn’t died, even if it felt like part of me had. But I needed people to acknowledge my grief, not diminish it. The writing was a way of giving voice to the story nobody wanted to hear.

    It was only in the pages of my journal that I could safely and without judgment write this messy story in the raw voice of pain. It helped me understand it and slowly craft a new narrative.

    Journaling was also an effective way to hold on to the memories. I recorded the story as it was unfolding.

    For several years after my bereavement, the story I told about myself focused on the events that had burnt my life down. It was what defined me at that moment and I didn’t want it taken away from me.

    Today I am able to tell my story as a narrative of redemption. I stumbled into the dark woods of grief and I came out of it transformed, stronger, and more aware of the preciousness of life. It’s a story I share with those who accept grief as an opportunity for deep transformation.

    Journal writing really is the cheapest form of self-care there is. I hope you’ll try it!

    Feel free to share in the comments about how your journaling has helped you!.

My Grief and the Weather

    I woke up this morning and looked out the window and saw snow on the ground. In mid-April! This was unexpected and made me fill a bit deflated. It’s Spring after all. It made me want to stay in bed and not get up.

    I generally do find a way to get myself going. I have a family, a job, a home, and all sorts of things that demand my action and attention. But the getting going demands much more effort when the weather is cold, wet, and dark – and I feel it, especially in the mornings when I go to battle with it, and in the evenings when I often find myself beaten by it, falling asleep in a chair while reading, feeling like someone poked a hole in me and siphoned out all but a sip of my strength.

    Because of this, I perceive a relationship between weather and my state of mind that I never noticed before. I look at it as “inner weather” and “outer weather,” and they seem to have a mathematical relationship. When inner and outer weather are in sync, they compound – sometimes like an addition equation, and sometimes even more intensely, as though multiplied together – increasing the overall effect. If I’m feeling good, then, a warm sunny day makes it even better; if I’m feeling down, a cold dark snowy day makes it markedly worse.

    When my inner and outer weather differ, the net result is somewhere in the middle. When I’m in the doldrums, for example, a beautiful day helps to some extent but generally cannot pull me all the way out.

    I cannot change the outer weather, of course, and I don’t have absolute control over the inner weather either. However, with awareness of both my state of mind and the forecast, I can anticipate what the day may bring and set myself up with ways to cope. I might find some opportunity to move, wear certain clothes, eat and drink particular things, listen to selected music, light aromatic candles, or turn on lights all over the house. If I can, I may change the day’s schedule to do more, less, or other than what I’ve planned.

    The weather can affect my mood. It can trigger my grief and make facing the day either better or worse.     It’s a different way of living, and I’m a different person. I do what I can, with no guarantee that any one thing will help. I’m not sure I will ever return to the weather-proof inner state that helped me ride out the seasons in the past. If I do, down the road, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I think my electricity supplier will continue to find me a solid source of income from October to April. Self-care comes in many packages, and sometimes it looks like a house ablaze with lights in the dark of winter, and in this situation well into the spring!

Grief is a Journey, Not a Destination

When I first lost my spouse, I didn’t consider that I would grieve forever. I thought after a couple of years things would get better — that the pain would disappear. That obviously never happened, and I am so glad now that it didn’t.

    I was recently facilitating a grief support group and sitting in a room full of grieving people who had just lost someone. The conversation was awkward as those around me were struggling to find the words that accurately described the loss of a loved one who was sitting right next to them only a few months ago. But, eventually they stumbled through their stories. They had found comfort in those who sat around them — in a community that allowed them to try and find the words.

    In each of those people was an individual grief story that would live on in them forever. While the pain will get less intense over time, the memory of their loved one will never leave them. Grief, like most painful things, leaves its mark on your whole life not just parts of it. It doesn’t matter if the person you lost died only months ago or over a decade ago. Grief doesn’t fade away.


   I know that my anniversary will still hurt next year. I know that each year, I will be counting the years my spouse has been missing from my life. This is my continuing grief journey.

    Each person that is lost is uniquely remembered by the legacy they left behind. Grief is a journey of missing that person and remembering who they were. It is not a destination that ends once year two of them being gone hits. There will always be moments of sadness and longing for them to be sitting next to you just one last time.     The beauty of grief is that it’s a deep reminder of the love that you had. That love never disappeared, even when that person did. I am honored to grieve my spouse. I am honored to have been loved so well. Grief is a beautiful journey, not a destination with a clear ending point. As my journey continues, I will always be reminded of the legacy left behind.

