How are we changed by devastating loss?

istock_000038866856_mediumLoss is never easy. Loss leaves us speechless and shaking with emotion. How do any of us walk through this miasma of agony? As you well know, we just do … one foot in front of the other. Life does continue, day after day.

The question that comes to mind is how are we changed by devastating loss?

Life is a little more precious. The immediacy of loss makes us hold one another a little more tightly, a little more closely. We are more aware. We value what we had once taken for granted and now know — heartbreakingly so — can lose all too quickly and unexpectedly.

We want the loss to mean something. We want to transform the pain and create an alchemical process. We want to allow something new, tender, and hopeful to grow out the grief. We humans need to do something, take some action that makes a difference. We do not want the loss to be in vain. We want the phoenix to emerge out of the ashes of our loss. We look to create anew – be it a memorial that serves as reminder of what needs to be remembered and never forgotten or we bring energy and life to some course of action that honors our loss.

Our hearts are expanded. We understand that it is our through our connections with one another that life holds meaning and value. We didn’t know it was possible to hold the weight of such grief and pain. We didn’t know that we could love so intensely, much less grieve so deeply. Our hearts have been excavated and stretched beyond measure. Our hearts hold a new-found wisdom. We are forever changed.

We have learned a few things. Grief is unpredictable, crazy-making, and a unique process. It takes time, patience, and presence to find a neutral place. Along the way, we learn what is important. We learn that pain can morph into something else. We learn that we can help others who are sucker-punched by grief and that we can show up and be present amidst the darkness.

To quote psychologist and cantadera Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., “One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it.”

So, let us polish off our souls and let our own particular brand of light come forth. It always helps dispel the darkness.

May you be held in peace and comfort.

The Other Side of Grief

20161109_173927I recently had the pleasure in participating in The Other Side of Grief  of Suicide speaker series. This free speaker series runs Monday, November 14 – Friday, November 25. I will be featured on Tuesday, November 15.

Understanding, education and gaining new resources and coping strategies can help you work through your hero’s journey of grief. Consider tuning in to gain some new perspectives and extra support.

Here is your link to access the free video series:

Our host, Shanetta Brown, explains more:

Have you lost a loved one to suicide?  Are you feeling overwhelmed or stuck and you don’t know how to put the pieces of your life back together. Have you thought to yourself, Is the pain ever going to go away? 

We will show you how to find hope and happiness on the other side of grief.

Here are some tools that you will learn:  

  • Recognize grief can be used as a transformation process to reach a fulfilling and purpose-filled life! (Thrive instead of just survive!)
  • Move fully into your heart and body to process and release grief, mourn openly and grieve freely to reach a deep level of healing!
  • How to handle the holidays after a loss and still finding reason to celebrate.
  • Recognize ways to support your child through the grieving process.
  • Determine things you can say to your child to help them with the loss.
  • Recognize that you can maintain connection with deceased loved ones knowing that love lives on through them!
  • Build supportive and caring networks and give yourself permission to share feelings, emotions and memories easily!
  • Move from fear to faith that you can and will get through loss to find a new appreciation of life. (Be a victor over grief, not a victim!)
  • Re-write your grief story and reclaim your life!
  • Honor your loved one’s legacy with love, remembering a life well lived!

PS  My interview will be featured on Tuesday, November 15.

 

 

 

“Give me away”

Epitaphimages (9)

By Merrit Malloy

When I die
Give what’s left of me away
To children
And old men that wait to die.

And if you need to cry,
Cry for your brother
Walking the street beside you.
And when you need me,
Put your arms
Around anyone
And give them
What you need to give to me.

I want to leave you something,
Something better
Than words
Or sounds.

Look for me
In the people I’ve known
Or loved,
And if you cannot give me away,
At least let me live on in your eyes
And not your mind.

You can love me most
By letting
Hands touch hands,
By letting bodies touch bodies,
And by letting go
Of children
That need to be free.

Love doesn’t die,
People do.
So, when all that’s left of me
Is love,
Give me away.

Breathe, Sweet Pea, breathe

305865244_9e5881dde5_o-e1371059829133tbearYes, it’s been tough. Tougher than  you imagined, and you are still standing. Good for you. For those moments when your brain starts whirring and going down the rabbit hole, remember to breathe. It helps. And you will feel better.

 

Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.

Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Dealing with the death of a young person

Death is never easy. And the death of a young person is especially heartbreaking and traumatic. There was so much future and so much possibility that is now forever gone. There will be no more birthdays, graduations or wedding days. This young life, full of potential and promise, has ended in the blink of an eye and you are left reeling in shock and confusion. How could this happen? Why did this happen? Why wasn’t my child spared?

The loss of a young person leaves you speechless and shaking with emotion. How is it possible to walk through this miasma of agony and grief? You imagine your young one at the table. You instinctively listen at the door for him to come home or for her to dance into the living room. You crave any and all conversation about your son or daughter, niece or nephew or grandchild. You relish hearing stories and escapades. You smile. You cry. You learn that your young person was loved and cherished by others as well. Memories serve as your very best medicine.

Your mind goes into overdrive accessing every snippet of his or her short life. You want to remember everything in great, sensory-laden, Technicolor detail. You search for the sweet, the silly, the outrageous, and, even, the horrifying. Sometimes, you may judge yourself harshly for your all-too-human responses, reactive outbursts and your real or perceived wrongdoings. Give yourself time and space to acknowledge all of your feelings. Endeavor to be kind and compassionate towards yourself. The reality is that you loved, parented and guided the best way you knew how at that very moment in time.

