Odd Thomas on grief

Grief can destroy you – or focus you. You can decide a relationship was all for nothing if it had to end in death, and you alone. Or you can realize that every moment of it had more meaning than you dared to recognize at the time, so much meaning it scared you, so you just lived, just took for granted the love and laughter of the each day, and didn’t allow yourself to consider the sacredness of it.

But when it’s over and you’re alone, you begin to see it wasn’t just a movie and a dinner together, not just watching sunsets together, not just scrubbing a floor or washing dishes together or worrying over a high electric bill. It was everything, it was the why of life, every event and precious moment of it.

The answer to the mystery of existence is the loved you shared sometimes so imperfectly, and when the loss wakes you to the deeper beauty of it, to the sanctity of it, you can’t get off your knees for a long time, you’re driven to your knees not by the weight of loss but by gratitude for what preceded the loss. And the ache is always there, but one day not the emptiness, because to nurture the emptiness, to take solace in it, is to disrespect the gift of life.”

character Odd Thomas, from Odd Hours by Dean Koontz


Odd Thomas is a wonderfully unique character created by novelist Dean Koontz in a series of seven unusual mysteries. These words are from the fourth book in the series, Odd Hours. I resonated with Odd’s words on loving imperfectly, the deeper beauty of loss, and the sacredness of love. Perhaps, you will as well.

Go in peace. 

Jan Richardson’s Blessings of Hope

starrynightBlessing of Hope
So may we know
the hope
that is not just
for someday
but for this day—
here, now,
in this moment
that opens to us:
hope not made
of wishes
but of substance,
hope made of sinew
and muscle
and bone,
hope that has breath
and a beating heart,
hope that will not
keep quiet
and be polite,
hope that knows
how to holler
when it is called for,
hope that knows
how to sing
when there seems
little cause,
hope that raises us
from the dead—
not someday
but this day,
every day,
again and
again and

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow


“A blessing meets us in the place of our deepest loss. In that place, it gives us a glimpse of wholeness and claims that wholeness here and now.”

—from the Introduction of The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief

Jan’s much-anticipated new book enters with heartbreaking honesty into the rending that loss brings. It moves, too, into the unexpected shelters of solace and hope, inviting us to recognize the presence of love that, as she writes, is “sorrow’s most lasting cure.”

“Give me away”

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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.

“For Grief” by John O’Donohue

This beautiful poem is by the late, great poet, philosopher and holy man, John O’Donohue. His words safely and soulfully wrap the tear-stained in understanding and comfort. In his inimitable way, John blesses those who know all too well the deep well of grief.

For Grief
     by John O’Donohueleaves water light

When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you becomes fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence.

Your heart has grown weary with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.

Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.

More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until the coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From the gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.

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.


Suicidal grief: non-ordinary time

bluepurpledandelionLoss is universal. It is also idiosyncratic and unique. We each handle loss in our own way. There is no right or wrong way to come to terms with death.

It is hard, exhausting, and excruciating work to make sense of the un-sensible and to unpack and repack a life that you have held with such love and affection. You will need time and space to work through all the layers of feelings as you remember and revisit all that you experienced and shared with the one you lost.

Loss requires time, time to accept the unacceptable and time to feel the undulations and reverberations of your loss. There is no time limit—grief takes as long as it takes. Grief opens you up in ways you never thought possible. Unexpectedly, you will find yourself remembering other losses in your life as well. Grief builds upon grief; like pearls strung on a necklace, every loss becomes connected, close to your heart.

Trauma is also a cumulative experience. We hold traumatic events in our cellular memories. They are not forgotten. And like grief, a new trauma can trigger feelings from a prior trauma. This is important to consider, as suicide is both a traumatic and grief-filled experience. The double whammy of grief and trauma can sometimes be so overwhelming that it is hard for you to stand or eat or sleep or even make simple conversation.

Dealing with a suicidal loss requires extreme gentleness as you wade through the minefields of emotions. Past, present and future can collide in a stream of what was and what could have been.

This is non-ordinary time. You will see the world differently. Your baseline has changed. What was once terra firma is no more. Everything is shifting around you. You wade through deep emotions, conflicting feelings and the sheer agony of loss.

And, then, when you are hollowed out and spent, there will be a day– as unbelievable as it feels — when you refind your feet and connect with your newly pieced-together heart. On that day, you will be to take a step forward without toppling over.

Go in peace, dear one.

Understanding the grief of suicide

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Death is not easy on a regular basis, but death becomes tainted and shame-faced when described as a suicide. It’s hard to be left under such messy circumstances. You feel that somehow you failed to do your part. It feels as if the world sits in judgment, which only underscores the wracking guilt that hammers at you incessantly. You feel so responsible. You think you could have done something differently – made a move or said different words that might have tipped the balance in favor of life.

And you are angry, angry with a capital A, and, then, guilty because you are so angry. You loved them. You cared. Wasn’t your love enough? Did they think about you? How could they?

To read more, please click this link for the full article on The Huffington Post.



The uncomfortability of grief

image002A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit sunny, palm-treed southern California, where it kisses the blue, blue of the Pacific Ocean. It is a beautiful part of the world. The purpose of my visit was to present my new work Making Peace with Suicide at The 2012 Compassionate Friends (TCF) annual national and international conference.

The Compassionate Friends is a self-help group for parents who have lost a child at any age; they, also, offer support to grieving grandparents and siblings. Illness, murder, addiction, suicide, manslaughter, drunk drivers, freak accidents, still-born deaths — you name it — these folks have walked through that fire. It is unimaginably heartbreaking. And, yet, they gather and laugh and cry and help one another breathe again.

The hotel was entirely filled with conference attendees and the hotel next door held all of the over flow. I heard there were anywhere from 1300-1800 attendees. They came as families, individuals, couples, and friends.

Even though I have experienced grief first-hand, I have not lost a child, and, so, I felt a bit like a stranger in a strange land. This was new terrain.

While in the elevator, a lovely woman named Kathy made eye contact and we began a conversation as we exited the elevator and headed to one of the sessions. Kathy told me that since the death of her son, she has lost all of her friends and that is why she came to TCF conference.

Initially, I was shocked and horrified, but as I talked to other parents they told me similar stories. It’s not that people are bad, they would all say. They just don’t know how to handle the weight of the grief. They don’t know what to say, how to say it, or they nervously make inappropriate or inane comments.

For example, one father told me that as he walked out of his son’s memorial service and settled into his car, his brother-in-law talked non-stop about his own son and his current career concerns. The bereft dad looked at his unaware brother-in-law and responded, “At least, you have a son.”

The parents acknowledged that many of their friends and loved ones were uncomfortable talking about death. Some told me that they felt it was too much of a burden for many of their friends. And, still, many of these parents want to talk about their sons and daughters; they never tire of the subject and the conversation keeps them alive in their hearts. These parents have come to recognize the squirm in others who do not know how to respond.

The Compassionate Friends has local chapters world-wide. Parents find other parents who know first-hand the sucker punch to the gut of losing a child and the crazy-making grief that ensues.

One week, at Kathy’s local group in her hometown, five new people attended their first Compassionate Friends’ meeting. That week, each person had lost a child to suicide. It was an emotionally intense meeting. Kathy said that she and another mom connected. In the weeks that followed, the new mom reached out to Kathy for support and guidance. Kathy said that was a turning point for her – in saying yes to the other mom-in-need, Kathy decided to live. In that helping, Kathy found a reason to keep going.

We, human beings, are so much more than we realize. We are resilient and tender. Our feelings can run deep and wide. We can be vulnerable, strong, understanding and, above all, compassionate. There are times when we all need a little help from our friends.