Coping with Grief When You’re Stuck at Home

Being confined to the house isn’t all that bad, but I could do without being stuck inside my head. Especially between the hours of 10 pm – 2 am when my body wants to rest, but my brain isn’t having it. I’m naturally a worrier and a ruminator, especially in times of stress and uncertainty, and these days are a strange brew of both.

    I’m sure I’m not the only one staring at my ceiling into the wee hours of the morning. Whether you’re worried about health, loved ones, paying bills, keeping a business afloat, or the overwhelm of being an essential employee. There’s a chance some sort of pandemic-induced anxiety is keeping you up at night.

    And though school, work, and other activities are canceled for the foreseeable future, we haven’t been granted a moratorium on our pre-existing hardships and anxieties. So, if you were struggling with things like grief, addiction, or psychological disorder before the pandemic, you’re still struggling with these things. Except now, you’re stuck at home, and many of your go-to coping outlets may be inaccessible. Stress has increased while access to coping has decreased. This poses an obvious problem.

    There will always be times in life when you can’t utilize the grief coping outlets you want or find most useful. Perhaps due to illness or injury, travel, changes in routine, transportation or weather concerns, or other circumstances out of your control. At these times, in the absence of constructive coping, a person may be more likely to reach for negative coping outlets like substances, withdraw, lashing out, indulging, denial, or giving up. Which is why it’s always good to have a grief coping back-up plan.

    When you can’t go to therapy:

    Try Teletherapy: Ask your therapist about teletherapy options if you haven’t already. Even if you decide to do less frequent check-ins, knowing that you will have the chance to connect can be helpful.

    Give Journaling a Try: The drawback is that your journal can’t give you feedback, but writing can help you to sort out your thoughts and express your emotions. Sometimes it’s helpful to be able to externalize your internal struggles.

    Read: Ask your therapist if he or she recommends any books related to the work you’re doing in therapy. You can also have a look around at our many grief articles.

    When you can’t go to a support group or grief center:

    Look for Online Programs: In the short-term, the next best thing may be online programs offered by varying grief support agencies. Some hospices and grief centers are offering options like online groups and webinar series. If you are familiar with a local hospice or grief center, call and ask what services you can access online. If you don’t have luck locally, a benefit of accessing online services is you can expand your search to include any programs regardless of location. 

    Watch TED Talks on Grief: One of the benefits of a support group or gathering of grief-friends is that, through the stories of others, you can learn, gain perspective, and find hope. 

    Online Grief Groups: Try online support groups. Many can be found on Facebook.

    When you can’t see your friends and family in-person:

    We’ve all become better acquainted with the various ways to reach out and connect with loved ones over technology. How you connect with your loved ones will depend on everyone’s access to technology. It will also depend on their comfort with different platforms – for example, do they know how to use it? Are the more comfortable with text or video? Sometimes it takes a little trial and error to find the best place to connect.

    Though we’ll have to leave the details up to you, we do want to encourage you to give technology a try. For those who love getting together for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, it’s not the best thing – but it may be the next best thing. Don’t let the learning curves and resistance to new technology get in your way. If less tech-savvy friends and family need a nudge and a little encouragement – help them out!

    When you can’t go to the gym:

    For many people, exercise feels like a necessary part of their grief coping and mental health maintenance. If you relied on a gym or group fitness, you may be feeling especially out of luck. Try not to adopt the mentality that if it’s not ‘X’ kind of exercise for ‘Y’ amount of time, then it isn’t worth doing.  Any exercise is beneficial!

    If you’re a gym member, contact them or look them up on social media to see what kind of alternative workout options they may offer.  Some gyms are doing Facebook live group fitness workouts or are offering temporary memberships to OnDemand fitness programs.

    If you’re not a member of a gym, then check out the many apps and YouTube videos available. Some are free and some have membership fees. However, many services with fees offer free temporary trial periods. You can either do a Google search for recommended programs or search YouTube. 