You want to scream to the world at large. Sleep is often an anathema. Understandably, especially with sudden deaths, your anxiety and the concomitant fear of the future – notably with surviving siblings — ratchets higher. Nothing feels safe. Nothing feels right. And there is the “who-cares-anymore” well of depression. You are in a place you never imagined, much less prepared for: you are in hell.

Dealing with this anguish and sorrow is a rocky, uneven road. Eventually, you manage to put one foot in front of the other, even if you have been robotic and numb. Sometimes that is the only way you have been able to protect yourself from the tidal waves of feelings that turn you upside-down and leave you flattened, gasping for breath.

Life continues, day after day. Your heart is re-arranged by the devastating loss of your child. You are aware that you hold life even more preciously. This young death seems antithetical to the chronology of life. You were never meant to outlive your young one.

The emotional pain is searing and unrelenting. You didn’t know it was possible to hold the weight of this much grief. You never realized that you could love so intensely and grieve so deeply. You feel so very raw and tender. Your heart has exploded.

The grief is unpredictable and crazy-making. It is not a linear process; it is labyrinthine passage — unique and idiosyncratic for each and every one. There is no right or wrong, good or bad or, even, a specific time frame. Grief can be complicated, especially with unexpected deaths. It takes time — as much time as you need — and gentleness to work through the many layers of feelings for you to find a breathable perspective on your devastating reality.

And in the throes of accepting the heart-shattering reality of your loss, you may look for signs or symbols that connect you with your loved one. The dog barking madly in your now-absent son’s room; a big heart drawn on the sidewalk on a special date; a dream where you have a conversation with your child; or a girl, so like yours, who approaches you and hugs you for seemingly no logical reason. It feels as if the universe is offering you comfort and connection. And this may soothe your aching heart.

You want your loss to matter, to mean something. You decide to take action and you put feet on your grief. Perhaps, you create a remembrance to never forget or you bring energy and life to some course of action that honors your loved one. Out of your heartbreak, you look to create alchemy that allows something new, tender and hopeful to grow out this tsunami of grief. This precious loss will not be in vain, not on your watch.

The loss of your young person does not fade away, nor does it diminish over time, but it can be transformative. You carry a wiser, more compassionate heart because you have swum in the murky, heavy waters of grief. You understand more fully that life is dearest and most meaningful when shared with others.

Perhaps, most surprisingly, you discover that the wide-open explosion of your heart created a kind of spontaneous combustion that allows you to hold a still-point of light. You are now able to illuminate the dark for others who have been sucker-punched by grief. And this heart light will hold you steady as you breathe and step forward into a new day, knowing that you carry your young one with you, now and forever more.

Gentleness, strength and grief

dandelion “The greatest strength is gentleness.” 

 Iroquois Proverb

 

In today’s world, gentleness is not seen as a virtue, much less a strength. I agree with the Iroquois; gentleness is an exquisite strength. It calls us to be present, mindful and caring, the complete opposite of the hot reactor.

Gentleness is a loving gift we give to one another when we really listen and hear and allow. Gentleness speaks of attention and awareness. Gentleness is a requisite in grief. Gentleness opens the door to grief in whatever manner and form it presents itself. Gentleness sets the tone and creates the environment, be it physical or emotional, for acceptance of whatever the grief-stricken needs at that moment in time.

I think it takes practice, patience and kindness to be gentle. We have to s-l-o-w down and not run roughshod over the person before us. And it is ever so important to be gentle with ourselves as well — to tone down the woulda/coulda/shoulda’s, to stop berating ourselves for the what ifs, and to cease taking ourselves apart, bit by bit.

With gentleness, we sit next door to compassion and we can begin to heal.

And so it is.

A few words on grief

 

resizedpeacelilyGrief is a personal experience. Nod politely to those who give you deadlines and concrete conclusions. There is no one way to grieve. There is no time limit. It takes as long as it takes. Grief is a kind of love and a way to remember. Grief can be a master teacher and a doorway to transformation. Grief fine-tunes life and can shift your perspective. And grief, by sheer experience, will reassemble your heart.

Grief is also complicated, multi-nuanced and can be crazy-making. And like Pandora’s box, grief triggers memories of other losses. Memories that are held in the cells of your body.

Go gently. Allow the memories to wash over you, not knock you down. Allow your heart to rest. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to your lost loved one. It’s a courageous and arduous path of working your way through the rocky terrain of emotional upheaval. Grace, grit and determination are required as you make peace with what was. Ultimately, it is a process of fierce love and compassionate acceptance.

 

Children of suicide

Unhappy Child Sitting On Floor In Corner At Home

Unhappy Child Sitting On Floor In Corner At Home

Suicide is frequently a sudden, surprising and shocking death that leaves family members reeling in disbelief and heartache. Suicide is akin to lobbing an explosive into the middle of the family. There is enormous collateral damage.

For children, the death of a parent is a traumatic event, which is especially intensified for young children. However, when the death is a suicide, the trauma is heightened even more.
Arguably, suicide is the hardest death to accept. There are so many unanswered questions.

Young children do not readily understand the concept of suicide.

 

Read more here.

 

(Young Minds Matter initiative: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/adele-mcdowell/children-of-suicide_b_9233092.html)