    Beyond that, now more than ever we recommend you get outside and move for a bit. Take some time on your own or play around with your kids or pet.  You can always walk, run, bike ride, shoot hoops, play frisbee, or kick a ball around. Whatever feels most comfortable. Also, if you have lawn games like badminton, bocce ball, or corn hole – get those out too!

    When you’re longing for routine:

    Right now, you may be feeling overwhelmed by stressors, but also completely unproductive. How frustrating! When schedules and routines get thrown off, it can suddenly feel impossible to get anything done. Even people who keep very loose schedules may feel like they’re floundering.

    Yes, your days feel a little like Groundhog day right now – but planning can help you get out of this rut.  This can mean different things depending on a person’s preferences and personal style. For example, some may want to schedule blocks of time throughout their entire day, while others may simply want to make a list of 3 or 4 things they want to accomplish.

    Do what feels right and natural and leave a little space for coping with your grief and distraction.

    When you need a distraction:

    When you’re spending most of your time in one place, seeing, hearing, and doing the same things over and over, it’s hard to find distractions when you need them. Also, many people, I included, turn to the wrong places for entertainment during their downtime. For example, logging onto social media may only increase your exposure to the very things you were trying to take a break from (grief triggers, news stories, comparing yourself to others, etc.).

    Be safe and stay healthy. Never give up the hope for a better tomorrow!

My Life Now – 6 Years Later

   I remember after my spouse died, I went into the local post office and the very nice lady at the counter handed me my mail, offered her condolences, and shared sadly, “I lost my daughter in a car accident.” I’m so sorry. When did you lose her? “Fourteen years ago,” adding solemnly, “You never forget.”

   She’s not the only one to echo that sentiment to me. And six years out from the death of my spouse, it’s certainly been true for me. I still grieve. I have healed the pain but the grief is forever.

   Sometimes my memories are happy, warm, funny, and uplifting. And sometimes they are…well, they are not so nice. I’ve been going through some of the not-so-nice times lately. It’s been an unfortunate, and terrible blend of sadness over the current pandemic and all the lives lost. My job as a healthcare worker adds to the memories of my spouse’s suffering as I see others experiencing the same pain and loss.  

   When I give advice to caregivers, I always mention to try to take care of themselves. I tell them we are all in it for the long haul. Little did I know how important my advice was for myself! But I was willing to pay that price for my spouse. What other choice was there! I loved. I lost. And I was thrown into a world I never wanted to know. Now I am seeing others going through it daily. Again, I have no choice. My heart tells me to do what I must do. Help others that need me.

   I worry that the people I love the most will die. That I will be the cause of it because of what I do for work. My faith in life’s goodness and purpose has been severely tested. And many times, it’s been difficult to find my way out of the darkness. And it’s not only the loss of my spouse, but also the loss of blissful ignorance of what life is capable of. When we’re young, or when bad things haven’t happened yet, you think you’re going to live forever. And then the bad things happen, and you learn what CAN happen. And once that information exists you just can’t forget it. Ever!

   I have decided just because the person I loved the most in the word died, that I will continue to help others, despite the threat of them being taken away. And if they are, celebrate that I had something that death itself cannot claim. Love.

Missing Saying “Goodbye”

So many people are dying from the Covid-19 Virus. It saddens my heart to think about all the people that not only died, but those that are left behind to grieve them. A close friend of mine just lost her young son. Not to the virus, but in light of the current situation she is forced to be isolated with her grief. She is unable to perform the usual rituals of mourning.

   The act of saying goodbye to a loved one often begins well before a funeral or burial. For many people, the days and hours at the end of a loved one’s life are especially poignant.  Normally, we can hold a loved one’s hand, have meaningful conversations, affirm the bond, and make amends. When we are able to do these these things, it softens the blow of loss.

   With strict isolation measures in place in most hospitals, people are missing out on those final farewells. That’s true when people die from COVID-19, but also from more familiar causes such as heart attacks or cancer. While critical to slowing the spread of the disease, those measures also make it hard for mourners to come together to grieve.

   Some people have begun filling that void with virtual shiva and funerals, but technology is an imperfect substitute for an in-person embrace. When people aren’t physically present to say goodbye and grieve with other mourners, they may be more likely to experience a sense of ambiguous loss, which causes more frustration and helplessness.

    So how do we construct new rituals to help us cope with death and dying during this situation we are currently in right now? We’re facing the question of needing to find some new way for honoring the dying process and also coping with our grief.

   This is something that grief counselors, clergy and psychologists will need to work on for those suffering.

   There is no answer right now but to stay connected virtually. Reach out to those that have lost a loved one. Be present in any way you can. Contact those that are grieving and isolated alone. We need to find new ways to live in a world that has suddenly been turned upside down.

Coping with Losing a Partner or Spouse

How can you overcome the problems you face after your spouse has died? First, you must recognize that grief is necessary; it is something you must work through. There are no shortcuts.

   It is important to express your feelings. Take time to cry. Don’t be afraid to share your tears with others. Express your anger when you feel the need. Talk openly with family members and friends; this is a time to lean on them. Some of your friends may feel awkward for a while because they don’t know how to talk to you about your loss. You can help them by simply telling them what your needs are. Don’t try to protect your children or other family members by hiding your sadness.

   If you normally have a pressing schedule, try to lighten it. Remember, grief is mentally taxing; you do not need the added strain of too much to do.

   After some time and effort, you will adjust to your new life and your grief will diminish. This does not mean you must forget your loved one; it means you have accepted the death and can begin to live each day in the present, savoring the memories as part of your new life. In fact, many agree the best way honor a loved one who died, is to live a life full of friendship and even new love.

   If you are worried that you are not coping well with your grief, consider talking to a counselor. You may be relieved to discover that you are reacting normally. If you believe you need help, ask your clergy, doctor, or funeral director to suggest a counselor who will help you through your transition.

   Many bereaved spouses find adjusting to life without a partner becomes easier if they talk to others in the same situation. You might want to consider joining a local support group. Ask us for information regarding local groups specifically for those who have lost a spouse.

   After some time and effort, you will adjust to your new life and your grief will diminish. This does not mean you must forget your loved one; it means you have accepted the death and can begin to live each day in the present, savoring the memories as part of your new life. In fact, many agree the best way of honoring a loved one who died, is to live a life full of friendship and even new love.

   Dealing properly with your grief can make it all possible.

Why Did This Have to Happen?

   One of the most difficult issues that you may face when you are grieving is making sense or meaning of your loss; the common question, “Why did this have to happen?” is really asking about meaning.

   As you grapple with this question, these key points may be helpful:

   Remember that finding meaning or making sense of a loss is an individual process.

   What gives others comfort may not be helpful for you. Talking with others who have experienced loss can be useful in helping to find your own meaning, but don’t be troubled if you cannot find support in the thoughts that comfort them.

   Search your own spirituality and beliefs.

   Everyone has a personal way of understanding the world; that understanding is the center of our spirituality. Ask how your spirituality and faith beliefs can help you make sense of the loss in a way that is meaningful for you.

   Focus on the connections and legacies.

   All the people you grieve for have touched your life in some way through shared memories or new appreciations and skills you have gained. These legacies and connections we find in our own spirituality can help to reassure you that your loved ones still remain a part of your life and can help you find meaning even in the most difficult losses.

Facing Loss is Never Easy

   It is never easy to lose a loved one whether our loss has been awaited and expected or sudden and unex­pected. Whatever was the deceased’s age or circum­stances, death is shocking and disturbing.

   How we react to our loss can accentuate our pain or support us to survive. Some things that don’t help us are isolating ourselves, denying our feelings, miring ourselves in self-pity, and excessive ruminating.

   Although we may feel as if nothing can make this chal­lenge easier, the following are some suggestions to help support us and ease the path ahead:

   One day at a time…..

   Just live this moment, this day. Things change. When we project our feelings into the future or globalize our situation and think we will never recover or never be happy again, we take away all our power.

   Connect with others…..

   We accentuate our grief by iso­lating ourselves and listening only to our own thoughts. We need nourishment and support from others. Share time and feelings with friends, family, support groups, and grief counselors. Perhaps get a pet.

   Release feelings…..

   Swallowing emotions never works, but sometimes we find it hard to express our pain. We can speak it aloud or even shout it to the winds. Writing in a journal has helped many people move through their grief.

   Appreciate what you have……

   Experiencing gratitude can be uplifting. When times are tough, looking around at what is good in our lives or writing gratitude lists can change our perspective. At least in those moments of feel­ing grateful, we realize there is more than loss in our life.

   Pay attention to who you are today…..

   When we face loss and change, we also change. What interested us before may not interest us now. We may make different choices of activities and people. We need to notice what supports us and honor that, and reject what doesn’t work for us now.

   Be kind to yourself…

   Processing grief takes time and patience. We need all the self-love we can muster to survive our loss. Try to avoid whatever doesn’t feel good. This is a time to put ourselves first and help ourselves face our loss as best we can. We need to be our own best cheerleader.

We Are All Walking Each Other Home

   Everyone has an idea of what they expect grief to look or feel like. It’s important to know that everyone grieves in unique ways and it’s okay if your grief is different than those around you. At times you may even be unaware that you are grieving or that you’ve experienced a loss that deserves to be grieved.

   Grief is based on the unique relationship you had with the person that died as well as where you are in the grieving process.

   There is no cure for grief. If there was I would be the first one to shout it out to the world. I offer no guaranteed wisdom on how to survive your loss or grief, other than my own experiences and what I have learned along the way.

   As I state on this page; “I do not provide advice of any kind. The contents are for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment.”

   Often, people find some of the posts here helpful, others don’t. This is usually based on where they are in their grief journey. If a post is read by someone early on in their grief it can be quite different for someone further out.

   Because there are so many different types of grief, and different types of losses, not all posts are a “one size fits all”. It would be impossible to include every individual loss experience.

   If something brings you comfort read it. If something upsets you, don’t. You may not be at a place where you are ready to hear what is being said. Be kind. Be mindful of comments you make regarding someone’s feelings about something they have read. What works for you, may not work for someone else. Some comments made can hurt, depending on someone’s individual loss and grief experience.

   None of us know another’s journey, everyone is in a different place, yet we are all just walking each other home.

It’s OK To CRY!

Keep the tears flowing if they want to come out, with no apologies. It is your body’s way of releasing stress as you begin to come to terms with your loss and your life.

   Tears have a healing power. Tears are a release valve for momentary sadness and stress.

   Tears purge pent up emotions so they don’t lodge in the body causing pain, exhaustion, irritability and illness.

   Letting tears flow and crying with others takes courage in a society that has deemed crying a sign of weakness.

   Let’s break the myth that crying is a sign of weakness. Let’s wear our tears as a sign of our courage to express our true sorrow.

The Shock of Loss

Death is a harsh reality to grasp. The loss of a loved one can feel unreal like a disturbing dream you can’t wake up from. You may know that a loved one is very ill or in the process of dying, yet the finality of death always feels sudden, shocking, and unbelievable.

   At the first shock of loss, experiences and conversations can be blurred or hazy. You may not yet feel any of the deep feelings of grief. People in shock often appear to be behaving normally without a lot of emotion because the news hasn’t fully sunk in yet.

   Numbness is a natural protection when facing any kind of trauma. Detached from the reality of the loss, you may be able to function pretty well at first. This can be confusing to the people around you, when they expect full-blown grief and suffering that you don’t yet feel.

   In the days or weeks to come, the intense feelings usually break through this numbness—feelings like sadness, anger, longing, loneliness, guilt, resentment, and regret. When fully immersed in the grieving process, you then may feel flooded with tears and emotions.

   Sleep might be difficult immediately following a loss. Staying awake late at night obsessing or falling asleep only to wake suddenly in the middle of the night are both normal reactions. It may be very uncomfortable but you are not crazy.

   During the day, tasks or conversations may temporarily cause you to forget your loss until something reminds you. Just being asked, “How are you?” can be a reminder that something terrible has occurred. Even months later, the realization that someone is gone forever can come as an unwanted surprise.

   Recognize that shock is a natural part of grief that may occur many times before the actuality of the loss sinks in. Even though it feels off-balance, it is part of the process of dealing with painful experiences. In time, the shock will lessen. Death is hard to accept and it does take time.

   Most of all, remember that even though the grieving process is uncomfortable and that loss itself is shocking, it is possible to acknowledge and accept loss. You will remember your lost loved ones forever, but the shock will soften in time.